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Title: Mariquita - A Novel
Author: Ayscough, John
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 "Mariquita - A Novel" ***

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                                 MARIQUITA

                                  A Novel

                              BY JOHN AYSCOUGH


    NEW YORK, CINCINNATI, CHICAGO
    BENZIGER BROTHERS

    COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY BENZIGER BROTHERS

    Printed in the United States of America

       *       *       *       *       *

TO

SENORITA MARIQUITA GUTIERREZ


SENORITA,

It is, indeed, kind of you to condone, by your acceptance of the
dedication of this small book, the theft of your name, perpetrated
without your knowledge, in its title. And in thanking you for that
acceptance I seize another opportunity of apologizing for that theft.

I need not tell you that in drawing Mariquita's portrait I have not been
guilty of the further liberty of attempting your own, since we have
never met, except on paper, and you belong to that numerous party of my
friends known to me only by welcome and kind letters. But I hope there
may be a nearer likelihood of my meeting you than there now can be of my
seeing your namesake.

That you and some others may like her I earnestly trust: if not it must
be the fault of my portrait, drawn perhaps with less skill than
respectful affection.

JOHN AYSCOUGH.



MARIQUITA



CHAPTER I.


A whole state, as big as England and Wales, and then half as big again,
tilting smoothly upward towards, but never reaching, the Great Divide:
the tilt so gradual that miles of land seem level; a vast sun-swept,
breeze-swept upland always high above the level of the far, far-off sea,
here in the western skirts of the state a mile above it. Its sky-scape
always equal to its landscape, and dominant--as the sky can never be
imagined in shut lands of close valleys, where trees are forever at war
with the air and with the light.

Here light and life seeming twin and inseparable: and the wind itself
but the breathing of the light. What is called, by the foolish, a
featureless country, that is with huge, fine features, not to be sought
for but insistent, regnant, everywhere: space, tangible and palpable,
height inevitably perceptible and recognizable in all the unviolated
light, in the winds' smash, and the sun's, in the dancing sense of
freedom: yet that dancing not frivolous, but gladly solemn.

As to _little_ features they are slurred (to the slight glance) in the
vast unity: but look for them, and they are myriad. The riverbanks hold
them, between prairie-lip and water. The prairie-waves hold them. Life
is innumerably present, though to the hasty sight it seems primarily and
distinctly absent. There are myriads of God's little live preachers,
doing each, from untold ages to untold ages, the unnoted things set them
by Him to do, as their big brothers the sun and the wind, the rain and
the soil do.

Of the greater beasts fewer but plenty--fox, and timber-wolf, and
coyote, and still to-day an antelope here and there.

Of men few. Their dwellings parted by wide distances. Their voices
scarce heard where no dwelling is at hand. But the dwellings, being
solitary and rare, singularly home-stamped.



CHAPTER II.


Mariquita came out from the homestead, where there was nobody, and stood
at its verge (where the prairie began abruptly) where there was nobody.
She was twenty years old and had lived five of them here on the prairie,
since her mother died, and she had come home to be her father's daughter
and housekeeper, and all the servant he had. She was hardly taller now,
and more slim. Her father did not know she was beautiful--at first he
had been too much engaged in remembering her mother, who had been very
blonde and fair, not at all like her. Her own skin was dark; and her
rich hair was dark; her grave, soft, deep eyes were dark, though
hazel-dark, not black-dark: whereas her mother's hair had been
sunny-golden, and her eyes bright (rather shallow) blue, and her skin
all white and rose.

Her mother had taught school, up in Cheyenne, in Wyoming, and had been
of a New England family of Puritans. Her father's people had come, long
ago, from Spain, and he himself had been born near the desert in New
Mexico: his mother may have been Indian--but a Catholic, anyway.

So, no doubt, was José: though he had little occasion to remember it. It
was over fifty miles to the nearest church and he had not heard Mass for
years. He had married his Protestant wife without any dispensation, and
a judge had married them.

Nevertheless when the child came, he had made the mother understand she
must be of his Church, and had baptized her himself. When Mariquita was
ten years old he sent her to the Loretto nuns, out on the heights beyond
Denver, where she had been confirmed, and made her first Communion, and
many subsequent Communions.

For five years now she had had to "hear Mass her own way." That is to
say, she went out upon the prairie, and, in the shade of a tree-clump,
took her lonely place, crossed herself at the threshold of the shadow,
and genuflected towards where she believed her old school was, with its
chapel, and its Tabernacle. Then, out of her book she followed the
Ordinary of the Mass, projecting herself in mind and fancy into that
worshipping company, picturing priest and nuns and school-fellows. At
the _Sanctus_ she rang a sheep-bell, and deepened all her Intention. At
the Elevation she rang it again, in double triplet, though she could
elevate only her own solitary soul. At first she had easily pictured all
her school-fellows in their remembered places--they were all grown up
and gone away home now. The old priest she had known was dead, as the
nuns had sent her word, and she had to picture _a_ priest, unknown,
featureless, instead of him. The nuns' faces had somewhat dimmed in
distinctness too. But she could picture the large group still. At the
Communion she always made a Spiritual Communion of her own--that was why
she always "heard her Mass" early, so as to be fasting.

Once or twice, at long intervals, she had been followed by one of the
cowboys: but the first one had seen her face as she knelt, and gone
away, noiselessly, with a shy, red reverence. Her father had seen the
second making obliquely towards her tree-clump, had overtaken him and
inquired grimly if he would like a leathering. "When Mariquita's at
church," said José, "let her be. She's for none of us then."

And they let her be: and her tree-clump became known as Mariquita's
Church by all the cowboys.

One by one they fell in love with her (her father grimly conscious, but
unremarking) and one by one they found nothing come of it. Whether he
would have objected _had_ anything come of it he did not say, though
several had tried to guess.

To her he never spoke of it, any more than to them: he hardly spoke to
her of anything except the work--which she did carefully, as if
carelessly. If she had neglected it, or done it badly, he would have
rebuked her: that, he considered, was parental duty: as she needed no
rebuke he said nothing; his ideas of paternal duty were bounded by
paternal correction and a certain cool watchfulness. His watchfulness
was not intrusive: he left her chiefly to herself, perceiving her to
require no guidance. In all her life he never had occasion to complain
that anything she did was "out of place"--his notion of the severest
expression of disapproval a father could be called upon to utter.

It was, in his opinion, to be taken for granted that a parent was
entitled to the affection of his child, and that the child was entitled
to the affection of her father. He neither displayed his affection nor
wished Mariquita to display hers. Nor was there in him any sensible
feeling of love for the girl. Her mother he had loved, and it was a
relief to him that his daughter was wholly unlike her. It would have
vexed him had there been any challenging likeness--would have resented
it as a tacit claim, like a rivalry.

Joaquin was lonelier than Mariquita. He did not like being called "Don
Joaquin"; he preferred being known by his surname, as "Mr. Xeres." One
of the cowboys, a very ignorant lad from the East, had supposed
"Wah-Keen" to be a Chinese name, and confided his idea to the others.
Don Joaquin had overheard their laughter and been enraged by its cause
when he had learned it.

He had not married till he was a little over thirty, being already well
off by then, and he was therefore now past fifty on this afternoon when
Mariquita came out and stood all alone where the homestead as it were
rejoined the prairie. At first her long gaze, used to the great
distances, was turned westward (and south a little) towards where, miles
upon miles out of sight, lay the Mile High City, and Loretto, and the
Convent, and all that made her one stock of memories.

The prairie was as empty to such a gaze as so much ocean.

But the sun-stare dazzled her, and she turned eastward; half a mile from
her, that way, lay the river, showing nothing at this distance: its
water, not filling at this season a fifth of the space between banks was
out of sight: the low scrub within its banks was out of sight. Even its
lips, of precisely even level on either side, were not discernible. But
where she knew the further lip was, she saw two riders, a man and a
woman. A moment after she caught sight of them they disappeared--had
ridden down into the river-bed. The trail had guided them, and they
could miss neither the way nor the ford.

Nevertheless she walked towards where they were--though her father might
possibly have thought her doing so out of place.



CHAPTER III.


Up over the sandy river-bed came the two strangers, and Mariquita stood
awaiting them.

The woman might be thirty, and was, she perceived (to whom a saddle was
easier than a chair) unused to riding. She was a pretty woman, with a
sort of foolish amiability of manner that might mean nothing. The man
was younger--perhaps by three years, and rode as if he had always known
how to do it, but without being saddle-bred, without living chiefly on
horseback.

His companion was much aware of his being handsome, but Mariquita did
not think of that. She, however, liked him immediately--much better than
she liked the lady. The lady was not, in fact, quite a lady; but the
young man was a gentleman; and perhaps Mariquita had never known one.

"Is this," inquired the blonde lady--pointing, though inaccurately, as
if to indicate Mariquita's home, "where Mr. Xeres lives, please?"

She pronounced the X like the x's in Artaxerxes.

"Certainly. He is my father."

"Then your mother is my Aunt Margaret," said the lady in the smart
clothes that looked so queer on an equestrian.

"My mother unfortunately is dead," Mariquita informed her, with a
simplicity that made the wide-open blue eyes open wider still, and
caused their owner to decide that the girl was "awfully Spanish."

Miss Sarah Jackson assumed (with admirable readiness) an expression of
pathos.

"How very sad! I do apologize," she murmured, as if the decease of her
aunt were partly her fault.

The young man was amused--not for the first time--by his
fellow-traveller: but he did not show it.

"You couldn't help it," said Mariquita.

("How very Spanish!" thought her cousin.)

"Of course you did not know," the girl added, "or you would not have
said anything to hurt me. And my mother's death happened five years
ago."

"Not _really_!" cried the deceased lady's niece. "How wholly
unexpected!"

"It wasn't very sudden," Mariquita explained. "She was ill for three
months."

"My father was quite unaware of it--entirely so. He died, in fact, just
about that time. And Aunt Margaret and he were (so unfortunately!)
hardly on terms. Personally I always (though a child) had the strongest
affection for Aunt Margaret. I took her part about her marriage. Papa's
_own_ second marriage struck me as less defensible."

"_My_ father only married once," said Mariquita; "he is a widower."

"Oh, quite so! I wish mine had remained so. My stepmother--but we all
have our faults, no doubt. We did _not_ live agreeably after her third
marriage--" (Mariquita was getting giddy, and so, perhaps, was Miss
Jackson's fellow-traveller.)

"I could not, in fact, live," that lady serenely continued, with a smile
of lingering sweetness, "and finally we differed completely. (Not
noisily, on my part, nor roughly but irrevocably.) Hence my resolve to
turn to Aunt Margaret, and my presence here--blood _is_ thicker than
water, when you come to think of it."

"I met Miss Jackson at ----," her fellow-traveller explained, "and we
made acquaintance--"

"Introduced by Mrs. Plosher," Miss Jackson put in again with singular
sweetness. "Mrs. Plosher's boarding-house was recommended to me by two
ministers. Mr. Gore was likewise her guest, and coming, as she was
aware, to your father's."

Don Joaquin, besides the regular cowboys, had from time to time taken a
sort of pupil or apprentice, who paid instead of being paid. Mariquita
had not been informed that this Mr. Gore was expected.

"So," Mr. Gore added, "I begged Miss Jackson to use one of my horses,
and I have been her escort."

"So coincidental!" observed that lady, shaking her head slightly.
"Though really--now I find my aunt no longer presiding here--I
_really_----"



CHAPTER IV.


Don Joaquin expressed no surprise at Mr. Gore's arrival, and no rapture
at that of Miss Jackson. But he appeared to take it for granted both
would remain--as they did.

He saw more of the young man than of the young woman, which seemed to
Mariquita to account for his preferring the latter. _She_ had to see
more of the lady. Miss Jackson was undeniably pretty, and instantly
recognized as such by the cowboys: but she "kept her distance," and
largely ignored their presence--a fact not unobserved by Don Joaquin,
who inwardly commended her prudence. Of Mr. Gore she took more notice,
as was natural, owing to their previous acquaintance. She spoke of him,
however, to her host, as a lad, and hinted that at her age, lads were
tedious; while frequent in allusion to a certain Eastern friend of hers
(Mr. Bluck, a man of large means and great capacity) whose married
daughter was her closest acquaintance.

"Carolina was older than me at school," she would admit, "but she was
more to my taste than those of my own age. Maturity wins me. Youth is so
raw!"

"What you call underdone," suggested Don Joaquin, who had talked English
for forty years, and translated it still, in his mind, into Spanish.

"Just that," Sarah agreed. "You grasp me."

He didn't then, though he would sooner or later, thought the cowboys.

Miss Jackson, then, ignored the cowboys, and gave all the time she could
spare from herself to Mariquita. When not with Mariquita she was sewing,
being an indefatigable dressmaker. She called it her "studies."

"It is essential (out here in the wilderness) that I should not neglect
my studies, and run to seed," she would say, as she smilingly retreated
into her bedroom, where there were no books.

Mariquita would not have been sorry had she "studied" more. Sarah did
not fit into her old habits of life, and when they were together
Mariquita felt lonelier than she had ever done before. Indoors she did
not find the young woman so incongruous--but when they were out on the
prairie together the elder girl seemed somehow altogether impossible to
reconcile with it.

"One might sketch," Miss Jackson would observe. "One _ought_ to keep up
one's sketching: I feel it to be a duty--don't you?"

"No. I can't sketch. It can't be a duty in my case."

"Ah, but in _mine_! I _know_ I ought. But there's no feature." And she
slowly waved her parasol round the horizon as though defying a "feature"
to supervene from any point of the compass.

Though she despised her present neighborhood, Sarah never hinted at any
intention of leaving it: and it became apparent that her host would not
have liked her to go away. That her presence was a great thing for
Mariquita it suited him to assume, but he saw no necessity for
discussing the matter, nor ascertaining what might in fact be his
daughter's opinion.

"I think," he said instead, "it will be better we call your cousin
'Sarella'. It is her name Sarah and Ella. 'Sarella' sounds more
fitting."

So he and Mariquita thenceforth called her "Sarella."



CHAPTER V.


Don Joaquin never thought much of Robert Gore; he failed, from the
first, to "take to him." It had not delighted him that "Sarella" should
arrive under his escort, though how she could have made her way up from
Maxwell without him, he did not trouble to discuss with himself. At
first he had thought it almost inevitable that the young man should make
those services of his a claim to special intimacy with the lady to whom
he had accidentally been useful. As it became apparent that Gore made no
such claim, and was not peculiarly inclined to intimacy with his late
fellow-traveller, Don Joaquin was half disposed to take umbrage, as
though the young man were in a manner slighting Miss Jackson--his own
wife's niece.

As there were only two women about the place, indifference to one of
them (and that one, in Don Joaquin's opinion, by far the more
attractive) might be accounted for by some special inclination towards
the other. Was Gore equally indifferent to Mariquita?

Now, at present, Mariquita's father was not ready to approve any
advances from the stranger in that direction. He did not feel he knew
enough about him. That he was sufficiently well off, he thought
probable; but in that matter he must have certainty. And besides, he
thought Gore was sure to be a Protestant. Now he had married a
Protestant himself: and that his wife had been taken from him in her
youth had been, he had silently decided, Heaven's retribution. Besides,
a girl was different. A man might do things she might not. _He_ had
consulted his own will and pleasure only; but Mariquita was not
therefore free to consult hers. A Catholic girl should give herself only
to a Catholic man.

That Mariquita and Gore saw little of each other he was pretty sure, but
it was not possible they should see nothing. And it soon became his
opinion that, without much personal intercourse, they were interested in
each other.

Mariquita listened (without often looking at him) when Gore talked, in a
manner he had never yet observed in her. Gore's extreme deference
towards the girl, his singular and almost aloof courtesy was, the old
man conceived, not only breeding and good manners, but the sign of some
special way in which she had impressed him; as if he had, at sight,
perceived in her something unrevealed to her father himself. In this, as
in most things, Don Joaquin was correct in his surmise. He was shrewd in
surmise to the point almost of cleverness, though by no means an
infallible judge of character. It did not, however, occur to him that
the young stranger was right in this fancied perception, that in
Mariquita there was something higher and finer than anything divined by
her father, who had never gone beyond admitting that, so far, he had
perceived in her nothing out of place.

If anything out of place should now appear he would speak; meanwhile he
remained, as his habit was, silent and watchful; not rendered more
appreciative of his daughter by the stranger's appreciation, and not
inclined by that appreciation more favorably to the stranger himself.

That Gore was not warmly welcomed by the cowboys neither surprised nor
troubled him. There were no quarrels, and that was enough. He did not
expect them to be delighted by the advent of a foreigner in a position
not identical with their own. What they did for pay, he paid for being
taught to do--that was the theory, though in fact Gore did not seem to
need much teaching. Some, of course, he did need: prairie-lore he could
not know, however practised he might be as a mere horseman. Don Joaquin
was chiefly a horse-raiser and dealer, though he dealt also in cattle
and even in sheep. By this time he had the repute of being wealthy.



CHAPTER VI.


It was true that the actual intercourse between Mariquita and her
father's apprentice or pupil was much less frequent or close than might
be imagined by anyone strange to the way of life of which they formed
two units.

At meals they sat at the same table, but during the greater part of
every day he was out upon the range, and she at home, within the
homestead, or near it. Yet it was also true that between them there was
something not existing between either and any other person: a friendship
mostly silent, an interest not the less real or strong because of the
silence. To Gore she was a study, of profounder interest than any book
he knew. To make a counter-study of him would have been alien from
Mariquita's nature and character; but his presence, which she did not
ponder, or consider, as he did hers, brought something into her life.
Perhaps it chiefly made her less lonely by revealing to her how lonely
she had been. Of his beauty she never thought--never till the end. Of
hers he thought much less as he became more and more absorbed in
herself--though its fineness was always more and more clearly perceived
by him.

On that first afternoon, when he had first seen her, it had instantly
struck him as possessing a quality of rarity, elusive and never to be
defined. Miss Jackson's almost gorgeous prettiness, her brilliant
coloring, her attractive shapeliness, had been hopelessly and finally
vulgarized by the contrast--as the two young women stood on the level
lip of the river-course in the unsparing, unflattering light.

That Miss Jackson promptly decided that Mariquita was stupid, he had
seen plainly; and he had not had the consolation of knowing that she was
stupid herself. She was, he knew, wise enough in her generation, and by
no means vacant of will or purpose. But she was, he saw, stupid in
thinking her young hostess so. Slow, in some senses, Mariquita might be;
not swift of impression, though tenacious of impression received, nor
willing to be quick in jumping to shrewd (unflattering) conclusion, yet
likely to stick hard to an even harsh conclusion once formed.

These, however, were slight matters. What was not slight was the sense
she gave him of nobility: her simplicity itself noble, her complete
acquiescence in her own complete ignorance of experience--her innate,
unargued conviction of the little consequence of much, often highly
desired, experience.

Of the world she knew nothing, socially, geographically even. Of women
her knowledge was (as soon he discovered) a mere memory, a memory of a
group of nuns--for her other companions at the Convent had been
children. Of men she knew only her father and his cowboys. And no one,
he perceived, knew her.

But Gore did not believe her mind vacant. That rare quality could not
have been in her beauty if it had been empty. Yet--there was something
greater than her mind behind her face. The shape of that perception had
entered instantly into his own mind; and the perception grew and
deepened daily, with every time he was in her presence, with every
recollection of her in absence.

Her mind might be a garden unsown. But behind her face was the light of
a lamp not waiting to be lit, but already lighted (he surmised) at the
first coming of conscious existence, and burning steadily ever since.
Whose hand had lighted it he did not know yet, though he knew that the
lamp, shining behind her face, her mere beauty, was her soul. Her father
was not mistaken in his notion that the young man regarded the girl to
whom he addressed so little of direct speech, with a veneration that
disconcerted Don Joaquin and was condemned by him as out of place. Not
that he, of course, found fault with _respect_: absence of that he would
grimly have resented; but a _culte_, like Gore's, a reverence literally
devout, seemed to the old half-Indian Latin, high-falutin, unreal: and
Don Joaquin abhorred unrealities.

Probably the young man condemned the old as hide-bound in obtuseness of
perception in reference to his daughter. As a jewel of gold in a swine's
snout she may well have seemed to him. If so, some inkling of the fact
would surely penetrate the old horse-raiser's inner, taciturn, but
acutely watchful consciousness. His hide was by no means too thick for
that. And, if so again, that perception would not enhance his
appreciation of the critic.

Elderly fathers are not universally more flattered by an exalted
valuation of their daughters than by an admiring estimation of
themselves.

To himself, indeed, Gore was perfectly respectful. And he had to admit
that the stranger learned his work well and did it well--better than the
cowboys whom Don Joaquin was not given to indulge in neglect or
slackness.

He had a notion that the cowboys considered Gore too respectable--as to
which their master held his judgment in suspense. In a possible
son-in-law respectability, unless quite suspiciously excessive, would
not be much "out of place"--not that Don Joaquin admitted more than the
bare possibility, till he had fuller certainty as to the stranger's
circumstances and antecedents, what he called his "conditions." Given
satisfactory conditions, Mariquita's father began to be conscious that
Gore as a possible son-in-law might simplify a certain course of his
own.

For Sarella continued steadily to commend herself to his ideas. He held
her to be beautiful in the extreme, and her prudence he secretly
acclaimed as admirable. That she was penniless he was quite aware, and
he had a constant, sincere affection for money; but, unless penniless,
such a lovely creature could hardly have been found on the prairie, or
be expected to remain there; an elderly rich husband, he considered,
would have much more hold on a young and lovely wife if she _were_
penniless.

That the young woman had expensive tastes he did not suppose, and he had
great and not ungrounded confidence in his own power of repression of
any taste not to his mind, should any supervene.

Don Joaquin had two reasons for surveying with conditional approval the
idea of marrying Sarella--when he should have made up his mind, which he
had not yet done. One was to please himself: the other was in order that
he might have a son. Mariquita's sex had always been against her. Before
her arrival he had decided that his child must be a boy, and her being a
girl was out of place. He disliked making money for some other man's
wife.



CHAPTER VII.


Jack did not like Sarella, and so it was fortunate for that young person
that Jack's opinion was of no sort of consequence. He had been longer on
the range than anyone there except Don Joaquin, and he did much that
would, if he had been a different sort of man, have entitled him to
consider himself foreman. But he received smaller wages than anyone and
never dreamt of being foreman. He was believed never to have had any
other name but Jack, and was known never to have had but one suit of
clothes, and his face and hands were much shabbier than his clothes,
owing to a calendar of personal accidents. "That happened," he would
say, "in the year the red bull horned my eye out," or "I mind--'twas in
the Jenoorey that my leg got smashed thro' Black Peter rollin' on
me...." He had been struck in the jaw by a splinter from a tree that had
itself been struck by lightning, and the scar he called his "June
mark." A missing finger of his right hand he called his Xmas mark
because it was on Christmas Day that the gun burst which shot it off.
These, and many other scars and blemishes, would have marred the beauty
of an Antinoüs, and Jack had always been ugly.

But, shabby as he was, he was marvellously clean, and Mariquita was very
fond of him. His crooked body held a straight heart, loyal and kind, and
a child's mind could not be cleaner. No human being suspected that Jack
hated his master, whom he served faithfully and with stingily rewarded
toil: and he hated him not because he was stingy to himself, but because
Jack adored Mariquita, and accused her father of indifference to her. He
was angry with him for leaving her alone to do all the work, and angry
because nothing was ever done for her, and no thought taken of her.

When Sarella and Gore came, Jack hoped that the young man would marry
Mariquita and take her away--though _he_ would be left desolate. Thus
Mariquita would be happy--and her father be punished, for Jack clearly
perceived that Don Joaquin did not care for Gore, and he did _not_
perceive that Mariquita's departure might be convenient to her father.
But Jack could not see that Gore himself did much to carry out that
marriage scheme. That the young man set a far higher value on Mariquita
than her father had ever done, Jack did promptly understand; but he
could perceive no advances and watched him with impatience.

As for Sarella, Jack was jealous of her importance: jealous that the old
man made more of his wife's niece than of his own daughter; jealous that
she had much less to do, and specially jealous that she had much smarter
clothes. Jack could not see Sarella's beauty; had he possessed a
looking-glass it might have been supposed to have dislocated his eye for
beauty, but he possessed none--and he thought Mariquita as beautiful as
the dawn on the prairie.

To do her justice, Sarella was civil to the battered old fellow, but he
didn't want her civility, and was ungrateful for it. Yet her civility
was to prove useful. Jack lived in a shed at the end of the stables,
where he ate and slept, and mended his clothes sitting up in bed, and
wearing (then only) a large pair of spectacles, though half a pair would
have been enough. He cooked his own food, though Mariquita would have
cooked it for him if he would have let her.

Sarella loved good eating, and on her coming it irritated her to see so
much excellent food "made so little of." Presently she gave specimens of
her own superior science, and Don Joaquin approved, as did the cowboys.

"Jack," she said to him one day, "do you ever eat anything but stew from
year's end to year's end?"

"I eats bread, too, and likewise corn porridge," Jack replied coldly.

"I could tell you how to make more of your meat--I should think you'd
sicken of stew everlastingly."

"There's worse than stew," he suggested.

"_I_ don't know what's worse, then," the young lady retorted, wrinkling
her very pretty nose.

"None. That's worse," said Jack, triumphantly.

"It seems to me," Sarella observed thoughtfully, "as if you're growing a
bit oldish to do for yourself, and have no one to do anything for you.
An elderly man wants a woman to keep him comfortable."

Jack snorted, but Sarella, undefeated, proceeded to put the case of his
being ill. Who would nurse him?

"Ill! I've too much to do for sech idleness. The Boss'd stare if I laid
out to get ill."

"Illness," Sarella remarked piously, "comes from Above, and may come any
day. Haven't you anyone belonging to you, Jack? No sister, no niece; you
never were married, I suppose, so I don't mention a daughter."

"I _was_ married, though," Jack explained, much delighted, "and had a
daughter, too."

"You quite surprise me!" cried Sarella, "quite!"

"She didn't marry me for my looks, my wife didn't," chuckled Jack. "Nor
yet for my money."

"Out of esteem?" suggested Sarella.

"Can't say, I'm sure. I never heerd her mention it. Anyway, it didn't
last--"

"The esteem?"

"No. The firm. She died--when Ginger was born. Since which I have
remained a bachelord."

"By Ginger you mean your daughter?"

"That's what they called her. Her aunt took her, and _she_ took the
smallpox. But she didn't die of it. She's alive now."

"Married, I daresay?"

"No. Single. She's as like me as you're not," Jack explained summarily.

Sarella laughed.

"A good girl, though, I'll be bound," she hinted amiably.

"She's never mentioned the contrary--in her letters."

"Oh, she writes! I'm glad she writes."

"Thank you, Miss Sarella. She writes most Christmasses. And she wrote
lately, tho' it's not Christmas."

"Not ill, I hope?"

"Ill! She's an industrious girl with plenty o' sense ... but her aunt's
dead, and she thinks o' taking a place in a boarding-house."

"Jack," said Sarella, after a brief but pregnant pause of consideration,
"bring her up here."

Jack regarded her with a stare of undisguised amazement.

"Why not?" Sarella persisted. "It would be better for you."

"What's that to do with it?"

"And better for Miss Mariquita. It's too much for Miss Mariquita--all
the work she has to do."

"That's true anyway."

"Of course it's true. Anyone can see that." (That Sarella saw it,
considerably surprised Jack, and provided matter for some close
consideration subsequently.)

"Look here, Jack," she went on, "I'll tell you what. You go to Mr. Xeres
and say you'd like your daughter to come and work for you...."

"And he'd tell me to go and be damned."

"But you'd not go. And he wouldn't want you to go. And _I'll_ speak to
him."

Jack stared again. He hardly realized yet how much steadily growing
confidence in her influence with "the Boss" Sarella felt. He made no
promise to speak to him: but said "he'd sleep on it."

With that sleep came a certain ray of comprehension. Miss Sarella was
not thinking entirely of him and his loneliness, nor entirely of Miss
Mariquita. He believed that she really expected the Boss would marry her
(as all the cowboys had believed for some weeks) and he perceived, with
some involuntary admiration of her shrewdness, that she had no idea of
being left, if Miss Mariquita should marry and go away, to do all the
work as she had done. Once arrived at this perception of the situation,
Jack went ahead confident of Sarella's quietly persistent help. He had
not the least dread of rough language. He had no sensitive dread of
displeasing his master. He would like to have Ginger up at the range
especially as Ginger's coming would take much of the work off Miss
Mariquita's hands. He even made Don Joaquin suspect that if Ginger were
not allowed to come he, Jack, would go, and make a home for her down in
Maxwell.

It did not suit Don Joaquin to lose Jack, and it suited him very well to
listen to Sarella.

So Ginger came, and proved, as all the cowboys agreed, a good sort,
though quite as ugly as her father.



CHAPTER VIII.


"Mariquita," said her father one day, "does Sarella ever talk to you
about religion?"

Anything like what could be called a conversation was so rare between
them that the girl was surprised, and it surprised her still more that
he should choose that particular subject.

"She asked me if we were Catholics."

"Of course we are Catholics. You said so?"

"I didn't say 'of course,' but I said we were. She then asked if my
mother had become one--on her marriage or afterwards."

Don Joaquin heard this with evident interest, and, as Mariquita thought,
with some satisfaction.

"What did you say?" he inquired.

Mariquita glanced at him as if puzzled. "I told her that my mother
never became a Catholic," she answered.

"That pleased her?"

"I don't know. She did not seem pleased or displeased."

"She did not seem glad that I had not insisted that my wife should be
Catholic?"

"She may have been glad--I did not see that she was."

"You did not think she would have been angry if she had heard I had
insisted that my wife should be Catholic?"

"No; that did not appear to me."

So far as Mariquita's information went, it satisfied her father. Only it
was a pity Sarella should know that her aunt had not adopted his own
religion.

Mariquita had not probed the motive of his questions. Direct enough of
_impression_, she was not penetrating nor astute in following the hidden
working of other persons' minds.

"It is," he remarked, "a good thing Sarella came here."

"Poor thing! She had no home left--it was natural she should think of
coming to her aunt."

"Yes, quite natural. And good for you also."

"I was not lonely before--"

"But if I had died?"

Mariquita had never thought of his dying; he was as strong as a tree,
and she could not picture the range without him.

"I never thought of you dying. You are not old, father."

"Old, no! But suppose I had died, all the same--before Sarella
came--what would you have done?"

"I never thought of it."

"No. That would have been out of place. But you could not have lived
here, one girl all alone among all the men."

"No, of course."

"Now you have Sarella. It would be different."

"Oh, yes; if she wished to go on living here--"

"If she went away to live somewhere else you could go with her."

Mariquita did not see that that would be necessary, but she did not say
so. She was not aware that her father was endeavoring to habituate her
mind to the permanence of Sarella's connection with herself.

"Of course," he said casually, "you might marry--at any time."

"I never thought of that," the girl answered, and he saw clearly that
she never _had_ thought of it. Gore would, he perceived, not have her
for the asking; might have a great deal of asking to do, and might not
succeed after much asking.

It was not so clear to him that Gore himself was as well aware of that
as he was.

That she had never had any thoughts of marriage pleased him, partly
because he would not have liked Gore to get what he wanted, so easily,
and partly because it satisfied his notion of dignity in her--his
daughter. It was really his own dignity in her he was thinking of.

All the same, now that he knew she was not thinking of marrying the
handsome stranger, he felt more clearly that (if Gore's "conditions"
were suitable) the marriage might suit him--Don Joaquin.

"There are," he observed sententiously, "only two ways for women."

"Two ways?"

"Marriage is the usual way. If God had wanted only nuns, He would have
created women only. That one sees. Whereas there are women and men--so
marriage is the ordinary way for women; and if God chooses there should
be more married women than nuns, it shows He doesn't want too many
nuns."

The argument was new to Mariquita: she was little used to hear _any_
abstract discussion from her father.

"You have thought of it," she said; "I have never thought of all that."

"There was no necessity. It might have been out of place. All the same
it is true what I say."

"But I think it is also true that to be a nun is the best way for some
women."

"Naturally. For some."

Mariquita had no sort of desire to argue with him, or anyone; arguments
were, she thought, almost quarrels.

He, on his side, was again thinking of Sarella, and left the nuns
alone.

"It would," he said, "be a good thing if Sarella should become Catholic.
If she talks about religion you can explain to her that there can be
only one that is true."

Mariquita did not understand (though everyone else did) that her father
wished to marry Sarella, and, of course, she could not know that he was
resolved against provoking further punishment by marrying a Protestant.

"If I can," she said, slowly, "I will try to help her to see that. She
does not talk much about such things. And she is much older than I am--"

"Oh, yes; quite very much older," he agreed earnestly, though in fact
Sarella appeared simply a girl to him.

"And it would not do good for me to seem interfering."

"But," he agreed with some adroitness, "though a blind person were older
than you (who can see) you would show her the way?"

Mariquita was not, at any rate, so blind as to be unable to see that her
father was strongly desirous that Sarella should be a Catholic. It had
surprised her, as she had no recollection of his having troubled himself
concerning her own mother, his beloved wife, not having been one. Of
course, she was glad, thinking it meant a deeper interest in religion on
his own part.



CHAPTER IX.


Between Mariquita and her father there was little in common except a
partial community of race; in nature and character they were entirely
different. In her the Indian strain had only physical expression, and
that only in the slim suppleness of her frame; she would never grow
stout as do so many Spanish women.

Whereas in her father the Indian blood had effects of character. He was
not merely subtle like a Latin, but had besides the craft and cunning of
an Indian. Yet the cunning seemed only an intensification of the
subtlety, a deeper degree of the same quality and not an added separate
quality. In fact, in him, as in many with the same mixture of race, the
Indian strain and the Spanish were really mingled, not merely joined in
one individual.

Mariquita had, after all, only one quarter Spanish, and one Indian;
whereas with him it was a quarter of half and half. She had, in actual
blood, a whole half that was pure Saxon, for her mother's New England
family was of pure English descent. Yet Mariquita seemed far more purely
Spanish than her father; he himself could trace nothing of her mother in
her, and in her character was nothing Indian but her patience.

From her mother personally she inherited nothing, but through her mother
she had certain characteristics that helped to make her very
incomprehensible to Don Joaquin, though he did not know it.

Gore, who studied her with far more care and interest, because to him
she seemed deeply worth study, did not himself feel compelled to
remember her triple strain of race. For to him she seemed splendidly,
adorably simple. He was far from falling into Sarella's shallow mistake
of calling that simplicity "stupidity"; to him it appeared a sublimation
of purity, rarely noble and fine. That she was book-ignorant he knew, as
well as that she was life-ignorant; but he did not think her
intellectually narrow, even intellectually fallow. Along what roads her
mind moved he could not, by mere study of her, discover; yet he was sure
it did not stagnate without motion or life.

       *       *       *       *       *

About a month after the arrival of Sarella, one Saturday night at
supper, that young person observed that Mr. Gore's place was vacant.

Mariquita must equally have noted the fact, but she had said nothing.

"Isn't Mr. Gore coming to his supper?" Sarella asked her.

Don Joaquin thought this out of place. His daughter's silence on the
subject had pleased him better.

"I don't know," Mariquita answered, glancing towards her father.

"No," he said; "he has ridden down to Maxwell."

Sometimes one or other of the cowboys would ride down to Maxwell, and
reappear, without question or remark.

"I wonder he did not mention he was going," Sarella complained.

"Of course he mentioned it," Don Joaquin said loudly. "He would not go
without asking me."

"But to us ladies," Sarella persisted, "it would have been better
manners."

"That was not at all necessary," said Don Joaquin; "Mariquita would not
expect it."

"_I_ would, though. It ought to have struck him that one might have a
communication for him. I should have had commissions for him."

It was evident that Sarella had ruffled Don Joaquin, and it was the
first time anyone had seen him annoyed by her.

Next day, after the midday meal, Sarella followed Mariquita out of
doors, and said to her, yawning and laughing.

"Don't you miss Mr. Gore?"

Mariquita answered at once and quite simply:

"Miss him? He was never here till a month ago--"

"Nor was I," Sarella interrupted pouting prettily. "But you'd miss me,
now."

"Only you're not going away."

"You take it for granted I shall stop, then?" (And Sarella looked
complacent.) "That I'm a fixture."

"I never thought of your going away," Mariquita answered, with a formula
rather habitual to her. "Where would you go?"

"I should decide on that when I decided to go." Sarella declared
oracularly. But Mariquita took it with irritating calmness.

"I don't believe you will decide to go," she said with that gravity and
plainness of hers that often irritated Sarella--who liked _badinage_.
"It would be useless."

"Suppose," Sarella suggested, pinching the younger girl's arm playfully,
"suppose I were to think of getting married. Shouldn't I have to go
then?"

"I never thought of that--" Mariquita was beginning, but Sarella pinched
and interrupted her.

"Do you _ever_ think of anything?" she complained sharply.

"Oh, yes, often, of many things."

"What things on earth?" (with sudden inquisitive eagerness.)

"Just my own sort of things," Mariquita answered, without saying whether
"her things" were on earth at all. Sarella pouted again.

"You're not very confidential to a person."

Mariquita weighed the accusation. "Perhaps," she said quietly, "I am not
much used to persons. Since I came home from the convent there was no
other girl here till you came."

"So you're sorry I came!"

"No; glad. I am glad you did that. It is a home for you. And I am sure
my father is glad."

"You think he likes my being here?" And Sarella listened attentively for
the answer.

"Of course. You must see it."

"You think he does not dislike me? He was cross with me last night."

"He did not like you noticing Mr. Gore was away--"

"Of course I noticed it--surely, he could not be jealous of that!"

"I should not think he could be jealous," Mariquita agreed, too readily
to please Sarella. "But I did not think of it. I am sure he does not
dislike you. You cannot think he does."

Sarella was far from thinking it. But she had wanted Mariquita to say
more, and was only partly satisfied.

"_He_ would not like me to go away?" she suggested.

"Oh, no. The contrary."

"Not even if it were advantageous to me?"

"How advantageous?"

"If I were to be going to a home of my own? Going, for instance, to be
married?"

"That would surprise him...."

Sarella was not pleased at this.

"Surprise him! Why should it surprise him that anyone should marry me?"

"There is no reason. Only, he does not imagine that there _is_ someone.
If there is someone, he would suppose you had not been willing to marry
him by your coming here instead."

("Is she stupid or cautious?" Sarella asked herself. "She will say
nothing.")

Mariquita was neither cautious nor stupid. She was only ignorant of
Sarella's purpose, and by no means awake to her father's.

"It is terribly hot out here," Sarella grumbled, "and there is such a
glare. I shall go in and study."



CHAPTER X.


Mariquita did not go in too. She did not find it hot, nor did the glare
trouble her. The air was full of life and vigor, and she had no sense of
lassitude. There was, indeed, a breeze from the far-off Rockies, and to
her it seemed cool enough, though the sun was so nearly directly
overhead that her figure cast only a very stunted shadow of herself. In
the long grass the breeze made a slight rustle, but there was no other
sound.

Mariquita did not want to be indoors; outside, here on the tilted
prairie, she was alone and not lonely. The tilt of the vast space around
her showed chiefly in this--that eastward the horizon was visibly lower
than at the western rim of the prairie. The prairie was not really flat;
between her and both horizons there lay undulations, those between her
and the western rising into _mesas_, which, with a haze so light as only
to tell in the great distance, hid the distant barrier of the Rocky
Mountains, whose foothills even were beyond the frontiers of this State.

She knew well where they were, though, and knew almost exactly beyond
which point of the far horizon lay Loretto Heights, beyond Denver, and
the Convent.

Somehow the coming of these two new units to the range-life had pushed
the Convent farther away still. But Mariquita's thoughts never rested in
the mere memories hanging like a slowly fading arras around that
long-concluded convent life. What it had given her was more than the
memories and was hers still.

As to the mere memories, she knew that with slow but increasing pace
they were receding from her, till on time's horizon they would end in a
haze, golden but vague and formless. Voices once clearly recalled were
losing tone; faces, whose features had once risen before the eye of
memory with little less distinctness than that with which she had seen
them when physically present, arose now blurred like faces passing a
fog. Even their individuality, depending less on feature than
expression, was no longer easily recoverable.

She had been used to remember this and that nun by her very footsteps;
now the nuns moved, a mere group in one costume, soundlessly, with no
footstep at all.

Of this gradual loss of what had been almost her only private possession
she made no inward wishful complaint; Mariquita was not morbid, nor
melancholy. The operation of a natural law of life could not fill her
with the poet's rebellious outcry. To all law indeed she yielded without
protest, whether it implied submission without inward revolt to the mere
shackles of circumstance, or submission to her father's dominance; for
it was not in her fashion of mind to form hypothesis--such hypothesis,
for instance, as that of her father calling upon her to take some course
opposed to conscience. Though her gaze was turned towards the point of
the horizon under which the Convent and its intimates were, it was not
simply to dream of them that she yielded herself.

All that life had had a centre--not for herself only, but for all there.
The simplicity of the life consisted, above all, in the simplicity of
its object. Its routine, almost mechanically regular, was not mechanical
because of its central meaning. No doubt the "work" of the nuns was
education, but their work of education was service of a Master. And the
Master was Himself the real object, the centre of the work, as carried
on within those quiet, busy walls. Mariquita no longer formed a part,
though the work was still operative in her, and had not ceased with her
removal from the workers; but she was as near as ever to its centre, and
was now more concerned with the ultimate object of the work than with
the work.

Her memories were weakening in color and definiteness, but her
possession was not decreased, her possession was the Master who
possessed herself.

The simplicity that Gore had from the first noted in her, without being
able to inform himself wherein it consisted--but which he venerated
without knowing its source, that he knew was noble--was first that
Mariquita did in fact live and move and have her being, as nominally all
His creatures do, in the Master of that vanished convent life. What the
prairie was to her body, surrounding it, its sole background and scene
and stage of action, He was to her inward, very vivid, wholly silent
life; what the prairie was to her healthy lungs, He was to her soul, its
breath, "inspiration." Banal and stale as such metaphor is, in her the
two lives were so unified (in this was the rarity of her "simplicity")
that it was at least completely accurate.

With Mariquita that which we call the supernatural life was not
occasional and spasmodic. That inspiration of Our Lord was not, as with
so many, a gulp, or periodic series of gulps, but a breathing as steady
and soundless as the natural breathing of her strong, sane, flawless
body.

She did not, like the self-conscious pietist, listen to it. She did not,
like the pathological pietist, test its pulse or temperature. The
pathological pietist is still self-student, though studious of self in a
new relation; still breathes her own breath at second-hand, and remains
indoors within the four walls of herself.

Of herself Mariquita knew little. That God had given her, in truth,
existence; that she knew. That _she_ was, because He chose. That He had
been born, and died, and lived again, for her sake, as much as for the
sake of any one of all the saints, though not more than for the sake of
the human being in all the world who thought least of Him: that she
knew. That He loved her incomparably better than she could love herself
or any other person--that she knew with a reality of knowledge greater
than that with which any lover ever knows himself beloved by the lover
who would give and lose everything for him. That He had already set in
her another treasure, the capacity of loving Him--that also she knew
with ineffable reverence and gladness, and that the power of loving Him
grew in her, as the power of knowing Him grew.

But concerning herself Mariquita knew little except such things as
these. She had studied neither her own capacities nor her own
limitations, neither her tastes, nor her gifts. That Sarella thought
her stupid, she was hardly aware, and less than half aware that Sarella
was wrong. No human creature had ever told her that she was beautiful,
and she had never made any guess on the subject with herself. She never
wondered if she were happy, or ever unjustly disinherited of the means
of happiness. Whether, in less strait thrall of circumstance, she might
be of more consequence, even of more use, she never debated. She had not
dreamed of being heroic; had no chafing at absence of either sphere or
capacity for being brilliant. Her life was passing in a silence
singularly profound among the lives of God's other human creatures, and
its silence, unhumanness, oblivion (that deepest of oblivion lying
beneath what _has_ been known though forgotten) did not vex her, and was
never thought of. Her duties were coarse and common; but they were those
God had set in her way and sight, and she had no impatience of them, no
scorn for them, but just did them. They were not more coarse or common
than those He had himself found to His hand, and done, in the house at
Nazareth where Joseph was master, and, after Joseph, Mary was mistress,
and He, their Creator, third, to obey and serve them.

It would be greatly unjust to Mariquita to say that the monotone of her
life was made golden by the bright haze in which it moved. She lived not
in a dream, but in an atmosphere. She was not a dreamy person, moving
through realities without consciousness of them. She saw all around her,
with living interest, only she saw beyond them with interest deeper
still, or rather their own significance for her was made deeper by her
sense of what was beyond them, and to which they, like herself,
belonged. She was very conscious of her neighbors, not only of the human
neighbors, but also of the live creatures not human; and each of these
had, in her reverence, a definite sacredness as coming like herself from
the hand of God.

There was nothing pantheistic in this; seeing everything as God's she
did not see it itself Divine, but every natural object was to her clear
vision but a thread in the clear, transparent veil through which God
showed Himself everywhere. When St. Francis "preached to the birds" he
was in fact listening to their sermon to him; and Mariquita, in her
close neighborly friendship with the small wild creatures of the
prairie, was only worshipping the ineffable, kind friendliness of God,
who had made, and who fed, them also. The love she gave them was only
one of the myriad silent expressions of her love for Him, who loved
them. They were easier and simpler to understand than her human
neighbors. It was not that, for an instant, she thought them on the same
plane of interest--but we must here interrupt ourselves as she was
interrupted.



CHAPTER XI.


Mariquita had been alone a long time when Gore, riding home, came
suddenly upon her.

She was sitting where a clump of trees cast now a shadow, and it was
only in coming round them that he saw her when already very near her.
The ground was soft there, and his horse's hoofs had made scarcely any
sound.

She turned her head, and he saluted her, at the same moment slipping
from the saddle.

"I thought you were far away," she said.

"I have been far away--at Maxwell. It has been a long ride."

"Yes, that is a long way," she said. "But I never go there."

"No? I went to hear Mass."

She was surprised, never having thought that he was a Catholic.

"I did not know you were a Catholic," she told him.

"No wonder! I have been here a month and never been to Mass before."

"It is so far. I never go."

"You _are_ a Catholic, then?"

"Oh, yes; I think all Spaniards are Catholics."

"But not all Americans," Gore suggested smiling.

"No. And of course, we are Americans, my father and I."

"Exactly. No doubt I knew your names, both surname and Christian name,
were Spanish, and I supposed you were of Catholic descent--"

"Only," she interrupted with a quiet matter-of-factness, "you saw we
never went to Mass."

"Perhaps a priest comes here sometimes and gives you Mass."

"No, never. If it were not so very far, I suppose my father would let me
ride down to Maxwell occasionally, at all events. But he would not let
me go alone, and none of the men are Catholics; besides, he would not
wish me to go with one of them; and then it would be necessary to go
down on Saturday and sleep there. Of course, he would not permit that.
But," and she did not smile as she said this, "it must seem strange to
you, who are a Catholic, to think that I, who am one also, should never
hear Mass. Since I left the Convent and came home I do not hear it. That
may scandalize you."

"I shall never be scandalized by you," he answered, also without
smiling.

"That is best," she said. "It is generally foolish to be scandalized,
because we can know so little about each other's case."

She paused a moment, and he thought how little need she could ever have
of any charitable suspension of judgment. He knew well enough by
instinct, that this inability to hear Mass must be the great
disinheritance of her life here on the prairie, her submission to it,
her great obedience.

"But," she went on earnestly, "I hope you will not take any scandal at
my father either--from my saying that he would not permit my going down
to Maxwell and staying there all night on Saturday so as to hear Mass
on Sunday morning. (There is, you know, only one Mass there, and that
very early, because the priest has to go far into the county on the
other side of Maxwell to give another Mass.) We know no family down
there with whom I could stay. He would think it impossible I should stay
with strange people--or in an hotel. Our Spanish ideas would forbid
that."

"Oh, yes; I can fully understand. You need not fear my being so stupid
as to take scandal. I have all my life had enough to do being
scandalized at myself."

"Ah, yes! That is so. One finds that always. Only one knows that God is
more indulgent to one's faults than one has learned to be oneself; that
patience comes so very slowly, and slower still the humility that would
teach one to be never surprised at any fault in oneself."

Gore reverenced her too truly to say, "Any fault would surprise _me_ in
you." He only assented to her words, as if they were plain and cold
matter-of-fact, and let her go on, for he knew she had more to say.

"I would like," she told him, "to finish about my father. Because to
you he may seem just careless. You may think, 'But why should not _he_
take her down to Maxwell and hear Mass himself also?' Coming from the
usual life of Catholics to this life of ours on the prairies, it may
easily occur to you like that. You cannot possibly know--as if you had
read it in a book--a man's life like my father's. He was born far away
from here, out in the desert--in New Mexico. His father baptized
him--just as _he_ baptized me. There was no priest. There was no Mass.
How could he learn to think it a necessary part of life? no one can
learn to think necessary what is impossible. From that desert he came to
this wilderness; very different, but just as empty. No Mass here either,
no priest. How could he be expected to think it necessary to ride far,
far away to find Mass? It would be to him like riding away to find a
picture gallery. He _couldn't_ be away every Saturday and Sunday. That
would not be possible; and what is not possible is no sin. And what is
no sin on three Sundays out of four, or one Sunday out of two, how
should it seem a sin on the other Sunday? I hope you will understand
all that."

"Indeed, yes! I hope you do not think I have been judging your father!
That would be a great impertinence."

"Towards God--yes. That is His business, and no one else understands it
at all. No, I did not think you would have been judging. Only I thought
you might be troubled a little. It is a great loss, my father's and
mine, that we live out here where there is no Mass, and where there are
no Sacraments. But Our Lord does the same things differently. It is not
hard for Him to make up losses."

One thing which struck the girl's hearer was that the grave simplicity
of her tones was never sad. It seemed to him the perfection of
obedience.

"My father," she went on, "is very good. He always tells the truth.
Those who deal in horses are said to tell many lies about them. He never
does. He is very just--to the men, and everybody. And he does not grind
them, nor does he insult them in reproof. He hates laziness and
stupidity, and will not suffer either. Yet he does not gibe in finding
fault nor say things, being master, to which they being servants may not
retort. That makes fault-finding bitter and intolerable. He works very
hard and takes no pleasure. He greatly loved my mother, and was in all
things a true husband. That was a great burden God laid on him--the loss
of her, but he carried it always in silence. You can hardly know all
these things."

Gore saw that she was more observant than he had fancied--that she had
been conscious of criticism in him of her father, and was earnest in
exacting justice for him.

"But," he said, "I shall not forget them now."

"I shall thank you for that," she told him, beginning to move forward
towards the homestead that was full in sight, half a mile away. "And it
will be getting very late. Tea is much later on Sunday, for the men like
to sleep, but it will be time now."

They walked on together, side by side, he leading his horse by the
bridle hung loosely over his shoulder. The horse after its very long
journey of to-day and yesterday was tired out, and only too willing to
go straight to his stable.

They did not now talk much. Don Joaquin, watching them as they came from
the house door, saw that.



CHAPTER XII.


"Mr. Gore came back with you," he said to Mariquita as she joined him.
Gore had gone round to the stables with his horse.

"Yes. As he came back from Maxwell he passed the place where I was
sitting, and we came on together--after talking for a time."

Mariquita did not think her father was cross-examining her. Nor was he.
He was not given to inquisitiveness, and seldom scrutinized her doings.

"Mr. Gore," she continued, "went to Maxwell for the sake of going to
Mass."

"So he is a Catholic!" And Mariquita observed with pleasure that her
father spoke in a tone of satisfaction. He had never before appeared to
be in the least concerned with the religion of any of the men about the
place.

That night, after Sarella and Mariquita had gone to bed, Don Joaquin
had another satisfaction. He and Gore were alone, smoking; all the large
party ate together, but the cowboys went off to their own quarters after
meals. Only Don Joaquin, his daughter, Sarella and Gore slept in the
dwelling-house. So high up above sea-level, it was cold enough at night,
and the log fire was pleasant.

What gave him satisfaction was that Gore asked him about the price of a
range, and whether a suitable one was to be had anywhere near.

"It would not be," Don Joaquin bade him note, "the price of the range
only. Without some capital it would be throwing money away to buy one."

"Of course. What would range and stock and all cost?"

"That would depend on the size of the range, and the amount of stock it
would bear. And also on whether the range were very far out, like this
one. If it were near a town and the railway, it would cost more to buy."

Gore quite understood that, and Don Joaquin spoke of "Blaine's" range.
"It lies nearer Maxwell than this. But it is not so large, and Blaine
has never made much of it--he had not capital enough to put on it the
stock it should have had, and he was never the right man. A townsman in
all his bones, and his wife towny too. And their girls worse. He _wants_
to clear. He will never do good there."

The two men discussed the matter at some length. It seemed to the elder
of them that Gore would seriously entertain the plan, and had the money
for the purchase.

"I have thought sometimes," said Joaquin, "of buying Blaine's myself."

"Of course, I would not think of it if you wanted it. I would not even
make any inquiry--that would be sending the price up."

"Yes. But, if you decide to go in for it, I shall not mind. I have land
enough and stock enough, and work enough. I should have bought it if I
had a son growing up."

It was satisfactory to Don Joaquin to find that Gore could buy a large
range and afford capital to stock it. If he went on with such a purchase
it would prove him "substantial as to conditions." And he was a
Catholic, also a good thing.

Only Sarella should be a Catholic also. "So you went down to Maxwell to
go to Mass," he said, just as they were putting out their pipes to go to
bed. "That was not out of place. Perhaps one Saturday we may go down
together."

Gore said, of course, that he would be glad of his company.

"It would not be myself only," Don Joaquin explained; "I should take my
daughter and her cousin."

When Gore had an opportunity of telling this to Mariquita she was full
of gladness.

"See," she said, "how strong good example is!"

"Is your cousin, then, also a Catholic?" he asked, surprised without
knowing why.

"Oh, no! My father regrets it, and would like her to be one. That shows
he thinks of religion more than you might have guessed."

Gore thought that it showed something else as well. It did not, however,
seem to have occurred to Mariquita that her father wanted to marry her
cousin.

Sarella strongly approved the idea of going down, all four of them
together, to Maxwell some Saturday.

"Of course," she said, "it would be for two nights, at least. He
couldn't expect _us_ to ride back on the Sunday. It will be a treat--we
must insist on starting early enough to get down there before the shops
shut. I daresay there will be a theatre."

Mariquita, suddenly, after five years, promised the chance of hearing
Mass and going to Holy Communion, was not surprised that Sarella should
only think of it as an outing; she was not a Catholic. But she thought
it as well to give Sarella a hint.

"I expect," she said, "father will be hoping that you would come to Mass
with us."

"I? Do you think that? He knows I am not a Catholic--why should he
care?"

"Oh, he would care. I am sure of that."

Sarella laughed.

"You sly puss! I believe you want to convert me," she said, shaking her
head jocularly at Mariquita.

"Of course I should be glad if you were a Catholic. Any Catholic
would."

"I daresay _you_ would. But your father never troubles himself about
such things--he leaves them to the women. He wouldn't care."

"Yes, he would. You must not judge my father--he thinks without
speaking; he is a very silent person."

Sarella laughed again.

"Not so silent as you imagine," she said slyly; "he talks to me, my
dear."

"Very likely. I daresay you are easier to talk to than I am. For I too
am silent--I have not seen towns and things like you."

"It does make a difference," Sarella admitted complacently. Then, with
more covert interest than she showed: "If you really think he would like
me to go with you to Mass, I should be glad to please him. After all,
one should encourage him in this desire to resume his religious duties.
Perhaps he would take us again."

"I am quite sure he would like you to hear Mass with us," Mariquita
repeated slowly.

"Then I will do so. You had better tell me about it--one would not like
to do the wrong thing."

Perhaps Mariquita told her more about it than Sarella had intended.

"She is tremendously in earnest, anyway," Sarella decided; "she can talk
on _that_ eagerly enough. I must say," she thought, good-naturedly, "I
_am_ glad _her_ father's giving her the chance of doing it. I had no
idea she felt about it like that. She is good--to care so much and never
say a word of what it is to her not to have it. I never thought there
was an ounce of religion about the place. She evidently thinks her
father cares, too. I should want some persuading of _that_. But she may
be right in saying he expects me to go to his church. She is very
positive. And some men are like that--their women must do what they do.
They leave church alone for twenty years, but when they begin to go to
church their women must go at once. And the Don is masterful enough.
Perhaps he thinks it's time he began to remember his soul. If so, he is
sure to begin by bothering about other people's souls. She thinks a lot
more of him than he thinks of her. In his way, though, he is just as
Spanish as she is; I suppose that's why I'm to go to Mass."



CHAPTER XIII.


Don Joaquin had sounded Mariquita with reference to Sarella's religion.
It suited him to sound Sarella in reference to Mariquita--and another
person. This he would not have done had he not regarded Sarella as
potentially a near relation.

"Mr. Gore talks about interesting things?" he observed tentatively.

"What people call 'interesting things' are sometimes very tedious," she
answered smartly, intending to please him.

He _was_ a little pleased, but not diverted from his purpose. He never
was diverted from his purposes.

"He is a different sort of person from any Mariquita has known," he
remarked; "conversation like his must interest her."

"Only, she does not converse with him."

"But she hears."

"Oh! Mariquita _hears_ everything."

"You don't think she finds him tedious?"

"Oh, no! She does not know anyone is tedious." It by no means struck her
father that this was a fault in her.

"It is better to be content with one's company," he said. Then, "He does
not find _her_ tedious, I think, though she speaks little."

"Mr. Gore? Anything but!" And Sarella laughed.

Don Joaquin waited for more, and got it.

"Nobody could interest him more," she declared with conviction, shaking
her head with pregnant meaning.

"Ah! So I have thought sometimes," Don Joaquin agreed.

"_Anyone_ could see it. Except Mariquita," she proceeded.

"Mariquita not?"

"Not she! Mariquita's eyes look so high she cannot see you and me, nor
Mr. Gore."

After "you and me" Sarella had made an infinitesimal pause, and had
darted an instantaneous glance at Don Joaquin. He had scarcely time to
catch the glance before it was averted and Sarella added, "or Mr.
Gore."

Don Joaquin did not think it objectionable in his daughter "not to see"
"you and me"--himself and Sarella--too hastily. But it would ultimately
be advisable that she should see what was coming before it actually
came. That would save telling. Neither would he have been pleased if she
had quickly scented a lover in Mr. Gore; that would have offended her
father's sense of dignity. Nor would it have been advisable for her to
suspect a lover in Mr. Gore at any time, if Mr. Gore were not intending
to be one. Once he was really desirous of being one, and her father
approved, she might as well awake to it.

"It is true," he said, "Mariquita has not those ideas."

There was undoubtedly a calm communication in his tone. Sarella could
not decide whether it implied censure of "those ideas" elsewhere.

"Not seeing what can be seen," she suggested with some pique, "may
deceive others. Thus false hopes are given."

"Mariquita has given no hopes to anyone," her father declared sharply.

"Certainly not. Yet Mr. Gore may think that what is visible must be
seen--like his 'interest' in her; and that, since it is seen and not
disapproved...."

"Only, as you said, Mariquita _doesn't_ see."

"He may not understand that. He may see nothing objectionable in
himself...."

"There is nothing objectionable. The contrary."

And Sarella knew from his tone that Don Joaquin did not disapprove of
Mr. Gore as a possible son-in-law.

"How hard it is," she thought, "to get these Spaniards to say anything
out. Why can't they say what they mean?"

Sarella was not deficient in a sort of superficial good-nature. It
seemed to her that she would have to "help things along." She thought it
out of the question for Mariquita to go on indefinitely at the range,
doing the work of three women for no reward, and rapidly losing her
youth, letting her life be simply wasted. There had never been anyone
before Mr. Gore, and never would be anyone else; it would be a
providential way out of the present impossible state of things if he and
Mariquita should make a match of it. And why shouldn't they? She did not
believe that he was actually in love with Mariquita yet; perhaps he
never would be till he discovered in her some sort of response. And
Mariquita if left to herself was capable of going on for ten years just
as she was.

"Mr. Gore," she told Don Joaquin, "is not the sort of man to throw
himself at a girl's head if he imagined it would be unpleasant to her."

"Why should he be unpleasant to her?"

"No reason at all. And he isn't unpleasant to her. Only she never thinks
of--that sort of thing."

Her father did not want her to "think of that sort of thing"--till
called upon. Sarella saw that, and thought him as stupid as his
daughter.

His idea of what would be correct was that Gore should "speak to him,"
that he should (after due examination of his conditions) signify
approval, first to Gore himself, and then to Mariquita, whereupon it
would be her duty to listen encouragingly to Mr. Gore's proposals. Don
Joaquin made Sarella understand that these were his notions.

("How Spanish!" she thought.)

"You'll never get it done that way," she told him shortly. "Mr. Gore
will not say a word to you till he thinks Mariquita would not be
offended--"

"Why should she be offended!"

"She would be, if Mr. Gore came to you, till she had given him some
cause for believing she cared at all for him. He knows that well enough.
You may be sure that while she seems unaware of his taking an interest
in her, he will never give you the least hint. He doesn't _want_ to
marry her--yet. He won't let himself want it before she gives _some_
sign."

Sarella understood her own meaning quite well, but Don Joaquin did not
understand it so clearly.

He took an early opportunity of saying to his daughter:

"I think Mr. Gore a nice man. He is correct. I approve of him. And it is
an advantage that he is a Catholic."

To call it "an advantage" seemed to Mariquita a dry way of putting it,
but then her father _was_ dry.

"Living in the house," he continued, wishing she would say something,
"he must be intimate with us. I find him suitable for that. One would
not care for it in every case. Had he turned out a different sort of
person, I should not have wished for any friendship between him and
yourselves--Sarella and you. It might have been out of place."

"I do not think there would ever be much friendship between Sarella and
him," said Mariquita; "she hardly listens when he talks about things--"

"But _you_ should listen. It would be not courteous to make him think
you found his conversation tedious."

"Tedious! I listen with interest."

"No doubt. And there is nothing out of place in your showing it. He is
no longer a stranger to us."

"He is kind," she said. "He worked hard to help Jack in getting his shed
fit for Ginger. It was he who built the partitions. Jack told me. Mr.
Gore said nothing about it. Also, he was good to Ben Sturt when he hurt
his knee and could not ride; he went and sat with him, chatting, and
read funny books to him. He is a very kind person. I am glad you like
him--I was not sure."

"I waited. One wishes to know a stranger before liking him, as you call
it; what is more important, I approve of him, and find him correct."

Whether this helped much we cannot say. Sarella didn't think so, though
Don Joaquin reported it to her with much complacence.

"She must know now," he said, "that I _authorize_ him."



CHAPTER XIV.


Jack sounded Mr. Gore's praises loudly in Mariquita's ears, and she
heard them gladly. She thought well of her fellow-creatures, and it was
always pleasant to her to hear them commended.

Jack also bragged a little of his diplomacy, bidding his daughter note
how Miss Mariquita had been pleased by his praise of her sweetheart.

"Miss Mariquita has not got even a sweetheart," Ginger declared, "and
maybe never will. It isn't the way of her. She was just as proud when
you said a good word for Ben Sturt."

"Ben Sturt! What's _he_ to the young mistress?"

"Just nothing at all--not in that way. Nor yet Mr. Gore isn't. And the
more's the pity. But she's good-hearted. She likes to hear good of
folk--as much as some likes to hear ill of anybody, no matter who."

Jack was a little discouraged--but not effectually.

Mr. Gore was much too slow, he thought. Why should Miss Mariquita be
thinking of him unless he "let on" how much he was thinking of her?

"Did you ever lie under an apple-tree when the blossom was on it?" he
asked Gore one day.

"I daresay I have."

"And expected to have your mouth full of apples when there was only
blossom on it?"

Jack forced so much meaning into his ugly old face that Gore could
discern the allegorical intent. He was very amused.

"There'd never be much _chance_ of apples," he said carelessly, "if the
tree was shaken till the blossom fell off. The wind spoils more blossom
than the frost does."

Jack was not the only one who thought Gore slow in his wooing; the
cowboys thought so too, though they did not, like Jack, find any fault
with him for his slowness. In general they would have been more critical
of rapidity and apparent success. Ben Sturt had learned to like him
cordially, and wished him success, but Ben was of opinion that more
haste would have been worse speed. He thought that Gore deserved
Mariquita if anyone could, but was sure that even Gore would have to
wait long and be very patient and careful. To Ben Mariquita seemed
almost like one belonging to another world, certainly living on a plane
above his comprehension, where ordinary love-making would be, somehow,
unfitting and hopeless. It had always met with her father's cool
approbation that Mariquita kept herself aloof from the young men about
the place. But she was not wanting in interest for them. They were her
neighbors, and she, who had so much interest for all her little dumb
neighbors of the prairie, had a much higher interest in these bigger,
but not much less dumb, neighbors of the homestead. They were more than
a mere group to her. Each individual in the group was, she knew, as dear
to God as herself, had been created by God for the same purpose as
herself, and for the soul of each, Christ upon the Cross had been in as
bitter labor as for the soul of any one of the saints. She was the last
creature on earth to regard as of mere casual interest to herself those
in whom God's interest was so deep, and close, and unfailing.

Perhaps they were rough; it might be that of the great things of which
Mariquita herself thought so habitually, they thought little and seldom:
but she did not think them bad. She thought more of them than they
guessed, and liked them better than they imagined. She would have wished
to serve and help them, and was not indolent, but humble concerning
herself, and shy. She worked for them, more perhaps than her father
thought necessary; in that way she could serve them. But she could not
preach to them, nor exhort them. She would have shrunk instinctively,
not from the danger of ridicule, but from the danger that the ridicule
might fall on religion itself, and not merely on her. She would have
dreaded the risk of misrepresenting religion to them, of giving them
ideas of God such as would repel them from Him. She knew that speech was
not easy to her, eloquent speech was no gift of hers; she did not
believe herself to have any readiness of expressing what she felt and
knew, and did not credit herself with great knowledge. She did not
really put them down as being entirely ignorant of what she did know.

The idea of a woman's preaching would have shocked Mariquita, to her it
would have seemed "out of place." She was a humble girl, with a
diffidence not universal among those who are themselves trying to serve
God, some of whom are apt to be slow at understanding that others may be
as near Him as themselves, though behaving differently, and holding a
different fashion of speech.

God who had made them must know more about them, she felt, than she
could. She did not think she understood them very well, but God had made
the men and knew them as well as He knew the women. She was, with all
her ignorance and her limited opportunities of observation and
understanding, able to see much goodness among these neighbors of hers;
He must be able to see much more.

In reality Mariquita did more for them than she had any idea of. They
understood that in her was something higher than their understanding;
that her goodness was real they did understand. It never shocked them as
the "goodness" of some good people would by a first instinct have
shocked them, by its uncharity, its self-conscious superiority, its
selfishness, its complacence, its eagerness to assume the Divine
prerogative of judgment and of punishment. They were, perhaps
unconsciously, proud of her, who was so plainly never proud of herself.
They knew that she was kind. They had penetration enough to be aware
that if she held her own way, in some external aloofness, it was not out
of cold indifference, or self-centred pride, not even out of a prudish
shrinking from their roughness. They became less rough. Their behavior
in her sight and hearing was not without effect upon their behavior in
her absence. She taught them a reverence for woman that may only have
begun in respect for herself. Almost all of them cared enough for her
approval to try and become more capable of deserving it. Some of them,
God who taught them knows how, became conscious of her lonely absorption
in prayer, and the prairie became less empty to them. Probably none of
them remained ignorant that to the girl God was life and breath,
happiness and health, master and companion: the explanation of herself
and of her beauty. They did not understand it all, but they saw more
than they understood.

The loveliness of each flower preached to Mariquita; sometimes she would
sit upon the ground, her heart beating, holding in her hand one of those
tiny weeds that millions of eyes can overlook without perceiving they
are beautiful, insignificant in size, without any blaze of color, and
realize its marvel of loveliness with a singular exultation; she would
note the exquisite perfection of its minute parts--that each tiny spray
was a string of stars, white, or tenderest azure, or mauve,
gold-centred, a microscopic installation hidden all its life on the
prairie-floor, as if falling from heaven it had grown smaller and
smaller as it neared the earth. Her heart beat, I say, as she looked,
and the light shining in her happy eyes was exultation at the
unimaginable loveliness of God, who had imagined this minutest creature,
and thought it worth while to conceive this and every other lovely thing
for the house even of His children's exile and probation, their
waiting-room on the upward road. So it preached to her the Uncreated
Beauty, and the unbeginning, Eternal Love. As unconscious as was the
little flower of its fragrance, its loveliness and its message,
Mariquita, who could never have preached, was giving her message too.

Her rough neighbors saw her near them and (perhaps without knowing that
they knew it) knew that that which made her rare and exquisite was of
Divine origin. She never hinted covert exhortation in her talk. If she
spoke to any of them they could listen without dread of some shrewdly
folded rebuke. Yet they could not get away from the fact that she was
herself a perpetual reminder of noble purpose.



CHAPTER XV.


What the cowboys had come, with varying degrees of slowness or celerity,
to feel by intuitions little instructed by experience or reasoning, Gore
had to arrive at by more deliberate study.

He was more civilized and less instinctive. He knew many more people,
and had experience, wanting to them, of many women of fine and high
character. What made the rarity of Mariquita's instinct did not inform
him, and he had to observe and surmise.

He saw no books in the house, and did not perceive how Mariquita could
read; she must, in the way of information and knowledge such as most
educated girls possess be, as it were, disinherited. Yet he did not feel
that she was ignorant. It is more ignorant to have adopted false
knowledge than to be uninformed.

Every day added to Gore's sense of the girl's rarity and nobility. He
admired her more and more, the reverence of his admiration increasing
with its growth. Nor was his appreciation blind, or blinded. He surmised
a certain lack in her--the absence of humor, and he was, at any rate, so
far correct that Mariquita was without the habit of humor. Long after
this time, she was thought by her companions to have a delightful
radiant cheerfulness like mirth. But when Gore first knew her, what
occasion had she had for indulgence in the habit of humor?

Her father's house was not gay, and he would have thought gaiety in it
out of place. Loud laughter might resound in the cowboys' quarters, but
Don Joaquin would have much disapproved any curiosity in his daughter as
to its cause. He seldom laughed himself and never wished to make anyone
else laugh. His Spanish blood and his Indian blood almost equally tended
to make him regard laughter and merriment as a slur on dignity.

Some of those who have attempted the elusive feat of analyzing the
causes and origin of humor lay down that it lies in a perception of the
incongruous, the less fit. I should be sorry to think that a complete
account of the matter. No doubt it describes the occasion of much of our
laughter, though not, I refuse to believe, of all.

That sense of humor implies little charity, and a good deal of conscious
superiority. It makes us laugh at accidents not agreeable to those who
suffer them, at uncouthness, ignorances, solecisms, inferiorities,
follies, blunders, stupidities, unconsciously displayed weaknesses and
faults. It is the sort of humor that sets us laughing at a smartly
dressed person fallen into a filthy drain, at a man who does not know
how to eat decently, at mispronunciation of names, and misapplication or
oblivion of aspirates, at greediness not veiled by politeness, at a man
singing who doesn't know how. Now Mariquita had no conceit and was
steeped in charity in big and little things. In that sort of humor she
would have been lacking, for she would have thought too kindly of its
butt to be able to enjoy his misfortune. And, as has been already said,
she had no habit of the thing.

Gore, in accusing her of lack of humor, felt that the accusation was a
heavy one. It was not quite unjust: we have partly explained Mariquita's
deficiency without entirely denying it, or pretending it was an
attraction. No doubt, she would have been a greater laugher if she had
been more ill-natured, had had wider opportunities of perceiving the
absurdity of her contemporaries.

As for those queer and quaint quips of circumstance that make the oddity
of daily life for some of us, few of them had enlivened Mariquita. The
chief occasion of general gathering was round the table, where hunger
and haste were the most obvious characteristics of the meeting. Till
Gore came, there had been little conversation. It was not Mariquita's
fault that she had been used neither to see or hear much that was
entertaining. Perhaps the facility of being amused is an acquired taste;
and even so, the faculty of humor is almost of necessity dormant where
scarcely anything offers for it to work or feed upon.



CHAPTER XVI.


The projected visit to Maxwell did not immediately take place. Don
Joaquin was seldom hasty in action, having a chronic, habitual esteem
for deliberation and deliberateness too.

Sarella would have been impatient had she not been sufficiently unwell
to shrink for the moment from the idea of a very long ride. For the mere
pleasure of riding she would never have mounted a horse; she would only
ride when there was no other means of arriving at some object or place
not otherwise attainable.

Gore, however, was again absent on the second Saturday after his first
visit to Maxwell. And on this occasion his place was vacant at
breakfast. Nor did he return till Monday afternoon.

On that afternoon Mariquita had walked out some distance across the
prairie. Not in the direction of the Maxwell trail, but quite in the
opposite direction. Her way brought her to what they called Saul
Bluff--a very low, broken ridge, sparsely overgrown with small rather
shabby trees. It would scarcely have hidden the chimneys of a cottage
had there been any cottage on its farther side; but there was none
anywhere near it. For many miles there was no building in any direction,
except "Don Jo's," as, to its owner's annoyance, his homestead was
called.

When Mariquita had reached the top of the bluff she took advantage of
the slight elevation on which she stood, to look round upon the great
spread of country stretching to the low horizon on every side. It was,
like most days here, a day of wind and sun. The air was utterly pure and
scentless; the scent was not fir-scent, and the scattered, windy trees
gave no smell. She saw a chipmunk and laughed, as the sight of that
queer little creature, and its odd mixture of shyness and effrontery
always made her laugh.

It was even singularly clear, and the foothills of the Rockies were just
visible. The trail, which ran over the bluff a little to her left, was
full in sight below her, but so little used as to be slight enough. A
mile farther on it crossed the river, and was too faint to be seen
beyond. The river was five miles behind her as well as a mile in front,
for it made a big loop, north, and then, west-about, southward.

She sat down and for a long time was rapt in her own thoughts, which
were not, at first, of any human person. Perhaps she would not herself
have said that she was praying. But all prayer does not consist in
begging favors even for others. Its essence does not lie in request, but
in the lifting of self, heart and mind, to God. The love of a child to
its father need not necessarily find its sole exercise and expression in
demand. Her thought and love flew up to her Father and rested,
immeasurably happy. The real joys of her life were in that presence. The
sense of His love, not merely for herself, was the higher bliss it gave
her: not merely for herself, I say, for it spread as wide as all
humanity, and her own share in it was as little as a star in the milky
way, in the whole glory, what it is for all the saints in heaven and on
earth, for all sinners, for His great Mother, and, most immeasurable of
all, the infinite perfection of His love for Himself, of Father and Son
for the Holy Spirit, of Son and Spirit for the Eternal Father, of Spirit
and Father for the Son. This stretched far beyond the reach of her
vision, but she looked as far as her human sight could reach, as one
looks on that much of the mystic ocean that eye can hold. Not separable
from this joy in the Divine Love was her joy in the Divine Beauty, of
which all created beauty sang, whether it were that of the smallest
flower or that of Christ's Mother herself. The wind's clean breath
whispered of it; the vast loveliness of the enormous dome above her, and
the limitless expanse of not less lovely earth on which that dome
rested, witnessed to the Infinite Beauty that had imagined and made
them.

But sooner or later Mariquita must _share_, for in that the silent
tenderness of her nature showed itself: she could not be content to have
her great happiness to herself, to enjoy alone. So, presently, in her
prayer she came, as always, to gathering round her all whom she knew
and all whom she did not know. As she would have wished _them_ to think
in their prayer of her, so must she have them also in the Divine
Presence with her, lift their names up to God, even their names which,
unknown to her, He knew as well as He knew her own.

Her living father and her dead mother, the old school-friends and the
nuns, the old priest at Loretto, and a certain crooked old gardener that
had been there (crooked in body, in face, and in temper), Sarella, and
Mr. Gore, and all the cowboys--all these Mariquita gathered into the
loving arms of her memory, and presented them at their Father's feet.
Her way in this was her own way, and unlike perhaps that of others. She
had no idea of bringing them to God's memory, as if His tenderness
needed any reminder from her, for always she heard Him saying: "Can you
teach Me pity and love?" She did not think it depended on her that good
should come to them from Him. Were she to be lazy or forgetful, He would
never let them suffer through her neglect. They were immeasurably more
His than they could be hers. But she could not be at His feet and not in
her loving mind see them there beside her, and she knew He chose that at
His feet she should not forget them. She could not dictate to Him what
He was to give them, in what fashion He should bless and help them. He
knew exactly. Her surmises must be ignorant.

Therefore Mariquita's prayer was more wordless than common, less
phrased; but its intensity was more uncommon. Nor could it be limited to
those--a handful out of all His children--whom she knew or had ever
known. There were all the rest--everywhere: those who knew how to serve
Him, and were doing it, as she had never learned to serve; those who had
never heard His name, and those who knew it but shrank from it as that
of an angry observer; those most hapless ones who lived by disobeying
Him, even by dragging others down into the slough of disobedience; the
whole world's sick, body-sick and soul-sick; those who here are mad, and
will find reason only in heaven; the whole world's sorrowful ones, the
luckless, those gripped in the hard clutch of penury, or the sordid
clutch of debt; the blind whose first experience of beauty will be
perfect beauty, the foully diseased, the deformed, the deaf and dumb
whose first speech will be their joining in the songs of heaven, their
first hearing that of the music of heaven ... all these, and many, many
others she must bring about her, or her gladness in God's nearness would
be selfishness. That nearness! she felt Him much nearer than was her own
raiment, nearer than was her own flesh....



CHAPTER XVII.


It was long after Mariquita had come to her place upon the bluff, that
the sound of a horse cantering towards it made her rise and go to the
farther westward edge of the bluff to look. The horseman was quite near,
below her. It was Gore, and he saw her at the same moment in which she
saw him. He lifted his big, wide-brimmed hat from his head and waved it.
It would never have even occurred to her to be guilty of the
churlishness of turning away to go homeward. Her thoughts, almost the
only thing of her own she had ever had, she was always ready to lay
aside for courtesy.

He had dismounted, and was leading his horse up the rather steep slope.
She stood waiting for him, a light rather than a smile upon her noble
face, a light like the glow of a far horizon....

"I thought," she said, when he had come up, "that you had gone to
Maxwell."

"No, I went to Denver this time," he told her, "beyond Denver a little.
Where do you think I heard Mass yesterday--this morning again, too? for
both of us, since you could not come."

"Not at Loretto!"

But she knew it was at Loretto. His smile told her.

"Yes, at Loretto. It was the same to me which place I went to. No, not
the same, for I wanted to see the place where you had been a little
girl, so that I could come back and bring you word of it."

"Ah, how kind you are!" she said, with a sort of wonder of gratefulness
shining on her.

("She is far more beautiful than I ever knew," he thought.)

"Not kind at all," Gore protested. "Just to please myself! There's no
great kindness in that except to myself."

"Oh, yes! for you knew how it would please me. It was wonderful that you
should be so kind as to think of it."

"It gave _me_ pleasure anyway. To be in the place where you had been so
happy--"

"Ah, but I am always happy," she interrupted. "Though indeed I was happy
there, and sorrowful to leave it. But I did not leave it quite behind;
it came with me."

"I have a great many things to tell you. They remember you _most_
faithfully. If my going gave _me_ pleasure, it gave them much more. You
cannot think how much they made of me for your sake; I stayed there a
long time after Mass yesterday, and they made me go back in the
afternoon--I was there all afternoon. And all the time we were talking
of you."

"Then I think," Mariquita declared, laughing merrily, "your talk will
have been monotonous."

"Oh, not monotonous at all. Are they not dear women? They showed me
where you sat in chapel--and the different places where you had sat in
classrooms, and in the refectory, when you first came, as a small girl
of ten, and as you rose in the school."

"I did not rise very high. I was never one of the clever ones--"

"They kept that to themselves--"

"Oh, yes! They would do that. Nuns are so charitable--they would never
say that any of the girls was stupid."

"No, they didn't hint that in the least. Sister Gabriel showed me a
drawing of yours."

"What was it?"

"She said it was the Grand Canal at Venice. I have never been there--"

"Nor I. But I remember doing it. The water wouldn't come flat. It looked
like a blue road running up-hill. Sister Gabriel was very kind, very
kind indeed. She used to have hay-fever."

"So she has now. She listened for more than half-an-hour while I told
her about you."

"Mr. Gore, I think you will have been inventing things to tell her,"
Mariquita protested, laughing again. She kept laughing, for happiness
and pleasure.

"Oh, no! On the contrary, I kept forgetting things. Afterwards I
remembered some of them, and told her what I had left out. Some I only
remembered when it was too late, after I had come away. Sister Marie
Madeleine--I hope you remember her too--she asked hundreds of questions
about you."

"Oh, yes, of course I remember her. She taught me French. And I was
stupid about it...."

"She was very anxious to know if you kept it up. She said you wanted
only practice--and vocabulary."

"And idiom, and grammar, and pronunciation," Mariquita insisted,
laughing very cheerfully. "Did you tell her there was no one to keep it
up with?"

He told her of many others of the nuns--he had evidently taken trouble
to bring her word of them all. And he had asked for news of the girls
she had known best, and brought her news of them also. Several were
married, two had entered Holy Religion.

"Sylvia Markham," he said, "you remember her? She has come back to
Loretto to be a nun. She is a novice; she was clothed at Easter. Sister
Mary Scholastica she is--the younger children call her Sister Elastic."

"Oh," cried Mariquita, with her happy laugh, "how funny it is--to hear
you talking of Sylvia. She was harum-scarum. What a noise she used to
make, too! How pretty she was!"

"Sister Elastic is just as pretty. She sent fifty messages to you. But
Nellie Hurst--you remember her?"

"Certainly I do. She was champion at baseball. And she acted better than
anybody. Oh, and she edited the Magazine, and she kept us all laughing.
She _was_ funny! Geraldine Barnes had a quinsy and it nearly choked her,
but Nellie Hurst made her laugh so much that it burst, and she was soon
well again...."

"Well, and where do you think she is now?"

"Where?" Mariquita asked almost breathlessly.

"In California. At Santa Clara, near San José. She is a Carmelite."

"A Carmelite! And she used to say she would write plays (She did write
several that were acted at Loretto) and act them herself--on the stage,
I mean."

It took Gore a long time to tell all his budget of news; he had hardly
finished before they reached the homestead, towards which the sinking
sun had long warned them to be moving. And he had presents for her, a
rosary ("brought by Mother General from Rome and blessed by the Pope,")
a prayerbook, a lovely Agnus Dei covered with white satin and
beautifully embroidered, scapulars, a little bottle of Lourdes water,
another of ordinary holy water, and a little hanging stoup to put some
of it in, also a statue of Our Lady, and a small framed print of the
Holy House of Loretto.

Mariquita had never owned so many things in her life.

"Oh, dear!" she said. "And I had been long thinking that I was quite
forgotten there; I am ashamed. And you--how to thank you!"

"But you have been thanking me all the time," he said, "ever since I
told you where I had been. Every time you laughed you thanked me."

They met Ben Sturt, who was lounging about by the gate in the homestead
fence; he had never seen Mariquita with just that light of happiness
upon her.

"Here," he said to Gore, "let me take the horse; I'll see to him."

He knew that Mariquita would not come to the stables, and he wanted Gore
to be free to stay with her to the last moment.

As he led the horse away he thought to himself: "It has really begun at
last;" and he loyally wished his friend good luck.

Within a yard or two of the door they met Don Joaquin.

"Father," she said at once, "Mr. Gore didn't go to Maxwell this time. He
went all the way to Denver--to Loretto. And see what a lot of presents
he has brought me from them!"

Gore thought she looked adorable as, like a child unused to gifts, she
showed her little treasures to the rather grim old prairie dog.

He looked less grim than usual. It suited him that she should be so
pleased.

"Well!" he said, "you're stocked now. Mr. Gore had a long ride to fetch
them."

"Oh, yes! Did you ever hear of anybody being so kind?"

Her father noted shrewdly the new expression of grateful pleasure on her
face. It seemed to him that Gore was not so incompetent as he had been
supposing, to carry on his campaign. Sarella came out and joined them.
"What a cunning little pin-cushion!" she exclaimed. "Isn't it just
sweet?" The Agnus Dei was almost the only one of Mariquita's new
treasures to which she could assign a use.

"Oh, and the necklace! Garnets relieved by those crystal blobs are just
the very fashion."

"It is a rosary," Don Joaquin explained in a rather stately tone. It
made him uneasy--it must be unlucky--to hear these frivolous eulogies
applied to "holy objects" with which personally he had never had the
familiarity that diminishes awe.

Mariquita had plenty to do indoors and did not linger. Gore went in also
to wash and tidy himself after his immensely long ride.

Sarella, who of course knew long before this where Mariquita had
received her education, and had been told whence these pious gifts came,
smiled as she turned to Don Joaquin.

"So Gore rode all the way to Denver this time," she remarked.

"It is beyond Denver. Mariquita was pleased to hear news of her old
friends."

"Oh, I daresay. Gore is not such a fool as he looks."

"I am not thinking that he looks a fool at all," said Don Joaquin, more
stately than ever.

("How Spanish!" thought Sarella, "I suppose they're _born_ solemn.")

"Indeed," she cheerfully agreed, "nor do I. He wouldn't be so handsome
if he looked silly. He's all sense. And he knows his road, short cuts
and all."

Don Joaquin disliked her mention of Gore's good looks, as she intended.
She had no idea of being snubbed by her elderly suitor.

"Mariquita," he laid down, "will think more of his good sense than of
his appearance. I have not brought her up to consider a gentleman's
looks."

Sarella laughed; she was not an easy person to "down."

"But you didn't bring _me_ up," she said, "and I can tell you that you
might have been as wise as Solomon and it wouldn't have mattered to me
if you had been ugly. I'd rather look than listen any day; and I like to
have something worth looking at."

Her very pretty eyes were turned full on her mature admirer's face, and
he did not dislike their flattery. An elderly man who has been very
handsome is not often displeased at being told he is worth looking at
still.

"So do I, Sarellita," he responded, telling himself (and her) how much
pleasure there was in looking at _her_.

Stately he could not help being, but his manner had now no stiffness;
and in the double diminutive of her name there was almost a tenderness,
a nearer approach to tenderness than she could understand. She could
understand, however, that he was more lover-like than he had ever been.

A slight flush of satisfaction (that he took for maiden shyness) was on
her face, as she looked up under her half-drooped eyelids.

"Perhaps," he said in much lower tones than he usually employed,
"perhaps Mr. Gore knows what you call his road better than I. But he
does not know better the goal he wants to reach."

("Say!" Sarella asked herself, "what's coming?")

Two of the cowboys were coming--had come in fact. They appeared at that
moment round the corner of the house, ready for supper.

"So," one of them said, with rather loud irritation, evidently
concluding a story, "my dad married her, and I have a step-ma younger
than myself--"



CHAPTER XVIII.


Everyone on the range, from its owner down to old Jack, considered that
Gore made much more way after his trip to Denver. Mariquita, it was
decided, had, as it were, awakened to him. It was believed that she and
he saw more of each other, and that she liked his company.

Sarella thought things were going so well that they had much better be
left to themselves, and this view she strongly impressed upon Don
Joaquin. He had gradually come to hold a higher opinion of her sense; at
first he had been attracted entirely by her beauty. Her aunt had not
been remarkable for intelligence, and he had not thought the niece could
be expected to be wiser than her departed elder.

Sarella, on the other hand, did not think her admirer quite so sensible
as he really was. That he was shrewd and successful in business, she
knew, but was the less impressed that his methods had been slow and
unhurried. To her eastern ideas there was nothing imposing (though
extremely comfortable) in a moderate wealth accumulated by thirty years
of patient work and stingy expenditure. But she was sure he did not in
the least understand his own daughter, in whom she (who did not
understand her any better than she would have understood Dante's _Divina
Commedia_) saw nothing at all difficult to understand. The truth was
that Don Joaquin had never understood any woman; without imagination, he
could understand no sex but his own--and his experience of women was of
the narrowest. Nevertheless, he was nearer to a sort of rough, nebulous
perception of his daughter than was Sarella herself.

His saying that Mariquita would not "consider" Gore's good looks, a
remark that Sarella thought merely ridiculous, was an illustration of
this. In his _explicit_ mind, in his conscious attitude towards
Mariquita, he assumed that it was _her_ business and duty to respect
_him_. He was her parent, so placed by God, and he had a great and
sincere reverence for such Divine appointments as placed himself in a
condition of superiority. (Insubordination or insolence in the cowboys
would have gravely and honestly scandalized him). All the same, in an
inner mind that he never consulted, and whose instruction he was far
from seeking, he knew that his daughter was a higher creature than
himself; all he _knew_ that he knew was that a young girl was
necessarily more innocent and pure than an elderly man could be (he
himself was no profligate); that in fact all women were more religious
than men, and that it behooved them to be so; nature made it easier for
them.

He had after deliberate consideration decided that it would be
convenient and suitable that his daughter should marry Gore; the young
man, he was sure, wished it, and, while the circumstances in which she
was placed held little promise of a wide choice of husbands for her, he
would, in Don Joaquin's opinion, make a quite suitable husband. To do
him justice, he would never have manoeuvred to bring Gore into a
marriage with Mariquita, had he appeared indifferent to the girl, or
had he seemed in any way unfit.

But, though Don Joaquin had reached the point of intending the marriage,
he saw no occasion for much love-making, and none for Mariquita's
falling in love with the young man's handsome face and fine figure. Her
business was to learn that her father approved the young man as a
suitor, and to recognize that that approval stamped him as suitable.
That Mariquita would not _suddenly_ learn this lesson, Sarella had
partly convinced him; but he did not think there would now be any
suddenness in the matter. He would have spoken with authoritative
plainness to her now, without further delay; but there was a
difficulty--Gore had not spoken to him.

Don Joaquin thought it was about time he did so.

"You think," he remarked when they were alone together over the fire,
"that you shall buy Blaine's?"

Now Gore would certainly not buy a range so near Don Joaquin's if he
should fail to secure a mistress for it in Don Joaquin's daughter. And
he was by no means inclined to take success with her for granted. He was
beginning to hope that there was a chance of success--that was all.

"It is worth the money," he answered; "and I have the money. But I have
not absolutely decided to settle down to this way of life at all."

"I thought you had."

"Well, no. It must depend on what does not depend upon myself."

Don Joaquin found this enigmatical, which Gore might or might not have
intended that he should. Though wholly uncertain how Mariquita might
regard him when she came to understand that he wished for more than
friendship, he was by this time quite aware that her father approved;
and he was particularly anxious that she should not be "bothered."

Don Joaquin diplomatically hinted that Blaine might close with some
other offer.

"There is no other offer. He told me so quite straightforwardly. I have
the refusal. If he does get another offer, and I have not decided, he is
of course quite free to accept it. He does not want to hurry me; I
expect he knows that if I did buy, he would get a better price from me
than from anyone else."

Gore might very reasonably be tired after his immensely long ride, and
when he went off to bed Don Joaquin could not feel aggrieved. But he was
hardly pleased by the idea that the young man intended to manage his own
affairs without discussion of them, and to keep his own counsel.



CHAPTER XIX.


"Just you leave well alone," said Sarella, a little more didactically
than Don Joaquin cared for. "Things are going as well as can be
expected" (and here she laughed a little); "they're moving now."

Don Joaquin urged his opinion that Mariquita ought to be enlightened as
to his approval of her suitor.

Sarella answered, with plain impatience, "If you tell her she has a
suitor she _won't_ have one. Don't you pry her eyes open with your
thumb; let them open of themselves."

Don Joaquin only half understood this rhetoric, and he seldom liked what
he could not understand.

He adopted a slightly primitive measure in reprisal--

"It isn't," he remarked pregnantly, "as if the young man were not a
Catholic--I would not allow her to marry him if he were not."

"No?"

And it was quite clear to Don Joaquin that he had killed two birds with
one stone; he saw that Sarella was both interested and impressed.

"Catholics should marry Catholics," he declared with decision.

"You didn't think so always," Sarella observed, smiling.

"If I forgot it, I suffered for it," her elderly admirer retorted.

Sarella was puzzled. She naturally had not the remotest suspicion that
he had felt his wife's early death as a reprisal on the part of Heaven.
She knew little of her aunt, and less of that aunt's married life. Had
there been quarrels about religion?

"Well, I daresay you may be right," she said gravely. "Two religions in
one house may lead to awkwardness."

"Yes. That is so," he agreed, with a completeness of conviction that
considerably enlightened her.

"And after all," she went on, smiling with great sweetness, "they're
only two branches of the same religion."

This was her way of hinting that the little bird he had married would
have been wise to hop from her own religious twig to his.

This suggestion, however, Don Joaquin utterly repudiated.

"The same religion!" he said, with an energy that almost made Sarella
jump. "The Catholic Church and heresy all one religion! Black and white
the same color!"

Sarella was now convinced that he and his wife had fought on the
subject. On such matters she was quite resolved there should be no
fighting in her case; concerning expenditure it might be _necessary_ to
fight. But Sarella was an easy person who had no love for needless
warfare, and she made up her mind at once.

"I understand, now you put it that way," she said amiably, "you're right
again. Both can't be right, and the husband is the head of the wife."

Don Joaquin accepted _this_ theory whole-heartedly, and nodded
approvingly.

"How," he said, "can a Protestant mother bring up her Catholic son?"

Sarella laughed inwardly. So he had quite arranged the sex of his future
family.

"But," she said with a remarkably swift riposte, "if Catholics should
not marry Protestants, they have no business to make love to them. Have
they?"

Her Catholic admirer looked a little silly, and she swore to herself
that he was blushing.

"Because," she continued, entirely without blushing, "a Catholic
gentleman made love to _me_ once--"

"Perhaps," suggested Don Joaquin, recovering himself "he hoped you would
become a Catholic, if you accepted him."

"I daresay," Sarella agreed very cheerfully.

"But you evidently did not accept him."

"As to that," she explained frankly, "he did not go quite so far as
asking me to marry him."

"He drew back!"

"Not exactly. He was interrupted."

"But didn't he resume the subject?"

Sarella laughed.

"I'd rather not answer that question," she answered; "you're asking
quite a few questions, aren't you?"

"I want to ask another. Did you like that Catholic gentleman well enough
to share all he had, his religion, his name, and his home?"

Don Joaquin was not laughing, on the contrary, he was eagerly serious,
and Sarella laughed no more.

"He never did ask me to share them," she replied with a self-possession
that her elderly lover admired greatly.

"But he does. He is asking you. Sarella, will you share my religion, and
my name, my home, and all that I have?"

Even now she was amused inwardly, not all caused by love. She noted, and
was entertained by noting, how he put first among things she was to
share, his religion--because he was not so sure of her willingness to
share that as of her readiness to share his name and his goods, and
meant to be sure, as she now quite understood. It did not make her
respect him less. She had the sense to know that he would not make a
worse husband for caring enough for his religion to make a condition of
it, and she was grateful for the form in which he put the condition. He
spared her the brutality of, "I will marry you if you will turn Catholic
to marry me, but I won't if you refuse to do that."

She smiled again, but not lightly. "I think," she said, "you will need
some one when Mariquita goes away to a home of her own. And I think I
could make you comfortable and happy. I will try, anyway. And it would
never make you happy and comfortable if we were of different religions.
If my husband's is good enough for him, it must be good enough for me."

Poor Sarella! She was quite homeless, and quite penniless. She had not
come here with any idea of finding a husband in this elderly Spaniard,
but she could think of him as a husband, with no repugnance and with
some satisfaction. He was respectable and trustworthy; she believed him
to be as fond of her as it was in his nature to be fond of anybody. He
had prudence and good sense. And his admiration pleased her; her own
sense told her that she would get in marrying him as much as she could
expect.

"Shall you tell Mariquita, or shall I?" she inquired before they parted.

"I will tell her. I am her father," he replied.

"Then, do not say anything about her moving off to a home of her own--"

"Why not?" he asked with some obstinacy. For in truth he had thought the
opportunity would be a good one for "breaking ground."

"Because she will think we want to get rid of her; or she will think _I_
do. Tell her, instead, that I will do my best to make her happy and
comfortable. If I were you, I should tell her you count on our marriage
making it pleasanter for her here."



CHAPTER XX.


When her father informed her of his intended marriage, Mariquita was
much more taken aback than he had foreseen. He had supposed she must
have observed more or less what was coming.

"Marry Sarella, father!" she exclaimed, too thoroughly astonished to
weigh her words, "but you are her uncle!"

Don Joaquin, who was pale enough ordinarily, reddened angrily.

"I am no relation whatever to her," he protested fiercely. "How dare you
accuse your father of wishing to marry his own niece? How dare you
insult Sarella by supposing she would marry her uncle?"

It was terrible to Mariquita to see her father so furious. He had never
been soft or tender to her, but he had hardly ever shown any anger
towards her, and now he looked at her as if he disliked her.

It did astonish her that Sarella should be willing to marry her uncle.
Sarella had indeed, as Don Joaquin had not, thought of the difficulty;
but she saw that there appeared to be none to him; no doubt, he knew
what was the marriage-law among Catholics, and perhaps that was why he
was so insistent as to her being one.

"I know," Mariquita said gently, "that there is no blood relationship
between her and you. She is my first cousin, but she is only your niece
by marriage. I do not even know what the Church lays down."

Her father was still angry with her, but he was startled as well. He did
not know any better than herself what the Church laid down. He did know
that between him and Sarella there was no real relationship--in the law
of nature there was nothing to bar their marriage, and he had acted in
perfect good faith. But he did not intend to break the Church's law
again.

"If you are ignorant of the Church's law," he said severely, "you should
not talk as if you knew it."

She knew she had not so talked, but she made no attempt to excuse
herself.

"It is," she said quietly, "quite easy to find out. The priest at
Maxwell would tell you immediately."

She saw that her father, though still frowning heavily, was not entirely
disregardful of her suggestion.

"Father," she went on in a low gentle tone, "I beg your pardon if, being
altogether surprised, I spoke suddenly, and seemed disrespectful."

"You were very disrespectful," he said, with stiff resentment.

Mariquita's large grave eyes were full of tears, but he did not notice
them, and would have been unmoved if he had seen them. It was difficult
for her to keep them from overflowing, and more difficult to go on with
what she wished to say.

"You know," she said, "that there are things which the Church does not
allow except upon conditions, but does allow on conditions--"

"What things?"

"For instance, marriage with a person who is not a Catholic--"

Don Joaquin received a sudden illumination. Yes! With a dispensation
that would have been dutiful which he had done undutifully without one.

"You think a dispensation can be obtained in--in this case."

"Father," she answered almost in a whisper, "I am quite ignorant about
it."

He had severely reprimanded her for speaking, being ignorant. Now he
wanted encouragement and ordered her to speak.

"But say what you think," he said dictatorially.

"As there is no real relationship," she answered, courageously enough
after her former snubbing, "if such a marriage is forbidden" (he scowled
blackly, but she went on), "it cannot be so by the law of God, but by
the law of the Church. She cannot give anyone permission to disregard
God's law, but she can, I suppose, make exception to her own law. That
is what we call a dispensation. God does not forbid the use of meat on
certain days, but she does. If God forbade it she could never give
leave for it; but she often gives leave--not only to a certain person,
but to a whole diocese, or a whole country even, for temporary
reasons--what we call a dispensation."

Don Joaquin had listened carefully. He was much more ignorant of
ecclesiastical matters than his daughter. He had never occupied himself
with considering the reasons behind ecclesiastical regulations, and much
that he heard now came like entirely new knowledge. But he was Spaniard
enough to understand logic very readily, and he did understand
Mariquita.

"So," he queried eagerly, "you think that even if such a marriage is
against regulation" (he would not say "forbidden"), "there might be a
dispensation?"

"I do not see why there should not."

"Of course, there is no reason," he said loftily, adding with ungracious
ingratitude, "and it was extremely out of place for you to look shocked
when I told you of my purpose."

Mariquita accepted this further reproof meekly. Don Joaquin was only
asserting his dignity, that had lain a little in abeyance while he was
listening to her explanations.

"I shall have to be away all to-morrow," he said, "on business. I do not
wish you to say anything to Sarella till I give you permission."

"Of course not."

Don Joaquin was not addicted to telling fibs--except business ones; in
selling a horse he regarded them as merely the floral ornaments of a
bargain, which would have an almost indecent nakedness without them. But
on this occasion he stooped to a moderate prevarication.

"Sarella," he confidentially informed that lady, "I shall be up before
sunrise and away the whole of to-morrow. Sometime the day after I shall
have a good chance of telling Mariquita. Don't you hint anything to her
meanwhile."

"Not I," Sarella promised.

("A hitch somewhere," she thought, feeling pretty sure that he had
spoken to Mariquita already.)

When Don Joaquin, after his return from Maxwell, spoke to Mariquita
again, he once more condescended to some half-truthfulness--necessary,
as he considered, to that great principle of diplomacy--the balance of
power. A full and plain explanation of the exact position would, he
thought, unduly exalt his daughter's wisdom and foresight at the expense
of his own.

"The priest," he informed her, "will, _of course_, be very pleased to
marry Sarella and myself when we are ready. That will not be until she
has been instructed and baptized. It will not be for a month or two."

Mariquita offered her respectful congratulations both on Sarella's
willingness to become a Catholic, and on the marriage itself. She was
little given to asking questions, and was quite aware that her father
had no wish to answer any in the present instance.

Neither did he tell Sarella that a dispensation would be necessary;
still less, that the priest believed the dispensation would have to be
sought, through the Bishop, of course, from the Papal Delegate, and
professed himself even uncertain whether the Papal Delegate himself
might not refer to Rome before granting it, though he (the priest)
thought it more probable that His Excellency would grant the
dispensation without such reference.

Don Joaquin merely gave Sarella to understand that their marriage would
follow her reception into the Church, and that the necessary instruction
previous to that reception would take some time.



CHAPTER XXI.


As the marriage could not take place without delay, Don Joaquin did not
wish it to be unreservedly announced; the general inhabitants of the
range might guess what they chose, but they were not at present to be
informed.

"Mariquita may tell Gore," he explained to Sarella, "that is a family
matter."

"And I am sure she will not tell him unless you order her to," said
Sarella; "she does not think of him in that light."

"What light?" demanded Don Joaquin irritably.

"As one of the family," Sarella replied, without any irritation at all.
Her placidity of temper was likely to be one of her most convenient
endowments.

"I shall give her to understand," said Don Joaquin, "that there is no
restriction on her informing Mr. Gore."

Sarella shrugged her pretty shoulders and made no comment.

Mariquita took her father's intimation as an order and obeyed, though
surprised that he should not, if he desired Mr. Gore to know of his
approaching marriage, tell him himself. Possibly, she thought, her
father was a little shy about such a subject.

Mr. Gore received her announcement quite coolly, without any
manifestation of surprise. It had not, as Don Joaquin had hoped it
might, the least effect of hurrying his own steps.

"Am I," he inquired, "supposed to show that I have been told?"

"Oh, I think so."

So that night when they were alone, after the others had gone to their
rooms, Gore congratulated his host.

"Thank you! You see," said Don Joaquin, assuming a tone of pathos that
sat most queerly on him, "as time goes on, I should be very lonely."

He shook his head sadly, and Gore endeavored to look duly sympathetic.

"Sarella," the older man proceeded, "could not stop here--if she were
not my wife--after Mariquita had left us."

Gore, who perfectly understood Mariquita's father and his diplomacy,
would not indulge him by asking if his daughter were, then, likely to
leave him.

So Don Joaquin sighed and had to go on.

"Yes! It would be very lonely for me, dependent as I am for society on
Mariquita."

Here Gore, with some inward amusement, could not refrain from accusing
his possible father-in-law of some hypocrisy; for he was sure the
elderly gentleman would miss his daughter as little as any father could
miss his child.

"Certainly," he said aloud, "it is hard to think how the range would get
on without her."

No doubt, her absence would be hard to fill in the matter of usefulness,
and Gore was inclined to doubt whether Sarella would even wish to fill
it. He was pretty sure that that young woman would refuse to work as her
cousin had worked.

"It _must_ get on without her," Don Joaquin agreed, not without doubt,
"when her time comes for moving to a home of her own."

Still Gore refused to "rise."

"We must be prepared for that," Mariquita's father went on, refilling
his pipe. "She is grown up. It is natural she should be thinking of her
own future--"

Gore suddenly felt angry with him, instead of being merely amused. To
him it appeared a profanation of the very idea of Mariquita, to speak of
her as indulging in surmises and calculations concerning her own
matrimonial chances.

"It would not," he said, "be unnatural--but I am sure her mind is given
to no such thoughts."

Don Joaquin slightly elevated his eyebrows.

"I do not know," he said coldly, "how you can answer for what her mind
is given to. I, at any rate, must have such thoughts on her account. I
am not English. English parents may, perhaps, leave all such things to
chance. We, of my people, are not so. To us it seems the most important
of his duties for a father to trust to no chances, but arrange and
provide for his daughter's settlement in life."

Here the old fellow paused, and having shot his bolt, pretended it had
been a mere parenthesis in answer to an implied criticism.

"But," he continued, "I have wandered from what I was really explaining.
I was telling that soon I should, in the natural course of things, be
left here alone, as regards home companionship, unless I myself tried to
find a mate, so I tried and I have succeeded."

Here he bowed with great majesty and some complacence, as if he might
have added, "Though you, in your raw youthfulness and conceit, may have
thought me too old a suitor to win a lovely bride."

Gore responded by the heartiest felicitations. "Sir," he added after a
brief pause, "since it seems to me that you wish it, I will explain my
own position. I can well afford to marry. And I would wish very much to
marry. But there is only one lady whom I have ever met, whom I have now,
or ever, felt that I would greatly desire to win for my wife."

So far Don Joaquin had listened with an absolutely expressionless
countenance of polite attention, though he had never been more
interested.

"The lady," Gore continued, "is your daughter."

(Here that lady's father relaxed the aloofness of his manner, and
permitted himself a look of benign, though not eager, approval.)

"It may be," the young man went on, "that you have perceived my
wishes...."

(Don Joaquin would express neither negation nor assent.)

"Anyway, you know them now. But your daughter does not know them. To
thrust the knowledge of them prematurely upon her would, I am sure, make
the chance of her responding to them very much less hopeful. Therefore I
have been slow and cautious in endeavoring to gain even a special
footing of friendship with her; I have, lately, gained a little. I
cannot flatter myself that it is more than a little; between us there
is on her side only the mere dawn of friendship. That being so, I should
have been unwilling to speak to yourself--lest it should seem like
assuming that she had any sort of interest in me beyond what I have
explained. I speak now because you clearly expect that I should. Well, I
have spoken. But I am so greatly in eager earnest about this that I ask
you plainly to allow me to endeavor to proceed with what, I think, you
almost resent as a timidity of caution. It is my only chance."

Don Joaquin did not see that at all. If he were to inform Mariquita that
Mr. Gore wished to become her husband and he, her father, wished her to
become Mr. Gore's wife, he could not bring himself to picture such
disobedience as any refusal on her part would amount to.

"Our way," he said, "is more direct than your fanciful English way; it
regards not a young girl's fanciful delays, and timid uncertainty, but
her solid welfare, and therefore her solid happiness. In reality it gets
over her maiden modesty in the best way--by wise authority. She does not
have to tell herself baldly, 'I have become in love with this young
man,' but 'My parents have found this young man worthy to undertake the
charge of my life and my happiness, and I submit to their experience and
wisdom.' Then duty will teach her love; a safer teacher than fancy."

"I hope, sir," said Gore, "that you do not yourself propose that
method."

"And if I did?"

"I would, though more earnestly desirous to win your daughter than I am
desirous of anything in this life, tell you that I refuse to win her in
that way. It never would win her."

"'Win her'! She is all duty--"

"Excuse me! No duty would command her to become my wife if she could
only do so with repugnance. If you told her it was her duty I should
tell her it was no such thing."

Don Joaquin was amazed at such crass stupidity. He flung his open hands
upwards with angry protest. He was even suspicious. Did the young man
really _want_ to marry his daughter? It was much more evident that he
was in earnest now, than it had been to Don Joaquin that he was in
earnest before.

The elderly half-breed had not the least idea of blaming his own crude
diplomacy; on the contrary, he had been pluming himself on its success.
For some time he had desired to obtain from Gore a definite expression
of his wish to marry Mariquita, and he had obtained it. That it had been
speedily followed by this further pronouncement, incomprehensible to the
girl's father, was not _his_ fault, but was due entirely to the
Englishman's peculiarities, peculiarities that to Don Joaquin seemed
perverse and almost suspicious.

"If you were a Spaniard," he said stiffly, "you would be grateful to me
for being willing to influence my daughter in your favor."

Gore knew that he must be disturbed, as it was his rule to speak of
himself not as a Spaniard, but as an American.

"I am grateful to you, sir, for being willing to let me hope to win your
daughter for my wife--most grateful."

"You do not appear grateful to me for my willingness to simplify
matters."

"They cannot be simplified--nor hurried. If your daughter can be brought
to think favorably of me as one who earnestly desires to have the great,
great honor and privilege of being the guardian of her life and its
happiness, it must be gradually and by very gentle approaches. I hope
that she already likes me, but I am sure she does not yet love me."

"Before she has been asked to be your wife! Love you! Certainly not. She
will love her husband, for that will be her duty."

Gore did not feel at all like laughing; his future father-in-law's
peculiarities seemed as perverse to him as his own did to Don Joaquin.
He dreaded their operation; it seemed only too possible that Don Joaquin
would be led to interference by them, and such interference he feared
extremely; nor could he endure the idea of Mariquita's being dragooned
by her father.

"If," he declared stoutly, "you thrust prematurely upon your daughter
the idea of me as her husband, you will make her detest the thought of
me, and I never _shall_ be her husband."

Don Joaquin was offended.

"I am not used to do anything prematurely," he said grimly. "And it may
be that I understand my daughter, who is of my own race, better than you
who are not of her race."

"It may be. But I am not certain that it is so. Sir, since you have
twice alluded to that question of race, you must not be surprised or
displeased if I remind you that she is as much of my race as of your
own. Half Spanish she is, but half of English blood."

Don Joaquin _was_ displeased, but all the same, he did feel that there
might be something in Gore's argument. He had always thought of
Mariquita as Spanish like himself; but he had never been unconscious
that she was unlike himself--it might possibly be by reason of her
half-English descent.

"The lady," Gore went on, "whom you yourself are marrying, would perhaps
understand me better than you appear to do."

This reference to Sarella did not greatly conciliate her betrothed. He
did not wish her to be occupied in understanding any young man. All the
same, he was slightly flattered at Gore's having, apparently, a
confidence in her judgment. Moreover, he knew that it was so late that
this discussion could not be protracted much longer, and he was not
willing to say anything like an admission that he had receded (which he
had not) from his own opinion.

"Her judgment," he said, "is good. And she has a maternal interest in
Mariquita. I will tell her what you have said."

Gore went to bed smiling to himself at the idea of Sarella's maternal
interest. She did not strike him as a motherly young lady.



CHAPTER XXII.


Sarella found considerable enjoyment in the visits to Maxwell
necessitated by her period of instruction. Each instruction was of
reasonable length and left plenty of time for other affairs, and that
time landed Don Joaquin in expenses he had been far from foreseeing.
Sarella had a fund of mild obstinacy which her placidity of temper
partly veiled. She intended that considerable additions to the furniture
of the homestead should be made, and she did _not_ intend to get married
without some considerable additions to her wardrobe as well. Her
dresses, she assured Don Joaquin, were all too youthful. "Girl's
clothes" she called them. She insisted on the necessity of now dressing
as a matron. "Perhaps," she admitted with sweet ingenuousness, "I have
dressed too young. One gets into a sort of groove. There was nothing to
remind me that I had passed beyond the stage of school-girl frocks. But
a married woman, unless she is a silly, must pull herself up, and adopt
a matron's style; I would rather now dress a bit too old than too young.
You don't want people to be saying you have married a flapper!"

She got her own way, and Don Joaquin, had he known anything about it,
might have discovered that matronly garments were more expensive than a
girl's. "A girl," Sarella informed Mariquita, "need only be smart. A
matron's dress must be handsome."

To do her justice, Sarella tried to convince her lover that Mariquita
also should be provided with new clothes; but he would agree only to one
new "suit," as he called it, for his daughter to wear at his wedding. He
had no idea of spending his own money on an extensive outfit "for
another man's wife." That expense would be Gore's. Even in Sarella's
case he would never have agreed to buy all she wanted had it been
announced at once, but she was far too astute for any such mistake as
that. It appeared that there must be some delay before their marriage,
and she utilized it by spreading her gradual demands over as long a time
as she could.

Some of the expense, too, Don Joaquin managed to reduce by discovering a
market he had hardly thought of till now, for the furs of animals he had
himself shot; some of these animals were rather uncommon, some even
rare, and he became aware of their commercial value only when bargaining
for their making up into coats or cloaks for Sarella. His subsequent
visits to this "store" in order to dispose of similar furs against a
reduction in its charges for Sarella's clothing, he studiously concealed
from her, but Sarella knew all about it.

"Why," she said to herself, really admiring his sharpness, "the old boy
is making a _profit_ on the bargain. He's getting more for his furs than
he's spending."

She was careful not to let him guess that she knew this; but she
promised herself to "take it out in furniture." And she kept her
promise. It was Sarella's principle that a person who did not keep
promises made to herself would never keep those made to other people.

"You really must," she told him, "have some of those furs made into a
handsome winter jacket for Mariquita. They cost you nothing, and she
must have a winter jacket. The one she has was got at the Convent--and a
present, too, I believe. It was handsome once--and that shows how
economical _good_ clothes are; they last so--"

(Don Joaquin thought, "especially economical when they are presents.")

"--But Mariquita has grown out of it. She is so tall. A new one made of
cloth from the store would cost more than one for me, because she is so
tall. But those furs cost you nothing."

She knew he would not say, "No, but I can sell them."

"Besides," she added, "if you offered them some more furs at the store
they might take something off the charge of making and lining. It is
often done. I'll ask them about it if you like."

Don Joaquin did not at all desire her to do that.

"No necessity," he said hastily; "Mariquita shall have the jacket. I
will take the furs and give the order myself."

"Only be sure to insist that the lining is silk. They have some silvery
gray silk that would just go with those furs. And Mariquita would _pay_
good dressing. Her style wants it. She's solid, you know."

Mariquita did get the jacket. But it was not of the fur Sarella had
meant--her father knew by that time the value of that sort of fur. And
Sarella knew that she had made it quite clear which sort she had asked
him to supply. She was amused by his craftiness, and though a little
ashamed of him, she was readier to forgive his stinginess than if it had
been illustrated in a garment for herself. After all, it was perhaps as
well that Mariquita's should not be so valuable as her own.

"And married women," she reminded herself, "do have to dress handsomer
than girls. And Mariquita will never know the difference."

"_I_ suggested," she told her cousin, "the same gray fur as mine. But I
daresay a brown fur will suit your coloring better, and it's _younger_.
Anything gray (in the fur line) can be worn with mourning, and nothing's
so elderly as mourning."

It was the first present her father had ever given Mariquita, and she
thanked him with a warmth of gratefulness that ought to have made him
ashamed. But Don Joaquin was not subject to the unpleasant consciousness
of shame. On the contrary, he thought with less complacence of
Mariquita's thanks than of the fact that he had given her a necessary
winter garment at a profit--for he had taken the other furs to the store
and received for them a substantial cash payment over and above the
clearing of the charges for making up and lining the commoner skins of
which the winter jacket was made.

"I wonder," thought Sarella, "what that lining is? It looks silky, but
I'm sure it isn't silk. I daresay it's warmer. And after all, Gore can
get it changed for silk when it's worn out; the fur will outlast two
linings at least. It's not so delicate as mine. I'm afraid mine'll
_flatten_. I must look to that."



CHAPTER XXIII.


Meanwhile the instructions did proceed, and Sarella did not mind them
much. Perhaps she was not always attending very laboriously--she had a
good deal to think of; but she listened with all due docility, and with
quite reasonable, if not absorbed, interest; and by carefully abstaining
from asking questions, did not often betray any misunderstanding of the
nun's explanations, for it was by one of the nuns that all but the
preliminary instructions were given. Sarella rather liked her, deciding
that she was "a good sort," and, though neither young nor extremely
attractive, she was "as kind as kind," and so intensely full of her
subject that Sarella could not help gathering a higher appreciation of
its importance. In Sarella the earnest expounder of Catholic doctrine
and practice had no bigotry and not much prejudice to work against;
only a thick crust of ignorance, and perhaps a thicker layer of natural
indifference. The little she had heard about the Catholic Church was
from Puritan neighbors in a very small town of a remote corner of New
England, and if it had made any particular impression, must have been
found unfavorable; but Sarella had been too little interested in
religion to adopt its rancors, her whole disposition, easy,
self-indulgent and material, being opposed to rancor as to all rough,
sharp, and uncomfortable things.

Perhaps the nun was hardly likely to overcome the indifference, and
perhaps she knew it. But she prayed for Sarella much oftener than she
talked to her, and had much more confidence in what Our Lord Himself
might do for her than in anything that she could.

"After all," she would urge, "it is more Your own business than mine. I
did not make her, nor die for her. Master, do Your own work that I
cannot."

Besides, she, who had no belief in chance, would cheer herself by
remembering that He had so ordered His patient providence as to bring
the girl to the gate of the Church, by such ways as she was so far
capable of. He had begun the work; He would not half do it. He would
make it, the nun trusted, a double work. For in, half-obstinately,
insisting that Sarella must become a Catholic before he married her, the
old Spaniard, half-heathen by lifelong habit, had begun to awake to some
sort at least of Catholic feeling, some beginning of Catholic practice,
for now he was occasionally hearing Mass, and that first lethargic
movement of a better spirit in him might, with God's blessing, would,
lead to something more genuinely spiritual.

The nun attributed those beginnings to the prayers of the old
half-breed's daughter. As yet she knew her but little, but already, by
the _discretio spiritum_, which is, after all, perhaps only another name
for the clear instinct in things of grace earned by those who live by
grace, the elderly nun, plain and simple, recognized in Mariquita one of
a rare, unfettered spirituality.

Sarella had not, at all events consciously, to herself, told her
instructress much about her young cousin.

"Oh, Mariquita!" she had said, not ill-naturedly, "she lives up in the
moon."

("Higher up than that, I expect," thought Sister Aquinas, gathering the
impression that Mariquita was not held of much account in the family.)

"But she is not an idler?" said the nun.

"Oh, not a bit," Sarella agreed with perfectly ungrudging honesty. "An
idler! No; she works a lot harder than she ought; harder than she would
if I had the arranging of things. Not quite so hard as she used, though,
for I have made her father get some help, and he will have to get more
if Mariquita leaves us."

Perceiving that the nun did not smile, but retreated into what Sarella
called her "inside expression," that acute young woman guessed that she
might have conveyed the idea that her future stepdaughter was to be sent
away on her father's marriage.

"There's always," she explained carelessly, "the chance of her marrying.
She is handsome in her own way, and I don't think she need remain long
unmarried if she chose to marry. Not that _she_ ever thinks of it."

("I expect not," thought Sister Aquinas.)

This was about as near to gossip as they ever got. Sarella, indeed,
would have liked the nun better if she had been "more chatty." I don't
know that Sister Aquinas really disliked chat so long as it wasn't
gossip, but the truth was, she did not find the time allowed for each
instruction at all superfluously long, and did not wish to let it slip
away in mere talk.



CHAPTER XXIV.


It was only occasionally that Mariquita accompanied Sarella when the
latter went to the convent for instruction. On one of those occasions
the Loretto Convent near Denver was mentioned, and Sister Aquinas said:

"I had a niece there a few years ago--Eleanor Hurst. I wonder if you
know her?"

"Oh, yes! Quite well." Mariquita answered, with the sort of shining
interest that always made her look suddenly younger. "A friend of ours
brought me news, lately, that she has become a Carmelite."

"What is a Carmelite?" Sarella asked.

"A nun of one of the great Contemplative Orders," Sister Aquinas
explained, turning politely to Sarella. "It is a much rarer vocation
than that of active nuns, like ourselves. Carmelites do not teach
school, or have orphanages, or homes for broken old men or women, nor
nurse the sick, either in their homes or in hospital."

"Sounds pretty useless," Sarella remarked carelessly; "what do they do
anyway?"

"They are not at all useless," the nun answered, smiling good-humoredly.
"Married women are not useless, though they do not do any of those
things either."

"Of course not. But they _are_ married. They make their husbands
comfortable--"

The nun could not help taking her own turn of interrupting, and said
with a little laugh:

"Not quite always, perhaps."

"The good ones do."

"Perhaps not invariably. Some even pious women are not remarkable for
making their husbands comfortable."

Sarella laughed, and the elderly nun went on.

"Of course, it is the vocation of married women to do as you say. And I
hope most do it, that and setting the example of happy Christian homes.
I do not really mean to judge of the vocation by those who fail to
fulfill it. It is God's vocation for the vast majority of His daughters.
But not for all."

"There aren't husbands enough for all of us," Sarella, who was
"practical" and slightly statistical, remarked, with the complacence of
one for whom a husband had been forthcoming.

"Exactly," agreed the elderly nun, laughing cheerfully, "so it's a good
thing, you see, that there are other vocations; ours, for instance."

"Oh," Sarella protested with hasty politeness, "no one could think
people like you useless. You do so much good."

"So do the Carmelites. Only their way of it is not quite the same. Would
you say that Shakespeare was useless, or Dante?"

To tell truth, Sarella had never in her life said anything about either,
or thought anything. Nevertheless, she was aware that they were
considered important.

"They did not," the nun said eagerly, "teach schools, or nurse the sick,
or do any of those things for the sake of which some people kindly
forgive us for being nuns--not all people, unfortunately. Yet they are
recognized as not having been useless. They are not useless now, long
after they are dead. Mankind admits its debt to them. They _served_, and
they serve still. Not with physical service, like nurses, or doctors, or
cooks, or house-servants. But they contributed to the _quality_ of the
human race. So have many great men and women who never wrote a
line--Joan of Arc, for instance. The contribution of those illustrious
servants was eminent and famous, but many who have never been famous,
who never have been known, have contributed in a different degree or
fashion to the quality of mankind: innumerable priests, unknown perhaps
outside their parishes; innumerable nuns, innumerable wives and mothers;
and a Carmelite nun so contributes, eminently, immeasurably except by
God, though invisibly, and inaudibly. Not only by her prayers, I mean
her prayers of intercession, though again it is only God who can measure
what she does by them. But just by being what she is, vast, unknown
numbers of people are brought into the Catholic Church not only by her
prayers but by her life. Some read themselves into the true faith, into
_any_ faith; they are very few in comparison of those who come to
believe. Some are preached into the Church--a few only, again, compared
with the number of those who do come to her. What brings most of those
who are brought? I believe it is a certain quality that they have become
aware of in the Catholic Church, that brings the immense majority. The
young man in the factory, or in the army, in a ship, or on a
ranch--anywhere--falls into companionship with a Catholic, or with a
group of Catholics; and in him, or them, he gradually perceives this
_quality_ which he has never perceived elsewhere. It may be that the
Catholics he has come to know are not perfect at all. The quality is not
all of their own earning; it is partly an inheritance: some of it from
their mothers, some from their sisters, some from their friends; ever so
much of it from the saints, who contributed it to the air of the Church
that Catholics breathe. The Contemplatives are contributing it every
day, and all day long. Each, in her case, behind her grille, is forever
giving something immeasurable, except by God, to the transcendent
quality of the Catholic Church. This may be, and mostly is, unsuspected
by almost all her fellow-creatures; but not unfelt by quite all. A
Carmelite's convent is mostly in a great city; countless human beings
pass its walls. They cannot _help_, seeing them, saying to their own
hearts, 'In there, human creatures, like me, are living unlike me. They
have given up _everything_--and for no possible reward _here_. Ambition
cannot account for _any part of it even_. They cannot become anything
great even in their Church, nor famous; they will die as little known or
regarded as they live. They can win no popularity. They obtain no
applause. They are called useless for their pains. They are scolded for
doing what they do, though they would not be scolded if they were mere
old-maids who pampered and indulged only themselves. The wicked women of
this city are less decried than they. They are abused, and they have to
be content to be abused, remembering that their Master said they must
be content to fare no better than Himself. It is something above this
world, that can only be accounted for by another world, and such a
belief in it as is not proved by those who may try to grab two worlds,
this one with their right hands, the next with their left. The life
almost all of us declare impossible here on earth, they are living.'
Such thoughts as these, broken thoughts, hit full in the face numbers of
passers-by every day, and how many days are there not in a year--in a
Carmelite's own lifetime. They are witnesses to Jesus Christ, who cannot
be explained away. A chaplain told me that nothing pleased his soldiers
so much as to get him in the midst of a group of them and say, 'Tell us
about the nuns, Father. Tell us about the Carmelites and the Poor
Clares--'"

"I knew a girl called Clare," Sarella commented brightly; "she was as
poor as a church mouse, but she married a widower with no children and a
_huge_ fortune. I beg your pardon--but the name reminded me of her."

Sister Aquinas laughed gently.

"Well, she was a useful friend to you!"

"Not at all. She never did a hand's turn for anyone. I don't know what
she would have done if she _hadn't_ married a rich man, she was so
helpless. But you were saying?"

"Only, that his soldiers loved to hear the chaplain tell them about the
Contemplative nuns. Nothing interested them more. I am sure it was not
thrown away on them. It was like showing them a high and lovely place. I
should think no one can look at a splendid white mountain and not want
to be climbing. That was all."

Would Sarella ever want to climb? Sister Aquinas did not know, nor do I
know.

Her eagerness had been, perhaps, partly spurred by other criticism than
Sarella's; Sarella was not the only one who had told Nelly Hurst's aunt
that it was a pity the girl had "decided on one of the useless Orders."

That every phase of life approved by the Catholic Church, as the
Contemplative Orders are, must be useful, Sister Aquinas knew well. And
it wounded her to hear her niece's high choice belittled. She could not
help knowing that this belittling was simply a naive confession of
materialism, and an equally naive expression of human selfishness. We
approve the vocation of nuns whose work is for our own bodies; we cannot
easily see the splendor of _direct_ service of God Himself who has no
material needs of His own. That God's most usual course of Providence
calls us to serve Him by serving our fellows, we see clearly enough,
because it suits us to see it; but we are too purblind to perceive that
even that Service need not in every case be material service, and it
scandalizes us to remember that God chooses in some instance to be
served _directly_, not by the service of any creature; because the
instances are less common, we are shocked when asked to admit that they
exist. If Christ were still visibly on earth, millions would be
delighted to feed Him, but it would annoy almost all of us to see even a
few serving Him by sitting idle at His feet listening. Hardly any of us
but think Martha was doing more that afternoon at Bethany than her
sister, and it troubles us that Jesus Christ thought differently. It
was so easy to sit still and listen--that is why the huge majority of us
find it impossible, and are angry that here and there a Contemplative
nun wants to do it.

Of liberty we prattle in every language; and most loudly do they scream
of it who are most angry that God takes leave to exist, and that many of
His creatures still refuse to deny His existence; that many admit His
right to command, and their own obligation to obey. These
liberty-brawlers would be the first to concede to every woman the
"inalienable right" to lead a corrupt life, destructive of society, and
the last to allow to a handful of women out of the world's population
the right to live a life of spotless whiteness at the immediate feet of
the Master they love.

Was Sister Aquinas so carried away as to be forgetful that Sarella was
not the only auditor? Mariquita had listened too.



CHAPTER XXV.


During these weeks of Sarella's instruction she achieved something which
to her seemed a greater triumph than her succession of cumulative
triumphs in the matters of trousseau and of furniture. She persuaded Don
Joaquin to buy a motor-car!

She would not have succeeded in this attempt but for certain
circumstances which in reality robbed her success of some of its
triumph. In the first place, the machine was not a new one; in the
second, Don Joaquin took it instead of a debt which he did not think
likely to be paid. Then also he had arrived at the conclusion that so
many long rides as Sarella's frequent journeys to Maxwell involved, were
likely to prove costly. They took a good deal out of the horses, even
without accidents occurring, and an accident had nearly occurred which
would have very largely reduced the value of one of the best of his
horses--the one, as it happened, best fitted for carrying a lady.
Sarella all but let the horse down on a piece of ragged, stony road: Don
Joaquin being himself at her elbow and watchful, had just succeeded in
averting the accident; but lover as he was, he was able to see that
Sarella would never be a horse-woman. She disliked riding, and he was
not such a tyrant as to insist on her doing a thing she never would do
well, and had no pleasure in doing. On the whole, he made up his mind
that it would be more economical to take this second-hand car in
settlement of a bad debt than continue running frequent risks of injury
to his horses.

The acquisition of the car made it possible to shorten the period of
these journeys to Maxwell; it did not require a night's rest, and the
trip itself was much more rapidly accomplished.

The period of Sarella's instruction was not one of idleness on Gore's
part, in reference to Mariquita. It seemed to him that he really was
making some advance. He saw much more of her than used to be the case.
She was now accustomed to chance meetings with him, or what she took for
chance meetings, and did not make hasty escape from them, or treat him
during them with reserve. They were, in fact, friends and almost
confidential friends; but if Gore had continued as wise as he had been
when discussing the situation with her father, he would have been able
to see that it did not amount to more than that; that they were friends
indeed because Mariquita was wholly free from any suspicion that more
than that could come of it. She had simply come to a settled opinion
that he was nice, a kind man, immensely pleasanter as a companion than
any man she had known before, a trustworthy friend who could tell her of
much whereof she had been ignorant. She began in a fashion to know "his
people," too; and he saw with extreme pleasure that she was interested
in them. That was natural enough. She knew almost nobody; as a grown-up
woman, had really known none of her own sex till Sarella came; it would
have been strange if she had not heard with interest about women whose
portraits were so affectionately drawn for her, who, she could easily
discern, were pleasant and refined, cheerful, bright, amusing, and kind,
too; cordial, friendly people.

All the same, Gore's talk of his family did connote a great advance in
intimacy with Mariquita. He seemed to assume that she might know them
herself, and she gathered the notion that when he had bought a range,
some of them would come out and live with him, so that she said nothing
to contradict a possibility that he had after all only implied. Gore,
meanwhile, with no suspicion of her idea that his sisters might come out
to visit him, and noting with great satisfaction that she never
contradicted his hints and hopes that they might all meet, attached more
importance to it than he ought. Perhaps he built more hope on this than
on any one thing besides. He was fully aware that in all their
intercourse there was no breath of flirtation. But he could not picture
Mariquita flirting, and did not want to picture it. Meanwhile their
intercourse was daily growing to an intimacy, or he took it for such.
He did not sufficiently weigh the fact that of herself she said little.
She was most ready to be interested in all he told her of himself, his
previous life, his friends; but of her own real life, which was inward
and apart from the few events of her experience, she did not speak. This
did not strike him as reserve, for those who show a warm, friendly
interest in others do not seem reserved.

Gore never startled her by gallantry or compliments; his sympathy and
admiration were too respectful for compliment, and a certain instinct
warned him that gallantry would have perplexed and disconcerted her.

None the less, he believed that he was making progress, and the course
of it was full of beautiful and happy moments. So things went on, with,
as Gore thought, sure though not rapid pace. He was too much in earnest
to risk haste, and also too happy in the present to make blundering
clutches at the future. Then with brutal suddenness Don Joaquin
intervened.



CHAPTER XXVI.


He met his daughter and Gore returning to the homestead, Mariquita's
face bright with friendly interest in all that Gore had been telling
her, and the young man's certainly not less happy. Don Joaquin was out
of temper; Sarella and he had had an economic difference and he had been
aware that she had deceived him.

He barely returned Gore's and Mariquita's greeting, and his brow was
black. It was not till some time later that he and Gore found themselves
alone together. Then he said ill-humoredly:

"You and Mariquita were riding this afternoon--a good while, I think."

"It did not seem long to _me_, as you can understand," Gore replied
smiling, and anxious to ignore the old fellow's bad temper.

"Perhaps it does not seem long to you since you began to speak of
marrying my daughter."

"I did not begin to speak of it. I should have preferred to hold my
tongue till I could feel I had some right to speak of it. It was you,
sir, who began."

"And that was a long time ago. Have you yet made my daughter understand
you?"

"I cannot be sure yet."

"But I must be sure. To-morrow I shall see that she understands."

Gore was aghast.

"I earnestly beg you to abstain from doing that," he begged, too anxious
to prevent Don Joaquin's interference to risk precipitating it by
showing the anger he felt.

"Perhaps you no longer wish to marry her. If so, it would be advisable
to reduce your intercourse to common civilities--"

"Sir," Gore interrupted, "I cannot allow you to go on putting any case
founded on such an assumption as that of my no longer wishing to marry
your daughter. I wish it more every day ..."

The young man had a right to be angry, and he was angry, and perhaps was
not unwilling to show it. But it was necessary that he should for every
reason be moderate in letting his resentment appear. To have a loud
quarrel with a prospective father-in-law is seldom a measure likely to
help the suitor's wishes.

He in his turn was interrupted.

"Then," said Don Joaquin, "it is time you told her so."

"I do not think so. I think it's _not_ time, and that to tell her so now
would greatly injure my chance of success."

"I will answer for your success. I shall myself speak to her. I shall
tell her that you wish to marry her, and that I have, some time ago,
given my full consent."

Gore was well aware that Don Joaquin could not "answer for his success."
It was horrible to him to think of Mariquita being bullied, and he was
sure that her father intended to bully her. Anything would be better
than that. He was intensely earnest in his wish to succeed; it was that
earnestness that made him willing to be patient; but he was, if
possible, even more intensely determined that the poor girl should not
be tormented and dragooned by her tyrannical father. That, he would
risk a great deal to prevent, as far as his own power went.

"I most earnestly beg you not to do that," he said in a very low voice.

"But I intend to do it. If you choose to say that you do not, after all,
wish to marry her, then I will merely suggest that you should leave us."

"I have just told you the exact contrary--"

"Then, I shall tell Mariquita so to-morrow, stating that your proposal
meets with my full consent, and that in view of her prolonged intimacy
with you, her consent is taken by me for granted. I do take it for
granted."

"I wish I could. But I cannot. Sir, I still entreat you to abandon this
intention of yours."

"Only on condition that you make the proposal yourself without any
further delay."

From this decision the obstinate old father would not recede. The
discussion continued for some time, but he seemed to grow only more
fixed in his intention, and certainly he became more acerbated in
temper. Gore was sure that if he were allowed to take up the matter with
his daughter, it would be with even more harshly dictatorial tyranny
than had seemed probable at first.

Finally Gore promised that he would himself propose to Mariquita in form
on the morrow, Don Joaquin being with difficulty induced to undertake on
his side that he would not "prepare" her for what was coming. He gave
this promise quite as reluctantly as Gore gave his. The younger man
dreaded the bad effects of precipitancy; the elder, who had plenty of
self-conceit behind his dry dignity, relinquished very unwillingly the
advantages he counted upon from his diplomacy, and the weight of his
authority being known beforehand to be on the suitor's side. If Gore
were really so uncertain of success, it would be a feather in the
paternal cap to have insured that success by his solemn indications of
approval. But he saw that without his promise of absolute abstention
from interference, Gore would not agree to make his proposal, so Don
Joaquin ungraciously yielded the point perhaps chiefly because important
business called him away from the morrow's dawn till late at night.



CHAPTER XXVII.


After breakfast next morning Sarella, not quite accidentally, found
herself alone with Gore.

"You gentlemen," she said, "did go to bed sometime, I suppose. But I
thought you never _were_ going to stop your talk--and to tell you the
truth, I wished my bedroom was farther away, or had a thicker wall. _I_
go to bed to sleep. You were at it two hours and twenty minutes."

Gore duly apologized for the postponement of her sleep, and wondered
_how_ thin the wooden partition might be between her room and that in
which the long discussion had taken place.

"These partitions of thin boarding are wretched," she informed him,
"especially as they are only stained. If they were even papered it would
prevent the tobacco-smoke coming through the cracks where the boards
have shrunk." Gore could not help smiling.

"I think," he said, "you want to let me know that our talk was not quite
inaudible."

"No, it wasn't. Not quite. I'll tell you how much was audible. That you
were talking about Mariquita, and that you were arguing, and I think you
were both angry. I am sure _he_ was."

"So was I; though not so loud, I hope."

"Look here, Mr. Gore. You weren't loud at all. But I knew you were
angry. And so you ought to have been. Why on earth can't he keep his
fingers out of the pot? You and Mariquita didn't interfere in his love
affair, and he'll do no good interfering in yours."

Gore laughed.

"So you heard it all!" he said.

"No. If you had talked as loud as he did I should. But you didn't. It
was easy to hear him say that to-morrow he would go and order Mariquita
to marry you. If that had been the end of it, I just believe I should
have dressed myself and come in to tell him not to be silly. But it
wasn't the end. Was it?"

"No. To stop _that_ plan I promised I would propose to Mariquita
to-day--only he was to say nothing about it to her first."

"Well, then, I don't know as he has done any harm. You might do worse."

"I might do better."

"What better?"

"Wait a bit."

"I'm not so sure. I don't know that any _harm_ would come of waiting a
bit, and I daresay it's all very pleasant meanwhile. But you can go on
with your love-making after you're engaged just as well as before."

"Ah! If we _were_ engaged!"

"Pfush!" quoth Sarella, inventing a word which stood her in stead of
"Pshaw."

Gore had to laugh again, and no doubt her good-natured certainty
encouraged him--albeit he did not believe she knew Mariquita.

"What o'clock shall you propose?" she inquired coolly.

Of course he could not tell her.

"I guess," she said, "it will be between two and three. Dinner at
twelve. Digestion and preliminaries, 12:45 to 1:45. Proposal 2:45 say.
You will be engaged by 2:50."

As before, Gore liked the encouragement though very largely discounting
its worth.

"On the whole," Sarella observed, "I daresay my old man has done
good--as he has made himself scarce. If he hadn't threatened to put his
own foot in it, you might have gone on staring up at Mariquita in the
stars till she was forty, and then it might have struck you that you
could get on fine without her."

Sarella evidently thought that nothing was to be done before the time
she had indicated; during the morning she was in evidence as usual, but
immediately after dinner she retreated to her studies, and was seen no
more for a long time.

Gore boldly announced his intention to be idle and told Mariquita she
must be idle too, begging her to ride with him. To himself it seemed as
if everyone about the place must see that something was in the wind; but
the truth was that everyone had been so long expecting something
definite to happen without hearing of it, that some of them had decided
that Gore and Mariquita had fixed up their engagement already at some
unsuspected moment, and the rest had almost ceased to expect to hear
anything.

As to Mariquita, she was clearly unsuspicious that this afternoon was to
have any special significance for her. Always cheerful and
unembarrassed, she was exactly her usual self, untroubled by the
faintest presentiment of fateful events. Her ready agreement to Gore's
proposal that they should ride together was, he knew well, of no real
good omen. It made him have a guilty feeling, as if he were getting her
out under false pretences.

There was so happy a light of perfect, confiding friendliness upon her
face that it seemed almost impossible to cloud it by the suggestion of
anything that would be different from simple friendship. But must it be
clouded by such a suggestion? "Clouding" means darkening; was it really
impossible for that light, so trusting and so contented, of
unquestioning friendship, to be changed without being rendered less
bright? Must Gore assume her to be specially incapable of an affection
deeper than even friendship? No; of anything good she was capable; no
depths of love could be beyond her, and he was sure that her nature was
one of deep affectionateness, left unclaimed till now. The real
loneliness of her life, he told himself, had lain in this very depth of
unclaimed lovingness. And he told himself, too, not untruly, that she
had been less lonely of late.

Gore might, he felt, hope to awake all that dormant treasure of
affection--if he had time! But he had no longer time. He did truly,
though not altogether, shrink from the task he had set himself to-day.
He had a genuine reluctance to risk spoiling that happy content of hers;
yet he could not say it was worse than a risk. There was the counter
possibility of that happy content changing into something lovelier.

That she was not incapable of love he told himself with full assurance,
and he was half-disposed to believe that she was one who would never
love till asked for her love.

Sarella might be nearer right than he had been. She was of much coarser
fibre than Mariquita, and perhaps he had made too much of that, for she
was a woman at all events, and shrewd, watchful and a looker-on with the
proverbial advantages (maybe) over the actors themselves. Sarella knew
how Mariquita spoke of him, though he did not believe that between the
two cousins there had been confidences about himself; not real
confidences, though Sarella was just the girl to "chaff" Mariquita about
himself, and would know how her chaff had been taken. At all events, Don
Joaquin must be forestalled; his blundering interference must be
prevented, and it could only be prevented by Gore keeping his word and
speaking himself.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


He had kept his word, and had spoken. They had been out together a long
time when the opportunity came; they had dismounted, and the horses were
resting. He and she were sitting in the shade of a small group of trees,
to two of which the horses were tied. Their talk had turned naturally,
and with scarcely any purposeful guidance of his, in a direction that
helped him. And Mariquita talked with frank unreserve; she felt at home
with him now, and her natural silence had long before now been melted by
his sincerity; her silence of habit was _chiefly_ habit, due not to
distrust nor a guarded prudence, but to the much simpler fact that till
his arrival, she had never since her home-coming been called upon to
speak in any real sense by anyone who cared to hear her, or who had an
interest in what she might have to say.

His proposal did not come with the least abruptness, but it was clear
and unmistakeable when it came, and she understood--Mariquita could
understand a plain meaning as well as anyone. She did not interrupt, nor
avert her gaze. Indeed, she turned her eyes, which had been looking far
away across the lovely, empty prairie to the horizon, to him as he
spoke, and her hands ceased their idle pulling at the grass beside her.
In her eyes, as she listened, there was a singular shining, and
presently they held a glistening like the dew in early morning flowers.

Gore had not moved any nearer to her, nor did he as he ceased. One hand
of hers she moved nearer to him, now, though not so as to touch him.

"That is what you want?" she said. "Is that what you have been wanting
all the time?"

Her voice was rather low, but most clear, and it had no reproach.

"Yes. What can you say to me?"

"I can only say how grateful it makes me."

Her words almost astonished him. Though he might have known that she
must say only exactly what was in her mind. They conveyed in themselves
no refusal, but he knew at once there was no hope for him in them.

"Grateful!" He exclaimed. "As if I could help it!"

"And as if I could help being grateful. It is so great a thing! For you
to wish that. There could be nothing greater. I can never forget it. You
must never think that I could forget it ... I--you know, Mr. Gore, that
I am not like most girls, being so very ignorant. I have never read a
novel. Even the nuns told me that some of them are beautiful and not bad
at all, but the contrary. Only, I have never read any. I know they are
full of this matter--love and marriage. They are great things, and
concern nearly all the men and women in the world, but not quite all. I
do not think I ever said to myself, 'They don't concern _you_.' I do not
think I ever thought about it, but if I had, I believe I should have
known that that matter would never concern me. Yet I do not want you to
misunderstand--Oh, if I could make you understand, please! I know that
it is a great thing, love and marriage, God's way for most men and
women. And I think it a wonderful, great thing that a man should wish
that for himself and me; should think that with me he could be happier
than in any other way. Of course, I never thought anyone would feel
that. It is a thing to thank you for, and always I shall thank you...."

"Is it impossible?"

She paused an infinitesimal moment and said:

"Just that. Impossible."

"Would it be fair to ask why 'impossible'?"

"Not unfair at all. But perhaps I cannot answer. I will try to answer.
When you told me what you wanted it pleased me because you wanted it,
and it hurt me because I (who had never thought about it before) knew at
once that it was not possible to do what you wanted, and I would so much
rather be able to please you."

"You will never be able to do anything else but please me. Your refusing
cannot change your being yourself."

Gore could not worry her with demands for reasons. He knew there was no
one else. He knew she was not incapable of loving--for he knew, better
than ever, that she loved greatly and deeply all whom she knew. Nay, he
knew that she loved _him_, among them, but more than any of them. And
yet he saw that she was simply right. What he had asked was "impossible,
just that." Better than himself she would love no one, and in the
fashion of a wife she would love no one, ever.

Yet, he asked her a question, not to harry her but because of her
father. "Perhaps you have resolved never to marry," he said.

"I never thought of it. But, as soon as I knew what you were saying, I
knew I should never marry anyone. It was not a resolution. It was just a
certainty. Alas! our resolutions are not certainties."

"But," Gore said gently, feeling it necessary to prepare her, "your
father may wish you to marry."

She paused, dubiously, and her brown skin reddened a little.

"You think so? Yes, he may," she answered in a troubled voice; for she
feared her father, more even than she was conscious of.

"I think he does," Gore said, not watching the poor girl's troubled
face.

"He wants me to marry you?" she inquired anxiously.

"I am afraid so; ever since he made up his mind. I do not think he liked
the idea of letting you marry me till long after he saw what I hoped
for. You see, I began to hope for it from the very first--from the day
when we first met, by the river. He did not like me then; he did not
know whether to approve of me or not. And at first he was inclined to
approve all the less because he saw I wanted to win you for myself. I
don't know that he likes me much even now; but he approves, and he
approves of my plan. You know that once he has made up his mind to
approve a plan, he likes it more and more. He gets determined and
obstinate about it."

"Yes. He will be angry."

"I am afraid so. But--it is because he thinks it a father's duty to
arrange for his daughter's future, and this plan suited him."

"Oh, yes! I know he is a good man. He will feel he is right in being
angry."

"But I don't. He will be wrong. Though he is your father, he has not the
right to try and force you to do what you say is impossible."

"Yes," she said gently, "it is impossible. But I shall not be able to
make him see that."

"I see it. And it concerns me more than it concerns him."

"You are more kind than anyone I ever heard of," she told him. "I never
dared to hope you would come to see that--that it is impossible."

"Can you tell him why?"

"Perhaps I do not quite understand you."

"It seems a long time ago, now, to me since I asked you if you could
come to love me and be my wife. Everything seems changed and different.
I wonder if I could guess why you knew instantly that it was
impossible. It might help you with your father."

Mariquita listened, and gave no prohibition.

"I think," he said, "you knew it was impossible, because my words taught
you, if you did not know already, that you could be no man's wife--"

"Oh, yes! That is true."

"But perhaps they taught you also something else, which you may not have
known before--that you could belong only to God."

"I have known that always," she answered simply.



CHAPTER XXIX.


When Don Joaquin returned, he was in an unusually bad temper, and it was
well that Mariquita had gone to bed. Gore was sitting up, and, though it
was long past Sarella's usual hour, she had insisted on sitting up also.
This was good-natured of her, for there was no pleasure to be
anticipated from the interview with Don Joaquin, and she disliked any
derangement of her habits. Gore had begged her to retire at her ordinary
hour, but she had flatly refused.

"I can do more with him than you can," she declared, quite truly,
"though no one will be able to stop his being as savage as a bear. I'm
sorry for Mariquita; she'll have a bad time to-morrow, and it won't end
with to-morrow."

Meanwhile she took the trouble to have ready a good supper for Don
Joaquin, and made rather a special toilette in which to help him to it.
Sarella was not in the least afraid of him, and had no great dread of a
row which concerned someone else. Don Joaquin was not, however,
particularly mollified by the becoming dress, nor by finding his
betrothed sitting up for him, as she was sitting up with Gore.

"Where's Mariquita?" he asked, as he sat down to eat.

"In bed long ago. I hope you'll like that chicken; it's done in a
special way we have, and the recipe's my patent. I haven't taught it to
Mariquita."

"Why aren't _you_ in bed?"

"Because I preferred waiting to see you safe at home," Sarella replied
with an entrancing smile.

"Was Mr. Gore anxious too?" Don Joaquin demanded sarcastically.

"It is not a quarter of an hour later than my usual time for going to
bed," Gore answered. "And I thought it better to see you; you would, I
believe, have _expected_ to see me."

"Very well. You have done as you said?"

"Yes." Gore glanced at Sarella, and Don Joaquin told her that she had
now better sit up no longer.

"_I_ think I had," she told him; "I know all about it."

"Is it all settled?" Don Joaquin asked, looking at Gore. "Have you fixed
it up?"

Gore found this abruptness and haste made his task very difficult.

He had to consider how to form his reply.

"He proposed to Mariquita," Sarella cut in, "but she refused him."

"Refused him!" Don Joaquin almost shouted.

"Unfortunately, it is so," Gore was beginning, but his host interrupted
him.

"I do not choose she should refuse," he said angrily. "I will tell her
so before you see her in the morning."

Gore was angry himself, and rose from his seat.

"No," he said; "I will not agree to that. She knows her own mind, and it
will not change. You must not persecute her on my account."

"It is not on your account. I choose to have duty and obedience from my
own daughter."

"Joaquin," said Sarella (Gore had never before heard her call him by his
Christian name), "it is no use taking it that way. Mariquita is not
undutiful, and you must know it. But she will not marry Mr. Gore--or
anybody."

"Of course she will marry," cried the poor girl's father fiercely. "That
is the duty of every girl."

Sarella slightly smiled.

"Then many girls do not do their duty," she said, in her even,
unimpassioned tones.

Her elderly _fiancé_ was about to burst into another explosion, but she
would not let him.

"Many Catholic girls," she reminded him, "remain unmarried."

"To be nuns--that is different."

"It is my belief," she observed in a detached manner, as if indulging in
a mere surmise, "that Mariquita will be a nun."

"Mariquita! Has she said so?" he demanded sharply.

"Not to me," Sarella replied, quite unconcernedly.

"Nor to me," Gore explained; "nevertheless, I believe it will be so."

"That depends on _me_," the girl's father asserted with an unpleasant
mixture of annoyance and obstinacy. "I intend her to marry."

"Only a Protestant," said Sarella, with a shrewd understanding of Don
Joaquin that surprised Gore, "would marry her if she believes she has a
vocation to be a nun. I should think a Catholic man would be ashamed to
do it. He would expect a judgment on himself and his children."

Don Joaquin was as angry as ever, as savage as ever, but he was
startled. Both his companions could see this. Gore was astonished at
Sarella's speech, and at her acumen. He had wished to have this
interview with Mariquita's father to himself, but already saw that
Sarella knew how to conduct it better than he did. She had clearly been
quite willing that "the old man" (as he disrespectfully called him in
his own mind) should fly out and give way to his fiery temper at once;
the more of it went off now, the less would remain for poor Mariquita to
endure.

"If I were a Catholic man," Sarella continued cooly, "I should think it
_profane_ to make a girl marry me who had given herself to be a nun. I
expect the Lord would punish it." She paused meditatively, and then
added, "and all who joined in pushing her to it. I know _I_ wouldn't
join. I think folks have enough of their own to answer for, without
bringing judgments down on their heads for things like that. It won't
get me to heaven to help in interfering between Mariquita and her way of
getting there."

All the while she spoke, Sarella seemed to be admiring, with her head
turned on one side, the prettiness of her left wrist on which was a gold
bangle, with a crystal heart dangling from it. Don Joaquin had given her
the bangle, and himself admired the heart chiefly because it was crystal
and not of diamonds.

"Isn't it pretty?" she said, looking suddenly up and catching his eye
watching her.

"I thought you hadn't cared much for it," he answered, greatly pleased.
He had always known _she_ would have preferred a smaller heart if
crusted with diamonds.

Gore longed to laugh. She astonished and puzzled him. Her cleverness was
a revelation to him, and her good-nature, her subtlety, and her
earnestness--for he knew she had been in earnest in what she said about
not daring to interfere with other people's ways of getting to heaven.

"That old man who instructs her," he thought, "must have taught her a
lot."

Of course, on his own account, he was no more afraid of Don Joaquin than
she was. But he had been terribly afraid of the hard old man on
Mariquita's, and he was deeply grateful to Sarella.

"Sir," he said, "what she has said to you I do feel myself. I am a
Catholic--and the dearest of my sisters is a nun. I should have hated
and despised any man who had tried to spoil her life by snatching it to
himself against her will. He would have to be a wicked fellow, and
brutal, and impious. God's curse would lie on him. So it would on me if
I did that hideous thing, though God knows to-day has brought me the
great disappointment of my life. Life can never be for me what I have
been hoping it might be. Never."

Sarella, listening, and knowing that the two men were looking at each
other, smiled at her bangle, and softly shook the dangling heart to make
the crystal give as diamond-like a glitter as possible. Gore's life, she
thought, would come all right. She had done her best valorously for
Mariquita; women, in her theory, behooved to do their best for each
other against masculine tyrrany ("bossishness," she called it), but all
the time she was half-savage, herself, with the girl for not being
willing to be happy in so obviously comfortable a way as offered. It
seemed to her "wasteful" that so pretty a girl should go and be a nun;
if she had been "homely" like Sister Aquinas it would have been
different. But Sarella had learned from Sister Aquinas that these
matters were above her, and was quite content to accept them without
understanding them.

"Ever since I came here," Gore was saying, "I have lived in a dream of
what life would be--if I could join hers with mine. It was only a dream,
and I had to awake."

Don Joaquin did not understand his mind, but he was able now to see that
the young man suffered, and had received a blow that, somehow, _would_
change his life, and turn its course aside.

"Anything," Gore said, in a very low, almost thankful tone, "is better
than it would have been if I had changed my dream for a nightmare; it
would have been that, if I had to think of myself as trying to pull her
down, from her level to mine, of her as having been brought down. I
meant to do her all possible good, all my life long. How can I wish to
have done her the greatest harm? As it would have been if, out of fear
or over-persuasion, she had been brought to call herself my wife who
could be no man's wife."

("_How_ he loves her!" thought Sarella.)

("I doubt it has wrecked him a bit," thought Don Joaquin.)



CHAPTER XXX.


Mariquita awoke early to see Sarella entering her room, and it surprised
her, for her cousin was not fond of leaving her bed betimes.

"Oh, I'm going back to bed again," Sarella explained. "We were up to all
hours. Of course, your father made a rumpus."

Mariquita heard this with less surprise than concern. It really grieved
her to displease him.

"He has very queer old-fashioned notions," Sarella remarked, settling
herself comfortably on Mariquita's bed, "and thinks it's his business to
arrange all your affairs for you. Besides, you know by this time that
any plan he has been hatching he expects to hatch out, and not to help
him seems to him most undutiful and shocking."

"But I _can't_ help him in this plan of his," Mariquita pleaded
unhappily.

"I suppose not. Well, he flared out, and I was glad you were in bed.
Gore behaved very well. It's a thousand pities you can't like him."

"But I do like him. I like him better than any man I ever knew."

"Oh, yes! Better than the cowboys or the old chaplain at Loretto.
_That's_ no good."

All this Sarella intended as medicinal; Mariquita, she thought, ought to
have _some_ of the chill of the late storm. She was not entitled to
immediate and complete relief from suspense. But Sarella was beginning
to feel a little chill about the legs herself, and did not care to risk
a cold, so she abbreviated her disciplinary remarks a little.

"I'm a good stepmother," she remarked complacently, "not at all like one
in a novel. I took your part."

"Did you!" Mariquita cried gratefully; "it was very, very kind of you."

"I don't approve of men having things all their own way--whether fathers
or husbands. He has been knocked under to too much. Yes, I took your
part, and made him understand that if he kept the row up he'd have
three of us against him."

"What did you say?"

"All sorts of things. Never mind. Perhaps Mr. Gore will tell you--only
he won't. He said a lot of things too. We made your father think he
would be wicked if he went on bullying you."

Of course, Mariquita did not understand how this had been effected.

"He would not do anything wicked," she said; "he is a very good man."

"He'd be a very good mule," Sarella observed coolly, considerably
scandalizing Mariquita.

"You'd have found him a pretty unpleasant one, if Gore and I had left
you to manage him yourself." Sarella added, entirely unmoved by her
cousin's shocked look. "We managed him. He won't beat you now. But you'd
better keep out of his way as much as you can for a bit. If I were you,
I'd have a bad headache and stop in bed."

"But I haven't a headache. I never do have headaches."

Sarella made a queer face, and sighed, then laughed.

"Anyway, you're not to be made to marry Mr. Gore," she said.

Mariquita looked enormously relieved, and began to express her grateful
sense of Sarella's good offices.

"For that matter," Sarella cut in, "neither will Mr. Gore be made to
marry _you_--so if you change your mind it will be no good. He thinks it
would be wicked to marry you."

Mariquita perfectly understood that Sarella was trying to make her
sorry, and only gave a cheerful little laugh.

"Then," she said, "I shall certainly not ask him. It would be quite
useless to ask him to do anything wicked."

"The fact is," Sarella told her, "that you and he ought to be put in a
glass case--two glass cases, you'd both of you be quite shocked at the
idea of being in _one_--and labelled. It's a good thing you're unique.
If other lovers were like you two, there'd be no marriages."

She got up, and prepared to return to her own room.

"Hulloa!" she said, "there's the auto. Your father's going off
somewhere, and you can get up. Probably he is taking Gore away."

"Is Mr. Gore going away?"

"He'll have to. There's no one here for him to marry except Ginger; but
no doubt you want him to become a monk."

"A monk! He hasn't the least idea of such a thing."

"Oh, dear!" sighed Sarella, instantly changing the sigh into a laugh.
"How funny you people are who never condescend to see a joke."

"I didn't know," Mariquita confessed meekly, "that you had made one."



CHAPTER XXXI.


Don Joaquin was not yet recovered from his annoyance. As Sarella had
perceived, he could not easily condone the defective conduct of those
who, owing him obedience, refused to carry out a plan that he had long
been meditating. But he had been frightened by the picture she had
suggested of Divine judgment, and wondered if the hitches that had
occurred in the issue of the dispensation for his marriage had been a
hint of them--a threatening of what would happen if he opposed the
Heavenly Will concerning his daughter's vocation. It was chiefly because
the plan of her marriage had been deliberately adopted by himself, that
he was reluctant to abandon it. Her own plan of becoming a nun would, he
gradually came to see, suit him quite as well. And presently he became
aware that, financially, it would suit him even better. If she "entered
Religion," he would have to give her a dowry; but not, he imagined, a
large one, five thousand dollars or so, he guessed. Whereas, if she
married Gore, he would be expected to give her much more. Besides, her
marriage would very likely involve subsequent gifts and expenditure. It
would all come out of what he wished to save for the beloved son of whom
he was always thinking. As a nun, too, Mariquita would be largely
engaged in praying for the soul of her mother, and for his own soul and
Sarella's and her brother's.

By the time he and Mariquita met he had grasped all these advantages,
and, though aloof and disapproving in his manner, he did not attack her.

As it pleased him to admire in Sarella a delightful shrewdness in
affairs, he gave her credit for favoring Mariquita's plan because it
would leave more money for her own children. In this he paid her an
undeserved compliment, for Sarella did not know in the least that
Mariquita would receive less of her father's money if she became a nun
than if she married Mr. Gore. She had not thought of it, being much of
opinion that Gore would ask for nothing in the way of dowry and that Don
Joaquin would give nothing without much asking.

Don Joaquin was considerably taken aback to learn that Mariquita had
formed no definite plans yet as to her "entering Religion." He had
promptly decided that, of course, she would go back to Loretto as a nun,
and he was proportionally surprised to find that she had no such idea.
This surprise he expressed, almost in dudgeon, to Sarella. He appeared
to consider himself quite ill-used by such vagueness; if young women
wanted to be nuns it behooved them to know exactly where they meant to
go, and what religious work they felt called to undertake.

"If I were you," Sarella told him, after some hasty consideration, "I
would let her go to Loretto--on a visit. You will find she makes up her
mind quicker there--with nothing to distract her. Sister Aquinas talks
of Retreats--Mariquita could make one."

"Who's to do the work here while she's away?" grumbled Don Joaquin.

"It will have to be done when she's gone for good. We may just as well
think it out."

Sarella was quite resolved that she would never be the slave Mariquita
had been, and did not mind having the struggle, if there was to be one,
now.

"Whether Mariquita married or became a nun," she went on, "she would be
gone from here. Her place would have to be supplied--more than supplied,
for a young wife like me could not do nearly so much work. I should have
things to do an unmarried girl has not, and be unfit for much work. I am
sure you understand that. Sister Aquinas knows two sisters, very
respectable and trustworthy, steady, and not too young. I meant to speak
to you about them. They would suit us as well. They will not separate,
and for that matter, we can't do with less than two."

Sarella's great object was to open the matter; she intended to succeed
but did not count on instant success, or success without a struggle. Don
Joaquin had to be familiarized with a scheme some time before he would
adopt it. He rebelled at first and for that rebellion she punished him.

"Mariquita's position was wrong," she told him boldly. "It tended to
make her unlike other girls and give her unusual ideas. She was tied by
the leg here, by too much work, and her only rest or recreation was
solitary thinking. If she had been taken about and met her equals she
would have been like other girls, I expect. She was a slave and sought
her freedom in the skies."

Don Joaquin enjoyed this philippic very little; perhaps he only partly
understood it, but he did understand that Sarella thought Mariquita had
been put upon and did not intend being put upon herself. He would have
been much less influenced if he had thought of Sarella as specially
devoted to his daughter or blindly fond of her, but he had always
believed that there was but a cool sympathy between the two girls, and
that Sarella would have found fault with Mariquita quite willingly if
there had been fault to find.

"You have taken up the cudgels," he said sourly, "very strongly for
Mariquita of late."

"As time goes on I naturally feel able to speak more plainly than I
could when I first came here. I was only your guest. It is different 'of
late.' And I am 'taking up the cudgels' for myself more than for
Mariquita."

"Oh, I quite see that," he retorted with a savage grin.

Sarella determined to hit back, and she was by no means restrained by
scruples as to "hitting below the belt."

"Fortunately for her," she said, "Mariquita has splendid health, and
work did not kill her. She has the strength of a horse. Her mother did
not leave it to her. I have always heard in the family that Aunt
Margaret was delicate, physically unfit for hard work. Men do not notice
those things. She died too young, and might have lived much longer if
she had not overtaxed her strength. She ought to have been prevented
from doing so much work. You were not too poor to have allowed her
plenty of help--and you are much better off now."

Don Joaquin almost jumped with horror; he had really adored his wife,
and now he was being flatly and relentlessly accused of having perhaps
shortened her life by lack of consideration for her. And was it true? He
could not help remembering much to support the accusation. She had been
a woman of feeble health and feeble temper; her singular beauty of
feature and coloring had been in every eye but Joaquin's own, marred by
an expression of discontent and complaining, though she had been too
much in awe of her masterful husband to set out her grievances to him;
he guessed now that she must have written grumbling letters to her
relations far away in the East. The man was no monster of cruelty; he
was merely stingy and money-loving, hard-natured, and without
imagination. Possessed of iron health himself, he had never conceived
that the sort of work his Indian mother had submissively performed could
be beyond the strength of his wife. It was true that he was much richer
now than he had been when he married, and Sarella had herself
accustomed him to the idea of greater expenditure, however dexterously
he might have done his best to neutralize those spendings. He was more
obstinately set upon marrying her than ever, because he had for a long
time now decided upon the marriage; he was nervously afraid of her
drawing back if he didn't yield to her wishes, the utterance of which he
took to be a sort of ultimatum.

"Are these two women Catholics?" he demanded, feeling sure that Sister
Aquinas would only recommend such; "I will not have Protestant servants
in the house."

"They are excellent Catholics," Sarella assured him, "educated in the
convent."

"Then I will consider the plan. You can ask Sister Aquinas about the
conditions--wages, and so forth."

"What a pity," thought Sarella, when the interview had ended, "that
Mariquita never knew how to manage him."



CHAPTER XXXII.


There was no pomp of leave-taking about Mariquita's departure for
Loretto. She was only going on a visit, and would return.

"Whatever you decide upon," Sarella insisted, "you must come back for
your father's wedding."

Mariquita promised, and went away, her father driving her all the way to
Loretto in the auto. Her departure did not move him much, though he
would have been better pleased, after all, if she were going away to a
husband's house. Sarella, watching them disappear in the distance, felt
it more than the stoical old half-breed.

"I shall miss her," she said to herself; "I like her better than I
thought I should. She's as straight as an arrow, and as true as gold. I
suppose this watch _is_ gold; he'd never dare to give me _rolled_
gold.... Only nine o'clock. It will be a long day, and I shall miss her
all the time. Quiet as she is, it will make a lot of difference. No one
has such a nice way of laughing, when she does laugh. I wonder if she
guesses how little her father cares? _He_ won't miss her much. Some men
care never a pin for a woman unless they want to marry her. _He_ has no
use for the others. I expect it makes them good husbands, though. Poor
Mariquita! I think I should have hated him if I had been her. It never
occurred to her; at first I thought she must be an A-Number-One
hypocrite, she seemed to think him so exactly all that he ought to be to
her. Then I thought she must be stupid--I soon saw she was as sincere as
a baby. But she's not stupid either. She's just Mariquita; she really
does see only the things she ought to see, and it's queer. I never saw
anyone else that way. I thought at first she _must_ be jealous of me,
the old man put her so completely on one side, and made such a lot of
me. Any other girl would have been. I soon saw she wasn't; it never
entered her head that he might leave me money that ought to be hers--it
would have entered mine, I know. But 'she never thought of that,' as she
used to say about everything." Oddly enough, it was at this particular
recollection that a certain dewy brightness (that became them well)
glistened in Sarella's pretty eyes.

"Well," she thought, "I'm glad I can call to mind that I did the best I
could for her. It made me feel just sick to think of the old man
brow-beating and bullying her. I saw a big hulking fellow beat his
little girl once, and I felt just the same, only I could _do_ nothing
then but scream. I was a child myself, and I did scream, and I bit him.
I'm glad I did bite him, though I was spanked for it. I suppose I'll
have to confess biting him, though I don't call it a sin. What on earth
can Mariquita confess? At first her goodness put my back up. But I wish
she was back. It never occurs to her that she's good. I soon found that
out. And she thinks everyone else as good as gold. She thinks all these
cowboys good, and she does almost make them want to be. It was funny
that she didn't dislike me. (_I_ should have if I'd been in her place.)
When she kissed me good-bye and said 'Sarella, we'll never forget each
other,' it meant more than pounds of candy-talk from another girl.
Forget her! Not I. Will Gore? He will never think any other girl her
equal. Mrs. Gore may make up her mind to that. Perhaps he'll marry
someone not half so good as himself and rather like it. Pfush! It feels
lonesome now. I often used to get into my own room to get out of
Mariquita's way, and stretch the legs of my mind over a novel. I wish
she was here now...."

And Sarella did not speedily give over missing Mariquita. She was a girl
who on principle preferred men's society to that of other women, but in
practice had considerable need of female companionship. She liked to
make men admire her, but she did not much care to be admired by the
cowboys, and took it for granted that they already admired her as much
as befitted their inferior position. She had always been too shrewd to
try and make other women admire her, but she liked talking to them about
clothes, which no man understands; and, though Mariquita had been
careless about her own sumptuous affairs, she had been a wonderfully
appreciative (or long-suffering) listener when Sarella talked about
hers.

"And after all," Sarella confessed, "she had taste. My style would not
have suited her. That plain style of her own was best for her."

When Don Joaquin returned from Denver he seemed unlike himself, almost
subdued. He had been much impressed by the great convent and its large
community; the nuns had made much of him, and of Mariquita. They spoke
in a way that at last put it into his head that he had under-valued her;
there is nothing for awaking our appreciation of our own near relations
like the sudden perception that other people think greatly of them.
Gore's respect and admiration for his daughter had not done much, for he
had only looked upon it as the blind predilection of a young man in love
with a beautiful girl. Several of the nuns, including their Reverend
Mother, had spoken to him apart, in Mariquita's absence, not
immediately on his and her arrival, but on the evening of the following
day; on the morrow he was to depart on his return to the range, and in
these conversations the Sisters let him plainly see that they regarded
the girl as peculiarly graced by God, and of rarely high and noble
character.

He asked the Superior if she thought Mariquita would wish to stay with
them and become one of themselves.

"No," was the answer. "She is a born Contemplative. Every nun must be a
contemplative in some degree, but I use the word in its common sense. I
mean that I believe she will find herself called to an Order of pure
Contemplatives. She will make a Retreat here, and very likely will be
shown during it what is God's will for her."

It surprised the kind and warm-hearted Religious that he did not inquire
whether that life were not very hard. But she took charitable refuge in
the supposition that he knew so little about one Order or another as to
be free from the dread that his child might have a life of great
austerity before her.

"You may be sure," she said, in case later on any such affectionate
misgiving should trouble him, "that she will be happy. Unseen by you or
us she will do great things for God and His children. You shall share in
it by giving her to Him when He calls. She is your only child ("As yet,"
thought Don Joaquin, even now more concerned for her brother, than for
her) and God will reward your generosity. He never lets Himself be
outstripped in that. For the gift of Abraham's son He blest his whole
race."

Don Joaquin knew very little about Abraham, but he understood that all
the Jews since his time had been notably successful in finance.

It did not cause him any particular emotion to leave his daughter. She
was being left where she liked to be, and would doubtless be at home
among these holy women who seemed to think so much of her, and to be so
fond of her. He had forgiven her for wishing to be a nun and thought
highly of himself for having given his permission.

The nuns thought he concealed his feelings to spare Mariquita's, and
praised God for the unselfishness of parents.

Mariquita had never expected tenderness from him, but she thought him a
good man and a good father, and was very grateful for his concession in
abandoning his insistence on her marriage, and sanctioning her choice of
her own way of life. And he did embrace her on parting, and bade God
bless her, reminding her that it would be her duty to pray much for
himself and Sarella. At the range he found a letter, which had arrived
late on the day on which he had left home with her, and this letter he
took as a proof that she had prayed to some purpose. The dispensation
was granted and he could now fix his marriage for any date he chose.

"Did she send me her love?" Sarella asked, jealous of being at all
forgotten.

"Yes, twice; and when I kissed her she said, 'Kiss Sarella for me.' Also
she sent you a letter."

Sarella received very few letters and liked getting them. She was rather
curious to see what sort of letter Mariquita would write, and made up
her mind it would be "nunnish and poky."

Whether "nunnish" or no, it was not "poky," but pleasant, very cheerful
and bright, and very affectionate. It contained little jokish allusions
to home matters, and former confidential talks, and one passage (much
valued by Sarella) concerning a gown, retracting a former opinion and
substituting another backed by most valid reasons. "If those speckled
hens go on eating each other's feathers," said the letter, "you'll have
to kill them and eat them. Once they start they never give it up, and it
puts the idea in the others' heads. Feathers don't suit everybody, but
fowls look wicked without them. I hope poor old Jack doesn't miss me;
give him and Ginger my love, and ask him to forgive me for not marrying
Mr. Gore--he gave me a terrible lecture about it, and Ginger said, 'Quit
it, Dad! I _knew_ she wouldn't. I know sweethearts when I see
them--though I never did see one--not of my own.' I expect Larry Burke
will show her one soon, don't you, Sarella? It will do very well; Larry
will have the looks and Ginger will have the sense, and teach him all
he needs. He has such a good heart he can get on without _too_ much
sense...."

Sarella liked her letter, and decided that Mariquita was not lost,
though removed.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


"I suppose," Don Joaquin remarked in a disengaged manner, "that, after
all your preparations, we can fix the day for our wedding any time now."

Sarella was not in the least taken in by his elaborate air of having
been able, for _his_ part, to have fixed a day long ago.

It was, however, part of her system to fall in with people's whimsies
when nothing was to be gained by opposing or exposing them.

"Oh, yes," she agreed, most amiably. "It will take three Sundays to
publish the banns--any day after that. Meanwhile I should be received.
Sister Aquinas says I am ready. As soon as we have settled the exact
time, we must let Mariquita know, and you can, when the time comes, go
over and fetch her home."

Don Joaquin consented, and Sarella thought she would go and deliver
Mariquita's message to Jack and his daughter. She found them together
and began by saying, smilingly:

"I expect you have known for a long while that there was a marriage in
the air?"

Old Jack had not learned to like her, and Ginger still disliked her
smile.

"I don't believe," she said perversely, for, of course, both she and her
father understood perfectly, "that Miss Mariquita is going to be
married. She's not that way."

This was a discouraging opening, for it seemed to cast a sort of slur on
young women who _were_ likely to be married.

"Mr. Gore's never asked again!" cried Jack.

"Dad, don't you be silly," Ginger suggested; "everyone knows Miss
Mariquita wants to be a nun."

"Yes," said Sarella with impregnable amiability, "but we can't all be
nuns. Miss Mariquita doesn't seem to think _you_ likely to be one. She
sent me back by her father such a nice letter. She sends Jack and you
her love, and, though she doesn't send Larry Burke her love, thinking of
you evidently makes her think of him."

Ginger visibly relaxed, and her father stared appallingly with his one
eye.

"Good Lord!" quoth he in more sincere than flattering astonishment.

"Well, he is good," Ginger observed cooly, "and there's worse folk than
Larry Burke, or me either."

"Miss Mariquita thinks it would be such a good thing for him," Sarella
reported. "So must any one."

Ginger felt that this, after her unpleasantness to the young lady who
brought the message, was handsome.

"He might do better," she declared, "and he might do worse."

"Has he _said_ anything?" her father inquired with undisguised
incredulity.

"What he's said is nothing," Ginger calmly replied. "It's what I think
as matters. He's no Cressote, but he's got a bit--or ought, if he hasn't
spent it. I'd keep his money together for him, and he'd soon find it a
saving. And I could do with him--for if his head's soft so's his heart.
I think, Dad," she concluded, willing "to take it out" of her father
for his unflattering incredulity, "you may as well, when Miss Sarella's
gone, tell him to step round. I'll soon fix it."

"I couldn't do that," Jack expostulated.

"Why not?" Ginger demanded with fell determination.

"I really don't see why you shouldn't," Sarella protested, much amused
though not betraying it. "It's all for his good," she added seriously.

Jack was shaken, but not yet disposed to obedience.

"Larry," Sarella urged, "won't be so much surprised as you think. Miss
Mariquita, you see, wants him and Ginger to make a match of it--"

"But does _he_?" Jack pleaded, moved by Mariquita's opinion, but not so
sure it would reduce Larry to subjection.

"Tut!" said Ginger impatiently. "What's _he_ to do with it? If he don't
know what's best for him, I do. So does Miss Sarella. So does Miss
Mariquita."

"And," Sarella added, "you may be sure Miss Mariquita would never have
said a word about it if she hadn't felt pretty sure it was to come off.
She's never been one to be planning marriages. Why, Larry must have made
it as plain as a pikestaff that he was ready, or she would never have
guessed it."

The weight of this argument left Jack defenseless.

"Hadn't you better wait, Ginger," he attempted to argue with shallow
subtlety; "he's like enough to step round after supper. Then I'd clear,
and you could say when you liked."

"No," Ginger decided, "I'm tired of him stepping round after supper,
just to chatter. He'd be prepared if you told him I'd said he was to
come. He'd know something was wanted. In fact, you'd better tell him."

"Tell him? Me? Tell him what?"

"Just that I'd made up my mind to say 'yes' if he'd a question to ask
me."

"Why," cried Jack, aghast, "he'd get on his horse and scoot."

"Not far," Ginger opined, entirely unmoved. "He'd ride back. He's not
pluck enough to be such a coward as to scoot for good. Just you try."

The two women drove the battered old fellow off, Ginger laughed and
said:

"Aren't men helpless?"

Sarella was full of admiration of her prowess.

"Well, _you're_ not," she said.

"Not me. But, Dad won't find Larry as much surprised as he thinks. It's
been in the silly chap's head (or where folks keep their ideas that have
no head) this three weeks. _I_ saw, though he never said a lot--"

Overpowered by curiosity, Sarella asked boldly what he did say.

"Oh, just rubbish," Ginger answered laughing; "you're as clean as a
tablet of scented soap, anyway," says he, first. Then he said, "Ginger,
I've known pretty girls with hair not near so nice as yours--not a
quarter so much of it." Another time he asked if I kept a tooth-brush.
"I thought so," says he, quite loving; "your teeth's as white as nuts
with the brown skin off, and as regular as a row of tombstones in an
undertaker's window. I never _did_ mind freckles as true as I stand
here ..." and stuff like that. But the strongest ever he said was,
"Pastry! What's pastry when a woman don't know how to make it. I'd as
soon eat second-hand toast. Yours, Ginger, is like what the angels make,
_I_ should say, at Thanksgiving for the little angels.'"

"Did he, really!" said Sarella, feeling quite sure that Larry would not
"scoot."

"I told him," Ginger explained calmly, that if he didn't quit such
senseless talk _he'd_ never get any more of my pastry. He looked so down
that I gave him a slice of pumpkin pie when he was leaving. "The
pastry," says I, "will mind you of me, and the pumpkin of yourself." But
he got his own back, for he just grinned and said, "Yes, I'll think o'
them together, Ginger, for the pie and the pumpkin belongs together,
don't they?"

Sarella laughed and expressed her belief that after all Jack's embassy
was rather superfluous.

"Maybe so. But I knew he'd hate it, and he deserved it for seeming so
unbelieving. If my mother had been _lovely_ I'd have been born plain;
it's not _him_ as should think me too ugly for any young fellow to
fancy. I daresay I shouldn't have decided to take Larry if Miss
Mariquita hadn't sent that message. I was afraid she'd think me a fool.
Here's Larry coming round the corner, looking as if he'd been stealing
his mother's sugar."

"He's only thinking of your pastry," said Sarella. "I'll slip off. May I
be told when it's all settled?"

"Yes, certainly, Miss Sarella, and I'm sure I wish all that's best to
the Boss and yourself. It's not everyone could manage him, but _you_
will. Poor Miss Mariquita never could. She was too good."

With these mixed compliments Sarella had to content herself.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


When she answered Mariquita's letter she was to report not only the
judicial end of the plumiverous and specked hens, but the betrothal of
Larry Burke and Ginger. "Nothing," she wrote, "but his dread of your
displeasure could have overcome his dread of what the other cowboys
would say on hearing of his proposing. After all, he has more sense than
some sharp fellows who follow at last the advice they know is worth
least...."

In her next letter Sarella said:

"I am to be made a Catholic on Monday next; so when you're saying your
prayers (and that's all day) you can be thinking of me. Perhaps I gave
in to it first to satisfy your father; but even then I thought 'if it
makes me a bit more like Mariquita he'll get a better bargain in me.' I
shan't ever be at all like you, but I shall be of the same Religion as
you, and I know by this time that it will do me good. It's all a bit
too big for me to understand, but I like what I do understand, and
Sister Aquinas says I shall grow into it. Clothes, she says, fit better
when they're worn a bit, and sit easier. She says, 'It has changed you,
my dear child, already; you are gentler, and kinder.' She said another
thing, 'Your husband has been a Catholic all his life, but you will
gradually make him a better one. He is a very sensible man, and he can't
see you learning to be a Catholic and not want to learn what it really
means himself. He is too honest.' She likes your father a lot, and never
bothers him. 'I know,' she said, 'you will not bother him either. Some
earnest Catholics do bother their men-folks terribly about religious
things--and for all the good they seem to do, might be only half as
earnest and have a better effect.' I make my First Communion the day
after I'm received. And, Mariquita, my dear, we are to be married that
day week. Your father will fetch you home, and mind, _mind_, you come. I
should never forgive you if you didn't. Shall I have Ginger for a
bridesmaid? I know some brides do choose ugly ones to make themselves
look better. The cowboys (this is a dead secret told me by Ginger) have
subscribed to give us a wedding-present. I hope it won't be one of those
clocks like black-marble monuments with a round gilt eye in it. I expect
the cowboys laugh at both these marriages. But they rather like them.
They make a lark, and they never do dislike anything they can laugh at.
They certainly all look twice as amiably at me when we meet about the
place since they _knew_ I was going to be married. And Ginger finds them
so friendly and pleasant I expect she thinks she might, if she had
liked, have married the lot. But that's different. I daresay you notice
that I write more cheerfully, now it is settled. Yes, I do. I like him a
great deal more than at first. It began when he gave in about what you
wanted. I really believe I shall make him happy--and I fancy I think of
that more--I mean less of his making me happy. And, Mariquita, it _is_
good of me to have wanted you to be let alone to be a nun if you thought
it right, because, oh dear, how I should like you to be living near or
at the next range! Before I got to know you, it was just the opposite. I
hoped you'd get a husband of your own and _quit_; I did. I thought you'd
hate your father marrying again, and (if you stayed on here) would be
looking disapproval all day long, and perhaps I thought you would not be
best pleased at not getting all his money when he died. (I think when
people go to Confession they ought to confess things like that. Do
they?) Oh, Mariquita, you will be missed. But I'd rather miss you, and
know you were being what you felt yourself called away to, than think I
had helped to have you interfered with...."

Mariquita, reading Sarella's letter, felt something new in her life,
something strangely moving, that filled her eyes and heart with
something also new--happy tears. The free gift of tenderness came newly
to her; and, it may be, she had least of all looked for it from Sarella.

"'Do people,' she quoted to herself from Sarella _herself_, 'confess
these things?' I will, anyway."

It hurt her to think that she who so loved justice and charity, must
have been both uncharitable and unjust.

But can we agree? Had not Sarella's unforeseen tenderness been her own
gift to her? Had Sarella brought tenderness with her from the East?

At the stranger's first coming Mariquita had not judged but _felt_ her,
and her feeling (of which she herself knew very little) had been
instinctively correct while it lasted.



CHAPTER XXXV.


Of course Mariquita kept her promise of being present at her father's
marriage. It had never occurred to her that she could be absent; it was
a duty of respect that she owed to him, and a duty of fellow-womanhood
that she owed to Sarella.

It amused her a little to hear that a certain Mrs. Kane was to be
present, in a sort of maternal quality, and that Mr. Kane was to give
the bride away as a sort of official father. Mr. Kane might have seen
Sarella a dozen times--in the parlor of the convent, which she was much
given to frequent. Mrs. Kane had, so far as Mariquita was aware, never
seen her at all--except at Mass.

They were Kentuckians who had moved west some twelve years earlier than
Sarella herself, and, though they had not made a fortune, were
sufficiently well off to be rather leading members of the congregation.
Mrs. Kane's most outstanding characteristic was a genius for organizing
bazaars, on a scale of ever-increasing importance; the first had been
for the purchase of a harmonium, the last had been to raise funds for a
new wing to the Convent; all her friends had prophesied failure for the
first; no one had dared predict anything but dazzling success for the
last. Mr. Kane was not less remarkable for his phenomenal success in the
matter of whist-drives--and raffles. He would raffle the nose off your
face if you would let him, and hand over an astonishing sum to the
church when he had done it, with the most exquisite satisfaction that
the proceeding was not strictly legal.

Both the Kanes were extremely amusing, and no one could decide which was
the more good-natured of the two. Of week-day afternoons Mrs. Kane was
quite sumptuously attired, Mr. Kane liked to be rather shabby even on
Sundays at Mass, which caused him to be generally reported somewhat more
affluent than he really was. He had always been supposed to be "about
fifty," whereas Mrs. Kane had, ever since her arrival, spoken of herself
as "on the sensible side of thirty."

At Sarella's wedding Mrs. Kane's magnificence deeply impressed the
cowboys; and Mr. Kane's elaborate paternity towards the bride, whom he
only knew by her dress, would have deceived if it had been possible the
very elect; they were not precisely that and it did not deceive, though
it hugely delighted them.

"I swear he's _crying_!" whispered Pete Rugger to Larry Burke. "He cried
just like that in the play when Mrs. Hooger ran away with her own
husband that represented the hero."

"Well," said Larry, "a man can't help his feelings."

He was secretly wondering if Mr. Kane would give away Ginger--he would
do it so much better than Jack.

Mrs. Kane affected no tears. She had the air of serenely parting with a
daughter, for her own good, to an excellent, wealthy husband whom she
had found for her, and of being ready to do as much for the rest of her
many daughters--Mr. and Mrs. Kane were childless.

Perhaps this attitude on her part suited better with her resplendent
costume than it would have suited her husband's black attire--which he
kept for funerals.

Little was lost on the cowboys, and they did not fail to note that the
gray which of recent years had been invading the "Boss's" hair had
disappeared.

"In the distance he don't look a lot older than Gore," Pete Rugger
declared to his neighbor.

Gore supported Don Joaquin as "best" or groomsman.

It was significant that on Mariquita's appearance no spoken comment was
made by any of the cowboys, though to each of them she was the most
absorbing figure. Her father had fetched her from Loretto three days
before the wedding, and at the Convent had been introduced to a
learned-looking but agreeable ecclesiastic who was a rector of a college
for lay youths.

Don Joaquin, much interested, had plied the reverend pundit with
inquiries concerning this seat of learning, not forgetting particular
inquisition as to the terms.

On their conclusion he took notes in writing of all the replies and
declared that it sounded exactly what he would choose for his own son.

"I would like," he said, with a simplicity that rather touched the
rector, "that my lad should grow up with more education than I ever
had."

"Your son," surmised the rector, "would be younger than his sister?"

"He would," Don Joaquin admitted, without condescending upon
particulars.



CHAPTER XXXVI.


When Gore next saw Mariquita in public she herself was dressed as a
bride. It was a little more than a year later. After her return to
Loretto she remained there about three weeks, at the end of which she
went home to the range for a week. Her parents (as Don Joaquin insisted
on describing himself and Sarella) had returned from their wedding trip,
and she could see that the marriage was a success. The two new servants
were installed, and Ginger was now Mrs. Lawrence Burke and absent on
_her_ wedding journey.

Mariquita's father made more of her than of old, and inwardly resolved
to make up to "her brother" for any shortcomings there might have been
in her case.

Sarella was unfeignedly glad to have her at home, and looked forward
sadly to her final departure. Of one thing she was resolved--that
Mariquita should be taken all the way to her "Carmel" in California by
both "her parents." And, of course, she got her own way.

The extreme beauty of the Convent and its surroundings, the glory of the
climate, the brilliance of its light, the splendor of the blue and gold
of sky and hills, half blinded Sarella to the rigor of the life
Mariquita was entering--till the moment of actual farewell came. Then
her tears fell, far more plentifully than Mr. Kane's at her own wedding.

Still she admitted that the nuns were as cheerful as the sky, and
wondered if she had ever heard more happy laughter than theirs as they
sat on the floor, with Mariquita in their midst, behind the grille in
the "speak-room." As a postulant Mariquita did not wear the habit, but
only a sort of cloak over her own dress; her glorious hair was not yet
cut off.

Don Joaquin did not see the nuns, as did Sarella, with the curtains of
the grille drawn back. It seemed to him that the big spikes of the
grille were turned the wrong way, for he could not imagine anyone
desiring to get forcibly _in_. He watched everything, fully content to
take all for granted as the regulation and proper thing, without
particularly understanding any of it. It gave him considerable
satisfaction to hear that Saint Theresa was a Spaniard, and he thought
it sensible of Mariquita to join a Spanish order. He had no misgivings
as to her finding the life hard--he did not know in the least what the
life was, and made no inquisition; he had a general idea that women did
not feel fastings and so forth. He would have felt it very much himself
if he had had to rise with the dawn and go fasting till midday, instead
of beginning the day with a huge meal of meat.

The old life at the range, as it had been when Sarella first came, was
never resumed. She was determined that its complete isolation should be
changed, and she changed it with wonderful rapidity and success. The
friendly and kind-hearted Kanes helped her a great deal. They had
insisted, at the wedding itself, that the bride and bridegroom should
pay them a very early visit, after their return from their
wedding-journey. It was paid immediately on their getting back from
California, and it lasted several days. During those days their host and
hostess took care that they should meet all the leading Catholics of the
place, to whom Sarella made herself pleasant, administering to them (in
her husband's disconcerted presence) pressing invitations to come out to
the range: though they all had autos it was not to be expected that they
would come so far for a cup of tea, and they came for a night, and often
for two or three nights. Naturally the Kanes came first and they spoke
almost with solemnity (as near solemnity as either could attain) of
social duty. It was an obligation on all Catholics to hang together, and
hanging together obviously implied frequent mutual hospitalities. Don
Joaquin had found that the practice of his religion did imply
obligations and duties never realized before, and he was a little
confused as to their relative strictness. On the whole, he succumbed to
what Sarella intended, with a compliance that might have surprised
Mariquita had she been there to see. Some of the cowboys were of the
opinion that the old man was breaking. He was only being (not
immediately) broken in. A man of little over fifty, of iron
constitution, does not "break," however old he may appear to
five-and-twenty or thirty. The sign that appeared most ominous to these
young men was that "the Boss" betrayed symptoms of less rigid
stinginess; there was nothing really alarming about the symptoms. Such
as they were they were due, not so much to any decay in the patient's
constitution, as to a little awakening of conscience referable, such as
it was, to the late-begun practices of confession. Old Jack was made
foreman, at an increase of pay by no means dazzling, but quite
satisfactory to himself, who had not expected any such promotion. Larry
and Ginger settled, about two miles from the homestead, in a small house
which they were permitted by Don Joaquin to build. Two of the cowboys
found themselves wives whom they had first seen in church at Sarella's
wedding; these young ladies, it appeared, had severally resolved that
under no circumstances would they marry any but Catholics, and their
lovers accepted the position, largely on the ground that a religion good
enough for Miss Mariquita would be good enough for them.

"Too good," grimly observed one of their comrades who was not then
engaged to marry a Catholic.

Don Joaquin allowed the two who were married to have a little place
built for themselves on the range. And as the brides were each
plentifully provided with sisters it seems likely that soon Don Joaquin
will have quite a numerous tenantry. It also appears probable that a
priest will presently be resident at the range, for one has already
entered into correspondence with Don Joaquin on the subject. Having
recently recovered from a "chest trouble," he has been advised that the
air of the high prairies holds out the best promise of continued life
and avoidance of tuberculosis. There is another scheme afoot of which,
perhaps, Don Joaquin as yet knows nothing. It began in the active mind
of Sister Aquinas, and its present stage consists of innumerable
prayers on her part that she may be able to establish out on the range
a little hospital, served by nuns, for the resuscitation of patients
threatened with consumption. She sees in the invalid priest a chaplain
plainly provided as an answer to prayer; Mr. and Mrs. Kane, her
confidants, see in the scheme immense occasion for unbridled bazaars and
whist drives. All friends of Mr. Kane meet him on their guard, uncertain
which of their possessions he may have it in his eye to raffle. Even as
I write, I hear that another answer to the dear nun's prayers looms into
sight. A widowed sister of her own, wealthy, childless and of profuse
generosity, writes to her, and the burden of her song is that she would
not mind (her chest having always been weak) going to the proposed
sanatorium herself, at all events for a few years, and bringing with her
Doctor Malone: Dr. Malone is of unparalleled genius in his profession,
but tuberculous, and it is transparently plain that his kind and
affluent friend wishes to finance him and remove him to an
"anti-tuberculous air."

It seems to me certain that Sister Aquinas's prayers will very soon be
answered, and the sanatorium be a fact. She has, I know, mentally
christened it already, "Mariquita" is to be its name.



CHAPTER XXXVII.


Mariquita's profession took place fourteen months after her father's
second marriage. Her brother was already an accomplished fact; he was,
indeed, six weeks old and present (not alone) on the occasion. He was
startlingly like his father, a circumstance not adverse to his future
comeliness as a man, but which made him a little portentous as a baby.
Don Joaquin on the day of his birth wrote to the rector of the college
whom he had met at Loretto with many additional inquiries. Mariquita
first beheld her brother when, fortunately, his father and her own was
not present, for she laughed terribly at the great little black creature
with eyes and nose at present much too big. He looked about fifty and
had all the solemnity of that distant period of his life.

"_Isn't_ he a thorough Spaniard?" Sarella demanded, pretending to pout
discontentedly. But Mariquita saw very clearly that she was as proud of
her baby as Don Joaquin himself. Since his birth Sarella's letters had
been full of him, and she thought of _his_ clothes now. She had
persuaded her husband, as a thank-offering for his son, to give a
considerable piece of ground, in a beautiful situation, not a mile from
the homestead, as the site of the future Church, Convent, and
Sanatorium.

       *       *       *       *       *

The beautiful and bright chapel of the Carmelite convent was free of
people; two prie-dieus, side by side, had been placed at the entrance of
the church. Towards these Mariquita, dressed as a bride, walked, leaning
on her father's arm. She had always possessed the rare natural gift of
walking beautifully. No one in the church had ever seen a bride more
beautiful, more radiant, or more distinguished by unlearned grace and
dignity.

Among the congregation, but nearest to the two prie-dieus, knelt
Sarella and Mr. Gore.

Behind their grille the nuns were singing the ancient Latin hymn of
invocation to the Holy Ghost.

Presently the Archbishop in noble words set out the Church's doctrine
and attitude concerning "Holy Religion," especially in reference to the
Orders called Contemplative, for no Catholic Order of religion can be
anything but contemplative, in its own degree and fashion. He dwelt upon
the thing called Vocation, and the vocation of every human soul to
heaven, each by its own road of service, love, and obedience; then upon
the more exceptional vocation of some, whereby God calls them to come to
Him by roads special and less thronged by travellers to the Golden Gate;
pointing out that the Church, unwavering guardian of Christian liberty,
in every age insisted on the freedom of such souls to accept that Divine
summons as the rest are free to go to Him by the ways of His more
ordinary and usual Providence. He spoke of the Church's prudence in this
as in all else, and of the courses enjoined by her to enable a sound
judgment to be made as to the reality of such exceptional vocation; and
so of postulancy, novitiate, and profession.

His words ended, the "bride" and her father rose from their knees and
after (on his part the usual genuflection) and on hers a slow and
profound reverence, they turned and walked down the church as they had
come, she leaning upon his arm. After them the whole congregation moved
out of the chapel, and went behind them to the high wooden gates behind
which was the large garden of the "enclosure." Grouped before these
gates all waited, listening to the nuns slowly advancing towards them
from the other side, out of sight, but audible, for they were singing as
they came. Slowly the heavy gates opened inwards, and the Carmelites
could be seen. In front stood one carrying a great wooden crucifix. The
faces of none of them could be seen, for their long black veils hung,
before and behind, down to the level of their knees, leaving only a
little of the brown habit visible.

Mariquita embraced her father, and Sarella spoke a low word to Gore,
who stood on one side of Sarella, went forward with a low reverence
towards the Crucifix, kissed its feet, and then turned; with a profound
curtesy she greeted those who had gathered to see her entrance into Holy
Religion, and took her farewell of "the world," the gates closed slowly,
and among her Sisters she went back to the chapel.

The congregation returned thither also. Many were softly weeping; poor
Sarella was crying bitterly. Her husband was not unmoved, but his grave
dignity was not broken by tears. Gore could not have spoken, but there
was no occasion for speech.

Behind the nun's grille in the chapel the little community was gathered,
Mariquita among them, no longer in her bride's dress, but in the brown
habit without scapular or leathern belt.

The Archbishop advanced close to the grille and put to her many
questions. What did she ask? Profession in the order of holy religion of
Mount Carmel. Was this of her own free desire? Yes. Had any coerced or
urged her to it? No one. Did she believe that God Himself had called her
to it? Yes. And many other questions.

Then the Archbishop blessed the scapular, and it was put upon her by her
Sisters, as in the case of the belt. So with each article of her nun's
dress, sandals and veil.

Thereafter, upon ashes, she lay upon the ground covered by a Pall, and
De Profundis was sung.

So the solemn rite proceeded to its end. Afterwards the new Religious
sat in the parlor of the grille, or "speak-room," and the witnesses kept
it full for a long time, as in succession they went to talk to her where
she sat behind the grille.

The last of all was Gore. He only went in as the last of the groups came
out.

"I was afraid you might not come," Mariquita told him. "Thank you for
coming. If you had not come I should have been afraid that you felt it
sad. There is nothing sad about it, is there?"

"Indeed nothing."

There was something in her voice that told him she was gayer than of
old, happy she had always been. Though she smiled radiantly she did not
laugh as she said:

"I know the _ceremonies_ are rather harrowing to the lookers-on. (I
heard someone sob--dear Sarella, I'm afraid.) But not to _us_. One is
not sad because one has been allowed to do the one thing one wanted to
do? Is one?"

"Not when it is a great, good thing like this."

"Ah, how kind you are! I always told you you were the kindest person I
had ever met. Yes the _thing_ is great and good--only you must help me
to do it in God's own way, in the way He wishes it done. You will not
get tired of helping, by your prayers for me, will you?"

"Of course I never shall."

Presently she said, not laughing now either, but with a ripple like the
laughter of running water in her voice, "You can't think how I like it
all, how amusing some of it is! One has to do 'manual labor'--washing
pots and pans, and cleaning floors; I believe it is supposed to be a
little humiliating, and meant to keep us humble. And you know how used
I am to it. I'm afraid of its making me conceited--I do it so much
better than the Sisters who never did anything like that at home. Mother
Prioress is always afraid, too, that I shan't eat enough, and that I
shall say too many prayers. I fell into a pond we have in our garden,
and she was terrified, thinking I must be drowned; no one could drown in
it without standing on her head. I was trying to get a water-lily, so I
fell in and came out frightfully muddy and smelly, too.... You must be
kind to Sarella; she is so good, and has been so good to me. I shall
never forget what you and she did for me. Write to her if you go away,
and tell her all about yourself."

"What there is to tell."

"Oh, there will be lots. You are not such a bad letter-writer as
that...."

So they talked, the small, trivial, kindly talk that belongs to
friendship, and showed him that Mariquita was more Mariquita than ever,
now she was Sister Consuelo. Her father liked the Spanish name, without
greatly realizing its reference to Our Lady of Good Counsel.


THE END





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