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A Circle In The Sand

A Circle In The Sand image
Parent Issue
Day
17
Month
February
Year
1899
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

([ Auhor of N ■ ■■!!■ L'Oy'5e &9S.t oy LA AVÍAOS . -,A "Armitage, " he said, roused for the moment out of his self reserve, "I almost wisli, then, you could love a woman as míserably, as passionátely, perbaps a.s hopelessly, as I do. She is the delire of my lif e and its greatest good. ' ' "I knew it The signs never fail. And uow I want to talk to yon. We xniUt as well here as at the fazenda. "Wliy don't you sell out to me or to Morgan, take what you've made and go )iome?" : "Home?" echoed Donald, unable to repress the note of hope and yearning in bis voice at sound of that sweet word. "Why?" "Do you think this" - with a.oontemptnous gosture toward the gronp of low, tiled roof buildings and the bare land - "pays for the pain in the heart? As for the money you inako, it's not ranch for the struggle. The days are gone when big fortunes were made in ooffee planting. It doesirt matter much whether my bones eventually lie under tbis sun or Korea's, and it's the same with Morgan. But you - well, there's a woman you love far away from this wilderness. For God's sake, seize your happiness, sell out and go to her." "I won 't, " said quietly. "I've a task to accomplish. " "Other than the averagine of a profit of 8 stulltngs and tuppence on a bag of 60 kilograms?" "Other than that. I am content with these medium profits. I carne here not oaly to conquer or at least disarm forttme, bnt to conquer myself. I'H etay the time I in tended. " They rode on silently. An old negress with a child on her hip stopped in the middle of the road, her palm outstretchd, and, followiug a curious custom, eried in Spanish: "Bless me!" "God bless you !" said Annitage, and he went on. A cart drawn by goats and filled with firewood passed them. Black vultures as motionless as if fashioned in basalt looked down from the stump of a dead tree as they neared the fazenda. Close by the details of the place were even more unlovely than the misty whole seen from thé hilltop. Cattle grazed loose under the charge of an aged negro squatting in the sun and slunibering with his almost fleshless face against his knee. The gates through which the two men passed were, liko verything else about the place, contrncted to do what was required of them with the least possible exertion, and having been swung back as if undec protest when the horses were pushed against them they returned only half way with a screech eloquent of rusty liinges and stuck fast in a tuft of weeds. A iarge family of cats too attenuated to faolic strolled languidly around the paved square or sat winking their half blind eyes in the glare. From some of the white laborers' cottages came the Btnell of pork and frying bread. Over it all the sun flamed hard. Donald and Armitage alighted at the -factory, and from this cainé the low crooning, the murmur of mixed song, heard wberever the uegro works. "I'm dead for a siesta. JVIy clothes neem weighted with stones, ' ' said Armitage, yawning. "I was up bef ore the m this morning - long before it. So ■were you," ho broke off snddeuly, "and, by George, you look dead beat. You'd better go a little easier. Do as I do, Sefain. After your coffee lie dowu." "I'm going to, " said Donald listlessly. "Yes, but sleep. Don't He and tbiuk Why don't you go now and let Tomas feteh your coffee at once? It's almost 3. " "After I see Seraphine and find out what that rascal of un agent at the railwy had to say in answer: to my complaint. Must we keep trasting his honegty in weighing the sacks? I'd as soon trost the devil. " "Ah, what can we do? That's the leakage through which our profits drip. Bwt because time and exertion are as vmlnable as money in this euervating plague spot we must trust as we go and be cheated from the moment we leave the sacks at the station to the moment they are shipped in Rio. Don't let me think of it. The helplessness of it drives me frantio. It's too hot to object even to being fleeced, " and Armitage 6wung cross to Morgan 's house, where he looew pork and plantains were waitiug for him. Half an hour later Donald, with hands in trousers pockets and hat tilted lazily over eyes that seemed, asleep, went down the stone square to. the end farthest from the factory and paused before a small house exactiy like the others save that it stood apart, a palm wxthin a few feet throwing a top heavy shadow across its white facade. Home - that silent, shaded' little house of four small rooms where no familiar face over welcomed him and no voice but his own or his servant's vibrated on tho sleepy air. As Donald looked upon it uow the quiet place seemed to teel the dissatisfaction rising from his tormented heart and to meet it with almost servile protest. He had done what ho could to make the house habitable. It was even . a pret-ty house when compared with the bare Mdeonsness with which Armitage and Morgan were content. Tho laced bamboo flaps on the Windows made the place swim in gloozn as restful after the kuulight as the feeling of a cool hand on tfae brow. There was matting on the Hoor, a hammock swung in a corner, some sketches ofjiis owu were apon tbe walls, some books on the niantelshelf. Chief ainong the books wereAnne's anc just above tbein hnng a small, unfrarn ed pastel be bad made, showing her face with tho expression he loved best, tbc eyes glancing sideways, half questioning, tender. He dropped the big manilla hat to the floor, sank into a cañe chair and stretch; ed his body out in a way éxpressive o) ' unspeakable weariuess. Now that his forehead was bured, the sun's strength was seen in the pallor of the skin jast below the hair, making a división as sharp as a saber cut. Armitage was right; he waa used np and needed a rest. His hand sought some cigarsnpon a small tableand then Blipped back. It wonld be better not to smoke until Tomas had bronght his cof - fee, Tomas of the many lies, the sickly sweet smile and the coral tipped pendants in objectionable ears. All sorts of thoughts and half thoughts floated through his niind, the heaviness of the day, the knavery of the Portuguese agent ou the Dom Pedro I] railway, the wish to make nioney faster, the snrprising words Armitage had spoken on the road, and always, no matter what his surface thought, the flerce and living consciousness of Anne underlying all, the ungovernable longings he had let speak in that last letter to her, the craving for her answer, the eonstantly recurring waves of homesickness checked by returning determinations to be strong to the end. One more year of work, and he wonld have tested himself enough and made enough money to go back to New York. He saw the town plainly and with an nnappeasable longing. There were The Citizen offices, the panorama of sparkling bay and clotted smoke against a copper sky seon from its western windows, the brisk erowds on Broadway, snow, furs and violets, but most of all Anne's rooms, the flrelight clasping her as in a confidence, and perhaps cold, gweet rain washing a winter plant upon the window sill - cold, cold, sweet rain, not the sticky mist and windless showers falling at intervals in this hot eeason. He longed to teel its riot and chili against his face and Jiear the ring of the stone pavemeuts under his tread or to hnrry through miles of frosty snnlight to Anne's side - Tomas entered with the coffee and a dish of peppered chickeu, but midway across the rooci he paused and let his melancholy eyes rest npon his master. He was asleep, his head fallen back and exhaustion marking the features. Sleep was better for him than peppered chicken, Tomas reasoned, and remained considerately quiet, his gaze as melancholy but more watohful as he lifted a piece of the meat to his Ups with his fingers and rhythmically licked their brown tips. It was indeed well for his master to slumber on, and if he took another piece there would still be enongh. Before he could niaterialize the thought voices outside surprised him. He hurried to the door and met the Spanish housekeeper of Senor Morgan about to enter. At a little distance behind her he saw a small group of people, two strange women, evidently glez, aud with tuem benor Armitage. At the entrance to the court stood an ox cart in which the visitors must have comefroin the station. The heavy beasts were rubbing their noses together, moving the iron bells upou their collars and sending a louely olang through the sunlight. "Mother of God, the señor will be surprised!" Morgau's housekeeper was Eaying in hrill tones, Bwaying from hip to hip in her excitement. "He will shout and throw his hat into the air for joy when he knows. Ah, you will all see ! Aye, it is wonderf ui. Out of the "way,"stupid pig!" to Tomas. "I am to teil the señor that his love has come to him over thousands of miles." "The senor sleeps as if the sun had touched him," interposed Tomas with a glance of murder, for he hatcd the housekeeper, who annoyed his reveries by talking too niuch and knew so well how to take precise aim when she threw broken crockery at him. "I wonld not ronse him for the chicken even" - ' "Because, beaat, you wanted to eat it yourself ! This is mure important than food. Let me in!" Armitage pulled her back and motioned Tomas aside. "Go away, both of you!" he said in a whisper of commaud. He tumed to one of the strangers. , She was young, dark eyed, a little too white and slender for his idea of beauty and with inarks of travel weariness on her face. "Let your maid wait here. You will find Sefaia in this house. They say he is sleeping. ' ' Anue's lids sank for a moment over her eyes as if a tbroe of insupportable feeling coursed through her, which might have been apprehensiou, pity or love, and she entered the dim room. She stood with loosely clasped hands and looked down at Donald. Often during the travail of the long journey so impulsively undertaken she had wondered what emotions would come to her in this moment when she faced the struggler who needed and loved her, the man she loved. Donald's lids showing blue against the broken and sunken face, the clamminess upon the 6trip of palé forehead, the parched Ups parted, the nnguarded heart orying out its distress in the fixed expression of aorrow and appeal, were like sp man y_ chords_ arcrand_ her_heart drawiug her toward bim. Sho had dono right to come to hila. A wild joy fillod her as she crossed the room to his side. But thongh she leaned above hinj he still slopt, not knowing heaven was uear. She sauk (3u her kneos and laid hor cheek upon his drooping hand as shecalled hiin clearly twine. DonaJd stiirted forward, dazed. The reality canio iu Anno's kiss as she clnug to him. TfTE END.