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Title: Carmen Ariza
Author: Stocking, Charles Francis, 1873-
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 "Carmen Ariza" ***

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[Illustration: In the name of the Church he would serve these humble
people.
--Book 2, Page 77.]



CARMEN ARIZA

BY

CHARLES FRANCIS STOCKING, E. M.

Author of THE DIARY OF JEAN EVARTS, THE MAYOR OF FILBERT, Etc.

CHICAGO

THE MAESTRO CO.

1921



Copyright 1915

BY

CHARLES FRANCIS STOCKING

ISSUED JANUARY 1916

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

TWENTY-FIFTH EDITION

PRINTED IN U. S. A.



CARMEN ARIZA



BOOK 1


  Doth this offend you?--the words that I speak unto you, they are
  spirit, and they are life.

                                                          --_Jesus._



CARMEN ARIZA

CHAPTER 1


The tropical sun mounted the rim of the golden Caribbean, quivered
for a moment like a fledgeling preening its wings for flight, then
launched forth boldly into the vault of heaven, shattering the
lowering vapors of night into a myriad fleecy clouds of every form
and color, and driving them before it into the abysmal blue above.
Leaping the sullen walls of old Cartagena, the morning beams began to
glow in roseate hues on the red-tiled roofs of this ancient metropolis
of New Granada, and glance in shafts of fire from her glittering
domes and towers. Swiftly they climbed the moss-grown sides of church
and convent, and glided over the dull white walls of prison and
monastery alike. Pouring through half-turned shutters, they plashed
upon floors in floods of gold. Tapping noiselessly on closed
portals, they seemed to bid tardy sleepers arise, lest the hurrying
midday _siesta_ overtake them with tasks unfinished. The dormitory of
the ecclesiastical college, just within the east wall of the city,
glowed brilliantly in the clear light which it was reflecting to
the mirror of waters without. Its huge bulk had caught the first rays
of the rising sun, most of which had rebounded from its drab,
incrusted walls and sped out again over the dancing sea. A few,
however, escaped reflection by stealing through the slanting
shutters of a window close under the roof of the building. Within,
they fell upon a man kneeling on the tiled floor beside a rude cot
bed.

In appearance the man was not more than twenty-five years of age. His
black, close-curling hair, oval face, and skin of deep olive tint
indicated a Latin origin. His clerical garb proclaimed him a son of
the Church. The room was a small, whitewashed cell of stone, musty
with the dampness which had swept in from the sea during the night. It
was furnished with Spartan simplicity. Neither image, crucifix, nor
painting adorned its walls--the occupant's dress alone suggested his
calling. A hanging shelf held a few books, all evidently used as
texts in the adjoining college. A table, much littered; a wooden
dressing stand, with a small mirror; and an old-fashioned, haircloth
trunk, bearing numerous foreign labels, eked out the paucity of
furnishings.

If the man prayed, there was only his reverent attitude to indicate
it, for no words escaped his lips. But the frequent straining of his
tense body, and the fierce clenching of his thin hands, as he threw
his arms out over the unopened bed, were abundant evidence of a soul
tugging violently at its moorings. His was the attitude of one who has
ceased to inveigh against fate, who kneels dumbly before the cup of
Destiny, knowing that it must be drained.

With the break of day the bells awoke in the church towers throughout
the old city, and began to peal forth their noisy reminder of the
virility of the Holy Catholic faith. Then the man raised his head,
seemingly startled into awareness of his material environment. For a
few moments he listened confusedly to the insistent clatter--but he
made no sign of the cross, nor did his head bend with the weight of a
hollow _Ave_ on his bloodless lips while the clamoring muezzins filled
the warm, tropical air with their jangling appeal. Rising with an air
of weary indifference, he slowly crossed the room and threw wide the
shutters of the solitary window, admitting a torrent of sunlight. As
he did this, the door of the cell softly opened, and a young novitiate
entered.

"With your permission, Padre," said the boy, bowing low. "His Grace
summons you to the Cathedral."

The man made a languid gesture of dismissal, and turned from the lad
to the rare view which greeted him through the open window. The dusty
road below was beginning to manifest the city's awakening. Barefooted,
brown-skinned women, scantily clad in cheap calico gowns, were
swinging along with shallow baskets under their arms to the _plaza_
for the day's marketing. Some carried naked babes astride their hips;
some smoked long, slender cigars of their own rolling. Half-clad
children of all ages, mixtures of _mestizo_, Spaniard, and Jamaican
negro, trotted along beside them; and at intervals a blustering
_cochero_ rattled around the corner in a rickety, obsolete type of
trap behind a brace of emaciated horses.

The lively gossip of the passing groups preluded the noisy chaffering
to follow their arrival at the market place.

"_Caramba_, little pig!" shrilled a buxom matron, snatching her naked
offspring away from a passing vehicle. "Think you I have money to
waste on Masses for your naughty soul?"

"_Na, señora_," bantered another, "it will cost less now than later to
get him out of purgatory."

"But, _comadre_, do you stop at the Cathedral to say a _Pater-noster_?"

"To be sure, _amiga_, and an _Ave_, too. And let us return by way of
the Hotel España, for, _quien sabe_? we may catch a glimpse of the
famous _matador_."

"Señor Varilla?"

"Yes. He arrived from Barranquilla last night--so my Pedro tells
me--and will fight in the arena this Sunday. I have saved fifty
_pesos_ to see him. _Madre de Dios!_ but I would sell my soul to see
him slay but a single bull. And do you go?"

"God willing!"

The soft air, tempered by the languid ocean breeze, bore aloft the
laughter and friendly bantering of the marketers, mingled with the
awakening street sounds and the morning greetings which issued from
opening doors and windows. The scent of roses and the heavier
sweetness of orchids and tropical blooms drifted over the ancient city
from its innumerable _patios_ and public gardens. The age-incrusted
buildings fused in the mounting sun into squares of dazzling white,
over which the tiled roofs flowed in cinctures of crimson. Far off at
sea the smoke of an approaching vessel wove fantastic designs against
the tinted sky. Behind the city the convent of Santa Candelaria,
crowning the hill of La Popa, glowed like a diamond; and stretching
far to the south, and merging at the foot of the _Cordilleras_ into
the gloom-shrouded, menacing jungle, the steaming llanos offered
fleeting glimpses of their rich emerald color as the morning breeze
stirred the heavy clouds of vapor which hung sullenly above them.

To all this the man, looking vacantly out across the city walls to
where the sea birds dipped on the rippling waves, was apparently
oblivious. Nor did he manifest the slightest interest in the animated
scene before him until a tall, heavy-set young priest emerged from the
entrance of the dormitory below and stopped for a moment in the middle
of the road to bask in the brilliant sunlight and fill his lungs with
the invigorating ocean breeze. Turning his eyes suddenly upward, the
latter caught sight of the man at the window.

"Ah, _amigo_ Josè!" he called in friendly greeting, his handsome face
aglow with a cordial smile. "Our good Saint Claver has not lobbied for
us in vain! We shall yet have a good day for the bulls, no?"

"An excellent one, I think, Wenceslas," quickly replied the man
addressed, who then turned abruptly away as if he wished to avoid
further conversation. The priest below regarded the empty window for a
moment. Then, with a short, dry laugh and a cynical shrug of his broad
shoulders, he passed on.

As the man above turned back into the room his face, wearing the look
of one far gone in despair, was contorted with passion. Fear,
confusion, and undefined soul-longing seemed to move rapidly across
it, each leaving its momentary impression, and all mingling at times
in a surging flood that swelled the veins of his temples to the point
of rupture. Mechanically he paced his narrow cell, throwing frequent
furtive glances at the closed door, as if he suspected himself
watched. Often he stopped abruptly, and with head bowed and brows
furrowed, seemed to surrender his soul to the forces with which it was
wrestling. Often he clasped his head wildly in his hands and turned
his beseeching eyes upward, as if he would call upon an invisible
power above to aid him, yet restrained by the deadening conviction of
experience that such appeal would meet with no response, and that he
must stand in his own strength, however feeble.

Hours passed thus. The sun gained the zenith and the streets were
ablaze. Belated marketers, with laden baskets atop their heads, were
hurrying homeward, hugging the scanty shade of the glaring buildings.
Shopkeepers were drawing their shutters and closing their heavy doors,
leaving the hot noon hour asleep on the scorching portals. The midday
_Angelus_ called from the Cathedral tower. Then, as if shaken into
remembrance of the message which the boy had brought him at daybreak,
the man hurriedly took his black felt hat from the table, and without
further preparation left the room.

The stone pavements and narrow brick walks, above which the intense
heat hung in tremulous waves, were almost deserted as he hastened
toward the Cathedral. The business of the morning was finished; trade
was suspended until the sun, now dropping its fiery shafts straight as
plummets, should have sunk behind La Popa. As he turned into the Calle
Lozano an elderly woman, descending the winding brick stairway visible
through the open door of one of the numerous old colonial houses in
the lower end of this thoroughfare, called timidly to him.

"Marcelena," the priest returned, stopping. "The girl--is she--?"

"She is dying," interrupted the woman in a voice broken with sobs.

"Dying! Then the child--?"

"Yes, Padre, born an hour ago--a boy. It lives. Ah, _Santa Virgen_,
such suffering! Pray for us, Mother of God!" murmured the weeping
woman, bending her head and repeatedly making the sign of the cross.

"Who is with her now?" the priest continued hurriedly.

"Only Catalina. The doctor said he would return. He is good to the
blessed child. And Padre Lorenzo came--but he would not shrive her
little white soul--"

"And the father--?"

"He does not know," the woman sobbed. "Who would dare to tell him!
Think you he would come? That he would own the babe? He would not give
one blessed candle to set beside the little mother's poor sweet body!
Ah, _Santa Maria_! who will buy Masses for her little soul? Who--?"

"But he _shall_ know!" cried the priest, his face livid. "And he shall
acknowledge his child and care for it! _Dios--!_ But wait, Marcelena.
I can do nothing now. But I will return." Leaving the woman sobbing
prayers to the Virgin Mother, the priest hurried on.

Within the Cathedral the cool atmosphere met him with a sweet calm,
which flowed over his perturbed soul like a benediction. He drew a
chair from a pile in a corner and sat down for a moment near one of
the little side chapels, to recover from the stifling heat without and
prepare his thought for the impending interview with the Bishop. A dim
twilight enveloped the interior of the building, affording a grateful
relief from the blinding glare of the streets. It brought him a
transient sense of peace--the peace which his wearied soul had never
fully known. Peace brooded over the great nave, and hovered in the
soft air that drifted slowly through the deserted aisle up to the High
Altar, where lay the Sacred Host. A few votive candles were struggling
to send their feeble glow through the darkness. The great images of
the suffering Christ, of the Saints and the Virgin Mother had merged
their outlines into the heavy shadows which lay upon them.

The haunting memory of years of soul-struggle with doubt and fear, of
passionate longing for the light of truth in the gloom of superstition
and man-made creeds, for guidance among the devious paths of human
conjecture which lead nowhither--or to madness--seemed to fade into
the darkness which wrapped him in that holy calm. After all, what had
he won in his lifelong warfare with human beliefs? What had he gained
by his mad opposition to Holy Church? There she stood, calm, majestic,
undisturbed. Had not the Christ himself declared that the gates of
hell should not prevail against her? Was not the unfoldment of truth a
matter, not of years, but of ages? And were the minds of men to-day
prepared for higher verities than those she offered? Did not the
Church plant the seed as rapidly as the barren soil of the human mind
was tilled and made fallow? True, her sons, whom he had so obstinately
opposed, were blindly zealous. But were they wholly without wisdom?
Had not his own zeal been as unreasoningly directed to the forcing of
events? And still, through it all, she had held her indulgent arms
extended to him, as to all erring mankind. Why not now, like a tired
child, weary of futile resistance, yield to her motherly embrace and
be at last at peace? Again the temptation which he had stubbornly
resisted for a lifetime urged upon him with all its mesmeric
insistence.

He looked up, and his glance fell upon a small, glass-covered case,
dimly visible in the uncertain light at one side of the little altar.
The case was filled with tiny images of gold--_milagros_. Each had
received priestly blessing, and each was believed to have worked a
miraculous cure. The relaxed lines of the priest's care-worn face
instantly drew into an expression of hard austerity. Like the ebb of
the ocean, his recalcitrant thought surged back again in a towering
flood.

"What a spectacle!" he murmured. "Holy Church, assuming spiritual
leadership of the world, sunken in idolatry, and publicly parading her
fetishism in these lingering echoes of primitive demon-worship!"

Ah, the Master taught the omnipotence of God, whose ways he declared
as high above the blind grovelings of man as the dome of heaven swings
above earth. But how long, gentle Master, shall such as this be
declared thy Father's ways? How long shall superstition and idolatry
retain the power to fetter the souls of men? Is there no end to the
black curse of ignorance of Truth, which, after untold centuries,
still makes men sink with vain toil and consume with disease? And--are
those who sit about Peter's gorgeous tomb and approve these things
unerring guides to a right knowledge of God, to know whom, the Christ
has said, is life eternal?

A step behind him broke the flow of his dark revery.

"Our good Josè dreams below, while His Grace bites his nails above,"
said a soft, mellifluous voice. "_Qué chiste!_ It is--"

The priest sprang to his feet and faced the speaker. For a moment the
men regarded each other, the one uncertain as to the impending event,
but supremely confident of his ability to meet it; the other sick in
soul and torn with mental struggle, but for the moment fired anew with
the righteous wrath which his recent brief interview with the woman,
Marcelena, had kindled.

"Wenceslas--" The priest spoke in a strained, uncertain tone, striving
to hold his emotions in leash. "I have learned to-day--The girl,
Maria--"

"_Caro amigo_," interrupted Wenceslas smoothly, "what you have learned
to-day, or any other day, of the girl, Maria, is a lie."

"_Hombre!_" The priest turned livid. Stepping closer to Wenceslas--

"Do you think, inhuman! that I have not long known of your relations
with this girl? Who has not! And, further, I know--and Cartagena shall
know--that to-day she lies dying beside your child!"

Wenceslas recoiled. His face flushed, and the veins of his forehead
swelled with a purple flood. Then a pallor spread over his features,
and beads of perspiration started from his pores.

It was but momentary. Recovering himself, he laid a large hand on the
priest's shoulder, and, his face assuming its wonted smile, said in
his usual low tone, "_Amigo_, it seems that you have a penchant for
spreading gossip. Think you I am ignorant of the fact that because of
it Rome spewed you out for a meddlesome pest? Do you deceive yourself
that Cartagena will open her ears to your garbled reports? The hag,
Marcelena, lies! She has long hoped to gain some advantage from me, I
have told you-- But go now above and learn from His Grace, whom you
have had the impudence to keep waiting all morning, how tongues that
wag too freely can be silenced." He checked himself suddenly, as if he
feared he had said too much. Then, turning on his heel, he quickly
left the Cathedral.

The priest's head sank upon his breast, and he stood, infirm of
purpose and choking with words which he could not voice. The whirl in
which his confused brain had revolved for months--nay, years--had made
the determination of conduct with him a matter of hours, of days, of
weeks. Spontaneity of action had long since ceased within his fettered
mind, where doubt had laid its detaining hand upon his judgment.
Uncertainty of his steps, fear of their consequence, and dread lest he
precipitate the calamity which he felt hung always just above him, had
sapped the courage and strength of will which his soul needed for a
determined stand, and left him incapable of decisive action, even in
the face of grossest evil. The mordant reply of Wenceslas only
strengthened his conviction of the futility of massing his own feeble
forces against those of one so thoroughly entrenched as this man, who
had the ear of the Bishop--nay, whose resourceful mind was now said to
be actually directing the policies of the feeble old ecclesiastic who
held the bishopric of Cartagena.

As if groping through the blackness of midnight, he moved slowly down
the deserted nave of the Cathedral and mounted the winding stairs to
the ambulatory above. Pausing at the door of the _sanctum_ for a
moment to gather up his remnant of moral strength, he entered and
stood hesitant before the waiting Bishop.



CHAPTER 2


The long War of Independence which destroyed the last vestige of
Spanish control over the Peruvian colonies of South America was
virtually brought to a close by the terrific battle of Ayacucho,
fought on the plains between Pizarro's city of Lima and the ancient
Inca seat of Cuzco in the fall of 1824. The result of this battle had
been eagerly awaited in the city of Cartagena, capital of the newly
formed federation of Colombia. It was known there that the Royalist
army was concentrating for a final stand. It was known, too, that its
veterans greatly outnumbered the nondescript band of patriots, many of
whom were provided only with the _arma blanca_, the indispensable
_machete_ of tropical America. This fact lent a shred of encouragement
to the few proud Tory families still remaining in the city and
clinging forlornly to their broken fortunes, while vainly hoping for a
reëstablishment of the imperial regimen, as they pinned their fate to
this last desperate conflict. Among these, none had been prouder, none
more loyal to the Spanish Sovereign, and none more liberal in
dispensing its great wealth to bolster up a hopeless cause than the
ancient and aristocratic family at whose head stood Don Ignacio Josè
Marquez de Rincón, distinguished member of the _Cabildo_, and most
loyal subject of his imperial majesty, King Ferdinand VII. of Spain.

The house of Rincón traced its lineage back to the ferocious
adventurer, Juan de Rincón, favorite lieutenant of the renowned
_Conquistador_, Pedro de Heredia. When the latter, in the year 1533,
obtained from Charles V. the concession of New Andalusia, the whole
territory comprised between the mouths of the Magdalena and Atrato
rivers in what is now the Republic of Colombia, and undertook the
conquest of this enormously rich district, the fire-eating Juan, whom
the chroniclers of that romantic period quaintly described as "causing
the same effects as lightning and quicksilver," was his most
dependable support. Together they landed at the Indian village of
Calamari, and, after putting the pacific inhabitants to the sword--a
manner of disposal most satisfactory to the practical Juan--laid the
foundations of the present city of Cartagena, later destined to become
the "Queen of the Indies," the pride, as it was the despair, of the
haughty monarchs of Spain.

For his eminent services in this exploit Juan received a large tract
of land in the most fertile part of the Magdalena valley--which he
immediately staked and lost at the gaming-table. As a measure of
consolation, and doubtless with the view of checking Juan's gambling
propensities, Pedro de Heredia then bestowed upon him a strip of bleak
and unexplored mountain country adjacent to the river Atrato. Stung by
his sense of loss, as well as by the taunts of his boisterous
companions, and harassed by the practical conclusion that life's
brevity would not permit of wiping out their innumerable insults
singly by the sword, the raging Juan gathered together a few
blood-drinking companions of that ilk and set out to find diversion of
mind on his possessions.

Years passed. One day Juan again appeared on the streets of Cartagena,
and this time with gold enough to buy the city. The discovery of rich
auriferous sands on his estates adjoining the Atrato, which were
worked extensively for him by the natives whom he and his companions
had forced into subjection, had yielded him enormous wealth. He
settled in Cartagena, determined to make it his future home, and at
once set about buying great blocks of houses and erecting a palace for
himself. He began to acquire lands and mines in all directions. He
erected a sumptuous summer residence in what is now the suburb of
Turbaco. He built an _arena_, and bred bulls for it from famous stock
which he imported from the mother-country. He gave _fêtes_ and public
entertainments on the most lavish scale imaginable. In short, he
quickly became Cartagena's most influential and distinguished citizen,
as he was easily her richest.

But far more important to mention than all these dry details was the
undoubted change of character which had come over the man himself.
Perhaps it was the awful heat of the steaming Atrato valley that drew
the fire from his livid soul. Perhaps it was a dawning appreciation of
the opportunities made possible by his rapid acquisition of wealth
that had softened his character. Some said he had seen a vision of the
Virgin Mary. Others laid it to a terrible fever, in which for days he
had lain delirious in the shadow of death. Be that as it may, the
bloodthirsty _Conquistador_, who a few years before angrily shook the
dust of Cartagena from his feet, had now returned a changed man.

At once Juan began to manifest in an ever increasing degree an
interest in matters religious. In this respect his former character
suffered a complete reversal. He assiduously cultivated the clergy,
and gave large sums for the support of the Cathedral and the religious
orders of the city. The Bishop became a frequent guest at his
sumptuous table; and as often he in turn sought the Bishop for
consultation anent his benefactions and, in particular, for
consolation when haunted by sad memories of his devilish exploits in
early life. When the great-hearted Padre Bartolomé de las Casas,
infirm but still indefatigable in his work for the protection and
uplift of the Indians, arrived one memorable day in his little canoe
which his devoted native servants had paddled through the _dique_ from
the great river beyond, Juan was the first to greet him and insist
that he make his home with him while in the city. And on the night of
the Padre's arrival it is said that Juan, with tears streaming down
his scarred and wrinkled face, begged to be allowed to confess to him
the awful atrocities which he had committed upon the innocent and
harmless aborigines when, as was his wont, his breath hot with the
lust of blood, he had fallen upon them without provocation and hewed
them limb from limb.

In his old age the now gentle Juan, his former self almost obliterated,
expressed a desire to renounce the world, bestow his great wealth upon
the Church, and enter a monastery to pass his remaining years. Despite
the protestations of his numerous family, for whom his religious zeal
would permit him to leave but scanty provision, he was already
formulating plans toward this end when death overtook him, and his vast
estates descended intact to the family which he had founded.

So complete had been the transformation of Juan de Rincón during the
many years that he lived after his return to Cartagena that the
characteristics which he transmitted to his posterity were, in
general, quite the reverse of those which he himself had manifested so
abundantly in early life. Whereas, he had formerly been atrociously
cruel, boastingly impious, and a scoffer at matters religious, his
later descendants were generally tender of heart, soft of manner, and
of great piety. Whereas, in early manhood he had been fiery and
impulsive, quick of decision and immovable of opinion, his progeny
were increasingly inclined to be deliberate in judgment and
vacillating of purpose. So many of his descendants entered the
priesthood that the family was threatened with extinction, for in the
course of time it had become a sacred custom in the Rincón family to
consecrate the first-born son to the Church. This custom at length
became fixed, and was rigidly observed, even to the point of bigotry,
despite the obliteration of those branches where there was but a
single son.

The family, so auspiciously launched, waxed increasingly rich and
influential; and when the smoldering fires of revolution burst into
flame among the oppressed South American colonies, late in the year
1812, the house of Rincón, under royal and papal patronage, was found
occupying the first position of eminence and prestige in the proud old
city of Cartagena. Its wealth had become proverbial. Its sons,
educated by preceptors brought from Paris and Madrid, were prominent
at home and abroad. Its honor was unimpeachable. Its fair name was one
of the most resplendent jewels in the Spanish crown. And Don Ignacio
epitomized loyalty to Sovereign and Pope.

With the inauguration of hostilities no fears were felt by the
Rincón family for the ultimate success of the royalist arms, and
Don Ignacio immediately despatched word to his Sovereign in Madrid
that the wealth and services of his house were at the royal
disposal. Of this offer Ferdinand quickly availed himself. The Rincón
funds were drawn upon immediately and without stint to furnish men
and muniments for the long and disastrous struggle. Of the family
resources there was no lack while its members held their vast
possessions of lands and mines. But when, after the first successes
of the patriots, reprisals began to be visited upon the Tories of
Cartagena, and their possessions fell, one after another, into the
hands of the successful revolutionists, or were seized by former
slaves, Don Ignacio found it difficult to meet his royal master's
demands. The fickle King, already childish to the verge of imbecility,
gave scant thanks in return for the Rincón loyalty, and when at last,
stripped of his fortune, deserted by all but the few Tory families
who had the courage to remain in Cartagena until the close of the
war, Don Ignacio received with sinking heart the news of the battle
of Ayacucho, he knew full well that any future appeal to Ferdinand for
recognition of his great sacrifices would fall upon unhearing ears.

But to remain in republican Cartagena after the final success of the
revolutionists was to the royalist Don Ignacio quite impossible. Even
if permitted the attempt, he was so attached to the ancient order of
things that he could not adjust himself to the radically changed
conditions. So, gathering about him the sorrowing remnant of his
family, and converting into a pitifully small sum his few remaining
possessions, he took passage on an English trader and sailed for the
mother-country, to begin life anew among those whose speech and
customs were most familiar to him.

He settled in Seville, where the elder of his two sons, Rafaél de
Rincón, a lad of fifteen, was studying for the priesthood, under the
patronage of the Archbishop. There he established himself in the wine
business, associating with him his second son, Carlos, only a year the
junior of his brother. But, broken in spirit as well as in fortune, he
made little headway, and two years later died pitiably in poverty and
obscurity.

Through the influence of the Archbishop, the business, which Carlos
was far too young and immature to conduct, was absorbed by larger
interests, and the young lad retained as an employe. As the years
passed the boy developed sufficient commercial ability to enable him
to retain his position and to extract from it enough to provide for
the needs of himself and his dependents. He married, late in life, a
woman whose family had fled from Cartagena with his own and settled in
Seville. She was but a babe in arms at the time of the exodus, and
many years his junior. A year after the marriage a child was born to
them, a son. The babe's birth was premature, following a fright which
the mother received when attacked by a beggar. But the child lived.
And, according to the honored family custom, which the father insisted
on observing as rigidly in Spain as it had been formerly in Cartagena,
this son, Josè Francisco Enrique de Rincón, was at birth consecrated
to the service of God in the Holy Catholic Church.



CHAPTER 3


If, as Thoreau said, "God is on the side of the most sensitive," then
He should have been very close to the timid, irresolute lad in
Seville, in whom the softer traits of character, so unexpectedly
developed in the adventurous founder of the Rincón family, now stood
forth so prominently. Somber, moody, and retiring; delicately
sensitive and shrinking; acutely honest, even to the point of
morbidity; deeply religious and passionately studious, with a
consuming zeal for knowledge, and an unsatisfied yearning for truth,
the little Josè early in life presented a strange medley of
characteristics, which bespoke a need of the utmost care and wisdom on
the part of those who should have the directing of his career. Forced
into the world before his time, and strongly marked by his mother's
fear; afflicted with precarious health, and subjected to long and
desperate illnesses in childhood, his little soul early took on a
gloom and asceticism wholly unnatural to youth. Fear was constantly
instilled into his acutely receptive mind by his solicitous, doting
parents; and his life was thereby stunted, warped, and starved. He was
reared under the constant reminder of the baleful effects of food, of
air, of conduct, of this and that invisible force inimical to health;
and terror and anxiety followed him like a ghost and turned about all
his boyish memories. Under these repressing influences his mind could
not but develop with a lack of stamina for self-support. Hesitancy and
vacillation became pronounced. In time, the weight of any important
decision gave him acute, unendurable agony of mind. Called upon to
decide for himself a matter of import, his thought would become
confused, his brain torpid, and in tears and perplexity the tormented
lad would throw himself into the arms of his anxious parents and beg
to be told what course to pursue.

Thus his nature grew to depend upon something stronger than itself to
twine about. He sought it in his schoolmates; but they misread him.
The little acts which were due to his keen sensitiveness or to his
exaggerated reticence of disposition were frequently interpreted by
them as affronts, and he was generally left out of their games, or
avoided entirely. His playmates consequently became fewer and more
transient as the years gained upon him, until at length, trodden upon,
but unable to turn, he withdrew his love from the world and bestowed
it all upon his anxious mother. She became his only intimate, and from
her alone he sought the affection for which he yearned with an
intensity that he could not express. Shunning the boisterous,
frolicking children at the close of the school day, he would seek her,
and, nestling at her side, her hand clasped in his, would beg her to
talk to him of the things with which his childish thought was
struggling. These were many, but they revolved about a common
center--religion.

The salient characteristics already mentioned were associated with
others, equally prominent, and no less influential in the shaping of
his subsequent career. With the development of his deep, inward
earnestness there had appeared indications of latent powers of mind
that were more than ordinary. These took the form of childish
precocity in his studies, clearness of spiritual vision, and
maturity in his conduct and mode of life. The stunting of his
physical nature threw into greater prominence his exaggerated
soul-qualities, his tenderness, his morbid conscientiousness, and a
profound emotionalism which, at the sight of a great painting, or
the roll of the Cathedral organ, would flood his eyes and fill his
throat with sobs. When the reckless founder of the family experienced
a reversal of his own dark traits of soul, nearly three centuries
before, it was as if the pendulum had swung too far in the opposite
direction, and at the extreme point of its arc had left the little
Josè, with the sterner qualities of the old _Conquistador_ wholly
neutralized by self-condemnation, fear, infirmity of purpose, a high
degree of intellectuality, and a soul-permeating religious fervor.

At the mention of religion the timid lad at once became passionate,
engrossed--nay, obsessed. In his boyhood years, before the pall of
somber reticence had settled over him, he had been impressed with the
majesty of the Church and the gorgeousness of her material fabric. The
religious ideals taught him by his good mother took deep root. But the
day arrived when the expansion of his intellect reached such a point
as to enable him to detect a flaw in her reasoning. It was but a
little rift, yet the sharp edge of doubt slipped in. Alas! from that
hour he ceased to drift with the current of popular theological
belief; his frail bark turned, and launched out upon the storm-tossed
sea, where only the outstretched hand of the Master, treading the
heaving billows through the thick gloom, saved it at length from
destruction.

The hungry lad began to question his parents incessantly regarding the
things of the spirit. His teachers in the parochial school he plied
with queries which they could not meet. Day after day, while other
boys of his tender age romped in the street, he would steal into the
great Cathedral and stand, pathetically solitary, before the statues
of the Christ and the Virgin Mary, yearning over the problems with
which his childish thought was struggling, and the questions to which
no one could return satisfying replies.

Here again the boy seemed to manifest in exaggerated form the reversed
characteristics of the old _Conquistador_. But, unlike that of the
pious Juan, the mind of the little Josè was not so simple as to permit
it to accept without remonstrance the tenets of his family's faith.
Blind acceptance of any teaching, religious or secular, early became
quite impossible to him. This entailed many an hour of suffering to
the lad, and brought down upon his little head severe punishments from
his preceptors and parents. But in vain they admonished and
threatened. The child demanded proofs; and if proofs were not at hand,
his acceptance of the mooted teaching was but tentative, generally
only an outward yielding to his beloved mother's inexorable
insistence. Many the test papers he returned to his teachers whereon
he had written in answer to the questions set, "I am taught to reply
thus; but in my heart I do not believe it." Vainly the teachers
appealed to his parents. Futilely the latter pleaded and punished. The
placid receptiveness of the Rincón mind, which for more than three
hundred years had normally performed its absorptive functions and
imbibed the doctrines of its accepted and established human
authorities, without a trace of the heresy of suspecting their
genuineness, had at last experienced a reversal. True, the boy had
been born in the early hours of nineteenth century doubt and religious
skepticism. The so-called scientific spirit, buried for ages beneath
the _débris_ of human conjecture, was painfully emerging and preening
its wings for flight. The "higher criticism" was nascent, and ancient
traditions were already beginning to totter on the foundations which
the Fathers had set. But Spain, close wrapped in mediaeval dreams, had
suffered no taint of "modernism." The portals of her mind were well
guarded against the entrance of radical thought, and her dreamers were
yet lulled into lethargic adherence to outworn beliefs and musty
creeds by the mesmerism of priestly tradition. The peculiar cast of
mind of the boy Josè was not the product of influences from without,
but was rather an exemplification of the human mind's reversion to
type, wherein the narrow and bigoted mentality of many generations had
expanded once more into the breadth of scope and untrammeled freedom
of an ancient progenitor.

As the boy grew older his ability to absorb learning increased
astonishingly. His power of analysis, his keen perception and
retentive memory soon advanced him beyond the youths of his own age,
and forced him to seek outside the pale of the schoolroom for the
means to satisfy his hunger for knowledge. He early began to haunt the
bookstalls of Seville, and day after day would stand for hours
searching the treasures which he found there, and mulling over books
which all too frequently were _anathema_ to the orthodox. Often the
owner of one of these shops, who knew the lad's parents, and whose
interest had been stirred by his passion for reading, would let him
take one or more of the coveted volumes home over night, for the
slender family purse would not permit him to purchase what his heart
craved. Then came feasts for his famished little soul which often
lasted until daybreak.

It happened one evening that, when he crept off to his little room to
peer into one of these borrowed treasures, his father followed him.
Pushing the chamber door softly open the parent found the boy propped
against his pillow in bed, absorbed in a much-thumbed volume which he
was reading by the pale light of the single candle.

"Is it thus that you deceive your poor parents?" the fond father
began, in a tone of mock severity.

The startled lad stifled a cry and hastily thrust the book beneath his
pillow. The father's interest now became genuine. Leaning over the
terrified boy he drew forth the volume.

"Voltaire!"

The doting father stood petrified. Voltaire, _Antichrist_, Archfiend
of impiety--and in the hands of his beloved son!

Sleep fled the little household that night. In his father's arms,
while the distressed mother hung over them, the boy sobbed out his
confession. He had not intended to deceive. He had picked up this book
in the stall without knowing its nature. He had become so interested
in what it said about the Virgin Mary that he forgot all else. The
shopkeeper had found him reading it, and had laughed and winked at his
clerk when he bade the boy take it home for the night. The book had
fascinated him. He himself--did not his father know?--had so often
asked how the Virgin could be the mother of God, and why men prayed to
her. Yes, he knew it mocked their faith--and the sacred Scriptures. He
knew, too, that his father would not approve of it. That was why he
had tried to hide it beneath his pillow. He had been wicked,
desperately wicked, to deceive his dear parents--But the book--It made
him forget--It said so many things that seemed to be true--And--and--

"Oh, _padre mío_, forgive me, forgive me! I want to know the truth
about God and the world!" The delicate frame of the young lad shook in
paroxysms of grief.

Alas! it was but the anguished soul-cry which has echoed through the
halls of space since time began. What a mockery to meet it with empty
creed and human dogma! Alas! what a crime against innocence to stifle
the honest questionings of a budding mind with the musty cloak of
undemonstrable beliefs.

"But, my son, have I not often told you? The Holy Church gives us the
truth," replied the father, frightened by the storm which raged within
the childish soul, yet more alarmed at the turn which the mind of his
cherished son was apparently taking--his only son, dedicated to the
service of God from the cradle, and in whom the shattered hopes of
this once proud family were now centered.

"But this book laughs at us because we pray to a woman!" sobbed the
boy.

"True. But does not its author need the prayers of so pure a woman as
the Virgin? Do we not all need them? And is it not likely that one so
good as she would have great influence with God--much greater than we
ourselves, or even the best of men, could have?"

"But how can she be the mother of God? The Bible does not teach
that!"

"How do you know that the Bible does not teach it, my son?"

"I--I--have read--the Bible," faltered the lad.

"You have read the Bible!" cried the astonished father. "And where
have you done that, you wicked boy?"

"At the bookstore of Mariano," confessed the trembling child.

"_Madre de Dios!_" burst from the father, as he started to his feet.
"Mariano is a wicked infidel! The Bishop shall hear of this! Ah, well
may the Holy Father in Rome grieve to see his innocent babes led
astray by these servants of hell! But, my son," returning to the boy
and clasping him again in his arms, "it is not too late. The Virgin
Mother has protected you. You meant no harm. Satan covets your pure
little soul--But he shall not have it!" The father's tremulous voice
mounted high, "No, by the Saints in heaven, he shall not have it!"

The boy's assurance slowly returned under the influence of his
father's tender solicitude, even though he remained dimly conscious of
the rift widening little by little between his parents' settled
convictions and his own groping thought. With the assuaging of his
grief came again those insistent questions which throughout his life
had tormented his peace and driven him even to the doors of infidels
in search of truth.

"Father," he began timidly, "why was I wicked to read the Bible?"

"Because, my son, in doing so you yielded to the temptations of Satan.
The Bible is a great and mysterious book, written by God himself. He
meant it to be explained to us by the Holy Father, who is the head of
the Church which the good Saint Peter founded. We are not great enough
nor good enough to understand it. The Holy Father, who cares for God's
Church on earth, he is good enough, and he alone can interpret it to
us. Satan tries to do with all men just what he did with you, my
child. He seeks to make them read the Bible so that he can confuse
them and rob them of their faith. Then when he gets possession of
their souls he drags them down with him to hell, where they are lost
forever."

"And does the Holy Father really believe that Mary is the mother of
God?" persisted the boy, raising his tear-stained face.

"Yes--is she not? The blessed Saviour said that he and God were one.
And, as Mary is the mother of Christ, she is also the mother of
God--is she not? Let us read what the good Saint John Chrysostom
says." He rose and went into another room, returning in a few minutes
with a little volume. Taking the boy again on his knee, he continued,
"The blessed Saint tells us that the Virgin Mary was made the mother
of God in order that she might obtain salvation for many who, on
account of their wicked lives, could not be saved, because they had so
offended divine justice, but yet, by the help of her sweet mercy and
mighty intercession, might be cleansed and rendered fit for heaven. My
little son, you have always been taught that Mary is heaven's Queen.
And so she is ours, and reigns in heaven for us. Jesus loves to have
her close to him, and he can never refuse her requests. He always
grants what she asks. And that is the reason why we pray to her. She
never forgets us--never!"

A troubled look crossed the boy's face. Then he began anew. "Father
dear, God made everything, did He not? The Bible says that, anyway."

"Yes, child."

"Did He make Satan?"

The father hesitated. The child hurried on under the lash of his holy
inquisitiveness. "Father, how did evil come into the world? Is God
both good and bad? And how can a good God punish us forever for sins
committed here in only a few short years?"

"Ah, _queridito_!" cried the harassed father. "Such questions should
not have entered your little head for years to come! Why can you not
run and play as do other children? Why are you not happy as they are?
Why must you spend your days thinking of things that are far too deep
for you? Can you not wait? Some day you shall know all. Some day, when
you have entered the service of God, perhaps you may even learn these
things from the Holy Father himself. Then you will understand how the
good God lets evil tempt us in order that our faith in Him may be
exercised and grow strong--"

"And He lets Satan harm us purposely?" The boy's innocent dark eyes
looked up appealingly into his father's face.

"It is only for a short time, little son. And only those who are never
fit for heaven go down with Satan. But you are not one of those," he
hastily added, straining the boy to him. "And the Masses which the
good priests say for us will lift us out of purgatory and into heaven,
where the streets are pure gold and the gates are pearl. And there we
will all live together for--"

"Father," interrupted the boy, "I have thought of these things for a
long, long time. I do not believe them. And I do not wish to become a
priest."

The father fell silent. It was one of those tense moments which every
man experiences when he sees a withering frost slowly gathering over
the fondest hopes of a lifetime. The family of Rincón, aristocratic,
intensely loyal to Church and State, had willingly laid itself upon
the sacrificial altar in deference to its honored traditions. Custom
had become law. Obedience of son to parent and parent to Sovereign,
spiritual or temporal, had been the guiding star of the family's
destinies. To think was lawful; but to hold opinions at variance with
tradition was unspeakable heresy. Spontaneity of action was
commendable; but conduct not prescribed by King or Pope was
unpardonable crime. Loss of fortune, of worldly power and prestige,
were as nothing; deviation from the narrow path trodden by the
illustrious scions of the great Juan was everything. That this lad, to
whom had descended the undying memories of a long line of glorious
defenders of kingly and papal power, should presume to shatter the
sacred Rincón traditions, was unbelievable. It was none other than the
work of Satan. The boy had fallen an innocent victim to the devil's
wiles.

But the house of Rincón had withstood the assaults of the son of
perdition for more than three centuries. It would not yield now! The
all-powerful Church of Rome stood behind it--and the gates of hell
could not prevail against her! The Church would save her own. Yes, the
father silently argued, through his brother's influence the case
should be laid before His Eminence, the Archbishop. And, if need be,
the Holy Father himself should be called upon to cast the devil out of
this tormented child. To argue with the boy now were futile, even
dangerous. The lad had grown up with full knowledge of his parents'
fond hopes for his future. He had never openly opposed them, although
at times the worried mother would voice her fears to the father when
her little son brought his perplexing questions to her and failed to
find satisfaction. But until this night the father had felt no alarm.
Indeed, he had looked upon the child's inquisitiveness as but a
logical consequence of his precocity and unusual mental powers, in
which he himself felt a father's swelling pride. To his thought it
augured rapid promotion in the Church; it meant in time a Cardinal's
hat. Ah, what glorious possibilities! How the prestige of the now
sunken family would soar! Happily he had been aroused to an
appreciation of the boy's really desperate state in time. The case
should go before the Archbishop to-morrow, and the Church should hear
his call to hasten to the rescue of this wandering lamb.



CHAPTER 4


Seville is called the heart of Spain. In a deeper sense it is her
soul. Within it, extremes touch, but only to blend into a harmonious
unit which manifests the Spanish temperament and character more truly
there than in any other part of the world. In its Andalusian
atmosphere the religious instinct of the Spaniard reaches its fullest
embodiment. True, its bull-fights are gory spectacles; but they are
also gorgeous and solemn ceremonies. Its _ferias_ are tremendously
worldly; but they are none the less stupendous religious _fêtes_. Its
picturesque Easter processions, when colossal images of the Virgin are
carried among bareheaded and kneeling crowds, smack of paganism; but
we cannot question the genuineness of the religious fervor thus
displayed. Its Cathedral touches the _arena_; and its Archbishop
washes the feet of its old men. Its religion is still the living force
which unites and levels, exalts and debases. And its religion is
Rome.

On the fragrant spring morning following the discovery of the
execrated Voltaire, the little Josè, tightly clutching his father's
hand, threaded the narrow Sierpes and crossed the Prado de San
Sebastian, once the _Quemador_, where the Holy Inquisition was wont to
purge heresy from human souls with fire. The father shuddered, and his
stern face grew dark, as he thought of the revolting scenes once
enacted in that place in the name of Christ; and he inwardly voiced a
prayer of gratitude that the Holy Office had ceased to exist. Yet he
knew that, had he lived in that day, he would have handed his beloved
son over to that awful institution without demurral, rather than see
him develop those heretical views which were already rising from the
soil of his fertile, inquisitive mind.

The tinkling of a bell sounded down the street. Father and son quickly
doffed their hats and knelt on the pavement, while a priest, mounted
on a mule, rode swiftly past on his way to the bedside of a dying
communicant, the flickering lights and jingling bell announcing the
fact that he bore with him the Sacred Host.

"Please God, you will do the same some day, my son," murmured the
father. But the little Josè kept his eyes to the pavement, and would
make no reply.

Meanwhile, at a splendidly carved table in the library of his palatial
residence, surrounded by every luxury that wealth and ecclesiastical
influence could command, the Archbishop, pious shepherd of a restless
flock, sat with clouded brow and heavy heart. The festive ceremonials
of Easter were at hand, and the Church was again preparing to display
her chief splendors. But on the preceding Easter disturbances had
interrupted the processions of the Virgin; and already rumors had
reached the ears of the Archbishop of further trouble to be incited
during the approaching Holy Week by the growing body of skeptics and
anticlericals. To what extent these liberals had assumed the
proportions of a propaganda, and how active they would now show
themselves, were questions causing the holy man deep concern. Heavy
sighs escaped him as he voiced his fears to his sympathetic secretary
and associate, Rafaél de Rincón, the gaunt, ascetic uncle of the
little Josè.

"Alas!" he murmured gloomily. "Since the day that our Isabella yielded
to her heretic ministers and thrust aside the good Sister Patrocinio,
Spain has been in a perilous state. After that unholy act the
dethronement and exile of the Queen were inevitable."

"True, Your Eminence," replied the secretary. "But is there no cause
for hope in the elevation of her son, Alfonso, to the throne?"

"He is but seventeen--and absent from Spain six years. He lacks the
force of his talented mother. And there is no longer a Sister
Patrocinio to command the royal ear."

"Unfortunate, I admit, Your Eminence. She bore the _stigmata_, the
very marks of our Saviour's wounds, imprinted on her flesh, and worked
his miracles. But, in Alfonso--"

"No, no," interrupted the Archbishop impatiently; "he has styled
himself the first Republican in Europe. He will make Catholicism the
state religion; but he will extend religious toleration to all. He is
consumptive in mind as well as in body. And the army--alas! what may
we look for from it when soldiers like this Polo Hernandez refuse to
kneel during the Mass?"

"The man has been arrested, Your Eminence," the secretary offered in
consolation.

"But the court-martial acquitted him!"

"True. Yet he has now been summoned before the supreme court in
Madrid."

The Archbishop's face brightened somewhat. "And the result--what think
you?"

The secretary shrugged his drooping shoulders. "They will condemn
him."

Yes, doubtless he would be condemned, for mediaevalism dies hard in
Spain. But the incident was portentous, and the Archbishop and his
keen secretary heard in it an ominous echo.

A servant appeared at the heavy portieres, and at a sign from the
secretary ushered Josè and his father into the august presence
awaiting them.

An hour later the pair emerged from the palace and started homeward.
His Eminence, rousing himself from the profound revery in which he had
been sunk for some moments, turned to his expectant secretary.

"A Luther in embryo!" he ejaculated.

"I feared as much, Your Eminence," returned the austere secretary.

"And yet, a remarkable intellect! Astonishing mental power! But all
tainted with the damnable so-called scientific spirit!"

"True, Your Eminence."

"But marked you not his deep reverence for God? And his sturdy
honesty? And how, despite his embarrassment, the religious zeal of his
soul shown forth?"

"He is morbidly honest, Your Grace."

"A trait I wish we might employ to our own advantage," mused the
churchman. Then, continuing, "He is learned far beyond his years.
Indeed, his questions put me to some stress--but only for the
difficulty of framing replies intelligible to a mind so immature," he
added hastily. "Either he feared my presence, or he is naturally
shrinking."

"He is so by nature, Your Eminence."

The Archbishop reflected. "Naïve--pure--simple--mature, yet childish.
Have we covered the ground?"

"Not fully, Your Eminence. We omitted to mention his absorbing filial
devotion."

"True. And that, you tell me, is most pronounced."

"It is his strongest characteristic, Your Eminence. He has no will to
oppose it."

"Would that his devotion were for Holy Church!" sighed the Archbishop.

"I think it may be so directed, Your Eminence," quickly returned the
secretary.

"But--would he ever consent to enter the priesthood? And once in,
would he not prove a most dangerous element?"

The secretary made a deprecating gesture. "If I may suggest, such a
man as he promises to become is far more dangerous outside of the
Church than within, Your Eminence."

The Archbishop studied the man's face for a few moments. "There is
truth in your words, my friend. Yet how, think you, may he be
secured?"

"Your Eminence," replied the secretary warmly, "pardon these
suggestions in matters where you are far better fitted to pass sound
judgment than a humble servant of the Church like myself. But in this
case intimacy with my brother's family affords me data which may be
serviceable in bringing this matter to a conclusion. If I may be
permitted--"

The Archbishop nodded an unctuous and patronizing appreciation of his
elderly secretary's position, and the latter continued--

"Your Eminence, Holy Week is approaching, and we are beset with fears
lest the spirit of heresy which, alas! is abroad in our fair city,
shall manifest itself in such disturbances as may force us to abandon
these religious exercises in future. I need not point out the serious
nature of these demonstrations. Nor need I suggest that their relative
unimportance last year was due solely to lack of strong leadership.
Already our soldiers begin to refuse to kneel during the Mass. The
Holy Church is not yet called upon to display her weapons. But who
shall say to what measures she may not be forced when an able and
fearless leader shall arise among the heretics? To-day there has stood
before Your Eminence a lad possessing, in my opinion, the latent
qualifications for such leadership. I say, latent. I use the term
advisedly, for I know that he appears to manifest the Rincón lack of
decision. But so did I at his age. And who can say when the unfolding
of his other powers, now so markedly indicated, may not force the
development of those certain traits of character in which he now seems
deficient, but which, developed, would make him a power in the world?
Shall the Church permit this promising lad to stray from her, possibly
later to join issue with her enemies and use his great gifts to
propagate heresy and assault her foundations? Are we faithful to our
beloved Mother if we do not employ every means, foul or fair, to
destroy her enemies, even in the cradle? Remember, 'He who gains the
youth, possesses the future,' as the saying goes."

"Loyally spoken, faithful son," replied the Archbishop, shifting into
a more comfortable position. "And you suggest--?"

"This: that we wisely avail ourselves of his salient characteristics--his
weaknesses, if you wish--and secure him now to the Church."

"And, more specifically--?" with increasing animation.

"Your Eminence is already aware of the custom in our family of
consecrating the first-born son to the service of God. This boy has
been so consecrated from birth. It is the dearest hope of his parents.
At present their wishes are still his law. Their judgments yet
formulate his conduct. His sense of honor is acute. Your Eminence can
see that his word is sacred. His oath once taken would bind him
eternally. _It is for us to secure that oath!_"

"And how?" The Archbishop leaned forward eagerly.

"We, coöperating with his parents, will cater to his consuming passion
for learning, and offer him the education which the limited resources
of his family cannot provide. We save him from the drudgery of
commercialism, and open to him the life of the scholar. We suggest to
him a career consecrated to study and holy service. The Church
educates him--he serves his fellow-men through her. Once ordained, his
character is such, I believe, that he could never become an apostate.
And, whatever his services to Holy Church may be thereafter, she at
least will have effectually disposed of a possible opponent. She has
all to gain, and nothing to lose by such procedure. Unless I greatly
mistake the Rincón character, the lad will yield to our inducements
and his mother's prayers, the charm of the Church and the bias of her
tutelage, and ultimately take the oath of ordination. After that--"

"My faithful adviser," interrupted the Archbishop genially, as visions
of the Cardinal's hat for eminent services hovered before him, "write
immediately to Monsignor, Rector of the _Seminario_, in Rome. Say that
he must at once receive, at our expense and on our recommendation, a
lad of twelve, who greatly desires to be trained for the priesthood."



CHAPTER 5


Thus did the Church open her arms to receive her wandering child. Thus
did her infallible wisdom, as expressed through her zealous agents in
Seville, essay to solve the perplexing problems of this agitated
little mind, and whisper to its confused throbbing, "Peace, be still."
The final disposition came to the boy not without some measure of
relief, despite, his protest. The long days of argument and pleading,
of assurance that within the Church he should find abundant and
satisfactory answers to his questions, and of explanations which he
was adjured to receive on faith until such time as he might be able to
prove their soundness, had utterly exhausted his sensitive little
soul, and left him without the combative energy or will for further
remonstrance.

Nor was the conflict solely a matching of his convictions against
the desires of his parents and the persuasions of the Archbishop and
his loyal secretary. The boy's hunger for learning alone might have
caused him to yield to the lure of a broad education. Moreover, his
nature contained not one element of commercialism. The impossibility
of entering the wine business with his father, or of spending his life
in physical toil for a bare maintenance, was as patent to himself,
even at that early age, as to his parents. His bent was wholly
intellectual. But he knew that his father could not afford him an
education. Yet this the Church now offered freely. Again, his nature
was essentially religious. The Church now extended all her learning,
all her vast resources, all her spiritual power, to develop and foster
this instinct. Nay, more, to protect and guide its development into
right channels.

The fact, too, that the little Josè was a child of extreme emotions
must not be overlooked in an estimate of the influences which bore
upon him during these trying days. His devotion to an object upon
which he had set his affections amounted to obsession. He adored his
parents--reverenced his father--worshiped his mother. The latter he
was wont to compare to the flowers, to the bright-plumed birds, to the
butterflies that hovered in the sunlight of their little _patio_. He
indited childish poems to her, and likened her in purity and beauty to
the angels and the Virgin Mary. Her slightest wish was his inflexible
law. Not that he was never guilty of childish faults of conduct, of
little whims of stubbornness and petulance; but his character rested
on a foundation of honesty, sincerity, and filial love that was never
shaken by the summer storms of naughtiness which at times made their
little disturbances above.

The parents breathed a sigh of relief when the tired child at last
bowed to their wishes and accepted the destiny thrust upon him. The
coming of a son to these loyal royalists and zealous Catholics had
meant the imposition of a sacred trust. That he was called to high
service in the Church of God was evidenced by Satan's early and
malicious attacks upon him. There was but one course for them to
pursue, and they did not for a moment question its soundness. To their
thought, this precocious child lacked the wisdom and balance which
comes only with years. The infallible Church, their all-wise spiritual
guide, supported their contentions. What they did was for her and for
the eternal welfare of the boy. Likewise, for the maintenance of
family pride and honor in a generation tainted with liberalism and
distrust of the sacred traditions.

The Church, on the other hand, in the august person of the Archbishop,
had accomplished a triumph. She had recognized the child's unusual
gifts of mind, and had been alert to the dangers they threatened. If
secured to herself, and their development carefully directed, they
would mold him into her future champion. If, despite her careful
weeding and pruning, they expanded beyond the limits which she set,
_they should be stifled_! The peculiar and complex nature of the child
offered her a tremendous advantage. For, if reactionary, his own
highly developed sense of honor, together with his filial devotion and
his intense family pride, should of themselves be forced to choke all
activity in the direction of apostasy and liberalism. Heaven knew, the
Church could not afford to neglect any action which promised to secure
for her a loyal son; or, failing that, at least effectually check in
its incipiency the development of a threatened opponent! Truly, as the
astute secretary had said, this boy might prove troublesome within the
fold; but he might also prove more dangerous without. Verily, it was
a triumph for the cause of righteousness! And after the final
disposition, the good Archbishop had sat far into the night in the
comfort of his _sanctum_, drowsing over his pleasant meditations on
the rewards which his unflagging devotion to the cause of Holy Church
was sure some day to bring.

Time sped. The fragrant Sevillian spring melted into summer, and
summer merged with fall. The Rincón family was adjusting itself to the
turn in the career of its heir, the guardian and depository of its
revived hopes. During the weeks which intervened between his first
interview with the Archbishop and his final departure for Rome, Josè
had been carefully prepared by his uncle, who spared no effort to
stimulate in the boy a proper appreciation of his high calling. He was
taught that as a priest of the Holy Catholic Church he would become a
representative of the blessed Christ among men. His mission would be
to carry on the Saviour's work for the salvation of souls, and, with
the power of Christ and in His name, to instruct mankind in true
beliefs and righteous conduct. He would forgive sins, impose
penalties, and offer sacrificial atonement in the body of the
Saviour--in a word, he was to become _sacerdos alter Christus_,
another Christ. His training for this exalted work would cover a
period of six or eight years, perhaps longer, and would fit him to
become a power among men, a conserver of the sacred faith, and an
ensample of the highest morality.

"Ah, _sobrinito_," the sharp-visaged, gray-haired uncle had said,
"truly a fortunate boy are you to hear this grandest of opportunities
knocking at your door! A priest--a God! Nay, even more than God, for
as priest God gives you power over Himself!"

The boy's wondering eyes widened, and a look of mingled confusion and
astonishment came into his wan face. "I do not see, _tío mío_--I do
not see," he murmured.

"But you shall, you shall! And you shall understand the awful
responsibility which God thus reposes upon you, when He gives you
power to do greater things than He did when He created the world. You
shall command the Christ, and He shall come down at your bidding. Ah,
_chiquito_, a fortunate boy!" But the lad turned wearily away, without
sharing his uncle's enthusiasm.

The day before his departure Josè was again conducted before the
Archbishop, and after listening to a lengthy résumé of what the Church
was about to do for him, and what she expected in return, two solemn
vows were exacted from him--

"First," announced the uncle, in low, deliberate tones, "you will
solemnly promise your mother and your God that, daily praying to be
delivered from the baneful influences which now cause doubt and
questioning in your mind, and refraining from voicing them to your
teachers or fellow-students, you will strive to accept all that is
taught you in Rome, deferring every endeavor to prove the teachings
you are to receive until the end of your long course, when, by
training and discipline, you shall have so developed in goodness,
purity, and power, that you shall be found worthy to receive spiritual
confirmation of the great tenets upon which the Holy Roman Catholic
Church has been founded and reared."

He paused for a moment to catch his breath and let his portentous
words sink into the quivering brain of the lad before him. Then he
resumed--

"Second, keeping ever in mind your debt of gratitude to the Church,
you promise faithfully to finish your course, and at the end offer
yourself to the service of God in the holy priesthood."

The solemn hush that lay over the room when he finished was broken
only by the muffled sobs of the mother.

Tender in years, plunged into grief at the impending separation from
home and all that he held dear, the boy knelt before the secretary and
gave his trembling word to observe these obligations. Then, after he
had kissed the Bible and the Archbishop's extended hand, he threw
himself upon the floor in a torrent of tears.

On the following morning, a bright, sparkling November day, the little
Josè, spent with emotion, tore himself from his mother's clinging
embrace and set out for Rome, accompanied by his solicitous uncle.

"And, _queridito_," were the mother's last words, "I have your promise
that never will you voluntarily leave the Church?"

The appeal which his beseeching look carried back to her was not
granted. He slowly bowed his acquiescence, and turned away. A week
later he had entered upon the retreat with which the school year opens
in the _Seminario_.



CHAPTER 6


Rome, like a fallen gladiator, spent and prostrate on the Alban
hills, still awaits the issue of the conflict between the forces of
life and death within. Dead, where the blight of pagan and mediaeval
superstition has eaten into the quivering tissues; it lives where
the pulsing current of modernism expands its shrunken arteries and
bears the nourishing truth. Though eternal in tradition and
colossal in material achievement, the glory of the Imperial City
nevertheless rests on a foundation of perishable human ambitions,
creeds, and beliefs, manifested outwardly for a time in brilliant
deeds, great edifices, and comprehensive codes, but always bearing
within themselves the seeds of their own decay. No trophy brought to
her gates in triumph by the Caesars ever approached in worth the
simple truth with which Paul of Tarsus, chained to his jailer,
illumined his gloomy dungeon. Had the religious principles which he
and his devoted associates labored so unselfishly to impart to a
benighted world for its own good been recognized by Rome as the
"pearl without price," she would have built upon them as foundation
stones a truer glory, and one which would have drawn the nations of
the earth to worship within her walls. But Rome, in her master,
Constantine, saw only the lure of a temporal advantage to be gained
by fettering the totally misunderstood teachings of Jesus with the
shackles of organized politics. From this unhallowed marriage of
religion and statecraft was born that institution unlike either
parent, yet exhibiting modified characteristics of each, the Holy
Church. To this institution, now mighty in material riches and
power, but still mediaeval in character, despite the assaults of
centuries of progress, a combination of political maneuver, bigotry,
and weakness committed the young Josè, tender, sensitive, receptive,
and pure, to be trained as an agent to further its world-embracing
policies.

The retreat upon which the boy at once entered on his arrival at
the seminary extended over ten days. During this time there were
periods of solitary meditation--hours when his lonely heart cried out
in anguish for his beloved mother--visits to the blessed sacrament,
recitations of the office, and consultations with his spiritual
advisers, at which times his promises to his parents and the
Archbishop, coupled with his natural reticence and the embarrassment
occasioned by his strange environment, sealed his lips and prevented
the voicing of his honest questions and doubts. It was sought
through this retreat to so bring the lad under the influence of the
great religious teachings as to most deeply impress his heart and
mind with the importance of the seminary training upon which he had
entered. His day began with the dreaded meditation at five in the
morning, followed by hearing the Mass and receiving Communion. It
closed, after study and class work, with another visit to the blessed
sacrament, recital of the Rosary, spiritual reading, and prayer. On
Sundays he assisted at solemn High Mass in the church of the
_Seminario Pio_. One day a week was a holiday; but only in the
sense that it was devoted to visiting hospitals and charitable
institutions, in order to acquire practical experience and a
foretaste of his future work among the sick and needy. Clad in his
little violet cassock, low-crowned, three-cornered hat, and
_soprana_, he might be seen on these holidays trotting along with
his fellow-students in the wake of their superior, his brow
generally contracted, and his childish face seldom lighted by a happy
smile.

The first year passed without special incident. The boy, filled with
that quenchless ambition to know, which characterizes the finest
minds, entered eagerly upon his studies and faithfully observed his
promises. If his tender soul warped and his fresh, receptive mind
shriveled under the religious tutelage he received, no one but himself
knew it, not even his fond mother, as she clasped him again in her
arms when he returned home for the first summer vacation. With the
second year there began studies of absorbing interest to the boy, and
the youthful mind fed hungrily. This seemed to have the effect of
expanding somewhat his self-contained little soul. He appeared to grow
out of himself to a certain extent, to become less timid, less
reticent, even more sociable; and when he returned to Seville again at
the close of the year he had apparently lost much of the somberness of
disposition which had previously characterized him. The Archbishop
examined him closely; but the boy, speaking little, gave no hint of
the inner working of his thought; and if his soul seethed and
fermented within, the Rincón pride and honor covered it with a placid
demeanor and a bearing of outward calm. When the interview ended and
the lad had departed, the Archbishop descended to the indignity of
roundly slapping his ascetic secretary on his emaciated back, as an
indication of triumphant joy. The boy certainly was being charmed into
deep devotion to the Church! He was fast being bound to her altars!
Again the glorious spectacle of the Church triumphant in molding a
wavering youth into a devoted son!

Four years passed thus, almost in silence on the boy's part. Yet his
character suffered little change. At home he strove to avoid all
mention of the career upon which he was entering, although he gave
slight indication of dissatisfaction with it. He was punctilious in
his attendance upon religious services; but to have been otherwise
would have brought sorrow to his proud, happy parents. His days were
spent in complete absorption in his books, or in writing in his
journal. The latter he had begun shortly before entering the seminary,
and it was destined to exert a profound influence upon his life. Often
his parents would playfully urge him to read to them from it; but the
boy, devotedly obedient and filial in every other respect steadfastly
begged permission to refuse these requests. In that little whim the
fond parents humored him, and he was left largely alone to his books
and his meditations.

During Josè's fourth summer vacation a heavy sorrow suddenly fell upon
him and plunged him into such an excess of grief that it was feared
his mind would give way. His revered father, advanced in years, and
weakened by overwork and business worries, succumbed to the malaria so
prevalent in Seville during the hot months and passed away, after a
brief illness. The blow descended with terrific force upon the
morbidly disposed lad. It was his first intimate experience with
death. For days after the solemn events of the mourning and funeral he
sat as one stunned, holding his mother's hand and staring dumbly into
space; or for hours paced to and fro in the little _patio_, his face
rigidly set and his eyes fixed vacantly on the ground beneath. The
work of four years in opening his mind, in expanding his thought, in
drawing him out of his habitual reticence and developing within him
the sense of companionship and easy tolerance, was at one stroke
rendered null. Brought face to face with the grim destroyer, all the
doubt and confusion of former years broke the bounds which had held
them in abeyance and returned upon him with increased insistence.
Never before had he felt so keenly the impotence of mortal man and the
futility of worldly strivings. Never had he seen so clearly the fatal
defects in the accepted interpretation of Christ's mission on earth.
His earlier questionings returned in violent protests against the
emptiness of the beliefs and formalities of the Church. In times past
he had voiced vague and dimly outlined perceptions of her spiritual
needs. But now to him these needs had suddenly taken definite form.
Jesus had healed the sick of all manner of disease. He himself was
being trained to represent the Christ on earth. Would he, too, be
taught to heal the sick as the Master had done? The blessed Saviour
said, "The works that I do, ye shall do also." But the priests, his
representatives, clearly were not doing the works of the Master. And
if he himself had been an ordained priest at the time of his father's
death, could he have saved him? No, he well knew that he could not.
And yet he would have been the Saviour's representative among men.
Alas! how poor a one he well knew.

In his stress of mind he sought his uncle, and by him was again led
before the Archbishop. His reticence and timidity dispersed by his
great sorrow, the distraught boy faced the high ecclesiastic with
questions terribly blunt.

"Why, my Father, after four years in the _Seminario_, am I not being
taught to do the works which our blessed Saviour did?"

The placid Archbishop stared at the boy in dumb astonishment. Again,
after years of peace that had promised quiescence on these mooted
points! Well, he must buckle on his armor--if indeed he had not
outgrown it quite--and prepare to withstand anew the assaults of the
devil!

"H'm!--to be specific, my son--you mean--?" The great man was
sparring.

"Why do we not heal the sick as he did?" the boy explained tersely.

"Ah!" The peace-loving man of God breathed easier. How simple! The
devil was firing a cracked blunderbuss.

"My son," he advanced with paternal unction, "you have been taught--or
should have been, ere this--that the healing miracles of our blessed
Saviour belong to a dispensation long past. They were special signs
from God, given at the time of establishing His Church on earth, to
convince an incredulous multitude. They are not needed now. We
convince by logic and reason and by historical witnesses to the deeds
of the Saints and our blessed Saviour." As he pronounced this sacred
name the holy man devoutly crossed himself. "Men would believe no more
readily to-day," he added easily, "even if they should see miracles of
healing, for they would attribute them to the human mentality, to
suggestion, hypnotism, hallucination, and the like. Even the mighty
deeds of Christ were attributed to Beelzebub." The complacent Father
settled back into his chair with an air of having disposed for all
time of the mooted subject of miracles.

"That begs the question, my Father!" returned the boy quickly and
excitedly. "And as I read church history it is thus that the question
has been begged ever since the first century!"

"What!" The Archbishop was waxing hot. "Do you, a mere child of
sixteen, dare to dispute the claims of Holy Church?"

"My Father," the boy spoke slowly and with awful earnestness, "I have
been four years in the _Seminario_. I do not find the true Christ
there; nor do I think I shall find him within the Church."

"_Sanctissima Maria!_" The Archbishop bounded to his feet "Have you
sold yourself to the devil?" he exploded. "Have you fed these years at
the warm breasts of the Holy Mother, only to turn now and rend her?
Have you become a Protester? Apostate and forsworn!"

"My Father," the boy returned calmly, "did Jesus tell the truth--or
did he lie? If he spoke truth, then I think he is _not_ in the
Church to-day. She has wholly misunderstood him--or else she--she
deliberately falsifies."

The Archbishop sank gasping into his chair.

Josè went on. "You call me apostate and forsworn. I am neither. One
cannot become apostate when he has never believed. As to being
forsworn--I am a Rincón!"

The erect head and flashing eyes of the youth drew an involuntary
exclamation of approval from the anxious secretary, who had stood
striving to evolve from his befuddled wits some course adequate to the
strained situation.

But the boy's proud bearing was only momentary. The wonted look of
troubled wistfulness again settled over his face, and his shoulders
bent to their accustomed stoop, as if his frail body were slowly
crushing beneath a tremendous burden.

"My Father," he continued sadly, "do not the Gospels show that Jesus
proved the truth of all he taught by doing the works which we call
miracles? But does the Church to-day by any great works prove a single
one of her teachings? You say that Christianity no longer needs the
healing of the sick in order to prove its claims. I answer that, if
so, it likewise no longer needs the preaching of the gospel, for I
cannot find that Jesus made any distinction between the two. Always he
coupled one with the other. His command was ever, 'Preach the gospel,
heal the sick!' His works of healing were simply signs which showed
that he understood what he taught. They were his proofs, and they
followed naturally his great understanding of God. But what proofs do
you offer when you ask mankind to accept your preaching? Jesus said,
'He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also.' If
you do not do the works which he did, it shows plainly that you do not
believe on him--that is, that you do not understand him. When I am an
ordained priest, and undertake to preach the gospel to the world, must
I confess to my people that I cannot prove what I am teaching? Must I
confess that there is no proof within the Church? Is it not so, that
true believers in Jesus Christ believe exactly in the proportion in
which they obey him and do his works?"

The boy paused for breath. The Archbishop and his secretary sat
spellbound before him. Then he resumed--

"How the consecrated wafer through the words of a priest becomes the
real body of Christ, I am as yet unable to learn. I do not believe it
does. How priests can grant absolution for sins when, to me, sins are
forgiven only when they are forsaken, I have not been taught. I do not
believe they can. The Church assumes to teach these things, but it
cannot prove them. From the great works of Jesus and his apostles it
has descended to the blessing of _milagros_ and candles, to the
worship of the Virgin and man-made Saints, to long processions, to
show and glitter--while without her doors the poor, the sick and the
dying stretch out their thin, white hands and beseech her to save
them, not from hell or purgatory in a supposed life to come, but from
misery, want and ignorance right here in this world, as Jesus told his
followers they should do. If you can show forth the omnipotence of God
by healing the sick and raising the dead, I could accept that as proof
of your understanding of the teachings of Jesus--and what you _really_
understand you can demonstrate and teach to others. Theological
questions used to bother me, but they do so no longer. Holy oil, holy
water, blessed candles, incense, images and display do not interest me
as they did when a child, nor do they any longer seem part of an
intelligent worship of God. But"--his voice rising in animation--"to
touch the blind man's eyes and see them open; to bid the leper be
clean, and see his skin flush with health--ah! that is to worship God
in spirit and in truth--that is to prove that you understand what
Jesus taught and are obeying, not part, but _all_ of his commands. I
am not apostate"--he concluded sadly--"I never did fully believe that
the religion of Jesus is the religion which the Church to-day preaches
and pretends to practice. I do not believe in her heaven, her
purgatory or her hell, nor do I believe that her Masses move God to
release souls from torment. I do not believe in her powers to pardon
and curse. I do not believe in her claims of infallibility. But--"

He hesitated a moment, as if not quite sure of his ground. Then his
face glowed with sudden eagerness, and he cried, "My Father, the
Church needs the light--do you not see it?--do you not, my uncle?"
turning appealingly to the hard-faced secretary. "Can we not work to
help her, and through her reach the world? Should not the Church
rightly be the greatest instrument for good? But how can she teach the
truth when she herself is so filled with error? How can she preach the
gospel when she knows not what the gospel is? But Jesus said that if
we obeyed him we should know of the doctrine, should know the true
meaning of the gospel. But we must first obey. We must not only
preach, but we must become spiritually minded enough to heal the
sick--"

"_Dios nos guarde!_" interrupted the Archbishop, attempting to rise,
but prevented by his secretary, who laid a restraining hand on his
arm. The latter then turned to the overwrought boy.

"My dear Josè," he said, smiling patronizingly upon the youth,
although his cold eyes glittered like bits of polished steel, "His
Eminence forgives your hasty words, for he recognizes your earnestness,
and, moreover, is aware how deeply your heart is lacerated by your
recent bereavement. But, further--and I say this in confidence to
you--His Eminence and I have discussed these very matters to which you
refer, and have long seen the need of certain changes within the
Church which will redound to her glory and usefulness. And you must know
that the Holy Father in Rome also recognizes these needs, and sees,
too, the time when they will be met. However, his great wisdom
prevents him from acting hastily. You must remember that our blessed
Saviour suffered many things to be so for the time, although he knew
they would be altered in due season. So it is with the Church. Her
children are not all deep thinkers, like yourself, but are for the most
part poor and ignorant people, who could not understand your high
views. They must be led in ways with which they are familiar until
they can be lifted gradually to higher planes of thought and conduct.
Is it not so? You are one who will do much for them, my son--but you
will accomplish nothing by attempting suddenly to overthrow the
established traditions which they reverence, nor by publicly prating
about the Church's defects. Your task will be to lead them gently,
imperceptibly, up out of darkness into the light, which, despite your
accusations, _does_ shine in the Church, and is visible to all who
rightly seek it. You have yet four years in the _Seminario_. You gave
us your promise--the Rincón word--that you would lay aside these
doubts and questionings until your course was completed. We do not
hold you--_but you hold yourself to your word_! Our sincere advice
is that you keep your counsel, and silently work with us for the Church
and mankind. The Church will offer you unlimited opportunities for
service. She is educating you. Indeed, has she not generously given you
the very data wherewith you are enabled now to accuse her? You will
find her always the same just, tolerant, wise Mother, leading her
children upward as fast as they are able to journey. Her work is
universal, and she is impervious to the shafts of envy, malice, and
hatred which her enemies launch at her. She has resources of which you
as yet know nothing. In the end she will triumph. You are offered an
opportunity to contribute toward that triumph and to share in it.
His Eminence knows that you will not permit Satan to make you reject
that offer now."

The secretary's sharp, beady eyes looked straight into those of the
youth, and held him. His small, round head, with its low brow and
grizzled locks, waved snake-like on the man's long neck. His tall
form, in its black cassock, bent over the lad like a spectre. His
slender arms, of uncanny length, waved constantly before him; and the
long, bony fingers seemed to reach into the boy's very soul and choke
the springs of life at their origin. His reasoning took the form of
suggestion, bearing the indisputable stamp of authority. Again, the
boy, confused and uncertain, bowed before years and worldly
experience, and returned to his solitude and the companionship of his
books and his writing.

"Occupy till I come," the patient Master had tenderly said. From
earliest boyhood Josè had heard this clarion call within his soul. And
striving, delving, plodding, he had sought to obey--struggling toward
the distant gleam, toward the realization of something better and
nearer the Master's thought than the childish creeds of his
fellow-men--something warmer, more vital than the pulseless decrees of
ecumenical councils--something to solve men's daily problems here on
earth--something to heal their diseases of body and soul, and lift
them into that realm of spiritual thinking where material pleasures,
sensations, and possessions no longer form the single aim and
existence of mankind, and life becomes what in reality it is, eternal
ecstasy! The Christ had promised! And Josè would occupy and wait in
faith until, with joy inexpressible, he should behold the shining form
of the Master at the door of his opened tomb.

"With Your Eminence's permission I will accompany the boy back to
Rome," the secretary said one day, shortly before Josè's return to the
seminary. "I will consult with the Rector, and suggest that certain
and special tutelage be given the lad. Let them bring their powers of
reasoning and argument to bear upon him, to the end that his thinking
may be directed into proper channels before it is too late. _Hombre!_"
he muttered, as with head bent and hands clasped behind his back he
slowly paced before the Archbishop. "To think that he is a Rincón! And
yet, but sixteen--a babe--a mere babe!"



CHAPTER 7


It must have been, necessarily, a very complex set of causes that
could lay hold on a boy so really gifted as Josè de Rincón and,
against his instincts and, on the part of those responsible for the
deed, with the certain knowledge of his disinclination, urge him into
the priesthood of a religious institution with which congenitally he
had but little in common.

To begin with, the bigoted and selfish desires of his parents found in
the boy's filial devotion a ready and sufficient means of compelling
him to any sacrifice of self. Only a thorough understanding of the
Spanish temperament will enable one to arrive at a just estimate of
Josè's character, and the sacredness of the promises given his mother.
Though the child might pine and droop like a cankered rosebud, yet he
would never cease to regard the sanctity of his oath as eternally
binding. And the mother would accept the sacrifice, for her love for
her little son was clouded by her great ambitions in respect to his
earthly career, and her genuine solicitude for his soul's eternal
welfare.

Family tradition, sacred and inviolable, played its by no means
small part in this affair. Custom, now as inviolable as the Jewish
law, decreed that the first-born son should sink his individuality
into that of the Mother Church. And to the Spaniard, _costumbre_
is law. Again, the vacillating and hesitant nature of the boy
himself contributed largely to the result; for, though supremely
gifted in receptivity and broadness of mind, in critical analysis
and keenness of perception, he nevertheless lacked the energy of will
necessary to the shaping of a life-course along normal lines. The boy
knew what he preferred, yet he said _Amen_ both to the prayers of
his parents and the suggestions of doubt which his own mind offered.
He was weakest where the greatest firmness was demanded. His love
of study, his innate shrinking from responsibility, and his
repugnance toward discord and strife--in a word, his lack of
fighting qualities--naturally caused him to seek the lines of least
resistance, and thus afforded a ready advantage to those who sought
to influence him.

But why, it may be asked, such zeal on the part of the Archbishop and
his secretary in forcing upon the boy a career to which they knew he
was disinclined? Why should loyal agents of the Church so tirelessly
urge into the priesthood one who might prove a serpent in her bosom?

The Archbishop may be dismissed from this discussion. That his motives
were wholly above the bias of worldly ambition, we may not affirm. Yet
we know that he was actuated by zeal for the Church; that he had its
advancement, its growth in power and prestige always at heart. And we
know that he would have rejoiced some day to boast, "We have saved to
the Church a brilliant son who threatened to become a redoubtable
enemy." The forces operating for and against this desideratum seemed
to him about equally matched. The boy was still very young. His mind
was as yet in the formative period, and would be for some years. If
the Church could secure her hold upon him during this period she would
doubtless retain it for all time; for, as the sagacious secretary so
often quoted to his superior, "Once a priest, always a priest,"
emphasizing the tenet that the character imprinted by ordination is
ineffaceable.

As for the secretary, he was a Rincón, proud and bigoted, and withal
fanatically loyal to the Church as an institution, whatever its or
his own degree of genuine piety. It was deeply galling to his
ecclesiastical pride to see the threatened development of heretical
tendencies in a scion of his house. These were weeds which must
and should be choked, cost what it might! To this end any means were
justified, for "What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world
and lose his own soul?" And the Rincón soul had been molded centuries
ago. The secretary hated the rapidly developing "scientific" spirit
of the age and the "higher criticism" with a genuine and deadly
hatred. His curse rested upon all modern culture. To him, the Jesuit
college at Rome had established the level of intellectual freedom.
He worshiped the landmarks which the Fathers had set, and he would
have opposed their removal with his life. No, the Rincón traditions
must be preserved at whatever cost! The heretical buddings within Josè
should be checked; he should enter the priesthood; his thinking
should be directed into proper channels; his mind should be bent into
conformity with Holy Church! If not--but there was no alternative.
The all-powerful Church could and would accomplish it.

In the choice of Rafaél de Rincón as secretary and assistant, the
Archbishop had secured to himself a man of vast knowledge of
ecclesiastical matters, of great acumen, and exceptional ability. The
man was a Jesuit, and a positive, dynamic representative of all that
the order stands for. He was now in his sixty-eighth year, but as
vigorous of mind and body as if he bore but half his burden of age.
For some years prior to his connection with the See of Seville he had
served in the royal household at Madrid. But, presumably at the
request of Queen Isabella, he had been peremptorily summoned to Rome
some three years before her exile; and when he again left the Eternal
City it was with the tentative papal appointment to Seville.

Just why Padre Rafaél had been relieved of his duties in Madrid was
never divulged. But gossip supplied the paucity of fact with the usual
delectable speculations, the most persistent of which had to do with
the rumored birth of a royal child. The deplorable conduct of the
Queen after her enforced marriage to Don Francisco D'Assis had thrown
the shadow of suspicion on the legitimacy of all her children; and
when it began to be widely hinted that Padre Rafaél, were he so
disposed, might point to a humble cottage in the sunlit hills of
Granada where lay a tiny _Infanta_, greatly resembling the famous
singer and favorite of the Queen, Marfori, Marquis de Loja, Isabella's
alarm was sufficient to arouse the Vatican to action. With the removal
of Padre Rafaél, and the bestowal of the "_Golden Rose of Faith and
Virtue_" upon the Queen by His Holiness, Pio Nono, the rumor quickly
subsided, and was soon forgotten.

Whether because of this supposed secret Padre Rafaél was in favor at
the court of Pio Nono's successor, we may not say. The man's character
was quite enigmatical, and divulged nothing. But, if we may again
appeal to rumor, he did appear to have influence in papal circles. And
we are not sure that he did not seek to augment that influence by
securing his irresolute little nephew to the Church. And yet, the
sincerity of his devotion to the papacy cannot be questioned, as
witness his services to Pius IX., "the first Christian to achieve
infallibility," during the troublesome years of 1870-71, when the
French _débâcle_ all but scuttled the papal ship of state. And if now
he sought to use his influence at the Vatican, we shall generously
attribute it to his loyalty to Rincón traditions, and his genuine
concern for the welfare of the little Josè, rather than to any desire
to advance his own ecclesiastical status.

But, it may be asked, during the eight years of Josè's course in the
seminary, did his tutors not mark the forces at work in the boy's
soul? And if so, why did they not urge his dismissal as unfit for the
calling of the priesthood?

Because, true to his promises, and stubbornly hugging the fetish of
family pride, the boy gave but little indication during the first four
years of his course of the heretical doubts and disbeliefs fermenting
within his troubled mind. And when, after the death of his father and
its consequent release of the flood of protest and mental disquiet so
long pent up within him, the uncle returned to Rome with the lad to
advise his instructors to bring extra pressure to bear upon him in
order to convince him of the truths upon which the Church rested, Josè
subsided again into his wonted attitude of placid endurance, even of
partial acceptance of the religious tutelage, and seldom gave further
sign of inner discord. Acting upon the suggestions of the uncle,
Josè's instructors took special pains to parade before him the
evidence and authorities supporting the claims of Holy Church and the
grand tenets upon which the faith reposed. In particular were the
arguments of Cardinal Newman cited to him, and the study of the
latter's Apology was made a requirement of his course. The writings of
the great Cardinal Manning also were laid before him, and he was told
to find therein ample support for all assumptions of the Church.

Silently and patiently the boy to outward appearance acquiesced; but
often the light of his midnight candle might have revealed a wan face,
frowning and perplexed, while before him lay the Cardinal's argument
for belief in the miraculous resuscitation of the Virgin Mary--the
argument being that the story is a beautiful one, and a comfort to
those pious souls who think it true!

Often, too, there lay before him the words of the great Newman:

  "You may be taken away young; you may live to fourscore; you may
  die in your bed, or in the open field--but if Mary intercedes for
  you, that day will find you watching and ready. All things will be
  fixed to secure your salvation, all dangers will be foreseen, all
  obstacles removed, all aid provided."

And as often he would close the book and drop his head in wonder that
a man so humanly great could believe in an infinite, omnipotent God
amenable to influence, even to that of the sanctified Mary.

"The Christ said, 'These signs shall follow them that believe,'" he
sometimes murmured, as he sat wrapped in study. "But do the Master's
signs follow the Cardinals? Yet these men say they believe. What can
they do that other men can not? Alas, nothing! What boots their
sterile faith?"

The limitations with which the lad was hedged about in the _Seminario_
quite circumscribed his existence there. All lay influences were
carefully excluded, and he learned only what was selected for him
by his teachers. Added to this narrowing influence was his promise
to his mother that he would read nothing proscribed by the Church. Of
Bible criticism, therefore, he might know nothing. For original
investigation of authorities there was neither permission nor
opportunity. He was taught to discount historical criticism, and to
regard anarchy as the logical result of independence of thought.
He was likewise impressed with the fact that he must not question the
official acts of Holy Church.

"But," he once remonstrated, "it was by an ecumenical council--a group
of frail human beings--that the Pope was declared infallible! And that
only a few years ago!"

"The council but set its seal of affirmation to an already great and
established fact," was the reply. "As the supreme teacher and definer
of the Church of God no Pope has ever erred, nor ever can err, in the
exposition of revealed truth."

"But Tito Cennini said in class but yesterday that many of the Popes
had been wicked men!"

"You must learn to distinguish, my son, between the man and the
office. No matter what the private life of a Pope may have been, the
validity of his official acts is not thereby affected. Nor is the
doctrine of the Church."

"But,--"

"Nay, my son; this is what the Church teaches; and to slight it is to
emperil your soul."

But, despite his promises to his mother and the Archbishop, and in
despite, too, of his own conscientious endeavor to keep every
contaminating influence from entering his mind, he could not prevent
this same Tito from assiduously cultivating his friendship, and
voicing the most liberal and worldly opinions to him.

"_Perdio_, but you are an ignorant animal, Josè!" ejaculated the
little rascal one day, entering Josè's room and throwing himself upon
the bed. "Why, didn't you know that the Popes used to raise money by
selling their pardons and indulgences? That fellow Tetzel, back in
Luther's time, rated sacrilege at nine ducats, murder at seven,
witchcraft at six, and so on. Ever since the time of Innocent VIII.
immunity from purgatory could be bought. It was his chamberlain who
used to say, 'God willeth not the death of a sinner, but that he
should pay and live.' Ha! ha! Those were good old days, _amico mío_!"

But the serious Josè, to whom honor was a sacred thing, saw not his
companion's cause for mirth. "Tito," he hazarded, "our instructor
tells us that we must distinguish--"

"Ho! ho!" laughed the immodest Tito, "if the Apostolic virtue has been
handed down from the great Peter through the long line of Bishops of
Rome and later Popes, what happened to it when there were two or three
Popes, in the Middle Ages? And which branch retained the unbroken
succession? Of a truth, _amico_, you are very credulous!"

Josè looked at him horrified.

"And which branch now," continued the irrepressible Tito, "holds a
monopoly of the Apostolic virtue, the Anglican Church, the Greek, or
the Roman Catholic? For each claims it, and each regards its rival
claimants as rank heretics."

Josè could not but dwell long and thoughtfully on this. Then, later,
he again sought the graceless Tito. "_Amico_," he said eagerly, "why
do not these claimants of the true Apostolic virtue seek to prove
their claims, instead of, like pouting children, vainly spending
themselves in denouncing their rivals?"

"_Prove them!_" shouted Tito. "And how, _amico mío_?"

"Why," returned Josè earnestly, "by doing the works the Apostles did;
by healing the sick, and raising the dead, and--"

Tito answered with a mocking laugh. "_Perdio, amico!_ know you not
that if they submitted to such proof not one of the various
contestants could substantiate his claims?"

"Then, oh, then how could the council declare the Pope to be
infallible?"

Tito regarded his friend pityingly. "My wonder is, _amico_," he
replied seriously, "that they did not declare him _immortal_ as well.
When you read the true history of those exciting days and learn
something of the political intrigue with which the Church was then
connected, you will see certain excellent reasons why the Holy Father
should have been declared infallible. But let me ask you, _amico_, if
you have such doubts, why are you here, of all places? Surely it is
not your own life-purpose to become a priest!"

"My life-purpose," answered Josè meditatively, "is to find my soul--my
_real_ self."

Tito went away shaking his head. He could not understand such a
character as that of Josè. But, for that matter, no one ever
fathoms a fellow-being. And so we who have attempted a sketch of
the boy's mentality will not complain if its complexity prevents
us from adequately setting it forth. Rather shall we feel that we
have accomplished much if we have shown that the lad had no slight
justification for the budding seeds of religious doubt within his
mind, and for concluding that of the constitution of God men
know nothing, despite their fantastical theories and their bold
affirmations, as if He were a man in their immediate neighborhood,
with whom they were on the most intimate terms.

In the course of time Josè found the companionship of Tito increasingly
unendurable, and so he welcomed the formation of another friendship
among his mates, even though it was with a lad much older than himself,
Bernardo Damiano, a candidate for ordination, and one thoroughly
indoctrinated in the faith of Holy Church. With open and receptive
heart our young Levite eagerly availed himself of his new friend's
voluntary discourses on the mooted topics about which his own thought
incessantly revolved.

"Fear not, Josè, to accept all that is taught you here," said Bernardo
in kindly admonition; "for if this be not the very doctrine of the
Christ himself, where else will you find it? Among the Protesters?
Nay, they have, it is true, hundreds of churches; and they call
themselves Christians. But their religion is as diverse as their
churches are numerous, and it is not of God or Jesus Christ. They have
impiously borrowed from us. Their emasculated creeds are only
assumptions of human belief. They recognize no law of consistency, and
so they enjoy unbridled license. They believe what they please, and
each interprets Holy Writ to suit his own fantastical whims."

"But, the Popes--" began Josè, returning again to his troublesome
topic.

"Yes, and what of them?" replied his friend calmly. "Can you not see
beyond the human man to the Holy Office? The Holy Father is the
successor of the great Apostle Peter, whom our blessed Saviour
appointed his Vicar on earth, and constituted the supreme teacher and
judge in matters of morals. Remember, _Jesus Christ founded the
Catholic religion_! He established the Church, which he commanded all
men to support and obey. That Church is still, and always will be, the
infallible teacher of truth, for Jesus declared that it should never
fall. Let not Satan lead you to the Protesters, Josè, for their creeds
are but snares and pitfalls."

"I know nothing of Protestant creeds, nor want to," answered Josè. "If
Jesus Christ established the Catholic religion, then I want to accept
it, and shall conclude that my doubts and questionings are but the
whisperings of Satan. But--"

"But what, my friend? The Popes again?" Bernardo laughed, and put his
arm affectionately about the younger lad. "The Pope, Josè, is, always
has been, and always will be, supreme, crowned with the triple crown
as king of earth, and heaven, and hell. We mortals have not made him
so. Heaven alone did that. God himself made our Pontiff of the Holy
Catholic Church superior even to the angels; and if it were possible
for them to believe contrary to the faith, he could judge them and lay
the ban of excommunication upon them."

Josè's eyes widened while his friend talked. Was he losing his own
senses? Or was it true, as his lamented father had said, that he had
been cast under the spell of the devil's wiles? Had he been
foreordained to destruction by his own heretical thought? For, if what
he heard in Rome was truth, then was he damned, irrevocably!

"Come," said his friend, taking his arm; "let us go to the library and
read the _Credo_ of the Holy Father, Pius the Fourth, wherein is set
forth in detail the doctrinal system of our beloved Church. And let me
urge you, my dear young friend, to accept it, unreservedly, and be at
peace, else will your life be a ceaseless torment."

Oh, that he could have done so! That he could have joined those
thousands of faithful, loyal adherents to Holy Church, who find in its
doctrines naught that stimulates a doubt, nor urges against the divine
institution of its gorgeous, material fabric!

But, vain desire! "I cannot! I cannot!" he wailed in the dark hours of
night upon his bed. "I cannot love a God who has to be prayed to by
Saints and Virgin, and persuaded by them not to damn His own children!
I cannot believe that the Pope, a mere human being, can canonize
Saints and make spiritual beings who grant the prayers of men and
intercede with God for them! Yes, I know there are multitudes of good
people who believe and accept the doctrines of the Church. But, alas!
I am not one of them, nor can be."

For, we repeat, the little Josè was morbidly honest. And this gave
rise to fear, a corroding fear that he might not do right by his
God, his mother, and himself, the three variants in his complex
life-equation. His self-condemnation increased; yet his doubts
kept pace with it. He more than ever distrusted his own powers after
his first four years in the seminary. He more than ever lacked
self-confidence. He was more than ever vacillating, hesitant, and
infirm of purpose. He even at times, when under the pall of
melancholia, wondered if he had really loved his deceased father,
and whether it was real grief which he felt at his parent's demise.
Often, too, when fear and doubt pressed heavily, and his companions
avoided him because of the aura of gloom in which he dwelt, he
wondered if he were becoming insane. He seemed to become obsessed
with the belief that his ability to think was slowly paralyzing. And
with it his will. And yet, proof that this was not the case was
found in his stubborn opposition to trite acquiescence, and in his
infrequent reversals of mood, when he would even feel an intense,
if transient, sense of exaltation in the thought that he was doing
the best that in him lay.

It was during one of these lighter moods, and at the close of a school
year, that a great joy came to him in an event which left a lasting
impress upon his life. Following close upon a hurried visit which his
uncle paid to Rome, the boy was informed that it had been arranged for
him to accompany the Papal Legate on a brief journey through Germany
and England, returning through France, in order that he might gain a
first-hand impression of the magnitude of the work which the Church
was doing in the field, and meet some of her great men. The
broadening, quieting, confidence-inspiring influence of such a journey
would be, in the opinion of Padre Rafaél, incalculable. And so, with
eager, bubbling hope, the lad set out.

Whatever it may have been intended that the boy should see on this
ecclesiastical pilgrimage, he returned to Rome at the end of three
months with his quick, impressionable mind stuffed with food for
reflection. Though he had seen the glories of the Church, worshiped in
her matchless temples, and sat at the feet of her great scholars, now
in the quiet of his little room he found himself dwelling upon a
single thought, into which all of his collected impressions were
gathered: "The Church--Catholic and Protestant--is--oh, God, the
Church is--not sick, not dying, but--_dead_! Aye, it has served both
God and Mammon, and paid the awful penalty! And what is left?
_Caesarism_!" The great German and British nations were not Catholic.
But worse, the Protestant people of the German Empire were sadly
indifferent to religion. He had seen, in Berlin, men of family trying
to resell the Bibles which their children had used in preparation for
confirmation. He had found family worship all but extinct. He had
marked the widespread indifference among Protestant parents in regard
to the religious instruction of their young. He had been told there
that parents had but a slight conception of their duty as moral
guides, and that children were growing up with only sensuous pleasures
and material gain as their life-aims. Again and again he was shown
where in whole districts it was utterly impossible to secure young men
for ordination to the Protestant ministry. And he was furnished with
statistics setting forth the ominous fact that within a few years,
were the present decline unchecked, there would be no students in the
Protestant universities of the country.

"Do you not see in this, my son," said the Papal Legate, "the blight
of unbelief? Do you not mark the withering effects of the modern
so-called scientific thought? What think you of a religion wherein the
chief interest centers in trials for heresy; whose ultimate effect
upon human character is a return to the raw, primitive, immature sense
of life that once prevailed among this great people? What think you
now of Luther and his diabolical work?"

The wondering boy hung his head without reply. Would Germany at length
come to the true fold? And was that fold the Holy Catholic Church?

And England--ah! there was the Anglican church, Catholic, but not
Roman, and therefore but a counterfeit of the Lord's true Church.
Would it endure? "No," the Legate had said; "already defection has set
in, and the prodigal's return to the loving parent in Rome is but a
matter of time."

Then came his visit to the great abbey of Westminster, and the
impression which, to his last earthly day, he bore as one of his most
sacred treasures. There in the famous Jerusalem Chamber he had sat,
his eyes suffused with tears and his throat choked with emotion. In
that room the first Lancastrian king long years before had closed his
unhappy life. There the great Westminster Confession had been framed.
There William of Orange had held his weighty discussion of the
Prayer-Book revision, which was hoped to bring Churchmen and
Dissenters again into harmony. And there, greatest of all, had
gathered, day after day, and year after year, the patient, devoted
group of men who gave to the world its Revised Edition of the Holy
Bible, only a few brief years ago. As the rapt Josè closed his eyes
and listened to the whispered conversation of the scholarly men about
him, he seemed to see the consecrated Revisers, seated again at the
long table, deep in the holy search of the Scriptures for the profound
secrets of life which they hold. He saw with what sedulous care they
pursued their sacred work, without trace of prejudice or religious
bias, and with only the selfless purpose always before them to render
to mankind a priceless benefit in a more perfect rendition of the Word
of God. Why could not men come together now in that same generous
spirit of love? But no, Rome would never yield her assumptions. But
when the lad rose and followed his guides from the room, it was with a
new-born conviction, and a revival of his erstwhile firm purpose to
translate for himself, at the earliest opportunity, the Greek
Testament, if, perchance, he might find thereby what his yearning soul
so deeply craved, the truth.

That the boy was possessed of scholarly instincts, there could be no
doubt. His ability had immediately attracted his instructors on
entering the seminary. And, but for his stubborn opposition to
dogmatic acceptance without proofs, he might have taken and maintained
the position of leader in scholarship in the institution. Literature
and the languages, particularly Greek, were his favorite studies, and
in these he excelled. Even as a child, long before the eventful night
when his surreptitious reading of Voltaire precipitated events, he had
determined to master Greek, and some day to translate the New
Testament from the original sources into his beloved Castilian tongue.
Before setting out for Rome he had so applied himself to the worn
little grammar which the proprietor of the bookstall in Seville had
loaned him, that he was able to make translations with comparative
fluency. In the seminary he plunged into it with avidity; and when he
returned from his journey with the Papal Legate he began in earnest
his translation of the Testament. This, like so much of the boy's work
and writing, was done secretly and in spare moments. And his zeal was
such that often in the middle of the night it would compel him to rise
and, after drawing the shades carefully and stopping the crack under
the door with his cassock, light his candle and dig away at his
Testament until dawn.

This study of the New Testament in the Greek resulted in many
translations differing essentially from the accepted version, as could
not but happen when a mind so original as that of the boy Josè was
concentrated upon it. His first stumbling block was met in the prayer
of Jesus in an attempt to render the petition, "Give us this day our
daily bread," into idiomatic modern thought. The word translated
"daily" was not to be found elsewhere in the Greek language.
Evidently the Aramaic word which Jesus employed, and of which this
Greek word was a translation, must have been an unusual one--a coined
expression. And what did it mean? No one knows. Josè found means to
put the question to his tutor. He was told that it doubtless meant
"super-supernal." But what could "super-supernal" convey to the
world's multitude of hungry suppliants for the bread of life! And so
he rendered the phrase "Give us each day a better understanding of
Thee." Again, going carefully through his Testament the boy crossed
out the words translated "God," and in their places substituted
"divine influence." Many of the best known and most frequently
quoted passages suffered similarly radical changes at his hands. For
the translation "truth," the boy often preferred to substitute
"reality"; and such passages as "speaking the truth in love" were
rendered by him, "lovingly speaking of those things which are real."
"Faith" and "belief" were generally changed to "understanding" and
"real knowing," so that the passage, "O ye of little faith,"
became in his translation, "O ye of slight understanding." The word
"miracle" he consistently changed to "sign" throughout. The command to
ask "in the name of Jesus" caused him hours of deep and perplexing
thought, until he hit upon the, to him, happy rendering, "in his
character." Why not? In the character of the Christ mankind might ask
anything and it would be given them. But to acquire that character
men must repent. And the Greek word "metanoia," so generally
rendered "repentance," would therefore have to be translated "radical
and complete change of thought." Again, why not? Was not a complete
change of thought requisite if one were to become like Jesus? Could
mortals think continually of murder, warfare, disaster, failure,
crime, sickness and death, and of the acquisition of material
riches and power, and still hope to acquire the character of the
meek but mighty Nazarene? Decidedly no! And so he went on delving
and plodding, day after day, night after night, substituting and
changing, but always, even if unconsciously, giving to the Scripture
a more metaphysical and spiritual meaning, which displaced in its
translation much of the material and earthy.

Before the end of his seminary training the translation was complete.
What a new light it seemed to throw upon the mission of Jesus! How
fully he realized now that creeds and confessions had never even begun
to sound the profound depths of the Bible! What a changed message it
seemed to carry for mankind! How he longed to show it to his
preceptors and discuss it with them! But his courage failed when he
faced this thought. However, another expedient presented: he would
write a treatise on the New Testament, embodying the salient facts of
his translation, and send it out into the world for publication in the
hope that it might do much good. Again, night after night in holy zeal
he toiled on the work, and when completed, sent it, under his name, to
a prominent literary magazine published in Paris.

Its appearance--for it was accepted eagerly by the editor, who was
bitterly hostile to the Church--caused a stir in ecclesiastical
circles and plunged the unwise lad into a sea of trouble. The essay in
general might have been excusable on its distinct merits and the
really profound scholarship exhibited in its composition. But when the
boy, a candidate for holy orders, and almost on the eve of his
ordination, seized upon the famous statement of Jesus in which he is
reported to have told Peter that he was the rock upon which the Lord's
church should be eternally founded, and showed that Jesus called Peter
a stone, "_petros_," a loose stone, and one of many, whereas he then
said that his church should be founded upon "_petra_," the living,
immovable rock of truth, thus corroborating Saint Augustine, but
confuting other supposedly impregnable authority for the superiority
and infallibility of the Church, it was going a bit too far.

The result was severe penance, coupled with soul-searing reprimand,
and absolute prohibition of further original writing. His translation
of the Testament was confiscated, and he was commanded to destroy
all notes referring to it, and to refrain from making further
translations. His little room was searched, and all references and
papers which might be construed as unevangelical were seized and
burned. He was then transferred to another room for the remainder of
his seminary course, and given a roommate, a cynical, sneering
bully of Irish descent, steeped to the core in churchly doctrine,
who did not fail to embrace every opportunity to make the suffering
penitent realize that he was in disgrace and under surveillance. The
effect was to drive the sensitive boy still further into himself,
and to augment the sullenness of disposition which had earlier
characterized him and separated him from social intercourse with
the world in which he moved apart from his fellow-men.

Thus had Josè been shown very clearly that implicit obedience would at
all times be exacted from him by the Church. He had been shown quite
unmistakably that an inquisitive and determined spirit would not be
tolerated if it led to deductions at variance with accepted tradition.
He might starve mentally, if his prescribed food did not satisfy his
hunger; but he must understand, once for all, that truth had long
since been revealed, and that it was not within his province to
attempt any further additions to the revelation.

Once more, for the sake of his mother, and that he might learn all
that the Church had to teach him, the boy conscientiously tried to
obey. He was reminded again that, though taught to obey, he was being
trained to lead. This in a sense pleased him, as offering surcease
from an erking sense of responsibility. Nevertheless, though he
constantly wavered in decision; though at times the Church won him,
and he yielded temporarily to her abundant charms; the spirit of
protest did wax steadily stronger within him as the years passed. Back
and forth he swung, like a pendulum, now drawn by the power and
influence of the mighty Church; now, as he approached it, repelled by
the things which were revealed as he drew near. In the last two years
of his course his soul-revolt often took the form of open protest to
his preceptors against indulgences and the sacramental graces, against
the arbitrary Index Expurgatorius, and the Church's stubborn
opposition to modern progression. Like Faust, his studies were
convincing him more and more firmly of the emptiness of human
hypotheses and undemonstrable philosophy. The growing conviction that
the Holy Church was more worldly than spiritual filled his shrinking
soul at times with horror. The limiting thought of Rome was often
stifling to him. He had begun to realize that liberty of thought and
conscience were his only as he received it already outlined from the
Church. Even his interpretation of the Bible must come from her. His
very ideas must first receive the ecclesiastical stamp before he might
advance them. His opinions must measure up--or down--to those of his
tutors, ere he might even hold them. In terror he felt that the Church
was absorbing him, heart and mind. His individuality was seeping away.
In time he would become but a link in the great worldly system which
he was being trained to serve.

These convictions did not come to him all at once, nor were they as
yet firmly fixed. They were rather suggestions which became
increasingly insistent as the years went on. He had entered the
seminary at the tender age of twelve, his mind wholly unformed, but
protesting even then. All through his course he had sought what
there was in Christianity upon which he could lay firm hold. In
the Church he had found an ultra-conservative spirit and extreme
reverence for authority. Tito had told him that it was the equivalent
of ancestor-worship. But when he one day told his instructors that he
was not necessarily a disbeliever in the Scriptures because he did
not accept their interpretation of them, he could not but realize
that Tito had come dangerously near the truth. His translation of
the Greek Testament had forced him to the conclusion that much of the
material contained in the Gospels was not Jesus' own words, but the
commentaries of his reporters; not the Master's diction, but
theological lecturing by the writers of the Gospels. Moreover, in
the matter of prayer, especially, he was all at sea. As a child he had
spent hours formulating humble, fervent petitions, which did not seem
to draw replies. And so there began to form within his mind a
concept, faint and ill-defined, of a God very different from that
canonically accepted. He tried to believe that there was a Creator
back of all things, but that He was inexorable Law. And the lad
was convinced that, somehow, he had failed to get into harmony with
that infinite Law. But, in that case, why pray to Law? And, most
foolish of all, why seek to influence it, whether through Virgin or
Saint? And, if God is a good Father, why ask Him to _be_ good? Then,
to his insistent question, "_Unde Deus_?" he tried to formulate
the answer that God is Spirit, and omnipresent. But, alas! that
made the good God include evil. No, there was a terrible human
misunderstanding of the divine nature, a woeful misinterpretation.
He must try to ask for light in the character of the Christ. But
then, how to assume that character? Like a garment? Impossible! "Oh,
God above," he wailed aloud again and again, "I don't know what to
believe! I don't know what to think!" Foolish lad! Why did he think
at all, when there were those at hand to relieve him of that
onerous task?

And so, at last, Josè sought to resign himself to his fate, and,
thrusting aside these mocking questions, accept the opportunities for
service which his tutors so wisely emphasized as the Church's special
offering to him. He yielded to their encouragement to plunge heartily
into his studies, for in such absorption lay diversion from dangerous
channels of thought. Slowly, too, he yielded to their careful
insistence that he must suffer many things to be so for the nonce,
even as Jesus did, lest a too radical resistance now should delay the
final glorious consummation.

Was the boy actuated too strongly by the determination that his
widowed mother's hopes should never be blasted by any assertion of
his own will? Was he passively permitting himself to be warped and
twisted into a minion of an institution alien to his soul in bigoted
adherence to his morbid sense of integrity? Was he for the present
countenancing a lie, rather than permit the bursting of a bomb
which would rend the family and bring his beloved mother in sorrow to
the grave? Or was he biding his time, an undeveloped David, who
would some day sally forth like the lion of the tribe of Juda, to
match his moral courage against the blustering son of Anak? Time
only would tell. The formative period of his character was not yet
ended, and the data for prognostication were too complex and
conflicting. We can only be sure that his consuming desire to know
had been carefully fostered in the seminary, but in such a manner as
unwittingly to add to his confusion of thought and to increase his
fear of throwing himself unreservedly upon his own convictions. That
he grew to perceive the childishness of churchly dogma, we know.
That he appreciated the Church's insane license of affirmation, its
impudent affirmations of God's thoughts and desires, its coarse
assumptions of knowledge of the inner workings of the mind of
Omnipotence, we likewise know. But, on the other hand, we know
that he feared to break with the accepted faith. The claims of
Protestantism, though lacking the pomp and pageantry of Catholicism
to give them attractiveness, offered him an interpretation of Christ's
mission that was little better than the teachings he was receiving.
And so his hesitant and vacillating nature, which hurled him into the
lists to-day as the resolute foe of dogma and superstition, and
to-morrow would leave him weak and doubting at the feet of the
enemy, kept him wavering, silent and unhappy, on the thin edge of
resolution throughout the greater part of his course. His lack of
force, or the holding of his force in check by his filial honesty and
his uncertainty of conviction, kept him in the seminary for eight
years, during which his being was slowly, imperceptibly descending
into him. At the age of twenty he was still unsettled, but further
than even he himself realized from Rome. Who shall say that he was
not at the same time nearer to God?

On the day that he was twenty, three things of the gravest import
happened to the young Josè. His warm friend, Bernardo, died suddenly,
almost in his arms; his uncle, Rafaél de Rincón, paid an unexpected
visit to the Vatican; and the lad received the startling announcement
that he would be ordained to the priesthood on the following day.

The sudden demise of the young Bernardo plunged Josè into an excess of
grief and again encompassed him with the fear and horror of death. He
shut himself up in his room, and toward the close of the day took his
writing materials and penned a passionate appeal to his mother,
begging her to absolve him from his promises, and let him go out into
the world, a free man in search of truth. But scarcely had he finished
his letter when he was summoned into the Rector's office. There it was
explained to him that, in recognition of his high scholarship, of his
penitence and loyal obedience since the Testament episode, and of the
advanced work which he was now doing in the seminary and the splendid
promise he was giving, the Holy Father had been asked to grant a
special indult, waiving the usual age requirement and permitting the
boy to be ordained with the class which was to receive the holy order
of the priesthood the following day. It was further announced that
after ordination he should spend a year in travel with the Papal
Legate, and on his return might enter the office of the Papal
Secretary of State, as an under-secretary, or office assistant. While
there, he would be called upon to teach in the seminary, and later
might be sent to the University to pursue higher studies leading to
the degree of Doctor.

Before the boy had awakened to his situation, the day of his
ordination arrived. The proud mother, learning from the secretary of
the precipitation of events, and doting on the boy whom she had never
understood; in total ignorance of the complex elements of his soul,
and little realizing that between her and her beloved son there was
now a gulf fixed which would never be bridged, saw only the happy
fruition of a life ambition. Fortunately she had been kept in
ignorance of the dubious incident of the Testament translation and its
results upon the boy; and when the long anticipated day dawned her
eyes swam in tears of hallowed joy. The Archbishop and his grim
secretary each congratulated the other heartily, and the latter,
breaking into one of his rare smiles, murmured gratefully, "At last!
And our enemies have lost a champion!"

The night before the ordination Josè had begged to occupy a room
alone. The appeal which emanated from his sad face, his thin and
stooping body, his whole drawn and tortured being, would have melted
flint. His request was granted. Throughout the night the boy, on his
knees beside the little bed, wrestled with the emotions which were
tearing his soul. Despondency lay over him like a pall. A vague
presentiment of impending disaster pressed upon him like a millstone.
Ceaselessly he weighed and reviewed the forces which had combined to
drive him into the inconsistent position which he now occupied.
Inconsistent, for his highest ideal had been truth. He was by nature
consecrated to it. He had sought it diligently in the Church, and now
that he was about to become her priest he could not make himself
believe that he had found it. Now, when bound to her altars, he faced
a life of deception, of falsehood, as the champion of a faith which he
could not unreservedly embrace.

But he had accepted his education from the Church; and would he shrink
from making payment therefor? Yet, on the other hand, must he
sacrifice honor--yea, his whole future--to the payment of a debt
forced upon him before he had reached the age of reason? The oath of
ordination, the priest's oath, echoed in his throbbing ears like a
soul-sentence to eternal doom; while spectral shades of moving priests
and bishops, laying cold and unfeeling hands upon him, sealing him to
endless servitude to superstition and deception, glided to and fro
through the darkness before his straining eyes. Could he receive the
ordination to-morrow? He had promised--but the assumption of its
obligations would brand his shrinking soul with torturing falsehood!
If he sank under doubt and fear, could he still retract? What then of
his mother and his promise to her? What of the Rincón honor and pride?
Living disgrace, or a living lie--which? Sacrifice of self--or mother?
God knew, he had never deliberately countenanced a falsehood--yet,
through circumstances which he did not have the will to control, he
was a living one!

Fair visions of a life untrammeled by creed or religious convention
hovered at times that night before his mental gaze. He saw a cottage,
rose-bowered, glowing in the haze of the summer sun. He saw before its
door a woman, fresh and fair--his wife--and children--his--shouting
their joyous greetings as they trooped out to welcome him returning
from his day's labors. How he clung to this picture when it faded and
left him, an oath-bound celibate, facing his lonely and cheerless
destiny! God! what has the Church to offer for such sacrifice as this!
An education? Yea, an induction into relative truths and mortal
opinions, and the sad record of the devious wanderings of the human
mind! An opportunity for service? God knows, the free, unhampered
mind, open to truth and progress, loosed from mediaeval dogma and
ignorant convention, seeing its brothers' needs and meeting in them
its own, has opportunities for rich service to-day outside the Church
the like of which have never before been offered!

To and fro his heaving thought ebbed and flowed. Back and forth the
arguments, pro and con, surged through the still hours of the
night. After all, had he definite proof that the tenets of Holy
Church were false? No, he could not honestly say that he had. The
question still stood in abeyance. Even his conviction of their
falsity at times had sorely wavered. And if his heart cried out
against their acceptance, it nevertheless had nothing tangibly
definite to offer in substitution. But--the end had come so
suddenly! With his life free and untrammeled he might yet find the
truth. Oath-bound and limited to the strictures of the Church, what
hope was there but the acceptance of prescribed canons of human
belief? Still, the falsities which he believed he had found within the
Church were not greater than those against which she herself fought in
the world. And if she accepted him, did it not indicate on her part
a tacit recognition of the need of just what he had to offer, a
searching spirit of inquiry and consecration to the unfoldment of
truth? Alas! the incident of the Greek translation threw its
shadow of doubt upon that hope.

But if the Church accepted him, she _must_ accept his stand! He
_would_ raise his voice in protest, and would continually point to the
truth as he discerned it! If he received the order of priesthood from
her it was with the understanding that his acceptance of her tenets
was tentative! But--forlorn expedient! He knew something of
ecclesiastical history. He thought he knew--young as he was--that the
Church stood not for progress, not for conformity to changing ideals,
not for alignment with the world's great reforms, but for _herself_,
first, midst, and last!

Thus the conflict raged, while thoughts, momentous for even a mature
thinker, tore through the mind of this lad of twenty. Prayers for
light--prayers which would have rent the heart of an Ivan--burst at
times from the feverish lips of this child of circumstance. Infinite
Father--Divine Influence--Spirit of Love--whatever Thou art--wilt Thou
not illumine the thought-processes of this distracted youth and thus
provide the way of escape from impending destruction? Can it be Thy
will that this fair mind shall be utterly crushed? Do the agonized
words of appeal which rise to Thee from his riven soul fall broken
against ears of stone?

"Occupy till I come!" Yea, beloved Master, he hears thy voice and
strives to obey--but the night is filled with terror--the clouds of
error lower about him--the storm bursts--and thou art not there!

Day dawned. A classmate, sent to summon the lad, roused him from the
fitful sleep into which he had sunk on the cold floor. His mind was no
longer active. Dumbly following his preceptors at the appointed hour,
he proceeded with the class to the chapel. Dimly conscious of his
surroundings, his thought befogged as if in a dream, his eyes
half-blinded by the gray haze which seemed to hang before them, he
celebrated the Mass, like one under hypnosis, received the holy
orders, and assumed the obligations which constituted him a priest of
Holy Church.



CHAPTER 8


On a sweltering midsummer afternoon, a year after the events just
related, Rome lay panting for breath and counting the interminable
hours which must elapse before the unpitying sun would grant her a
short night's respite from her discomfort. Her streets were deserted
by all except those whose affairs necessitated their presence in
them. Her palaces and villas had been abandoned for weeks by their
fortunate owners, who had betaken themselves to the seashore or to the
more distance resorts of the North. The few inexperienced tourists
whose lack of practical knowledge in the matter of globe-trotting had
brought them into the city so unseasonably were hastily and
indignantly assembling their luggage and completing arrangements to
flee from their over-warm reception.

In a richly appointed suite of the city's most modern and
ultra-fashionable hotel two maids, a butler, and the head porter were
packing and removing a formidable array of trunks and suit cases,
while a woman of considerably less than middle age, comely in person
and tastefully attired in a loose dressing gown of flowered silk,
alternated between giving sharp directions to the perspiring workers
and venting her abundant wrath and disappointment upon the chief
clerk, as with evident reluctance she filled one of a number of signed
checks to cover the hotel expenses of herself and servants for a
period of three weeks, although they had arrived only the day before
and, on account of the stifling heat, were leaving on the night
express for Lucerne. The clerk regretted exceedingly, but on Madam
Ames' order the suite had been held vacant for that length of time,
during which the management had daily looked for her arrival, and had
received no word of her delay. Had Madam herself not just admitted
that she had altered her plans en route, without notifying the hotel,
and had gone first to the Italian lakes, without cancelling her order
for the suite? And so her sense of justice must convince her that the
management was acting wholly within its rights in making this demand.

While the preparations for departure were in progress the woman's
two children played about the trunks and raced through the rooms
and adjoining corridor with a child's indifference to climatal
conditions.

"Let's ring for the elevator and then hide, Sidney!" suggested the
girl, as she panted after her brother, who had run to the far end of
the long hall.

"No, Kathleen, it wouldn't be right," objected the boy.

"Right! Ho! ho! What's the harm, goody-goody? Go tell mother, if you
want to!" she called after him, as he started back to their rooms.
Refusing to accompany him, the girl leaned against the balustrade of a
stairway which led to the floor below and watched her brother until he
disappeared around a turn of the corridor.

"Baby!" burst from her pouting lips. "'Fraid of everything! It's no
fun playing with him!" Then, casting a glance of inquiry about her,
"I'd just like to hide down these stairs. Mother and nurse never let
me go where I want to."

Obeying the impulse stimulated by her freedom for the moment, the
child suddenly turned and darted down the stairway. On the floor
beneath she found herself at the head of a similar stairway, down
which she likewise hurried, with no other thought than to annoy her
brother, who was sure to be sent in search of her when her mother
discovered her absence. Opening the door below, the child unexpectedly
found herself in an alley back of the hotel.

Her sense of freedom was exhilarating. The sunlit alley beckoned to a
delightful journey of discovery. With a happy laugh and a toss of her
yellow curls she hurried along the narrow way and into the street
which crossed it a short distance beyond. Here she paused and looked
in each direction, uncertain which way to continue. In one direction,
far in the distance, she saw trees. They looked promising; she would
go that way. And trotting along the blazing, deserted street, she at
length reached the grateful shade and threw herself on the soft grass
beneath, tired and panting, but happy in the excitement of her little
adventure.

Recovering quickly, the child rose to explore her environment. She was
in one of those numerous public parks lining the Tiber and forming the
city's playground for her less fortunate wards. Here and there were
scattered a few people, mostly men, who had braved the heat of the
streets in the hope of obtaining a breath of cool air near the water.
At the river's edge a group of ragged urchins were romping noisily;
and on a bench near them a young priest sat, writing in a notebook. As
she walked toward them a beggar roused himself from the grass and
looked covetously through his evil eyes at the child's rich clothes.

The gamins stopped their play as the girl approached, and stared at
her in expectant curiosity. One of them, a girl of apparently her own
age, spoke to her, but in a language which she did not understand.
Receiving no reply, the urchins suddenly closed together, and holding
hands, began to circle around her, shouting like little Indians.

The child stood for a moment perplexed. Then terror seized her.
Hurling herself through the circle, she fled blindly, with the gamins
in pursuit. With no sense of direction, her only thought to escape
from the dirty band at her heels, she rushed straight to the river and
over the low bank into the sluggish, yellow water. A moment later the
priest who had been sitting on the bench near the river, startled by
the frenzied cries of the now frightened children, rushed into the
shallow water and brought the girl in safety to the bank.

Speaking to her in her own language, the priest sought to soothe the
child and learn her identity as he carried her to the edge of the park
and out into the street. But his efforts were unavailing. She could
only sob hysterically and call piteously for her mother. A civil guard
appeared at the street corner, and the priest summoned him. But
scarcely had he reported the details of the accident when, suddenly
uttering a cry, the priest thrust the girl into the arms of the
astonished officer and fled back to the bench where he had been
sitting. Another cry escaped him when he reached it. Throwing himself
upon the grass, he searched beneath the bench and explored the ground
about it. Then, his face blanched with fear, he rose and traversed the
entire park, questioning every occupant. The gamins who had caused the
accident had fled. The beggar, too, had disappeared. The park was all
but deserted. Returning again to the bench, the priest sank upon it
and buried his head in his hands, groaning aloud. A few minutes later
he abruptly rose and, glancing furtively around as if he feared to be
seen, hastened out to the street. Then, darting into a narrow
crossroad, he disappeared in the direction of the Vatican.

At midnight, Padre Josè de Rincón was still pacing the floor of his
room, frantic with apprehension. At the same hour, the small girl who
had so unwittingly plunged him into the gravest danger was safely
asleep in her mother's arms on the night express, which shrieked and
thundered on its way to Lucerne.



CHAPTER 9


Always as a child Josè had been the tortured victim of a vague,
unformed apprehension of impending disaster, a presentiment that some
day a great evil would befall him. The danger before which he now grew
white with fear seemed to realize that fatidic thought, and hang
suspended above him on a filament more tenuous than the hair which
held aloft the fabled sword of Damocles. That filament was the slender
chance that the notebook with which he was occupied when the terrified
child precipitated herself into the river, and which he had hastily
dropped on seeing her plight and rushing to the rescue, had been
picked up by those who would consider its value _nil_ as an instrument
of either good or evil. Before the accident occurred he had been
absorbed in his writing and was unaware of other occupants of the park
than himself and the children, whose boisterous romping in such close
proximity had scarce interrupted his occupation. Then their frightened
cries roused him to an absorbing sense of the girl's danger. Nor did
he think again of the notebook until he was relating the details of
the accident to the guard at the edge of the park, when, like a blow
from above, the thought of it struck him.

Trembling with dread anticipation, he had hurried back to the bench,
only to find his fears realized. The book had disappeared! His
frenzied search yielded no hint of its probable mode of removal.
Overcome by a sickening sense of misfortune, he had sunk upon the
bench in despair. But fear again roused him and drove him, slinking
like a hunted beast, from the park--fear that the possessor of the
book, appreciating its contents, but with no thought of returning it,
might be hovering near, with the view of seeing what manner of priest
it could be who would thus carelessly leave such writings as these in
the public parks and within the very shadow of St. Peter's.

But to escape immediate identification as their author did not remove
his danger. Their character was such that, should they fall into
certain hands, his identity must surely be established. Even though
his name did not appear, they abounded in references which could
hardly fail to point to him. But, far worse, they cited names of
personages high in political and ecclesiastical circles in references
which, should they become public, must inevitably set in motion forces
whose far-reaching and disastrous effects he dared not even imagine.

For the notebook contained the soul-history of the man. It was
the _journal intime_ which he had begun as a youth, and continued
and amplified through succeeding years. It was the repository of
his inmost thoughts, the receptacle of his secret convictions.
It held, crystallized in writing, his earliest protests against
the circumstances which were molding his life. It voiced the
subsequent agonized outpourings of his soul when the holy order of
priesthood was conferred upon him. It recorded his views of life,
of religion, of the cosmos. It held in burning words his thoughts
anent the Holy Catholic faith--his sense of its virtues, its
weaknesses, its assumptions, its fallacies. It set forth his
confession of helplessness before circumstances too strong for
his feeble will, and it cited therewith, as partial justification
for his conduct, his tender love for his mother and his firm
intention of keeping forever inviolable his promises to her. It
voiced his passionate prayers for light, and his dim hopes for
the future, while portraying the wreck of a life whose elements
had been too complex for him to sift and classify and combine in
their normal proportions.

A year had passed since the unhappy lad had opened his mouth to
receive the iron bit which Destiny had pressed so mercilessly against
it. During that time the Church had conscientiously carried out
her program as announced to him just prior to his ordination.
Associated with the Papal Legate, he had traveled extensively through
Europe, his impressionable mind avidly absorbing the customs,
languages, and thought-processes of many lands. At Lourdes he had
stood in deep meditation before the miraculous shrine, surrounded
with its piles of discarded canes and crutches, and wondered what
could be the principle, human or divine, that had effected such
cures. In Naples he had witnessed the miraculous liquefaction of
the blood of St. Januarius. He had seen the priests pass through the
great assemblage with the little vial in which the red clot slowly
dissolved into liquid before their credulous eyes; and he had turned
away that they might not mark his flush of shame. In the Cathedral at
Cologne he had gazed long at the supposed skulls of the three Magi who
had worshipped at the rude cradle of the Christ. Set in brilliant
jewels, in a resplendent gilded shrine, these whitened relics,
which Bishop Reinald is believed to have discovered in the twelfth
century, seemed to mock him in the very boldness of the pious fraud
which they externalized. Was the mystery of the Christ involved in
such deceit as this? And perpetrated by his Church? In unhappy Ireland
he had been forced to the conviction that misdirected religious zeal
must some day urge the sturdy Protesters of the North into armed
conflict with their Catholic brothers of the South in another of
those deplorable religious--nay, rather, _theological_--conflicts
which have stained the earth with human blood in the name of the
Prince of Peace. It was all incomprehensible to him, incongruous,
and damnably wicked. Why could not they come together to submit their
creeds, their religious beliefs and tenets, to the test of practical
demonstration, and then discard those which world-history has long
since shown inimical to progress and happiness? Paul urged this very
thing when he wrote, "_Prove_ all things; hold fast to that which is
good." But, alas! the human doctrine of infallibility now stood
squarely in the way.

From his travels with the Legate, Josè returned to Rome, burning with
the holy desire to lend his influence to the institution of those
reforms within the Church of which now he so clearly saw the need.
Savonarola had burned with this same selfless desire to reform the
Church from within. And his life became the forfeit. But the present
age was perforce more tolerant; and was likewise wanting in those
peculiar political conditions which had combined with the religious
issue to send the great reformer to a martyr's death.

As Josè entered Rome he found the city in a state of turmoil. The
occasion was the march of the Catholic gymnastic associations from
the church where they had heard the Mass to St. Peter's, where they
were to be received by the Holy Father. Cries of "Long live
free-thinking!" were issuing from the rabble which followed hooting in
the wake of the procession. To these were retorted, "Viva il Papa Re!"
Josè had been caught in the _mêlée_, and, but for the interference of
the civil authorities, might have suffered bodily injury. With his
corporeal bruises he now bore away another ineffaceable mental
impression. Were the Italian patriots justified in their hostility
toward the Vatican? Had United Italy come into existence with the
support of the Papacy, or in despite of it? Would the Church forever
set herself against freedom of thought? Always seek to imprison the
human mind? Was her unreasonably stubborn attitude directly
accountable for the presence of atheism in the place, of all places,
where her own influence ought to be most potent, the city of St.
Peter?

For reasons which he could only surmise--perhaps because of his high
scholarship--perhaps because of his remarkable memory, which
constituted him a living encyclopedia in respect of all that entered
it--Josè was now installed in the office of the Papal Secretary of
State as an office assistant. He had received the appointment with
indifference, for he was wholly devoid of ecclesiastical ambition. And
yet it was with a sense of relief that he now felt assured of a career
in the service of the Administrative Congregation of the Church, and
for all time removed from the likelihood of being relegated to the
performance of merely priestly functions. He therefore prepared to
bide his time, and patiently to await opportunities to lend his
willing support to the uplift of the Church and his fellow-men.

The limitations with which he had always been hedged about had not
permitted the lad to know much, if anything, of the multitude of books
on religious and philosophical subjects annually published throughout
the world; and his oath of obedience would have prevented him from
reading them if he had. But he saw no reason why, as part preparation
for his work of moral uplift, he should not continue to seek, at first
hand, the answer to the world-stirring query, What does the Bible
mean? If God gave it, if the theory of verbal inspiration is correct,
and if it is infallible, why then was it necessary to revise it, as
had been done in the wonderful Jerusalem Chamber which he had once
visited? Were those of his associates justified who had scoffed at
that work, and, with a sneer on their lips, voiced the caustic query,
"Fools! Why don't they let the Bible alone?" If the world is to be
instructed out of the old sensual theology, does the Bible contain the
truth with which to replace it? For to tear down an ideal without
substituting for it a better one is nothing short of criminal. And so
Josè plunged deeply into the study of Scriptural sources.

He had thought the rich treasures of the Vatican library unrestrictedly
open to him, and he therefore brought his fine Latin and Greek
scholarship to bear on its oldest uncial manuscripts. He began the study
of Hebrew, that he might later read the Talmud and the ancient Jewish
rabbinical lore. He pursued unflaggingly his studies of the English,
French, and German languages, that he might search for the truth
crystallized in those tongues. As his work progressed, the flush of
health came to his cheeks. His eyes reflected the consuming fire which
glowed in his eager soul. As he labored, he wrote; and his discoveries
and meditations all found lodgment in his sole confidant, his journal.

If the Church knew what Christianity was, then Josè was forced to
admit that he did not. He, weak, frail, fallible, _remit sins_?
Preposterous! What was the true remission of sins but their utter
destruction? He change the wafer and wine into the flesh and blood
of Jesus? Nay, he was no spiritual thaumaturgus! He could not do even
the least of the works of the Master, despite his priestly character!
Yet, it was not he, but the Christ, operating through him as a
channel, who performed the work. Then why did not the Christ
through him heal the sick and raise the dead? "Nay," he deplored,
as he bent over his task, "the Church may teach that the bones, the
teeth, the hair, and other human relics of canonized Saints can heal
the sick--but even the Cardinals and the Holy Father when they fall
ill demand the services, not of these, but of earthly physicians.
They seek not the Christ-healing then; nor can they by their boasted
powers heal themselves."

Israel's theme was: Righteousness is salvation. But Josè knew not how
to define righteousness. Surely it did not mean adherence to human
creeds! It was vastly more than observance of forms! "God is a
spirit," he read; "and they that worship Him must worship Him in
spirit and in truth." Then, voicing his own comments, "Why, then, this
crass materializing of worship? Are images of Saviour, Virgin, and
Saint necessary to excite the people to devotion? Nay, would not the
healing of the sick, the restoration of sight to the blind, and the
performance of the works of the Master by us priests do more than
wooden or marble images to lead men to worship? Proof! proof! proof!
'Show us your works, and we will show you our faith,' cry the people.
'Then will we no longer sacrifice our independence of thought to the
merciless tyranny of human tradition.'" And he knew that this related
to Catholic and Protestant, Jew and Mohammedan alike.

One day a Cardinal, passing through the library, saw the diligent
student at work, and paused to inquire into his labors. "And what do
you seek, my son?" was the kindly query of the aged churchman.

"Scriptural justification for the fundamental tenets of our faith,"
Josè replied quickly, carried away by his soul's animation.

"And you find it, without doubt?"

"Nay, Father, except through what is, to me, unwarranted license and
assumption."

The Cardinal silently continued his way. But permission to translate
further from the Vatican manuscripts was that day withdrawn from
Josè.

Again the youth lapsed into his former habit of moody revery. Shackled
and restless, driven anew into himself, he increasingly poured his
turbulent thought into his journal, not for other and profane eyes to
read--hardly, either, for his own reference--but simply because he
_must_ have some outlet for the expression of his heaving mind. He
turned to it, as he had in other crises in his life, when his pent
soul cried out for some form of relief. He began to revise the record
of the impressions received on his travels with the Papal Legate. He
recorded conversations and impressions of scenes and people which his
abnormally developed reticence would not permit him to discuss
verbally with his associates. He embodied his protests against the
restrictions of ecclesiastical authority. And he noted, too, many a
protest against the political, rather than religious, character of
much of the business transacted in the office to which he was
attached. In the discharge of his ordinary duties he necessarily
became acquainted with much of the inner administrative polity of the
Vatican, and thus at times he learned of policies which stirred his
alien soul to revolt. In his inferior position he could not hope to
raise his voice in protest against these measures which excited his
indignation; but in the loneliness of his room, or on his frequent
long walks after office hours, he was wont to brood over them until
his mind became surcharged and found relief only in emptying itself
into this journal. And often on summer days, when the intense heat
rendered his little room in the dormitory uninhabitable, he would take
his books and papers to some one of the smaller parks lining the
Tiber, and there would lose himself in study and meditation and the
recording of the ceaseless voicing of his lonely soul.

On this particular afternoon, however, his mind had been occupied with
matters of more than ordinary import. It happened that a Bishop from
the United States had arrived in Rome the preceding day to pay his
decennial visit to the Vatican and report on the spiritual condition
of his diocese. While awaiting the return of the Papal Secretary, he
had engaged in earnest conversation with a Cardinal-Bishop of the
Administrative Congregation, in a small room adjoining the one where
Josè was occupied with his clerical duties. The talk had been
animated, and the heavy tapestry at the door had not prevented much of
it from reaching the ears of the young priest and becoming fixed in
his retentive memory.

"While I feel most keenly the persecution to which the Church must
submit in the United States," the Bishop had said, "nevertheless
Your Eminence will admit that there is some ground for complaint in
the conduct of certain of her clergy. It is for the purpose of
removing such vantage ground from our critics that I again urge an
investigation of American priests, with the view of improving their
moral status."

"You say, 'persecution to which the Church _must_ submit.' Is that
quite true?" returned the Cardinal-Bishop. "That is, in the face of
your own gratifying reports? News from the American field is not only
encouraging, but highly stimulating. The statistics which are just at
hand from Monsignor, our Delegate in Washington, reveal the truly
astonishing growth of our beloved cause for the restoration of all
things in Christ. Has not God shown even in our beloved America that
our way of worshiping Him is the way He approves?"

"But, Your Eminence, the constant defections! It was only last week
that a priest and his entire congregation went over to the Episcopal
faith. And--"

"What of that? 'It must needs be that offenses come.' Where one drops
out, ten take his place."

"True, while we recruit our depleted ranks from the Old World. But,
with restricted immigration--"

"Which is not restricted, as yet," replied the Cardinal-Bishop with a
sapient smile. "Nor is there any restriction upon the inspiration,
political as well as spiritual, which the American Government draws
from Rome--an inspiration much more potent, I think, than our
Protestant brethren would care to admit."

"Is that inspiration such, think you, as to draw the American
Government more and more into the hands of the Church?"

"Its effect in the past unquestionably has been such," said the
Cardinal-Bishop meditatively.

"And shall our dreams of an age be fulfilled--that the Holy Father
will throw off the shackles which now hold him a prisoner within the
Vatican, and that he will then personally direct the carrying out of
those policies of world expansion which shall gather all mankind into
the fold of Holy Church?"

"There is a lessening doubt of it," was the tentative reply.

"And--" the Bishop hesitated. "And--shall we say that those
all-embracing policies ultimately will be directed by the Holy Father
from Washington itself?"

A long pause ensued, during which Josè was all ears.

"Why not?" finally returned the Cardinal-Bishop slowly. "Why not, if
it should better suit our purposes? It may become advisable to remove
the Holy See from Rome."

"But--impossible!"

"Not at all--quite possible, though I will not say probable. But let
us see, can we not say that the time has arrived when no President of
the United States can be elected without the Catholic vote? Having our
vote, we have his pledges to support our policies. These statistics
before us show that already seventy-five per cent of all Government
employes in Washington are of our faith. We control Federal, State,
County and City offices without number. I think--I think the time is
not distant when we shall be able to set up a candidate of our faith
for the Presidency, if we care to. And," he mused, "we shall elect
him. But, all in good time, all in good time."

"And is that," the Bishop interrogated eagerly, "what the Holy Father
is now contemplating?"

"I cannot say that it is," answered the noncommittal Cardinal-Bishop.
"But the Holy Father loves America. He rejoices in your report of
progress in your diocese. The successes attained by Catholic
candidates in the recent elections are most gratifying to him. This
not only testifies to the progress of Catholicism in America, but is
tangible proof of the growth of tolerance and liberal-mindedness in
that great nation. The fact that the Catholic Mass is now being said
in the American army affords further proof."

"Yes," meditated the Bishop. "Our candidates who receive election are
quite generally loyal to the Church."

"And should constitute a most potent factor in the holy work of making
America dominantly Catholic," added the older man.

"True, Your Eminence. And yet, this great desideratum can never come
about until the youth are brought into the true fold. And that means,
as you well know, the abolishing of the public school system."

"What think you of that?" asked the Cardinal-Bishop off-handedly.

The Bishop waxed suddenly animated. A subject had been broached which
lay close to his heart. "The public schools constitute a godless sink
of pollution!" he replied heatedly. "They are nurseries of vice! They
are part of an immoral and vicious system of education which is
undermining the religion of American children! I have always contended
that we, the Holy Catholic Church, _must_ control education! I hold
that education outside of the Church is heresy of the most damnable
kind! We have heretofore weakly protested against this pernicious
system, but without success, excepting"--and here he smiled
cynically--"that we have very generally succeeded in forcing the
discontinuance of Bible reading in the public schools. And in certain
towns where our parochial schools do not instruct beyond the eighth
grade, it looks as if we might force the introduction of a form of the
Catholic Mass to be read each morning in the High School."

"Excellent!" exclaimed the Cardinal-Bishop. "Your voice thrills me
like a trumpet call."

"I would it were such," cried the Bishop excitedly, "summoning the
faithful to strike a blow which shall be felt! What right have the
United States, or any nation, to educate the young? None whatever!
Education belongs to the Church! Our rights in this respect have been
usurped! But they shall be restored--if need be, at the point of
the--"

"You positively make my old heart leap to the fray," interrupted the
smiling, white-haired churchman. "But I feel assured that we shall
accomplish just that without violence or bloodshed, my son. You echo
my sentiments exactly on the pregnant question. And yet, by getting
Catholics employed in the public schools as teachers, and by electing
our candidates to public offices, we quietly accomplish our ends, do
we not?"

"But when will the Holy Father recognize the time as propitious for a
more decisive step in that respect?"

"Why, my son, I think you fail to see that we keep continually
stepping. We are growing by leaps and bounds in America. At the close
of the War of Independence the United States numbered some forty-five
thousand adherents to the Catholic faith. Now the number has increased
to twelve or fifteen millions. Of these, some four millions are
voters. A goodly number, is it not?"

"Then," cried the Bishop, "let the Holy Father boldly make the demand
that the States appropriate money for the support of our parochial
schools!"

Josè's ears throbbed. Before his ordination he had heard the Liturgy
for the conversion of America recited in the chapel of the seminary.
And as often he had sought to picture the condition of the New World
under the religio-political influence which has for centuries
dominated the Old. But he had always dismissed the idea of such
domination as wholly improbable, if not quite impossible in America.
Yet, since coming into the Papal Secretary's office, his views were
slowly undergoing revision. The Church was concentrating on America.
Of that there could be no doubt. Indeed, he had come to believe its
success as a future world-power to be a function of the stand which it
could secure and maintain in the United States. Now, as he strained
his ears, he could hear the aged Cardinal-Bishop's low, tense words--

"There can be no real separation of Church and State. The Church is
_not_ inferior to the civil power, nor is it in any way dependent
upon it. And the Church can never be excluded from educating and
training the young, from molding society, from making laws, and
governing, temporally and spiritually. From this attitude we shall
_never_ depart! Ours is the only true religion. England and Germany
have been spiritually dead. But, praise to the blessed Virgin who
has heard our prayers and made intercession for us, England, after
long centuries of struggle with man-made sects and indefinite dogma,
its spiritually-starving people fast drifting into atheism and
infidelity because of nothing to hold to, has awakened, and in these
first hours of her resurrection is fast returning to the Holy
Church of Rome. America, in these latter days, is rousing from the
blight of Puritanism, Protestantism, and their inevitable result,
free-thinking and anarchy, and is becoming the brightest jewel in
the Papal crown."

The Bishop smiled dubiously. "And yet, Your Eminence," he replied, "we
are heralded from one end of the land to the other as a menace to
Republican institutions."

"Ah, true. And you must agree that Romanism is a distinct menace to
the insane license of speech and press. It is a decided menace to the
insanity of Protestantism. But," he added archly, while his eyes
twinkled, "I have no doubt that when Catholic education has advanced a
little further many of your American preachers, editors, and
Chautauqua demagogues will find themselves behind the bars of
madhouses. Fortunately, that editor of the prominent American magazine
of which you were speaking switched from his heretic Episcopal faith
in time to avoid this unpleasant consequence."

The Bishop reflected for a moment. Then, deliberately, as if
meditating the great import of his words, "Your Eminence, in view of
our strength, and our impregnable position as God's chosen, cannot the
Holy Father insist that the United States mails be barred against the
infamous publications that so basely vilify our Church?"

"And thereby precipitate a revolution?" It was the firm voice of the
Papal Secretary himself, who at that moment entered the room.

"But, Monsignor," said the Bishop, as he rose and saluted the
newcomer, "how much longer must we submit to the gross injustice and
indignities practiced upon us by non-believers?"

"As long as the infallible Holy Father directs," replied that eminent
personage. "Obey him, as you would God himself," the Secretary
continued. "And teach your flock to do likewise. The ballot will do
for us in America what armed resistance never could. Listen, friend,
my finger is on the religious pulse of the world. Nowhere does this
pulse beat as strongly as in that part which we call the United
States. For years I have been watching the various contending forces
in that country, diligently and earnestly studying the elements acting
and reacting upon our Church there. I have come to the conclusion that
the success of Holy Church throughout the world depends upon its
advance in the United States during the next few years. I have become
an American enthusiast! The glorious work of making America Catholic
is so fraught with consequences of vastest import that my blood surges
with the enthusiasm of an old Crusader! But there is much still to be
done. America is a field white for the harvest, almost unobstructed."

"Then," queried the Bishop, "you do not reckon Protestantism an
obstruction?"

"Protestantism!" the Secretary rejoined with a cynical laugh. "No, I
reckon it as nothing. Protestantism in America is decadent. It has
split, divided, and disintegrated, until it is scarcely recognizable.
Its adherents are falling away in great numbers. Its weak tenets and
senile faith hold but comparatively few and lukewarm supporters. It
has degenerated into a sort of social organization, with musicals,
pink teas, and church suppers as attractions. No, America is _bound_
to be classed as a Catholic nation--and I expect to live to see it
thus. Our material and spiritual progress in the United States is
amazing, showing how nobly American Catholics have responded to the
Holy Father's appeal. New dioceses are springing up everywhere.
Churches are multiplying with astonishing rapidity. The discouraging
outlook in Europe is more, far more, than counterbalanced by our
wonderful progress in the United States. We might say that the
Vatican now rests upon American backs, for the United States send
more Peter's Pence to Rome than all other Catholic countries
together. We practically control her polls and her press. America was
discovered by Christopher Columbus, a Catholic in the service of a
Catholic ruler. It is Catholic in essence, and it shall so be
recognized! The Holy Catholic Church always has been and always will
be the sole and _only_ Christian authority. The Catholic religion by
rights ought to be, and ultimately shall be, the exclusively
dominant religion of the world, and every other sort of worship shall
be banished--interdicted--destroyed!"

For a while Josè heard no more. His ears burned and his brain
throbbed. He had become conscious of but one all-absorbing thought,
the fact of his vassalage to a world-embracing political system,
working in the name of the Christ. Not a new thought, by any
means--indeed an old one, often held--but now driven home to him most
emphatically. He forgot his clerical duties and sank into profound
revery on his inconsistent position in the office of the highest
functionary of Holy Church aside from the Supreme Pontiff himself.

He was aroused at length from his meditations by the departure of the
American Bishop. "It is true, as you report," the Papal Secretary was
saying earnestly. "America seems rife with modernism. Free-masonry,
socialism, and countless other fads and religious superstitions are
widely prevalent there. Nor do I underestimate their strength and
influence. And yet, I fear them not. There are also certain freak
religions, philosophical beliefs, wrung from the simple teachings of
our blessed Saviour, the rapid spread of which at one time did give me
some concern. The Holy Father mentioned one or two of them to-day, in
reference to his contemplated encyclical on modernism. But I now see
that they are cults based upon human personality; and with their
leaders removed, the fabrics will of themselves crumble."

He took leave of the Bishop, and turned again to address the
Cardinal-Bishop within. "A matter of the gravest import has arisen,"
he began in a low voice; "and one that may directly affect our
negotiations in regard to the support which the Holy Father will need
in case he issues a _pronunciamento_ that France, Spain, and Austria
shall no longer exercise the right of veto in papal elections. That
rumor regarding Isabella's daughter is again afloat. I have summoned
Father Rafaél de Rincón to Rome to state what he knows. But--" He rose
and looked out through the door at Josè, bending over his littered
desk. Then he went back, and resumed his conversation with the
Cardinal-Bishop, but in a tone so low that Josè could catch only
disconnected scraps.

"What, Colombia?" he at length heard the Cardinal-Bishop exclaim.

"Yes," was the Secretary's reply. "And presumably at the instigation
of that busybody, Wenceslas Ortiz. Though what concern he might have
in the _Infanta_ is to me incomprehensible--assuming, of course, that
there is such a royal daughter."

"But--Colombia elects a President soon, is it not so?"

"On the eve of election now," replied the Secretary. "And if the
influence of Wenceslas with the Bishop of Cartagena is what I am
almost forced to admit that it is, then the election is in his hands.
But, the _Infanta_--" The sound of his voice did not carry the rest of
his words to Josè's itching ears.

An hour later the Secretary and the Cardinal-Bishop came out of the
room and left the office together. "Yes," the Secretary was saying,
"in the case of Wenceslas it was 'pull and percuniam' that secured him
his place. The Church did not put him there."

The Cardinal-Bishop laughed genially. "Then the Holy Ghost was not
consulted, I take it," he said.

"No," replied the Secretary grimly. "And he has so complicated the
already delicate situation in Colombia that I fear Congress will table
the bill prohibiting Free-masonry. It is to be deplored. Among all the
Latin Republics none has been more thoroughly Catholic than
Colombia."

"Is the Holy Father's unpublished order regarding the sale and
distribution of Bibles loyally observed there?" queried the
Cardinal-Bishop.

The door closed upon them and Josè heard no more. His day's duties
ended, he went to his room to write and reflect. But the intense
afternoon heat again drove him forth to seek what comfort he might
near the river. With his notebook in hand he went to the little park,
as was his frequent wont. An hour or so later, while he was jotting
down his remembrance of the conversation just overheard, together with
his own caustic and protesting opinions, his absorption was broken by
the strange child's accident. A few minutes later the notebook had
disappeared.

And now the thought of all this medley of personal material and secret
matters of Church polity falling into the hands of those who might
make capital of it, and thereby drag the Rincón honor through the
mire, cast the man prostrate in the dust.



CHAPTER 10


Days passed--days whose every dawn found the priest staring in
sleepless, wide-eyed terror at the ceiling above--days crowded with
torturing apprehension and sickening suggestion--days when his knees
quaked and his hands shook when his superiors addressed him in the
performance of his customary duties. No mental picture was too
frightful or abhorrent for him to entertain as portraying a possible
consequence of the loss of his journal. He cowered in agony before
these visions. He dared not seek the little park again. He feared to
show himself in the streets. He dreaded the short walk from his
dormitory to the Vatican. His life became a sustained torture--a
consuming agony of uncertainty, interminable suspense, fearful
foreboding. The cruelty of his position corroded him. His health
suffered, and his cassock hung like a bag about his emaciated form.

Then the filament snapped and the sword fell. On a dismal, rainy
morning, some two months after the incident in the park, Josè was
summoned into the private office of the Papal Secretary of State. As
the priest entered the small room the Secretary, sitting alone at his
desk, turned and looked at him long and fixedly.

"So, my son," he said in a voice that froze the priest's blood, "you
are still alive?" Then, taking up a paper-covered book of medium size
which apparently he had been reading, he held it out without comment.

Josè took it mechanically. The book was crudely printed and showed
evidence of having been hastily issued. It came from the press of a
Viennese publisher, and bore the startling title, "Confessions of a
Roman Catholic Priest." As in a dream Josè opened it. A cry escaped
him, and the book fell from his hands. _It was his journal!_

There are sometimes crises in human lives when the storm-spent mind,
tossing on the waves of heaving emotion, tugs and strains at the ties
which moor it to reason, until they snap, and it sweeps out into the
unknown, where blackness and terror rage above the fathomless deep.
Such a crisis had entered the life of the unhappy priest, who now held
in his shaking hand the garbled publication of his life's most sacred
thoughts. Into whose hands his notes had fallen on that black day when
he had sacrificed everything for an unknown child, he knew not. How
they had made their way into Austria, and into the pressroom of the
heretical modernist who had gleefully issued them, twisted,
exaggerated, but unabridged, he might not even imagine. The terrible
fact remained that there in his hands they stared up at him in hideous
mockery, his soul-convictions, his heart's deepest and most inviolable
thoughts, details of his own personal history, secrets of state--all
ruthlessly exposed to the world's vulgar curiosity and the rapacity of
those who would not fail to play them up to the certain advantages to
which they lent themselves all too well.

And there before him, too, were the Secretary's sharp eyes, burning
into his very soul. He essayed to speak, to rise to his own defense.
But his throat filled, and the words which he would utter died on his
trembling lips. The room whirled about him. Floods of memory began to
sweep over him in huge billows. The conflicting forces which had
culminated in placing him in the paradoxical position in which he now
stood raced before him in confused review. Objects lost their definite
outlines and melted into the haze which rose before his straining
eyes. All things at last merged into the terrible presence of the
Papal Secretary, as he slowly rose, tall and gaunt, and with arm
extended and long, bony finger pointing to the yellow river in the
distance, said in words whose cruel suggestion scorched the raw soul
of the suffering priest:

"My son, be advised: the Tiber covers many sins."

Then pitying oblivion opened wide her arms, and the tired priest sank
gently into them.



CHAPTER 11


Rome again lay scorching beneath a merciless summer sun. But the
energetic uncle of Josè was not thereby restrained from making another
hurried visit to the Vatican. What his mission was does not appear in
papal records; but, like the one which he found occasion to make just
prior to the ordination of his nephew, this visit was not extended to
include Josè, who throughout that enervating summer lay tossing in
delirium in the great hospital of the Santo Spirito. We may be sure,
however, that its influence upon the disposition of the priest's case
after the recent _dénoûement_ was not inconsiderable, and that it was
largely responsible for his presence before the Holy Father himself
when, after weeks of racking fever, wan and emaciated, and leaning
upon the arm of the confidential valet of His Holiness, the young
priest faced that august personage and heard the infallible judgment
of the Holy See upon his unfortunate conduct.

On the throne of St. Peter, in the heavily tapestried private audience
room of the great Vatican prison-palace, and guarded from intrusion by
armed soldiery and hosts of watchful ecclesiastics of all grades, sat
the Infallible Council, the Vicar-General of the humble Nazarene, the
aged leader at whose beck a hundred million faithful followers bent in
lowly genuflection. Near him stood the Papal Secretary of State and
two Cardinal-Bishops of the Administrative Congregation.

Josè dragged himself wearily before the Supreme Pontiff and bent low.

"_Benedicite_, my erring son." The soft voice of His Holiness floated
not unmusically through the tense silence of the room.

"Arise. The hand of the Lord already has been laid heavily upon you in
wholesome chastening for your part in this deplorable affair. And the
same omnipotent hand has been stretched forth to prevent the baneful
effects of your thoughtless conduct. We do not condemn you, my son. It
was the work of the Evil One, who has ever found through your
weaknesses easy access to your soul."

Josè raised his blurred eyes and gazed at the Holy Father in perplexed
astonishment. But the genial countenance of the patriarch seemed to
confirm his mild words. A smile, tender and patronizing, in which Josè
read forgiveness--and yet with it a certain undefined something which
augured conditions upon which alone penalty for his culpability would
be remitted--lighted up the pale features of the Holy Father and
warmed the frozen life-currents of the shrinking priest.

"My son," the Pontiff continued tenderly, "our love for our wandering
children is but stimulated by their need of our protecting care. Fear
not; the guilty publisher of your notes has been awakened to his
fault, and the book which he so thoughtlessly issued has been quite
suppressed."

Josè bent his head and patiently awaited the conclusion.

"You have lain for weeks at death's door, my son. The words which you
uttered in your delirium corroborated our own thought of your
innocence of intentional wrong. And now that you have regained your
reason, you will confess to us that your reports, and especially your
account of the recent conversation between the Cardinal-Secretary of
State and the Cardinal-Bishop, were written under that depression of
mind which has long afflicted you, producing a form of mental
derangement, and giving rise to frequent hallucination. It is this
which has caused us to extend to you our sympathy and protection. Long
and intense study, family sorrow, and certain inherited traits of
disposition, whose rapid development have tended to lack of normal
mental balance, account to us for those deeds of eccentricity on your
part which have plunged us into extreme embarrassment and yourself
into the illness which threatened your young life. Is it not so, my
son?"

The priest stared up at the speaker in bewilderment. This unexpected
turn of affairs had swept his defense from his mind.

"The Holy Father awaits your reply," the Papal Secretary spoke with
severity. His own thought had been greatly ruffled that morning, and
his patience severely taxed by a threatened mutiny among the Swiss
guards, whose demands in regard to the quantity of wine allowed them
and whose memorial recounting other alleged grievances he had just
flatly rejected. The muffled cries of "_Viva Garibaldi!_" as the
petitioners left his presence were still echoing in the Secretary's
ears, and his anger had scarce begun to cool.

"We are patient, my Cardinal-Nephew," the Pontiff resumed mildly. "Our
love for this erring son enfolds him." Then, turning again to Josè,
"We have correctly summarized the causes of your recent conduct, have
we not?"

The priest made as if to reply, but hesitated, with the words
fluttering on his lips.

"My dear son"--the Holy Father bent toward the wondering priest in an
attitude of loving solicitation--"our blessed Saviour was ofttimes
confronted with those possessed of demons. Did he reject them? No;
and, despite the accusations against us in your writings, for which we
know you were not morally responsible, we, Christ's representative on
earth, are still touched with his love and pity for one so unfortunate
as you. With your help we shall stop the mouths of calumny, and set
you right before the world. We shall use our great resources to save
the Rincón honor which, through the working of Satan within you, is
now unjustly besmirched. We shall labor to restore you to your right
mind, and to the usefulness which your scholarly gifts make possible
to you. We indeed rejoice that your piteous appeal has reached our
ears. We rejoice to correct those erroneous views which you, in the
temporary aberration of reason, were driven to commit to writing, and
which so unfortunately fell into the hands of Satan's alert
emissaries. Your ravings during these weeks of delirium shed much
light upon the obsessing thoughts which plunged you into mild
insanity. And they have stirred the immeasurable depths of pity within
us."

The Holy Father paused after this unwontedly long speech. A dumb sense
of stupefaction seemed to possess the priest, and he passed his
shrunken hands before his eyes as if he would brush away a mist.

"That this unfortunate book is but the uttering of delirium, we have
already announced to the world," His Holiness gently continued. "But
out of our deep love for a family which has supplied so many
illustrious sons to our beloved Church we have suppressed mention of
your name in connection therewith."

The priest started, as he vaguely sensed the impending issue. What was
it that His Holiness was about to demand? That he denounce his
journal, over his own signature, as the ravings of a man temporarily
insane? He was well aware that the Vatican's mere denial of the
allegations therein contained, and its attributing of them to a mad
priest, would scarcely carry conviction to the Courts of Spain and
Austria, or to an astonished world. But, for him to declare them the
garbled and unauthentic utterances of an aberrant mind, and to make
public such statement in his own name, would save the situation,
possibly the Rincón honor, even though it stultify his own.

His Holiness waited a few moments for the priest's reply; but
receiving none, he continued with deep significance:

"You will not make it necessary, we know, for us to announce that a
mad priest, a son of the house of Rincón, now confined in an asylum,
voiced these heretical and treasonable utterances."

The voice of His Holiness flowed like cadences of softest music,
charming in its tenderness, winning in its appeal, but momentous in
its certain implication.

"In our solicitude for your recovery we commanded our own physicians
to attend you. To them you owe your life. To them, too, we owe our
gratitude for that report on your case which reveals the true nature
of the malady afflicting you."

The low voice vibrated in rhythmic waves through the dead silence of
the room.

"To them also you now owe this opportunity to abjure the writings
which have caused us and yourself such great sorrow; to them you owe
this privilege of confessing before us, who will receive your
recantation, remit your unintentional sins, and restore you to honor
and service in our beloved Church."

Josè suddenly came to himself. Recant! Confess! In God's name, what?
Abjure his writings, the convictions of a lifetime!

"These writings, my son, are not your sane and rational convictions,"
the Pontiff suggested.

Josè still stood mute before him.

"You renounce them now, in the clear light of restored reason; and you
swear future lealty to us and to Holy Church," the aged Father
continued.

"Make answer!" commanded one of the Cardinal-Bishops, starting toward
the wavering priest. "Down on your knees before the Holy Father, who
waits to forgive your venial sin!"

Josè turned swiftly to the approaching Cardinal and held up a hand.
The man stopped short. The Pontiff and his associates bent forward in
eager anticipation. The valet fell back, and Josè stood alone. In that
tense mental atmosphere the shrinking priest seemed to be transformed
into a Daniel.

"No, Holy Father, you mistake!" His voice rang through the room like a
clarion. "I do not recant! My writings _do_ express my deepest and
sanest convictions!"

The Pontiff's pallid face went dark. The eyes of the other auditors
bulged with astonishment. A dumb spell settled over the room.

"Father, my guilt lies not in having recorded my honest convictions,
nor in the fact that these records fell into the hands of those who
eagerly grasp every opportunity to attack their common enemy, the
Church. It lies rather in my weak resistance to those influences which
in early life combined to force upon me a career to which I was by
temperament and instinct utterly disinclined. It lies in my having
sacrificed myself to the selfish love of my mother and my own
exaggerated sense of family pride. It lies in my still remaining
outwardly a priest of the Catholic faith, when every fiber of my soul
revolts against the hypocrisy!"

"You are a subject of the Church!" the Papal Secretary interrupted.
"You have sworn to her and to the Sovereign Pontiff as loyal and
unquestioning obedience as to the will of God himself!"

Josè turned upon him. "Before my ordination," he cried, "I was a
voluntary subject of the Sovereign of Spain. Did that ceremony render
me an unwilling subject of the Holy Father? Does the ceremony of
ordination constitute the Romanizing of Spain? No, I am not a subject
of Rome, but of my conscience!"

Another dead pause followed, in which for some moments nothing
disturbed the oppressive silence. Josè looked eagerly into the
delicate features of the living Head of the Church. Then, with
decreased ardor, and in a voice tinged with pathos, he continued:

"Father, my mistakes have been only such as are natural to one of
my peculiar character. I came to know, but too late, that my
life-motives, though pure, found not in me the will for their
direction. I became a tool in the hands of those stronger than
myself. For what ultimate purpose, I know not. Of this only am I
certain, that my mother's ambitions, though selfish, were the only
pure motives among those which united to force the order of
priesthood upon me."

"Force!" burst in one of the Cardinal-Bishops. "Do you assume to make
the Holy Father believe that the priesthood can be _forced_ upon a
man? You assumed it willingly, gladly, as was your proper return for
the benefits which the Mother Church had bestowed upon you!"

"In a state of utmost confusion, bordering a mental breakdown, I
assumed it--outwardly," returned the priest sadly, "but my heart never
ceased to reject it. Once ordained, however, I sought in my feeble way
to study the needs of the Church, and prepare myself to assist in the
inauguration of reforms which I felt she must some day undertake."

The Pontiff's features twitched with ill-concealed irritation at this
confession; but before he could speak Josè continued:

"Oh, Father, and Cardinal-Princes of the Church, does not the need of
your people for truth wring your hearts? Turn from your zealous dreams
of world-conquest and see them, steeped in ignorance and superstition,
wretched with poverty, war, and crime, extending their hands to you as
their spiritual leaders--to you, Holy Father, who should be their
Moses, to smite the rock of error, that the living, saving truth may
gush out!"

He paused, as if fearful of his own rushing thought. Then: "Is not the
past fraught with lessons of deepest import to us? Is not the Church
being rejected by the nations of Europe because of our intolerance,
our oppression, our stubborn clinging to broken idols and effete forms
of faith? We are now turning from the wreckage which the Church has
wrought in the Old World, and our eyes are upon America. But can we
deceive ourselves that free, liberty-loving America will bow her neck
to the mediaeval yoke which the Church would impose upon her? Why, oh,
why cannot we see the Church's tremendous opportunities for good in
this century, and yield to that inevitable mental and moral
progression which must sweep her from her foundations, unless she
conform to its requirements and join in the movement toward universal
emancipation! Our people are taught from childhood to be led; they are
willing followers--none more willing in the world! But why lead them
into the pit? Why muzzle them with fear, oppress them with threats,
fetter them with outworn dogma and dead creed? Why continue to dazzle
them with pagan ceremonialism and oriental glamour, and then, our
exactions wrung from them, leave them to consume with disease and
decay with moral contagion?"

"The man is mad with heresy!" muttered the Pontiff, turning to the
Cardinal-Bishops.

"No, it is not I who is mad with heresy, but the Holy Church, of which
you are the spiritual Head!" cried the priest, his loud voice
trembling with indignation and his frail body swaying under his
rapidly growing excitement. "She is guilty of the damnable heresy
of concealing knowledge, of hiding truth, of stifling honest
questionings! She is guilty of grossest intolerance, of deadliest
hatred, of impurest motives--she, the self-constituted, self-endowed
spiritual guide of mankind, arrogating to herself infallibility,
superiority, supreme authority--yea, the very voice of God himself!"

The priest had now lost all sense of environment, and his voice waxed
louder as he continued:

"The conduct of the Church throughout the centuries has made her
the laughing-stock of history, an object of ridicule to every man
of education and sense! She is filled with superstition--do you not
know it? She is permeated with pagan idolatry, fetishism, and
carnal-mindedness! She is pitiably ignorant of the real teachings of
the Christ! Her dogmas have been formed by the subtle wits of Church
theologians. They are in this century as childish as her political
and social schemes are mischievous! Why have we formulated our
doctrine of purgatory? Why so solicitous about souls in purgatorial
torment, and yet so careless of them while still on earth? Where is
our justification for the doctrine of infallibility? Is liberty to
think the concession of God, or of the Holy Father? Where, oh,
where is the divine Christ in our system of theology? Is he to be
found in materialism, intolerance, the burning of Bibles, in
hatred of so-called heretics, and in worldly practices? Are we not
keeping the Christ in the sepulcher, refusing to permit him to
arise?"

His speech soared into the impassioned energy of thundered denunciation.

"Yes, Holy Father, and Cardinal-Bishops, I _am_ justified in
criticizing the Holy Catholic Church! And I am likewise justified in
condemning the Protestant Church! All have fallen woefully short of
the glory of God, and none obeys the simple commands of the Christ.
The Church throughout the world has become secularized, and worship is
but hollow consistency in the strict performance of outward acts of
devotion. Our religion is but a hypocritical show of conformity. Our
asylums, our hospitals, our institutions of charity? Alas! they but
evidence our woeful shortcoming, and our persistent refusal to rise
into the strength of the healing, saving Christ, which would render
these obsolete institutions unnecessary in the world of to-day! The
Holy Catholic Church is but a human institution. Its worldliness, its
scheming, its political machinations, make me shudder--!"

"Stop, madman!" thundered one of the Cardinal-Bishops, rushing upon
the frail Josè with such force as to fell him to the floor. The
Pontiff had risen, and sunk again into his chair. The valet hurried to
his assistance. The Papal Secretary, his face contorted with rage, and
his throat choking with the press of words which he strove to utter,
hastened to the door to summon help. "Remove this man!" he commanded,
pointing out the prostrate form of Josè to the two Swiss guards who
had responded to his call. "Confine him! He is violent--a raging
maniac!"

A few days later, Padre Josè de Rincón, having been pronounced by the
Vatican physicians mentally deranged, as the result of acute cerebral
anaemia, was quietly conveyed to a sequestered monastery at
Palazzola.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Two summers came, and fled again before the chill winds which blew
from the Alban hills. Then one day Josè's uncle appeared at the
monastery door with a written order from His Holiness, effecting the
priest's conditional release. Together they journeyed at once to
Seville, the uncle alert and energetic as ever, showing but slight
trace of time's devastating hand; Josè, the shadow of his former self
physically, and his mind clouded with the somber pall of melancholia.

Toward the close of a quiet summer, spent with his mother in his
boyhood home, Josè received from his uncle's hand another letter,
bearing the papal insignia. It was evident that it was not unexpected,
for it found the priest with his effects packed and ready for a
considerable journey. A hurried farewell to his mother, and the
life-weary Josè, combining innocence and misery in exaggerated
proportions, and still a vassal of Rome, set out for the port of
Cadiz. There, in company with the Apostolic Delegate and Envoy
Extraordinary to the Republic of Colombia, he embarked on the West
Indian trader Sarnia, bound for Cartagena, in the New World.



CHAPTER 12


There is no region in the Western Hemisphere more invested with the
spirit of romance and adventure than that strip of Caribbean coast
stretching from the Cape of Yucatan to the delta of the Orinoco and
known as the Spanish Main. No more superb setting could have been
chosen for the opening scenes of the New World drama. Skies of profoundest
blue--the tropical sun flaming through massive clouds of vapor--a sea
of exuberant color, foaming white over coral beaches--waving cocoa
palms against a background of exotic verdure marking a tortuous shore
line, which now rises sheer and precipitous from the water's edge to
dizzy, snowcapped, cloud-hung heights, now stretches away into vast
reaches of oozy mangrove bog and dank cinchona grove--here flecked with
stagnant lagoons that teem with slimy, crawling life--there flattened
into interminable, forest-covered plains and untrodden, primeval
wildernesses, impenetrable, defiant, alluring--and all perennially bathed
in dazzling light, vivid color, and soft, fragrant winds--with
everywhere redundant foliage--humming, chattering, screaming
life--profusion--extravagance--prodigality--riotous waste! Small wonder
that when this enticing shore was first revealed to the astonished
_Conquistadores_, where every form of Nature was wholly different from
anything their past experience afforded, they were childishly receptive to
every tale, however preposterous, of fountains of youth, of magical
lakes, or enchanted cities with mountains of gold in the depths of the
frowning jungle. They had come with their thought attuned to enchantment;
their minds were fallow to the incredible; they were fresh from their
conquest of the vast _Mare Tenebrosum_, with its mysteries and terrors.
At a single stroke from the arm of the intrepid Genoese the mediaeval
superstitions which peopled the unknown seas had fallen like fetters
from these daring and adventurous souls. The slumbering spirit of
knight-errantry awoke suddenly within their breasts; and when from their
frail galleons they beheld with ravished eyes this land of magic and
alluring mystery which spread out before them in such gorgeous
panorama, they plunged into the glittering waters with waving swords
and pennants, with shouts of praise and joy upon their lips, and
inaugurated that series of prodigious enterprise, extravagant deeds of
hardihood, and tremendous feats of prowess which still remain
unsurpassed in the annals of history for brilliancy, picturesqueness,
and wealth of incident.

With almost incredible rapidity and thoroughness the Spanish arms
spread over the New World, urged by the corroding lust of gold and the
sharp stimulus afforded by the mythical quests which animated the
simple minds of these hardy searchers for the Golden Fleece. Neither
trackless forests, withering heat, miasmatic climate nor savage
Indians could dampen their ardor or check their search for riches and
glory. They penetrated everywhere, steel-clad and glittering, with
lance and helmet and streaming banner. Every nook, every promontory of
a thousand miles of coast was minutely searched; every island was
bounded; every towering mountain scaled. Even those vast regions of
New Granada which to-day are as unknown as the least explored parts of
darkest Africa became the scenes of stirring adventure and brilliant
exploit of these daring crusaders of more than three centuries ago.

The real wonders yielded by this newly discovered land of enchantment
far exceeded the fabled Manoa or El Dorado of mythical lore; and the
adventurous expeditions that were first incited by these chimeras soon
changed into practical colonizing and developing projects of real and
permanent value. Amazing discoveries were made of empires which had
already developed a state of civilization, mechanical, military, and
agricultural, which rivaled those of Europe. Natural resources were
revealed such as the Old World had not even guessed were possible.
Great rivers, vast fertile plains, huge veins of gold and copper ore,
inexhaustible timber, a wealth of every material thing desired by man,
could be had almost without effort. Fortunate, indeed, was the Spanish
_Conquistador_ in the possession of such immeasurable riches;
fortunate, indeed, had he possessed the wisdom to meet the supreme
test of character which this sudden accession of wealth and power was
to bring!

With the opening of the vast treasure house flanked by the Spanish
Main came the Spaniard's supreme opportunity to master the world.
Soon in undisputed possession of the greater part of the Western
Hemisphere; with immeasurable wealth flowing into his coffers;
sustained by dauntless courage and an intrepid spirit of adventure;
with papal support, and the learning and genius of the centuries at
his command, he faced the opportunity to extend his sway over the
entire world and unite all peoples into a universal empire, both
temporal and spiritual. That he failed to rise to this possibility
was not due to any lack of appreciation of his tremendous opportunity,
nor to a dearth of leaders of real military genius, but to a
misapprehension of the great truth that the conquest of the world is
not to be wrought by feats of arms, but by the exercise of those
moral attributes and spiritual qualities of heart and soul which he
did not possess--or possessing, had prostituted to the carnal
influences of lust of material riches and temporal power.

In the immediate wake of the Spanish _Conqueros_ surged the drift and
flotsam of the Old World. Cities soon sprang up along the Spanish Main
which reflected a curious blend of the old-time life of Seville and
Madrid with the picturesque and turbulent elements of the adventurer
and buccaneer. The spirit of the West has always been synonymous with
a larger sense of freedom, a shaking off of prejudice and tradition
and the trammels of convention. The sixteenth century towns of the New
World were no exception, and their streets and _plazas_ early
exhibited a multicolored panorama, wherein freely mingled knight and
predaceous priest, swashbuckler and staid _hidalgo_, timid Indian and
veiled _doncella_--a potpourri of merchant, prelate, negro, thief, the
broken in fortune and the blackened in character--all poured into the
melting pot of the new West, and there steaming and straining,
scheming and plotting, attuned to any pitch of venturesome project, so
be it that gold and fame were the promised emoluments thereof.

And gold, and fame of a certain kind, were always to be had by those
whose ethical code permitted of a little straining. For the great
ships which carried the vast wealth of this new land of magic back to
the perennially empty coffers of Old Spain constituted a temptation
far more readily recognized than resisted. These huge, slow-moving
galleons, gilded and carved, crawling lazily over the surface of the
bright tropical sea, and often so heavily freighted with treasure as
to be unsafe in rough weather, came to be regarded as special
dispensations of Providence by the cattle thieves and driers of beef
who dwelt in the pirates' paradise of Tortuga and Hispaniola, and
little was required in way of soul-alchemy to transform the
_boucanier_ into the lawless and sanguinary, though picturesque,
corsair of that romantic age. The buccaneer was but a natural
evolution from the peculiar conditions then obtaining. Where human
society in the process of formation has not yet arrived at the
necessity of law to restrain the lust and greed of its members; and
where at the same time untold wealth is to be had at the slight cost
of a few lives; and, too, where even the children are taught that
whosoever aids in the destruction of Spanish ships and Spanish lives
renders a service to the Almighty, the buccaneer must be regarded as
the logical result. He multiplied with astonishing rapidity in these
warm, southern waters, and not a ship that sailed the Caribbean was
safe from his sudden depredations. So extensive and thorough was his
work that the bed of the Spanish Main is dotted with traditional
treasure ships, and to this day remnants of doubloons or "pieces of
eight" and bits of bullion and jewelry are washed up on the shining
beaches of Panamá and northern Colombia as grim memorials of his
lawless activities.

The expenditure of energy necessary to transport the gold, silver and
precious stones from the New World to the bottomless treasury of Spain
was stupendous. Yet not less stupendous was the amount of treasure
transported. From the distant mines of Potosi, from the Pilcomayo,
from the almost inaccessible fastnesses of what are now Bolivia and
Ecuador, a precious stream poured into the leaking treasure box of
Spain that totalled a value of no less than ten billion dollars. Much
of the wealth which came from Peru was shipped up to the isthmus of
Panamá, and thence transferred to plate-fleets. But the buccaneers
became so active along the Pacific coast that water shipment was
finally abandoned, and from that time transportation had to be made
overland by way of the Andean plateau, sometimes a distance of two
thousand miles, to the strongholds which were built to receive and
protect the treasure until the plate-fleets could be made up. Of these
strongholds there were two of the first importance, the old city of
Panamá, on the isthmus, and the almost equally old city of Cartagena,
on the northern coast of what is now the Republic of Colombia.

The spirit of ancient Carthage must have breathed upon this "Very
Royal and Loyal City" which Pedro de Heredia in the sixteenth century
founded on the north coast of New Granada, and bequeathed to it a
portion of its own romance and tragedy. Superbly placed upon a narrow,
tongue-shaped islet, one of a group that shield an ample harbor from
the sharp tropical storms which burst unheralded over the sea without;
girdled by huge, battlemented walls, and guarded by frowning
fortresses, Cartagena commanded the gateway to the exhaustless wealth
of the _Cordilleras_, at whose feet she still nestles, bathed in
perpetual sunshine, and kissed by cool ocean breezes which temper the
winds blowing hot from the steaming _llanos_ of the interior. By the
middle of the sixteenth century she offered all that the adventurous
seeker of fame and fortune could desire, and attracted to herself not
only the chivalry, but the beauty, wealth and learning which, mingled
with rougher elements, poured into the New World so freely in the
opening scenes of the great drama inaugurated by the arrival of the
tiny caravels of Columbus a half century before.

The city waxed quickly rich and powerful. Its natural advantages of
location, together with its massive fortifications, and its wonderful
harbor, so extensive that the combined fleets of Spain might readily
have found anchorage therein, early rendered it the choice of the
Spanish monarch as his most dependable reservoir and shipping point
for the accumulated treasure of his new possessions. The island upon
which the city arose was singularly well chosen for defense. Fortified
bridges were built to connect it with the mainland, and subterranean
passageways led from the great walls encircling it to the impregnable
fortress of San Felipe de Barajas, on Mount San Lázaro, a few hundred
yards back of the city and commanding the avenues and approaches of
the land side. To the east, and about a mile from the walls, the
abrupt hill of La Popa rises, surmounted by the convent of Santa
Candelaria, likewise connected by underground tunnels to the interior
of the city, and commanding the harbor and its approaches from the
sea. The harbor formerly connected with the open sea through two
entrances, the Boca Grande, a wide, fortified pass between the island
of Tierra Bomba and the tongue on which the city stands, and the Boca
Chica, some nine miles farther west, a narrow, tortuous pass, wide
enough to permit entry to but a single vessel at a time, and commanded
by forts San Fernando and San Josè.

By the middle of the seventeenth century Cartagena, "Queen of the
Indies and Queen of the Seas," had expanded into a proud and beautiful
city, the most important mart of the New World. Under royal patronage
its merchants enjoyed a monopoly of commerce with Spain. Under the
special favor of Rome it became an episcopal See, and the seat of the
Holy Inquisition. Its docks and warehouses, its great centers of
commerce, its sumptuous dwellings, its magnificent Cathedral, its
colleges and monasteries, and its proud aristocracy, all reflected the
spirit of enterprise which animated its sons and found expression in a
city which could boast a pride, a culture, and a wealth almost
unrivalled even in the Old World.

But, not unlike her ancient prototype, Cartagena succumbed to the very
influences which had made her great. Her wealth excited the cupidity
of freebooters, and her power aroused the jealousy of her formidable
rivals. Her religion itself became an excuse for the plundering hands
of Spain's enemies. Again and again the city was called upon to defend
the challenge which her riches and massive walls perpetually issued.
Again and again she was forced to yield to the heavy tributes and
disgraceful penalties of buccaneers and legalized pirates who, like
Drake, came to plunder her under royal patent. Cartagena rose and
fell, and rose again. But the human heart which throbs beneath the
lash of lust or revenge knows no barriers. Her great forts availed
nothing against the lawless hordes which swarmed over them. Neither
were her tremendous walls proof against starvation. Again and again,
her streets filled with her gaunt dead, she stubbornly held her gates
against the enemies of Spain who assaulted her in the name of
religion, only at last to weaken with terror and throw them open in
disgraceful welcome to the French de Pontis and his maudlin, rag-tag
followers, who drained her of her last drop of life blood. As her
gates swung wide and this nondescript band of marauders streamed in
with curses and shouts of exultation, the glory of this royal
mediaeval city passed out forever.

Almost from its inception, Cartagena had been the point of attack of
every enterprise launched with the object of wresting from Spain her
rich western possessions, so much coveted by her jealous and
revengeful rivals. It was Spain herself who fought for very existence
while Cartagena was holding her gates against the enemies of Holy
Church. And these enemies knew that they had pierced the Spanish heart
when the "Queen of the Indies" fell. And in no small measure did Spain
deserve the fate which overtook her. For, had it not been for the
stupendous amount of treasure derived from these new possessions, the
dramatic and dominant part which she played in the affairs of Europe
during the sixteenth century would have been impossible. This treasure
she wrested from her South American colonies at a cost in the
destruction of human life, in the outraging of human instincts, in
the debauching of ideals and the falsifying of hope, in hellish
oppression and ghastly torture, that can never be adequately
estimated. Her benevolent instruments of colonization were cannon and
saintly relics. Her agents were swaggering soldiers and bigoted
friars. Her system involved the impression of her language and her
undemonstrable religious beliefs upon the harmless aborigines. The
fruits of this system, which still linger after three centuries, are
superstition, black ignorance, and woeful mental retardation. To the
terrified aborigines the boasted Spanish civilization meant little
more than "gold, liquor, and sadness." Small wonder that the simple
Indians, unable to comprehend the Christian's lust for gold, poured
the molten metal down the throats of their captives, crying, "Eat,
Christian, eat!" They had borrowed their ideals from the Christian
Spaniards, who by means of the stake and rack were convincing them
that God was not in this western land until they came, bringing their
debauched concept of Christianity.

And so Cartagena fell, late in the seventeenth century, never to
regain more than a shadow of her former grandeur and prestige. But
again she rose, in a semblance of her martial spirit, when her native
sons, gathering fresh courage and inspiration from the waning powers
of the mother-country in the early years of the century just closed,
organized that federation which, after long years of almost hopeless
struggle, lifted the yoke of Spanish misrule from New Granada and
proclaimed the Republic of Colombia. Cartagena was the first city of
Colombia to declare its independence from Spain. And in the great war
which followed the "Heroic City" passed through terrible vicissitudes,
emerging from it still further depleted and sunken, a shell of massive
walls and battered defenses, with desolated homes and empty streets
echoing the tread of the mendicant _peon_.

As the nineteenth century, so rich in invention, discovery, and
stirring activity in the great States to the north, drew to a close, a
chance visitor to this battle-scarred, mediaeval city would have found
her asleep amid the dreams of her former greatness. Approaching from
the harbor, especially if he arrived in the early hours of morning,
his eyes would have met a view of exquisite beauty. Seen thus, great
moss-grown structures rise from within the lofty encircling walls,
with many a tower and gilded dome glittering in the clear sunlight and
standing out in sharp relief against the green background of
forest-plumed hills and towering mountains. The abysmal blue of the
untainted tropical sky overhead contrasts sharply with the red-tiled
roofs and dazzling white exteriors of the buildings beneath; and the
vivid tints, mingling with the iridescence of the scarcely rippling
waters of the harbor, blend into a color scheme of rarest loveliness
in the clear atmosphere which seems to magnify all distant objects and
intensify every hue.

A closer approach to the citadel which lies within the landlocked
harbor reveals in detail the features of the stupendous walls which
guard this key to Spain's former treasure house. Their immensity and
their marvelous construction bear witness to the genius of her famous
military engineers, and evoke the same admiration as do the great
temples and monuments of ancient Egypt. These grim walls, in places
sixty feet through, and pierced by numerous gates, are frequently
widened into broad esplanades, and set here and there with bastions
and watch towers to command strategic points. At the north end of the
city they expand into an elaborately fortified citadel, within which
are enormous fresh water tanks, formerly supplied by the rains, and
made necessary by the absence of springs so near the coast. Within the
walls at various points one finds the now abandoned barracks,
storerooms, and echoing dungeons, the latter in the days of the
stirring past too often pressed into service by the Holy Inquisition.
Underground tunnels, still intact, lead from the walls to the
Cathedral, the crumbling fortress of San Felipe de Barajas, and the
deserted convent on the summit of La Popa. Time-defying, grim,
dramatic reliques of an age forever past, breathing poetry and romance
from every crevice--still in fancy echoing from moldering tower and
scarred bulwark the clank of sabre, the tread of armored steed, and
the shouts of exulting _Conquistadores_--aye, their ghostly echoes
sinking in the fragrant air of night into soft whispers, which bear to
the tropical moon dark hints of ancient tragedies enacted within these
dim keeps and gloom-shrouded tunnels!

The pass of Boca Grande--"large mouth"--through which Drake's band of
marauders sailed triumphantly in the latter part of the sixteenth
century, was formerly the usual entrance to the city's magnificent
harbor. But its wide, deep channel, only two miles from the city
walls, afforded too easy access to undesirable visitors in the heyday
of freebooters; and the harassed Cartagenians, wearied of the
innumerable piratical attacks which this broad entrance constantly
invited, undertook to fill it up. This they accomplished after years
of heroic effort and an enormous expenditure of money, leaving the
harbor only the slender, tortuous entrance of Boca Chica--"little
mouth"--dangerous to incoming vessels because of the almost torrential
flow of the tide through it, but much more readily defended. The two
castles of San Fernando and San Josè, frowning structures of stone
dominating this entrance, have long since fallen into disuse, but are
still admirably preserved. Beneath the former, and extending far below
the surface of the water, is the old Bastile of the Inquisition,
occasionally pressed into requisition now to house recalcitrant
politicians, and where no great effort of the imagination is required
still to hear the groans of the tortured and the sighs of the
condemned, awaiting in chains and _san benitos_ the approaching _auto
da fé_.

But the greater distance from the present entrance of the harbor to
the city walls affords the visitor a longer period in which to enjoy
the charming panorama which seems to drift slowly out to meet him as
he stands entranced before it. The spell of romance and chivalry is
upon him long ere he disembarks; and once through the great gateway of
the citadel itself, he yields easily to the ineluctable charm which
seems to hover in the balmy air of this once proud city. Everywhere
are evidences of ancient grandeur, mingling with memories of enormous
wealth and violent scenes of strife. The narrow, winding streets,
characteristic of oriental cities; the Moorish architecture displayed
in the grandiose palaces and churches; the grated, unglazed windows,
through which still peep timid _señoritas_, as in the romantic days of
yore; the gaily painted balconies, over which bepowdered _doncellas_
lean to pass the day's gossip in the liquid tongue of Cervantes, all
transport one in thought to the chivalrous past, when this picturesque
survival of Spain's power in America was indeed the very Queen of the
western world and the proud boast of the haughty monarchs of Castile.

Nor was the city more dear to the Spanish King than to the spiritual
Sovereign who sat on Peter's throne. The Holy See strove to make
Cartagena the chief ecclesiastical center of the New World; and
churches, monasteries, colleges, and convents flourished there as
luxuriantly as the tropical vegetation. The city was early elevated to
a bishopric. A magnificent Cathedral was soon erected, followed by
other churches and buildings to house ecclesiastical orders, including
the Jesuit college, the University, the women's seminary, and the
homes for religious orders of both sexes. The same lavish expenditure
of labor and wealth was bestowed upon the religious structures as on
the walls and fortifications. The Cathedral and the church of San Juan
de Dios, the latter the most conspicuous structure in the city, with
its double towers and its immense monastery adjoining, became the
special recipients of the liberal outpourings of a community rich not
only in material wealth, but in culture and refinement as well. The
latter church in particular was the object of veneration of the
patrons of America's only Saint, the beneficent Pedro Claver, whose
whitened bones now repose in a wonderful glass coffin bound with
strips of gold beneath its magnificent marble altar. In the central
_plaza_ of the city still stands the building erected to house the
Holy Inquisition, so well preserved that it yet serves as a dwelling.
Adjacent to it, and lining the _plaza_, are spacious colonial
edifices, once the homes of wealth and culture, each shaded by
graceful palms and each enclosing its inner garden, or patio, where
tropical plants and aromatic shrubs riot in richest color and
fragrance throughout the year.

In the halcyon days of Cartagena's greatness, when, under the
protection of the powerful mother-country, her commerce extended to
the confines of the known world, her streets and markets presented a
scene of industry and activity wholly foreign to her in these latter
days of her decadence. From her port the rich traffic which once
centered in this thriving city moved, in constantly swelling volume,
in every direction. In her marts were formulated those audacious plans
which later took shape in ever-memorable expeditions up the Magdalena
and Cauca rivers in search of gold, or to establish new colonies and
extend the city's sphere of influence. From her gates were launched
those projects which had for their object the discovery of the
mysterious regions where rivers were said to flow over sands of pure
gold and silver, or the kingdom of El Dorado, where native potentates
sprinkled their bodies with gold dust before bathing in the streams
sacred to their deities. From this city the bold Quesada set out on
the exploits of discovery and conquest which opened to the world the
rich plateau of Bogotá, and ranked him among the greatest of the
_Conquistadores_. In those days a canal had been cut through the
swamps and dense coast lowlands to the majestic Magdalena river, some
sixty-five miles distant, where a riverine town was founded and given
the name of Calamar, the name Pedro de Heredia had first bestowed upon
Cartagena. Through this _dique_ the city's merchant vessels passed to
the great arterial stream beyond, and thence some thousand miles south
into the heart of the rich and little known regions of upper Colombia.
To-day, like the grass-grown streets of the ancient city, this canal,
choked with weeds and _débris_, is but a green and turbid pool, but
yet a reminder of the faded glory of the famous old town which played
such a dramatic _rôle_ in that age of desperate courage.

In the finished town of Cartagena Spain's dreams of imperial pomp and
magnificence were externalized. In her history the tragedy of the
New World drama has been preserved. To-day, sunk in decadence,
surrounded by the old mediaeval flavor, and steeped in the romance of
an age of chivalry forever past, her muniments and donjons, her
gray, crenelated walls and time-defying structures continue to express
that dogged tenacity of belief and stern defiance of unorthodox
opinion which for two hundred years maintained the Inquisition
within her gates and sacrificed her fair sons and daughters to an
undemonstrable creed. The heavy air of ecclesiasticism still hangs
over her. The priests and monks who accompanied every sanguinary
expedition of the _Conquistadores_, ready at all times to absolve
any desperado who might slay a harmless Indian in the name of Christ,
have their successors to-day in the astute and untiring sons of
Rome, who conserve the interests of Holy Church within these
battered walls and guard their portals against the entrance of radical
thought. Heredia had scarcely founded the city when King Philip sent
it a Bishop. And less than a decade later the Cathedral, which to-day
stands as the center of the episcopal See, was begun.

The Cathedral, though less imposing than the church of San Juan de
Dios, is a fine example of the ecclesiastical architecture of the
colonial era. Occupying a central position in the city, its
ever-open doors invite rich and poor alike, citizen and stranger,
to enter and linger in the refreshing atmosphere within, where the
subdued light and cool shadows of the great nave and chapels afford a
grateful respite from the glare and heat of the streets without.
Massive in exterior appearance, and not beautiful within, the
Cathedral nevertheless exhibits a construction which is at once
broad, simple and harmonious. The nave is more than usually wide
between its main piers, and its rounded arches are lofty and well
proportioned. Excellent portraits of former Bishops adorn its white
walls, and narrow rectangular windows at frequent intervals admit
a dim, mellow light through their dark panes. Before one of these
windows--apparently with no thought of incongruity in the exhibition
of such a gruesome object attached to a Christian church--there
has been affixed an iron grating, said to have served the Holy
Inquisition as a gridiron on which to roast its heretical victims.
Within, an ambulatory, supported on the first tier of arches,
affords a walk along either side of the nave, and leads to the
winding stairway of the bell tower. At one end of this ambulatory,
its entrance commanding a full view of the nave and the _capilla
mayor_, with its exquisitely carved marble altar, is located the
Bishop's _sanctum_. It was here that the young Spanish priest, Josè de
Rincón, stood before the Bishop of Cartagena on the certain midday
to which reference was made in the opening chapter of this recital,
and received with dull ears the ecclesiastical order which removed
him still farther from the world and doomed him to a living burial
in the crumbling town of Simití, in the wilderness of forgotten
Guamocó.



CHAPTER 13


"At last, you come!"

The querulous tones of the aged Bishop eddied the brooding silence
within the Cathedral. Without waiting for a reply he turned again to
his table and took up a paper containing a list of names.

"You wait until midday," he continued testily; "but you give me time
to reflect and decide. The parish of Simití has long been vacant. I
have assigned you to it. The Honda touches at Calamar to-morrow, going
up-river. You will take it."

"Simití! Father--!"

"_Bien_; and would you dispute this too!" quavered the ill-humored
Bishop.

"But--Simití--you surely cannot mean--!"

The Bishop turned sharply around. "I mean that after what I learn from
Rome I will not keep you here to teach your heresies in our
University! I mean that after what I hear this morning of your evil
practices I will not allow you to spend another day in Cartagena!" The
angry ecclesiastic brought his bony fist hard against the table to
emphasize the remark.

"_Madre de Dios!_" he resumed, after some moments of nursing his
choleric feelings. "Would you debate further! The Holy Father for some
unexplained reason inflicts a madman upon me! And I, innocent of what
you are, obey his instructions and place you in the University--with
what result? You have the effrontery--the madness--to lecture to your
classes on the heresies of Rome!"

"But--"

"And as if that were not burden enough for these old shoulders, I must
learn that I have taken a serpent to my bosom--but that you are still
sane enough to propagate heresies--to plot revolution with the
Radicals--and--shame consume you!--to wantonly ruin the fair daughters
of our diocese! But, do you see now why I send you where you can do
less evil than here in Cartagena?"

The priest slowly petrified under the tirade.

"The fault is not mine if I must act without instruction from
Rome," the Bishop went on petulantly. "Twice have I warned you
against your teachings--but I did not suspect then, for only
yesterday did I learn that before coming to me you had been confined
in a monastery--insane! But--_Hombre_! when you bring the blush of
shame to my cheeks because of your godless practices--it is time
to put you away without waiting for instruction!"

Godless practices! Was the Bishop or the priest going mad?

"Go now to your room," the Bishop added, turning again to his table.
"You have little enough time to prepare for your journey. Wenceslas
will give you letters to the Alcalde of Simití."

Wenceslas! The priest's thought flew back over the events of the
morning. Marcelena--Maria--the encounter below with--! _Dios!_ Could
it be that Wenceslas had fastened upon him the stigma of his own
crime? The priest found his tongue.

"Father!--it is untrue!--these charges are false as hell!" he
exclaimed excitedly. "I demand to know who brings them against me!"

The testy Bishop's wrath flared up anew. "You demand! Am I to sit here
and be catechised by _you_? It is enough that I know what occurs in my
diocese, and am well informed of your conduct!"

The doorway darkened, and the priest turned to meet the object of his
suspecting thought.

Bestowing a smile of patronage upon Josè, and bowing obsequiously
before the Bishop, Wenceslas laid some papers upon the table,
remarking as he did so, "The letters, Your Grace, to introduce our
Josè to his new field. Also his instructions and expense money."

"Wenceslas!" The priest confronted him fiercely. "Do you accuse me
before the Bishop?"

"Accuse, _amigo_?" Wenceslas queried in a tone of assumed surprise.
"Have I not said that your ready tongue and pen are your accusers?
But," with a conciliatory air, "we must remember that our good Bishop
mercifully views your conduct in the light of your recent mental
affliction, traces of which, unfortunately, have lingered to cause him
sorrow. And so he graciously prepares a place for you, _caro amigo_,
where rest and relief from the strain of teaching will do you much
good, and where life among simple and affectionate people will restore
you, he hopes, to soundness of mind."

The priest turned again to the Bishop in a complexity of appeal. The
soft speech of Wenceslas, so full of a double _entendu_, so markedly
in contrast with the Bishop's harsh but at least sincere tirade, left
no doubt in his mind that he was now the victim of a plot, whose
ramifications extended back to the confused circumstances of his early
life, and the doubtful purposes of his uncle and his influence upon
the sacerdotal directors in Rome. And he saw himself a helpless and
hopelessly entangled victim.

"Father!" In piteous appeal Josè held out his hands to the Bishop, who
had turned his back upon him and was busy with the papers on his
table.

"_Amigo_, the interview is ended," said Wenceslas quietly, stepping
between the priest and his superior.

Josè pushed wildly past the large form of Wenceslas and seized the
Bishop's hand.

"_Santa Maria!_" cried the petulant churchman. "Do you obey me, or no?
If not, then leave the Church--and spend your remaining days as a
hounded ex-priest and unfrocked apostate," he finished significantly.
"Go, prepare for your journey!"

Wenceslas slipped the letter and a few _pesos_ into the hand of the
smitten, bewildered Josè, and turning him to the door, gently urged
him out and closed it after him.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Just why the monastery gates had opened to him after two years'
deadening confinement, Josè had not been apprised. All he knew was
that his uncle had appeared with a papal appointment for him to the
University of Cartagena, and had urged his acceptance of it as the
only course likely to restore him both to health and position, and to
meet the deferred hopes of his sorrowing mother.

"Accept it, _sobrino mío_," the uncle had said. "Else, pass your
remaining days in confinement. There can be no refutation of the
charges against you. But, if these doors open again to you, think not
ever to sever your connection with the Church of Rome. For, if the
Rincón honor should prove inadequate to hold you to your oath, be
assured that Rincón justice will follow you until the grave wipes out
the stain upon our fair name."

"Then, _tío mío_, let the Church at once dismiss me, as unworthy to be
her son!" pleaded Josè.

"What, excommunication?" cried the horrified uncle. "Never! Death
first! Are you still mad?"

Josè looked into the cold, emotionless eyes of the man and shuddered.
The ancient spirit of the Holy Inquisition lurked there, and he
cowered before it. But at least the semblance of freedom had been
offered him. His numbed heart already had taken hope. He were indeed
mad not to acquiesce in his uncle's demands, and accept the proffered
opportunity to leave forever the scenes of his suffering and disgrace.
And so he bowed again before the inexorable.

Arriving in Cartagena some months before this narrative opens, he had
gradually yielded himself to the restorative effects of changed
environment and the hope which his uncle's warm assurances aroused,
that a career would open to him in the New World, unclouded by the
climacteric episode of the publishing of his journal and his
subsequent arrogant bearing before the Holy Father, which had provoked
his fate. Under the beneficent influences of the soft climate and the
new interests of this tropic land he began to feel a budding of
something like confidence, and the suggestions of an unfamiliar
ambition to retrieve past failure and yet gratify, even if in small
measure, the parental hope which had first directed him as a child
into the fold of the Church. The Bishop had assigned him at once to
pedagogical work in the University; and in the teaching of history,
the languages, and, especially, his beloved Greek, Josè had found an
absorption that was slowly dimming the memory of the dark days which
he had left behind in the Old World.

But the University had not afforded him the only interest in his new
field. He had not been many weeks on Colombian soil when his awakening
perceptions sensed the people's oppression under the tyranny of
ecclesiastical politicians. Nor did he fail to scent the approach of a
tremendous conflict, in which the country would pass through violent
throes in the struggle to shake off the galling yoke of Rome.
Maintaining an attitude of strict neutrality, he had striven quietly
to gauge the anticlerical movement, and had been appalled to find it
so widespread and menacing. Only a miracle could save unhappy Colombia
from being rent by the fiercest of religious wars in the near future.
Oh, if he but had the will, as he had the intellectual ability, to
throw himself into the widening breach!

"There is but one remedy," he murmured aloud, as he sat one evening on
a bench in the _plaza_ of Simón Bolívar, watching the stream of gaily
dressed promenaders parading slowly about on the tesselated walks, but
hearing little of their animated conversation.

"And what is that, may I ask, friend?"

The priest roused up with a start. He had no idea that his audible
meditations had been overheard. Besides, he had spoken in English. But
this question had been framed in the same tongue. He looked around. A
tall, slender man, with thin, bronzed face and well-trimmed Van Dyke
beard, sat beside him. The man laughed pleasantly.

"Didn't know that I should find any one here to-night who could speak
my lingo," he said cordially. "But, I repeat, what is the remedy?"

"Christianity," returned the amazed Josè, without knowing what he
said.

"And the condition to be remedied?" continued the stranger.

"This country's diseased--but to whom have I the honor of speaking?"
drawing himself up a little stiffly, and glancing about to see who
might be observing them.

"Oh, my credentials?" laughed the man, as he caught Josè's wondering
look. "I'm quite unknown in Cartagena, unfortunately. You must pardon
my Yankee inquisitiveness, but I've watched you out here for several
evenings, and have wondered what weighty problems you were wrestling
with. A quite unpardonable offense, from the Spanish viewpoint, but
wholly forgivable in an uncouth American, I'm sure. Besides, when I
heard you speak my language it made me a bit homesick, and I wanted to
hear more of the rugged tongue of the Gentiles."

Laughing again good-naturedly, he reached into an inner pocket and
drew out a wallet. "My name's Hitt," he said, handing Josè his card.
"But I didn't live up to it. That is, I failed to make a hit up north,
and so I'm down here." He chuckled at his own facetiousness. "Amos A.
Hitt," he went on affably. "There used to be a 'Reverend' before it.
That was when I was exploring the Lord's throne. I've dropped it, now
that I'm humbly exploring His footstool instead."

Josè yielded to the man's friendly advances. This was not the first
American he had met; yet it seemed a new type, and one that drew him
strongly.

"So you think this country diseased, eh?" the American continued.

Josè did not answer. While there was nothing in the stranger's
appearance and frank, open countenance to arouse suspicion, yet he
must be careful. He was living down one frightful mistake. He could
not risk another. But the man did not wait for a reply.

"Well, I'm quite agreed with you. It has _priest-itis_." He stopped
and looked curiously at Josè, as if awaiting the effect of his bold
words. Then--"I take it you are not really one of 'em?"

Josè stared at the man in amazement. Hitt laughed again. Then he drew
forth a cigar and held it out. "Smoke?" he said. The priest shook his
head. Hitt lighted the cigar himself, then settled back on the bench,
his hands jammed into his trousers pockets, and his long legs stuck
straight out in front, to the unconcealed annoyance of the passers-by.
But, despite his _brusquerie_ and his thoughtlessness, there was
something about the American that was wonderfully attractive to the
lonely priest.

"Yes, sir," Hitt went on abstractedly in corroboration of his former
statement, "Colombia is absolutely stagnant, due to Jesuitical
politics, the bane of all good Catholic countries. If she could shake
off priestcraft she'd have a chance--provided she didn't fall into
orthodox Protestantism."

Josè gasped, though he strove to hide his wonder. "You--" he began
hesitatingly, "you were in the ministry--?"

"Yes. Don't be afraid to come right out with it. I was a Presbyterian
divine some six years ago, in Cincinnati. Ever been there?"

Josè assured him that he had never seen the States.

"H'm," mused the ex-preacher; "great country--wonderful--none like it
in the world! I've been all over, Europe, Asia, Africa--seen 'em all.
America's the original Eden, and our women are the only true
descendants of mother Eve. No question about it, that apple incident
took place up in the States somewhere--probably in Ohio."

Josè caught the man's infectious humor and laughed heartily. Surely,
this American was a tonic, and of the sort that he most needed. "Then,
you are--still touring--?"

"I'm exploring," Hitt replied. "I'm here to study what ancient records
I may find in your library; then I shall go on to Medellin and Bogotá.
I'm on the track of a prehistoric Inca city, located somewhere in the
Andes--and no doubt in the most inaccessible spot imaginable.
Tradition cites this lost city as the cradle of Inca civilization.
Tampu Tocco, it is called in their legends, the place from which the
Incas went out to found that marvelous empire which eventually
included the greater part of South America. The difficulty is," he
added, knotting his brows, "that the city was evidently unknown to the
Spaniards. I can find no mention of it in Spanish literature, and I've
searched all through the libraries of Spain. My only hope now is that
I shall run across some document down here that will allude to it, or
some one who has heard likely Indian rumors."

Josè rubbed his eyes and looked hard at the man. "Well!" he
ejaculated, "you are--if I may be permitted to say it--an original
type."

"I presume I am," admitted the American genially. "I've been all sorts
of things in my day, preacher, teacher, editor. My father used to be a
circuit rider in New England forty years ago or more. Pious--good
Lord! Why, he was one of the kind who believe the good book 'from
kiver to kiver,' you know. Used to preach interminable sermons about
the mercy of the Lord in holding us all over the smoking pit and not
dropping us in! Why, man! after listening to him expound the
Scriptures at night I used to go to bed with my hair on end and my
skin all goose-flesh. No wonder I urged him to send me to the
Presbyterian Seminary!"

"And you were ordained?" queried Josè, dark memories rising in his own
thought.

"Thoroughly so! And glad I was of it, too, for I had grown up as pious
and orthodox as my good father. I considered the ordination a through
ticket to paradise."

"But--now--"

"Oh, I found myself in time," continued the man, answering Josè's
unspoken thought. "Then I stopped preaching beautiful legends, and
tried to be genuinely helpful to my congregation. I had a fine church
in Cincinnati at that time. But--well, I mixed a trifle too much
heresy into my up-to-date sermons, I guess. Anyway, the Assembly
didn't approve my orthodoxy, and I had as little respect for its
heterodoxy, and the upshot of it was that I quit--cold." He laughed
grimly as he finished the recital. "But," he went on gravely, "I now
see that it was due simply to my desire to progress beyond the
acceptance of tradition and allegory as truth, and to find some better
foundation upon which to build than the undemonstrable articles of
faith embraced in the Westminster Confession. To me, that confession
of faith had become a confession of ignorance." He turned his shrewd
eyes upon Josè. "I was in somewhat the same mental state that I think
you are in now," he added.

"And why, if I may ask, are you now exploring?" asked Josè,
disregarding the implication.

"Oh, as for that," replied the American easily, "I used to teach
history and became especially interested in ancient civilizations,
lost cities, and the like, in the Western Hemisphere. Long before I
left the ministry oil was struck on our little Pennsylvania farm,
and--well, I didn't have to work after that. So for some years I've
devoted myself strictly to my particular hobby of travel. And in my
work I find it necessary to discard ceremony, and scrape acquaintance
with all sorts and conditions. I especially cultivate clergymen. I've
wanted to know you ever since I first saw you out here. But I couldn't
wait for a formal introduction. And so I broke in unceremoniously upon
your meditations a few moments ago."

"I am grateful to you for doing so," said Josè frankly, holding out a
hand. "There is much that you can tell me--much that I want to know.
But--" He again looked cautiously around.

"Ah, I understand," said Hitt, quickly sensing the priest's
uneasiness. "What say you, shall we meet somewhere down by the city
wall? Say, at the old Inquisition cells?"

Josè nodded his acquiescence, and they separated. A few minutes later
the two were seated in one of the cavernous archways of the long,
echoing corridor which leads to the deserted barracks and the gloomy,
bat-infested cells beneath. A vagrant breeze drifted now and then
across the grim wall above them, and the deserted road in front lay
drenched in the yellow light of the tropic moon. There was little
likelihood of detection here, where the dreamy plash of the sea
drowned the low sound of their voices; and Josè breathed more freely
than in the populous _plaza_ which they had just left.

"Good Lord!" muttered the explorer, returning from a peep into the
foul blackness of a subterranean tunnel, "imagine what took place here
some three centuries ago!"

"Yes," returned Josè sadly; "and in the reeking dungeons of San
Fernando, out there at the harbor entrance. And, what is worse, my own
ancestors were among the perpetrators of those black deeds committed
in the name of Christ."

"Whew! You don't say! Tell me about it." The explorer drew closer.
Josè knew somehow that he could trust this stranger, and so he briefly
sketched his ancestral story to his sympathetic listener. "And no one
knows," he concluded in a depressed tone, "how many of the thousands
of victims of the Inquisition in Cartagena were sent to their doom by
the house of Rincón. It may be," he sighed, "that the sins of my
fathers have been visited upon me--that I am now paying in part the
penalty for their criminal zeal."

The explorer sat for some time in silent meditation. "Perhaps," he
said, "your family fell under the spell of old Saint Dominic. You
know the legend? How God deliberated long whether to punish the
wickedness of mankind by sending down war, plague, or famine, and was
finally prevailed upon by Saint Dominic to send, instead, the Holy
Inquisition. Another choice example of the convenient way the
world has always had of attributing the foulest deeds of men to the
Almighty. No wonder religion has so woefully declined!"

"But is it so up in the great North?" asked Josè. "Tell me, what is
the religious status there? My limitations have been such that I
have--I have not kept abreast of current theological thought."

"In the United States the conventional, passive submission to
orthodox dogma is rapidly becoming a thing of the past," the explorer
replied. "The people are beginning to think on these topics. All
human opinion, philosophical, religious, or scientific, is in a
state of liquefaction--not yet solidified. Just what will crystallize
out of the magma is uncertain. The country is experiencing a
religious crisis, and an irresistible determination to _know_ is
abroad in the land. Everything is being turned upside-down, and one
hardly dares longer say what he believes, for the dogma of to-day is
the fairy-tale of to-morrow. And, through it all, as some one has
tersely said, 'orthodoxy is hanging onto the coat-tails of progress in
a vain attempt to stop her.' We are facing in the United States
the momentous question, Is Christianity a failure? Although no one
knows what Christianity really is. But one thing is certain, the
brand of Christianity handed out by Protestant and Catholic alike is
mighty close to the borderline of dismal failure."

"But is there in the North no distinct trend in religious belief?"
queried Josè.

The explorer hesitated. "Yes," he said slowly, "there is. The man who
holds and promulgates any belief, religious or scientific, is being
more and more insistently forced to the point of demonstration. The
citation of patristic authority is becoming daily more thoroughly
obsolete."

"And there is no one who demonstrates practical Christianity?"

"No. Do you? Is there any one in your Church, or in the Protestant
faith, who does the works which Christ is reported to have done? Is
there any one who really tries to do them? Or thinks he could if he
tried? The good church Fathers from the third century down could
figure out that the world was created on the night before the
twenty-third of October, four thousand and four B. C., and that Adam's
fall occurred about noon of the day he was created. They could dilate
_ad nauseam_ on transubstantiation, the divine essence, and the
mystery of the Trinity; they could astonishingly allegorize the Bible
legends, and read into every word a deep, hidden, incomprehensible
sense; they could prove to their own satisfaction that Adam composed
certain of the Psalms; that Moses wrote every word of the Pentateuch,
even the story of his own death and burial; and that the entire Bible
was delivered by God to man, word for word, just as it stands,
including the punctuation. And yet, not one of them followed the
simple commands of Jesus closely enough to enable him to cure a
toothache, to say nothing of generally healing the sick and raising
the dead! Am I not right?"

"Yes--I am sorry to have to admit," murmured Josè.

"Well," went on the explorer, "that's what removed me from the
Presbyterian ministry. It is not Christianity that is a dismal
failure, but men's interpretation of it. Of true Christianity, I
confess I know little. Oh, I'm a fine preacher! And yet I am
representative of thousands of others, like myself, all at sea. Only,
the others are either ashamed or afraid to make this confession. But,
in my case, my daily bread did not depend upon my continuance in the
pulpit."

"But supposing that it had--"

"The result doubtless would have been the same. The orthodox faith was
utterly failing to supply me with a satisfying interpretation of
life, and it afforded me no means of escaping the discords of mundane
existence. It could only hold out an undemonstrable promise of a life
after death, provided I was elected, and provided I did not too
greatly offend the Creator during the few short years that I might
spend on earth. If I did that, then, according to the glorious
Westminster Confession, I was doomed--for we are not so fortunate as
you in having a purgatory from which we may escape through the
suffrages of the faithful," he concluded with a chuckle.

Josè knew, as he listened, that his own Church would hold this man a
blasphemer. The man by his own confession was branded a Protestant
heretic. And he, Josè, was _anathema_ for listening to these sincere,
brutally frank confidences, and tendering them his warm sympathy. Yet
he sat spellbound.

"And so I retired from the ministry," continued the explorer. "I had
become ashamed of tearing down other men's religious beliefs. I was
weary of having to apologize constantly for the organization to which
I was attached. At home I had been taught a devout faith in revealed
religion; in the world I was thrown upon its inquiring doubts; I
yearned for faith, yet demanded scientific proof. Why, I would have
been satisfied with even the slight degree of proof which we are able
to advance for our various physical sciences. But, no, it was not
forthcoming. I must believe because the Fathers had believed. I
struggled between emotion and reason, until--well, until I had to
throw it all over to keep from going mad."

Josè bowed in silence before this recital of a soul-experience so
closely paralleling his own.

"But, come," said the explorer cheerily, "I'm doing all the talking.
Now--"

"No! no!" interrupted the eager Josè. "I do not wish to talk. I want
to hear you. Go on, I beg of you! Your words are like rain to a
parched field. You will yet offer me something upon which I can build
with new hope."

"Do not be so sanguine, my friend," returned the explorer in a kindly
tone. "I fear I shall be only the reaper, who cuts the weeds and
stubble, and prepares the field for the sower. I have said that I am
an explorer. But my field is not limited to this material world. I am
an explorer of men's thoughts as well. I am in search of a religion. I
manifest this century's earnest quest for demonstrable truth. And so I
stop and question every one I meet, if perchance he may point me in
the right direction. My incessant wandering about the globe is, if I
may put it that way, but the outward manifestation of my ceaseless
search in the realm of the soul."

He paused. Then, reaching out and laying a hand upon the priest's
knee, he said in a low, earnest voice, "My friend, _something_
happened in that first year of our so-called Christian era. What it
was we do not know. But out of the smoke and dust, the haze and mist
of that great cataclysm has proceeded the character Jesus--absolutely
unique. It is a character which has had a terrific influence upon the
world ever since. Because of it empires have crumbled; a hundred
million human lives have been destroyed; and the thought-processes of
a world have been overthrown or reversed. Just what he said, just what
he did, just how he came, and how he went, we may not know with any
high degree of accuracy. But, beneath all the myth and legend, the
lore and childish human speculation of the intervening centuries,
there _must_ be a foundation of eternal truth. And it must be
broad--very broad. I am digging for it--as I dug on the sites of
ancient Troy and Babylon--as I have dug over the buried civilizations
of Mexico and Yucatan--as I shall dig for the hidden Inca towns on the
wooded heights of the Andes. And while I dig materially I am also
digging spiritually."

"And what have you found?" asked Josè hoarsely.

"I am still in the overburden of _débris_ which the sedulous, tireless
Fathers heaped mountain high upon the few recorded teachings of Jesus.
But already I see indications of things to come that would make the
members of the Council of Trent and the cocksure framers of the
Westminster Confession burst from their graves by sheer force of
astonishment! There are even now foreshadowings of such revolutionary
changes in our concept of God, of the universe, of matter, and the
human mind, of evil, and all the controverted points of theological
discussion of this day, as to make me tremble when I contemplate them.
In my first hasty judgment, after dipping into the 'Higher Criticism,'
I concluded that Jesus was but a charlatan, who had learned
thaumaturgy in Egypt and practiced it in Judea. Thanks to a better
appreciation of the same 'Higher Criticism' I am reconstructing my
concept of him now, and on a better basis. I once denounced God as the
creator of both good and evil, and of a man who He knew must
inevitably fall, even before the clay of which he was made had become
fairly dry. I changed that concept later to Matthew Arnold's 'that
something not ourselves that makes for righteousness.' But mighty few
to-day recognize such a God! Again, in Jesus' teaching that sin
brought death into the world, I began to see what is so dimly
foreshadowed to-day, the _mental_ nature of all things. 'Sin' is the
English translation of the original '_hamartio_,' which means, 'to
miss the mark,' a term used in archery. Well, then, missing the mark
is the mental result of nonconformity to law, is it not? And, going
further, if death is the result of missing the mark, and that is
itself due to mental cause, and, since death results from sickness,
old age, or catastrophe, then these things must likewise be mental.
Sickness, therefore, becomes wholly mental, does it not? Death becomes
mental. Sin is mental. Spirit, the Creator, is mental. Matter is
mental. And we live and act in a mental realm, do we not? The sick
man, then, becomes one who misses the mark, and therefore a sinner. I
think you will agree with me that the sick man is not at peace with
God, if God is 'that which makes for righteousness.' Surely the maker
of that old Icelandic sixteenth-century Bible must have been inspired
when, translating from Luther's Bible, he wrote in the first chapter
of Genesis, 'And God created man after His own likeness, in the
likeness of _Mind_ shaped He him.' Cannot you see the foreshadowing to
which I have referred?"

Josè kept silence. The current of his thought seemed about to swerve
from its wonted course.

"What is coming is this," continued the explorer earnestly, "a
tremendous broadening of our concept of God, a more exalted, a more
worthy concept of Him as spirit--or, if you will, as mind. An
abandonment of the puerile concept of Him as a sort of magnified man,
susceptible to the influence of preachers, or of Virgin and Saints,
and yielding to their petitions, to their higher sense of justice, and
to money-bought earthly ceremonies to lift an imaginary curse from His
own creatures. And with it will come that wonderful consciousness of
Him which I now begin to realize that Jesus must have had, a
consciousness of Him as omnipotent, omnipresent good. As I to-day read
the teachings of Jesus I am constrained to believe that he was
conscious _only_ of God and God's spiritual manifestation. And in that
remarkable consciousness the man Jesus realized his own life--indeed,
that consciousness _was_ his life--and it included no sense of evil.
The great lesson which I draw from it is that evil must, therefore, be
utterly unreal and non-existent. And heaven is but the acquisition of
that mind or consciousness which was in Christ Jesus."

"But, Mr. Hitt, such ideas are revolutionary!"

"True, if immediately and generally adopted. And so you see why the
Church strives to hold the people to its own archaic and innocuous
religious tenets; why your Church strives so zealously to hold its
adherents fast to the rules laid down by pagan emperors and ignorant,
often illiterate churchmen, in their councils and synods; and why the
Protestant church is so quick to denounce as unevangelical everything
that does not measure to its devitalized concept of Christianity. They
do not practice what they preach; yet they would not have you
practice anything else. The human mind that calls itself a Christian
is a funny thing, isn't it?"

He laughed lightly; then lapsed into silence. The sea breeze rose and
sighed among the great, incrusted arches. The restless waves moaned in
their eternal assault upon the defiant walls. The moon clouded, and a
warm rain began to fall. Josè rose. "I must return to the dormitory,"
he announced briefly. "When you pass me in the _plaza_ to-morrow
evening, come at once to this place. I will meet you here. You have--I
must--"

But he did not finish. Pressing the explorer's hand, he turned
abruptly and hurried up the dim, narrow street.



CHAPTER 14


All through the following day the priest mused over the conversation
of the preceding night. The precipitation with which this new
friendship had been formed, and the subsequent abrupt exchange of
confidences, had scarcely impressed him as unusual. He was wholly
absorbed by the radical thought which the man had voiced. He mulled
over it in his wakeful hours that night. He could not prevent it from
coloring the lecture which he delivered to his class in ancient
history that day. And when the sun at length dropped behind La Popa,
he hurried eagerly to the _plaza_. A few minutes later he and the
ex-clergyman met in the appointed rendezvous.

"I dropped in to have a look at the remains of Pedro Claver to-day,"
his new friend remarked. "The old sexton scraped and bowed with huge
joy as he led me behind the altar and lighted up the grewsome thing. I
suppose he believed that Pedro's soul was up in the clouds making
intercession with the Lord for him, while he, poor devil, was toting
tourists around to gaze at the Saint's ghastly bones in their glass
coffin. The thing would be funny were it not for its sad side, namely,
the dense and superstitious ignorance in which such as this poor
sexton are held all their lives by your Church. It's a shame to feed
them with the bones of dead Saints, instead of with the bread of life!
But," he reflected, "I was myself just as bigoted at one time. And my
zeal to convert the world to Protestantism was just as hot as any that
ever animated the missionaries of your faith."

He paused and looked quizzically at Josè. He seemed to be studying the
length to which he could go in his criticism of the ancient faith of
the house of Rincón. But Josè remained in expectant silence.

"Speaking of missionaries," the man resumed, "I shall never forget an
experience I had in China. My wealthy and ultra-aristocratic
congregation decided that I needed rest, and so sent me on a world
tour. It was a member of that same congregation, by the way, a stuffy
old dame whose wealth footed up to millions, who once remarked to me
in all confidence that she had no doubt the aristocracy of heaven was
composed of Presbyterians. Poor, old, empty-headed prig! What could I
do but assure her that I held the same comforting conviction! Well,
through influential friends in Pekin I was introduced to the eminent
Chinese statesman, Wang Fo, of delightful memory. Our conversation
turned on religion, and then I made the most inexcusable _faux pas_
that a blithering Yankee could make, that of expressing regret that he
was not of our faith. Good heavens! But he was the most gracious
gentleman in the world, and his biting rebuke was couched in tones of
silken softness.

"'What is it that you offer me?' he said mildly. 'Blind opinion?
Undemonstrated and undemonstrable theory? Why, may I ask, do you
come over here to convert us heathen, when your own Christian land
is rife with evil, with sedition, with religious hatred of man for
man, with bloodshed and greed? If your religious belief is true,
then you can demonstrate it--prove it beyond doubt. Do you say
that the wonderful material progress which your great country
manifests is due to Christianity? I answer you, no. It is due to
the unfettering of the human mind, to the laying off of much of
the mediaeval superstition which in the past ages has blighted
mankind. It is due largely to the abandonment of much of what you
are still pleased to call Christianity. The liberated human mind
has expanded to a degree never before seen in the world. We Chinese
are still mentally fettered by our stubborn resistance to change,
to progression. Your great inventors and your great men of finance
are but little hampered by religious superstition. Hence the
mental flights which they so boldly undertake, and the stupendous
achievements they attain. Is it not so?'

"What could I say? He had me. But he hadn't finished me quite.

"'I once devoted much time to the study of Chemistry,' he went on
blandly, 'and when I tell you that there is a law to the effect that
the volume of a gas is a function of its pressure I do so with the
full knowledge that I can furnish you indisputable proof therefor. But
when you come to me with your religious theories, and I mildly request
your proofs, you wish to imprison or hang me for doubting the
absurdities which you cannot establish!'

"He laughed genially, then took me kindly by the arm. 'Proof, my
zealous friend, proof,' he said. 'Give me proof this side of the grave
for what you believe, and then you will have converted the heathen.
And can your Catholic friend--or, shall I say enemy?--prove his
laughable doctrine of purgatory? The dead in purgatory dependent upon
the living! Why, I tell him, that smacks of Shintoism, wherein the
living feed the dead! Then he points in holy indignation to the Bible.
Bah! Cannot I prove anything I may wish from your Bible? What will
you have? Polygamy? Incest? Murder? Graft? Hand me your Bible, and
I will establish its divinity. No, my good friend. When you come to
me with proofs that you really do the works of him whom you profess
to follow, then will I gladly listen, for I, too, seek truth. But
in the present deplorable absence of proofs I take much more comfort
in the adoration of my amiable ancestors than I could in your
laughable and undemonstrable religious creeds.'

"I left his presence a saddened but chastened man, and went home to do
a little independent thinking. When I approached my Bible without the
bias of the Westminster Confession I discovered that it did serve
admirably as a wardrobe in which to hang any sort of religious
prejudice. Continued study made me see that religious faith is
generally mere human credulity. I discovered that in my pitying
contempt for those of differing belief I much resembled the Yankee who
ridiculed a Chinaman for wearing a pig-tail. 'True,' the Celestial
replied, 'we still wear the badge of our former slavery. But you
emancipated Americans, do you not wear the badge of a present and much
worse form of slavery in your domination by Tammany Hall, by your
corrupt politicians, and your organizers and protectors of crime?'

"As time passed I gradually began to feel much more kindly toward Matthew
Arnold, who said, 'Orthodox theology is an immense misunderstanding of
the Bible.' And I began likewise to respect his statement that our Bible
language is 'fluid and passing'--that much of it is the purest poetry,
beautiful and inspiring, but symbolical."

"But," broke in Josè, "you must admit that there is something awfully
wrong with the world, with--"

"Well," interrupted Hitt, "and what is it? As historical fact, that
story about Adam and Eve eating an apple and thereby bringing down
God's curse upon the whole innocent human race is but a figment of
little minds, and an insult to divine intelligence. But, as
symbolizing the dire penalty we pay for a belief in the reality of
both good and evil--ah, that is a note just beginning to be sounded in
the world at large. And it may account for the presence of the world's
evil."

"Yet, our experience certainly shows that evil is just as real and
just as immanent as good! And, indeed, more powerful in this life."

"If so," replied the explorer gravely, "then God created or instituted
it. And in that case I must break with God."

"Then you think it is all a question of our own individual idea of
God?"

"Entirely. And human concepts of Him have been many and varied. But
that worst of Old Testament interpreters of the first century, Philo,
came terribly close to the truth, I think, when, in a burst of
inspiration, he one day wrote: 'Heaven is mind, and earth is
sensation.' Matthew Arnold, I think, likewise came very close to the
truth when he said that the only God we can recognize is 'that
something not ourselves that makes for righteousness.' And, as for
evil, up in the United States there are some who are now lumping it
all under the head of 'mortal mind,' considering it all but the 'one
lie' which Jesus so often referred to, and regarding it as the
'suppositional opposite' of the mind that is God, and so, powerless.
Not a bad idea, I think. But whether the money-loving Yankee will ever
leave his mad chase for gold long enough to live this premise and so
demonstrate it, is a question. I'm watching its development with
intense interest. We in the States have wonderful, exceptional
opportunities for study and research. We ought to uncover the truth,
if any people should."

He fell into thoughtfulness again. Josè drew a long sigh. "I wish--I
wish," he murmured, "that I might go there--that I might live and work
and search up there."

The explorer roused up. "And why not?" he asked abruptly. "Look here,
come with me and spend a year or so digging around for buried Inca
towns. Then we will go back to the States. Why, man! it would make you
over. I'll take you as interpreter. And in the States I'll find a
place for you. Come. Will you?"

For a moment the doors of imagination swung wide, and in the burst of
light from within Josè saw the dreams of a lifetime fulfilled.
Emancipation lay that way. Freedom, soul-expansion, truth. It was his
God-given privilege. Who had the right to lay a detaining hand upon
him? Was not his soul his own, and his God's?

Then a dark hand stole out from the surrounding shadows and closed the
doors. From the blackness there seemed to rise a hollow voice,
uttering the single word, _Honor_. He thrust out an arm, as if to ward
off the assaults of temptation. "No, no," he said aloud, "I am bound
to the Church!"

"But why remain longer in an institution with which you are quite out
of sympathy?" the explorer urged.

"First, to help the Church. Who will uplift her if we desert her? And,
second, to help this, my ancestral country," replied Josè in deep
earnestness.

"Worthy aims, both," assented Hitt. "But, my friend, what will you
accomplish here, unless you can educate these people to think? I have
learned much about conditions in this country. I find that the priest
in Colombia is even more intolerant than in Ireland, for here he has a
monopoly, no competition. He is absolute. The Colombian is the logical
product of the doctrines of Holy Church. It is so in Mexico. It is so
wherever the curse of a fixed mentality is imposed upon a people. For
that engenders determined opposition to mobility. It quenches
responsiveness to new concepts and new ideas. It throttles a nation.
The bane of mental progress is the _Semper Idem_ of your Church."

"Christianity will remove the curse."

"I have no doubt whatever of that. It probably is the future cure for
all social ills and evils of every sort. But if so, it must be the
Christianity which Jesus taught and demonstrated--not the theological
chaff now disseminated in his name. Do not forget that we no longer
know what Christianity is. It is a lost science."

"It can and will be recovered!" cried Josè warmly.

"I have said that is foreshadowed. But we must have the whole garment
of the Christ, without human _addenda_. He is reported as having said,
'The works that I do bear witness of me.' Now the works of the
Christian Church bear ample witness that she has not the true
understanding of the Christ. Nor has that eminent Protestant divine,
now teaching in a theological seminary in the States, who recently
said that, although Jesus ministered miraculously to the physical man,
yet it was not his intention that his disciples should continue that
sort of ministry; that the healing which Jesus did was wholly
incidental, and was not an example to be permanently imitated. Good
heavens! how these poor theologians hide their inability to do the
works of the Master by taking refuge in such ridiculously unwarranted
assertions. To them the rule seems to be that, if you can't do a thing
you must deny the possibility of its being done. Great logic, isn't
it?

"And yet," he went on, "the Church has had nearly two thousand years
in which to learn to do the works of the Master. Pretty dull pupil, I
think. And we've had nearly two thousand years of theology from this
slow pupil. Would that she would from now on give us a little real
Christianity! Heavens! the world needs it. And yet, do you know,
sectarian feeling is still so bitter in the so-called Church of God
that if a Bishop of the Anglican Church should admit Presbyterians,
Methodists, or members of other denominations to his communion table a
scream of rage would go up all over England, and a mighty demand would
be raised to impeach the Bishop for heresy! Think of it! God above!
the puny human mind. Do you wonder that the dogma of the Church has
lost force? That, despite its thunders, thinking men laugh? I freely
admit that our great need is to find an adequate substitute for the
authority which others would like to impose upon us. But where shall
we find such authority, if not in those who demonstrate their ability
to do the works of the Master? Show me your works, and I'll show you
my faith. This is my perpetual challenge.

"But, now," he said, "returning to the subject so near your heart: the
condition of this country is that of a large part of South America,
where the population is unsettled, even turbulent, and where a
priesthood, fanatical, intolerant, often unscrupulous, pursue their
devious means to extend and perpetuate unhindered the sway of your
Church. Colombia is struggling to remove the blight which Spain laid
upon her, namely, mediaeval religion. It is this same blighting
religion, coupled with her remorseless greed, which has brought Spain
to her present decrepit, empty state. And how she did strive to force
that religion upon the world! Whole nations, like the Incas, for
example, ruthlessly slaughtered by the papal-benisoned riffraff of
Spain in her attempts to foist herself into world prestige and to
bolster up the monstrous assumptions of Holy Church! The Incas were a
grand nation, with a splendid mental viewpoint. But it withered under
the touch of the mediaeval narrowness fastened upon it. Whole nations
wasted in support of papal assumptions--and do you think that the end
is yet? Far from it! War is coming here in Colombia. It may come in
other parts of this Western Hemisphere, certainly in Mexico, certainly
in Peru and Bolivia and Chili, rocked in the cradle of Holy Church for
ages, but now at last awaking to a sense of their backward condition
and its cause. If ever the Church had a chance to show what she could
do when given a free hand, she has had it in these countries,
particularly in Mexico. In all the nearly four centuries of her
unmolested control in that fair land, oppressed by sword and crucifix,
did she ever make an attempt worth the name to uplift and emancipate
the common man? Not one. She took his few, hard-earned _pesos_ to get
his weary soul out of an imagined purgatory--but she left him to rot
in peonage while on earth! But, friend, I repeat, the struggle is
coming here in Colombia. And look you well to your own escape when it
arrives!"

"And can I do nothing to help avert it?" cried the distressed Josè.

"Well," returned the explorer meditatively, "such bondage is removable
either through education or war. But in Colombia I fear the latter
will overtake the former by many decades."

"Then rest assured that I shall in the meantime do what in me lies to
instruct my fellow-countrymen, and to avoid such a catastrophe!"

"Good luck to you, friend. And--by the way, here is a little book that
may help you in your work. I'm quite sure you've never read it. Under
the ban, you know. Renan's _Vie de Jésus_. It can do you no harm, and
may be useful."

Josè reached out and took the little volume. It was _anathema_, he
knew, but he could not refuse to accept it.

"And there is another book that I strongly recommend to you. I'm sorry
I haven't a copy here. It once created quite a sensation. It is
called, 'Confessions of a Roman Catholic Priest.' Published
anonymously, in Vienna, but unquestionably bearing the earmarks of
authenticity. It mentions this country--"

Without speaking, Josè had slowly risen and started down the musty
corridor, his thought aflame with the single desire to get away. Down
past the empty barracks and gaping cells he went, without stopping to
peer into their tenebrous depths--on and on, skirting the grim walls
that typified the mediaevalism surrounding and fettering his restless
thought--on to the long incline which led up to the broad esplanade on
the summit. Must he forever flee this pursuing Nemesis? Or should he
hurl himself from the wall, once he gained the top? At the upper end
of the incline he heard the low sound of voices. A priest and a young
girl who sat there on the parapet rose as he approached. He stopped
abruptly in front of them. "Wenceslas!" he exclaimed. "And Maria!"

"Ah, _amigo_, a quiet stroll before retiring? It is a sultry night."

"Yes," slowly replied Josè, looking at the girl, who drew back into
the shadow cast by the body of her companion. Then, bowing, he passed
on down the wall and disappeared in the darkness that shrouded the
distance.

A few minutes later the long form of the explorer appeared above the
incline. Wenceslas and the girl had departed. Seeing no one, the
American turned and descended to the ground, shaking his head in deep
perplexity.



CHAPTER 15


The next day was one of the Church's innumerable feast-days, and Josè
was free to utilize it as he might. He determined on a visit to the
suburb of Turbaco, some eight miles from Cartagena, and once the site
of Don Ignacio's magnificent country home. Although he had been some
months in Cartagena, he had never before felt any desire to pass
beyond its walls. Now it seemed to him that he must break the
limitation which those encircling walls typified, that his restless
thought might expand ere it formulated into definite concepts and
plans for future work. This morning he wanted to be alone. The old
injury done to his sensitive spirit by the publication of his journal
had been unwittingly opened anew. The old slowness had crept again
into his gait since the evening before. Over night his countenance had
resumed its wonted heaviness; and his slender shoulders bent again
beneath their former burden.

When Josè arrived in Cartagena he had found it a city of vivid
contrasts. There mediaevalism still strove with the spirit of modern
progress; and so it suited well as an environment for the dilation of
his shrunken soul-arteries. The lethal influence of the monastery long
lay over him, beneath which he continued to manifest those eccentric
habits which his prolonged state of loneliness had engendered. He
looked askance at the amenities which his associates tentatively held
out to him. He sank himself deep in study, and for weeks, even months,
he shunned the world of people and things. He found no stimulus to a
search for his ancestral palace within the city, nor for a study of
the Rincón records which lay moldering in the ancient city's
archives.

But, as the sunlit days drifted dreamily past with peaceful, unvarying
monotony, Josè's faculties, which had always been alert until he had
been declared insane, gradually awakened. His violently disturbed
balance began to right itself; his equilibrium became in a measure
restored. The deadening thought that he had accomplished nothing in
his vitiated life yielded to a hopeful determination to yet retrieve
past failure. The pride and fear which had balked the thought of
self-destruction now served to fan the flame of fresh resolve. He
dared not do any writing, it was true. But he could delve and study.
And a thousand avenues opened to him through which he could serve his
fellow-men. The papal instructions which his traveling companion, the
Apostolic Delegate, had brought to the Bishop of Cartagena, evidently
had sufficed for his credentials; and the latter had made no occasion
to refer to the priest's past. An order from the Vatican was law; and
the Bishop obeyed it with no other thought than its inerrancy and
inexorability. And with the lapse of the several months which had
slipped rapidly away while he sought to forget and to clear from his
mind the dark clouds of melancholia which had settled over it, Josè
became convinced that the Bishop knew nothing of his career prior to
his arrival in Colombia.

And it is possible that the young priest's secret would have died with
him--that he would have lived out his life amid the peaceful scenes of
this old, romantic town, and gone to his long rest at last with the
consciousness of having accomplished his mite in the service of his
fellow-beings; it is possible that Rome would have forgotten him; and
that his uncle's ambitions, to which he knew that he had been regarded
as in some way useful, would have flagged and perished over the watery
waste which separated the New World from the Old, but for the
intervention of one man, who crossed Josè's path early in his new
life, found him inimical to his own worldly projects, and removed him,
therefore, as sincerely in the name of Christ as the ancient
_Conquistadores_, with priestly blessing, hewed from their paths of
conquest the simple and harmless aborigines.

That man was Wenceslas Ortiz, trusted servant of Holy Church,
who had established himself in Cartagena to keep a watchful eye on
anticlerical proceedings. That he was able to do this, and at the
same time turn them greatly to his own advantage, marks him as a man
of more than usually keen and resourceful mentality. He was a
native son, born of prosperous parents in the riverine town of
Mompox, which, until the erratic Magdalena sought for itself a new
channel, was the chief port between Barranquilla and the distant
Honda. There had been neither family custom nor parental hopes
to consider among the motives which had directed him into the
Church. He was a born worldling, but with unmistakable talents for
and keen appreciation of the art of politics. His love of money was
subordinate only to his love of power. To both, his talents made
access easy. In the contemplation of a career in his early years
he had hesitated long between the Church and the Army; but had
finally thrown his lot with the former, as offering not only
equal possibilities of worldly preferment and riches, but far
greater stability in those periodic revolutions to which his
country was so addicted. The Army was frequently overthrown; the
Church, never. The Government changed with every successful
political revolution; the Church remained immovable. And so with
the art of a trained politician he cultivated his chosen field with
such intensity that even the Holy See felt the glow of his ardor,
and in recognition of his marked abilities, his pious fervor and
great influence, was constrained to place him just where he wished
to be, at the right hand of the Bishop of Cartagena, and probable
successor to that aged incumbent, who had grown to lean heavily
and confidingly upon him.

As coadjutor, or suffragan to the Bishop of Cartagena, Wenceslas Ortiz
had at length gathered unto himself sufficient influence of divers
nature as, in his opinion, to ensure him the See in case the bishopric
should, as was contemplated, be raised eventually to the status of a
Metropolitan. It was he, rather than the Bishop, who distributed
parishes to ambitious pastors and emoluments to greedy politicians.
His irons in ecclesiastical, political, social and commercial fires
were innumerable. The doctrine of the indivisibility of Church and
State had in him an able champion--but only because he thereby found a
sure means of increasing his prestige and augmenting his power and
wealth. His methods of work manifested keenness, subtlety, shrewdness
and skill. His rewards were lavish. His punishments, terrible. The
latter smacked of the Inquisition: he preferred torture to quick
despatch.

It had not taken Wenceslas long to estimate the character of the
newcomer, Josè. Nor was he slow to perceive that this liberal pietist
was cast in an unusual mold. Polity necessitated the cultivation of
Josè, as it required the friendship--or, in any event, the thorough
appraisement--of every one with whom Wenceslas might be associated.
But the blandishments, artifice, diplomacy and hints of advancements
which he poured out in profusion upon Josè he early saw would fail
utterly to penetrate the armor of moral reserve with which the priest
was clad, or effect in the slightest degree the impression which they
were calculated to make.

In the course of time the priest became irritating; later, annoying;
and finally, positively dangerous to the ambitions of Wenceslas. For,
to illustrate, Josè had once discovered him, in the absence of the
Bishop, celebrating Mass in a state of inebriation. This irritated.
Wenceslas had only been careless. Again, Josè had several times shown
himself suspicious of his fast-and-loose methods with the rival
political factions of Cartagena. This was annoying. Finally, he had
come upon Josè in the market place a few weeks prior, in earnest
conference with Marcelena and the girl, Maria; and subsequent
conversation with him developed the fact that the priest had other
dark suspicions which were but too well founded. This was dangerous.
It was high time to prepare for possible contingencies.

And so, in due time, carefully wording his hint that Padre Josè de
Rincón might be a Radical spy in the ecclesiastical camp, Wenceslas
found means to obtain from Rome a fairly comprehensive account of
the priest's past history. He mused over this until an idea suddenly
occurred to him, namely, the similarity of this account with many of
the passages which he had found in a certain book, "The Confessions
of a Roman Catholic Priest"--a book which had cast the shadow of
distrust upon Wenceslas himself in relation to certain matters of
ecclesiastical politics in Colombia nearly three years before, and
at a most unfortunate time. Indeed, this sudden, unheralded
exposure had forced him to a hurried recasting of certain cherished
plans, and drawn from him a burning, unquenchable desire to lay his
pious hands upon the writer.

His influence with Rome at length revealed the secret of the wretched
book's authorship. And from the moment that he learned it, Josè's fate
was sealed. The crafty politician laughed aloud as he read the
priest's history. Then he drew his plans and waited. But in the
interim he made further investigations; and these he extended far back
into the ancestral history of this unfortunate scion of the once
powerful house of Rincón.

Meantime, a few carefully chosen words to the Bishop aroused a dull
interest in that quarter. Josè had been seen mingling freely with men
of very liberal political views. It would be well to warn him. Again,
weeks later, Wenceslas was certain, from inquiries made among the
students, that Josè's work in the classroom bordered a trifle too
closely on radicalism. It were well to admonish him. And, still later,
happening to call at Josè's quarters just above his own in the
ecclesiastical dormitory, and not finding him in, he had been struck
by the absence of crucifix or other religious symbol in the room. Was
the young priest becoming careless of his example?

And now, on this important feast-day, where was Padre Josè? On the
preceding evening, as Wenceslas leaned over the parapet of the wall
after his surprise by Josè, he had noted in the dim light the salient
features of a foreigner who, he had just learned, was registered at
the Hotel Mariano from the United States. Moreover, Wenceslas had just
come from Josè's room, whither he had gone in search of him, and--may
the Saints pardon his excess of holy zeal which impelled him to
examine the absent priest's effects!--he had returned now to the
Bishop bearing a copy of Renan's _Vie de Jésus_, with the American's
name on the flyleaf. It certainly were well to admonish Padre Josè
again, and severely!

The Bishop, hardly to the surprise of his crafty coadjutor, flew into
a towering rage. He was a man of irascible temper, bitterly
intolerant, and unreasoningly violent against all unbelievers,
especially Americans whose affairs brought them to Colombia. In this
respect he was the epitome of the ecclesiastical anti-foreign
sentiment which obtained in that country. His intolerance of heretics
was such that he would gladly have bound his own kin to the stake had
he believed their opinions unorthodox. Yet he was thoroughly
conscientious, a devout churchman, and saturated with the beliefs of
papal infallibility and the divine origin of the Church. In the
observance of church rites and ceremonies he was unremitting. In the
soul-burning desire to witness the conversion of the world, and
especially to see the lost children of Europe either coaxed or beaten
back into the embrace of Holy Church, his zeal amounted to fanaticism.
In the present case--

"Your Eminence," suggested the suave Wenceslas to his exasperated
superior, "may I propose that you defer action until I can discover
the exact status of this American?"

And the Bishop forthwith placed the whole matter in his trusted
assistant's helpful hands.

Meantime, Josè and the American explorer sat in the shade of a
magnificent palm on a high hill in beautiful Turbaco, looking out over
the shimmering sea beyond. For Hitt had wandered into the _Plaza de
Coches_ just as Josè was taking a carriage, and the latter could not
well refuse his proffered companionship for the day. Yet Josè feared
to be seen in broad daylight with this stranger, and he involuntarily
murmured a _Loado sea Dios_! when they reached Turbaco, as he
believed, unobserved. He did not know that a sharp-eyed young
novitiate, whom Wenceslas had detailed to keep the priest under
surveillance, had hurried back to his superior with the report of
Josè's departure with the _Americano_ on this innocent pleasure
jaunt.

"Say no more, my friend, in apology for your abrupt departure last
evening," the explorer urged. "But tell me, rather, about your
illustrious grandfather who had his country seat in this delightful
spot. Why, man! this is paradise. I've a notion to come here to live
some day."

Josè cast his apprehensions upon the soft ocean breeze, and gave
himself up to the inspiriting influence of his charming environment.
He dwelt at length upon the Rincón greatness of mediaeval days, and
expressed the resolve sometime to delve into the family records which
he knew must be hidden away in the moldering old city of Cartagena.
"But now," he concluded, after another reference to the Church, "is
Colombia to witness again the horror of those days of carnage? And
over the human mind's interpretation of the Christ? God forbid!"

The American shook his head dubiously. "There is but one
remedy--education. Not sectarian, partisan, worldly education--not
instruction in relative truths and the chaff of materialistic
speculation--but that sort of education whereby the selfish human mind
is lifted in a measure out of itself, out of its petty jealousies and
envyings, out of sneaking graft and touting for worldly emolument, and
into a sense of the eternal truth that real prosperity and soundness
of states and institutions are to be realized only when the
Christ-principle, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself,' is made the measure
of conduct. There is a tremendous truth which has long since been
demonstrated, and yet which the world is most woefully slow to grasp,
namely, that the surest, quickest means of realizing one's own
prosperity and happiness is in that of others--not in a world to come,
but right here and now."

"But that means the inauguration of the millennium," protested Josè.

"Well, and why not so?" returned the explorer calmly. "Has not that
been the ultimate aim of Christianity, and of all serious effort for
reform for the past two thousand years? And, do you know, the
millennium could be ushered in to-morrow, if men only thought so?
Within an incredibly short time evil, even to death itself, could be
completely wiped off the earth. But this wiping-off process must take
place in the minds and thoughts of men. Of that I am thoroughly
convinced. But, tell me, have you ever expressed to the Bishop your
views regarding the condition of this country?"

Josè flushed. "Yes," he replied in embarrassment. "Only a week ago I
tried again to convince him of the inevitable trend of events here
unless drastic measures were interposed by the Church. I had even
lectured on it in my classes."

"Well, what did he say?"

"The Bishop is a man of very narrow vision," replied Josè. "He rebuked
me severely and truculantly bade me confine my attention to the
particular work assigned me and let affairs of politics alone. Of
course, that meant leaving them to his assistant, Wenceslas. Mr. Hitt,
Colombia needs a Luther!"

"Just so," returned the explorer gravely. "Priestcraft from the very
earliest times has been one of the greatest curses of mankind. Its
abuses date far back to Egyptian times, when even prostitution was
countenanced by the priests, and when they practiced all sorts of
impostures upon the ignorant masses. In the Middle Ages they turned
Christianity, the richest of blessings, into a snare, a delusion, a
rank farce. They arrogated to themselves all learning, all science. In
Peru it was even illicit for any one not belonging to the nobility to
attempt to acquire learning. That was the sole privilege of priests
and kings. In all nations, from the remotest antiquity, and whether
civilized or not, learning has been claimed by the priests as the
unique privilege of their caste--a privilege bestowed upon them by the
special favor of the ruling deity. That's why they always sought to
surround their intellectual treasures with a veil of mystery. Roger
Bacon, the English monk, once said that it was necessary to keep the
discoveries of the philosophers from those unworthy of knowing them.
How did he expect a realization of 'Thy kingdom come,' I wonder?"

"They didn't expect it to come--on earth," said Josè.

"No. They relegated that to the imagined realm which was to be entered
through the gateway of death. It's mighty convenient to be able to
relegate your proofs to that mysterious realm beyond the grave. That
has always been a tremendous power in the hands of priests of all
times and lands. By the way, did you know that the story of Abel's
assassination was one of many handed down, in one form or another, by
the priests of India and Egypt?"

"Do you mean it?" inquired Josè eagerly.

"Certainly. The story doubtless comes from the ancient Egyptian tale
which the priests of that time used to relate regarding the murder
of Osiris by his brother, Set. It was a deed of jealousy. The story
later became incorporated into the sacred books of India and Egypt,
and was afterward taken over by the Hebrews, when they were captives
in Egypt. The Hebrews learned much of Egyptian theology, and their
own religion was greatly tinctured by it subsequently. The legend of
the deluge, for example, is another tradition of those primitive
days, and credited by the nations of antiquity. But here there is the
likelihood of a connection with the great cataclysm of antiquity,
the disappearance of the island of Atlantis in consequence of a
violent earthquake and volcanic action. This alleged island,
supposed to be a portion of the strip at one time connecting South
America with Africa, is thought to have sunk beneath the waters of
the present Atlantic ocean some nine thousand years before Solon
visited Egypt, and hence, some eleven thousand years ago. Anyway,
the story of this awful catastrophe got into the Egyptian records
in the earliest times, and was handed down to the Hebrews, who
probably based their story of the flood upon it. You see, there is a
foundation of some sort for all those legends in the book of Genesis.
The difficulty has been that humanity has for centuries childishly
accepted them as historical fact. For example, the serpent story.
Now in very primitive times the serpent was the special emblem of
Kneph, the creator of the world, and was regarded as a sort of
good genius. It is still so regarded by the Chinese, who make of it
one of their most beautiful symbols, the dragon. Later it became the
emblem of Set, the slayer of Osiris; and after that it was looked
upon with horror as the enemy of mankind, the destroyer, the evil
principle. Hence, in Egypt, the Hebrew captives adopted the serpent
as emblematical of evil, and later used it in their scriptural
records as the evil genius that tempted Eve and brought about the
fall of man. And so all people whose religious beliefs are founded
upon the Hebrew Bible now look upon the serpent as the symbol of
evil. Jews, Christians, and Mohammedans thus regard it."

Josè gazed at the man with rapt interest. "Don't stop!" he urged. "Go
on! go on!"

Hitt laughed. "Well," he resumed, "the tree and the serpent were
worshiped all through eastern countries, from Scandinavia to the
Asiatic peninsula and down into Egypt. And, do you know, we even find
vestiges of such worship in America? Down in Adams county, Ohio, on
the banks of Brush creek, there is a great mound, called the serpent
mound. It is seven hundred feet long, and greatly resembles the one in
Glen Feechan, Argyleshire, Scotland. It also resembles the one I found
in the ancient city of Tiahuanuco, whose ruins lie at an elevation of
some thirteen thousand feet above the Pacific ocean, on the shores of
Lake Titicaca, near the Bolivian frontier. This ancient city ages ago
sent out colonists all over North and South America. These primitive
people believed that a serpent emitted an egg from its mouth, and that
the earth was born of that egg. Now the serpent mound in Ohio has an
egg in its mouth. What is the logical inference?"

"You don't mean it!" exclaimed Josè, his eyes wide with astonishment.

Hitt laughed again in evident enjoyment of the priest's wonder. Then
he resumed: "It has been established to my entire satisfaction that
the ancient Egyptians and the Mayas of Central and South America used
almost identical symbols. And from all antiquity, and by all nations,
the symbols of the tree and serpent and their worship have been so
closely identified as to render it certain that their origin is the
same. What, then, are the serpent and tree of knowledge in the Hebrew
Bible but an outgrowth of this? The tree of life, of civilization, of
knowledge, was placed in the middle of the land, of the 'garden,' of
the primitive country of the race, Mayax. And the empire of the Mayas
was situated between the two great continents of North and South
America. These people spread out in all directions. They populated the
then existing island of Atlantis. And when the terrible earthquake
occurred, whereby this island was sunk beneath the waves of the
Atlantic ocean, why, to these people the world had been drowned! The
story got to Egypt, to Chaldea, and to India. Hence the deluge record
of Genesis."

"But, these primitive people, how ancient are they?" queried Josè.

"No one can form any adequate estimate," said Hitt in reply. "The
wonderful city of Tiahuanuco was in ruins when Manco Capac laid the
foundations of the Inca empire, which was later devastated by the
Spaniards. And the Indians told the Spaniards that it had been
constructed by giants before the sun shone in heaven."

"Astonishing!" exclaimed Josè. "Such facts as these--if facts they
be--relegate much of the Scriptural authority to the realm of legend
and myth!"

"Quite so," returned the explorer. "When the human mind of this
century forces itself to approach a subject without prejudice or bias,
and without the desire to erect or maintain a purely human institution
at whatever cost to world-progress, then it finds that much of the
hampering, fettering dogma of mediaevalism now laid upon it by the
Church becomes pure fiction, without justifiable warrant or basis.
Remember, the Hebrew people gave us the Old Testament, in which they
had recorded for ages their tribal and national history, their poetry,
their beliefs and hopes, as well as their legends, gathered from all
sources. We have likewise the historical records of other nations. But
the Hebrew possessed one characteristic which differentiated him from
all other people. He was a monotheist, and he saw his God in every
thing, every event, every place. His concept of God was his
life-motif. This concept evolved slowly, painfully, throughout the
centuries. The ancient Hebrew patriarchs saw it as a variable God,
changeful, fickle, now violently angry, now humbly repentant, now
making contracts with mankind, now petulantly destroying His own
handiwork. He was a God who could order the slaughter of innocent
babes, as in the book of Samuel; or He was a tender, merciful Father,
as in the Psalms. He could harden hearts, wage bloody wars, walk with
men 'in the cool of the day,' create a universe with His fist, or
spend long days designing and devising the material utensils and
furniture of sacrifice to be used in His own worship. In short, men
saw in Him just what they saw in themselves. They saw but their mental
concept. The Bible records humanity's changing, evolving concept of
God, of that 'something not ourselves which makes for righteousness.'
And this concept gradually changed from the magnified God-man of the
Old Testament, a creature of human whims and passions, down to that
held by the man of Nazareth, a new and beautiful concept of God as
love. This new concept Jesus joyously gave to a sin-weary world that
had utterly missed the mark. But it cost him his earthly life to do
it. And the dark record of the so-called Christian Church, both
Protestant and Catholic, contains the name of many a one who has paid
the same penalty for a similar service of love.

"The Chaldeans and Egyptians," he went on, after a moment's reflective
pause, "gave the Hebrews their account of the creation of the
universe, the fall of man, the flood, and many other bits of mythical
lore. And into these stories the Hebrews read the activity of their
God, and drew from them deep moral lessons. Egypt gave the Hebrews at
least a part of the story of Joseph, as embodied in the hieroglyphics
which may be read on the banks of the Nile to-day. They probably also
gave the Hebrews the account of the creation found in the second
chapter of Genesis, for to this day you can see in some of the oldest
Egyptian temples pictures of the gods making men out of lumps of clay.
The discovery of the remains of the 'Neanderthal man' and the 'Ape-man
of Java' now places the dawn of human reason at a period some three to
five hundred thousand years prior to our present century, and,
combined with the development of the science of geology, which shows
that the total age of the earth's stratified rocks alone cannot be
much less than fifty-five millions of years, serves to cast additional
ridicule upon the Church's present attitude of stubborn adherence to
these prehistoric scriptural legends as literal, God-given fact. But,
to make the right use of these legends--well, that is another thing."

"And that?"

The explorer hesitated. "I find it difficult to explain," he said at
length. "But, remember what I have already said, there is, there
_must_ be, a foundation beneath all these legends which admonish
mankind to turn from evil to good. And, as I also said, that
foundation must be very broad. I have said that I was in search of a
religion. Why not, you may ask, accept the religious standard which
Jesus set? That was the new concept of God as love. Very good. I am
quite convinced that love is _the_ religion, _the_ tie which binds all
things together and to a common source and cause. And I am equally
convinced that Jesus is the only person recorded in history who ever
lived a life of pure reflection of the love which he called God. And
so you see why I am chipping and hewing away at the theological
conception of the Christ, and trying to get at the reality buried deep
beneath in the theological misconceptions of the centuries. I am quite
convinced that if men loved one another, as Jesus bade them do, all
war, strife, disease, poverty, and discord of every sort would vanish
from human experience. But--and here is a serious question--did Jesus
ask the impossible? Did he command us to love the sinful, erring
mortal whom we see in our daily walk--or did he--did he have a new
thought, namely, that by loving the real man, for which, perhaps, this
human concept stands in the human mind, _that this very act would
change that distorted concept and cause it to yield its place to the
real one_? I believe Jesus to have been the wisest man who ever trod
this earth. But I likewise believe that no man has ever been more
deplorably misunderstood, misquoted, and misinterpreted than he. And
so I am delving down, down beneath the mass of human conjecture and
ridiculous hypothesis which the Church Fathers and our own theologians
have heaped up over this unique character, if perchance I may some day
discover just what he was, just what he really said, and just what the
message which he sought to convey to mankind."

He leaned over and laid a hand on Josè's arm. "My young friend," he
said earnestly, "I believe there are meanings in the life and words of
Jesus of which the Church in its astounding self-sufficiency has never
even dreamed. Did he walk on the water? Did he feed the multitude with
a few loaves? Did he raise Lazarus? Did he himself issue from the
tomb? No more momentous questions were ever asked than these. For, if
so, _then the message of Jesus has a bearing on the material universe,
on the human mind, and the whole realm of thought that is utterly
revolutionary_! What was that message? Did the man's own apostles and
immediate followers understand it? Did Paul? Certain we are, however,
that the theology which Rome gave to her barbarian conquerors was
wholly different from that taught by Jesus and his disciples. And we
know that the history of Europe from the fall of the Roman Empire down
to the Franco-Prussian war is largely a recital of the development of
the religious beliefs which Rome handed down to her conquerors, and
their influence upon the human mind. These beliefs constitute the
working hypothesis of that institution known to-day as the Holy Roman
Catholic Church, and its separated offshoots, the Greek Catholic and
the Protestant Churches, including the numberless ramifications and
divisions of the latter. The question as to whether eternal salvation
is a function of complete immersion of the human body, or only a
gentle sprinkling, appears most lamentably puerile in the face of the
tremendous revolutionary truths hinted by the deeds of Jesus, assuming
that he has been correctly reported in the Gospels. No; Renan, in his
_Vie de Jésus_, which I gave you last night, missed it. Before him,
Voltaire and countless other critics of man-made theology missed it.
The writings of these men do serve, however, to mow down the
theological stubble in the world's field of thought. What is it, this
gigantic truth which Jesus brought? I do not know. But he himself is
reported to have said, 'If ye keep my commands, ye shall know of the
doctrine.' And his chief command was, _that we love God and our
fellow-men_. I have no doubt whatever that, when we follow this
command, we shall know of the doctrine which he came to establish in
the hearts of men."

"But his message was the brotherhood of man," said Josè.

"Nay," replied the explorer, "it was the _fatherhood_ of God,
rather. For that includes the brotherhood of man. But, while we agree
thus far, who can say what the fatherhood of God implies? Who,
realizing that this was Jesus' message, knows how to make it
practical, as he did? To him it meant--ah, what did it not mean! It
meant a consciousness that held _not one trace of evil_. It meant a
consciousness of God as omnipotent power, the irresistible power
of good, which, in the form of spirit, or mind, as some will have it,
is ever present. Is it not so? Well, then, who is there to-day,
within the Church or without, who understands the divine message of
the fatherhood of God sufficiently to acquire such a consciousness,
and to make the intensely practical application of the message to
every problem of mind, or body, or environment? Who to-day in your
Church or mine, for example, realizes that Jesus must have seen
something in matter far different from the solid, indestructible thing
that we think we see, and that this was due to his understanding of
the immanence of his Father as spirit--an understanding which enabled
him to walk on the waves, and to treat material things as if they
were not? No, my friend, the Christ-message of the fatherhood of God
is hardly apprehended in the world to-day in the slightest degree by
priest or prelate, church or sect. And yet, the influence of Jesus is
tremendous!"

Josè's brow knit in perplexity. "I--I don't believe I follow you,
quite," he said.

"I am not surprised," replied the explorer gently. "I sometimes wonder
if I understand myself just what it is that I am trying to express. My
belief is still in a state of transition. I am still searching. The
field has been cleared. And now--now I am waiting for the new seed. I
have abandoned forever the sterile, non-productive religious beliefs
of current theology. I have abandoned such belittling views of God as
the Presbyterian sublapsarian view of election. I have turned wearily
from the puerile dogma of your Church as unworthy of the Father of
Jesus. From delving into the mysteries of the Brahminism of India, of
ancestor-worship in Japan, of Confucianism in China, of Islamism in
the far East, I have come back to the wonderful man of Nazareth. And
now I am trying to see what Christianity would be if purged of its
adulterations--purged of the Greek philosophy of the early Fathers; of
the forgeries of the Middle Ages; of the pagan ceremonialism and
priestly rites and assumptions of power to save or damn in this
present century. And what do I find, after all this rubbish has been
filtered out? Love, friend--love; the unfathomable love of the Father
of Jesus, who knows no evil, no sin, no sickness, no death, no hell,
no material heaven, but whose kingdom is the harmonious realm of
spirit, or mind, wherein the individual consciousness knows no discord
of any name or nature."

The afternoon haze had been long gathering when Josè roused the sleeping
_cochero_ and prepared to return to the stifling ecclesiastical
atmosphere from which for a brief day he had been so happily free. A
cold chill swept over him when he took his seat in the carriage, and
he shuddered as if with an evil presentiment.

"And you still adhere to your determination to remain in the Church?"
his friend asked, as they turned from the green hills and nodding
palms of Turbaco, and set their course, toward the distant mediaeval
city.

"Yes," came the scarcely audible reply. But as Josè spoke, he knew
that his mind had that day been stripped of its last remaining vestige
of the old theology, leaving it bare, exposed--and receptive.

                  *       *       *       *       *

A week passed. The explorer had gone, as silently and unannounced as
he had come. The evening before his departure he and Josè had sat
again in the thick shadows of the old wall. The next morning he was on
the mighty river; and the priest was left with a great void in his
heart.

One noon, as Josè was returning from his classes, he pondered deeply
the last words of the explorer, "Remember, nothing that has been
invented by mankind or evolved by the human mind can stand, or remain.
We might just as well accept that great fact now as later, and adjust
ourselves to it. But the things of the spirit remain. And Paul has
told us what they are."

As he passed slowly along the winding little street toward the
dormitory, a messenger approached him with a summons from the Bishop.
He turned and started wonderingly toward the Cathedral. He had been
reprimanded once, twice, for the liberal views which he had expressed
to his classes. Was he to receive another rebuke now? He had tried to
be more careful of late. Had he been seen with the explorer?

An hour later, his eyes set and unseeing, and his thin lips trembling,
Josè dragged himself up the stone steps to his little room and threw
himself upon the bed. The bonds which had been slowly, imperceptibly
tightening during these few months of precious liberty had been drawn
suddenly taut. The Bishop, in the _rôle_ of _Inquisitor Natus_, had
just revealed a full knowledge of his dismal past, and had summarily
dismissed him from the University faculty. Josè, bewildered and
stunned, had tried vainly to defend himself. Then, realizing his
impotence before the uncompromising bigotry of this choleric
ecclesiastic, he had burst suddenly into a torrent of frenzied
declarations of his undeserved wrongs, of his resolve now to renounce
his oath, to leave the Church, to abandon honor, family, everything
that held or claimed him, and to flee into unknown and unknowing
parts, where his harassed soul might find a few years of rest before
its final flight! The Bishop became bitterly and implacably
infuriated, and remanded the excited priest to his room to reflect
upon his wild words, and to await the final disposition of his
case--unless he should have determined already to try the devious
route of apostasy.

Rising the next morning at dawn from the chill floor where he had
spent the torturing hours of an interminable night, and still clinging
forlornly to his battered sense of honor and family pride, Josè again
received the Bishop's summons; and, after the events of the morning
already related, faced the angry churchman's furious tirade, and with
it, what he could not have imagined before, a charge of hideous
immorality. Then had been set before him a choice between apostasy and
acceptance of the assignment to the parish of far-off Simití.

"And now, unpitying Fate," he murmured, as the door of the Bishop's
_sanctum_ closed behind him, and he wandered down through the gloom of
the quiet Cathedral, "receive your victim. You have chosen well your
carnal instruments--pride--ecclesiasticism--lust! My crimes? Aye, the
very lowest; for I have loved liberty of thought and conscience; I
have loved virtue and honor; the pursuits of intellect; the fair; the
noble; yea, the better things of life. I have loved my fellow-men; and
I have sought their emancipation from the thraldom of ignorance. I
have loved truth, and the Christ who revealed it to the dull minds of
mortals. Enough! I stand convicted! And--I accept the sentence--I have
no desire to resist it. For the end is now not distant!"



CHAPTER 16


The tropical moon shone in her fullness from an unclouded sky. Through
the ethereal atmosphere which bathed the storied city her beams fell,
plashing noiselessly upon the grim memorials of a stirring past. With
a mantle of peace they gently covered the former scenes of violence
and strife. With magic, intangible substance they filled out the rents
in the grassy walls and smoothed away the scars of battle. The pale
luster, streaming through narrow barbican and mildewed arch, touched
the decaying ruin of San Felipe with the wand of enchantment, and
restored it to pristine freshness and strength. Through the stillness
of night the watery vapor streamed upward from garden and _patio_, and
mingled with the scent of flushing roses and tropical buds in a
fragrant mist suffused with the moon's yellow glow.

On the low parapet bordering the eastern esplanade of the city wall
the solitary figure of the priest cast a narrow shadow in the pale
moonlight. The sounds which eddied the enveloping silence seemed to
echo in his ears the tread of mediaeval warriors. In the wraith-like
shadows he saw the armored forms of _Conquistadores_ in mortal strife
with vulpine buccaneers. In the whirring of the bats which flouted his
face he heard the singing of arrows and the hiss of hurled rocks. In
the moan of the ocean as it broke on the coral reef below sounded the
boom of cannon, the curses of combatants, and the groans of the dying.
Here and there moved tonsured monks, now absolving in the name of the
peaceful Christ the frenzied defenders of the Heroic City, now turning
to hurl curses at the swarming enemy and consign their blackened souls
to deepest hell, while holding images of the crucified Saviour to the
quivering lips of stricken warriors.

In the fancied combat raging in the moonlight before him he saw the
sons of the house of Rincón manifesting their devotion to Sovereign
and Pope, their unshaken faith in Holy Church, their hot zeal which
made them her valiant defenders, her support, her humble and devoted
slaves for more than three centuries.

What was the charm by which she had held them? And why had its potency
failed utterly when directed to him? But they were men of physical
action, not thought--men of deeds which called only for brave hearts
and stout bodies. It is true, there had been thinkers in those days,
when the valiant sons of Rincón hurled the enemy from Cartagena's
walls--but they lay rotting in dungeons--they lay broken on the rack,
or hung breathing out their souls to God amid the hot flames which His
self-appointed vicars kindled about them. The Rincóns of that day had
not been thinkers. But the centuries had finally evolved from their
number a man of thought. Alas! the evolution had developed intellect,
it is true--but the process had refined away the rugged qualities of
animal strength which, without a deeper hold on Truth and the way to
demonstrate it than Josè possessed, must leave him the plaything of
Fate.

Young in years, but old in sorrow; held by oaths which his ever-accusing
sense of honor would not let him break; trembling for his mother's
sake, and for the sake of Rincón pride, lest the ban of excommunication
fall upon him; yet little dreaming that Rome had no thought of this
while his own peculiar elements of character bound him as they did
to her; the man had at last yielded his life to the system which had
wrecked it in the name of Christ, and was now awaiting the morrow, when
the boat should bear him to far-off Simití. He went resignedly--even
with a dull sense of gladness--for he went to die. Life had yielded
him nothing--and constituted as he was, it could hold nothing for him
in the future.

The glorious moon poured its full splendor upon the quiet city.
Through the haze the convent on La Popa sparkled like an enchanted
castle, with a pavement of soft moonbeams leading up to its doors. The
trill of a distant nightingale rippled the scented air; and from the
_llanos_ were borne on the warm land breeze low feral sounds, broken
now and then by the plaintive piping of a lonely toucan. The cocoa
palms throughout the city stirred dreamily in the tempered moonlight;
and the banana trees, bending with their luscious burden, cast great,
mysterious shadows, wherein insect life rustled and scampered in
nocturnal activity.

"Padre Josè!"

A woman's voice called from below. The priest leaned over the wall.

"It is Catalina. I have been hunting everywhere. Maria is calling for
you. She cannot live long. You will come?"

Come? Yes--ah, why did he let his own misery blind him to the sorrow
of others even more unfortunate! Why had he forgotten the little
Maria! Descending the broad incline to the road below, Josè hurried
with the woman to the bedside of the dying girl. On the way the
warm-hearted, garrulous Catalina relieved her troubled and angered
soul.

"Padre Lorenzo came this morning. He would not shrive her unless we
would pay him first. He said he would do it for ten _pesos_--then
five--and then three. And when we kept telling him that we had no
money he told us to go out and borrow it, or he would leave the little
Maria to die as she was. He said she was a vile sinner anyway--that
she had not made her Easter duty--that she could not have the
Sacrament--and her soul would go straight to hell--and there was no
redemption! Then he came again this afternoon and said she must die;
but he would shrive her for two _pesos_. And when we told him we could
not borrow the money he was terribly angry, and cursed--and Marcelena
was frightened--and the little Maria almost died. But I told him to
go--that her little soul was whiter than his--and if he went to heaven
I didn't want Maria to go there too--and--!"

The woman's words burned through the priest's ears and into his
sickened soul. Recovering her breath, Catalina went on:

"It is only a few days ago that the little Maria meets Sister Isabel
in the _plaza_. 'Ah,' says Sister Isabel, 'you are going to be a
mother.'

"'Yes, Sister,' answers the little Maria, much confused; and she tries
to hide behind Marcelena.

"'It is very dangerous and you will suffer much unless you have a
sacred cord of Saint Frances,' says the Sister. 'I will bring you
one.'

"And then she asks where the little Maria lives; and that very day she
brings a piece of rope, with knots in it, which she says the priest
has blessed, and it is a sacred cord of Saint Frances, and if the
little Maria will wear it around her waist she will not suffer at the
parturition; and the little Maria must pay a _peso oro_ for it--and
the scared little lamb paid it, for she had saved a little money which
Don Carlos Ojeda gave her for washing--and she wore it when the babe
was born; but it didn't help her--"

"_Dios!_" ejaculated the priest.

"And Marcelena had paid a _peso y medio_," continued the excited
woman, "for a candle that Sister Natalia told her had come from the
altar of the Virgin of Santander and was very holy and would help one
through confinement. But the candle went out; and it was only a round
stick of wood with a little piece of candle on the end. And I--Padre,
I could not help it, I would do anything for the poor child--I paid
two _pesos oro_ for a new _escapulario_ for her. Sister Natalia said
it was very holy--it had been blessed by His Grace, the Bishop, just
for women who were to be mothers, and it would carry them through--but
if they died, it would take them right out of purgatory--and--!"

"Catalina!" interrupted the tortured priest. "Say no more!"

"But, Padre, the babe," the woman persisted. "What will become of it?
And--do you know?--Padre Lorenzo says _it is yours!_ He told Juanita
so--she lives below us. But Maria says no. She has told only
Marcelena--and Marcelena will never tell. Who is its father, Padre?"

The priest, recognizing the inevitable, patiently resigned himself to
the woman's talk without further reply. Presently they turned into the
Calle Lazano, and entering the house where Marcelena had greeted him
that morning, mounted to the chamber above where lay the little
Maria.

A single candle on a table near the head of the bed shed a flickering,
uncertain light. But the window was open, and the moon's beams poured
into the room in golden profusion. Aside from the girl, there were no
other occupants than Marcelena and the new-born child.

"Padre," murmured the passing girl, "you will not let me die without
the Sacrament?"

"No, child," replied the priest, bending over her, hot tears streaming
down his cheeks as she kissed his hand.

The girl had been beautiful, a type of that soft, southern beauty,
whose graces of form, full, regular features, and rich olive tint mark
them as truly Spanish, with but little admixture of inferior blood.
Her features were drawn and set now; but her great, brown eyes which
she raised to the priest were luminous with a wistful eagerness that
in this final hour became sacred.

"Marcelena," the priest hurriedly whispered to the woman. "I have
no--but it matters not now; she need not know that I come unprepared.
She must pass out of the world happy at last."

"There is a drop of wine that the doctor left; and I will fetch a bit
of bread," replied the woman, catching the meaning of the priest's
words.

"Bring it; and I will let her confess now."

Bending over the sinking girl, the priest bade her reveal the burden
resting on her conscience.

"_Carita_," he said tenderly, when the confession was ended, "fear
not. The blessed Saviour died for you. He went to prepare a place for
you and for us all. He forgave the sinful woman--_carita_, he forgives
you--yes, freely, gladly. He loves you, little one. Fear not what
Padre Lorenzo said. He is a sinful priest. Forget all now but the good
Saviour, who stands with open arms--with a smile on his beautiful
face--to welcome his dear child--his little girl--you, _carita_,
you."

"Padre--my babe?"

"Yes, child, it shall be cared for."

"But not by the Sisters"--excitedly--"not in an asylum--Padre, promise
me!"

"There, _carita_, it shall be as you wish."

"And you will care for it?"

"I, child?--ah, yes, I will care for it."

The girl sank back again with a smile of happiness. A deep silence
fell upon the room. At the feet of the priest Catalina huddled and
wept softly. Marcelena, in the shadow of the bed where she might not
be seen, rocked silently back and forth with breaking heart.

"Padre--you will--say Masses for me?" The words were scarcely
audible.

"Yes, _carita_."

"I--have no money--no money. He promised to give me--money--and
clothes--"

"There, _carita_, I will say Masses for you without money--every day,
for a year. And you shall have clothes--ah, carita, in heaven you
shall have everything."

The candle sputtered, and went out. The moon flooded the room with
ethereal radiance.

"Padre--lift me up--it grows dark--oh, Padre, you are so good to
me--so good."

"No, child, it is not I who am good to you, but the blessed Christ.
See him, _carita_--there--there in the moonlight he stands!"

The smoke from a neighboring chimney drifted slowly past the window
and shone white in the silvery beams. The girl, supported by the arm
of the priest, gazed at it through dimming eyes in reverent awe.

"Padre," she whispered, "it is the Saviour! Pray to him for me."

"Yes, child." And turning toward the window the priest extended his
hand.

"Blessed Saviour," he prayed, "this is one of thy stricken lambs,
lured by the wolf from the fold. And we have brought her back. Dost
thou bid her come?"

The sobs of the weeping woman at his feet floated through the room.

"Ah, thou tender and pitying Master--best friend of the sinning, the
sick, and the sorrowing--we offer to thee this bruised child. We find
no sin, no guile, in her; for after the ignorant code of men she has
paid the last farthing for satisfying the wolf's greed. Dost thou bid
her come?"

In the presence of death he felt his own terrible impotence. Of what
avail then was his Christianity? Or the Church's traditional words of
comfort? The priest's tears fell fast. But something within--perhaps
that "something not ourselves"--the voice of Israel's almost forgotten
God--whispered a hope that blossomed in this petition of tenderest
love and pity. He had long since ceased to pray for himself; but in
this, the only prayer that had welled from his chilled heart in
months, his pitying desire to humor the wishes of a dying girl had
unconsciously formulated his own soul's appeal.

"Blessed Saviour, take her to thine arms; shield her forever more
from the carnal lust of the wolf; lift her above the deadening
superstitions and hypocritical creeds of those who touch but to
stain; take her, Saviour, for we find her pure, innocent, clean;
suffering and sorrow have purged away the sin. Dost thou bid her
come?"

The scent of roses and orange blossoms from the garden below drifted
into the room on the warm breeze. A bird, awakened by the swaying of
its nest, peeped a few sweet notes of contentment, and slept again.

"We would save her--we would cure her--but we, too, have strayed from
thee and forgotten thy commands--and the precious gift of healing
which thou didst leave with men has long been lost. But thou art
here--thy compassionate touch still heals and saves. Jesus, unique son
of God, behold thy child. Wilt thou bid her come?"

"What says he, Padre?" murmured the sinking girl.

The priest bent close to her.

"He says come, _carita_--come!"

With a fluttering sigh the tired child sank back into the priest's
arms and dropped softly into her long sleep.



CHAPTER 17


The twisted, turbid "Danube of New Granada," under the gentle guidance
of its patron, Saint Mary Magdalene, threads the greater part of its
sinuous way through the heart of Colombia like an immense, slow-moving
morass. Born of the arduous tropic sun and chill snows, and imbued by
the river god with the nomadic instinct, it leaps from its pinnacled
cradle and rushes, sparkling with youthful vigor, down precipice and
perpendicular cliff; down rocky steeps and jagged ridges; whirling in
merry, momentary dance in shaded basins; singing in swirling eddies;
roaring in boisterous cataracts, to its mad plunge over the lofty wall
of Tequendama, whence it subsides into the dignity of broad maturity,
and begins its long, wandering, adult life, which slowly draws to a
sluggish old age and final oblivion in the infinite sea. Toward the
close of its meandering course, long after the follies and excesses of
early life, it takes unto itself a consort, the beautiful Cauca; and
together they flow, broadening and deepening as life nears its end;
merging their destinies; sharing their burdens; until at last, with
labors ended, they sink their identities in the sunlit Caribbean.

When the simple-minded _Conquistadores_ first pushed their frail
cockleshells out into the gigantic embouchure of this tawny stream and
looked vainly for the opposite shore, veiled by the dewy mists of a
glittering morn, they unconsciously crossed themselves and, forgetful
for the moment of greed and rapine and the lust of gold, stood in
reverent awe before the handiwork of their Creator. Ere the Spaniard
had laid his fell curse upon this ancient kingdom of the Chibchas, the
flowering banks of the Magdalena, to-day so mournfully characterized
by their frightful solitudes, were an almost unbroken village from the
present coast city of Barranquilla to Honda, the limit of navigation,
some nine hundred miles to the south. The cupidity of the heartless,
bigoted rabble from mediaeval slums which poured into this wonderland
late in the sixteenth century laid waste this luxuriant vale and
exterminated its trustful inhabitants. Now the warm airs that sigh at
night along the great river's uncultivated borders seem still to echo
the gentle laments of the once happy dwellers in this primitive
paradise.

Sitting in the rounded bow of the wretched riverine steamer Honda,
Padre Josè de Rincón gazed with vacant eyes upon the scenery on either
hand. The boat had arrived from Barranquilla that morning, and was now
experiencing the usual exasperating delay in embarking from Calamar.
He had just returned to it, after wandering for hours through the
forlorn little town, tormented physically by the myriad mosquitoes,
and mentally by a surprising eagerness to reach his destination. He
could account for the latter only on the ground of complete
resignation--a feeling experienced by those unfortunate souls who have
lost their way in life, and, after vain resistance to molding
circumstances, after the thwarting of ambitions, the quenching of
ideals, admit defeat, and await, with something of feverish
anticipation, the end. He had left Cartagena early that morning on the
ramshackle little train which, after hours of jolting over an
undulating roadbed, set him down in Calamar, exhausted with the heat
and dust-begrimed. He had not seen the Bishop nor Wenceslas since the
interview of the preceding day. Before his departure, however, he had
made provision for the burial of the girl, Maria, and the disposal of
her child. This he did at his own expense; and when the demands of
doctor and sexton had been met, and he had provided Marcelena with
funds for the care of herself and the child for at least a few weeks,
his purse was pitiably light.

Late in the afternoon the straggling remnant of a sea breeze drifted
up the river and tempered the scorching heat. Then the captain of the
Honda drained his last glass of red rum in the _posada_, reiterated to
his political affiliates with spiritous bombast his condensed opinion
anent the Government, and dramatically signaled the pilot to get under
way.

Beyond the fact that Simití lay somewhere behind the liana-veiled
banks of the great river, perhaps three hundred miles from Cartagena,
the priest knew nothing of his destination. There were no passengers
bound for the place, the captain had told him; nor had the captain
himself ever been there, although he knew that one must leave the boat
at a point called Badillo, and thence go by canoe to the town in
question.

But Josè's interest in Simití was only such as one might manifest in a
prison to which he was being conveyed. And, as a prisoner of the
Church, he inwardly prayed that his remaining days might be few. The
blows which had fallen, one after another, upon his keen, raw nerves
had left him benumbed. The cruel bruises which his faith in man had
received in Rome and Cartagena had left him listless, and without
pain. He was accepting the Bishop's final judgment mutely, for he had
already borne all that human nature could endure. His severance from a
life of faith and love was complete.

Nor could Josè learn when he might hope to reach Badillo, though he
made listless inquiry.

"_Na, Señor Padre_," the captain had said, "we never know where to
find the water. It is on the right to-day; on the left to-morrow.
There is low tide to-night; the morning may see it ten feet higher.
And Badillo--_quien sabe_? It might be washed away when we arrive."
And he shrugged his shoulders in complete disclaimer of any
responsibility therefor.

The captain's words were not idle, for the channel of the mighty river
changes with the caprice of a maiden's heart. With irresistible
momentum the tawny flood rolls over the continent, now impatiently
ploughing its way across a great bend, destroying plantations and
abruptly leaving towns and villages many miles inland; now savagely
filching away the soft loam banks beneath little settlements and
greedily adding broad acres to the burden of its surcharged waters.
Mighty giants of the forest, wrested from their footholds of
centuries, plunge with terrifying noise into the relentless stream;
great masses of earth, still cohering, break from their moorings and
glide into the whirling waters, where, like immense islands, they
journey bobbing and tumbling toward the distant sea.

Against the strong current, whose quartzose sediment tinkled
metallically about her iron prow, the clumsy Honda made slow headway.
She was a craft of some two hundred tons burden, with iron hull,
stern paddle wheel, and corrugated metal passenger deck and roof.
Below the passenger deck, and well forward on the hull, stood the
huge, wood-burning boiler, whose incandescent stack pierced the open
space where the gasping travelers were forced to congregate to get
what air they might. Midway on this deck she carried a few cabins at
either side. These, bare of furnishings, might accommodate a dozen
passengers, if the insufferable heat would permit them to be
occupied. Each traveler was obliged to supply his own bedding, and
likewise hammock, unless not too discriminating to use the soiled
cot provided. Many of those whose affairs necessitated river
travel--and there was no other mode of reaching the interior--were
content at night to wrap a light blanket about them and lie down
under their mosquito nets on the straw mats--_petates_--with which
every _peon_ goes provided. Of service, there was none that might be
so designated. A few dirty, half-dressed negro boys from the streets
of Barranquilla performed the functions of steward, waiting on table
with unwashed hands, helping to sling hammocks, or assisting with the
carving of the freshly killed beef on the slippery deck below.
Accustomed as he had been to the comforts of Rome, and to the less
elaborate though still adequate accommodations which Cartagena
afforded, Josè viewed his prison boat with sinking heart. Iron hull,
and above it the glowing boiler; over this the metal passenger deck;
and above that the iron roof, upon which the fierce tropical sun
poured its flaming heat all day; clouds of steam and vapor from
the hot river enveloping the boat--had the Holy Inquisition itself
sought to devise the most refined torture for a man of delicate
sensibilities like Josè de Rincón, it could not have done better than
send him up the great river at this season and on that miserable
craft, in company with his own morbid and soul-corroding thoughts.

The day wore on; and late in the evening the Honda docked at the
pretentious town of Maganguey, the point of transfer for the river
Cauca. Like the other passengers, from whom he had held himself
reservedly aloof, Josè gladly seized the opportunity to divert his
thoughts for a few moments by going ashore. But the moments stretched
into hours; and when he finally learned that the boat would not leave
until daybreak, he lapsed into a state of sullen desperation which,
but for the Rincón stubbornness, would have precipitated him into the
dark stream. Aimlessly he wandered about the town, avoiding any
possible _rencontre_ with priests, or with his fellow-passengers, many
of whom, together with the bacchanalian captain, he saw in the various
_cantinas_, making merry over rum and the native _anisado_.

The moon rose late, bathing the whitewashed town in a soft sheen and
covering with its yellow veil the filth and squalor which met the
priest at every turn as he wandered through its ill-lighted streets.
Maganguey in plan did not depart from the time-honored custom of the
Spaniards, who erected their cities by first locating the church, and
then building the town around it. So long as the church had a good
location, the rest of the town might shift for itself. Some of the
better buildings dated from the old colonial period, and had tile
roofs and red brick floors. Many bore scars received in the
internecine warfare which has raged in the unhappy country with but
brief intervals of peace since the days of Spanish occupation. But
most of the houses were of the typical mud-plastered, palm-thatched
variety, with dirt floors and scant furniture. Yet even in many of
these Josè noted pianos and sewing machines, generally of German make,
at which the housewife was occupied, while naked babes and squealing
pigs--the latter of scarcely less value than the former--fought for
places of preferment on the damp and grimy floors.

Wandering, blindly absorbed in thought, into a deserted road which
branched off from one of the narrow streets on the outskirts of the
town, Josè stumbled upon a figure crouching in the moonlight. Almost
before he realized that it was a human being a hand had reached up and
caught his.

"_Buen Padre!_" came a thick voice from the mass, "for the love of the
good Virgin, a few _pesos_!"

A beggar--perhaps a bandit! Ah, well; Josè's purse was light--and his
life of no value. So, recovering from his start, he sought in his
pockets for some _billetes_. But--yes, he remembered that after
purchasing his river transportation in Calamar he had carefully put
his few remaining bills in his trunk.

"_Amigo_, I am sorry, but I have no money with me," he said
regretfully. "But if you will come to the boat I will gladly give you
something there."

At this the figure emitted a scream of rage, and broke into a torrent
of sulphurous oaths. "_Na_, the Saints curse you beggarly priests! You
have no money, but you rob us poor devils with your lies, and then
leave us to rot to death!"

"But, _amigo_, did I not say--" began Josè soothingly.

"_Maldito!_" shrilled the figure; "may Joseph and Mary and Jesus curse
you! A million curses on you, _maldito_!" Pulling itself upward, the
shapeless thing sank its teeth deep into the priest's hand.

With a cry of pain the startled Josè tore himself loose, his hand
dripping with blood. At the same time the figure fell over into the
road and its enveloping rags slipped off, disclosing in the bright
moonlight a loathsome, distorted face and elephantine limbs, covered
with festering sores.

"Good God!" cried Josè, recoiling. "A leper!"

Turning swiftly from the hideous object, his brain awhirl with the
horrible nightmare, the priest fled blindly from the scene. Nauseated,
quivering with horror, with the obscene ravings of the leper still
ringing in his ears, he stumbled about the town until daybreak, when
the boat's shrieking whistle summoned him to embark.

The second day on the river seemed to Josè intolerable, as he shifted
about the creaking, straining tub to avoid the sun's piercing rays and
the heat which, drifting back from the hot stack forward, enveloped
the entire craft. There were but few passengers, some half dozen men
and two slatternly attired women. Whither they were bound, he knew
not, nor cared; and, though they saluted him courteously, he
studiously avoided being drawn into their conversations. The emotional
appeal of the great river and its forest-lined banks did not at first
affect him. Yet he sought forgetfulness of self by concentrating his
thought upon them.

The massed foliage constituted an impenetrable wall on either side.
Everywhere his eyes met a maze of _lianas_, creeping plants, begonias,
and bizarre vegetable forms, shapes and hues of which he had never
before had any adequate conception. Often he caught the glint of
great, rare butterflies hovering in the early sunlight which filtered
through the interlaced fronds and branches. Often when the boat hugged
the bank he saw indescribable buds and blossoms, and multicolored
orchids clinging to the drooping _bejucos_ which festooned the
enormous trees. As the afternoon waned and the sun hung low, the magic
stillness of the solitude began to cast its spell about him, and he
could imagine that he was penetrating a fairy-land. The vast stream,
winding, broadening, ramifying round wooded islets, throwing out long,
dusky lagoons and swampy arms, incessantly plying its numberless
activities, at length held him enraptured. As he brooded over it all,
his thought wandered back to the exploits of the intrepid Quesada and
his stalwart band who, centuries before, had forced their perilous way
along this same river, amid showers of poisoned arrows from hostile
natives, amid the assaults of tropical storms and malarial fevers, to
the plateau of Cundinamarca, the home of the primitive Muiscas; and
there gathering fresh strength and inspiration, had pushed on to the
site of Santa Fé de Bogotá.

A cry suddenly rang through the boat. "Man overboard!"

The clang of the pilot's bell stopped the clumsy craft; but not before
the ragged little negro boy who had served at Josè's table as steward
had been swept far away by the rapid current.

The utmost confusion immediately prevailed. Every one of the rabble
rout of stokers, stewards, and stevedores lost his wits and set up a
frenzied yell. Some who remembered that there was such a thing, tore
at the ropes which held the single lifeboat. But the boat had been put
on for appearance's sake, not for service, and successfully resisted
all efforts at removal. No one dared risk his life in attempted
rescue, for the river swarmed with crocodiles. There was vain racing,
counseling and gesticulating; but at length, the first wave of
excitement over, passengers and crew settled down to watch the outcome
of the boy's struggle for life, while the pilot endeavored to turn the
unwieldy steamer about.

"Now is the time to put up a prayer for the youngster, Padre," said a
voice behind Josè.

The priest turned. The speaker was evidently a native Colombian. Josè
had noticed him on the boat when he embarked at Calamar, and surmised
that he had probably come up from Barranquilla.

"An excellent opportunity to try the merits of a prayer to the Virgin,
no? If she can fish us out of purgatory she ought to pull this boy out
of the river, eh?" continued the speaker with a cynical smile.

"I would rather trust to a canoe and a pair of stout arms than a
prayer at present," returned Josè with candor.

"_Corriente!_" replied the man; "my way of thinking, exactly! But if I
had a good rifle now I'd put that little fellow out of his misery, for
he's going down, sure!"

It was not unkindly said; and Josè appreciated the man's rude
sentiment. Minutes passed in strained silence.

"_Hombre!_" cried the man. "He's going!"

The lad was evidently weakening. The rapid, swirling current
continually frustrated his efforts to reach the shore. Again the head
went under.

"_Dios!_" Josè exclaimed. "Is there no help?"

Jesus had walked the waves. Yet here his earthly representative,
trained in all the learning and culture of Holy Church to be an _Alter
Christus_, stood helplessly by and watched a child drown! God above!
what avail religious creed and churchly dogma? How impotent the
beliefs of men in such an hour! Could the Holy Father himself, with
all his assumptions, spiritual and temporal--with all his power to
loose from sin and from the imaginary torments of purgatory--save this
drowning boy?

Josè turned away in bitterness of heart. As he did so a murmur of awe
arose from the spectators. The priest looked again down the river.
Impelled from below, the body of the boy was hurled out of the water.
Then, as it fell, it disappeared.

"_Cayman!_" gasped the horrified crew.

Josè stood spellbound, as the ghastly truth dawned upon him. A
crocodile, gliding beneath the struggling lad, had tossed him upward,
and caught him in its loathsome jaws when he fell. Then it had dragged
him beneath the yellow waters, where he was seen no more.

Life is held cheaply by the Magdalena negro--excepting his own.
Shiftless and improvident child of the tropics, his animal wants
are readily satisfied by the fruits and fish which nature provides
for him so bountifully. Spiritual wants he has none--until calamity
touches him and he thinks he is about to die. Then witchcraft, charm,
incantation, the priest--anything that promises help is hurriedly
pressed into requisition to prolong his useless existence. If he
recovers, he forgets it all as hurriedly. The tragedy which had
just been enacted before the Honda's crew produced a ripple of
excitement--a momentary stirring of emotion--and was then speedily
forgotten, while the boat turned and drove its way up-stream against
the muddy waters.

But Josè could not forget. Nature had endowed him with a memory which
recorded as minutely and as lastingly as the phonographic cylinder.
The violent death of the boy haunted him, and mingled with the
recurrent memories of the sad passing of the little Maria, and his own
bitter life experience. Oh, the mystery of it all! The tragedy of
life! The sudden blighting of hopes! The ruthless crushing of hearts!
What did it mean? Did this infinite variety of good and evil which we
call life unite to manifest an infinite Creator? Nay, for then were
God more wicked than the lowest sinner! Was evil as real as good, and
more powerful? Yes. Did love and the soul's desire to be and do good
count for nothing in the end? No; for the end is death--always death!
And after that--who knows?

"We are coming to Banco, Padre," said the man who had addressed Josè
before, rousing him from his doleful meditations and pointing to the
lights of the distant town, now shimmering through the gathering
dusk.

As the boat with shrilly shrieking whistle drew near the landing, a
crowd hurriedly gathered on the bank to receive it. Venders of guava
jelly, rude pottery, and straw mats hastily spread out their
merchandise on the muddy ground and began to dilate loudly on their
merits. A scantily clad man held aloft a rare leopard skin, which he
vigorously offered for two _pesos_ gold. Slatternly women, peddling
queer delectables of uncertain composition, waved their thin, bare
arms and shrilly advertised their wares. Black, naked children bobbed
excitedly about; and gaunt dogs and shrieking pigs scampered
recklessly through the crowd and added to the general confusion. Here
and there Josè could see dignified looking men, dressed in white
cotton, and wearing straw--_jipijapa_--hats. These were merchants,
patiently awaiting consignments which they had perhaps ordered months
before. Crazy, ramshackle dwellings, perched unsteadily upon long,
slender stilts, rose from the water's edge; but substantial brick
buildings of fair size, with red-tile roofs and whitewashed walls,
mingled at intervals with the thatched mud huts and rude hovels
farther within the town. In a distant doorway he descried a woman
nursing a babe at one breast and a suckling pig at the other.
Convention is rigid in these Colombian river towns; but it is widely
inclusive.

"Come ashore with me, Padre, and forget what is worrying you," said
Josè's new acquaintance, taking him by the arm. "I have friends
here--_Hola!_ Padre Diego Guillermo!" he suddenly called, catching
sight of a black-frocked priest standing in the crowd on the shore.

The priest addressed, a short, stout, coarse-featured man of perhaps
forty, waved back a vigorous salutation.

"_Hombre!_" the man ejaculated, holding Josè's arm and starting down
the gangplank. "What new deviltry is the rogue up to now!"

The man and the priest addressed as Diego embraced warmly.

"Padre Diego Guillermo Polo, I have the extreme honor to present my
friend, the eminent Padre--" ceremoniously waving a hand toward Josè.

"Josè de Rincón," supplied the latter, bowing.

"Rincón!" murmured the priest Diego. Then, abruptly, "Of Cartagena?"

"Yes," returned Josè, with awakened interest.

"Not of Don Ignacio--?"

"My grandfather," Josè replied promptly, and with a touch of pride.

"Ha! he owned much property--many _fincas_--about here; and farther
west, in the Guamocó country, many mines, eh, Don Jorge?" exchanging a
significant look with the latter.

"But," he added, glancing at the perspiring Honda, "this old tub is
going to hang up here for the night. So do me the honor, señores, to
visit my little cell, and we will fight the cursed mosquitoes over a
sip of red rum. I have some of very excellent quality."

Josè and Don Jorge bowed their acquiescence and followed him up the
muddy road. The cell referred to consisted of a suite of several
rooms, commodiously furnished, and looking out from the second story
of one of the better colonial houses of the town upon a richly
blooming interior _patio_. As the visitors entered, a comely young
woman who had just lighted an oil-burning "student" lamp and placed it
upon the center table, disappeared into one of the more remote rooms.

"My niece," said the priest Diego, winking at Don Jorge as he set out
cigars and a _garrafón_ of Jamaica rum. "I have ordered a case of
American beer," he continued, lighting a cigar. "But that was two
months ago, and it hasn't arrived yet. _Diablo!_ but the good _médico_
tells me I drink too much rum for this very Christian climate."

Don Jorge swept the place with an appraising glance. "H'm," he
commented, as he poured himself a liberal libation from the
_garrafón_. "The Lord surely provides for His faithful children."

"Yes, the Lord, that's right," laughed Padre Diego; "still I am daily
rendering no small thanks to His Grace, Don Wenceslas, future Bishop
of Cartagena."

"And eminent services into the bargain, I'll venture," added Don
Jorge.

Padre Diego's eyes twinkled merrily. Josè started. Then even in this
remote town the artful Wenceslas maintained his agent!

"But our friend is neither drinking nor smoking," said Padre Diego,
turning inquiringly to Josè, who had left his glass untouched.

"With your permission," replied the latter; "I do not use liquor or
tobacco."

"Nor women either, eh?" laughed Padre Diego. "_Por Dios!_ what is it
the Dutchman says?

               'Wer nicht liebt Wein, Weib und Gesang,
               Der bleibt ein Narr sein Lebenlang.'

"_Caramba!_ but my German has all slipped from me."

"Don't worry," commented Don Jorge cynically; "for I'll wager it took
nothing good with it."

"_Hombre!_ but you are hard on a loyal servant of the Lord," exclaimed
Padre Diego in a tone of mock injury, as he drained another glass of
the fiery liquor.

"Servant of the Lord!" guffawed Don Jorge. "Of the Lord Pope, Lord
Wenceslas, or the Lord God, may we ask?"

"_Qué chiste!_ Why, stupid, all three. I do not put all my eggs into
one basket, however large. But tell me, now," he inquired, turning the
conversation from himself, "what is it brings you into this region
forsaken of the gods?"

"_Sepulcros_," Don Jorge briefly announced.

"Ha! Indian graves again! But have you abandoned your quest of _La
Tumba del Diablo_, in the Sinu valley?"

"Naturally, since the records show that it was opened centuries ago.
And I spent a good year's search on it, too! _Dios!_ They say it
yielded above thirty thousand _pesos_ gold."

"_Diablo!_"

"But I am on the track of others. I go now to Medellin; then to
Remedios; and there outfit for a trip of grave hunting through the old
Guamocó district."

"Guamocó! Then you will naturally come down the Simití trail, which
brings you out to the Magdalena."

"Simití?" interrupted Josè eagerly, turning to the speaker. "Do you
know the place?"

"Somewhat!" replied Padre Diego, laughing. "I had charge of that
parish for a few months--"

"But found it highly convenient to leave, no?" finished the merciless
Don Jorge.

"_Caramba!_ Would you have me die of _ennui_ in such a hell-hole?"
cried Diego with some aspersion.

"Hell-hole!" echoed Josè. "Is it so bad as that?"

"_Hombre!_ Yes--worse! They say that after the good Lord created
heaven and earth He had a few handfuls of dirt left, and these He
threw away. But crafty Satan, always with an eye single to going the
Lord one better, slyly gathered this dirt together again and made
Simití." Diego quickly finished another glass of rum, as if he would
drown the memory of the town.

Josè's heart slowly sank under the words.

"But why do you ask? You are not going there?" Padre Diego inquired.
Josè nodded an affirmative.

"_Diablo!_ Assigned?"

"Yes," in a voice scarcely audible.

The Padre whistled softly. "Then in that case," he said, brightening,
"we are brother sinners. So let us exchange confidences. What was your
crime, if one may ask?"

"Crime!" exclaimed Josè in amazement.

"Aye; who was she? Rich? Beautiful? Native? Or foreign? Come, the
story. We have a long night before us." And the coarse fellow settled
back expectantly in his chair.

Josè paled. "What do you mean?" he asked in a trembling voice.

"_Caramba!_" returned the Padre impatiently. "You surely know that no
respectable priest is ever sent to Simití! That it is the good
Bishop's penal colony for fallen clergy--and, I may add, the refuge of
political offenders of this and adjacent countries. Why, the present
schoolmaster there is a political outcast from Salvador!"

"No, I did not know it," replied Josè.

"_Por Dios!_ Then you are being jobbed, _amigo_! Did Don Wenceslas
give you letters to the Alcalde?"

"Yes."

"And--by the way, has Wenceslas been misbehaving of late?--for when he
does, somebody other than himself has to settle the score."

Josè remained silent.

"Ah," mused Diego, "but Don Wenceslas is artful. And yet, I think I
see the direction of his trained hand in this." Then he burst into a
rude laugh. "Come, _amigo_," he said, noting Josè's dejected mien;
"let us have your story. We may be able to advise. And we've had
experience--eh, Don Jorge?"

But Josè slowly shook his head. What mattered it now? Simití would
serve as well to bury him as any other tomb. He knew he was sent as a
lamb to the slaughter. But it was his affair--and his God's. Honor and
conscience had presented the score; and he was paying in full. His was
not a story to be bandied about by lewd priests like Padre Diego.

"No," he replied to the Padre's insistent solicitations; "with your
permission, we will talk of it no more."

"But--_Hombre_!" cried the Padre at last, in his coarse way stirred by
Josè's evident truthfulness. "Well--as you wish--I will not pry into
your secrets. But, take a bit of counsel from one who knows: when you
reach Simití, inquire for a man who hates me, one Rosendo Ariza--"

At this juncture the Honda's diabolical whistle pierced the murky
night air.

"_Caramba!_" cried Don Jorge, starting up. "Are they going to try the
river to-night?" And the men hurried back to the landing.

The moon was up, and the boat was getting under way. Padre Diego went
aboard to take leave of his friends.

"_Bien, amigo_," he said to Don Jorge; "I am sorry your stay is so
short. I had much to tell you. Interesting developments are forward,
and I hope you are well out of Guamocó when the trouble starts. For
the rivals of Antioquia and Simití will pay off a few scores in the
next revolution--a few left over from the last; and it would be well
not to get caught between them when they come together."

"And so it is coming?" said Don Jorge thoughtfully.

"Coming! _Hombre!_ It is all but here! The Hercules went up-river
yesterday. You will pass her. She has gone to keep a look-out in the
vicinity of Puerto Berrio. I am sorry for our friend," nodding toward
Josè, who was leaning over the boat's rail at some distance; "but
there is a job there. He doesn't belong in this country. And Simití
will finish him."

"Bah! only another priest less--and a weak-kneed one at that," said
Don Jorge with contempt; "and we have too many of them now, Lord
knows!"

"You forget that I am a priest," chuckled Diego.

"You! Yes, so you are," laughed Don Jorge; "but of the diocese of
hell! Well, we're off. I'll send a runner down the trail when I reach
the Tiguí river; and if you will have a letter in Simití informing me
of the status of things political, he can bring it up. _Conque_,
_adios_, my consummate villain."

The Honda, whistling prodigiously, swung out into mid-stream and set
her course up-river, warily feeling through the velvety darkness for
the uncertain channel. Once she grated over a hidden bar and hung for
a few moments, while her stack vomited torrents of sparks and her
great wheel angrily churned the water into creamy foam in the clear
moonlight. Once, rounding a sharp bend, she collided squarely with a
huge mahogany tree, rolling and plunging menacingly in the seaward
rushing waters.

"_Diablo!_" muttered Don Jorge, as he helped Josè swing his hammock
and adjust the mosquito netting. "I shall offer a candle a foot thick
to the blessed Virgin if I reach Puerto Berrio safely! _Santo Dios!_"
as the boat grazed another sand bar. "I've heard tell of steamers
hanging up on bars in this river for six weeks! And look!" pointing to
the projecting smoke-stack of a sunken steamer. "_Caramba!_ That is
what we just escaped!"

But Josè manifested slight interest in the dangers of river
navigation. His thoughts were revolving about the incidents of the
past few days, and, more especially, about Padre Diego and his
significant words. Don Jorge had volunteered no further explanation of
the man or his conversation; and Josè's reticence would not permit him
to make other inquiry. But, after all, his thought-processes always
evolved the same conclusion: What mattered it now? His interest in
life was at an end. He had not told Don Jorge of his experience with
the leper in Maganguey. He was trying to forget it. But his hand ached
cruelly; and the pain was always associated with loathsome and
repellant thoughts of the event.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The eastern sky was blushing at the approach of the amorous sun when
Josè left his hammock and prepared to endure another day on the river.
To the south the deep blue vault of heaven was dotted with downy
clouds. Behind the laboring steamer the river glittered through a
dazzling white haze. Ahead, its course was traceable for miles by the
thin vapor always rising from it. The jungle on either side was
brilliant with color and resonant with the songs of forest lyrists. In
the lofty fronds of venerable palms and cedars noisy macaws gossiped
and squabbled, and excited monkeys discussed the passing boat and
commented volubly on its character. In the shallow water at the margin
of the river blue herons and spindle-legged cranes were searching out
their morning meal. Crocodiles lay dozing on the _playas_, with mouths
opened invitingly to the stupid birds which were sure to yield to the
mesmerism. Far in the distance up-stream a young deer was drinking at
the water's edge.

The charm of the rare scene held the priest spellbound. As he gazed
upon it a king vulture--called by the natives the Vulture Papa, or
Pope Vulture--suddenly swooped down from the depths of heaven and,
lighting upon the carcass of a monster crocodile floating down the
river, began to feast upon the choicest morsels, while the buzzards
which had been circling about the carrion and feeding at will
respectfully withdrew until the royal appetite should be satiated.

"Holy graft, eh, Padre?" commented Don Jorge, coming up. "Those
brainless buzzards, if they only knew it and had sense enough to
unite, could strip every feather off that swaggering vulture and send
him packing. Fools! And we poor Colombians, if we had the courage,
could as easily throw the Church into the sea, holy candles, holy
oils, holy incense and all! _Diablo!_ But we are fleeced like sheep!"

To Josè it did not seem strange that this man should speak so frankly
to him, a priest. He felt that Don Jorge was not so much lacking in
courtesy and delicate respect for the feelings and opinions of others
as he was ruggedly honest and fearlessly sincere in his hatred of the
dissimulation and graft practiced upon the ignorant and unsuspecting.
For the rest of the day Don Jorge was busy with his maps and papers,
and Josè was left to himself.

The character of the landscape had altered with the narrowing of the
stream, and the river-plain now lay in a great volcanic basin flanked
by distant verdure-clad hills. Far to the southwest Josè could see the
faint outlines of the lofty _Cordilleras_. Somewhere in that direction
lay Simití. And back of it lay the ancient treasure house of Spain,
where countless thousands of sweating slaves had worn out their
straining bodies under the goad and lash, that the monarchs of Castile
might carry on their foolish religious wars and attempt their vain
projects of self-aggrandizement.

The day wore on without interest, and darkness closed in quickly when
the sun dropped behind the _Sierras_. It was to be Josè's last night
on the Magdalena, for the captain had told him that, barring disaster,
the next afternoon should find them at Badillo. After the evening meal
the priest took his chair to the bow of the steamer and gave himself
over to the gentle influences of the rare and soothing environment.
The churning of the boat was softly echoed by the sleeping forest. The
late moon shimmered through clouds of murky vapor, and cast ghostly
reflections along the broad river. The balmy air, trembling with the
radiating heat, was impregnated with sweetest odors from the myriad
buds and balsamic plants of the dark jungle wilderness on either hand,
where impervious walls rose in majestic, deterrant, awesome silence
from the low shore line, and tangled shrubs and bushes, rioting in
wild profusion, jealously hung to the water's edge that they might
hide every trace of the muddy banks. What shapes and forms the black
depths of that untrodden bush hid from his eyes, Josè might only
imagine. But he felt their presence--crawling, creeping things that
lay in patient ambush for their unwitting prey--slimy lizards,
gorgeously caparisoned--dank, twisting serpents--elephantine
tapirs--dull-witted sloths--sleek, wary jaguars--fierce formicidae,
poisonous and carnivorous. He might not see them, but he felt that he
was the cynosure of hundreds of keen eyes that followed him as the
boat glided close to the shore and silently crept through the shadows
which lay thick upon the river's edge. And the matted jungle, with its
colossal vegetation, he felt was peopled with other things--influences
intangible, and perhaps still unreal, but mightily potent with the
symbolized presence of the great Unknown, which stands back of all
phenomena and eagerly watches the movements of its children. These
influences had already cast their spell upon him. He was yielding,
slowly, to the "lure of the tropics," which few who come under its
attachment ever find the strength to dispel.

No habitations were visible on the dark shores. Only here and there in
the yellow glow of the boat's lanterns appeared the customary piles
of wood which the natives sell to the passing steamers for boiler
fuel, and which are found at frequent intervals along the river. At
one of these the Honda halted to replenish its supply. The usual
bickering between the negro owner and the boat captain resulted in a
bargain, and the half-naked stevedores began to transfer the wood to
the vessel, carrying it on their shoulders in the most primitive
manner, held in a strip of burlap. The rising moon had at last thrown
off its veil of murky clouds, and was shining in undimmed splendor in
a starry sky. Josè went ashore with the passengers; for the boat might
remain there for hours while her crew labored leisurely, with much
bantering and singing, and no anxious thought for the morrow.

The strumming of a _tiple_ in the distance attracted him. Following
it, he found a small settlement of bamboo huts hidden away in a
beautiful grove of moriche palms, through which the moonbeams filtered
in silvery stringers. Little gardens lay back of the dwellings, and
the usual number of goats and pigs were dozing in the heavy shadows of
the scarcely stirring trees. Reserved matrons and shy _doncellas_
appeared in the doorways; and curious children, naked and chubby, hid
in their mothers' scant skirts and peeped cautiously out at the
newcomers. The tranquil night was sweet with delicate odors wafted
from numberless plants and blossoms in the adjacent forest, and with
the fragrance breathed from the roses, gardenias and dahlias with
which these unpretentious dwellings were fairly embowered. A spirit of
calm and peaceful contentment hovered over the spot, and the round,
white moon smiled down in holy benediction upon the gentle folk who
passed their simple lives in this bower of delight, free from the goad
of human ambition, untrammeled by the false sense of wealth and its
entailments, and unspoiled by the artificialities of civilization.

One of the passengers suggested a dance, while waiting for the boat to
take on its fuel. The owner of the wood, apparently the chief
authority of the little settlement, immediately procured a _tom-tom_,
and gave orders for the _baile_. At his direction men, women and
children gathered in the moonlit clearing on the river bank and, while
the musician beat a monotonous tattoo on the crude drum, circled about
in the stately and dignified movements of their native dance.

It was a picture that Josè would not forget. The balmy air, soft as
velvet, and laden with delicious fragrance; the vast solitude,
stretching in trackless wilderness to unknown reaches on either hand;
the magic stillness of the tropic night; the figures of the dancers
weirdly silhouetted in the gorgeous moonlight; with the low, unvaried
beat of the _tom-tom_ rising dully through the warm air--all merged
into a scene of exquisite beauty and delight, which made an indelible
impression upon the priest's receptive mind.

And when the sounds of simple happiness had again died into silence,
and he lay in his hammock, listening to the spirit of the jungle
sighing through the night-blown palms, as the boat glided gently
through the lights and shadows of the quiet river, his soul voiced a
nameless yearning, a vague, unformed longing for an approach to the
life of simple content and child-like happiness of the kind and gentle
folk with whom he had been privileged to make this brief sojourn.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The crimson flush of the dawn-sky heralded another day of implacable
heat. The emerald coronals of palms and towering _caobas_ burned in
the early beams of the torrid sun. Light fogs rose reluctantly from
the river's bosom and dispersed in delicate vapors of opal and violet.
The tangled banks of dripping bush shone freshly green in the misty
light. The wilderness, grim and trenchant, reigned in unchallenged
despotism. Solitude, soul-oppressing, unbroken but for the calls of
feathered life, brooded over the birth of Josè's last day on the
Magdalena. About midday the steamer touched at the little village of
Bodega Central; but the iron-covered warehouse and the whitewashed mud
hovels glittered garishly in the fierce heat and stifled all desire to
go ashore. The call was brief, and the boat soon resumed its course
through the solitude and heat of the mighty river.

Immediately after leaving Bodega Central, Don Jorge approached Josè
and beckoned him to an unoccupied corner of the boat.

"_Amigo_," he began, after assuring himself that his words would not
carry to the other passengers, "the captain tells me the next stop is
Badillo, where you leave us. If all goes well you will be in Simití
to-night. No doubt a report of our meeting with Padre Diego has
already reached Don Wenceslas, who, you may be sure, has no thought of
forgetting you. I have no reason to tell you this other than the fact
that I think, as Padre Diego put it, you are being jobbed--not by the
Church, but by Wenceslas. I want to warn you, that is all. I hate
priests! They got me early--got my wife and girl, too! I hate the
Church, and the whole ghastly farce which it puts over on the ignorant
people of this country! But--," eying him sharply, "I would hardly
class you as a _real_ priest. There, never mind!" as Josè was about to
interrupt. "I think I understand. You simply went wrong. You meant
well, but something happened--as always does when one means well in
this world. But now to the point."

Shifting his chair closer to Josè, the man resumed earnestly.

"Your grandfather, Don Ignacio, was a very rich man. The war stripped
him. He got just what he deserved. His _fincas_ and herds and mines
melted away from him like grease from a holy candle. And nobody
cared--any more than the Lord cares about candle grease. Most of his
property fell into the hands of his former slaves--and he had hundreds
of them hereabouts. But his most valuable possession, the great mine
of La Libertad, disappeared as completely as if blotted from the face
of the earth.

"That mine--no, not a mine, but a mountain of free gold--was located
somewhere in the Guamocó district. After the war this whole country
slipped back into the jungle, and had to be rediscovered. The Guamocó
region is to-day as unknown as it was before the Spaniards came.
Somewhere in the district, but covered deep beneath brush and forest
growth, is that mine, the richest in Colombia.

"Now, as you know, Don Ignacio left this country in considerable of a
hurry. But I think he always intended to come back again. Death killed
that ambition. I don't know about his sons. But the fact remains that
La Libertad has never been rediscovered since Don Ignacio's day. The
old records in Cartagena show the existence of such a mine in Spanish
times, and give a more or less accurate statement of its production.
_Diablo_! I hesitate to say how much! The old fellow had _arrastras_,
mills, and so on, in which slaves crushed the ore. The bullion was
melted into bars and brought down the trail to Simití, where he had
agents and warehouses and a store or two. From there it was shipped
down the river to Cartagena. But the war lasted thirteen years. And
during that time everything was in a state of terrible confusion. The
existence of mines was forgotten. The plantations were left unworked.
The male population was all but killed off. And the country sank back
into wilderness.

"_Bueno_; so much for history. Now to your friends on the coast--and
elsewhere. Don Wenceslas is quietly searching for that mine--has been
for years. He put his agent, Padre Diego, in Simití to learn what he
might there. But the fool priest was run out after he had ruined a
woman or two. However, Padre Diego is still in close touch with the
town, and is on the keen search for La Libertad. Wenceslas thinks
there may be descendants of some of Don Ignacio's old slaves still
living in Simití, or near there, and that they know the location of
the lost mine. And, if I mistake not, he figures that you will learn
the secret from them in some way, and that the mine will again come to
light. Now, if you get wind of that mine and attempt to locate it, or
purchase it from the natives, you will be beaten out of it in a hurry.
And you may be sure Don Wenceslas will be the one who will eventually
have it, for there is no craftier, smoother, brighter rascal in
Colombia than he. And so, take it from me, if you ever get wind of the
location of that famous property--which by rights is yours, having
belonged to your grandfather--_keep the information strictly to
yourself_!

"I do not know Simití. But I shall be working in the Guamocó district
for many months to come, hunting Indian graves. I shall have my
runners up and down the Simití trail frequently, and may get in touch
with you. It may be that you will need a friend. There! The boat is
whistling for Badillo. A last word: Keep out of the way of both
Wenceslas and Diego--cultivate the people of Simití--and keep your
mouth closed."

A few minutes later Josè stood on the river bank beside his little
haircloth trunk and traveling bag, sadly watching the steamer draw
away and resume her course up-stream. He watched it until it
disappeared around a bend. And then he stood watching the smoke rise
above the treetops, until that, too, faded in the distance. No one had
waved him a farewell from the boat. No one met him with a greeting of
welcome on the shore. He was a stranger among strangers.

He turned, with a heavy heart, to note his environment. It was a
typical riverine point. A single street, if it might be so called; a
half dozen bamboo dwellings, palm-thatched; and a score of natives,
with their innumerable gaunt dogs and porcine companions--this was
Badillo.

"_Señor Padre._" A tall, finely built native, clad in soiled white
cotton shirt and trousers, approached and addressed him in a kindly
tone. "Where do you go?"

"To Simití," replied the priest, turning eagerly to the man. "But," in
bewilderment, "where is it?"

"Over there," answered the native, pointing to the jungle on the far
side of the river. "Many leagues."

The wearied priest sat down on his trunk and buried his face in his
hands. Faintness and nausea seized him. It was the after-effect of his
long and difficult river experience. Or, perhaps, the deadly malaria
was beginning its insidious poisoning. The man approached and laid a
hand on his shoulder.

"Padre, why do you go to Simití?"

Josè raised his head and looked more closely at his interlocutor. The
native was a man of perhaps sixty years. His figure was that of an
athlete. He stood well over six feet high, with massive shoulders, and
a waist as slender as a woman's. His face was almost black in color,
and mottled with patches of white, so common to the natives of the hot
inlands. But there was that in its expression, a something that
looked out through those kindly black eyes, that assured Josè and
bespoke his confidence.

The man gravely repeated his question.

"I have been sent there by the Bishop of Cartagena. I am to have
charge of the parish," Josè replied.

The man slowly shook his finely shaped head.

"We want no priest in Simití," he said with quiet firmness. His manner
of speaking was abrupt, yet not ungracious.

"But--do you live there?" inquired Josè anxiously.

"Yes, Padre."

"Then you must know a man--Rosendo, I think his name--"

"I am Rosendo Ariza."

Josè looked eagerly at the man. Then he wearily stretched out a hand.

"Rosendo--I am sick--I think. And--I have--no friends--"

Rosendo quickly grasped his hand and slipped an arm about his
shoulders.

"I am your friend, Padre--" He stopped and appeared to reflect for a
moment. Then he added quickly, "My canoe is ready; and we must hurry,
or night will overtake us."

The priest essayed to rise, but stumbled. Then, as if he had been a
child, the man Rosendo picked him up and carried him down the bank to
a rude canoe, where he deposited him on a pile of empty bags in the
keel.

"Escolastico!" he called back to a young man who seemed to be the
chief character of the village. "Sell the _panela_ and yuccas _á buen
precio_; and remind Captain Julio not to forget on the next trip to
bring the little Carmen a doll from Barranquilla. I will be over again
next month. And Juan," addressing the sturdy youth who was preparing
to accompany him, "set in the Padre's baggage; and do you take the
paddle, and I will pole. _Conque, adioscito!_" waving his battered
straw hat to the natives congregated on the bank, while Juan pushed
the canoe from the shore and paddled vigorously out into the river.

"_Adioscito! adioscito! Don Rosendo y Juan!_" The hearty farewells of
the natives followed the canoe far out into the broad stream.

Across the open river in the livid heat of the early afternoon the
canoe slowly made its way. The sun from a cloudless sky viciously
poured down its glowing rays like molten metal. The boat burned; the
river steamed; the water was hot to his touch, when the priest feebly
dipped his hands into it and bathed his throbbing brow. Badillo faded
from view as they rounded a densely wooded island and entered a long
lagoon. Here they lost the slight breeze which they had had on the
main stream. In this narrow channel, hemmed in between lofty forest
walls of closely woven vines and foliage, it seemed to Josè that they
had entered a flaming inferno. The two boatmen sat silent and
inscrutable, plying their paddles without speaking.

Down the long lagoon the canoe drifted, keeping within what scant
shade the banks afforded, for the sun stood now directly overhead. The
heat was everywhere, insistent, unpitying. It burned, scalded, warped.
The foliage on either side of the channel merged into the hot waves
that rose trembling about them. The thin, burning air enveloped the
little craft with fire. Josè gasped for breath. His tongue swelled.
His pulse throbbed violently. His skin cracked. The quivering
appearance of the atmosphere robbed him of confidence in his own
vision. A cloud of insects hung always before his sight. Dead silence
lay upon the scene. Not a sound issued from the jungle. Not a bird or
animal betrayed its presence. The canoe was edging the Colombian
"hells," where even the denizens of the forest dare not venture forth
on the low, open _savannas_ in the killing heat of midday.

Josè sank down in the boat, wilting and semi-delirious. Through his
dimmed eyes the boatman looked like glowing inhuman things set in
flames. Rosendo came to him and placed his straw hat over his face.
Hours, interminable and torturing, seemed to pass on leaden wings.
Then Juan, deftly swerving his paddle, shot the canoe into a narrow
arm, and the garish sunlight was suddenly lost in the densely
intertwined branches overhanging the little stream.

"The outlet of _La Cienaga_, Padre," Rosendo offered, laying aside his
paddle and taking his long boat pole. "Lake Simití flows through this
and into the Magdalena." For a few moments he held the canoe steady,
while from his wallet he drew a few leaves of tobacco and deftly
rolled a long, thick cigar.

The real work of the _boga_ now began, and Rosendo with his long
punter settled down to the several hours' strenuous grind which was
necessary to force the heavy canoe up the little outlet and into the
distant lake beyond. Back and forth he traveled through the
half-length of the boat, setting the pole well forward in the soft
bank, or out into the stream itself, and then, with its end against
his shoulder, urging and teasing the craft a few feet at a time
against the strong current. Josè imagined, as he dully watched him,
that he could see death in the pestiferous effluvia which emanated
from the black, slimy mud which every plunge of the long pole brought
to the surface of the narrow stream.

The afternoon slowly waned, and the temperature lowered a few degrees.
A warm, animal-like breath drifted languidly out from the moist
jungle. The outlet, or _caño_, was heavily shaded throughout its
length. Crocodiles lay along its muddy banks, and slid into the water
at the approach of the canoe. Huge _iguanas_, the gorgeously colored
lizards of tropical America, scurried noisily through the overarching
branches. Here and there monkeys peeped curiously at the intruders and
chattered excitedly as they swung among the lofty treetops. But for
his exhaustion, Josè, as he lay propped up against his trunk, gazing
vacantly upon the slowly unrolling panorama of marvelous plant and
animal life on either hand, might have imagined himself in a realm of
enchantment.

At length the vegetation abruptly ceased; the stream widened; and the
canoe entered a broad lake, at the far end of which, three miles
distant, its two whitewashed churches and its plastered houses
reflecting the red glow of the setting sun, lay the ancient and
decayed town of Simití, the northern outlet of Spain's mediaeval
treasure house, at the edge of the forgotten district of Guamocó.

Paddling gently across the unruffled surface of the tepid waters,
Rosendo and Juan silently urged the canoe through the fast gathering
dusk, and at length drew up on the shaly beach of the old town. As
they did so, a little girl, bare of feet and with clustering brown
curls, came running out of the darkness.

"Oh, padre Rosendo," she called, "what have you brought me?"

Then, as she saw Rosendo and Juan assisting the priest from the boat,
she drew back abashed.

"Look, Carmencita," whispered Juan to the little maid; "we've brought
you a _big_ doll, haven't we?"

Night fell as the priest stepped upon the shore of his new home.



CARMEN ARIZA



BOOK 2


  Ay, to save and redeem and restore, snatch Saul, the mistake,
  Saul, the failure, the ruin he seems now,--and bid him awake from
  the dream, the probation, the prelude, to find himself set clear
  and safe in new light and new life,--a new harmony yet to be run
  and continued and ended.

                                                       --_Browning._



CARMEN ARIZA

CHAPTER 1


Josè de Rincón opened his eyes and turned painfully on his hard bed.
The early sun streamed through the wooden grating before the unglazed
window. A slight, tepid breeze stirred the mosquito netting over him.
He was in the single sleeping room of the house. It contained another
bed like his own, of rough _macana_ palm strips, over which lay a
straw mat and a thin red blanket. Bed springs were unknown in Simití.
On the rude door, cobwebbed and dusty, a scorpion clung torpidly. From
the room beyond he heard subdued voices. His head and limbs ached
dully; and frightful memories of the river trip and the awful journey
from Badillo sickened him. With painful exertion he stood upon the
moist dirt floor and drew on his damp clothes. He had only a vague
recollection of the preceding night, but he knew that Rosendo had half
led, half dragged him past rows of dimly lighted, ghostly white houses
to his own abode, and there had put him to bed.

"_Muy buenos dias, Señor Padre_," Rosendo greeted him, as the priest
dragged himself out into the living room. "You have slept long. But
the señora will soon have your breakfast. Sit here--not in the sun!"

Rosendo placed one of the rough wooden chairs, with straight cowhide
back and seat, near the table.

"Carmencita has gone to the boat for fresh water. But--here she comes.
Pour the _Señor Padre_ a cup, _carita_," addressing a little girl who
at that moment entered the doorway, carrying a large earthen bottle on
her shoulder. It was the child who had met the boat when the priest
arrived the night, before.

"Fill the basin, too, _chiquita_, that the Padre may wash his hands,"
added Rosendo.

The child approached Josè, and with a dignified little courtesy and a
frank smile offered him a cup of the lukewarm water. The priest
accepted it languidly. But, glancing into her face, his eyes suddenly
widened, and the hand that was carrying the tin cup to his lips
stopped.

The barefoot girl, clad only in a short, sleeveless calico gown, stood
before him like a portrait from an old master. Her skin was almost
white, with but a tinge of olive. Her dark brown hair hung in curls to
her shoulders and framed a face of rarest beauty. Innocence, purity,
and love radiated from her fair features, from her beautifully rounded
limbs, from her soft, dark eyes that looked so fearlessly into his
own.

Josè felt himself strangely moved. Somewhere deep within his soul a
chord had been suddenly struck by the little presence; and the sound
was unfamiliar to him. Yet it awakened memories of distant scenes, of
old dreams, and forgotten longings. It seemed to echo from realms of
his soul that had never been penetrated. The tumult within died away.
The raging thought sank into calm. The man forgot himself, forgot that
he had come to Simití to die. His sorrow vanished. His sufferings
faded. He remained conscious only of something that he could not
outline, something in the soul of the child, a thing that perhaps he
once possessed, and that he knew he yet prized above all else on
earth.

He heard Rosendo's voice through an immeasurable distance--

"Leave us now, _chiquita_; the Padre wishes to have his breakfast."

The child without speaking turned obediently; and the priest's eyes
followed her until she disappeared into the kitchen.

"We call her 'the smile of God,'" said Rosendo, noting the priest's
absorption, "because she is always happy."

Josè remained sunk in thought. Then--

"A beautiful child!" he murmured. "A wonderfully beautiful child! I
had no idea--!"

"Yes, Padre, she is heaven's gift to us poor folk. I sometimes think
the angels themselves left her on the river bank."

"On the river bank!" Josè was awake now. "Why--she was not born
here?"

"Oh, no, Padre, but in Badillo."

"Ah, then you once lived in Badillo?"

"_Na, Señor Padre_, she is not my child--except that the good God has
given her to me to protect."

"Not your child! Then whose is she?" The priest's voice was unwontedly
eager and his manner animated.

But Rosendo fell suddenly quiet and embarrassed, as if he realized
that already he had said too much to a stranger. A shade of suspicion
seemed to cross his face, and he rose hurriedly and went out into the
kitchen. A moment later he returned with the priest's breakfast--two
fried eggs, a hot corn _arepa_, fried _platanos_, dried fish, and
coffee sweetened with _panela_.

"When you have finished, Padre, we will visit the Alcalde," he said
quietly. "I must go down to the lake now to speak with Juan before he
goes out to fish."

Josè finished his meal alone. The interest which had been aroused by
the child continued to increase without reaction. His torpid soul had
been profoundly stirred. For the moment, though he knew not why, life
seemed to hold a vague, unshaped interest for him. He began to notice
his environment; he even thought he relished the coarse food set
before him.

The house he was in was a typical native three-room dwelling, built of
strips of _macana_ palm, set upright and tied together with pieces of
slender, tough _bejuco_ vine. The interstices between the strips were
filled with mud, and the whole whitewashed. The floors were dirt,
trodden hard; the steep-pitched roof was thatched with palm. A few
chairs like the one he occupied, the rude, uncovered table, some cheap
prints and a battered crucifix on the wall, were the only furnishings
of the living room.

While he was eating, the people of the town congregated quietly
about the open door. Friendly curiosity to see the new Padre, and
sincere desire to welcome him animated their simple minds. Naked
babes crawled to the threshold and peeped timidly in. Coarsely
clad women and young girls, many of the latter bedizened with bits
of bright ribbon or cheap trinkets, smiled their gentle greetings.
Black, dignified men, bare of feet, and wearing white cotton trousers
and black _ruanas_--the cape affected by the poor males of the
inlands--respectfully doffed their straw hats and bowed to him.
Rosendo's wife appeared from the kitchen and extended her hand to
him in unfeigned hospitality. Attired in a fresh calico gown, her
black hair plastered back over her head and tied with a clean black
ribbon, her bare feet encased in hemp sandals, she bore herself
with that grace and matronly dignity so indicative of her Spanish
forbears, and so particularly characteristic of the inhabitants of
this "valley of the pleasant 'yes.'"

Breakfast finished, the priest stepped to the doorway and raised his
hand in the invocation that was evidently expected from him.

"_Dominus vobiscum_," he repeated, not mechanically, not insincerely,
but in a spirit of benevolence, of genuine well-wishing, which his
contact with the child a few minutes before seemed to have aroused.

The people bent their heads piously and murmured, "_Et cum spiritu
tuo._"

The open door looked out upon the central _plaza_, where stood a large
church of typical colonial design and construction, and with a single
lateral bell tower. The building was set well up on a platform of
shale, with broad shale steps, much broken and worn, leading up to it
on all sides. Josè stepped out and mingled with the crowd, first
regarding the old church curiously, and then looking vainly for the
little girl, and sighing his disappointment when he did not see her.

In the _plaza_ he was joined by Rosendo; and together they went to
the house of the Alcalde. On the way the priest gazed about him with
growing curiosity. To the north of the town stretched the lake, known
to the residents only by the name of _La Cienaga_. It was a body of
water of fair size, in a setting of exquisite tropical beauty. In
a temperate climate, and a region more densely populated, this
lake would have been priceless. Here in forgotten Guamocó it lay like
an undiscovered gem, known only to those few inert and passive folk,
who enjoyed it with an inadequate sense of its rare beauty and
immeasurable worth. Several small and densely wooded isles rose
from its unrippled bosom; and tropical birds of brilliant color
hovered over it in the morning sun. Near one of its margins Josè
distinguished countless white _garzas_, the graceful herons whose
plumes yield the coveted aigrette of northern climes. They fed
undisturbed, for this region sleeps unmolested, far from the beaten
paths of tourist or vandal huntsman. To the west and south lay the
hills of Guamocó, and the lofty _Cordilleras_, purpling in the
light mist. Over the entire scene spread a damp warmth, like the
atmosphere of a hot-house. By midday Josè knew that the heat would
be insufferable.

The Alcalde, Don Mario Arvila, conducted his visitors through his
shabby little store and into the _patio_ in the rear, exclaiming
repeatedly, "Ah, _Señor Padre_, we welcome you! All Simití welcomes
you and kisses your hand!" In the shade of his arbor he sat down to
examine Josè's letters from Cartagena.

Don Mario was a large, florid man, huge of girth, with brown skin,
heavy jowls, puffed eyes, and bald head. As he read, his eyes snapped,
and at times he paused and looked up curiously at the priest. Then,
without comment, he folded the letters and put them into a pocket of
his crash coat.

"_Bien_," he said politely, "we must have the Padre meet Don Felipe
Alcozer as soon as he returns. Some repairs are needed on the
church; a few of the roof tiles have slipped, and the rain enters.
Perhaps, _Señor Padre_, you may say the Mass there next Sunday. We
will see. A--a--you had illustrious ancestors, Padre," he added with
hesitation.

"Do the letters mention my ancestry?" asked Josè with something of
mingled surprise and pride.

"They speak of your family, which was, as we all know, quite
renowned," replied the Alcalde courteously.

"Very," agreed Josè, wondering how much the Alcalde knew of his
family.

"Don Ignacio was not unknown in this _pueblo_," affably continued the
Alcalde.

At these words Rosendo started visibly and looked fixedly at the
priest.

"The family name of Rincón," the Alcalde went on, "appears on the old
records of Simití in many places, and it is said that Don Ignacio
himself came here more than once. Perhaps you know, _Señor Padre_,
that the Rincón family erected the church which stands in the _plaza_?
And so it is quite appropriate that their son should officiate in it
after all these centuries, is it not?"

No, Josè had not known it. He could not have imagined such a thing. He
knew little of his family's history. Of their former vast wealth he
had a vague notion. But here in this land of romance and tragedy he
seemed to be running upon their reliques everywhere.

The conversation drifted to parish matters; and soon Rosendo urged
their departure, as the sun was mounting high.

Seated at the table for the midday lunch, Josè again became lost in
contemplation of the child before him. Her fair face flushed under his
searching gaze; but she returned a smile of confidence and sweet
innocence that held him spellbound. Her great brown eyes were of
infinite depth. They expressed a something that he had never seen
before in human eyes. What manner of soul lay behind them? What was it
that through them looked out into this world of evil? Childish
innocence and purity, yes; but vastly more. Was it--God Himself? Josè
started at his own thought. Through his meditations he heard Rosendo's
voice.

"Simití is very old, Padre. In the days of the Spaniards it was a
large town, with many rich people. The Indians were all slaves then,
and they worked in the mines up there," indicating the distant
mountains. "Much gold was brought down here and shipped down the
Magdalena, for the _caño_ was wider in those days, and it was not so
hard to reach the river. This is the end of the Guamocó trail, which
was called in those days the _Camino Real_."

"You say the mines were very rich?" interrogated Josè; not that the
question expressed a more than casual interest, but rather to keep
Rosendo talking while he studied the child.

But at this question Rosendo suddenly became less loquacious. Josè
then felt that he was suspected of prying into matters which Rosendo
did not wish to discuss with him, and so he pressed the topic no
further.

"How many people did Don Mario say the parish contained?" he asked by
way of diverting the conversation.

"About two hundred, Padre."

"And it has been vacant long?"

"Four years."

"Four years since Padre Diego was here," commented Josè casually.

It was an unfortunate remark. At the mention of the former priest's
name Doña Maria hurriedly left the table. Rosendo's black face grew
even darker, and took on a look of ineffable contempt. He did not
reply. And the meal ended in silence.

It was now plain to Josè that Rosendo distrusted him. But it mattered
little to the priest, beyond the fact that he had no wish to offend
any one. What interest had he in boorish Simití, or Guamocó? The place
was become his tomb--he had entered it to die. The child--the girl!
Ah, yes, she had touched a strange chord within him; and for a time he
had seemed to live again. But as the day waned, and pitiless heat and
deadly silence brooded over the decayed town, his starving soul sank
again into its former depression, and revived hope and interest died
within him.

The implacable heat burned through the noon hour; the dusty streets
were like the floor of a stone oven; the shale beds upon which the old
town rested sent up fiery, quivering waves; the houses seethed; earth
and sky were ablaze. How long could he endure it?

And the terrible _ennui_, the isolation, the utter lack of every trace
of culture, of the varied interests that feed the educated, trained
mind and minister to its comfort and growth--could he support it
patiently while awaiting the end? Would he go mad before the final
release came? He did not fear death; but he was horror-stricken at the
thought of madness! Of losing that rational sense of the Ego which
constituted his normal individuality!

Rosendo advised him to retire for the midday _siesta_. Through the
seemingly interminable afternoon he lay upon his hard bed with his
brain afire, while the events of his warped life moved before him in
spectral review. The week which had passed since he left Cartagena
seemed an age. When he might hope to receive word from the outside
world, he could not imagine. His isolation was now complete. Even
should letters succeed in reaching Simití for him, they must first
pass through the hands of the Alcalde.

And what did the Alcalde know of him? And then, again, what did it
matter? He must not lose sight of the fact that his interest in the
outside world--nay, his interest in all things had ceased. This was
the end. He had yielded, after years of struggle, to pride, fear,
doubt. He had bowed before his morbid sense of honor--a perverted
sense, he now admitted, but still one which bound him in fetters of
steel. His life had been one of grossest inconsistency. He was utterly
out of tune with the universe. His incessant clash with the world of
people and events had sounded nothing but agonizing discord. And his
confusion of thought had become such that, were he asked why he was in
Simití, he could scarcely have told. At length he dropped into a
feverish sleep.

The day drew to a close, and the flaming sun rested for a brief moment
on the lofty tip of Tolima. Josè awoke, dripping with perspiration,
his steaming blood rushing wildly through its throbbing channels.
Blindly he rose from his rough bed and stumbled out of the stifling
chamber. The living room was deserted. Who might be in the kitchen, he
did not stop to see. Dazed by the garish light and fierce heat, he
rushed from the house and over the burning shales toward the lake.

What he intended to do, he knew not. His weltering thought held but a
single concept--water! The lake would cool his burning skin--he would
wade out into it until it rose to his cracking lips--he would lie down
in it, till it quenched the fire in his head--he would sleep in it--he
would never leave it--it was cool--perhaps cold! What did the word
mean? Was there aught in the world but fire--flames--fierce,
withering, smothering, consuming heat? He thought the shales crackled
as they melted beneath him! He thought his feet sank to the ankles in
molten lava, and were so heavy he scarce could drag them! He thought
the blazing sun shot out great tongues of flame, like the arms of a
monster devilfish, which twined about him, transforming his blood to
vapor and sucking it out through his gaping pores!

A blinding light flashed before him as he reached the margin of the
lake. The universe burst into a ball of fire. He clasped his head in
his hands--stumbled--and fell, face down, in the tepid waters.



CHAPTER 2


"It was the little Carmen, Padre, who saw you run to the lake. She was
sitting at the kitchen door, studying her writing lesson."

The priest essayed to rise from his bed. Night had fallen, and the
feeble light of the candle cast heavy shadows over the room, and made
grotesque pictures of the black, anxious faces looking in at the
grated window.

"But, Rosendo, it--was--a dream--a terrible dream!"

"_Na_, Padre, it was true, for I myself took you from the lake,"
replied Rosendo tenderly.

Josè struggled to a sitting posture, but would have fallen back again
had not Rosendo's strong arm supported him. He passed his hand slowly
across his forehead, as if to brush the mental cobwebs from his
awakening brain. Then he inquired feebly:

"What does the doctor say?"

"Padre, there is no doctor in Simití," Rosendo answered quietly.

"No doctor!"

Josè kept silence for a few moments. Then--

"But perhaps I do not need one. What time did it occur?"

"It did not happen to-day, Padre," said Rosendo with pitying
compassion. "It was nearly a week ago."

"Nearly a week! And have I lain here so long?"

"Yes, Padre."

The priest stared at him uncomprehendingly. Then--

"The dreams were frightful! I must have talked--raved! Rosendo--you
heard me--?" His voice betrayed anxiety.

"There, Padre, think no more about it. You were wild--I fought to keep
you in bed--we thought you must die--all but Carmen--but you have your
senses now--and you must forget the past."

Forget the past! Then his wild delirium had laid bare his soul! And
the man who had so faithfully nursed him through the crisis now
possessed the sordid details of this wretched life!

Josè struggled to orient his undirected mind. A hot wave of anger
swept over him at the thought that he was still living, that his
battered soul had not torn itself from earth during his delirium and
taken flight. Was he fated to live forever, to drag out an endless
existence, with his heart written upon his sleeve for the world to
read and turn to its own advantage? Rosendo had stood between him and
death--but to what end? Had he not yet paid the score in full--good
measure, pressed down and running over? His thoughts ran rapidly from
one topic to another. Again they reverted to the little girl. He had
dreamed of her in that week of black night. He wondered if he had also
talked of her. He had lain at death's door--Rosendo had said so--but
he had had no physician. Perhaps these simple folk brewed their own
homely remedies--he wondered what they had employed in his case. Above
the welter of his thoughts this question pressed for answer.

"What medicine did you give me, Rosendo?" he feebly queried.

"None, Padre."

Josè's voice rose querulously in a little excess of excitement. "What!
You left me here without medical aid, to live or die, as might be?"

The gentle Rosendo laid a soothing hand upon the priest's feverish
brow. "_Na_, Padre,"--there was a hurt tone in the soft answer--"we
did all we could for you. We have neither doctors nor medicines. But
we cared for you--and we prayed daily for your recovery. The little
Carmen said our prayers would be answered--and, you see, they were."

Again the child!

"And what had she to do with my recovery?" Josè demanded fretfully.

"_Quien sabe?_ It is sometimes that way when the little Carmen says
people shall not die. And then," he added sadly, "sometimes they do
die just the same. It is strange; we do not understand it." The gentle
soul sighed its perplexity.

Josè looked up at him keenly. "Did the child say I should not die?" he
asked softly, almost in a whisper.

"Yes, Padre; she says God's children do not die," returned Rosendo.

The priest's blood stopped in its mad surge and slowly began to chill.
God's children do not die! What uncanny influence had he met with here
in this crumbling, forgotten town? He sought the index of his memory
for the sensations he had felt when he looked into the girl's eyes on
his first morning in Simití. But memory reported back only impressions
of goodness--beauty--love.

Then a dim light--only a feeble gleam--seemed to flash before him, but
at a great distance. Something called him--not by name, but by again
touching that unfamiliar chord which had vibrated in his soul when the
child had first stood before him. He felt a strange psychic
presentiment as of things soon to be revealed. A sentiment akin to awe
stole over him, as if he were standing in the presence of a great
mystery--a mystery so transcendental that the groveling minds of
mortals have never apprehended it. He turned again to the man sitting
beside his bed.

"Rosendo--where is she?"

"Asleep, Padre," pointing to the other bed. "But we must not wake
her," he admonished quickly, as the priest again sought to rise; "we
will talk of her to-morrow. I think--"

Rosendo stopped abruptly and looked at the priest as if he would
fathom the inmost nature of the man. Then he continued uncertainly:

"I--I may have some things to say to you to-morrow--if you are
well enough to hear them. But I will think about it to-night,
and--if--_Bien_! I will think about it."

Rosendo rose slowly, as if weighted with heavy thoughts, and went out
into the living room. Presently he returned with a rude, homemade
broom and began to sweep a space on the dirt floor in the corner
opposite Josè. This done, he spread out a light straw mat for his
bed.

"The señora is preparing you a bowl of chicken broth and rice, Padre,"
he said. "The little Carmen saved a hen for you when you should awake.
She has fed it all the week on rice and goat's milk. She said she knew
you would wake up hungry."

Josè's eyes had closely followed Rosendo's movements, although he
seemed not to hear his words. Suddenly he broke forth in protest.

"Rosendo," he cried, "have I your bed? And do you sleep there on the
floor? I cannot permit this!"

"Say nothing, Padre," replied Rosendo, gently forcing Josè back again
upon his bed. "My house is yours."

"But--the señora, your wife--where does she sleep?"

"She has her _petate_ in the kitchen," was the quiet answer.

Only the two poor beds, which were occupied by the priest and the
child! And Rosendo and his good wife had slept on the hard dirt floor
for a week! Josè's eyes dimmed when he realized the extent of their
unselfish hospitality. And would they continue to sleep thus on the
ground, with nothing beneath them but a thin straw mat, as long as he
might choose to remain with them? Aye, he knew that they would,
uncomplainingly. For these are the children of the "valley of the
pleasant 'yes.'"

Josè awoke the next morning with a song echoing in his ears. He had
dreamed of singing; and as consciousness slowly returned, the
dream-song became real. It floated in from the living room on a clear,
sweet soprano. When a child he had heard such voices in the choir loft
of the great Seville cathedral, and he had thought that angels were
singing. As he lay now listening to it, memories of his childish
dreams swept over him in great waves. The soft, sweet cadences rose
and fell. His own heart swelled and pulsated with them, and his barren
soul once more surged under the impulse of a deep, potential desire to
manifest itself, its true self, unhampered at last by limitation and
convention, unfettered by superstition, human creeds and false
ambition. Then the inevitable reaction set in; a sickening sense of
the futility of his longing settled over him, and he turned his face
to the wall, while hot tears streamed over his sunken cheeks.

Again through his wearied brain echoed the familiar admonition,
"Occupy till I come." Always the same invariable response to his
strained yearnings. The sweet voice in the adjoining room floated in
through the dusty palm door. It spread over his perturbed thought like
oil on troubled waters. Perhaps it was the child singing. At this
thought the sense of awe seemed to settle upon him again. A child--a
babe--had said that he should live! If a doctor had said it he would
have believed. But a child--absurd! It was a dream! But no; Rosendo
had said it; and there was no reason to doubt him. But what had this
child to do with it? Nothing! And yet--was that wholly true? Then
whence his sensations when first he saw her? Whence that feeling of
standing in the presence of a great mystery? "Out of the mouths of
babes and sucklings--" Foolishness! To be sure, the child may have
said he should not die; but if he were to live--which God forbid!--his
own recuperative powers would restore him. Rosendo's lively
imagination certainly had exaggerated the incident.

Exhausted by his mental efforts, and lulled by the low singing, the
priest sank into fitful slumber. As he slept he dreamed. He was
standing alone in a great desert. Darkness encompassed him, and a
fearful loneliness froze his soul. About him lay bleaching bones.
Neither trees nor vegetation broke the dull monotony of the cheerless
scene. Nothing but waste, unutterably dreary waste, over which a chill
wind tossed the tinkling sand in fitful gusts. In terror he cried
aloud. The desert mocked his hollow cry. The darkness thickened. Again
he called, his heart sinking with despair.

Then, over the desolate waste, through the heavy gloom, a voice seemed
borne faint on the cold air, "Occupy till I come!" He sank to his
knees. His straining eyes caught the feeble glint of a light, but at
an immeasurable distance. Again he called; and again the same
response, but nearer. A glow began to suffuse the blackness about him.
Nearer, ever nearer drew the gleam. The darkness lifted. The rocks
began to bud. Trees and vines sprang from the waste sand. As if in a
tremendous explosion, a dazzling light burst full upon him, shattering
the darkness, fusing the stones about him, and blinding his sight. A
great presence stood before him. He struggled to his feet; and as he
did so a loud voice cried, "Behold, I come _quickly_!"

"_Señor Padre_, you have been dreaming!"

The priest, sitting upright and clutching at the rough sides of his
bed, stared with wooden obliviousness into the face of the little
Carmen.



CHAPTER 3


"You are well now, aren't you, Padre?"

It was not so much an interrogation as an affirmation, an assumption
of fact.

"Now you must come and see my garden--and Cucumbra, too. And
Cantar-las-horas; have you heard him? I scolded him lots; and I know
he wants to mind; but he just thinks he can't stop singing the
Vespers--the old stupid!"

While the child prattled she drew a chair to the bedside and arranged
the bowl of broth and the two wheat rolls she had brought.

"You are real hungry, and you are going to eat all of this and get
strong again. Right away!" she added, emphatically expressing her
confidence in the assumption.

Josè made no reply. He seemed again to be trying to sound the
unfathomable depths of the child's brown eyes. Mechanically he took
the spoon she handed him.

"See!" she exclaimed, while her eyes danced. "A silver spoon! Madre
Ariza borrowed it from Doña Maria Alcozer. They have lots of silver.
Now eat."

From his own great egoism, his years of heart-ache, sorrows, and
shames, the priest's heavy thought slowly lifted and centered upon the
child's beautiful face. The animated little figure before him radiated
such abundant life that he himself caught the infection; and with it
his sense of weakness passed like an illusion.

"And look, Padre! The broth--isn't it good?"

Josè tasted, and declared it delicious.

"Well, you know"--the enthusiastic little maid clambered up on the
bed--"yesterday it was Mañuela--she was my hen. I told her a week ago
that you would need her--"

"And you gave up your hen for me, little one?" he interrupted.

"Why--yes, Padre. It was all right. I told her how it was. And she
clucked so hard, I knew she was glad to help the good _Cura_. And she
was so happy about it! I told her she really wouldn't die. You know,
things never do--do they?"

The priest hesitated. To hide his confusion and gain time he began to
eat rapidly.

"No, they don't," said the girl confidently, answering her own
question. "Because," she added, "God is _everywhere_--isn't He?"

What manner of answer could he, of all men, make to such terribly
direct questions as these! And it was well that Carmen evidently
expected none--that in her great innocence she assumed for him the
same beautiful faith which she herself held.

"Doña Jacinta didn't die last week. But they said she did; and so they
took her to the cemetery and put her in a dark _bóveda_. And the black
buzzards sat on the wall and watched them. Padre Rosendo said she had
gone to the angels--that God took her. But, Padre, God doesn't make
people sick, does He? They get sick because they don't know who He is.
Every day I told God I knew He would cure you. And He did, didn't
He?"

While the girl paused for breath, her eyes sparkled, and her face
glowed with exaltation. Child-like, her active mind flew from one
topic to another, with no thought of connecting links.

"This morning, Padre, two little green parrots flew across the lake
and perched on our roof. And they sat there and watched Cucumbra eat
his breakfast; and they tried to steal his fish; and they scolded so
loud! Why did they want to steal from him, when there is so much to
eat everywhere? But they didn't know any better, did they? I don't
think parrots love each other very much, for they scold so hard.
Padre, it is so dark in here; come out and see the sun and the lake
and the mountains. And my garden--Padre, it is beautiful! Esteban said
next time he went up the trail he would bring me a monkey for a pet;
and I am going to name it Hombrecito. And Captain Julio is going to
bring me a doll from down the river. But," with a merry, musical
trill, "Juan said the night you came that _you_ were my doll! Isn't he
funny!" And throwing back her little head, the child laughed
heartily.

"Padre, you must help padre Rosendo with his arithmetic. Every night
he puts on his big spectacles and works so hard to understand it. He
says he knows Satan made fractions. But, Padre, that isn't so, is it?
Not if God made everything. Padre, you know _everything_, don't you?
Padre Rosendo said you did. There are lots of things I want you to
tell me--such lots of things that nobody here knows anything about.
Padre,"--the child leaned toward the priest and whispered low--"the
people here don't know who God is; and you are going to teach them!
There was a _Cura_ here once, when I was a baby; but I guess he didn't
know God, either."

She lapsed into silence, as if pondering this thought. Then, clapping
her hands with unfeigned joy, she cried in a shrill little voice, "Oh,
Padre, I am _so_ glad you have come to Simití! I just _knew_ God would
not forget us!"

Josè had no reply to make. His thought was busy with the phenomenon
before him: a child of man, but one who, like Israel of old, saw God
and heard His voice at every turn of her daily walk. Untutored in the
ways of men, without trace of sophistication or cant, unblemished as
she moved among the soiled vessels about her, shining with celestial
radiance in this unknown, moldering town so far from the world's
beaten paths.

The door opened softly and Rosendo entered, preceded by a cheery
greeting.

_"Hombre!_" he exclaimed, surveying the priest, "but you mend fast!
You have eaten all the broth! But I told the good wife that the little
Carmen would be better than medicine for you, and that you must have
her just as soon as you should awake."

Josè's eyes dilated with astonishment. Absorbed in the child, he had
consumed almost his entire breakfast.

"He is well, padre Rosendo, he is well!" cried the girl, bounding up
and down and dancing about the tall form of her foster-father. Then,
darting to Josè, she seized his hand and cried, "Now to see my garden!
And Cucumbra! And--!"

"Quiet, child!" commanded Rosendo, taking her by the arm. "The good
_Cura_ is ill, and must rest for several days yet."

"No, padre Rosendo, he is well--all well! Aren't you, Padre?"
appealing to Josè, and again urging him forth.

The rapidity of the conversation and the animation of the beautiful
child caused complete forgetfulness of self, and, together with the
restorative effect of the wholesome food, acted upon the priest like a
magical tonic. Weak though he was, he clung to her hand and,
struggling out of the bed, stood uncertainly upon the floor. Instantly
Rosendo's arm was about him.

"Don't try it, Padre," the latter urged anxiously. "The heat will be
too much for you. Another day or two of rest will make you right."

But the priest, heedless of the admonition, suffered himself to be led
by the child; and together they passed slowly out into the living
room, through the kitchen, and thence into the diminutive rose garden,
the pride of the little Carmen.

Doña Maria, wife of Rosendo, was bending over the primitive fireplace,
busy with her matutinal duties, having just dusted the ashes from a
corn _arepa_ which she had prepared for her consort's simple luncheon.
She was a woman well into the autumn of life; but her form possessed
something of the elegance of the Spanish dames of the colonial period;
her countenance bore an expression of benevolence, which emanated
from a gentle and affectionate heart; and her manner combined both
dignity and suavity. She greeted the priest tenderly, and expressed
mingled surprise and joy that he felt able to leave his bed so soon.
But as her eyes caught Rosendo's meaning glance, and then turned to
the child, they seemed to indicate a full comprehension of the
situation.

The rose garden consisted of a few square feet of black earth,
bordered by bits of shale, and seemingly scarce able to furnish
nourishment for the three or four little bushes. But, though small,
these were blooming in profusion.

"Padre Rosendo did this!" exclaimed the delighted girl. "Every night
he brings water from _La Cienaga_ for them!"

Rosendo smiled patronizingly upon the child; but Josè saw in the
glance of his argus eyes a tenderness and depth of affection for her
which bespoke nothing short of adoration.

Carmen bent over the roses, fondling and kissing them, and addressing
them endearing names.

"She calls them God's kisses," whispered Rosendo to the priest.

At that moment a low growl was heard. Josè turned quickly and
confronted a gaunt dog, a wild breed, with eyes fixed upon the priest
and white fangs showing menacingly beneath a curling lip.

"Oh, Cucumbra!" cried the child, rushing to the beast and throwing her
arms about its shaggy neck. "Haven't I told you to love everybody? And
is that the way to show it? Now kiss the _Cura's_ hand, for he loves
you."

The brute sank at her feet. Then as she took the priest's hand and
held it to the dog's mouth, he licked it with his rough tongue.

The priest's brain was now awhirl. He stood gazing at the child as if
fascinated. Through his jumbled thought there ran an insistent strain,
"He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. The Father dwelleth in me
and I in Him." He did not associate these words with the Nazarene now,
but with the barefoot girl before him. Again within the farthest
depths of his soul he heard the soft note of a vibrating chord--that
chord which all the years of his unhappy life had hung mute, until
here, in this moldering town, in the wilderness of forgotten Guamocó,
the hand of Love had swept it.

The sun stood at the zenith. The day was white-hot. Doña Maria
summoned her little family to the midday repast. Rosendo brought a
chair for Josè and placed it near the rose garden in the shade of the
house, for, despite all protest, the priest had stubbornly refused to
return to his bed. Left now to himself, his thought hovered about the
child, and then drifted out across the incandescent shales to the
beautiful lake beyond. The water lay like shimmering glass. In the
distance the wooded slopes of the San Lucas mountains rose like green
billows. Brooding silence spread over the scene. It was Nature's hour
of _siesta_. In his own heart there was a great peace--and a strange
expectancy. He seemed to be awaiting a revelation of things close at
hand. In a way he felt that he had accomplished his purpose of coming
to Simití to die, and that he was now awaiting the resurrection.

The peaceful revery was interrupted by Rosendo. "Padre, if you will
not return to your bed--" He regarded the priest dubiously.

"No, Rosendo. I grow stronger every minute. But--where is Carmen?"

"She must help her mother."

A long pause ensued, while Josè impatiently waited for Rosendo to
continue. The child was becoming his obsession. He was eager to talk
of her, to learn her history, to see her, for her presence meant
complete obliteration of self.

"Padre," Rosendo at length emerged from his meditation. "I would like
to speak of the little Carmen."

"Yes," responded Josè with animation. Life and strength seemed to
return to him with a bound.

"But--what say you? Shall we visit the church, which is only across
the road? There we can talk without interruption. No one will be in
the streets during the heat. And I will carry you over."

"Let us go to the church, yes; but I can walk. It is only a step."

Josè leaned upon Rosendo, the latter supporting him with his great
arm, and together they crossed the road and mounted the shale platform
on which stood the ancient edifice. Rosendo produced a huge key of
antique pattern; and the rusty lock, after much resistance, yielded
with a groan, and the heavy door creaked open, emitting an odor of
dampness and must. Doffing their hats, the men entered the long,
barn-like room. Rosendo carefully closed and locked the door behind
them, a precaution necessary in a drowsing town of this nature, where
the simple folk who see day after day pass without concern or event to
break the deadening monotony, assemble in eager, buzzing multitudes at
the slightest prospect of extraordinary interest.

The room was dimly lighted, and was open to the peak of the roof. From
the rough-hewn rafters above hung hundreds of hideous bats. At the far
end stood the altar. It was adorned with decrepit images, and held a
large wooden statue of the Virgin. This latter object was veiled with
two flimsy curtains, which were designed to be raised and lowered with
great pomp and the ringing of a little bell during service. The image
was attired in real clothes, covered with tawdry finery, gilt paper,
and faded ribbons. The head bore a wig of hair; and the face was
painted, although great sections of the paint had fallen, away,
leaving the suggestion of pockmarks. Beneath this image was located
the _sagrario_, the little cupboard in which the _hostia_, the sacred
wafer, was wont to be kept exposed in the _custodia_, a cheap
receptacle composed of two watch crystals. At either side of this
stood half consumed wax tapers. A few rough benches were strewn about
the floor; and dust and green mold lay thick over all.

At the far right-hand corner of the building a lean-to had been
erected to serve as the _sacristía_, or vestry. In the worm-eaten
wardrobe within hung a few vestments, adorned with cheap finery, and
heavily laden with dust, over which scampered vermin of many
varieties. An air of desolation and abandon hung over the whole
church, and to Josè seemed to symbolize the decay of a sterile faith.

Rosendo carefully dusted off a bench near one of the windows and bade
Josè be seated.

"_Padre_," he began, after some moments of deep reflection, "the
little Carmen is not an ordinary child."

"I have seen that, Rosendo," interposed Josè.

"We--we do not understand her," Rosendo went on, carefully weighing
his words; "and we sometimes think she is not--not altogether like
us--that her coming was a miracle. But you do not believe in
miracles," he added quizzically.

"Why do you say that, Rosendo?" Josè returned in surprise.

Rosendo paused before replying.

"You were very sick, Padre; and in the fever you--" the impeccably
honest fellow hesitated.

"Yes, I thought so," said Josè with an air of weary resignation. "And
what else did I say, Rosendo?"

The faultless courtesy of the artless Rosendo, a courtesy so genuine
that Josè knew it came right from the heart, made conversation on this
topic a matter of extreme difficulty to him.

"Do not be uneasy, Padre," he said reassuringly. "I alone heard you.
Whenever you began to talk I would not let others listen; and I stayed
with you every day and night. But--it is just because of what you said
in the _calentura_ that I am speaking to you now of the little
Carmen."

Because of what he had said in his delirium! Josè's astonishment grew
apace.

"Padre, many bad priests have been sent to Simití. It has been our
curse. Priests who stirred up revolution elsewhere, who committed
murder, and ruined the lives of fair women, have been put upon us. And
when in Badillo I learned that you had been sent to our parish, I was
filled with fear. I--I lost a daughter, Padre--"

The good man hesitated again. Then, as a look of stern resolution
spread over his strong, dark face, he continued:

"It was Padre Diego! We drove him out of Simití four years ago. But my
daughter, my only child, went with him." The great frame shook with
emotion, while he hurried on disconnectedly.

"Padre, the priest Diego said that the little Carmen should become a
Sister--a nun--that she must be sent to the convent in Mompox--that
she belonged to the Church, and the Church would some day have her.
But, by the Holy Virgin, the Church shall _not_ have her! And I myself
will slay her before this altar rather than let such as Padre Diego
lay their slimy paws upon the angel child!"

Rosendo leaped to his feet and began to pace the floor with great
strides. The marvelous frame of the man, in which beat a heart too big
for the sordid passions of the flesh, trembled as he walked. Josè
watched him in mute admiration, mingled with astonishment and a
heightened sense of expectancy. Presently Rosendo returned and seated
himself again beside the priest.

"Padre, I have lived in terror ever since Diego left Simití. For
myself I do not fear, for if ever I meet with the wretch I shall wring
his neck with my naked hands! But--for the little Carmen--_Dios!_ they
might steal her at any time! There are men here who would do it for a
few _pesos_! And how could I prevent it? I pray daily to the Virgin to
protect her. She--she is the light of my life. I watch over her
hourly. I neglect my _hacienda_, that I may guard her--and I am a poor
man, and cannot afford not to work."

The man buried his face in his huge hands and groaned aloud. Josè
remained pityingly silent, knowing that Rosendo's heaving heart must
empty itself.

"Padre," Rosendo at length raised his head. His features were drawn,
but his eyes glowed fiercely. "Priests have committed dark deeds here,
and this altar has dripped with blood. When a child, with my own eyes
I saw a priest elevate the Host before this altar, as the people knelt
in adoration. While their heads were bowed I saw him drive a knife
into the neck of a man who was his enemy; and the blood spurted over
the image of the Virgin and fell upon the Sacred Host itself! And
what did the wicked priest say in defense? Simply that he took this
time to assassinate his man because then the victim could die adoring
the Host and under the most favorable circumstances for salvation!
_Hombre!_ And did the priest pay the penalty for his crime? No! The
Bishop of Cartagena transferred him to another parish, and told him to
do better in future!"

Josè started in horror. But Rosendo did not stop.

"And I remember the story my father used to tell of the priest who
poisoned a whole family in Simití with the communion wafer. Their
estates had been willed to the Church, and he was impatient to have
the management of them. Again nothing was done about it."

"But, Rosendo, if Simití has been so afflicted by bad priests, why are
you confiding in me?" Josè asked in wonder.

"Because, Padre," Rosendo replied, "in the fever you said many things
that made me think you were not a bad man. I did suspect you at
first--but not after I heard you talk in your sleep. You, too, have
suffered. And the Church has caused it. No, not God; but the men who
say they know what He thinks and says. They make us all suffer. And
after I heard you tell those things in your fever-sleep, I said to
Maria that if you lived I knew you would help me protect the little
Carmen. Then, too, you are a--" He lapsed abruptly into silence.

Josè pressed Rosendo's hand. "Tell me about her. You have said she is
not your daughter. I ask only because of sincere affection for you
all, and because the child has aroused in me an unwonted interest."

Rosendo looked steadily into the eyes of the priest for some moments.
Josè as steadily returned the glance. From the eyes of the one there
emanated a soul-searching scrutiny; from those of the other an
answering bid for confidence. The bid was accepted.

"Padre," began Rosendo, "I place trust in you. Something makes me
believe that you are not like other priests I have known. And I have
seen that you already love the little Carmen. No, she is not my child.
One day, about eight years ago, a steamer on its way down the river
touched at Badillo to put off a young woman, who was so sick that the
captain feared she would die on board. He knew nothing of her, except
that she had embarked at Honda and was bound for Barranquilla. He
hoped that by leaving her in the care of the good people of Badillo
something might be done. The boat went its way; and the next morning
the woman died, shortly after her babe was born. They buried her back
of the village, and Escolastico's woman took the child. They tried to
learn the history of the mother; but, though the captain of the boat
made many inquiries, he could only find that she had come from Bogotá
the day before the boat left Honda, and that she was then very sick.
Some weeks afterward Escolastico happened to come to Simití, and told
me the story. He complained that his family was already large, and
that his woman found the care of the babe a burden. I love children,
Padre, and it seemed to me that I could find a place for the little
one, and I told him I would fetch her. And so a few days later I
brought her to Simití. But before leaving Badillo I fixed a wooden
cross over the mother's grave and wrote on it in pencil the name
'_Dolores_,' for that was the name in the little gold locket which we
found in her valise. There were some clothes, better than the average,
and the locket. In the locket were two small pictures, one of a young
man, with the name '_Guillermo_' written beneath it, and one of the
woman, with '_Dolores_' under it. That was all. Captain Julio took the
locket to Honda when he made inquiries there; but brought it back
again, saying that nobody recognized the faces. I named the babe
Carmen, and have brought her up as my own child. She--Padre, I adore
her!"

Josè listened in breathless silence.

"But we sometimes think," said Rosendo, resuming his dramatic
narrative, "that it was all a miracle, perhaps a dream; that it was
the angels who left the babe on the river bank, for she herself is not
of the earth."

"Tell me, Rosendo, just what you mean," said Josè reverently, laying
his hand gently upon the older man's arm.

Rosendo shook his head slowly. "Talk with her, Padre, and you will
see. I cannot explain. Only, she is not like us. She is like--"

His voice dropped to a whisper.

"--she is like--God. And she knows Him better than she knows me."

Josè's head slowly sank upon his breast. The gloom within the musty
church was thick; and the bats stirred restlessly among the dusty
rafters overhead. Outside, the relentless heat poured down upon the
deserted streets.

"Padre," Rosendo resumed. "In the _calentura_ you talked of wonderful
things. You spoke of kings and popes and foreign lands, of beautiful
cities and great marvels of which we know nothing. It was wonderful!
And you recited beautiful poems--but often in other tongues than ours.
Padre, you must be very learned. I listened, and was astonished, for
we are so ignorant here in Simití, oh, so ignorant! We have no
schools, and our poor little children grow up to be only _peones_ and
fishermen. But--the little Carmen--ah, she has a mind! Padre--"

Again he lapsed into silence, as if fearful to ask the boon.

"Yes, Rosendo, yes," Josè eagerly reassured him. "Go on."

Rosendo turned full upon the priest and spoke rapidly. "Padre, will
you teach the little Carmen what you know? Will you make her a strong,
learned woman, and fit her to do big things in the world--and
then--then--"

"Yes, Rosendo?"

"--then get her away from Simití? She does not belong here, Padre.
And--?" his voice sank to a hoarse whisper--"will you help me keep her
from the Church?"

Josè sat staring at the man with dilating eyes.

"Padre, she has her own Church. It is her heart."

He leaned over and laid a hand upon the priest's knee. His dark eyes
seemed to burn like glowing coals. His whispered words were fraught
with a meaning which Josè would some day learn.

"Padre, _that_ must be left alone!"

A long silence fell upon the two men, the one massive of frame and
black of face, but with a mind as simple as a child's and a heart as
white as the snow that sprinkled his raven locks--the other a
youth in years, but bowed with disappointment and suffering; yet now
listening with hushed breath to the words that rolled with a mighty
reverberation through the chambers of his soul:

"I am God, and there is none else! Behold, I come quickly! Arise,
shine, for thy light is come!"

The sweet face of the child rose out of the gloom before the priest.
The years rolled back like a curtain, and he saw himself at her tender
age, a white, unformed soul, awaiting the sculptor's hand. God forbid
that the hand which shaped his career should form the plastic mind of
this girl!

Of a sudden a great thought flashed out of the depths of eternity and
into his brain, a thought which seemed to illumine his whole past
life. In the clear light thereof he seemed instantly to read meanings
in numberless events which to that hour had remained hidden. His
complex, misshapen career--could it have been a preparation?--and for
this? He had yearned to serve his fellow-men, but had miserably
failed. For, while to will was always present with him, even as with
Paul, yet how to perform that which was good he found not. But
now--what an opportunity opened before him! What a beautiful offering
of self was here made possible? God, what a privilege!

Rosendo sat stolid, buried in thought. Josè reached out through the
dim light and grasped his black hand. His eyes were lucent, his heart
burned with the fire of an unknown enthusiasm, and speech stumbled
across his lips.

"Rosendo, I came to Simití to die. And now I know that I _shall_
die--to myself. But thereby shall I live. Yes, I shall live! And here
before this altar, in the sight of that God whom she knows so well, I
pledge my new-found life to Carmen. My mind, my thought, my strength,
are henceforth hers. May her God direct me in their right use for His
beautiful child!"

Josè and Rosendo rose from the bench with hands still clasped. In that
hour the priest was born again.



CHAPTER 4


"He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."

The reporters of the unique Man of Galilee, upon whose straining ears
these words fell, noted them for future generations of footsore
pilgrims on life's wandering highway--for the rich, satiated with
their gorgeous gluttonies; for the proud Levite, with his feet
enmeshed in the lifeless letter of the Law; for the loathsome and
outcast beggar at the gates of Dives. And for Josè de Rincón, priest
of the Holy Catholic Church and vicar of Christ, scion of aristocracy
and worldly learning, now humbled and blinded, like Paul on the road
to Damascus, begging that his spiritual sight might be opened to the
glory of the One with whom he had not known how to walk.

Returning in silence from the church to Rosendo's humble cottage, Josè
had asked leave to retire. He would be alone with the great Presence
which had come to him across the desert of his life, and now stood
before him in the brightness of the undimmed sun. He no longer felt
ill nor exhausted. Indeed, quite the contrary; a quickened sense of
life, an eagerness to embrace the opportunity opening before him,
caused his chest to heave and his shrunken veins to throb.

On his bed in the darkened room he lay in a deep silence, broken only
at intervals by the hurried scampering of lizards darting through the
interstices of the dry walls. His uncomprehending eyes were fixed upon
the dust-laden thatch of the roof overhead, where droning wasps toiled
upon their frail abodes. He lay with the portals of his mind opened
wide. Through them, in ceaseless flow, passed two streams which did
not mingle. The one, outward bound, turbid with its burden of egoism,
fear, perplexity, and hopelessness, which, like barnacles, had
fastened to his soul on its chartless voyage; the other, a stream of
hope and confidence and definite purpose, a stream which leaped and
sang in the warm sunlight of Love as it poured into his receptive
brain.

The fresh thought which flowed into his mental chambers rapidly formed
into orderly plans, all centering upon the child, Carmen. What could
he teach her? The relative truths and worldly knowledge--purified,
as far as in him lay, from the dross of speculation and human
opinion--which lay stored in the archives of his mind? Yes; but that
was all. History, and its interpretation of human progress; the
languages; mathematics, and the elements of the physical sciences;
literature; and a knowledge of people and places. With these his
retentive mind was replete. But beyond this he must learn of her.
And her tutor, he now knew, was the Master Mind, omniscient God.
And he knew, more, that she possessed secrets whose potency he might
as yet scarcely imagine. For, in an environment which for dearth of
mental stimulus and incentive could scarcely be matched; amid
poverty but slightly raised above actual want; untouched by the
temperamental hopelessness which lies just beneath the surface of
these dull, simple folk, this child lived a life of such ecstasy as
might well excite the envy of the world's potentates.

But meantime, what should be his attitude toward the parish? He fully
realized that he and the Church were now as far apart as the poles.
Yet this was become his parish, the first he had ever held; and these
were his people. And he must face them and preach--what? If not the
Catholic faith, then would he be speedily removed. And that meant
complete disruption of his rapidly formulating plans. But might he not
in that event flee with Carmen, renounce the Church, and--

Impossible! Excommunication alone could sever the oath by which the
Church held him. And for that he could not say that he was ready. For
excommunication meant disgrace to his mother--perhaps the snapping of
a heart already sorely strained. To renounce his oath was dishonor. To
preach the Catholic faith without sincerity was scarcely less. Yet
amid present circumstances this seemed the only course open to him.

But what must he teach Carmen in regard to the Church? Could he
maintain his position in it, yet not of it; and at the same time rear
her without its pale, yet so as not to conflict with the people of
Simití, nor cause such comment as might reach the ears of the Bishop
of Cartagena? God alone knew. It must be attempted, at any rate. There
was no other way. And if it was God's plan, he might safely trust Him
for the requisite strength and wisdom. For this course the isolation
of Simití and the childish simplicity of its people afforded a
tremendous advantage. On the other hand, he knew that both he and
Carmen had powerful enemies. Yet, one with God might rout a host. And
Carmen walked with God.

Thus throughout the afternoon the priest weighed and pondered the
thoughts that sought admission to his reawakened mind. He was not
interrupted until sundown; and then Carmen entered the room with a
bowl of chocolate and some small wheaten loaves. Behind her, with an
amusing show of dignity, stalked a large heron, an elegant bird, with
long, scarlet legs, gray plumage, and a gracefully curved neck. When
the bird reached the threshold it stopped, and without warning gave
vent to a prolonged series of shrill, unmusical sounds. The startled
priest sat up in his bed and exclaimed in amazement.

"It is only Cantar-las-horas, Padre," laughed the little maid. "He
follows me wherever I go, unless he is off fishing. Sometimes when I
go out in the boat with padre Rosendo he flies clear across the lake
to meet us. He is lots older than I, and years ago, when there were
_Curas_ here, he learned his song. Whenever the _Angelas_ rang he
would try to sing just like it; and now he has the habit and can't
help it. But he is such a dear, wise old fellow," twining a chubby arm
lovingly about the bird's slender neck; "and he always sings just at
six o'clock, the time the _Angelas_ used to ring."

The heron manifested the deepest affection for the child as she gently
stroked its plumage and caressed its long, pointed bill.

"But how do you suppose he knows when it is just six o'clock,
_chiquita_?" asked Josè, deeply interested in the strange phenomenon.

"God tells him, Padre," was the direct and simple reply.

Assuredly, he should have known that! But he was fast learning of this
unusual child, whose every movement was a demonstration of Immanuel.

"Does God tell you what to do, Carmen?" he asked, seeking to draw out
the girl's strange thought, that he might probe deeper into her
religious convictions.

"Why, yes, Padre." Her tone expressed surprise. "Doesn't He tell you,
too?" Her great eyes searched him. He was a _Cura_; he should be very
close to God.

"Yes, _chiquita_--that is, He has told me to-day what to do."

There was a shade of disappointment in her voice when she replied: "I
guess you mean you listened to Him to-day, don't you, Padre? I think
sometimes you don't want to hear Him. But," she finished with a little
sigh, "there are lots of people here who don't; and that is why they
are sick and unhappy."

Josè was learning another lesson, that of guarding his speech to this
ingenuous girl. He discreetly changed the subject.

"What have you been doing this afternoon, little one?"

Her eyes instantly brightened, and the dark shade that had crossed her
face disappeared.

"Well, after the _siesta_ I helped madre Maria clean the yuccas for
supper; and then I did my writing lesson. Padre Rosendo told me to-day
that I could write better than he. But, Padre, will you teach madre
Maria to read and write? And there are just lots of poor people here
who can't, too. There is a school teacher in Simití, but he charges a
whole _peso oro_ a month for teaching; and the people haven't the
money, and so they can't learn."

Always the child shifted his thought from herself to others. Again she
showed him that the road to happiness wound among the needs of his
fellow-men. The priest mentally recorded the instruction; and the girl
continued:

"Padre Rosendo told madre Maria that you said you had come to Simití
to die. You were not thinking of us then, were you, Padre? People who
think only of themselves always want to die. That was why Don Luis
died last year. He had lots of gold, and he always wanted more, and he
was cruel and selfish, and he couldn't talk about anything but himself
and how rich he was--and so he died. He didn't really die; but he
thought about himself until he thought he died. And so they buried
him. That's what always happens to people who think about themselves
all the time--they get buried."

Josè was glad of the silence that fell upon them. Wrapped so long in
his own egoism, he had now no worldly wisdom with which to match this
girl's sapient words. He waited. He felt that Carmen was but the
channel through which a great Voice was speaking.

"Padre," the tones were tender and soft, "you don't always think of
good things, do you?"

"I? Why, no, little girl. I guess I haven't done so. That is, not
always. But--"

"Because if you had you wouldn't have been driven into the lake that
day. And you wouldn't be here now in Simití."

"But, child, even a _Cura_ cannot always think of good things, when he
sees so much wickedness in the world!"

"But, Padre, God is good, isn't He?"

"Yes, child." The necessity to answer could not be avoided.

"And He is everywhere?"

"Yes." He had to say it.

"Then where is the wickedness, Padre?"

"Why--but, _chiquita_, you don't understand; you are too young to
reason about such things; and--"

In his heart Josè knew he spoke not the truth. He felt the great
brown eyes of the girl penetrate his naked soul; and he knew that in
the dark recesses of the inner man they fell upon the grinning
skeleton of hypocrisy. Carmen might be, doubtless was, incapable of
reasoning. Of logical processes she knew nothing. But by what crass
assumption might he, admittedly woefully defeated in his combat with
Fate, oppose his feeble shafts of worldly logic to this child's
instinct, an instinct of whose inerrancy her daily walk was a living
demonstration? In quick penitence and humility he stretched out his
arm and drew her unresisting to him.

"Dear little child of God," he murmured, as he bent over her and
touched his lips to her rich brown curls, "I have tried my life long
to learn what you already know. And at last I have been led to you--to
you, little one, who shall be a lamp unto my feet. Dearest child, I
want to know your God as you know Him. I want you to lead me to Him,
for you know where He is."

"He is _everywhere_, Padre dear," whispered the child, as she
nestled close to the priest and stole her soft arms gently about his
neck. "But we don't see Him nor hear Him if we have bad thoughts, and
if we don't love everybody and everything, even Cucumbra, and
Cantar-las-horas, and--"

"Yes, _chiquita_, I know now," interrupted Josè. "I don't wonder they
all love you."

"But, Padre dear, I love them--and I love you."

The priest strained her to him. His famished heart yearned for love.
Love! first of the tender graces which adorned this beautiful child.
Verily, only those imbued with it become the real teachers of men. The
beloved disciple's last instruction to his dear children was the
tender admonition to love one another. But why, oh, why are we bidden
to love the fallen, sordid outcasts of this wicked world--the
wretched, sinning pariahs--the greedy, grasping, self-centered mass of
humanity that surges about us in such woeful confusion of good and
evil? Because the wise Master did. Because he said that God was Love.
Because he taught that he who loves not, knows not God. And because,
oh, wonderful spiritual alchemy! because Love is the magical potion
which, dropping like heavenly dew upon sinful humanity, dissolves the
vice, the sorrow, the carnal passions, and transmutes the brutish
mortal into the image and likeness of the perfect God.

Far into the night, while the child slept peacefully in the bed near
him, Josè lay thinking of her and of the sharp turn which she had
given to the direction of his life. Through the warm night air the
hoarse croaking of distant frogs and the mournful note of the toucan
floated to his ears. In the street without he heard at intervals the
pattering of bare feet in the hot, thick dust, as tardy fishermen
returned from their labors. The hum of insects about his _toldo_
lulled him with its low monotone. The call of a lonely jaguar drifted
across the still lake from the brooding jungle beyond. A great peace
lay over the ancient town; and when, in the early hours of morning, as
the distorted moon hung low in the western sky, Josè awoke, the soft
breathing of the child fell upon his ears like a benediction; and deep
from his heart there welled a prayer--

"My God--_her_ God--at last I thank Thee!"



CHAPTER 5


The day following was filled to the brim with bustling activity. Josè
plunged into his new life with an enthusiasm he had never known
before. His first care was to relieve Rosendo and his good wife of the
burden of housing him. Rosendo, protesting against the intimation that
the priest could in any way inconvenience him, at last suggested that
the house adjoining his own, a small, three-room cottage, was vacant,
and might be had at a nominal rental. Some repairs were needed; the
mud had fallen from the walls in several places; but he would plaster
it up again and put it into habitable condition at once.

During the discussion Don Mario, the Alcalde, called to pay his
respects to Josè. He had just returned from a week's visit to Ocaña,
whither he had gone on matters of business with Simití's most eminent
citizen, Don Felipe Alcozer, who was at present sojourning there for
reasons of health. Learning of the priest's recent severe illness, Don
Mario had hastened at once to pay his _devoirs_. And now the Holy
Virgin be praised that he beheld the _Cura_ again fully restored! Yes,
the dismal little house in question belonged to him, but would the
_Cura_ graciously accept it, rent free, and with his most sincere
compliments? Josè glanced at Rosendo and, reading a meaning in the
slight shake of his head, replied that, although overwhelmed by the
Alcalde's kindness, he could take the cottage only on the condition
that it should become the parish house, which the Church must support.
A shade of disappointment seemed to cross the heavy face of Don Mario,
but he graciously acquiesced in the priest's suggestion; and
arrangements were at once concluded whereby the house became the
dwelling place of the new _Cura_.

Rosendo thereupon sent out a call for assistants, to which the entire
unemployed male population of the town responded. Mud for the walls
was hastily brought from the lake, and mixed with manure and dried
grass. A half dozen young men started for the islands to cut fresh
thatch for the roof. Others set about scraping the hard dirt floors;
while Don Mario gave orders which secured a table, several rough
chairs, together with iron stewpans and a variety of enameled metal
dishes, all of which Rosendo insisted should be charged against the
parish. The village carpenter, with his rusty tools and rough,
undressed lumber, constructed a bed in one of the rooms; and Juan, the
boatman, laboriously sought out stones of the proper shape and size to
support the cooking utensils in the primitive dirt hearth.

Often, as he watched the progress of these arrangements, Josè's
thoughts reverted longingly to his father's comfortable house in
far-off Seville; to his former simple quarters in Rome; and to the
less pretentious, but still wholly sufficient _ménage_ of Cartagena.
Compared with this primitive dwelling and the simple husbandry which
it would shelter, his former abodes and manner of life had been
extravagantly luxurious. At times he felt a sudden sinking of heart as
he reflected that perhaps he should never again know anything better
than the lowly life of this dead town. But when his gaze rested upon
the little Carmen, flying hither and yon with an ardent, anticipatory
interest in every detail of the preparations, and when he realized
that, though her feet seemed to rest in the squalid setting afforded
by this dreary place, yet her thought dwelt ever in heaven, his heart
welled again with a great thankfulness for the inestimable privilege
of giving his new life, in whatever environment, to a soul so fair as
hers.

While his house was being set in order under the direction of Rosendo,
Josè visited the church with the Alcalde to formulate plans for its
immediate repair and renovation. As he surveyed the ancient pile and
reflected that it stood as a monument to the inflexible religious
convictions of his own distant progenitors, the priest's sensibilities
were profoundly stirred. How little he knew of that long line of
illustrious ancestry which preceded him! He had been thrust from under
the parental wing at the tender age of twelve; but he could not recall
that even before that event his father had ever made more than casual
mention of the family. Indeed, in the few months since arriving on
ancestral soil Josè had gathered up more of the threads which bound
him to the ancient house of Rincón than in all the years which
preceded. Had he himself only been capable of the unquestioning
acceptance of religious dogma which those old _Conqueros_ and early
forbears exhibited, to what position of eminence in Holy Church might
he not already have attained, with every avenue open to still greater
preferment! How happy were his dear mother then! How glorious their
honored name!--

With a sigh the priest roused himself and strove to thrust these
disturbing thoughts from his mind by centering his attention upon the
work in hand. Doña Maria came to him for permission to take the moldy
vestments from the _sacristía_ to her house to clean them. The
Alcalde, bustling about, panting and perspiring, was distributing
countless orders among his willing assistants. Carmen, who throughout
the morning had been everywhere, bubbling with enthusiasm, now
appeared at the church door. As she entered the musty, ill-smelling
old building she hesitated on the threshold, her childish face screwed
into an expression of disgust.

"Come in, little one; I need your inspiration," called Josè cheerily.

The child approached, and slipped her hand into his. "Padre Rosendo
says this is God's house," she commented, looking up at Josè. "He says
you are going to talk about God here--in this dirty, smelly old place!
Why don't you talk about Him out of doors?"

Josè was becoming innured to the embarrassment which her direct
questions occasioned. And he was learning not to dissemble in his
replies.

"It is because the people want to come here, dear one; it is their
custom."

Would the people believe that the wafer and wine could be changed into
the flesh and blood of Jesus elsewhere--even in Nature's temple?

"But _I_ don't want to come here!" she asseverated.

"That was a naughty thing to say to the good _Cura_, child!"
interposed Don Mario, who had overheard the girl's remark. "You see,
Padre, how we need a _Cura_ here to save these children; otherwise the
Church is going to lose them. They are running pretty wild, and
especially this one. She is already dedicated to the Church; but she
will have to learn to speak more reverently of holy things if she
expects to become a good Sister."

The child looked uncomprehendingly from, one to the other.

"Who dedicated her to the Church?" demanded Josè sharply.

"Oh, Padre Diego, at her baptism, when she was a baby," replied Don
Mario in a matter of fact tone.

Josè shuddered at the thought of that unholy man's loathsome hands
resting upon the innocent girl. But he made no immediate reply. Of
all things, he knew that the guarding of his own tongue was now most
important. But his thought was busy with Rosendo's burning words of
the preceding day, and with his own solemn vow. He reflected on his
present paradoxical, hazardous position; on the tremendous problem
which here confronted him; and on his desperate need of wisdom--yea,
superhuman wisdom--to ward off from this child the net which he knew
the subtlety and cruel cunning of shrewd, unscrupulous men would some
day cause to be cast about her. A soul like hers, mirrored in a body
so wondrous fair, must eventually draw the devil's most envenomed
barbs.

To Josè's great relief Don Mario turned immediately from the present
topic to one relating to the work of renovation. Finding a pretext for
sending Carmen back to the house, the priest gave his attention
unreservedly to the Alcalde. But his mind ceased not to revolve the
implications in Don Mario's words relative to the girl; and when the
midday _siesta_ came upon him his brow was knotted and his eyes gazed
vacantly at the manifestations of activity about him.

Hurrying across the road to escape the scalding heat, Josè's ears
again caught the sound of singing, issuing evidently from Rosendo's
house. It was very like the clear, sweet voice which had floated into
his room the morning after he awoke from his delirium. He approached
the door reverently and looked in. Carmen was arranging the few poor
dishes upon the rough table, and as she worked, her soul flowed across
her lips in song.

The man listened astonished. The words and the simple melody which
carried them were evidently an improvisation. But the voice--did that
issue from a human throat? Yes, for in distant Spain and far-off Rome,
in great cathedrals and concert halls, he had sometimes listened
entranced to voices like this--stronger, and delicately trained, but
reared upon even less of primitive talent.

The girl caught sight of him; and the song died on the warm air.

The priest strode toward her and clasped her in his arms. "Carmen,
child! Who taught you to sing like that?"

The girl smiled up in his face. "God, Padre."

Of course! He should have known. And in future he need never ask.

"And I suppose He tells you when to sing, too, as He does
Cantar-las-horas?" said Josè, smiling in amusement.

"No, Padre," was the unaffected answer. "He just sings Himself in
me."

The man felt rebuked for his light remark; and a lump rose in his
throat. He looked again into her fair face with a deep yearning.

Oh, ye of little faith! Did you but know--could you but realize--that
the kingdom of heaven is within you, would not celestial melody flow
from your lips, too?

Throughout the afternoon, while he labored with his willing helpers in
the church building and his homely cottage, the child's song lingered
in his brain, like the memory of a sweet perfume. His eyes followed
her lithe, graceful form as she flitted about, and his mind was busy
devising pretexts for keeping her near him. At times she would steal
up close to him and put her little hand lovingly and confidingly into
his own. Then as he looked down into her upturned face, wreathed with
smiles of happiness, his breath would catch, and he would turn
hurriedly away, that she might not see the tears which suffused his
eyes.

When night crept down, unheralded, from the _Sierras_, the priest's
house stood ready for its occupant. Cantar-las-horas had dedicated it
by singing the _Angelus_ at the front door, for the hour of six had
overtaken him as he stood, with cocked head, peering curiously within.
The dwelling, though pitifully bare, was nevertheless as clean as
these humble folk with the primitive means at their command could
render it. Instead of the customary hard _macana_ palm strips for the
bed, Rosendo had thoughtfully substituted a large piece of tough white
canvas, fastened to a rectangular frame, which rested on posts well
above the damp floor. On this lay a white sheet and a light blanket of
red flannel. Rosendo had insisted that, for the present, Josè should
take his meals with him. The priest's domestic arrangements,
therefore, would be simple in the extreme; and Doña Maria quietly
announced that these were in her charge. The church edifice would not
be in order for some days yet, perhaps a week. But of this Josè was
secretly glad, for he regarded with dread the necessity of discharging
the priestly functions. And yet, upon that hinged his stay in Simití.

"Simití has two churches, you know, Padre," remarked Rosendo during
the evening meal. "There is another old one near the eastern edge of
town. If you wish, we can visit it while there is yet light."

Josè expressed his pleasure; and a few minutes later the two men, with
Carmen dancing along happily beside them, were climbing the shaly
eminence upon the summit of which stood the second church. On the way
they passed the town cemetery.

"The Spanish cemetery never grows," commented Josè, stopping at the
crumbling gateway and peering in. The place of sepulture was the
epitome of utter desolation. A tumbled brick wall surrounded it, and
there were a few broken brick vaults, in some of which whitening bones
were visible. In a far corner was a heap of human bones and bits of
decayed coffins.

"Their rent fell due, Padre," said Rosendo with a little laugh,
indicating the bones. "The Church rents this ground to the people--it
is consecrated, you know. And if the payments are not made, why, the
bones come up and are thrown over there."

"Humph!" grunted Josè. "Worse than heathenish!"

"But you see, Padre, the Church is only concerned with souls. And it
is better to pay the money to get souls out of purgatory than to rent
a bit of ground for the body, is it not?"

Josè wisely vouchsafed no answer.

"Come, Padre," continued Rosendo. "I would not want to have to spend
the night here. For, you know, if a man spends a night in a cemetery
an evil spirit settles upon him--is it not so?"

Josè still kept silence before the old man's inbred superstition. A
few minutes later they stood before the old church. It was in the
Spanish mission style, but smaller than the one in the central
_plaza_.

"This was built in the time of your great-grandfather, Padre, the
father of Don Ignacio," offered Rosendo. "The Rincón family had many
powerful enemies throughout the country, and those in Simití even
carried their ill feeling so far as to refuse to hear Mass in the
church which your family built. So they erected this one. No one ever
enters it now. Strange noises are sometimes heard inside, and the
people are afraid to go in. You see there are no houses built near it.
They say an angel of the devil lives here and thrashes around at times
in terrible anger. There is a story that many years ago, when I was
but a baby, the devil's angel came and entered this church one dark
night, when there was a terrible storm and the waves of the lake were
so strong that they tossed the crocodiles far up on the shore. And
when the bad angel saw the candles burning on the altar before the
sacred wafer he roared in anger and blew them out. But there was a
beautiful painting of the Virgin on the wall, and when the lights went
out she came down out of her picture and lighted the candles again.
But the devil's angel blew them out once more. And then, they say, the
Holy Virgin left the church in darkness and went out and locked the
wicked angel in, where he has been ever since. That was to show her
displeasure against the enemies of the great Rincóns for erecting this
church. The _Cura_ died suddenly that night; and the church has never
been used since The Virgin, you know, is the special guardian Saint of
the Rincón family."

"But you do not believe the story, Rosendo?" Josè asked.

"_Quien sabe?_" was the noncommittal reply.

"Do you really think the Virgin could or would do such a thing,
Rosendo?"

"Why not, Padre? She has the same power as God, has she not? The frame
which held her picture"--reverting again to the story--"was found out
in front of the church the next morning; but the picture itself was
gone."

Josè glanced down at Carmen, who had been listening with a tense, rapt
expression on her face. What impression did this strange story make
upon her? She looked up at the priest with a little laugh.

"Let us go in, Padre," she said.

"No!" commanded Rosendo, seizing her hand.

"Are you afraid, Rosendo?" queried the amused Josè.

"I--I would--rather not," the old man replied hesitatingly. "The
Virgin has sealed it." Physical danger was temperamental to this noble
son of the jungle; yet the religious superstition which Spain had
bequeathed to this oppressed land still shackled his limbs.

As they descended the hill Carmen seized an opportunity to speak to
Josè alone. "Some day, Padre," she whispered, "you and I will open the
door and let the bad angel out, won't we?"

Josè pressed her little hand. He knew that the door of his own mind
had swung wide at her bidding in these few days, and many a bad angel
had gone out forever.



CHAPTER 6


The dawn of a new day broke white and glistering upon the ancient
_pueblo_. From their hard beds of palm, and their straw mats on the
dirt floors, the provincial dwellers in this abandoned treasure house
of Old Spain rose already dressed to resume the monotonous routine of
their lowly life. The duties which confronted them were few, scarce
extending beyond the procurement of their simple food. And for all,
excepting the two or three families which constituted the shabby
aristocracy of Simití, this was limited in the extreme. Indian corn,
_panela_, and coffee, with an occasional addition of _platanos_ or
rice, and now and then bits of _bagre_, the coarse fish yielded by the
adjacent lake, constituted the staple diet of the average citizen of
this decayed hamlet. A few might purchase a bit of lard at rare
intervals; and this they hoarded like precious jewels. Some
occasionally had wheat flour; but the long, difficult transportation,
and its rapid deterioration in that hot, moist climate, where swarms
of voracious insects burrow into everything not cased in tin or iron,
made its cost all but prohibitive. A few had goats and chickens. Some
possessed pigs. And the latter even exceeded in value the black, naked
babes that played in the hot dust of the streets with them.

Josè was up at dawn. Standing in the warm, unadulterated sunlight in
his doorway he watched the village awaken. At a door across the
_plaza_ a woman appeared, smoking a cigar, with the lighted end in her
mouth. Josè viewed with astonishment this curious custom which
prevails in the _Tierra Caliente_. He had observed that in Simití
nearly everybody of both sexes was addicted to the use of tobacco, and
it was no uncommon sight to see children of tender age smoking heavy,
black cigars with keen enjoyment. From another door issued two
fishermen, who, seeing the priest, approached and asked his blessing
on their day's work. Some moments later he heard a loud tattoo, and
soon the Alcalde of the village appeared, marching pompously through
the streets, preceded by his tall, black secretary, who was beating
lustily upon a small drum. At each street intersection the little
procession halted, while the Alcalde with great impressiveness
sonorously read a proclamation just received from the central
Government at Bogotá to the effect that thereafter no cattle might be
killed in the country without the payment of a tax as therein set
forth. Groups of _peones_ gathered slowly about the few little stores
in the main street, or entered and inspected for the thousandth time
the shabby stocks. Matrons with black, shining faces cheerily greeted
one another from their doorways. Everywhere prevailed a gentle decorum
of speech and manners. For, however lowly the station, however pinched
the environment, the dwellers in this ancient town were ever gentle,
courteous and dignified. Their conversation dealt with the simple
affairs of their quiet life. They knew nothing of the complex
problems, social, economic, or religious, which harassed their
brethren of the North. No dubious aspirations or ambitions stirred
their breasts. Nothing of the frenzied greed and lust of material
accumulation touched their child-like minds. They dwelt upon a plane
far, far removed, in whatever direction, from the mental state of
their educated and civilized brothers of the great States, who from
time to time undertake to advise them how to live, while ruthlessly
exploiting them for material gain. And thus they have been exploited
ever since the heavy hand of the Spaniard was laid upon them, four
centuries ago. Thus they will continue to be, until that distant day
when mankind shall have learned to find their own in another's good.

As his eyes swept his environment, the untutored folk, the old church,
the dismally decrepit mud houses, with an air of desolation and utter
abandon brooding over all; and as he reflected that his own complex
nature, rather than any special malice of fortune, had brought this to
him, Josè's heart began to sink under the sting of a condemning
conscience. He turned back into his house. Its pitiful emptiness smote
him sore. No books, no pictures, no furnishings, nothing that
ministers to the comfort of a civilized and educated man! And yet,
amid this barrenness he had resolved to live.

A song drifted to him through the pulsing heat of the morning air. It
sifted through the mud walls of his poor dwelling, and poured into the
open doorway, where it hovered, quivering, like the dust motes in the
sunbeams. Instantly the man righted himself. It was Carmen, the child
to whom his life now belonged. Resolutely he again set his wandering
mind toward the great thing he would accomplish--the protection and
training of this girl, even while, if might be, he found his life
again in hers. Nothing on earth should shake him from that purpose!
Doubt and uncertainty were powerless to dull the edge of his efforts.
His bridges were burned behind him; and on the other side of the great
gulf lay the dead self which he had abandoned forever.

A harsh medley of loud, angry growls, interspersed with shrill yelps,
suddenly arose before his house, and Josè hastened to the door just in
time to see Carmen rush into the street and fearlessly throw herself
upon two fighting dogs.

"Cucumbra! Stop it instantly!" she exclaimed, dragging the angry brute
from a thoroughly frightened puppy.

"Shame! shame! And after all I've talked to you about loving that
puppy!"

The gaunt animal slunk down, with its tail between its legs.

"Did you ever gain anything at all by fighting? You know you never
did! And right down in your heart you know you love that puppy. You've
_got_ to love him; you can't help it! And you might as well begin
right now."

The beast whimpered at her little bare feet.

"Cucumbra, you let bad thoughts use you, didn't you? Yes, you did; and
you're sorry for it now. Well, there's the puppy," pointing to the
little dog, which stood hesitant some yards away. "Now go and play
with him," she urged. "Play with him!" rousing the larger dog and
pointing toward the puppy. "Play with him! You _know_ you love him!"

Cucumbra hesitated, looking alternately at the small, resolute girl
and the smaller dog. Her arm remained rigidly extended, and
determination was written large in her set features. The puppy uttered
a sharp bark, as if in forgiveness, and began to scamper playfully
about. Cucumbra threw a final glance at the girl.

"Play with him!" she again commanded.

The large dog bounded after the puppy, and together they disappeared
around the street corner.

The child turned and saw Josè, who had regarded the scene in mute
astonishment.

"_Muy buenos dias, Señor Padre_," dropping a little courtesy. "But
isn't Cucumbra foolish to have bad thoughts?"

"Why, yes--he certainly is," replied Josè slowly, hard pressed by the
unusual question.

"He has just _got_ to love that puppy, or else he will never be happy,
will he, Padre?"

Why would this girl persist in ending her statements with an
interrogation! How could he know whether Cucumbra's happiness would be
imperfect if he failed in love toward the puppy?

"Because, you know, Padre," the child continued, coming up to him and
slipping her hand into his, "padre Rosendo once told me that God was
Love; and after that I knew we just had to love everything and
everybody, or else He can't see us--can He, Padre?"

He can't see us--if we don't love everything and everybody! Well! Josè
wondered what sort of interpretation the Vatican, with its fiery
hatred of heretics, would put upon this remark.

"Can He, Padre?" insisted the girl.

"Dear child, in these matters you are teaching me; not I you," replied
the noncommittal priest.

"But, Padre, you are going to teach the people in the church," the
girl ventured quizzically.

Ah, so he was! And he had wondered what. In his hour of need the
answer was vouchsafed him.

"Yes, dearest child--and I am going to teach them what I learn from
_you_."

Carmen regarded him for a moment uncertainly. "But, padre Rosendo says
you are to teach _me_," she averred.

"And so I am, little one," the priest replied; "but not one half as
much as I shall learn from you."

Doña Maria's summons to breakfast interrupted the conversation.
Throughout the repast Josè felt himself subjected to the closest
scrutiny by Carmen. What was running through her thought, he could
only vaguely surmise. But he instinctively felt that he was being
weighed and appraised by this strange child, and that she was finding
him wanting in her estimate of what manner of man a priest of God
ought to be. And yet he knew that she embraced him in her great love.
Oftentimes his quick glance at her would find her serious gaze bent
upon him. But whenever their eyes met, her sweet face would instantly
relax and glow with a smile of tenderest love--a love which, he felt,
was somehow, in some way, destined to reconstruct his shattered life.

Josè's plans for educating the girl had gradually evolved into
completion during the past two days. He explained them at length to
Rosendo after the morning meal; and the latter, with dilating eyes,
manifested his great joy by clasping the priest in his brawny arms.

"But remember, Rosendo," Josè said, "learning is not _knowing_. I can
only teach her book-knowledge. But even now, an untutored child, she
knows more that is real than I do."

"Ah, Padre, have I not told you many times that she is not like us?
And now you know it!" exclaimed the emotional Rosendo, his eyes
suffused with tears of joy as he beheld his cherished ideals and his
longing of years at last at the point of realization. What he, too,
had instinctively seen in the child was now to be summoned forth; and
the vague, half-understood motive which had impelled him to take the
abandoned babe from Badillo into the shelter of his own great heart
would at length be revealed. The man's joy was ecstatic. With a final
clasp of the priest's hand, he rushed from the house to plunge into
the work in progress at the church.

Josè summoned Carmen into the quiet of his own dwelling. She came
joyfully, bringing an ancient and obsolete arithmetic and a much
tattered book, which Josè discovered to be a chronicle of the heroic
deeds of the early _Conquistadores_.

"I'm through decimals!" she exclaimed with glistening eyes; "and I've
read some of this, but I don't like it," making a little _moue_ of
disgust and holding aloft the battered history.

"Padre Rosendo told me to show it to you," she continued. "But it is
all about murder, you know. And yet," with a little sigh, "he has
nothing else to read, excepting old newspapers which the steamers
sometimes leave at Bodega Central. And they are all about murder, and
stealing, and bad things, too. Padre, why don't people write about
good things?"

Josè gazed at her reverently, as of old the sculptor Phidias might
have stood in awe before the vision which he saw in the unchiseled
marble.

"Padre Rosendo helped me with the fractions," went on the girl,
flitting lightly to another topic; "but I had to learn the decimals
myself. He couldn't understand them. And they are so easy, aren't
they? I just love arithmetic!" hugging the old book to her little
bosom.

Both volumes, printed in Madrid, were reliques of Spanish colonial
days.

"Read to me, Carmen," said Josè, handing her the history.

The child took the book and began to read, with clear enunciation, the
narrative of Quesada's sanguinary expedition to Bogotá, undertaken in
the name of the gentle Christ. Josè wondered as he listened what
interpretation this fresh young mind would put upon the motives of
that renowned exploit. Suddenly she snapped the book shut.

"Tell me about Jesus," she demanded.

The precipitation with which the question had been propounded almost
took his breath away. He raised his eyes to hers, and looked long and
wonderingly into their infinite depths. And then the vastness of the
problem enunciated by her demand loomed before him. What, after all,
did he know about Jesus? Had he not arrived in Simití in a state of
agnosticism regarding religion? Had he not come there enveloped in
confusion, baffled, beaten, hopeless? And then, after his wonderful
talk with Rosendo, had he not agreed with him that the child's thought
must be kept free and open--that her own instinctive religious ideas
must be allowed to develop normally, unhampered and unfettered by the
external warp and bias of human speculation? It was part of his plan
that all reference to matters theological should be omitted from
Carmen's educational scheme. Yet here was that name on her lips--the
first time he had ever heard it voiced by her. And it smote him like a
hammer. He made haste to divert further inquiry.

"Not now, little one," he said hastily. "I want to hear you read more
from your book."

"No," she replied firmly, laying the volume upon the table. "I don't
like it; and I shouldn't think you would, either. Besides, it isn't
true; it never really happened."

"Why, of course it is true, child! It is history, the story of how the
brave Spaniards came into this country long ago. We will read a great
deal more about them later."

"No," with a decisive shake of her brown head; "not if it is like
this. It isn't true; I told padre Rosendo it wasn't."

"Well, what do you mean, child?" asked the uncomprehending priest.

"It is only a lot of bad thoughts printed in a book," she replied
slowly. "And it isn't true, because God is _everywhere_."

Clearly the man was encountering difficulties at the outset; and a
part, at least, of his well-ordered curriculum stood in grave danger
of repudiation at the hands of this earnest little maid.

The girl stood looking at him wistfully. Then her sober little face
melted in smiles. With childish impulsiveness she clambered into his
lap, and twining her arms about his neck, impressed a kiss upon his
cheek.

"I love you, Padre," she murmured; "and you love me, don't you?"

He pressed her to him, startled though he was. "God knows I do, little
one!" he exclaimed.

"Of course He does," she eagerly agreed; "and He knows you don't want
to teach me anything that isn't true, doesn't He, Padre dear?"

Yea, and more; for Josè was realizing now, what he had not seen
before, that _it was beyond his power to teach her that which was not
true_. The magnitude and sacredness of his task impressed him as never
before. His puzzled brain grappled feebly with the enormous problem.
She had rebuked him for trying to teach her things which, if he
accepted the immanence of God as fact, her logic had shown him were
utterly false. Clearly the grooves in which this child's pure thought
ran were not his own. And if she would not think as he did, what
recourse was there left him but to accept the alternative and think
with her? For he would not, even if he could, force upon her his own
thought-processes.

"Then, Carmen," he finally ventured, "you do not wish to learn about
people and what they have done and are doing in the big world about
you?"

"Oh, yes, Padre; tell me all about the good things they did!"

"But they did many wicked things too, _chiquita_. And the good and the
bad are all mixed up together."

"No," she shook her head vigorously; "there isn't any bad. There is
only good, for God is everywhere--isn't He?"

She raised up and looked squarely into the priest's eyes. Dissimulation,
hypocrisy, quibble, cant--nothing but fearless truth could meet that
gaze.

Suddenly a light broke in upon his clouded thought. This girl--this
tender plant of God--why, she had shown it from the very beginning!
And he, oh, blind that he was! he could not see nor accept it. The
secret of her power, of her ecstasy of life--what was it but
this?--_she knew no evil!_

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the
garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou
eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."

Oh, great God! It was the first--the very first--lesson which Thou
didst teach Thy child, Israel, as the curtain rose upon the drama of
human life! And the awful warning has rung down through the corridors
of time from the mouths of the prophets, whom we slew lest they wake
us from our mesmeric sleep! Israel forgot Thy words; and the world has
forgotten them, long, long since. Daily we mix our perfumed draft of
good and evil, and sink under its lethal influence! Hourly we eat of
the forbidden tree, till the pangs of death encompass us!

And when at last the dark angel hovered over the sin-stricken earth
and claimed it for his own, the great Master came to sound again the
warning--"As a man thinketh in his heart, _so is he_!" But they would
have none of him, and nailed him to a tree!

Oh, Jerusalem! Oh, ye incarnate human mind! Even the unique Son of God
wept as he looked with yearning upon you! Why? Because of your
stubborn clinging to false ways, false beliefs, false thoughts of God
and man! Because ye would not be healed; ye would not be made whole!
Ye loved evil--ye gave it life and power, and ye rolled it like a
sweet morsel beneath your tongue--and so ye died! So came death into
this fair world, through the heart, the brain, the mind of man, _who
sought to know what God could not_!

"Padre dear, you are so quiet." The girl nestled closer to the awed
priest. Aye! And so the multitude on Sinai had stood in awed quiet as
they listened to the voice of God.

This child knew no evil! The man could not grasp the infinite
import of the marvelous fact. And yet he had sought to teach her
falsities--to teach her that evil did exist, as real and as potent
as good, and that it was to be accepted and honored by mankind! But
she had turned her back upon the temptation.

"Padre, are you going to tell me about Jesus?"

The priest roused from his deep meditation.

"Yes, yes--I want to know nothing else! I will get my Bible, and we
will read about him!"

"Bible? What is that, Padre dear?"

"What! You don't know what the Bible is?" cried the astonished
priest.

"No, Padre."

"But have you never--has your padre Rosendo never told you that it is
the book that tells--?"

"No," the girl shook her head. "But," her face kindling, "he told me
that Jesus was God's only son. But we are all His children, aren't
we?"

"Yes--especially you, little one! But Jesus was the greatest--"

"Did Jesus write the Bible, Padre?" the girl asked earnestly.

"No--we don't know who did. People used to think God wrote it; but I
guess He didn't."

"Then we will not read it, Padre."

The man bent reverently over the little brown head and prayed again
for guidance. What could he do with this child, who dwelt with
Jehovah--who saw His reflection in every flower and hill and fleecy
cloud--who heard His voice in the sough of the wind, and the ripple of
the waters on the pebbly shore! And, oh, that some one had bent over
him and prayed for guidance when he was a tender lad and his heart
burned with yearning for truth!

"God wrote the arithmetic--I mean, He told people how to write it,
didn't He, Padre?"

Surely the priest could acquiesce in this, for mathematics is purely
metaphysical, and without guile.

"Yes, _chiquita_. And we will go right through this little book. Then,
if I can, I will send for others that will teach you wonderful things
about what we call mathematics."

The child smiled her approval. The priest had now found the only path
which she would tread with him, and he continued with enthusiasm.

"And God taught people how to talk, little one; but they don't all
talk as we do. There is a great land up north of us, which we call the
United States, and there the people would not understand us, for we
speak Spanish. I must teach you their language, _chiquita_, and I must
teach you others, too, for you will not always live in Simití."

"I want to stay here always, Padre. I love Simití." "No, Carmen; God
has work for you out in His big world. You have something to tell His
people some day, a message for them. But you and I have much work to
do here first. And so we will begin with the arithmetic and English.
Later we will study other languages, and we will talk them to each
other until you speak them as fluently as your own. And meanwhile, I
will tell you about the great countries of the world, and about the
people that live in them. And we will study about the stars, and the
rocks, and the animals; and we will read and work and read and work
all day long, every day!" The priest's face was aglow with animation.

"But, Padre, when shall I have time to think?"

"Why, you will be thinking all the time, child!"

"No, you don't understand. I have to think about other things."

Josè looked at her with a puzzled expression. "What other things do
you have to think about, _chiquita_?"

"About all the people here who are sick and unhappy, and who quarrel
and don't love one another."

"Do you think about people when they are sick?" he asked with
heightened curiosity.

"Yes, always!" she replied vigorously "When they are sick I go where
nobody can find me and then just think that it isn't so."

"_Hombre!_" the priest ejaculated, his astonishment soaring Then--

"But when people are sick it is really so, isn't it, _chiquita_?"

"No!" emphatically. "It can't be--not if God is everywhere. Does He
make them sick?" The child drove the heart-searching question straight
into him.

"Why--no, I can't say that He does. And yet they somehow get sick."

"Because they think bad things, Padre. Because they don't think about
God. They don't think He is here. And they don't care about Him--they
don't love Him. And so they get sick," she explained succinctly.

Josè's mind reverted to what Rosendo had told him. When he lay tossing
in delirium Carmen had said that he would not die. And yet that was
perfectly logical, if she refused to admit the existence of evil.

"I thought lots about you last week, Padre."

The soft voice was close to his ear, and every breath swept over his
heartstrings and made them vibrate.

"Every night when I went to sleep I told God I _knew_ He would cure
you."

The priest's head sank upon his breast.

Verily, I have not seen such faith, no, not in Israel! And the faith
of this child had glorified her vision until she saw "the heavens open
and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."

"Carmen"--the priest spoke reverently--"do the sick ones always get
well when you think about them?"

There was not a shade of euphemism in the unhesitating reply--

"They are never really sick, Padre."

"But, by that you mean--"

"They only have bad thoughts."

"Sick thoughts, then?" he suggested by way of drawing out her full
meaning.

"Yes, Padre--for God, you know, really _is_ everywhere."

"Carmen!" cried the man. "What put such ideas into your little head?
Who told you these things?"

Her brown eyes looked full into his own. "God, Padre dear."

God! Yes, of a verity she spoke truth. For nothing but her constant
communion with Him could have filled her pure thought with a deeper,
truer lore than man has ever quaffed at the world's great fountains of
learning. He himself, trained by Holy Church, deeply versed in
letters, science, and theology, grounded in all human learning, sat in
humility at her feet, drinking in what his heart told him he had at
length found--Truth.

He had one more question to ask. "Carmen, how do you know, how are you
sure, that He told you?"

"Because it is true, Padre."

"But just how do you know that it is true?" he insisted.

"Why--it comes out that way; just like the answers to the problems in
arithmetic. I used to try to see if by thinking only good thoughts
to-day I would be better and happier to-morrow."

"Yes, and--?"

"Well, I always was, Padre. And so now I don't think anything but good
thoughts."

"That is, you think only about God?"

"I always think about Him _first_, Padre."

He had no further need to question her proofs, for he knew she was
taught by the Master himself.

"That will be all for this morning, Carmen," he said quietly, as he
put her down. "Leave me now. I, too, have some thinking to do."

When Carmen left him, Josè lapsed into profound meditation. Musing
over his life experiences, he at last summed them all up in the vain
attempt to evolve an acceptable concept of God, an idea of Him that
would satisfy. He had felt that in Christianity he had hold of
something beneficent, something real; but he had never been able to
formulate it, nor lift it above the shadows into the clear light
of full comprehension. And the result of his futile efforts to this
end had been agnosticism. His inability conscientiously to accept
the mad reasoning of theologians and the impudent claims of Rome had
been the stumbling block to his own and his family's dearest earthly
hopes. He knew that popular Christianity was a disfigurement of truth.
He knew that the theological claptrap which the Church, with such
oracular assurance, such indubitable certainty and gross assumption
of superhuman knowledge, handed out to a suffering world, was a
travesty of the divinely simple teachings of Jesus, and that it had
estranged mankind from their only visible source of salvation, the
Bible. He saw more clearly than ever before that in the actual
achievements of popular theology there had been ridiculously little
that a seriously-minded man could accept as supports to its claims
to be a divinely revealed scheme of salvation. Yet there was no
vital question on which certainty was so little demanded, and
seemingly of so little consequence, as this, even though the
joints of the theologians' armor flapped wide to the assaults of
unprejudiced criticism.

But if the slate were swept clean--if current theological dogma were
overthrown, and the stage set anew--what could be reared in their
stead? Is it true that the Bible is based upon propositions which can
be verified by all? The explorer in Cartagena had given Josè a new
thought in Arnold's concept of God as "the Eternal, not ourselves,
that makes for righteousness." And it was not to be denied that, from
first to last, the Bible is a call to righteousness.

But what is righteousness? Ethical conduct? Assuredly something vastly
more profound, for even that "misses the mark." No, righteousness was
right conduct until the marvelous Jesus appeared. But he swept it at
once from the material into the mental; from the outward into the
inward; and defined it as _right-thinking_!

"Righteousness!" murmured Josè, sitting with head buried in his hands.
"Aye, the whole scheme of salvation is held in that one word! And the
wreck of my life has been caused by my blind ignorance of its
tremendous meaning! For righteousness is salvation. But Carmen, wise
little soul, divined it instinctively; for, if there is one thing that
is patent, it is that if a thing is evil it does not exist for her.
Righteousness! Of course it means _thinking no evil_! Jesus lived his
thorough understanding of it. And so does Carmen. And so would the
world, but for the withering influence of priestly authority!"

At that moment Carmen reappeared to summon him to lunch.

"Come here, little girl," said Josè, drawing her to him. "You asked me
to tell you about Jesus. He was the greatest and best man that ever
lived. And it was because he never had a bad thought."

"Did he know that God was everywhere?" The little face turned lovingly
up to his.

"He did, sweet child. And so do I--now; for I have found Him even in
desolate Simití."



CHAPTER 7


Carmen's studies began in earnest that afternoon. In the quiet of his
humble cottage Josè, now "a prisoner of the Lord," opened the door of
his mental storehouse and carefully selected those first bits of
knowledge for the foundation stones on which to rear for her, little
by little, a broad education.

He found her a facile learner; her thorough ease in the rudiments
of arithmetic and in the handling of her own language delighted him.
His plan of tutelage, although the result of long contemplation, and
involving many radical ideas regarding the training of children,
ideas which had been slowly developing in his mind for years, he
nevertheless felt in her case to be tentative. For he was dealing
with no ordinary child; and so the usual methods of instruction were
here wholly out of the question.

But on several points he was already firmly resolved. First, he would
get well below the surface of this child's mind, and he would endeavor
to train her to live in a depth of thought far, far beneath the froth
and superficiality of the every-day thinking of mankind. Fortunately,
she had had no previous bad training to be counteracted now. Nature
had been her only tutor; and Rosendo's canny wisdom had kept out all
human interference. Her associates in Simití were few. Her unusual and
mature thought had set up an intellectual barrier between herself and
the playmates she might have had. Fortunately, too, Josè had now to
deal with a child who all her life had thought vigorously--and, he was
forced to conclude, correctly. Habits of accurate observation and
quick and correct interpretation would not be difficult to form in
such a mind. Moreover, to this end he would aim to maintain her
interest at the point of intensity in every subject undertaken; yet
without forcing, and without sacrifice of the joys of childhood. He
would be, not teacher only, but fellow-student. He would strive to
learn with her to conceive the ideal without losing sight of the fact
that it was a human world in which they dwelt. When she wished to
play, he would play with her. But he would contrive and direct their
amusements so as to carry instruction, to elucidate and exemplify it,
to point morals, and steadily to contribute to her store of knowledge.
His plan was ideal, he knew. But he could not know then that
Nature--if we may thus call it--had anticipated him, and that the
child, long since started upon the quest for truth, would quickly
outstrip him in the matter of conceiving the ideal and living in this
world of relative fact with an eye single to the truth which shines so
dimly through it.

Josè knew, as he studied Carmen and planned her training, that
whatever instruction he offered her must be without taint of evil, so
far as he might prevent. And yet, the thought of any attempt to
withhold from her a knowledge of evil brought a sardonic smile to his
lips. She had as yet everything to learn of the world about her. Could
such learning be imparted to her free from error or hypothesis, and
apart from the fiat of the speculative human mind? It must be; for he
knew from experience that she would accept his teaching only as he
presented every apparent fact, every object, every event, as a
reflection in some degree of her immanent God, and subject to rigid
demonstration. Where historical events externalized only the evil
motives of the carnal mind, he must contrive to omit them entirely, or
else present them as unreality, the result of "bad thoughts" and
forgetfulness of God. In other words, only as he assumed to be the
channel through which God spoke to her could he hope for success. To
impart to her a knowledge of both good and evil was, at least at
present, impossible. To force it upon her later would be criminal.
Moreover, _why not try the audacious experiment of permitting and
aiding this child to grow up without a knowledge of evil_?--that is,
in her present conviction that only good is real, potent and
permanent, while evil is impotent illusion and to be met and overcome
on that basis. Would the resultant training make of her a tower of
strength--or would it render her incapable of resisting the onslaughts
of evil when at length she faced the world? His own heart sanctioned
the plan; and--well, the final judgment should be left to Carmen
herself.

The work proceeded joyously. At times Cucumbra interrupted by bounding
in, as if impatient of the attention his little mistress was giving
her tutor. Frequently the inquisitive Cantar-las-horas stalked through
the room, displaying a most dignified and laudable interest in the
proceedings. Late in the afternoon, when the sun was low, Bosendo
appeared at the door. As he stood listening to Josè's narrative of men
and places in the outside world, his eyes bulged. At length his
untutored mind became strained to its elastic limit.

"Is that true, Padre?" he could not refrain from interrupting, when
Josè had spoken of the fast trains of England. "Why, the Simití trail
to Tachí is one hundred and fifty miles long; and it always took me
six days to walk it. And do you say there are trains that travel that
distance in as many hours?"

"There are trains, Rosendo, that traverse the distance in three
hours."

"_Na_, Padre, it can't be done!" cried the incredulous Rosendo,
shaking his head.

"Leave us, unbeliever!" laughed Josè, motioning him away. "I have more
pliable material here to handle than you."

But Rosendo remained; and it was evident to the priest that he had
come on an errand of importance. Moreover, the supper hour was at
hand, and perhaps Doña Maria needed Carmen's help. So, dismissing the
child, Josè turned to Rosendo.

"You were right," he began, as if taking up the thread of a broken
discourse. "Carmen _was_ left on the river bank by the angels."

"Then you do think it was a miracle!" said Rosendo in a voice of awe,
as he sank into a chair.

The priest smiled. "Everything is a miracle, friend; for a miracle is
simply a sign of God's presence. And finding Carmen in this musty,
forgotten place is one of the greatest. For where she is, He is."

"Yes, Padre, that is true," assented Rosendo gravely.

"I was led here," continued Josè; "I see it now. Rosendo, all my life
I have regarded evil as just as real and powerful as good. And my life
has been one of bitterness and woe. Carmen sees only the good God
everywhere. And she dwells in heaven. What is the logical inference?
Simply that my mental attitude has been all wrong, my views erroneous,
my thinking bad. I have tried to know both good and evil, to eat of
the forbidden tree. And for so doing I was banished from paradise. Do
you understand me?"

"Why--well, no, Padre--that is, I--" The honest fellow was becoming
confused.

"Well, just this, then," explained the priest with animation. "I
haven't gotten anywhere in life, and neither have you, because we have
limited ourselves and crippled our efforts by yielding to fear, pride,
ignorance, and the belief in evil as a real power opposed to good."

"I have often wondered myself, Padre, how there could be a devil if
God is almighty. For in that case He would have had to make the devil,
wouldn't He?"

"Just so!" cried Josè enthusiastically. "And as He did make
everything, then either He made the devil, or else there isn't any."

"But that is pretty hard to see, Padre," replied the puzzled Rosendo.
"Something makes us do wicked things."

"Simply the belief that there is a power apart from God."

"But doesn't that belief come from the devil?"

"Surely--the devil of imagination! Listen, Rosendo: Carmen is daily
putting into practice her instinctive knowledge of a mighty fact. She
will reveal it all to us in due time. Let us patiently watch her, and
try to see and understand and believe as she does. But in the
meantime, let us guard our minds as we would a treasure house, and
strive never to let a thought of evil get inside! My past life should
serve as a perpetual warning."

Rosendo did not reply at once, but sat staring vacantly at the ground.
Josè knew that his thoughts were with his wayward daughter. Then, as
if suddenly remembering the object of his call, he took from his
wallet two letters, which he handed to Josè with the comment: "Juan
brought them up from Bodega Central this morning."

Josè took them with quickening pulse. One was from Spain, from his
uncle. He devoured it eagerly. It was six weeks old when it arrived in
Simití, and had been written before the news of his removal from
Cartagena had reached Seville. His mother was well; and her hopes for
her son's preferment were steadily reviving, after the cruel blow
which his disgrace in Rome had given them. For his uncle's part, he
hoped that Josè had now seen the futility of opposition to Holy
Church, and that, yielding humbly to her gentle chastisement for the
great injury he had inflicted upon her, he would now make amends and
merit the favors which she was sure to bestow upon him in due season.
To this end the uncle would bring to bear his own influence and that
of His Eminence, the Archbishop of Seville. The letter closed with an
invocation to the Saints and the ever-blessed Virgin.

Josè opened the second letter. It was nominally from the Bishop of
Cartagena, although written, he well knew, by Wenceslas. His Reverence
regretted that Josè had not come to him again before leaving
Cartagena. He deplored exceedingly the necessity of assigning him to
so lowly a parish; but it was discipline. His tenure of the parish
would be a matter of probation. Assuming a penitent desire on the part
of the priest to make reparation for past indiscretions, His Grace
extended assurances of his support and tender consideration. And,
regarding him still as a faithful son, he was setting forth herewith
certain instructions which Josè would zealously carry out, to the
glory of the sacred Mother Church and the blessed Virgin, and to his
own edification, to wit: In the matter of the confessional he must be
unremittingly zealous, not failing to put such questions to the people
of Simití as would draw out their most secret thoughts. In the present
crisis it was especially necessary to learn their political views.
Likewise, he must not fail to impress upon them the sin of concealing
wealth, and of withholding contributions to the support of the
glorious Mother. He, as priest of the parish, would be held personally
responsible for the collection of an adequate "Peter's Pence," which
must be sent to Cartagena at frequent intervals for subsequent
shipment to Rome. For all contributions he was to allow liberal
plenary indulgences. In the matter of inciting zeal for the salvation
of those unfortunate souls lingering in the torments of purgatory,
Josè must be unflagging. Each family in the parish should be
constantly admonished and threatened, if necessary, to have Masses
said for their deceased members; and he must forward the proceeds from
such Masses at once to Cartagena. No less important, he must keep
constantly before him the great fact that the hope of the blessed
Mother lay in her young. To this end he must see that all children in
his parish were in due time confirmed, and every effort made to have
the females sent to the convent of Mompox. To encourage his
parishioners, he might assure them of His Reverence's tender regard
for them as his beloved children, and that he had certain special
favors to grant to them in due time. Also, that a statue of the
Virgin, which had arrived from Rome, and which carried the most potent
blessing of the Holy Father, was to be bestowed upon that church in
the diocese which within the next twelve months should contribute the
largest amount of Peter's Pence in proportion to population. This plan
should be especially attractive to the people of Simití, as the town
lay on the confines of a district renowned in the ancient annals for
its mineral wealth. Herein, too, lay a great opportunity for the
priest; and His Reverence rejoiced in the certain knowledge that he
would embrace it. Invoking the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the
Ever-Blessed Virgin and Saint Joseph, His Grace awaited with interest
the priest's first report from the parish of Simití.

The letter fell like a wet blanket upon Josè, chilling him to the
marrow, for it revived with cruel poignancy the fact that he was still
a servant of Rome. In the past few happy days he had dwelt apart from
the world in the consciousness of a new heaven and a new earth,
revealed by Carmen. This sudden call to duty was like a summons from
Mephistopheles to the fulfillment of a forgotten pact.

He carefully read the letter again. Beneath the specious kindliness of
Wenceslas lay sinister motives, he knew. Among them, greed, of course.
But--a darker thought--did Wenceslas know of Carmen's existence? Could
Cartagena have received any intimation of his plans for her? Refusal
to comply with these instructions meant--he dared not think what! On
the other hand, strict compliance with them certainly was out of the
question.

As for Peter's Pence, what could the impoverished folk of this
decrepit town furnish! And yet, if a reasonable sum could only be
contributed at frequent intervals, would not the vampire Wenceslas
rest content, at least for a while? Oh, for a fortune of his own, that
he might dump it all into the yawning maw of Holy Church, and thus
gain a few years' respite for himself and Carmen!

"Bad news, Padre?" Rosendo inquired, anxiously regarding the priest's
strained features.

What could the man do or say, limited, hounded, and without resources?
Could he force these simple people to buy Masses? Could he take their
money on a pretext which he felt to be utterly false? Yet Cartagena
_must_ be kept quiet at any hazard!

"Rosendo," he asked earnestly, "when you had a priest in Simití, did
the people have Masses offered for their dead?"

"_Na_, Padre, we have little money for Masses," replied Rosendo
sadly.

"But you have bought them?"

"At times--long ago--for my first wife, when she died without a
priest, up in the Tiguí country. But not when Padre Diego was here. I
couldn't see how Masses said by that drunken priest could please God,
or make Him release souls from purgatory--and Padre Diego was drunk
most of the time."

Josè became desperate. "Rosendo, we _must_ send money to the Bishop in
Cartagena. I _must_ stay here--I _must_! And I can stay only by
satisfying Wenceslas! If I can send him money he will think me too
valuable to remove. It is not the Church, Rosendo, but Wenceslas who
is persecuting me. It is he who has placed me here. He is using the
Church for his own evil ends. It is he who must be placated. But I--I
can't make these poor people buy Masses! And--but here, read his
letter," thrusting it into Rosendo's hand.

Rosendo shook his head thoughtfully, and a cloud had gathered over his
strong face when he returned the Bishop's letter to Josè.

"Padre, we will be hard pressed to support the church and you, without
buying Masses. There are about two hundred people here, perhaps fifty
families. But they are very, very poor. Only a few can afford to pay
even a _peso oro_ a month to the schoolmaster to have their children
taught. They may be able to give twenty _pesos_ a month to support you
and the church. But hardly more."

It seemed to Josè that his soul must burst under its limitations.

"Rosendo, let us take Carmen and flee!" he cried wildly.

"How far would we get, Padre? Have you money?"

No, Josè had nothing. He lapsed into silence-shrouded despair.

The sun dropped below the wooded hills, and Cantar-las-horas had sung
his weird vesper song. Dusk was thickening into night, though upon the
distant _Sierras_ a mellow glow still illumined the frosted peaks.
Moments crept slowly through the enveloping silence.

Then the mental gloom parted, and through it arose the great soul of
the black-faced man sitting beside the despairing priest.

"Padre"--Rosendo spoke slowly and with deep emotion. Tears trickled
down his swart cheeks--"I am no longer young. More than sixty years of
hardship and heavy toil rest upon me. My parents--I have not told you
this--were slaves. They worked in the mines of Guamocó, under hard
masters. They lived in bamboo huts, and slept on the damp ground. At
four each morning, year after year, they were driven from their hard
beds and sent out to toil under the lash fourteen hours a day, washing
gold from the streams. The gold went to the building of Cartagena's
walls, and to her Bishop, to buy idleness and luxury for him and his
fat priests. When the war came it lasted thirteen years; but we drove
the Christian Spaniards into the sea! Then my father and mother went
back to Guamocó; and there I was born. When I was old enough to use a
_batea_ I, too, washed gold in the Tiguí, and in the little streams so
numerous in that region. But they had been pretty well washed out
under the Spaniards; and so my father came down here and made a little
_hacienda_ on the hills across the lake from Simití. Then he and my
poor mother lay down and died, worn out with their long years of toil
for their cruel masters."

He brushed the tears from his eyes; then resumed: "The district of
Guamocó gradually became deserted. Revolution after revolution broke
out in this unhappy country, sometimes stirred up by the priests,
sometimes by political agitators who tried to get control of the
Government. The men and boys went to the wars, and were killed off.
Guamocó was again swallowed up by the forest--"

He stopped abruptly, and sat some moments silent.

"I have been back there many times since, and often I have washed gold
again along the beautiful Tiguí," he continued. "But the awful
loneliness of the jungle, and the memories of those gloomy days when I
toiled there as a boy, and the thoughts of my poor parents' sufferings
under the Spaniards, made me so sad that I could not stay. And then I
got too old for that kind of work, standing bent over in the cold
mountain water all day long, swinging a _batea_ heavy with gravel."

He paused again, and seemed to lose himself in the memory of those
dark days.

"But there is still gold in the Tiguí. I can find it. It means hard
work--but I can do it. Padre, I will go back there and wash out gold
for you to send to the Bishop of Cartagena, that you may stay here and
protect and teach the little Carmen. Perhaps in time I can wash enough
to get you both out of the country; but it will take many months, it
may be, years."

O, you, whose path in life winds among pleasant places, where roses
nod in the scented breeze and fountains play, picture to yourself, if
you may, the self-immolation of this sweet-souled man, who, in the
winter of life, the shadows of eternity fast gathering about him,
bends his black shoulders again to the burden which Love would lay
upon them. Aye, Love, into which all else merged--Love for the unknown
babe, left helpless and alone on the great river's bank--Love for the
radiant child, whose white soul the agents of carnal greed and lust
would prostitute to their iniquitous system.

Night fell. By the light of their single candle the priest and Rosendo
ate their simple fare in silence. Carmen was asleep, and the angels
watched over her lowly bed.

The meal ended, Rosendo took up the candle, and Josè followed him into
the bedroom. Reverently the two men approached the sleeping child and
looked down upon her. The priest's hand again sought Rosendo's in a
grasp which sealed anew the pact between them.



CHAPTER 8


Like the great Exemplar in the days of his preparation, Josè was
early driven by the spirit into the wilderness, where temptation
smote him sore. But his soul had been saved--"yet so as by fire."
Slowly old beliefs and faiths crumbled into dust, while the new
remained still unrevealed. The drift toward atheism which had set in
during his long incarceration in the convent of Palazzola had not
made him yield to the temptation to raise the mask of hypocrisy and
plunge into the pleasures of the world, nor accept the specious
proffer of ecclesiastical preferment in exchange for his honest
convictions. Honor, however bigoted the sense, bound him to his
oath, or at least to a compromising observance of it harmless to the
Church. Pride contributed to hold him from the degradation of a
renegade and apostate priest. And both rested primarily on an
unshaken basis of maternal affection, which fell little short of
obsession, leaving him without the strength to say, "Woman, what
have I to do with thee?"

But, though atheism in belief leads almost inevitably to disintegration
of morals, Josè had kept himself untainted. For his vital problems he
had now, after many days, found "grace sufficient." In what he had
regarded as the contemptible tricks of fate, he was beginning to
discern the guiding hand of a wisdom greater than the world's. The
danger threatened by Cartagena was, temporarily, at least, averted
by Rosendo's magnificent spirit. Under the spur of that sacrifice his
own courage rose mightily to second it.

Rosendo spent the day in preparation for his journey into the Guamocó
country. He had discussed with Josè, long and earnestly, its probable
effect upon the people of Simití, and especially upon Don Mario, the
Alcalde; but it was decided that no further explanation should be made
than that he was again going to prospect in the mineral districts
already so familiar to him. As Rosendo had said, this venture,
together with the unannounced and unsolicited presence of the priest
in the town, could not but excite extreme curiosity and raise the most
lively conjectures, which might, in time, reach Wenceslas. On the
other hand, if success attended his efforts, it was more than probable
that Cartagena would remain quiet, as long as her itching palm was
brightened with the yellow metal which he hoped to wrest from the
sands of Guamocó. "It is only a chance, Padre," Rosendo said
dubiously. "In the days of the Spaniards the river sands of Guamocó
produced from two to ten _reales_ a day to each slave. But the rivers
have been almost washed out."

Josè made a quick mental calculation. A Spanish _real_ was equivalent
to half a franc. Then ten _reales_ would amount to five francs, the
very best he could hope for as a day's yield.

"And my supplies and the support of the señora and Carmen must come
out of that," Rosendo added. "Besides, I must pay Juan for working the
_hacienda_ across the lake for me while I am away."

Possibly ten _pesos oro_, or forty francs, might remain at the end of
each month for them to send to Cartagena. Josè sighed heavily as he
busied himself with the preparations.

"I got these supplies from Don Mario on credit, Padre," explained
Rosendo. "I thought best to buy from him to prevent making him angry.
I have coffee, _panela_, rice, beans, and tobacco for a month. He was
very willing to let me have them--but do you know why? He wants me to
go up there and fail. Then he will have me in his debt, and I become
his _peon_--and I would never be anything after that but his slave,
for never again would he let me get out of debt to him."

Josè shuddered at the thought of the awful system of peonage prevalent
in these Latin countries, an inhuman custom only a degree removed from
the slavery of colonial times. This venture was, without doubt, a
desperate risk. But it was for Carmen--and its expediency could not be
questioned.

Josè penned a letter to the Bishop of Cartagena that morning, and
sent it by Juan to Bodega Central to await the next down-river
steamer. He did not know that Juan carried another letter for the
Bishop, and addressed in the flowing hand of the Alcalde. Josè
briefly acknowledged the Bishop's communication, and replied that he
would labor unflaggingly to uplift his people and further their
spiritual development. As to the Bishop's instructions, he would
endeavor to make Simití's contribution to the support of Holy
Church, both material and spiritual, fully commensurate with the
population. He did not touch on the other instructions, but closed
with fervent assurances of his intention to serve his little flock
with an undivided heart. Carmen received no lesson that day, and
her rapidly flowing questions anent the unusual activity in the
household were met with the single explanation that her padre
Rosendo had found it necessary to go up to the Tiguí river, a
journey which some day she might perhaps take with him.

During the afternoon Josè wrote two more letters, one to his uncle,
briefly announcing his appointment to the parish of Simití, and his
already lively interest in his new field; the other to his beloved
mother, in which he only hinted at the new-found hope which served as
his pillow at night. He did not mention Carmen, for fear that his
letter might be opened ere it left Cartagena. But in tenderest
expressions of affection, and regret that he had been the unwitting
cause of his mother's sorrow, he begged her to believe that his life
had received a stimulus which could not but result in great happiness
for them both, for he was convinced that he had at last found his
_métier_, even though among a lowly people and in a sequestered part
of the world. He hoped again to be reunited to her--possibly she might
some day meet him in Cartagena. And until then he would always hold
her in tenderest love and the brightest and purest thought.

He brushed aside the tears as he folded this letter; and, lest regret
and self-condemnation seize him again, hurried forth in search of
Carmen, whose radiance always dispelled his gloom as the rushing dawn
shatters the night.

She was not in Rosendo's house, and Doña Maria said she had seen the
child some time before going in the direction of the "shales." These
were broad beds of rock to the south of town, much broken and deeply
fissured, and so glaringly hot during most of the day as to be
impassable. Thither Josè bent his steps, and at length came upon the
girl sitting in the shade of a stunted _algarroba_ tree some distance
from the usual trail.

"Well, what are you doing here, little one?" he inquired in surprise.

The child looked up visibly embarrassed. "I was thinking, Padre," she
made slow reply.

"But do you have to go away from home to think?" he queried.

"I wanted to be alone; and there was so much going on in the house
that I came out here."

"And what have you been thinking about, Carmen?" pursued Josè,
suspecting that her presence in the hot shale beds held some deeper
significance than she had as yet revealed.

"I--I was just thinking that God is everywhere," she faltered.

"Yes, _chiquita_. And--?"

"That He is where padre Rosendo is going, and that He will take care
of him up there, and bring him back to Simití again."

"And were you asking Him to do it, little one?"

"No, Padre; I was just _knowing_ that He would."

The little lip quivered, and the brown eyes were wet with tears. But
Josè could see that faith had conquered, whatever the struggle might
have been. The child evidently had sought solitude, that she might
most forcibly bring her trust in God to bear upon the little problem
confronting her--that she might make the certainty of His immanence
and goodness destroy in her thought every dark suggestion of fear or
doubt.

"God will take care of him, won't He, Padre?"

Josè had taken her hand and was leading her back to the house.

"You have said it, child; and I believe you are a law unto yourself,"
was the priest's low, earnest reply. The child smiled up at him; and
Josè knew he had spoken truth.

That evening, the preparations for departure completed, Rosendo and
Josè took their chairs out before the house, where they sat late, each
loath to separate lest some final word be left unsaid. The tepid
evening melted into night, which died away in a deep silence that hung
wraith-like over the old town. Myriad stars rained their shimmering
lustre out of the unfathomable vault above.

"_Un canasto de flores_," mused Rosendo, looking off into the infinite
blue.

"A basket of flowers, indeed," responded Josè reverently.

"Padre--" Rosendo's brain seemed to struggle with a tremendous
thought--"I often try to think of what is beyond the stars; and I
cannot. Where is the end?"

"There is none, Rosendo."

"But, if we could get out to the last star--what then?"

"Still no end, no limit," replied Josè.

"And they are very far away--how far, Padre?"

"You would not comprehend, even if I could tell you, Rosendo. But--how
shall I say it? Some are millions of miles from us. Others so far that
their light reaches us only after the lapse of centuries."

"Their light!" returned Rosendo quizzically.

"Yes. Light from those stars above us travels nearly two hundred
thousand miles a second--"

"_Hombre!_" ejaculated the uncomprehending Rosendo.

"And yet, even at that awful rate of speed, it is probable that there
are many stars whose light has not yet reached the earth since it
became inhabited by men."

"_Caramba!_"

"You may well say so, friend."

"But, Padre--does the light never stop? When does it reach an end--a
stopping-place?"

"There is no stopping-place, Rosendo. There is no solid sky above us.
Go whichever way you will, you can never reach an end."

Rosendo's brow knotted with puzzled wonder: Even Josè's own mind
staggered anew at its concept of the immeasurable depths of space.

"But, Padre, if we could go far enough up we would get to heaven,
wouldn't we?" pursued Rosendo. "And if we went far enough down we
would reach purgatory, and then hell, is it not so?"

Restraint fell upon the priest. He dared not answer lest he reveal his
own paucity of ideas regarding these things. Happily the loquacious
Rosendo continued without waiting for reply.

"Padre Simón used to say when I was a child that the red we saw in the
sky at sunset was the reflection of the flames of hell; so I have
always thought that hell was below us--perhaps in the center of the
earth."

For a time his simple mind mused over this puerile idea. Then--

"What do you suppose God looks like, Padre?"

Josè's thought flew back to the galleries and chapels of Europe, where
the masters have so often portrayed their ideas of God in the shape of
an old, gray-haired man, partly bald, and with long, flowing beard.
Alas! how pitifully crude, how lamentably impotent such childish
concepts. For they saw in God only their own frailties infinitely
magnified. Small wonder that they lived and died in spiritual gloom!

"Padre," Rosendo went on, "if there is no limit to the universe, then
it is--"

"Infinite in extent, Rosendo," finished Josè.

"Then whoever made it is infinite, too," Rosendo added hypothetically.

"An infinite effect implies an infinite cause--yes, certainly," Josè
answered.

"So, if God made the universe, He is infinite, is He not, Padre?"

"Yes."

"Then He can't be at all like us," was the logical conclusion.

Josè was thinking hard. The universe stands as something created. And
scientists agree that it is infinite in extent. Its creator therefore
must be infinite in extent. And as the universe continues to exist,
that which called it into being, and still maintains it, must likewise
continue to exist. Hence, God _is_.

"Padre, what holds the stars in place?" Rosendo's questions were as
persistent as a child's.

"They are held in place by laws, Rosendo," the priest replied
evasively. But as he made answer he revolved in his own mind that the
laws by which an infinite universe is created and maintained must
themselves be infinite.

"And God made those laws?"

"Yes, Rosendo."

But, the priest mused, a power great enough to frame infinite laws
must be itself all-powerful. And if it has ever been all-powerful, it
could never cease to be so, for there could be nothing to deprive it
of its power. Omnipotence excludes everything else. Or, what is the
same thing, is all-inclusive.

But laws originate, even as among human beings, in mind, for a law is
a mental thing. So the infinite laws which bind the stars together,
and by which the universe was designed and is still maintained, could
have originated only in a mind, and that one infinite.

"Then God surely must know everything," commented Rosendo, by way of
simple and satisfying conclusion.

Certainly the creator of an infinite universe--a universe, moreover,
which reveals intelligence and knowledge on the part of its cause--the
originator of infinite laws, which reveal omnipotence in their
maker--must have all knowledge, all wisdom, at his command. But, on
the other hand, intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, are ever mental
things. What could embrace these things, and by them create an
infinite universe, but an infinite _mind_?

Josè's thought reverted to Cardinal Newman's reference to God as "an
initial principle." Surely the history of the universe reveals the
patent fact that, despite the mutations of time, despite growth,
maturity, and decay, despite "the wreck of matter and the crash of
worlds," _something_ endures. What is it--law? Yes, but more. Ideas?
Still more. Mind? Yes, the mind which is the _anima mundi_, the
principle, of all things.

"But if He is so great, Padre, and knows everything, I don't see why
He made the devil," continued Rosendo; "for the devil fights against
Him all the time."

Ah, simple-hearted child of nature! A mind so pure as yours should
give no heed to thoughts of Satan. And the man at your side is now too
deeply buried in the channels which run below the superficiality of
the world's thought to hear your childish question. Wait. The cause of
an infinite effect must itself be infinite. The framer of infinite
laws must be an infinite mind. And an infinite mind must contain all
knowledge, and have all power. But were it to contain any seeds or
germs of decay, or any elements of discord--in a word, any evil--it
must disintegrate. Then it would cease to be omnipotent. Verily, to be
eternal and perfect _it must be wholly good_! "And so," the priest
mused aloud, "we call it God."

But, he continued to reflect, when we accept the conclusion that the
universe is the product of an infinite mind, we are driven to certain
other inevitable conclusions, if we would be logical. The minds of men
manifest themselves continually, and the manifestation is in mental
processes and things. Mental activity results in the unfolding of
ideas. Does the activity of an infinite mind differ in this respect?
And, if not, can the universe be other than a mental thing? For, if an
infinite mind created a universe, it must have done so _by the
unfolding of its own ideas_! And, remaining infinite, filling all
space, this mind must ever continue to contain those ideas. And the
universe--the creation--is mental.

The burden of thought oppressed the priest, and he got up from his
chair and paced back and forth before the house. But still his
searching mind burrowed incessantly, as if it would unearth a living
thing that had been buried since the beginning.

In order to fully express itself, an infinite mind would have to
unfold an infinite number and variety of ideas. And this unfolding
would go on forever, since an infinite number is never reached. This
is "creation," and it could never terminate.

"Rosendo," said Josè, returning to his chair, "you have asked what
God looks like. I cannot say, for God must be mind, unlimited mind. He
has all knowledge and wisdom, as well as all power. He is necessarily
eternal--has always existed, and always will, for He is entirely
perfect and harmonious, without the slightest trace or taint of
discord or evil."

"Then you think He does not look like us?" queried the simple
Rosendo.

"Mind does not look like a human body, Rosendo. And an infinite cause
can be infinite only by being mind, not body. Moreover, He is
unchanging--for He could not change and remain eternal. Carmen insists
that He is everywhere. To be always present He must be what the Bible
says He is spirit. Or, what is the same thing, mind. Rosendo, He
manifests Himself everywhere and in everything--there is no other
conclusion admissible. And to be eternal He has got to be _absolutely
good_!"

"But, Padre," persisted Rosendo, "who made the devil?"

"There is no devil!"

"But there is wickedness--"

"No!" interrupted Josè emphatically. "God is infinite good, and there
can be no real evil."

"But how do you know that, Padre?"

"I can't say how I know it--it reasons out that way logically. I think
I begin to see the light. Can you not see that for some reason Carmen
doesn't admit the existence of evil? And you know, and I know, that
she is on the right track. I have followed the opposite path all my
life; and it led right into the slough of despond. Now I have turned,
and am trying to follow her. And do you put the thought of Satan out
of your mentality and do likewise."

"But, the Virgin Mary--she has power with God?" Rosendo's primitive
ideas were in a hopeless tangle.

"Good friend, forget the Virgin Mary," said Josè gently, laying his
hand on Rosendo's arm.

"Forget her! _Hombre!_ Why--she has all power--she works miracles
every hour--she directs the angels--gives commands to God himself!
Padre Simón said she was the absolute mistress of heaven and earth,
and that men and animals, the plants, the winds, all health, sickness,
life and death, depended upon her will! He said she did not die as we
must, but that she was taken up into heaven, and that her body was not
allowed to decay and return to dust, as ours will. _Hombre!_ She is in
heaven now, praying for us. What would become of us but for her?--for
she prays to God for us--she--!"

"No, Rosendo, she does nothing of the kind. God is infinite,
unchanging. He could not be moved or influenced by the Virgin Mary or
any one else. He is unlimited _good_. He is not angry with us--He
couldn't be, for He could not know anger. Did not Jesus say that God
was Love? Love does not afflict--Love does not need to be importuned
or prayed to. I see it now. I see something of what Carmen sees. We
suffer when we sin, because we 'miss the mark.' But the punishment
lasts only as long as the sin continues. And we suffer only until we
know that God is infinite good, and that there is no evil. That is the
truth, I feel sure, which Jesus came to teach, and which he said would
make us free. Free from what? From the awful beliefs that use us, and
to which we are now subject, until we learn the facts about God and
His creation. Don't you see that infinite good could never create
evil, nor ever permit evil to be created, nor allow it to really
exist?"

"Well, then, what is evil? And where did it come from?"

"That we must wait to learn, Rosendo, little by little. You know, the
Spanish proverb says, 'Step by step goes a great way.' But meantime,
let us go forward, clinging to this great truth: God is infinite
good--He is love--we are His dear children--and evil was _not_ made by
Him, and does not have His sanction. It therefore cannot be real. It
must be illusion. And, being such, it can be overcome, as Jesus said
it could."

"_Na_, Padre--"

"Wait, Rosendo!" Josè held up his hand. "Carmen is doing just what I
am advising you to do--is she not?"

"Yes, Padre."

"Do you think she is mistaken?"

"Padre, she knows God better than she knows me," the man whispered.

"It was you who first told her that God was everywhere, was it not?"

"Yes, Padre."

And the mind of the child, keenly sensitive and receptive to truth,
had eagerly grasped this dictum and made it the motif of her life. She
knew nothing of Jesus, nothing of current theology. Divine Wisdom had
used Rosendo, credulous and superstitious though he himself was, to
guard this girl's mind against the entrance of errors which were
taught him as a child, and which in manhood held him shackled in
chains which he might not break.

"Rosendo," Josè spoke low and reverently, "I believe now that you and
I have both been guided by that great mind which I am calling God. I
believe we are being used for some beneficent purpose, and that it has
to do with Carmen. That purpose will be unfolded to us as we bow to
His will. Every way closed against me, excepting the one that led to
Simití. Here I found her. And now there seems to be but one way open
to you--to go back to Guamocó. And you go, forgetful of self, thinking
only that you serve her. Ah, friend, you are serving Him whom you
reflect in love to His beautiful child."

"Yes, Padre."

"But, while we accept our tasks gratefully, I feel that we shall be
tried--and we may not live to see the results of our labors. There are
influences abroad which threaten danger to Carmen and to us. Perhaps
we shall not avert them. But we have given ourselves to her, and
through her to the great purpose with which I feel she is concerned."

Rosendo slowly rose, and his great height and magnificent physique
cast the shadow of a Brobdignan in the light as he stood in the
doorway.

"Padre," he replied, "I am an old man, and I have but few years left.
But however many they be, they are hers. And had I a thousand, I would
drag them all through the fires of hell for the child! I cannot follow
you when you talk about God. My mind gets weary. But this I know, the
One who brought me here and then went away will some day call for
me--and I am always ready."

He turned into the house and sought his hard bed. The great soul knew
not that he reflected the light of divine Love with a radiance unknown
to many a boasting "vicar of Christ."



CHAPTER 9


At the first faint flush of morn Rosendo departed for the hills. The
emerald coronels of the giant _ceibas_ on the far lake verge burned
softly with a ruddy glow. From the water's dimpling surface downy
vapors rose languidly in delicate tints and drew slowly out in
nebulous bands across the dawn sky. The smiling softness of the
velvety hills beckoned him, and the pungent odor of moist earth
dilated his nostrils. He laughed aloud as the joyousness of youth
surged again through his veins. The village still slumbered, and no
one saw him as he smote his great chest and strode to the boat, where
Juan had disposed his outfit and was waiting to pole him across. Only
the faithful Doña Maria had softly called a final "_adioscito_" to him
when he left his house. A half hour later, when the dugout poked its
blunt nose into the ooze of the opposite shore, he leaped out and
hurriedly divested himself of his clothing. Then he lifted his chair
with its supplies to his shoulders, and Juan strapped it securely to
his back, drawing the heavy band tightly across his forehead. With a
farewell wave of his hand to the lad, the man turned and plunged into
the Guamocó trail, and was quickly lost in the dense thicket. Six days
later, if no accident befell, he would reach his destination, the
singing waters of the crystal Tiguí.

His heart leaped as he strode, though none knew better than he what
hardships those six days held for him--days of plunging through
fever-laden bogs; staggering in withering heat across open savannas;
now scaling the slippery slopes of great mountains; now swimming the
chill waters of rushing streams; making his bed where night overtook
him, among the softly pattering forest denizens and the swarming
insect life of the dripping woods. His black skin glistened with
perspiration and the heavy dew wiped from the close-growing bush. With
one hand he leaned upon a young sapling cut for a staff. With the
other he incessantly swung his _machete_ to clear the dim trail. His
eyes were held fixed to the ground, to escape tripping over low vines,
and to avoid contact with crawling creatures of the jungle, whose
sting, inflicted without provocation, might so easily prove fatal. His
active mind sported the while among the fresh thoughts stimulated by.
his journey, though back of all, as through a veil, the vision of
Carmen rose like the pillar of cloud which guided the wandering
Israel. Toil and danger fled its presence; and from it radiated a warm
glow which suffused his soul with light.

When Josè arose that morning he was still puzzling over the logical
conclusions drawn from his premise of the evening before, and trying
to reconcile them with common sense and prevalent belief. In a way, he
seemed to be an explorer, carving a path to hidden wonders. Doña Maria
greeted him at the breakfast table with the simple announcement of
Rosendo's early departure. No sign of sorrow ruffled her quiet and
dignified demeanor. Nor did Carmen, who bounded into his arms, fresh
as a new-blown rose, manifest the slightest indication of anxiety
regarding Rosendo's welfare. Josè might not divine the thoughts which
the woman's placid exterior concealed. But for the child, he well knew
that her problem had been met and solved, and that she had laid it
aside with a trust in immanent good which he did not believe all the
worldly argument of pedant or philosopher could shake.

"Now to business once more!" cried Josè joyously, the meal finished.
"Just a look-in at the church, to get the boys started; and then
to devote the day to you, señorita!" The child laughed at the
appellation.

Returning from the church some moments later, Josè found Carmen
bending over the fireplace, struggling to remove a heavy kettle from
the hot stones.

"Careful, child!" he cried in apprehension, hurrying to her
assistance. "You will burn your fingers, or hurt yourself!"

"Not unless you make me, Padre," Carmen quickly replied, rising and
confronting the priest with a demeanor whose every element spelled
rebuke.

"Well, I certainly shall not _make_ you!" the man exclaimed in
surprise.

"No, Padre. God will not let you. He does not burn or hurt people."

"Certainly not! But--"

"And nothing else can, for He is everywhere--isn't He?"

"Well--perhaps so," the priest retorted impatiently. "But somehow
people get burnt and hurt just the same, and it is well to be
careful."

The child studied him for a moment. Then she said quietly--

"I guess people burn and hurt themselves because they are afraid--don't
they? And I am not afraid."

She tossed her brown curls as if in defiance of the thought of fear.
Yet Josè somehow felt that she never really defied evil, but rather
met its suggestions with a firm conviction of its impotence in the
presence of immanent good. He checked the impulse to further
conversation. Bidding the child come to him as soon as possible to
begin the day's work, he went back to his own abode to reflect.

He had previously said that this child should be brought up to know no
evil. And yet, was he not suggesting evil to her at every turn? Did
not his insistence upon the likelihood of hurting or burning herself
emphasize his own stalwart belief in evil as an immanent power and
contingency? Was he thus always to maintain a house divided against
itself? But some day she _must_ know, whether by instruction or dire
experience, that evil is a fact to be reckoned with! And as her
protector, it was his duty to--But he had not the heart to shatter
such beautiful confidence!

Then he fell to wondering how long that pure faith could endure.
Certainly not long if she were subjected to the sort of instruction
which the children of this world receive. But was it not his duty with
proper tutelage to make it last as long as possible? Was it not even
now so firmly grounded that it never could be shaken?

He dwelt on the fact that nearly all children at some period early in
life commune with their concept of God. He had, himself. As a very
young child he had even felt himself on such terms of familiarity with
God that he could not sleep without first bidding Him good night. As a
young child, too, he had known no evil. Nor do any children, until
their perfect confidence in good is chilled by the false instruction
of parents and teachers, who parade evil before them in all its
hideous garb.

Alas! for the baneful belief that years bring wisdom. How pitiable,
and how cruelly detrimental to the child are an ignorant parent's
assumptions of superiority! How tremendous the responsibility that now
lay at his own door! Yet no greater than that which lies at the door
of every parent throughout the world.

It is sadly true, he reflected, that children are educated almost
entirely along material lines. Even in the imparting of religious
instruction, the spiritual is so tainted with materialism, and its
concomitants of fear and limitation, that the preponderance of faith
is always on the material side. Josè had believed that as he had grown
older in years he had lost faith. Far from it! The quantity of his
faith remained fixed; but the quality had changed, through education,
from faith in good to faith in evil. And though trained as a priest of
God, in reality he had been taught wholly to distrust spiritual
power.

But how could a parent rely on spiritual power to save a child about
to fall into the fire? Must not children be warned, and taught to
protect themselves from accident and disaster, as far as may be?
True--yet, what causes accident and disaster? Has the parent's thought
aught to do with it? Has the world's thought? Can it be traced to the
universal acceptance of evil as a power, real and operative? Does
mankind's woeful lack of faith in good manifest itself in accident,
sickness, and death?

A cry roused Josè from his revery. It came from back of the house.
Hastening to the rear door he saw Doña Maria standing petrified,
looking in wide-eyed horror toward the lake. Josè followed her gaze,
and his blood froze. Carmen had been sent to meet the canoe that daily
supplied fresh water to the village from the Juncal river, which
flowed into the lake at the far north end. It had not yet arrived, and
she had sat down beside her jar at the water's edge, and was lost in
dreams as she looked out over the shimmering expanse. A huge crocodile
which had been lying in the shadow of a shale ledge had marked the
child, and was steadily creeping up behind her. The reptile was but a
few feet from her when Doña Maria, wondering at her delay, had gone to
the rear door and witnessed her peril.

In a flash Josè recalled the tale related to him but a few days before
by Fidel Avila, who was working in the church.

"Padre," Fidel had said, "as soon as the church is ready I shall
offer a candle to good _Santa Catalina_ for protecting my sister."

"How was that, my son?" inquired Josè.

"She protected her from a crocodile a year ago, Padre. The girl had
gone to the lake to get water to wash our clothes, and as she sat in
the stern of the boat dipping the water, a great crocodile rose and
seized her arm. I heard her scream, and I was saying the rosary at the
time. And so I prayed to _Santa Catalina_ not to let the crocodile eat
her, and she didn't."

"Then your sister was saved?"

"The crocodile pulled her under the water, Padre, and she was drowned.
But he did not eat her; and we got her body and buried her here in the
cemetery. We were very grateful."

_Sancta simplicitas!_ That such childish credulity might be turned
into proper channels!

But there were times when fish were scarce in the lake. Then the
crocodiles became bold; and many babes had been seized and dragged off
by them, never to return. The fishing this season had been very poor.
And more than one fisherman had asked Josè to invoke the Virgin in his
behalf.

Nearer crept the monster toward the unsuspecting girl. Suddenly she
turned and looked squarely at it. She might almost have touched it
with her hand. For Josè it was one of those crises that "crowd
eternity into an hour." The child and the reptile might have been
painted against that wondrous tropic background. The great brute stood
bolt upright on its squat legs, its hideous jaws partly open. The girl
made no motion, but seemed to hold it with her steady gaze. Then--the
creature dropped; its jaws snapped shut; and it scampered into the
water.

"God above!" cried Josè, as he rushed to the girl and clasped her in
his arms. "Forgive me if I ever doubted the miracles of Jesus!"

Doña Maria turned and quietly resumed her work; but the man was
completely unstrung.

"What is it, Padre?" Carmen asked in unfeigned surprise. "I am not
afraid of crocodiles--are you? You couldn't be, if you knew that God
is everywhere."

"But don't you know, child, that crocodiles have carried off--"

He checked himself. No--he would not say it. He had had his lesson.

"What, Padre?"

"Nothing--nothing--I forgot--that's all. A--a--come, let us begin our
lessons now."

But his mind refused to be held to the work. Finally he had to ask--he
could not help it.

"Carmen, what did you do? Did you talk to the crocodile?"

"Why, no, Padre--crocodiles don't talk!" And throwing her little head
back she laughed heartily at the absurd idea.

"But--you did something! What was it? Tell me."

"No, Padre, I did nothing," the child persisted.

He saw he must reach her thought in another way. "Why did the
crocodile come up to you, Carmen?" he asked.

"Why--I guess because it loved me--I don't know."

"And did you love it as you sat looking at it?"

"Of course, Padre. We have just got to love _everything_. Don't you
know that?"

"Y--yes--that is so, _chiquita_. I--I just thought I would ask you.
Now let us begin the arithmetic lesson."

The child loved the hideous saurian! And "perfect love casteth out
fear." What turned the monster from the girl and drove it into the
lake? Love, again, before which evil falls in sheer impotence? Had she
worked a miracle? Certainly not! Had God interposed in her behalf?
Again, no. "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." And would divine Love
always protect her? There could be no question about it, _as long as
she knew no evil_.

The morning hours sped past. From arithmetic, they turned to the
English lesson. Next to perfection in her own Castilian, Josè felt
that this language was most important for her. And she delighted in
it, although her odd little pronunciations, and her vain attempts to
manipulate words to conform to her own ideas of enunciation brought
many a hearty laugh, in which she joined with enthusiasm. The
afternoon, as was his plan for future work, was devoted to narratives
of men and events, and to descriptions of places. It was a ceaseless
wonder to Josè how her mind absorbed his instruction.

"How readily you see these things, Carmen," he said, as he concluded
the work for the day.

"See them, Padre? But not with my outside eyes."

The remark seemed to start a train of thought within her mentality.
"Padre," she at length asked, "how do we see with our eyes?"

"It is very simple, _chiquita_," Josè replied. "Here, let me draw a
picture of an eye."

He quickly sketched a rough outline of the human organ of sight.
"Now," he began, "you know you cannot see in the dark, don't you?"

"Yes, Padre?"

"In order to see, we must have light."

"What is light, Padre dear?"

"Well--light is--is vibrations. That is, rapid movement."

"What moves?"

"A--a--a--well, nothing--that is, light is just vibrations. The
pendulum of the old clock in Don Mario's store vibrates, you
know--moves back and forth."

"And light does that?"

"Yes; light _is_ that. Now that chair there, for example, reflects
light, just as a mirror does. It reflects vibrations. And these are
all of just a certain length, for vibrations of just that length and
moving up and down just so fast make light. The light enters the eye,
like this," tracing the rays on his sketch. "It makes a little picture
of the chair on the back of the eye, where the optic nerve is
fastened. Now the light makes the little ends of this nerve vibrate,
too--move very rapidly. And that movement is carried along the nerve
to some place in the brain--to what we call the center of sight. And
there we see the chair."

The child studied the sketch long and seriously.

"But, Padre, is the picture of the chair carried on the nerve to the
brain?"

"Oh, no, _chiquita_, only vibrations. It is as if the nerve moved just
a little distance, but very, very fast, back and forth, or up and
down."

"And no picture is carried to the brain?"

"No, there is just a vibration in the brain."

"And that vibration makes us see the chair?"

"Yes, little one."

A moment of silence. Then--

"Padre dear, I don't believe it."

"Why, _chiquita_!"

"Well, Padre, what is it that sees the chair, anyway?"

"The mind, dear."

"Is the mind up there in the brain?"

"Well--no, we can't say that it is."

"Where is it, then?"

"A--a--well, no place in particular--that is, it is right here all the
time."

"Well, then, when the mind wants to see the chair does it have to
climb up into the brain and watch that little nerve wiggle?"

The man was at a loss for an answer. Carmen suddenly crumpled the
sketch in her small hand and smiled up at him.

"Padre dear, I don't believe our outside eyes see anything. We just
think they do, don't we?"

Josè looked out through the open door. Carmen's weird heron was
stalking in immense dignity past the house.

"I think Cantar-las-horas is getting ready to sing the Vespers,
_chiquita_. And so Doña Maria probably needs you now. We will talk
more about the eye to-morrow."

By the light of his sputtering candle that night Josè sat with elbows
propped on the table, his head clasped in his hands, and a sketch of
the human eye before him. In his confident attempt to explain to
Carmen the process of cognition he had been completely baffled.
Certainly, light coming from an object enters the eye and casts a
picture upon the retina. He had often seen the photographic camera
exhibit the same phenomenon. The law of the impenetrability of matter
had to be set aside, of course--or else light must be pure vibration,
without a material vibrating concomitant. Then, too, it was plain that
the light in some way communicated its vibration to the little
projecting ends of the optic nerve, which lie spread out over the rear
inner surface of the eye. And equally patent that this vibration is in
some way taken up by the optic nerve and transmitted to the center of
sight in the brain. But after that--what? He laughed again at Carmen's
pertinent question about the mind climbing up into the brain to see
the vibrating nerve. But was it so silly a presumption, after all? Is
the mind within the brain, awaiting in Stygian darkness the advent of
the vibrations which shall give it pictures of the outside world? Or
is the mind outside of the brain, but still slavishly forced to look
at these vibrations of the optic nerve and then translate them into
terms of things without? What could a vibrating nerve suggest to a
well-ordered mind, anyway? He might as logically wave a piece of meat
and expect thereby to see a world! He laughed aloud at the thought.
Why does not the foolish mind leave the brain and look at the picture
on the retina? Or why does it not throw off its shackles and look
directly at the object to be cognized, instead of submitting to
dependence upon so frail a thing as fleshly eyes and nerves?

As he mused and sketched, unmindful of the voracious mosquitoes or the
blundering moths that momentarily threatened his light, it dawned
slowly upon him that the mind's awareness of material objects could
not possibly depend upon the vibrations of pieces of nerve tissue, so
minute as to be almost invisible to the unaided sight. Still more
absurd did it appear to him that his own mind, of which he might
justly boast tremendous powers, could be prostituted to such a degree
that its knowledge of things must be served to it on waving pieces of
flesh.

And how about the other senses--touch, hearing? Did the ear hear, or
the hand feel? He had always accepted the general belief that man is
dependent absolutely upon the five physical senses for his knowledge
of an outside world. And now a little thought showed that from these
five senses man could not possibly receive anything more than a series
of disconnected vibrations! And, going a step further, anything that
the mind infers from these vibrations is unquestionably inferred
_without a particle of outside authority_!

He rose and paced the floor. A tremendous idea seemed to be knocking
at the portal of his mentality.

What can the mind know? Assuredly nothing but the contents of itself.
But the contents of mind are thoughts, ideas, mental things. Do solid
material objects enter the mind? Certainly not! Then the mind knows
not things, but its _thoughts of things_. And instead of seeing,
hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling solid material objects, the
mind sees, hears, smells, tastes, and feels--what? The contents of
itself! Its own thoughts and ideas! And the outer world? Is only what
the mind _believes_ it to be. But surely his mind saw an outer world
through the medium of his eye! No. His mind saw only its own concepts
of an outer world--and these concepts, being mental, might take on
whatever hue and tinge his mind decreed. In other words, instead of
seeing a world of matter, he was seeing only a mental picture of a
world. And that picture was in his own mind, _and formed by that
mind_!

The man seized his hat and hurried out into the night. He walked
rapidly the full length of the town. His mind was wrestling with
stupendous thoughts.

An hour later he returned to his house, and seizing a pencil, wrote
rapidly: Matter is mental. We do not see or feel matter, but we
_think_ it. It is formed and held as a mental concept in every human
mind. The material universe is but the human mind's concept of a
universe, and can only be this mentality's translation to itself of
infinite Mind's purely mental Creation.

"And so," he commented aloud, sitting back and regarding his writing,
"all my miserable life I have been seeing only my own thoughts! And I
have let them use me and color my whole outlook!"

He extinguished the candle and threw himself, fully dressed, upon his
bed.



CHAPTER 10


Momentous changes, of far-reaching effect, had come swiftly upon Josè
de Rincón during the last few days, changes which were destined after
much vacillation and great mental struggle to leave a reversed
outlook. But let no one think these changes fortuitous or casual, the
chance result of a new throw of Fate's dice. Josè, seeing them dimly
outlined, did not so regard them, but rather looked upon them as the
working of great mental laws, still unknown, whose cumulative effect
had begun a transformation in his soul. How often in his seminary days
he had pondered the scripture, "He left not Himself without witness."
How often he had tried to see the hopeless confusion of good and evil
in the world about him as a witness to the One who is of purer eyes
than to behold evil. And he had at last abandoned his efforts in
despair. Yet that there must be something behind the complex phenomena
which men call life, he knew. Call it what he would--law, force, mind,
God, or even X, the great unknown quantity for which life's intricate
equations must be solved--yet _something_ there was in it all which
endured in an eternal manifestation. But could that something endure
in an expression both good and evil?

He had long since abandoned all study of the Bible. But in these last
days there had begun to dawn upon him the conviction that within that
strange book were locked mysteries which far transcended the wildest
imaginings of the human mind. With it came also the certainty that
Jesus had been in complete possession of those sacred mysteries. There
could be no question now that his mission had been woefully
misunderstood, often deliberately misinterpreted, and too frequently
maliciously misused by mankind. His greatest sayings, teachings so
pregnant with truth that, had they been rightfully appropriated by
men, ere this would have dematerialized the universe and revealed the
spiritual kingdom of God, had been warped by cunning minds into crude
systems of theology and righteous shams, behind which the world's
money-changers and sellers of doves still drove their wicked traffic
and offered insults to Truth in the temple of the Most High.

Oh, how he now lamented the narrowness and the intellectual
limitations with which his seminary training had been hedged about!
The world's thought had been a closed book to him. Because of his
morbid honesty, only such pages reached his eye as had passed the
bigoted censorship of Holy Church. His religious instruction had been
served to him with the seal of infallible authority. Of other systems
of theology he had been permitted only the Vatican's biased
interpretation, for the curse of Holy Church rested upon them. Of
current philosophical thought, of Bible criticism and the results of
independent scriptural research, he knew practically nothing--little
beyond what the explorer had told him in their memorable talks a few
weeks before in Cartagena. But, had he known it, these had unbarred
the portals of his mind to the reception of the new ideas which, under
a most powerful stimulus, were now flowing so steadily through them.
That stimulus was Carmen.

To meet with a child of tender years who knows no evil is, after all,
a not uncommon thing. For, did we but realize it, the world abounds in
them. They are its glory, its radiance--until they are taught to heed
the hiss of the serpent. Their pure knowledge of immanent good would
endure--ah, who may say how long?--did not we who measure our wisdom
by years forbid them with the fear-born mandate: "Thus far!" What
manner of being was he who said, "Suffer little children to come unto
me, and forbid them not?" Oh, ye parents, who forbid your little ones
to come to the Christ by hourly heaping up before them the limitations
of fear and doubt, of faith in the power and reality of sin and evil,
of false instruction, and withering material beliefs! Would not the
Christ pray for you to-day, "Father, forgive them, for they know not
what they do"?

When Josè met Carmen she was holding steadfastly to her vision--the
immanence and allness of God. Each day she created the morrow; and she
knew to a certainty that it would be happy. Would he, clanking his
fetters of worldly beliefs, be the one to shatter her illusion, if
illusion it be? Nay, rather should he seek to learn of her, if; haply
she be in possession of that jewel for which he had searched a vain
lifetime. Already from the stimulus which his intercourse with the
child had given his mental processes there had come a sudden
liberation of thought. Into his freer mentality the Christ-idea now
flowed.

Mankind complain that they cannot "prove" God. But Paul long since
declared emphatically that to prove Him the human mind must be
transformed. In the light of the great ideas which had dawned upon him
in the past few days--the nature of God as mind, unlimited, immanent,
eternal, and good; and the specious character of the five physical
senses, which from the beginning have deluded mankind into the false
belief that through them comes a true knowledge of the cosmos--Josè's
mentality was being formed anew.

Hegel, delving for truth in a world of illusion, summed up a lifetime
of patient research in the pregnant statement, "The true knowledge of
God begins when we know that things as they are have no truth in
them." The testimony of the five physical senses constitutes "things
as they are." But--if Josè's reasoning be not illogical--the human
mind receives no testimony from these senses, which, at most, can
offer but insensate and meaningless vibrations in a pulpy mass called
the brain. The true knowledge of God, for which Josè had yearned and
striven, begins only when men turn from the mesmeric deception of the
physical senses, and learn that there is something, knowable and
usable, behind them, and of whose existence they give not the
slightest intimation.

It was Saturday. The church edifice was so far put in order that Josè
found no reason for not holding service on the morrow. He therefore
announced the fact, and told Carmen that he must devote the day to
preparation. Their lessons must go over to Monday. Seeking the
solitude of his house, Josè returned to his Bible.

He began with Genesis. "In the beginning--God." Not, as in the codes
of men, God last, and after every material expedient has been
exhausted--but "to begin with." Josè could not deny that for all that
exists there is a cause. Nor can the human mind object to the
implication that the cause of an existing universe must itself
continue to exist. Even less can it deny that the framer of the
worlds, bound together in infinite space by the unbreakable cables of
infinite laws, must be omnipotent. And to retain its omnipotence, that
cause must be perfect--absolutely good--every whit pure, sound, and
harmonious; for evil is demonstrably self-destructive. And, lastly,
what power could operate thus but an infinite intelligence, an
all-inclusive mind?

Now let the human mentality continue its own reasoning, if so be that
it hold fast to fact and employ logical processes. If "like
produces like"--and from thistles figs do not grow--that which mind
creates must be mental. And a good cause can produce only a good
effect. So the ancient writer, "And God saw every thing that He had
made, and, behold, it was very good." The inspired scribe--inspired?
Yes, mused Josè, for inspiration is but the flow of truth into one's
mentality--stopped not until he had said, "So God created man in
His own image"--

Wait! He will drive that home.

--"in the image of God"--not in the image of matter, not in the
likeness of evil--"created He him." But what had now become of that
man?

So Jesus, centuries later, "God is spirit," and, "That which is born
of the Spirit is spirit." Or, man--true man--expresses mind, God, and
is His eternal and spiritual likeness and reflection. But, to make
this still clearer to torpid minds, Paul wrote, "For in Him we live,
and move, and have our being." Then he added, "To be spiritually
minded is life." As if he would say, True life is the _consciousness_
of spiritual things only.

Is human life aught but a series of states of consciousness? And is
consciousness aught but mental activity?--for when the mind's activity
ceases, the man dies. But mental activity is the activity of thought.

"It is the activity of thought," said Josè aloud, "that makes us
believe that fleshly eyes see and ears hear. We see only our thoughts;
and in some way they become externalized as our environment."

His reasoning faculty went busily on. Thought builds images, or mental
concepts, within the mind. These are the thought-objects which mankind
believe they see as material things in an outer world. And so the
world is within, not without. Jesus must have known this when he said,
"The kingdom of heaven is within you." Did he not know the tremendous
effects of thought when he said, "For as a man thinketh, so is he"? In
other words, a man builds his own mental image of himself, and conveys
it to the fellow-minds about him.

Josè again opened his Bible at random. His eye fell upon the
warning of Jeremiah, "Hear, O earth, behold I will bring evil
upon this people, _even the fruit of their thoughts_!" Alas! he
needed no warning to show him now the dire results of his own past
wrong thinking. Evil is but wrong thinking wrought out in life
experience. And so the chief of sins is the breaking of the very
first Commandment, the belief in other powers than God, the
infinite mind that framed the spiritual universe.

"But we simply can't help breaking the Commandment," cried Josè, "when
we see nothing but evil about us! And yet--we are seeing only the
thoughts in our own minds. True--but how came they there? And whence?
From God?"

Josè was quite ready to concede a mental basis for everything; to
believe that even sin is but the thought of sin, false thought
regarding God and His Creation. But, if God is all-inclusive mind, He
must be _the only thinker_. And so all thought must proceed from Him.
All thought, both good and evil? No, for then were God maintaining a
house divided against itself. And that would mean His ultimate
dissolution.

Infinite, omnipotent mind is by very logic _compelled_ to be perfect.
Then the thoughts issuing from that mind must be good. So it must
follow that evil thoughts come from another source. But if God is
infinite, there is no other source, no other cause. Then there is but
the single alternative left--_evil thoughts must be unreal_.

What was it that the explorer had said to him in regard to Spencer's
definition of reality? "That which endures." But, for that matter,
evil seems to be just as enduring as good, and to run its course as
undeviatingly. After all, what is it that says there is evil? The five
physical senses. But that again reduces to the thought of evil, for
men see only their thoughts. These so-called senses say that the world
is flat--that the sun circles the earth--that objects diminish in size
with distance. They testify not to truth. Jesus said that evil, or the
"devil," was "a liar and the father of lies." Then the testimony of
the physical senses to evil--and there is no other testimony to its
existence and power--is a lie. A lie is--what? Nothing. Reason has had
to correct sense-testimony in the field of astronomy and show that the
earth is not flat. Where, indeed, has reason not had to correct
sense-testimony? For Josè could now see that all such testimony was
essentially false. "Things as they are have no truth in them." In
other words, sense-testimony is false belief. Again, a lie. And the
habitat of a lie is--nowhere. Did the world by clinging to evil and
trying to make something of it, to classify it and reduce it to
definite rules and terms, thus tend to make it real? Assuredly so. And
as long as the world held evil to be real, could evil be overcome?
Again, no. A reality endures forever.

Josè arose from his study. He believed he was close to the discovery
of that solid basis of truth on which to stand while teaching Carmen.
At any rate, her faith, which he could no longer believe to be
baseless illusion, would not be shattered by him.



CHAPTER 11


Two weeks after his arrival in Simití Josè conducted his first
services in the ancient church. After four years of silence, the rusty
bell sent out its raucous call from the old tower that still morning
and announced the revival of public worship.

As the priest stepped from the sacristy and approached the altar his
heart experienced a sudden sinking. Before him his little flock bowed
reverently and expectantly. Looking out at them, a lump rose in his
throat. He was their pastor, and daily his love had grown for these
kindly, simple folk. And now, what would he not have given could he
have stretched forth his hands, as did the Master, to heal them of
their ills and lift them out of the shadows of ignorance! Ah, if he
could have thrown aside the mummery and pagan ceremonialism which he
was there to conduct, and have sat down among them, as Jesus was wont
to do on those still mornings in Galilee! Instead, he stood before
them an apostate vassal of Rome, hypocritically using the Church to
shield and maintain himself in Simití while he reared away from her
the child Carmen.

Yet, what could he do? He had heard the call; and he had answered,
"Master, here am I." And now he was occupying, while waiting to be
led, step by step, out of his cruelly anomalous position and into his
rightful domain. A traitor to Holy Church? Nay, he thought he would
have been a traitor to all that was best and holiest within himself
had he done otherwise. In the name of the Church he would serve these
humble people. Serving them, he honored the Master. And honoring
Christ, he could not dishonor the Church.

Josè's conduct of the Mass was perfunctory. Vainly he strove to hold
in thought the symbolism of the service, the offering of Christ as a
propitiation for the world's sins. But gradually the folly of Milton's
extravagant, wild dream, which the poet clothed in such imperishable
beauty, stole over him and blinded this vision. He saw the Holy
Trinity sitting in solemn council in the courts of heaven. He heard
their perplexed discussion of the ravages of Satan in the terrestrial
paradise below. He heard the Father pronounce His awful curse upon
mankind. And he beheld the Son rise and with celestial magnanimity
offer himself as the sacrificial lamb, whose blood should wash away
the serpent-stain of sin. How inept the whole drama!

And then he thought of Carmen. He had seen her, as he looked out over
his people, sitting with Doña Maria, arrayed in a clean white frock,
and swinging her plump bare legs beneath the bench, while wonder and
amazement peered out from her big brown eyes as she followed his every
move. What would such things mean to her, whose God was ever-present
good? What did they mean to the priest himself, who was beginning to
see Him as infinite, divine mind, knowing no evil--the One whose
thoughts are not as ours?

He took up the holy water and sprinkled the assemblage. "Purge me with
hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than
snow." But how is the human mind purged of error? By giving it truth.
And does the infinite mind purge the thought of men in any other way?
His mind was full as he took up the Missal. "_Kyrie Eleison_, _Christe
Eleison_."

He hesitated. With a tug he pulled his mind back to the work before
him. But why was he invoking clemency from One who knows no evil?
Heretofore he had always thought that God knew evil, that He must
recognize it, and that He strove Himself to overcome it. But if God
knew evil, then evil were real and eternal! Dreamily he began to
intone the _Gloria in Excelsis Deo_. All hail, thou infinite mind,
whose measureless depths mortal man has not even begun to sound! His
soul could echo that strain forever.

He turned to the Lesson and read: "But there went up a mist from the
earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. And the Lord God
formed man of the dust of the ground." He stopped a moment for
thought. The _Lord_ God! The mist of error watered the false
thought--the one lie about God--and out of it formed the man of flesh,
the false concept which is held in the minds of mortals. Aye, it was
the lie, posing as the Lord of creation, which had formed its false
man out of the dust of the ground, and had forced it upon the
acceptance of mankind! Josè turned back and read the whole of the
first chapter of Genesis, where he felt that he stood upon truth.

The tapers on the altar flickered fitfully. The disturbed bats
blundered among the rafters overhead. Outside, the dusty roads burned
with a white glare. Within, he and the people were worshiping God.
Worship? This? "God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must
worship Him in spirit and in truth." In _Truth_!

Josè recited the Nicene creed, with the thought that its man-made
fetters had bound the Christian world for dreary centuries. Then, the
Preface and Canon concluded, he pronounced the solemn words of
consecration which turned the bread and wine before him into the flesh
and blood of Christ Jesus. He looked at the wafer and the chalice long
and earnestly. He--Josè de Rincón--mortal, human, a weakling among
weaklings--could he command God by his "_Hoc est enim corpus meum_" to
descend from heaven to this altar? Could he so invoke the power of the
Christ as to change bread and wine into actual flesh and blood? And
yet, with all the priestly powers which Holy Church had conferred upon
him, he could not heal a single bodily ill, nor avert one human
misfortune!

Ah, pagan Rome! Well have you avenged yourself upon those who wrought
your fall, for in the death conflict you left the taint of your
paganism upon them, and it endures in their sons even to this fair
day!

Josè deferred his sermon until the close of the service. He wanted
time to think over again what he could say to these simple people.
They sat before him, dull, inert, yet impressionable--bare of feet, or
wearing hempen sandals, and clad in cheap cottons and calicos, with
here and there a flash of bright ribbon among the women, and
occasionally a parasol of brilliant hue, which the owner fondly
clasped, while impatiently awaiting the close of the service that she
might proudly parade it. A few of the men wore starched linen shirts,
but without collars. The Alcalde, with his numerous family, and the
family of Don Felipe Alcozer, sat well in front. The former regarded
Josè expectantly, as the priest turned to deliver his simple sermon.

"My children," Josè began, "when the good man whom we call the Saviour
sent his disciples out into the world he told them to preach the
gospel and heal the sick. We have no record that he asked them to do
more, for that included his whole mission. I am here to do his work.
And, as I believe myself to have been led to you, so I shall preach
what I believe to be given me by the great Father of us all. I shall
teach you the Christ as I comprehend him. I would I could heal the
sick as well. But the gift of healing which Jesus bestowed has been
lost to mankind." He paused and seemed to think deeply. Then he
continued:

"I am your servant, and your friend. I want you to believe that
whatever I do in your midst and whatever I say to you follows only
after I have prayerfully considered your welfare. As time has passed I
have seemed to see things in a clearer light than before. What I may
see in the future I shall point out to you as you are able to
understand me. To that end we must suffer many things to be as they
are for the present, for I am learning with you. I shall give you a
single thought to take with you to-day. Jesus once said, 'As a man
thinketh, so is he.' I want you to remember that, if you would be well
and happy and prosperous, you must think only about good things. Some
day you will see why this is so. But go back now to your _fincas_ and
your fishing, to your little stores and your humble homes, firmly
resolving never to think a bad thought, whether about yourself or your
neighbor. And pray for yourselves and me--"

He looked off into the gloom overhead. Again he seemed to hear the Man
of Galilee: "Ask and ye shall receive."

"And, my children--"

He thought suddenly of Carmen and her visits to the shales. His face
shone for a moment with a new light.

"--let your prayers be no mere requests that God will bless us, but
rather let them be statements that He is infinite good, and that He
cannot do otherwise than give us all we need. No, I ask not that you
intercede for me; nor shall I do so for you. But I do ask that you
join with me in trying to realize that God is good; that He loves us
as His dear children; and that He is daily, hourly pouring out His
inexhaustible goodness upon us. We shall all see that goodness when we
learn to think no evil."

His eyes rested upon Carmen as he spoke these last words. Then with a
simple invocation he dismissed the congregation.

The Alcalde carried Josè off to dinner with him, much against the
inclination of the priest, who preferred to be alone. But the Alcalde
was the chief influence in the town, and it was policy to cultivate
him.

"The blessed Virgin shows that she has not forgotten Simití, Padre, by
sending you here," said Don Mario, when they were seated in the shade
of the ample _patio_.

Josè knew the Alcalde was sounding him. "Yes, friend," with just a
trace of amusement in his voice. "It was doubtless because of the
Virgin that I was directed here," he replied, thinking of Carmen.

"Excellent advice that you gave the people, Padre; but it is not
likely they understood you, poor fools! Now if Padre Diego had been
preaching he would have ranted like a windstorm; but he would have
made an impression. I am afraid soft words will not sink into their
thick skulls."

Dinner was served in the open, during which the Alcalde chattered
volubly.

"Don Rosendo returns soon?" he finally ventured. Josè knew that for
some time he had been edging toward the question.

"_Quien sabe, señor!_" replied the priest, with a careless shrug of
his shoulders.

"But--_Caramba_! he is old to prospect for gold--and alone, too!" Don
Mario eyed Josè sharply.

"Ah, you priests!" he burst out laughing. "You are all alike when it
comes to money. Padre Diego was up to the same schemes; and before he
left he had a hat full of titles to mines."

"But I am not seeking to acquire mineral property!" exclaimed Josè
with some aspersion.

"No? Then you had nothing to do with Rosendo's trip?"

Josè kept silence.

"_Na_, Padre, let us be confidential," said the Alcalde, hitching his
chair closer to the priest. "Look, I understand why Rosendo went into
the Guamocó country--but you can trust me to say nothing about it.
Only, Padre, if he should find the mine he will have trouble enough
to hold it. But I can help you both. You know the denouncement
papers must go through my hands, and I send them to Cartagena for
registration."

He sat back in his chair with a knowing look.

"There is only one man here to be afraid of," he resumed; "and that is
Don Felipe Alcozer; although he may never return to Simití." He
reflected a few moments. Then:

"Now, Padre, let us have some understanding about interests in the
mine, should Rosendo find it. The mine will be useless to us unless we
work it, for there is no one to buy it from us. To work it, we must
have a stamp-mill, or _arrastras_. The Antioquanians are skilled in
the making of wooden stamp-mills; but one would cost perhaps two
thousand _pesos oro_. Nobody here can furnish so much money but Don
Felipe. I will arrange with him for a suitable interest. And I will
fix all the papers so that the title will be held by us three. Rosendo
is only a _peon_. You can pay him for his trouble, and he need not
have an interest."

Josè breathed easier while this recital was in progress. So Don Mario
believed Rosendo to have gone in search of the lost mine, La Libertad!
Good; for Cartagena would soon get the report, and his own tenure of
the parish would be rendered doubly sure thereby. The monthly greasing
of Wenceslas' palm with what Rosendo might extract from the Guamocó
sands, coupled with the belief that Josè was maintaining a man in the
field in search of Don Ignacio's lost mine, rendered Cartagena's
interference a very remote contingency. He almost laughed as he
replied:

"Rosendo will doubtless prospect for some months, Don Mario, and I am
sure we shall have plenty of time to discuss any arrangement of
interests later, should occasion arise. But this is the Sabbath day.
So let us not talk business any further."

When the afternoon heat began to wane, Josè left the Alcalde and
returned to his cottage. Since the service of the morning he had been
fighting a constantly deepening sense of depression. An awful
loneliness now gripped his heart, and dank gloom was again sweeping
through the corridors of his soul. God, what a sacrifice, to remain
buried in that dismal town! His continuance in the priesthood of an
abjured faith was violative of every principle of honesty! The time
would come when the mask of hypocrisy would have to be raised, and the
resultant exposure would be worse then than open apostasy now!

He entered his dreary little abode and threw himself upon a chair.
There had been no reaction like this for days. He looked out into the
deserted street. Mud hovels; ragged, thatched roofs; lowly _peones_
drowsing away life's little hour within! There was scarcely a book in
the town. Few of its inhabitants could even read or write. Culture,
education, refinement--all wanting. Nothing but primal existence--the
barest necessities of real life. He could not stand it! He had been a
fool all his years! He would throw everything to the winds and go out
into the world to live his life as it had been intended he should live
it. He would send his resignation to the Bishop to-morrow. Then he
would hire Juan to take him to Bodega Central; and the few _pesos_ he
had left would get him to Barranquilla. There he would work until he
had earned enough for his passage to the great States up north, of
which the explorer had told such wonderful tales. Once there, he could
teach, or--

His thought turned to Rosendo. He saw him, bent with age, and wearied
with toil, alone in the awful solitude of the jungle, standing knee
deep in the cold mountain water, while from early dawn till sunset he
incessantly swung the heavy _batea_ to concentrate the few flakes of
precious gold it might contain. And the old man was facing years of
just such loneliness and heavy toil--facing them gladly.

He thought of Carmen. Was she worth such sacrifice as he and Rosendo
were making? God forgive him! Yes--a thousand times yes! If he
betrayed Rosendo's confidence and fled like a coward now, leaving her
to fall into the sooty hands of men like Padre Diego, to be crushed,
warped, and squeezed into the molds of Holy Church, could he ever
again face his fellow-men?

He jumped to his feet. "Get thee behind me, Satan!" he cried in a
voice that echoed through the barren rooms. He smote his chest and
paced the floor. Then he stopped still. He heard Carmen's voice again.
It was the same simple melody she had sung the day he awoke from his
fever. He stood listening. His eyes filled. Then--

  "Love took up the harp of life, and smote on all the chords with
        might,
  Smote the chord of self, that, trembling, passed in music out of
        sight."



CHAPTER 12


In the days that followed, while at times Josè still struggled
desperately against the depression of his primal environment, and
against its insidious suggestions of license, Carmen moved before him
like the shechinah of Israel, symbolizing the divine presence. When
the dark hours came and his pronounced egoism bade fair to overwhelm
him; when his self-centered thought clung with the tenacity of a
limpet to his dreary surroundings and his unfilled longings; when
self-condemnation and self-pity rived his soul, and despair of solving
life's intricate problems settled again like a pall upon him, he
turned to her. Under the soft influence of her instinct for primitive
good, he was learning, even if slowly, to jettison his heavily laden
soul, and day by day to ride the tossing waves of his stormy thought
with a lighter cargo. Her simple faith in immanent good was working
upon his mind like a spiritual catharsis, to purge it of its clogging
beliefs. Her unselfed love flowed over him like heavenly balm, salving
the bleeding wounds of the spiritual mayhem which he had suffered at
the violent hands of Holy Church's worldly agents.

Carmen's days were filled to the brim with a measure of joy that
constantly overflowed upon all among whom she moved. Her slight
dependence upon her impoverished material environment, her contempt
of its _ennui_, were constant reminders to Josè that heaven is but
a state of mind. Even in desolate Simití, life to her was an
endless series of delightful experiences, of wonderful surprises
in the discovery of God's presence everywhere. Her enthusiasms were
always ardent and inexhaustible. Sparkling animation and abounding
vitality characterized her every movement. Her thought was free,
unstrained, natural, and untrammeled by those inherited and educated
beliefs in evil in which Josè had early been so completely swamped.
In worldly knowledge she was the purest novice; and the engaging
_naïveté_ with which she met the priest's explanations of historical
events and the motives from which they sprang charmed him beyond
measure, and made his work with her a constant delight. Her sense of
humor was keen, and her merriment when his recitals touched her
risibility was extravagant. She laughed at danger, laughed at the
weaknesses and foibles of men, when he told of the political and
social ambitions which stirred mankind in the outside world. But he
knew that her merriment proceeded not from an ephemeral sense of
the ludicrous, but from a righteous appraisal of the folly and
littleness of those things for which the world so sorely strives.

And daily the little maid wrapped herself about his heart. Daily her
wondrous love coiled its soft folds tighter around him, squeezing from
his atrabilious soul, drop by drop, its sad taciturnity and inherent
morbidness, that it might later fill his empty life with a spiritual
richness which he had never known before.

On the day following the opening of the church Carmen had asked
many questions. It was the first religious service she had ever
voluntarily attended. To her former queries regarding the function
of the church edifice, Rosendo had vouchsafed but one reply: it was
the house of God, and in it the people used to gather to learn of Him.
But she protested that she had no need of the musty, ramshackle,
barn-like old building as a locus in which to center her thought upon
God. She walked with Him, and she much preferred the bright, sunlit
out-of-doors in which to commune with Him. Josè explained the need
of a central gathering place as a shelter from the hot sun. But the
images--the pictures of Saints and Virgin--and the Mass itself?

"They are what the people are accustomed to, dear child, to direct
their thought toward God," he explained. "And we will use them until
we can teach them something better." He had omitted from the church
service as far as possible the collects and all invocations addressed
to the Virgin and the Saints, and had rendered it short and extremely
simple. Carmen seemed satisfied with his explanation, and with his
insistence that, for the sake of appearance, she attend the Sunday
services. He would trust her God to guide them both.

The days sped by silently and swiftly. Josè and the child dwelt
together apart from the world, in a universe purely mental. As he
taught her, she hung upon his every word, and seized the proffered
tutelage with avidity. Often, after the day's work, Josè, in his
customary strolls about the little town, would come across the girl in
the doorway of a neighboring house, with a group of wide-eyed
youngsters about her, relating again the wonder-tales which she had
gathered from him. Marvelous tales they were, too, of knight and
_hidalgo_, of court and camp, of fairies, pyxies, gnomes and sprites,
of mossy legend and historic fact, bubbling from the girl's childish
lips with an engaging _naïveté_ of interpretation that held the man
enchanted. Even the schoolmaster, who had besought Josè in vain to
turn Carmen over to him, was often a spellbound listener at these
little gatherings.

The result was that in a short time a delegation, headed by the
Alcalde himself, waited upon Josè and begged him to lecture to the
people of Simití in the church building at least two or three evenings
a week upon places and people he had seen in the great world of which
they knew nothing. Josè's eyes were moist as he looked at the great,
brawny men, stout of heart, but simple as children. He grieved to give
up his evenings, for he had formed the habit of late of devoting them
to the study of his Bible, and to meditation on those ideas which had
so recently come to him. But the appeal from these innocent, untutored
people again quenched the thought of self, and he bade them be assured
that their request was granted.

The new ideas which had found entrance into Josè's liberated mentality
in the past few days had formed a basis on which he was not afraid to
stand while teaching Carmen; and his entire instruction was
thenceforth colored by them. He knew not why, in all the preceding
years, such ideas had not come to him before. But he was to learn,
some day, that his previous tenacious clinging to evil as a reality,
together with his material beliefs and his worldly intellectuality,
had stood as barriers at the portals of his thought, and kept the
truth from entering. His mind had been already full--but its contents
were unbelief, fear, the conviction of evil as real and operative, and
the failure to know God as immanent, omnipotent and perfect mind, to
whom evil is forever unknown and unreal. Pride, egoism, and his morbid
sense of honesty had added their portion to the already impassable
obstruction at the gateway of his thought. And so the error had been
kept within, the good without. The "power of the Lord" had not been
absent; but it had remained unapplied. Thus he had wandered through
the desolate wilderness; but yet sustained and kept alive, that he
should not go down to the pit.

Josè's days were now so crowded that he was forced to borrow heavily
from the night. The Alcalde continued his unctuous flattery, and the
priest, in turn, cultivated him assiduously. To that official's query
as to the restitution of the confessional in the church, the priest
replied that he could spare time to hear only such confessions from
his flock as might be necessary to elicit from him the advice or
assistance requisite for their needs. He was there to help them solve
their life problems, not to pry into their sacred secrets; and their
confessions must relate only to their necessities.

The Alcalde went away with a puzzled look. Of a truth a new sort of
priest had now to be reckoned with in Simití--a very different sort
from Padre Diego.

In the first days of Josè's incumbency he found many serious matters
to adjust. He had learned from Rosendo that not half the residents of
Simití were married to the consorts with whom they lived, and that
many of the children who played in the streets did not know who their
fathers were. So prevalent was this evil condition that the custom
among the men of having their initials embroidered upon the bosoms of
their shirts was extended to include the initial of the mother's
family name. Josè had questioned Rosendo as to the meaning of the
letters R. A. S. upon his shirt.

"The S, Padre, is the initial of my mother's family name. I am Rosendo
Ariza, son of the daughter of Saurez. My parents were married by a
priest. But half the people of Simití have never been really
married."

Josè sought the cause of this dereliction. Fidel Avila was living with
a woman, by whom he had three children. The priest summoned him to the
parish house.

"Fidel," he questioned sternly, "Jacinta, the woman you live with, is
your wife?"

"Yes, _Señor Padre_."

"And you were married by the Church?"

"No, Padre."

"But was there a priest here when you began to live with Jacinta?"

"Yes, Padre. The _Cura_, Don Diego Polo, was here."

"Then why were you not married by him? Do you not know how wicked it
is to live as you are doing? Think of your children!"

"Yes, Padre, and I asked the _Cura_, Don Diego, to marry us. But he
charged twenty _pesos oro_ for doing it; and I could not afford it. I
loved Jacinta. And so we decided to live together without the
marriage."

"But--!" Josè stopped. He knew that the Church recognized no marriage
unless it were performed by a priest. The civil magistrate had no
jurisdiction in such a case. And a former priest's rapacity had
resulted in forcing illegitimacy upon half the children of this
benighted hamlet, because of their parents' inability to afford the
luxury of a canonical marriage.

"Fidel, were your father and mother married?" he asked in kinder
tones.

"I do not know, Padre. Only a few people in Guamocó can afford to pay
to be married. The men and women live together, perhaps for all time,
perhaps for only a few months. If a man wishes to leave his woman and
live with another, he does so. If there are children, the woman always
has to keep and care for them."

"And could you leave Jacinta if you wished, and live with another
woman?"

"Yes, Padre."

"And she would have to lake care of your children?"

"Yes."

"And all because you are not married?"

"I think so, Padre."

"_Hombre!_ But that will do, Fidel."

Oh, the sordid greed of those who abuse their sacred commission! What
punishment is mete for such as exploit these lowly folk in the name of
religion! Josè strode off to consult the Alcalde.

"Don Mario, the men in Simití who are living with women have _got_ to
be married to them! It is shameful! I shall make a canvass of the town
at once!"

The Alcalde laughed. "_Costumbre_, Padre. You can't change it."

_Costumbre del país!_ It is a final answer all through South America.
No matter how unreasonable a thing may be, if it is the custom of the
country it is a Medean law.

"But you know this is subversive of Church discipline!" Josè retorted
warmly. "Look you, Don Mario," he added suggestively, "you and I are
to work together, are we not?"

The Alcalde blinked his pig eyes, but thought hard about La Libertad.
_"Cierto, Señor Padre!"_ he hastened to exclaim.

"Then I demand that you summon before me every man and woman who are
living together unmarried."

With a thought single to his own future advantage, the wary Alcalde
complied. Within the week following this interview Josè married twenty
couples, and without charge. Some offered him a few _pesos_. These he
took and immediately turned over to Don Mario as treasurer of the
parish. Those couples who refused to be married were forced by the
Alcalde to separate. But of these there were few. Among them was one
Julio Gomez. Packing his few household effects upon his back, and
muttering imprecations against the priest, Gomez set out for the
hills, still followed by his woman, with a babe slung over her
shoulders and two naked children toddling at her bare heels.

Verily, the ancient town was being profoundly stirred by the man who
had sought to find his tomb there. Gradually the people lost their
suspicions and distrust, bred of former bitter experience with
priests, and joined heartily with Josè to ameliorate the social status
of the place. His sincere love for them, and his utter selflessness,
secured their confidence, and ere his first month among them closed,
he had won them, almost to a man.

Meantime, six weeks had passed since Rosendo had departed to take up
his lonely task of self-renouncing love. Then one day he returned,
worn and emaciated, his great frame shaking like a withered leaf in a
chill blast.

"It is the _terciana_, Padre," he said, as he sank shuddering upon
his bed. "It comes every third day. I went as far as Tachí--fifty
leagues from Simití--and there the fever overtook me. I have been
eight days coming back; and day before yesterday I ran out of
food. Last evening I found a wild melon at the side of the trail. A
coral snake struck at me when I reached for it, but he hit my
_machete_ instead. _Caramba!_"

Josè pressed his wet hand, while Doña Maria laid damp cloths upon his
burning forehead.

"The streams are washed out, Padre," Rosendo continued sadly. "I
worked at Colorado, Popales, and Tambora. But I got no more than five
_pesos_ worth. And that will not pay for half of my supplies. It is
there in a little bag," pointing to his soaked and muddy kit.

Josè's heart was wrung by the suffering and disappointment of the old
man. Sadly he carried the little handful of gold flakes to Don Mario,
and then returned to the exhausted Rosendo.

All through the night the sick man tossed and moaned. By morning he
was delirious. Then Josè and Doña Maria became genuinely alarmed. The
toil and exposure had been too much for Rosendo at his advanced age.
In his delirium he talked brokenly of the swamps through which he had
floundered, for he had taken the trail in the wet season, and fully
half of its one hundred and fifty miles of length was oozy and all but
impassable bog.

By afternoon the fever had greatly increased. Don Mario shook his head
as he stood over him.

"I have seen many in that condition, Padre, and they didn't wake up!
If we had quinine, perhaps he might be saved. But there isn't a flake
in the town."

"Then send Juan to Bodega Central at once for it!" cried Josè, wild
with apprehension.

"I doubt if he would find it there either, Padre. But we can try.
However, Juan cannot make the trip in less than two days. And I fear
Rosendo will not last that long."

Doña Maria sat by the bedside, dumb with grief. Josè wrung his hands
in despair. The day drew slowly to a close. The Alcalde had dispatched
Juan down to the river to signal any steamer that he should meet, if
perchance he might purchase a few grains of the only drug that could
save the sick man. Carmen had absented herself during the day; but
she returned in time to assist Doña Maria with the evening meal,
after which she went at once to her bed.

Late at night, when the sympathizing townsmen had sorrowfully departed
and Josè had induced Doña Maria to seek a few moments rest on her
_petate_ in the living room, Carmen climbed quietly out of her bed and
came to where the priest sat alone with the unconscious Rosendo.

Josè was bending over the delirious man. "Oh, if Jesus were only here
now!" he murmured.

"Padre dear."

Josè looked down into the little face beside him.

"People don't die, you know. They don't really die." The little head
shook as if to emphasize the words.

Josè was startled. But he put his arm about the child and drew her to
him. "_Chiquita_, why do you say that?" he asked sorrowfully.

"Because God doesn't die, you know," she quickly replied. "And we are
like Him, Padre, aren't we?"

"But He calls us to Him, _chiquita_. And--I guess--He is--is calling
your padre Rosendo now."

Does God kill mankind in order to give them life? Is that His way?
Death denies God, eternal Life. And--

"Why, no, Padre," returned the innocent child. "He is always here; and
we are always with Him, you know. He can not call people away from
where He is, can He?"

_Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world._ The
Christ-principle, the saving truth about God and man, is ever present
in an uncomprehending world.

Josè knew that there was no material dependence now. Something told
him that Rosendo lay dying. There was no physician, no drug, in the
isolated little town. There was none but God to save. And He--

But only sinners are taught by priests and preachers to look to God
for help. The sick are not so taught. How much more deplorable, then,
is their condition than that of the wicked!

"I told God out on the shales this afternoon that I just knew padre
Rosendo wouldn't die!" The soft, sweet voice hovered on the silence
like celestial melody.

_If ye ask anything in my name_--in my character--_it shall be given
you_. Carmen asked in the character of the sinless Christ, for her
asking was an assertion of what she instinctively knew to be truth,
despite the evidence of the physical senses. Her petitions were
affirmations of Immanuel--God with us.

"Carmen," whispered the priest hoarsely, "go back to your bed, and
know, just _know_ that God is here! Know that He did not make padre
Rosendo sick, and that He will not let him die! Know it for him--and
for me!"

"Why, Padre, I know that now!" The child looked up into the priest's
face with her luminous eyes radiating unshaken trust--a trust that
seemed born of understanding. Yea, she knew that all good was there,
for God is omnipotent. They had but to stretch forth their hands to
touch the robe of His Christ. The healing principle which cleansed the
lepers and raised the dead was even with them there in that quiet
room. Josè had only to realize it, nothing doubting. Carmen had done
her work, and her mind now was stayed on Him. Infinite Intelligence
did not know Rosendo as Josè was trying to know him, sick and dying.
God is Life--and there is no death!

Carmen was again asleep. Josè sat alone, his open Bible before him and
his thought with his God.

Oh, for even a slight conception of Him who is Life! Moses worked "as
seeing Him who is invisible." Carmen lived with her eyes on Him,
despite her dreary mundane encompassment. And Josè, as he sat there
throughout the watches of the night, facing the black terror, was
striving to pierce the mist which had gone up from the face of the
ground and was separating him from his God. Through the long, dark
hours, with the quiet of death upon the desolate chamber, he sat mute
before the veil that was "still untaken away."

What was it that kept telling him that Rosendo lay dying before him?
Does matter talk? Did the serpent talk to Eve? Do fleshly nerves and
frail bodily organs converse with men? Can the externalization of
thought report back to the thought itself? Nay, the report came to him
from the physical senses--naught else. And they reported--nothing! He
was seeing but his own thoughts of mixed good and evil. And they were
false, because they testified against God.

Surely God knew Rosendo. But not as the physical senses were trying to
make Josè know him, sick and dying. Surely the subjective determines
the objective; for as we think, so are we--the Christ said that. From
his human standpoint Josè was seeing his thoughts of a dying mortal.
And now he was trying to know that those thoughts did not come from
God--that they had no authority back of them--that they were children
of the "one lie" about God--that they were false, false as hell, and
therefore impotent and unreal.

What, then, had he to fear? Nothing, for truth is beyond the reach of
personal sense. So God and His ideas, reflected by the real Rosendo,
were beyond the reach of evil.

If this were true, then he must clear his own mentality--even as he
now knew Carmen had done out on the shales that afternoon. He was no
longer dealing with a material Rosendo, but with false beliefs about a
son of God. He was handling mental concepts. And to the serpent,
error, he was trying to say: "What is your authority?"

If man lives, he never dies. If man is, then he always has been. And
he was never born--and never passes into oblivion. A fact never
changes. If two and two make four to-day, they always have done so,
and always will.

Can good produce evil? Then evil can have no creator. Rosendo, when
moved by good, had gone into the wilds of Guamocó on a mission of
love. Did evil have power to smite him for his noble sacrifice?

What is this human life of ours? Real existence? No, but a sense of
existence--and a false sense, for it postulates a god of evil opposed
to the one supreme Creator of all that really is. Then the testimony
that said Rosendo must die was cruelly false. And, more, it was
powerless--unless Josè himself gave it power.

Did Carmen know that? Had she so reasoned? Assuredly no! But she knew
God as Josè had never known Him. And, despite the testimony of the
fleshly eyes, she had turned from physical sense to Him.

"It is not practicable!" the world cries in startled protest.

But, behold her life!

Josè had begun to see that discord was the result of unrighteousness,
false thought. He began to understand why it was that Jesus always
linked disease with sin. His own paradoxical career had furnished
ample proof of that. Yet his numberless tribulations were not due
solely to his own wrong thinking, but likewise to the wrong thought of
others with respect to him, thought which he knew not how to
neutralize. And the channels for this false, malicious, carnal thought
had been his beloved parents, his uncle, the Archbishop, his tutors,
and, in fact, all with whom he had been associated until he came to
Simití. There he had found Carmen. And there the false thought had met
a check, a reversal. The evil had begun to destroy itself. And he was
slowly awaking to find nothing but good.

The night hours flitted through the heavy gloom like spectral
acolytes. Rosendo sank into a deep sleep. The steady roll of the frogs
in the lake at length died away. A flush stole timidly across the
eastern sky.

"Padre dear, he will not die."

It was Carmen's voice that awoke the slumbering priest. The child
stood at his side, and her little hand clasped his. Rosendo slept.
His chest rose and fell with the rhythmic breathing. Josè looked down
upon him. A great lump came into his throat, and his voice trembled as
he spoke.

"You are right, _chiquita_. Go, call your madre Maria now, and I will
go home to rest."



CHAPTER 13


That day Rosendo left his bed. Two days later he again set out for
Guamocó.

"There _is_ gold there, and I must, I _will_ find it!" he repeatedly
exclaimed as he pushed his preparations.

The courage of the man was magnificent. On its rebound it carried him
over the protest of Doña Maria and the gloomy forebodings of his
fellow-townsmen, and launched him again on the desolate trail.

But Josè had uttered no protest. He moved about wrapped in undefinable
awe. For he believed he had seen Rosendo lifted from the bed of death.
And no one might tell him that it was not by the same power that long
ago had raised the dead man of Nain. Carmen had not spoken of the
incident again; and something laid a restraint upon Josè's lips.

The eyes of the Alcalde bulged with astonishment when Rosendo entered
his store that morning in quest of further supplies.

"_Caramba!_ Go back to your bed, _compadre_!" he exclaimed, bounding
from his chair. "You are walking in your delirium!"

"_Na, amigo_," replied Rosendo with a smile, "the fever has left me.
And now I must have another month's supplies, for I go back to Guamocó
as soon as my legs tremble less."

_"Caramba! caramba!"_

The Alcalde acted as if he were in the presence of a ghost. But at
length becoming convinced that Rosendo was there on matters of
business, and in his right mind, he checked further expression of
wonder and, with a shrug of his fat shoulders, assumed his wonted air
of a man of large affairs.

"I can allow you five _pesos oro_ on account of the gold which the
_Cura_ brought me yesterday," he said severely. "But that leaves you
still owing ten _pesos_ for your first supplies; and thirty if I give
you what you ask for now. If you cannot pay this amount when you
return, you will have to work it out for me."

His little eyes grew steely and cold. Rosendo well knew what the
threat implied. But he did not falter.

"_Bien, compadre_," he quietly replied, "it will be as you say."

Late that afternoon Juan returned from Bodega Central with a half
ounce of quinine. He had made the trip with astonishing celerity, and
had arrived at the riverine town just as a large steamer was docking.
The purser supplied him with the drug, and he immediately started on
his return.

The Alcalde set out to deliver the drug to Rosendo; but not finding
him at home, looked in at the parish house. Josè and Carmen were deep
in their studies.

"A thousand pardons, _Señor Padre_, but I have the medicine you
ordered for Rosendo," placing the small package upon the table.

"You may set it down against me, Don Mario," said Josè.

"No!" exclaimed the Alcalde, "this must not be charged to the
parish!"

"I said to me, _amigo_," replied the priest firmly.

"It is the same thing, Padre!" blurted the petty merchant.

The priest's anger began to rise, but he restrained it. "Padre Diego
is no longer here, you must remember," he said quietly.

"But the parish pays your debts; and it would not pay the full value
of this and Juan's trip," was the coarse retort.

"Very well, then, Don Mario," answered Josè. "You may charge it to
Rosendo. But tell me first how much you will place against him for
it."

The Alcalde reflected a moment. "The quinine will be five _pesos oro_,
and Juan's trip three additional. Is it not worth it?" he demanded,
blustering before Josè's steady gaze. "If Rosendo had been really sick
it would have saved his life!"

"Then you do not believe he was dangerously ill?" asked Josè with some
curiosity.

"He couldn't have been really sick and be around to-day--could he?"
the Alcalde demanded.

The priest glanced at Carmen. She met the look with a smile.

"No," he said slowly, "not _really_ sick." Then he quickly added:

"If you charge Rosendo eight _pesos_ for that bit of quinine, Don
Mario, you and I are no longer working together, for I do not take
base advantage of any man's necessities."

The Alcalde became confused. He was going too far. "_Na, Señor
Padre_," he said hastily, with a sheepish grin. "I will leave the
quinine with you, and do you settle the account with Juan." With which
he beat a disordered retreat.

Josè was thankful that, for a few months, at least, he would have a
powerful hold on this man through his rapacity. What would happen
when the Alcalde at length learned that Rosendo was not searching for
Don Ignacio's lost mine, he did not care to conjecture. That matter
was in other hands than his, and he was glad to leave it there. He
asked now only to see each single step as he progressed.

"Did Don Mario say that stuff would cure padre Rosendo?" asked Carmen,
pointing to the quinine.

"Yes, _chiquita_."

"Why did he say so, Padre?"

"Because he really believed it, _carita_."

"But what is it, Padre--and how can it cure sick people?"

"It is the bark of a certain tree, little one, that people take as
medicine. It is a sort of poison which people take to counteract
another poison. A great school of medicine is founded upon that
principle, Carmen," he added. And then he fell to wondering if it
really was a principle, after all. If so, it was evil overcoming evil.
But would the world believe that both he and Rosendo had been cured
by--what? Faith? True prayer? By the operation of a great, almost
unknown principle? Or would it scoff at such an idea?

But what cared he for that? He saw himself and Rosendo restored, and
that was enough. He turned to the child. "They think the quinine cures
fever, little one," he resumed.

"And does it?" The little face wore an anxious look as she put the
question.

"They think it does, _chiquita_," replied the priest, wondering what
he should say.

"But it is just because they think so that they get well, isn't it?"
the girl continued.

"I guess it is, child."

"And if they thought right they would be cured without this--is it not
so, Padre dear?"

"I am sure of it--now," replied the priest. "In fact, if they always
kept their thoughts right I am sure they would never be sick."

"You mean, if they always thought about God," the child amended.

"Yes--I mean just that. If they knew, _really knew_, that God is
everywhere, that He is good, and that He never makes people sick, they
would always be well."

"Of course, Padre. It is only their bad thoughts that make them sick.
And even then they are not really sick," the child concluded. "They
think they are, and they think they die--and then they wake up and
find it isn't so at all."

Had the child made this remark to him a few weeks before, he had
crushed it with the dull, lifeless, conventional formulæ of human
belief. To-day in penitent humility he was trying to walk hand in hand
with her the path she trod. For he was learning from her that
righteousness is salvation. A few weeks ago he had lain at death's
door, yearning to pass the portal. Yesterday he believed he had again
seen the dark angel, hovering over the stricken Rosendo. But in each
case _something_ had intervened. Perhaps that "something not ourselves
that makes for righteousness," the unknown, almost unacknowledged
force that ceases not to combat evil in the human consciousness.
Clinging to his petty egoisms; hugging close his shabby convictions of
an evil power opposed to God; stuffed with worldly learning and pride
of race and intellect, in due season, as he sank under the burden of
his imaginings, the veil had been drawn aside for a fleeting
moment--and his soul had frozen with awe at what it beheld!

For, back of the density of the human concept, the fleeting,
inexplicable medley of good and evil which constitutes the phenomenon
of mortal existence, _he had seen God_! He had seen Him as all-inclusive
mind, omnipotent, immanent, perfect, eternal. He had caught a moment's
glimpse of the tremendous Presence which holds all wisdom, all
knowledge, yet knows no evil. He had seen a blinding flash of that
"something" toward which his life had strained and yearned. With it had
come a dim perception of the falsity of the testimony of physical
sense, and the human life that is reared upon it. And though he
counted not himself to have apprehended as yet, he was struggling,
even with thanksgiving, up out of his bondage, toward the gleam. The
shafts of error hissed about him, and black doubt and chill despair
still felled him with their awful blows. But he walked with Carmen. With
his hand in hers, he knew he was journeying toward God.

On the afternoon before his departure Rosendo entered the parish house
in apprehension. "I have lost my _escapulario_, Padre!" he exclaimed.
"The string caught in the brush, and the whole thing was torn from my
neck. I--I don't like to go back without one," he added dubiously.

"Ah, then you have nothing left but Christ," replied Josè with fine
irony. "Well, it is of no consequence."

"But, Padre, it had been blessed by the Bishop!"

"Well, don't worry. Why, the Holy Father himself once blessed this
republic of ours, and now it is about the most unfortunate country in
the whole world! But you are a good Catholic, Rosendo, so you need not
fear."

Rosendo was, indeed, a good Catholic. He accepted the faith of his
fathers without reserve. He had never known any other. Simple,
superstitious, and great of heart, he held with rigid credulity to
all that had been taught him in the name of religion. But until Josè's
advent he had feared and hated priests. Nevertheless, his faith in
signs and miracles and the healing power of blessed images was
child-like. Once when he saw in the store of Don Mario a colored
chromo of Venus and Cupid, a cheap print that had come with goods
imported from abroad, he had devoutly crossed himself, believing it to
be the Virgin Mary with the Christ-child.

"But I will fix you up, Rosendo," said Josè, noting the man's genuine
anxiety. "Have Doña Maria cut out a cloth heart and fasten it to a
stout cord. I will take it to the church altar and bless it before the
image of the Virgin. You told me once that the Virgin was the Rincón
family's patron, you know."

"_Bueno!_" ejaculated the pleased Rosendo, as he hastened off to
execute the commission.

Several times before Rosendo went back to Guamocó Josè had sought to
draw him into conversation about his illness, and to get his view of
the probable cause of his rapid recovery. But the old man seemed loath
to dwell on the topic, and Josè could get little from him. At any
mention of the episode a troubled look would come over his face, and
he would fall silent, or would find an excuse to leave the presence of
the priest.

"Rosendo," Josè abruptly remarked to him as he was busy with his pack
late the night before his departure, "will you take with you the
quinine that Juan brought?"

Rosendo looked up quickly. "I can not, Padre."

"And why?"

"On account of Carmen."

"But what has she to do with it, _amigo_?" Josè asked in surprise.

Rosendo looked embarrassed. "I--_Bien_, Padre, I promised her I would
not."

"When?"

"To-day, Padre."

Josè reflected on the child's unusual request. Then:

"But if you fell sick up in Guamocó, Rosendo, what could you do?"

"_Quien sabe_, Padre! Perhaps I could gather herbs and make a tea--I
don't know. She didn't say anything about that." He looked at Josè and
laughed. Then, in an anxious tone:

"Padre, what can I do? The little Carmen asks me not to take the
quinine, and I can not refuse her. But I may get sick. I--I have
always taken medicine when I needed it and could get it. But the only
medicine we have in Simití is the stuff that some of the women
make--teas and drinks brewed from roots and bark. I have never seen a
doctor here, nor any real medicines but quinine. And even that is hard
to get, as you know. I used to make a salve out of the livers of
_mápina_ snakes--it was for the rheumatism--I suffered terribly when I
worked in the cold waters in Guamocó. I think the salve helped me. But
if I should get the disease now, would Carmen let me make the salve
again?"

He bent over his outfit for some moments. "She says if I trust God I
will not get sick," he at length resumed. "She says I must not think
about it. _Caramba!_ What has that to do with it? People get sick
whether they think about it or not. Do you believe, Padre, this new
_escapulario_ will protect me?"

The man's words reflected the strange mixture of mature and childish
thought typical of these untutored jungle folk, in which longing for
the good is so heavily overshadowed by an educated belief in the power
of evil.

"Rosendo," said Josè, finding at last his opportunity, "tell me, do
you think you were seriously ill day before yesterday?"

"_Quien sabe_, Padre! Perhaps it was only the _terciana_, after all."

"Well, then," pursuing another tack, "do you think I was very sick
that day when I rushed to the lake--?"

"_Caramba_, Padre! But you were turning cold--you hardly breathed--we
all thought you must die--all but Carmen!"

"And what cured me, Rosendo?" the priest asked in a low, steady
voice.

"Why--Padre, I can not say."

"Nor can I, positively, my friend. But I do know that the little
Carmen said I should not die. And she said the same of you when, as I
would swear, you were in the fell clutches of the death angel
himself."

"Padre--" Rosendo's eyes were large, and his voice trembled in awesome
whisper--"is she--the little Carmen--is she--an _hada_?"

"A witch? _Hombre!_ No!" cried Josè, bursting into a laugh at the
perturbed features of the older man. "No, _amigo_, she is not an
_hada_! Let us say, rather, as you first expressed it to me, she is an
angel--and let us appreciate her as such.

"But," he continued, "I tell you in all seriousness, there are things
that such as you and I, with our limited outlook, have never dreamed
of; and that child seems to have penetrated the veil that hides
spiritual things from the material vision of men like us. Let us wait,
and if we value that '_something_' which she seems to possess and know
how to use, let us cut off our right hands before we yield to the
temptation to place any obstacle in the way of her development along
the lines which she has chosen, or which some unseen Power has chosen
for her. It is for you and me, Rosendo, to stand aside and watch,
while we protect her, if haply we may be privileged some day to learn
her secret in full. You and I are the unlearned, while she is filled
with wisdom. The world would say otherwise, and would condemn us as
fools. Thank God we are out of the world here in Simití!"

He choked back the inrush of memories and brushed away a tear.

"Rosendo," he concluded, "be advised. If Carmen told you not to think
of sickness while in Guamocó, then follow her instructions. It is not
the child, but a mighty Power that is speaking through her. Of that I
have long been thoroughly convinced. And I am as thoroughly convinced
that that same Power has appointed you and me her protectors and her
followers. You and I have a mighty compact--"

"_Hombre!_" interrupted Rosendo, clasping the priest's hand, "my life
is hers--you know it--she has only to speak, and I obey! Is it not
so?"

"Assuredly, Rosendo," returned Josè. "And now a final word. Let us
keep solely to ourselves what we have learned of her. Our plans are
well formulated. Let us adhere to them in strict silence. I know not
whither we are being led. But we are in the hands of that 'something'
that speaks and works through her--and we are satisfied. Are we not?"

They clasped hands again. The next morning Rosendo set his face once
more toward the emerald hills of Guamocó.

As the days passed, Josè became more silent and thoughtful. But it was
a silence bred of wonder and reverence, as he dwelt upon the things
that had been revealed to him. Who and what was this unusual child, so
human, and yet so strangely removed from the world's plane of thought?
A child who understood the language of the birds, and heard the grass
grow--a child whom Torquemada would have burnt as a witch, and yet
with whom he could not doubt the Christ dwelt.

Josè often studied her features while she bent over her work. He spent
hours, too, poring over the little locket which had been found among
her mother's few effects. The portrait of the man was dim and soiled.
Josè wondered if the poor woman's kisses and tears had blurred it. The
people of Badillo said she had died with it pressed to her lips. But
its condition rendered futile all speculation in regard to its
original. That of the mother, however, was still fresh and clear. Josè
conjectured that she must have been either wholly Spanish, or one of
the more refined and cultured women of Colombia. And she had
doubtless been very young and beautiful when the portrait was made.
With what dark tragedy was that little locket associated? Would it
ever yield its secret?

But Carmen's brown curls and light skin--whence came they? Were they
wholly Latin? Josè had grave doubts. And her keen mind, and deep
religious instinct? Who knew? He could only be sure that they had come
from a source far, far above her present lowly environment. With that
much he must for the present be content.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Another month unfolded its length in quiet days, and Rosendo again
returned. Not ill this time, nor even much exhausted. Nor did the
little leathern pouch contain more than a few _pesos_ in gold dust.
But determination was written grim and trenchant upon his black face
as he strode into the parish house and extended his great hand to the
priest.

"I have only come for more supplies, Padre," he said. "I have some
three _pesos_ worth of gold. Most of this I got around Culata, near
Don Felipe's quartz vein, the Andandodias. _Caramba_, what veins in
those hills! If we had money to build a mill, and knew how to catch
the gold, we would not need to wash the river sands that have been
gone over again and again for hundreds of years!"

But Josè's thoughts were of the Alcalde. He determined to send for him
at once, while Rosendo was removing the soil of travel.

Don Mario came and estimated the weight of the gold by his hand. Then
he coolly remarked: "_Bien, Señor Padre_, I will send Rosendo to my
_hacienda_ to-morrow to cut cane and make _panela_."

"And how is that, Don Mario?" inquired Josè.

The Alcalde began to bluster. "He owes me thirty _pesos oro_, less
this, if you wish me to keep it. I see no likelihood that he can ever
repay me. And so he must now work out his debt."

"How long will that take him, _amigo_?"

"_Quien sabe?_ _Señor Padre_," the Alcalde replied, his eyes
narrowing.

The priest braced himself, and his face assumed an expression that it
had not worn before he came to Simití. "Look you now, my friend," he
began in tones pregnant with meaning. "I have made some inquiries
regarding your system of peonage. I find that you pay your _peones_
from twenty to thirty cents a day for their hard labor, and at the
same time charge them as much a day for food. Or you force them to buy
from you tobacco and rum at prices which keep them always in your
debt. Is it not so?"

"_Na_, Padre, you have been misinformed," the Alcalde demurred, with a
deprecating gesture.

"I have not. Lázaro Ortiz is now working for you on that system. And
daily he becomes more deeply indebted to you, is it not so?"

"But, Padre--"

"It is useless for you to deny it, Don Mario, for I have facts. Now
listen to me. Let us understand each other clearly, nor attempt to
dissimulate. That iniquitous system of peonage has got to cease in my
parish!"

"_Caramba_, but Padre Diego had _peones_!" the Alcalde exploded.

"And he was a wicked man," added Josè. Then he continued:

"I know not what information you may have from the Bishop regarding
me, yet this I tell you: I shall report you to Bogotá, and I will band
the citizens of Simití together to drive you out of town, if you do
not at once release Lázaro, and put an end to this wicked practice.
The people will follow if I lead!"

It was a bold stroke, and the priest knew that he was standing upon
shaky ground. But the man before him was superstitious, untutored and
child-like. A show of courage, backed by an assertion of authority,
might produce the desired effect. Moreover, Josè knew that he was in
the right. And right must prevail!

Don Mario glared at him, while an ugly look spread over his coarse
features. The priest went on:

"Lázaro has long since worked out his debt, and you shall release him
at once. As to Rosendo, he must have the supplies he needs to return
to Guamocó. You understand?"

"_Caramba!_" Don Mario's face was purple with rage. "You think you can
tell me what to do--me, the Alcalde!" he volleyed. "You think you can
make us change our customs! _Caramba!_ You are no better than the
priest Diego, whom you try to make me believe so wicked! _Hombre_, you
were driven out of Cartagena yourself! A nice sort to be teaching a
little girl--!"

"Stop, man!" thundered Josè, striding toward him with upraised arm.

Don Mario fell back in his chair and quailed before the mountainous
wrath of the priest.

A shadow fell across the open doorway. Glancing up, Josè saw Carmen.
For a moment the girl stood looking in wonder at the angry men. Then
she went quickly to the priest and slipped a hand into his. A feeling
of shame swept over him, and he went back to his chair. Carmen leaned
against him, but she appeared to be confused. Silence fell upon them
all.

"Cucumbra doesn't fight any more, Padre," the girl at length began in
hesitation. "He and the puppy play together all the time now. He has
learned a lot, and now he loves the puppy."

So had the priest learned much. He recalled the lesson. "_Bien_," he
said in soft tones, "I think we became a bit too earnest, Don Mario.
We are good friends, is it not so? And we are working together for the
good of Simití. But to have good come to us, we must do good to
others."

He went to his trunk and took out a wallet. "Here are twenty _pesos_,
Don Mario." It was all he had in the world, but he did not tell the
Alcalde so. "Take them on Rosendo's account. Let him have the new
supplies he needs, and I will be his surety. And, friend, you are
going to let me prove to you with time that the report you have from
Cartagena regarding me is false."

Don Mario's features relaxed somewhat when his hand closed over the
grimy bills.

"Do not forget, _amigo_," added Josè, assuming an air of mystery as he
pursued the advantage, "that you and I are associated in various
business matters, is it not so?"

The Alcalde's mouth twitched, but finally extended in an unctuous
grin. After all, the priest was a descendant of the famous Don
Ignacio, and--who knew?--he might have resources of which the Alcalde
little dreamed.

"_Cierto, Padre!_" he cried, rising to depart. "And we will yet
uncover La Libertad! You guarantee Rosendo's debt? _Bien_, he shall
have the supplies. But I think he should take another man with him.
Lázaro might do, no?"

It was a gracious and unlooked for condescension.

"Send Lázaro to me, Don Mario," said Josè. "We will find use for him,
I think."

And thus Rosendo was enabled to depart a third time to the solitudes
of Guamocó.



CHAPTER 14


With Rosendo again on the trail, Josè and Carmen bent once more to
their work. Within a few days the grateful Lázaro was sent to
Rosendo's _hacienda_, biding the time when the priest should have a
larger commission to bestow upon him. With the advent of the dry
season, peace settled over the sequestered town, while its artless
folk drowsed away the long, hot days and danced at night in the
silvery moonlight to the twang of the guitar and the drone of the
amorous canzonet. Josè was deeply grateful for these days of unbroken
quiet, and for the opportunity they afforded him to probe the child's
thought and develop his own. Day after day he taught her. Night after
night he visited the members of his little parish, getting better
acquainted with them, administering to their simple needs, talking to
them in the church edifice on the marvels of the outside world, and
then returning to his little cottage to prepare by the feeble rays of
his flickering candle Carmen's lessons for the following day. He had
no texts, save the battered little arithmetic; and even that was
abandoned as soon as Carmen had mastered the decimal system.
Thereafter he wrote out each lesson for her, carefully wording it that
it might contain nothing to shock her acute sense of the allness of
God, and omitting from the vocabulary every reference to evil, to
failure, disaster, sin and death. In mathematics he was sure of his
ground, for there he dealt wholly with the metaphysical. But history
caused him many an hour of perplexity in his efforts to purge it of
the dross of human thought. If Carmen were some day to go out into the
world she _must_ know the story of its past. And yet, as Josè faced
her in the classroom and looked down into her unfathomable eyes, in
whose liquid depths there seemed to dwell a soul of unexampled purity,
he could not bring himself even to mention the sordid events in the
development of the human race which manifested the darker elements of
the carnal mind. Perhaps, after all, she might never go out into the
world. He had not the faintest idea how such a thing could be
accomplished. And so under his tutelage the child grew to know a world
of naught but brightness and beauty, where love and happiness dwelt
ever with men, and wicked thoughts were seen as powerless and
transient, harmless to the one who knew God to be "everywhere." The
man taught the child with the sad remembrance of his own seminary
training always before him, and with a desire, amounting almost to
frenzy, to keep from her every limiting influence and benumbing belief
of the carnal mind.

The decimal system mastered, Carmen was inducted into the elements of
algebra.

"How funny," she exclaimed, laughing, "to use letters for numbers!"

"They are only general symbols, little one," he explained. "Symbols
are signs, or things that stand for other things."

Then came suddenly into his mind how the great Apostle Paul taught
that the things we see, or think we see, are themselves but symbols,
reflections as from a mirror, and how we must make them out as best
we can for the present, knowing that, in due season, we shall see the
realities for which these things stand to the human mind. He knew that
back of the mathematical symbols stood the eternal, unvarying,
indestructible principles which govern their use. And he had begun to
see that back of the symbols, the phenomena, of human existence stands
the great principle--infinite God--the eternal mind. In the realm of
mathematics the principles are omnipotent for the solution of
problems--omnipotent in the hands of the one who understands and uses
them aright. And is not God the omnipotent principle to the one who
understands and uses Him aright in the solving of life's intricate
problems?

"They are so easy when you know how, Padre dear," said Carmen,
referring to her tasks.

"But there will be harder ones, _chiquita_."

"Yes, Padre. But then I shall know more about the rules that you call
principles."

She took up each problem with confidence. Josè watched her eagerly.
"You do not know what the answer will be, _chiquita_," he ventured.

"No, Padre dear. But I don't care. If I use the rule in the right way
I shall get the correct answer, shall I not? Look!" she cried
joyfully, as she held up her paper with the completed solution of a
problem.

"But how do you know that it is correct?" he queried.

"Why--well, we can prove it--can't we?" She looked up at him
questioningly. Then she bent again over her task and worked
assiduously for some moments in silence.

"There! I worked it back again to the starting point. And it is
right."

"And in proving it, little one, you have proved the principle and
established its correctness. Is it not so, _chiquita_?"

"Yes, Padre, it shows that the rule is right."

The child lapsed into silence, while Josè, as was becoming his wont,
awaited the result of her meditation. Then:

"Padre dear, there are rules for arithmetic, and algebra, and--and for
everything, are there not?"

"Yes, child, for music, for art, for everything. We can do nothing
correctly without using principles."

"And, Padre, there are principles that tell us how to live?" she
queried.

"What is your opinion on that point, _queridita_?"

"Just _one_ principle, I guess, Padre dear," she finally ventured,
after a pause.

"And that, little one?"

"Just God."

"And God is--?" Josè began, then hesitated. The Apostle John had dwelt
with the Master. What had he urged so often upon the dull ears of his
timid followers?

The child looked up at the priest with a smile whose tenderness
dissolved the rising clouds of doubt.

"And God is--love," he finished softly.

"That's it, Padre!" The child clapped her little hands and laughed
aloud.

Love! Jesus had said, "I and my Father are one." Having seen him, the
world has seen the Father. But Jesus was the highest manifestation of
love that tired humanity has ever known. "Love God!" he had cried in
tones that have echoed through the centuries. "Love thy neighbor!"
Aye, love everything, everybody! Apply the Principle of principles,
Love, to every task, every problem, every situation, every condition!
For what is the Christ-principle but Love? All things are possible to
him who loves, for Love casteth out fear, the root of every discord.
Men ask why God remains hidden from them, why their understanding of
Him is dim. They forget that God is Love. They forget that to know Him
they must first love their fellow-men. And so the world goes
sorrowfully on, hating, cheating, grasping, abusing; still wondering
dully why men droop and stumble, why they consume with disease, and,
with the despairing conviction that God is unknowable, sinking at last
into oblivion.

Josè, if he knew aught, knew that Carmen greatly loved--loved all
things deeply and tenderly as reflections of her immanent God. She had
loved the hideous monster that had crept toward her as she sat
unguarded on the lake's rim. Unguarded? Not so, for the arms of Love
were there about her. She had loved God--good--with unshaken fealty
when Rosendo lay stricken. She had known that Love could not manifest
in death when he himself had been dragged from the lake that burning
afternoon a few weeks before.

"God is the rule, isn't He, Padre dear?" The child's unexampled eyes
glowed like burning coals. "And we can prove Him, too," she continued
confidently.

_Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open
you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there
shall not be room enough to receive it._

Prove Him, O man, that He is Love, and that Love, casting out hate and
fear, solves life's every problem! But first--_Bring ye all the tithes
into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house._ Bring your
whole confidence, your trust, your knowledge of the allness of good,
and the nothingness of evil. Bring, too, your every earthly hope,
every mad ambition, every corroding fear, and carnal belief; lay them
down at the doorway of mine storehouse, and behold their nothingness!

As Carmen approached her simple algebraic problems Josè saw the
working of a rule infinite in its adaptation. She knew not what the
answers should be, yet she took up each problem with supreme
confidence, knowing that she possessed and rightly understood the rule
for correctly solving it. She knew that speculation regarding the
probable results was an idle waste of time. And she likewise knew
instinctively that fear of inability to solve them would paralyze her
efforts and insure defeat at the outset.

Nor could she force solutions to correspond to what she might think
they ought to be--as mankind attempt to force the solving of their
life problems to correspond to human views. She was glad to work out
her problems in the only way they could be solved. Love, humility,
obedience, enabled her to understand and correctly apply the principle
to her tasks. The results were invariable--harmony and exceeding joy.

Josè had learned another lesson. Again that little hand had softly
swept his harp of life. And again he breathed in unison with its
vibrating chords a deep "Thank God!"

"Padre dear." Carmen looked up from a brown study. "What does zero
really mean?"

"It stands for nothing, child," the priest made reply, wondering what
was to follow this introduction.

"And the minus sign in algebra is different from the one in
arithmetic. What does it mean?"

"Less than nothing."

"But, Padre, if God is all, how can you say there is nothing, or less
than nothing?"

The priest had his answer ready. "They are only human ways of
thinking, _chiquita_. The plus sign always represents something
positive; the minus, something negative. The one is the opposite of
the other."

"Is there an opposite to everything, Padre?"

The priest hesitated. Then:

"No, _chiquita_--not a _real_ opposite. But," he added hastily, "we
may suppose an opposite to everything."

A moment's pause ensued. "That is what makes people sick and unhappy,
isn't it, Padre?"

"What, child?" in unfeigned surprise.

"Supposing an opposite to God. Supposing that there can be nothing,
when He is everywhere. Doesn't all trouble come from just supposing
things that are not so?"

Whence came such questions to the mind of this child? And why did they
invariably lead to astonishing deductions in his own? Why did he
often give a great start as it dawned again upon him that he was not
talking to one of mature age, but to a babe?

He tore a strip from the paper in his hand. Relatively the paper had
lost in size and quantity, and there was a distinct separation.
Absolutely, such a thing was an impossibility. The plus was always
positive and real; the minus was always relative, and stood for
unreality. And so it was throughout the entire realm of thought.
_Every real thing has its suppositional opposite._ The difficulty is
that the human mind, through long ages of usage, has come to regard
the opposite as just as real as the thing itself. The opposite of love
is hate; of health, disease; of good, evil; of the real, the
counterfeit. God is positive--Truth. His opposite, the negative, is
supposition. Oh, stupid, blundering, dull-eared humanity, not to have
realized that this was just what Jesus said when he defined evil as
the lie about God! No wonder the prophet proclaimed salvation to be
righteousness, right thinking! But would gross humanity have
understood the Master better if he had defined it this way? No, they
would have stoned him on the spot!

Josè knew that when both he and Rosendo lay sick unto death Carmen's
thought had been positive, while theirs had been of the opposite sign.
Was her pure thought stronger than their disbelief? Evidently so. Was
this the case with Jesus? And with the prophets before him, whom the
world laughed to scorn? The inference from Scripture is plain. What,
then, is the overcoming of evil but the driving out of entrenched
human beliefs?

Again Josè came back to the thought of Principle. Confucius had said
that heaven was principle. And heaven is harmony. But had evil any
principle? Mankind are accustomed to speak lightly and knowingly of
their "principles." But in their search for the Philosopher's Stone
they have overlooked the Principle which the Master used to effect his
mighty works--"that Mind which was in Christ Jesus." The Principle of
Jesus was God. And, again, God is Love.

The word evil is a comprehensive term, including errors of every sort.
And yet, in the world's huge category of evils is there a single one
that stands upon a definite principle? Josè had to admit to himself
that there was not. Errors in mathematics result from ignorance of
principles, or from their misapplication. But are the errors real and
permanent?

"Padre, when I make a mistake, and then go back and do the problem
over and get it right, what becomes of the mistake?"

Josè burst out laughing at the tremendous question. Carmen joined in
heartily.

"But, Padre," she pursued, "there are rules for solving problems; but
there isn't any rule or principle for making mistakes, is there?"

"Surely not, child!" Josè replied.

"And if I always knew the truth about things, I couldn't make
mistakes, could I?"

"No."

Josè waited for her further comments. They came after a brief
meditation.

"Well, then, God doesn't know anything about mistakes--does He?"

"No, _chiquita_."

"And He knows everything."

"Yes."

"Then, Padre dear, nobody can know anything about mistakes. People
just think they can--don't they?"

Josè thought hard for a few moments. "_Chiquita_, can you know that
two and two are seven?"

"Why, Padre dear, how funny!"

"Yes--it does seem strange--now. And yet, I used to think I could know
things just as absurd."

"Why, what was that, Padre?"

"I thought, _chiquita_, that I could know evil--something that God
does not and can not know."

"But--could you, Padre?"

"No, child. It is absolutely impossible to know--to really _know_--error
of any sort."

"If we knew it, Padre, it would have a rule; or as you say, a
principle, no?"

"Exactly, child."

"And, since God is everywhere, He would have to be its principle."

"Just the point. Now take another of the problems, _chiquita_, and
work on it while I think about these things," he said, assigning
another of the simple tasks to the child.

For an idea was running through the man's thought, and he had traced
it back to the explorer in Cartagena. Reason and logic supported the
thought of God as mind; of the creation as the unfolding of this
mind's ideas; and of man as the greatest idea of God. It also seemed
to show that the physical senses afforded no testimony at all, and
that human beings saw, heard and felt only in thought, in belief. On
this basis everything reduced to a mental plane, and man became a
mentality. But what sort of mentality was that which Josè saw all
about him in sinful, sick and dying humanity? The human man is
demonstrably mortal--and he is a sort of mind--ah, yes, that was it!
The explorer had said that up in that great country north there were
those who referred to this sort of mentality as "mortal mind." Josè
thought it an excellent term. For, if the mortal man is a mind at all,
he assuredly is a _mortal_ mind.

And the mortal mind is the opposite of that mind which is the eternal
God. But God can have no real opposite. Any so-called opposite to Him
must be a supposition--or, as Jesus defined it, the lie about Him.
This lie seems to counterfeit the eternal mind that is God. It seems
to pose as a creative principle, and to simulate the powers and
attributes of God himself. It assumes to create its universe of
matter, the direct opposite of the spiritual universe. And, likewise,
it assumes to create its man, its own idea of itself, and hence the
direct opposite of the real man, the divine idea of God, made in His
own image and likeness.

Josè rose and went to the doorway. "Surely," he murmured low, "the
material personality, called man, which sins, suffers and dies, is not
real man, but his counterfeit, a creation of God's opposite, the
so-called mortal mind. It must be a part of the lie about God, the
'mist' that went up from the ground and watered the whole face of the
earth, leaving the veil of supposition which obscures God from human
sight. It is this sort of man and this sort of universe that I have
always seen about me, and that the world refers to as human beings, or
mortals, and the physical universe. And yet I have been looking only
at my false thoughts of man."

At that moment he caught sight of Juan running toward him from the
lake. The lad had just returned from Bodega Central.

"Padre," he exclaimed breathlessly, "there is war in the country
again! The revolution has broken out, and they are fighting all along
the river!"

Josè turned into the house and clasped Carmen in his arms.



CHAPTER 15


Juan's startling announcement linked Josè again with a fading past.
Standing with his arm about Carmen, while the child looked up
wonderingly at her grimly silent protector, the priest seemed to have
fallen with dizzy precipitation from some spiritual height into a
familiar material world of men and events. Into his chastened
mentality there now rushed a rabble rout of suggestions, throwing into
wild confusion the orderly forces of mind which he was striving to
marshal to meet the situation. He recalled, for the first time in his
new environment, the significant conversation of Don Jorge and the
priest Diego, in Banco. He saw again the dark clouds that were
lowering above the unhappy country when he left Cartagena. Had they at
last broken? And would carnal lust and rapine again drench fair
Colombia with the blood of her misguided sons? Were the disturbance
only a local uprising, headed by a coterie of selfish politicians, it
would produce but a passing ripple. Colombia had witnessed many such,
and had, by a judicious redistribution of public offices, generally
met the crises with little difficulty. On the other hand, if the
disorder drew its stimulus from the deep-seated, swelling sentiment of
protest against the continued affiliation of Church and State, then
what might not ensue before reason would again lay her restraining
hand upon the rent nation! For--strange anomaly--no strife is so
venomous, no wars so bloody, no issues so steeped in deadliest hatred,
as those which break forth in the name of the humble Christ.

A buzzing concourse was gathering in the _plaza_ before the church.
Leaving Carmen in charge of Doña Maria, Josè mingled with the excited
people. Juan had brought no definite information, other than that
already imparted to Josè, but his elastic Latin imagination had
supplied all lacking essentials, and now, with much gesticulation and
rolling of eyes, with frequent alternations of shrill chatter and
dignified pomp of phrase, he was portraying in a _mélange_ of
picturesque and poetic Spanish the supposed happenings along the great
river.

Josè forced the lad gently aside and addressed the thoroughly excited
people himself, assuring them that no reliable news was as yet at
hand, and bidding them assemble in the church after the evening meal,
where he would advise with them regarding their future course. He then
sought the Alcalde, and drew him into his store, first closing the
door against the excited multitude.

"_Bien, Señor Padre_, what are you going to do?" The Alcalde was
atremble with insuppressible excitement.

"Don Mario, we must protect Simití," replied the priest, with a show
of calm which he did not possess.

"_Caramba_, but not a man will stay! They will run to the hills! The
_guerrillas_ will come, and Simití will be burned to the ground!"

"Will you stay--with me?"

"_Na_, and be hacked by the _machetes_ of the _guerrillas_, or lassoed
by government soldiers and dragged off to the war?" The official
mopped the damp from his purple brow.

"_Caramba!_" he went on. "But the Antioquanians will come down the
Simití trail from Remedios and butcher every one they meet! They
hate us Simitanians, since we whipped them in the revolution of
seventy-six! And--_Diablo_! if we stay here and beat them back,
then the federal troops will come with their ropes and chains and
force us away to fight on their side! _Nombre de Dios!_ I am for the
mountains--_pronto_!"

Josè's own fear mounted by leaps. And yet, in the welter of
conflicting thought two objects stood out above the rest--Carmen and
Rosendo. The latter was on the trail, somewhere. Would he fall afoul
of the bandits who find in these revolutions their opportunities for
plunder and bloodshed? As for Carmen--the priest's apprehensions were
piling mountain-high. He had quickly forgotten his recent theories
regarding the nature of God and man. He had been swept by the force of
ill tidings clean off the lofty spiritual plane up to which he had
struggled during the past weeks. Again he was befouled in the mire of
material fears and corroding speculations as to the probable
manifestations of evil, real and immanent. Don Mario was right. He
must take the child and fly at once. He would go to Doña Maria
immediately and bid her prepare for the journey.

"You had best go to Don Nicolás," replied Doña Maria, when the priest
had voiced his fears to her. "He lives in Boque, and has a _hacienda_
somewhere up that river. He will send you there in his canoe."

"And Boque is--?"

"Three hours from Simití, across the shales. You must start with the
dawn, or the heat will overtake you before you arrive."

"Then make yourself ready, Doña Maria," said Josè in relief, "and we
will set out in the morning."

"Padre, I will stay here," the woman quietly replied.

"Stay here!" ejaculated the priest. "Impossible! But why?"

"There will be many women too old to leave the town, Padre. I will
stay to help them if trouble comes. And I would not go without
Rosendo."

Shame fell upon the priest like a blanket. He, the _Cura_, was
deserting his charge! And this quiet, dignified woman had shown
herself stronger than the man of God! He turned to the door. Carmen
was just entering. He took the child by the hand and led her to his
own cottage.

"Carmen," he said, as she stood expectantly before him, "we--there is
trouble in the country--that is, men are fighting and killing down on
the river--and they may come here. We must--I mean, I think it best
for us to go away from Simití for a while." The priest's eyes fell
before the perplexed gaze of the girl.

"Go away?" she repeated slowly. "But, Padre--why?"

"The soldiers might come--wicked men might come and harm you,
_chiquita_!"

The child seemed not to comprehend. "Is it that you think they will,
Padre?" she at length spoke.

"I fear so, little one," he made reply.

"But--why should they?"

"Because they want to steal and kill," he returned sadly.

"They can't, Padre--they can't!" the girl said quickly. "You told me
that people see only their thoughts, you know. They only think they
want to steal--and they don't think right--"

"But," he interrupted bitterly, "that doesn't keep them from coming
here just the same and--and--" He checked his words, as a faint memory
of his recent talks with the girl glowed momentarily in his seething
brain.

"But we can keep them from coming here, Padre--can't we?"

"How, child?"

"By thinking right ourselves, Padre--you said so, days ago--don't you
remember?" The girl came to the frightened man and put her little arm
about his neck. It was an action that had become habitual with her.
"Padre dear, you read me something from your Bible just yesterday. It
was about God, and He said, 'I am that which was, and is, and is to
come.' Don't you remember? But, Padre dear, if He is that which is to
come, how can anything bad come?"

O, ye of little faith! Could ye not watch one hour with me--the
Christ-principle? Must ye ever flee when the ghost of evil stalks
before you with his gross assumptions?

Yes, Josè remembered. But he had said those things to her and evolved
those beautiful theories in a time of peace. Now his feeble faith was
flying in panic before the demon of unbelief, which had been aroused
by sudden fear.

The villagers were gathering before his door like frightened sheep.
They sought counsel, protection, from him, the unfaithful shepherd.
Could he not, for their sakes, tear himself loose from bondage to his
own deeply rooted beliefs, and launch out into his true orbit about
God? Was life, happiness, all, at the disposal of physical sense? Did
he not love these people? And could not his love for them cast out his
fear? If the test had come, would he meet it, calmly, even alone with
his God, if need be?--or would he basely flee? He was not alone.
Carmen stood by him. She had no part in his cowardice. But Carmen--she
was only a child, immature, inexperienced in the ways of the world!
True. Yet the great God himself had caused His prophets to see that "a
little child shall lead them." And surely Carmen was now leading in
fearlessness and calm trust, in the face of impending evil.

Josè rose from his chair and threw back his shoulders. He stepped
quickly to the door. "My children," he said gently, holding out his
arms over them. "Be not afraid. I shall not leave Simití, but
remain here to help and protect all who will stay with me. If the
_guerrillas_ or soldiers come we will meet them here, where we shall
be protecting our loved ones and our homes. Come to the church
to-night, and there we will discuss plans. Go now, and remember
that your _Cura_ has said that there shall no harm befall you."

Did he believe his own words? He wondered.

The people dispersed; Carmen was called by Doña Maria; and Josè
dropped down upon his bed to strive again to clear his mind of the
foul brood which had swept so suddenly into it, and to prepare for the
evening meeting.

Late that night, as he crossed the road from the church to his
little home, his pulse beat rapidly under the stimulus of real joy. He
had conquered his own and the fears of the Alcalde, and that
official had at length promised to stay and support him. The
people's fears of impressment into military service had been calmly
met and assuaged, though Josè had yielded to their wish to form a
company of militia; and had even agreed to drill them, as he had
seen the troops of Europe drilled and prepared for conflict. There
were neither guns nor ammunition in the town, but they could drill
with their _machetes_--for, he repeated to himself, this was but a
concession, an expedient, to keep the men occupied and their minds
stimulated by his own show of courage and preparedness. It was
decided to send Lázaro Ortiz at once into the Guamocó district, to
find and warn Rosendo; while Juan was to go to Bodega Central for
whatever news he might gather, and to return with immediate warning,
should danger threaten their town. Similar instruction was to be
sent to Escolastico, at Badillo. Within a few days a runner should be
despatched over the Guamocó trail, to spread the information as
judiciously as possible that the people of Simití were armed and
on the alert to meet any incursion from _guerrilla_ bands. The ripple
of excitement quickly died away. The priest would now strive
mightily to keep his own thought clear and his courage alive, to
sustain his people in whatever experience might befall them.

Quiet reigned in the little village the next morning, and its people
went about their familiar duties with but a passing thought of the
events of the preceding day. The Alcalde called at the parish house
early for further instructions in regard to the proposed company of
militia. The priest decided to drill his men twice a day, at the
rising and setting of the sun. Carmen's lessons were then resumed, and
soon Josè was again laboring conscientiously to imbibe the spirit of
calm trust which dwelt in this young girl.

The Master's keynote before every threatening evil was, "Be not
afraid." Carmen's life-motif was, "_God is everywhere._" Josè strove
to see that the Christ-principle was eternal, and as available to
mankind now as when the great Exemplar propounded it to the dull ears
of his followers. But men must learn how to use it. When they have
done this, Christianity will be as scientific and demonstrable to
mankind as is now the science of mathematics. A rule, though
understood, is utterly ineffective if not applied. Yet, how to apply
the Christ-principle? is the question convulsing a world to-day.

God, the infinite creative mind, is that principle. Jesus showed
clearly--so clearly that the wonder is men could have missed the mark
so completely--that the great principle becomes available only when
men empty their minds of pride, selfishness, ignorance, and human
will, and put in their place love, humility and truth. This step
taken, there will flow into the human consciousness the qualities of
God himself, giving powers that mortals believe utterly impossible to
them. But hatred must go; self-love, too; carnal ambition must go; and
fear--the cornerstone of every towering structure of mortal
misery--must be utterly cast out by an understanding of the allness of
the Mind that framed the spiritual universe.

Josè, looking at Carmen as she sat before him, tried to know that love
was the salvation, the righteousness, right-thinking, by which alone
the sons of men could be redeemed. The world would give such utterance
the lie, he knew. To love an enemy is weakness! The sons of earth must
be warriors, and valiantly fight! Alas! the tired old world has fought
for ages untold, and gained--nothing. Did Jesus fight? Not as the
world. He had a better way. He loved his enemies with a love that
understood the allness of God, and the consequent nothingness of the
human concept. Knowing the concept of man as mortal to be an illusion,
Jesus then knew that he had no enemies.

The work-day closed, and Carmen was about to leave. A shadow fell
across the open doorway. Josè looked up. A man, dressed in clerical
garb, stood looking in, his eyes fixed upon Carmen. Josè's heart
stopped, and he sat as one stunned. The man was Padre Diego Polo.

"Ah, brother in Christ!" the newcomer cried, advancing with
outstretched hands. "Well met, indeed! I ached to think I might not
find you here! But--_Caramba_! can this be my little Carmen, from
whom I tore myself in tears four years ago and more? _Diablo!_ but she
has grown to be a charming _señorita_ already." He bent over and
kissed the child loudly upon each cheek.

Josè with difficulty restrained himself from pouncing upon the man as
he watched him pass his fat hands over the girl's bare arms and feast
his lecherous eyes upon her round figure and plump limbs. The child
shrank under the withering touch. Freeing herself, she ran from the
room, followed by a taunting laugh from Diego.

"_Caramba!_" he exclaimed, sinking into the chair vacated by the girl.
"But I had the devil's own trouble getting here! And I find everything
quiet as a funeral in this sink of a town, just as if hell were not
spewing fire down on the river! _Dios!_ But give me a bit of rum,
_amigo_. My spirits droop like the torn wing of a heron."

Josè slowly found his voice. "I have no rum. I regret exceedingly,
friend. But doubtless the Alcalde can supply you. Have you seen him?"

"_Hombre!_ With what do you quench your thirst?" ejaculated the
disappointed priest. "Lake water?" Then he added with a fatuous grin:

"No, I have not yet honored the Alcalde with a call. Anxious care
drove me straight from the boat to you; for with you, a brother
priest, I knew I would find hospitality and protection."

Josè sat speechless. After a few moments, during which he fanned
himself vigorously with his black felt hat, Diego continued volubly:

"You are consumed to know what brings me here, eh? _Bien_, I will
anticipate your questions. The country is on fire around Banco.
And--you know they do not love priests down that way--well, I saw that
it had come around to my move. I therefore got out--quickly. H'm!

"But," he continued, "luckily I had screwed plenty of Masses out of
the Banco sheep this past year, and my treasure box was comfortably
full. _Bueno_, I hired a canoe and a couple of strapping _peones_, who
brought me by night, and by damnably slow degrees, up the river to
Bodega Central. As luck would have it, I chanced to be there the day
Juan arrived from Simití. So I straightway caused inquiry to be made
of him respecting the present whereabouts of our esteemed friend, Don
Rosendo. Learning that my worthy brother was prospecting for La
Libertad, it occurred to me that this decaying town might afford me
the asylum I needed until I could make the necessary preparations to
get up into the mountains. _Caramba!_ but I shall not stay where a
stray bullet or a badly directed _machete_ may terminate my noble
life-aspirations!"

Josè groaned inwardly. "But, how dared you come to Simití?" he
exclaimed. "You were once forced to leave this town--!"

"Assuredly, _amigo_," Diego replied with great coolness. "And I would
not risk my tender skin again had I not believed that you were here to
shield me. My only safety lies in making the mountains. Their most
accessible point is by way of Simití. From here I can go to the San
Lucas country; eventually get back to the Guamocó trail; and
ultimately land in Remedios, or some other town farther south, where
the anticlerical sentiment is not so cursedly strong. I have money and
two negro boys. The boat I shall have to leave here in your care.
_Bien_, learning that Rosendo, my principal annoyance and obstruction,
was absent, and that you, my friend, were here, I decided to brave the
wrath of the simple denizens of this hole, and spend a day or two as
guest of yourself and my good friend, the Alcalde, before journeying
farther. Thus you have it all, in _parvo_. But, _Dios y diablo_! that
trip up the river has nearly done for me! We traveled by night and hid
in the brush by day, where millions of gnats and mosquitoes literally
devoured me! _Caramba!_ and you so inhospitable as to have no rum!"

The garrulous priest paused for breath. Then he resumed:

"A voluptuous little wench, that Carmen! Keeping her for yourself, eh?
But you will have to give her up. Belongs to the Church, you know. But
don't let our worthy Don Wenceslas hear of her good looks, for he'd
pop her into a convent _presto_! And later he--_Bien_, you had better
get rid of her before she makes you trouble. I'll take her off your
hands myself, even though I shall be traveling for the next few
months. But, say," changing the subject abruptly, "Don Wenceslas
sprung his trap too soon, eh?"

"I don't follow you," said Josè, consuming with indignation over the
priest's coarse talk.

"_Diablo!_ he pulls a revolution before it is ripe. Is anything more
absurd! It begins as he intended, anticlerical; and so it will run for
a while. But after that--_Bien_, you will see it reverse itself and
turn solely political, with the present Government on top at the last,
and the end a matter of less than six weeks."

"Do you think so?" asked Josè, eagerly grasping at a new hope.

"I know it!" ejaculated Diego. "_Hombre!_ But I have been too close to
matters religious and political in this country all my life not to
know that Don Wenceslas has this time committed the blunder of being
a bit too eager. Had he waited a few months longer, and then pulled
the string--_Dios y diablo_! there would have been such a fracas as to
turn the Cordilleras bottom up! Now all that is set back for
years--_Quien sabe_?"

"But," queried the puzzled Josè, "how could Wenceslas, a priest,
profit by an anticlerical war?"

"_Caramba, amigo!_ But the good Wenceslas is priest only in name! He
is a politician, bred to the game. He lays his plans with the
anticlericals, knowing full well that Church and State can not be
separated in this land of mutton-headed _peones_. _Bueno_, the clever
man precipitates a revolution that can have but one result, the closer
union of Rome and the Colombian Government. And for this he receives
the direction of the See of Cartagena and the disposition of the rich
revenues from the mines and _fincas_ of his diocese. Do you get me?"

"And, _amigo_, how long will this disturbance continue?" said Josè,
speaking earnestly.

"I have told you, a few weeks at the most," replied Diego with a show
of petulance. "But, just the same, as agent of your friend Wenceslas,
I have been a mite too active along the river, especially in the town
of Banco, to find safety anywhere within the pale of civilization
until this little fracas blows over. This one being an abortion, the
next revolution can come only after several years of most painstaking
preparation. But, mark me, _amigo_, that one will not miscarry, nor
will it be less than a scourge of the Lord!"

Despite the sordidness of the man, Josè was profoundly grateful to him
for this information. And there could be no doubt of its authenticity,
coming as it did from a tool of Wenceslas himself. Josè became
cheerful, even animated.

"Good, then! Now when do you expect to set out for San Lucas?" he
asked. "Rosendo may return any day."

"_Diablo!_ Then I must be off at once!"

"To-morrow?" suggested Josè eagerly.

"_Caramba, hermano!_ Why so desirous of my departure? To be sure,
to-morrow, if possible. But I must have a chat with our good friend,
the Alcalde. So do me the inexpressible favor to accompany me to his
door, and there leave me. My _peones_ are down at the boat, and I
would rather not face the people of Simití alone."

"Gladly," assented Josè.

The man rose to depart. At that moment Doña Maria appeared at the door
bearing a tray with Josè's supper. She stopped short as she recognized
Diego.

"Ah, _Señora Doña Maria_!" exclaimed Diego, bowing low. "I kiss your
hand."

The woman looked inquiringly from Diego to Josè. Without a word she
set the tray on the table and quickly departed.

"H'm, _amigo_, I think it well to visit the Alcalde at once," murmured
Diego. "I regret that I bring the amiable señora no greeting from her
charming daughter. _Ay de mí!_" he sighed, picking up his hat. "The
conventions of this world are so narrow!"

Don Mario exclaimed loudly when he beheld the familiar figure of Padre
Diego. Recovering from his astonishment he broke into a loud guffaw
and clapped the grinning priest heartily upon the back.

"_Caramba_, man! But I admire you at last! I can forgive all your
wickedness at sight of such nerve! Ramona!" calling to his daughter in
the _patio_. "That last _garrafón_ and some glasses! But enter, enter,
señores! Why stand you there? My poor hovel is yours!" stepping aside
and ceremoniously waving them in.

"Our friend finds that his supper awaits him," said Diego, laying a
hand patronizingly upon Josè's arm. "But I will eat with you, my good
Don Mario, and occupy a _petate_ on your floor to-night. _Conque_,
until later, Don Josè," waving a polite dismissal to the latter. "If
not to-night, then in the morning _temprano_."

The audacity of the man nettled Josè. He would have liked to be
present during the interview between the Alcalde and this cunning
religio-political agent, for he knew that the weak-kneed Don Mario
would be putty in his oily hands. However, Diego had shown him that he
was not wanted. And there was nothing to do but nurse his temper and
await events.

But, whatever deplorable results the visit of Diego might entail, he
had at least brought present comfort to Josè in his report of the
militant uprising now in progress, and the latter would sleep this
night without the torment of dread apprehension.

The next morning Diego entered the parish house just as master and
pupil were beginning their day's work.

"Ha!" he exclaimed, "our parochial school is quite discriminating! No?
One pupil! _Bien_, are there not enough children in the town to
warrant a larger school, and with a Sister in charge? I will report
the matter to the good Bishop."

Josè's wrath leaped into flame. "There is a school here, as you know,
_amigo_, with a competent master," he replied with what calmness he
could muster.

It was perhaps a hasty and unfortunate remark, for Josè knew he had
been jealously selfish with Carmen.

"_Caramba_, yes!" retorted Diego. "A private school, to which the
stubborn beasts that live in this sink will not send their brats!
There must be a parochial school in Simití, supported by the people!
Oh, don't worry; there is gold enough here, buried in _patios_ and
under these innocent-looking mud walls, to support the Pope for a
decade--and that," he chuckled, "is no small sum!"

His eyes roved over Carmen and he began a mental appraisement of the
girl. "_Caramba!_" muttering half to himself, after he had feasted his
sight upon her for some moments, "but she is large for her age--and,
_Dios y diablo!_ a ravishing beauty!"

He stood for a while wrapped in thought. Then an idea seemed to filter
through his cunning brain. His coarse, unmoral face brightened, and
his thick lips parted in an evil smile.

"Come here, little one," he said patronizingly, extending his arms to
the child. "Come, give your good _Padre_ his morning kiss."

The girl shrank back in her chair and looked appealingly at Josè.

"No? Then I must come and steal it; and when you confess to good Padre
Josè you may tell him it was all my fault."

He started toward her. A look of horror came into the child's face and
she sprang from her seat. Josè swiftly rose. He seized Diego by the
shoulder and whirled him quickly about. His face was menacing and his
frame trembled.

"One moment, friend!" The voice was low, tense, and deliberate. "If
you lay a hand on that child I will strike you dead at my feet!"

Diego recoiled. _Cielo!_ was this the timid sheep that had stopped for
a moment in Banco on its way to the slaughter? But there was no
mistaking the spirit manifested now in that voice and attitude.

"Why, _amigo_!" he exclaimed, a foolish grin splitting his ugly
features. "Your little joke startled me!"

Josè motioned Carmen to leave.

"Be seated, Don Diego. It would be well to understand each other more
thoroughly."

Had Josè gone too far? He wondered. Heaven knew, he could not afford
to make enemies, especially at this juncture! But he had not misread
the thought coursing through the foul mind of Diego. And yet, violence
now might ruin both the child and himself. He must be wiser.

"I--I was perhaps a little hasty, _amigo_," he began in gentler tones.
"But, as you see, I have been quite wrought up of late--the news of
the revolution, and--in these past months there have been many things
to cause me worry. I--"

"Say no more, good friend," interrupted the oily Diego, his beady eyes
twinkling. "But you will not wonder it struck me odd that a father
should not be permitted to embrace his own daughter."

Dead silence, heavy and stifling, fell upon Josè. Slowly his throat
filled, and his ears began to throb. Diego sat before him, smiling and
twirling his fat thumbs. He looked like the images of Chinese gods
Josè had seen in foreign lands.

Then the tortured man forced a laugh. Of course, the strain of
yesterday had been too much for him! His overwrought mind had read
into words and events meanings which they had not been meant to
convey.

"True, _amigo_," he managed to say, striving to steady his voice. "But
we spiritual Fathers should not forget--"

Diego laughed egregiously. "_Caramba_, man! Let us get to the meat in
the nut. Why do you think I am in Simití, braving the wrath of Rosendo
and others? Why have I left my comfortable quarters in Banco, to
undertake a journey, long and hazardous, to this godless hole?"

He paused, apparently enjoying the suffering he saw depicted upon
Josè's countenance.

"I will tell you," he resumed. "But you will keep my confidence, no?
We are brother priests, and must hold together. You protect me in
this, and I return the favor in a like indiscretion. _Bien_, I
explain: I am here partly because of the revolution, as I told you
yesterday, and partly, as I did not tell you, to see my little girl,
my daughter, Carmen--

"_Caramba_, man!" he cried, bounding to his feet, as he saw Josè
slowly rise before him. "Listen! It is God's truth! Sit down! Sit
down!"

Josè dropped back into his chair like a withered leaf in the lull of a
winter's wind.

"_Dios y diablo_, but it rends me to make this confession, _amigo_!
And yet, I look to you for support! The girl, Carmen--_I am her
father!_"

Diego paced dramatically up and down before the scarce hearing Josè
and unfolded his story in a quick, jerky voice, with many a gesture
and much rolling of his bright eyes.

"Her mother was a Spanish woman of high degree. We met in Bogotá. My
vows prevented me from marrying her, else I should have done so.
_Caramba_, but I loved her! _Bien_, I was called to Cartagena. She
feared, in her delicate state, that I was deserting her. She tried to
follow me, and at Badillo was put off the boat. There, poor child, she
passed away in grief, leaving her babe. May she rest forever on the
bosom of the blessed Virgin!" Diego bowed reverently and crossed
himself.

"Then I lost all trace of her. My diligent inquiries revealed nothing.
Two years later I was assigned to the parish of Simití. Here I saw the
little locket which I had given her, and knew that Carmen was my
child. Ah, _Dios!_ what a revelation to a breaking heart! But I could
not openly acknowledge her, for I was already in disgrace, as you
know. And, once down, it is easy to sink still further. I confess, I
was indiscreet here. I was forced to fly. Rosendo's daughter followed
me, despite my protests. I was assigned to Banco. _Bien_, time passed,
and you came. I had hoped you would take the little Carmen under your
protection. God, how I grieved for the child! At last I determined,
come what might, to see her. The revolution drove me to the mountains;
and love for my girl brought me by way of Simití. And now, _amigo_,
you have my confession--and you will not be hard on me? _Caramba_, I
need a friend!" He sat down, and mopped his wet brow. His talk had
shaken him visibly.

Again oppressive silence. Josè was staring with unseeing eyes out
through the open doorway. A stream of sunlight poured over the dusty
threshold, and myriad motes danced in the golden flood.

"_Bien, amigo_," Diego resumed, with more confidence. "I had not
thought to reveal this, my secret, to you--nor to any one, for that
matter--but just to get a peep at my little daughter, and assure my
anxious heart of her welfare. But since coming here and seeing how
mature she is my plans have taken more definite shape. I shall leave
at daybreak to-morrow, if Don Mario can have my supplies ready on this
short notice, and--will take Carmen with me."

Josè struggled wearily to his feet. The color had left his face, and
ages seemed to bestride his bent shoulders. His voice quavered as he
slowly spoke.

"Leave me now, Don Diego. It were better that we should not meet again
until you depart."

"But, _amigo_--ah, I feel for you, believe me! You are attached to the
child--who would not be? _Caramba_, what is this world but a cemetery
of bleaching hopes! But--how can I ask it? _Amigo_, send the child to
me at the house of the Alcalde. I would hold her in my arms and feel a
father's joy. And bid the good Doña Maria make her ready for
to-morrow's journey."

Josè turned to the man. An ominous calm now possessed him. "You
said--the San Lucas district?"

"_Quien sabe?_ good friend," Diego made hasty reply. "My plans seem
quite altered since coming here. _Bien_, we must see. But I will leave
you now. And you will send Carmen to me at once? And bid her bring
her mother's locket. _Conque, hasta luego, amigo._"

He went to the door, and seeing his two negro _peones_ loitering near,
walked confidently and briskly to the house of Don Mario.

Josè, bewildered and benumbed, staggered into his sleeping room and
sank upon the bed.

                  *       *       *       *       *

"Padre--Padre dear."

Carmen stood beside the stricken priest, and her little hand crept
into his.

"I watched until I saw him go, and then I came in. He has bad
thoughts, hasn't he? But--Padre dear, what is it? Did he make you
think bad thoughts, too? He can't, you know, if you don't want to."

She bent over him and laid her cheek against his. Josè stared unseeing
up at the thatch roof.

"Padre dear, everything has a rule, a principle, you told me. Don't
you remember? But his thoughts haven't any principle, have they? Any
more than the mistakes I make in algebra. Aren't we glad we know
that!"

The child kissed the suffering man and wound her arms about his neck.

"Padre dear, he couldn't say anything that could make you unhappy--he
just couldn't! God is _everywhere_, and you are His child--and I am,
too--and--and there just isn't anything here but God, and we are in
Him. Why, Padre, we are in Him, just like the little fish in the lake!
Isn't it nice to know that--to really _know_ it?"

Aye, if he had really known it he would not now be stretched upon a
bed of torment. Yet, Carmen knew it. And his suffering was for her.
Was he not really yielding to the mesmerism of human events? Why, oh,
why could he not remain superior to them? Why continually rise and
fall, tossed through his brief years like a dry weed in the blast?

It was because he _would_ know evil, and yield to its mesmerism. His
enemies were not without, but within. How could he hope to be free
until he had passed from self-consciousness to the sole consciousness
of infinite good?

"Padre dear, his bad thoughts have only the minus sign, haven't
they?"

Yes, and Josè's now carried the same symbol of nothingness. Carmen was
linked to the omnipresent mind that is God; and no power, be it Diego
or his superior, Wenceslas, could effect a separation.

But if Carmen was Diego's child, she must go with him. Josè could no
longer endure this torturing thought. He rose from the bed and sought
Doña Maria.

"Señora," he pleaded, "tell me again what you know of Carmen's
parents."

The good woman was surprised at the question, but could add nothing to
what Rosendo had already told him. He asked to see again the locket.
Alas! study it as he might, the portrait of the man was wholly
indistinguishable. The sweet, sad face of the young mother looked out
from its frame like a suffering. Magdalen. In it he thought he saw a
resemblance to Carmen. As for Diego, the child certainly did not
resemble him in the least. But years of dissipation and evil doubtless
had wrought their changes in his features.

He looked around for Carmen. She had disappeared. He rose and searched
through the house for her. Doña Maria, busy in the kitchen, had not
seen her leave. His search futile, he returned with heavy heart to his
own house and sat down to think. Mechanically he opened his Bible.

_When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee._ Not "if,"
but "when." The sharp experiences of human existence are not to be
avoided. But in their very midst the Christ-principle is available to
the faithful searcher and worker.

Doña Maria came with the midday meal. Carmen had not returned. Josè,
alarmed beyond measure, prepared to set out in search of her. But at
that moment one of Diego's _peones_ appeared at the door with his
master's request that the child be sent at once to him. At least,
then, she was not in his hands; and Josè breathed more freely. It
seemed to him that, should he see her in Diego's arms, he must
certainly strangle him. He shuddered at the thought. Only a few
minutes before he had threatened to kill him!

He left his food untasted. Unspeakably wearied with his incessant
mental battle, he threw himself again upon his bed, and at length sank
into a deep sleep.

The shadows were gathering when he awoke with a start. He heard a call
from the street. Leaping from the bed, he hastened to the door, just
as Rosendo, swaying beneath his pack, and accompanied by Lázaro Ortiz,
rounded the corner and made toward him.

_"Hola, amigo Cura!"_ Rosendo shouted, his face radiant. "Come and bid
me welcome, and receive good news!"

At the same moment Carmen came flying toward them from the direction
of the shales. Josè instantly divined the motive which had sent her
out there. He turned his face to hide the tears which sprang to his
eyes.

"Thank God!" he murmured in a choking voice. Then he hastened to his
faithful ally and clasped him in his arms.



CHAPTER 16


Struggling vainly with his agitation, while the good tidings which he
could no longer hold fairly bubbled from his lips, Rosendo dragged the
priest into the parish house and made fast the doors. Swinging his
chair to the floor, he hastily unstrapped his kit and extracted a
canvas bag, which he handed to Josè.

"Padre," he exclaimed in a loud whisper, "we have found it!"

"Found what?" the bewildered Josè managed to ask.

"Gold, Padre--gold! Look, the bag is full! _Hombre!_ not less
than forty _pesos oro_--and more up there--quien sabe how much!
_Caramba!_"

Rosendo fell into a chair, panting with excitement. Josè sat down with
quickening pulse and waited for the full story. It was not long
coming.

"Padre--I knew we would find it--but not this way! _Hombre!_ It was
back of Popales. I had been washing the sands there for two days after
my return. There was a town at that place, years ago. The stone
foundations of the houses can still be seen. The Tiguí was rich at
that point then; but it is washed out now. _Bien_, one morning I
started out at daybreak to prospect Popales creek, the little stream
cutting back into the hills behind the old settlement. There was a
heavy mist over the whole valley, and I could not see ten feet before
my face. _Bien_, I had gone up-stream a long distance, perhaps several
miles, without finding more than a few colors, when suddenly the mist
began to clear, and there before me, only a few feet away, stood a
young deer, just as dumfounded as I was."

He paused a moment for breath, laughing meanwhile at the memory of his
surprise. Then he resumed.

"_Bueno_, fresh venison looked good to me, Padre, living on salt
_bagre_ and beans. But I had no weapon, save my _machete_. So I let
drive with that, and with all my strength. The big knife struck the
deer on a leg. The animal turned and started swiftly up the mountain
side, with myself in pursuit. _Caramba_, that was a climb! But with
his belly chasing him, a hungry man will climb anything! Through palms
and ferns and high weeds, falling over rocks and tripping on ground
vines we went, clear to the top of the hill. Then the animal turned
and plunged down a glen. On the descent it traveled faster, and in a
few minutes had passed clean from my sight. _Caramba_, I was angry!"

He stopped to laugh again at the incident.

"The glen," he continued, "ran down for perhaps a hundred yards, and
then widened into a clearing. I have been in the Popales country many
times, Padre, but I had never been to the top of this mountain, nor
had I ever seen this glen, which seemed to be an ancient trail. So I
went on down toward the clearing. As I approached it I crossed what
apparently was the bed of an ancient stream, dry now, but with many
pools of water from the recent rains, which are very heavy in that
region. _Bien_, I turned and followed this dry bed for a long
distance, and at last came out into the open. I found myself in a
circular space, surrounded by high hills, with no opening but the
stream bed along which I had come. At the far end of the basin-shaped
clearing the creek bed stopped abruptly; and I then knew that the
water had formerly come over the cliff above in a high waterfall, but
had flowed in a direction opposite to that of Popales creek, this
mountain being the divide.

"_Bueno_; now for my discovery! I several times filled my _batea_ with
gravel from the dry bed and washed it in one of the pools. I got only
a few scattered colors. But as I dug along the margin of the bed I
noticed what seemed to be pieces of adobe bricks. I went on up one
side of the bowl-shaped glen, and found many such pieces, and in some
places stones that had served as foundations for houses at one time.
So I knew that there had been a town there, long, long ago. But it
must have been an Indian village, for had it been known to the
Spaniards I surely would have learned of it from my parents. The
ground higher up was strewn with the broken bricks. I picked up many
of the pieces and examined them. Almost every one showed a color or
two of gold; but not enough to pay washing the clay from which they
had been made. But--and here is the end of my story--I have said that
this open space was shaped like a bowl, with all sides dipping sharply
to the center. It occurred to me that in the years--who knows how
many?--that have passed since this town was abandoned, the heavy rains
that had dissolved the mud bricks also must have washed the mud and
the gold it carried down into the center of this basin, where, with
great quantities of water sweeping over it every rainy season, the
clay and sand would gradually wash out, leaving the gold concentrated
in the center."

The old man stopped to light the thick cigar which he had rolled
during his recital.

"_Caramba!_ Padre, it was a lucky thought! I located the center of the
big bowl as nearly as possible, and began to dig. I washed some of the
dirt taken a foot or two below the surface. Hombre! it left a string
of gold clear around the _batea_! I became so excited I could scarcely
dig. Every batea, as I got deeper and deeper, yielded more and more
gold! I hurried back to the Tiguí for my supplies; and then camped up
there and washed the sand and clay for two weeks, until I had to come
back to Simití for food. Forty _pesos oro_ in fifteen days! _Caramba!_
And there is more. And all concentrated from the mud bricks of that
old, forgotten town in the mountains, miles back of Popales! May the
Virgin bless that deer and mend its hurt leg!"

One hundred and sixty francs in shining gold flakes! And who knew how
much more to be had for the digging!

"Ah, Padre," mused Rosendo, "it is wonderful how things turn out--that
is, when, as the little Carmen says, you think right! I thought I'd
find it--I knew it was right! And here it is! _Caramba!_"

At the mention of Carmen's name Josè again became troubled. Rosendo as
yet did not know of Diego's presence in Simití. Should he tell him? It
might lead to murder. Rosendo would learn of it soon enough; and Josè
dared not cast a blight upon the happiness of this rare moment. He
would wait.

As they sat reunited at the supper table in Rosendo's house, a
constant stream of townspeople passed and repassed the door, some
stopping to greet the returned prospector, others lingering to witness
Rosendo's conduct when he should learn of Diego's presence in the
town, although no one would tell him of it. The atmosphere was tense
with suppressed excitement, and Josè trembled with dread. Doña Maria
moved quietly about, giving no hint of the secret she carried. Carmen
laughed and chatted, but did not again mention the man from whose
presence she had fled to the shales that morning. Who could doubt that
in the midst of the prevalent mental confusion she had gone out there
"_to think_"? And having performed that duty, she had, as usual, left
her problem with her immanent God.

"I will go up and settle with Don Mario this very night," Rosendo
abruptly announced, as they rose from the table.

"Not yet, friend!" cried Josè quickly. "Lázaro has told you of the
revolution; and we have many plans to consider, now that we have found
gold. Come with me to the shales. We will not be interrupted there. We
can slip out through the rear door, and so avoid these curious people.
I have much to discuss with you."

Rosendo chuckled. "My honest debts first, _buen Cura_," he said
sturdily. And throwing back his shoulders he strutted about the room
with the air of a plutocrat. With his bare feet, his soiled, flapping
attire, and his swelling sense of self-importance he cut a comical
figure.

"But, Rosendo--" Josè was at his wits' end. Then a happy thought
struck him. "Why, man! I want to make you captain of the militia we
are forming, and I must talk with you alone first!"

The childish egotism of the old man was instantly touched.

_"Capitán! el capitán!"_ he cried in glee. He slapped his chest and
strode proudly around the room. "_Caramba! Capitán Don Rosendo Ariza,
S!_ Ha! Shall I carry a sword and wear gold braid?--But these fellows
are mighty curious," he muttered, looking out through the door at the
loitering townsfolk. "The shales, then, Padre! Close the front door,
Carmencita."

Josè scarcely breathed until, skirting the shore of the lake and
making a detour of the town, he and Rosendo at length reached the
shale beds unnoticed.

"Rosendo, the gold deposit that you have discovered--is it safe? Could
others find it?" queried Josè at length.

"Never, Padre! No trail leads to it. And no one would think of looking
there for gold. I discovered it by the merest chance, and I left no
trace of my presence. Besides, there are no gold hunters in that
country, and very few people in the entire district of Guamocó."

"And how long will it take you to wash out the deposit, do you
think?"

"_Quien sabe?_ Padre. A year--two years--perhaps longer."

"But you cannot return to Guamocó until the revolution is over."

"_Bien_, Padre, I will remain in Simití a week or two. We may then
know what to expect of the revolution."

"You are not afraid?"

"Of what? _Caramba_, no!"

Josè sighed. No one seemed to fear but himself.

"Rosendo, about the gold for Cartagena: how can we send it, even when
peace is restored?"

"Juan might go down each month," Rosendo suggested.

"Impossible! The expense would be greater than the amount shipped. And
it would not be safe. Besides, our work must be done with the utmost
secrecy. No one but ourselves must know of your discovery. And no one
else in Simití must know where we are sending the gold. Rosendo, it is
a great problem."

"_Caramba_, yes!"

The men lapsed into profound meditation. Then:

"Rosendo, the little Carmen makes great progress."

"_Por supuesto!_ I knew she would. She has a mind!"

"Have you no idea, Rosendo, who her parents might have been?"

"None whatever, Padre."

"Has it ever occurred to you, Rosendo, that, because of her deeply
religious nature, possibly her father was a priest?"

"_Caramba, no!_" ejaculated Rosendo, turning upon Josè. "What puts
that into your head, _amigo_?"

"As I have said, Rosendo," Josè answered, "her religious instinct."

"_Bien, Señor Padre_, you forget that priests are not religious."

"But some are, Rosendo," persisted Josè in a tone of protest.

"Perhaps. But those who are do not have children," was Rosendo's
simple manner of settling the argument.

Its force appealed to Josè, and he felt a shade of relief. But, if
Diego were not the father of Carmen, what motive had he for wishing to
take her with him, other than to train her eventually to become his
concubine? The thought maddened him. He almost decided to tell
Rosendo.

"But, Padre, we came out here to talk about the militia of which I am
to be captain. _Bien_, we must begin work to-morrow. _Hombre_, but the
señora's eyes will stand out when she sees me marching at the head of
the company!" He laughed like a pleased child.

"And now that we have gold, Padre, I must send to Cartagena for a gun.
What would one cost?"

"You probably could not obtain one, Rosendo. The Government is so
afraid of revolutions that it prohibits the importation of arms. But
even if you could, it would cost not less than fifty _pesos oro_."

"Fifty _pesos_! _Caramba!_" exclaimed the artless fellow. "Then I get
no gun! But now let us name those who will form the company."

By dwelling on the pleasing theme, Josè managed to keep Rosendo
engaged until fatigue at length drove the old man to seek his bed. The
town was wrapped in darkness as they passed through its quiet streets,
and the ancient Spanish lantern, hanging crazily from its moldering
sconce on the corner of Don Felipe's house, threw the only light into
the black mantle that lay upon the main thoroughfare.

                  *       *       *       *       *

At sunrise, Josè was awakened by Rosendo noisily entering his house.
A glance at the old man showed that he was laboring under strong
emotion.

"What sort of friendship is this," he demanded curtly, "that you keep
me from learning of Diego's presence in Simití? It was a trick you
served me--and friends do not so to one another!" He stood looking
darkly at the priest.

"Have you seen him, then? Good heavens, Rosendo! what have you done to
him?" cried Josè, hastily leaving his bed.

"There, comfort yourself, Padre," replied Rosendo, a sneer curling his
lips. "Your friend is safe--for the present. He and his negro rascals
fled before sunrise."

"And which direction did they take?"

"Why do you ask? Would you go to them? _Bueno_, then across the lake,
toward the Juncal. Don Mario stocked their boat last night, while you
kept me out on the shales. _Buen arreglo, no?_"

"Yes, Rosendo," replied Josè gladly, "an excellent arrangement to keep
you from dipping your hands in his foul blood. Why, man! is your
vision so short? Have you no thought of Carmen and her future?"

"But--_Dios_! he has spread the report that he is her father!
_Caramba!_ For that I would tear him apart! He robbed me of one child;
and now--_Caramba_! Why did you let him go?--why did you, Padre?"

Rosendo paced the floor like a caged lion, while great tears rolled
down his black cheeks.

"But, Rosendo, if you had killed him--what then? Imprisonment for you,
suffering for us all, and the complete wreck of our hopes. Is it worth
it?"

"_Na_, Padre, but I would have escaped to Guamocó, to the gold I have
discovered. There no one would have found me. And you would have kept
me supplied; and I would have given you the gold I washed to care for
her--"

The man sank into a chair and buried his head in his hands.
"_Caramba!_" he moaned. "But he will return when I am gone--and the
Church is back of him, and they will come and steal her away--"

How childish, and yet how great he was in his wonderful love, thought
Josè. He pitied him from the bottom of his heart; he loved him
immeasurably; yet he knew the old man's judgment was unsound in this
case.

"Come, Rosendo," he said gently, laying a hand upon the bent head.
"This is a time when expediency bids us suffer an evil to remain for a
little while, that a much greater good may follow."

He hesitated. Then--"You do not think Diego is her father?"

"A thousand devils, no!" shouted Rosendo, springing up. "He the father
of that angel-child? _Cielo!_ His brats would be serpents! But I am
losing time--" He turned to the door.

"Rosendo!" cried the priest in fresh alarm. "Where are you going? What
are you--"

"I am going after Diego! Juan and Lázaro go with me! Before sundown
that devil's carcass will be buzzard meat!"

Josè threw himself in front of Rosendo.

"Rosendo, think of Carmen! Would you kill her, too? If you kill Diego
nothing can save her from Wenceslas! Rosendo, for God's sake,
listen!"

But the old man, with his huge strength, tossed the frail priest
lightly aside and rushed into the street. Blind with rage, he did not
see Carmen standing a short distance from the door. The child had been
sent to summon him to breakfast. Unable to check his momentum, the big
man crashed full into her and bore her to the ground beneath him. As
she fell her head struck the sharp edge of an ancient paving stone,
and she lay quite still, while the warm blood slowly trickled through
her long curls.

Uttering a frightened cry, Josè rushed to the dazed Rosendo and got
him to his feet. Then he picked up the child, and, his heart numb with
fear, bore her into the house.

Clasping Carmen fiercely in his arms, Josè tried to aid Doña Maria in
staunching the freely flowing blood. Rosendo, crazed with grief, bent
over them, giving vent to moans which, despite his own fears, wrung
the priest's heart with pity for the suffering old man. At length the
child opened her eyes.

"Praise God!" cried Rosendo, kneeling and showering kisses upon her
hands. _"Loado sea el buen Dios! Caramba! Caramba!"_

"Padre Rosendo," the girl murmured, smiling down at him, "your
thoughts were driving you, just like Benjamín drives his oxen. And
they were bad, or you wouldn't have knocked me over."

"Bad!" Rosendo went to the doorway and squatted down upon the dirt
floor in the sunlight. "Bad!" he repeated. "_Caramba_, but they were
murder-thoughts!"

"And they tried to make you murder me, didn't they, padre dear?" She
laughed. "But it didn't really happen, anyway," she added.

Rosendo buried his head in his hands and groaned aloud. Carmen slipped
down from Josè's lap and went unsteadily to the old man.

"They were not yours, those thoughts, padre dear," putting her arms
around his neck. "But they were whipping you hard, just as if you
belonged to them. And see, it just shows that bad thoughts can't do
anything. Look, I'm all right!" She stood off and smiled at him.

Rosendo reached out and clasped her in his long arms. "_Chiquita_," he
cried, "if you were not, your old padre Rosendo would throw himself
into the lake!"

"More bad thoughts, padre dear!" She laughed and held up a warning
finger. "But I was to tell you the _desayuno_ was ready; and see, we
have forgotten all about it!" Her merry laugh rang through the room
like a silver bell.

After breakfast Josè took Rosendo, still shaking, into the parish
house. "I think," he said gravely, "that we have learned another
lesson, have we not, _amigo_?"

Rosendo's head sank upon his great chest.

"And, if we are wise, we will profit by it--will we not, _compadre_?"
He waited a moment, then continued:

"I have been seeing in a dim way, _amigo_, that our thought is always
the vital thing to be reckoned with, more than we have even suspected
before. I believe there is a mental law, though I cannot formulate it,
that in some way the thoughts we hold use us, and become externalized
in actions. You were wild with fear for Carmen, and your thoughts of
Diego were murderous. Bien, they almost drove you to murder, and they
reacted upon the very one you most love. Can you not see it,
_amigo_?"

Rosendo looked up. His face was drawn. "Padre--I am almost afraid to
think of anything--now."

"Ah, _amigo_," said Josè with deep compassion, "I, too, have had a
deep lesson in thinking these past two days. I had evolved many
beautiful theories, and worked out wonderful plans during these weeks
of peace. Then suddenly came the news of the revolution, and, presto!
they all flew to pieces! But Carmen--nothing disturbs her. Is it
because she is too young to fear? I think not, _amigo_, I think not. I
think, rather, that it is because she is too wise."

"But--she is not of the earth, Padre." The old man shook his head
dubiously.

"Rosendo, she is! She is human, just as we are. But in some way she
has learned a great truth, and that is that wrong thinking brings all
the discord and woe that afflict the human race. We know this is true,
you and I. In a way we have known it all our lives. But why, _why_ do
we not practice it? Why do I yield so readily to fear; and you to
revenge? I rather think if we loved our enemies we would have none,
for our only enemies are the thoughts that become externalized in
wrong thought-concepts. And even this externalization is only in our
own consciousness. It is there, and only there, that we see evil."

"_Quien sabe?_ Padre," replied Rosendo, slowly shaking his head. "We
know so little--so little!"

"But, Rosendo, we know enough to try to be like Carmen--"

"_Caramba_, yes! And I try to be like her. But whenever danger
threatens her, the very devils seize me, and I am no longer myself."

"Yes, yes; I know. But will not her God protect her? Can not we trust
her to Him?" Josè spoke with the conviction of right, however
inconsistent his past conduct might have been.

"True, Padre--and I must try to love Diego--I know--though I hate him
as the devil hates the cross! Carmen would say that he was used by bad
thoughts, wouldn't she?"

"Just so. She would not see the man, but the impersonal thought that
seems to use him. And I believe she knows how to meet that kind of
thought."

"I know it, Padre. _Bien_, I must try to love him. I _will_ try.
And--Padre, whenever he comes into my mind I will try to think of him
as God's child--though I know he isn't!"

Josè laughed loudly at this. "_Hombre!_" he exclaimed. "You must not
think of the human Diego as God's child! You must always think of the
_real_ child of God for which this human concept, Diego, stands in
your consciousness. Do you understand me?"

"No, Padre. But perhaps I can learn. I will try. But Diego shall live.
And--_Bien_, now let us talk about the company of militia. But here
comes the Alcalde. _Caramba!_ what does he want?"

With much oily ceremony and show of affection, Don Mario greeted the
pair.

"I bring a message from Padre Diego," he announced pompously, after
the exchange of courtesies. "Bien, it is quite unfortunate that our
friend Rosendo feels so hard toward him, especially as Don Diego has
so long entrusted Carmen to Rosendo's care. But--his letter, _Señor
Padre_," placing a folded paper in Josè's hand.

Silently, but with swelling indignation, Josè read:

  "Dear Brother in Christ: It is, as you must know, because of
  our good Rosendo's foolish anger that I relieve him of the
  embarrassment of my presence in Simití. Not that I fear bodily
  harm, but lest his thoughtlessness urge him to attempt injury
  upon me; in which case nothing but unhappiness could result, as my
  two negro servants would protect me with their own lives. I
  rather choose peace, and to that end quietly depart. But I
  leave behind my bleeding heart in the little Carmen; and I beg
  that you will at once hand her over to the excellent Don Mario,
  with whom I have made arrangements to have her sent to me in
  due season, whether in Banco or Remedios, I can not at present
  say. I am minded to make an excellent report of your parish to
  Don Wenceslas, and I am sure he will lend you support in your
  labors for the welfare of the good folk of Simití. Do not forget
  to include the little locket with Carmen's effects when you
  deliver her to Don Mario. I assure you of my warm affection for
  you, and for Rosendo, who mistakes in his zeal to persecute
  me, as he will some day learn; and I commend you both to the
  protecting care of our blessed Mother Mary.

               "I kiss your hand, as your servant in Christ,
                                           "DIEGO GUILLERMO POLO."

Josè looked long and fixedly at the Alcalde. "Don Mario," he finally
said, "do you believe Diego to be the father of Carmen?"

"_Cierto_, Padre, I know it!" replied the official with fervor. "He
has the proofs!"

"And what are they, may I ask?"

"I do not know, Padre; only that he has them. Surely the child is his,
and must be sent to him when he commands. Meantime, you see, he gives
the order to deliver her to me. He has kindly arranged to relieve you
and Rosendo of further care of the girl."

"Don Mario," said Josè with terrible earnestness, "I will give you the
benefit of the doubt, and say that Diego has basely deceived you. But
as for him--he lies."

"_Hombre!_ But I can not help if you disbelieve him. Still, you must
comply with his request; otherwise, the Bishop may compel you to do
so."

Josè realized the terrible possibility of truth in this statement. For
an instant all his old despair rushed upon him. Then he braced
himself. Rosendo was holding his wrath in splendid check.

"_Bien_, Don Mario," resumed Josè, after a long meditation. "Let us
ask our good Rosendo to leave us for a little moment that we may with
greater freedom discuss the necessary arrangements. _Bien, amigo!_"
holding up a hand to check Rosendo, who was rising menacingly before
the Alcalde. "You will leave it to me." He threw Rosendo a significant
look; and the latter, after a momentary hesitation, bowed and passed
out of the room.

"_A propósito, amigo_," resumed Josè, turning to the Alcalde and
assuming utter indifference with regard to Carmen. "As you will
recall, I stood security for Rosendo's debts. The thirty _pesos_ which
he owes you will be ready this evening."

The Alcalde smiled genially and rubbed his fat palms together. "_Muy
bien_," he murmured.

Josè reflected. Then:

"But, Don Mario, with regard to Carmen, justice must be done, is it
not so?"

"_Cierto_, Padre; and Padre Diego has the proofs--"

"Certainly; I accept your word for your conviction in the matter. But
you will agree that there is something to be said for Rosendo. He has
fed, clothed, and sheltered the girl for some eight years. Let us see,
at the rate you charge your _peones_, say, fifty pesos a day, that
would amount to--"

He took paper and pencil from the table and made a few figures.

"--to just fourteen hundred and sixty _pesos oro_," he concluded.
"This, then, is the amount now due Rosendo for the care of Diego's
child. You say he has made arrangements with you to care for her until
he can send for her. _Bien_, we will deliver her to you for Diego,
but only upon payment of the sum which I have just mentioned.
Otherwise, how will Rosendo be reimbursed for the expense of her
long maintenance?"

"_Ca--ram--ba!_ Fourteen hundred and sixty _pesos oro_! Why--it is a
fortune!" ejaculated the outwitted Alcalde, his eyes bulging over his
puffy cheeks.

"And," continued Josè calmly, "if we deliver the girl to you to-day, I
will retain the thirty _pesos oro_ which Rosendo owes you, and you
will stand surety for the balance of the debt, fourteen hundred and
thirty, in that case."

"_Diablo!_ but I will do nothing of the kind!" exploded the Alcalde.
"_Caramba!_ let Diego come and look after his own brat!"

"Then we shall consider the interview at an end, no?"

"But my thirty _pesos oro_?"

"To-night. And as much more for additional supplies. We are still
working together, are we not, Don Mario?" he added suggestively.

Josè in Simití with money discounted a million Diegos fleeing through
the jungle. The Alcalde's heavy face melted in a foolish grin.

"_Cierto, buen Padre!_ and--La Libertad?"

"I have strong hopes," replied Josè with bland assurance, while a
significant look came into his face. Then he rose and bowed the
Alcalde out. "And, Don Mario--"

He put a finger on his lips.

"--we remain very silent, no?"

"_Cierto, Padre, cierto!_ I am the grave itself!"

As the bulky official waddled off to his little shop, Josè turned back
into his house with a great sigh of relief. Another problem had been
met--temporarily.

He summoned Carmen to the day's lessons.



CHAPTER 17


Within the month Juan brought from Bodega Central the glad news of the
revolution's utter collapse. The anticlerical element, scenting
treachery in their own ranks, and realizing almost from the outset
that the end was a matter of only a few weeks, offered to capitulate
on terms which they felt would be less distressing to their pride than
those which their victors might dictate after inflicting a crushing
defeat. The conservatives did not take advantage of the _fiasco_, but
offered conciliation in the way of reapportioning certain minor public
offices, and a show of somewhat lessened clerical influence. Peace
followed rapidly. The fires of Jacobinism and popery were again
banked, while priest and politician, statesman and orator set up the
board and rearranged the pawns for the next play.

Nothing further had been heard of Padre Diego during the month,
excepting that he had arrived at the settlement of Juncal in a state
of extreme agitation, and had hurriedly set out that same day along
the trail to the San Lucas district. Rosendo, meanwhile, assured that
Diego would not return in the immediate future, yielded to Josè's
persuasion and departed at once for Guamocó on the news of the
revolution's close. Simití had remained unmolested; and now, with the
assurance of indefinite peace, the old town dropped quickly back into
her wonted state of listless repose, and yielded to the drowsy, dreamy
influences that hover always about this scene of mediaeval romance.

Josè had recovered his equipoise; and even when Juan, returning from
his next trip down to the river, brought the priest another sharp
letter from Wenceslas, written in the Bishop's name, he read it
without a tremor. The letter complained of Josè's silence, and
especially of his failure to assist the Catholic cause in this crisal
hour by contributions of Peter's Pence. Nor had any report been
received in Cartagena relative to the state of the parish of Simití,
its resources and communicants; and not a _peso_ had been offered to
the support of their so dear citadel at a time when its enemies
threatened its gates. Josè smiled happily as he penned his reply, for
he knew that with Rosendo's next return their contributions to
Cartagena would begin. That meant the quieting of Wenceslas,
regardless of whatever report Diego might make. And it was evident
from this letter that neither Diego nor the Alcalde had as yet
communicated anything of a startling nature to Wenceslas regarding
those things to which the priest had consecrated himself in Simití.

Josè's life was never before so full. And never so sweet. To his
little flock he was now preaching the Word of God only as he could
interpret it to meet their simple needs. Gradually, as he got closer
to them, he sought to enlighten them and to draw them at least a
little way out of the dense materialism of their present religious
beliefs. He also strove to give them the best of his own worldly
knowledge, and to this end was talking to them three nights a week in
the church building, where the simple people hung upon his words like
children enwrapped in fairy lore. He was holding regular Sunday
services, and offering Masses during the week for those of his
parishioners who requested them, and who would have been shocked,
puzzled, and unhappy had he refused to do so, or attempted to prove
their uselessness. He was likewise saying diurnal Masses for the
little Maria, to whom, as she lay breathing her last in his arms in
Cartagena, he had given the promise to offer them daily in her behalf
for, a year.

Nor was this the extent of his loving sacrifice for the girl. He had
already sent a small sum of money to Catalina by Captain Julio, who
promised to arrange at Calamar for its transmission, and for the safe
convoy of a similar small packet monthly to Cartagena and into the
hands of the two women who were caring for the infant son of Wenceslas
and the ill-fated Maria. He had promised her that night that he would
care for her babe. And his life had long since shown what a promise
meant to him. He knew he would be unable to learn of the child's
progress directly from these women, for they were both illiterate. But
Captain Julio brought an encouraging message from them, and assured
Josè that he would always make inquiry for the babe on his trips down
the river. Josè's long-distance dealings with the genial captain had
been conducted through Juan, who had constituted himself the priest's
faithful servant and the distant worshiper of the child Carmen.

"Padre Josè," Juan had said one day, striving vainly to hide his
embarrassment, "the little Carmen grows very beautiful. She is like
the Pascua-flower, that shines through the ferns in the _caño_. She is
like the great blue butterfly, that floats on the sunbeams that sift
through the forest trees."

"Yes, Juan, she is very beautiful."

"Padre, you love her much, is it not so?"

"Very much, indeed, Juan."

"And I, Padre, I, too, love her." He paused and dug the hard ground
with his bare toes.

"Padre," he resumed, "the little Carmen will marry--some day, will she
not?"

Josè started. The thought had never occurred to him! Carmen marry?
After all, she was human, and-- But, no, he could not, he would not,
think of it!

"Why, Juan--I--cannot say--"

"But, Padre, she will." Juan was growing bolder. "And--and, Padre,
I--I should like it if she would marry me. Ah, _Señor Padre_, already
I adore her!"

Josè could not be angry. The faithful lad was deeply sincere. And the
girl would reach the marriageable age of that country in all too short
a time.

"But, Juan," he remonstrated, "you are too young! And Carmen--why, she
is but a child!"

"True, Padre. But I am seventeen--and I will wait for her. Only say
now that she shall be mine when the time comes. Padre, say it now!"

Josè was deeply touched by the boy's earnest pleading. He put his arm
affectionately about the strong young shoulders.

"Wait, Juan, and see what develops. She is very, very young. We must
all wait. And, meanwhile, do you serve her, faithfully, as you see
Rosendo and me doing."

The boy's face brightened with hope. "Padre," he exclaimed, "I am her
slave!"

Josè went back to his work with Carmen with his thought full of
mingled conjecture and resolve. He had thus far outlined nothing for
the girl's future. Nor had he the faintest idea what the years might
bring forth. But he knew that, in a way, he was aiding in the
preparation of the child for something different from the dull, animal
existence with which she was at present surrounded, and that her path
in life must eventually lead far, far away from the shabby, crumbling
town which now constituted her material world. His task he felt to be
tremendous in the responsibility which it laid upon him. What had he
ever known of the manner of rearing children! He had previously given
the question of child-education but scant consideration, although he
had always held certain radical ideas regarding it; and some of these
he was putting to the test. But had his present work been forecast
while he lay sunken in despair on the river steamer, he would have
repudiated the prediction as a figment of the imagination. Yet the
gleam which flashed through his paralyzed brain that memorable day in
the old church, when Rosendo opened his full heart to him, had roused
him suddenly from his long and despondent lethargy, and worked a quick
and marvelous renovation in his wasted life. Following the lead of
this unusual child, he was now, though with many vicissitudes, slowly
passing out of his prison of egoism, and into the full, clear sunlight
of a world which he knew to be far less material than spiritual.

With the awakening had come the almost frenzied desire to realize in
Carmen what he had failed to develop within himself; a vague hope that
she might fill the void which a lifetime of longing had expressed. A
tremendous opportunity now presented. Already the foundation had been
well laid--but not by earthly hands. His task was to build upon it;
and, as he did so, to learn himself. He had never before realized more
than faintly the awful power for good or evil which a parent wields
over a child. He had no more than the slightest conception of the
mighty problem of child-education. And now Carmen herself had shown
him that real education must be reared upon a foundation _wholly
spiritual_. Yet this, he knew, was just what the world's educators did
not do. He could see now how in the world the religious instinct of
the child is early quenched, smothered into complete or partial
extinction beneath the false tutelage of parents and teachers, to whom
years and adult stature are synonymous with wisdom, and who themselves
have learned to see the universe only through the opaque lenses of
matter and chance.

"If children were not falsely educated to know all manner of evil," he
mused, "what spiritual powers might they not develop in adult life,
powers that are as yet not even imagined! But their primitive
religious instinct is regarded by the worldly-wise parent as but a
part of the infant existence, which must soon give place to the more
solid and real beliefs and opinions which the world in general regards
as established and conventional, even though their end is death. And
so they teach their children to make evil real, even while admonishing
them to protect themselves against it and eventually so to rise as to
overcome it, little realizing that the carnal belief of the reality of
evil which a child is taught to accept permeates its pure thought like
an insidious poison, and becomes externalized in the conventional
routine existence of mind in matter, soul in body, a few brief years
of mingled good and evil, and then darkness--the end here certain; the
future life a vague, impossible conjecture."

Josè determined that Carmen's education should be spiritual, largely
because he knew, constituted as she was, it could not well be
otherwise. And he resolved that from his teachings she should glean
nothing but happiness, naught but good. With his own past as a
continual warning, he vowed first that never should the mental germ of
fear be planted within this child's mind. He himself had cringed like
a coward before it all his desolate life. And so his conduct had been
consistently slavish, specious, and his thought stamped with the brand
of the counterfeit. He knew not how much longer he must struggle with
it. But he knew that, if he would progress, the warfare must go on,
until at length he should put it under his feet. His mind still bore
the almost ineradicable mold of the fear deeply graven into it by the
ignorant opinions, the worldly, material, unspiritual beliefs of his
dear but unwise parents. His life had been hedged with baleful shadows
because of it; and over every bright picture there hung its black
draping. As he looked back over the path along which he had come, he
could see every untoward event, every unhappiness and bitter
disappointment, as the externalization of fear in some form, the germ
of which had been early planted in the fertile soil of his plastic
brain. Without it he might have risen to towering heights. Under its
domination he had sunk until the swirling stream of life had eddied
him upon the desolate shores of Simití. In the hands of the less
fearful he had been a puppet. In his own eyes he was a fear-shaped
manikin, the shadow of God's real man. The fear germ had multiplied
within him a billionfold, and in the abundant crop had yielded a
mental depression and deep-seated melancholy that had utterly stifled
his spirit and dried the marrow of his bones.

They were not pleasant, these thoughts. But now Josè could draw from
them something salutary, something definite to shape and guide his
work with Carmen. She, at least, should not grow up the slave of
fearsome opinions and beliefs born of dense ignorance. Nor should the
baseless figments of puerile religious systems find lodgment within
her clear thought. The fear element, upon which so much of so-called
Christian belief has been reared, and the damnable suggestions of hell
and purgatory, of unpardonable sin and endless suffering, the
stock-in-trade of poet, priest and prelate up to and overlapping our
present brighter day, should remain forever a closed volume to this
child, a book as wildly imaginative and as unacceptable as the fabled
travels of Maundeville.

"I believe," he would murmur to himself, as he strolled alone in the
dusk beside the limpid lake, "that if I could plant myself firmly on
the Scriptural statement that God is love, that He is good; and if I
could regard Him as infinite mind, while at the same time striving to
recognize no reality, no intelligence or life in things material, I
could eventually triumph over the whole false concept, and rise out of
beliefs of sickness, discord, and death, into an unalterable
consciousness of good only."

He had made a beginning when he strove to realize that man is not
separated from God; that God is not a far-off abstraction; and that
infinite mind is, as Carmen insisted, "everywhere."

"It is only the five physical senses that tell us evil is real," he
reflected. "Indeed, without their testimony we would be utterly
unconscious of evil! And I am convinced that their testimony is
specious, and that we see, hear, and feel only in thought, or in
belief. We think the sensations of seeing, hearing, and feeling come
to us through the medium of these senses as outward, fleshly
contrivances, which in some way communicate with the mind and bridge
the gulf between the material and the mental. In reality, we do but
see, hear and feel _our own thoughts_! The philosophers, many of them,
said as much centuries ago. So did Jesus. But--the human mind has been
mesmerized, simply mesmerized!"

These things he pondered day by day, and watched to see them wrought
out in the life of Carmen. "Ah, yes," he would sometimes say, as
spiritual ideas unfolded to him, "you evolve beautiful theories, my
good Josè, and you say many brave things. But, when the day of
judgment comes, as it did when Juan brought you the news of the
revolution, then, alas! your theories fly to pieces, and you find
yourself very human, very material, and your God hidden behind the
distant clouds. When the test comes, you find you cannot prove your
beliefs."

Yet the man did not often indulge in self-condemnation, for somehow he
knew his ideas were right. When he realized the character and specious
nature of evil, and realized, too, that "by thy words thou shalt be
justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned," he knew that the
stirring up of evil by good, and the shaking of the ancient
foundations of carnal belief within his mentality, might mean fiery
trials, still awaiting him. And yet, the crown was for him who should
overcome. Overcome what? The false opinions of mankind, the ignorant
beliefs in matter and evil. For what, after all, is responsible for
all the evil in this world of ours? What but a false concept of God?
"And if I keep my nose buried forever in matter, how can I hope to see
God, who is Spirit? And how can I follow the Christ unless I think as
he thought?" he said.

But it was in the classroom with Carmen that he always received his
greatest stimulus.

"See, Padre dear," she said one day, "if I erase a wrong figure and
then set down the right one instead, I get the right answer. And it is
just like that when we think. If we always put good thoughts in the
place of the bad ones, why, everything comes out right, doesn't it?"

Josè smiled at the apt comparison. "Of course, _chiquita_," he
replied. "Only in your algebra you know which are the right figures to
put down. But how do you know which thoughts are right?"

"I always know, Padre. I can't make even the least mistake about the
thoughts. Why, it is easier to mistake with figures than it is with
thoughts."

"How is that, little one?"

"Because, if you always think God _first_, you can never think wrong.
Now can you? And if you think of other things first you are almost
sure to think of the wrong thing, is it not so, Padre?"

The priest had to admit the force of her statement.

"And, you know, Padre dear," the girl went on, "when I understand the
right rule in algebra, the answer just comes of itself. Well, it is so
with everything when we understand that God is the right rule--you
call Him principle, don't you?--well, when we know that He is the only
rule for everything, then the answers to all our problems just come of
themselves."

Aye, thought Josè, the healing works of the great Master were only the
"signs following," the "answers" to the people's problems, the sure
evidence that Jesus understood the Christ-principle.

"And when you say that God is the right rule for everything, just what
do you mean, _chiquita_?"

"That He is everywhere," the girl replied.

"That He is infinite and omnipresent good, then?" the priest
amplified.

"He is good--and everywhere," the child repeated firmly.

"And the necessary corollary of that is, that there is no evil," Josè
added.

"I don't know what you mean by corollary, Padre dear. It's a big word,
isn't it?"

"I mean--I think I know how you would put it, little one--if God is
everywhere, then there is nothing bad. Is that right?"

"Yes, Padre. Don't you see?"

Assuredly he saw. He saw that a fact can have no real opposite; that
any predicated opposite must be supposition. And evil is the
supposition; whereas good is the fact. The latter is "plus," and the
former "minus." No wonder the origin of evil has never been found,
although humanity has struggled with the problem for untold ages!
Jesus diagnosed evil as a lie. He gave it the minus sign, the sign of
nothingness. The world has tried to make it positive, something. From
the false sense of evil as a reality has come the equally false sense
of man's estrangement from God, through some fictitious "fall"--a
curse, truly, upon the human intellect, but not of God's infliction.
For false belief always curses with a reign of discord, which endures
until the belief becomes corrected by truth. From the beginning, the
human race has vainly sought to postulate an equal and opposite to
everything in the realm of both the spiritual and material. It has
been hypnotized, obsessed, blinded, by this false zeal. The resultant
belief in "dualism" has rendered hate the equal and opposite of Love,
evil the equal and opposite of Good, and discord the eternal opponent
of Harmony. To cope with evil as a reality is to render it immortal in
our consciousness. To know its unreality is to master it.

"Throughout life," Josè mused, "every positive has its negative, every
affirmation its denial. But the opposites never mingle. And, moreover,
the positive always dispels the negative, thus proving the specious
nature of the latter. Darkness flees before the light, and ignorance
dissolves in the morning rays of knowledge. Both cannot be real. The
positive alone bears the stamp of immortality. Carmen has but one
fundamental rule: _God is everywhere_. This gives her a sense of
immanent power, with which all things are possible."

Thus with study and meditation the days flowed past, with scarcely a
ripple to break their quiet monotony. Rosendo came, and went again. He
brought back at the end of his first month's labors on the newly
discovered deposit some ninety _pesos_ in gold. He had reached the
bedrock, and the deposit was yielding its maximum; but the yield would
continue for many months, he said. His exultation overleaped all
bounds, and it was with difficulty that Josè could bring him to a
consideration of the problems still confronting them.

"I think, Rosendo," said the priest, "that we will send, say, thirty
_pesos_ this month to Cartagena; the same next month; and then
increase the amount slightly. This method is sure to have a beneficial
effect upon the ecclesiastical authorities there."

"Fine!" ejaculated Rosendo. "And how will you send it, Padre?"

Josè pondered the situation. "We cannot send the gold direct to the
Bishop, for that would excite suspicion. Masses, you know, are not
paid for in gold dust and nuggets. And we have no money. Nor could we
get the gold exchanged for bills here in Simití, even if we dared run
the risk of our discovery becoming known."

For the Alcalde was already nosing about in an effort to ascertain the
source of the gold with which Rosendo had just cancelled his debt and
purchased further supplies. Josè now saw that, under existing
conditions, it would be utterly impossible for Rosendo to obtain
titles to mineral properties through Don Mario. He spent hours seeking
a solution of the involved problem. Then, just before Rosendo departed
again for the mountains, Josè called him into the parish house.

"Rosendo, I think I see a way. Bring me one of the paper boxes of
candles which you have just purchased from Don Mario."

"Carumba! Padre," queried the surprised Rosendo, as he returned with
the box, "and what is this for?"

"I merely want to get the name of the firm which sold the candles. The
Empresa Alemania, Barranquilla. Good! Now listen. I have a method that
is roundabout, but certainly promises much. I will write to the firm,
appointing them my agents while I pose as Josè Rincón, miner. The
agency established, I will send them our gold each month, asking them
to return to me its equivalent in bills, deducting, of course, their
commission. Then I will send these bills, or such part as we deem
wise, to Wenceslas. Each month Juan, who will be sworn to secrecy,
will convey the gold to Bodega Central in time to meet Captain Julio's
boat. The captain will both deliver the gold to the Empresa Alemania,
and bring back the bills in exchange. Then, from Simití, and in the
regular manner, I will send the small packet of bills to Wenceslas as
contributions from the parish. We thus throw Don Mario off the scent,
and arouse no suspicion in any quarter. As I receive mail matter at
various times, the Alcalde will not know but what I also receive
consignments of money from my own sources. I think the plan will work
out. Juan already belongs to us. What, then, is there to fear?"

And so, as it was arranged, it worked out. Juan reveled in the honor
of such intimate relations with the priest and Rosendo, and especially
in the thought that he was working in secret for the girl he adored.
By the time Rosendo returned again from Guamocó, Josè had sent his
first consignment of money to the Bishop, carefully directing it to
Wenceslas, personally, and had received an acknowledgment in a letter
which caused him deep thought.

  "To further stimulate the piety of your communicants," it read,
  "and arouse them to more generous contributions to our glorious
  cause, you will inform them that, if their monetary contributions
  do not diminish in amount for the coming year, they will be made
  participants in the four solemn Novenas which will be offered
  by His Grace, the Bishop of Cartagena. Moreover, if their
  contributions increase, the names of the various contributors will
  be included in the one hundred Masses which are to be offered
  in December at the Shrine of Our Lady of Chiquinquía for their
  spiritual and temporal welfare. Contributors will also have a High
  Mass after death, offered by one of His Grace's assistants, as
  soon as the notification of death is received here. In addition
  to these, His Grace, always mindful of the former importance of
  the parish of Simití, and acknowledging as its special patron
  the ever blessed Virgin, has arranged to bestow the episcopal
  blessing upon an image of the Sacred Heart, which will be shipped
  to his faithful children in Simití when the amount of their
  contributions shall have met the expense thereof. Let us keep ever
  in mind the pious words of the Bl. Margaret Mary, who has
  conveyed to us the assurance which she received directly from Our
  Blessed Lord that He finds great joy in beholding His Sacred
  Heart visibly represented, that it may touch the hard hearts
  of mankind. Our blessed Saviour promised the gracious Margaret
  Mary that He would pour out abundantly of His rich treasure upon
  all who honor this image, and that it shall draw down from heaven
  every blessing upon those who adore and reverence it. Inform your
  parishioners that the recital of the offering, 'O, Sacred Heart
  of Jesus, may it be everywhere adored!' carries a hundred days'
  indulgence each time.

  "You will bear in mind that the General Intention for this month
  is The Conversion of America. Though our Church is founded on the
  Rock, and is to last forever, so that the gates of hell shall
  never prevail against her, nevertheless she has been called upon
  to withstand many assaults from her enemies, the advocates of
  _modernism_, in the land of liberal thought to our north. These
  assaults, though painful to her, can never be fatal to her
  spiritual life, although they unfortunately are so to many of her
  dear children, who yield to the insidious persuasions of the
  heretics who do the work of Satan among the Lord's sheep. New and
  fantastic religions are springing up like noxious weeds in America
  of the north, and increasing infidelity is apparent on every hand.
  The Christ prayed that there might be one fold and one shepherd.
  It is for us this month to pray for the great day when they will
  be accomplished. But we must be united over the interests of the
  Sacred Heart. Therefore, liberal plenary indulgences will be
  granted to those of the faithful who contribute to this glorious
  cause, so dear to the heart of the blessed Saviour. We enclose
  leaflets indicating the three degrees, consisting of the Morning
  Offering, Our Father and ten Hail Marys daily, for the Pope and
  his interests, and the degree of reparation, by which a plenary
  indulgence may be gained.

  "Stimulate your parishioners to compete joyfully for the statue of
  the Blessed Virgin, which we mentioned to you in our former
  communication. Teach them, especially, their entire dependence on
  Mary, on her prayers to God for their deliverance and welfare.
  Reveal to them her singularly powerful influence in the shaping of
  all great historical events of the world; how never has she
  refused our prayers to exert her mighty influence with her
  all-potent Son, when she has been appealed to in sincerity, for it
  rejoices the Sacred Heart of Jesus to yield to the requests of His
  Blessed Mother. Mary is omnipotent, for she can ask no favor of
  her Son that He will not grant. Competition for possession of this
  sacred image, which carries the potent blessing of His Holiness,
  should be regarded a privilege, and you will so impress it upon
  the minds of your parishioners.

  "Finally, His Grace requests that you will immediately procure
  whatever information you may regarding the mineral resources of
  the district of Guamocó, and indicate upon a sketch the location
  of its various mines, old or new, as known to its inhabitants.
  Diligent and careful inquiry made by yourself among the people of
  the district will reveal many hidden facts regarding its
  resources, which should be made known to His Grace at the earliest
  possible moment, in view of the active preparations now in
  progress to forestall the precipitation of another political
  uprising with its consequent strain upon our Holy Church."

"Money! money! money!" cried Josè. "One would think the Christ had
established his Church solely for gold!"

He folded the letter and looked out through the rear door to where
Carmen sat, teaching Cucumbra a new trick. He realized then that never
before had he been so far from the Holy Catholic faith as at that
moment. And Carmen--

"Good God!" he muttered, as his eyes rested upon the child. "If the
Church should get possession of Carmen, what would it do with her?
Would it not set its forces to work to teach her that evil is a
reality--that it is as powerful as good--that God formed man and the
universe out of dust--that Jesus came down from a starry heaven that
he might die to appease the wrath of a man-like Father--that Mary
pleads with the Lord and Jesus, and by her powerful logic induces them
to spare mankind and grant their foolish desires--all the dribble and
rubbish of outlandish theology that has accumulated around the nucleus
of pure Christianity like a gathering snowball throughout the ages! To
make the great States up north dominantly Catholic, Rome must--simply
_must_--have the children to educate, that she may saturate their
absorbent minds with these puerile, undemonstrable, pagan beliefs
before the child has developed its own independent thought. How wise
is she--God, how worldly wise and cunning! And I still her priest--"

Carmen came bounding in, followed pellmell by Cucumbra. Cantar-las-horas
stalked dignifiedly after her, and stopped at the threshold, where he
stood with cocked head and blinking eyes, wondering what move his
animated young mistress would make next.

"Padre!" she exclaimed, "the sun is down, and it is time for our
walk!"

She seized his hand and drew him out into the road. The play of her
expression as she looked up and laughed into his face was like the
dance of sunbeams on moving water. They turned down the narrow street
which led to the lake. As was her wont, in every object about her, in
every trifling event, the child discovered rich treasures of
happiness. The pebbles which she tossed with her bare toes were mines
of delight. The pigs, which turned up their snouts expectantly as she
stooped to scratch their dusty backs--the matronly hens that followed
clucking after her--the black babies that toddled out to greet the
_Cura_--all yielded a wealth of delight and interest. She seemed to
Josè to uncover joy by a means not unlike the divining rod, which
points to hidden gold where to the eye there is naught but barren
ground.

Near the margin of the lake they stopped at the door of a cottage,
where they were awaited by the matron who displayed a finger wrapped
in a bit of cloth. She greeted the priest courteously.

"_Señor Padre_," she said, "this morning I had the misfortune to cut
my finger while peeling yuccas, and I am not sure whether a piece of
the skin went into the pot or not. _Bueno_, the yuccas are all cooked;
and now my man says he will not eat them, for this is Friday, and
there may be meat with the yuccas. What shall I do? Was it wicked to
cook the yuccas, not knowing if a bit of the skin from my finger had
fallen into the pot?"

Josè stood dumfounded before such ignorant credulity. Then he shook
his head and replied sadly, "No, señora, it was not wicked. Tell your
man he may eat the yuccas."

The woman's face brightened, and she hastened into the house to
apprise her spouse of the _Cura's_ decision.

"God help us!" muttered Josè under his breath. "Two thousand years of
Christianity, and still the world knows not what Jesus taught!"

"But you told me he had good thoughts, Padre dear," said the little
voice at his side, as he walked slowly away with bended head. "And
that is enough to know."

"Why do you say that, Carmen?" asked Josè, somewhat petulantly.

"Because, Padre, if he had good thoughts, he thought about God--didn't
he? And if he thought about God, he always thought of something good.
And if we always think about good--well, isn't that enough?"

Josè's eyes struggled with hers. She almost invariably framed her
replies with an interrogation, and, whether he would or not, he must
perforce give answers which he knew in his heart were right, and yet
which the sight of his eyes all too frequently denied.

"Padre, you are not thinking about God now--are you?"

"I am, indeed, child!" he answered abruptly.

"Well--perhaps you are thinking _about_ Him; but you are not thinking
_with_ Him--are you?--the way He thinks. You know, He sends us His
thoughts, and we have to pick them out from all the others that aren't
His, and then think them. If the señora and her man had been thinking
God's thoughts, they wouldn't have been afraid to eat a piece of meat
on Friday--would they?"

Cucumbra, forgetting his many months of instruction, suddenly yielded
to the goad of animal instinct and started along the beach in mad
pursuit of a squealing pig. Carmen dashed after him. As Josè watched
her lithe, active little body bobbing over the shales behind the
flying animals, she seemed to him like an animated sunbeam sporting
among the shadows.

"Why should life," he murmured aloud, "beginning in radiance, proceed
in ever deepening gloom, and end at last in black night? Why, but for
the false education in evil which is inflicted upon us! The joys, the
unbounded bliss of childhood, do indeed gush from its innocence--its
innocence of the blighting belief in mixed good and evil--innocence of
the false beliefs, the undemonstrable opinions, the mad worldly
ambitions, the carnal lust, bloated pride, and black ignorance of men!
It all comes from not knowing God, to know whom is life eternal! The
struggle and mad strife of man--what does it all amount to, when 'in
the end he shall be a fool'? Do we in this latest of the centuries,
with all our boasted progress in knowledge, really know so much, after
all? Alas! we know nothing--nothing!"

"Come, Padre," cried Carmen, returning to him, "we are going to just
try now to have all the nice thoughts we can. Let's just look all
around us and see if we can't think good thoughts about everything.
And, do you know, Padre dear, I've tried it, and when I look at things
and something tries to make me see if there could possibly be anything
bad about them--why, I find there can't! Try it, and see for
yourself."

Josè knew it. He knew that the minds of men are so profaned by
constantly looking at evil that their thoughts are tinged with it. He
was striving to look up. But in doing so he was combating a habit
grown mighty by years of indulgence.

"When you always think good about a thing," the girl went on, "you
never can tell what it will do. But good _always_ comes from it. I
know. I do it all the time. If things look bad, I just say, 'Why look,
here's something trying to tell me that two and two are seven!' And
then it goes away."

"Your purity and goodness resist evil involuntarily, little one," said
Josè, more to himself than to the child.

"Why, Padre, what big words!"

"No, little one, it is just the meaning of the words that is big," he
replied.

The girl was silent for some moments. Then:

"Padre dear, I never thought of it before--but it is true: we don't
see the meaning of words with the same eyes that we see trees and
stones and people, do we?"

Josè studied the question. "I don't quite understand what you mean,
_chiquita_," he was finally forced to answer.

"Well," she resumed, "the meaning of a word isn't something that we
can pick up, like a stone; or see, as we see the lake out there."

"No, Carmen, the meaning is spiritual--mental; it is not physically
tangible. It is not seen with the fleshly eyes."

"The meaning of a word is the inside of it, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is the inside, the soul, of the word."

"And we don't see the word, either, do we?" She shook her brown curls
in vigorous negation.

"No, little one, we see only written or printed symbols; or hear only
sounds that convey to us the words. But the words themselves are
mental. We do not see them."

"No, we think them." She meditated a while. "But, Padre dear," she
continued, "the inside, or soul, of everything is mental. We never see
it. We have to think it."

"Yes, you are right. The things we think we see are only symbols. They
stand for the real things."

"Padre, they don't stand for anything!" she replied abruptly.

Josè looked down at her in surprise. He waited.

"Padre, the real things are the things we don't see. And the things we
think we see are not real at all!"

Josè had ere this learned not to deny her rugged statements, but to
study them for their inner meaning, which the child often found too
deep for her limited vocabulary to express.

"The things we think we see," he said, though he was addressing his
own thought, "are called the physical. The things we do not see or
cognize with the physical senses are called mental, or spiritual.
Well?" he queried, looking down again into the serious little face.

"Padre, the very greatest things are those that we don't see at all!"

"True, _chiquita_. Love, life, joy, knowledge, wisdom, health,
harmony--all these are spiritual ideas. The physical sometimes
manifests them--and sometimes does not. And in the end, called death,
it ceases altogether to manifest them."

"But--these things--the very greatest things there are--are the souls
of everything--is it not so, Padre dear?"

"It must be, _chiquita_."

"And all these things came from God, and He is everywhere, and so He
is the soul of everything, no?"

He made the same affirmative reply.

"Padre--don't you see it?--we are not seeing things all around us! We
don't see real things that we call trees and stones and people! We see
only what we _think_ we see. We see things that are not there at all!
We see--"

"Yes, we see only our thoughts. And we think we see them as objects
all about us, as trees, and houses, and people. But in the final
analysis we see only thoughts," he finished.

"But these thoughts do not come from God," she insisted.

"No," he replied slowly, "because they often manifest discord and
error. I think I grasp what is struggling in your mind _chiquita_. God
is--"

"Everywhere," she interrupted.

"He is everywhere, and therefore He is the soul--the inside--the heart
and core--of everything. He is mind, and His thoughts are real, and
are the only real thoughts there are. He is truth. The opposite of
truth is a lie. But, in reality, truth cannot have an opposite.
Therefore, a lie is a supposition. And so the thought that we seem to
see externalized all about us, and that we call physical objects, is
supposition only. And, a supposition being unreal, the whole physical
universe, including material man, is unreal--is a supposition, a
supposition of mixed good and evil, for it manifests both. It is the
lie about God. And, since a lie has no real existence, this human
concept of a universe and mankind composed of matter is utterly
unreal, an image of thought, an illusion, existing in false thought
only--a belief--a supposition pure and simple!"

As he talked he grew more and more animated. He seemed to forget the
presence of the child, and appeared to be addressing only his own
insistent questionings.

They walked along together in silence for some moments. Then the girl
again took up the conversation.

"Padre," she said, "you know, you taught me to prove my problems in
arithmetic and algebra. Well, I have proved something about thinking,
too. If I think a thing, and just keep thinking it, pretty soon I see
it--in some way--outside of me."

A light seemed to flash through Josè's mental chambers, and he
recalled the words of the explorer in Cartagena. Yes, that was exactly
what he had said--"every thought that comes into the mind tends to
become _externalized_, either upon the body as a physical condition,
or in the environment, or as an event, good or bad." It was a law,
dimly perceived, but nevertheless sufficiently understood in its
workings to indicate a tremendous field as yet all but unknown. The
explorer had called it the law of the externalization of thought. "As
a man thinketh in his heart, so is he," said the Master, twenty
centuries before. Did he recognize the law?

Josè's thought swept over his past. Had his own wrong thinking, or the
wrong thought of others, been the cause of his unhappiness and acute
mental suffering? But why personalize it? What difference whether it
be called his, or the Archbishop's, or whose? Let it suffice that it
was false thought, undirected by the Christ-principle, God, that had
been externalized in the wreckage which he now called his past life.

He again stood face to face with the most momentous question ever
propounded by a waiting world: the question of causation. And he knew
now that causation was wholly spiritual.

"Padre dear, you said just now that God was mind. But, if that is
true, there is only one mind, for God is everywhere."

"It must be so, _chiquita_," dreamily responded the priest.

"Then He is your mind and my mind, is it not so?"

"Yes--"

"Then, if He is my mind, there just isn't anything good that I can't
do."

Twilight does not linger in the tropics, and already the shadows that
stole down through the valley had wrapped the man and child in their
mystic folds. Hand in hand they turned homeward.

"Padre, if God is my mind, He will do my thinking for me. And all I
have to do is to keep the door open and let His thoughts come in."

Her sweet voice lingered on the still night air. There was a pensive
gladness in the man's heart as he tightly held her little hand and led
her to Rosendo's door.



CHAPTER 18


The next morning Josè read to Rosendo portions of the communication
from Wenceslas.

"Chiquinquía," commented the latter. "I remember that Padre Diego
collected much money from our people for Masses to be said at that
shrine."

"But where is it, Rosendo?" asked Josè.

"You do not know the story?" queried Rosendo in surprise. "Why, there
is not a shrine in the whole of Colombia that works so many cures as
this one. Your grandfather, Don Ignacio, knew the place. And it was
from him that my--that is, I learned the legend when I was only a boy.
It is said that a poor, sick young girl in the little Indian village
of Chiquinquía, north of Bogotá, stood praying in her shabby little
cottage before an old, torn picture of the blessed Virgin." He stopped
and crossed himself devoutly. Then he resumed:

"_Bueno_, while the girl prayed, the picture suddenly rose up in the
air; the torn places all closed; the faded colors came again as fresh
as ever; and the girl was cured of her affliction. The people of the
village immediately built a shrine, over which they hung the picture;
and ever since then the most wonderful miracles have been performed by
it there."

Josè laughed. "You don't believe that, do you, Rosendo?" he asked in
banter.

"_Hombre_, yes!" exclaimed the latter a bit testily. "I know it! Did
not Don Felipe go there when the doctor in Mompox told him the little
white spot on his hand was leprosy? And he came back cured."

Leprosy! Josè started as if he had received a blow. He looked
furtively at the scar on his own hand, the hand which the leper in
Maganguey had lacerated that dreadful night, and which often burned
and ached as if seared by a hot iron. He had never dared to voice the
carking fear that tightened about his heart at times. But often in the
depths of night, when dread anticipation sat like a spectre upon his
bed, he had risen and gone out into the darkness to wrestle with his
black thoughts. Leprosy! All the gladness and joy left his heart, and
a pall of darkness settled over his thought. He turned back into his
cottage and tried to find forgetfulness in the simple duties that lay
at hand.

"Why is it," he asked himself, as he sat wearily down at his little
table, "that I always think of evil first; while Carmen's first
thought is invariably of God?"

He looked at the ugly scar on his hand. What thought was externalized
in the loathsome experience which produced that? he wondered. Was it
the summation of all the fear, the weakness, the wrong belief, that
had filled his previous years? And now why was he finding it so
difficult to practice what Carmen lived, even though he knew it was
truth?

"Alas!" he murmured aloud, "it was the seminary that did it. For there
my thought was educated away from the simple teachings of Jesus. To
Carmen there is no mystery in godliness. Though she knows utterly
nothing about Jesus, yet she hourly uses the Christ-principle. It is
the children who grasp the simple truths of God; while the lack of
spirituality which results from increasing years shrinks maturer minds
until they no longer afford entrance to it. For godliness is broad;
and the mind that receives it must be opened wide."

As he sat with his bowed head clasped in his hands, a sweet, airy
voice greeted him.

"Why, Padre dear--ah, I caught you that time!--you were thinking that
two and two are seven, weren't you?" She shook a rebuking finger at
him.

Framed in the doorway like an old masterpiece, the sunlight bronzing
her heavy brown curls, the olive-tinted skin of her bare arms and legs
flushing with health, and her cheap calico gown held tightly about
her, showing the contour of her full and shapely figure, the girl
appeared to Josè like a vision from the realm of enchantment. And he
knew that she did dwell in the land of spiritual enchantment, where
happiness is not at the mercy of physical sense.

"He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord
require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk
humbly with thy God?"

"The Lord our God is a right-thinking God, and right-thinking is what
He desires in His people."

Josè thought of this as he looked at Carmen. This barefoot girl, who
walked humbly, trustingly, with her God, had she not supplied him with
a working formula for his every problem, even to the casting out of
the corroding fear planted in his heart by that awful experience in
Maganguey? Though he had suffered much, yet much had been done for
him. The brusque logic of the explorer had swept his mind clear of its
last vestige of theological superstition, and prepared it for the
truth which, under the benign stimulus of this clear-minded child,
would remake his life, if he could now yield himself utterly to it. He
must--he would--ceaselessly strive, even though he fell daily, to make
his life a pattern of hers, wherein there was no knowledge of evil!

The girl came to the priest and leaned fondly against him. Then a
little sigh escaped her lips, as she looked down into his face with
pitying affection.

"Padre dear," she said, in a tone that echoed a strain of sadness,
"I--I don't believe--you love God very much."

The man was startled, and resentment began to well in his heart. "What
a thing to say, Carmen!" he answered reprovingly.

The girl looked up at him with great, wondering eyes. "But, Padre,"
she protested, "were you not thinking of things that are not true when
I came in?"

"No--I was--I was thinking of the future--of--well, _chiquita_, I was
thinking of something that might happen some day, that is all." He
stumbled through it with difficulty, for he knew he must not lie to
the child. Would she ever trust him again if he did?

"And, Padre, were you afraid?"

"Afraid? Yes, _chiquita_, I was." He hung his head.

Carmen looked at him reproachfully. "Then, Padre, I was right--for, if
you loved God, you would trust Him--and then you couldn't be afraid of
anything--could you? People who love Him are not afraid."

He turned his head away. "Ah, child," he murmured, "you will find that
out in the world people don't love God in this day and generation. At
least they don't love Him that way."

"They don't love Him enough to trust him?" she asked wistfully.

"No." He shook his head sadly. "Nobody trusts Him, not even the
preachers themselves. When things happen, they rush for a doctor, or
some other human being to help them out of their difficulty. They
don't turn to Him any more. They seldom speak His name."

"Have--they--forgotten Him?" she asked slowly, her voice sinking to a
whisper.

"Absolutely!" He again buried his head in his hands.

The child stood in silence for some moments. Then:

"What made them forget Him, Padre?"

"I guess, _chiquita_, they turned from Him because He didn't answer
their prayers. I used to pray to Him, too. I prayed hours at a time.
But nothing seemed to come of it. And so I stopped." He spoke
bitterly.

"You prayed! You mean--"

"I asked Him for things--to help me out of trouble--I asked Him to
give me--"

"Why, Padre! Why--that's the very reason!"

He looked up at her blankly. "What is the very reason? What are you
trying to tell me, child?"

"Why, He is everywhere, and He is right here all the time. And so
there couldn't be any real trouble for Him to help you out of; and He
couldn't give you anything, for He has already done that, long ago. We
are in Him, don't you know? Just like the little fishes in the lake.
And so when you asked Him for things it showed that you didn't believe
He had already given them to you. And--you know what you said last
night about thinking, and that when we think things, we see them?
Well, He has given you everything; but you thought He hadn't, and so
you saw it that way--isn't it so?"

She paused for breath. She had talked rapidly and with animation. But
before he could reply she resumed:

"Padre dear, you know you told me that Jesus was the best man that
ever lived, and that it was because he never had a bad thought--isn't
that so?"

"Yes," he murmured.

"Well, did he pray--did he ask God for things?"

"Of course he did, child!" the priest exclaimed. "He always asked Him
for things. Why, he was always praying--the New Testament is full of
it!"

Acting on a sudden impulse, he rose and went into the sleeping room
to get his Bible. The child's face took on an expression of
disappointment as she heard his words. Her brow knotted, and a
troubled look came into her brown eyes.

Josè returned with his Bible and seated himself again at the table.
Opening the book, his eyes fell upon a verse of Mark's Gospel. He
stopped to read it; and then read it again. Suddenly he looked up at
the waiting girl.

"What is it, Padre? What does it say?"

He hesitated. He read the verse again; then he scanned the child
closely, as if he would read a mystery hidden within her bodily
presence. Abruptly he turned to the book and read aloud:

"'Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye
pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.'"

The girl drew a long breath, almost a sigh, as if a weight had been
removed from her mind. "Did Jesus say that?" she asked in glad, eager
tones.

"Yes--at least it is so reported here," he answered absently.

"Well--_he_ knew, didn't he?"

"Knew what, child?"

"Why, Padre, he told the people to know--just _know_--that they
already had everything--that God had given them everything good--and
that if they would _know_ it, they would see it."

Externalization of thought? Yes; or rather, the externalization of
truth. Josè fell into abstraction, his eyes glued to the page. There
it stood--the words almost shouted it at him! And there it had stood
for nearly two thousand years, while priest and prelate, scribe and
commentator had gone over it again and again through the ages, without
even guessing its true meaning--without even the remotest idea of the
infinite riches it held for mankind!

He turned reflectively to Matthew; and then to John. He remembered the
passages well--in the past he had spent hours of mortal agony poring
over them and wondering bitterly why God had failed to keep the
promises they contain.

"And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye
shall receive."

All things--when ye ask _believing_! But that Greek word surely held
vastly more than the translators have drawn from it. Nay, not
believing only, but _understanding_ the allness of God as good, and
the consequent nothingness of evil, all that seems to oppose Him! How
could the translators have so completely missed the mark! And
Carmen--had never seen a Bible until he came into her life; yet she
knew, knew instinctively, that a good God who was "everywhere" could
not possibly withhold anything good from His children. It was the
simplest kind of logic.

But, thought Josè again, if the promises are kept, why have we fallen
so woefully short of their realization? Then he read again, "If ye
abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and
it shall be done unto you." The promise carries a condition--abiding
in his words--obeying his commands--keeping the very _first_
Commandment, which is that "Ye shall have no other gods before me"--no
gods of evil, sickness, chance, or death. The promises are fulfilled
only on the condition of righteousness--right-thinking about God and
His infinite, spiritual manifestation.

He turned to Carmen. "_Chiquita_," he said tenderly, "you never ask
God to give you things, do you?"

"Why, no, Padre; why should I? He gives me everything I need, doesn't
He?"

"Yes--when you go out to the shales, you--"

"I don't ask Him for things, Padre dear. I just tell Him I _know_ He
is everywhere."

"I see--yes, you told me that long ago--I understand, _chiquita_."
His spirit bowed in humble reverence before such divine faith. This
untutored, unlearned girl, isolated upon these burning shales, far,
far from the haunts of men of pride and power and worldly lore--this
barefoot child whose coffers held of material riches scarce more than
the little calico dress upon her back--this lowly being knew that
which all the fabled wealth of Ind could never buy! Her prayers were
not the selfish pleadings that spring from narrow souls, the souls
that "ask amiss"--not the frenzied yearnings wrung from suffering,
ignorant hearts--nor were they the inflated instructions addressed
to the Almighty by a smug, complacent clergy, the self-constituted
press-bureau of infinite Wisdom. Her prayers, which so often drifted
like sweetest incense about those steaming shales, were not
petitions, but _affirmations_. They did not limit God. She did not
plead with Him. She simply _knew_ that He had already met her needs.
And that righteousness--right-thinking--became externalized in her
consciousness in the good she sought. Jesus did the same thing, over
and over again; but the poor, stupid minds of the people were so
full of wrong beliefs about his infinite Father that they could not
understand, no, not even when he called Lazarus from the tomb.

"Ask in my name," urged the patient Jesus. But the poor fishermen
thought he meant his human name to be a talisman, a sort of "Open
Sesame," when he was striving all the time, by precept and deed, to
show them that they must ask in his _character_, must be like him, to
whom, though of himself he could do nothing, yet all things were
possible.

Josè's heart began to echo the Master's words: "Father, I thank Thee
that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast
revealed them unto babes." He put his arm about Carmen and drew her to
him.

"Little one," he murmured, "how much has happened in these past few
weeks!"

Carmen looked up at him with an enigmatical glance and laughed. "Well,
Padre dear, I don't think anything ever really _happens_, do you?"

"Why not?" he asked.

"Mistakes happen, as in solving my algebra problems. But good things
never happen, any more than the answers to my problems happen. You
know, there are rules for getting the answers; but there are no rules
for making mistakes--are there? But when anything comes out according
to the rule, it doesn't happen. And the mistakes, which have no rules,
are not real--the answers are real, but the mistakes are not--and so
nothing ever really happens. Don't you see, Padre dear?"

"Surely, I see," he acquiesced. Then, while he held the girl close to
him, he reflected: Good is never fortuitous. It results from the
application of the Principle of all things. The answer to a
mathematical problem is a form of good, and it results from the
application of the principle of mathematics. Mistakes, and the various
things which "happen" when we solve mathematical problems, do not have
rules, or principles. They result from ignorance of them, or their
misapplication. And so in life; for chance, fate, luck, accident and
the merely casual, come, not from the application of principles, but
from not applying them, or from ignorance of their use. The human mind
or consciousness, which is a mental activity, an activity of thought,
is concerned with mixed thoughts of good and evil. But _it operates
without any principle whatsoever_. For, if God is infinite good, then
the beliefs of evil which the human mind holds must be false beliefs,
illusions, suppositions. A supposition has no principle, no rule. And
so, it is only the unreal that happens. And even that sort of
"happening" can be prevented by knowing and using the principle of all
good, God. A knowledge of evil is not knowledge at all. Evil has no
rules. Has an accident a principle? He laughed aloud at the idea.

"What is it, Padre?" asked Carmen.

"Nothing, child--and everything! But we are neglecting our work," he
hastily added, as he roused himself. "What are the lessons for to-day?
Come! come! We have much to do!" And arranging his papers, and bidding
Carmen draw up to the table, he began the morning session of his very
select little school.

                  *       *       *       *       *

More than six months had elapsed since Josè first set foot upon the
hot shales of Simití. In that time his mentality had been turned over
like a fallow field beneath the plowshare. After peace had been
established in the country he had often thought to consecrate himself
to the task of collecting the fragmentary ideas which had been evolved
in his mind during these past weeks of strange and almost weird
experience, and trying to formulate them into definite statements of
truth. Then he would enter upon the task of establishing them by
actual demonstration, regardless of the years that might be required
to do so. He realized now that the explorer had done a great work in
clearing his mind of many of its darker shadows. But it was to
Carmen's purer, more spiritual influence that he knew his debt was
heaviest.

Let it not seem strange that mature manhood and extensive travel had
never before brought to this man's mind the truths, many of which have
been current almost since the curtain first arose on the melodrama
of mundane existence. Well nigh impassable limitations had been
set to them by his own natal characteristics; by his acutely morbid
sense of filial love which bound him, at whatever cost, to observe
the bigoted, selfish wishes of his parents; and by the strictness
with which his mind had been hedged about both in the seminary and
in the ecclesiastical office where he subsequently labored. The
first rays of mental freedom did not dawn upon his darkened thought
until he was sent as an outcast to the New World. Then, when his
greater latitude in Cartagena, and his still more expanded sense of
freedom in Simití, had lowered the bars, there had rushed into his
mentality such a flood of ideas that he was all but swept away in the
swirling current.

It is not strange that he rose and fell, to-day strong in the
conviction of the immanence of infinite good, to-morrow sunken in
mortal despair of ever demonstrating the truth of the ideas which were
swelling his shrunken mind. His line of progress in truth was an
undulating curve, slowly advancing toward the distant goal to which
Carmen seemed to move in a straight, undeviating line. What though
Emerson had said that Mind was "the only reality of which men and all
other natures are better or worse reflectors"? Josè was unaware of the
sage's mighty deduction. What though Plato had said that we move as
shadows in a world of ideas? Even if Josè had known of it, it had
meant nothing to him. What though the Transcendentalists called the
universe "a metaphore of the human mind"? Josè's thought was too
firmly clutched by his self-centered, material beliefs to grasp it.
Doubt of the reality of things material succumbed to the evidence of
the physical senses and the ridicule of his seminary preceptors. True,
he believed with Paul, that the "things that are seen are temporal;
the things that are unseen, are eternal." But this pregnant utterance
conveyed nothing more to him than a belief of a material heaven to
follow his exit from a world of matter. It had never occurred to him
that the world of matter might be the product of those same delusive
physical senses, through which he believed he gained his knowledge of
it. It is true that while in the seminary, and before, he had insisted
upon a more spiritual interpretation of the mission of Jesus--had
insisted that Christian priests should obey the Master's injunction,
and heal the sick as well as preach the gospel. But with the advent of
the troubles which filled the intervening years, these things had
gradually faded; and the mounting sun that dawned upon him six months
before, as he lay on the damp floor of his little cell in the
ecclesiastical dormitory in Cartagena, awaiting the Bishop's summons,
illumined only a shell, in which agnosticism sat enthroned upon a
stool of black despair.

Then Carmen entered his life. And her beautiful love, which enfolded
him like a garment, and her sublime faith, which moved before him like
the Bethlehem star to where the Christ-principle lay, were, little by
little, dissolving the mist and revealing the majesty of the great
God.

In assuming to teach the child, Josè early found that the outer world
meant nothing to her until he had purged it of its carnal elements.
Often in days past, when he had launched out upon the dramatic recital
of some important historical event, wherein crime and bloodshed had
shaped the incident, the girl would start hastily from her chair and
put her little hand over his mouth.

"Don't, Padre dear! It is not true!" she would exclaim. "God didn't do
it, and it isn't so!"

And thereby he learned to differentiate more closely between those
historical events which sprang from good motives, and those which
manifested only human passion, selfish ambition, and the primitive
question, "Who shall be greatest?" Moreover, he had found it best in
his frequent talks to the people in the church during the week to omit
all reference to the evil methods of mankind in their dealings one
with another, and to pass over in silence the criminal aims and low
motives, and their externalization, which have marked the unfolding of
the human mind, and which the world preserves in its annals as
historical fact. The child seemed to divine the great truth that
history is but the record of human conduct, conduct manifesting the
mortal mind of man, a mind utterly opposed to the mind that is God,
and therefore unreal, supposititious, and bearing the "minus" sign.
Carmen would have none of it that did not reflect good. She refused
utterly to turn her mental gaze toward recorded evil.

"Padre," she once protested, "when I want to see the sun rise, I don't
look toward the west. And if you want to see the good come up, why do
you look at these stories of bad men and their bad thoughts?"

Josè admitted that they were records of the mortal mind--and the mind
that is mortal is _no_ mind.

"I am learning," he frequently said to himself, after Carmen had left
at the close of their day's work. "But my real education did not
commence until I began to see, even though faintly, that the Creator
is mind and infinite good, and that there is nothing real to the
belief in evil; that the five physical senses give us _no_ testimony
of any nature whatsoever; and that real man never could, never did,
fall."

Thus the days glided swiftly past, and Josè completed his first year
amid the drowsy influences of this little town, slumbering peacefully
in its sequestered nook at the feet of the green _Cordilleras_. No
further event ruffled its archaic civilization; and only with rare
frequency did fugitive bits of news steal in from the outer world,
which, to the untraveled thought of this primitive folk, remained
always a realm vague and mysterious. Quietly the people followed the
routine of their colorless existence. Each morn broke softly over the
limpid lake; each evening left the blush of its roseate sunset on the
glassy waters; each night wound its velvety arms gently about the
nodding town, while the stars beamed like jewels through the clear,
soft atmosphere above, or the yellow moonbeams stole noiselessly down
the old, sunken trail to dream on the lake's invisible waves.

Each month, with unvarying regularity, Rosendo came and went. At times
Josè thought he detected traces of weariness, insidious and
persistently lurking, in the old man's demeanor. At times his limbs
trembled, and his step seemed heavy. Once Josè had found him, seated
back of his cottage, rubbing the knotted muscles of his legs, and
groaning aloud. But when he became aware of Josè presence, the groans
ceased, and the old man sprang to his feet with a look of such grim
determination written across his face that the priest smothered his
apprehensions and forbore to speak. Rosendo was immolating himself
upon his love for the child. Josè knew it; but he would not, if he
could, prevent the sacrifice.

Each month their contributions were sent to Cartagena; and as
regularly came a message from Wenceslas, admonishing them to greater
efforts. With the money that was sent to the Bishop went also a
smaller packet to the two women who were caring for the unfortunate
Maria's little babe. The sources of Josè's remittances to Cartagena
were never questioned by Wenceslas. But Simití slowly awakened to the
mysterious monthly trips of Rosendo; and Don Mario's suspicion became
conviction. He bribed men to follow Rosendo secretly. They came back,
footsore and angry. Rosendo had thrown them completely off the scent.
Then Don Mario outfitted and sent his paid emissary after the old man.
He wasted two full months in vain search along the Guamocó trail. But
the fever came upon him, and he refused to continue the hunt. The
Alcalde counted the cost, then loudly cursed himself and Rosendo for
the many good _pesos_ so ruthlessly squandered. Then he began to ply
Josè and Rosendo with skillfully framed questions. He worried the
citizens of the village with his suggestions. Finally he bethought
himself to apprise the Bishop of his suspicions. But second
consideration disclosed that plan as likely to yield him nothing but
loss. He knew Rosendo was getting gold from some source. But, too, he
was driving a good trade with the old man on supplies. He settled back
upon his fat haunches at last, determined to keep his own counsel and
let well-enough alone for the present, while he awaited events.

Rosendo's vivid interest in Carmen's progress was almost pathetic.
When in Simití he hung over the child in rapt absorption as she worked
out her problems, or recited her lessons to Josè. Often he shook his
head in witness of his utter lack of comprehension. But Carmen
understood, and that sufficed. His admiration for the priest's
learning was deep and reverential. He was a silent worshiper, this
great-hearted man, at the shrine of intellect; but, alas! he himself
knew only the rudiments, which he had acquired by years of patient,
struggling effort, through long days and nights filled with toil. His
particular passion was his Castilian mother-tongue; and the precision
with which he at times used it, his careful selection of words, and
his wide vocabulary, occasioned Josè no little astonishment. One day,
after returning from the hills, he approached Josè as the latter was
hearing Carmen's lessons, and, with considerable embarrassment,
offered him a bit of paper on which were written in his ample hand
several verses. Josè read them, and then looked up wonderingly at the
old man.

"Why, Rosendo, these are beautiful! Where did you get them?"

"I--they are mine, Padre," replied Rosendo, his face glowing with
pleasure.

"Yours! Do you mean that you wrote them?" Josè queried in astonishment.

"Yes, Padre. Nights, up in Guamocó, when I had finished my work, and
when I was so lonely, I would sometimes light my candle and try to
write out the thoughts that came to me."

Josè could not keep back the tears. He turned his head, that Rosendo
might not see them. Of the three little poems, two were indited to the
Virgin Mary, and one to Carmen. He lingered over one of the verses of
the latter, for it awoke responsive echoes in his own soul:

       "Without you, the world--a desert of sadness;
           But with you, sweet child--a vale of delight;
       You laugh, like the sunbeam--my gloom becomes gladness;
           You sing--from my heart flee the shadows of night."

"I--I have written a good deal of poetry during my life, Padre. I will
show you some of it, if you wish," Rosendo advanced, encouraged by
Josè's approbation.

"Decidedly, I would!" returned Josè with animation. "And to think,
without instruction, without training! What a lesson!"

"Yes, Padre, when I think of the blessed Virgin or the little Carmen,
my thoughts seem to come in poetry." He stooped over the girl and
kissed her. The child reached up and clasped her arms about his black
neck.

"Padre Rosendo," she said sweetly, "you are a poem, a big one, a
beautiful one."

"Aye," seconded Josè, and there was a hitch in his voice, "you are an
epic--and the world is the poorer that it cannot read you!"

But, though showing such laudable curiosity regarding the elements
which entered into their simple life in Simití, Rosendo seldom spoke
of matters pertaining to religion. Yet Josè knew that the old faith
held him, and that he would never, on this plane of existence, break
away from it. He clung to his _escapulario_; he prostrated himself
before the statue of the Virgin; he invoked the aid of Virgin and
Saints when in distress; and, unlike most of the male inhabitants of
the town, he scrupulously prayed his rosary every night, whether at
home, or on the lonely margins of the Tiguí. He had once said to Josè
that he was glad Padre Diego had baptised the little Carmen--he felt
safer to have it so. And yet he would not have her brought up in the
Holy Catholic faith. Let her choose or formulate her own religious
beliefs, they should not be influenced by him or others.

"You can never make me believe, Padre," he would sometimes say to the
priest, "that the little Carmen was not left by the angels on the
river bank."

"But, Rosendo, how foolish!" remonstrated Josè. "You have Escolastico's
account, and the boat captain's."

"Well, and what then? Even the blessed Saviour was born of a woman;
and yet he came from heaven. The angels brought him, guarded him as he
lay in the manger, protected him all his life, and then took him back
to heaven again. And I tell you, Padre, the angels brought Carmen, and
they are always with her!"

Josè ceased to dispute the old man's contentions. For, had he been
pressed, he would have been forced to admit that there was in the
child's pure presence a haunting spell of mystery--perhaps the mystery
of godliness--but yet an undefinable _something_ that always made him
approach her with a feeling akin to awe.

And in the calm, untroubled seclusion of Simití, in its mediaeval
atmosphere of romance, and amid its ceaseless dreams of a stirring
past, the child unfolded a nature that bore the stamp of divinity, a
nature that communed incessantly with her God, and that read His name
in every trivial incident, in every stone and flower, in the sunbeams,
the stars, and the whispering breeze. In that ancient town, crumbling
into the final stages of decrepitude, she dwelt in heaven. To her, the
rude adobe huts were marble castles; the shabby rawhide chairs and
hard wooden beds were softest down; the coarse food was richer than a
king's spiced viands; and over it all she cast a mantle of love that
was rich enough, great enough, to transform with the grace of fresh
and heavenly beauty the ruins and squalor of her earthly environment.

"Can a child like Carmen live a sinless life, and still be human?"
Josè often mused, as he watched her flitting through the sunlit hours.
"It is recorded that Jesus did. Ah, yes; but he was born of a virgin,
spotless herself. And Carmen? Is she any less a child of God?" Josè
often wondered, wondered deeply, as he gazed at her absorbed in her
tasks. And yet--how was she born? Might he not, in the absence of
definite knowledge, accept Rosendo's belief--accept it because of its
beautiful, haunting mystery--that she, too, was miraculously born of a
virgin, and "left by the angels on the river bank"? For, as far as he
might judge, her life was sinless. It was true, she did at rare
intervals display little outbursts of childish temper; she sometimes
forgot and spoke sharply to her few playmates, and even to Doña Maria;
and he had seen her cry for sheer vexation. And yet, these were but
tiny shadows that were cast at rarest intervals, melting quickly when
they came into the glorious sunlight of her radiant nature.

But the mystery shrouding the child's parentage, however he might regard
it, often roused within his mind thoughts dark and apprehensive.
Only one communication had come from Padre Diego, and that some four
months after his precipitous flight. He had gained the Guamocó trail,
it said, and finally arrived at Remedios. He purposed returning to
Banco ultimately; and, until then, must leave the little Carmen in the
care of those in whom he had immovable confidence, and to whom he
would some day try, however feebly, to repay in an appropriate manner
his infinite debt of gratitude.

"_Caramba!_" muttered Rosendo, on reading the note. "Does the villain
think we are fools?"

But none the less could the old man quiet the fear that haunted him,
nor still the apprehension that some day Diego would make capital of
his claim. What that claim might accomplish if laid before Wenceslas,
he shuddered to think. And so he kept the girl at his side when in
Simití, and bound Josè and the faithful Juan to redoubled vigilance
when he was again obliged to return to the mountains.

Time passed. The care-free children of this tropic realm drowsed
through the long, hot days and gossiped and danced in the soft airs of
night. Rosendo held his unremitting, lonely vigil of toil in the
ghastly solitudes of Guamocó. Josè, exiled and outcast, clung
desperately to the child's hand, and strove to rise into the spiritual
consciousness in which she dwelt. And thus the year fell softly into
the yawning arms of the past and became a memory.

Then one day Simití awoke from its lethargy in terror, with the
spectre of pestilence stalking through her narrow streets.



CHAPTER 19


Feliz Gomez, who had been sent to Bodega Central for merchandise which
Don Mario was awaiting from the coast, had collapsed as he stepped
from his boat on his return to Simití. When he regained consciousness
he called wildly for the priest.

"Padre!" he cried, when Josè arrived, "it is _la plaga_! Ah,
_Santísima Virgen_--I am dying!--dying!" He writhed in agony on the
ground.

The priest bent over him, his heart throbbing with apprehension.

"Padre--" The lad strove to raise his head. "The innkeeper at Bodega
Central--he told me I might sleep in an empty house back of the
inn. _Dios mío!_ There was an old cot there--I slept on it two
nights--_Caramba!_ Padre, they told me then--Ah, _Bendita Virgen_!
Don't let me die, Padre! _Carísima Virgen_, don't let me die! _Ah,
Dios--!_"

His body twisted in convulsions. Josè lifted him and dragged him to
the nearby shed where the lad had been living alone. A terror-stricken
concourse gathered quickly about the doorway and peered in wide-eyed
horror through the narrow window.

"Feliz, what did they tell you?" cried Josè, laying the sufferer upon
the bed and chafing his cold hands. The boy rallied.

"They told me--a Turk, bound for Zaragoza on the Nechí river--had
taken the wrong boat--in Maganguey. He had been sick--terribly sick
there. _Ah, Dios!_ It is coming again, Padre--the pain! _Caramba!_
_Dios mío!_ Save me, Padre, save me!"

"Jacinta! Rosa! I must have help!" cried Josè, turning to the stunned
people. "Bring cloths--hot water--and send for Don Mario. Doña Lucia,
prepare an _olla_ of your herb tea at once!"

"Padre"--the boy had become quieter--"when the Turk learned that he
was on the wrong boat--he asked to be put off at the next town--which
was Bodega Central. The innkeeper put him in the empty house--and
he--_Dios_! he died--on that bed where I slept!"

"Well?" said Josè.

"Padre, he died--the day before I arrived there--and--ah_, Santísima
Virgen_! they said--he died--of--of--_la cólera_!"

"Cholera!" cried the priest, starting up. At the mention of the
disease a loud murmur arose from the people, and they fell back from
the shed.

"Padre!--_ah, Dios_, how I suffer! Give me the sacrament--I cannot
live--! Padre--let me confess--now. Ah, Padre, shall I go--to heaven?
Tell me--!"

Josè's blood froze. He stood with eyes riveted in horror upon the
tormented lad.

"Padre"--the boy's voice grew weaker--"I fell sick that day--I started
for Simití--I died a thousand times in the _caño_--_ah, caramba_! But,
Padre--promise to get me out of purgatory--I have no money for Masses.
_Caramba!_ I cannot stand it! Oh, _Dios_! Padre--quick--I have not
been very wicked--but I stole--_Dios_, how I suffer!--I stole two
pesos from the innkeeper at Bodega Central--he thought he lost
them--but I took them out of the drawer--Padre, pay him for me--then I
will not go to hell! _Dios!_"

Rosendo at that moment entered the house.

"Don't come in here!" cried Josè, turning upon him in wild apprehension.
"Keep away, for God's sake, keep away!"

In sullen silence Rosendo disregarded the priest's frenzied appeal.
His eyes widened when he saw the boy torn with convulsions, but he did
not flinch. Only when he saw Carmen approaching, attracted by the
great crowd, he hastily bade one of the women turn her back home.

Hour after hour the poor sufferer tossed and writhed. Again and again
he lapsed into unconsciousness, from which he would emerge to
piteously beg the priest to save him. _"Ah! Dios, Padre!"_ he pleaded,
extending his trembling arms to Josè, "can you do nothing? Can you not
help me? _Santísima Virgen_, how I suffer!"

Then, when the evening shadows were gathering, the final convulsions
seized him and wrenched his poor soul loose. Josè and Rosendo were
alone with him when the end came. The people had early fled from the
stricken lad, and were gathering in little groups before their homes
and on the corners, discussing in low, strained tones the advent of
the scourge. Those who had been close to the sick boy were now cold
with fear. Women wept, and children clung whimpering to their skirts.
The men talked excitedly in hoarse whispers, or lapsed into a state of
terrified dullness.

Josè went from the death-bed to the Alcalde. Don Mario saw him coming,
and fled into the house, securing the door after him. "Go away,
Padre!" he shouted through the shutters. "For the love of the Virgin
do not come here! _Caramba!_"

"But, Don Mario, the lad is dead!" cried Josè in desperation. "And
what shall we do? We must face the situation. Come, you are the
Alcalde. Let us talk about--"

"_Caramba!_ Do what you want to! I shall get out! _Nombre de Dios!_ If
I live through the night I shall go to the mountains to-morrow!"

"But we must have a coffin to bury the lad! You must let us have
one!"

"No! You cannot enter here, Padre!" shrilled Don Mario, jumping up and
down in his excitement. "Bury him in a blanket--anything--but keep
away from my house!"

Josè turned sadly away and passed through the deserted streets back to
the lonely shed. Rosendo met him at the door. "_Bien, Padre_," he said
quietly, "we are exiled."

"Have you been home yet?" asked Josè.

"_Hombre_, no! I cannot go home now. I might carry the disease to the
señora and the little Carmen. I must stay here. And," he added, "you
too, Padre."

Josè's heart turned to lead. "But, the boy?" he exclaimed, pointing
toward the bed.

"When it is dark, Padre," replied Rosendo, "we will take him out
through the back door and bury him beyond the shales. _Hombre!_ I must
see now if I can find a shovel."

Josè sank down upon the threshold, a prey to corroding despair, while
Rosendo went out in search of the implement. The streets were dead,
and few lights shone from the latticed windows. The pall of fear had
settled thick upon the stricken town. Those who were standing before
their houses as Rosendo approached hastily turned in and closed their
doors. Josè, in the presence of death in a terrible form, sat mute. In
an hour Rosendo returned.

"No shovel, Padre," he announced. "But I crept up back of my house and
got this bar which I had left standing there when I came back from the
mountains. I can scrape up the loose earth with my hands. Come now."

Josè wearily rose. He was but a tool in the hands of a man to whom
physical danger was but a matter of temperament. He absently helped
Rosendo wrap the black, distorted corpse in the frayed blanket; and
then together they passed out into the night with their grewsome
burden.

"Why not to the cemetery, Rosendo?" asked Josè, as the old man took an
opposite course.

"_Hombre_, no!" cried Rosendo. "The cemetery is on shale, and I could
not dig through it in time. We must get the body under ground at once.
_Caramba!_ If we put it in one of the _bóvedas_ in the cemetery the
buzzards will eat it and scatter the plague all over the town. The
_bóvedas_ are broken, and have no longer any doors, you remember."

So beyond the shales they went, stumbling through the darkness, their
minds freighted with a burden of apprehension more terrible than the
thing they bore in their arms. The shales crossed, Rosendo left the
trail, cutting a way through the bush with his _machete_ a distance of
several hundred feet. Then, by the weird yellow light of a single
candle, he opened the moist earth and laid the hideous, twisted thing
within. Josè watched the procedure in dull apathy.

"And now, Padre," said Rosendo, at length breaking the awful silence,
"where will you sleep to-night? I cannot let you go back to your
house. It is too near the señora and Carmen. No man in town will let
you stay in his house, since you have handled the plague. Will you
sleep in the shed where the lad died? Or out on the shales with me? I
called to the señora when I went after the bar, and she will lay two
blankets out in the _plaza_ for us. And in the morning she will put
food where we can get it. What say you?"

Josè stood dazed. His mind had congealed with the horror of the
situation. Rosendo took him by the arm. "Come, Padre," he said gently.
"The hill up back of the second church is high, and no one lives near.
I will get the blankets and we will pass the night out there."

"But, Rosendo!" Josè found his voice. "What is it? Is it--_la
cólera_?"

"_Quien sabe?_ Padre," returned Rosendo. "There has been plague
here--these people, some of them, still remember it--but it was long
ago. There have been cases along the river--and brought, I doubt not,
by Turks, like this one."

"And do you think that it is now all along the river? That Bodega
Central is being ravaged by the scourge? That it will sweep through
the country?"

"_Quien sabe?_ Padre. All I do know is that the people of Simití are
terribly frightened, and the pestilence may wipe away the town before
it leaves."

"But--good God! what can we do, Rosendo?"

"Nothing, Padre--but stay and meet it," the man replied quietly.

They reached the hill in silence. Then Rosendo wrapped himself in one
of the blankets which he had picked up as he passed through the
_plaza_, and lay down upon the shale.

But Josè slept not that night. The warm, sluggish air lay about him,
mephitic in its touch. The great vampire bats that soughed through it
symbolized the "pestilence that walketh in darkness." Lonely calls
drifted across the warm lake waters from the dripping jungle like the
hollow echoes of lost souls. Rosendo tossed fitfully, and now and then
uttered deep groans. The atmosphere was prescient with horror. He
struggled to his feet and paced gloomily back and forth along the brow
of the hill. The second church stood near, deserted, gloomy, no longer
a temple of God, but a charnel house of fear and black superstition.
In the distance the ghostly white walls of the Rincón church glowed
faintly in the feeble light that dripped from the yellow stars. There
was now no thought of God--no thought of divine aid. Josè was riding
again the mountainous billows of fear and unbelief; nor did he look
for the Master to come to him through the thick night across the
heaving waters.

The tardy dawn brought Doña Maria to the foot of the hill, where she
deposited food, and held distant converse with the exiles. Don Mario
had just departed, taking the direction across the lake toward San
Lucas. He had compelled his wife to remain in Simití to watch over the
little store, while he fled with two boatmen and abundant supplies.
Others likewise were preparing to flee, some to the Boque river, some
up the Guamocó trail. Doña Maria was keeping Carmen closely, nor would
she permit her to as much as venture from the house.

"Why should not the señora take Carmen and go to Boque, Rosendo?"
asked Josè. "Then you and I could occupy our own houses until we knew
what the future had in store for us."

Rosendo agreed at once. Carmen would be safe in the protecting care of
Don Nicolás. Doña Maria yielded only after much persuasion. From the
hilltop Josè could descry the Alcalde's boat slowly wending its way
across the lake toward the Juncal. Rosendo, having finished his
morning meal, prepared to meet the day.

"_Bien_, Padre," he said, "when the sun gets high we cannot stay here.
We must seek shade--but where?" He looked about dubiously.

"Why not in the old church, Rosendo?"

"_Caramba_, never!" cried Rosendo. "_Hombre!_ that old church is
haunted!"

Josè could never understand the nature of this man, so brave in the
face of physical danger, yet so permeated with superstitious dread of
those imaginary inhabitants of the invisible realm.

"Padre," suggested Rosendo at length. "We will go down there, nearer
the lake, to the old shack where the blacksmith had his forge. He died
two years ago, and the place has since been empty."

"Go then, Rosendo, and I will follow later," assented Josè, who now
craved solitude for the struggle for self-mastery which he saw
impending.

While Rosendo moved off toward the deserted shack, the priest
continued his restless pacing along the crest of the hill. The morning
was glorious--but for the blighting thoughts of men. The vivid green
of the dewy hills shone like new-laid color. The lake lay like a
diamond set in emeralds. The dead town glowed brilliantly white in the
mounting sun. Josè knew that the heat would soon drive him from the
hill. He glanced questioningly at the old church. He walked toward it;
then mounted the broken steps. The hinges, rusted and broken, had let
the heavy door, now bored through and through by _comején_ ants, slip
to one side. Through the opening thus afforded, Josè could peer into
the cavernous blackness within. The sun shot its terrific heat at him,
and the stone steps burned his sandaled feet. He pushed against the
door. It yielded. Then through the opening he entered the dusty,
ill-smelling old edifice.

When his eyes had become accustomed to the dimness within, he saw that
the interior was like that of the other church, only in a more
dilapidated state. There were but few benches; and the brick altar,
poorer in construction, had crumbled away at one side. Dust, mold, and
cobwebs covered everything; but the air was gratefully cool. Josè
brushed the thick dust from one of the benches. Then he lay down upon
it, and was soon sunk in heavy sleep.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The sun had just crossed the meridian. Josè awoke, conscious that he
was not alone. The weird legend that hung about the old church
filtered slowly through his dazed brain. Rosendo had said that an
angel of some kind dwelt in the place. And surely a presence sat on
the bench in the twilight before him! He roused up, rubbed his sleepy
eyes, and peered at it. A soft laugh echoed through the stillness.

"I looked all around for the bad angel that padre Rosendo said lived
here, and I didn't find anything but you."

"Carmen, child! What are you doing here? Don't come near me!" cried
Josè, drawing away.

"Why, Padre--what is it? Why must I keep away from you? First, madre
Maria tells me I must go to Boque with her. And now you will not let
me come near you. And I love you so--" Tears choked her voice, and she
sat looking in mute appeal at the priest.

Josè's wit seemed hopelessly scattered. He passed his hand dully
across his brow as if to brush the mist from his befogged brain.

"Padre dear." The pathetic little voice wrung his heart. "Padre dear,
when madre Maria told me I had to go to Boque, I went to your house to
ask you, and--and you weren't there. And I couldn't find padre Rosendo
either--and there wasn't anybody in the streets at all--and I came up
here. Then I saw the blanket out on the hill, and I kept hunting for
you--I wanted to see you _so_ much. And when I saw the door of the
church broken, I thought you might be in here--and so I came in--and,
oh, Padre dear, I was _so_ glad to find you--but I wouldn't wake you
up--and while you were sleeping I just _knew_ that God was taking care
of you all the time--"

Josè had sunk again upon the bench.

"Padre dear!" Carmen came flying to him across the darkness and threw
her arms about his neck. "Padre dear! I just couldn't stand it to
leave you!" The flood-gates opened wide, and the girl sobbed upon his
shoulder.

"Carmen--child!" But his own tears were mingling freely with hers. The
strain of the preceding night had left him weak. He strove feebly to
loosen the tightly clasped arms of the weeping girl. Then he buried
his drawn face in her thick curls and strained her to his heaving
breast. What this might mean to Carmen he knew full well. But--why not
have it so? If she preceded him into the dark vale, it would be for
only a little while. He would not live without her.

The sobs died away, and the girl looked up at the suffering man.

"Padre dear, you will not send me away--will you?" she pleaded.

"No! no!" he cried fiercely, "not now!"

A happy little sigh escaped her lips. Then she drew herself closer to
him and whispered softly, "Padre dear--I love you."

A groan burst from the man. "God above!" he cried, "have you the heart
to let evil attack such a one as this!"

The girl looked up at him in wonder. "Why, Padre dear--what is it?
Tell me."

"Nothing, child--nothing! Did--er--did your madre Maria say why you
must go to Boque?" he asked hesitatingly.

"She said Feliz Gomez died last night of the plague, and that the
people were afraid they would all get sick and die too. And she
said--Padre dear, she said you were afraid I would get sick, and so
you told her to take me away. You didn't mean that, did you? She
didn't understand you, did she? You are not afraid, are you? You can't
be, you know, can you? You and I are not afraid of anything. We
_know_--don't we, Padre dear?"

"What do we know, child?" he asked sadly.

"Why--why, we know that God is _everywhere_!" She looked at him
wonderingly. What could she understand of a nature so wavering?--firm
when the sun shone bright above--tottering when the blasts of
adversity whirled about it? He had said such beautiful things to her,
such wonderful things about God and His children only yesterday. And
now--why this awful change? Why again this sudden lowering of
standards?

He had sunk deep into his dark thoughts. "Death is inevitable!" he
muttered grimly, forgetful of the child's presence.

"Oh, Padre dear!" she pleaded, passing her little hand tenderly over
his cheek. Then her face brightened. "I know what it is!" she
exclaimed. "You are just trying to think that two and two are
seven--and you can't prove it--and so you'd better stop trying!" She
broke into a little forced laugh.

Josè sat wrapped in black silence.

"Padre dear." Her voice was full of plaintive tenderness. "You have
talked so much about that good man Jesus. What would he say if he saw
you trying to make two and two equal seven? And if he had been here
last night--would he have let Feliz die?"

The priest made no answer. None was required when Carmen put her
questions.

"Padre dear," she continued softly. "Why didn't _you_ cure Feliz?"

His soul withered under the shock.

"You have told me, often, that Jesus cured sick people. And you said
he even made the dead ones live again--didn't you, Padre dear?"

"Yes," he murmured; "they say he did."

"And you read to me once from your Bible where he told the people that
he gave them power over everything. And you said he was the great
rule--you called him the Christ-principle--and you said he never went
away from us. Well, Padre dear," she concluded with quick emphasis,
"why don't you use him now?"

She waited a moment. Then, when no reply came--

"Feliz didn't die, Padre."

"_Hombre!_ It's all the same--he's gone!" he cried in a tone of sullen
bitterness.

"You think he is gone, Padre dear. And Feliz thought he had to go. And
so now you both see it that way--that's all. If you would see things
the way that good man Jesus told you to--well, wouldn't they be
different--wouldn't they, Padre dear?"

"No doubt they would, child, no doubt. But--"

She waited a moment for him to express the limitation which the
conjunctive implied. Then:

"Padre dear, how do you think he did it? How did he cure sick people,
and make the dead ones live again?"

"I--I don't know, child--I am not sure. That knowledge has been lost,
long since."

"You _do_ know, Padre," she insisted; "you _do_! Did he know that God
was everywhere?"

"Yes."

"And what did he say sickness was?"

"He classed it with all evil under the one heading--a lie--a lie about
God."

"But when a person tells a lie, he doesn't speak the truth, does he?"

"No."

"And a lie has no rule, no principle?"

"No."

"And so it isn't anything--doesn't come from anything true--hasn't any
real life, has it?"

"No, a lie is utterly unreal, not founded on anything but supposition,
either ignorant or malicious."

"Then Jesus said sickness was a supposition, didn't he?"

"Yes."

"And God, who made everything real, didn't make suppositions. He made
only real things."

"True, child."

"Well, Padre dear, if you _know_ all that, why don't you act as if you
did?"

Act? Yes, act your knowledge! Acknowledge Him in all your ways! Then
He shall bring it to pass! What? That which is real--life, not
death--immortality, not oblivion--love, not hate--good, not evil!

"_Chiquita_--" His voice was thick. "You--you believe all that, don't
you?"

"No, Padre dear"--she smiled up at him through the darkness--"I don't
believe it, I _know_ it."

"But--how--how do you know it?"

"God tells me, Padre. I hear Him, always. And I prove it every day.
The trouble is, you believe it, but I don't think you ever try to
_prove_ it. If you believed my problems in algebra could be solved,
but never tried to prove it--well, you wouldn't do very much in
algebra, would you?" She laughed at the apt comparison.

Josè's straining eyes were peering straight ahead. Through the thick
gloom he saw the mutilated figure of the Christ hanging on its cross
beside the crumbling altar. It reflected the broken image of the
Christ-principle in the hearts of men. And was he not again crucifying
the gentle Christ? Did not the world daily crucify him and nail him
with their false beliefs to the cross of carnal error which they set
up in the Golgotha of their own souls? And were they not daily paying
the awful penalty therefor? Aye, paying it in agony, in torturing
agony of soul and body, in blasted hopes, crumbling ambitions, and
inevitable death!

"Padre dear, what did the good man say sickness came from?" Carmen's
soft voice brought him back from his reflections.

"Sickness? Why, he always coupled disease with sin."

"And sin?"

"Sin is--is unrighteousness."

"And that is--?" she pursued relentlessly.

"Wrong conduct, based on wrong thinking. And wrong thinking is based
on wrong beliefs, false thought."

"But to believe that there is anything but God, and the things He
made, is sin, isn't it, Padre dear?"

"Sin is--yes, to believe in other powers than God is to break the very
first Commandment--and that is the chief of sins!"

"Well, Padre dear, can't you make yourself think right? Do you know
what you really think about God, anyway?"

Josè rose and paced up and down through the dark aisle.

"I try to think," he answered, "that He is mind; that He is infinite,
everywhere; that He is all-powerful; that He knows all things; and
that He is perfect and good. I try not to think that He made evil, or
anything that is or could be bad, or that could become sick, or decay,
or die. Whatever He made must be real, and real things last forever,
are immortal, eternal. I strive to think He did make man in His image
and likeness--and that man has never been anything else--that man
never 'fell.'"

"What is that, Padre?"

"Only an old, outworn theological belief. But, to resume: I believe
that, since God is mind, man must be an idea of His. Since God is
infinite, man must exist in Him. I know that any number of lies can be
made up about true things. And any number of falsities can be assumed
about God and what He has made. I am sure that the material universe
and man are a part of the lie about God and the way He manifests and
expresses Himself in and through His ideas. Everything is mental. We
_must_ hold to that! The mental realm includes all truth, all fact.
But there may be all sorts of supposition about this fact. And yet,
while fact is based upon absolute and undeviating principle--and I
believe that principle to be God--supposition is utterly without any
rule or principle whatsoever. It is wholly subject to truth, to
Principle, to God. Hence, bad or wrong thought is absolutely subject
to good or real thought, and must go down before it. The mortal man is
a product of wrong thought. He is a supposition; and so is the
universe of matter in which he is supposed to live. We have already
learned that the things he thinks he hears, feels, tastes, smells, and
sees are only his own thoughts. And these turn out to be suppositions.
Hence, they are nothing real."

"Well, Padre! How fast you talk! And--such big words! I--I don't think
I understand all you say. But, anyway, I guess it is right." She
laughed again.

"I _know_ it is right!" he exclaimed, forgetting that he was talking
to a child. "Evil, which includes sickness and death, is only a false
idea of good. It is a misinterpretation, made in the thought-activity
which constitutes what we call the human consciousness. And that is
the opposite--the suppositional opposite--of the mind that is God.
Evil, then, becomes a supposition and a lie. Just what Jesus said it
was!"

"But, Padre--I don't see why you don't act as if you really believed
all that!"

"Fear--only fear! It has not yet been eradicated from my thought," he
answered slowly.

"But, Padre, what will drive it out?"

"Love, child--love only, for 'perfect love casteth out fear.'"

"Oh, then, Padre dear, I will just love it all out of you, every bit!"
she exclaimed, clasping her arms about him again and burying her face
in his shoulder.

"Ah, little one," he said sadly, "I must love more. I must love my
fellow-men and good more than myself and evil. If I didn't love myself
so much, I would have no fear. If I loved God as you do, dearest
child, I would never come under fear's heavy shadow."

"You _do_ love everybody--you have got to, for you are God's child.
And now," she added, getting down and drawing him toward the door,
"let us go out of this smelly old church. I want you to come home.
We've got to have our lessons, you know."

"But--child, the people will not let me come near them--nor you
either, now," he said, holding back. "They think we may give them the
disease."

She looked up at him with a tender, wistful smile. Then she shook her
head. "Padre dear, I love you," she said, "but you make me lots of
trouble. But--we are going to love all the fear away, and--" stamping
her little bare foot--"we are going to get the right answer to your
problem, too!"

The priest took her hand, and together they passed out into the
dazzling sunlight.

On the brow of the hill stood Rosendo, talking excitedly, and with
much vehement gesticulation, to Doña Maria, who remained a safe
distance from him. The latter and her good consort exclaimed in horror
when they saw Carmen with the priest.

_"Caramba!"_ cried Rosendo, darting toward them. "I could kill you for
this, Padre! _Hombre!_ How came the child here, and with you? _Dios
mío!_ Have you no heart, but that, when you know you may die, you
would take her with you?" He swung his long arms menacingly before the
priest, and his face worked with passion.

The girl ran between the two men. "Padre Rosendo!" she cried, seizing
one of his hands in both of her own. "I came of myself. He did not
call me. I found him asleep. And he isn't going to die--nor I,
either!"

Doña Maria approached and quietly joined the little group.

_"Caramba! Go back!"_ cried the distressed Rosendo, turning upon her.
"_Hombre! Dios y diablo!_ will you all die?" He stamped the ground and
tore his hair in his impotent protest.

"_Na_, Rosendo," said the woman placidly, "if you are in danger, I
will be too. If you must die, so will I. I will not be left alone."

A thrill of admiration swept over the priest. Then he smiled wanly.
"_Bien_," he said, "we have all been exposed to the plague now, and we
will stand together. Shall we return home?"

Rosendo's anger soon evaporated, but his face retained traces of deep
anxiety. "Maria tells me, Padre," he said, "that Amado Sanchez fell
sick last night with the flux, and nobody will stay with him,
excepting his woman."

"Let us go to him, then," replied the priest. "Doña Maria, do you and
Carmen return to your house, whilst Rosendo and I seek to be of
service to those who may need us."

Together they started down the main street of the town. Dead silence
reigned everywhere. Many of the inhabitants had fled to the hills. But
there were still many whose circumstances would not permit of flight.
As they neared Rosendo's house the little party were hailed from a
distance by Juan Mendoza and Pedro Cárdenas, neighbors living on
either side of Rosendo and the priest.

"_Hola_, Padre and Don Rosendo!" they called; "you cannot return to
your homes, for you would expose us to the plague! Go back! Go back!
We will burn the houses over your heads if you return!"

"But, _amigos_--" Josè began.

"_Na_, Padre," they cried in tense excitement, "it is for the best! Go
back to the hill! We will supply you with food and blankets--but you
must not come here! Amado Sanchez is sick; Guillermo Hernandez is
sick. Go back! You must not expose us!" The attitude of the
frightened, desperate men was threatening. Josè saw that it would be
unwise to resist them.

"_Bien, compadres_, we will go," he said, his heart breaking with
sorrow for these children of fear. Then, assembling his little family,
he turned and retraced his steps sadly through the street that burned
in lonely silence in the torrid heat.

Carmen's eyes were big with wonder; but a happy idea soon drove all
apprehension from her thought. "Padre!" she exclaimed, "we will live
in the old church, and we will play house there!" She clapped her
hands in merriment.

"Never!" muttered Rosendo. "I will not enter that place! It would
bring the plague upon me! _Na! na!_" he insisted, when they reached
the steps, "do you go in if you wish; but I will stay outside in the
shadow of the building." Nor would the combined entreaties of Carmen
and Josè induce him to yield. Doña Maria calmly and silently prepared
to remain with him.

"Pull off the old door, Padre!" cried Carmen excitedly. "And open all
the shutters. Look! Look, Padre! There goes the bad angel that padre
Rosendo was afraid of!" A number of bats, startled at the noise and
the sudden influx of light, were scurrying out through the open door.

"Like the legion of demons which Jesus sent into the swine," said
Josè. "I will tell you the story some day, _chiquita_," he said, in
answer to her look of inquiry.

The day passed quickly for the child, nor did she seem to cast another
thought in the direction of the cloud which hung over the sorrowing
town. At dusk, Mendoza and Cárdenas came to the foot of the hill with
food and blankets.

"Amado Sanchez has just died," they reported.

"What!" cried Josè. "So soon? Why--he fell sick only yesterday!"

"No, Padre, he had been ailing for many days--but it may have been the
plague just the same. Perhaps it was with us before Feliz brought it.
But we have not exposed ourselves to the disease and--Padre--there is
not a man in Simití who will bury Amado. What shall we do?"

Josè divined the man's thought. "_Bien, amigo_," he replied. "Go you
back to your homes. To-night Rosendo and I will come and bury him."

Josè had sent Carmen and Doña Maria beyond the church, that they might
not hear the grewsome tidings. When the men had returned to their
homes, the little band on the hilltop ate their evening meal in
silence. Then a bench was swept clean for Carmen's bed, for she
insisted on sleeping in the old church with Josè when she learned that
he intended to pass the night there.

Again, as the heavy shadows were gathering, Josè and Rosendo descended
into the town and bore out the body of Amado Sanchez to a resting
place beside the poor lad who had died the day before. To a man of
such delicate sensibilities as Josè, whose nerves were raw from
continual friction with a world with which he was ever at variance,
this task was one of almost unendurable horror. He returned to the old
church in a state bordering on collapse.

"Rosendo," he murmured, as they seated themselves on the hillside in
the still night, "I think we shall all die of the plague. And it were
well so. I am tired, utterly tired of striving to live against such
odds. _Bien_, let it come!"

"Courage, _compadre_!" urged Rosendo, putting his great arm about the
priest's shoulders. "We must all go some time, and perhaps now; but
while we live let us live like men!"

"You do not fear death?"

"No--what is it that the old history of mine says? 'Death is not
departing, but arriving.' I am not afraid. But the little Carmen--I
wish that she might live. She--ah, Padre, she could do much good in
the world. _Bien_, we are all in the hands of the One who brought us
here--and He will take us in the way and at the time that He
appoints--is it not so, Padre?"

Josè lapsed again into meditation. No, he could not say that it was
so. The thoughts which he had expressed to Carmen that morning still
flitted through his mind. The child was right--Rosendo's philosophy
was that of resignation born of ignorance. It was the despair of
doubt. And he did not really think that Carmen would be smitten of the
plague. Something seemed to tell him that it was impossible. But, on
the other hand, he would himself observe every precaution in regard to
her. No, he would not sleep in the church that night. He had handled
the body of the plague's second victim, and he could not rest near the
child. Perhaps exposure to the night air and the heavy dews would
serve to cleanse him. And so he wrapped himself in the blanket which
Doña Maria brought from within the church, and lay down beside the
faithful pair.

In the long hours of that lonely night Josè lay beneath the shimmering
stars pondering, wondering. Down below in the smitten town the poor
children of his flock were eating their hearts out in anxious dread
and bitter sorrow. Was it through any fault of theirs that this thing
had come upon them, like a bolt from a cloudless sky? No--except that
they were human, mortal. And if the thing were real, it came from the
mind that is God; if unreal--but it seemed real to these simple folk,
terribly so!

His heart yearned toward them as his thought penetrated the still
reaches of the night and hovered about their lonely vigil. Yet, what
had he to offer? What balm could he extend to those wearing out weary
hours on beds of agony below? Religion? True religion, if they could
but understand it; but not again the empty husks of the faith that had
been taught them in the name of Christ! Where did scholastic theology
stand in such an hour as this? Did it offer easement from their
torture of mind and body? No. Strength to bear in patience their heavy
burden? No. Hope? Not of this life--nay, naught but the thread-worn,
undemonstrable promise of a life to come, if, indeed, they might
happily avoid the pangs of purgatory and the horrors of the quenchless
flames of hell! God, what had not the Church to answer for!

And yet, these ignorant children were but succumbing to the
evidence of their material senses--though small good it would do to
tell them so! Could they but know--as did Carmen--that rejection of
error and reception of truth meant life--ah, could they but know!
Could he himself but know--really _know_--that God is neither the
producer of evil, nor the powerless witness of its ravages--could
he but understand and prove that evil is not a self-existing
entity, warring eternally with God, what might he not accomplish!
For Jesus had said: "These signs"--the cure of disease, the rout of
death--"shall follow them that believe," that understand, that
know. Why could he not go down to those beds of torture and say
with the Christ: "Arise, for God hath made thee whole"? He knew
why--"without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that
cometh of God must believe"--must _know_--"that He is a rewarder of
them that diligently seek Him." The suffering victims in the town
below were asleep in a state of religious dullness. The task of
independent thinking was onerous to such as they. Gladly did they
leave it to the Church to do their thinking for them. And thus did
they suffer for the trust betrayed!

But truth is omnipotent, and "one with God is a majority." Jesus gave
few rules, but none more fundamental than that "with God all things
are possible." Was he, Josè, walking with God? If so, he might arise
and go down into the stricken town and bid its frightened children be
whole. If he fully recognized "the Father" as all-powerful,
all-good, and if he could clearly see and retain his grasp on the
truth that evil, the supposititious opposite of good, had neither
place nor power, except in the minds of mortals receptive to it--ah,
then--then----

A soft patter of little feet on the shales broke in upon his thought.
He turned and beheld Carmen coming through the night.

"Padre dear," she whispered, "why didn't you come and sleep in the
church with me?" She crept close to him. He had not the heart nor the
courage to send her away. He put out his arm and drew her to him.

"Padre dear," the child murmured, "it is nice out here under the
stars--and I want to be with you--I love you--love you--" The whisper
died away, and the child slept on his arm.

"Perfect love casteth out fear."



CHAPTER 20


Dawn brought Juan Mendoza and Pedro Cárdenas again to the hill, and
with them came others. "Mateo Gil, Pablo Polo, and Juanita Gomez are
sick, Padre," announced Mendoza, the spokesman. "They ask for the last
sacrament. You could come down and give it to them, and then return to
the hill, is it not so?"

"Yes," assented Josè, "I will come."

"And, Padre," continued Mendoza, "we talked it over last night, after
Amado Sanchez died, and we think it would help if you said a Mass for
us in the church to-day."

"I will do so this afternoon, after I have visited the sick," he
replied pityingly.

Mendoza hesitated. Then--

"We think, too, Padre, that if we held a procession--in honor of Santa
Barbara--perhaps she would pray for us, and might stop the sickness.
We could march through the town this evening, while you stood here and
prayed as we passed around the hill. What say you, Padre?"

Josè was about to express a vehement protest. But the anxious faces
directed toward him melted his heart.

"Yes, children," he replied gently, "do as you wish. Keep your houses
this afternoon while I visit the sick and offer the Mass. I will leave
the _hostia_ on the altar. You need not fear to touch it. Carry it
with you in your rogation to Santa Barbara this evening, and I will
stand here and pray for you."

The people departed, sorrowing, but grateful. Hope revived in the
breasts of some. But most of them awaited in trembling the icy touch
of the plague.

"Padre," said Rosendo, when the people had gone. "I have been thinking
about the sickness, and I remember what my father told me he learned
from a Jesuit missionary. It was that the fat from a human body would
cure rheumatism. And then the missionary laughed and said that the fat
from a plump woman would cure all diseases of mind and body. If that
is so, Padre, and Juanita Gomez dies--she is very plump, Padre--could
we not take some of the fat from her body and rub it on the sick--"

"God above, Rosendo! what are you saying!" cried Josè recoiling in
horror.

_"Caramba!"_ retorted the honest man. "Would you not try everything
that might possibly save these people? What the missionary said may be
true."

"No, my faithful ally," replied Josè. "You did not get the sense in
which he said it. Neither human fat nor medicine of any kind will help
these people. Nothing will be accomplished for them until their fear
has been removed. For, I--well, the symptoms manifested by poor Feliz
may have been those of Asiatic cholera. But--I begin to doubt. And as
for Sanchez--_Bien_, we do not know--not for certain." He stopped and
pondered the question.

"Padre," pursued Rosendo, "I have used the liver of a lizard for
toothache, and it was very good."

"I have no doubt of it, Rosendo," replied Josè, with a smile. "And in
days past stranger remedies than that were used by supposedly wise
people. When the eyesight was poor, they rubbed wax from the human ear
upon the eyes, and I doubt not marvelous restorations of sight were
made. So also dogs' teeth were ground into powder and taken to
alleviate certain bodily pains. Almost everything that could be
swallowed has been taken by mankind to cure their aches and torments.
But they still ache to-day; and will continue to do so, I believe,
until their present state of mind greatly changes."

When the simple midday meal of corn _arepa_ and black coffee was
finished, Josè descended into the quiet town. "It is absurd that we
should be kept on the hill," he had said to Rosendo, "but these dull,
simple minds believe that, having handled those dead of the plague, we
have become agents of infection. They forget that they themselves are
living either in the same house with it, or closely adjacent. But it
humors them, poor children, and we will stay here for their sakes."

"_Caramba!_ and they have made us their sextons!" muttered Rosendo.

Josè shuddered. The clammy hand of fear again reached for his heart.
He turned to Carmen, who was busily occupied in the shade of the old
church.

"Your lessons, _chiquita_?" he queried, going to her for a moment's
abstraction.

"No, Padre dear," she replied, smiling up at him, while she quickly
concealed the bit of paper on which she had been writing.

"Then what are you doing, little one?" he insisted.

"Padre dear--don't--don't always make me tell you everything," she
pleaded, but only half in earnest, as she cast an enigmatical glance
at him.

"But this time I insist on knowing; so you might as well tell me."

"Well then, if you must know," she replied, her face beaming with a
happiness which seemed to Josè strangely out of place in that tense
atmosphere, "I have been writing a question to God." She held out the
paper.

"Writing a question to God! Well--!"

"Why, yes, Padre dear. I have done that for a long, long time. When I
want to know what to do, and think I don't see just what is best, I
write my question to God on a piece of paper. Then I read it to Him,
and tell Him I know He knows the answer and that He will tell me. And
then I put the paper under a stone some place, and--well, that's all,
Padre. Isn't it a good way?" She beamed at him like a glorious noonday
sun.

The priest stood before her in wonder and admiration. "And does He
tell you the answers to your questions, _chiquita_?" he asked
tenderly.

"Always, Padre dear. Not always right away--but He never fails--never!"

"Will you tell me what you are asking Him now?" he said.

She handed him the paper. His eyes dimmed as he read:

  "Dear, dear Father, please tell your little girl and her dear
  Padre Josè what it is that makes the people think they have to die
  down in the town."

"And where will you put the paper, little girl?" he asked, striving to
control his voice.

"Why, I don't know, Padre. Oh, why not put it under the altar in this
old church?" she exclaimed, pleased with the thought of such a novel
hiding place.

"Excellent!" assented Josè; and together they entered the building.
After much stumbling over rubbish, much soiling of hands and
disturbing of bats and lizards, while Carmen's happy laugh rang
merrily through the gloomy old pile, they laid the paper carefully
away behind the altar in a little pocket, and covered it with an adobe
brick.

"There!" panted the girl, the task finished. "Now we will wait for the
answer."

Josè went down into the ominous silence of the town with a lighter
heart. The sublime faith of the child moved before him like a beacon.
To the sick he spoke words of comfort, with the vision of Carmen
always before him. At the altar in the empty church, where he offered
the Mass in fulfillment of his promise to the people, her fair form
glowed with heavenly radiance from the pedestal where before had stood
the dilapidated image of the Virgin. He prepared the sacred wafer and
left a part of it on the altar for the people to carry in their
procession to Santa Barbara. The other portion he took to the sick
ones who had asked for the sacrament.

Two more had fallen ill that afternoon. Mateo Gil, he thought, could
not live the night through. He knelt at the loathsome bedside of the
suffering man and prayed long and earnestly for light. He tried not to
ask, but to know. While there, he heard a call from the street,
announcing the passing of Guillermo Hernandez. Another one! His heart
sank again. The plague was upon them in all its cruel virulence.

Sadly he returned to the hill, just as the sun tipped the highest
peaks of the _Cordilleras_. Standing on the crest, he waited with
heavy heart, while the mournful little procession wended its sad way
through the streets below. An old, battered wooden image of one of the
Saints, rescued from the oblivion of the _sacristía_, had been dressed
to represent Santa Barbara. This, bedecked with bits of bright colored
ribbon, was carried at the head of the procession by the faithful
Juan. Following him, Pedro Gonzales, old and tottering, bore a dinner
plate, on which rested the _hostia_, while over the wafer a tall young
lad held a soiled umbrella, for there was no canopy.

A slow chant rose from the lips of the people like a dirge. It struck
the heart of the priest like a chill wind. _"Ora pro nobis! Ora pro
nobis!"_ Tears streamed from his eyes while he gazed upon his stricken
people. Slowly, wearily, they wound around the base of the hill, some
sullen with despair, others with eyes turned beseechingly upward to
where the priest of God stood with outstretched hands, his full heart
pouring forth a passionate appeal to Him to turn His light upon these
simple-minded children. When they had gone back down the road, their
bare feet raising a cloud of thick dust which hid them from his view,
Josè sank down upon the rock and buried his face in his hands.

"I know--I think I know, oh, God," he murmured; "but as yet I have not
proved--not yet. But grant that I may soon--for their sakes."

Rosendo touched his shoulder. "There is another body to bury to-night,
Padre. Eat now, and we will go down."

                  *       *       *       *       *

Standing over the new grave, in the solemn hush of night, the priest
murmured: "I am the resurrection and the life." But the mound upon
which Rosendo was stolidly heaping the loose earth marked only another
victory of the mortal law of death over a human sense of life. And
there was no one there to call forth the sleeping man.

"Behold, I give you power over all things," said the marvelous Jesus.
The wondrous, irresistible power which he exerted in behalf of
suffering humanity, he left with the world when he went away. But
where is it now?

"Still here," sighed the sorrowing priest, "still here--lo, always
here--but we know it not. Sunken in materiality, and enslaved to the
false testimony of the physical senses, we lack the spirituality that
alone would enable us to grasp and use that Christ-power, which is the
resurrection and the life."

"Padre," said Rosendo, when they turned back toward the hill,
"Hernandez is now with the angels. You gave him the sacrament, did you
not?"

"Yes, Rosendo."

"_Bien_, then you remitted his sins, and he is doubtless in paradise.
But," he mused, "it may be that he had first to pass through
purgatory. _Caramba!_ I like not the thought of those hot fires!"

"Rosendo!" exclaimed Josè in impatience. "Your mental wanderings at
times are puerile! You talk like the veriest child! Do not be
deceived, Hernandez is still the same man, even though he has left his
earthly body behind. Do not think he has been lifted at once into
eternal bliss. The Church has taught such rubbish for ages, and has
based its pernicious teachings upon the grossly misunderstood words of
Jesus. The Church is a failure--a dead, dead failure, in every sense
of the word! And that man lying there in his grave is a ghastly proof
of it!"

Rosendo looked wonderingly at the excited priest, whose bitter words
rang out so harshly on the still night air.

"The Church has failed utterly to preserve the simple gospel of the
Christ! It has basely, wantonly betrayed its traditional trust! It has
fought and slain and burned for centuries over trivial, vulnerable
non-essentials, and thrown its greatest pearls to the swine! It no
longer prophesies; it carps and reviles! It no longer heals the sick;
but it conducts a purgatorial lottery at so much a head! It has become
a jumble of idle words, a mumbling of silly formulæ, a category of
stupid, insensate ceremonies! Its children are taught to derive their
faith from such legends as that of the holy Saint Francis, who, to
convince a heretic, showed the _hostia_ to an ass, which on beholding
the sacred dough immediately kneeled! Good God!"

"_Ca-ram-ba!_ But you speak hard words, Padre!" muttered Rosendo,
vague speculations flitting through his brain as to the priest's
mental state.

"God!" continued Josè heatedly, "the Church has fought truth
desperately ever since the Master's day! It has fawned at the feet of
emperor and plutocrat, and licked the bloody hand of the usurer who
tossed her a pittance of his foul gains! In the great world-battles
for reform, for the rights of man, for freedom from the slavery of man
to man or to drink and drugs, she has come up only as the smoke has
cleared away, but always in time to demand the spoils! She has filched
from the systems of philosophy of every land and age, and after
bedaubing them with her own gaudy colors, has foisted them upon
unthinking mankind as divine decrees and mandates! She has foully
insulted God and man!--"

"_Caramba_, Padre! You are not well! _Hombre_, we must get back to the
hill! You are falling sick!"

"I am not, Rosendo! You voice the Church's stock complaint of every
man who exposes her shams: 'He hath a devil!'"

Rosendo whistled softly. Josè went on more excitedly:

"You ask if Hernandez is in paradise or purgatory. He is in a state no
better nor worse than our own, for both are wholly mental. We are now
in the fires of as great a purgatory as any man can ever experience!
Yes, there is a purgatory--right here on earth--and it follows us
after death, and after every death that we shall die, until we learn
to know God and see Him as infinite good, without taint or trace of
evil! The flames of hell are eternal to us as long as we eat of 'the
tree of the knowledge of good and evil'--as long as we believe in
other powers than God--as long as we believe sin and disease and evil
to be as real and as potent as good! When we know these things as
awful human illusions, and when we recognize God as the infinite mind
that did not create evil, and does not know or behold it, then, and
then only, will the flames of purgatory and hell in this state of
consciousness which we mistakenly call life, and in the states of
consciousness still to come, begin to diminish in intensity, and
finally die out!"

He walked along in silence for some moments. Then he turned to Rosendo
and put his hand affectionately upon the old man's shoulder. "My good
friend," he said more calmly, "I speak with intense feeling, for I
have suffered much through the intolerance, the unspirituality, and
the worldly ambition of the agents of Holy Church. I suffer, because I
see what she is, and how widely she has missed the mark. But, worse, I
see how blindly, how cruelly, she leads and betrays her trusting
children--and it is the thought of that which at times almost drives
me mad! But never mind me, Rosendo. Let me rave. My full heart must
empty itself. Do you but look to Carmen for your faith. She is not of
the Church. She knows God, and she will lead you straight to Him. And
as you follow her, your foolish ideas of purgatory, hell, and
paradise, of wafers and virgins--all the tawdry beliefs which the
Church has laid upon you, will drop off, one by one, and melt away as
do the mists on the lake when the sun mounts high."

Carmen and Doña Maria sat against the wall of the old church, waiting
for them. The child ran through the darkness and grasped Josè's hand.

"I wouldn't go to sleep until you came, Padre!" she cried happily. "I
wanted to be sure you wouldn't sleep anywhere else than right next to
me."

"Padre," admonished Rosendo anxiously, "do you think you ought to let
her come close to you now? The plague--"

Josè turned to him and spoke low. "There is no power or influence that
we can exert upon her, Rosendo, either for good or evil. She is
obeying a spiritual law of which we know but little."

"And that, Padre?"

"Just this, Rosendo: _'Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind
is stayed on thee.'_"

The late moon peeped timidly above the drowsing treetops. Its yellow
beams stole silently across the still lake and up the hillside to the
crumbling church. When they reached the four quiet figures, huddled
close against the ghostly wall, they filtered like streams of liquid
gold through the brown curls of the little head lying on the priest's
shoulder. And there they dwelt as symbols of Love's protecting care
over the trusting children of this world, until the full dawn of the
glorious sun of Truth.



CHAPTER 21


Josè rose from his hard bed stiff and weary. Depression sat heavily
upon his soul, and he felt miserably unable to meet the day. Doña
Maria was preparing the coffee over a little fire back of the church.
The odor of the steaming liquid drifted to him on the warm morning air
and gave him a feeling of nausea. A sharp pain shot through his body.
His heart stopped. Was the plague's cold hand settling upon him?
Giddiness seized him, and he sat down again upon the rocks.

In the road below a cloud of dust was rising, and across the distance
a murmur of voices floated up to his ears. Men were approaching. He
wondered dully what additional trouble it portended. Rosendo came to
him at that moment.

"_Muy buenos dias, Padre._ I saw a boat come across the lake some
minutes ago. I wonder if Don Mario has returned."

The men below were ascending the hill. Josè struggled to his feet and
went forth to meet them. A familiar voice greeted him cheerily.

"_Hola, Señor Padre Josè!_ _Dios mío_, but your hill is steep!"

Josè strained his eyes at the newcomer. The man quickly gained the
summit, and hurried to grasp the bewildered priest's hand.

"Love of the Virgin! don't you know me, _Señor Padre_?" he cried,
slapping Josè roundly upon the back.

The light of recognition slowly came into the priest's eyes. The man
was Don Jorge, his erstwhile traveling companion on the Magdalena
river.

"And now a cup of that coffee, if you will do me the favor, my good
_Cura_. And then tell me what ails you here," he added, seating
himself. "_Caramba_, what a town! Diego was right--the devil himself
made this place! But they say you have all taken to dying! Have you
nothing else to do? _Caramba_, I do not wonder! Such a God-forsaken
spot! Well, what is it? Speak, man!"

Josè collected his scattered thoughts. "The cholera!" he said
hoarsely.

"Cholera! _Caramba!_ so they told me down below, and I would not
believe them! But where did it come from?"

"One of our men brought it from Bodega Central."

"Bodega Central!" ejaculated Don Jorge. "Impossible! I came from there
this morning myself. Have been there two days. There isn't a trace of
cholera in the place, as far as I know! You have all gone crazy--but
small wonder!" looking out over the decrepit town.

The priest's head was awhirl. He felt his senses leaving him. His ears
were reporting things basely false. "You say--" he began in
bewilderment.

"I say what I have said, _amigo_! There is no more cholera in Bodega
Central than there is in heaven! I arrived there day before yesterday,
and left before sunrise this morning. So I should know."

Josè sank weakly down at the man's side. "But--Don Jorge--Feliz Gomez
returned from there three nights ago, and reported that a Turk, who
had come up from the coast, had died of the plague!"

Don Jorge's brows knit in perplexity. "I recall now," he said slowly,
after some moments of study. "The innkeeper did say that a Turk had
died there--some sort of intestinal trouble, I believe. When I told
him I was bound for Simití, he laughed as if he would split, and then
began to talk about the great fright he had given a man from here.
Said he scared the fellow until his black face turned white. But I was
occupied with my own affairs, and paid him little attention. But come,
tell me all about it."

With the truth slowly dawning upon his clouded thought, Josè related
the grewsome experiences of the past three days.

_"Ca-ram-ba!"_ Don Jorge whistled softly. "Who would have thought it!
But, was Feliz Gomez sick before he went to Bodega Central?"

"I do not know," replied Josè.

"Yes, señor," interposed Rosendo. "He and Amado Sanchez both had bowel
trouble. Their women told my wife so, after you and I, Padre, had come
up here to the hill. But it was nothing. We have it here often, as you
know."

"True," assented Josè, "but we have never given it any serious
thought."

Don Jorge leaned back and broke into a roar of laughter. "_Por el amor
del cielo!_ You are all crazy, _amigo_--you die like rats of fear! Did
you ever put a mouse into a bottle and then scare it to death with a
loud noise? _Hombre!_ That is what has happened to you!" The hill
reverberated with his loud shouts.

But Josè could not share in the merriment. The awful consequences of
the innkeeper's coarse joke upon the childish minds of these poor,
impressionable people pressed heavily upon his heart. Bitter tears
welled to his eyes. He sprang to his feet.

"Come, Rosendo!" he cried. "We must go down and tell these people the
truth!"

Don Jorge joined them, and they all hastened down into the town.
Ramona Chaves met them in the _plaza_, her eyes streaming.

"Padre," she wailed, "my man Pedro has the sickness! He is dying!"

"Nothing of the kind, Ramona!" loudly cried Josè; "there is no cholera
here!" He hastened to the bedside of the writhing Pedro.

"Up, man!" he shouted, seizing his hand. "Up! You are not sick! There
is no cholera in Simití! There is none in Bodega Central! Feliz did
not bring it! He and Amado had only a touch of the flux, and they died
of fear!"

The priest's ringing words acted upon the man like magic. He roused up
from his lethargy and stared at the assemblage. Don Jorge repeated the
priest's words, and added his own laughing and boisterous comments.
Pedro rose from his bed, and stood staring.

Together, their little band augmented at every corner by the startled
people, they hurried to the homes of all who lay upon beds of
sickness, spreading the glad tidings, until the little town was in a
state of uproar. Like black shadows before the light, the plague fled
into the realm of imagination from which it had come. By night, all
but Mateo Gil were up and about their usual affairs. But even Mateo
had revived wonderfully; and Josè was confident that the good news
would be the leaven of health that would work a complete restoration
within him in time. The exiles left the hilltop and the old church,
and returned again to their homes. Don Jorge took up his abode with
Josè.

"_Bien_," he said, as they sat at the rear door of the priest's house,
looking through the late afternoon haze out over the lake, "you have
had a strange experience--_Caramba_! most strange!--and yet one from
which you should gather an excellent lesson. You are dealing with
children here--children who have always been rocked in the cradle of
the Church. But--" looking archly at Josè, "do I offend? For, as I
told you on the boat a year ago, I do not think you are a good
priest." He laughed softly. "_Bien_," he added, "I will correct that.
You are good--but not a priest, is it not so?"

"I have some views, Don Jorge, which differ radically from those of
the faith," Josè said cautiously.

"_Caramba!_ I should hope so!" his friend ejaculated.

"But," interposed Josè, anxious to direct the conversation into other
channels, "may I ask how and where you have occupied yourself since I
left the boat at Badillo?"

"Ah, _Dios_!" said Don Jorge, shaking his head, although his eyes
twinkled. "I have wandered ever since--and am poorer now than when I
started. I left our boat at Puerto Nacional, to go to Medellin; and
from there to Remedios and Guamocó. But while in the river town I met
another _guaquero_--grave hunter, you know--who was preparing to go to
Honda, to investigate the 'castles' at that place. There is a strange
legend--you may have heard it--hanging over those rocks. It appears
that a lone hermit lived in one of the many caverns in the great
limestone deposits rising abruptly from the river near the town of
Honda. How he came there, no one knew. Day after day, year after year,
he labored in his cave, extending it further into the hillside. People
laughed at him for tunneling in that barren rock, for gold has never
been found anywhere in it. But the fellow paid them no attention; and
gradually he was accepted as a harmless fanatic, and was left
unmolested to dig his way into the hill as far as he would. Years
passed. No one knew how the fellow lived, for he held no human
intercourse. Kind people often brought food and left it at the mouth
of his cavern, but he would have none of it. They brought clothes, but
they rotted where they were left. What he ate, no one could discover.
At last some good soul planted a fig tree near the cave, hoping that
the fruit in time would prove acceptable to him. One day they found
the tree cut down. _Bien_, time passed, and he was forgotten. One day
some men, passing the cave, found his body, pale and thin, with long,
white hair, lying at the entrance. But--_Caramba_! when they buried
the body they found it was that of a woman!"

He paused to draw some leaves of tobacco from his wallet and roll a
thick cigar. The sudden turn of his story drew an expression of
amazement from the priest.

"_Bien_," he resumed, "where the woman came from, and who she was,
never was learned. Nor how she lived. But of course some one must have
supplied her with food and clothes all these years. Perhaps she was
some grand dame, with a dramatic past, who had come there to escape
the world and do penance for her sins. What sorrow, what black tragedy
that cave concealed, no one may ever know! Nor am I at all interested
in that. The point is, either she found gold there, or had a quantity
of it that she brought with her--at least so I thought at the time.
So, when the _guaquero_ at Puerto Nacional told me the story, nothing
would do but I must go with him to search the cave. _Caramba!_ We
wasted three full months prying around there--and had our labor for
our pains!"

He tilted his chair back and puffed savagely at his cigar.

"Well, then I got on the windy side of another legend, a wild tale of
buried treasure in the vicinity of Mompox. Of course I hurried after
it. Spent six months pawing the hot dirt around that old town. Fell in
with your estimable citizen, Don Felipe, who swindled me out of a
hundred good _pesos oro_ on a fraudulent location and a forged map.
Then I cursed him and the place and went up to Banco."

"Banco!" Josè's heart began beating rapidly. Don Jorge went on:

"Your genial friend Diego is back there. Told me about his trip to
Simití to see his little daughter."

"What did he say about her, _amigo_?" asked Josè in a controlled
voice.

"Not much--only that he expected to send for her soon. You know,
Rosendo's daughter is living with him. Fine looking wench, too!"

"But, Don Jorge," pursued Josè anxiously, "what think you, is the
little Carmen Diego's child?"

"_Hombre!_ How should I know? He no doubt has many."

"She does not look like him," asserted Josè, clinging to his note of
optimism.

"No. And fortunate she is in that! _Caramba_, but he looks like an imp
from sheol!"

Josè saw that little consolation was to be derived from Don Jorge as
far as Carmen was concerned. So he allowed the subject to lapse.

"_Bien_," continued Don Jorge, whose present volubility was in
striking contrast to his reticence on the boat the year before, "I had
occasion to come up to Bodega Central--another legend, if I must
confess it. And there Don Carlos Norosí directed me here."

"What a life!" exclaimed Josè.

"Yes, no doubt it appears so to you, _Señor Padre_," replied Don
Jorge. "And yet my business, that of treasure hunting, has in times
past proved very lucrative. The Indian graves of Colombia have yielded
enormous quantities of gold. The Spaniards opened many of them; and in
one, that of a famous chieftain, discovered down below us, near
Zaragoza, they found a solid gold pineapple, a marvelous piece of
workmanship, and of immense value. They sent it to the king of Spain.
_Caramba_! it never would have reached him if I had been there!

"But," he resumed, "we have no idea of the amount of treasure that has
been buried in various parts of Colombia. This country has been, and
still is, enormously rich in minerals--a veritable gold mine of
itself. And since the time of the Spanish conquest it has been in a
state of almost constant turmoil. Nothing and nobody has been safe.
And, up to very recent times, whenever the people collected a bit of
gold above their daily needs, they promptly banked it with good Mother
Earth. Then, like as not, they got themselves killed in the wars, and
the treasure was left for some curious and greedy hunter like myself
to dig up years after. The Royalists and Tories buried huge sums all
over the country during the War of Independence. Why, it was only a
year or so ago that two men came over from Spain and went up the
Magdalena river to Bucaramanga. They were close-mouthed fellows,
well-dressed, and evidently well-to-do. But they had nothing to say to
anybody. The innkeeper pried around until he discovered that they
spent much time in their room poring over maps and papers. Then they
set off alone, with an outfit of mules and supplies to last several
weeks. _Bueno_, they came back at last with a box of good size, made
of mahogany, and bound around with iron bands. _Caramba!_ They did not
tarry long, you may be sure. And I learned afterward that they sailed
away safely from Cartagena, box and all, for sunny Spain, where, I
doubt not, they are now living in idleness and gentlemanly ease on
what they found in the big coffer they dug up near that old Spanish
city."

Josè listened eagerly. To him, cooped up for a year and more in the
narrow confines of Simití, the ready flow of this man's conversation
was like a fountain of sparkling water to a thirsty traveler. He urged
him to go on, plying him with questions about his strange avocation.

"_Caramba_, but the old Indian chiefs were wise fellows!" Don Jorge
pursued. "They seemed to know that greedy vandals like myself would
some day poke around in their last resting places for the gold that
was always buried with them--possibly to pay their freight across the
dark river. And so they dug their graves in the form of an L, in the
extreme tip of which the royal carcasses were laid. In this way they
have deceived many a grave-hunter, who dug straight down without
finding the body, which was safely tucked away in the toe of the L. I
have gone back and reopened many a grave that I had abandoned as
empty, and found His Royal Highness five or six feet to one side of
the straight shaft I had previously sunk."

"I suppose," mused Josè, "that you now follow this work because of its
fascination--for you must have found and laid aside much treasure in
the years that you have pursued it."

_"Caramba!"_ ejaculated the _guaquero_. "I have been rich and poor,
like the rising and setting of the sun! What I find, I spend again
hunting more. It is the way of the world. The man who has enough money
never knows it. And his greed for more--more that he needs not, and
cannot possibly spend on himself--generally results, as in my case, in
the loss of what he already has. But there are reasons aside from the
excitement of the chase that keep me at it."

He fell strangely silent, and Josè knew that there were aroused within
him memories that seared the tissues of the brain as they entered.

"_Amigo_," Don Jorge resumed. His voice was low, tense and cold.
"There are some things which I am trying to forget. This exciting and
dangerous business of mine keeps my thought occupied. I care nothing
now for the treasure I may discover. But I crave forgetfulness. Do you
understand?"

"Surely, good friend," replied Josè quickly; "and I ask pardon for
recalling those things to you."

_"De nada, amigo!"_ said Don Jorge, with a gesture of deprecation.
Then: "I told you on the boat that I had lost a wife and girl. The
Church got them both. I tell you this because I know you, too, have
grievances against her. _Caramba!_ Yet I will tell you only a part. I
lived in Maganguey, where my wife's brother kept a store and did an
excellent commission business. I was mining and hunting graves in the
Cauca region, sometimes going up the Magdalena, too, and working on
both sides of the river. Maganguey was a convenient place for me to
live, as it stands at the junction of the two great rivers. Besides,
my wife wished to remain near her own people. _Bien_, we had a
daughter. She grew up fair and good. And then, one day, the priest
told my wife that the girl was destined to a great future, and must
enter a convent and consecrate herself to the Church. _Caramba!_ I am
not a Catholic--was never one! My parents were patriots, and both took
part in the great war that gave liberty to this country. But they were
liberal in thought; and I was never confirmed to the Church. _Bien_,
the priest made my life a hell--my wife became estranged from me--and
one day, returning from the Cauca, I found my house deserted. Wife and
girl and the child's nurse had gone down the river!"

The man's face darkened, and hard lines drew around his mouth.

"They had taken my money chest, some thousands of pesos. I sought the
priest. He laughed at me, and--_Caramba_! I struck him such a blow
between his pig eyes that he lay senseless for hours!"

Josè glanced at the broad shoulders and the great knots of muscle on
the man's arms. He was of medium height, but with a frame of iron.

"_Bien, Señor Padre_, I, too, fled wild and raving from Maganguey that
night, and plunged into the jungle. Months later I drifted down the
river, as far as Mompox. And there one day I chanced upon old
Marcelena, the child's nurse. Like a _cayman_ I seized her and dragged
her into an alley. She confessed that my wife and girl were living
there--the wife had become housekeeper for a young priest--the girl
was in the convent. _Caramba!_ I hurled the woman to the ground and
turned my back upon the city!"

Josè's interest in the all too common recital received a sudden
stimulus.

"Your daughter's name, Don Jorge, was--"

"Maria, _Señor Padre_."

"And--she would now be, how old, perhaps?"

"About twenty-two, I think."

"Her appearance?"

"Fair--complexion light, like her mother's. Maria was a beautiful
child--and good as she was beautiful."

"But--the child's nurse remained with her?"

"Marcelena? Yes. She was devoted to the little Maria. The woman was
old and ugly--but she loved the child."

"Did you not inquire for them when you were in Mompox a few months
ago?" pursued Josè eagerly.

"I made slight inquiry through the clerk in the office of the
Alcalde. I did not intend to--but I could not help it. _Caramba!_ He
made further inquiry, but said only that he was told they had long
since gone down to Cartagena, and nothing had been heard from them."

The gates of memory's great reservoir opened at the touch of this
man's story, and Josè again lived through that moonlit night in
Cartagena, when the little victim of Wenceslas breathed out her life
of sorrow and shame in his arms. He heard again the sobs of Marcelena
and the simple-minded Catalina. He saw again the figure of the
compassionate Christ in the smoke that drifted past the window. And
now the father of that wronged girl sat before him, wrapped in the
tatters of a shredded happiness! Should he tell him? Should he say
that he had cared for this man's little grandson since his advent into
this sense of existence that mortals call life? For there could be no
doubt now that the little Maria was his daughter.

"Don Jorge," he said, "you have suffered much. My heart bleeds for
you. And yet--"

"_Na_, Padre, there is nothing to do. Were I to find my family I could
only slay them and the priests who came between us!"

"But, Don Jorge," cried Josè in horror, "you surely meditate no such
vengeance as that!"

The man smiled grimly. "_Señor Padre_," he returned coldly, "I am
Spanish. The blood of the old cavaliers flows in my veins. I have been
betrayed, trapped, fooled, and my honored name has been foully soiled.
What will remove the stain, think you? Blood--nothing else! _Caramba!_
The priest of Maganguey who poured the first drop of poison into my
wife's too willing ears--_Bien_, I have said enough!"

"_Hombre!_ You don't mean--"

"I mean, _Señor Padre_, that I drifted down the river, unseen, to
Maganguey one night. I entered that priest's house. He did not awake
the next morning."

"God!" exclaimed Josè, starting up.

"_Na_, Padre, not God, but Satan! He rules this world."

Josè sank back in his chair. Don Jorge leaned forward and laid a hand
upon his knee. "My friend," he said evenly, "you are young--how old,
may I ask?"

"Twenty-seven," murmured Josè.

"_Caramba!_ A child! _Bien_, you have much to learn. I took to you on
the boat because I knew you had made a mess of things, and it was not
entirely your fault. I have seen others like you. You are no more in
the Church than I am. Now why do you stay here? Do I offend in
asking?"

Josè hesitated. "I--I have--work here, señor," he replied.

"True," said Don Jorge, "a chance to do much for these poor people--if
the odds are not too strong against you. But--are you working for them
alone? Or--does Diego's child figure in the case? No offense, I assure
you--I have reason to ask."

Josè sought to read his eyes. The man looked squarely into his own,
and the priest found no deception in their black depths.

"I--señor, she cannot be Diego's child--and I--I would save her!"

Don Jorge nodded his head. "_Bien_," he said, "to-morrow I leave for
San Lucas. I will return this way."

After the evening meal the _guaquero_ spread his _petate_ upon the
floor and disposed himself for the night. He stubbornly refused to
accept the priest's bed. _"Caramba!"_ he muttered, after he had lain
quiet for some time, "why does not the Church permit its clergy to
marry, like civilized beings! Do you know, _Señor Padre_, I once met a
woman in Bogotá and held some discussion with her on this topic. She
said, as between a priest who had children, and a married minister,
she would infinitely prefer the priest, because, as she put it, no
matter how dissolute the priest, the sacraments from his hands would
still retain their validity--but never from those of a married
minister! _Caramba!_ what can you do against such bigotry and awful
narrowness, such dense ignorance! Cielo!"

The following morning, before sunrise, Don Jorge and his boatmen were
on the lake, leaving Josè to meditate on the vivid experiences of the
past few days, their strange mental origin, and the lesson which they
brought.



CHAPTER 22


"Padre dear," said Carmen, "you know the question that we put under
the altar of the old church? Well, God answered it, didn't He?"

"I--why, I had forgotten it, child. What was it? You asked Him to tell
us why the people thought they had to die, did you not? Well--and what
was His answer?"

"Why, He told us that they were frightened to death, you know."

"True, _chiquita_. Fear killed them--nothing else! They paid the
penalty of death for believing that Feliz Gomez had slept on a bed
where a man had died of the plague. They died because they--"

"Because they didn't know that God was everywhere, Padre dear,"
interrupted Carmen.

"Just so, _chiquita_. And that is why all people die. And yet," he
added sadly, "how are we going to make them know that He is
everywhere?"

"Why, Padre dear, by showing them in our talk and our actions that we
know it--by proving it, you know, just as we prove our problems in
algebra."

"Yes, poor Feliz, and Amado, and Guillermo died because they sinned,"
he mused. "They broke the first Commandment by believing that there
was another power than God. And that sin brought its inevitable wage,
death. They 'missed the mark,' and sank into the oblivion of their
false beliefs. God above! that I could keep my own mentality free from
these same carnal beliefs, and so be a true missionary to suffering
humanity! But you, Carmen, you are going to be such a missionary. And
I believe," he muttered through his set teeth, "that I am appointed to
shield the girl until God is ready to send her forth! But what, oh,
what will she do when she meets that world which lies beyond her
little Simití?"

Rosendo had returned to Guamocó. "The deposit will not last much
longer," he said to Josè, shaking his head dubiously. "And then--"

"Why, then we will find another, Rosendo," replied the priest
optimistically.

_"Ojalá!"_ exclaimed the old man, starting for the trail.

The day after Don Jorge's departure the Alcalde returned. He stole
shamefacedly through the streets and barricaded himself in his house.
There he gave vent to his monumental wrath. He cruelly abused his
long-suffering spouse, and ended by striking her across the face.
After which he sat down and laboriously penned a long letter to Padre
Diego, in which the names of Josè and Carmen figured plentifully.

For Don Jorge had met the Alcalde in Juncal, and had roundly jeered
him for his cowardly flight. He cited Josè and Rosendo as examples of
valor, and pointed out that the Alcalde greatly resembled a captain
who fled at the smell of gunpowder. Don Mario swelled with indignation
and shame. His spleen worked particularly against Rosendo and the
priest. Come what might, it was time Diego and his superiors in
Cartagena knew what was going on in the parish of Simití!

A few days later an unctuous letter came to Josè from Diego,
requesting that Carmen be sent to him at once, as he now desired to
place her in a convent and thus supplement the religious education
which he was sure Josè had so well begun in her. The priest had
scarcely read the letter when Don Mario appeared at the parish house.

"_Bien, Padre_," he began smoothly, but without concealing the malice
which lurked beneath his oily words, "Padre Diego sends for the little
Carmen, and bids me arrange to have her conveyed at once to Banco. I
think Juan will take her down, is it not so?"

Josè looked him squarely in the eyes. "No, señor," he said in a voice
that trembled with agitation, "it is not so!"

_"Hombre!"_ exclaimed Don Mario, swelling with suppressed rage. "You
refuse to give Diego his own child?"

"No, _señor_, but I refuse to give him a child that is not his."

"_Caramba!_ but she is--he has the proofs! And I shall send her to him
this day!"

The Alcalde shrilled forth his rage like a ruffled parrot. Josè seized
him by the shoulders and, turning him swiftly about, pushed him out
into the road. He then entered the rear door of Rosendo's house and
bade Doña Maria keep the child close to her.

A few minutes later Fernando Perez appeared at Josè's door. He was
municipal clerk, secretary, and constable of Simití, all in one. He
saluted the priest gravely, and demanded the body of the child Carmen,
to be returned to her proper father.

Josè groaned inwardly. What could he do against the established
authority?

"_Bien, Padre_," said Fernando, after delivering his message, "the
hour is too late to send her down the river to-day. But deliver her to
me, and she shall go down at daybreak."

"Listen," Josè pleaded desperately, "Fernando, leave her here
to-night--this is sudden, you must acknowledge--she must have time to
take leave of Doña Maria--and--"

"_Señor Padre_, the Alcalde's order is that she go with me now. I must
obey."

Josè felt his control oozing fast. Scarce knowing what he did, he
quickly stepped back through the rear door, and going to Rosendo's
house, seized a large _machete_, with which he returned to face the
constable.

"Look you, Fernando," he cried, holding the weapon menacingly aloft,
"if you lay a hand on that girl, I will scatter your brains through
yonder _plaza_!"

_"Caramba!"_ muttered the constable, falling back. "_Bien_," he
hastily added, "I will make this report to the Alcalde!" With which he
beat an abrupt retreat.

Josè sank into a chair. But he hastily arose and went into Rosendo's
house. "Doña Maria!" he cried excitedly, "leave Carmen with me, and do
you hurry through the town and see if Juan is here, and if Lázaro
Ortiz has returned from the _hacienda_. Bid them come to me at once,
and bring their _machetes_!"

The woman set out on her errand. Josè seized his _machete_ firmly in
one hand, and with the other drew Carmen to him.

"What is it, Padre dear?" the child asked, her eyes big with wonder.
"Why do you tremble? I wish you wouldn't always go around thinking
that two and two are seven!"

"Carmen, child--you do not understand--you are too young, and as yet
you have had no experience with--with the world! You must trust me
now!"

"I do _not_ trust you, Padre," she said sadly. "I can't trust anybody
who always sees things that are not so."

"Carmen--you are in danger--and you do not comprehend--" cried the
desperate man.

"I am _not_ in danger--and I _do_ understand--a great deal better than
you do, Padre. Now let me go--you are afraid! People who are afraid
die of the plague!" The irony of her words sank into his soul.

Juan looked in at the door. Josè rose hastily. "Did you meet Doña
Maria?" he asked.

"No, señor," the lad replied.

"She is searching for you--have you your _machete_?"

"Yes, Padre, I have just come back from the island, where I was
cutting wood."

"Good, then! Remain here with me. I need you--or may."

He went to the door and looked eagerly down the street. "Ah!" he
exclaimed with relief, "here come Doña Maria and Lázaro! Now,
friends," he began, when they were assembled before him, "grave danger
threatens--"

"Padre!" It was Doña Maria's voice. "Where is Carmen?"

Josè turned. The child had disappeared.

"Lázaro!" he cried, "go at once to the Boque trail! Let no one pass
that way with Carmen, if your life be the penalty! Juan, hurry to the
lake! If either of you see her, call loudly, and I will come! Doña
Maria, start through the town! We must find her! God above, help us!"

                  *       *       *       *       *

The afternoon dragged its interminable length across the valley. Josè
wearily entered his house and threw himself upon a chair. He had not
dared call at the Alcalde's house, for fear he might do that official
violence. But he had seen Fernando in the street, and had avoided him.
Then, of a sudden, a thought came to him from out the darkness. He
sprang to his feet and hurried off toward the shales. There, beneath
the stunted _algarroba_ tree, sat the child.

"Carmen!" He rushed to her and clasped her in his arms. "Why did you
do this--?"

"Padre," she replied, when she could get her breath, "I had to come
out here and try to know for you the things you ought to know for
yourself."

He said nothing; but, holding her hand tightly, he led her back to the
house.

That evening Josè sent for Don Mario, the constable, and Juan and
Lázaro. Assembling them before him in his living room, he talked with
them long and earnestly.

"_Compadres_," he said, "this week we have passed through a sad
experience, and the dark angel has robbed us of three of our beloved
friends. Is it your wish that death again visit us?"

They looked at one another in wonder. The Alcalde scowled darkly at
the priest beneath his heavy brows. Josè continued:

"_Bien_, it is planned to seize the little Carmen by force, and send
her down the river to Padre Diego--"

_"Dios y diablo!"_ Juan had sprung to his feet. "Who says that,
Padre?" he demanded savagely. The Alcalde shrank back in his chair.

"Be calm, Juan!" Josè replied. "Padre Diego sends for her by
letter--is it not so, Don Mario?"

The latter grunted. Juan wheeled about and stared menacingly at the
bulky official.

"Now, friends," Josè pursued, "it has not been shown that Carmen
belongs to Diego--in fact, all things point to the conclusion that she
is not his child. My wish is to be just to all concerned. But shall we
let the child go to him, knowing what manner of man he is, until it is
proven beyond all doubt that he is her father?"

"_Caramba!_ No!" exclaimed Juan and Lázaro in unison.

"And I am of the opinion that the majority of our citizens would
support us in the contention. What think you, friends?"

"Every man in Simití, Padre," replied Lázaro earnestly.

"Don Mario," said Josè, turning to the Alcalde, "until it is
established that Diego has a parent's claim to the girl, Juan and
Lázaro and I will protect her with our lives. Is it not so, _amigos_?"
addressing the two men.

"_Hombre!_ Let me see a hand laid upon her!" cried Juan rising.

Lázaro spoke more deliberately. "Padre," he said. "I owe you much. I
know you to be q good man--not like Padre Diego. I know not what claim
he may have on the girl, but this I say: I will follow and support you
until it is shown me that you are in the wrong."

Josè went over and clasped his hand. Then, to the town officials:

"_Bien, amigos_, we will let the matter rest thus, shall we not? We
now understand one another. If harm comes to the child, the death
angel will again stalk through this town, and--" he looked hard at Don
Mario, whilst that official visibly shrank in size--"_Bien_," he
concluded, "a sharp watch will be kept over the child. We will submit
to proofs--but to nothing less. And violence will bring bloodshed and
death."

"But--_Caramba_!" cried Don Mario, at last finding his voice. "If
Diego has the Bishop back of him, he will force us to deliver the
girl--or the Bishop will have the government soldiers sent here! I can
ask for them--and if necessary I will!"

Josè paled slightly. He knew the Alcalde spoke truth. Don Mario,
seeing that his words had taken effect, quickly followed up the
advantage. "Now you, Juan and Lázaro, do you think the little whelp
worth that?"

The words were scarcely out of his mouth when Juan leaped across the
floor and fell upon him. Josè seized the lad and, with Fernando's
help, tore him loose. Lázaro held his _machete_ aloft, ready to
strike. Josè's voice rang out sharply:

"Hold, men! Stop! Go you to your homes now! Juan, do you stay here
with me!"

The lad faced the Alcalde and shook his fist. "_Bien_," he sputtered,
"send for the soldiers, fat dog that you are! But when I see them
crossing the lake, I will come first to your house and cut open that
big belly!"

"Arrest him, Fernando!" shrilled the Alcalde, shaking with rage.

"I will cut off the hand that is laid on Juan!" cried Lázaro,
advancing.

"Men! Men! Don Mario and Fernando, go now! Enough of this! And for
God's sake think twice before you make any further move!"

Don Mario and his constable departed in sullen silence. Josè let
Lázaro out through the rear door, while he bade Juan pass the night in
the parish house. A consultation was held with Doña Maria, and it was
arranged that Carmen should sleep in the room with Josè, with Juan
lying before the door, until Rosendo should return from the mountains.
Then Josè sat down and wrote to the Bishop.

                  *       *       *       *       *

No reply came from Cartagena until Rosendo returned at the end of the
month. Meanwhile, Josè had never for a moment permitted Carmen to
leave his side. The child chafed under the limitation; but Josè and
Doña Maria were firm. Juan lived with the priest; and Lázaro lurked
about the parish house like a shadow. The Alcalde and his constable
remained discreetly aloof.

But with Rosendo's return came letters from both Wenceslas and Diego.
The latter had laid aside his unction, and now made a curt and
peremptory demand upon Josè for the child. The letter from Wenceslas
was noncommittal, stating only that he was quite uninformed of Diego's
claim, but that an investigation should be made. Josè wondered if he
had blundered in laying the case before him.

_"Hombre!"_ ejaculated Rosendo, when he heard Josè's story. "It is as
I feared! And now the Bishop has the matter in hand! _Caramba!_ We
shall lose her yet!

"And, Padre," he added, "the deposit is played out. There is no more
gold there. And, now that we shall have none to send to the Bishop
each month, Carmen's fate is settled--unless we go away. And where
shall we go? We could not get out of the country." He hung his head
and sat in gloomy dejection.

For more than a year Rosendo had panned the isolated alluvial deposit,
and on his regular monthly returns to Simití he and the priest had
sent from thirty to ninety _pesos_ gold to Wenceslas. To this Josè
sometimes added small amounts collected from the people of Simití,
which they had gratuitously given him for Masses and for the support
of the parish. Wenceslas, knowing the feeble strength of the parish,
was surprised, but discreet; and though he continually urged Josè to
greater efforts, and held out the allurements of "indulgences and
special dispensations," he made no inquiries regarding the source of
the monthly contributions.

For many days following, Rosendo and the priest went about as in a
thick, black cloud. "Rosendo," said Josè at length, "go back to the
mountains and search again. God was with us before. Have we any reason
to doubt Him now?"

"And leave Carmen here, exposed to the danger that always hangs over
her? _Caramba_, no! I would not go back now even if the deposit were
not worked out! No!" Josè knew it would be futile to urge him.

Carmen came to the priest that same day. "Padre, I heard you and padre
Rosendo talking this morning. Have you no money, no gold?"

"Why, child--there seems to be a need just at present," he replied
lightly. "But we might--well, we might send another of your questions
to God. What say you?"

"Of course!" she cried delightedly, turning at once and hurrying away
for pencil and paper.

"Now," she panted, seating herself at the table. "Let us see; we want
Him to give us _pesos_, don't we?"

"Yes--many--a large sum. Make it big," he said facetiously.

"Well, you know, Padre dear," she replied seriously, "we can't ask for
too much--for we already have everything, haven't we? After all, we
can only ask to see what we really already have.

"Say 'yes,' Padre dear," she pleaded, looking up appealingly at him
staring silently at her. Oh, if she could only impart to him even a
little of her abundant faith! She had enough, and to spare!

"Well, here it is," she said, holding out the paper.

He took it and read--"Dear, dear God: Padre Josè needs _pesos_--lots
of them. What shall he do?"

"And now," she continued, "shall we put it under the altar of the old
church?"

He smiled; but immediately assumed an expression of great seriousness.
"Why not in the church here, the one we are using? The other is so far
away?" he suggested. "And it is getting dark now."

"But--no, we will go where we went before," she concluded firmly.

Again he yielded. Taking matches and a piece of candle, he set off
with the girl in a circuitous route for the hill, which they gained
unobserved. Within the musty old church he struck a light, and they
climbed over the _débris_ and to the rear of the crumbling altar.

"See!" she cried joyously. "Here is my other question that He
answered! Doesn't He answer them quick though! Why, it took only a
day!"

She drew the old paper from beneath the adobe brick. Then she
hesitated. "Let us put this question in a new place," she said. "Look,
up there, where the bricks have fallen out," pointing to the part of
the altar that had crumbled away.

Josè rose obediently to execute the commission. His thought was far
off, even in Cartagena, where sat the powers that must be held quiet
if his cherished plans were not to fail. He reached out and grasped
one of the projecting bricks to steady himself. As he did so, the
brick, which was loose, gave way with him, and he fell, almost across
Carmen, followed by a shower of rubbish, as another portion of the old
altar fell out.

_"Hombre!"_ he ejaculated, picking himself up. "What good luck that
the candle was not extinguished! And now, señorita, are you willing
that we should bury this important question here on the floor; or must
I again try to put it in the altar itself?"

"Up there," insisted the child, laughing and still pointing above.

He rose and looked about, searching for a convenient place to deposit
the paper. Then something attracted his attention, something buried in
the altar, but now exposed by the falling out of the fresh portion. It
was metal, and it glittered in the feeble candle light. He reached in
and hastily scraped away more of the hard mud. Then, trembling with
suppressed excitement, he pulled out another brick. Clearly, it was a
box that had been buried in there--who knows when? He gave the candle
to Carmen and bade her stand up close. Then with both hands he
carefully removed the adjacent bricks until the entire box was in
view.

_"Hombre!"_ he muttered. "What do you suppose this is? A box--"

"Oh!" exclaimed the girl in delight. "A box to put our question in,
Padre!"

"More likely the answer itself, child!" muttered the excited priest,
straining and tugging away at it. "Carmen! Stand aside!" he suddenly
commanded. "Now--" He gave a final pull. A crash of falling bricks
followed; the candle was extinguished; and both he and the child were
precipitated to the floor.

"Carmen!" called the priest, choking with dust, "are you hurt?"

"No, Padre dear," came the laughing answer through the darkness. "But
I'm pretty full of dust. And the candle is buried."

Josè groped about for the box. It lay near, a small, wooden coffer,
bound about with two narrow bands of steel. He dragged it out and bore
it down the aisle to the door, followed by Carmen.

"Padre!" she exclaimed eagerly. "What is it?"

He dusted it off and examined it carefully in the fast fading light.
It was some twelve inches square by three deep, well made of mahogany,
and secured by a small, iron padlock. On the top there was a crest of
arms and the letters, "I de R," burned into the wood.

Night had closed in, and the priest and girl made their way hurriedly
back home by way of the lake, to avoid being seen. Under his cassock
Josè carried the box, so heavy that it chafed the skin from his hip as
they stumbled along.

"Carmen, say nothing--but tell your padre Rosendo to come to me at
once!"

With the doors secured, and Carmen and Doña Maria standing guard
outside to apprise them of danger, Josè and Rosendo covertly examined
the discovery.

"I de R!" pondered Rosendo, studying the box. Then--"_Caramba!_
Padre--_Caramba!_ It is _Ignacio de Rincón!_ _Hombre!_ And the
crest--it is his! I have seen it before--years and years ago!
_Caramba!_ _Caramba!_" The old man danced about like a child.

"Ignacio de Rincón! Your grandfather!" he kept exclaiming, his eyes
big as saucers. Then, hastening out to get his iron bar, he returned
and with a blow broke the rusty padlock. Tearing open the hinged
cover, he fell back with a loud cry.

Before their strained gaze, packed carefully in sawdust, lay several
bars of yellow metal. Rosendo took them out with trembling hands and
laid them upon the floor. "Gold, Padre, gold!" he muttered hoarsely.
"Gold, buried by your grandfather! _Caramba!--_

"Hold these, Padre!" hurrying out and returning with a pair of
homemade wooden balances. Again and again he carefully weighed the
bars. Then he began to calculate. It seemed to Josè that the old man
wasted hours arriving at a satisfactory result.

"Padre," he finally announced in tones which he strove vainly to
control, "there cannot be less than six thousand _pesos oro_ here!"

Josè drew a long breath. "Six thousand _pesos_--twenty-four thousand
francs! It is a fortune! Rosendo, we are rich!"

The trembling old man replaced the bars and carried them to Josè's
bed. The priest opened the door and called to Carmen.

"What was in the old box, Padre?" she asked happily, bounding into the
room.

He stooped and picked her up, almost crushing her in his arms. "The
answer to your question, _chiquita_. 'Before they call I will answer:
and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.'"



CHAPTER 23


When Josè awoke the next morning he quickly put his hand under his
pillow. Yes, the little coffer was there! It had not been a dream. He
drew it forth and raised the cover. The yellow bars glittered in the
morning rays sifting through the overhanging thatch at the window. He
passed his hand gently across them. What a fortunate discovery! And
how strangely brought about. They were rich! Now he could take Carmen
and flee! His heart leaped within him as he hastily threw on his scant
attire and went out into the balsamic air of the tropical morning.
Rosendo had gone to the village of Boque, starting before sun-up, so
Doña Maria announced. Some sudden impulse had seized him, and he had
set out forthwith, not stopping to discuss the motive with his
faithful consort. Josè concluded his _desayuno_, and then summoned
Carmen to the parish house for the day's lessons. She came with a song
on her lips.

"Don't stop, _chiquita_! Sing it again--it is beautiful; and my soul
drinks it in like heavenly dew!" he cried, as the child danced up to
him and threw her plump arms about his neck.

She turned about and sat down on the dusty threshold and repeated the
little song. The glittering sunlight streamed through her rich curls
like stringers of wire gold. Cucumbra came fawning to her and nestled
at her little bare feet, caressing them at frequent intervals with his
rough tongue. Cantar-las-horas approached with dignified tread, and,
stopping before his adored little mistress, cocked his head to one
side and listened attentively, his beady eyes blinking in the dazzling
light.

Josè marveled anew as he listened. Where had that voice come from? Had
either of her parents been so gifted? he wondered. And yet, it was
only the voicing of a soul of stainless purity--a conscience clear as
the light that gilded her curls--a trust, a faith, a knowledge of
immanent good, that manifested daily, hourly, in a tide of happiness
whose far verge melted into the shore of eternity. As he sat with
closed eyes the adobe hut, with its dirt floor and shabby furnishings,
expanded into a castle, hung with richest tapestries, rarest pictures,
and glittering with plate of gold. The familiar odors of garlic and
saffron, which penetrated from the primitive kitchen of Doña Maria,
were transmuted into delicate perfumes. The sun drew nearer, and
suffused him with its glittering flood. The girl became a white-robed
vision, and her song a benediction, voicing "Glory to God in the
highest, and on earth peace among men of good will."

The song ended, and left the thought with him: "To men of good will?"
Yes, to men of God's will--the will that is good--to men of sound
mind--that mind which was in Christ Jesus--the mind that knows no
evil! To such is eternal peace.

"_Chiquita_," the priest said gently, when the girl returned to him.
"Your question was quickly answered yesterday, was it not?"

She laughed up into his face. "It was answered, Padre, before we asked
it. God has the answers to all questions that could ever be asked. We
would always know the answers if we thought the way He does."

"But--tell me, _chiquita_, do you think He put that little box up
there in the altar purposely for us?"

"No, Padre--I guess it was hidden there by some man, long ago, who was
afraid he would lose it. And since he was afraid he would lose it,
why--he did, for now we have it."

"Yes, the thing that he greatly feared came upon him. But what is your
idea regarding the way we happened to find it? Did God lead us to
it?"

"God leads to everything good, Padre dear," was the simple response.

"Of course. But, in this particular case--would we have been led to
the little box if you had not asked your question of God?"

"Why not, Padre? People are always led right when they think right."

"And so thinking right was the cause of this discovery, was it?" he
pursued, relentlessly probing her thought to its depths.

"Why--yes, Padre--of course. We had to have money--you said so, you
know. And you told me to ask for lots of _pesos_. Well, we both knew
that God had already given us more _pesos_ than we could ever know
what to do with--He always does. He just can't help giving Himself to
everybody. And He gave Himself to us--why, we have always had Him! We
are _in_ Him, you know. And when anybody just knows that--why, he sees
nothing but good everywhere, and he always has all that he needs."

"All that he wants, you mean, _chiquita_?"

"No, Padre, not all that he wants. Just all that he needs. You might
want all the gold in the world--but you wouldn't need it."

"No, that would be only a selfish, human want. It would be covetousness.
But--you still think we were led right to the little box, do you?"

"I know it, Padre dear," she replied emphatically. "When we think
good, we see good. It always comes out that way. It is just as sure as
getting the right answers to my problems in algebra when I think right
about them."

"And thinking right about them means using the right rule, does it
not?"

"Yes--of course. If I didn't use the right rule--why, what sort of
answers would I get? All jumbled up!"

"Surely--perfect chaos. But still," vigorously pursuing the subject,
"you don't think we happened upon the little box just by good luck?"

"Padre," she shook her curls insistently, "things never happen,
_never_! We see only what we think--always!"

"Yes, there surely does seem to be a definite law of cause and effect.
But you did not think gold yesterday, _chiquita_."

"Oh, Padre dear, what a bother you are! No, I didn't think gold
yesterday. I never think gold. But I always think _good_. And that is
gold and everything else that we need. Can't you see? And it wasn't
just because I thought good yesterday, but because I think good every
day, that I saw the gold. It was because we needed it, and God had
already given us all that we needed. And I knew that it just _had_ to
come. And so did you. Then, because we really needed it, and knew that
it was right and that it must come--well, it did. Can't you see?" Her
little face was very serious as she looked up appealingly into his.

"Yes, _chiquita_, yes, I see. I just wanted to know how you would
explain it. It becomes clearer to me every day that there are no such
things as miracles--never were! Christ Jesus _never_ performed
miracles, if by that we mean that he set aside God's laws for the
benefit of mankind. But he acted in perfect accord with those
laws--and no wonder the results seemed miraculous to dull-witted human
minds, who had always seen only their coarse, material thought
externalized in material laws and objects, in chance, mixed good and
evil, and a God of human characteristics!"

"Yes--I--guess so, Padre dear--only, I don't understand your big
words."

"Ah, _chiquita_, you understand far, far better than I do! Why, I am
learning it all from you! But come, now for the lessons."

And Josè had learned by this time, too, that between merely
recognizing righteousness as right-thinking, and actually practicing
it--putting it to the test so as to "prove" God--there is a vast
difference. Things cannot be "thought" into existence, nor evils
"thought" away--the stumbling block of the mere tyro in the study of
mental cause and effect. A vast development in spirituality must
precede those "signs following" before mankind shall again do the
works of the Master. Josè knew this; and he bowed in humble
submission, praying for daily light.

                  *       *       *       *       *

At dusk Rosendo returned. "_Bien_, Padre, I have it now, I think!" he
cried excitedly, pacing back and forth in the little room.

"What, Rosendo?" asked the wondering priest.

"The secret of the little box! Come, while we eat I will tell you!"

The little group gathered about the table, while Rosendo unfolded his
theory.

"I went to Boque this morning to talk with Doña Lucia. She is very
aged, the oldest inhabitant in these parts. _Bien_, I knew that she
had known Don Ignacio, although she was not his slave. Her story
brought back to me also the things my father had often told me about
Don Ignacio's last trip to Simití. Putting all these things together,
I think I now know how the little box came to be hidden in the altar
of the old church."

The old man's eyes sparkled with happiness, while his auditors drew
closer about him to drink in his dramatic recital. For Rosendo, like a
true Latin, reveled in a wonder-tale. And his recitals were always
accompanied by profuse gesticulation and wonderful facial expressions
and much rolling of the eyes.

"_Bien_," he continued, "it was this way. Don Ignacio's possessions in
Guamocó were enormous, and in the then prosperous city of Simití he
had stores and warehouses and much property. When the War of
Independence neared its end, and he saw that the Royalist cause was
lost, he made a last and flying trip to Simití, going up the Magdalena
river from Cartagena in his own _champán_, propelled by some of his
still faithful slaves.

"_Bien_, he found that one of his foremen had just returned from the
mountains with the final clean-up from La Libertad _arrastras_. These
had been abandoned, for most of the slaves had deserted, or gone to
fight the Spaniards. But the foreman, who was not a slave, but a
faithful employe, had cleaned up the _arrastras_ and hidden the
amalgam until he could find a favorable opportunity to come down to
Simití with it.

"Now, when Don Ignacio arrived here, he found the town practically
deserted. So he and the foreman retorted the amalgam and melted the
gold into bars. But, just as they had completed their task, a
messenger came flying to town and reported that a body of Royalist
soldiers were at Badillo, and that they had learned that Simití was
the _bodega_ of the rich Guamocó district, and were preparing to come
over and sack the town. They were fleeing down the river to the coast,
to get away to Spain as soon as possible, but had put off at Badillo
to come over here. Fortunately, they had become very intoxicated, and
their expedition was for that reason delayed.

"_Bueno_, at the news the foreman dropped everything and fled for his
life. A few people gathered with the priest in the Rincón church, the
one you are using now, Padre. The priest of the other old church on
the hill fled. _Caramba_, but he was a coward--and he got well paid
for it, too! But of that later.

"Don Ignacio's _champán_ was at Badillo, and he had come across to
Simití by canoe. _Bien_, he dared not take this gold back with him;
and so he thought of hiding it in one of the churches, for that is
always a sacred place. There were people in his own church, and so he
hurried to the one on the hill. Evidently, as he looked about in the
deserted building for a place to hide the bars, he saw that some of
the bricks could easily be removed from the rear of the altar. A
couple of hours sufficed to do the work of secreting the box. Then he
fled across the shales to the town of Boque, where he got a canoe to
take him down to the Magdalena; and there he waited until he saw the
soldiers come across and enter the _caño_. Then he fled to Badillo.
Don Nicolás, son of Doña Lucia, was his boatman, and he says that he
remained with your grandfather at that place over night, and that
there they received the report that the Royalists had been terribly
whipped in the battle--the battle of--_Caramba_! I forget--"

"Of Ayacucho," suggested Josè.

"Just so," resumed Rosendo. "_Bien_, there was nothing for the poor
man to do but hasten down the river to Cartagena as fast as possible,
for he knew not what might have befallen his family. He did not dare
go back to Simití then for the box. And so the gold was left in the
altar."

_"Hombre!"_ exclaimed Josè. "Now I understand what he meant by that
note in his old diary, which we had in my father's house, in Spain! Of
course! Arriving in Cartagena he went at once to the Department of
Mines and tore out all the pages of the register that contained
descriptions of his mineral properties. He intended some day to return
to Guamocó and again locate them. And meantime, he protected himself
by destroying all the registered locations. It was easy for him to do
this, influential as he was in Cartagena. And doubtless at that stormy
time the office of the Department of Mines was deserted. This note,
Rosendo, I have read in his old diary, many times, but never knew to
what it referred."

_"Hombre!"_ ejaculated Rosendo. "_Bueno_, the soldiers sacked Simití
and slaughtered all the people they could find. Then they set fire to
the town, and left. My parents had fled to Guamocó.

"But now for the old church and the picture of the Virgin that was
lost during the terrible storm when the priest fell dead. We will have
to guess that later, when peace had been restored, the priest of the
old church in prying around the altar discovered the loose bricks and
the box behind them. _Bueno_, the night of the awful storm he had gone
secretly to the church to remove the box. I remember that my father
said the priest had arranged for my father to take him down to Bodega
Central the very next day. You see, he was going to flee with the
gold, the rogue! _Bien_, while he was in the church taking out the
loose bricks, that storm broke--and, from what I remember, it was
terrible! The heavens were ablaze with lightning; the thunder roared
like cannon; and the lake rose right out of its bed! _Caramba!_ The
door of the church crashed open, and the wind whistled in and blew out
the candles on the altar. The wind also tore loose a beautiful picture
of the Virgin that was hanging near the altar. The picture was blown
out of its frame and swept off to the hills, or into the lake. It was
never seen again, although the frame was found just outside the door.
Perhaps it was the extinguishing of the candles and the falling of the
picture that frightened the old priest so terribly. At any rate he ran
from the church to his house, and when he reached his door he fell
dead of apoplexy.

"_Bueno_, after that you could never get any of the Simití people to
enter the church again. They closed the doors and left it, just as it
was, for they thought the curse of God had fallen upon it because it
had been erected by the enemies of the Rincón family, whose patron
saint was the blessed Virgin herself. Well, the old altar began to
crumble, and parts of it fell away from time to time. And when the
people heard the bricks falling they said it was the bad angel that
the Virgin had locked in there--the angel of Satan that had
extinguished the candles on the altar that night of the storm.
_Caramba!_ And I believed it, too! I am a fool, Padre, a fool!"

"We are all fools, Rosendo, when we yield ourselves to superstition
and false belief," said Josè solemnly. "But you have worked out a very
ingenious story, and I doubt not you have come very near to accounting
in the right way for the presence of the little box in the altar. But
now, _amigo_, come with me to my house. I would discuss a plan with
you.

"It is this, Rosendo," he said, when they were alone. "We now have
gold, and the way has been providentially opened. Carmen is in great
danger here. What say you, shall we take her and leave Simití?"

Rosendo's face became grave. He did not reply for some moments.

"Padre," he said at length, "you are right. It would be best for her
if we could get her away. But--you would have to leave the country. I
see now that neither she nor you would be safe anywhere in Colombia if
you left Simití."

"True, Rosendo," replied Josè. "And I am sure that no country
offers the asylum that America does--the America of the north. I
have never been there, _amigo_; but of all countries I learn that it
is the most tolerant in matters religious. And it offers the
greatest opportunities to one, like Carmen, just entering upon life.
We will go there. And, Rosendo, prepare yourself and Doña Maria at
once, for we had best start without delay."

But Rosendo shook his head. "No, Padre," he said slowly. "No. I could
not go to the North with you; nor could Maria."

"But, Rosendo!" exclaimed the priest impatiently, "why?"

"_Bien_, Padre, we are old. And we know not the language of those up
there. Nor the customs. We could not adapt ourselves to their ways of
life--no, not at our age. Nor could we endure the change of climate.
You tell me they have cold, ice, snow, up there. What could we do? We
would die. No, we must remain here. But--" his voice choked.

"_Bien_, Padre, do you go, and take the girl. Bring her up to be a
power for good in that great land. We--Maria and I--will remain in
Simití. It is not permitted that we should ever leave. This has always
been our home, and here we will die."

Josè exclaimed again in impatience. But the old man was immovable.

"No, Padre, we could not make so great a change. Anywhere in Colombia
would be but little different from Simití. But up north--in that great
country where they do those wonderful things you have told me
about--no, Padre, Maria and I could not make so great a change.

"But, Padre," he continued, "what will you do--leave the Church? Or
will you still be a priest up there?"

The question startled Josè rudely. In the great joy which the
discovery of the gold had stimulated, and in the thought of the
possibilities opened by it, he had given no heed to his status
respecting the Church. Yet, if he remained in the Church, he could not
make this transfer without the approval of the Vatican. And that, he
well knew, could not be obtained. No, if he went, he must leave behind
all ecclesiastical ties. And with them, doubtless, the ties which
still bound him to his distant mother and the family whose honored
name he bore. It was not so easy a matter to take the girl and leave
Simití, now that he gave the project further consideration.

And yet he could not abandon the idea, however great his present sense
of disappointment. He would cling to it as an ideal, some day to be
realized, and to be worked up to as rapidly as might be, without
exciting suspicion, and without abruptly severing the ties which, on
serious reflection, he found he was not morally strong enough as yet
to break.

"_Bien_, Rosendo," he concluded in chastened tones. "We will think it
over, and try to devise ways to accomplish the greatest good for the
child. I shall remain here for the present."

Rosendo's face beamed with joy. "The way will be shown us some time,
Padre!" he exclaimed. "And while we wait, we will keep our eyes open,
no?"

Yes, Josè would keep his eyes open and his heart receptive. After
all, as he meditated the situation in the quiet of his little cottage
that evening, he was not sorry that circumstances kept him longer in
Simití. For he had long been meditating a plan, and the distraction
incident upon a complete change of environment certainly would delay,
if not entirely defeat, its consummation. He had planned to
translate his Testament anew, in the light of various works on
Bible criticism which the explorer had mentioned, and which the
possession of the newly discovered gold now made attainable. He had
with him his Greek lexicon. He would now, in the freedom from
interruption which Simití could and probably would afford for the
ensuing few months, give himself up to his consecrated desire to
extract from the sacred writings the spiritual meaning crystallized
within them. The vivid experiences which had fallen to him in
Simití had resulted in the evolution of ideas--radically at variance
with the world's materialistic thought, it is true--which he was
learning to look upon as demonstrable truths. The Bible had slowly
taken on a new meaning to him, a meaning far different from that
set forth in the clumsy, awkward phrases and expressions into which
the translators so frequently poured the wine of the spirit, and
which, literally interpreted, have resulted in such violent
controversies, such puerile ideas of God and His thought toward man,
and such religious hatred and bigotry, bloodshed, suffering, and
material stagnation throughout the so-called Christian era. He would
approach the Gospels, not as books of almost undecipherable
mystery, not as the biography of the blessed Virgin, but as
containing the highest human interpretation of truth and its relation
to mankind.

"I seek knowledge," he repeated aloud, as he paced back and forth
through his little living room at night; "but it is not a knowledge
of Goethe, of Kant, or Shakespeare; it is not a knowledge of the
poets, the scientists, the philosophers, all whom the world holds
greatest in the realm of thought; it is a knowledge of Thee, my
God, to know whom is life eternal! Men think they can know Homer,
Plato, Confucius--and so they can. But they think they can _not_
know Thee! And yet Thou art nearer to us than the air we breathe, for
Thou art Life! What is there out in the world among the multifold
interests of mankind that can equal in importance a demonstrable
knowledge of Thee? Not the unproven theories and opinions, the
so-called 'authority' of the ancient Fathers, good men though they
may have been; not modern pseudo-science, half-truths and relative
facts, saturated with materialism and founded on speculation and
hypothesis; but real knowledge, a knowledge of Thee that is as
demonstrable as the simplest rule in mathematics! Alas! that men
should be so mesmerized by their own beliefs as to say Thou canst
not be known. Alas! for the burden which such thinkers as Spencer
have laid upon the shoulders of stumbling mankind. For God _can_ be
known, and proven--else is Jesus responsible for the most cruel lie
ever perpetrated upon the ignorant, suffering world!"

And so, putting aside a portion of his gold--his by right of
inheritance as well as discovery--for the future purchase of such
books and aids as he might require, Josè set his house in order and
then plunged into such a search of the Scriptures as rendered him
oblivious to all but the immediate interests of Carmen and her
foster-parents. The great world again narrowed into the rock-bound
confines of little Simití. Each rushing morn that shot its fiery glow
through the lofty treetops sank quickly into the hush of noon, while
the dust lay thick, white, and hot on the slumbering streets of the
ancient town; each setting sun burned with dreamy radiance through the
afternoon haze that drew its filmy veil across the seething valley;
each night died into a stillness, lonely and awful. Nature changed her
garb with monotonous regularity; the drowsing children of this tropic
region passed their days in dull torpidity; Josè saw nothing of it
all. At times a villager would bring a tale of grievance to pour into
his ears--perhaps a jaguar had pounced upon his dog on his little
_finca_ across the lake, or a huge snake had lured a suckling pig into
its cavernous maw. At times a credulous woman would stop before his
open door to dilate upon the thick worms that hung upon the leaves of
the _algarrobas_ and dropped their wool-like fibers upon the natives
as they passed below, causing intermittent fevers. Perhaps an anxious
mother would seek him for advice regarding her little son, who had
eaten too much dirt, and was suffering from the common "_jipitera_,"
that made his poor little abdomen protrude so uncomfortably. Again,
Rosendo might steal in for a few moments' mysterious, whispered talk
about buried treasure, or the fables of El Dorado and Parimé. Josè had
time for them all, though as he listened his thought hovered ever
about the green verge of Galilee.

By his side worked Carmen, delving assiduously into the mysteries
of mathematics and the modern languages. When the day's work closed
for them both, he often asked her to sing to him. And then, leaning
back with closed eyes, he would yield himself to the soft dreams
which her sweet voice called up from his soul's unfathomed depths.
Often they walked together by the lake on a clear night; and on
these little excursions, during which they were never beyond
Rosendo's watchful eye, Josè reveled in the girl's airy gaiety and
the spontaneous flow of her sparkling thought. He called her his
domestic sunbeam; but in his serious moments--and they were
many--he studied her with a wistful earnestness, while he sought to
imbibe her great trust, her fearlessness, her unswerving loyalty to
the Christ-principle of immanent Good. He would never permit
restraint to be imposed upon her, even by Rosendo or his good wife.
She knew not what it was to be checked in the freest manifestation
of her natural character. But there was little occasion for
restraint, for Carmen dwelt ever in the consciousness of a spiritual
universe, and to it paid faithful tribute. She saw and knew only
from a spiritual basis; and she reaped the rewards incident thereto.
His life and hers were such as fools might label madness, a
colorless, vegetative existence, devoid of even the elemental
things that make mundane existence worth the while. But the
appraisal of fools is their own folly. Josè knew that the torrid
days which drew their monotonous length over the little town were
witnessing a development in both himself and the child that some day
would bear richest fruit. So far from being educated to distrust
spiritual power, as are the children of this world, Carmen was
growing up to know no other. Instead of the preponderance of her
belief and confidence being directed to the material, she was
developing the consciousness that the so-called evidence of the
physical senses is but mortal thought, the suppositional opposite of
the thought of the infinite God who says to mankind: "For I know the
thoughts that I think toward you, thoughts of peace and not of
evil, to give you an expected end." Josè knew that his method of
education was revolutionary. But he also knew that it was not
wholly his; that the child had really taken this course herself,
as if led thereto by a power beyond them both.

And so he watched her, and sought to learn from her as from Christ's
own loving and obedient disciple. It was because of his obedience to
God that Jesus was able to "prove" Him in the mighty works which we
call miracles. He said, "If any man will do His will, he shall know of
the doctrine, whether it be of God." Plain enough, indeed! And Carmen
did do His will; she kept the very first Commandment; she walked by
faith, and not by the sight of the human senses. She had been called
an "_hada_," a witch, by the dull-witted folk of Simití; and some day
it would be told that she had a devil. But the Master had borne the
same ignominy. And so has every pioneer in Truth, who has dared to lay
the axe at the roots of undemonstrable orthodox belief and entrenched
human error.

Josè often trembled for the child when he thought of the probable
reception that awaited her in the world without, in case she ever
left Simití. Would her supreme confidence in good ever be weakened by
an opposite belief in evil? Would her glorious faith ever be
neutralized or counterbalanced by faith in a power opposed to God? He
wondered. And sometimes in the fits of abstraction resulting from
these thoughts, the girl would steal up to him and softly whisper,
"Why, Padre, are you trying to make two and two equal seven?" Then he
would laugh with her, and remember how from her algebraic work she had
looked up one day and exclaimed, "Padre--why, all evil can be reduced
to a common denominator, too--_and it is zero_!"

As recreation from the task of retranslating his Greek Testament, Josè
often read to Carmen portions from the various books of the Bible, or
told her the old sacred stories that children so love to hear. But
Carmen's incisive thought cut deep into them, and Josè generally found
himself hanging upon the naïve interpretations of this young girl.
When, after reading aloud the two opposing accounts of the Creation,
as given in the first and second chapters of Genesis, she asked, "But,
Padre, why did God change His mind after He made people and gave them
dominion over everything?" Josè was obliged to say that God had not
made a mistake, and then gone back afterward to rectify it; that the
account of the Creation, as given in Genesis, was not His, but was a
record of the dawning upon the human thought of the idea of the
spiritual Creation; that the "mist" which went up from the earth was
suppositional error; and that the record of the Creation which follows
after this was only the human mind's interpretation of the real,
spiritual Creation, that Creation which is the ever unfolding of
infinite Mind's numberless, perfect ideas. The book of Genesis has
been a fetish to human minds; and not until the limitations imposed by
its literal interpretation were in a measure removed did the human
mentality begin to rise and expand. And when, reading from Isaiah, the
grandest of the ancient prophets, the ringing words, "Cease ye from
man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be
accounted of?" the child asked him if that did not refer to the very
kind of people with whom they had daily intercourse, he had been
obliged to say that it did, and that that sort of man was far, very
far, from being the man of God's own creating.

"The mist, child, which is mentioned in the second chapter of Genesis,
is said to have gone up from the ground. That is, it went up from
matter. And so it is typical of materialism, from which all evil
comes. The material is the direct opposite of the spiritual. Every bit
of evil that men think they can see, or know, or do, comes as
testimony of the five material senses. These might well be called the
'ground' senses. In the book of Genesis, you will notice that the
account of the real comes first; then follows the account of its
opposite, the unreal man of dust."

"Surely, Padre!" she exclaimed. "The plus sign is followed by a minus
sign, isn't it? And the man made of dust is the real man with a minus
sign before him."

"The man of dust is the human mind's interpretation of the spiritual
man, dear child," returned Josè. "All human beings are interpretations
by the mortal, or human, mind of infinite Mind, God, and His spiritual
Creation. The interpretation is made in the human mind, and remains
there. The human mind does not see these interpretations outside of
itself--it does not see real men, and houses, and trees, outside of
itself--but it sees its mental interpretations of God, which it calls
men, and houses, and trees, and so on. These things are what we might
call _mental concepts_. They are the man and the creation spoken of in
the second chapter of Genesis after the mist went up from matter, from
the ground, from materialism, resulting in the testimony of the
physical senses."

"But, Padre, they are not real--these mental concepts?"

"No. They are illusions. They are formed in mentalities that are
themselves wrong interpretations of the infinite Mentality, called
God. They are formed without any rule or principle. They are made up
of false thoughts, false opinions, beliefs of power opposed to God,
beliefs in evil, in sickness, disaster, loss, and death. They are the
results of educated and inherited and attached beliefs. They are
largely made up of fear-beliefs. The human mentalities see these
various beliefs combined in what it calls men and women, houses,
animals, trees, and so on, all through the material so-called
creation. It is this wrong interpretation that has caused all the
suffering and sorrow in the world. And it is this false stuff that the
good man Jesus finally said he had overcome."

"How did he do it, Padre?"

"By knowing its nothingness, and by knowing the Allness of his Father,
infinite Mind. He called this false stuff a lie about God. And he
overcame that lie by knowing the truth--just as you overcome the
thought that you cannot solve your algebraic problems by knowing the
truth that will and does solve them."

"But, Padre, you said once that Jesus was the best man that ever
lived. Was he just a man?"

"Yes, _chiquita_. That is, the human minds all about him saw their
mental concepts of him as a man. But he was a human concept that most
clearly represented God's idea of Himself. Mortal, human minds are
like window-panes, _chiquita_. When a window-pane is very dirty, very
much covered with matter, only a little light can get through it. Some
human minds are cleaner, less material, than others, and they let more
light through. Jesus was the cleanest mind that was ever with us. He
kept letting more and more light--Truth--through himself, until at
last all the matter, even the matter composing the material concept
that people called his earthly body, dissolved in the strong light,
and the people saw him no more. That is called the Ascension."

"And--Padre, don't we have to do that way, too?" she asked earnestly.

"Just so, _chiquita_. We must, every one of us, do exactly as Jesus
did. We must wash ourselves clean--wash off the dirty beliefs of power
apart from God; we must wash off the beliefs of evil as a power,
created in opposition to Him, or permitted by Him to exist and to use
His children; we must wash off beliefs of matter as real and created
by Him. We must know that matter and all evil, all that decays and
passes away, all discord and disease, everything that comes as
testimony of the five physical senses, is but a part of the lie about
Him, the stuff that has the minus sign before it, making it less than
nothing. We must know that it is the suppositional opposite of the
real--it is an illusion, seeming to exist, yet evaporating when we try
to define it or put a finger on it, for it has no rule or principle by
which it was created and by which it continues to exist. Its existence
is only in human thought."

No, Josè assured himself, the Gospels are not "loose, exaggerated,
inaccurate, credulous narratives." They are the story of the clearest
transparency to truth that was ever known to mortals as a human being.
They preserve the life-giving words of him whose mission it was to
show mankind the way out of error by giving them truth. They contain
the rule given by the great Mathematician, who taught mankind how to
solve their life-problems. They tell the world plainly that there
seems to exist a lie about God; that every real idea of the infinite
Mind seems to have its suppositional opposite in a material illusion.
They tell us plainly that resisting these illusions with truth renders
them nugatory. They tell us clearly that the man Jesus was so filled
with truth that he proved the nothingness of the lie about God by
doing those deeds that seemed marvelous in the eyes of men, and yet
which he said we could and should do ourselves. And we must do them,
if we would throw off the mesmerism of the lie. The human concept of
man and the universe must dissolve in the light of the truth that
comes through us as transparencies. And it were well if we set about
washing away the dirt of materialism, that the light may shine through
more abundantly.

Jesus did not say that his great deeds were accomplished contrary to
law, but that they fulfilled the law of God. The law is spiritual,
never material. Material law is but human limitation. Ignorance of
spiritual law permits the belief in its opposite, material law, or
laws of matter. False, human beliefs, opinions, and theories, material
speculations and superstitions, parade before the human mind as laws.
Jesus swept them all aside by knowing that their supposed power lay
only in human acceptance. The human mind is mesmerized by its own
false thought. Even Paul at times felt its mesmerism and exclaimed:
"I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with
me." The very idea of good stirs up its opposite in the human
consciousness. But Paul rose above it and saw its nothingness. Then
he cried: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made
me free from the law of sin and death." He recognized the spiritual
law that Jesus employed; and with it he overcame the mesmerism of
the lie.

"To be a Christian, then," said Josè, "means not merely taking the
name of Christ, and, while morally opposing sin, succumbing to every
form of mesmerism that the lie about God exerts. No, it is infinitely
more! It means recognizing the nature of God and His Creation,
including Man, to be wholly spiritual--and the nature of the material
creation and mankind as their opposite, as mental concepts, existing
as false interpretations of the spiritual Universe and Man, and as
having their place only in the false human consciousness, which itself
is a mental activity concerned only with false thought, the
suppositional opposite of God's thought. It means taking this Truth,
this spiritual law, as we would take a mathematical rule or principle,
and with it overcoming sin, sickness, discord of every name and
nature, even to death itself. What, oh, what have so-called Christians
been doing these nearly two thousand years, that they have not ere
this worked out their salvation as Jesus directed them to do? Alas!
they have been mesmerized--simply mesmerized by the lie. The
millennium should have come long, long ago. It would come to-day if
the world would obey Jesus. But it will not come until it does obey
him."

Day after day, week after week, month after month, Josè delved and
toiled, studied and pondered. The books which he ordered through the
Empresa Alemania, and for which for some two months he waited in
trembling anticipation and fear lest they be lost in transit, finally
arrived. When Juan brought them up from Bodega Central, Josè could
have wept for joy. Except for the very few letters he had received at
rare intervals, these were the only messages that had penetrated the
isolation of Simití from the outside world in the two long years of
his exile. His starving mind ravenously devoured them. They afforded
his first introduction to that fearlessly critical thought regarding
things religious which has swept across the world like a tidal wave,
and washed away so many of the bulwarks of superstition and ignorance
bred of fear of the unknown and supposedly unknowable.

And yet they were not really his first introduction to that
thought, for, as he pored over these books, his heart expanded
with gratitude to the brusque explorer whom he had met in Cartagena,
that genial, odd medley of blunt honesty, unquibbling candor, and
hatred of dissimulation, whose ridicule of the religious fetishism
of the human mentality tore up the last root of educated orthodox
belief that remained struggling for life in the altered soil of his
mind.

But, though they tore down with ruthless hand, _these books did not
reconstruct_. Josè turned from them with something of disappointment.
He could understand why the trembling heart, searching wearily for
truth, turned always from such as they with sinking hope. They were
violently iconoclastic--they up-rooted--they overthrew--they swept
aside with unsparing hand--but they robbed the starving mortal of his
once cherished beliefs--they snatched the stale and feebly nourishing
bread from his mouth, and gave nothing in return. They emptied his
heart, and left it starving. What did it boot to tell a man that the
orthodox dream of eternal bliss beyond the gates of death was but a
hoax, if no substitute be offered? Why point out the fallacies, the
puerile conceptions, the worse than childish thought expressed in the
religious creeds of men, if they were not to be replaced by
life-sustaining truth? If the demolition of cherished beliefs be not
followed by reconstruction upon a sure foundation of demonstrable
truth, then is the resulting state of mind worse than before, for the
trusting, though deceived, soul has no recourse but to fall into the
agnosticism of despair, or the black atheism of positive negation.

"Happily for me," he sighed, as he closed his books at length, "that
Carmen entered my empty life in time with the truth that she hourly
demonstrates!"



CHAPTER 24


Days melted into weeks, and these in turn into months. Simití, drab
and shabby, a crumbling and abandoned relique of ancient Spanish pride
and arrogance, drowsed undisturbed in the ardent embrace of the
tropical sun. Don Jorge returned, unsuccessful, from his long quest in
the San Lucas mountains, and departed again down the Magdalena river.

"It is a marvelous country up there," he told Josè. "I do not wonder
that it has given rise to legends. I felt myself in a land of
enchantment while I was roaming those quiet mountains. When, after
days of steady traveling, I would chance upon a little group of
natives hidden away in some dense thicket, it seemed to me that they
must be fairies, not real. I came upon the old trail, Padre, the
_Camino Real_, now sunken and overgrown, which the Spaniards used.
They called it the Panamá trail. It used to lead down to Cartagena.
_Hombre_! in places it is now twenty feet deep!"

"But, gold, Don Jorge?"

"Ah, Padre, what quartz veins I saw in that country! _Hombre_! Gold
will be discovered there without measure some day! But--_Caramba_!
This map which Don Carlos gave me is much in error. I must consult
again with him. Then I shall return to Simití." Josè regretfully saw
him depart, for he had grown to love this ruggedly honest soul.

Meantime, Don Mario sulked in his house; nor during the intervening
year would he hold anything more than the most formal intercourse with
the priest. Josè ignored him as far as possible. Events move with
terrible deliberation in these tropic lands, and men's minds are heavy
and lethargic. Josè assumed that Don Mario had failed in the support
upon which he had counted; or else Diego's interest in Carmen was
dormant, perhaps utterly passed. Each succeeding day of quiet
increased his confidence, while he rounded out month after month in
this sequestered vale on the far confines of civilization, and the
girl attained her twelfth year. Moreover, as he noted with marveling,
often incredulous, mental gaze her swift, unhindered progress, the
rapid unfolding of her rich nature, and the increasing development of
a spirituality which seemed to raise her daily farther above the plane
on which he dwelt, he began to regard the uninterrupted culmination of
his plans for her as reasonably assured, if not altogether certain.

Juan continued his frequent trips down to Bodega Central as general
messenger and transportation agent for his fellow-townsmen, meanwhile
adoring Carmen from a distance of respectful decorum. Rosendo and
Lázaro, relaxing somewhat their vigilance over the girl, labored
daily on the little _hacienda_ across the lake. The dull-witted
folk, keeping to their dismally pretentious mud houses during the
pulsing heat of day, and singing their weird, moaning laments in the
quiet which reigned over this maculate hollow at night, followed
undeviatingly the monotonous routine of an existence which had no
other aim than the indulgence of the most primitive material wants.

"Ah, Padre," Rosendo would say of them, "they are so easy! They love
idleness; they like not labor. They fish, they play the guitar, they
gather fruits. They sing and dance--and then die. Padre, it is sad, is
it not?"

Aye, thought the priest, doubly sad in its mute answer to the
heartlessly selfish query of Cain. No one, not even the Church, was
the keeper of these benighted brothers. He alone had constituted
himself their shepherd. And as they learned to love him, to confide
their simple wants and childish hopes to him, he came to realize the
immense ascendency which the priests of Colombia possess over the
simple understanding of the people. An ascendency hereditary and
dominant, capable of utmost good, but expressed in the fettering of
initiative and action, in the suppression of ambition, and the
quenching of every impulse toward independence of thought. How he
longed to lift them up from the drag of their mental encompassment!
Yet how helpless he was to afford them the needed lustration of soul
which alone could accomplish it!

"I can do little more than try to set them a standard of thought,"
he would muse, as he looked out from the altar over the camellia-like
faces of his adult children when he conducted his simple Sunday
services. "I can only strive to point out the better things of
this life--to tell them of the wonders of invention, of art, of
civilization--I can only relate to them tales of romance and
achievement, and beautiful stories--and try to omit in the recital all
reference to the evil methods, aims, and motives which have manifested
in those dark crimes staining the records of history. The world
calls them historical incident and fact. I must call them 'the mist
that went up from the ground and watered the face of the earth.'"

But Josè had progressed during his years in Simití. It had been
hard--only he could know how hard!--to adapt himself to the narrow
environment in which he dwelt. It had been hard to conform to these
odd ways and strange usages. But he now knew that the people's
reserve and shyness at first was due to their natural suspicion of
him. For days, even weeks, he had known that he was being weighed and
watched. And then love triumphed.

It is true, the dull staring of the natives of this unkempt town had
long continued to throw him into fits of prolonged nervousness. They
had not meant to offend, of course. Their curiosity was far from
malicious. But at hardly any hour of the day or night could he look up
from his work without seeing dark, inquisitive faces peering in
through the latticed window or the open door at him, watchful of the
minutest detail of his activity. He had now grown used to that. And he
had grown used to their thoughtless intrusion upon him at any hour. He
had learned, too, not to pale with nausea when, as was their wont of
many centuries, the dwellers in this uncouth town relentlessly pursued
their custom of expectorating upon his floor immediately they entered
and stood before him. He had accustomed himself to the hourly
intrusion of the scavenger pigs and starving dogs in his house. And he
could now endure without aching nerves the awful singing, the maudlin
wails, the thin, piercing, falsetto howls which rose almost nightly
about him in the sacred name of music. For these were children with
whom he dwelt. And he was trying to show them that they were children
of God.

The girl's education was progressing marvelously. Already Josè had
been obliged to supplement his oral instruction with texts purchased
for her from abroad. Her grasp of the English language was his daily
wonder. After two years of study she spoke it readily. She loved it,
and insisted that her conversations with him should be conducted
wholly in it. French and German likewise had been taken up; and her
knowledge of her own Castilian tongue had been enriched by the few
books which he had been able to secure for her from Spain.

Josè's anomalous position in Simití had ceased to cause him worry.
What mattered it, now that he had endeared himself to its people, and
was progressing undisturbed in the training of Carmen? He performed
his religious duties faithfully. His people wanted them. And he, in
turn, knew that upon his observance of them depended his tenure of the
parish.

And he wanted to remain among them, to lead them, if possible, at
least a little way along what he was daily seeing to be the only path
out of the corroding beliefs of the human mind. He knew that his
people's growth would be slow--how slow might not his own be, too! Who
could say how unutterably slow would be their united march heavenward!
And yet, the human mind was expanding with wonderful rapidity in
these last days. What acceleration had it not acquired since that
distant era of the Old Stone Man, when through a hundred thousand
years of darkness the only observable progress was a little greater
skill in the shaping of his crude flint weapons!

To Padre Diego's one or two subsequent curt demands that Carmen be
sent to him, Josè had given no heed. And perhaps Diego, absorbed in
his political activities as the confidential agent of Wenceslas, would
have been content to let his claim upon the child lapse, after many
months of quiet, had not Don Jorge inadvertently set the current of
the man's thought again in her direction.

For Don Jorge was making frequent trips along the Magdalena river. It
was essential to his business to visit the various riverine towns and
to mingle freely with all grades of people, that he might run down
rumors or draw from the inhabitants information which might result in
valuable clues anent buried treasure. Returning one day to Simití from
such a trip, he regaled Josè with the spirited recital of his
experience on a steamboat which had become stranded on a river bar.

"_Bien_," he concluded, "the old tub at last broke loose. Then we saw
that its engines were out of commission; and so the captain let her
drift down to Banco, where we docked. I was forced, not altogether
against my will, to put up with Padre Diego. _Caramba_! The old fox!
But I had much amusement at his expense when I twitted him about his
daughter Carmen, and his silly efforts to get possession of her!"

Josè shook with indignation. "Good heaven, friend!" he cried, "why can
you not let sleeping dogs alone? Diego is not the man to be bearded
like that! Would that you had kept away from the subject! And what did
you say to him about the girl?"

"_Caramba_, man! I only told him how beautiful she was, and how large
for her few years. _Bien_, I think I said she was the most beautiful
and well-formed girl I had ever seen. But was there anything wrong in
telling the truth, _amigo_?"

"No," replied Josè bitterly, as he turned away; "you meant no harm.
But, knowing the man's brutal nature, and his assumed claim on the
girl, why could you not have foreseen possible misfortune to her in
dwelling thus on her physical beauty? _Hombre_, it is too bad!"

"_Na_, _amigo_," said Don Jorge soothingly, "nothing can come of it.
Bien, you take things so hard!" But when Don Jorge again set out for
the mountains he left the priest's heart filled with apprehension.

A few weeks later came what Josè had been awaiting, another demand
upon him for the girl. Failure to comply with it, said Diego's letter,
meant the placing of the case in the hands of the civil and
ecclesiastical authorities for action.

Rosendo's face grew hard when he read the note. "There is a way,
Padre. Let my woman take the girl and go up the Boque river to Rosa
Maria, the clearing of Don Nicolás. It is a wild region, where tapirs
and deer roam, and where hardly a man has set foot for centuries. The
people of Boque will keep our secret, and she can remain hidden there
until--"

"No, Rosendo, that will not do," replied Josè, shaking his head in
perplexity. "The girl is developing rapidly, and such a course would
result in a mental check that might spell infinite harm. She and Doña
Maria would die to live by themselves up there in that lonely region.
What about her studies? And--what would I do?"

"Then do you go too, Padre," suggested Rosendo.

"No, _amigo_, for that would cause search to be instituted by the
Bishop, and we certainly would be discovered. But, to take her
and flee the country--and the Church--how can I yet? No, it is
impossible!" He shook his head dolefully, while his thoughts flew
back to Seville and the proud mother there.

"_Bien_, Padre, let us increase our contributions to Don Wenceslas.
Let us send him from now on not less than one hundred _pesos oro_ each
month. Will not that keep him quiet, no matter what Diego says?"

"Possibly," assented Josè. "At any rate, we will try it." They still
had some three thousand _pesos_ gold left.

                  *       *       *       *       *

"Padre," said Rosendo, some days later, as they sat together in the
parish house, "what do you think Diego wants of the girl?"

Josè hesitated. "I think, Rosendo--" he began. But could even a human
mind touch such depths of depravity? And yet--"I think," he continued
slowly, "that Diego, having seen her, and now speculating on her
future beauty of face and form--I think he means to place her in a
convent, with the view of holding her as a ready substitute for the
woman who now lives with him--"

"_Dios_! And that is my own daughter!" cried Rosendo, springing up.

"Yes--true, Rosendo. And, if I mistake not, Diego also would like to
repay the score he has against you, for driving him from Simití and
holding the threat of death over him these many years. He can most
readily do this by getting Carmen away from you--as he did the other
daughter, is it not so?"

Rosendo came and stood before the priest. His face was strained with
fearful anxiety. "Padre," he said in a low voice, "I shall end this
matter at once. I go to Banco to-morrow to kill Diego."

"You shall do nothing of the kind!" cried Josè, seizing his
hand. "Why--Rosendo, it would mean your own death, or lifelong
imprisonment!"

"And what of that, Padre?" said the old man with awful calmness. "I
have nothing that is not hers, even to my life. Gladly would I give it
for her. Let me die, or spend my remaining days in the prison, if that
will save her. Such a price for her safety would be low."

While he was speaking, Fernando, the town constable, entered. He
saluted the men gravely, and drew from his pocket a document to which
was attached the Alcalde's official seal.

"Señores," he said with much dignity, as if the majesty of his little
office weighed upon him, "I am commanded by Señor, the Alcalde, to
exercise the authority reposing in him and place Don Rosendo Ariza
under arrest. You will at once accompany me to the _cárcel_," he
added, going up to the astonished Rosendo and laying a hand upon his
shoulder.

"Arrest! Me! _Hombre_! what have I done?" cried the old man, stepping
back.

"_Bien_, _amigo_, I do not find it my duty to tell you. The Señor
Alcalde hands me the document and commands me to execute it. As for
the cause--_Bien_, you must ask him."

"Come," said Josè, the first to recover from his astonishment, "let us
go to him at once." He at any rate had now an opportunity to confront
Don Mario and learn what plans the man had been devising these many
months.

The Alcalde received the men in his little _patio_, scowling and
menacing. He offered them no greeting when they confronted him.

"Don Mario," asked Josè in a trembling voice, "why have you put this
indignity upon our friend, Rosendo? Who orders his arrest?"

"Ask, rather, _Señor Padre_," replied the Alcalde, full of wrath,
"what alone saves you from the same indignity. Only that you are a
priest, _Señor Padre_, _nada más_! His arrest is ordered by Padre
Diego."

"And why, if I may beg the favor?" pursued Josè, though he well knew
the sordid motive.

"Why? _Caramba_! Why lay the hands of the law upon those who deprive a
suffering father of his child! _Bien_, _Fernando_," turning to the
constable, "you have done well. Take your prisoner to the _cárcel_."

"No!" cried Rosendo, drawing back. "No, Don Mario, I will not go to
the jail! I will--"

"_Caramba!_" shouted the Alcalde, his face purple. "I set your trial
for to-morrow, in the early morning. But this night you will spend in
the jail! _Hombre!_ I will see if I am not Alcalde here! And look you,
_Señor Padre_, if there is any disturbance, I will send for the
government soldiers! Then they will take Rosendo to the prison in
Cartagena! And that finishes him!"

Josè knew that, if Diego had the support of the Bishop, this was no
idle threat. Rosendo turned to him in helpless appeal. "What shall I
do, Padre?" he asked.

"It is best that you go to the jail to-night, Rosendo," said Josè with
sinking heart. "But, Don Mario," turning menacingly to the Alcalde,
"mark you, his trial takes place in the morning, and he shall be
judged, not by you alone, but by his fellow-townsmen!"

"Have I not said so, señor?" returned Don Mario curtly, with a note of
deep contempt in his voice.

As in most small Spanish towns, the jail was a rude adobe hut, with no
furnishings, save the wooden stocks into which the feet of the hapless
prisoners were secured. Thus confined, the luckless wight who chanced
to feel the law's heavy hand might sit in a torturing position for
days, cruelly tormented at night by ravenous mosquitoes, and wholly
dependent upon the charity of the townsfolk for his daily rations,
unless he have friends or family to supply his needs. In the present
instance Don Mario took the extra precaution of setting a guard over
his important prisoner.

Josè, benumbed by the shock and bewildered by the sudden precipitation
of events, accompanied Rosendo to the jail and mutely watched the
procedure as Fernando secured the old man's bare feet in the rude
stocks. And yet, despite the situation, he could not repress a sense
of the ridiculous, as his thought dwelt momentarily on the little
_opéra bouffe_ which these child-like people were so continually
enacting in their attempts at self-government. But it was a play that
at times approached dangerously near to the tragic. The passions of
this Latin offshoot were strong, if their minds were dull and
lethargic, and when aroused were capable of the most despicable, as
well as the most grandly heroic deeds. And in the present instance,
when the fleeting sense of the absurd passed, Josè knew that he was
facing a crisis. Something told him that resistance now would be
useless. True, Rosendo might have opposed arrest with violence, and
perhaps have escaped. But that would have accomplished nothing for
Carmen, the pivot upon which events were turning. Josè had reasoned
that it were better to let the Alcalde play his hand first, in the
small hope that as the cards fell he might more than match his
opponent's strength with his own.

"_Na_, Padre, do not worry," said Rosendo reassuringly. "It is for her
sake; and we shall have to know, as she does, that everything will
come out right. My friends will set me free to-morrow, when the trial
takes place. And then"--he drew the priest down to him and whispered
low--"we will leave Simití and take to the mountains."

Josè bent his heavy steps homeward. Arriving at Rosendo's house, he
saw the little living room crowded with sympathetic friends who had
come to condole with Doña Maria. That placid woman, however, had not
lost in any degree her wonted calm, even though her companions held
forth with much impassioned declamation against the indignity which
had been heaped upon her worthy consort. He looked about for Carmen.
She was not with her foster-mother, nor did his inquiry reveal her
whereabouts. He smiled sadly, as he thought of her out on the shales,
her customary refuge when storms broke. He started in search of her;
but as he passed through the _plaza_ Mañuela Cortez met him. "Padre,"
she exclaimed, "is the little Carmen to go to jail, too?"

Josè stopped short. "Mañuela--why do you say that?" he asked
hurriedly, his heart starting to beat like a trip-hammer.

"Because, Padre, I saw the constable, Fernando, take her into Don
Mario's house some time ago."

Josè uttered an exclamation and started for the house of the Alcalde.
Don Mario stood at the door, his huge bulk denying the priest
admission.

"Don Mario!" panted Josè. "Carmen--you have her here?"

Fernando, who had been sitting just within the door, rose and came to
his chief's side. Josè felt his brain whirling. Fernando stepped
outside and took his arm. The Alcalde's unlovely face expanded in a
sinister leer. "It is permissible to place even a priest in the
stocks, if he becomes _loco_," he said significantly.

Josè tightened his grip upon himself. Fernando spoke quickly:

"It was necessary to take the girl in custody, too, Padre. But do not
worry; she is safe."

"But--you have no right to take her--"

"There, _Señor Padre_, calm yourself. What right had you to separate
her from her father?"

"Diego is not her father! He lies! And, Don Mario, you have no
authority but his--"

"You mistake, _Señor Padre_," calmly interrupted the Alcalde. "I have
a much higher authority."

Josè stared dully at him. "Whose, then?" he muttered, scarce hearing
his own words.

"The Bishop's, _Señor Padre_," answered Don Mario, with a cruel grin.

"The Bishop! But--the old man--"

"_Na_, _Señor Padre_, but the Bishop is fairly young, you know. That
is, the new one--"

"The new one!" cried the uncomprehending Josè.

"To be sure, _Señor Padre_, the new Bishop--formerly Señor Don
Wenceslas Ortiz."

Josè beat the air feebly as his hand sought his damp brow. His
confused brain became suddenly stagnant.

"_Bien_, _Señor Padre_," put in Fernando gently, pitying the priest's
agony. "You had not heard the news. Don Mario received letters to-day.
The old Bishop of Cartagena died suddenly some days ago, and Don
Wenceslas at once received the temporary appointment, until the
vacancy can be permanently filled. There is talk of making Cartagena
an archbishopric, and so a new bishop will not be appointed until that
question is settled. Meanwhile, Don Wenceslas administers the affairs
of the Church there."

"And he--he--" stammered the stunned priest.

"To be sure, _Señor Padre_," interrupted Don Mario, laughing aloud;
"the good Don Wenceslas no doubt has learned of the beautiful Carmen,
and he cannot permit her to waste her loveliness in so dreary a place
as Simití. And so he summons her to Cartagena, in care of his agent,
Padre Diego, who awaits the girl now in Banco to conduct her safely
down the river. At least, this is what Padre Diego writes me. _Bien_,
it is the making of the girl, to be so favored by His Grace!"

Josè staggered and would have fallen, had not Fernando supported him.
Don Mario turned into his house. But as he went he spitefully hurled
back:

"_Bien_, _Señor Padre_, whom have you to blame but yourself? You keep
a child from her suffering father--you give all your time to her,
neglecting the other poor children of your parish--you send Rosendo
into the mountains to search for La Libertad--you break your
agreement with me, for you long ago said that we should work
together--is it not so? You find gold in the mountains, but you do
not tell me. _Na_, you work against me--you oppose my authority as
Alcalde--_Bien_, you opposed even the authority of the good
Bishop--may he rest with the Saints! You have not made a good priest
for Simití, _Señor Padre_--_na_, you have made a very bad one! And
now you wonder that the good Don Wenceslas takes the girl from you,
to bring her up in the right way. _Caramba_! if it is not already too
late to save her from your bad teachings!" His voice steadily rose
while he talked, and ended in a shrill pipe.

Josè made as if to reach him; but Fernando held him back. The Alcalde
got quickly within the house and secured the door. "Go now to your
home, Padre," urged Fernando; "else I shall call help and put you in
the stocks, too!"

"But I will enter that house! I will take the child from him!" shouted
Josè desperately, struggling to gain the Alcalde's door.

"Listen to me, Padre!" cried Fernando, holding to the frenzied man.
"The little Carmen--she is not in there!"

"Not--in--there! Then where is she, Fernando?--for God's sake tell
me!" appealed the stricken priest. Great beads of perspiration stood
upon his face, and tears rolled down his drawn cheeks.

Fernando could not but pity him. "_Bien_, Padre," he said gently;
"come away. I give you my word that the girl is not in the house of
the Alcalde. But I am not permitted to say where she is."

"Then I will search every house in Simití!" cried the priest wildly.

"_Na_, Padre, you would not find her. Come, I will go home with you."
He took Josè's arm again and led him, blindly stumbling, to the parish
house.

By this time the little town was agog with excitement. People ran from
house to house, or gathered on the street corners, discussing the
event.

"_Caramba!_" shrilled one wrinkled beldame, "but Simití was very quiet
until the _Cura_ came!"

"_Na_, señora," cried another, "say, rather, until that wicked little
hada was brought here by Rosendo!"

"_Cierto_, she is an _hada_!" put in a third; "she cured Juanita of
goitre by her charms! I saw it!"

"_Caramba_! she works with the evil one. I myself saw her come from
the old church on the hill one day! _Bien_, what was she doing? I say,
she was talking with the bad angel which the blessed Virgin has locked
in there!"

"Yes, and I have seen her coming from the cemetery. She talks with the
buzzards that roost on the old wall, and they are full of evil
spirits!"

"And she brought the plague two years ago--who knows?" piped another
excitedly.

"_Quien sabe_? But it was not the real plague, anyway."

"_Bueno_, and that proves that she caused it, no?"

"_Cierto_, _señora_, she cast a spell on the town!"

Josè sat in his little house like one in a dream. Fernando remained
with him. Doña Maria had gone to the jail to see Rosendo. Juan had
returned that morning to Bodega Central, and Lázaro was at work on the
plantation across the lake. Josè thought bitterly that the time had
been singularly well chosen for the _coup_. Don Mario's last words
burned through his tired brain like live coals. In a sense the Alcalde
was right. He had been selfishly absorbed in the girl. But he alone,
excepting Rosendo, had any adequate appreciation of the girl's real
nature. To the stagnant wits of Simití she was one of them, but with
singular characteristics which caused the more superstitious and less
intelligent to look upon her as an uncanny creature, possessed of
occult powers.

Moreover, Josè had duped Don Mario with assurances of coöperation. He
had allowed him to believe that Rosendo was searching for La Libertad,
and that he should participate in the discovery, if made. Had his
course been wholly wise, after all? He could not say that it had.

But--God above! it was all to save an innocent child from the blackest
of fates! If he had been stronger himself, this never could have
happened. Or, perhaps, if he had not allowed himself to be lulled to
sleep by a fancied security bred of those long months of quiet, he
might have been awake and alert to meet the enemy when he returned to
the attack. Alas! the devil had left him for a season, and Josè had
laid down "the shield of faith," while he lost himself in the
intellectual content which the study of the new books purchased with
his ancestral gold had afforded. But evil sleeps not; and with a
persistency that were admirable in a better cause, it returned with
unbated vigor at the moment the priest was off his guard.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Dawn broke upon a sleepless night for Josè. The Alcalde had sent word
that Fernando must remain with the priest, and that no visits would be
permitted to Rosendo in the jail. Josè had heard nothing from Carmen,
and, though often during the long night he sought to know, as she
would, that God's protection rested upon her; and though he sought
feebly to prove the immanence of good by knowing no evil, the morning
found him drawn and haggard, with corroding fear gnawing his desolate
heart. Fernando remained mute; and Doña Maria could only learn that
the constable had been seen leading the girl into Don Mario's house
shortly after Rosendo's arrest.

At an early hour the people, buzzing with excitement, assembled for
the trial, which was held in the town hall, a long, empty adobe house
of but a single room, with dirt floor, and a few rough benches. The
Alcalde occupied a broken chair at one end of the room. The trial
itself was of the simplest order: any person might voice his opinion;
and the final verdict was left to the people.

In a shaking voice, his frame tremulous with nervous agitation,
Rosendo recounted the birth of the child at Badillo, and the manner of
her coming into his family. He told of Diego's appointment to Simití,
and of the loss of his own daughter. Waxing more and more energetic as
his recital drew out, he denounced Diego as the prince of liars, and
as worthy of the violent end which he was certain to meet if ever that
renegade priest should venture near enough for him to lay his hands
upon him. The little locket was produced, and all present commented on
the probable identity of the girl's parents. Many affected to detect a
resemblance to Diego in the blurred photograph of the man. Others
scouted the idea. Don Mario swore loudly that it could be no other.
Diego had often talked to him, sorrowfully, and in terms of deepest
affection, about the beautiful woman whose love he had won, but whom
his vows of celibacy prevented from making his lawful wife. The
Alcalde's recital was dramatic to a degree, and at its close several
excitedly attempted to address the multitude at the same time.

Oratory flowed on an ever rising tide, accompanied by much violent
gesticulation and expectoration by way of emphasis. At length it was
agreed that Diego had been, in times past, a bad man, but that the
verbal proofs which he had given the Alcalde were undoubtedly valid,
inasmuch as the Bishop stood behind them--and Don Mario assured the
people that they were most certainly vouched for by His Grace. The day
was almost carried when the eloquent Alcalde, in glowing rhetoric,
painted the splendid future awaiting the girl, under the patronage of
the Bishop. How cruel to retain her in dreary little Simití, even
though Diego's claim still remained somewhat obscure, when His Grace,
learning of her talents, had summoned her to Cartagena to be educated
in the convent for a glorious future of service to God! Ah, that a
like beautiful career awaited all the children of Simití!

Josè at length forced himself before the people and begged them to
listen to him. But, when he opened his mouth, the words stumbled and
halted. For what had he to say? To tell these people that he was
striving to educate the girl away from them was impossible. To say
that he was trying to save her from the Church would be fatal. And to
reiterate that Diego's claim was a fabrication, added nothing of value
to the evidence, for what did he know of the child's parentage? He
feebly begged them to wait until Diego's claim had been either
corroborated or annulled. But no; they had the Bishop's corroboration,
and that sufficed. "And, _Caramba_!" cried Don Mario, interrupting the
priest in a loud voice, "if we oppose the Bishop, then will he send
the government soldiers to us--and you know what--"

"_Cielo_, yes!" came from the multitude in one voice.

Josè sank down thoroughly beaten. His hands were tied. The case now
rested with her God.

The people drew apart in little groups to discuss the matter. Don
Mario's beady eyes searched them, until he was certain of the way the
tide was flowing. Then he rose and called for order.

"_Bueno_, _amigos y amigas_," he began with immense dignity; "what say
you if we sum up the case as follows: The proofs have the support of
the Bishop, and show that the girl is the daughter of Padre Diego.
Rosendo is guilty of having kept her from her own father, and for that
he should be severely punished. Let him be confined in the jail for
six months, and be forced to pay to us a fine of one thousand _pesos
oro_--"

"_Caramba_! but he has no such sum," cried the people with mouths
agape.

"_Bien_, I say he can get it!" retorted the Alcalde, looking meaningly
at Josè. "And he should pay it for depriving the child of a father's
love and the religious instruction which he would have given her!"

Josè jumped to his feet. "Friends!" he cried, playing his last card.
"Will you not remember that more than that amount is due Rosendo for
the care of the child? Who will repay him?"

The whimsical, fickle people broke into excited exclamations.

"_Cierto!_"

"The _Cura_ is right!"

"Let Rosendo pay no fine--he has no gold, anyway!"

"Cut down the sentence, Don Mario. We do not like this!"

The Alcalde saw that he had gone a bit too far. "_Bueno_, then," he
amended. "We will cancel both the fine and Padre Diego's debt to
Rosendo, and the sentence shall be reduced to--what say you all?"

"A month in the jail, Don Mario, no more," suggested one.

An exclamation of approval from the crowd drowned the protest which
Josè sought vainly to voice. Rosendo rose quickly; but Fernando and
others seized him.

"_Bien_, it is approved," bawled the Alcalde, waving his thick arms.
"Take the prisoner to the _cárcel_, _Señor Policía_," turning to the
constable.

"And the girl, Señor the Alcalde--when will you send her to her
father?" called some one.

"Yes, Don Mario, she must be taken to Padre Diego at once," piped a
woman's shrill voice.

"_Bien_," shouted the Alcalde, following his words with a long, coarse
laugh, "I was wise enough to know what you would decide, and sent the
girl down the river last night!"



CHAPTER 25


The candles and smoky oil lamps of Banco threw a fitful shimmer out
upon the great river, casting huge, spectral shadows across its muddy,
swirling waters, and seeming rather to intensify the blackness that
lay thick and menacing upon its restless bosom. Rivermen who follow
their hazardous calling along the Magdalena do not lightly risk the
dangers of travel by night in their native canoes, when at any moment
a false stroke, a sudden crash against a tossing forest tree, and a
cry through the inky blackness, might sound to the straining ears of
hushed listeners on the distant banks the elements of another of the
mighty river's grim nocturnal tragedies.

But on the night following the trial of Rosendo in distant Simití a
canoe stole like a thing ashamed through the heavy shadows along the
river's margin, and poked its blunt nose into the ooze at the upper
edge of the town. Its two scantily clad _bogas_, steaming with
perspiration and flecked with mud from the charged waters, sprang
lightly from the frail craft and quickly made it fast to one of the
long stilts upon which a ramshackle frame house rested. Then they
assisted the third occupant of the canoe, a girl, to alight; and
together they wended their way up the slippery bank and toward the
town above.

"_Caramba_, _compadre_!" ejaculated one of the men, stumbling into a
deep rut, "it is well you know where we go. _Hombre_! but I travel no
more on the river by night. And, _compadre_, we had best ask Padre
Diego to offer a candle to the Virgin for our safe arrival, no?"

The other man chuckled. "To be sure, friend Julio. Don Diego has much
influence with virgins."

"_Hombre_! I like not his dirty work."

"_Bien, amigo_, what would you? You are well paid; and besides, you
score against that baby-faced priest, Josè, who drove you out of
Simití because you were not married to your woman. You cannot
complain, _compadre_."

"_Caramba!_ I have yet to see the color of the _pesos_. I do not much
trust your Padre Diego."

"_Na, amigo_, a bit of rum will put new life into your soaked gizzard.
_Cierto_, this trip down the river was a taste of purgatory; but you
know we may as well get used to it here, for when we _pobres_ are dead
who will buy Masses to get us out?"

"_Caramba!_" muttered the other sullenly, as he stumbled on through
the darkness, "but if we have no money the priests will let us burn
forever!"

The girl went along with the men silently and without complaint, even
when her bare feet slipped into the deep ruts in the trail, or were
painfully bruised and cut by the sharp stones and bits of wood that
lay in the narrow path. Once she fell. The man addressed as Julio
assisted her to her feet. The other broke into a torrent of profane
abuse.

"_Na, Ricardo,_" interrupted Julio, "hold your foolish tongue and let
the girl alone! You and I have cursed all the way from Simití, but she
has made no complaint. She shames me. _Caramba_, I wish I were well
out of this business!"

A few minutes later they struck one of the main thoroughfares. Then
the men stopped to draw on their cotton shirts and trousers before
entering the town. The road was better here, and they made rapid
progress. The night was far spent, and the streets were deserted. In
the main portion of the town ancient Spanish lamps, hanging
uncertainly in their sconces against old colonial houses, threw a
feeble light into the darkness. Before one of the better of these
houses Julio and the girl were halted by their companion.

"_Bien_," he said, "it is here that the holy servant of God lives.
_Caramba_, but may his _garrafón_ be full!"

They entered the open door and mounted the stone steps. On the floor
above they paused in the rotunda, and Ricardo called loudly. A side
door opened and a young woman appeared, holding a lighted candle
aloft. Ricardo greeted her courteously. "_El Señor Padre, señorita
Ana?_" he said, bowing low. "You will do us the favor to announce our
arrival, no?"

The woman stared uncomprehendingly at the odd trio. "The Padre is not
here," she finally said.

"_Dios y diablo!_" cried Ricardo, forgetting his courtesy. "But we
have risked our skins to bring him the brat, and he not here to
receive and reward us! _Caramba!_"

"But--Ricardo, he is out with friends to-night--he may return at any
moment. Who is the girl? And why do you bring her here?" She stepped
forward, holding the candle so that its light fell full upon her face.
As she did this the girl darted toward her and threw herself into the
woman's arms.

"Anita!" she cried, her voice breaking with emotion, "Anita--I am
Carmen! Do you not know me?"

The woman fell back in astonishment. "Carmen! What! The little Carmen,
my father's--"

"Yes, Anita, I am padre Rosendo's Carmen--and yours!"

Ana clasped the girl in her arms. "_Santa Maria_, child! What brings
you here, of all places?"

Ricardo stepped forward to explain. "As you may see, señorita, it is
we who have brought her here, at the command of her father, Padre
Diego."

"Her father!"

"Yes, señorita. And, since you say he is not in, we must wait until he
returns."

The woman stood speechless with amazement. Carmen clung to her, while
Ricardo stood looking at them, with a foolish leer on his face. Julio
drew back into the shadow of the wall.

"_Bien, señorita_," said Ricardo, stepping up to the child and
attempting to take her arm, "we will be held to account for the girl,
and we must not lose her. _Caramba!_ For then would the good Padre
damn us forever!"

Carmen shrank away from him. Julio emerged swiftly from the shadow and
laid a restraining hand on Ricardo. The woman tore Carmen from his
grasp and thrust the girl behind herself. "_Cierto_, friend Ricardo,
we are all responsible for her," she said quickly. "But you are tired
and hungry--is it not so? Let me take you to the _cocina_, where you
will find roast pig and a bit of red rum."

"Rum!" The man's eyes dilated. "_Caramba!_ my throat is like the ashes
of purgatory!"

"Come, then," said the woman, holding Carmen tightly by the hand and
leading the way down the steps to the kitchen below. Arriving there,
she lighted an oil lamp and hurriedly set out food and a large
_garrafón_ of Jamaica rum.

"There, _compadre_, is a part of your reward. And we will now wait
until Padre Diego arrives, is it not so?"

While the men ate and drank voraciously, interpolating their actions
at frequent intervals with bits of vivid comment on their river trip,
the woman cast many anxious glances toward the steps leading to the
floor above. From time to time she replenished Ricardo's glass, and
urged him to drink. The man needed no invitation. Physical exhaustion
and short rations while on the river had prepared him for just what
the woman most desired to accomplish, and as glass after glass of the
fiery liquor burned its way down his throat, she saw his scant wit
fading, until at last it deserted him completely, and he sank into a
drunken torpor. Then, motioning to Julio, who had consumed less of the
rum, she seized the senseless Ricardo by the feet, and together they
dragged him out into the _patio_ and threw him under a _platano_
tree.

"But, señorita--" began Julio in remonstrance, as thoughts of Diego's
wrath filtered through his befuddled brain.

"Not a word, _hombre_!" she commanded, turning upon him. "If you lay a
hand upon this child my knife shall find your heart!"

"But--my pay?"

"How much did Padre Diego say he would give you?" she demanded.

"Three _pesos oro_--and rations," replied the man thickly.

"Wait here, then, and I will bring you the money."

Still retaining Carmen's hand, she mounted the steps, listening
cautiously for the tread of her master. Reaching the rotunda above,
she drew Carmen into the room from which she had emerged before, and,
bidding her conceal herself if Diego should arrive, took her wallet
and hastily descended to where the weaving Julio waited.

"There, _amigo_," she said hurriedly, handing him the money. "Now do
you go--at once! And do not remain in Banco, or Padre Diego will
surely make you trouble. Your life is not safe here now. Go!" She
pointed to the door; and Julio, impressed with a sense of his danger,
lost no time in making his exit.

Returning to Carmen, the woman seated herself and drew the girl to
her. "Carmen, child!" she cried, trembling, as her eyes searched the
girl. "Tell me why you are here!"

"I do not know, Anita dear," murmured the girl, nestling close to the
woman and twining an arm about her neck; "except that day before
yesterday the Alcalde put padre Rosendo into the jail--"

"Into the jail!"

"Yes, Anita dear. And then, when I was going to see him, Fernando ran
out of Don Mario's house and told me I must go in and see the Alcalde.
Julio Gomez and this man Ricardo were there talking with Don Mario in
the _patio_. Then they threw a _ruana_ over me and carried me out
through the _patio_ and around by the old church to the Boque trail.
When we got to the trail they made me walk with them to the Inanea
river, where they put me into a canoe. They paddled fast, down to the
Boque river; then to the Magdalena; and down here to Banco. They did
not stop at all, except when steamboats went by--oh, Anita, I never
saw a steamboat before! What big, noisy things they are! But Padre
Josè had often told me about them. And when the big boats passed us
they made me lie down in the canoe, and they put the _ruana_ over me
and told me if I made any noise they would throw me into the river.
But I knew if I just kept still and knew--really _knew_--that God
would take care of me, why, He would. And, you see, He did, for He
brought me to you." A tired sigh escaped her lips as she laid her head
on the woman's shoulder.

"But--oh, _Santa Maria_!" moaned the woman, "you are not safe here!
What can I do?--what can I do?"

"Well, Anita dear, you can know that God is here, can't you? I knew
that all the way down the river. And, oh, I am so glad to see you!
Why, just think, it is eight years since you used to play with me! And
now we will go back to Simití, will we not, Anita?"

"Pray to the Virgin to help us, child! You may have influence with
her--I have none, for my soul is lost!"

"Why, Anita dear, that is not true! You and I are both God's children,
and He is right here with us. All we have to do is to know it--just
really _know_ it."

"But, tell me, quick--Diego may be here any moment--why did he send
Ricardo for you?"

The girl became very serious. "Anita dear, Padre Diego says I am his
child."

"What!"

"Yes--his daughter--that he is my father. But--is it really so,
Anita?"

"_Madre de Dios!_" cried the woman. "What a beast!--what a beast! He
saw you in Simití when he was last there--and you are now a
beautiful--No, child, you are not his daughter! The wretch lies--he is
a sink of lies! He is rotten with sin! Oh, _Dios_!"

"Why, no, Anita dear, he is not a beast--we must love him, for he is
God's child, too," said Carmen, patting the woman's wet cheek with her
soft hand.

"He!--God's child!" She broke into a shrill of laughter. "_Carita_, he
is Satan himself! You do not know him!"

"I don't mean that what you think you see is God's child, Anita dear;
but that what you think you see stands for God's child, and isn't
real. And if we know that, why, we will see the real child of God--the
real man--and not what you call a beast."

Ana apparently did not hear. Her thought was with the future. Carmen
looked about the room. "Oh, Anita," she exclaimed, "what a beautiful
place, and what beautiful things you have!" She rubbed the tile floor
with her bare foot. "Why, Anita dear, it is just like the palaces
Padre Josè has told me about!" She walked around the room, touching
the various toilet articles on the dresser, passing her hands
carefully over the upholstered chairs, and uttering exclamations of
wonder and delight. "Anita--Anita dear! Why, it is a palace! Oh! oh!
oh!"

The woman looked up with a wan smile. "_Chiquita_, they are nothing.
They are all cheap trinkets--nothing compared with what there is in
the big world beyond us. You poor dear, you have lived all your life
in miserable little Simití, and you haven't the slightest idea of what
there is in the world!"

"But, Anita dear, Simití is beautiful," the girl protested.

"Beautiful!" The woman laughed aloud. "My dear, simple little girl!
You have seen only this poor room, and you think it wonderful. I have
been to Barranquilla and Cartagena with Padre Diego, and have seen
houses a thousand times more beautiful than this. And yet, even those
are nothing to what there is in the world outside."

Carmen went to the bed and passed her hand over the white counterpane.
"Anita--why, is this--is this your--"

"Yes, _chiquita_, it is my bed. You have never seen a real bed, poor
little thing."

"But--" the child's eyes were wide with wonder--"it is so soft--you
sink way into it--oh, so soft--like the heron's feathers! I didn't
sleep at all in the canoe--and I am so tired."

"You blessed lamb!" cried the woman, springing up and clasping the
girl in her arms. "But--what can I do? When he returns, he may come
right up here! _Santa Maria_, help me!--what shall I do?"

"Anita--let me sleep in your bed--it is so soft--but--" looking down
dubiously at her muddy feet.

"Never mind them, child." The woman's face had set in grim determination.
She went to the dresser and took out a small stiletto, which she
quickly concealed in the bosom of her dress. "Get right in, just as you
are! I will take care of Diego, if he comes! _Santa Maria_, I will--"

"Anita dear," murmured the girl, sinking down between the white
sheets, "you and I will just _know_ that God is everywhere, and
that He will take care of us, and of Padre Diego too." With a sigh
of contentment the child closed her eyes. "Anita dear," she
whispered softly, "wasn't He good to bring me right to you? And
to-morrow we will go back to Simití--and to padre Rosendo--and Padre
Josè--and--and Cantar-las-horas--you haven't seen him for such a long
time--such a long--long--Anita dear, I--love--you--"

The child dropped asleep, just as a heavy step fell outside the door.
Ana sprang up and extinguished the lamp, then went quickly out into
the rotunda. Padre Diego was standing on the top step, puffing and
weaving unsteadily. The woman hurried to him and passed an arm about
his waist.

"Oh!" she exclaimed in a tone of feigned solicitation. "I feared you
had met with an accident! My heart beats like the patter of rain! Why
do you stay out so late and cause me worry?"

The bloated face of the man leered like a Jack-o'-lantern. "Spiritual
retreat, my love--spiritual retreat," he muttered thickly. "Imbibing
the spirits, you know." He laughed heavily at his coarse joke.

The woman gave him a look of inexpressible disgust. "But you are home
safe, at any rate," she said in a fawning voice; "and my fear is
quieted. Come now, and I will help you into bed. Not in there!" she
cried, as he lurched toward the door of the room where Carmen lay; "in
your own room to-night!"

He swayed to and fro before her, as she stood with her back against
the door.

"_Nombre de Dios_!" he muttered, "but you grow daily more unkind to
your good Padre! _Bien_, it is well that I have a fresh little
housekeeper coming!" He made again as if to enter the room. The woman
threw her arms about his neck.

"Padre dear," she appealed, "have you ceased to love your Anita? She
would spend this night alone; and can you not favor her this once?"

"_Caramba_!" he croaked in peevish suspicion, "but I think you have a
paramour in there. _Bien_, I will go in and shrive his wicked soul!"

"Oh, I forgot to tell you!" cried the desperate woman, her hand
stealing to the weapon concealed in her dress. "Pepito came this
evening with the case of _Oporto_ which you ordered long ago from
Spain. I put it in your study, for I knew you would want to sample it
the moment you returned."

"_Caramba_!" he cried, turning upon her, "why do you not tell me
important things as soon as I arrive? I marvel that you did not wait
until morning to break this piece of heavenly news! _Bien_, come to
the study, and you shall open a bottle for me. _Dios_! but my throat
is seared with Don Antonio's vile rum! My parched soul panteth for the
wine of the gods that flows from sunny Spain! _Caramba_, woman, give
yourself haste!"

Suffering himself to be led by her, he staggered across the rotunda
and into the room where long before he had entertained for a brief
hour Don Jorge and the priest Josè. Ana quickly broke the neck of a
bottle of the newly arrived wine and gave him a generous measure.

"Ah, God in heaven!" murmured the besotted priest, sinking into a
chair and sipping the beverage; "it is the nectar of Olympus--triple
distilled through tubes of sunlight and perfumed with sweet airs and
the smiles of voluptuous _houris_! Ah, Lord above, you are good to
your little Diego! Another sip, my lovely Ana--and bring me the
cigarettes. And come, fat lass, do you sit beside me and twine your
graceful arms about my neck, while your soft breath kisses my old
cheek! Ah, _Dios_, who would not be human! _Caramba_! the good God may
keep His heaven, if He will but give me the earth!"

Ana drew his head against her bosom and murmured hypocritical words of
endearment in his ear, while she kept his glass full. Diego babbled
like a child. He nodded; struggled to keep awake; and at length fell
asleep with his head on her shoulder. Then she arose, and, assured
that he would be long in his stupor, extinguished the light and
hurried to her own room.

Carmen was sleeping peacefully. The woman bent over her with the
lighted candle and looked long and wistfully. "Ah, _Santa Maria_!" she
prayed, "if you will but save her, you may do what you will with me!"

Tears flowed freely down her cheeks as she turned to the door and
threw the bolt. Coming back to the bed, she again bent over the
sleeping girl. "_Santa Virgen_!" she murmured, "how beautiful! Like an
angel! _Dios mío_--and that beast, he has seen her, and he would--ah,
_Dios_!"

Going again to the dresser, she took from a drawer a sandalwood
rosary. Then she returned to the bed and knelt beside the child.
"Blessed Virgin," she prayed, while her hot tears fell upon the beads,
"I am lost--lost! Ah, I have not told my beads for many years--I
cannot say them now! _Santa Virgen_, pray for me--pray for me--and if
I kill him to-morrow, tell the blessed Saviour that I did it for the
child! Ah, _Santa Virgen_, how beautiful she is--how pure--what
hair--she is from heaven--_Santa Virgen_, you will protect her?" She
kissed the cross repeatedly. "_Madre de Dios_--she is so beautiful, so
pure--"

Carmen moved slightly, and the woman rose hastily from her knees.
"Anita dear," murmured the child, "Jesus waked Lazarus--out of
his--sleep. Anita, why do you not come? I am waiting for you."

"Yes, child, yes! But--_Dios mío_!" she murmured when Carmen again
slept, "I am too wicked to sleep with so pure an angel!--no, I can
not! I must not!"

She spread a light shawl upon the tile floor near the window and lay
down upon it, drawing a lace _mantilla_ over her face to protect it
from the mosquitoes. "_Santa Virgen_", she murmured repeatedly, "pray
the blessed Saviour to protect her to-morrow--pray for her, _Madre de
Dios_--pray for her!"

                  *       *       *       *       *

The piercing shriek of a steamboat whistle roused the woman just as
the first harbingers of dawn spread over the river a crimson flush
that turned it into a stream of blood. The child was asleep. Ana bent
over her and left a kiss on her forehead. Then she stole out of the
room and into the study. Padre Diego lay sunk in his chair like a
monster toad. The woman threw him a look of utter loathing, and then
hastily descended into the _patio_. Ricardo lay under the _platano_
tree, sleeping heavily. She roused him with a kick.

"Up, man!" she cried, shaking him by the shoulder. "Padre Diego sends
you this money, and bids you go. He is well satisfied with your work."
She held out a roll of _pesos_.

The man, after much vigorous persuasion, got heavily to his feet.
"_Caramba, señorita_!" he muttered in a dazed voice. "That last
_tragito_--it was a bit too much, no? But--_Bien_, I would see the
good Padre. _Caramba_, my poor head! What rum! But, señorita, do me
the great favor to ask the good Padre to see me one little moment. I
must deliver this letter to him." He fumbled in his wallet and drew
out an envelope.

"He will not see you, Ricardo. He--"

"_Caramba_!" ejaculated the man loudly, as his senses returned. "But I
believe there is something wrong here! _Bien_, now I shall see the
Padre! I am responsible to him!" He pushed the woman aside and entered
the house.

Ana started after him, and seized his arm. A scuffle ensued, and
Ricardo's voice was loud and shrill as they reached the stairs. The
woman clung to him desperately. "Ricardo--anything you ask--double the
amount, if you will go! Leave the house--I will tell the Padre--I will
give him the letter--"

"_Caramba_, but I will see him myself!" shouted the lightheaded
Ricardo.

"_Dios y diablo_!" A heavy voice rolled down from above. "_Bien,
enamorada_, is this the paramour whom you hid in your room last night?
_Caramba_, you might have chosen a handsomer one!"

Ana sank down with a moan and buried her face in her hands. Diego
heavily descended the stairs. "Ha, Ricardo!" he exclaimed,
recognizing the man. "_Bien_, so it is you! And the girl?"

"I do not know, Padre," cried the man excitedly. "Señorita Ana, she
made me drunk last night. I brought the girl--I waited for you, but
the señorita--"

"_Caramba_, I understand!" replied Diego, turning to the woman.

Ana had risen and was making for the stairs. Diego sprang to her and
seized her by the wrist. With her free hand she drew the stiletto from
her bosom and raised it to strike. Ricardo saw the movement, and threw
himself upon her.

"_Dios_!" cried Diego, as Ricardo felled the woman and wrenched the
weapon from her grasp. "My pretty angel, you have the venom of a
serpent! Sly wench! did you think to deceive your doting Padre?
But--_Dios nos guarde_!"

Carmen, awakened by the noise, had left her bed, and now stood at the
head of the stairs, looking with dilated eyes at the strange scene
being enacted below.

Silence fell upon the group. Ana lay on the ground, her eyes strained
toward the girl. Ricardo bent over her, awaiting his master's command.
He knew now that she had forever lost her power over the priest. Diego
stood like a statue, his eyes riveted upon Carmen. The girl looked
down upon them from the floor above with an expression of wonder, yet
without fear.

Diego was the first to find his voice. "Ah, my pretty one!" he
wheedled. "My lovely daughter! At last you come to your lonely padre!
Wait for me, _hermosissima_!" He puffed painfully up the steps.

"Carmen!--run!--run! Don't let him come near you--!" screamed Ana in a
voice of horror. Ricardo clapped his hand heavily over her mouth.

But the child did not move. Diego reached her and seized her hand.

"_Carissima_!" he panted, feasting his eyes upon her, while a thrill
passed through his coarse frame. "_Madre de Dios_, but you have grown
beautiful! Don Mario was right--you are surely the most voluptuous
object in human form that has ever crossed my path. _Bien_, the
blessed God is still good to his little Diego!"

He started away with her, but was detained by the loud voice of
Ricardo.

"_Bien_, Padre, my pay!"

"_Cierto, hombre_!" exclaimed Diego. "I was about to forget. But--a
father's joy--ah! _Bien_, come to me to-morrow--"

"_Na, Señor Padre_, but to-day--now! I have risked my life--and I have
a wife and babes! You will pay me this minute!"

"_Caramba_, ugly beast, but I will consign you to hell! _Maldito_! get
you gone! There are more convenient seasons than this for your
business!" And, still holding tightly to the girl's hand, he led her
into the study.

The woman turned upon Ricardo with the fury of a tiger. "See now what
you have done!" she screamed. "This will cost your life, for you have
put into his dirty hands the soul of an angel, and he will damn it!
_Santa Virgen_! If you had only taken the money I brought you--"

"Demon-tongue, I will take it now!" He snatched the roll of bills from
her hand and bolted through the door. With a low moan the woman sank
to the ground, while oblivion drew its sable veil across her mind.

Reaching the study, Diego pushed Carmen into the room and then
followed, closing the door after him and throwing the iron bolt.
Turning about, he stood with arms akimbo upon his bulging hips and
gazed long and admiringly at the girl as she waited in expectant
wonder before him. A smile of satisfaction and triumph slowly spread
over his coarse features. Then it faded, and his heavy jowls and deep
furrows formed into an expression, sinister and ominous, through which
lewdness, debauchery, and utter corruption looked out brazenly,
defiantly, into the fair, open countenance of the young girl before
him. A sense of weariness and dull pain then seemed to follow. He
shook his heavy head and passed a hand across his brow, as if to brush
aside the confusion left by the previous night's potations.

"_Madre de Dios_!" he muttered, falling heavily into a chair, "but had
I known you were here, little rosebud, I should have tried to keep
sober." He reached out to grasp her; but she eluded him and went
quickly to the open window, where she stood looking down into the
street below. The morning sunlight, streaming into the room, engulfed
her in its golden flood and transmuted the child of earth into a
creature divinely radiant, despite the torn gown and stains of river
travel.

"_Bien, carísíma_," the man wheedled in a small, caressing voice,
"where is your greeting to your glad padre? _Dios mío_!" he muttered,
his eyes roving over her full figure, "but the Virgin herself was
never more lovely! Come, daughter," he purred, extending his arms;
"come to a father's heart that now, praise the Saints! shall ache no
more for its lost darling."

The girl faced about and looked at him for a few moments. What her
glance conveyed, the man was utterly incapable of understanding. Then
she drew up a chair that stood near the window, and sinking into it,
buried her face in her hands.

"_Caramba_, my smile of heaven! but why weep?" chirped Diego,
affecting surprise. "Is it thus you celebrate your homecoming? Or are
these, perchance, fitting tears of joy? _Bien_, your padre's doting
heart itself weeps that its years of loneliness are at last ended." He
held the sleeve of his gown to his eyes and sniffed affectedly.

The girl looked up quickly. "I am not weeping," she said.

"_Bien_, and what then?" he pursued.

"I was just knowing," she answered slowly, "that I was not afraid--that
God was everywhere, even right here--and that He would not let any
harm come to me."

Diego's eyes widened. Then he burst into a coarse laugh. "_Hombre_!
and you ask Him to protect you from your adoring father! Come here,
little wench. You are in your own home. Why be afraid?" He again held
out his arms to her.

"I am not afraid--now," she answered softly. "But--I do not think God
will let me come to you. If you were really my father, He would."

The man's mouth gaped in astonishment. A fleeting sense of shame
swept through his festering mind. Then the lustful meanness of his
corrupted soul welled up anew, and he laughed brutally. The idea
was delightfully novel; the girl beautifully audacious; the situation
piquantly amusing. He would draw her out to his further enjoyment.
"So," he observed parenthetically, "I judge you are on quite familiar
terms with God, eh?"

"Very," she replied, profoundly serious.

The joke was excellent, and he roared with mirth. "_Bueno, pues_!" he
commented, reaching over and uncorking with shaking hand the bottle
that stood on the table. Then, filling a glass, "Suppose you thank Him
for sending his little Diego this estimable wine and your own charming
self, eh? Then tell me what He says." Whereat he guffawed loudly and
slapped his bulging sides.

The girl had already bowed her head again in her hands. A long pause
ensued. Diego's beady eyes devoured the beautiful creature before him.
Then he waxed impatient. "_Bien_, little Passion flower," he
interrupted, "if you have conveyed to Him my infinite gratitude,
perhaps He will now let you come to me, eh?"

Carmen looked up. A faint smile hovered upon her lips. "I have thanked
Him, Padre--for you and for me," she said; "for you, that you really
are His child, even if you don't know it; and for me that I know He
always hears me. That was what the good man Jesus said, you know, when
he waked Lazarus out of the death-sleep. Don't you remember? And so I
kept thanking Him all the way down the river."

Diego's eyes bulged as if they would pop from his head, and his mouth
fell open wide, but no sound issued therefrom. The girl went on
quietly:

"I was not afraid on the river, Padre. And I was not afraid to come in
here with you. I knew, just as the good man Jesus did at the tomb of
Lazarus, that God had heard me--He just couldn't be God if He hadn't,
you know. And then I remembered what the good man said about not
resisting evil; for, you know, if we resist evil we make it real--and
we never, _never_ can overcome anything real, can we? So I resisted
evil with good, just as Jesus told us to do. I just _knew_ that God
was everywhere, and that evil was unreal, and had no power at all. And
so the _bogas_ didn't hurt me coming down the river. And you--you will
not either, Padre."

She stopped and smiled sweetly at him. Then, very seriously:

"Padre, one reason why I was not afraid to come in here with you was
that I thought God might want to talk to you through me, and I could
help you. You need help, you know."

The man settled back in his chair and stared stupidly at her. His face
expressed utter consternation, confusion, and total lack of
comprehension. Once he muttered under his breath, "_Caramba_! she is
surely an _hada_!" But Carmen did not hear him. Absorbed in her
mission, she went on earnestly:

"You know, Padre, we are all channels through which God talks to
people--just like the _asequia_ out there in the street through which
the water flows. We are all channels for divine love--so Padre Josè
says."

The priest sat before her like a huge pig, his little eyes blinking
dully, and his great mouth still agape.

"We are never afraid of real things, Padre, you know; and so I
couldn't be afraid of the real 'you,' for that is a child of God. And
the other 'you' isn't real. We are only afraid of our wrong thoughts.
But such thoughts are not really ours, you know, for they don't come
from God. But," she laughed softly, "when I saw you coming up the
steps after me this morning--well, lots of fear-thoughts came to
me--why, they just seemed to come pelting down on me like the rain.
But I wouldn't listen to them. I turned right on them, just as I've
seen Cucumbra turn on a puppy that was nagging him, and I said, 'Here,
now, I know what you are; I know you don't come from God; and anything
that doesn't come from God isn't really anything at all!' And so they
stopped pelting me. The good man Jesus knew, didn't he? That's why he
said so often, 'Be not afraid.'"

She paused again and beamed at him. Her big eyes sparkled, and her
face glowed with celestial light. Diego raised a heavy arm and,
groping for the bottle, eagerly drained another glass of wine.

"You think that wine makes you happy, don't you, Padre?" she observed,
watching him gulp down the heavy liquor. "But it doesn't. It just
gives you what Padre Josè calls a false sense of happiness. And when
that false sense passes away--for everything unreal has just _got_ to
pass away--why, then you are more unhappy than you were before. Isn't
it so?"

The astonished Diego now regained his voice. "_Caramba_, girl!" he
ejaculated, "will you rein that runaway tongue!"

"No, Padre," she replied evenly, "for it is God who is talking to you.
Don't you hear Him? You ought to, for you are a priest. You ought to
know Him as well as the good man Jesus did. Padre, can you lay your
hands on the sick babies and cure them?"

The man squirmed uncomfortably for a moment, and then broke into
another brutal laugh. "Sick babies! _Caramba_! but we find it easier
to raise new babies than to cure sick ones! But--little _hada_!
_Hombre_! do _hadas_ have such voluptuous bodies, such plump legs!
_Madre de Dios_, girl, enough of your preaching! Come to me quick! I
hunger for you! Come!"

"No, Padre," she answered quietly, "I do not want to come to you. But
I want to talk to you--"

"_Dios y diablo_! enough of your gab! _Caramba_! with a Venus before
me do you think I yearn for a sermon? _Hombre_! delay it, delay it--"

"Padre," she interrupted, "you do not see _me._ You are looking only
at your bad thoughts of me."

"Ha! my thoughts, eh?" His laugh resembled the snort of an animal.

"Yes, Padre--and they are _very_ bad thoughts, too--they don't come
from God, and you are _so_ foolish to let them use you the way you do.
Why do you, Padre? for you don't have to. And you know you see around
you only the thoughts that you have been thinking. Why don't you think
good thoughts, and so see only good things?"

"Now Mary bless my soul!" he exclaimed in mock surprise. "Can it be
that I don't see a plump little witch before me, but only my bad
thoughts, eh? Ha! ha! _Caramba_! that is good! _Bien_, then," he
coaxed, "come to your poor, deluded padre and let him learn that you
are only a thing of thought, and not the most enchanting little piece
of flesh that ever caused a Saint to fall!"

The girl sat silent before him. Her smile had fled, and in its place
sadness and pity were written large upon her wistful face.

"Come, my little bundle of thought," he coaxed, holding out his fat,
hairy arms.

"No, Padre," the girl answered firmly.

"_Na_, then, still afraid, eh?" he taunted, with rising anger.

"No, Padre; to be afraid would mean that I didn't understand God."

"Ha! Then come to me and prove that you do understand Him, eh?" he
suggested eagerly. "_Caramba_! why do you sit there like a mummy? Are
you invoking curses on the bald pate of your desolate father?"

"No, Padre; I am thanking God all the time that He is here, and that
He will not let you hurt me."

The man's lust-inflamed eyes narrowed and the expression on his evil
face became more sinister. "_Maldita_!" he growled, "will you come
hither, or must I--"

"No." She shook her head slowly, and her heavy curls glistened in the
sunlight. "No, Padre, God will not let me come to you."

Panting and cursing softly, the man got slowly to his feet. "_Madre de
Dios_!" he muttered; "then we will see if your God will let me come to
you!"

Carmen rose and stood hesitant. Her lips moved rapidly, though no
sound came from them. They were forming the words of the psalmist, "In
God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto
me." It was a verse Josè had taught her long since, when his own heart
was bursting with apprehension.

Diego stumbled heavily toward the child. She turned quickly as if to
flee. He thrust out his hand and clutched her dress. The flimsy
calico, frayed and worn, tore its full length, and the gown fell to
the floor. She stopped and turned to face the man. Her white body
glistened in the clear sunlight like a marble statue.

_"Por el amor de Dios_!" ejaculated the priest, straightening up and
regarding her with dull, blinking eyes. Then, like a tiger pouncing
upon a fawn, he seized the unresisting girl in his arms and staggered
back to his chair.

"_Caramba! Caramba_!" he exclaimed, holding her with one arm about her
waist, and with his free hand clumsily pouring another glass of wine.
"Only a thing of thought, eh? _Madre de Dios! Bien_, pretty thought,
drink with me this thought of wine!" He laughed boisterously at his
crude wit, and forced the glass between her lips.

"I--am not afraid--I am not afraid," she whispered, drinking. "It
cannot hurt me--nor can you. God _is_ here!"

"Hurt you!" he panted, setting down the glass and mopping his hot
brow, as he settled back into the chair again. "_Caramba_! who hurts
when he loves?"

"You--do--not--love--me, Padre!" she gasped under his tight clutch.
"You have--only a wrong thought--of me--of love--of everything!"

"_Bien_--but you love me, pretty creature, is it not so?" he mocked,
holding up her head and kissing her full on the mouth.

"I--I love the _real_ 'you'--for that is God's image," she murmured,
struggling to hold her face away from his fetid breath. "But--I do
not--love the way that image is--is translated--in your human mind!"

"_Caramba_!" he threw himself back and gave noisy vent to his
risibility. "_Chiquita mía_! What grand language! Where did you learn
it?"

For the moment the girl seemed to forget that she was in the fell
clutches of a demon incarnate. Her thought strayed back to little
Simití, to Cucumbra, to Cantar-las-horas, to--ah, was _he_ searching
for her now? And would he come?--

"It was Padre Josè; he taught me," she whispered sadly.

"Padre Josè! _Maldito_! The curse of God blast him, the monkey-faced
_mozo! Caramba_! but he will teach you no more! You have a new master
now to give you a few needed lessons, _señorita mía_, and--"

"Padre Diego!" her tense voice checked further expression of his low
thought. "You have no power to curse anything! You have no power to
harm me, or to teach me anything! God _is_ here! He _will_ protect me!
He keeps all them that love Him!" She gasped again as his clutch
tightened about her.

"Doubtless, my lily. _Caramba_! your skin is like the velvet!" He
roughly drew the girl up on his knees. "To be sure He will protect
you, my _mariposa._ And He is using me as the channel, you see--just
as you said a few moments ago, eh?" His rude laugh again echoed
through the room.

"He is not--using you--at all!" she panted. "Evil thoughts are--are
using you. And all--they can do--is to kill themselves--and you!"

"_Madre Maria_! Is such a sad fate in store for me, my beautiful
_hada_?" He chuckled and reached out again for the bottle. "Another
little thought of wine, my love. It's only a thought, you know. Ha!
ha! I must remember to tell Don Antonio of this!--_Maldita_!"

His clumsy movement had upset the bottle. Struggling to save its
contents, he relaxed his hold on Carmen. Like a flash she wormed her
supple body out under his arm, slid to the floor, and gained the
window.

"_Dios y diablo! Maldita! Maldita_!" shrilled Diego, aflame with
wrath. "Cursed wench! when I lay these hands again on you--!"

Struggling to his feet, he made for the girl. But at the first step
the light rug slid along the smooth tiles beneath his uncertain tread.
He threw out an arm and sought to grasp the table. But as he did so,
his foot turned under him. There was a sharp, snapping sound. With a
groan the heavy man sank to the floor.

For a moment Carmen stood as if dazed. Diego lay very still. Then the
girl picked up her torn dress and approached him carefully. "It was
his bad thoughts," she whispered; "he slipped on them; they threw him!
I knew it--I just _knew_ it!"

Passing to one side, she gained the door, threw back the bolt, and
hurried out into the rotunda. Crouched on the floor, the stiletto
clasped in her hand, sat Ana, her face drenched with tears, and her
chest heaving. When she saw the girl she sprang to her feet.

"Carmen! Ah, _Dios_! your dress!--_Madre Maria_! I could not save you;
I could not break through the heavy door; but I can punish him!" She
burst into a flood of tears and started into the room.

"No, Anita!" cried the girl, throwing herself into the woman's arms.
"He is punished! He did not hurt me--God would not let him! Look!
Anita, look!" pointing to the body on the floor.

The woman stopped abruptly. "Carmen!" she whispered in awed tones,
"did God strike him dead?"

"I don't know, Anita--but come! No!" clinging to the woman's skirt;
"Anita dear, do not go in there! Leave him! Come away with me!"

The woman's eyes were wild, her hair loose and disheveled. "_Caramba_!"
she cried, "but we will make sure that the beast is dead before we
go! And if we leave this blade in his heart, it may be a warning to
others of his kind!"

"No, Anita--no! God will not let you kill him! You must not! Your
murder-thoughts will kill you if you do! Come! Listen--it is a
steamboat whistle! Oh, Anita--if it is going up the river--we can take
it--"

Ana hesitated. "But--leave him? He may--"

"Yes, Anita, yes; leave him with God!" pleaded the girl excitedly.
"Come away, Anita--"

"But where, child?" asked the bewildered woman.

"To Simití!"

"Simití! Never! Why--why, my father would kill me!"

"No, Anita dear; he loves you; he prays for you; he wants you! Oh,
Anita, come! It is right--it is just what God has planned, I know! Pin
my dress together, and then hurry!"

The woman moved as if in a cloud. Mechanically she descended the
stairs and left the house, her hand tightly clasped by Carmen. Dully
she suffered herself to be led hurriedly to the river. A boat,
up-bound, was just docking. The captain stood leaning over the rail
and shouting his commands. Ana recognized him. It was Captain Julio.

"_Loado sea Dios_!" murmured the weeping woman, hurrying up the gang
plank with the child. She hastened past the astonished passengers to
the captain and drew him to one side.

"The child--" she gasped, "Rosendo Ariza's--of Simití--leave her at
Badillo--they will take her over--"

"Wait, señora," interrupted the captain tenderly. "Is it not time for
you to go home, too?" He laid a hand on her shoulder and looked down
into her streaming eyes. "Come," he said quietly. And, leading them
down the deck, he opened the door of a vacant cabin and bade them
enter. "You can tell me your story when we are under way," he said,
smiling as he closed the door. "_Bien_," he muttered, his brow
clouding as he strode off. "I have been looking for this for some
time. But--the child--Ariza's--ah, the priest Diego! I think I
see--_Caramba_! But we will not tarry long here!"

A few minutes later the big boat, her two long funnels vomiting
torrents of smoke and sparks, thrust her huge wheel into the thick
waters and, swinging slowly out into mid-stream, turned her flat nose
toward the distant falls of Tequendama. In one of her aft cabins a
woman lay on a cot, weeping hysterically. Over her bent a girl, with a
face such as the masters have sought in vain. The tenderly whispered
words might have been the lingering echo of those voiced in the little
moonlit death-chamber of Cartagena long agone.

"Anita dear, He is with us, right here. And His arms are wide open.
And He says, 'Anita, come!'"



CHAPTER 26


"But, Padre dear, why are you so surprised that Padre Diego did not
hurt me? I would have been much more surprised if he had. You are
always so astonished when evil doesn't happen--don't you ever look for
good? Why, I don't ever look for anything else! How could I when I
know that God is everywhere?"

Josè strained her closer to himself. "The sense of evil--it overwhelms
me at times, _carita_--"

"But, Padre dear, why don't you know right then that it is nothing? If
you did, it would fade away, and only good would overwhelm you." She
nestled closer to the man and clasped her arms more tightly about his
neck. "Why, Padre," she resumed, "I was not a bit surprised when
Captain Julio came and told us we were near Bodega Central, and that
he could see you and Juan and Lázaro sitting on the steps of the
inn."

"Yes, _chiquita_, we were resting for a moment. If a down-river boat
came by we were going to take it. If not, we expected to go in the
canoe."

"Padre dear, what did you intend to do in Banco?"

The man hesitated. "Don't speak of it, child--we--"

"Juan and Lázaro have knives. I saw them. Padre--have you one, too?"

"I?--_chiquita_--"

"Padre dear, God never fights with knives. Anita had a knife; but God
wouldn't let her use it. He always has better ways than that. I don't
know what happened to Padre Diego, except that he fell over his wicked
thoughts. You know, Padre dear, somewhere in the Bible you read to me
that 'With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to
help us, and to fight our battles.' I thought of that when Padre Diego
had his arm around me and held me so tight that I could hardly
breathe. It was only an arm of flesh, after, all, and it couldn't hold
me."

"_Bien_, Padre," interrupted Juan, coming up from the boat, "if we are
to reach Simití to-night we must start at once."

"_Bueno_, then let us set out," returned Josè, rising. A muffled sob
reached his ears. He turned to the woman huddled in the shadow of the
door.

"Come, Ana," he said cheerily; "to-night you will again be home."

"No, Padre--I do not go with you. I--"

"Anita!" In an instant Carmen's arms were around her. "When padre
Rosendo sees us, you and me, why--"

"_Carísima_!" The woman's tears flowed fast while she hugged the girl
to her bosom. "No--no--he would drive me from his house! No--let me
stay here. I will get work in the _posada_, perhaps. Or Captain Julio
will take me to Honda on his next trip, and get me a place--"

"Then we must ask him to get a place for us both," interrupted Carmen,
sitting calmly down beside her. "And think, Anita, how sad padre
Rosendo will be when he sees the men come back without us!"

"Carmen! I shall throw myself into the river!" cried the sorrowing
woman, rising. "You don't know what it is--"

"Yes, I do, Anita," returned the girl quickly; "it is nothing--just
zero--and you can't drown it! If it would do any good we would both
jump into the river--that is, if God told us to--wouldn't we? But it
doesn't help any to die, you know, for then we would have it all to do
over again."

"Ana," said Josè, laying a hand on the woman's shoulder, "you do not
understand her--neither do I, wholly. But if she tells you to go with
us to Simití, why, I think I would go. I would leave it all with her.
You may trust her influence with Rosendo. Come."

He took her hand and led her, weeping, but no longer resisting, down
to the canoe. Carmen followed, dancing like an animated sunbeam. "What
fun, oh, what fun!" she chirped, clapping her hands. "And just as soon
as we get home we will go right up to the _cárcel_ and let padre
Rosendo out!"

"_Na, chiquita_," said Josè, shaking his head mournfully; "we have no
power to do that."

"Well, then, God has," returned the girl, nothing daunted.

Juan pushed the heavily laden canoe from its mooring, and set its
direction toward Simití. Silence drew over the little group, and the
hours dragged while the boat crept slowly along the margin of the
great river. The sun had passed its meridian when the little craft
turned into the _caño._ To Josè the change brought a most grateful
relief. For, though his long residence in Simití had somewhat inured
him to the intense heat of this low region, he had not yet learned to
endure it with the careless indifference of the natives. Besides, his
mind was filled with vivid memories of the horrors of his first river
trip. And he knew that every future experience on the water would be
tinged by them.

In the shaded _caño_ the sunlight, sifting through the interlocking
branches of ancient palms and _caobas_, mellowed and softened into a
veil of yellow radiance that flecked the little stream with splashes
of gold. Juan in the prow with the pole labored in silence. At times
he stopped just long enough to roll a huge cigar, and to feast his
bright eyes upon the fair girl whom he silently adored. Lázaro, as
_patron_, sat in the stern, saturnine and unimpassioned. The woman,
exhausted by the recent mental strain, dozed throughout the journey.
Carmen alone seemed alive to her environment. Every foot of advance
unfolded to her new delights. She sang; she chirped; she mimicked the
parrots; she chattered at the excited monkeys. It was with difficulty
that Josè could restrain her when her sharp eyes caught the glint of
brilliant Passion flowers and orchids of gorgeous hue clinging to the
dripping trees.

"Padre!" she exclaimed, "they are in us, you know. They are not out
there at all! We see our thoughts of them--and lots of people wouldn't
see anything beautiful about them at all, just because their thoughts
are not beautiful. Padre, we see--what you said to me once--we see our
interpretations of God's ideas, don't we? That is what I told Padre
Diego. But--well, he will just _have_ to see some day, won't he, Padre
dear? But now let us talk in English; you know, I haven't spoken it
for such a long time."

Josè gazed at her in rapt silence. What a rare interpretation of the
mind divine was this child! But he wondered why one so pure and
beautiful should attract a mind so carnal as that of Diego. And yet--

"Ah!" he mused, "it is again that law. Good always stirs up its
suppositional opposite. And the most abundant good and the greatest
purity stir up the most carnal elements of the human mind. All history
shows it. The greater the degree of good, the greater the seeming
degree of evil aroused. The perfect Christ stirred the hatred of a
world. Carmen arouses Diego simply because of her purity. Yet she
knows that he can not harm her."

His eyes met the girl's, and she answered his unspoken thought in the
tongue which she was fast adopting. "We _have_ to love him, you know,
Padre dear."

"Love whom? Diego?"

"Why, yes, of course. We can't help loving him. Oh, not the 'him' that
the human mind looks at, but the real 'him,' you know--the 'him' that
is God's image. And you know there just isn't any other 'him,' now is
there?"

"God above!" murmured Josè, "if I could but keep my thought as
straight as she does!"

"But, Padre dear, your thought _is_ straight. You know, God's thought
is the only thought there really is. Any other thought has the minus
sign, and so it is zero. If we will always think of the real Padre
Diego, and love that, why, the unreal one will fade away from our
thought."

"Do you suppose, _chiquita_, that if we love him we will make him
repent?"

The child pondered the question for a moment. Then:

"Padre, what did you tell me once about the word 'repent'?"

"It comes from the Greek word '_metanoia_.'"

"Yes," she reflected; "but what did you say that--"

"Oh, yes, I told you it meant a complete and radical change of
thought."

"Well!" she exclaimed, her eyes brightening.

Josè waited expectantly. It was heaven to have this girl before him
and to drink in the naïve expressions of her active mind.

"Padre dear, when John the baptiser said, 'Repent, for the kingdom of
heaven is at hand,' did he mean to tell the people that they must have
a complete change of thought?"

Josè laughed. And then he grew serious. "_Chiquita_," he answered, "I
have no doubt he meant just that. For you have taught me that there
can be no salvation without such a complete and radical change."

"No," she said with quick emphasis; "for God is mind, you know. And
His thought is the only real thought there is or can be. The thoughts
of mortals are the opposites of His thoughts, and so they are
illusions, and, like all lies, must pass away. If people want to be
immortal, they must think as God thinks, for He is immortal. They must
stop thinking that there is any power but God. They must stop letting
in thoughts of sickness, of sin, of wickedness, and all those things
that in English you call 'discord.' God says in the Bible, 'As the
heavens are higher than the earth, so are my thoughts higher than your
thoughts.' Well, God is immortal and perfect. And if we want to be
like Him we must think His thoughts. For our thoughts become--things.
Don't you see?"

Josè's face clouded. "I see, _chiquita_--sometimes very clearly--and
then again I don't see," he said slowly.

"You _do_ see!" she insisted, getting up on her knees and facing him.
"And you see as God sees! And if you hold this thought always, why, it
will--it will be--"

"Externalized; is that what you are trying to say?" he suggested.

"Yes, just that. Jesus said, 'As a man thinketh in his heart, so is
he.'"

"But, Carmen--I-- What you say is doubtless true in essence--but I
think you have not grasped it all--there are so many gaps that your
simple little system of religion does not fill in--so many great
questions that you do not answer. I see, in part--and then, again, I
don't see at all. And when you were stolen away from Simití I saw
nothing but the evil--and it nearly killed me!"

The girl studied him for a few moments. The man had always been an
enigma to her. She could not understand a nature that soared into the
spiritual empyrean one moment, and in the next fell floundering into
the bottomless pit of materialism. The undulating curve which
marked the development of the Rincón mind was to her a thing
incomprehensible.

"Padre dear," she said at length, a little sadly. "When you look at
the first chapter in the Bible and read there how God made everything,
and man in His image, in the image of Mind, you see, and are very
happy. But when you go on to the second chapter and read how the Lord
God--not God, but the _Lord_ God--made a man of dirt, and how this
dirt man listened to his false thoughts and fell, why, then you are
unhappy. Don't you see any difference between them? Can't you see that
one is a story of the real creation; and the other is the human mind's
interpretation of the creation--an interpretation made according to
the way the human mind thinks the creating _ought_ to have been in
matter? You told me this yourself. And the second chapter shows how
far the human mind can go--it shows how limited it is. The human mind
couldn't get any farther than that--couldn't make a man out of
anything but dirt. It couldn't understand the spiritual creation. And
so it made a creation of its own. It couldn't understand God; and so
it made a Lord God, just like itself. Can't you see? Padre dear, can't
you? And if you see, can't you _stick_ to it and _live_ it, until all
the unreal passes away?"

Josè smiled into her earnest little face. "I will never cease to try,
_chiquita_," he said. "But we were talking about loving Diego, weren't
we? Yes, you are right, we must try to love him, for the good Jesus
said we must love our enemies."

"But, if we love everybody, then we haven't any enemies. You can't
love a real enemy--and so there aren't any real ones. We see in other
people only what is in our own thought. If we see evil as real, why,
then we will see bad men and women all around us, for we only look at
our thoughts. But, if we look only at God's thoughts--Padre dear, I
didn't see anything but God's thought when Padre Diego had me in his
arms. I knew it wasn't real, but was just the human way of looking at
things. And I knew that love was the great principle of everything,
and that it just couldn't fail, any more than the principle of algebra
could fail to solve my problems. Well," she concluded with a little
sigh, "it didn't."

"Dear little girl, you must be patient, very patient, with your
blundering old Padre Josè. He is groping for the light--"

In an instant, throwing the canoe into imminent danger of upsetting,
the impulsive girl had hurled herself into his lap and clasped her
arms about his neck. Juan and Lázaro by a quick and skillful effort
kept the craft upright.

"Oh, Padre dear!" she cried, "I didn't mean to say a word that would
make you unhappy--Padre dear, I love you so! Padre, look at your
little girl, and tell her that you love her!"

He clasped her fiercely. "No--no!" he murmured, "I--I must
not--and--yet--_chiquita_--I adore you!" He buried his face in her
shoulder.

Juan made a wry mouth as he looked at the girl in the priest's arms.
Then he suggested that a separation would more evenly balance the
boat. Carmen laughed up at him, but slipped down into the keel and sat
with her head propped against Josè's knees.

"Padre dear," she said, looking up at him with twinkling eyes, "I
heard Lázaro say a little while before we started that he had lived
many years in Simití, and that it had always been very quiet until you
came."

"_Ay de mí!_" sighed Josè. "I can readily believe that the whole world
was quiet until I entered it."

"But, Padre, perhaps you had to come into it to shake it up."

He laughed. "_Chiquita_," he said, "if ever you go out into it, with
your radical views regarding God and man; and if the stupid old world
will give ear to you, there will be such a shaking up as it has never
experienced since--"

"Padre dear," she interrupted, "I am not going out into the world. I
shall stay in Simití--with you."

He looked down at her, tenderly, wistfully. And then, while her words
still echoed through his mind, a great sigh escaped him.

Dusk had closed in upon them when the canoe emerged into the quiet
lake. Huge vampire bats, like demons incarnate, flouted their faces as
they paddled swiftly toward the distant town. Soft evening calls
drifted across the placid waters from the slumbering jungle. Carmen's
rich voice mingled with them; and Juan and Lázaro, catching the
inspiration, broke into a weird, uncanny boating song, such as is
heard only among these simple folk. As they neared the town the song
of the _bogas_ changed into a series of loud, yodelling halloos; and
when the canoe grated upon the shaly beach, Doña Maria and a score of
others were there to welcome the returned travelers.

At the sight of Ana, a murmur ran through the crowd. Doña Maria turned
to the woman.

"It is Anita, madre dear," Carmen quickly announced, as she struggled
out of Doña Maria's arms and took the confused Ana by the hand.

The light of recognition came into Doña Maria's eyes. Quietly, and
without demonstration, she went to the shrinking woman and, taking the
tear-stained face in her hands, impressed a kiss upon each cheek.
"_Bien_," she said in a low, tender voice, "we have waited long for
you, daughter. And now let us go home."

                  *       *       *       *       *

The glow of dawn had scarce begun to creep timidly across the arch of
heaven when Fernando knocked at the portal of Rosendo's house and
demanded the custody of Carmen. Josè was already abroad.

"And now, Fernando," demanded the priest, "what new outrage is this?"

The constable flushed with embarrassment. "_Na_, Padre, a thousand
pardons--but it is the order of the Alcalde, and I only obey. But--you
may knock me down," he added eagerly, "and then I can return to him
and say that I could not take the girl, even by force!" The honest
fellow, ashamed of his mission, hung his head. Josè seized his hand.

"Fernando!" he cried, "what say the people of Simití?"

"They are with you, Padre. They would demand Rosendo's release, if
there were proof that the girl--"

"Good, then! we have the proof," broke in Josè. "Rosendo knows of our
return?"

"Yes, the guard informed him this morning. The Alcalde, you know,
permits no one to approach the prisoner."

"And does he know that Ana is here?"

"The guard did not tell him, for fear of exciting the old man.
_Hombre!_ I think there is no one in town who would venture to tell
Rosendo that."

"_Bien pues_, Fernando, I think the time has come! Go quietly back and
summon every one to a meeting in the town hall at once. Tell them--"

"_Bien_, Padre, I shall know what to tell them. But," anxiously, "Don
Mario has the power to--"

"And we have a greater power," quickly replied the priest, his thought
dwelling on Carmen.

An hour later the town hall was a babel of clacking tongues. Men,
women and children hurried, chattering, to and fro, exchanging diverse
views and speculating eagerly on the probable outcome of the meeting.
Josè stood before them, with Carmen's hand clasped tightly in his. Don
Mario, purple and trembling with rage, was perched upon a chair,
vainly trying to get the ear of the people.

In the midst of the hubbub a hush fell suddenly over the concourse.
All heads turned, and all eyes fastened upon Ana, as she entered the
room and moved timidly toward Josè. The people fell back to make a
passage for her. Her shoulders were bent, and her face was covered
with a black _mantilla_.

Don Mario, as his glance fell upon her, again attempted to address the
multitude. A dozen voices bade him cease. A strong arm from behind
pushed him from the chair. His craven heart began to quake, and he
cast anxious glances toward the single exit.

Gently removing the _mantilla_ from the face of the woman, Josè turned
her toward the people. "Friends!" he said in a loud, penetrating
voice, "behold the work of Diego!"

He paused for the effect which he knew would be made upon this
impressionable people. Then, when the loud murmur had passed, he drew
Carmen out before him and, pointing to her, said dramatically, "And
shall we also throw this innocent child to the wolf?"

The assembly broke into a roar. Fists were shaken under the Alcalde's
nose, and imprecations were hurled at him from all sides. Don Mario
drew his soiled handkerchief and mopped his steaming brow. Then his
voice broke out in a shriek: "The soldiers--this day I shall summon
them--it is a riot!"

"_Caramba!_ He speaks truth!" cried a voice from the crowd. The babel
commenced anew.

"The soldiers! _Caramba!_ Let Diego have his child!"

_"Maldita!"_

"Who says it is not his?"

"I do!"

It was Ana. Clasping Josè's arm to steady herself, she had turned to
confront the excited assembly.

Silence descended upon them all. Josè held up his hand. A sob escaped
the woman. Then:

"The priest Diego had a child--a girl. Her name--it was--Carmen. The
child is--dead."

"_Caramba!_ girl, how know you that?" shrilled a woman's excited
voice.

"I know, because I--was--its--mother!"

Pandemonium burst upon the room at the woman's words. Don Mario
started for the door, but found his way blocked. "Diego had other
children!" he shouted; "and this girl is one of them!"

"It is false!" cried Ana in a loud voice. "I have lived with him eight
years! I know from his own lips that I speak the truth! See what he
has done to me! Would I lie?"

"To the _cárcel_! Release Rosendo!"

"We will write to the President at Bogotá! Don Mario must be
removed!"

"_Caramba!_ Such an Alcalde!"

"Let him send for the soldiers, if he wishes to die!"

"To the _cárcel_!"

As a unit the fickle people streamed from the room and started for the
jail. Don Mario was borne along on the heaving tide. Josè and Carmen
followed; but Ana fell back and returned to the house of Rosendo.

The guard at the jail, seeing the concourse approaching, threw down
his _machete_ and fled. Rosendo's eyes were big with speculation,
though his heart beat apprehensively. The people jammed into the small
hut until it swayed and threatened to collapse.

"The key to the lock--_Caramba_! the guard has it!"

"Catch him!"

"No! bring a _barra_!"

Juan quickly produced a long iron bar, and with a few lusty efforts
sprung the stocks. A dozen hands lifted the cramped Rosendo out and
stood him upon his feet. Carmen squirmed through the crowd and threw
herself into his arms.

Then, with shouts and gesticulations, a triumphal procession quickly
formed, and the bewildered and limping Rosendo was escorted down the
main street of the town and across the _plaza_ to his home. At the
door of the house Josè turned and, holding up a hand, bade the people
quietly disperse and leave the liberated man to enjoy undisturbed the
sacred reunion with his family. With a parting shout, the people
melted quickly away, and quiet soon reigned again over the ancient
town.

"_Bien_, Padre," said Rosendo, pausing before his door to clasp anew
the priest's hand, "you have not told me what has caused this. Was it
the little Carmen--"

He stopped short. Glancing in at the door, his eyes had fallen upon
Ana. To Josè, hours seemed suddenly compressed into that tense
moment.

Slowly Rosendo entered the house and advanced to the shrinking woman.
Terror spread over her face, and she clutched her throat as the big
man stalked toward her. Then, like a flash, Carmen darted in front of
her and faced Rosendo.

"It is Anita, padre dear," she said, looking up into his set face, and
clasping his hand in both of hers. "She has come home again. Aren't we
glad!"

Rosendo seemed not to see the child. His voice came cold and harsh.
"_Bien_, outcast, is your lover with you, that I may strangle him,
too?" He choked and swallowed hard.

"Padre!" cried Carmen, putting both her hands against him. "See! Those
bad thoughts nearly strangled you! Don't let them get in! Don't!"

"_Bien_, girl!" snarled the angry man, still addressing the cowering
woman. "Did you tire of him, that you now sneak home? Or--_Caramba_!"
as Ana rose and stood before him, "you come here that your illegal
brat may be born! Not under my roof! _Santa Maria!_ Never! Take it
back to him! Take it back, I say!" he shouted, raising his clenched
fist as if to strike her.

Carmen turned swiftly and threw herself upon the woman. Looking over
her shoulder, she addressed the raging man:

"Padre Rosendo! this is not your house! It is God's! He only lets you
have it, because He is good to you! Shame on you, for daring to drive
Anita away--your own little girl!" Her voice rose shrill, and her
words cut deep into the old man's embittered heart.

"Shame on you, padre Rosendo!" quickly flowed the scorching words. "If
God were like you He would drive you from the house, too! Are you so
much better than the good Jesus that you can drive away a woman who
sins? Shame on you, padre! Are you better than the good father who was
so glad to see his prodigal son? If God were to punish you for your
sins, would He even let you live? Did He not set you free this very
morning? And do you now thank Him by driving your little girl from her
own home? Do you know that it was Anita who made you free, and who
brought me here? God used her to do that. And is this the way you
thank Him? Then you will lose us both, for we will not stay with
you!"

Josè stepped up and took Rosendo's arm. Carmen turned about and
continued her scoriation:

"Padre Rosendo, if the good, pure God was willing to use Anita to save
me from Padre Diego and bring me back to you, are you so wicked and so
ungrateful that you throw His love back in His face? Shame on you,
padre! Shame! Shame!"

"_Caramba!_" cried Rosendo, tears bursting from his eyes. "She has
fouled my name--it was a good name, though my parents were slaves--it
was a good name--and she blackened it--she--"

"Padre Rosendo, there are only two names that have never been
blackened! Your human name is nothing--it is zero--it counts for
foolishness with God! You yourself are making your name blacker now
than Anita ever did! She repents, and comes to her father; and he is
so much more wicked than she that he drives her out!--"

"Enough, Carmen, child!" interrupted Josè. "Come, Rosendo; go into the
parish house! Carmen, go with him!"

Carmen hesitated. Then a smile lighted up her face, and she reached up
and took Rosendo's hand. Together they passed silently out and into
the priest's house.

Ana sank to the floor, where she buried her face in her hands and wept
violently.

"Wait, Ana," said Josè, tenderly stroking the unhappy woman's hair.
"Wait. They will soon return. And you shall remain here, where you
belong."

A half hour passed. Then Josè, wondering, went quietly to the door of
his house and looked in. Rosendo sat at the table, with Carmen on his
knees.

"And, padre," the child was saying, "the good Jesus told the woman not
to sin any more; and she went away happy. Padre, God has told Anita
not to sin any more--and she has come to us to be happy. We are going
to make her so, aren't we? Padre Diego couldn't hurt me, you know, for
God wouldn't let him. And he hasn't hurt Anita--God wouldn't let him
keep her--wouldn't let her stay with him. Don't you see, padre? And we
have got to be like Him--we _are_ like Him, really. But now we have
got to show it, to prove it, you know."

Rosendo's head was bent over the girl. Neither of them saw Josè. The
child went on with increased animation:

"And, padre dear, God sends us Anita's little baby for us to love and
protect. Oh, padre, if the little one is a boy, can't we call it
Josè?"

"Yes, _chiquita_," Josè heard the old man murmur brokenly.

"And--padre, if it is a girl--what shall we call it?"

The man's arm tightened about her. "We--we will call it--Carmencita,"
he whispered.