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I

FELICIDAD

The Romantic Adventures of an Enthusiastic

Young Pessimist

By ROWLAND THOMAS

CHAPTER VII

PEPITA OF THE SAINTS

SHUT my eyes.

The drone of the surf was very faint.

The air was very still and warm about me, and the throbbing in my ankle was so slight that it was almost pleasant. Then I must have fallen sound asleep, for without sleeping I could not have been awakened. And I was wakened suddenly.

The catch of the big door somewhere behind me clicked, and the door swung open noiselessly, but I knew it opened by the tiny stir of air it caused. It swung to again. Footsteps came lightly and swiftly, yet hesitatingly, across the wide plain of the floor and stopped at last beside my chair.

Something soft and warm brushed my hand as it hung beside the chair, something so wondrously soft and so very livingly warm that the touch of it sent a shiver of pure physical delight coursing through me, as the touch of sun or wind will when one is fit.

At that touch I opened my eyes at last and found them looking down into the flower-like face of a girl, pale and clear in the dusk of the sala.

The face they looked at was a faultless oval, still and perfect, and yet all alive with feeling. The coloring of it was like that of rare old ivory. The features might have been some rare carving in old ivory, too. They were so lovingly chiseled, so delicately proportioned, that it was like looking at the profiles of those vanished ladies of old Egypt, pre

served for us upon their husbands' tombs.

The eyes were very large and dark and grave, and a light like starlight lay in the depths of them.

I smiled down, unreasonably glad again that I had leaped in time.

"Master," said the girl, touching my hand again with those soft lips of hers, "Don Feliciano said that I might come to thank you. And I do thank you that you thought my life worth keeping."

"Nonsense," said I. let that old cayman eat the ugly brute myself."

"Before I'd you, I'd eat

She an

"I know you would." swered me quite literally. "Buther eyes clouded with painful memory,-"you might have been killed. He is a devil."

"So might you," I retorted, smiling at her.

She did not smile. "That's different," she said. "I am only una muchachita - the least of servingmaids. And you "

"Indeed, it's different," I said. "You are so very young, and you have life all before you, I," I explained to her, "have lived mine away till I am poverty-stricken. I am a good deal older than any hills. have outlived myself, I think sometimes. That may be why I have no longer any country, any home but a prau, any friends,-"

I

"Master!" she murmured, and something in the cadence of her voice caught hold of me. "Unless you are friend," I said.

willing to be my

"Oh!" she cried. Her voice was very joyful. Then her eyes shadowed. "I am a muchacha," she said regretfully. "And you—”

"I am but a sailor, I admit," said I. "Though that is an ancient and honorable profession, too. Noah was a sailor, Don Feliciano tells me. You remember Noah? And speaking of muchachos, wasn't Jacob Laban's muchacho for seven years? It appears that you and I are of almost equally ancient dignity of calling what parvenus most other professions are compared to ours-and so, though only a sailor, I venture to ask you to be my friend."

"If you wish it, Master," said the girl, with that direct simplicity of hers.

"Then you mustn't kneel there any longer," I directed. "Climb up on the arm of my chair, as my little sister would if I had one. And never call me Master again."

"But you are," she objected, perching lightly on the broad seat where I had drawn her. "You saved my life." Suddenly she began rattling off a well-learned lesson. "Whither thou goest I will go," she pattered, "and where thou lodgest-"

"I've heard that before," said I. "Where did you learn it?"

"Padre Isidro taught me," she answered. "Aren't they pretty words?"

"But

"Very," I said laughingly. they're hardly applicable here, I'm afraid."

"Why?" she asked.

"Well," said I, "you see I haven't any place to put you. And then I'm not sure that I could afford it."

"Why?" she demanded.

"Well," I said, "you see I'd have

to ge things to eat-I suppose you do eat occasionally-and some sort of clothes to wear, which would cost money, even if they were of such stuff as dreams are made of—”

Her eager eyes clouded again. “I see," she said. "You must be very poor. But it does not matter," she added. "So am I. My father and my mother and my little brothers are all dead. I haven't anybody to take care of now, so I will take care

of you. And I will eat hardly anything at all, and I will wear hardly anything at all, and I will—”

་་

"You," said I, "are a very impulsive person. On the whole I think it will cause less complications for us. just to be friends, as we are going to be. You won't call me Master any more, will you? It makes me feel terribly elderly and out of it."

"What shall I call you then?" she asked.

"My name," said I, "is John."

"D-jon!" she imitated lispingly. "D-jon? Don D-jon. I like that name," she said decidedly and tried it again. "Don D-jon. It is a good

name."

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"Mine," she said, “is Josefa Maria Dolores de los Santos. But everybody calls me just Pepita."

"Because you're too delightfully young and pretty to live up to a solemner one?"

"That's it," she agreed modestly. "Well, Pepita of the Saints," said I, laughing again,-I was full of an unwonted sort of laughter; at the childishness of her, perhaps, and the simple seriousness of her face outlined against the dimness of the room by its own glow of life.--"Pepita, promise me that you won't play with crocodiles again unless I'm there to crack my ankles-"

"I never will again," she promised solemnly. "It's been a lesson to me. Oh!" she cried, looking at me reproachfully. "Oh! You've made me forget it all this time." She slipped down from her perch and knelt beside that detached foot of mine, and looked at it with infinite sympathy, and laid an infinitely gentle hand on it.

"A Mother-Mind." I murmured. to myself appreciatively, “pounds more unfleshly than good good Doña Ceferina. And therefore, I should

think, to high-browed friends proportionately the more adorable.”

"Does it hurt?" Pepita of the Saints cooed anxiously.

"A good deal," I answered, with a fairly unobtrusive sigh. "But, of course, I don't mind that."

"Oh!" cooed Pepita of the Saints. "O-o-oh! It hurts you, and you do not care! And you did it for me!" She stooped, with infinite womanly tenderness in her face, and I felt on mv detached foot, even through Doña Ceferina's bandages, the tingling touch of those warm lips of hers.

Something stirred in me again. "Do that once more," I begged. "Then I promise you that the ankle will be well."

She looked up, startled, and I saw that her tenderness had been unconscious. The old shyness dawned in her eyes. She rose and stood poised for a moment, with the restless hand fluttering like a rosy moth above her hair. Then she went running, lightly, quickly, toward the door.

I heard the latch of it click. "Good-by, Don D-jon!" The voice was full of shyness.

"Hasta la vista. Pepita of the Saints," said I.

CHAPTER IX

THE PILLARS OF HAPPINESS

M

a

Y next recollection is of seeing Felicidad, through crack between the shutters, transfigured by the long shadows of late afternoon.

Presently Don Feliciano came in and opened the crack a little wider and, turning, found my languid gaze on him.

He smiled at me. "You are awake?" he asked.

"I think so," I said.

"That is good," he said. "Yo have slept well?"

"Like a dog in the sun."

"That is very good, indeed," he said heartily. "And you are rested?"

"Perfectly," I assured him.

"That is delightiully good!" he cried and opened the shutters wide. "Now, if the excitement will not trouble you, some of the gentlemen of Felicidad, the pillars of the town--"

"The Pillars of Happiness," said I, "must be worth seeing."

"They have come, said Don Feliciano, laughing in a very friendly way, considering the slightness of the jest, "to have the honor of making your acquaintance and the priv ilege of offering their congratulations and condolences."

"For what?"

"I suppose," said he, with friendly dryness, "that the congratulations are for your escape, and the condolences are for your injury."

"But surely," I objected, "one is to be congratulated on an injury that keeps one in your house. And I was not aware that I had had an escape."

"I think you may call it an escape," said he. "That cayman is a devil. I go to bring your visitors."

He ushered them in, those slender men in their eternal white linen, with the dark masks of faces which were to become friends' faces for me, long remembered,-Don Rafael of San Rafael, Don Francisco the Patriarch, Augusto father and Augusto son; and two who were a little different, Father Isidro, a man of the Peninsula, with a strong head set like a rock above the rusty black of his cassock, and Mateo Besa the Dealer. He was a short, stout man, who seemed of commoner blood than the others.

One by one they pressed the wounded hero's hands and murmured friendly, stately-sounding nothings with that precise courtesy of theirs. Then they took seats in a half circle about me, and there was the momentary hush which, with them, precedes the birth of a topic of conversation. They are not chatterers.

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