What a rejoicing there was at his return!—how radiant and level the long Road of the Future seemed to open before him!—everywhere friends, prospects, felicitations. Then his first serious love;—and the night of the ball at St. Martinsville,—the vision of light! Gracile as a palm, and robed at once so simply, so exquisitely in white, she had seemed to him the supreme realization of all possible dreams of beauty ... And his passionate jealousy; and the slap from Laroussel; and the humiliating two-minute duel with rapiers in which he learned that he had found his master. The scar was deep. Why had not Laroussel killed him then? ... Not evil-hearted, Laroussel,—they used to salute each other afterward when they met; and Laroussel's smile was kindly. Why had he refrained from returning it? Where was Laroussel now?
For the death of his generous father, who had sacrificed so much to reform him; for the death, only a short while after, of his all-forgiving mother, he had found one sweet woman to console him with her tender words, her loving lips, her delicious caress. She had given him Zouzoune, the darling link between their lives,—Zouzoune, who waited each evening with black Eglantine at the gate to watch for his coming, and to cry through all the house like a bird, "Papa, lape vini!—papa Zulien ape vini!" ... And once that she had made him very angry by upsetting the ink over a mass of business papers, and he had slapped her (could he ever forgive himself?)—she had cried, through her sobs of astonishment and pain:—"To laimin moin?—to batte moin!" (Thou lovest me?—thou beatest me!) Next month she would have been five years old. To laimin moin?—to batte moin! ...
A furious paroxysm of grief convulsed him, suffocated him; it seemed to him that something within must burst, must break. He flung himself down upon his bed, biting the coverings in order to stifle his outcry, to smother the sounds of his despair. What crime had he ever done, oh God! that he should be made to suffer thus?—was it for this he had been permitted to live? had been rescued from the sea and carried round all the world unscathed? Why should he live to remember, to suffer, to agonize? Was not Ramirez wiser?
How long the contest within him lasted, he never knew; but ere it was done, he had become, in more ways than one, a changed man. For the first,—though not indeed for the last time,—something of the deeper and nobler comprehension of human weakness and of human suffering had been revealed to him,—something of that larger knowledge without which the sense of duty can never be fully acquired, nor the understanding of unselfish goodness, nor the spirit of tenderness. The suicide is not a coward; he is an egotist.
A ray of sunlight touched his wet pillow,—awoke him. He rushed to the window, flung the latticed shutters apart, and looked out.
Something beautiful and ghostly filled all the vistas,—frost-haze; and in some queer way the mist had momentarily caught and held the very color of the sky. An azure fog! Through it the quaint and checkered street—as yet but half illumined by the sun,—took tones of impossible color; the view paled away through faint bluish tints into transparent purples;—all the shadows were indigo. How sweet the morning!—how well life seemed worth living! Because the sun had shown his face through a fairy veil of frost! ...
Who was the ancient thinker?—was it Hermes?—who said:—
"The Sun is Laughter; for 'tis He who maketh joyous the thoughts of men, and gladdeneth the infinite world." ...
The Shadow of the Tide.
Carmen found that her little pet had been taught how to pray; for each night and morning when the devout woman began to make her orisons, the child would kneel beside her, with little hands joined, and in a voice sweet and clear murmur something she had learned by heart. Much as this pleased Carmen, it seemed to her that the child's prayers could not be wholly valid unless uttered in Spanish;—for Spanish was heaven's own tongue,—la lengua de Dios, el idioma de Dios; and she resolved to teach her to say the Salve Maria and the Padre Nuestro in Castilian—also, her own favorite prayer to the Virgin, beginning with the words, "Madre santisima, toda dulce y hermosa." . . .
So Conchita—for a new name had been given to her with that terrible sea christening—received her first lessons in Spanish; and she proved a most intelligent pupil. Before long she could prattle to Feliu;—she would watch for his return of evenings, and announce his coming with "Aqui viene mi papacito?"—she learned, too, from Carmen, many little caresses of speech to greet him with. Feliu's was not a joyous nature; he had his dark hours, his sombre days; yet it was rarely that he felt too sullen to yield to the little one's petting, when she would leap up to reach his neck and to coax his kiss, with—"Dame un beso, papa!—asi;—y otro! otro! otro!" He grew to love her like his own;—was she not indeed his own, since he had won her from death? And none had yet come to dispute his claim. More and more, with the passing of weeks, months, seasons, she became a portion of his life—a part of all that he wrought for. At the first, he had had a half-formed hope that the little one might be reclaimed by relatives generous and rich enough to insist upon his acceptance of a handsome compensation; and that Carmen could find some solace in a pleasant visit to Barceloneta. But now he felt that no possible generosity could requite him for her loss; and with the unconscious selfishness of affection, he commenced to dread her identification as a great calamity.
It was evident that she had been brought up nicely. She had pretty prim ways of drinking and eating, queer little fashions of sitting in company, and of addressing people. She had peculiar notions about colors in dress, about wearing her hair; and she seemed to have already imbibed a small stock of social prejudices not altogether in harmony with the republicanism of Viosca's Point. Occasional swarthy visitors,—men of the Manilla settlements,—she spoke of contemptuously as negues-marrons; and once she shocked Carmen inexpressibly by stopping in the middle of her evening prayer, declaring that she wanted to say her prayers to a white Virgin; Carmen's Senora de Guadalupe was only a negra! Then, for the first time, Carmen spoke so crossly to the child as to frighten her. But the pious woman's heart smote her the next moment for that first harsh word;—and she caressed the motherless one, consoled her, cheered her, and at last explained to her—I know not how—something very wonderful about the little figurine, something that made Chita's eyes big with awe. Thereafter she always regarded the Virgin of Wax as an object mysterious and holy.
And, one by one, most of Chita's little eccentricities were gradually eliminated from her developing life and thought. More rapidly than ordinary children, because singularly intelligent, she learned to adapt herself to all the changes of her new environment,—retaining only that indescribable something which to an experienced eye tells of hereditary refinement of habit and of mind:—a natural grace, a thorough-bred ease and elegance of movement, a quickness and delicacy of perception.
She became strong again and active—active enough to play a great deal on the beach, when the sun was not too fierce; and Carmen made a canvas bonnet to shield her head and face. Never had she been allowed to play so much in the sun before; and it seemed to do her good, though her little bare feet and hands became brown as copper. At first, it must be confessed, she worried her foster-mother a great deal by various queer misfortunes and extraordinary freaks;—getting bitten by crabs, falling into the bayou while in pursuit of "fiddlers," or losing herself at the conclusion of desperate efforts to run races at night with the moon, or to walk to the "end of the world." If she could only once get to the edge of the sky, she said, she "could climb up." She wanted to see the stars, which were the souls of good little children; and she knew that God would let her climb up. "Just what I am afraid of!"—thought Carmen to herself;—"He might let her climb up,—a little ghost!" But one day naughty Chita received a terrible lesson,—a lasting lesson,—which taught her the value of obedience.
She had been particularly cautioned not to venture into a certain part of the swamp in the rear of the grove, where the weeds were very tall; for Carmen was afraid some snake might bite the child.
But Chita's bird-bright eye had discerned a gleam of white in that direction; and she wanted to know what it was. The white could only be seen from one point, behind the furthest house, where the ground was high. "Never go there," said Carmen; "there is a Dead Man there,—will bite you!" And yet, one day, while Carmen was unusually busy, Chita went there.
In the early days of the settlement, a Spanish fisherman had died; and his comrades had built him a little tomb with the surplus of the same bricks and other material brought down the bayou for the construction of Viosca's cottages. But no one, except perhaps some wandering duck hunter, had approached the sepulchre for years. High weeds and grasses wrestled together all about it, and rendered it totally invisible from the surrounding level of the marsh.
Fiddlers swarmed away as Chita advanced over the moist soil, each uplifting its single huge claw as it sidled off;—then frogs began to leap before her as she reached the thicker grass;—and long-legged brown insects sprang showering to right and left as she parted the tufts of the thickening verdure. As she went on, the bitter-weeds disappeared;—jointed grasses and sinewy dark plants of a taller growth rose above her head: she was almost deafened by the storm of insect shrilling, and the mosquitoes became very wicked. All at once something long and black and heavy wriggled almost from under her naked feet,—squirming so horribly that for a minute or two she could not move for fright. But it slunk away somewhere, and hid itself; the weeds it had shaken ceased to tremble in its wake; and her courage returned. She felt such an exquisite and fearful pleasure in the gratification of that naughty curiosity! Then, quite unexpectedly—oh! what a start it gave her!—the solitary white object burst upon her view, leprous and ghastly as the yawn of a cotton-mouth. Tombs ruin soon in Louisiana;—the one Chita looked upon seemed ready to topple down. There was a great ragged hole at one end, where wind and rain, and perhaps also the burrowing of crawfish and of worms, had loosened the bricks, and caused them to slide out of place. It seemed very black inside; but Chita wanted to know what was there. She pushed her way through a gap in the thin and rotten line of pickets, and through some tall weeds with big coarse pink flowers;—then she crouched down on hands and knees before the black hole, and peered in. It was not so black inside as she had thought; for a sunbeam slanted down through a chink in the roof; and she could see!
A brown head—without hair, without eyes, but with teeth, ever so many teeth!—seemed to laugh at her; and close to it sat a Toad, the hugest she had ever seen; and the white skin of his throat kept puffing out and going in. And Chita screamed and screamed, and fled in wild terror,—screaming all the way, till Carmen ran out to meet her and carry her home. Even when safe in her adopted mother's arms, she sobbed with fright. To the vivid fancy of the child there seemed to be some hideous relation between the staring reptile and the brown death's-head, with its empty eyes, and its nightmare-smile.
The shock brought on a fever,—a fever that lasted several days, and left her very weak. But the experience taught her to obey, taught her that Carmen knew best what was for her good. It also caused her to think a great deal. Carmen had told her that the dead people never frightened good little girls who stayed at home.
—"Madrecita Carmen," she asked, "is my mamma dead?"
—"Pobrecita! .... Yes, my angel. God called her to Him,—your darling mother."
—"Madrecita," she asked again,—her young eyes growing vast with horror,—"is my own mamma now like That?" ... She pointed toward the place of the white gleam, behind the great trees.
—"No, no, no! my darling!" cried Carmen, appalled herself by the ghastly question,—"your mamma is with the dear, good, loving God, who lives in the beautiful sky, above the clouds, my darling, beyond the sun!"
But Carmen's kind eyes were full of tears; and the child read their meaning. He who teareth off the Mask of the Flesh had looked into her face one unutterable moment:—she had seen the brutal Truth, naked to the bone!
Yet there came to her a little thrill of consolation, caused by the words of the tender falsehood; for that which she had discerned by day could not explain to her that which she saw almost nightly in her slumber. The face, the voice, the form of her loving mother still lived somewhere,—could not have utterly passed away; since the sweet presence came to her in dreams, bending and smiling over her, caressing her, speaking to her,—sometimes gently chiding, but always chiding with a kiss. And then the child would laugh in her sleep, and prattle in Creole,—talking to the luminous shadow, telling the dead mother all the little deeds and thoughts of the day.... Why would God only let her come at night?
... Her idea of God had been first defined by the sight of a quaint French picture of the Creation,—an engraving which represented a shoreless sea under a black sky, and out of the blackness a solemn and bearded gray head emerging, and a cloudy hand through which stars glimmered. God was like old Doctor de Coulanges, who used to visit the house, and talk in a voice like a low roll of thunder.... At a later day, when Chita had been told that God was "everywhere at the same time "—without and within, beneath and above all things,—this idea became somewhat changed. The awful bearded face, the huge shadowy hand, did not fade from her thought; but they became fantastically blended with the larger and vaguer notion of something that filled the world and reached to the stars,—something diaphanous and incomprehensible like the invisible air, omnipresent and everlasting like the high blue of heaven ....
... She began to learn the life of the coast.
With her acquisition of another tongue, there came to her also the understanding of many things relating to the world of the sea She memorized with novel delight much that was told her day by day concerning the nature surrounding her,—many secrets of the air, many of those signs of heaven which the dwellers in cities cannot comprehend because the atmosphere is thickened and made stagnant above them—cannot even watch because the horizon is hidden from their eyes by walls, and by weary avenues of trees with whitewashed trunks. She learned, by listening, by asking, by observing also, how to know the signs that foretell wild weather:—tremendous sunsets, scuddings and bridgings of cloud,—sharpening and darkening of the sea-line,—and the shriek of gulls flashing to land in level flight, out of a still transparent sky,—and halos about the moon.
She learned where the sea-birds, with white bosoms and brown wings, made their hidden nests of sand,—and where the cranes waded for their prey,—and where the beautiful wild-ducks, plumaged in satiny lilac and silken green, found their food,—and where the best reeds grew to furnish stems for Feliu's red-clay pipe,—and where the ruddy sea-beans were most often tossed upon the shore,—and how the gray pelicans fished all together, like men—moving in far-extending semicircles, beating the flood with their wings to drive the fish before them.
And from Carmen she learned the fables and the sayings of the sea,—the proverbs about its deafness, its avarice, its treachery, its terrific power,—especially one that haunted her for all time thereafter: Si quieres aprender a orar, entra en el mar (If thou wouldst learn to pray, go to the sea). She learned why the sea is salt,—how "the tears of women made the waves of the sea,"—and how the sea has ii no friends,—and how the cat's eyes change with the tides.
What had she lost of life by her swift translation from the dusty existence of cities to the open immensity of nature's freedom? What did she gain?
Doubtless she was saved from many of those little bitternesses and restraints and disappointments which all well-bred city children must suffer in the course of their training for the more or less factitious life of society:—obligations to remain very still with every nimble nerve quivering in dumb revolt;—the injustice of being found troublesome and being sent to bed early for the comfort of her elders;—the cruel necessity of straining her pretty eyes, for many long hours at a time, over grimy desks in gloomy school-rooms, though birds might twitter and bright winds flutter in the trees without;—the austere constrains and heavy drowsiness of warm churches, filled with the droning echoes of a voice preaching incomprehensible things;—the progressively augmenting weariness of lessons in deportment, in dancing, in music, in the impossible art of keeping her dresses unruffled and unsoiled. Perhaps she never had any reason to regret all these.
She went to sleep and awakened with the wild birds;—her life remained as unfettered by formalities as her fine feet by shoes. Excepting Carmen's old prayer-book,—in which she learned to read a little,—her childhood passed without books,—also without pictures, without dainties, without music, without theatrical amusements. But she saw and heard and felt much of that which, though old as the heavens and the earth, is yet eternally new and eternally young with the holiness of beauty,—eternally mystical and divine,—eternally weird: the unveiled magnificence of Nature's moods,—the perpetual poem hymned by wind and surge,—the everlasting splendor of the sky.
She saw the quivering pinkness of waters curled by the breath of the morning—under the deepening of the dawn—like a far fluttering and scattering of rose-leaves of fire;—
Saw the shoreless, cloudless, marvellous double-circling azure of perfect summer days—twin glories of infinite deeps inter-reflected, while the Soul of the World lay still, suffused with a jewel-light, as of vaporized sapphire;—
Saw the Sea shift color,—"change sheets,"—when the viewless Wizard of the Wind breathed upon its face, and made it green;—
Saw the immeasurable panics,—noiseless, scintillant,—which silver, summer after summer, curved leagues of beach with bodies of little fish—the yearly massacre of migrating populations, nations of sea-trout, driven from their element by terror;—and the winnowing of shark-fins,—and the rushing of porpoises,—and the rising of the grande-ecaille, like a pillar of flame,—and the diving and pitching and fighting of the frigates and the gulls,—and the armored hordes of crabs swarming out to clear the slope after the carnage and the gorging had been done;—
Saw the Dreams of the Sky,—scudding mockeries of ridged foam,—and shadowy stratification of capes and coasts and promontories long-drawn out,—and imageries, multicolored, of mountain frondage, and sierras whitening above sierras,—and phantom islands ringed around with lagoons of glory;—
Saw the toppling and smouldering of cloud-worlds after the enormous conflagration of sunsets,—incandescence ruining into darkness; and after it a moving and climbing of stars among the blacknesses,—like searching lamps;—
Saw the deep kindle countless ghostly candles as for mysterious night-festival,—and a luminous billowing under a black sky, and effervescences of fire, and the twirling and crawling of phosphoric foam;—
Saw the mesmerism of the Moon;—saw the enchanted tides self-heaped in muttering obeisance before her.
Often she heard the Music of the Marsh through the night: an infinity of flutings and tinklings made by tiny amphibia,—like the low blowing of numberless little tin horns, the clanking of billions of little bells;—and, at intervals, profound tones, vibrant and heavy, as of a bass viol—the orchestra of the great frogs! And interweaving with it all, one continuous shrilling,—keen as the steel speech of a saw,—the stridulous telegraphy of crickets.
But always,—always, dreaming or awake, she heard the huge blind Sea chanting that mystic and eternal hymn, which none may hear without awe, which no musician can learn,—
Heard the hoary Preacher,—El Pregonador,—preaching the ancient Word, the word "as a fire, and as a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces,"—the Elohim—Word of the Sea! ...
Unknowingly she came to know the immemorial sympathy of the mind with the Soul of the World,—the melancholy wrought by its moods of gray, the reverie responsive to its vagaries of mist, the exhilaration of its vast exultings—days of windy joy, hours of transfigured light.
She felt,—even without knowing it,—the weight of the Silences, the solemnities of sky and sea in these low regions where all things seem to dream—waters and grasses with their momentary wavings,—woods gray-webbed with mosses that drip and drool,—horizons with their delusions of vapor,—cranes meditating in their marshes,—kites floating in the high blue.... Even the children were singularly quiet; and their play less noisy—though she could not have learned the difference—than the play of city children. Hour after hour, the women sewed or wove in silence. And the brown men,—always barefooted, always wearing rough blue shirts,—seemed, when they lounged about the wharf on idle days, as if they had told each other long ago all they knew or could ever know, and had nothing more to say. They would stare at the flickering of the current, at the drifting of clouds and buzzard:—seldom looking at each other, and always turning their black eyes again, in a weary way, to sky or sea. Even thus one sees the horses and the cattle of the coast, seeking the beach to escape the whizzing flies;—all watch the long waves rolling in, and sometimes turn their heads a moment to look at one another, but always look back to the waves again, as if wondering at a mystery....
How often she herself had wondered—wondered at the multiform changes of each swell as it came in—transformations of tint, of shape, of motion, that seemed to betoken a life infinitely more subtle than the strange cold life of lizards and of fishes,—and sinister, and spectral. Then they all appeared to move in order,—according to one law or impulse;—each had its own voice, yet all sang one and the same everlasting song. Vaguely, as she watched them and listened to them, there came to her the idea of a unity of will in their motion, a unity of menace in their utterance—the idea of one monstrous and complex life! The sea lived: it could crawl backward and forward; it could speak!—it only feigned deafness and sightlessness for some malevolent end. Thenceforward she feared to find herself alone with it. Was it not at her that it strove to rush, muttering, and showing its white teeth, ... just because it knew that she was all by herself? ... Si quieres aprender a orar, entra en el mar! And Concha had well learned to pray. But the sea seemed to her the one Power which God could not make to obey Him as He pleased. Saying the creed one day, she repeated very slowly the opening words,—"Creo en un Dios, padre todopoderoso, Criador de cielo y de la tierra,"—and paused and thought. Creator of Heaven and Earth? "Madrecita Carmen," she asked,—"quien entonces hizo el mar?" (who then made the sea?).
—"Dios, mi querida," answered Carmen.—"God, my darling.... All things were made by Him" (todas las cosas fueron hechas por El).
Even the wicked Sea! And He had said unto it: "Thus far, and no farther." ... Was that why it had not overtaken and devoured her when she ran back in fear from the sudden reaching out of its waves? Thus far....? But there were times when it disobeyed—when it rushed further, shaking the world! Was it because God was then asleep—could not hear, did not see, until too late?
And the tumultuous ocean terrified her more and more: it filled her sleep with enormous nightmare;—it came upon her in dreams, mountain-shadowing,—holding her with its spell, smothering her power of outcry, heaping itself to the stars.
Carmen became alarmed;—she feared that the nervous and delicate child might die in one of those moaning dreams out of which she had to arouse her, night after night. But Feliu, answering her anxiety with one of his favorite proverbs, suggested a heroic remedy:—
—"The world is like the sea: those who do not know how to swim in it are drowned;—and the sea is like the world," he added.... "Chita must learn to swim!"
And he found the time to teach her. Each morning, at sunrise, he took her into the water. She was less terrified the first time than Carmen thought she would be;—she seemed to feel confidence in Feliu; although she screamed piteously before her first ducking at his hands. His teaching was not gentle. He would carry her out, perched upon his shoulder, until the water rose to his own neck; and there he would throw her from him, and let her struggle to reach him again as best she could. The first few mornings she had to be pulled out almost at once; but after that Feliu showed her less mercy, and helped her only when he saw she was really in danger. He attempted no other instruction until she had learned that in order to save herself from being half choked by the salt water, she must not scream; and by the time she became habituated to these austere experiences, she had already learned by instinct alone how to keep herself afloat for a while, how to paddle a little with her hands. Then he commenced to train her to use them,—to lift them well out and throw them forward as if reaching, to dip them as the blade of an oar is dipped at an angle, without loud splashing;—and he showed her also how to use her feet. She learned rapidly and astonishingly well. In less than two months Feliu felt really proud at the progress made by his tiny pupil: it was a delight to watch her lifting her slender arms above the water in swift, easy curves, with the same fine grace that marked all her other natural motions. Later on he taught her not to fear the sea even when it growled a little,—how to ride a swell, how to face a breaker, how to dive. She only needed practice thereafter; and Carmen, who could also swim, finding the child's health improving marvellously under this new discipline, took good care that Chita should practice whenever the mornings were not too cold, or the water too rough.
With the first thrill of delight at finding herself able to glide over the water unassisted, the child's superstitious terror of the sea passed away. Even for the adult there are few physical joys keener than the exultation of the swimmer;—how much greater the same glee as newly felt by an imaginative child,—a child, whose vivid fancy can lend unutterable value to the most insignificant trifles, can transform a weed-patch to an Eden! ... Of her own accord she would ask for her morning bath, as soon as she opened her eyes;—it even required some severity to prevent her from remaining in the water too long. The sea appeared to her as something that had become tame for her sake, something that loved her in a huge rough way; a tremendous playmate, whom she no longer feared to see come bounding and barking to lick her feet. And, little by little, she also learned the wonderful healing and caressing power of the monster, whose cool embrace at once dispelled all drowsiness, feverishness, weariness,—even after the sultriest nights when the air had seemed to burn, and the mosquitoes had filled the chamber with a sound as of water boiling in many kettles. And on mornings when the sea was in too wicked a humor to be played with, how she felt the loss of her loved sport, and prayed for calm! Her delicate constitution changed;—the soft, pale flesh became firm and brown, the meagre limbs rounded into robust symmetry, the thin cheeks grew peachy with richer life; for the strength of the sea had entered into her; the sharp breath of the sea had renewed and brightened her young blood....
... Thou primordial Sea, the awfulness of whose antiquity hath stricken all mythology dumb;—thou most wrinkled diving Sea, the millions of whose years outnumber even the multitude of thy hoary motions;—thou omniform and most mysterious Sea, mother of the monsters and the gods,—whence shine eternal youth? Still do thy waters hold the infinite thrill of that Spirit which brooded above their face in the Beginning!—still is thy quickening breath an elixir unto them that flee to thee for life,—like the breath of young girls, like the breath of children, prescribed for the senescent by magicians of old,—prescribed unto weazened elders in the books of the Wizards.
... Eighteen hundred and sixty-seven;—midsummer in the pest-smitten city of New Orleans.
Heat motionless and ponderous. The steel-blue of the sky bleached from the furnace-circle of the horizon;—the lukewarm river ran yellow and noiseless as a torrent of fluid wax. Even sounds seemed blunted by the heaviness of the air;—the rumbling of wheels, the reverberation of footsteps, fell half-toned upon the ear, like sounds that visit a dozing brain.
Daily, almost at the same hour, the continuous sense of atmospheric oppression became thickened;—a packed herd of low-bellying clouds lumbered up from the Gulf; crowded blackly against the sun; flickered, thundered, and burst in torrential rain—tepid, perpendicular—and vanished utterly away. Then, more furiously than before, the sun flamed down;—roofs and pavements steamed; the streets seemed to smoke; the air grew suffocating with vapor; and the luminous city filled with a faint, sickly odor,—a stale smell, as of dead leaves suddenly disinterred from wet mould,—as of grasses decomposing after a flood. Something saffron speckled the slimy water of the gutters; sulphur some called it; others feared even to give it a name! Was it only the wind-blown pollen of some innocuous plant?
I do not know; but to many it seemed as if the Invisible Destruction were scattering visible seed! ... Such were the days; and each day the terror-stricken city offered up its hecatomb to death; and the faces of all the dead were yellow as flame!
"DECEDE—"; "DECEDEE—"; "FALLECIO;"—"DIED." ... On the door-posts, the telegraph-poles, the pillars of verandas, the lamps,—over the government letter-boxes,—everywhere glimmered the white annunciations of death. All the city was spotted with them. And lime was poured into the gutters; and huge purifying fires were kindled after sunset.
The nights began with a black heat;—there were hours when the acrid air seemed to ferment for stagnation, and to burn the bronchial tubing;—then, toward morning, it would grow chill with venomous vapors, with morbific dews,—till the sun came up to lift the torpid moisture, and to fill the buildings with oven-glow. And the interminable procession of mourners and hearses and carriages again began to circulate between the centres of life and of death;—and long trains and steamships rushed from the port, with heavy burden of fugitives.
Wealth might flee; yet even in flight there was peril. Men, who might have been saved by the craft of experienced nurses at home, hurriedly departed in apparent health, unconsciously carrying in their blood the toxic principle of a malady unfamiliar to physicians of the West and North;—and they died upon their way, by the road-side, by the river-banks, in woods, in deserted stations, on the cots of quarantine hospitals. Wiser those who sought refuge in the purity of the pine forests, or in those near Gulf Islands, whence the bright sea-breath kept ever sweeping back the expanding poison into the funereal swamps, into the misty lowlands. The watering-resorts became overcrowded;—then the fishing villages were thronged,—at least all which were easy to reach by steamboat or by lugger. And at last, even Viosca's Point,—remote and unfamiliar as it was,—had a stranger to shelter: a good old gentleman named Edwards, rather broken down in health—who came as much for quiet as for sea-air, and who had been warmly recommended to Feliu by Captain Harris. For some years he had been troubled by a disease of the heart.
Certainly the old invalid could not have found a more suitable place so far as rest and quiet were concerned. The season had early given such little promise that several men of the Point betook themselves elsewhere; and the aged visitor had two or three vacant cabins from among which to select a dwelling-place. He chose to occupy the most remote of all, which Carmen furnished for him with a cool moss bed and some necessary furniture,—including a big wooden rocking-chair. It seemed to him very comfortable thus. He took his meals with the family, spent most of the day in his own quarters, spoke very little, and lived so unobtrusively and inconspicuously that his presence in the settlement was felt scarcely more than that of some dumb creature,—some domestic animal,—some humble pet whose relation to the family is only fully comprehended after it has failed to appear for several days in its accustomed place of patient waiting,—and we know that it is dead.
Persistently and furiously, at half-past two o'clock of an August morning, Sparicio rang Dr. La Brierre's night-bell. He had fifty dollars in his pocket, and a letter to deliver. He was to earn another fifty dollars—deposited in Feliu's hands,—by bringing the Doctor to Viosca's Point. He had risked his life for that money,—and was terribly in earnest.
Julien descended in his under-clothing, and opened the letter by the light of the hall lamp. It enclosed a check for a larger fee than he had ever before received, and contained an urgent request that he would at once accompany Sparicio to Viosca's Point,—as the sender was in hourly danger of death. The letter, penned in a long, quavering hand, was signed,—"Henry Edwards."
His father's dear old friend! Julien could not refuse to go,—though he feared it was a hopeless case. Angina pectoris,—and a third attack at seventy years of age! Would it even be possible to reach the sufferer's bedside in time? "Due giorno,—con vento,"—said Sparicio. Still, he must go; and at once. It was Friday morning;—might reach the Point Saturday night, with a good wind ... He roused his housekeeper, gave all needful instructions, prepared his little medicine-chest;—and long before the first rose-gold fire of day had flashed to the city spires, he was sleeping the sleep of exhaustion in the tiny cabin of a fishing-sloop.
... For eleven years Julien had devoted himself, heart and soul, to the exercise of that profession he had first studied rather as a polite accomplishment than as a future calling. In the unselfish pursuit of duty he had found the only possible consolation for his irreparable loss; and when the war came to sweep away his wealth, he entered the struggle valorously, not to strive against men, but to use his science against death. After the passing of that huge shock, which left all the imposing and splendid fabric of Southern feudalism wrecked forever, his profession stood him in good stead;—he found himself not only able to supply those personal wants he cared to satisfy, but also to alleviate the misery of many whom he had known in days of opulence;—the princely misery that never doffed its smiling mask, though living in secret, from week to week, on bread and orange-leaf tea;—the misery that affected condescension in accepting an invitation to dine,—staring at the face of a watch (refused by the Mont-de-Piete) with eyes half blinded by starvation;—the misery which could afford but one robe for three marriageable daughters,—one plain dress to be worn in turn by each of them, on visiting days;—the pretty misery—young, brave, sweet,—asking for a "treat" of cakes too jocosely to have its asking answered,—laughing and coquetting with its well-fed wooers, and crying for hunger after they were gone. Often and often, his heart had pleaded against his purse for such as these, and won its case in the silent courts of Self. But ever mysteriously the gift came,—sometimes as if from the hand of a former slave; sometimes as from a remorseful creditor, ashamed to write his name. Only yellow Victorine knew; but the Doctor's housekeeper never opened those sphinx-lips of hers, until years after the Doctor's name had disappeared from the City Directory...
He had grown quite thin,—a little gray. The epidemic had burthened him with responsibilities too multifarious and ponderous for his slender strength to bear. The continual nervous strain of abnormally protracted duty, the perpetual interruption of sleep, had almost prostrated even his will. Now he only hoped that, during this brief absence from the city, he might find renewed strength to do his terrible task.
Mosquitoes bit savagely; and the heat became thicker;—and there was yet no wind. Sparicio and his hired boy Carmelo had been walking backward and forward for hours overhead,—urging the vessel yard by yard, with long poles, through the slime of canals and bayous. With every heavy push, the weary boy would sigh out,—"Santo Antonio!—Santo Antonio!" Sullen Sparicio himself at last burst into vociferations of ill-humor:—"Santo Antonio?—Ah! santissimu e santu diavulu! ... Sacramentu paescite vegnu un asidente!—malidittu lu Signuri!" All through the morning they walked and pushed, trudged and sighed and swore; and the minutes dragged by more wearily than the shuffling of their feet. "Managgia Cristo co tutta a croce!" ... "Santissimu e santu diavulu!" ...
But as they reached at last the first of the broad bright lakes, the heat lifted, the breeze leaped up, the loose sail flapped and filled; and, bending graciously as a skater, the old San Marco began to shoot in a straight line over the blue flood. Then, while the boy sat at the tiller, Sparicio lighted his tiny charcoal furnace below, and prepared a simple meal,—delicious yellow macaroni, flavored with goats' cheese; some fried fish, that smelled appetizingly; and rich black coffee, of Oriental fragrance and thickness. Julien ate a little, and lay down to sleep again. This time his rest was undisturbed by the mosquitoes; and when he woke, in the cooling evening, he felt almost refreshed. The San Marco was flying into Barataria Bay. Already the lantern in the lighthouse tower had begun to glow like a little moon; and right on the rim of the sea, a vast and vermilion sun seemed to rest his chin. Gray pelicans came flapping around the mast;—sea-birds sped hurtling by, their white bosoms rose-flushed by the western glow ... Again Sparicio's little furnace was at work,—more fish, more macaroni, more black coffee; also a square-shouldered bottle of gin made its appearance. Julien ate less sparingly at this second meal; and smoked a long time on deck with Sparicio, who suddenly became very good-humored, and chatted volubly in bad Spanish, and in much worse English. Then while the boy took a few hours' sleep, the Doctor helped delightedly in maneuvering the little vessel. He had been a good yachtsman in other years; and Sparicio declared he would make a good fisherman. By midnight the San Marco began to run with a long, swinging gait;—she had reached deep water. Julien slept soundly; the steady rocking of the sloop seemed to soothe his nerves.
—"After all," he thought to himself, as he rose from his little bunk next morning,—"something like this is just what I needed." ... The pleasant scent of hot coffee greeted him;—Carmelo was handing him the tin cup containing it, down through the hatchway. After drinking it he felt really hungry;—he ate more macaroni than he had ever eaten before. Then, while Sparicio slept, he aided Carmelo; and during the middle of the day he rested again. He had not had so much uninterrupted repose for many a week. He fancied he could feel himself getting strong. At supper-time it seemed to him he could not get enough to eat,—although there was plenty for everybody.
All day long there had been exactly the same wave-crease distorting the white shadow of the San Marco's sail upon the blue water;—all day long they had been skimming over the liquid level of a world so jewel-blue that the low green ribbon-strips of marsh land, the far-off fleeing lines of pine-yellow sand beach, seemed flaws or breaks in the perfected color of the universe;—all day long had the cloudless sky revealed through all its exquisite transparency that inexpressible tenderness which no painter and no poet can ever reimage,—that unutterable sweetness which no art of man may ever shadow forth, and which none may ever comprehend,—though we feel it to be in some strange way akin to the luminous and unspeakable charm that makes us wonder at the eyes of a woman when she loves.
Evening came; and the great dominant celestial tone deepened;—the circling horizon filled with ghostly tints,—spectral greens and grays, and pearl-lights and fish-colors ... Carmelo, as he crouched at the tiller, was singing, in a low, clear alto, some tristful little melody. Over the sea, behind them, lay, black-stretching, a long low arm of island-shore;—before them flamed the splendor of sun-death; they were sailing into a mighty glory,—into a vast and awful light of gold.
Shading his vision with his fingers, Sparicio pointed to the long lean limb of land from which they were fleeing, and said to La Brierre:—
—"Look-a, Doct-a! Last-a Islan'!"
Julien knew it;—he only nodded his head in reply, and looked the other way,—into the glory of God. Then, wishing to divert the fisherman's attention to another theme, he asked what was Carmelo singing. Sparicio at once shouted to the lad:—
—"Ha! ... ho! Carmelo!—Santu diavulu! ... Sing-a loud-a! Doct-a lik-a! Sing-a! sing!" .... "He sing-a nicee,"—added the boatman, with his peculiar dark smile. And then Carmelo sang, loud and clearly, the song he had been singing before,—one of those artless Mediterranean ballads, full of caressing vowel-sounds, and young passion, and melancholy beauty:—
"M'ama ancor, belta fulgente, Come tu m'amasti allor;— Ascoltar non dei gente, Solo interroga il tuo cor." ...
—"He sing-a nicee,—mucha bueno!" murmured the fisherman. And then, suddenly,—with a rich and splendid basso that seemed to thrill every fibre of the planking,—Sparicio joined in the song:—
"M'ama pur d'amore eterno, Ne deilitto sembri a te; T'assicuro che l'inferno Una favola sol e." ...
All the roughness of the man was gone! To Julien's startled fancy, the fishers had ceased to be;—lo! Carmelo was a princely page; Sparicio, a king! How perfectly their voices married together!—they sang with passion, with power, with truth, with that wondrous natural art which is the birthright of the rudest Italian soul. And the stars throbbed out in the heaven; and the glory died in the west; and the night opened its heart; and the splendor of the eternities fell all about them. Still they sang; and the San Marco sped on through the soft gloom, ever slightly swerved by the steady blowing of the southeast wind in her sail;—always wearing the same crimpling-frill of wave-spray about her prow,—always accompanied by the same smooth-backed swells,—always spinning out behind her the same long trail of interwoven foam. And Julien looked up. Ever the night thrilled more and more with silent twinklings;—more and more multitudinously lights pointed in the eternities;—the Evening Star quivered like a great drop of liquid white fire ready to fall;—Vega flamed as a pharos lighting the courses ethereal,—to guide the sailing of the suns, and the swarming of fleets of worlds. Then the vast sweetness of that violet night entered into his blood,—filled him with that awful joy, so near akin to sadness, which the sense of the Infinite brings,—when one feels the poetry of the Most Ancient and Most Excellent of Poets, and then is smitten at once with the contrast-thought of the sickliness and selfishness of Man,—of the blindness and brutality of cities, whereinto the divine blue light never purely comes, and the sanctification of the Silences never descends ... furious cities, walled away from heaven ... Oh! if one could only sail on thus always, always through such a night—through such a star-sprinkled violet light, and hear Sparicio and Carmelo sing, even though it were the same melody always, always the same song!
... "Scuza, Doct-a!—look-a out!" Julien bent down, as the big boom, loosened, swung over his head. The San Marco was rounding into shore,—heading for her home. Sparicio lifted a huge conch-shell from the deck, put it to his lips, filled his deep lungs, and flung out into the night—thrice—a profound, mellifluent, booming horn-tone. A minute passed. Then, ghostly faint, as an echo from very far away, a triple blowing responded...
And a long purple mass loomed and swelled into sight, heightened, approached—land and trees black-shadowing, and lights that swung ... The San Marco glided into a bayou,—under a high wharfing of timbers, where a bearded fisherman waited, and a woman. Sparicio flung up a rope.
The bearded man caught it by the lantern-light, and tethered the San Marco to her place. Then he asked, in a deep voice:
—"Has traido al Doctor?"
—"Si, si!" answered Sparicio... "Y el viejo?"
—"Aye! pobre!" responded Feliu,—"hace tres dias que esta muerto."
Henry Edwards was dead!
He had died very suddenly, without a cry or a word, while resting in his rocking-chair,—the very day after Sparicio had sailed. They had made him a grave in the marsh,—among the high weeds, not far from the ruined tomb of the Spanish fisherman. But Sparicio had fairly earned his hundred dollars.
So there was nothing to do at Viosca's Point except to rest. Feliu and all his men were going to Barataria in the morning on business;—the Doctor could accompany them there, and take the Grand Island steamer Monday for New Orleans. With this intention Julien retired,—not sorry for being able to stretch himself at full length on the good bed prepared for him, in one of the unoccupied cabins. But he woke before day with a feeling of intense prostration, a violent headache, and such an aversion for the mere idea of food that Feliu's invitation to breakfast at five o'clock gave him an internal qualm. Perhaps a touch of malaria. In any case he felt it would be both dangerous and useless to return to town unwell; and Feliu, observing his condition, himself advised against the journey. Wednesday he would have another opportunity to leave; and in the meanwhile Carmen would take good care of him ... The boats departed, and Julien slept again.
The sun was high when he rose up and dressed himself, feeling no better. He would have liked to walk about the place, but felt nervously afraid of the sun. He did not remember having ever felt so broken down before. He pulled a rocking-chair to the window, tried to smoke a cigar. It commenced to make him feel still sicker, and he flung it away. It seemed to him the cabin was swaying, as the San Marco swayed when she first reached the deep water.
A light rustling sound approached,—a sound of quick feet treading the grass: then a shadow slanted over the threshold. In the glow of the open doorway stood a young girl,—gracile, tall,—with singularly splendid eyes,—brown eyes peeping at him from beneath a golden riot of loose hair.
—"M'sieu-le-Docteur, maman d'mande si vous n'avez besoin d'que'que chose?" ... She spoke the rude French of the fishing villages, where the language lives chiefly as a baragouin, mingled often with words and forms belonging to many other tongues. She wore a loose-falling dress of some light stuff, steel-gray in color;—boys' shoes were on her feet.
He did not reply;—and her large eyes grew larger for wonder at the strange fixed gaze of the physician, whose face had visibly bleached,—blanched to corpse-pallor. Silent seconds passed; and still the eyes stared—flamed as if the life of the man had centralized and focussed within them.
His voice had risen to a cry in his throat, quivered and swelled one passionate instant, and failed—as in a dream when one strives to call, and yet can only moan ... She! Her unforgotten eyes, her brows, her lips!—the oval of her face!—the dawn-light of her hair! ... Adele's own poise,—her own grace!—even the very turn of her neck, even the bird-tone of her speech! ... Had the grave sent forth a Shadow to haunt him?—could the perfidious Sea have yielded up its dead? For one terrible fraction of a minute, memories, doubts, fears, mad fancies, went pulsing through his brain with a rush like the rhythmic throbbing of an electric stream;—then the shock passed, the Reason spoke:—"Fool!—count the long years since you first saw her thus!—count the years that have gone since you looked upon her last! And Time has never halted, silly heart!—neither has Death stood still!"
... "Plait-il?"—the clear voice of the young girl asked. She thought he had made some response she could not distinctly hear.
Mastering himself an instant, as the heart faltered back to its duty, and the color remounted to his lips, he answered her in French:—
"Pardon me!—I did not hear ... you gave me such a start!" ... But even then another extraordinary fancy flashed through his thought;—and with the tutoiement of a parent to a child, with an irresistible outburst of such tenderness as almost frightened her, he cried: "Oh! merciful God!—how like her! ... Tell me, darling, your name; ... tell me who you are?" (Dis-moi qui tu es, mignonne;—dis-moi ton nom.)
... Who was it had asked her the same question, in another idiom ever so long ago? The man with the black eyes and nose like an eagle's beak,—the one who gave her the compass. Not this man—no!
She answered, with the timid gravity of surprise:—
He still watched her face, and repeated the name slowly,—reiterated it in a tone of wonderment:—"Chita Viosca?—Chita Viosca!"
—"C'est a dire ..." she said, looking down at her feet,—"Concha—Conchita." His strange solemnity made her smile,—the smile of shyness that knows not what else to do. But it was the smile of dead Adele.
—"Thanks, my child," he exclaimed of a sudden,—in a quick, hoarse, changed tone. (He felt that his emotion would break loose in some wild way, if he looked upon her longer.) "I would like to see your mother this evening; but I now feel too ill to go out. I am going to try to rest a little."
—"Nothing I can bring you?" she asked,—"some fresh milk?"
—"Nothing now, dear: if I need anything later, I will tell your mother when she comes."
—"Mamma does not understand French very well."
—"No importa, Conchita;—le hablare en Espanol."
—"Bien, entonces!" she responded, with the same exquisite smile. "Adios, senor!" ...
But as she turned in going, his piercing eye discerned a little brown speck below the pretty lobe of her right ear,—just in the peachy curve between neck and cheek.... His own little Zouzoune had a birthmark like that!—he remembered the faint pink trace left by his fingers above and below it the day he had slapped her for overturning his ink bottle ... "To laimin moin?—to batte moin!"
She did not hear ... After all, what a mistake he might have made! Were not Nature's coincidences more wonderful than fiction? Better to wait,—to question the mother first, and thus make sure.
Still—there were so many coincidences! The face, the smile, the eyes, the voice, the whole charm;—then that mark,—and the fair hair. Zouzoune had always resembled Adele so strangely! That golden hair was a Scandinavian bequest to the Florane family;—the tall daughter of a Norwegian sea captain had once become the wife of a Florane. Viosca?—who ever knew a Viosca with such hair? Yet again, these Spanish emigrants sometimes married blonde German girls ... Might be a case of atavism, too. Who was this Viosca? If that was his wife,—the little brown Carmen,—whence Chita's sunny hair? ...
And this was part of that same desolate shore whither the Last Island dead had been drifted by that tremendous surge! On a clear day, with a good glass, one might discern from here the long blue streak of that ghastly coast ... Somewhere—between here and there ... Merciful God! ...
... But again! That bivouac-night before the fight at Chancellorsville, Laroussel had begun to tell him such a singular story ... Chance had brought them,—the old enemies,—together; made them dear friends in the face of Death. How little he had comprehended the man!—what a brave, true, simple soul went up that day to the Lord of Battles! ... What was it—that story about the little Creole girl saved from Last Island,—that story which was never finished? ... Eh! what a pain!
Evidently he had worked too much, slept too little. A decided case of nervous prostration. He must lie down, and try to sleep.
These pains in the head and back were becoming unbearable. Nothing but rest could avail him now.
He stretched himself under the mosquito curtain. It was very still, breathless, hot! The venomous insects were thick;—they filled the room with a continuous ebullient sound, as if invisible kettles were boiling overhead. A sign of storm.... Still, it was strange!—he could not perspire ...
Then it seemed to him that Laroussel was bending over him—Laroussel in his cavalry uniform. "Bon jour, camarade!—nous allons avoir un bien mauvais temps, mon pauvre Julien." How! bad weather?—"Comment un mauvais temps?" ... He looked in Laroussel's face. There was something so singular in his smile. Ah! yes,—he remembered now: it was the wound! ... "Un vilain temps!" whispered Laroussel. Then he was gone ... Whither?
The whisper roused him with a fearful start ... Adele's whisper! So she was wont to rouse him sometimes in the old sweet nights,—to crave some little attention for ailing Eulalie,—to make some little confidence she had forgotten to utter during the happy evening ... No, no! It was only the trees. The sky was clouding over. The wind was rising ... How his heart beat! how his temples pulsed! Why, this was fever! Such pains in the back and head!
Still his skin was dry,—dry as parchment,—burning. He rose up; and a bursting weight of pain at the base of the skull made him reel like a drunken man. He staggered to the little mirror nailed upon the wall, and looked. How his eyes glowed;—and there was blood in his mouth! He felt his pulse spasmodic, terribly rapid. Could it possibly—? ... No: this must be some pernicious malarial fever! The Creole does not easily fall a prey to the great tropical malady,—unless after a long absence in other climates. True! he had been four years in the army! But this was 1867 ... He hesitated a moment; then,—opening his medicine chest, he measured out and swallowed thirty grains of quinine.
Then he lay down again. His head pained more and more;—it seemed as if the cervical vertebrae were filled with fluid iron. And still his skin remained dry as if tanned. Then the anguish grew so intense as to force a groan with almost every aspiration ... Nausea,—and the stinging bitterness of quinine rising in his throat;—dizziness, and a brutal wrenching within his stomach. Everything began to look pink;—the light was rose-colored. It darkened more,—kindled with deepening tint. Something kept sparkling and spinning before his sight, like a firework ... Then a burst of blood mixed with chemical bitterness filled his mouth; the light became scarlet as claret ... This—this was ... not malaria ...
... Carmen knew what it was; but the brave little woman was not afraid of it. Many a time before she had met it face to face, in Havanese summers; she knew how to wrestle with it; she had torn Feliu's life away from its yellow clutch, after one of those long struggles that strain even the strength of love. Now she feared mostly for Chita. She had ordered the girl under no circumstances to approach the cabin.
Julien felt that blankets had been heaped upon him,—that some gentle hand was bathing his scorching face with vinegar and water. Vaguely also there came to him the idea that it was night. He saw the shadow-shape of a woman moving against the red light upon the wall;—he saw there was a lamp burning.
Then the delirium seized him: he moaned, sobbed, cried like a child,—talked wildly at intervals in French, in English, in Spanish.
—"Mentira!—you could not be her mother ... Still, if you were—And she must not come in here,—jamais! ... Carmen, did you know Adele,—Adele Florane? So like her,—so like,—God only knows how like! ... Perhaps I think I know;—but I do not—do not know justly, fully—how like! ... Si! si!—es el vomito!—yo lo conozco, Carmen! ... She must not die twice ... I died twice ... I am going to die again. She only once. Till the heavens be no more she will not rise ... Moi, au contraire, il faut que je me leve toujours! They need me so much;—the slate is always full; the bell will never stop. They will ring that bell for me when I am dead ... So will I rise again!—resurgam! ... How could I save him?—could not save myself. It was a bad case,—at seventy years! ... There! Qui ca?" ...
He saw Laroussel again,—reaching out a hand to him through a whirl of red smoke. He tried to grasp it, and could not ... "N'importe, mon ami," said Laroussel,—"tu vas la voir bientot." Who was he to see soon?—"qui done, Laroussel?" But Laroussel did not answer. Through the red mist he seemed to smile;—then passed.
For some hours Carmen had trusted she could save her patient,—desperate as the case appeared to be. His was one of those rapid and violent attacks, such as often despatch their victims in a single day. In the Cuban hospitals she had seen many and many terrible examples: strong young men,—soldiers fresh from Spain,—carried panting to the fever wards at sunrise; carried to the cemeteries at sunset. Even troopers riddled with revolutionary bullets had lingered longer ... Still, she had believed she might save Julien's life: the burning forehead once began to bead, the burning hands grew moist.
But now the wind was moaning;—the air had become lighter, thinner, cooler. A stone was gathering in the east; and to the fever-stricken man the change meant death ... Impossible to bring the priest of the Caminada now; and there was no other within a day's sail. She could only pray; she had lost all hope in her own power to save.
Still the sick man raved; but he talked to himself at longer intervals, and with longer pauses between his words;—his voice was growing more feeble, his speech more incoherent. His thought vacillated and distorted, like flame in a wind.
Weirdly the past became confounded with the present; impressions of sight and of sound interlinked in fastastic affinity,—the face of Chita Viosca, the murmur of the rising storm. Then flickers of spectral lightning passed through his eyes, through his brain, with every throb of the burning arteries; then utter darkness came,—a darkness that surged and moaned, as the circumfluence of a shadowed sea. And through and over the moaning pealed one multitudinous human cry, one hideous interblending of shoutings and shriekings ... A woman's hand was locked in his own ... "Tighter," he muttered, "tighter still, darling! hold as long as you can!" It was the tenth night of August, eighteen hundred and fifty-six ...
Again the mysterious whisper startled him to consciousness,—the dim knowledge of a room filled with ruby colored light,—and the sharp odor of vinegar. The house swung round slowly;—the crimson flame of the lamp lengthened and broadened by turns;—then everything turned dizzily fast,—whirled as if spinning in a vortex ... Nausea unutterable; and a frightful anguish as of teeth devouring him within,—tearing more and more furiously at his breast. Then one atrocious wrenching, rending, burning,—and the gush of blood burst from lips and nostrils in a smothering deluge. Again the vision of lightnings, the swaying, and the darkness of long ago. "Quick!—quick!—hold fast to the table, Adele!—never let go!" ...
... Up,—up,—up!—what! higher yet? Up to the red sky! Red—black-red ... heated iron when its vermilion dies. So, too, the frightful flood! And noiseless. Noiseless because heavy, clammy,—thick, warm, sickening—blood? Well might the land quake for the weight of such a tide!—Why did Adele speak Spanish? Who prayed for him? ...
—"Alma de Cristo santisima santificame!
"Sangre de Cristo, embriagame!
"O buen Jesus, oye me!" ...
Out of the darkness into—such a light! An azure haze! Ah!—the delicious frost! ... All the streets were filled with the sweet blue mist ... Voiceless the City and white;—crooked and weed grown its narrow ways! ... Old streets of tombs, these ... Eh! How odd a custom!—a Night-bell at every door. Yes, of course!—a night-bell!—the Dead are Physicians of Souls: they may be summoned only by night,—called up from the darkness and silence ... Yet she?—might he not dare to ring for her even by day? ........ Strange he had deemed it day!—why, it was black, starless ... And it was growing queerly cold ...... How should he ever find her now? It was so black ... so cold! ...
All the dwelling quivered with the mighty whisper.
Outside, the great oaks were trembling to their roots;—all the shore shook and blanched before the calling of the sea.
And Carmen, kneeling at the feet of the dead, cried out, alone in the night:—
—"O Jesus misericordioso!—tened compasion de el!"