Carmen Ariza Part 75

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"Padre, what did you tell me once about the word 'repent'?"

"It comes from the Greek word '_metanoia_.'"

"Yes," she reflected; "but what did you say that--"

"Oh, yes, I told you it meant a complete and radical change of thought."

"Well!" she exclaimed, her eyes brightening.

Jose waited expectantly. It was heaven to have this girl before him and to drink in the nave expressions of her active mind.

"Padre dear, when John the baptiser said, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,' did he mean to tell the people that they must have a complete change of thought?"

Jose laughed. And then he grew serious. "_Chiquita_," he answered, "I have no doubt he meant just that. For you have taught me that there can be no salvation without such a complete and radical change."

"No," she said with quick emphasis; "for G.o.d is mind, you know. And His thought is the only real thought there is or can be. The thoughts of mortals are the opposites of His thoughts, and so they are illusions, and, like all lies, must pa.s.s away. If people want to be immortal, they must think as G.o.d thinks, for He is immortal. They must stop thinking that there is any power but G.o.d. They must stop letting in thoughts of sickness, of sin, of wickedness, and all those things that in English you call 'discord.' G.o.d says in the Bible, 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my thoughts higher than your thoughts.' Well, G.o.d is immortal and perfect. And if we want to be like Him we must think His thoughts. For our thoughts become--things.

Don't you see?"

Jose's face clouded. "I see, _chiquita_--sometimes very clearly--and then again I don't see," he said slowly.

"You _do_ see!" she insisted, getting up on her knees and facing him.

"And you see as G.o.d sees! And if you hold this thought always, why, it will--it will be--"

"Externalized; is that what you are trying to say?" he suggested.

"Yes, just that. Jesus said, 'As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.'"

"But, Carmen--I-- What you say is doubtless true in essence--but I think you have not grasped it all--there are so many gaps that your simple little system of religion does not fill in--so many great questions that you do not answer. I see, in part--and then, again, I don't see at all. And when you were stolen away from Simiti I saw nothing but the evil--and it nearly killed me!"

The girl studied him for a few moments. The man had always been an enigma to her. She could not understand a nature that soared into the spiritual empyrean one moment, and in the next fell floundering into the bottomless pit of materialism. The undulating curve which marked the development of the Rincon mind was to her a thing incomprehensible.

"Padre dear," she said at length, a little sadly. "When you look at the first chapter in the Bible and read there how G.o.d made everything, and man in His image, in the image of Mind, you see, and are very happy. But when you go on to the second chapter and read how the Lord G.o.d--not G.o.d, but the _Lord_ G.o.d--made a man of dirt, and how this dirt man listened to his false thoughts and fell, why, then you are unhappy. Don't you see any difference between them? Can't you see that one is a story of the real creation; and the other is the human mind's interpretation of the creation--an interpretation made according to the way the human mind thinks the creating _ought_ to have been in matter? You told me this yourself. And the second chapter shows how far the human mind can go--it shows how limited it is. The human mind couldn't get any farther than that--couldn't make a man out of anything but dirt. It couldn't understand the spiritual creation. And so it made a creation of its own. It couldn't understand G.o.d; and so it made a Lord G.o.d, just like itself. Can't you see? Padre dear, can't you? And if you see, can't you _stick_ to it and _live_ it, until all the unreal pa.s.ses away?"

Jose smiled into her earnest little face. "I will never cease to try, _chiquita_," he said. "But we were talking about loving Diego, weren't we? Yes, you are right, we must try to love him, for the good Jesus said we must love our enemies."

"But, if we love everybody, then we haven't any enemies. You can't love a real enemy--and so there aren't any real ones. We see in other people only what is in our own thought. If we see evil as real, why, then we will see bad men and women all around us, for we only look at our thoughts. But, if we look only at G.o.d's thoughts--Padre dear, I didn't see anything but G.o.d's thought when Padre Diego had me in his arms. I knew it wasn't real, but was just the human way of looking at things. And I knew that love was the great principle of everything, and that it just couldn't fail, any more than the principle of algebra could fail to solve my problems. Well," she concluded with a little sigh, "it didn't."

"Dear little girl, you must be patient, very patient, with your blundering old Padre Jose. He is groping for the light--"

In an instant, throwing the canoe into imminent danger of upsetting, the impulsive girl had hurled herself into his lap and clasped her arms about his neck. Juan and Lazaro by a quick and skillful effort kept the craft upright.

"Oh, Padre dear!" she cried, "I didn't mean to say a word that would make you unhappy--Padre dear, I love you so! Padre, look at your little girl, and tell her that you love her!"

He clasped her fiercely. "No--no!" he murmured, "I--I must not--and--yet--_chiquita_--I adore you!" He buried his face in her shoulder.

Juan made a wry mouth as he looked at the girl in the priest's arms.

Then he suggested that a separation would more evenly balance the boat. Carmen laughed up at him, but slipped down into the keel and sat with her head propped against Jose's knees.

"Padre dear," she said, looking up at him with twinkling eyes, "I heard Lazaro say a little while before we started that he had lived many years in Simiti, and that it had always been very quiet until you came."

"_Ay de mi!_" sighed Jose. "I can readily believe that the whole world was quiet until I entered it."

"But, Padre, perhaps you had to come into it to shake it up."

He laughed. "_Chiquita_," he said, "if ever you go out into it, with your radical views regarding G.o.d and man; and if the stupid old world will give ear to you, there will be such a shaking up as it has never experienced since--"

"Padre dear," she interrupted, "I am not going out into the world. I shall stay in Simiti--with you."

He looked down at her, tenderly, wistfully. And then, while her words still echoed through his mind, a great sigh escaped him.

Dusk had closed in upon them when the canoe emerged into the quiet lake. Huge vampire bats, like demons incarnate, flouted their faces as they paddled swiftly toward the distant town. Soft evening calls drifted across the placid waters from the slumbering jungle. Carmen's rich voice mingled with them; and Juan and Lazaro, catching the inspiration, broke into a weird, uncanny boating song, such as is heard only among these simple folk. As they neared the town the song of the _bogas_ changed into a series of loud, yodelling halloos; and when the canoe grated upon the shaly beach, Dona Maria and a score of others were there to welcome the returned travelers.

At the sight of Ana, a murmur ran through the crowd. Dona Maria turned to the woman.

"It is Anita, madre dear," Carmen quickly announced, as she struggled out of Dona Maria's arms and took the confused Ana by the hand.

The light of recognition came into Dona Maria's eyes. Quietly, and without demonstration, she went to the shrinking woman and, taking the tear-stained face in her hands, impressed a kiss upon each cheek.

"_Bien_," she said in a low, tender voice, "we have waited long for you, daughter. And now let us go home."

The glow of dawn had scarce begun to creep timidly across the arch of heaven when Fernando knocked at the portal of Rosendo's house and demanded the custody of Carmen. Jose was already abroad.

"And now, Fernando," demanded the priest, "what new outrage is this?"

The constable flushed with embarra.s.sment. "_Na_, Padre, a thousand pardons--but it is the order of the Alcalde, and I only obey. But--you may knock me down," he added eagerly, "and then I can return to him and say that I could not take the girl, even by force!" The honest fellow, ashamed of his mission, hung his head. Jose seized his hand.

"Fernando!" he cried, "what say the people of Simiti?"

"They are with you, Padre. They would demand Rosendo's release, if there were proof that the girl--"

"Good, then! we have the proof," broke in Jose. "Rosendo knows of our return?"

"Yes, the guard informed him this morning. The Alcalde, you know, permits no one to approach the prisoner."

"And does he know that Ana is here?"

"The guard did not tell him, for fear of exciting the old man.

_Hombre!_ I think there is no one in town who would venture to tell Rosendo that."

"_Bien pues_, Fernando, I think the time has come! Go quietly back and summon every one to a meeting in the town hall at once. Tell them--"

"_Bien_, Padre, I shall know what to tell them. But," anxiously, "Don Mario has the power to--"

"And we have a greater power," quickly replied the priest, his thought dwelling on Carmen.

An hour later the town hall was a babel of clacking tongues. Men, women and children hurried, chattering, to and fro, exchanging diverse views and speculating eagerly on the probable outcome of the meeting.

Jose stood before them, with Carmen's hand clasped tightly in his. Don Mario, purple and trembling with rage, was perched upon a chair, vainly trying to get the ear of the people.

Carmen Ariza Part 75

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Carmen Ariza Part 75 summary

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