A Small World by Henry Seton Merriman

          "Thine were the calming eyes
      That round my pinnace could have stilled the sea,
      And drawn thy voyager home, and bid him be
      Pure with their pureness, with their wisdom wise,
      Merged in their light, and greatly lost in thee."

It was midday at the monastery of Montserrat, and a monk, walking in the garden, turned and paused in his meditative promenade to listen to an unwonted noise. The silence of this sacred height is so intense that many cannot sleep at night for the hunger of a sound. There is no running water except the fountain in the patio. There are no birds to tell of spring and morning. There are no trees for the cool night winds to stir, nothing but eternal rock and the ancient building so closely associated with the life of Ignatius de Loyola. The valley, a sheer three thousand feet below, is thinly enough populated, though a great river and the line of railway from Manresa to Barcelona run through it. So clear is the atmosphere that at the great distance the contemplative denizens of the monastery may count the number of the railway carriages, while no sound of the train, or indeed of any life in the valley, reaches their ears.

What the monk heard was disturbing, and he hurried to the corner of the garden, from whence a view of the winding road may be obtained. Floating on the wind came the sound, as from another world, of shouting, and the hollow rumble of wheels. The holy man peered down into the valley, and soon verified his fears. It was the diligencia, which had quitted the monastery a short hour ago, that flew down the hill to inevitable destruction. Once before in the recollection of the watcher the mules had run away, rushing down to their death, and carrying with them across that frontier the lives of seven passengers, devout persons, who, having performed the pilgrimage to the shrine of our Lady of Montserrat, had doubtless received their reward. The monk crossed himself, but, being human, forgot alike to pray and to call his brethren to witness the scene. It was like looking at a play from a very high gallery. The miniature diligencia on the toy road far below swayed from the bank of the highway to the verge—the four mules stretched out at a gallop, as in a picture. The shouts dimly heard at the monastery had the effect they were intended to create, for the monk could see the carters and muleteers draw aside to let the living avalanche go past.

There were but two men on the box-seat of the diligencia—the driver and a passenger seated by his side. The monk recollected that this passenger had passed two days at Montserrat, inscribing himself in the visitors' book as Matthew S. Whittaker.

"I am ready to take the reins when your arms are cramped," this passenger was saying at that precise moment, "but I do not know the road, and I cannot drive so well as you."

He finished with a curt laugh, and, holding on with both hands, he turned and looked at his companion. He was not afraid, and death assuredly stared him in the face at that moment.

"Thanks for that, at all events," returned the driver, handling his reins with a steady skill. Then he fell to cursing the mules. As he rounded each corner of the winding road, he gave a derisive shout of triumph; as he safely passed a cart, he gave voice to a yell of defiance. He went to his death—if death awaited him—with a fine spirit, with a light in his eyes and the blood in his tanned cheeks.

The man at his side could perhaps have saved himself by a leap which might, with good fortune, have resulted in nothing more serious than a broken limb. As he had been invited by the driver to take this leap and had curtly declined, it is worth while to pause and give particulars of this passenger on the runaway diligencia. He was a slightly built man, dressed in the ordinary dark clothes and soft black felt hat of the middle class Spaniard. His face was brown and sun-dried, with deep lines drawn downwards from the nose to the lips in such a manner that cynicism and a mildly protesting tolerance were contending for mastery in an otherwise studiously inexpressive countenance.

"The Excellency does not blame me for this?" the driver jerked out, as he hauled round a corner with a sort of pride.

"No, my friend," replied the American; and he broke off suddenly to curve his two hands around his lips and give forth a warning shout in a clear tenor that rang down the valley like a trumpet.

A muleteer leading a heavily laden animal drew his beast into the ditch, and leapt into the middle of the road. He stepped nimbly aside and sprang at the leading mule, but was rolled into the ditch like an old hat.

"That is an old torero," shouted the driver. "Bravo, bravo!"

As they flew on, Whittaker turned in his seat and caught a glimpse of the man standing in the middle of the road, with arms spread out in an attitude of apology and deprecation.

"Ah!" cried the driver, "we shall not pass these. Now leap!"

"No," answered the other, and gave his warning shout.

Below them on the spiral road two heavy carts were slowly mounting. These were the long country carts used for the carriage of wine-casks, heavily laden with barrels for the monastery. The drivers, looking up, saw in a moment what to expect, and ran to the head of their long teams of eight mules, but all concerned knew in a flash of thought that they could not pull aside in time.

"Leap, in the name of a saint!" cried the driver, clenching his teeth.

Whittaker made no answer. But he cleared his feet and sat forward, his keen face and narrow eyes alert to seize any chance of life. The maddened mules rushed on, seeking to free themselves from the swaying destroyer on their heels. The leaders swung round the corner, but refused to obey the reins when they caught sight of the cart in front. The brakes had long ceased to act; the wooden blocks were charred as by fire. The two heavier mules at the pole made a terrified but intelligent attempt to check the pace, and the weighty vehicle skidded sideways across the road, shuddering and rattling as it went. It poised for a moment on the edge of the slope, while the mules threw themselves into their collars—their intelligence seeming to rise at this moment to a human height. Then the great vehicle turned slowly over, and at the same moment Whittaker and the driver leapt into the tangle of heels and harness. One of the leaders swung right out in mid-air with flying legs, and mules and diligencia rolled over and over down the steep in a cloud of dust and stones.

When Matthew S. Whittaker recovered consciousness, he found himself in a richly furnished bedroom. He woke as if from sleep, with his senses fully alert, and began at once to take an interest in a conversation of which he had been conscious in the form of a faint murmur for some time.

"A broken arm, my child, and nothing more, so far as I can tell at present," were the first comprehensible words. Whittaker tried to move his left arm, and winced.

"And the other man?" inquired a woman's voice in Spanish, but with an accent which the listener recognised at once. This was an Englishwoman speaking Spanish.

"Ah! the other man is dead. Poor Mogul! He was always civil and God-fearing. He has driven the diligencia up to us for nearly twenty years."

Whittaker turned his head, and winced again. The speaker was a monk—fat and good-natured—one of the few now left in the great house on Montserrat. His interlocutor was a woman not more than thirty, with brown hair that gleamed in the sunlight, and a fresh, thoughtful face. Her attitude was somewhat independent, her manner indicated a self-reliant spirit. This was a woman who would probably make mistakes in life, but these would not be the errors of omission. She was a prototype of a sex and an age which err in advancing too quickly, and in holding that everything which is old-fashioned must necessarily be foolish.

Whittaker lay quite still and watched these two, while the deep-drawn lines around his lips indicated a decided sense of amusement. He was in pain, but that was no new condition to a man whose spirit had ever been robuster than his body. He had, at all events, not been killed, and his last recollection had been the effort to face death. So he lay with a twisted smile on his lips listening to Brother Lucas, who, sad old monk that he was, took infinite pleasure in glorifying to the young lady his own action in causing the monastery cart to be brought out, and in driving down the slope at a breakneck pace to place his medical knowledge at the disposal of such as might require it. He bowed in a portly way, and indicated with a very worldly politeness that he himself was, in fact, at the disposal of the Senorita.

"I was not always a monk—I began life as a doctor," he explained.

And his companion looked at him with speculative, clever eyes, scenting afar off, with the quickness of her kind, the usual little romance—the everlasting woman.

"Ah!" she said slowly.

And Whittaker in the alcove coughed with discretion. Both turned and hurried towards him.

"He has recovered his senses," said the girl.

The monk had, however, not laid aside all the things of this world. He remembered the little ceremonies appertaining to the profession which he had once practised. He waived aside the girl, and stooped over the bed.

"You understand what I say—you see me?" he inquired in a soothing voice.

"Most assuredly," replied Whittaker, coolly. "Most assuredly, my father. And I do not think there is much the matter with me."

"Holy Saints, but you go too quickly," laughed the monk. "You will be wanting next to get up and walk."

"I should not mind trying."

"Ah, that is good! Then you will soon be well. Senorita, we shall have no trouble with this patient. This, Senor, is the Senorita Cheyne; in whose house you find yourself, and to whom your thanks are due."

Whittaker turned in bed to thank her; but instead of speaking, he quietly fainted. He came to his senses again, and found that it was evening. The windows of his room were open, and he could see across the valley the brown hills of Catalonia, faintly tinged with pink. A nursing sister in her dark blue dress and white winged cap was seated at the open window, gazing reflectively across the valley. There was an odour of violets in the room. A fitful breeze stirred the lace curtains. Whittaker perceived his own travel-worn portmanteau lying half unpacked on a side table. It seemed that some one had opened it to seek the few necessaries of the moment. He noted with a feeling of helplessness that his simple travelling accessories had been neatly arranged on the dressing-table. A clean handkerchief lay on the table at the bedside. The wounded man became conscious of a feeling that he had lost some of the solitary liberty which had hitherto been his. It seemed that he had been picked up on the road helpless and insensible by some one with the will and power to take entire charge of him. The feeling was so new to this adventurer that he lay still and smiled.

Presently the nun rose and came quietly towards him, disclosing within the halo of her snowy cap a gentle pink-and-white face wrinkled by the passage of uneventful years. She nodded cheerfully on seeing that his eyes were open, and gave him some soup which was warming on a spirit lamp in readiness for his return to consciousness.

"I will tell the Senorita," she said, and noiselessly quitted the room.

A minute later Miss Cheyne came in with a pleasant frou-frou of silk, and Whittaker wondered for whom she had dressed so carefully.

"I did not know," she said in English, with an ease of manner which is of this generation, "that I had succoured a countryman. You were literally thrown at my gate. But the doctor, who has just left, confirms the opinion of Brother Lucas that you are not seriously hurt. A broken fore-arm and a severe shake, they say—to be cured by complete rest, which you will be able to enjoy here. For there is no one in the house but my aunt, Mrs. Dorchester, and myself."

She stood at the bedside, looking down at him with her capable, managing air. Whittaker now knew the source of that sense of being "taken in and done for," of which he had become conscious the moment his senses returned to him.

"They say," she went on, with a decisiveness which was probably an accentuation of her usual attitude, inspired by the necessity of sparing the patient the exertion of an explanation or an apology—"they say, however, that you are not naturally a very strong man, and that you have tried your constitution in the past, so that greater care is required than would otherwise be necessary in such a case."

She looked at the brown face and sinewy neck, the hollow cheeks, the lean hands ("all wires," as she decided in her own prompt mind), and her clear eyes were alight with a speculation as to what the past had been in which this man had tried his constitution.

"I have led a rough life," explained Whittaker; and Miss Cheyne nodded her head in a manner indicative of the fact that she divined as much.

"I thought you were a Spaniard," she said.

"No; I have lived in the Spanish colonies, however—the last few years—since the troubles began."

Miss Cheyne nodded again without surprise. She had gone about the world, with those clear eyes of hers very wide open, and was probably aware that in those parts where, as Whittaker gracefully put it, "troubles" are, such men as this are usually to be found. For it is not the large men who make a stir in the world. These usually sit at home and love a life of ease. It is even said that they take to novel-writing and other sedentary occupations. And in the forefront, where things are stirring and history is to be manufactured, are found the small and the frail, such as Matthew S. Whittaker, who, in addition to the battles of progress, have to contend personally against constitutional delicacy, nervous depression, and disease.

Miss Cheyne kept silence for a few moments, and, during the pause, turned at the sound of horses' feet on the gravel below the windows. She seemed to have been expecting an arrival, and Whittaker noticed a sudden brightening of the eyes, an almost imperceptible movement of the shoulders, as if Miss Cheyne was drawing herself up. The American quickly reflected that the somewhat elaborate "toilette" was unusual, and connected it with the expected visitor. He was not surprised when, with a polite assurance that he had only to ask for anything he might require, she turned and left him.

Whittaker now remembered having been told by the voluble driver of the diligencia the history of a certain English Senorita who, having inherited property from a forgotten uncle, had come to live in her "possession" on the mountain side. He further recollected that the house had been pointed out to him—a long, low dwelling of the dull red stone quarried in this part of Catalonia. Being of an observant habit, he remembered that the house was overgrown by a huge wisteria, and faced eastward. He turned his head painfully, and now saw that his windows were surrounded by mauve fronds of wisteria. His room was, therefore, situated in the front of the house. There was, he recollected, a verandah below his windows, and he wondered whether Miss Cheyne received her visitors there in the cool of the afternoon. He listened half-sleepily, and heard the horse depart, led away by a servant. There followed the murmur of a conversation, between two persons only, below his window. So far as he could gather from the tones, for the words were inaudible, they were spoken in English. And thus he fell asleep.

During the next few days Whittaker made good progress, and fully enjoyed the quiet prescribed to him by the doctors. The one event of the day was Miss Cheyne's visit, to which he soon learnt to look forward. He had, during an adventurous life, had little to do with women, and Miss Cheyne soon convinced him of the fact that many qualities—such as independence, courage, and energy—were not, as he had hitherto imagined, the monopoly of men alone. But the interest thus aroused did not seem to be mutual. Miss Cheyne was kind and quick to divine his wants or thoughts; but her visits did not grow longer day by day as, day by day, Whittaker wished they would. Daily, moreover, the visitor arrived on horseback, and the murmured conversation in the verandah duly followed. A few weeks earlier Whittaker had made the voyage across to the island of Majorca, to visit an old companion-in-arms there, and offer him a magnificent inducement to return to active service. That comrade had smilingly answered that he held cards of another suite. Miss Cheyne likewise appeared to hold another suite, and the American felt vaguely that the dealer of life's cards seemed somehow to have passed him by.

He daily urged the young doctor to allow him to leave his bed, "if only," he pleaded with his twisted smile, "to sit in a chair by the window." At last he gained his point, and sat, watch in hand, awaiting the arrival of Miss Cheyne's daily visitor. To the end of his life Matthew Whittaker believed that some instinct guided him at this time. He had only spoken with his nurse and the doctor, and had refrained from making inquiries of either respecting the lady whose hospitality he enjoyed. He had now carefully recalled all that the dead driver of the diligencia had told him, and had dismissed half of it as mere gossip. Beyond the fact that Miss Cheyne's aunt, Mrs. Dorchester, acted as her companion, he knew nothing. But he had surmised, from remarks dropped by the young lady herself, that her mother had been a Spaniard; hence the uncle from whom she had inherited this estate. He also had reason to believe that Miss Cheyne's mother had brought her up in the older faith.

He reflected on these matters, and smiled half cynically at the magnitude of his own interest in Miss Cheyne as he sat at the open window. He had not long to wait before the clatter of horse's feet on the hard road became audible. The house stood back from the high-road in the midst of terraced olive groves, and was entirely surrounded by a grove of cypress and ilex trees. The visitor, whose advent was doubtless awaited with as keen an impatience by another within the red stone house, now leisurely approached beneath the avenue of evergreen oak. Whittaker got painfully upon his feet, and stood, half concealed by the curtain. He was conscious of a singular lack of surprise when he recognized the face of the horseman as one that he had already seen, though, when he came in a flash of thought to reflect upon it, this among all he knew was the last face that he could have expected to see in that place.

He sat down quite coolly and mechanically, thinking and acting as men think and act, by instinct, in a crisis. He seemed to be obeying some pre-ordained plan.

The horseman was dark and clean-shaven—the happy possessor of one of those handsome Andalusian faces which are in themselves a passport in a world that in its old age still persists in judging by appearance. Whittaker scrupulously withdrew from the window. He had no desire to overhear their conversation. But his eyes were fierce with a sudden anger. The very attitude of the new-comer—his respectful, and yet patronizing, manner of removing his hat—clearly showed that he was a lover, perhaps a favoured one. And the American, who, with all his knowledge of the world, knew so little of women, stood in the middle of the room wrapt in thought. It seemed hardly possible that a woman of Miss Cheyne's intelligence, a woman no longer in the first flush of girlhood, should fail to perceive the obvious. He did not know that so far as her vanity is concerned a woman does not grow older, by the passage of years, but younger—that she will often, for the sake of a little admiration, accept the careless patronage of a man, knowing well that his one good quality is the skill with which he flatters her. He was not aware that Miss Cheyne was distinctly handicapped, and that her judgment was warped by the fact that she had by some chance or another reached to years of discretion without ever having had a lover.

Whittaker was not an impulsive man, although as prompt in action as he was quick to make a decision. He was a citizen of that new country where an old chivalry still survives. His sense of chivalry was also intensified by the fact, already stated, that he knew but little of that sex which is at the moment making a superficial stir in the world.

"If the harm is done, a day more will make it no worse, I reckon," he said reflectively. He would not listen to what they said, though he could have heard easily enough, had he so desired. He watched Miss Cheyne and her lover, however, as they slowly walked the length of the garden—she, holding a fan in the Spanish fashion, to shield her face from the setting sun; the man, hat in hand, and carrying himself with a sort of respectful grandeur, characteristic of his race. At the end of the garden they paused, and Whittaker smiled cynically at the sight of the man's dark eyes as he looked at Miss Cheyne. He was apparently asking for something, and she at last yielded, giving him slowly, almost shyly, a few violets that she had worn in her belt. Whittaker gave a curt laugh, but his eyes were by no means mirthful.

Later in the evening Miss Cheyne came into his room.

"You have had a visitor," he said, in the course of their usual conversation.

"Yes," she answered frankly; and Whittaker reflected that, at all events, she knew her own mind.

He said nothing further upon that subject, but later he referred to a topic which he had hitherto scrupulously avoided. He had passed his life among a class of men who were not in the habit of growing voluble respecting themselves.

"I think you take me for an Englishman," he said. "I am not. I am an American."

"Indeed! You have no accent," replied Miss Cheyne; and, despite that other suite of cards that she held, she looked at him speculatively. She was, in a way, interested in him.

"I have lived abroad a great deal, the last few years in Cuba." And his quick eyes flashed across her face. She was not interested in Cuba, at all events, and evidently knew nothing of that distressful island. When she left him, he stood looking at the closed door reflectively.

"It will be for to-morrow," he said to himself, with his short laugh.

The next morning the doctor paid his usual visit, and Whittaker handed him an envelope.

"I am leaving this evening," he said, "and I shall leave in your debt."

The doctor, who was a young man and a Spanish gentleman, slipped the envelope into his pocket.

"Thank you," he said. "The debt is mine. You are not fit to be moved yet; but it is as you like."

"Will you order me a carriage to be here at five o'clock this evening?"

"I will do as you like."

"And omit to mention it to my hostess. You understand my position here, and my fear of outstaying a most courteous welcome?"

"I understand," said the doctor, and departed.

At four o'clock Whittaker had packed his portmanteau. He took up his position at the window and waited. Before long he heard the sound of a horse's feet. Miss Cheyne's visitor presently appeared, and swung off his hat with the usual deferential pride. The horse was led away. The usual murmured conversation followed. Whittaker rose and walked to the door. He paused on the threshold, and looked slowly round the room as if conscious then that the moment was to be one of the indelible memories of his life.

On the stairs he needed the support of the balustrade. When he reached the verandah his face was colourless, with shining eyes. Miss Cheyne was sitting with her back turned towards him, but her companion saw him at once and rose to his feet, lifting his hat with a politely inquiring air. From long habit acquired among a naturally polite people, Whittaker returned the salutation.

"You do not recognise me, Senor?" he said, in English.

And the other shook his head, still polite and rather surprised.

"I was known in Cuba by the name of Mateo."

The Spaniard's handsome, sunburnt face slowly turned to the colour of ashes. His eyes looked into Whittaker's, not in anger, but with a pathetic mingling of reproach and despair.

"What is the meaning of this?" said Miss Cheyne, alert, and rising, characteristically, to the emergency of the moment.

Whittaker bit his lip and looked at the Spaniard, who seemed to be dazed.

"You had better go," he said, almost gently.

"What is the meaning of this?" repeated Miss Cheyne, looking from one to the other. Then she turned to Whittaker, by what instinct she never knew. "Who is this gentleman?" she asked, angrily. "What have you against him?"

Whittaker, still biting his lip, looked hard at her. Then he made a gesture with his two hands, which was more eloquent than a thousand words; for it seemed to convey to the two persons who breathlessly awaited his words that he found himself in a position that was intolerable.

"I knew him in Cuba," he said slowly. "I have nothing against him, Miss Cheyne; but the man is a priest."

                    *          *          *

"There, Senorita—I have made it myself."

The proprietor of the Venta of the Moor's Mill set down upon the table in front of the inn a cracked dish containing an omelette. It was not a bad omelette, though not quite innocent of wood-ash, perhaps, and somewhat ill-shapen. The man laughed gaily and drew himself up. So handsome a man could surely be forgiven a broken omelette and some charcoal, if only for the sake of his gay blue eyes, his curling brown hair, and his devil-may-care air of prosperity. He looked at the Senorita and laughed in the manner of a man who had never yet failed to "get on" with women. He folded his arms with fine, open gestures, and stood looking with approving nods upon his own handiwork. He was without the shadow of the trailing vine which runs riot over bamboo trelliswork in front of the Venta, affording a much needed shade in this the sunniest spot in all Majorca, and the fierce sun beat down upon his face, which was tanned a deep, healthy brown. He was clad almost in white; for his trousers were of canvas, his shirt of spotless linen. Round his waist he wore the usual Spanish faja or bright red cloth. He was consciously picturesque, and withal so natural, so good-natured, so astonishingly optimistic, as to be quite inoffensive in his child-like conceit.

The Venta of the Moor's Mill stands, as many know, at the northern end of the Val D'Erraha, looking down upon the broader valley, through which runs the high road from Palma to Valdemosa. The city of Palma, itself, is only a few miles away, for such as know the mountain path. Few customers come this way, and the actual trade of the Venta is small. Some day a German doctor will start a nerve-healing establishment here, with a table d'hote at six o'clock, and every opportunity for practising the minor virtues—and the Valley of Repose will be the Valley of Repose no longer.

"Ah! It is a good omelette," said the host of the Venta, as Miss Cheyne took up her fork. "Though I have not always been a cook, nor yet an innkeeper."

He raised one finger, shook it from side to side in an emphatic negation, and laughed. Then he turned suddenly, and looked down into the valley with a grave face and almost a sigh.

The man had a history it appeared—and, rarer still, was willing to tell it.

She knew too much of the Spanish race, or perhaps of all men, to ask questions.

"Yes," she said pleasantly, "it is a good omelette." And the man turned sharply and looked at her as if she had said something startling. She noticed his action, and showed surprise.

"It is nothing," he said with a laugh, "only a coincidence—a mere accident. It is said by the peasants that the mind of a friend has wings. Perhaps it is so. As I looked down into the valley I was thinking of a man—a friend. Yes—name of a Saint—he was a friend of mine, although a gentleman! Educated? Yes, many languages, and Latin. And I—what am I? You see, Senorita, a peasant, who wears no coat."

And he laughed heartily, only to change again suddenly to gravity.

"And as I looked down into the valley I was thinking of my friend—and, believe me, you spoke at that moment with something in your voice—in your manner—who knows?—which was like the voice and manner of my friend. Perhaps, Senorita, the peasants are right, and the mind of my friend, having wings, flew to us at that moment."

The lady laughed, and said that it might be so.

"It is not that you are English," the innkeeper continued, with easy volubility. "For I know you belong to no other nation. I said so to myself the moment I saw you, riding up here on horseback alone. I called upstairs to Juanita that there was an English Senorita coming on a horse, and Juanita replied with a malediction, that I should raise my voice when the nino was asleep. She said that if it was the Pope of Rome who came on a horse he must not wake the child. 'No,' I answered, 'but he would have to go upstairs to see it;' and Juanita did not laugh. She sees no cause to laugh at anything connected with the nino—oh, no! it is a serious matter."

He was looking towards the house as he spoke.

"Juanita is your wife?" said the Englishwoman.

"Yes. We have been married a year, and I am still sure that she is the most beautiful woman in the world. Is it not wonderful? And she will be jealous if she hears me talking all this while with the Senorita."

"You can tell her that the Senorita has grey hair," said Miss Cheyne, practically.

"That may be," said the innkeeper, looking at her with his head on one side, and a gravely critical air. "But you still have the air"—he shrugged his shoulders, and spread out his hands—"the air that takes a man's fancy. Who knows?"

Miss Cheyne, who had dealt much with a simple people, accustomed to the statement of simple facts in plain language, only laughed. There is a certain rough purity of thought which vanishes at the advance of civilisation. And cheap journalism, cheap fiction, cheap prudery have not yet reached Spain.

"I know nothing," went on the man, with a shrewd, upward nod of the head. "But the Senorita has a lover. He may be faithless, he may be absent, he may be dead—but he is there—the God be thanked!"

He touched his broad chest in that part where a deadly experience told him that the heart was to be found, and looked up to Heaven, all with a change of expression and momentary gravity quite incomprehensible to men of northern breed.

Miss Cheyne laughed again without self-consciousness. Uneducated people have a way of arriving at once at those matters that interest rich and poor alike, which is rather refreshing, even to the highly educated.

"But I, who talk like a washerwoman, forget that I am an innkeeper," said the man, with a truer tact than is often found under fine linen. And he proceeded to wait on her with a grand air, as if she were a queen and he a nobleman.

"If Juanita were about it would be different," he said, whipping the cloth from the table and shaking the crumbs to the four winds. "And the Senorita would be properly served. But—what will you? the nino is but a fortnight old, and I—I am new at my trade. The Senorita takes coffee?"

Miss Cheyne intimated that she did take coffee.

"And you, perhaps, will take a cup also," she added, whereupon the man bowed in his best manner. He had that perfect savoir-faire—a certain innate gentlemanliness—which is the characteristic of all Spaniards. His manner indicated an appreciation of the honour, and conveyed at the same time the intimation that he knew quite well how to behave under the circumstances.

He went into the house from which—all the doors and windows being open—came the sound of his conversation with Juanita, while he prepared the coffee. It was quite a frank and open conversation, having Miss Cheyne for its object, and stating that she had not only found the omelette good, but had eaten it all.

Presently he returned with the coffee-pot, two cups, and a small jug of cream on a tray. He turned the handle of the coffee-pot towards Miss Cheyne, and conveyed in one inimitable gesture that he would take his coffee from no other hand.

"The Senorita is staying in Palma?" he asked, pleasantly.


"For pleasure?"

"No—for business."

The innkeeper laughed gaily and deprecatingly, as if between persons of their station business was a word only to be mentioned as a sort of jest.

"I am the owner of a small property in the island—over in that direction—towards Soller. It is held on the 'rotas' system by a good farmer, who has frequently come to see me where I live at Monistrol, near Barcelona. He has often begged me to come to Majorca to see the property, and now I have come. I am staying a few days at Palma."

"Farming is good in Majorca," said the man, shrewdly. "You should receive a large sum for your share of the harvest. I, too, shall buy land presently when I see my chance, for I have the money. Ah, yes: I was not always an innkeeper!"

He sipped his coffee pensively.

"That reminds me again of my friend," he said, after a pause. "Why do I think of him this afternoon? It is a strange story; shall I tell it?"

"I shall be glad to hear it," replied Miss Cheyne, in her energetic way. She was stirring her coffee slowly and thoughtfully.

"I knew him in his own country—in America; and then in Cuba—"

Miss Cheyne ceased stirring her coffee suddenly, as if she had come against some object in the cup. A keen observer might have guessed that she had become interested at that moment in this idle tale.

"Ah! You know Cuba?" she said, indifferently interrogative.

"If I know Cuba?" he laughed, and spread out his hands in mute appeal to the gods. "If I know Cuba! When Cuba is an independent republic, Senorita—when the history of all this trouble comes to be written, you will find two names mentioned in its pages. The one name is Antonio. When you are an old woman, Senorita, you can tell your children—or perhaps your grandchildren, if the good God is kind to you—that you once knew Antonio, and took a cup of coffee with him. But you must not say it now—never—never. And the other name is Mateo. You can tell your children, Senorita, when your hair is white, that you once spoke to a man who was a friend to this Mateo."

He finished with his gay laugh, as if he were fully alive to his own fine conceit, and begged indulgence.

"He has been here—sitting where you sit now," he continued, with impressive gravity. "He came to me: 'Antonio,' he said, 'There are five thousand men out there who want you.' 'Amigo,' replied I, 'there is one woman here who does the same'—and I bowed, and Mateo went away without me. I thought he had gone back there to conduct affairs—to fight in his careless way, with his tongue in his cheek, as it were. He did all with his tongue in his cheek—that queer Mateo. And then came a message from Barcelona, saying that he wanted me. Name of a dog, I went—for his letter was unmistakable. He had, it appeared, had an accident. I found him with his arm in a sling. He had been cared for in the house of an Englishwoman—so much he told—but I guessed more. This Englishwoman—well, he said so little about her, that I could only conclude one thing. You know, Senorita—when a man will not talk of a woman—well, it assuredly means something. But there was, it appears, another man—this man, I grind my teeth to tell you of it—he was a priest. One Bernaldez, whom we had both known in Cuba. He had, it appears, come over to Spain in ordinary dress; for he was too well known to travel as Bernaldez, the priest. He was a fine man—so much I will say for him. The Englishwoman was, no doubt, beautiful. Bernaldez met her. She did not know that he was a priest."

Antonio paused, shrugged his shoulders and spread out his arms.

"The devil did the rest, Senorita. And she? Did she care for him? Ah—one never knows with women."

"Perhaps they do not always know themselves," suggested Miss Cheyne, without meeting her companion's eyes.

"Perhaps that is so, Senorita. At all events, Mateo went to these two, when they were together. Mateo was always quick and very calm. He faced Bernaldez, and he told the woman. Then he left them. And I found him in Barcelona, two days afterwards, living at the Hotel of the Four Nations, like one in his sleep. 'If Bernaldez wants me,' he said, 'he knows where to find me.' And the next day Bernaldez came to us, where we sat in front of the Cafe of the Liceo on the Rambla. 'Mateo,' he said, 'you will have to fight me.' And Mateo nodded his head. 'With the revolver.' Mateo looked up with his dry smile. 'I will take you at that game,' he said, 'for nuts'—in the American fashion, Senorita—one of their strange sad jokes. Then Bernaldez sat down—his eyes were hollow; he spoke like one who has been down to the bottom of misery. 'I know a place,' he said, 'that will suit our purpose. It is among the mountains, on the borders of Andorra. You take the train from Barcelona to Berga, the diligencia from Berga to Organa. Between Organa and La Seo de Urgel is a bridge called La Puente del Diabolo. I will meet you at this bridge on foot on Thursday morning at nine o'clock. We can walk up into the mountains together. I shall bring a small travelling clock with me. We shall stand it on the ground between us, and when it strikes, we fire.'"

Antonio had, in the heat of his narrative, leant forward across the table. With quick gestures he described the whole scene, so that Miss Cheyne could see it as it had passed before his eyes.

"There is a madness, Senorita," he went on, "which shows itself by a thirst for blood. I looked at Bernaldez. He was sane enough, but I think the man's heart was broken. 'It is well,' said Mateo; 'I am your man—at the Puente del Diabolo at nine o'clock on Thursday morning.' And mind you, Senorita, these were not Italians or Greeks—they were a Spaniard and an American—men who mean what they say, whether it be pleasant or the reverse."

Miss Cheyne was interested enough now. She sat, leaning one arm on the table, and her chin in the palm of her hand. She held her lip with her teeth, and watched the man's quick expressive face.

"We were there at nine o'clock," he went on, "that Mateo, with his arm in a sling. We had passed the night at the hotel of the Libertad at Organa, where we both slept well enough. What will you?—when one is no longer young, the pulse is slow. The morning mist had descended the mountain side, the air was cold. There at the Puente, leaning against the wall, cloaked and quiet—was Bernaldez. 'Ah!' he said to me, 'you have come, too?' 'Yes, Amigo,' I answered, 'but I do not give the word for two friends to let go at each other. Your little clock can do that.' He nodded and said nothing. Senorita, I was sorry for the man. Who was I that I should judge? You remember, you, who read your Bible, the writing on the ground? Bernaldez led the way, and we climbed up into the mountains in the morning mist. Somewhere above us there was a little waterfall singing its eternal song. In the cloud, where we could not see him, a curlew hung on his heavy wings, and gave forth his low warning whistle. 'Have a care—have a care,' he seemed to cry. Presently Bernaldez stopped, and looked around him. It was a desolate place. 'This will do,' he said. 'And he who drops may be left here. The other may turn on his heel, say "A Dios," and go in safety. 'Yes,' answered Mateo. 'This will do as well as any other place.' Bernaldez looked at him, with a laugh. 'Ah,' he said, 'you think that you are sure to kill me—but I shall, at all events, have a shot for my money. Who knows? I may kill you.' 'That is quite possible,' answered Mateo. Bernaldez threw back his cloak. He carried the little travelling clock in one hand—a gilt thing made in Paris. 'We will stand it here,' he said, 'on a rock between us.' We were in a little hollow far up the mountain side, and the mist wrapped us round like a cloak. I know these mountains, Senorita, for it was here that the fiercest of the fighting in the last Carlist War took place. There are many dead up there even now, who have never been found. I also was in that trouble—ah, no, I was not always an innkeeper!"

"Go on with your story," said Miss Cheyne, curtly, and closed her teeth over her lower lip again.

"We stood there, then, and watched Bernaldez take the clock from its case. He held it to his ear to make sure that it was going. It seemed to me that it ticked as loud up there as a clock ticks in a room at night. Bernaldez set forward the hands till they stood at five minutes to eleven. 'The eleventh hour,' said Mateo, with his dry laugh. Bernaldez set the clock down again. He took off his hat and threw it down to mark the ground. 'Ten paces,' he said, and, turning on his heel, counted aloud. I looked half-instinctively at his bared head. The tonsure was still visible to any who sought it; for it was but half-grown over. Mateo counted his steps and then turned. The clock gave a little tick, as such clocks do, four minutes before they strike. It seemed to me to hurry its pace as we three stood listening in that silence. We could hear the whisper of the clouds as they hurried through the mountains. The clock gave another click, and the two men raised their pistols of a similar pattern. The little gong rang out, and immediately after two shots, one following the other. Bernaldez had fired first. Mateo—a man with a reputation to care for—took a moment longer for his aim. I heard Bernaldez's bullet sing past his ear like a mosquito. Bernaldez fell forward—thus, on his arm—and the clock had not ceased striking when we stood over him; and Mateo had held the pistol in his left hand."

The narrator finished abruptly with a quick gesture. All through his story he had added a vividness to his description by quick movements of the hand and head, by his flashing eyes, his southern fire, so that his hearer could see the scene as he had seen it; could feel the stillness of the mountains; could hear the whisper of the clouds; could see the two men facing each other in the mist. With a gesture he showed her how Bernaldez lay, on his face on the wet stones, with a half-concealed tonsure, turned towards heaven in mute appeal, awaiting the last great hearing of his case in that Court where there is no appeal.

"And there we left him, Senorita," added Antonio, shortly.

He rose, walked away from her to the edge of the great slope, and stood looking down into the valley that lay shimmering below him. After a time he came back slowly. In his simplicity he was not ashamed of dimmed eyes.

"I tell you this, Senorita," he said with a laugh, "because you are an Englishwoman, and because this Mateo was my friend. He is an American. His name is Whittaker—Matthew S. Whittaker. And this afternoon I was reminded of him; I know not why. Perhaps it was something that I said myself, or some gesture that I made, which I had caught from him. If one thinks much about a person, one may catch his gestures or his manner: is it not so? And then you reminded me of him a second time. That was strange."

"Yes," said Miss Cheyne, thoughtfully; "that was strange."

"He went to Cuba again at once, Senorita; that was a year ago. And I have never heard from him. If, as the peasants say, the mind of a friend has wings, perhaps Mateo's mind has flown on to tell me that he is coming. He said he would come back."

"Why was he coming back?" asked Miss Cheyne.

"I do not know, Senorita."

Miss Cheyne had risen, and was making ready to depart. Her gloves and riding-whip lay on the table. The afternoon was far spent, and already the shadows were lengthening on the mountain-side. She paid the trifling account, Antonio taking the money with such a deep bow that the smallness of the coin was quite atoned for. He brought her horse from the stable.

"The horse and the Senorita are both tired," he said, with his pleasant laugh. And, indeed, Miss Cheyne looked suddenly weary. "It is not right that you should go by the mountain path," he added. "It is so easy to lose the way. Besides, a lady alone—it is not done in Spain."

"No; but in England women are learning to take care of themselves," laughed Miss Cheyne.

She placed her foot within his curved hands, and he lifted her to the saddle. All her movements were easy and independent. It seemed that she only stated a fact, and the man shook his head forebodingly. He belonged to a country which in some ways is a century behind England and America. She nodded a farewell, and turned the horse's head towards the mountain path.

"I shall find my way," she said. "Never fear."

"Only by good fortune," he answered, with a shake of the head.

The sun had almost set when she reached Palma. At the hotel her lawyer, who had made the voyage from Barcelona with her, awaited her with impatience, while her maid leant idly from the window. In the evening she went abroad again, alone, in her independent way. She walked slowly on the Cathedral terrace, where priests lingered, and a few soldiers from the neighbouring barracks smoked a leisurely cigarette. All turned at intervals, and looked in the same direction—namely, towards the west, where the daylight yet lingered in the sky. The moon, huge and yellow, was rising over the mountains, above Manacor, at the eastern end of the island. One by one the idlers dropped away, moving with leisurely steps towards the town. In very idleness Miss Cheyne followed them. She knew that they were going to the harbour in anticipation of the arrival of the Barcelona steamer. She was on the pier with the others, when the boat came alongside. The passengers trooped off, waving salutations to their friends. One among them, a small-made, frail man, detached himself from the crowd, and made his way towards Miss Cheyne, as if this meeting had been prearranged—and who shall say that it was not?—by the dim decrees of Fate.