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looking forward to your coming back!"

Suzee pushed out her lips.

"How long will you be?" she asked.

"I shall go just before seven and return about ten," I answered. "You
must get accustomed to amusing yourself. I can't always be with you."

"I can amuse myself," returned Suzee sulkily. "All the same, I believe
it's a woman you are going to."

The blood rushed over my face with anger and annoyance, but I
restrained myself and made no answer. She was so much of a child, it
seemed absurd to enter into argument or to get angry with her.

I went back to reading my other letters and occupied myself with
answering them till luncheon.

That evening about seven I was dressing for dinner, Suzee standing by
me or playing with my things and somewhat impeding me, as usual. She
seemed to have recovered from her ill-temper and was all smiles and
gay prattle.

Before I took up my hat and coat to leave I bent over her and kissed
her.

"You understand, I don't want you to leave this room till I come back.
They will bring up your dinner here, and you can sit on the balcony
and smoke, and you have lots of picture-books to amuse you. I shall be
back at ten."

She kissed me and smiled and promised not to leave the room, and I
went out.

I really enjoyed the evening with my friend. It was a relief to talk
again with one who possessed a full-grown mind after being so long
with a childish companion, and the time passed pleasantly enough. A
quarter to ten seemed to come directly after dinner and my companion
was astonished at my wanting to leave so early.

I explained the situation in a few words and, of course, caused
infinite amusement to my practical friend.

"The idea of you living with a Chinese infant like that!" he
exclaimed. "I shall hear of your being fascinated with a Hottentot
next, I suppose."

"Maybe," I answered, putting on my hat. "Anyway, I must go now; thanks
all the same for wishing me to stay."

I left him and walked rapidly back in the direction of the Iturbide.
Some of the shops were still open, and as I passed down the main
street the brilliant display in a jeweller's window, under the
electric light, attracted my attention.

I paused and looked in. I thought I would buy and take back some
little thing to Suzee. It had been a dull evening for her. I went in
and chose a necklet of Mexican opals. These, though not so lovely as
the sister stone we generally buy in England, have a rich red colour
and fire all their own.

I had not enough money with me to pay for it, but with that delightful
confidence in an Englishman - often unfortunately misplaced - one finds
in some distant countries, the shopman insisted on my taking it, and
said he would send to the hotel in the morning for the money.

I slipped the case in my pocket and went on to the Iturbide.

After all, I thought, as I neared home, with all her faults she was a
very attractive and dear little companion to be going back to.

Full of pleasure at the thought of bestowing the gift and the joy it
would give her, I ran up the stone stairs without waiting for the lift
and pushed open the door of our room.

I entered softly, thinking she might be curled up asleep, but as I
crossed the threshold I heard the sound of laughter. The next moment I
saw there were two figures standing at the end of the long room in
front of the window.

Suzee had her back to me and a man was standing beside her. Just as I
came in I saw her raise her face, and the man put his arm round her
and kiss her. Two or three steps carried me across the room and I
struck them apart with a blow on the side of the man's head that sent
him reeling into a corner.

It was the young Mexican waiter that had hitherto brought us all our
meals.

The table was still covered with the dinner things, a bottle of wine
stood on it and two half-filled glasses. My impression, gathered in
that first furious glance, was that he had brought up her dinner and
she had invited him to stay and share at least the wine and
cigarettes. Some of these lay on the table, and the room was full of
smoke.

Suzee gave a scream of terror and then crouched down on a chair,
looking at me.

The waiter picked himself up, and, catching hold of his iron
stove-fitted basket in which he had brought up the dinner, slunk out
of the room.

I was left alone with Suzee, and I looked at her, with an immense
sense of disgust and repulsion swelling up in me.

"So you can't even be trusted an hour or two, it seems," I said
contemptuously, throwing myself into a chair opposite her.

Suzee began to sob. Tears were her invariable refuge under all
circumstances.

"Treevor, you were so long. I was all alone, and I was sure you were
with another woman."

"If you would learn to believe what I say and not fancy every one
tells lies, as I suppose you do," I answered hotly, "it would be a
great deal better for you. I went to dine with a bachelor friend this
evening, as I told you, and what made me later than I otherwise should
have been was that I stopped to buy a present for you on my way back."

Suzee's tears dried instantly.

"A present! Oh, what is it, Treevor?" she said eagerly. "Do show it
me. Where is it?"

I drew the case out of my pocket and opened it. The electric light
flashed on the opals, and they blazed with orange and tawny fires on
the white velvet.

Suzee gave a little cry of wonder and delight, and then sat staring at
them breathlessly.

"I don't feel at all inclined to give them to you now," I remarked
coldly.

"Oh, yes, Treevor, _do_ let me have them. It was all the man's fault.
I did not want him. I could not help it."

"I heard you laughing as I came in," I returned, more than ever
disgusted by her lies and her throwing all the blame on her companion.
"It's no use lying to me, Suzee, you found that out at Sitka. What I
want to make clear to you is this: if I find you doing this sort of
thing again I shall send you away from me altogether, because I won't
have it."

Suzee looked terror-stricken.

"Send me away! But what could I do? Where could I go?"

"Where you pleased! You would not live any more with me."

"Well, Treevor, I will not do it any more," she answered, her eyes
fixed on the jewels. "Do let me have the necklace. May I put it on?"

And she stretched out her hand to grasp it from the table where I had
laid it. Her avarice, her lack of any real deep feeling about the
matter, filled me with irrepressible anger.

I sprang to my feet and snatched the necklet up, case and all, and
flung it through the window.

"No, you shall certainly not have it," I exclaimed.

Suzee gave a shriek of pain and dismay as she saw the beloved jewels
flash through the air and disappear in the darkness, and rushed to the
window as if she would jump after them.

Fearing she might call to the passers-by below and create a
disturbance, I took her by the shoulder and pulled her back into the
room.

Then I shut the window and bolted it above her head.

I walked over to the door of the room.

"You had better go to bed," I said; "do not wait for me, I shall sleep
elsewhere."

Then I went out and locked the door behind me, putting the key in my
pocket.

I went down the passage slowly. My heart was beating fast and I felt
angry, but the anger was not that deep fierce agony of emotion I had
felt at times when Viola angered or grieved me.

It was more a superficial sensation of disgust and repulsion that
filled me, and, after a few minutes, I grew calm and recovered my
self-possession.

"What could I expect from a girl like this?" I asked myself. "What
could I expect but lies and deceit and trickery and infidelity? She
had shewn me all these at Sitka when I first met her."

I had been willing enough to profit by them, but even then they had
disgusted me. Now I was in the position of Hop Lee, and as she had
treated him so would she treat me. It was true she professed to love
me, and did so in her way. But it was the way of the woman who is
bought and sold.

And why should I feel specially repelled because I had found her with
a servant? Had she not come from a tea-shop in Sitka, where she
herself was serving?

The Mexican boy was handsome enough. Doubtless he presented a
temptation to her.

It was all my own fault, everything that had happened or would happen,
for choosing such an unsuitable companion. The light loves of an hour
with painted butterflies such as Suzee are well enough, but for life
together one must seek and find one's equal, one who sees with the
same eyes, who has the same standard as one's own of the fitness of
things, in whose veins runs blood of the same quality as one's own.

Why had Viola left me? The thought came with a pang of anguish as my
heart called out for her.

The corridor was a lofty one of stone. It was quite empty now and
unlighted. I walked on slowly in the dark till I came to a large
window on my right hand. This window overlooked a wide expanse of lead
roofs belonging to the lower stories of the hotel, and these commanded
a magnificent view of the whole city.

I stepped out over the low sill and stood on the leads. The night was
soft and cool. The sky, full of the light of a rising moon, shewed
beautifully, against its luminous violet, the outlines of dome and
minaret and spire, and far out beyond the crowded city's confines, the
two incomparable mountains, Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl, the huge
volcanoes, shrouded in eternal snow, rising a sheer ten thousand feet
from the level plain, standing like sentinels guarding the city.

It was a magnificent panorama that surrounded me, a view to remember
for all time. Dome upon dome, rising one behind the other, of all
sizes and shapes, their beautiful tiles gleaming here and there as the
light from the rising moon touched them, delicate spires, pointing
upwards, tipped with silver light, low roof of the commoner's dwelling
and pillared fa√Іade of old and stately palace intervening, and, far
away, those cold white, solitary peaks overtopping all else, rising
into the region of the stars, made up a grand, impressive scene.

As I looked all sense of petty annoyance dropped from me. I walked
forwards with a grateful sense of relief and took my seat on a
projecting ledge of one of the roofs and let my eyes wander over the
maze of dim outlines and shapes below me.

How strange it was to think of the past history of the city!

Far back in the dim ages, a clear and glorious lake had lain here
where now the city reared itself so majestically. In the centre of
this vast table-land, eight thousand feet above the sea, the blue
waters rested tranquilly, reflecting in their surface the fires and
the flames of those now silent, burnt-out volcanoes.

The lake was inhabited by the lake-dwellers, quaint little people
living in their curious structures built on poles sunk in the water.
There they fished and made their nets and traded with each other,
passing backwards and forwards in their tiny dug-outs - whole crafts
made from a single hollowed-out log - on the gleaming waters, secure
from the raids of wild beasts or savages that the black, impenetrable
forests on the shore might harbour.

Then came the Toltecs and the Aztecs with their refinement, their
civilisation, and the lake dried gradually through the years, and
causeways were built across the swamp, and one by one dwellings
appeared on the hardest, driest places, and step by step there grew to
be a city. Then came the Spaniards in later days, with the flaming
pomp of religion and the loathsome spirit of cruelty. They killed the
people by thousands with torture, and set up their churches to peace
and good-will. They overthrew the temples with murder and slaughter,
and reared altars to the Most High on the blood-soaked earth.

And this city, as we see it to-day, with its countless beautiful
churches, its exquisite tiled domes flashing in the sun, is the work
of the Spaniards. And each church stands there to commemorate their
awful crimes.

I sat on, as the hours passed, and watched the moon rise till it
poured its flood of silver light all over the city, sat thinking on
the horror of man and wondering what strange law has fashioned him to
be the devil he is.

Towards sunrise, the wind blew cold off the marshes round the city,
and I went in and down to the lower floor of the hotel.

Its world was fast asleep. In the hall I saw two Mexican porters in
their thin white clothes, curled up on the door mat, without covering
or pillow, fast asleep.

I made my way to the little-used reception-room, found my way across
it to a wide old couch, threw myself upon it, and closed my eyes. The
couch smelt musty and the room seemed cold, but I was accustomed to
sleep anyhow and anywhere, and in a few moments, with my thoughts on
Viola, I drifted into oblivion.

At breakfast time the next day I went to the administrador and told
him to send up ours by another waiter, and never to allow the former
one to come into our room again. Then I went upstairs to Suzee. As I
unlocked the door and entered I saw she was up and dressed. She came
to me, looking white and frightened.

"Oh, Treevor, do forgive me, I never will again. Only say you forgive
me. I was so frightened all last night, I thought you had locked me up
here to starve."

Again the absence of deep feeling, of any ethical consideration
prompting her contrition, jarred upon me. She would be good because
she did not want to starve or be otherwise punished. That was her view
of it, and that alone.

I bent over her, took her hand, and kissed her.

"We needn't think of it any more," I said gently. "Only you must
remember if such a thing occurs again, we cease to live together,
that's all."

Suzee reiterated her promises with effusion, and presently an old,
grey-haired waiter appeared with our breakfast.

I could not repress a smile as I saw the administrador had determined
to be on the safe side this time.

Suzee was extremely amiable and docile all that day.

Most women who do not shew gratitude for kindness and consideration,
when the man retaliates or shews any harshness, begin to improve
wonderfully; while a delicate nature like Viola's, that responds to
love and gives devotion in return, would meet that same harshness with
passionate resentment. Suzee sincerely mourned her lost jewels and
gazed wistfully and furtively down into the street where they had
gone in the darkness.

I paid the bill for them that day, but I never knew what became of
them, nor whose neck they now adorn!

The following day was Sunday, the day appointed by the Prince of
Peace, and dedicated here by his followers, the Christians, to the
torture and slaughter of their helpless companions in this world - the
animals. Sunday, throughout Mexico, is the day most usually fixed for
a bull-fight, and to-day there was going to be one, and Suzee had
begged me to take her to see it.

I had hesitated, but finally given in, and taken seats for it.

I felt a strong disinclination to witnessing what I knew would be
merely another example of the loathsome barbarity of the human race,
but it was my rule in life to see and study its different aspects, to
add to my knowledge of it whenever possible, and so I consented with a
sense of repulsion within me. Suzee was in the wildest delight. She
had talked to the waiter, it seemed, and had heard from him wonderful
stories of the big crowds of gaily dressed people in the large ring,
of the music, of the gaily dressed toreadors, of the clapping of hands
and the shouting.

"And you feel no sympathy with the bull that is going to be killed or
the unfortunate horses?" I asked, looking across at her as we sat at
luncheon.

Suzee looked grave.

"I didn't think of that," she said.

The great fault of the less guilty half of humanity - it does not
think! and the other half thinks evil.

"Well, think now," I said sharply. "Would you like to have your inside
torn out for a gaping crowd to laugh at, to be tortured to death for
their Sunday diversion? For that is what you are going to see
inflicted on the animals this afternoon."

Suzee regarded me with a frightened air.

Presently she said, glibly:

"Of course not, Treevor, and I am very, very sorry for the poor
animals if they are going to be hurt."

"Of course they are," I said shortly; "that is what the whole city is
going to turn out to see."

I felt she had no real appreciation of the subject, and that any
sympathetic utterance would be made to please me. How I hate being
with a companion who automatically says what will please me! A servile
compliance that one knows is false is more irritating to a person of
intellect than contradiction.

How different Viola had always been! In physical relations she had
accepted me as her owner, master, conqueror. She had never sought to
deny or evade or resent the physical domination Nature has given the
male over the female. But her mind had been always her own. And what a
glorious strength and independence it possessed! Not even to me would
she ever have said what she did not believe.

Like the old martyrs, she would have given herself to the rack or the
flames rather than let her lips frame words her brain did not approve.

Her mind and her opinions were her own, not to be bought from her at
any price whatever, and, as such, they were worth something.

The assent or dissent of the fool who agrees or disagrees from fear or
love is worth nothing when you've got it.

We finished our luncheon and then, in a hired carriage, drove to the
Plaza de Toros.

I, with a feeling of cold depression, Suzee, gaily dressed and in the
highest spirits.

All the city was streaming out in splendid carriage or miserable shay.
Rich and cultured, poor and illiterate, human beings are all alike in
their love of butchery and blood. We reached the great ragged stretch
of open ground, hideous and bare enough, and the structure of the
bull-ring reared itself before us, a sinister curve against the
laughing blue of the sky.

It seemed to hum like a great hive already; there was a crowd of the
poorer class about it, and men came continually in and out of the
little doors in its base.

We dismissed our carriage at the outer edge of the ragged ground, the
driver insisting he could drive no farther. And the moment we had
alighted he turned his horses' heads and started them at a furious
gallop back to the city in the hope of catching another fare.

We walked forwards towards the principal of the wickets through which
already the people were passing to their seats. In approaching the
bull-ring we had to pass by a circle of little buildings, low dens
with small barred windows and closed doors. Blood was trickling from
under some of these over the brown and dusty earth, and the low, heavy
breathing and groans of a horse in agony came from one or another at
intervals.

I looked through the grated slit of one, as I passed, and saw two men,
or, rather, fiends in the shape of men, crouched on the floor of the
dark and noisome den. Between them lay outstretched the body of a
horse, old and thin, worn to the last gasp in the cruel service of the
streets. On its flank was a long open wound. One of the men, bending
over it, had a red-hot iron glowing in his hand. What they were going
to do I could not tell, and I did not wait to see.

The horse was one, doubtless, which unhappily had survived last
Sunday's bull-fight, and was being horribly patched up, terribly
stimulated by agony to expend its last spark of vitality in this.

In these loathsome little dens this fiendish work goes on, the poor
mangled brutes are brought out from the ring, their gaping wounds are
plugged with straw, or anything that is at hand, and then they are
thrust back on to the horns of the bull.

More than ever filled with loathing of my kind, I passed on in silence
towards the ring.

It was no use speaking to Suzee. She could not understand what I felt.
I thought of Viola. If she had been here, what would she have
suffered? Of all women I had met, I had never known one who had the
same exquisite compassion, the same marvellous sympathy for all living
things as she had.

We shewed our tickets, passed through the wicket, and were inside the
vast circle.

The impression on the eye as one enters is pleasing, or would be if
one's brain were not there to tell one of the scenes of infamy that
take place in that grand arena.

Wide circles, great sweeping lines have always a certain fascination,
and the form that charms one in the coliseum is here also in these
modern imitations.

The huge arena, empty now and clean, sprinkled with fine white sand,
and with circle after circle, tier after tier of countless seats
rising up all round, cutting at last the blue sky overhead, is in
itself impressive.

We passed to our seats, which were a little low down, not much raised
above the level of the boarding running round the arena.

They were on the coveted shady side of the ring, where the sun would
not be in our eyes. On the left of us was the President's box;
opposite, the seats of the common people, let cheap, because the sun's
rays would fall on them through all the afternoon.

These were already full. Occupied by _women_, largely _women_. Dressed
in their gayest, with handkerchiefs in their hands ready to wave, with
brightly painted fans, they sat there laughing, talking, eating
sweets, making the ring in that quarter a flare of colour.

Women! Ah, what a pity it is that there should be such women as these,
stony-hearted, stony-eyed, deaf to the dictates of mercy, of pity.
Women who can congregate with delight to see a fellow-creature die!

For what are the animals but our fellow-creatures? With the same life,
the same heart-beats as our own! With whom, if we acted rightly, we
should share this world in kindly fellowship and love.

The other seats in the shade were filling quickly; soon the whole mass
of dizzy circles, one above the other, flamed with brilliant colour
under the Mexican sun.

Suddenly, with a great crash, the music burst out, and a triumphal
march rolled over the arena as the President and his party arrived and
took their places in their box. The people cheered and the
handkerchiefs were waved, for the President is popular.

Suzee sat in the greatest glee beside me. The vast concourse of
people, the lavish colour, the loud, gay, strident music, the sea of
faces and clapping hands and waving kerchiefs pleased her childish
little soul.

After a few moments the music changed, and to a slow, almost solemn
march, the toreadors filed slowly in to the arena and bowed before the
President's box.

A burst of applause greeted their appearance, and Suzee watched
entranced these men parading in the ring, in their various red, blue,
and green velvet costumes fitting tightly their fine figures, with
their gorgeous cloaks of red velvet thrown over one arm and the flat
round hats of the toreadors sitting lightly above their bold handsome
faces.

They disappeared, there was a pause in the music, the great arena
stood empty, the vast audience were silent, a few moments of waiting
expectancy, then one of the low doors opposite us in the inner circle
flew open, shewing a long black tunnel leading into darkness. From
this came confused roarings and bellowings, and then with his head
flung high and his great eyes starting with pain and rage from the
goadings he had received, a glorious black Andalusian bull charged
into the arena. The people, delighted at his size and strength and
apparent ferocity, cheered and applauded loudly while, still further
excited by the sudden glare of light and the deafening noise, the
creature galloped round the sandy ring.

Jet-black, sleek-coated, and with a long pair of slender, tapering
horns, sharply pointed, crowning his great head, he was a magnificent
animal, far finer in make and shape than any of these brutes round him
who had come to see him die. As he galloped round the ring, I saw that
he was looking wildly, eagerly, for somewhere to escape. The animals
have no innate savagery, as man has. They do not love inflicting pain,
torture, and death upon others. That vile instinct has been given to
man alone. They kill for food. They fight for their mates. But no
animal fights or kills for the love of blood as we do.

And now this great monarch of the hills and plains, in all the pride
and glory of his strength, had no wish to attack or kill; he bounded
round and across the sandy space hoping to find some outlet, longing
to be again upon his wild Andalusian hills he was never to see again.


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Online LibraryVictoria CrossFive Nights → online text (page 14 of 18)