Carmen Ariza Part 171

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When the message had gone, the girl dismissed the subject from her thought, and gave herself up completely to the charm of the glorious morning and her beautiful environment. For some time she wandered aimlessly about the city; then bent her steps again toward the Capitol.

At the window of a florist she stopped and looked long and lovingly at the gorgeous display within. In the midst of the beautiful profusion a single flower held her attention. It was a great, brilliant red rose, a kind that she had never seen before. She went in and asked for it.

"We call it the 'President' rose, Miss," said the salesman in response to her query. "It is quite new."

"I want it," she said simply.

And when she went out with the splendid flower burning on her bosom like living fire, she was glad that Hitt had not been there to see her pay two dollars for it.

The great Capitol seemed to fascinate her, as she stood before it a few moments later. The spell of tradition enwrapped her. The mighty sentiments and motives which had actuated the framers of the Const.i.tution seemed to loom before her like monuments of eternal stone. Had statesmans.h.i.+p degenerated from that day of pure patriotism into mere corruption? Mr. Sands would have her so believe.

"The people!" he had exclaimed in scoffing tones. "Why, my dear girl, the people of your great State are represented in the national Senate by--whom? By n.o.body, I say. By the flies on the panes; by the mice in the corners; by the G.o.d, perhaps, to whom the chaplain offers his ineffectual prayers; but not by men. No; one of your Senators represents a great railroad; the other an express company! The people?

Those Senators know no such ridiculous creature as 'the people'!"

She turned from the Capitol, and for an hour or more strolled in the brilliant sunlight. "An economic disease," she murmured at length.

"That's what it is. And, like all disease, it is mental. It is a disease of the human conscience. It comes from the fear of separation from good. It all reduces to the belief of separation from G.o.d--the belief that upon men's own human efforts depend all the happiness and satisfaction they can have. Why, I have never known anything but happiness and abundance! And yet, _I have never made a single effort to acquire them_!" For the girl saw not the past vicissitudes of her life except as shadowy mists, which dimmed not the sun of her joy.

"Take care!" cried a loud voice close to her.

There was a tramping of horses' feet. A great, dark body swept past.

It struck her, and brushed her to one side. She strove to hold herself, but fell.

The man and his companion were off their horses instantly, and a.s.sisted the girl to her feet.

"Are you hurt?" asked the one who had been riding ahead. "I called to you, but you didn't seem to hear."

"Not a bit!" laughed the girl, recovering her breath, and stooping to brush the dust from her dress. "I was dreaming, as usual."

"Well, I'm glad to hear that! It was a close shave! I'm mighty sorry!

Are you sure you're all right? Perhaps you had better come in with us."

The girl raised her head and looked into his face with a bright smile.

The man's anxious expression slowly changed into one of wonder, and then of something quite different. The girl's long, thick hair had been loosened by the fall, and was hanging about her shoulders. Framed in the deep brown profusion was the fairest face he had ever looked upon; the most winning smile; the most loving, compa.s.sionate glance.

"You'll have to come in now, and let the maid help you," he said firmly. "And I'll send you home in an auto. May I ask where you live?"

"New York," replied Carmen, a little confused as she struggled vainly with her hair. "Oh, I'm not going to fuss with it any more!" she suddenly exclaimed. "Yes, I'll go with you, and let the maid do it up.

Isn't it long!"

She glanced about her, and then up the avenue toward which the men had been riding. A flush suddenly spread over her face, and she turned and looked searchingly at the man.

"You--you--live--in--there?" she stammered, pointing toward the distant house. "And you are--"

"Yes," he replied, coming to her a.s.sistance, but evidently greatly enjoying her embarra.s.sment, "I am the President."

Carmen gave a little gasp. "Oh!"

Then her hand stole mechanically to the rose flaming upon her bosom.

"I--I guess I know why I bought this now," she said softly. Quickly unpinning it, she extended it to the man. "I was bringing it to you, wasn't I?" she laughed. "It's a 'President' rose."

The picture was one that would have rejoiced an artist: the simple girl, with her tumbled hair and wonderful face, standing there in the glorious sunlight, holding out a single rose to the chief executive of a great nation.

The President bowed low and took the proffered flower. "I thank you,"

he said. "It is beautiful. But the one who gives it is far more so."

Then he bade his companion take the two horses to the stable, and motioned to Carmen to accompany him.

"I was just returning from my morning ride," he began again, "when you happened--"

"Things _never_ happen," interrupted the girl gently.

He looked at her with a little quizzical side glance. "Then you didn't happen to be in the way?" he said, smiling.

"No," she returned gravely. "I was obeying the law of cause and effect."

"And the cause?" he pursued, much interested.

"A desire to see you, I guess. Or, perhaps, the _necessity_ of seeing you. And because I wanted to see you in the interests of good, why, evil seemed to try to run over me."

"But why should you wish to see me?" he continued, greatly wondering.

"Because you are the head of a wonderful nation. Your influence is very great. And you are a good man."

He studied her for a moment. Then:

"You came down from New York to talk with me?" he asked.

"I think I came all the way from South America to see you," she said.

"South America!"

"Yes, Colombia."

"Colombia! There is a revolution in progress down there now. Did you come to see me about that? I can do nothing--"

The girl shook her head. "No," she said, "it's to prevent a revolution here in your own country that I think I have come to see you."

They had by now reached the door of the Executive Mansion. Entering, the President summoned a maid, and turned the big-eyed girl over to her. "Bring her to my office," he directed, "when she is ready."

A little later the nameless girl from Simiti again stood before the President of the United States.

"I have an important conference at ten," he said, glancing at a clock.

"But we have a few minutes before that time. Will you--may I ask you to tell me something about yourself?" he ventured. "You are feeling all right? No bad effects from the accident?" he added, looking apprehensively at her while he set out a chair.

The girl drew the chair close to his desk and sat down. "I know nothing about accidents," she said quietly. Then, turning quite from that topic, she drew the President quickly into her thought and carried him off with her as on a magic carpet.

The man listened in rapt attention. From time to time he turned and stared at his strange visitor. At other times he made notes of points which impressed him. Once he interrupted, when she made reference to her past life. "This priest, Jose de Rincon, might he not have been imprisoned as a political offender?"

"I do not know," the girl replied tenderly. "My foster-father, Rosendo, did not mention him in the two letters which I have received."

Carmen Ariza Part 171

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Carmen Ariza Part 171 summary

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