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and scarlet, deepest purple and gold. She ran ahead of me, picking
them up and filling her basket rapidly. I walked on slowly, thinking,
while my eyes wandered over that shining, palpitating, gently heaving
violet sea. She had given herself to me entirely - and what beauty she
had to give! And yet she had failed to chain me to her in any way,
greatly though she pleased my senses. It is, after all, something in
the soul of a woman, in her inner self, that has the power of throwing
an anchor into our soul and holding it captive. Mere beauty throws its
anchor into the flesh, and after a time the flesh gives way.

In a little while Suzee came running back to me; her basket was full
to overflowing: she was quite happy.

"Take me up in your arms and kiss me," she said. "Look, Treevor, we
are all alone. What a great, great beach it is here, with not another
soul to see anywhere."

As she said, the firm brown plain of glistening sand stretched behind
us and before us with not another footfall to disturb its silence,
the wide white sand-dunes were deserted, the palms tossed their
greeting to the sea through the glory of calm evening light.

"Let us lie under those palms now; I am tired," she said as I kissed
her. And we went together and lay down under the palms on a ragged
tussock of grass, and the light fell and grew deeper in tone round us
and the amethystine sea, flushed with colour, swayed and heaved,
murmuring its low eternal song by our side.

A great vulture flapped heavily by and perched on a sand-hill not far
from us, eyeing us somewhat askance, and some sea-gulls circled over
us - otherwise we were undisturbed.

The following day we planned to come down the river Tamesi, which
flows out at Tampico. We could not go up by boat, as the river was in
flood and nothing could make headway against it, but the natives were
adepts at steering a boat down with the rapid current, and knew how to
handle it on the top of the flood.

We took the train some distance up the line, and alighted at a place
where the river flowed by between high banks and where boats could be
had from the villagers.

It was a perfect, cloudless day, and we reached our destination in the
sweet fresh early hours of the morning. A walk through the tiny
Mexican village brought us to the bank of the river where the Tamesi
flowed by, heavily, grandly, in all the majesty of its flood.

The waters were brown and discoloured, but the sun glinting on its
ripples turned them into gold, and the tamarisk on the bank drooped
over it, letting its long strands float on the gliding water.

A little way down the bank, moored to the side, rocked a boat, of
which the outline delighted me, and, to Suzee's annoyance, I stood
still and drew out my note-book to make a sketch of it.

It appeared to be the larger half of one immense tree of which the
inside had all been hollowed out, both ends were raised and pointed
and, in the centre, four bent bamboo poles, inclined together,
supported a finely plaited wicker-work screen, which shielded a patch
about two yards square in the boat from the burning rays of the sun.

I finished the sketch in a few minutes, and we went on towards the
boat; its owners, two Mexican Indians, were sitting on the bank
engaged in mending one of their paddles. They were quite naked except
for their loin cloths, and their bare, brown crouching figures gave
the last touch of suggested savagery to the scene. The red, earthy
banks of the river stretched before us desolate and sunburnt; the
swollen, muddy river itself rolled swiftly and heavily along, silent,
impressive; the dug-out, looking like a craft of primeval times,
rocked and swayed noiselessly on the flood; the naked savages
crouched over their broken paddle beneath the waving tamarisk; the
sunlight fell torrid, blighting in its scorching heat, over all. The
scene, with its rough, fresh, vigorous barbarism, delighted me. I
slackened my pace and stood still again before disturbing or
interrupting the men.

"Suzee," I said suddenly, "I admire this picture before us immensely.
I should like to see it in the Academy to cheer up jaded Londoners
next season. I should be glad to stop here to-day to paint it. We can
go down the river to-morrow."

Suzee stared at me in dismay.

"Oh, Treevor, you don't want to stay here all day, do you? It's so
hot, and there's nothing to do, and, we shall miss the fair at Tampico
to-night. You promised we should see it"

I sighed. It was true, I had said something about the fair, but I had
forgotten it. Suzee, however, never forgot things of this sort and she
radically objected to any change being made in a programme. She did
not adapt herself quickly and easily to changed moods or
circumstances.

Had Viola been with me, she would have said at once:

"_Would_ you like to stay here instead of going on? Do let's stay,
then. We can go down the river any time." And had I suggested there
would be nothing for her to do, she would have answered:

"Oh yes, I shall enjoy sitting watching you." Her interest had always
lain in me, in her companion; to what we did she was indifferent;
provided we were together and I was pleased, she was content. It is
just this difference in women that makes it so delightful to live with
some, so impossible to live with others. There are some, very few, of
whom Viola was one, who delight in the society of the man they love,
who drink in pleasure for themselves from his enjoyment; there are
others, like Suzee, the majority, who are always at conflict with his
wishes in little things, striving after some independent aim or
project.

And they wonder why, after a time, their companionship grows irksome
and they are deserted. They also wonder why sometimes the other woman
is adored and worshipped and grows into the inner life of a man till
he cannot exist without her.

I felt then an extraordinary longing to be free from Suzee, to be
alone. Here was a picture, set ready to my hand. A scene we had come
upon accidentally and that, in its barbaric simplicity, was not easily
to be found again. It was strong, striking, original. I saw it before
my mind's eyes on the canvas already, with "On the Tamesi, Mexico"
written on the margin.

How could she ask me to lose it? But I could not break my word, as she
chose to keep me to it.

I said nothing, and, after a pause of keen disappointment, I walked
slowly on again towards the boat.

The men were Indians, but they understood a little Spanish and I
bargained with them to take us down to Tampico where we should arrive
about seven the same evening, in time for the fruit-market and general
fair held in the Plaza.

They were glad enough to take us as they were going down in any case
with a load of bananas and our fares would pay them well for the extra
space we took up in the boat.

They hauled the dug-out to the bank and jumped in, clearing it of old
fruit baskets and arranging some rugs and mats under the shade of the
wicker screen. Behind that, to the stem, the boat was filled with the
rich yellow of the bananas, the ruddy pink of the plantains, and
mellow, translucent orange of the mangoes. They lay there in great
heaps, leaving only just space enough for the stem paddler to stand.

The men motioned us to get in, which we did, and took our seats
cross-legged in the centre on the mats, beneath the awning; glad of
its shade, for the sun's rays grew fiercer every moment.

I put my unused sketch-pad behind me, gazing back regretfully over the
yellow flood. The men pushed the boat out on to the waters and sprang
in themselves, each armed with a long paddle; one taking his stand in
front of us, one at the stern, and directed our little craft to the
centre of the huge and sullen stream. It rolled from side to side as
it shot out over the surface, but as soon as the men got their paddles
to work, evenly with long alternate strokes, the flood bore us along,
swiftly, smoothly, the dug-out floating steadily without rocking.

The men stood, alert and watchful, on the lookout for submerged trees
and floating débris; for at the swift rate we were now floating, any
collision would have brought great danger.

I leant back, watching the banks pass swiftly by, mile upon mile of
red earth and waving tamarisk under the scorching blue. Suzee seemed
more interested in the stalwart figure of our forward boatman and the
play of his fine muscles under the smooth brown skin of his shoulders
where the sun struck them.

Had I loved her more I should have been angry; as it was, I was only
amused, and glad of anything that occupied her attention and relieved
me of the necessity of listening and replying to her childish chatter.

How fast the boat sped on over the surface of the whirling stream that
rushed by those red banks, swift as the flash of life, hurrying on to
lose itself in the ocean as life hurries on to lose itself in the
infinite.

The banks were getting flatter, here and there the stream widened,
the wild tamarisk, child of the desert, disappeared and gave way to
cultivated fields and wide tracts of the maguey plant, dear and
valuable to the Mexican as the date-palm to the East-Indian. Rough
yellow adobe huts stood here and there, their crude colouring of
unbaked mud turned into gold by that great painter, the tropical sun;
and sometimes a palm stood by a hut, cutting the fierce light blue of
the sky with its delicate, fine, curved, drooping branches; sometimes
the dark, glossy green of the organ cactus rose like jade pillars
beside it. All these sped by us quickly, though at times the scene was
so engaging I could have held it with my eyes; but ruthlessly we were
whirled forward and the scenes on the bank kept slipping behind us,
just as our dearest scenes and incidents in life keep slipping past,
swallowed up by the ever-pursuing distance.

Our red banks had been growing flatter and flatter and now they seemed
to disappear, and the river instantly broadened itself out and spread
into a lake, as if glad of the expansion. Over each bank, far on
either side, it rolled itself out in great shining flats of water,
glittering and dazzling, impossible to look at in this hour of noon;
and as if tranquillity had come to it with its greater freedom, the
river flowed more slowly and gently.

Our boatmen stood at ease at their paddles, pushing quietly along,
and I looked round with interest. We were in the centre of a great
lake in which here and there submerged trees and bushes made green
islands. An endless lake it seemed, a great waste of gleaming water.
We floated along gently like this for some time, and then almost
suddenly when I looked ahead, I saw the end of the lake was closing
in, there were woods and forests now upon its margin; a few more
strokes of the paddle and we were in shade, heavy, cool shade, where
the water gleamed with a bronze shimmer. Narrower still the lake end
became, the margins drew together, and with a swift push forwards,
like the bolt of a rabbit to its hole, our boat shot forwards into a
little tunnel of darkness before us over which the interlacing boughs
of the trees made a perfect arch. We were in the forest, and it was
dark and cool as it had been brilliant, dazzling with light and heat,
on the lake. A dim, green twilight reigned here, and the river went
with a swift, dark rush, past the roots of the overhanging trees. How
they stooped over the water! Swinging down, interlacing boughs from
which vine and flowering creeper trailed. The standing figure of the
boatman had to bend down and sway from side to side to avoid the
clinging wreaths or mossy boughs and be wary with his paddle to escape
the snags projecting from the banks.

How grand the great spanning arches of the trees were, above our
heads! Finer than any cathedral roof wrought by man. How soft the
luminous green twilight seemed in the long aisle! And constantly from
bough to bough twined a great scarlet-flowered creeper, glowing redly
in all this mystery of shade. The banks were thick with vegetation,
one thing growing over another, with tropical luxuriance, until
sometimes here and there groups of plants, weary with the struggle
each to assert itself, had all fallen together over the bank and
trailed their long strands wearily in the water.

The stream zigzagged on before us, here darkly green to blackness;
there, where the light pierced through the upper boughs, a golden
bronze; then blue and silver where it caught and eddied and played
round a fallen tree or a stump in the river bed.

We were going fast now, and as we shot along the glimmering stream we
left the thick green part of the forest behind us. The river broadened
out, expanded widely on either side, and in a few more minutes we
seemed on a chain of infinite lakes spreading out on every side under
and through the trees, which, though they met far overhead forming a
perfect and continuous roof, were bare of leaves and flowering vines
beneath. Grey trunks and bare brown branches in bewildering numbers
now surrounded us, and the sheets of water reflected all so perfectly
down to infinite depths that one lost sense of reality. Boughs and
branches, all arching and curving and spreading above us in the
softened light, and boughs and branches and inverted trees below us,
arches and curves and twisted networks; between, those long gleaming
flats of water on which we floated silently without sense of motion,
ever onwards.

"It is a little like the wood at Sitka in times of river flood," Suzee
said to me, as we sat together watching the mirrored stems and
branches glide by beneath our boat.

"Yes?" I answered, smiling back upon her at the remembrance of the
wood.

The stream was a wide flat here, and our boatmen suddenly directed the
boat to the bank and brought it to a standstill. "We want to go on
land here and buy mangoes," he explained in Spanish.

"Very good mangoes can be got here."

We looked round and saw, some distance from the margin, amongst the
stems of the trees standing thickly together, an adobe building, low
and flat, and some figures, not much more clothed than our boatmen,
squatting in front of it, counting mangoes from a great pile into
baskets.

He fastened the dug-out to one of the many tree stems, drawing it
close to the bank, and then he and his companion landed, leaving us
alone in the lightly swaying boat.

"We'll have lunch here, Suzee, don't you think?" I asked her,
beginning to unpack the small basket we had brought. "Can you make tea
for us there, do you think?"

"Oh yes, quite easily; they have a little kitchen here."

In the forepart of the boat the Indians had fixed a piece of tin with
a few bricks round it, forming a hearthstone and stove. On this they
cooked their own food as their surrounding pots and kettles shewed. A
few embers from their last cooking glowed still between the bricks.
Suzee leant over them, blew them into a blaze and then set our kettle
on, getting out her little cups and saucers and ranging them on the
floor of the boat.

I sat back and watched her. The whole scene was a delightful one and
rivalled the one I had noted at starting. The gleaming water spread
itself in large flat mirrors on every side, and the trees standing in
it reflected beneath, and reaching up to the lofty roof of
overarching, interlaced boughs above us, gave the effect of a hall of
a thousand columns. The adobe house of the fruit-seller seemed
standing on a precarious island, so high had the floods risen round
it, and numerous empty baskets and crates, evidently lifted from their
moorings on the bank, drifted slowly about on the silvery tide. Our
boat itself was a lovely object with its fairy lines, its thread of
smoke going up from it, and the little Oriental figure bending over
the red embers in its prow.

We lunched and had our tea in this cool retreat of softened light, and
knew the sun was beating with its murderous noonday glare just
without. The boatmen came back after an interval with a huge load of
mangoes which they piled into the boat, and offered us sixty for five
cents. I gave them the five cents and took two or three of the fruits
for myself and Suzee. Then the moorings were undone, the men jumped
in, and paddled us swiftly onwards. The proprietor of the adobe hut
came to the edge of his grove and saluted, as we passed by on a rapid
current; then he and hut and mangoes all glided from us, quickly as a
dream, and we were borne forward through the wonderful maze of trees
over the tranquil sheets of water.

All through the golden Mexican afternoon we descended the river, down,
ever downwards, to the sea. Sometimes in the deep green shadows of
overhanging trees, passing through the heart of a forest; sometimes
out in the burning open beneath the clear blue of the sky, between
flat plains of open country; sometimes on the breast of wide lakes;
sometimes between high banks, where the boat went dizzily fast and the
waters passed the paddles with a sharp hiss as we rushed on; and each
of those moments was a delight to me, and even Suzee seemed affected
by the beauty and the poetry of the river, for she leant against me
silent and absorbed and her eyes grew soft and dreaming as the visions
on the golden banks swept by; fields of sugar-cane and maguey, coffee
plantations with their million scarlet berries, waving banana and
palm, masses of delicate bamboo rustling as the warm breeze stirred
them.

As the day melted into evening, the sky flushed a deep rosy red and
seemed to hang over us like a great hollowed-out ruby glowing with
crimson fires. The waterway of the river before us turned crimson, and
all the ripples in it were edged and flecked with gold. The great
lagoons, when we passed through them now, reflected the peace of the
painted skies and the marsh lilies floating on their surface became
jewels set in gold as the water eddied round them.

In half an hour the glory faded, leaving a transparent lilac sky over
which the darkness closed with all the swiftness of the tropics.

As we neared the sea and the warm salt breath came up to us we saw the
light over the Market Square in Tampico and the masses of soft shadow
of the trees in the Plaza.

Frail, wooden boat-houses, with shaky landing-stages built out over
the water, lined the banks on either side, and at one of them our
boatmen suddenly drew in, and we disembarked in the soft darkness,
suffused with the red light from the square and vibrating with the
music from a band playing there behind the trees.

We got out and walked along the river-bank towards the seashore, where
the sea lay calm and still, its black, gently heaving surface
reflecting the light of the stars. Where the river debouched, there
was a sheltered cove of fine white sand, and here every species of
gaily painted craft was drawn up. The light from the Market Square,
ablaze with lamps, reached out to it and shewed boat after boat of
fantastic shape and colour, with striped awnings fixed on bamboo poles
over their centre, lying in the shelter of the palm-trees that fringed
the cove. We rounded the slight promontory on our left hand and came
full into the light of the animated town.

The fair was in progress, and numbers of fruit-sellers from all the
country round, from the adobe hut and the large hacienda, or estate,
of the Mexican gentleman, alike, had brought down their load of fruit
to sell in Tampico.

Not only was the Plaza itself filled to overflowing with fruit and
other stalls, but they reached down almost to the shore, and very rich
and Oriental the scene looked, framed in deepest shadow from the Plaza
trees on one side, and the smooth, black, starlit darkness of the sea
on the other.

Each stall had its own light, a bowl of flaming naphtha mounted on a
bamboo pole, and the light fell over the golden fruit - mangoe,
plantain, and banana piled high upon it, and also all round the
vender's feet as he stood by his stall in town costume of one long
white muslin robe.

There were other stalls where they sold Mexican drawn-work, carved
leather and filigree silver, others again with chairs set round where
one could have iced-fruit drinks or coffee, and the band played
sonorously and the crowd, good-natured, laughing, gaily dressed, men,
women, and children of all sizes, strolled amongst the stalls, buying,
looking, chattering, flirting, in the soft, damp heat of the night.

Suzee was enchanted and stared about her with bold, lustrous glances,
pleased at the admiring looks of the men on her strange pretty face.
She steered me up to the silver-filigree stall and there had all the
vender's wares put out for her inspection. She was keen enough where
her own particular interests were concerned, and the sellers of
artificial jewellery tempted her with their sparkling gewgaws not at
all. Real solid worth was what she intended to obtain, and her taste
in choosing the silver was excellent.

Would I buy her this? Would I buy her that? And I assented to
everything. I only wished I could buy myself pleasure as easily.

She chose a necklet, a brooch, and numberless bangles for her arms,
all the smallest she could find, those generally made for children.
When these loaded her little arms and the necklet was clasped round
her throat she was happy, and the curious, interested Mexicans
gathered in a little knot round us, looked on with interest and
evident approval at the Englishman's money being spent amongst them.

We stayed in the square buying to her heart's content till eleven, and
then, after supper at a little table beneath the Plaza trees where the
band played loudest, for Suzee loved music when it meant noise, we
went back to the hotel and to bed.

The next day I went by train to the place where we had embarked for
our voyage down the Tamesi, fully equipped with my materials for a
sketch - and alone.

Suzee, adhering to her idea that it would be dull and hot on the
river-bank, had preferred to stay in the hotel playing with some of
the treasures bought yesterday at the fair.

Alone and undisturbed I sat all day sketching, till the fires were
lighted in the West and warned me I must turn homewards. I had a good
picture, and I packed up my traps with that deep sense of satisfaction
that accomplished work alone can give and walked slowly to the
station. As my thoughts slipped on to Suzee a sense of anxiety came
over me. Time was going on. The year would soon be over. What did I
intend to do? Once the year was past it would be impossible for me to
continue living with her, even for a day. And now I felt so often I
would rather be alone than with her. How would she feel over our
separation? How could I provide for her happiness when I took back my
freedom?

Satiety was beginning to creep over the passion I had for her, and
that was still farther checked now that I knew she looked upon it more
as a means to an end - the child - rather than enjoyed it for itself.

It worried me greatly this thought of her future and how I was going
to provide for it, and it seemed sometimes as if it might be better to
give in to her; perhaps without me she would be happy if she had a
child as she wished, provided I could make, as I could, a good
allowance to both. But then even with a child I could not imagine
Suzee would want to remain alone, and what would be the fate of a
child if other lovers came, or a husband?...

While I did not think that Suzee loved me deeply, deep emotion not
being within her range of powers, it was difficult to see how I could
find for her an existence as pleasant as she led with me.

All these things worried me greatly, and as Fate willed it,
needlessly.

How often in this life a way is suddenly opened out through
circumstances where we least expect it.

The Greeks said - "For these unknown matters a god shall find out the
way." And often indeed it happens that Fate steps in, and in some way
our wildest dreams have never pictured turns all our life to another
hue suddenly before our eyes.

One night when I had been making a little head of Suzee in her
prettiest mood on my canvas, she came and sat on my knee and begged me
to give her, as a reward for her sitting, a narrow band of gold I
always wore on my left arm above the elbow.

I refused, for Viola had given it to me and locked it on my arm. She
had the key and I, even had I wished, could only have had it taken off
by means of another key or melting the gold.

At my refusal there was a storm of tears as usual, but it soon passed
over on my kissing her and promising we would go to a jeweller's on
the morrow and have one something like it put on her own arm.


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