Carmen Ariza Part 100

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Jose, the shadow of his former self, clung pitiably to Rosendo's hand, imploring the constant repet.i.tion of the old man's narrative. Then came Juan, flying to the door. He had seen and talked with the returned _cargadores_. The girl had not come back with them. He demanded to know why. He became wild. Neither Jose nor Rosendo could calm him. At length it seemed wise to them both to tell him that she had gone to the States with the Americans, and would return to Simiti no more.

The blow almost crushed the lad. He rushed about the town half dazed.

He gathered groups of companions about him and talked to them excitedly. He threatened Rosendo and Jose. Then, evidently acting on the advice of some cooler head, he rushed to his canoe and put off across the lake toward the _cano_. He did not return for several days.

But when he did, the town knew that he had been to Bodega Central, and that the country was aflame with war.

Reed's wife had not received Carmen in an amiable frame of mind. "For heaven's sake, Charles," she had cried, turning from his embrace to look at the wondering girl who stood behind him, "what have you here?"

"Oh, that," he laughingly replied, "is only a little Indian I la.s.soed back in the jungle." And, leaving the girl to the not very tender graces of his wife, he hurried out to arrange for the return voyage.

At noon, when Harris appeared at Reed's room, Carmen rushed to him and begged to be taken for a stroll through the town. Yielding to her husband's insistence, Mrs. Reed had outfitted the girl, so that she presented a more civilized appearance. At first Carmen had been delighted with her new clothes. They were such, cheap as they were, as she had never seen in Simiti. But the shoes--"Ah, senora," she pleaded, "do not make me wear them, they are so tight! I have never worn shoes before." She was beginning her education in the conventions and trammels of civilization.

As Carmen and Harris stood that afternoon in the public square, while the girl gazed enraptured at an equestrian statue of Simon Bolivar, a ragged little urchin approached and begged them to buy an afternoon paper. Harris humored him and bade Carmen ask him his name.

"Rincon," the lad answered, drawing himself up proudly.

The girl started. "Rincon!" she repeated. "Why--where do you live?"

"In the Calle Lozano," he replied, wondering why these people seemed interested in him.

Carmen translated the conversation to Harris. "Ask him who his father is," suggested the latter.

"I do not know," replied the little fellow, shaking his head. "I never saw him. He lives far away, up the great river, so Tia Catalina says.

And she says he is a priest."

The color suddenly left Carmen's cheeks. "Come with me to your home,"

she said, taking his hand.

The boy led them willingly through the winding streets to the little upper room where, years before, he had first seen the light.

"Tia Catalina," he cried to the shabby woman who rose in amazement as the visitors entered, "see, some strangers!"

Carmen lost no time, but went at once to the heart of her question.

"The little fellow's father--he is a Rincon? And--he lives up the great river?"

The woman eyed her suspiciously for some moments without replying. But the boy answered for her. "Yes, senorita," he said eagerly, "in Simiti. And his name--I am named for him--it is Jose. And I am going to visit him some day. Tia Catalina said I should, no, Tia?"

Harris fumbled in his pocket and drew out some money, which he handed to the woman. Her eyes lighted, and a cavernous smile spread over her wrinkled face.

"_Ah, gracias, senor_," she murmured, bending over his hand; "we need it. The boy's father has sent us but little of late."

Carmen's heart was fluttering wildly. "Tell me," she said in a cold voice, "the boy's father is Padre Jose de Rincon, of Simiti? You need not fear to speak. We have just come from Simiti, and have seen him.

We are leaving to-morrow for the States."

"Yes, senorita," replied the woman in a thin, cracking voice, now completely disarmed of her suspicion. "The little fellow was born here some seven years ago. Ah, well I remember the day! And his mother, poor little lamb! She died the same night. But the good Padre has sent us money ever since to care for him, until of late. Senorita, why is it, think you, that he sends us so little now?"

"I--do--not--know," murmured Carmen abstractedly, scarce hearing the woman. Then she turned to the boy. She bent over him and looked long and wistfully into his eyes. He was a bright, handsome little fellow; and though her heart was crushed, she took him into it. Swallowing the lump which had come into her throat, she drew him to the window and sat down, holding him before her.

"Your father--I know him--well. He is a--a good man. But--I did not know--I never knew that he had a son." She stopped, choking.

"Tia Catalina says he is a fine man," proudly answered the boy.

"And she wants me to be a priest, too. But I am going to be a bull-fighter."

"It is true, senorita," interposed the woman. "We cannot keep him from the _arena_ now. He hangs about it all day, and about the slaughter-house. We can hardly drag him back to his meals. What can we do, senorita? But," with a touch of pride as she looked at him, "if he becomes a bull-fighter, he will be the best of them all!"

Carmen turned again to the woman. Her question carried an appeal which came from the depths of her soul. "Senora, is there no doubt--no doubt that Padre Rincon is the father of the boy?"

"We think not, senorita. The lad's mother died in the good Padre's arms. She would not say positively who was the boy's father. We thought at first--it was some one else. Marcelena insisted on it to her dying day. But now--now we know that it was Padre Jose. And he was sent to Simiti for it. But--ah, senorita, the little mother was so beautiful, and so good! She--but, senorita, you are not leaving so soon?"

Carmen had risen. "Yes, my good senora," she said wearily. "We must now return to the hotel. But--here is more money for the boy. And, senora, when I reach the States I will send you money every month for him."

She took Harris's hand. "Come," she said simply, "I have seen enough of the city."

At noon the next day a message from Bodega Central was put into the hand of the acting-Bishop of Cartagena, as he sat in his study, wrapped in the contemplation of certain papers before him. Hostilities had begun along the Magdalena river the day before. The gates of Cartagena were to be barricaded that day, for a boatload of rebels was about to leave Barranquilla to storm the city and seize, if possible, the customs. When he had read the message he uttered an exclamation.

Had not the Sister Superior of the Convent of Our Lady reported the arrival of the daughter of Rosendo Ariza some days before? He seized his hat and left the room.

Hastening to the Department of Police, he had a short interview with the chief. Then that official despatched policemen to the office of the steams.h.i.+p company, and to the dock. Their orders were to arrest two Americans who were abducting a young girl. They returned a half hour later with sheepish faces. "Your Excellency," they announced to their chief, "the vessel sailed from the port an hour ago, with the Americans and the girl aboard."

The announcement aroused in Wenceslas the fury of a tiger. Exacerbation succeeded surprise; and that in turn gave way to a maddening thirst for sanguinary vengeance. He hastened out and despatched a telegraphic message to Bogota. Then he returned to his study to await its effect.

Two days later a river steamer, impressed by the federal authorities, stopped at the mouth of the Boque, and a squad of soldiers marched over the unfrequented trail to Simiti, where they arrived as night fell. Their orders were to take into custody the priest, Jose de Rincon, who was accused of complicity in the recent plot to overthrow the existing government.

At the same time, on a vessel plowing its way into the North, a young girl, awkwardly wearing her ill-fitting garments, hung over the rail and gazed wistfully back at the Southern Cross. The tourists who saw her heterogeneous attire laughed. But when they looked into her beautiful, sad face their mirth died, and a tender pity stirred their hearts.

CARMEN ARIZA

BOOK 3

And while within myself I trace The greatness of some future race, Aloof with hermit-eye I scan The present works of present man,-- A wild and dream-like trade of blood and guile, Too foolish for a tear, too wicked for a smile!

--_Coleridge._

CARMEN ARIZA

CHAPTER 1

Carmen Ariza Part 100

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Carmen Ariza Part 100 summary

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