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Mateo Besa, alone of the group, seemed ill-at-ease and flurried. He sat uneasily in his chair, as if his legs itched to draw up under him till he was squatting on his heels as Pedro squats. I fancied that only his constant watchfulness kept them dangling decorously.

But suddenly something took his attention from his legs. He looked very steadily at me. His eyes grew round.

"Diós mio, Señores!" he cried. "To look on one who could do such a deed! The quickness, the prompt decision. The agility! The strength! Mira!" He cried out the word dramatically. "Behold! He stands there at the window. He sees the girl treading herself on the mud. He sees that devil floating himself on the water. Without hesitation he leaps! Through the air he flies. He thuds himself upon the earth. stoops, he reaches down—”

He

San Rafael's smiling eyes caught mine. "You see," he murmured, "how your deed is already famous. in Felicidad? As it well deserves to be," he hastened to add. "No such thing has happened here before."

"Señor Besa was there?" I asked. "I'm afraid I missed the pleasure of seeing him."

Besa's eyes grew round again. "Saints in Heaven!" he cried. "How could you? You had no time then to see people. Yes, I was there. But only from a distance," he confessed, raising pudgily deprecatory hands. "From a distance looking on. It is me always to be present almost everywhere only from a distance, looking on. I am unfortunate. But then," he added philosophically, "what does it matter? I am no good. I am useless in emergencies. I have not the agility. I am fat. And I am also afraid. Always it does not encourage me to remember that I should probably get myself hurt."

"I should think not," said I. and the others nodded their agreement that such a thought is not encourag

ing. Don Feliciano, with quick consideration for the dealer's frank humility and regret, remarked that I ought to see Don Mateo play chess, though.

Mateo Besa agreed without hesitation. "Yes," he said, "I can do that. You shall play with me some day, if you do not mind getting beaten." His eyes grew round again. “To have the honor of defeating such a one!" he muttered. "Mira, Señores! He stands there but a moment, yet he comprehends. He encourages himself. Instantly with agility he leaps-"

A perfecting touch to the picture flashed into my head. "Did you not notice," I asked him, "how in that moment as I stood there comprehending before I leaped, I raised my eyes to Heaven and murmured a brief prayer?"

"Diós mio," he said with regretful admiration, "did I miss seeing that? But it was only from a great distance I was present, looking on. Mira, Señores! He comprehends, he lifts his hands. He shuts his eyes and encourages himself with one brief prayer that if it is convenient he shall not hurt himself. Instantly with agility he leaps-" Besa broke off and looked at me doubtfully. "It must have been a very brief one. There was no time. Already the

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Quiet amusement shone in the eyes about me when a harsh voice broke in. "There is always time for prayer, Mateo, and it is always a good and helpful thing. You also, Señor," Padre Isidro turned to me, and his face was hard, and he chose his words with coldly scornful irony, "you also agree with us, I trust, that the prayer of a righteous man-availeth much?"

With his eyes on me, I could only answer that I hoped it did. Then that pattern of tactfulness, Rafael of San Rafael, relieved the situation. "You come to Felicidad at a fortunate time," said he.

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one, I hope."

"I don't know that I can be here," said I. "How long is it to the harvest now?"

"With two weeks more of this sun," he told me, "the cane will be yellow, like moonlight on the sea. Then we shall cut it. You must give us the happiness of having you with us. It is our great fiesta.'

"Ordinarily," said I, "I am a very busy man. But just at present, of course, this stupid ankle of mine-"

"It does not pain you, I hope?" Don Feliciano asked across the circle.

"It's a mere trifle," I replied, avoiding his quiet scrutiny, "and of course it does not matter, anyway

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"The heroism!" Mateo Besa cried. "He does not mind it! And I, when I think of getting myself hurt-"

"The knowledge of good deeds done salves any hurt they may cause the doer. Mateo," said Father Isidro in his harsh voice. "Doubtless that is what you meant?”

Again his eves held mine, and again I had to murmur that I hoped it was. Of the men I had seen in Felicidad I liked its spiritual master least.

As my visitors went out, the priest moment. "You lingered behind a

are not Catholic, my son?" "No, Father," said I.

"I am coldly, and I knew that for making that act of charity his conscience

sorry for you." he said

must give him great credit, it was
so hard a thing for him to do.
said I with sudden
"Neither,"
perversity, "am I a heretic."
"What are you, then?"
was very dry.

His tone

"Nothing, I suppose," said I. "Nothingness," said the the priest, more dryly still, "is not a very desirable estate. But I dare say it would be preferable to the state which awaits an infidel-a man of no faith at all-in the hereafter.” "And that is-?"

"Hell," he explained, even more dryly. "I am very sorry indeed for you. Señor," said he with formal courtesy, "it has been my privilege I have the to meet you, and now honor of bidding you a very good day."

I looked at the door where his gaunt form had disappeared, and I laughed, as soon as the sound of his descending footsteps had quite died away. "Hell," I echoed. Father Isidro's old-fashioned speech amused me a good deal.

manner

of

"I hope," said Don Feliciano, coming into my room above the river the last thing that night to find me settled comfortably in bed, "that you did not mind my bringing those gentlemen to your acquaintance?"

"On the contrary," I answered, "I found them all very proper pillars for Happiness. Saving Father Isidro. He seems to me to be cast in an incongruous part."

"You do not get on with him?"

"He talks about Hell," said I, "with a hint of proprietorship in his tone."

Don Feliciano looked at me gravelv. "You are not yet as old as you expect to become?" he asked me suddenly.

"I am eight-and-twenty," I confessed.

"I am even older than that," said he, smilingly. "May I tell you one It is never thing I have learned?

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"Tell me, please," I said. "The social lines are drawn sharply here?" "I think so, in a way," Don Feliciano answered. He set down his candle. "Of course our life is very simple. But what a man is born, he remains, more or less. That's what you mean?"

I nodded. "And a woman?" "Even more so, of course," said he.

"To think," I said, "that in so natural a society as this seems to be, so unnatural a distinction should be made."

"Why unnatural?" he asked. "Anyway, it is costumbre del pais a custom of the country which there's no escaping."

"It seems a wasteful custom," I persisted. "That one's opportunities should depend wholly on one's birth, regardless of personal qualities-"

"Does seem a pity sometimes," he agreed.

"Take the case of a girl," said I. "Some girl who is born a muchacha -a serving-maid-"

Don Feliciano looked at me with sudden attentiveness.

"Must she expect to be tied for life to some such fellow as that bridegroom of yours this morning was, a good-natured, plodding, noddle-headed, round-skulled, thicklimbed dolt, who at his best trails a glory of purple velvet slippers behind him as he goes?"

Don Feliciano smiled at my energetic adjectives. **In the natural course of things," said he, "a muchacha would expect to marry some man of her own class."

"And yet she might conceivably be a creature of such grace and

spirit and true gentleness as are rare in any class. Why," I cried scornfully, "people don't breed dogs as carelessly and wastefully that.

Blood counts, but points count, too."

"In Felicidad," said Don Feliciano, smiling whimsically, "I'm afraid we don't bother to breed dogs. They happen."

"Don Feliciano," said I, smiling with him at my own enthusiasm, "I see that one or two of the customs of Felicidad need the attention of a reformer."

He chuckled. "Upon my word," said he, "I don't believe we've ever had a single reformer here. What an opening, eh?" He took up his candle. "Now I'll say good night, hoping that the ankle will let you sleep."

"The ankle's just nothing at all," I assured him, and he left me to listen idly to the steady flowing of the river in the dark.

"Will she," I wondered, "be down there at the mortar in the morning? And will her hand flutter moth-like above her hair when she becomes aware of me, from a distance looking down? She has the hands of an Oriental princess and the air of one at times. A poor disinherited little princess in a world of purple velvet slippers. Heigho! I wonder—”

But with that sleep must have stopped my wondering for a while.

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We were selecting a husband for this girl. I seemed to have become very paternal toward her all at once, considering the brevity of our acquaintance—selecting him in most businesslike and unsentimental fashion.

We moved through a vast, dim warehouse filled with all the really eligible young men in the world. It was vast, but not so overcrowded as you might fancy at first thought. For no one was admitted there who had ever touched foot to purple velvet slipper. All of them had been born in riding-boots.

None of

We had our difficulties. the young men-they were all ranged on pedestals, of course, and displayed to the best advantage,-none of the young men before whom Pepita halted contemplatively appealed to me in the least. Distaste so overcame me that I hurried her

on.

And she obeyed me with a very appealing submissiveness and trust in my maturer judgment.

But all at once, as things will go sometimes in dreams, without one's knowing how or why, we were in that matrimonial clearing-house no longer, but alone on a wide plain. Pepita was looking up at me reproachfully.

"If you hadn't hurried me so," she complained. "There were one or two of them—”

"Who wouldn't have suited you at all," said I, "after you'd got them home. They always look much better in the shops. That's why the management frowns so on exchanges. Otherwise there'd be nothing to offer but a line of bargains, slightly worn."

"I don't see how you know," she objected. "You're nothing but a-"

"I," said I, "mere man that I am, stood on a pedestal once myself, till I fell off. I learned a thing or two, both in the standing' and the falling."

"But now," she said disappointedlv, "we've looked at all there were, and there isn't one

"Not one," I agreed. "I'm glad

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you see it. You've no notion what very extraordinary person you are, Pepita of the Saints. Unless you have an extraordinary mate to match you, it's much better for you to have none at all."

"But I'm going to have some kind of a one," she said defiantly. "All girls do. You needn't think that just because you saved my life—”

"I'm sorry," I said humbly. “I'm very sorry. But you see how it is. We've come to the End of the World here, you and I, where there's no one left, and we haven't seen a single—”

Pepita glanced up at me quickly, and a saucy, almost a coquettish spark of laughter was in the depths of her eyes. "You're awfully unobservant," she said. "I've seen one." "You thought you saw one," I corrected her. "But in my maturer judgment—”

"But I see him still, and I'm sure you'd think him extraordinary enough for any one," she said, with the laughter growing in her eyes.

I looked all around over that wide, empty plain. There was no one there except us two. "Pepita," said I, "your experience is psychopathic. There's no one here but us. a fact at which Doña Ceferina would hold up her hands in-"

"As if I didn't know that!" she said, still saucily. Then she turned timid. "Don D-jon," she whispered, and stood looking down.

I gazed at her with eyes that were like new ones, watching delightedly her shy little face and remembering all her shy, proud, dainty little ways. "Pepita!" I cried incredulously. "You don't mean that out of all the world-I can't believe it. Why, I'm old and dull and-"

Pepito looked up at me from underneath her lashes. The laughter in her eyes was very gentle then, and with a small typhoon of wonderment buzzing in my brain I-woke

up.

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