Captain Carillo had been out several times, so that in the midst of her great sorrow Manuelita had experienced much happiness; for she loved him with all the passionate intensity of her nature. Several times she had tried hard to tell Louis Ramirez of Balthazar Carillo's love for her, but her courage had failed her, and Captain Carillo was to tell him of it, and ask his consent to their engagement this evening.
‘‘But a little bird has,’’ replied Catiche smiling, as she saw the colour mantle the young girl's face. ‘‘Did my child, of whose welfare and happiness I think always, and for which I would give my life, think that I was blind, that I saw nothing?’’
‘‘Yes, child; he feared that only you loved, and that sorrow and misery would come upon you through your love. It is a dreadful thing, child, to give one's heart where one is not given in return: it burns up the soul and
‘‘That is what dear Father Kino said. How brave he was. Madre, do you know that when a young man he loved a beautiful girl above his station in wealth as well as rank, and his sorrow and disappointment brought upon him a dreadful illness, and that when he recovered he vowed to devote his life to what he so poetically called us, 'the children of the American Desert?'’’
‘‘And, madre, he spoke of it as the mercy and goodness of God, to take him from his own narrow life, which his own happiness would have made for him, and giving him such a wide beautiful field with us.’’
Early that afternoon Captain Carillo rode out to see Manuelita. A letter from his father had reached him the evening before, enclosing a six months leave of absence, with permission for him to return to Spain, and he was to leave in two or three weeks, or as soon as another officer could be sent from head-quarters to take his command.
It was the first intimation Manuelita had received of the possibility of a separation; in thinking of her marriage she had of course expected to go to the presidio with him, and rejoiced in it, in that it would enable her to have Catiche with her and to see Brother Ramirez often. She knew that he would
‘‘But love must know no absence—you must have me so constantly in your heart, as you will be in mine, that my presence will always be felt. You will think of me each hour, and when I return you will become my dear little wife.’’
She looked grave and thoughtful, and made no reply; taking her hand in his and holding it very firmly he asked, ‘‘Is love so serious to my darling that it robs her eyes of their smile, and her tongue of its speech?’’
‘‘And was my darling reasoning? You know that is treason to love; love knows no past because it never loved before, no future because it will never love again, only the present which is love itself, and is ours,’’ he said playfully.
Still the serious expression did not leave her face, as she replied, ‘‘I was thinking of your father. Father Kino said that he was a proud and wealthy Spanish noble. Think you that he will ever consent to our marriage?’’
‘‘There is no teacher like love, my darling. You are much more learned than the women of my country,’’ and he smiled playfully, ‘‘Father Kino and Brother Ramirez have made quite a little pedant of you; they do not know German, they have not read as much as you have, and for the customs of our rigid Spanish society, my cousin and aunt will soon teach them to you, and they will teach you to dance;’’ and he laughed. ‘‘The Spanish women are very fond of dancing, and dance very beautifully. My Manuelita is very graceful in her movements, and will look very pretty on the floor waltzing,’’ and he gave her hand a little reassuring pressure.
He laughed merrily as he replied, ‘‘Yes, darling, it is very different. My father is a man of wealth and station, and his home in Madrid is very stately. Manuelita must think of herself henceforth as the future mistress of a home worthy of her.’’
‘‘Yes, I shall have two years more in this presidio. I will try to make my little bride very comfortable there. Lieutenant Bernal, who is now in Spain, is going to bring his bride out with him, so you will not be alone. I shall be back early in April. Will you not name the 25th, the anniversary of the day I first saw you, for our wedding day? It is what Father Kino used to call your adopted birthday,’’ he continued playfully.
It is an exquisite thing in a sensitive nature that when the heart is fullest of its own happiness, such tender memories of the loved dead come to it unresistingly, and unconsciously. Says a tender-souled modern novelist, ‘‘Our dead are never quite dead to us until we have forgotten them.’’
‘‘I have yet to learn yours. My life was so interwoven with his for twenty long years that I had learned every expression of his face, every thought of his heart. It was one of those great, sympathetic natures that did not wear or change by daily friction.’’
‘‘But you leave me for so long an absence—how can I know that you will always love me?’’ Seeing that he grew grave and thoughtful she continued, ‘‘But hope shall not desert me, though often as evanescent as a cloud, and fading away even while we are feasting our gaze upon it, it always returns in some form.’’
A half hour later he rose and said, ‘‘And now, my darling, for my interview with Brother Ramirez, your guardian. He does not seem to me to have Father Kino's tender, sympathetic heart,’’ and he laughed. ‘‘I think he looks upon me a little suspiciously: he suspects my design to steal the one little ewe lamb of his flock.’’