« ElőzőTovább »
mending some of the family clothes, while “ Pedro Romano! it is impossible. It is she racked her brains, thinking how she not true. It is impossible that thou hast might account to her husband for the bal- seen him! Ah! tell me, niña, do not ance of the money he had given her to tease me." buy stores with. Perhaps he would not “It was Pedro Romano then,” cried ask for it. If he did, surely he would not Carmen, delighted to unburden herself of grudge the children the new stockings she a secret that she bad kept with difficulty for had bought with it. Mercedes doubted twenty-four hours. Listen, and I will and stitched, stitched and doubted, try- tell thee all. Yesterday when I rode with ing to account for the deficit by the high the mother to the pueblo - we rode price of sugar. Outside the rancho the slowly, for it is very far, quite six leagues, sun beat down fiercely on the brown arid and it was nearly eleven when we got piain; the tall heads of the pampas grass there. It is a wretched place, only two drooped in the swimming haze of the still stores in all, and no church or plaza like noonday heat without a breath of air to our old town at San José; but you
know stir them; no sign of life or motion save it, you saw it when you went with father the incessant hum of grasshoppers and ah! Juana, dost thou not wish that thou winged creatures innumerable that seem to badst gone this time instead of me? Well, be busiest when all nature is resting. In we stopped outside the store that has a a cañedon, or slight hollow in the ground, guitar and a cow painted on the wall, the the sheep had gathered together, close almacen which the Spaniard keeps, and crowded, head to head, panting with the went in, and mother bought all the things heat and patiently waiting the cool of the -oh, Juana, do you know she has bought evening to resume their feeding; not far us each a new pair of white stockings to from them Juana and Carmen alternately wear on fiestas ? " slept and watched under the improvised “I know, I know!” cried Juana impashade of a large piece of sacking which tiently: “ Never mind the stockings. had served as a saddle for the old horse Was it there that you saw Pedro ? they had tethered beside them.
Qué impaciencia! No, I did not see “ Carmen, don't go to sleep; you prom. Pedro then. We went away to see old ised to tell me whom you saw yesterday Domingo Lanar, who gave us dinner and when you went to the town. Wake up, new-baked tortas, and then we came back lazy one! You said you would tell me to fetch the things, and while they were when we were alone.”
bargaining about the rice - or was it the Carmen, a sturdy child of twelve, de. matches ? I forget — well, at any rate, I liberately stretched herself and sat up, went outside to see if I could see any one tucking her bare feet and brown legs un. in the wine-shop opposite. There were der her. A gleam of mischief. lit up her four horses tied there; one a chestnut, sleepy brown eyes as she shook her shaggy with white legs and a heavy head, just like hair back from her face.
the horse Pedro used to ride, and I “ Whom I saw when I went to the thought can that be Pedro's chestnut ? pueblo ? Guess then, Juanita mia, if you And then I saw the silver stirrups, and I would know. Stay – think of some one was almost sure it was Pedro's horse. who knows you well and would send you And then Pedro came out himself. I was a message some one whom
like. so surprised, you might have offered me “ Doña Elvira, who gave me the look- ever so many sweets and I shouldn't have ing-glass ?”
seen them. Well, he did not notice me, “ No, it was not a woman,” said Carmen and was getting on his horse to ride away. scornfully. “ Think again; think of a Oh, I thought, he will go without seeing man whom you like, querida inia, whom me! What shall I do? And then I you like very, very much.”
called out loud, “Buenas tardes, Don Pe“ I don't like any man very much.”
“ What! not old Geronimo the one- “ Ah ! Carmen, my heart, my darling!” eyed, who plays the guitar?”
and Juana smothered her with kisses. Oh, yes, I like him," said Juana in- “ I thought thou wouldst like me to differently. “Well, what had Geronimo speak to him," said Carmen demurely: to say ?
Well, he turned round and saw me, and “It was not Geronimo, although I did cried out, • What, Carmen !- the little see him too. Tell me, Juanita, dost thou one - what art thou doing, here?' and not like Pedro Romano ?”
then we began to talk, and I told him The blood rushed to Juana's face ; for that I was with the mother, and that she a minute she had not breath to speak. I must not see him, and where we lived, and
sage ? »
that the little puppy he had given me was was rare that he sought shelter in her dead, and that you were well and had house. "If you would only marry and grown so beautiful, and that the old black bring a wife here to help me," his mother horse was lame, and that I should like to would grumble. “Now that I am growing be back in the old home
old I need some younger limbs to help “ But what did Pedro say ? inter- me.
But who would marry such a worthrupted poor Juana. “ What was his mes- less one?”
Marry a wife! Ramon shuddered at the Well, while we were talking the moth- idea, yet to that he must come. For the er came out, and he had to slip away ; but last two months things had gone badly he told me what was it now? I know. with him. When one does not pay one's I was to tell thee that he lived at the Es-losses at cards or races it is difficult to get tancia Aguila, that he was shepherd to the credit. “How am I to pay?” Ramon Inglés, Don Tomaso Donovan ; that he indignantly explained.
“When I do not loved thee always - always, and by all the win I have no money to pay." The argusaints that I should tell it to no one else; ment was undoubtedly excellent; but the that he would come some day when el explanation was not considered satisface viejo was away, and that — listen, there is tory. No one would race with him; no some one passing.'
one would play cards with him; and no The sound of a bell and the beat of wine-shop would give him credit. Even horses' feet came faintly through the the last resource of honest work had failed heavy air. At some distance off a man him. Why not marry? His mother was was riding towards the rancho, driving old, and they said she was rich. Even supbefore him four horses with their ma- posing she did not die, and he grew weary drinn, or bell-mare. With his broad hat of his life with her, he could leave his wife slouched over his eyes, he looked neither there and go back to his old companions. to right nor left, but passed straight on, If he was to marry; it would be good to lazily brushing through the tall grass. marry Juana Alvarez. The old man bated
“Who is it?” said Juana, cautiously his niece, and would be glad to get rid peering out from their shelter.
of her, and Ramon knew there were not " Ramon Perez,” answered Carmen, many families who would be proud of an " he always looks half asleep. I hate alliance with him. Besides, Juana was him; and he is going to the house. What just the useful girl that his mother would does he want? He is always passing this approve of. He had determined to arway. I wanted to go to the house, too; it range the matter with old Anselmo at is so hot here."
once, and he was now waiting outside the * No, no; not while that man is there. door, wondering how he should begin the Let us wait a little longer.” And Juana negotiations. pulled Carmen down beside her on the There was no one moving. “Ave Mizo ground. “ Tell me, how did Pedro look ?rir!!” he called out. What more did he say?" and the conver- No one came out but a savage-looking sation about Pedro was once more re mastiff, which, after barking furiously and sumed.
finding that it made no impression, tried Meanwhile, Ramon Perez rode on to to bite the horse's tail, and received a kick the rancho. He was a thorough gaucho, in the jaws for his pains that rolled him in the worst sense of the word. Too idle, several yards off. or too proud to work regularly, he wan- “Dog of the devil!” muttered Ramon. dered about, picking up a little money “Ave Maria,” he cried again. here and there, sometimes by doing a day's Presently Doña Mercedes made her work, more often by cards or racing. His appearance in the doorway, shading her face, deeply scarred by small-pox, showed eyes from the glare. signs of his Indian blood in its copper “Who is it? What, Don Ramon! cao color, and restless, bloodshot eyes. At ramba! is it you? Get off your horse, present he was on his way to the house of man, and come in : you are welcome. Ah, his mother, who lived at no great distance evil dog! wilt thou not get away? Hit from Anselmo Alvarez--an old woman, him with your whip, Don Ramon. Tie reputed to be rich, also the wise woman of up your horse and enter.” Ramon swag. the neighborhood, skilled to charm away gered into the house after his hostess, disease both from man and beast, and to while the mastiff slunk away growling and wheedle money from her neighbors' pock- meditating reprisals. ets. Like the rest of the world, Ramon “Where is your husband, Doña Mer. stood in considerable awe of her, and it Icedes ?”
“He is here,” called out Anselmo, as the more violent the oaths he used to conhe came into the room rubbing his eyes. firm them. “How goes it, Ramon? What news have “Nevertheless, you would have sold him you? I have been sleeping late. Wife, to me the other day,” objected Anselmo; serve us a maté; Ramon will take a maté, “and I believe you would sell him now.' will you not? Well, what news ?”
To you I might,” said Ramon, wishing “None ; to-morrow is New Year's day.” | to ingratiate himself with his host. “ You
It is hot enough to-day,” grumbled understand him. What money you might Anselmo. “ If the new year would bring make with him! But no — I could not us rain, it would be welcome; the camp is sell him.” as dry as a monk's throat.”
“ As it pleases you,” said Anselmo Mercedes busily raked together the hot sulkily. “After all, I don't know what ashes on the hearth, that she might boil use I could make of him.” And the two the kettle and serve the maté, or in other men went on riding in silence, each conwords a curiously graven gourd, filled with sidering how he might best re-open the a kind of tea upon which hot water is subject without appearing too eager. poured, and the infusion then sucked out Dolt as Ramon was, he sometimes had through a tube, called a bombilla. Mer. an original idea of his own; and there now cedes kept refilling it, and presenting it to occurred to him a really brilliant one. He one and the other as they smoked their was willing enough to sell his horse at a cigarettes, carrying on a desultory conver- good price, but that price he knew by sad sation.
experience was hard to get. Anselmo had “Where are the girls ?” asked Ramon long been anxious to buy the horse ; but at last.
Anselmo was not good for any transaction They are out with the sheep,” said in ready money. He thought over all his Mercedes. “I do not know why they friend's possessions with a view to an exhave not come in for the siesta, it is too change, and among them he thought of his hot there in the camp. But girls are wil- niece: “Let him give me Juana, and he ful and foolish."
shall have the horse.” After all, there “ The foal takes after the mare," said was no doubt about that strain in the Anselmo disagreeably. “Why does the horse's shoulder; he came home a little bombilla always get choked? Will you lame after that last race; no one had nonever make mate properly? No, I will ticed it, but Ramon felt that the horse's take no more," he added, as his wife sub- best days were over. Of course no one missively tried to clear the bombilla by in their senses would value such a horse blowing down it. “Go and see what meat and a wife at the same price, but then the there is. Ramon will eat and sleep here horse was not quite sound, and Ramon to-night, will you not, Ramon? Come knew it. He looked at his companion and with me now and I will show you the cattle. considered how he should begin. Ah, if only there were some one to buy a “Si, Señor," he said presently, and then few fat bullocks from me; but no buyer sighed heavily. That is the approved ever passes in this cursed neighborhood !” way of beginning a conversation ; it is And the two men went out, leaving Mer- polite, affirmative, and does not comprocedes to her household duties.
mise one. “ You have not sold your roan, then?” “ Listen, Anselmo,” he began, after ansaid Anselmo, as he passed a critical eye other long pause, I would not sell the over his friend's horses.
horse ; but to you - my friend - I might “ The Rosillo? no, I would never sell give it. Yes, give it away, but under cerhim. I would not part from him for a tain conditions." For then he had anleague of land. The officers at the little other idea more brilliant even than the fort offered me any money for him; but first - why not have Juana and a dowry no, a good horse is not found every as well? day, and so good a horse as this there is “ Conditions !” retorted the other, “a not in the whole partido. He brings me gift with conditions! That is like the money, too; for à race of half a mile — cake of Gomez; he gave it to the weddingtwo miles — four miles — there is no horse feast and ate it all himself.” can touch him. Why, the other day at “No, I am serious,” protested Ramon. the Esquina of Santa Paula — " and Ra- “ Listen, and I will explain to you. You mon, who could be eloquent on one sub- know my mother, she is old and rich. I ject, poured forth a most untruthful but too will be rich some day,” he added comenergetic account of his horse's triumphs, placently, feeling that such a prospect and the more incredulous Anselmo looked, I would improve his case. "Well, I want
a wife, and my mother wants some one to your brother's child. Yes, yes, I know live with her. Many a time has she said that you have been as good as a father to to me, '
: Ramon, marry thyself, and bring her — I do not say that you have not. me a daughter-in-law to help me; but But he is a good-for-nothing, that Ramon. marry a woman who can bring a dowry, or While his mother lives, it is well; but if she can only bring a small dowry -a when she dies you will see that he will few milch cows or a small flock of sheep spend everything; and then his wife will
let her come from a decent house. return here with children probably, and There is Anselmo Alvarez, he could give without even her clothes.” a good dowry with his niece.'” Ramon Enough!" shouted Anselmo. stole a look at his companion, who stared that girl ready to go to-morrow. To argue at him blankly. That is what my mother with a woman is to shear a pig. One gets says, Anselmo ; you know my mother, she nothing by it but noise. Hold thy tongue, is old and very rich. But what I say is I tell thee,” as his wife raised her voice this. I would marry Juana gladly with in fresh entreaty. “ The girl goes, would
say ten milch cows — and that some one would take thee also !" the day that I marry Juana I will make And Anselmo hastily inade his escape as you a present of the horse.”
the girls came in, leaving to his wife the “It is impossible !” said Anselmo short-task of explaining his wishes. ly; but he had wavered before he said it, Supper was late that night at the rancho, and Ramon inentally added five cows to and, as Ramon would have said, the com
pany was algo triste. Poor Juana sat It was late and already growing dark by silent with pale cheeks and red eyes; the the time that the two nen returned to the flood of tears and vehement anger that rancho, but the bargain had been com- had accompanied her first refusal were all pleted. Anselmo was not averse to get over. She knew too well the uselessness ting rid of his niece, a loss which only of contending with her uncle. For two entailed a little more work on his wife's hours she had struggled against her fate, shoulders, and he considered that a con- and now she sat there, sullenly resigned, nection with the old woman would prob- gulping down an occasional sob, or anably be not unprofitable; but in the matter swering in monosyllables to the clumsy of the cows he held out gallantly. So that compliments that Ramon tried to pay her. it had been finally agreed that Juana Carmen, who was more demonstrative in should accompany Ramon the next day to her grief, having roared for a whole hour, his mother's house, and live with them had finally cried herself to sleep, refusing until the wedding; and that on the day to eat her supper or in any way be comthey were married he, Anselmo, should forted; while among the elders of the receive the roan horse in exchange for five party there was a certain air of embarrass.
ment, although in truth it interfered little The girls were still out, driving in the with their appetite, but then the stew sheep to shut them in their pens for the was really excellent. night. Juana's clear voice and Carmen's Supper over, the two women retired to childish treble could be heard shrill above their room, while the men spread out the the loud bleating of the flock, that rushed many rugs of which their saddles were here and there in wild confusion, having composed, to serve them as beds on the no wish to be shut up at an hour when the floor. Ramon lighted a final cigarette and air was cool and the grass sweet. Ramon set himself to review his day's work. It set to work to collect his horses and hob- was a good idea that, to carry the girl ble the mare, making preparations for home with him. The old woman would an early start on the morrow. Inside see that he was in earnest. The girl had the house Mercedes tearfully protested been crying. Ramon wondered whether against the proposition that Anselmo had she really disliked having to marry him. brought home with him, passing from in- | All girls were like that; they really wanted dignation to entreaty as she found her to be married, and pretended that they husband obdurate. It was monstrous; it did not. Then he remembered the roan was absurd; it was so inconvenient. “She horse and sighed. Qué lastima / he could is so useful here. How can I do all the hardly bear to lose him — all for a woman, work without her? If I am ill, who is to too! There were many women in the cook and wash? And Carmen so young world, but there was no horse like that too! No, no; let us wait till Carmen is roan. How good that stew was ! - did older, and then she may go. She will not Juana make it? After all, the horse might wish it. Remember, she is an orphan and go lame again; and there were not many
girls like Juana. It would be pleasant to are there?” asked Carmen. “Supposing have some one in the house whom he they watch you? could order about and who would obey “I don't know, but I will not live with him. When he asked the old woman for them long. Oh, they will give me an op. his dinner she abused him : "Canst thou portunity sooner or later. At any rate, I not wait, idle one? Thou art always more will never marry him, - never!" ready to eat than to work.” Juana would But if you run away,” continued Carnot say that; she would not dare to. She men, “ will you run away to Pedro?". was pretty — not so pretty as the woman Quién sabe !” said Juana, with a blush, at the wine-shop, but still she was pretty. "I will run away somewhere." After all, he must have sold the horse But if you should,” persisted Carmen, sooner or later; and, as it was, Anselmo "will you have me to live with you? It had not got it yet. Ramon threw away would be so good, and I cannot live withthe end of the cigarette, and a serene con- out you." tent fell on him as he composed himself “Of course we will, hija mia, thou shalt to sleep. On the whole he was well sat- live with us always." isfied.
It is very well to make plans for the Unfortunately to every question there future, but neither Carmen nor Juana had are two sides, and Juana viewed the mat- the least idea how they were to be carried ter in a very different light. Sleepless out; and when Ramon made his appear. and miserable she lay still, choking down ance late in the afternoon, riding his fathe convulsive sobs that almost suffocated mous roan and leading another horse for her. Around her, tight clasped, were the his lady-love, their spirits fell again to arms of little Carmen, who slept the deep zero, and they could hardly bring themsleep of a tired child — too tired to be dis- selves to say good-bye. turbed by grief or tormenting thoughts of “Adios, mi tia," Juana said to Doña the coming morrow. That wretched mor- Mercedes. “May not Carmen come with row! Juana thought - could she but die me ?” and it might never come.
No, not now," said Mercedes. hours, how slow they pass when sorrow shall go and see thee soon. We shall all has robbed us of sleep! She knew not come to the wedding,” she added with whether she most longed for or dreaded melancholy satisfaction. “ Till then, adios, the morning light. The passion of rage my child, mayst thou go with God !” and indignation had died away, giving “Adios, Carmen, my heart,” and Juana place to the misery of helplessness and with difficulty freed herself from the intense self-pity. Now and then wild frantic embraces of her little cousin. thoughts of fight or revenge would pass “Will you take my bundle, Don Ramon? through her mind. She remembered the Is that your roan horse ?” story of a girl who had hidden a knife in “Yes, this is the roan," said Ramon, her bodice. Should she do that too? pleased that she should at last vouchsafe Could she not run away? Pedro was so to address him. close — only seven leagues off — and yet “ Is he quiet to ride ? " so powerless to help her. She tried “Quiet# He is as gentle as a girl!" hard to think of some way to escape, and (Alas, poor ignorant Ramon !) “ Would clenched her hands in despair, not one you like to ride him? I can change the no, not one!
saddles." All things come to an end, even a sleep- Anselmo had again gone back to the less night. Next morning, by the time house, or Ramon could not have made the that Juana had got up, much later than proposition. “ He has a beautiful gallop, usual, Ramon Perez had been gone for so smooth, so fast.” several hours; he had ridden off to take Yes, I would like to ride him," said his horses to his mother's house and pre- Juana quietly, a curious look stealing into pare her for her coming guest. He was her face. to return that afternoon, and in the mean In a few minutes the exchange was time Juana was free to array herself in her made, and Juana, who seemed to be trembest dress and pack up her scanty ward bling, was seated in the saddle. Ramon robe in a cotton handkerchief. All the vaulted quickly on to the other horse. preparations, such as they were, were left “Oh, my saddle is all wrong!” she to Mercedes. Carmen and Juana sat to cried. "No, you cannot do it, Carmen, gether in the corner, idly waiting and let Don Ramon arrange it; you can hold whispering to each other.
his horse for him.” “ But how will you run away when you Ramon slipped off his horse, and giving
VOL. LX, 3120