Carmen Ariza Part 150

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"Father!" Scalding tears of anger and humiliation were streaming down Kathleen's face. "If she remains, I shall go--I shall leave the house--I will not stay under the same roof with the lewd creature!"

"Very well, then, run along," said Ames, taking the humiliated Kathleen by the shoulders and turning her about. "I will settle this without your a.s.sistance." Then he motioned to the house detectives to depart, and turned to Haynerd and Carmen. "Come in here," he said, leading the way to the little waiting room, and opening the door.

"Lord! but you belong down stairs with the rest," he e.j.a.c.u.l.a.t.ed as he faced Carmen, standing before him pale but unafraid. "There isn't one down there who is in your cla.s.s!" he exclaimed, placing his hands upon her shoulders and looking down into her beautiful face. "And," he continued with sudden determination, "I am going to take you down, and you will sit at the table with me, as my special guest!"

A sudden fear gripped Haynerd, and he started to interpose. But Carmen spoke first.

"Very well, Mr. Ames," she said quietly. "Take me down. I have a question to ask Mr. Wales when we are at the table."

An expression of surprise and inquiry came into Ames's face. "Mr.

Wales?" he said wonderingly. "You mean Congressman--"

Then he stopped abruptly, and looked searchingly at Carmen and her companion. Haynerd paled. Carmen stood unflinching. Ames's expression of surprise gave place to one dark and menacing.

"You were behind that screen when Congressman Wales and I--"

"Yes," returned Carmen calmly. "I overheard all you said. I saw you bribe him."

Ames stood like a huge, black cloud, glowering down upon the slender girl. She looked up at him and smiled.

"You are going to tell him that the fifty thousand dollars are just a loan, and that he may vote as he chooses, aren't you?" she said. "You will not ruin his life, and the lives of his wife and babies, will you? You would never be happy, you know, if you did." Her voice was as quiet as the morning breeze.

"So!" the giant sneered. "You come into my house to play spy, eh? And if I had not caught you when I did you would have written another interesting article for the Social Era, wouldn't you? By G.o.d! I'll break you, Haynerd, and your infernal sheet into a million pieces if you dare print any such rot as this! And as for you, young lady--"

"You can do nothing to me, Mr. Ames; and you don't really want to,"

said Carmen quickly. "My reputation, you know--that is, the one which you people have given me--is just as black as it could be, isn't it?

So that is safe." She laughed lightly.

Then she became very serious again. "It doesn't really make any difference to you, Mr. Ames," she said, "whether the cotton schedule is pa.s.sed or not. You still have your millions--oh, so much more than you will ever know what to do with! But Mr. Wales, he has his wife and his babies and his good reputation--would you rob him of those priceless treasures, just to make a few dollars more for yourself?--dollars that you can't spend, and that you won't let others have?"

During the girl's quiet talk Ames was regaining his self-control. When she concluded he turned to Haynerd. "Miss Carmen can step out into the balcony. You and I will arrange this matter together," he said.

Carmen moved toward the door.

"Now," said Ames significantly, and in a low voice, "what's your price?"

Instantly the girl turned back and threw herself between the two men.

"He is not for sale!" she cried, her eyes flas.h.i.+ng as she confronted Ames.

"Then, by G.o.d!" shouted Ames, who had lost himself completely, "I will crush him like a dirty spider! And you, I'll drag you through the gutters and make your name a synonym of all that is vile in womanhood!"

Carmen stepped quietly to the elevator and pressed the signal b.u.t.ton.

"You shall not leave this house!" cried the enraged Ames, starting toward her. "Or you'll go under arrest!"

The girl drew herself up with splendid dignity, and faced him fearlessly. "We _shall_ leave your house, and now, Mr. Ames!" she said. "You and that for which you stand can not touch us! The carnal mind is back of you! Omnipotent G.o.d is with us!"

She moved away from him, then turned and stood for a moment, flas.h.i.+ng, sparkling, radiant with a power which he could not comprehend. "You know not what you do. You are blinded and deceived by human l.u.s.t and greed. But the G.o.d you so ignorantly wors.h.i.+p now will some day totter and fall upon you. Then you will awake, and you will see your present life as a horrid dream."

The elevator appeared. Carmen and the dazed Haynerd stepped quickly into it and descended without opposition to the lower floor. A few moments later they were again in the street and hurrying to the nearest car line.

"Girlie," said Haynerd, mopping the perspiration from his brow, "we're in for it now--and I shall be crushed! But you--I think your G.o.d will save you."

Carmen took his hand. "His arm is not shortened," she murmured, "that He can not save us both."

CHAPTER 5

ON the Monday morning following the Ames reception the society columns of the daily papers still teemed with extravagant depictions of the magnificent affair. On that same morning, while Haynerd sat gloomily in the office of the Social Era, meditating on his giant adversary's probable first move, Carmen, leaving her studies and cla.s.ses, sought out an unpretentious home in one of the suburbs of the city, and for an hour or more talked earnestly with the timid, frightened little wife of Congressman Wales. Then, her work done, she dismissed the whole affair from her mind, and hastened joyously back to the University. She would have gone to see Ames himself. "But," she reflected, as she dwelt on his conduct and words of the previous Sat.u.r.day evening, "he is not ready for it yet. And when he is, I will go to him. And Kathleen--well, I will help her by seeing only the real child of G.o.d, which was hidden that night by the veil of hatred and jealousy. And that veil, after all, is but a shadow."

That evening the little group of searchers after G.o.d a.s.sembled again in the peaceful precincts of the Beaubien cottage. It was their third meeting, and they had come together reverently to pursue the most momentous inquiry that has ever stimulated human thought.

Haynerd and Carmen had said little relative to the Ames reception; but the former, still brooding over the certain consequences of his brush with Ames, was dejected and distraught. Carmen, leaning upon her sustaining thought, and conceding no mite of power or intelligence to evil, glowed like a radiant star.

"What are you listening to?" she asked of Haynerd, drawing him to one side. "Are you giving ear to the voices of evil, or good? Which are you making real to yourself? For those thoughts which are real to you will become outwardly manifested, you know."

"Bah! He's got us--tight!" muttered Haynerd, with a gesture signifying defeat. "And the insults of that arrogant daughter of his--"

"She did not insult me," said Carmen quickly. "She could not, for she doesn't know me. She merely denounced her concept of me, and not my real self. She vilified what she thought was Carmen Ariza; but it was only her own thought of me that she insulted. Can't you see? And such a concept of me as she holds deserves denouncing, doesn't it?"

"Well, what are we going to do?" he pursued testily.

"We are going to know," she whispered, "that we two with G.o.d const.i.tute an overwhelming majority." She said nothing about her visit to the Wales home that morning, but pressed his hand, and then went to take her place at the table, where Father Waite was already rapping for order.

"My friends," began that earnest young man, looking lovingly about at the little group, "as we are gathered here we symbolize that a.n.a.lytical, critical endeavor of the unbiased human mind to discover the essence of religion. Religion is that which binds us to absolute truth, and so is truth itself. If there is a G.o.d, we believe from our former investigations that He must be universal mind. This belief carries with it as necessary corollaries the beliefs that He must be perfect, eternal, and self-existent. The question, Who made G.o.d? must then receive its sufficient answer in the staggering statement that He has always existed, unchanged and unchangeable."

A sigh from Haynerd announced that quizzical soul's struggle to grasp a statement at once so radical and stupendous.

"True," continued Father Waite, addressing himself to his doubting friend, "the acceptance as fact of what we have deduced in our previous meetings must render the G.o.d of orthodox theology quite obsolete. But, as a compensation, it gives to us the most enlarged and beautiful concept of Him that we have ever had. It enn.o.bles, broadens, purifies, and elevates our idea of Him. It destroys forever our belittling view of Him as but a magnified human character, full of wrath and caprice and angry threats, and delighting in human ceremonial and religious thaumaturgy. And, most practical of all for us, it renders the age-long problem of evil amenable to solution."

Just then came a ring at the front door; and a moment later the Beaubien ushered Doctor Morton into the room. All rose and hastened to welcome him.

"I--I am sure," began the visitor, looking at Carmen, "that I am not intruding, for I really come on invitation, you know. Miss Carmen, first; and then, our good friend Hitt, who told me this afternoon that you would probably meet this evening. I--I pondered the matter some little time--ah, but--well, to make it short, I couldn't keep away from a gathering so absolutely unique as this--I really couldn't."

Carmen seized both his hands. "My!" she exclaimed, her eyes dancing, "I am glad you came."

"And I, too," interposed Haynerd dryly, "for now we have two theological Philistines. I was feeling a bit lonely."

"Ah, my friend," replied the doctor, "I am simply an advocate of religious freedom, not a--"

"And religious freedom, as our wise Bill Nye once said, is but the art of giving intolerance a little more room, eh?" returned Haynerd with a laugh.

The doctor shrugged his shoulders. "You are a Philistine," he said. "I am a human interrogation."

Carmen took the doctor by the arm and led him to a place beside her at the table. "You--you didn't bring poor Yorick?" she whispered, with a glint of mischief in her bright eyes.

"No," laughed the genial visitor, "he's a dead one, you told me."

"Yes," replied the girl, "awfully dead! He is an outward manifestation of dead human beliefs, isn't he? But now listen, Father Waite is going to speak."

Carmen Ariza Part 150

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Carmen Ariza Part 150 summary

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