The Dynamiter

Page 70

The evening air grows chill. Adios, Senorito.' And before Harry could stammer out a word, she had disappeared into her room.

He stood transfixed, the cigarette still unlighted in his hand. His thoughts had soared above tobacco, and still recalled and beautified the image of his new acquaintance. Her voice re-echoed in his memory; her eyes, of which he could not tell the colour, haunted his soul. The clouds had risen at her coming, and he beheld a new-created world. What she was, he could not fancy, but he adored her. Her age, he durst not estimate; fearing to find her older than himself, and thinking sacrilege to couple that fair favour with the thought of mortal changes. As for her character, beauty to the young is always good. So the poor lad lingered late upon the terrace, stealing timid glances at the curtained window, sighing to the gold laburnums, rapt into the country of romance; and when at length he entered and sat down to dine, on cold boiled mutton and a pint of ale, he feasted on the food of gods.

Next day when he returned to the terrace, the window was a little ajar, and he enjoyed a view of the lady's shoulder, as she sat patiently sewing and all unconscious of his presence. On the next, he had scarce appeared when the window opened, and the Senorita tripped forth into the sunlight, in a morning disorder, delicately neat, and yet somehow foreign, tropical, and strange. In one hand she held a packet.

'Will you try,' she said, 'some of my father's tobacco--from dear Cuba? There, as I suppose you know, all smoke, ladies as well as gentlemen. So you need not fear to annoy me. The fragrance will remind me of home. My home, Senor, was by the sea.' And as she uttered these few words, Desborough, for the first time in his life, realised the poetry of the great deep. 'Awake or asleep, I dream of it: dear home, dear Cuba!'

'But some day,' said Desborough, with an inward pang, 'some day you will return?'

' Never!' she cried; 'ah, never, in Heaven's name!'

'Are you then resident for life in England?' he inquired, with a strange lightening of spirit.

'You ask too much, for you ask more than I know,' she answered sadly; and then, resuming her gaiety of manner: 'But you have not tried my Cuban tobacco,' she said.

'Senorita,' said he, shyly abashed by some shadow of coquetry in her manner, 'whatever comes to me--you--I mean,' he concluded, deeply flushing, 'that I have no doubt the tobacco is delightful.'

'Ah, Senor,' she said, with almost mournful gravity, 'you seemed so simple and good, and already you are trying to pay compliments--and besides,' she added, brightening, with a quick upward glance, into a smile, 'you do it so badly! English gentlemen, I used to hear, could be fast friends, respectful, honest friends; could be companions, comforters, if the need arose, or champions, and yet never encroach. Do not seek to please me by copying the graces of my countrymen. Be yourself: the frank, kindly, honest English gentleman that I have heard of since my childhood and still longed to meet.'

Harry, much bewildered, and far from clear as to the manners of the Cuban gentlemen, strenuously disclaimed the thought of plagiarism.

'Your national seriousness of bearing best becomes you, Senor,' said the lady. 'See!' marking a line with her dainty, slippered foot, 'thus far it shall be common ground; there, at my window- sill, begins the scientific frontier. If you choose, you may drive me to my forts; but if, on the other hand, we are to be real English friends, I may join you here when I am not too sad; or, when I am yet more graciously inclined, you may draw your chair beside the window and teach me English customs, while I work. You will find me an apt scholar, for my heart is in the task.' She laid her hand lightly upon Harry's arm, and looked into his eyes. 'Do you know,' said she, 'I am emboldened to believe that I have already caught something of your English aplomb? Do you not perceive a change, Senor? Slight, perhaps, but still a change? Is my deportment not more open, more free, more like that of the dear "British Miss" than when you saw me first?' She gave a radiant smile; withdrew her hand from Harry's arm; and before the young man could formulate in words the eloquent emotions that ran riot through his brain--with an 'Adios, Senor: good-night, my English friend,' she vanished from his sight behind the curtain.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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