Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][merged small][merged small][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small]

A VOICELESS SOUL.

GOD makes no thing in vain. And yet - Ah me!
If man should shape, from precious woods and fine,
With skillful touch and art almost divine,

A violin attuned to melody

Of earth, and sky, and restless, whispering sea,
And then no bow create,-his work resign,
And give the almost sentient thing no sign
Nor sound to voice its inborn minstrelsy,-

We quick should cry, "That man hath wrought in vain!"
O Soul of mine, thou must that viol be,

Without a bow! Thou canst not voice the strain

That rends thy chords in effort to be free,

And turns what should be joy to keenest pain. God makes no thing in vain. And yet - Ah me!

Carrie Blake Morgan.

[graphic][subsumed]
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]

66

THE PRESIDENT'S SUBSTITUTE.

BUT Manuela is the very soul of discretion and fidelity; and even if she were not, dost thou not see, Estevan, that she is sleeping?" A fleeting smile showed faintly in the white moonlight, as the Doña Zoyla turned her great, luminous eyes in the direction of the maid, who was indeed lightly slumbering, her head thrown back on the arm of the garden seat, at whose farther end her mistress and Stephen Brent were seated. "Ay de mi, she always sleeps when an opportunity occurs for a little nap, poor girl! But she is just as ready to wake at a minute's notice, like the truest watch dog going. She was my foster sister, and was never away from me, even in those years I was in the convent. Ah! those happy years, when I had not yet learned any but the sweet lessons the sisters taught me,- when I was in happy ignorance of the horrible lessons of life!" Her eyes softened, and two great drops, which the oblique moonbeams changed to diamonds, quivered and fell upon the ungloved hand raised to brush them away.

"Querida," said Estevan in tenderest tones, "if I could but do away with thy grief as easily as thou dost remove these evidences of it!"

Zoyla made no reply, except to draw her manta more closely about her telltale face, as ringing steps on one of the paths converging in the jardincito told that they were not alone in the great Plaza. The passer-by disappeared, and still the man and woman remained for a while silent.

Surely the time and place were fitted to arouse sweet memories, to awaken half-forgotten regrets, if such there were to be evoked! Behind them rose the ponderous mass of the cathedral: its heavy doors now closed, its clanging

belfry silent, under the spell of the night and moonlight. On either side of the plaza the arcades, the heart of Lima's traffic ever since the time of Pizarro, were also silent, except when an occasional pedestrian awoke their faint echoes. Beyond, the Palace and the Municipality showed some signs of life and artificial illumination; all else was given up to the sweet stillness of the moonlit night. Even the fountain. - Pizarro's Fount seemed to drip into the basin under the orange and oleander trees with less of plash and gurgle than when the sunshine fell upon it and the hum of day throbbed around it.

Stephen at last said softly, "Is he then unkind to thee?"

"Not as the world understands unkindness, I suppose. If the word were once suggested to him he would no doubt be surprised at such a possibility. He neglects me, as what Peruvian husband does not neglect his wife? He never loved me, but none of them do love their wives. To be tender and true to us would in their view be neither desirable nor good form. They regard us only as the necessary adjuncts of a well-ordered establishment. We form no part of their lives. We are something to be dressed, to hang jewels upon, to preside at their dinners, to accompany them to public entertainments,that is all! They take us fresh from our convents, little better than babies, and never perceive that we become anything different as the years go by; least of all that we develop hearts along with our other developments.'

[ocr errors]

Again she lowered her manta, and her voice, too, as some one passed near them, while her companion courted the deep shelter of the oleander branches above his head.

"Alas, alas, why did I ever meet thee, Estevan, to learn how empty my life had been, which I thought so full? Ay de mi! shall I ever forget that ball at the British Embassy, when thou wast presented to me? With the first touch of thy hand I felt a new life; and when we moved out together in the waltz, it seemed paradise itself could hold no more of joy. And was I wrong, Estevan mio? Did I wrong him whose name I bear in not trying to drive away this strange new delight, this dawning love, that before I knew it had tinged all my life with rosy light? Did I sin, in not at once banishing thee from thought and sight? And am I, even now, bad, wicked, depraved,- O, tell me not that I am,in thus meeting thee here, to be beside whom is Heaven itself?"

Her rapid, choked utterance, her clasped hands, working themselves spasmodically back and forth as she spoke, her glistening eyes, even her whole posture, while, leaning forward, she tried to catch the expression of her companion's face, all told of at east her sincerity.

[ocr errors]

tenances encourages marriages of
convenience; yes, and almost expects
their vows not to be respected. Even /
that garment thou hast on,1 though vast
ly becoming and graceful, tells but too
plainly its old tale of deception, disguise,
and distrust, (three very bad d's, eh,
chiquita ?)"

Zoyla's errant smile again appeared at this sudden relapse from earnestness to jest, and Stephen thought that thus, in the transfiguring moonlight, nothing could well be more lovely.

"Thy smiles replace thy tears just as the moon sails by the clouds. Could I but be always near thee, to drive them back before they appear! Queridisima!"

As he uttered that tenderest of Spanish words, he felt her nestle closer to him. The small head, from which the manta had now quite fallen, drooped and rested on his shoulder, and from her lips issued a sigh of utter content. Then all the love in him rose up, and expressed itself in one brief but ecstatic kiss.

The Doña was the first to break the spell. She drew herself quietly from his detaining grasp, and sighing anew, rose to her feet. "I must go," she breathed through almost closed lips. "It is growing late, and I and Manuela may be missed."

"Why will you be missed? He whom thou fearest so to wrong

[ocr errors]

"Be not so sarcastic, Estevan mio! or I shall begin to doubt even thy affection," she breathlessly interrupted; "and I could develop a jealousy thou dost not dream of."

"Poor child! and I have brought thee such suffering, as well as pleasure!" quickly responded Estevan, unlacing her tense hands, and clasping them lovingly in his own. "And I, too, Zoyla, canst thou not see that my whole existence is bound up in thine,- that I rebel with all a man's strength against the fate that separates us? Wrong? Cielo! the wrong that has been done was away back of any action of thine, flower of truth and purity! The wrong was in mating thee to one old enough to be thy father, and that before they had given thee time to see the world for thyself. I wonder, do parents forget they have ever been young themselves? Wrong? How can we help the force that draws us together? Why, our affection is as true and innocent as if no cruel barrier loomed up between us. And even if it were not, it would only be the natural by Lima ladies, it is said, to further flirtations by outcome of a state of society that coun

"I was only about to say, suspicious one, that he towards whom thou hast so keen a sense of obligation certainly has no present need of thee. His soul is yonder,- where his body is,— over his cards." He glanced in the direction of the club house, beyond the lights of the

1 The manta is a variation of the garment once worn

means of its almost complete disguise.

« PreviousContinue »