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"For once, Pepe, endeavour to possess a small portion of sense," she
said. "Listen to me! We must leave the camp."

"How then, marrow of my bones! Leave the camp? You and I?"

"I am speaking to a monkey, then, instead of a man? The use, I ask you,
of addressing intelligent remarks to such a corporosity? My mistress and
I, simpleton. This General of yours drives us from his quarters; he
begrudges the morsel we eat, the rude hut that shelters us. Enough! we
go; even now I make preparation. Pull this strap for me, Pepe; at least
you have strength. Ah! If I were but a great stupid man, it would be
well with me this day!"

"But well for no one else, my idol," said Pepe, tugging away at the
strap. "Desolation and despair for the rest of mankind, Rose of the
Antilles. Accidental death to this bag! why have you filled it so full?
There! it is strapped. Manuela, is it possible that I live without you?
No! I shall fall an easy victim to the first fever that comes; already I
feel it scorching my - "

"Oh, a paralysis upon you! Can I exercise my thoughts, with the chatter
of a parrot in my ears? Attend, then, Pepe, - you will miss me a little,
will you? Just a very little?"

Pepe opened his mouth for new and fiery protestations, but was bidden
peremptorily to shut it again.

"I desire now to hear myself speak," said Manuela. "I weary, Pepe, for
the sound of my own poor little voice. Listen, then! These days I have
been here, and you have never asked me what I brought with me for you;
brought all that cruel way from the city. I knew I should find you
somewhere, my good Pepe; or, if not you, some other friend, some other
good son of Cuba. I thought of you, I remembered you, even in the rush
of our departure. See! It is yours. May it bring you fortune!"

She handed him a little packet, neatly folded in white paper, and tied
with a crimson ribbon. Receiving it with dramatic eagerness, Pepe opened
it and looked with delight at its contents.

"A _detente_!" he cried. "Manuela! and the most beautiful that has been
seen upon the earth. This is not for me! No! Impossible! The General
alone is worthy to wear this object of an elegance so resplendent."

Reassured on this point, he proceeded to pin the emblem on his jacket,
and contemplated it with delighted pride. It was a simple thing enough;
a square of white flannel the size of an ordinary needlebook, neatly
scalloped around the edge with white silk. In the centre was embroidered
a crimson heart, and under it the words, "_Detente! pienso en ti!_" ("Be
of good cheer! I think of thee!")

"And did you really think of me, Manuela?" cried the delighted Pepe.
"Did you, bright and gay, in the splendid city, think of the lonely
soldier?"

"Yes, I did," said Manuela, "when I had nothing else to do. And now you
may go away, Pepe, I am busy; I cannot attend to you any longer."

"But," said Pepe, bewildered, "you called me, Manuela."

"Yes; to strap my bag. It is done; I thank you. It is finished."

"And - you have given me the _detente_, moon of my soul!"

"Then you cannot complain that I never gave you anything. And now I give
you one thing more, - leave to depart. _Adios,_ Don Pepe!" and she
actually shut the door of the hut in the face of her astonished adorer,
who departed muttering strange things concerning the changeableness of
all women, and of Manuela in particular.

Meanwhile, Rita and Carlos were wandering about the camp, and Rita was
seeing, as her brother promised, some things that were new to her, even
after a stay of nearly a week. She saw the kitchen, or what passed for a
kitchen, - a pleasant spot under a palm-tree, where the cook was even
then toasting long strips of meat over the _parilla_, a kind of
gridiron, made by simply driving four stakes, and laying bits of wood
across and across them, then lighting a fire beneath.

"But why does it not burn up, your _parilla_?" asked Rita of the long,
lean, coffee-coloured soldier, picturesque and ragged, who was turning
the strips with a forked stick.

"Pardon, gracious señorita, it does burn up; not the first time, nor
perhaps the second, but without doubt the third."

"And then?"

"And then, - it is but to build another. An affair of a moment,
señorita."

"But does not the meat often fall into the fire when it breaks?"

"Sufficiently often, most noble. What of that? It imparts a flavour of
its own; one brushes off the ashes - soldiers do not dine at the Hotel
Royal, one must observe. May I offer the señorita a bit of this
excellent beef? This has not fallen down at all, or at most but once,
one little time."

Rita thanked him, but was not hungry. At least she would have a cup of
_guarapo_, the hospitable cook begged; and he hastened to bring her a
cup of polished cocoanut shell, filled with the favourite drink, which
was simply hot water with sugar dissolved in it. Rita took the cup
graciously, and drank to the health of the camp, and to the freedom of
Cuba; the cook responded with many bows and profuse thanks for the
honour she had done him, and the brother and sister passed on.

"There are some good bananas near here," said Carlos; "little red ones,
the kind you like, Rita. I'll fill a basket for you to take with you;
Don Annunzio's may not be so good."

They were making their way through a tangle of tall grass and young
palm-trees, when suddenly Rita stopped, and laid her hand on her
brother's arm.

"Look!" she said. "Look yonder, Carlos! The grass moves."

"A snake, perhaps," said Carlos; "or a land-crab. Stand here a moment,
and I will go forward and see."

He advanced, looking keenly at the clump of yellowish grass that Rita
had pointed out. Certainly, the grass did move. It quivered, waved from
side to side, then seemed to settle down, as if an invisible hand were
pulling it from below. Carlos drew his machete, and bent forward;
whereupon a loud yell was heard, and the clump of grass shot up into the
air, revealing a black face, and a pair of rolling eyes.

"What is it?" cried Rita, in terror. "Carlos, come back to me! It is a
devil!"

"Only a scout!" said her brother, laughing. "One of our own men on
outpost duty. Have peace, Pablo! your hour is not yet come."

"_Caramba!_ I thought it was, my captain!" said the negro scout,
grinning. "Better be a crab than a Cuban in these days."

He was a singular figure indeed. From head to waist he was literally
clothed in grass, bunches of it being tied over his head and round his
neck and shoulders, falling to his thighs. A pair of ragged trousers of
no particular colour completed his costume. A more perfect disguise
could not be imagined; indeed, except when he lifted his head, he was
not to be distinguished from the clumps and tufts of dry grass all about
him.

"Pablo is a good scout!" said Carlos, approvingly. "No Gringo could
possibly see you till he stepped on you, Pablo; and then - "

"And then!" said Pablo, grinning from ear to ear; and he drew his
machete and went through an expressive pantomime which, if carried out,
would certainly have left very little of Gringo or any one else.

"Is your post near here? show it! The señorita would like to see how a
Cuban scout lives."

Pablo, a man of few words, gave a pleased nod, and scuttled away through
the bush, beckoning them to follow. Rita, stepping carefully along,
holding her brother's hand, kept her eyes on the scout for a few
moments; then he seemed to melt into the rest of the grass, and was
gone. A few steps more, and they almost fell over him, as his black face
popped up again, shaking back its grassy fringes.

"Behold the domicile of Pablo!" he said, with a magnificent gesture.
"The property, with all it contains, of the señorita and the Señor
Captain Don Carlos."

Brother and sister tried to look becomingly impressed as they surveyed
the domain. Close under a waving palm-tree a rag of brown canvas was
stretched on two sticks laid across upright branches stuck in the
ground. Under this awning was space for a man to sit, or even to lie
down, if he did not mind his feet being in the sun. A small iron pot,
hung on three sticks over some blackened stones, showed where the
householder did his cooking; a heap of leaves and grass answered for bed
and pillows; this was the domicile of Pablo.

Breaking a twig from a neighbouring shrub, the scout bent over the pot,
and speared a plantain, which he offered to Rita with grave courtesy.
She took it with equal dignity, thanking him with her most gracious
smile, and ate it daintily, praising its flavour and the perfection of
its cooking till the good negro's face shone with pleasure.

"And you stay here alone, Pablo?" she asked. "How long? you are not
afraid? No, of course not that; you are a soldier. But lonely! is it not
very lonely here, at night above all?"

Pablo spread out his hands. "Señorita, possibly - if it were not for the
crabs. These good souls - they have the disposition of a Christian! - sit
with me, in the intervals of their occupations, and are excellent
company. They cannot talk, but that suits me very well. Then, there is
always the chance of some one coming by - as to-day, when the Blessed
Virgin sends the señorita and the Señor Don Carlos. Also at any moment
the devil may send me a Gringo; their scouts are as plenty as scorpions.
No, señorita, I am not lonely. It is a fine life! In a prison, you see,
it would be quite otherwise."

"But there are other ways of living, Pablo, beside scouting and going to
prison," said Rita, much amused.

"Without doubt! Without doubt!" said Pablo, cheerfully. "And assuredly
neither would befit the señorita. May she live as happy as she is
beautiful, the sun being black beside her. _Adios_, señorita; _adios_,
Señor Captain Don Carlos!"

"_Adios_, good Pablo! good luck to you and your crabs!" and laughing and
waving a salute, they left the scout nodding his grass-crowned head like
a transformed mandarin, and went back to the camp.




CHAPTER VIII.

THE PACIFICOS.


A long, low adobe house, brilliantly white with plaster; a verandah with
swinging hammocks; the inevitable green blinds; the inevitable cane and
banana patch; this was Don Annunzio's. Don Annunzio Carreno himself (to
give him his full name for once, though he seldom heard or used it) sat
in a large rocking-chair on the verandah, smoking. He was enormously
stout and supremely placid, and he looked the picture of peace and
prosperity, in his spotless white suit and broad-brimmed hat.

To Rita, weary after her ten miles' ride from the camp, the whole place
seemed a page out of a picture-book. Her mind was filled with rugged and
startling images: the rude hospital, with its ghastly sights and homely
though devoted tendance; the ragged soldiers, with head or arm bound in
bloody bandages; the camp fire and kitchen, the scout in his grassy
panoply. Her eyes had grown accustomed to sights like these, and the
bright whiteness of house and householder, the trim array of flower-beds
and kitchen-garden, struck her as strange and artificial. She felt as if
Don Annunzio ought to be wound up from behind, and was whimsically
surprised to see him rise and come forward to meet them.

Carlos made his explanation, and presented General Sevillo's letter. Don
Annunzio's hat was already in his hand and he was bowing to Rita with
all the grace his size allowed; but now he implored them to enter the
house, which he declared he occupied henceforward only at their
pleasure.

"If the señorita will graciously descend!" said the good man. "On the
instant I call my wife. Prudencia! Where are you, then? Visitors,
Prudencia; visitors of distinction. Hasten quickly!"

A woman appeared in the doorway; tall and lean, clad in brown calico,
with a sun-bonnet to match, but with apron and kerchief as snowy as Don
Annunzio's "ducks."

"For the land's sake!" said Señora Carreno.

Rita looked up quickly.

"Visitors, my love!" Don Annunzio explained rapidly, in good enough
English. "The Señor Captain and the Señorita Montfort, bringing a note
from his Excellency General Sevillo. The señorita will remain with us
for some days; I have placed all at her disposal; I - "

"There, Noonsey!" said the lady, not unkindly. "You set down, and let me
see what's goin' on."

She laid a powerful hand on her husband's shoulder, and pushed him into
his chair again; then advanced to the verandah steps, regarding the
newcomers with frank but cheerful scrutiny.

"What's all this?" she said. "Good mornin'! Yes, it's a fine day. Won't
you step in?"

Carlos told his story, and asked permission for his sister and her maid
to spend some days at the house until some permanent place could be
found for her.

The señora considered with frowning brows, not of anger but of
consideration.

"Well," she said, "I did say I wouldn't take no more boarders. I had
trouble with the last ones, and said I'd got through accommodatin'
folks. Still - I dunno but we could manage - does she understand when
she's spoke to - English, I mean?"

"Yes, indeed, I do!" cried Rita, coming forward. "I am only half Cuban;
it is good to hear you speak. If you will let me stay, I will try to
give little trouble. May I stay, please?"

"Well, I guess you may!" cried the New England woman. "You walk right in
and lay off your things, and make yourself to home. The idea! Why didn't
you say - why, it's as good as a meal o' victuals to hear you speak. Been
to the States, have you? Well, now, if that don't beat all! Noonsey, you
go and tell José we shall want them chickens for supper. Set down, young
man! This your hired gal, dear? Does she speak English? Well no, I
s'pose not."

She said a few words to Manuela in Spanish which, if not melodious, was
intelligible, and then led Rita into the house, talking all the way.

"Here's the settin'-room; and here's the spare-room off'n it. There! lay
your things on the bed, dear. I keep on talkin', when all the time I
want to hear you talk. It is good to hear your native speech, say what
they will. Husband, he does his best, to please me; but it's like as
though he was speakin' molasses, some way. Been in the States to
school, did you say?"

Rita told her story: of her American father, who had always spoken
English with her and her brother; of the summer spent in the North with
her uncle and cousins. "Oh," she said, "you are right. I used to think
that I was two-thirds Cuban; I thought I cared little, little, for the
American part of me. Now - but it is music to hear you speak, Señora
Carreno."

"S'pose you call me Marm Prudence!" said the good woman, half-shyly. "I
don't see as 'twould be any harm, and I should like dretful well to hear
the name again. I was a widow when I married Don Noonzio. Yes'm. My
first husband was captain of a fruit schooner. I voyaged with him
considerable. He died in Santiago, and I never went back home: I
couldn't seem to. I washed and sewed for families I knew, and then
bumbye I married Don Noonzio. He gave me a good home, and he's a good
provider. There's times, though, that I'm terrible homesick. There! I
don't know what I should do if 'twa'n't for my settin'-room. Did you
notice it, comin' through? I just go there and set sometimes, and look
round, and cry. It does me a sight o' good."

Rita had indeed glanced around the sitting-room as she passed through
it, but it said nothing to her. The six haircloth chairs, the
marble-topped centre-table with its wool and bead mat, its glass lamp
with the red wick, its photograph-album and gilt family Bible, did not
speak her language. Neither did the mantelpiece, with its two china
poodles and its bunches of dried grasses in vases of red and white
Bohemian glass. The Cuban girl could not know how eloquent were all
these things to the exiled Vermont woman; but she looked sympathetic,
and felt so, her heart warming to the homely soul, with her rugged
speech and awkward gestures.

Marm Prudence now insisted that her guest must be tired, and brought out
a superb quilt, powdered with red and blue stars, to tuck her up under;
but word came that Captain Montfort was going, and Rita hurried out to
the verandah to bid him farewell. Carlos took her in his arms,
affectionately. "How is it, then, little sister?" he asked. "Are you
reconciled at all? Can you stay here in peace a little, with these good
people?"

Rita returned his caress heartily. "You were right, Carlos!" she said.
"You and the dear General were both right. It was wonderful to be there
in camp; I shall never forget it; I hope I shall be better all my life
for it; but I could not have stayed long, I see that now. Here I shall
be taken care of; here I shall rest, as under a grandmother's care. This
good Marm Prudence, - that is what I am to call her, Carlos, - already I
love her, already she tends me as a bird tends her young. Ah, Carlos,
you will not neglect Chico? I leave him as a sacred legacy. The men
implored me so. They said the bird had brought them good fortune once,
and would be their salvation again; I had not the heart to take him from
them. You will see that they do not feed him too much? Already he has
had a fit of illness from too much kindness on the part of our faithful
soldiers. Thank you! and have no thought of me, my brother; all will be
well with me. Return to your glorious duty, son of Cuba. It may be that
even here, in this peaceful spot, it may be given to your Rita to serve
the mother we both adore. _Adios_, Carlos! Heaven be with thee!"

Carlos, who was of a practical turn of mind, was always uncomfortable
when Rita spread her rhetorical wings. He did not see why she could not
speak plain English. But he kissed her affectionately, heartily glad
that he could leave her content with her surroundings; and with a
cordial farewell to the good people of the house, he rode away,
followed by his clanking orderlies, leading the horse Rita had ridden.

While all this had been going on, Manuela had been arranging her
mistress's things; shaking out the crumpled dresses, brushing off the
bits of grass and broken straw that clung to hem and ruffle, mementoes
of the days in camp. Manuela sighed over these relics, and shook her
head mournfully.

"Poor Pepe!" she said. "If only he does not fall into a fever from
grief! Ah, love is a terrible thing! _Dios_! what a rent in the
señorita's serge skirt! A paralysis on the brambles in that place! yet
it was a good place. At least there was life. One heard voices, neighing
of horses, jingling of stirrups. Here we shall grow into two young
cabbages beside that old one, my señorita and her poor Manuela. Ah, life
is very sad!"

Here Manuela chanced to look out of the window, and saw a handsome
Creole boy leading a horse to water in the courtyard. Instantly her
face lighted up. She flew to the looking-glass, and was arranging her
hair with passionate eagerness, when the door opened, and Rita entered,
followed by their kind hostess. Manuela started, then turned to drop a
demure courtsey. "I was examining the glass," she explained, "to see if
it was fit for the señorita to use. These common mirrors, you
understand, they draw the countenance this way, that way, - " she
expressed her meaning in vivid pantomime, - "one thinks one's visage of
caoutchouc. But this is passable; I assure you, señorita, passable."

"Well, I declare!" said Marm Prudence. "My best looking-glass, that I
brought from Chelsea, Massachusetts, when I was first married! If it
ain't good enough for you, young woman, you're free to do without it,
and so I tell you."

She spoke with some severity, but softened instantly as she turned to
Rita. "Now you'll lie down and rest you a spell, won't you, dear?" she
said. "I must go and see about supper, and I sha'n't be satisfied till I
see you tucked up under my 'Old Glory spread.' That's what I call it; it
has the colours, you see. There! comfortable? Now you shut your pretty
eyes, and have a good sleep. And you," she added, turning to Manuela,
"can come and help me a spell, if you've nothing better to do. I'm
short-handed; help is turrible skurce in war-time, and I can keep you
out of Satan's hands, if nothing else."




CHAPTER IX.

IN HIDING.


"You busy, Miss Margaritty?"

It was Marm Prudence's voice, and at the sound Rita opened her door
quickly. She and Manuela had been holding a mournful consultation over
the state of her wardrobe, which had had rough usage during the past two
weeks, and she was glad of an interruption.

"I thought mebbe you'd like to come and set with me a spell while I
worked."

"Oh, yes!" cried Rita, eagerly. "And may I not work, too? Isn't there
something I can do to help?"

"Why, I should be pleased!" said the good woman. "I'm braidin' hats for
the soldiers. I promised a dozen to-morrow night. It's pretty work;
mebbe you'd like to try."

"For the soldiers? For our soldiers? Oh, what joy, Marm Prudencia! No,
Prudence, you like better that. Show me, please! I burn to begin."

"Why, you're real eager, ain't you?" said Marm Prudence. "Now I'm glad I
spoke; I thought mebbe 'twould suit you. Young folks like to be at
something."

In a few minutes the two were seated on the cool inner verandah, looking
out on the garden, with a great basket between them, heaped with
delicate strips of palmetto leaf, white and smooth.

"Husband, he whittles 'em for me," Marm Prudence explained. "It's
occupation for him. Fleshy as he is, he can't get about none too much,
and this keeps his hands busy. It's hard to be a man and lose the
activity of your limbs. But there! there's compensations, I always say.
If Noonsey was as he was ten years ago, he'd be off with the rest, and
then where'd I be?"

"Then" - Rita's eyes flashed, and she bent nearer her hostess, and spoke
low. "Then you are not at heart _pacificos_, Marm Prudence. On the
surface, I understand, I comprehend, it is necessary; but _au fond_, in
your secret hearts, you are with us; you are Cubans. Is it not so? It
must be so!"

"Oh, land, yes!" said Marm Prudence, composedly. "I'm an American, you
see; and husband, he's a Cuban five generations back. We don't have no
dealin's with the Gringos, more than we're obleeged to. Livin' right
close t' the road as we do, we can't let out the way we feel, but I
guess there's mighty few Mambis about here but knows where to come when
they want things. There ain't many so bold as your brother, to come in
open daylight, but come night, they're often as thick as bats about the
garden here. There! I have to shoo' em off sometimes; yet I like to
have 'em, too."

Rita's face glowed with excitement. "Oh, Marm Prudence," she cried; "how
glorious! Oh, what fortune, what joy, to be here with you! We will work
together; we will toil; our blood shall flow in fountains, if it is
needed. Embrace me, mother of Cuba!"

Marm Prudence put on her spectacles, and surveyed the excited girl with
some anxiety.

"Let me feel your pult, dear!" she said, soothingly. "You got a touch o'
sun, like as not, riding in that heat this morning. Now there's no call
to get worked up, or talk about blood-sheddin'. Blood-sheddin' ain't in
our line, yours nor mine, nor husband's neither. Fur as doin' goes,
we're all _pacificos_ here, Miss Margaritty, and you mustn't forget
that. Just wait a minute, and I'll go and git you a cup of my balm-tea;
'tis real steadyin' to the nerves, and I expect yours is strung up some
with all you've be'n through."

Rita protested that she was perfectly well, and not at all excited; but
she submitted, and drank the balm-tea meekly, as it was cold and
refreshing.

"It is my ardent nature!" she explained. "It is the fire of my
patriotism which consumes me. Do you not feel it, Marm Prudence,
oftentimes, like a flame in your bosom?"

No, Marm Prudence was not aware that she did. Things took folks
different, she said, placidly. She had an aunt when she was a little
gal, that used to have spasms reg'lar every time she heard the baker's
cart. Some thought she had had hopes of the baker before he married a
widow woman, but you couldn't always account for these things. What a
pretty braid Rita was getting!

[Illustration: "'WAS SUCH A HAT EVER SEEN IN PARIS?'"]

Indeed, the work suited Rita's nimble fingers to perfection, and yard
after yard of snowy braid rolled over her lap and grew into a pile at
her feet. She was eager to make her first hat. After an hour or two
of braiding, she discovered that it suited Manuela's genius better than
her own. The basket of splints was turned over to the willing
handmaiden, and good-natured Marm Prudence showed Rita how to sew the
braids together smooth and flat, and initiated her into the mysteries of


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