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there is this side of the Rockies; and I don't know that I'll stop
there, barring my brother Hugh. This war isn't going to last much
longer. By some kind of miracle, this place - sugar plantation, and well
paying in good times - hasn't been meddled with; and Jack ought to be
able to support a wife, if he puts good work into the business, as he
will. He's a first-rate all-round fellow, and has brains in his
head - said that before, didn't I? well, it's a good thing in a man, too.
I'm not much of a hand at writing, as I guess you'll see. All I mean to
say is, if he and little Rita want to hitch up a double team, my opinion
is it would be a mighty good thing, and I hope you'll give them your
blessing and all that sort of thing, when the time comes.

Much obliged for your letter, but sorry your knee still bothers you.
Father has been laid up, too, so he writes; rheumatism. I'm getting on
first-rate, and shall be out of this soon. I think a month or so more
will see the whole blooming business over, and peace declared. Time,
too! this is no kind of a country to stay in.

Your affectionate nephew,
JAMES MONTFORT.

P.S. Tell Cousin Margaret that J. D. is _all right_.

LAS ROSAS, June - , 1898.

MY DEAR MR. MONTFORT: - I wonder if you remember Mary Russell, with whom
you used to dance now and then when you came to Claxton in the old days,
we will not say how many years ago. I certainly have not forgotten the
pleasant partner who waltzed so well, and I am glad to have the
opportunity of claiming acquaintance with you. I meant to write as soon
as your niece arrived at my house, but the battle in this neighbourhood
the day after brought us such an influx of wounded that my hands were
very full, and the hasty dictated line was all I could manage. We are
now in a little eddy of the storm (which, we hope, is nearly over), and
have only a dozen men in the house, and most of these convalescent;
so I must not delay longer in assuring you of the very great pleasure
and help it has been to me to have Margarita with me. Indeed, I hardly
know what I should have done without her the first week, as two of my
nurses were ill just at the time when we were fullest. She shows a
remarkable aptitude for nursing, which is rather singular, as she tells
me that until lately she has been extremely timid about such matters,
fainting at the sight of blood, etc. You never would think it now, to
see her going about her work in the wards. The patients idolise her, and
what is more (and less common), so do the nurses, who declare that she
will miss her vocation if she does not go into a training-school as soon
as she leaves Las Rosas; but I fancy you would not choose so arduous a
life for her.

[Illustration: "THE PATIENTS IDOLISE HER."]

This brings me, my dear Mr. Montfort, to what is really the chief object
in my writing to you to-day. Without beating about the bush, I am going
to say, at once and frankly, that my dear son, Jack, has become deeply
attached to this charming niece of yours. Who could be surprised at it?
she must always have been charming; but the sweetness and thoughtfulness
that I have seen growing day by day while she has been under my charge
are, I somehow fancy, a new phase of her development. Indeed, Rita
herself has told me, in her vivid way, of some of the wild pranks of her
"unguided youth," as she calls it, - the child will be nineteen, I
believe, on her next birthday! - and we have laughed and shaken our heads
together over them. She is far more severe upon herself than I can be,
for I see the quick, impulsive nature, and see, too, how it is being
subdued and brought more and more under control by a strong will and a
good heart. A very noble woman our Rita will make, if she has the right
surroundings.

Can we give her these? that is the question; a question for you to
answer, dear Mr. Montfort. Jack saw readily, when I pointed it out to
him, that it would not be suitable for him to speak of love to an orphan
girl - an heiress, too, I believe - without her guardian's express
consent. He chafes at the delay, for he is very ardent, being half
Cuban; but you may have entire confidence that he will say nothing to
Rita until I hear from you.

You can easily find out about Jack; there is nothing in his life that he
need conceal. Colonel G. and Mrs. B - - , in New York, Professor Searcher
and Doctor Lynx, of Blank College, will tell you of his school and
college days; and Captain Montfort will, I think, say a good word for
his record as a soldier and a patriot. Of course, in my eyes, he is a
little bit of a hero; but maternal prejudice laid aside (if such a thing
may be!), I can truly say that he is a clean, honest, high-minded man,
with a sound constitution and an excellent disposition. Add to this a
moderate income (not, I am happy to say, enough to allow him to dispense
with work, were he inclined to do so, which he is not), and a very
earnest and devoted attachment, and you have the whole case before you.
May I hope to have your answer as soon as you shall have satisfied
yourself on the various points on which you will naturally seek
information? I assure you that, with the best intentions in the world,
Jack does find it hard to restrain himself. Let me add that, if your
answer is favourable, it will make me as well as my son very happy. Rita
is all that I could wish for in a daughter; and I shall try my best to
fill a mother's place toward her.

In any case, believe me, dear Mr. Montfort,

Cordially yours,
MARY RUSSELL DELMONTE.

P.S. You may ask, does Rita return Jack's affection? _I think she
does!_


SANTIAGO, June - , 1898.

HONOURED SEÑOR: - Your valued letter, containing inquiries on the subject
of Señor Captain John Delmonte is at hand and contents notified. I
hasten to reply with all the ardour of which I am capacious. This young
man is a nobleman; few princes have equalled him in virtuous worth.
Brave, honourable, pious (though Protestant; but this belief is probably
your own, and is held by many of those most valuable to me, your
honoured brother among them), a faithful and obedient son, a leader
beloved to rapture by his soldiers. If more could be to say, I would
hasten to cry it aloud. You tell me, with noble frankness, he is a
pretender for the hand of my beloved Margarita; already it has been my
happiness to be aware of it. Señor Montfort, to see these two admirable
young persons united in the holy bondages of weddinglock is the last and
chief wish of my life. I earnestly beg your sanction of their unition.
In Jack I find a son for my solitary age; in Margarita a daughter, the
most tender as she is the most beautiful that the world contains. To
close my aged eyes on seeing them unified, is, I repeat it, the one wish
of,

Honoured Señor,
Your most obedient and humble servitor,
MIGUEL PIETOSO.


LAS ROSAS, June - , 1898.

MY DEAR MR. MONFORT: - I have just read your letter to my mother, and I
want to thank you before I do anything else. There isn't much to say,
except that I will do my best to be in some degree worthy of this
treasure, if I win it. I will try to make her happy, sir, I will indeed.
No one could be good enough for her, so I will not pretend to that.

She is awake now, so I must go.

Gratefully yours,
JOHN DELMONTE.


LAS ROSAS, Evening.

DEAREST, DEAREST MARGARET: - Why are you not here? I want you - oh, I want
you so much! I am so happy, so wonderfully, almost _terribly_ happy, how
can I put it on paper? The paper will light itself, will burn up for
joy, I think; but I will try. Listen! an hour ago - it is an evening of
heaven, the moon was shining for me, for me and - oh, but wait! I was in
the garden, resting after the day's work; I had been asleep, and now
would take the remainder of my free time in waking rest. The air was
balm, the roses all in blossom. Such roses were never seen, Marguerite;
the place is named for them, Las Rosas. They are in bowers, in garlands,
in heaps and mounds - I smell them now. The rose is my flower, remember
that, my life long. I used to tell you it was the jessamine; the
jessamine is a simpleton, I tell you. I was picking white roses, the
kind that blushes a little warm at its heart - when I heard some one
coming. I knew who it was; can I tell how? It was Captain Jack. I
trembled. He came to me, he spoke, he took my hand. Oh, my dear, my
dear, I cannot tell you what he said; but he loves me; he is my Jack, I
am his Rita. Marguerite, will you tell me how it can be true? Your wild,
silly, foolish Rita, playing at emotions all her childish life: she
wakes up, she begins to try to be a little like you, my best one; and
all of a sudden she finds herself in Paradise, with a warrior
angel - Marguerite, I did not think of it till this moment; my Jack is
the express image of St. Michael. His nose tips up the least bit in the
world - I don't mind it; it gives life, dash, to his wonderful face;
otherwise there is _no_ difference. My St. Michael! my soldier, my Star
of Horsemen! Marguerite, no girl was ever so happy since the world was
made. Oh, don't think me fickle; let me tell you! In the South here, are
we different? It must be so. I _was_ fond of Santayana; but that was in
another life. I was a sentimental, passionate child; he was handsome as
a picture; it was a dream of seventeen. Now - can you believe that I am a
little grown up? I really think I am. Perhaps I think it most because
now, for the first time, I _really_ want to be like you, Marguerite. I
used to be so pleased with being myself - I was the vainest creature that
ever lived. Now, I want to be like you instead; I want to be a good
woman, a good wife. Ah! what a wife you will make if you marry! But how
can you marry, my poor darling? There is only one man in the world good
enough for you, and he is mine. I cannot give him up, even to you, my
saint. I have two saints now; I ought to be a Catholic. The second one
is his mother, the Saint of Las Rosas, as she is called all through this
part of the island. Marguerite, I must strive to grow like her, too, if
such a thing were possible. I have work enough for my life, but what
blessed work! to try to make myself worthy of Jack Delmonte, my Jack, my
own!

He took me to his mother; I have just come from her. I am her daughter
from that moment, she says; oh, Marguerite, I will try to be a good one.
Hear me - no! I am not going to make vows any more, or talk like girls in
novels; I am just going to try. I loved her from the first moment I saw
her grave, beautiful face. She took me in her arms, my dear; she said
things - I have come up here to weep alone, tears of happiness. Dearest,
you alone knew thoroughly the old Rita, the foolish creature, who dies,
in a way, to-night. Say good-bye to her; give her a kiss, Marguerite,
for she too loved you; but not half as dearly as does the new, happy,
blessed

MARGARITA DE SAN REAL MONTFORT.


THE END.

* * * * *

Transcriber's Notes:

Page 12, "authoritaties" changed to "authorities" (by the authorities)

Page 25, word "by" inserted into text (takes me by)

Page 74, "senorita" changed to "señorita" (patriotism of the señorita)

Page 129, "senorita" changed to "señorita" (would befit the señorita)

Page 148, word "be" inserted into text (there'd have to be)

Page 213, "gentlemen" changed to "gentleman" (little old gentleman)







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Online LibraryLaura Elizabeth Howe RichardsRita → online text (page 9 of 9)