Chapter XV

Up: Contents Previous: Chapter XIV Next: Chapter XVI

THE next morning Brother Ramirez proposed to Manuelita that they should resume their French readings and studies. ‘‘It will help to occupy your mind, and draw you somewhat from your sorrow,’’ he had said to her.

‘‘But the good father always said that our sorrows were as much a part of our lives as our pleasures—that they did more to strengthen and form our characters for good.’’

‘‘And he was right. They lead us to the lofty ambitions of life, which should be synonymous with duty, much more surely than pleasure, or what the world calls happiness, does. I have never seen this more forcibly, or beautifully illustrated and exemplified than in the life of our dear Father Kino.’’

‘‘Did you know of the sorrow and disappointment

[page 213]

of his early manhood?’’ asked Manuelita. ‘‘He told me of it the afternoon of the day he died.’’

‘‘Yes, my child, and what a world of love and sympathy it enabled him to bring into his work here; without this knowledge of suffering and the passions of the human heart he would not have known that fuller, higher life which enabled him to subordinate his own will to a higher one.’’

‘‘Dear Father Kino. I did not dream until then that his life contained a romance,’’ said Manuelita.

‘‘All lives, child,’’ Louis Ramirez replied, almost fiercely, ‘‘contain a romance either written deep upon the heart, or acted; those are the saddest, I think, which, written deep upon the heart in burning letters, can never be brought to light.’’

‘‘But sorrow and misfortune would seem to make one sad and melancholy, and he was so bright, so cheerful.’’

‘‘In strong natures like his, sorrow passes

[page 214]

from pain into sympathy, that sympathy which involves our tenderest love, and most earnest efforts for all that is embraced in humanity, however poor and degraded, and this Father Kino had in a most remarkable degree.’’

‘‘And his love could go with him through life only as a tender memory.’’

‘‘The power of love gained new force within him, new sensibilities, new experiences brought with them the love of the whole race: to this, my child, you owe his tender love and care for you.’’

‘‘But, brother,’’ she asked, the blush mantling her cheek and her voice sinking lower, ‘‘you do not think that it can be wrong to love one above and beyond all others, to wait for his coming, to be happy in his presence? There seems to me to be something in the human heart that makes it difficult to live without this. It comes voluntarily, without our knowledge or thought at first.’’

In her earnestness and ingenuousness she

[page 215]

was laying bare her own heart, telling the story of her own love; when she said, ‘‘It makes her wait for his coming, be happy in his presence,’’ he read the confession of her own absorbing love, and his own heart began to bleed afresh, as he tried hard to control the strong current of feeling which was sapping his own strength.

‘‘Oh, child!’’ he said fiercely again, ‘‘beware that you love wisely and well. The most beautiful thing in life is the love, the unselfish devotion of a woman's heart, and how few men are worthy of it!’’

‘‘Brother,’’ and the sisterly tenderness of her voice again brought agony to his heart, ‘‘Father Kino left me to your guardianship and care. He told me that you would be father, brother, friend, all to me. You have read my heart. Have I loved well and wisely?’’

He paused a moment. ‘‘Who can tell, my child? Are you happy in this love, Manuelita?’’

[page 216]

‘‘Oh, so happy,’’ she replied, as her eyes brightened, and a look of such intense happiness came into them. ‘‘I think I should die without it.’’

‘‘Another question, child, which I suppose will seem a very profanation of love to you, do you think that he will make you happy?’’

‘‘Why not? he loves me.’’

‘‘There is so little real love, child—fierce, unstable passion, and poor egotisms of all kinds that are mistaken for it. Love is so dangerous, child; it is a fever that consumes one's strength.’’

‘‘Oh, no, brother; it is heaven's best gift to us. I could not live without mine.’’

‘‘But will he always love you? Youthful passion is like a giant overleaping all obstacles it finds in its way, and driving madly towards the consummation of its own wishes, thinking nothing of the essentials of real love, a sympathy in those things which bring permanency and constancy in the cycle of its revolutions.’’

[page 217]

‘‘But he is so good, he will always be true, brother.’’

‘‘It is terrible, child, to no longer have any life of one's own, to hunger hourly for the love of another, that may or may not come, to live only in the eyes and breath of another.’’

‘‘Do men ever love like that, or is it only women?’’ she asked, growing pale.

‘‘Some men—not many, child; most men think how they will absorb a woman's love and life, not how they will yield up theirs to her. Such love, child, is to the holy and beautiful passion of which we read in Pascal, like the light emitted by the firefly is to the steady, brilliant glow of the most beautiful constellation in the heavens.’’

To this gentle girl, intensely absorbed in her love, all these questions seemed indeed a profanation, measuring the ideal of love with a practical standard of worthiness. It would have dashed to the ground all the exquisite sentiment that had for months filled her soul, could she for one moment have doubted the

[page 218]

depth, the strength, the constancy of his love, and subjected it to a critical analysis, a calculating dissection. It would be like Psyche after suspicion had dishonoured faith; when faith was so dishonoured, love must first have been weakened, love, that divine passion which sublimates the faculties and makes of this world a heaven to both the lover and the dreamer.

‘‘Ah, child, he is good now, but marriage changes one's relations so! Now, your slightest wish would be law to him—then, his must be to you; and you do not know the Spanish men, my child—they are jealous, exacting, tyrannical.’’

‘‘Oh, but he is not; oh, brother, how can you be so cruel?’’

‘‘Think well, my child; marriage is so unlike anything else, in the nearness, the absorption into another life, unless one loves above and beyond all else. His world is so unlike yours here—you know nothing of it. Love does not reason, does not see.’’

[page 219]

‘‘Well, is not love always represented as blind?’’ she asked, forcing herself to smile as she asked the question.

‘‘Yes, for that reason, because it does not see the object of its love as others can. And are the blind happy, think you, child? Do you think if the chance were given them that they would not gladly have their eyes opened? When did you tell me that he would leave for Spain?’’

‘‘As soon as the officer arrives who is to take his command; in about ten days, he thought.’’

‘‘What if he should never return?’’

‘‘I have not dared to think of that,’’ and her voice sank very low. Then her great love seemed to restore her courage and faith, ‘‘but he will return—I know that he loves me.’’

‘‘The distance is great—his father will oppose it: so many contingencies may arise.’’

‘‘Oh, do not say more,’’ she interrupted

[page 220]

him, ‘‘I should die;’’ and burying her head upon her arms she sobbed bitterly.

‘‘Do not give way thus to grief, my child. There must always be much that is sad and uncertain about the important steps of life, but we will hope that all will be well. I would give my life to secure your happiness, child. I must leave you now,’’ and in a moment he was gone.

He could not bear to be a witness of her suffering, and wished to be alone, to think it all out. What could he do to help her?

As he rapidly paced the ground at some little distance from the house, her lovely, tearful face came once again between him and his duty. In thinking and loving, doubting and longing came upon him once more, and he found himself listening to the tumults of a rebellious heart which fought and struggled still for mastery over him; a voice seemed to mock at his efforts, as it asked if he hoped to achieve a victory over nature, and if he stilled it now, would it not soon

[page 221]

cry out again? And yet when he returned to the house he was so quiet, so calm, that none ever guessed of the fearful mental and physical agony through which he had just passed.

He had resolved that Captain Carillo should defer his departure, and marry Manuelita, and then, let whatever would happen, she would be his wife, and her happiness secured.

Up: Contents Previous: Chapter XIV Next: Chapter XVI

© Arizona Board of Regents