The Project Gutenberg EBook of Carmen Ariza, by Charles Francis Stocking

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Title: Carmen Ariza

Author: Charles Francis Stocking

Release Date: October 24, 2009 [EBook #30312]

Language: English

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In the name of the Church he would serve these humble people.
––Book 2, Page 77.








Copyright 1915






Doth this offend you?––the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.





The tropical sun mounted the rim of the golden Caribbean, quivered for a moment like a fledgeling preening its wings for flight, then launched forth boldly into the vault of heaven, shattering the lowering vapors of night into a myriad fleecy clouds of every form and color, and driving them before it into the abysmal blue above. Leaping the sullen walls of old Cartagena, the morning beams began to glow in roseate hues on the red-tiled roofs of this ancient metropolis of New Granada, and glance in shafts of fire from her glittering domes and towers. Swiftly they climbed the moss-grown sides of church and convent, and glided over the dull white walls of prison and monastery alike. Pouring through half-turned shutters, they plashed upon floors in floods of gold. Tapping noiselessly on closed portals, they seemed to bid tardy sleepers arise, lest the hurrying midday siesta overtake them with tasks unfinished. The dormitory of the ecclesiastical college, just within the east wall of the city, glowed brilliantly in the clear light which it was reflecting to the mirror of waters without. Its huge bulk had caught the first rays of the rising sun, most of which had rebounded from its drab, incrusted walls and sped out again over the dancing sea. A few, however, escaped reflection by stealing through the slanting shutters of a window close under the roof of the building. Within, they fell upon a man kneeling on the tiled floor beside a rude cot bed.

In appearance the man was not more than twenty-five years of age. His black, close-curling hair, oval face, and skin of deep olive tint indicated a Latin origin. His clerical garb proclaimed him a son of the Church. The room was a small, whitewashed cell of stone, musty with the dampness which had swept in from the sea during the night. It was furnished with Spartan simplicity. Neither image, crucifix, nor painting adorned its walls––the occupant’s dress alone suggested his calling. A hanging shelf held a few books, all evidently used 4 as texts in the adjoining college. A table, much littered; a wooden dressing stand, with a small mirror; and an old-fashioned, haircloth trunk, bearing numerous foreign labels, eked out the paucity of furnishings.

If the man prayed, there was only his reverent attitude to indicate it, for no words escaped his lips. But the frequent straining of his tense body, and the fierce clenching of his thin hands, as he threw his arms out over the unopened bed, were abundant evidence of a soul tugging violently at its moorings. His was the attitude of one who has ceased to inveigh against fate, who kneels dumbly before the cup of Destiny, knowing that it must be drained.

With the break of day the bells awoke in the church towers throughout the old city, and began to peal forth their noisy reminder of the virility of the Holy Catholic faith. Then the man raised his head, seemingly startled into awareness of his material environment. For a few moments he listened confusedly to the insistent clatter––but he made no sign of the cross, nor did his head bend with the weight of a hollow Ave on his bloodless lips while the clamoring muezzins filled the warm, tropical air with their jangling appeal. Rising with an air of weary indifference, he slowly crossed the room and threw wide the shutters of the solitary window, admitting a torrent of sunlight. As he did this, the door of the cell softly opened, and a young novitiate entered.

“With your permission, Padre,” said the boy, bowing low. “His Grace summons you to the Cathedral.”

The man made a languid gesture of dismissal, and turned from the lad to the rare view which greeted him through the open window. The dusty road below was beginning to manifest the city’s awakening. Barefooted, brown-skinned women, scantily clad in cheap calico gowns, were swinging along with shallow baskets under their arms to the plaza for the day’s marketing. Some carried naked babes astride their hips; some smoked long, slender cigars of their own rolling. Half-clad children of all ages, mixtures of mestizo, Spaniard, and Jamaican negro, trotted along beside them; and at intervals a blustering cochero rattled around the corner in a rickety, obsolete type of trap behind a brace of emaciated horses.

The lively gossip of the passing groups preluded the noisy chaffering to follow their arrival at the market place.

Caramba, little pig!” shrilled a buxom matron, snatching her naked offspring away from a passing vehicle. “Think you I have money to waste on Masses for your naughty soul?”

Na, señora,” bantered another, “it will cost less now than later to get him out of purgatory.”


“But, comadre, do you stop at the Cathedral to say a Pater-noster?”

“To be sure, amiga, and an Ave, too. And let us return by way of the Hotel España, for, quien sabe? we may catch a glimpse of the famous matador.”

“Señor Varilla?”

“Yes. He arrived from Barranquilla last night––so my Pedro tells me––and will fight in the arena this Sunday. I have saved fifty pesos to see him. Madre de Dios! but I would sell my soul to see him slay but a single bull. And do you go?”

“God willing!”

The soft air, tempered by the languid ocean breeze, bore aloft the laughter and friendly bantering of the marketers, mingled with the awakening street sounds and the morning greetings which issued from opening doors and windows. The scent of roses and the heavier sweetness of orchids and tropical blooms drifted over the ancient city from its innumerable patios and public gardens. The age-incrusted buildings fused in the mounting sun into squares of dazzling white, over which the tiled roofs flowed in cinctures of crimson. Far off at sea the smoke of an approaching vessel wove fantastic designs against the tinted sky. Behind the city the convent of Santa Candelaria, crowning the hill of La Popa, glowed like a diamond; and stretching far to the south, and merging at the foot of the Cordilleras into the gloom-shrouded, menacing jungle, the steaming llanos offered fleeting glimpses of their rich emerald color as the morning breeze stirred the heavy clouds of vapor which hung sullenly above them.

To all this the man, looking vacantly out across the city walls to where the sea birds dipped on the rippling waves, was apparently oblivious. Nor did he manifest the slightest interest in the animated scene before him until a tall, heavy-set young priest emerged from the entrance of the dormitory below and stopped for a moment in the middle of the road to bask in the brilliant sunlight and fill his lungs with the invigorating ocean breeze. Turning his eyes suddenly upward, the latter caught sight of the man at the window.

“Ah, amigo Josè!” he called in friendly greeting, his handsome face aglow with a cordial smile. “Our good Saint Claver has not lobbied for us in vain! We shall yet have a good day for the bulls, no?”

“An excellent one, I think, Wenceslas,” quickly replied the man addressed, who then turned abruptly away as if he wished to avoid further conversation. The priest below regarded the empty window for a moment. Then, with a short, dry laugh and a cynical shrug of his broad shoulders, he passed on.


As the man above turned back into the room his face, wearing the look of one far gone in despair, was contorted with passion. Fear, confusion, and undefined soul-longing seemed to move rapidly across it, each leaving its momentary impression, and all mingling at times in a surging flood that swelled the veins of his temples to the point of rupture. Mechanically he paced his narrow cell, throwing frequent furtive glances at the closed door, as if he suspected himself watched. Often he stopped abruptly, and with head bowed and brows furrowed, seemed to surrender his soul to the forces with which it was wrestling. Often he clasped his head wildly in his hands and turned his beseeching eyes upward, as if he would call upon an invisible power above to aid him, yet restrained by the deadening conviction of experience that such appeal would meet with no response, and that he must stand in his own strength, however feeble.

Hours passed thus. The sun gained the zenith and the streets were ablaze. Belated marketers, with laden baskets atop their heads, were hurrying homeward, hugging the scanty shade of the glaring buildings. Shopkeepers were drawing their shutters and closing their heavy doors, leaving the hot noon hour asleep on the scorching portals. The midday Angelus called from the Cathedral tower. Then, as if shaken into remembrance of the message which the boy had brought him at daybreak, the man hurriedly took his black felt hat from the table, and without further preparation left the room.

The stone pavements and narrow brick walks, above which the intense heat hung in tremulous waves, were almost deserted as he hastened toward the Cathedral. The business of the morning was finished; trade was suspended until the sun, now dropping its fiery shafts straight as plummets, should have sunk behind La Popa. As he turned into the Calle Lozano an elderly woman, descending the winding brick stairway visible through the open door of one of the numerous old colonial houses in the lower end of this thoroughfare, called timidly to him.

“Marcelena,” the priest returned, stopping. “The girl––is she––?”

“She is dying,” interrupted the woman in a voice broken with sobs.

“Dying! Then the child––?”

“Yes, Padre, born an hour ago––a boy. It lives. Ah, Santa Virgen, such suffering! Pray for us, Mother of God!” murmured the weeping woman, bending her head and repeatedly making the sign of the cross.

“Who is with her now?” the priest continued hurriedly.


“Only Catalina. The doctor said he would return. He is good to the blessed child. And Padre Lorenzo came––but he would not shrive her little white soul––”

“And the father––?”

“He does not know,” the woman sobbed. “Who would dare to tell him! Think you he would come? That he would own the babe? He would not give one blessed candle to set beside the little mother’s poor sweet body! Ah, Santa Maria! who will buy Masses for her little soul? Who––?”

“But he shall know!” cried the priest, his face livid. “And he shall acknowledge his child and care for it! Dios––! But wait, Marcelena. I can do nothing now. But I will return.” Leaving the woman sobbing prayers to the Virgin Mother, the priest hurried on.

Within the Cathedral the cool atmosphere met him with a sweet calm, which flowed over his perturbed soul like a benediction. He drew a chair from a pile in a corner and sat down for a moment near one of the little side chapels, to recover from the stifling heat without and prepare his thought for the impending interview with the Bishop. A dim twilight enveloped the interior of the building, affording a grateful relief from the blinding glare of the streets. It brought him a transient sense of peace––the peace which his wearied soul had never fully known. Peace brooded over the great nave, and hovered in the soft air that drifted slowly through the deserted aisle up to the High Altar, where lay the Sacred Host. A few votive candles were struggling to send their feeble glow through the darkness. The great images of the suffering Christ, of the Saints and the Virgin Mother had merged their outlines into the heavy shadows which lay upon them.

The haunting memory of years of soul-struggle with doubt and fear, of passionate longing for the light of truth in the gloom of superstition and man-made creeds, for guidance among the devious paths of human conjecture which lead nowhither––or to madness––seemed to fade into the darkness which wrapped him in that holy calm. After all, what had he won in his lifelong warfare with human beliefs? What had he gained by his mad opposition to Holy Church? There she stood, calm, majestic, undisturbed. Had not the Christ himself declared that the gates of hell should not prevail against her? Was not the unfoldment of truth a matter, not of years, but of ages? And were the minds of men to-day prepared for higher verities than those she offered? Did not the Church plant the seed as rapidly as the barren soil of the human mind was tilled and made fallow? True, her sons, whom he had so obstinately opposed, were blindly zealous. But were they wholly without 8 wisdom? Had not his own zeal been as unreasoningly directed to the forcing of events? And still, through it all, she had held her indulgent arms extended to him, as to all erring mankind. Why not now, like a tired child, weary of futile resistance, yield to her motherly embrace and be at last at peace? Again the temptation which he had stubbornly resisted for a lifetime urged upon him with all its mesmeric insistence.

He looked up, and his glance fell upon a small, glass-covered case, dimly visible in the uncertain light at one side of the little altar. The case was filled with tiny images of gold––milagros. Each had received priestly blessing, and each was believed to have worked a miraculous cure. The relaxed lines of the priest’s care-worn face instantly drew into an expression of hard austerity. Like the ebb of the ocean, his recalcitrant thought surged back again in a towering flood.

“What a spectacle!” he murmured. “Holy Church, assuming spiritual leadership of the world, sunken in idolatry, and publicly parading her fetishism in these lingering echoes of primitive demon-worship!”

Ah, the Master taught the omnipotence of God, whose ways he declared as high above the blind grovelings of man as the dome of heaven swings above earth. But how long, gentle Master, shall such as this be declared thy Father’s ways? How long shall superstition and idolatry retain the power to fetter the souls of men? Is there no end to the black curse of ignorance of Truth, which, after untold centuries, still makes men sink with vain toil and consume with disease? And––are those who sit about Peter’s gorgeous tomb and approve these things unerring guides to a right knowledge of God, to know whom, the Christ has said, is life eternal?

A step behind him broke the flow of his dark revery.

“Our good Josè dreams below, while His Grace bites his nails above,” said a soft, mellifluous voice. “Qué chiste! It is––”

The priest sprang to his feet and faced the speaker. For a moment the men regarded each other, the one uncertain as to the impending event, but supremely confident of his ability to meet it; the other sick in soul and torn with mental struggle, but for the moment fired anew with the righteous wrath which his recent brief interview with the woman, Marcelena, had kindled.

“Wenceslas––” The priest spoke in a strained, uncertain tone, striving to hold his emotions in leash. “I have learned to-day––The girl, Maria––”

Caro amigo,” interrupted Wenceslas smoothly, “what you have learned to-day, or any other day, of the girl, Maria, is a lie.”


Hombre!” The priest turned livid. Stepping closer to Wenceslas––

“Do you think, inhuman! that I have not long known of your relations with this girl? Who has not! And, further, I know––and Cartagena shall know––that to-day she lies dying beside your child!”

Wenceslas recoiled. His face flushed, and the veins of his forehead swelled with a purple flood. Then a pallor spread over his features, and beads of perspiration started from his pores.

It was but momentary. Recovering himself, he laid a large hand on the priest’s shoulder, and, his face assuming its wonted smile, said in his usual low tone, “Amigo, it seems that you have a penchant for spreading gossip. Think you I am ignorant of the fact that because of it Rome spewed you out for a meddlesome pest? Do you deceive yourself that Cartagena will open her ears to your garbled reports? The hag, Marcelena, lies! She has long hoped to gain some advantage from me, I have told you–– But go now above and learn from His Grace, whom you have had the impudence to keep waiting all morning, how tongues that wag too freely can be silenced.” He checked himself suddenly, as if he feared he had said too much. Then, turning on his heel, he quickly left the Cathedral.

The priest’s head sank upon his breast, and he stood, infirm of purpose and choking with words which he could not voice. The whirl in which his confused brain had revolved for months––nay, years––had made the determination of conduct with him a matter of hours, of days, of weeks. Spontaneity of action had long since ceased within his fettered mind, where doubt had laid its detaining hand upon his judgment. Uncertainty of his steps, fear of their consequence, and dread lest he precipitate the calamity which he felt hung always just above him, had sapped the courage and strength of will which his soul needed for a determined stand, and left him incapable of decisive action, even in the face of grossest evil. The mordant reply of Wenceslas only strengthened his conviction of the futility of massing his own feeble forces against those of one so thoroughly entrenched as this man, who had the ear of the Bishop––nay, whose resourceful mind was now said to be actually directing the policies of the feeble old ecclesiastic who held the bishopric of Cartagena.

As if groping through the blackness of midnight, he moved slowly down the deserted nave of the Cathedral and mounted the winding stairs to the ambulatory above. Pausing at the door of the sanctum for a moment to gather up his remnant of moral strength, he entered and stood hesitant before the waiting Bishop.



The long War of Independence which destroyed the last vestige of Spanish control over the Peruvian colonies of South America was virtually brought to a close by the terrific battle of Ayacucho, fought on the plains between Pizarro’s city of Lima and the ancient Inca seat of Cuzco in the fall of 1824. The result of this battle had been eagerly awaited in the city of Cartagena, capital of the newly formed federation of Colombia. It was known there that the Royalist army was concentrating for a final stand. It was known, too, that its veterans greatly outnumbered the nondescript band of patriots, many of whom were provided only with the arma blanca, the indispensable machete of tropical America. This fact lent a shred of encouragement to the few proud Tory families still remaining in the city and clinging forlornly to their broken fortunes, while vainly hoping for a reëstablishment of the imperial regimen, as they pinned their fate to this last desperate conflict. Among these, none had been prouder, none more loyal to the Spanish Sovereign, and none more liberal in dispensing its great wealth to bolster up a hopeless cause than the ancient and aristocratic family at whose head stood Don Ignacio Josè Marquez de Rincón, distinguished member of the Cabildo, and most loyal subject of his imperial majesty, King Ferdinand VII. of Spain.

The house of Rincón traced its lineage back to the ferocious adventurer, Juan de Rincón, favorite lieutenant of the renowned Conquistador, Pedro de Heredia. When the latter, in the year 1533, obtained from Charles V. the concession of New Andalusia, the whole territory comprised between the mouths of the Magdalena and Atrato rivers in what is now the Republic of Colombia, and undertook the conquest of this enormously rich district, the fire-eating Juan, whom the chroniclers of that romantic period quaintly described as “causing the same effects as lightning and quicksilver,” was his most dependable support. Together they landed at the Indian village of Calamari, and, after putting the pacific inhabitants to the sword––a manner of disposal most satisfactory to the practical Juan––laid the foundations of the present city of Cartagena, later destined to become the “Queen of the Indies,” the pride, as it was the despair, of the haughty monarchs of Spain.

For his eminent services in this exploit Juan received a large tract of land in the most fertile part of the Magdalena valley––which he immediately staked and lost at the gaming-table. 11 As a measure of consolation, and doubtless with the view of checking Juan’s gambling propensities, Pedro de Heredia then bestowed upon him a strip of bleak and unexplored mountain country adjacent to the river Atrato. Stung by his sense of loss, as well as by the taunts of his boisterous companions, and harassed by the practical conclusion that life’s brevity would not permit of wiping out their innumerable insults singly by the sword, the raging Juan gathered together a few blood-drinking companions of that ilk and set out to find diversion of mind on his possessions.

Years passed. One day Juan again appeared on the streets of Cartagena, and this time with gold enough to buy the city. The discovery of rich auriferous sands on his estates adjoining the Atrato, which were worked extensively for him by the natives whom he and his companions had forced into subjection, had yielded him enormous wealth. He settled in Cartagena, determined to make it his future home, and at once set about buying great blocks of houses and erecting a palace for himself. He began to acquire lands and mines in all directions. He erected a sumptuous summer residence in what is now the suburb of Turbaco. He built an arena, and bred bulls for it from famous stock which he imported from the mother-country. He gave fêtes and public entertainments on the most lavish scale imaginable. In short, he quickly became Cartagena’s most influential and distinguished citizen, as he was easily her richest.

But far more important to mention than all these dry details was the undoubted change of character which had come over the man himself. Perhaps it was the awful heat of the steaming Atrato valley that drew the fire from his livid soul. Perhaps it was a dawning appreciation of the opportunities made possible by his rapid acquisition of wealth that had softened his character. Some said he had seen a vision of the Virgin Mary. Others laid it to a terrible fever, in which for days he had lain delirious in the shadow of death. Be that as it may, the bloodthirsty Conquistador, who a few years before angrily shook the dust of Cartagena from his feet, had now returned a changed man.

At once Juan began to manifest in an ever increasing degree an interest in matters religious. In this respect his former character suffered a complete reversal. He assiduously cultivated the clergy, and gave large sums for the support of the Cathedral and the religious orders of the city. The Bishop became a frequent guest at his sumptuous table; and as often he in turn sought the Bishop for consultation anent his benefactions and, in particular, for consolation when 12 haunted by sad memories of his devilish exploits in early life. When the great-hearted Padre Bartolomé de las Casas, infirm but still indefatigable in his work for the protection and uplift of the Indians, arrived one memorable day in his little canoe which his devoted native servants had paddled through the dique from the great river beyond, Juan was the first to greet him and insist that he make his home with him while in the city. And on the night of the Padre’s arrival it is said that Juan, with tears streaming down his scarred and wrinkled face, begged to be allowed to confess to him the awful atrocities which he had committed upon the innocent and harmless aborigines when, as was his wont, his breath hot with the lust of blood, he had fallen upon them without provocation and hewed them limb from limb.

In his old age the now gentle Juan, his former self almost obliterated, expressed a desire to renounce the world, bestow his great wealth upon the Church, and enter a monastery to pass his remaining years. Despite the protestations of his numerous family, for whom his religious zeal would permit him to leave but scanty provision, he was already formulating plans toward this end when death overtook him, and his vast estates descended intact to the family which he had founded.

So complete had been the transformation of Juan de Rincón during the many years that he lived after his return to Cartagena that the characteristics which he transmitted to his posterity were, in general, quite the reverse of those which he himself had manifested so abundantly in early life. Whereas, he had formerly been atrociously cruel, boastingly impious, and a scoffer at matters religious, his later descendants were generally tender of heart, soft of manner, and of great piety. Whereas, in early manhood he had been fiery and impulsive, quick of decision and immovable of opinion, his progeny were increasingly inclined to be deliberate in judgment and vacillating of purpose. So many of his descendants entered the priesthood that the family was threatened with extinction, for in the course of time it had become a sacred custom in the Rincón family to consecrate the first-born son to the Church. This custom at length became fixed, and was rigidly observed, even to the point of bigotry, despite the obliteration of those branches where there was but a single son.

The family, so auspiciously launched, waxed increasingly rich and influential; and when the smoldering fires of revolution burst into flame among the oppressed South American colonies, late in the year 1812, the house of Rincón, under royal and papal patronage, was found occupying the first position of eminence and prestige in the proud old city of 13 Cartagena. Its wealth had become proverbial. Its sons, educated by preceptors brought from Paris and Madrid, were prominent at home and abroad. Its honor was unimpeachable. Its fair name was one of the most resplendent jewels in the Spanish crown. And Don Ignacio epitomized loyalty to Sovereign and Pope.

With the inauguration of hostilities no fears were felt by the Rincón family for the ultimate success of the royalist arms, and Don Ignacio immediately despatched word to his Sovereign in Madrid that the wealth and services of his house were at the royal disposal. Of this offer Ferdinand quickly availed himself. The Rincón funds were drawn upon immediately and without stint to furnish men and muniments for the long and disastrous struggle. Of the family resources there was no lack while its members held their vast possessions of lands and mines. But when, after the first successes of the patriots, reprisals began to be visited upon the Tories of Cartagena, and their possessions fell, one after another, into the hands of the successful revolutionists, or were seized by former slaves, Don Ignacio found it difficult to meet his royal master’s demands. The fickle King, already childish to the verge of imbecility, gave scant thanks in return for the Rincón loyalty, and when at last, stripped of his fortune, deserted by all but the few Tory families who had the courage to remain in Cartagena until the close of the war, Don Ignacio received with sinking heart the news of the battle of Ayacucho, he knew full well that any future appeal to Ferdinand for recognition of his great sacrifices would fall upon unhearing ears.

But to remain in republican Cartagena after the final success of the revolutionists was to the royalist Don Ignacio quite impossible. Even if permitted the attempt, he was so attached to the ancient order of things that he could not adjust himself to the radically changed conditions. So, gathering about him the sorrowing remnant of his family, and converting into a pitifully small sum his few remaining possessions, he took passage on an English trader and sailed for the mother-country, to begin life anew among those whose speech and customs were most familiar to him.

He settled in Seville, where the elder of his two sons, Rafaél de Rincón, a lad of fifteen, was studying for the priesthood, under the patronage of the Archbishop. There he established himself in the wine business, associating with him his second son, Carlos, only a year the junior of his brother. But, broken in spirit as well as in fortune, he made little headway, and two years later died pitiably in poverty and obscurity.

Through the influence of the Archbishop, the business, 14 which Carlos was far too young and immature to conduct, was absorbed by larger interests, and the young lad retained as an employe. As the years passed the boy developed sufficient commercial ability to enable him to retain his position and to extract from it enough to provide for the needs of himself and his dependents. He married, late in life, a woman whose family had fled from Cartagena with his own and settled in Seville. She was but a babe in arms at the time of the exodus, and many years his junior. A year after the marriage a child was born to them, a son. The babe’s birth was premature, following a fright which the mother received when attacked by a beggar. But the child lived. And, according to the honored family custom, which the father insisted on observing as rigidly in Spain as it had been formerly in Cartagena, this son, Josè Francisco Enrique de Rincón, was at birth consecrated to the service of God in the Holy Catholic Church.


If, as Thoreau said, “God is on the side of the most sensitive,” then He should have been very close to the timid, irresolute lad in Seville, in whom the softer traits of character, so unexpectedly developed in the adventurous founder of the Rincón family, now stood forth so prominently. Somber, moody, and retiring; delicately sensitive and shrinking; acutely honest, even to the point of morbidity; deeply religious and passionately studious, with a consuming zeal for knowledge, and an unsatisfied yearning for truth, the little Josè early in life presented a strange medley of characteristics, which bespoke a need of the utmost care and wisdom on the part of those who should have the directing of his career. Forced into the world before his time, and strongly marked by his mother’s fear; afflicted with precarious health, and subjected to long and desperate illnesses in childhood, his little soul early took on a gloom and asceticism wholly unnatural to youth. Fear was constantly instilled into his acutely receptive mind by his solicitous, doting parents; and his life was thereby stunted, warped, and starved. He was reared under the constant reminder of the baleful effects of food, of air, of conduct, of this and that invisible force inimical to health; and terror and anxiety followed him like a ghost and turned about all his boyish memories. Under these repressing influences his mind could not but develop with a lack of stamina for self-support. Hesitancy and vacillation became pronounced. In 15 time, the weight of any important decision gave him acute, unendurable agony of mind. Called upon to decide for himself a matter of import, his thought would become confused, his brain torpid, and in tears and perplexity the tormented lad would throw himself into the arms of his anxious parents and beg to be told what course to pursue.

Thus his nature grew to depend upon something stronger than itself to twine about. He sought it in his schoolmates; but they misread him. The little acts which were due to his keen sensitiveness or to his exaggerated reticence of disposition were frequently interpreted by them as affronts, and he was generally left out of their games, or avoided entirely. His playmates consequently became fewer and more transient as the years gained upon him, until at length, trodden upon, but unable to turn, he withdrew his love from the world and bestowed it all upon his anxious mother. She became his only intimate, and from her alone he sought the affection for which he yearned with an intensity that he could not express. Shunning the boisterous, frolicking children at the close of the school day, he would seek her, and, nestling at her side, her hand clasped in his, would beg her to talk to him of the things with which his childish thought was struggling. These were many, but they revolved about a common center––religion.

The salient characteristics already mentioned were associated with others, equally prominent, and no less influential in the shaping of his subsequent career. With the development of his deep, inward earnestness there had appeared indications of latent powers of mind that were more than ordinary. These took the form of childish precocity in his studies, clearness of spiritual vision, and maturity in his conduct and mode of life. The stunting of his physical nature threw into greater prominence his exaggerated soul-qualities, his tenderness, his morbid conscientiousness, and a profound emotionalism which, at the sight of a great painting, or the roll of the Cathedral organ, would flood his eyes and fill his throat with sobs. When the reckless founder of the family experienced a reversal of his own dark traits of soul, nearly three centuries before, it was as if the pendulum had swung too far in the opposite direction, and at the extreme point of its arc had left the little Josè, with the sterner qualities of the old Conquistador wholly neutralized by self-condemnation, fear, infirmity of purpose, a high degree of intellectuality, and a soul-permeating religious fervor.

At the mention of religion the timid lad at once became passionate, engrossed––nay, obsessed. In his boyhood years, before the pall of somber reticence had settled over him, he had 16 been impressed with the majesty of the Church and the gorgeousness of her material fabric. The religious ideals taught him by his good mother took deep root. But the day arrived when the expansion of his intellect reached such a point as to enable him to detect a flaw in her reasoning. It was but a little rift, yet the sharp edge of doubt slipped in. Alas! from that hour he ceased to drift with the current of popular theological belief; his frail bark turned, and launched out upon the storm-tossed sea, where only the outstretched hand of the Master, treading the heaving billows through the thick gloom, saved it at length from destruction.

The hungry lad began to question his parents incessantly regarding the things of the spirit. His teachers in the parochial school he plied with queries which they could not meet. Day after day, while other boys of his tender age romped in the street, he would steal into the great Cathedral and stand, pathetically solitary, before the statues of the Christ and the Virgin Mary, yearning over the problems with which his childish thought was struggling, and the questions to which no one could return satisfying replies.

Here again the boy seemed to manifest in exaggerated form the reversed characteristics of the old Conquistador. But, unlike that of the pious Juan, the mind of the little Josè was not so simple as to permit it to accept without remonstrance the tenets of his family’s faith. Blind acceptance of any teaching, religious or secular, early became quite impossible to him. This entailed many an hour of suffering to the lad, and brought down upon his little head severe punishments from his preceptors and parents. But in vain they admonished and threatened. The child demanded proofs; and if proofs were not at hand, his acceptance of the mooted teaching was but tentative, generally only an outward yielding to his beloved mother’s inexorable insistence. Many the test papers he returned to his teachers whereon he had written in answer to the questions set, “I am taught to reply thus; but in my heart I do not believe it.” Vainly the teachers appealed to his parents. Futilely the latter pleaded and punished. The placid receptiveness of the Rincón mind, which for more than three hundred years had normally performed its absorptive functions and imbibed the doctrines of its accepted and established human authorities, without a trace of the heresy of suspecting their genuineness, had at last experienced a reversal. True, the boy had been born in the early hours of nineteenth century doubt and religious skepticism. The so-called scientific spirit, buried for ages beneath the débris of human conjecture, was painfully emerging and preening its wings for flight. The “higher 17 criticism” was nascent, and ancient traditions were already beginning to totter on the foundations which the Fathers had set. But Spain, close wrapped in mediaeval dreams, had suffered no taint of “modernism.” The portals of her mind were well guarded against the entrance of radical thought, and her dreamers were yet lulled into lethargic adherence to outworn beliefs and musty creeds by the mesmerism of priestly tradition. The peculiar cast of mind of the boy Josè was not the product of influences from without, but was rather an exemplification of the human mind’s reversion to type, wherein the narrow and bigoted mentality of many generations had expanded once more into the breadth of scope and untrammeled freedom of an ancient progenitor.

As the boy grew older his ability to absorb learning increased astonishingly. His power of analysis, his keen perception and retentive memory soon advanced him beyond the youths of his own age, and forced him to seek outside the pale of the schoolroom for the means to satisfy his hunger for knowledge. He early began to haunt the bookstalls of Seville, and day after day would stand for hours searching the treasures which he found there, and mulling over books which all too frequently were anathema to the orthodox. Often the owner of one of these shops, who knew the lad’s parents, and whose interest had been stirred by his passion for reading, would let him take one or more of the coveted volumes home over night, for the slender family purse would not permit him to purchase what his heart craved. Then came feasts for his famished little soul which often lasted until daybreak.

It happened one evening that, when he crept off to his little room to peer into one of these borrowed treasures, his father followed him. Pushing the chamber door softly open the parent found the boy propped against his pillow in bed, absorbed in a much-thumbed volume which he was reading by the pale light of the single candle.

“Is it thus that you deceive your poor parents?” the fond father began, in a tone of mock severity.

The startled lad stifled a cry and hastily thrust the book beneath his pillow. The father’s interest now became genuine. Leaning over the terrified boy he drew forth the volume.


The doting father stood petrified. Voltaire, Antichrist, Archfiend of impiety––and in the hands of his beloved son!

Sleep fled the little household that night. In his father’s arms, while the distressed mother hung over them, the boy sobbed out his confession. He had not intended to deceive. He had picked up this book in the stall without knowing its 18 nature. He had become so interested in what it said about the Virgin Mary that he forgot all else. The shopkeeper had found him reading it, and had laughed and winked at his clerk when he bade the boy take it home for the night. The book had fascinated him. He himself––did not his father know?––had so often asked how the Virgin could be the mother of God, and why men prayed to her. Yes, he knew it mocked their faith––and the sacred Scriptures. He knew, too, that his father would not approve of it. That was why he had tried to hide it beneath his pillow. He had been wicked, desperately wicked, to deceive his dear parents––But the book––It made him forget––It said so many things that seemed to be true––And––and––

“Oh, padre mío, forgive me, forgive me! I want to know the truth about God and the world!” The delicate frame of the young lad shook in paroxysms of grief.

Alas! it was but the anguished soul-cry which has echoed through the halls of space since time began. What a mockery to meet it with empty creed and human dogma! Alas! what a crime against innocence to stifle the honest questionings of a budding mind with the musty cloak of undemonstrable beliefs.

“But, my son, have I not often told you? The Holy Church gives us the truth,” replied the father, frightened by the storm which raged within the childish soul, yet more alarmed at the turn which the mind of his cherished son was apparently taking––his only son, dedicated to the service of God from the cradle, and in whom the shattered hopes of this once proud family were now centered.

“But this book laughs at us because we pray to a woman!” sobbed the boy.

“True. But does not its author need the prayers of so pure a woman as the Virgin? Do we not all need them? And is it not likely that one so good as she would have great influence with God––much greater than we ourselves, or even the best of men, could have?”

“But how can she be the mother of God? The Bible does not teach that!”

“How do you know that the Bible does not teach it, my son?”

“I––I––have read––the Bible,” faltered the lad.

“You have read the Bible!” cried the astonished father. “And where have you done that, you wicked boy?”

“At the bookstore of Mariano,” confessed the trembling child.

Madre de Dios!” burst from the father, as he started to his feet. “Mariano is a wicked infidel! The Bishop shall hear of this! Ah, well may the Holy Father in Rome grieve to see 19 his innocent babes led astray by these servants of hell! But, my son,” returning to the boy and clasping him again in his arms, “it is not too late. The Virgin Mother has protected you. You meant no harm. Satan covets your pure little soul––But he shall not have it!” The father’s tremulous voice mounted high, “No, by the Saints in heaven, he shall not have it!”

The boy’s assurance slowly returned under the influence of his father’s tender solicitude, even though he remained dimly conscious of the rift widening little by little between his parents’ settled convictions and his own groping thought. With the assuaging of his grief came again those insistent questions which throughout his life had tormented his peace and driven him even to the doors of infidels in search of truth.

“Father,” he began timidly, “why was I wicked to read the Bible?”

“Because, my son, in doing so you yielded to the temptations of Satan. The Bible is a great and mysterious book, written by God himself. He meant it to be explained to us by the Holy Father, who is the head of the Church which the good Saint Peter founded. We are not great enough nor good enough to understand it. The Holy Father, who cares for God’s Church on earth, he is good enough, and he alone can interpret it to us. Satan tries to do with all men just what he did with you, my child. He seeks to make them read the Bible so that he can confuse them and rob them of their faith. Then when he gets possession of their souls he drags them down with him to hell, where they are lost forever.”

“And does the Holy Father really believe that Mary is the mother of God?” persisted the boy, raising his tear-stained face.

“Yes––is she not? The blessed Saviour said that he and God were one. And, as Mary is the mother of Christ, she is also the mother of God––is she not? Let us read what the good Saint John Chrysostom says.” He rose and went into another room, returning in a few minutes with a little volume. Taking the boy again on his knee, he continued, “The blessed Saint tells us that the Virgin Mary was made the mother of God in order that she might obtain salvation for many who, on account of their wicked lives, could not be saved, because they had so offended divine justice, but yet, by the help of her sweet mercy and mighty intercession, might be cleansed and rendered fit for heaven. My little son, you have always been taught that Mary is heaven’s Queen. And so she is ours, and reigns in heaven for us. Jesus loves to have her close to him, and he can never refuse her requests. He always grants 20 what she asks. And that is the reason why we pray to her. She never forgets us––never!”

A troubled look crossed the boy’s face. Then he began anew. “Father dear, God made everything, did He not? The Bible says that, anyway.”

“Yes, child.”

“Did He make Satan?”

The father hesitated. The child hurried on under the lash of his holy inquisitiveness. “Father, how did evil come into the world? Is God both good and bad? And how can a good God punish us forever for sins committed here in only a few short years?”

“Ah, queridito!” cried the harassed father. “Such questions should not have entered your little head for years to come! Why can you not run and play as do other children? Why are you not happy as they are? Why must you spend your days thinking of things that are far too deep for you? Can you not wait? Some day you shall know all. Some day, when you have entered the service of God, perhaps you may even learn these things from the Holy Father himself. Then you will understand how the good God lets evil tempt us in order that our faith in Him may be exercised and grow strong––”

“And He lets Satan harm us purposely?” The boy’s innocent dark eyes looked up appealingly into his father’s face.

“It is only for a short time, little son. And only those who are never fit for heaven go down with Satan. But you are not one of those,” he hastily added, straining the boy to him. “And the Masses which the good priests say for us will lift us out of purgatory and into heaven, where the streets are pure gold and the gates are pearl. And there we will all live together for––”

“Father,” interrupted the boy, “I have thought of these things for a long, long time. I do not believe them. And I do not wish to become a priest.”

The father fell silent. It was one of those tense moments which every man experiences when he sees a withering frost slowly gathering over the fondest hopes of a lifetime. The family of Rincón, aristocratic, intensely loyal to Church and State, had willingly laid itself upon the sacrificial altar in deference to its honored traditions. Custom had become law. Obedience of son to parent and parent to Sovereign, spiritual or temporal, had been the guiding star of the family’s destinies. To think was lawful; but to hold opinions at variance with tradition was unspeakable heresy. Spontaneity of action was commendable; but conduct not prescribed by King or Pope 21 was unpardonable crime. Loss of fortune, of worldly power and prestige, were as nothing; deviation from the narrow path trodden by the illustrious scions of the great Juan was everything. That this lad, to whom had descended the undying memories of a long line of glorious defenders of kingly and papal power, should presume to shatter the sacred Rincón traditions, was unbelievable. It was none other than the work of Satan. The boy had fallen an innocent victim to the devil’s wiles.

But the house of Rincón had withstood the assaults of the son of perdition for more than three centuries. It would not yield now! The all-powerful Church of Rome stood behind it––and the gates of hell could not prevail against her! The Church would save her own. Yes, the father silently argued, through his brother’s influence the case should be laid before His Eminence, the Archbishop. And, if need be, the Holy Father himself should be called upon to cast the devil out of this tormented child. To argue with the boy now were futile, even dangerous. The lad had grown up with full knowledge of his parents’ fond hopes for his future. He had never openly opposed them, although at times the worried mother would voice her fears to the father when her little son brought his perplexing questions to her and failed to find satisfaction. But until this night the father had felt no alarm. Indeed, he had looked upon the child’s inquisitiveness as but a logical consequence of his precocity and unusual mental powers, in which he himself felt a father’s swelling pride. To his thought it augured rapid promotion in the Church; it meant in time a Cardinal’s hat. Ah, what glorious possibilities! How the prestige of the now sunken family would soar! Happily he had been aroused to an appreciation of the boy’s really desperate state in time. The case should go before the Archbishop to-morrow, and the Church should hear his call to hasten to the rescue of this wandering lamb.


Seville is called the heart of Spain. In a deeper sense it is her soul. Within it, extremes touch, but only to blend into a harmonious unit which manifests the Spanish temperament and character more truly there than in any other part of the world. In its Andalusian atmosphere the religious instinct of the Spaniard reaches its fullest embodiment. True, its bull-fights are gory spectacles; but they are also gorgeous 22 and solemn ceremonies. Its ferias are tremendously worldly; but they are none the less stupendous religious fêtes. Its picturesque Easter processions, when colossal images of the Virgin are carried among bareheaded and kneeling crowds, smack of paganism; but we cannot question the genuineness of the religious fervor thus displayed. Its Cathedral touches the arena; and its Archbishop washes the feet of its old men. Its religion is still the living force which unites and levels, exalts and debases. And its religion is Rome.

On the fragrant spring morning following the discovery of the execrated Voltaire, the little Josè, tightly clutching his father’s hand, threaded the narrow Sierpes and crossed the Prado de San Sebastian, once the Quemador, where the Holy Inquisition was wont to purge heresy from human souls with fire. The father shuddered, and his stern face grew dark, as he thought of the revolting scenes once enacted in that place in the name of Christ; and he inwardly voiced a prayer of gratitude that the Holy Office had ceased to exist. Yet he knew that, had he lived in that day, he would have handed his beloved son over to that awful institution without demurral, rather than see him develop those heretical views which were already rising from the soil of his fertile, inquisitive mind.

The tinkling of a bell sounded down the street. Father and son quickly doffed their hats and knelt on the pavement, while a priest, mounted on a mule, rode swiftly past on his way to the bedside of a dying communicant, the flickering lights and jingling bell announcing the fact that he bore with him the Sacred Host.

“Please God, you will do the same some day, my son,” murmured the father. But the little Josè kept his eyes to the pavement, and would make no reply.

Meanwhile, at a splendidly carved table in the library of his palatial residence, surrounded by every luxury that wealth and ecclesiastical influence could command, the Archbishop, pious shepherd of a restless flock, sat with clouded brow and heavy heart. The festive ceremonials of Easter were at hand, and the Church was again preparing to display her chief splendors. But on the preceding Easter disturbances had interrupted the processions of the Virgin; and already rumors had reached the ears of the Archbishop of further trouble to be incited during the approaching Holy Week by the growing body of skeptics and anticlericals. To what extent these liberals had assumed the proportions of a propaganda, and how active they would now show themselves, were questions causing the holy man deep concern. Heavy sighs escaped him as he voiced his fears to his sympathetic secretary and associate, Rafaél de Rincón, the gaunt, ascetic uncle of the little Josè.


“Alas!” he murmured gloomily. “Since the day that our Isabella yielded to her heretic ministers and thrust aside the good Sister Patrocinio, Spain has been in a perilous state. After that unholy act the dethronement and exile of the Queen were inevitable.”

“True, Your Eminence,” replied the secretary. “But is there no cause for hope in the elevation of her son, Alfonso, to the throne?”

“He is but seventeen––and absent from Spain six years. He lacks the force of his talented mother. And there is no longer a Sister Patrocinio to command the royal ear.”

“Unfortunate, I admit, Your Eminence. She bore the stigmata, the very marks of our Saviour’s wounds, imprinted on her flesh, and worked his miracles. But, in Alfonso––”

“No, no,” interrupted the Archbishop impatiently; “he has styled himself the first Republican in Europe. He will make Catholicism the state religion; but he will extend religious toleration to all. He is consumptive in mind as well as in body. And the army––alas! what may we look for from it when soldiers like this Polo Hernandez refuse to kneel during the Mass?”

“The man has been arrested, Your Eminence,” the secretary offered in consolation.

“But the court-martial acquitted him!”

“True. Yet he has now been summoned before the supreme court in Madrid.”

The Archbishop’s face brightened somewhat. “And the result––what think you?”

The secretary shrugged his drooping shoulders. “They will condemn him.”

Yes, doubtless he would be condemned, for mediaevalism dies hard in Spain. But the incident was portentous, and the Archbishop and his keen secretary heard in it an ominous echo.

A servant appeared at the heavy portieres, and at a sign from the secretary ushered Josè and his father into the august presence awaiting them.

An hour later the pair emerged from the palace and started homeward. His Eminence, rousing himself from the profound revery in which he had been sunk for some moments, turned to his expectant secretary.

“A Luther in embryo!” he ejaculated.

“I feared as much, Your Eminence,” returned the austere secretary.

“And yet, a remarkable intellect! Astonishing mental power! But all tainted with the damnable so-called scientific spirit!”


“True, Your Eminence.”

“But marked you not his deep reverence for God? And his sturdy honesty? And how, despite his embarrassment, the religious zeal of his soul shown forth?”

“He is morbidly honest, Your Grace.”

“A trait I wish we might employ to our own advantage,” mused the churchman. Then, continuing, “He is learned far beyond his years. Indeed, his questions put me to some stress––but only for the difficulty of framing replies intelligible to a mind so immature,” he added hastily. “Either he feared my presence, or he is naturally shrinking.”

“He is so by nature, Your Eminence.”

The Archbishop reflected. “Naïve––pure––simple––mature, yet childish. Have we covered the ground?”

“Not fully, Your Eminence. We omitted to mention his absorbing filial devotion.”

“True. And that, you tell me, is most pronounced.”

“It is his strongest characteristic, Your Eminence. He has no will to oppose it.”

“Would that his devotion were for Holy Church!” sighed the Archbishop.

“I think it may be so directed, Your Eminence,” quickly returned the secretary.

“But––would he ever consent to enter the priesthood? And once in, would he not prove a most dangerous element?”

The secretary made a deprecating gesture. “If I may suggest, such a man as he promises to become is far more dangerous outside of the Church than within, Your Eminence.”

The Archbishop studied the man’s face for a few moments. “There is truth in your words, my friend. Yet how, think you, may he be secured?”

“Your Eminence,” replied the secretary warmly, “pardon these suggestions in matters where you are far better fitted to pass sound judgment than a humble servant of the Church like myself. But in this case intimacy with my brother’s family affords me data which may be serviceable in bringing this matter to a conclusion. If I may be permitted––”

The Archbishop nodded an unctuous and patronizing appreciation of his elderly secretary’s position, and the latter continued––

“Your Eminence, Holy Week is approaching, and we are beset with fears lest the spirit of heresy which, alas! is abroad in our fair city, shall manifest itself in such disturbances as may force us to abandon these religious exercises in future. I need not point out the serious nature of these demonstrations. Nor need I suggest that their relative unimportance last year 25 was due solely to lack of strong leadership. Already our soldiers begin to refuse to kneel during the Mass. The Holy Church is not yet called upon to display her weapons. But who shall say to what measures she may not be forced when an able and fearless leader shall arise among the heretics? To-day there has stood before Your Eminence a lad possessing, in my opinion, the latent qualifications for such leadership. I say, latent. I use the term advisedly, for I know that he appears to manifest the Rincón lack of decision. But so did I at his age. And who can say when the unfolding of his other powers, now so markedly indicated, may not force the development of those certain traits of character in which he now seems deficient, but which, developed, would make him a power in the world? Shall the Church permit this promising lad to stray from her, possibly later to join issue with her enemies and use his great gifts to propagate heresy and assault her foundations? Are we faithful to our beloved Mother if we do not employ every means, foul or fair, to destroy her enemies, even in the cradle? Remember, ‘He who gains the youth, possesses the future,’ as the saying goes.”

“Loyally spoken, faithful son,” replied the Archbishop, shifting into a more comfortable position. “And you suggest––?”

“This: that we wisely avail ourselves of his salient characteristics––his weaknesses, if you wish––and secure him now to the Church.”

“And, more specifically––?” with increasing animation.

“Your Eminence is already aware of the custom in our family of consecrating the first-born son to the service of God. This boy has been so consecrated from birth. It is the dearest hope of his parents. At present their wishes are still his law. Their judgments yet formulate his conduct. His sense of honor is acute. Your Eminence can see that his word is sacred. His oath once taken would bind him eternally. It is for us to secure that oath!

“And how?” The Archbishop leaned forward eagerly.

“We, coöperating with his parents, will cater to his consuming passion for learning, and offer him the education which the limited resources of his family cannot provide. We save him from the drudgery of commercialism, and open to him the life of the scholar. We suggest to him a career consecrated to study and holy service. The Church educates him––he serves his fellow-men through her. Once ordained, his character is such, I believe, that he could never become an apostate. And, whatever his services to Holy Church may be thereafter, she at least will have effectually disposed of a possible opponent. 26 She has all to gain, and nothing to lose by such procedure. Unless I greatly mistake the Rincón character, the lad will yield to our inducements and his mother’s prayers, the charm of the Church and the bias of her tutelage, and ultimately take the oath of ordination. After that––”

“My faithful adviser,” interrupted the Archbishop genially, as visions of the Cardinal’s hat for eminent services hovered before him, “write immediately to Monsignor, Rector of the Seminario, in Rome. Say that he must at once receive, at our expense and on our recommendation, a lad of twelve, who greatly desires to be trained for the priesthood.”


Thus did the Church open her arms to receive her wandering child. Thus did her infallible wisdom, as expressed through her zealous agents in Seville, essay to solve the perplexing problems of this agitated little mind, and whisper to its confused throbbing, “Peace, be still.” The final disposition came to the boy not without some measure of relief, despite, his protest. The long days of argument and pleading, of assurance that within the Church he should find abundant and satisfactory answers to his questions, and of explanations which he was adjured to receive on faith until such time as he might be able to prove their soundness, had utterly exhausted his sensitive little soul, and left him without the combative energy or will for further remonstrance.

Nor was the conflict solely a matching of his convictions against the desires of his parents and the persuasions of the Archbishop and his loyal secretary. The boy’s hunger for learning alone might have caused him to yield to the lure of a broad education. Moreover, his nature contained not one element of commercialism. The impossibility of entering the wine business with his father, or of spending his life in physical toil for a bare maintenance, was as patent to himself, even at that early age, as to his parents. His bent was wholly intellectual. But he knew that his father could not afford him an education. Yet this the Church now offered freely. Again, his nature was essentially religious. The Church now extended all her learning, all her vast resources, all her spiritual power, to develop and foster this instinct. Nay, more, to protect and guide its development into right channels.

The fact, too, that the little Josè was a child of extreme emotions must not be overlooked in an estimate of the influences 27 which bore upon him during these trying days. His devotion to an object upon which he had set his affections amounted to obsession. He adored his parents––reverenced his father––worshiped his mother. The latter he was wont to compare to the flowers, to the bright-plumed birds, to the butterflies that hovered in the sunlight of their little patio. He indited childish poems to her, and likened her in purity and beauty to the angels and the Virgin Mary. Her slightest wish was his inflexible law. Not that he was never guilty of childish faults of conduct, of little whims of stubbornness and petulance; but his character rested on a foundation of honesty, sincerity, and filial love that was never shaken by the summer storms of naughtiness which at times made their little disturbances above.

The parents breathed a sigh of relief when the tired child at last bowed to their wishes and accepted the destiny thrust upon him. The coming of a son to these loyal royalists and zealous Catholics had meant the imposition of a sacred trust. That he was called to high service in the Church of God was evidenced by Satan’s early and malicious attacks upon him. There was but one course for them to pursue, and they did not for a moment question its soundness. To their thought, this precocious child lacked the wisdom and balance which comes only with years. The infallible Church, their all-wise spiritual guide, supported their contentions. What they did was for her and for the eternal welfare of the boy. Likewise, for the maintenance of family pride and honor in a generation tainted with liberalism and distrust of the sacred traditions.

The Church, on the other hand, in the august person of the Archbishop, had accomplished a triumph. She had recognized the child’s unusual gifts of mind, and had been alert to the dangers they threatened. If secured to herself, and their development carefully directed, they would mold him into her future champion. If, despite her careful weeding and pruning, they expanded beyond the limits which she set, they should be stifled! The peculiar and complex nature of the child offered her a tremendous advantage. For, if reactionary, his own highly developed sense of honor, together with his filial devotion and his intense family pride, should of themselves be forced to choke all activity in the direction of apostasy and liberalism. Heaven knew, the Church could not afford to neglect any action which promised to secure for her a loyal son; or, failing that, at least effectually check in its incipiency the development of a threatened opponent! Truly, as the astute secretary had said, this boy might prove troublesome within the fold; but he might also prove more dangerous without. 28 Verily, it was a triumph for the cause of righteousness! And after the final disposition, the good Archbishop had sat far into the night in the comfort of his sanctum, drowsing over his pleasant meditations on the rewards which his unflagging devotion to the cause of Holy Church was sure some day to bring.

Time sped. The fragrant Sevillian spring melted into summer, and summer merged with fall. The Rincón family was adjusting itself to the turn in the career of its heir, the guardian and depository of its revived hopes. During the weeks which intervened between his first interview with the Archbishop and his final departure for Rome, Josè had been carefully prepared by his uncle, who spared no effort to stimulate in the boy a proper appreciation of his high calling. He was taught that as a priest of the Holy Catholic Church he would become a representative of the blessed Christ among men. His mission would be to carry on the Saviour’s work for the salvation of souls, and, with the power of Christ and in His name, to instruct mankind in true beliefs and righteous conduct. He would forgive sins, impose penalties, and offer sacrificial atonement in the body of the Saviour––in a word, he was to become sacerdos alter Christus, another Christ. His training for this exalted work would cover a period of six or eight years, perhaps longer, and would fit him to become a power among men, a conserver of the sacred faith, and an ensample of the highest morality.

“Ah, sobrinito,” the sharp-visaged, gray-haired uncle had said, “truly a fortunate boy are you to hear this grandest of opportunities knocking at your door! A priest––a God! Nay, even more than God, for as priest God gives you power over Himself!”

The boy’s wondering eyes widened, and a look of mingled confusion and astonishment came into his wan face. “I do not see, tío mío––I do not see,” he murmured.

“But you shall, you shall! And you shall understand the awful responsibility which God thus reposes upon you, when He gives you power to do greater things than He did when He created the world. You shall command the Christ, and He shall come down at your bidding. Ah, chiquito, a fortunate boy!” But the lad turned wearily away, without sharing his uncle’s enthusiasm.

The day before his departure Josè was again conducted before the Archbishop, and after listening to a lengthy résumé of what the Church was about to do for him, and what she expected in return, two solemn vows were exacted from him––

“First,” announced the uncle, in low, deliberate tones, “you 29 will solemnly promise your mother and your God that, daily praying to be delivered from the baneful influences which now cause doubt and questioning in your mind, and refraining from voicing them to your teachers or fellow-students, you will strive to accept all that is taught you in Rome, deferring every endeavor to prove the teachings you are to receive until the end of your long course, when, by training and discipline, you shall have so developed in goodness, purity, and power, that you shall be found worthy to receive spiritual confirmation of the great tenets upon which the Holy Roman Catholic Church has been founded and reared.”

He paused for a moment to catch his breath and let his portentous words sink into the quivering brain of the lad before him. Then he resumed––

“Second, keeping ever in mind your debt of gratitude to the Church, you promise faithfully to finish your course, and at the end offer yourself to the service of God in the holy priesthood.”

The solemn hush that lay over the room when he finished was broken only by the muffled sobs of the mother.

Tender in years, plunged into grief at the impending separation from home and all that he held dear, the boy knelt before the secretary and gave his trembling word to observe these obligations. Then, after he had kissed the Bible and the Archbishop’s extended hand, he threw himself upon the floor in a torrent of tears.

On the following morning, a bright, sparkling November day, the little Josè, spent with emotion, tore himself from his mother’s clinging embrace and set out for Rome, accompanied by his solicitous uncle.

“And, queridito,” were the mother’s last words, “I have your promise that never will you voluntarily leave the Church?”

The appeal which his beseeching look carried back to her was not granted. He slowly bowed his acquiescence, and turned away. A week later he had entered upon the retreat with which the school year opens in the Seminario.


Rome, like a fallen gladiator, spent and prostrate on the Alban hills, still awaits the issue of the conflict between the forces of life and death within. Dead, where the blight of pagan and mediaeval superstition has eaten into the quivering tissues; it lives where the pulsing current of modernism 30 expands its shrunken arteries and bears the nourishing truth. Though eternal in tradition and colossal in material achievement, the glory of the Imperial City nevertheless rests on a foundation of perishable human ambitions, creeds, and beliefs, manifested outwardly for a time in brilliant deeds, great edifices, and comprehensive codes, but always bearing within themselves the seeds of their own decay. No trophy brought to her gates in triumph by the Caesars ever approached in worth the simple truth with which Paul of Tarsus, chained to his jailer, illumined his gloomy dungeon. Had the religious principles which he and his devoted associates labored so unselfishly to impart to a benighted world for its own good been recognized by Rome as the “pearl without price,” she would have built upon them as foundation stones a truer glory, and one which would have drawn the nations of the earth to worship within her walls. But Rome, in her master, Constantine, saw only the lure of a temporal advantage to be gained by fettering the totally misunderstood teachings of Jesus with the shackles of organized politics. From this unhallowed marriage of religion and statecraft was born that institution unlike either parent, yet exhibiting modified characteristics of each, the Holy Church. To this institution, now mighty in material riches and power, but still mediaeval in character, despite the assaults of centuries of progress, a combination of political maneuver, bigotry, and weakness committed the young Josè, tender, sensitive, receptive, and pure, to be trained as an agent to further its world-embracing policies.

The retreat upon which the boy at once entered on his arrival at the seminary extended over ten days. During this time there were periods of solitary meditation––hours when his lonely heart cried out in anguish for his beloved mother––visits to the blessed sacrament, recitations of the office, and consultations with his spiritual advisers, at which times his promises to his parents and the Archbishop, coupled with his natural reticence and the embarrassment occasioned by his strange environment, sealed his lips and prevented the voicing of his honest questions and doubts. It was sought through this retreat to so bring the lad under the influence of the great religious teachings as to most deeply impress his heart and mind with the importance of the seminary training upon which he had entered. His day began with the dreaded meditation at five in the morning, followed by hearing the Mass and receiving Communion. It closed, after study and class work, with another visit to the blessed sacrament, recital of the Rosary, spiritual reading, and prayer. On Sundays he assisted at solemn High Mass in the church of the Seminario Pio. One 31 day a week was a holiday; but only in the sense that it was devoted to visiting hospitals and charitable institutions, in order to acquire practical experience and a foretaste of his future work among the sick and needy. Clad in his little violet cassock, low-crowned, three-cornered hat, and soprana, he might be seen on these holidays trotting along with his fellow-students in the wake of their superior, his brow generally contracted, and his childish face seldom lighted by a happy smile.

The first year passed without special incident. The boy, filled with that quenchless ambition to know, which characterizes the finest minds, entered eagerly upon his studies and faithfully observed his promises. If his tender soul warped and his fresh, receptive mind shriveled under the religious tutelage he received, no one but himself knew it, not even his fond mother, as she clasped him again in her arms when he returned home for the first summer vacation. With the second year there began studies of absorbing interest to the boy, and the youthful mind fed hungrily. This seemed to have the effect of expanding somewhat his self-contained little soul. He appeared to grow out of himself to a certain extent, to become less timid, less reticent, even more sociable; and when he returned to Seville again at the close of the year he had apparently lost much of the somberness of disposition which had previously characterized him. The Archbishop examined him closely; but the boy, speaking little, gave no hint of the inner working of his thought; and if his soul seethed and fermented within, the Rincón pride and honor covered it with a placid demeanor and a bearing of outward calm. When the interview ended and the lad had departed, the Archbishop descended to the indignity of roundly slapping his ascetic secretary on his emaciated back, as an indication of triumphant joy. The boy certainly was being charmed into deep devotion to the Church! He was fast being bound to her altars! Again the glorious spectacle of the Church triumphant in molding a wavering youth into a devoted son!

Four years passed thus, almost in silence on the boy’s part. Yet his character suffered little change. At home he strove to avoid all mention of the career upon which he was entering, although he gave slight indication of dissatisfaction with it. He was punctilious in his attendance upon religious services; but to have been otherwise would have brought sorrow to his proud, happy parents. His days were spent in complete absorption in his books, or in writing in his journal. The latter he had begun shortly before entering the seminary, and it was destined to exert a profound influence upon his life. Often his parents would playfully urge him to read to them from it; 32 but the boy, devotedly obedient and filial in every other respect steadfastly begged permission to refuse these requests. In that little whim the fond parents humored him, and he was left largely alone to his books and his meditations.

During Josè’s fourth summer vacation a heavy sorrow suddenly fell upon him and plunged him into such an excess of grief that it was feared his mind would give way. His revered father, advanced in years, and weakened by overwork and business worries, succumbed to the malaria so prevalent in Seville during the hot months and passed away, after a brief illness. The blow descended with terrific force upon the morbidly disposed lad. It was his first intimate experience with death. For days after the solemn events of the mourning and funeral he sat as one stunned, holding his mother’s hand and staring dumbly into space; or for hours paced to and fro in the little patio, his face rigidly set and his eyes fixed vacantly on the ground beneath. The work of four years in opening his mind, in expanding his thought, in drawing him out of his habitual reticence and developing within him the sense of companionship and easy tolerance, was at one stroke rendered null. Brought face to face with the grim destroyer, all the doubt and confusion of former years broke the bounds which had held them in abeyance and returned upon him with increased insistence. Never before had he felt so keenly the impotence of mortal man and the futility of worldly strivings. Never had he seen so clearly the fatal defects in the accepted interpretation of Christ’s mission on earth. His earlier questionings returned in violent protests against the emptiness of the beliefs and formalities of the Church. In times past he had voiced vague and dimly outlined perceptions of her spiritual needs. But now to him these needs had suddenly taken definite form. Jesus had healed the sick of all manner of disease. He himself was being trained to represent the Christ on earth. Would he, too, be taught to heal the sick as the Master had done? The blessed Saviour said, “The works that I do, ye shall do also.” But the priests, his representatives, clearly were not doing the works of the Master. And if he himself had been an ordained priest at the time of his father’s death, could he have saved him? No, he well knew that he could not. And yet he would have been the Saviour’s representative among men. Alas! how poor a one he well knew.

In his stress of mind he sought his uncle, and by him was again led before the Archbishop. His reticence and timidity dispersed by his great sorrow, the distraught boy faced the high ecclesiastic with questions terribly blunt.

“Why, my Father, after four years in the Seminario, am I 33 not being taught to do the works which our blessed Saviour did?”

The placid Archbishop stared at the boy in dumb astonishment. Again, after years of peace that had promised quiescence on these mooted points! Well, he must buckle on his armor––if indeed he had not outgrown it quite––and prepare to withstand anew the assaults of the devil!

“H’m!––to be specific, my son––you mean––?” The great man was sparring.

“Why do we not heal the sick as he did?” the boy explained tersely.

“Ah!” The peace-loving man of God breathed easier. How simple! The devil was firing a cracked blunderbuss.

“My son,” he advanced with paternal unction, “you have been taught––or should have been, ere this––that the healing miracles of our blessed Saviour belong to a dispensation long past. They were special signs from God, given at the time of establishing His Church on earth, to convince an incredulous multitude. They are not needed now. We convince by logic and reason and by historical witnesses to the deeds of the Saints and our blessed Saviour.” As he pronounced this sacred name the holy man devoutly crossed himself. “Men would believe no more readily to-day,” he added easily, “even if they should see miracles of healing, for they would attribute them to the human mentality, to suggestion, hypnotism, hallucination, and the like. Even the mighty deeds of Christ were attributed to Beelzebub.” The complacent Father settled back into his chair with an air of having disposed for all time of the mooted subject of miracles.

“That begs the question, my Father!” returned the boy quickly and excitedly. “And as I read church history it is thus that the question has been begged ever since the first century!”

“What!” The Archbishop was waxing hot. “Do you, a mere child of sixteen, dare to dispute the claims of Holy Church?”

“My Father,” the boy spoke slowly and with awful earnestness, “I have been four years in the Seminario. I do not find the true Christ there; nor do I think I shall find him within the Church.”

Sanctissima Maria!” The Archbishop bounded to his feet “Have you sold yourself to the devil?” he exploded. “Have you fed these years at the warm breasts of the Holy Mother, only to turn now and rend her? Have you become a Protester? Apostate and forsworn!”

“My Father,” the boy returned calmly, “did Jesus tell the 34 truth––or did he lie? If he spoke truth, then I think he is not in the Church to-day. She has wholly misunderstood him––or else she––she deliberately falsifies.”

The Archbishop sank gasping into his chair.

Josè went on. “You call me apostate and forsworn. I am neither. One cannot become apostate when he has never believed. As to being forsworn––I am a Rincón!”

The erect head and flashing eyes of the youth drew an involuntary exclamation of approval from the anxious secretary, who had stood striving to evolve from his befuddled wits some course adequate to the strained situation.

But the boy’s proud bearing was only momentary. The wonted look of troubled wistfulness again settled over his face, and his shoulders bent to their accustomed stoop, as if his frail body were slowly crushing beneath a tremendous burden.

“My Father,” he continued sadly, “do not the Gospels show that Jesus proved the truth of all he taught by doing the works which we call miracles? But does the Church to-day by any great works prove a single one of her teachings? You say that Christianity no longer needs the healing of the sick in order to prove its claims. I answer that, if so, it likewise no longer needs the preaching of the gospel, for I cannot find that Jesus made any distinction between the two. Always he coupled one with the other. His command was ever, ‘Preach the gospel, heal the sick!’ His works of healing were simply signs which showed that he understood what he taught. They were his proofs, and they followed naturally his great understanding of God. But what proofs do you offer when you ask mankind to accept your preaching? Jesus said, ‘He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also.’ If you do not do the works which he did, it shows plainly that you do not believe on him––that is, that you do not understand him. When I am an ordained priest, and undertake to preach the gospel to the world, must I confess to my people that I cannot prove what I am teaching? Must I confess that there is no proof within the Church? Is it not so, that true believers in Jesus Christ believe exactly in the proportion in which they obey him and do his works?”

The boy paused for breath. The Archbishop and his secretary sat spellbound before him. Then he resumed––

“How the consecrated wafer through the words of a priest becomes the real body of Christ, I am as yet unable to learn. I do not believe it does. How priests can grant absolution for sins when, to me, sins are forgiven only when they are forsaken, I have not been taught. I do not believe they can. The Church assumes to teach these things, but it cannot prove 35 them. From the great works of Jesus and his apostles it has descended to the blessing of milagros and candles, to the worship of the Virgin and man-made Saints, to long processions, to show and glitter––while without her doors the poor, the sick and the dying stretch out their thin, white hands and beseech her to save them, not from hell or purgatory in a supposed life to come, but from misery, want and ignorance right here in this world, as Jesus told his followers they should do. If you can show forth the omnipotence of God by healing the sick and raising the dead, I could accept that as proof of your understanding of the teachings of Jesus––and what you really understand you can demonstrate and teach to others. Theological questions used to bother me, but they do so no longer. Holy oil, holy water, blessed candles, incense, images and display do not interest me as they did when a child, nor do they any longer seem part of an intelligent worship of God. But”––his voice rising in animation––“to touch the blind man’s eyes and see them open; to bid the leper be clean, and see his skin flush with health––ah! that is to worship God in spirit and in truth––that is to prove that you understand what Jesus taught and are obeying, not part, but all of his commands. I am not apostate”––he concluded sadly––“I never did fully believe that the religion of Jesus is the religion which the Church to-day preaches and pretends to practice. I do not believe in her heaven, her purgatory or her hell, nor do I believe that her Masses move God to release souls from torment. I do not believe in her powers to pardon and curse. I do not believe in her claims of infallibility. But––”

He hesitated a moment, as if not quite sure of his ground. Then his face glowed with sudden eagerness, and he cried, “My Father, the Church needs the light––do you not see it?––do you not, my uncle?” turning appealingly to the hard-faced secretary. “Can we not work to help her, and through her reach the world? Should not the Church rightly be the greatest instrument for good? But how can she teach the truth when she herself is so filled with error? How can she preach the gospel when she knows not what the gospel is? But Jesus said that if we obeyed him we should know of the doctrine, should know the true meaning of the gospel. But we must first obey. We must not only preach, but we must become spiritually minded enough to heal the sick––”

Dios nos guarde!” interrupted the Archbishop, attempting to rise, but prevented by his secretary, who laid a restraining hand on his arm. The latter then turned to the overwrought boy.

“My dear Josè,” he said, smiling patronizingly upon the 36 youth, although his cold eyes glittered like bits of polished steel, “His Eminence forgives your hasty words, for he recognizes your earnestness, and, moreover, is aware how deeply your heart is lacerated by your recent bereavement. But, further––and I say this in confidence to you––His Eminence and I have discussed these very matters to which you refer, and have long seen the need of certain changes within the Church which will redound to her glory and usefulness. And you must know that the Holy Father in Rome also recognizes these needs, and sees, too, the time when they will be met. However, his great wisdom prevents him from acting hastily. You must remember that our blessed Saviour suffered many things to be so for the time, although he knew they would be altered in due season. So it is with the Church. Her children are not all deep thinkers, like yourself, but are for the most part poor and ignorant people, who could not understand your high views. They must be led in ways with which they are familiar until they can be lifted gradually to higher planes of thought and conduct. Is it not so? You are one who will do much for them, my son––but you will accomplish nothing by attempting suddenly to overthrow the established traditions which they reverence, nor by publicly prating about the Church’s defects. Your task will be to lead them gently, imperceptibly, up out of darkness into the light, which, despite your accusations, does shine in the Church, and is visible to all who rightly seek it. You have yet four years in the Seminario. You gave us your promise––the Rincón word––that you would lay aside these doubts and questionings until your course was completed. We do not hold you––but you hold yourself to your word! Our sincere advice is that you keep your counsel, and silently work with us for the Church and mankind. The Church will offer you unlimited opportunities for service. She is educating you. Indeed, has she not generously given you the very data wherewith you are enabled now to accuse her? You will find her always the same just, tolerant, wise Mother, leading her children upward as fast as they are able to journey. Her work is universal, and she is impervious to the shafts of envy, malice, and hatred which her enemies launch at her. She has resources of which you as yet know nothing. In the end she will triumph. You are offered an opportunity to contribute toward that triumph and to share in it. His Eminence knows that you will not permit Satan to make you reject that offer now.”

The secretary’s sharp, beady eyes looked straight into those of the youth, and held him. His small, round head, with its low brow and grizzled locks, waved snake-like on the man’s long neck. His tall form, in its black cassock, bent over the 37 lad like a spectre. His slender arms, of uncanny length, waved constantly before him; and the long, bony fingers seemed to reach into the boy’s very soul and choke the springs of life at their origin. His reasoning took the form of suggestion, bearing the indisputable stamp of authority. Again, the boy, confused and uncertain, bowed before years and worldly experience, and returned to his solitude and the companionship of his books and his writing.

“Occupy till I come,” the patient Master had tenderly said. From earliest boyhood Josè had heard this clarion call within his soul. And striving, delving, plodding, he had sought to obey––struggling toward the distant gleam, toward the realization of something better and nearer the Master’s thought than the childish creeds of his fellow-men––something warmer, more vital than the pulseless decrees of ecumenical councils––something to solve men’s daily problems here on earth––something to heal their diseases of body and soul, and lift them into that realm of spiritual thinking where material pleasures, sensations, and possessions no longer form the single aim and existence of mankind, and life becomes what in reality it is, eternal ecstasy! The Christ had promised! And Josè would occupy and wait in faith until, with joy inexpressible, he should behold the shining form of the Master at the door of his opened tomb.

“With Your Eminence’s permission I will accompany the boy back to Rome,” the secretary said one day, shortly before Josè’s return to the seminary. “I will consult with the Rector, and suggest that certain and special tutelage be given the lad. Let them bring their powers of reasoning and argument to bear upon him, to the end that his thinking may be directed into proper channels before it is too late. Hombre!” he muttered, as with head bent and hands clasped behind his back he slowly paced before the Archbishop. “To think that he is a Rincón! And yet, but sixteen––a babe––a mere babe!”


It must have been, necessarily, a very complex set of causes that could lay hold on a boy so really gifted as Josè de Rincón and, against his instincts and, on the part of those responsible for the deed, with the certain knowledge of his disinclination, urge him into the priesthood of a religious institution with which congenitally he had but little in common.

To begin with, the bigoted and selfish desires of his parents found in the boy’s filial devotion a ready and sufficient means 38 of compelling him to any sacrifice of self. Only a thorough understanding of the Spanish temperament will enable one to arrive at a just estimate of Josè’s character, and the sacredness of the promises given his mother. Though the child might pine and droop like a cankered rosebud, yet he would never cease to regard the sanctity of his oath as eternally binding. And the mother would accept the sacrifice, for her love for her little son was clouded by her great ambitions in respect to his earthly career, and her genuine solicitude for his soul’s eternal welfare.

Family tradition, sacred and inviolable, played its by no means small part in this affair. Custom, now as inviolable as the Jewish law, decreed that the first-born son should sink his individuality into that of the Mother Church. And to the Spaniard, costumbre is law. Again, the vacillating and hesitant nature of the boy himself contributed largely to the result; for, though supremely gifted in receptivity and broadness of mind, in critical analysis and keenness of perception, he nevertheless lacked the energy of will necessary to the shaping of a life-course along normal lines. The boy knew what he preferred, yet he said Amen both to the prayers of his parents and the suggestions of doubt which his own mind offered. He was weakest where the greatest firmness was demanded. His love of study, his innate shrinking from responsibility, and his repugnance toward discord and strife––in a word, his lack of fighting qualities––naturally caused him to seek the lines of least resistance, and thus afforded a ready advantage to those who sought to influence him.

But why, it may be asked, such zeal on the part of the Archbishop and his secretary in forcing upon the boy a career to which they knew he was disinclined? Why should loyal agents of the Church so tirelessly urge into the priesthood one who might prove a serpent in her bosom?

The Archbishop may be dismissed from this discussion. That his motives were wholly above the bias of worldly ambition, we may not affirm. Yet we know that he was actuated by zeal for the Church; that he had its advancement, its growth in power and prestige always at heart. And we know that he would have rejoiced some day to boast, “We have saved to the Church a brilliant son who threatened to become a redoubtable enemy.” The forces operating for and against this desideratum seemed to him about equally matched. The boy was still very young. His mind was as yet in the formative period, and would be for some years. If the Church could secure her hold upon him during this period she would doubtless retain it for all time; for, as the sagacious secretary so often quoted to his 39 superior, “Once a priest, always a priest,” emphasizing the tenet that the character imprinted by ordination is ineffaceable.

As for the secretary, he was a Rincón, proud and bigoted, and withal fanatically loyal to the Church as an institution, whatever its or his own degree of genuine piety. It was deeply galling to his ecclesiastical pride to see the threatened development of heretical tendencies in a scion of his house. These were weeds which must and should be choked, cost what it might! To this end any means were justified, for “What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” And the Rincón soul had been molded centuries ago. The secretary hated the rapidly developing “scientific” spirit of the age and the “higher criticism” with a genuine and deadly hatred. His curse rested upon all modern culture. To him, the Jesuit college at Rome had established the level of intellectual freedom. He worshiped the landmarks which the Fathers had set, and he would have opposed their removal with his life. No, the Rincón traditions must be preserved at whatever cost! The heretical buddings within Josè should be checked; he should enter the priesthood; his thinking should be directed into proper channels; his mind should be bent into conformity with Holy Church! If not––but there was no alternative. The all-powerful Church could and would accomplish it.

In the choice of Rafaél de Rincón as secretary and assistant, the Archbishop had secured to himself a man of vast knowledge of ecclesiastical matters, of great acumen, and exceptional ability. The man was a Jesuit, and a positive, dynamic representative of all that the order stands for. He was now in his sixty-eighth year, but as vigorous of mind and body as if he bore but half his burden of age. For some years prior to his connection with the See of Seville he had served in the royal household at Madrid. But, presumably at the request of Queen Isabella, he had been peremptorily summoned to Rome some three years before her exile; and when he again left the Eternal City it was with the tentative papal appointment to Seville.

Just why Padre Rafaél had been relieved of his duties in Madrid was never divulged. But gossip supplied the paucity of fact with the usual delectable speculations, the most persistent of which had to do with the rumored birth of a royal child. The deplorable conduct of the Queen after her enforced marriage to Don Francisco D’Assis had thrown the shadow of suspicion on the legitimacy of all her children; and when it began to be widely hinted that Padre Rafaél, were he so disposed, might point to a humble cottage in the sunlit hills of Granada where lay a tiny Infanta, greatly resembling the 40 famous singer and favorite of the Queen, Marfori, Marquis de Loja, Isabella’s alarm was sufficient to arouse the Vatican to action. With the removal of Padre Rafaél, and the bestowal of the “Golden Rose of Faith and Virtue” upon the Queen by His Holiness, Pio Nono, the rumor quickly subsided, and was soon forgotten.

Whether because of this supposed secret Padre Rafaél was in favor at the court of Pio Nono’s successor, we may not say. The man’s character was quite enigmatical, and divulged nothing. But, if we may again appeal to rumor, he did appear to have influence in papal circles. And we are not sure that he did not seek to augment that influence by securing his irresolute little nephew to the Church. And yet, the sincerity of his devotion to the papacy cannot be questioned, as witness his services to Pius IX., “the first Christian to achieve infallibility,” during the troublesome years of 1870-71, when the French débâcle all but scuttled the papal ship of state. And if now he sought to use his influence at the Vatican, we shall generously attribute it to his loyalty to Rincón traditions, and his genuine concern for the welfare of the little Josè, rather than to any desire to advance his own ecclesiastical status.

But, it may be asked, during the eight years of Josè’s course in the seminary, did his tutors not mark the forces at work in the boy’s soul? And if so, why did they not urge his dismissal as unfit for the calling of the priesthood?

Because, true to his promises, and stubbornly hugging the fetish of family pride, the boy gave but little indication during the first four years of his course of the heretical doubts and disbeliefs fermenting within his troubled mind. And when, after the death of his father and its consequent release of the flood of protest and mental disquiet so long pent up within him, the uncle returned to Rome with the lad to advise his instructors to bring extra pressure to bear upon him in order to convince him of the truths upon which the Church rested, Josè subsided again into his wonted attitude of placid endurance, even of partial acceptance of the religious tutelage, and seldom gave further sign of inner discord. Acting upon the suggestions of the uncle, Josè’s instructors took special pains to parade before him the evidence and authorities supporting the claims of Holy Church and the grand tenets upon which the faith reposed. In particular were the arguments of Cardinal Newman cited to him, and the study of the latter’s Apology was made a requirement of his course. The writings of the great Cardinal Manning also were laid before him, and he was told to find therein ample support for all assumptions of the Church.

Silently and patiently the boy to outward appearance acquiesced; 41 but often the light of his midnight candle might have revealed a wan face, frowning and perplexed, while before him lay the Cardinal’s argument for belief in the miraculous resuscitation of the Virgin Mary––the argument being that the story is a beautiful one, and a comfort to those pious souls who think it true!

Often, too, there lay before him the words of the great Newman:

“You may be taken away young; you may live to fourscore; you may die in your bed, or in the open field––but if Mary intercedes for you, that day will find you watching and ready. All things will be fixed to secure your salvation, all dangers will be foreseen, all obstacles removed, all aid provided.”

And as often he would close the book and drop his head in wonder that a man so humanly great could believe in an infinite, omnipotent God amenable to influence, even to that of the sanctified Mary.

“The Christ said, ‘These signs shall follow them that believe,’” he sometimes murmured, as he sat wrapped in study. “But do the Master’s signs follow the Cardinals? Yet these men say they believe. What can they do that other men can not? Alas, nothing! What boots their sterile faith?”

The limitations with which the lad was hedged about in the Seminario quite circumscribed his existence there. All lay influences were carefully excluded, and he learned only what was selected for him by his teachers. Added to this narrowing influence was his promise to his mother that he would read nothing proscribed by the Church. Of Bible criticism, therefore, he might know nothing. For original investigation of authorities there was neither permission nor opportunity. He was taught to discount historical criticism, and to regard anarchy as the logical result of independence of thought. He was likewise impressed with the fact that he must not question the official acts of Holy Church.

“But,” he once remonstrated, “it was by an ecumenical council––a group of frail human beings––that the Pope was declared infallible! And that only a few years ago!”

“The council but set its seal of affirmation to an already great and established fact,” was the reply. “As the supreme teacher and definer of the Church of God no Pope has ever erred, nor ever can err, in the exposition of revealed truth.”

“But Tito Cennini said in class but yesterday that many of the Popes had been wicked men!”

“You must learn to distinguish, my son, between the man and the office. No matter what the private life of a Pope may 42 have been, the validity of his official acts is not thereby affected. Nor is the doctrine of the Church.”


“Nay, my son; this is what the Church teaches; and to slight it is to emperil your soul.”

But, despite his promises to his mother and the Archbishop, and in despite, too, of his own conscientious endeavor to keep every contaminating influence from entering his mind, he could not prevent this same Tito from assiduously cultivating his friendship, and voicing the most liberal and worldly opinions to him.

Perdio, but you are an ignorant animal, Josè!” ejaculated the little rascal one day, entering Josè’s room and throwing himself upon the bed. “Why, didn’t you know that the Popes used to raise money by selling their pardons and indulgences? That fellow Tetzel, back in Luther’s time, rated sacrilege at nine ducats, murder at seven, witchcraft at six, and so on. Ever since the time of Innocent VIII. immunity from purgatory could be bought. It was his chamberlain who used to say, ‘God willeth not the death of a sinner, but that he should pay and live.’ Ha! ha! Those were good old days, amico mío!”

But the serious Josè, to whom honor was a sacred thing, saw not his companion’s cause for mirth. “Tito,” he hazarded, “our instructor tells us that we must distinguish––”

“Ho! ho!” laughed the immodest Tito, “if the Apostolic virtue has been handed down from the great Peter through the long line of Bishops of Rome and later Popes, what happened to it when there were two or three Popes, in the Middle Ages? And which branch retained the unbroken succession? Of a truth, amico, you are very credulous!”

Josè looked at him horrified.

“And which branch now,” continued the irrepressible Tito, “holds a monopoly of the Apostolic virtue, the Anglican Church, the Greek, or the Roman Catholic? For each claims it, and each regards its rival claimants as rank heretics.”

Josè could not but dwell long and thoughtfully on this. Then, later, he again sought the graceless Tito. “Amico,” he said eagerly, “why do not these claimants of the true Apostolic virtue seek to prove their claims, instead of, like pouting children, vainly spending themselves in denouncing their rivals?”

Prove them!” shouted Tito. “And how, amico mío?”

“Why,” returned Josè earnestly, “by doing the works the Apostles did; by healing the sick, and raising the dead, and––”

Tito answered with a mocking laugh. “Perdio, amico! know you not that if they submitted to such proof not one of the various contestants could substantiate his claims?”


“Then, oh, then how could the council declare the Pope to be infallible?”

Tito regarded his friend pityingly. “My wonder is, amico,” he replied seriously, “that they did not declare him immortal as well. When you read the true history of those exciting days and learn something of the political intrigue with which the Church was then connected, you will see certain excellent reasons why the Holy Father should have been declared infallible. But let me ask you, amico, if you have such doubts, why are you here, of all places? Surely it is not your own life-purpose to become a priest!”

“My life-purpose,” answered Josè meditatively, “is to find my soul––my real self.”

Tito went away shaking his head. He could not understand such a character as that of Josè. But, for that matter, no one ever fathoms a fellow-being. And so we who have attempted a sketch of the boy’s mentality will not complain if its complexity prevents us from adequately setting it forth. Rather shall we feel that we have accomplished much if we have shown that the lad had no slight justification for the budding seeds of religious doubt within his mind, and for concluding that of the constitution of God men know nothing, despite their fantastical theories and their bold affirmations, as if He were a man in their immediate neighborhood, with whom they were on the most intimate terms.

In the course of time Josè found the companionship of Tito increasingly unendurable, and so he welcomed the formation of another friendship among his mates, even though it was with a lad much older than himself, Bernardo Damiano, a candidate for ordination, and one thoroughly indoctrinated in the faith of Holy Church. With open and receptive heart our young Levite eagerly availed himself of his new friend’s voluntary discourses on the mooted topics about which his own thought incessantly revolved.

“Fear not, Josè, to accept all that is taught you here,” said Bernardo in kindly admonition; “for if this be not the very doctrine of the Christ himself, where else will you find it? Among the Protesters? Nay, they have, it is true, hundreds of churches; and they call themselves Christians. But their religion is as diverse as their churches are numerous, and it is not of God or Jesus Christ. They have impiously borrowed from us. Their emasculated creeds are only assumptions of human belief. They recognize no law of consistency, and so they enjoy unbridled license. They believe what they please, and each interprets Holy Writ to suit his own fantastical whims.”

“But, the Popes––” began Josè, returning again to his troublesome topic.


“Yes, and what of them?” replied his friend calmly. “Can you not see beyond the human man to the Holy Office? The Holy Father is the successor of the great Apostle Peter, whom our blessed Saviour appointed his Vicar on earth, and constituted the supreme teacher and judge in matters of morals. Remember, Jesus Christ founded the Catholic religion! He established the Church, which he commanded all men to support and obey. That Church is still, and always will be, the infallible teacher of truth, for Jesus declared that it should never fall. Let not Satan lead you to the Protesters, Josè, for their creeds are but snares and pitfalls.”

“I know nothing of Protestant creeds, nor want to,” answered Josè. “If Jesus Christ established the Catholic religion, then I want to accept it, and shall conclude that my doubts and questionings are but the whisperings of Satan. But––”

“But what, my friend? The Popes again?” Bernardo laughed, and put his arm affectionately about the younger lad. “The Pope, Josè, is, always has been, and always will be, supreme, crowned with the triple crown as king of earth, and heaven, and hell. We mortals have not made him so. Heaven alone did that. God himself made our Pontiff of the Holy Catholic Church superior even to the angels; and if it were possible for them to believe contrary to the faith, he could judge them and lay the ban of excommunication upon them.”

Josè’s eyes widened while his friend talked. Was he losing his own senses? Or was it true, as his lamented father had said, that he had been cast under the spell of the devil’s wiles? Had he been foreordained to destruction by his own heretical thought? For, if what he heard in Rome was truth, then was he damned, irrevocably!

“Come,” said his friend, taking his arm; “let us go to the library and read the Credo of the Holy Father, Pius the Fourth, wherein is set forth in detail the doctrinal system of our beloved Church. And let me urge you, my dear young friend, to accept it, unreservedly, and be at peace, else will your life be a ceaseless torment.”

Oh, that he could have done so! That he could have joined those thousands of faithful, loyal adherents to Holy Church, who find in its doctrines naught that stimulates a doubt, nor urges against the divine institution of its gorgeous, material fabric!

But, vain desire! “I cannot! I cannot!” he wailed in the dark hours of night upon his bed. “I cannot love a God who has to be prayed to by Saints and Virgin, and persuaded by them not to damn His own children! I cannot believe that the Pope, a mere human being, can canonize Saints and make spiritual 45 beings who grant the prayers of men and intercede with God for them! Yes, I know there are multitudes of good people who believe and accept the doctrines of the Church. But, alas! I am not one of them, nor can be.”

For, we repeat, the little Josè was morbidly honest. And this gave rise to fear, a corroding fear that he might not do right by his God, his mother, and himself, the three variants in his complex life-equation. His self-condemnation increased; yet his doubts kept pace with it. He more than ever distrusted his own powers after his first four years in the seminary. He more than ever lacked self-confidence. He was more than ever vacillating, hesitant, and infirm of purpose. He even at times, when under the pall of melancholia, wondered if he had really loved his deceased father, and whether it was real grief which he felt at his parent’s demise. Often, too, when fear and doubt pressed heavily, and his companions avoided him because of the aura of gloom in which he dwelt, he wondered if he were becoming insane. He seemed to become obsessed with the belief that his ability to think was slowly paralyzing. And with it his will. And yet, proof that this was not the case was found in his stubborn opposition to trite acquiescence, and in his infrequent reversals of mood, when he would even feel an intense, if transient, sense of exaltation in the thought that he was doing the best that in him lay.

It was during one of these lighter moods, and at the close of a school year, that a great joy came to him in an event which left a lasting impress upon his life. Following close upon a hurried visit which his uncle paid to Rome, the boy was informed that it had been arranged for him to accompany the Papal Legate on a brief journey through Germany and England, returning through France, in order that he might gain a first-hand impression of the magnitude of the work which the Church was doing in the field, and meet some of her great men. The broadening, quieting, confidence-inspiring influence of such a journey would be, in the opinion of Padre Rafaél, incalculable. And so, with eager, bubbling hope, the lad set out.

Whatever it may have been intended that the boy should see on this ecclesiastical pilgrimage, he returned to Rome at the end of three months with his quick, impressionable mind stuffed with food for reflection. Though he had seen the glories of the Church, worshiped in her matchless temples, and sat at the feet of her great scholars, now in the quiet of his little room he found himself dwelling upon a single thought, into which all of his collected impressions were gathered: “The Church––Catholic and Protestant––is––oh, God, the Church is––not sick, not dying, but––dead! Aye, it has served both God 46 and Mammon, and paid the awful penalty! And what is left? Caesarism!” The great German and British nations were not Catholic. But worse, the Protestant people of the German Empire were sadly indifferent to religion. He had seen, in Berlin, men of family trying to resell the Bibles which their children had used in preparation for confirmation. He had found family worship all but extinct. He had marked the widespread indifference among Protestant parents in regard to the religious instruction of their young. He had been told there that parents had but a slight conception of their duty as moral guides, and that children were growing up with only sensuous pleasures and material gain as their life-aims. Again and again he was shown where in whole districts it was utterly impossible to secure young men for ordination to the Protestant ministry. And he was furnished with statistics setting forth the ominous fact that within a few years, were the present decline unchecked, there would be no students in the Protestant universities of the country.

“Do you not see in this, my son,” said the Papal Legate, “the blight of unbelief? Do you not mark the withering effects of the modern so-called scientific thought? What think you of a religion wherein the chief interest centers in trials for heresy; whose ultimate effect upon human character is a return to the raw, primitive, immature sense of life that once prevailed among this great people? What think you now of Luther and his diabolical work?”

The wondering boy hung his head without reply. Would Germany at length come to the true fold? And was that fold the Holy Catholic Church?

And England––ah! there was the Anglican church, Catholic, but not Roman, and therefore but a counterfeit of the Lord’s true Church. Would it endure? “No,” the Legate had said; “already defection has set in, and the prodigal’s return to the loving parent in Rome is but a matter of time.”

Then came his visit to the great abbey of Westminster, and the impression which, to his last earthly day, he bore as one of his most sacred treasures. There in the famous Jerusalem Chamber he had sat, his eyes suffused with tears and his throat choked with emotion. In that room the first Lancastrian king long years before had closed his unhappy life. There the great Westminster Confession had been framed. There William of Orange had held his weighty discussion of the Prayer-Book revision, which was hoped to bring Churchmen and Dissenters again into harmony. And there, greatest of all, had gathered, day after day, and year after year, the patient, devoted group of men who gave to the world its Revised Edition of the Holy 47 Bible, only a few brief years ago. As the rapt Josè closed his eyes and listened to the whispered conversation of the scholarly men about him, he seemed to see the consecrated Revisers, seated again at the long table, deep in the holy search of the Scriptures for the profound secrets of life which they hold. He saw with what sedulous care they pursued their sacred work, without trace of prejudice or religious bias, and with only the selfless purpose always before them to render to mankind a priceless benefit in a more perfect rendition of the Word of God. Why could not men come together now in that same generous spirit of love? But no, Rome would never yield her assumptions. But when the lad rose and followed his guides from the room, it was with a new-born conviction, and a revival of his erstwhile firm purpose to translate for himself, at the earliest opportunity, the Greek Testament, if, perchance, he might find thereby what his yearning soul so deeply craved, the truth.

That the boy was possessed of scholarly instincts, there could be no doubt. His ability had immediately attracted his instructors on entering the seminary. And, but for his stubborn opposition to dogmatic acceptance without proofs, he might have taken and maintained the position of leader in scholarship in the institution. Literature and the languages, particularly Greek, were his favorite studies, and in these he excelled. Even as a child, long before the eventful night when his surreptitious reading of Voltaire precipitated events, he had determined to master Greek, and some day to translate the New Testament from the original sources into his beloved Castilian tongue. Before setting out for Rome he had so applied himself to the worn little grammar which the proprietor of the bookstall in Seville had loaned him, that he was able to make translations with comparative fluency. In the seminary he plunged into it with avidity; and when he returned from his journey with the Papal Legate he began in earnest his translation of the Testament. This, like so much of the boy’s work and writing, was done secretly and in spare moments. And his zeal was such that often in the middle of the night it would compel him to rise and, after drawing the shades carefully and stopping the crack under the door with his cassock, light his candle and dig away at his Testament until dawn.

This study of the New Testament in the Greek resulted in many translations differing essentially from the accepted version, as could not but happen when a mind so original as that of the boy Josè was concentrated upon it. His first stumbling block was met in the prayer of Jesus in an attempt to render the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread,” into idiomatic modern thought. The word translated “daily” was not to be 48 found elsewhere in the Greek language. Evidently the Aramaic word which Jesus employed, and of which this Greek word was a translation, must have been an unusual one––a coined expression. And what did it mean? No one knows. Josè found means to put the question to his tutor. He was told that it doubtless meant “super-supernal.” But what could “super-supernal” convey to the world’s multitude of hungry suppliants for the bread of life! And so he rendered the phrase “Give us each day a better understanding of Thee.” Again, going carefully through his Testament the boy crossed out the words translated “God,” and in their places substituted “divine influence.” Many of the best known and most frequently quoted passages suffered similarly radical changes at his hands. For the translation “truth,” the boy often preferred to substitute “reality”; and such passages as “speaking the truth in love” were rendered by him, “lovingly speaking of those things which are real.” “Faith” and “belief” were generally changed to “understanding” and “real knowing,” so that the passage, “O ye of little faith,” became in his translation, “O ye of slight understanding.” The word “miracle” he consistently changed to “sign” throughout. The command to ask “in the name of Jesus” caused him hours of deep and perplexing thought, until he hit upon the, to him, happy rendering, “in his character.” Why not? In the character of the Christ mankind might ask anything and it would be given them. But to acquire that character men must repent. And the Greek word “metanoia,” so generally rendered “repentance,” would therefore have to be translated “radical and complete change of thought.” Again, why not? Was not a complete change of thought requisite if one were to become like Jesus? Could mortals think continually of murder, warfare, disaster, failure, crime, sickness and death, and of the acquisition of material riches and power, and still hope to acquire the character of the meek but mighty Nazarene? Decidedly no! And so he went on delving and plodding, day after day, night after night, substituting and changing, but always, even if unconsciously, giving to the Scripture a more metaphysical and spiritual meaning, which displaced in its translation much of the material and earthy.

Before the end of his seminary training the translation was complete. What a new light it seemed to throw upon the mission of Jesus! How fully he realized now that creeds and confessions had never even begun to sound the profound depths of the Bible! What a changed message it seemed to carry for mankind! How he longed to show it to his preceptors and discuss it with them! But his courage failed when he faced this thought. However, another expedient presented: he would 49 write a treatise on the New Testament, embodying the salient facts of his translation, and send it out into the world for publication in the hope that it might do much good. Again, night after night in holy zeal he toiled on the work, and when completed, sent it, under his name, to a prominent literary magazine published in Paris.

Its appearance––for it was accepted eagerly by the editor, who was bitterly hostile to the Church––caused a stir in ecclesiastical circles and plunged the unwise lad into a sea of trouble. The essay in general might have been excusable on its distinct merits and the really profound scholarship exhibited in its composition. But when the boy, a candidate for holy orders, and almost on the eve of his ordination, seized upon the famous statement of Jesus in which he is reported to have told Peter that he was the rock upon which the Lord’s church should be eternally founded, and showed that Jesus called Peter a stone, “petros,” a loose stone, and one of many, whereas he then said that his church should be founded upon “petra,” the living, immovable rock of truth, thus corroborating Saint Augustine, but confuting other supposedly impregnable authority for the superiority and infallibility of the Church, it was going a bit too far.

The result was severe penance, coupled with soul-searing reprimand, and absolute prohibition of further original writing. His translation of the Testament was confiscated, and he was commanded to destroy all notes referring to it, and to refrain from making further translations. His little room was searched, and all references and papers which might be construed as unevangelical were seized and burned. He was then transferred to another room for the remainder of his seminary course, and given a roommate, a cynical, sneering bully of Irish descent, steeped to the core in churchly doctrine, who did not fail to embrace every opportunity to make the suffering penitent realize that he was in disgrace and under surveillance. The effect was to drive the sensitive boy still further into himself, and to augment the sullenness of disposition which had earlier characterized him and separated him from social intercourse with the world in which he moved apart from his fellow-men.

Thus had Josè been shown very clearly that implicit obedience would at all times be exacted from him by the Church. He had been shown quite unmistakably that an inquisitive and determined spirit would not be tolerated if it led to deductions at variance with accepted tradition. He might starve mentally, if his prescribed food did not satisfy his hunger; but he must understand, once for all, that truth had long since been revealed, and that it was not within his province to attempt any further additions to the revelation.


Once more, for the sake of his mother, and that he might learn all that the Church had to teach him, the boy conscientiously tried to obey. He was reminded again that, though taught to obey, he was being trained to lead. This in a sense pleased him, as offering surcease from an erking sense of responsibility. Nevertheless, though he constantly wavered in decision; though at times the Church won him, and he yielded temporarily to her abundant charms; the spirit of protest did wax steadily stronger within him as the years passed. Back and forth he swung, like a pendulum, now drawn by the power and influence of the mighty Church; now, as he approached it, repelled by the things which were revealed as he drew near. In the last two years of his course his soul-revolt often took the form of open protest to his preceptors against indulgences and the sacramental graces, against the arbitrary Index Expurgatorius, and the Church’s stubborn opposition to modern progression. Like Faust, his studies were convincing him more and more firmly of the emptiness of human hypotheses and undemonstrable philosophy. The growing conviction that the Holy Church was more worldly than spiritual filled his shrinking soul at times with horror. The limiting thought of Rome was often stifling to him. He had begun to realize that liberty of thought and conscience were his only as he received it already outlined from the Church. Even his interpretation of the Bible must come from her. His very ideas must first receive the ecclesiastical stamp before he might advance them. His opinions must measure up––or down––to those of his tutors, ere he might even hold them. In terror he felt that the Church was absorbing him, heart and mind. His individuality was seeping away. In time he would become but a link in the great worldly system which he was being trained to serve.

These convictions did not come to him all at once, nor were they as yet firmly fixed. They were rather suggestions which became increasingly insistent as the years went on. He had entered the seminary at the tender age of twelve, his mind wholly unformed, but protesting even then. All through his course he had sought what there was in Christianity upon which he could lay firm hold. In the Church he had found an ultra-conservative spirit and extreme reverence for authority. Tito had told him that it was the equivalent of ancestor-worship. But when he one day told his instructors that he was not necessarily a disbeliever in the Scriptures because he did not accept their interpretation of them, he could not but realize that Tito had come dangerously near the truth. His translation of the Greek Testament had forced him to the conclusion that much of the material contained in the Gospels was not Jesus’ own words, 51 but the commentaries of his reporters; not the Master’s diction, but theological lecturing by the writers of the Gospels. Moreover, in the matter of prayer, especially, he was all at sea. As a child he had spent hours formulating humble, fervent petitions, which did not seem to draw replies. And so there began to form within his mind a concept, faint and ill-defined, of a God very different from that canonically accepted. He tried to believe that there was a Creator back of all things, but that He was inexorable Law. And the lad was convinced that, somehow, he had failed to get into harmony with that infinite Law. But, in that case, why pray to Law? And, most foolish of all, why seek to influence it, whether through Virgin or Saint? And, if God is a good Father, why ask Him to be good? Then, to his insistent question, “Unde Deus?” he tried to formulate the answer that God is Spirit, and omnipresent. But, alas! that made the good God include evil. No, there was a terrible human misunderstanding of the divine nature, a woeful misinterpretation. He must try to ask for light in the character of the Christ. But then, how to assume that character? Like a garment? Impossible! “Oh, God above,” he wailed aloud again and again, “I don’t know what to believe! I don’t know what to think!” Foolish lad! Why did he think at all, when there were those at hand to relieve him of that onerous task?

And so, at last, Josè sought to resign himself to his fate, and, thrusting aside these mocking questions, accept the opportunities for service which his tutors so wisely emphasized as the Church’s special offering to him. He yielded to their encouragement to plunge heartily into his studies, for in such absorption lay diversion from dangerous channels of thought. Slowly, too, he yielded to their careful insistence that he must suffer many things to be so for the nonce, even as Jesus did, lest a too radical resistance now should delay the final glorious consummation.

Was the boy actuated too strongly by the determination that his widowed mother’s hopes should never be blasted by any assertion of his own will? Was he passively permitting himself to be warped and twisted into a minion of an institution alien to his soul in bigoted adherence to his morbid sense of integrity? Was he for the present countenancing a lie, rather than permit the bursting of a bomb which would rend the family and bring his beloved mother in sorrow to the grave? Or was he biding his time, an undeveloped David, who would some day sally forth like the lion of the tribe of Juda, to match his moral courage against the blustering son of Anak? Time only would tell. The formative period of his character was not yet ended, and the data for prognostication were too complex 52 and conflicting. We can only be sure that his consuming desire to know had been carefully fostered in the seminary, but in such a manner as unwittingly to add to his confusion of thought and to increase his fear of throwing himself unreservedly upon his own convictions. That he grew to perceive the childishness of churchly dogma, we know. That he appreciated the Church’s insane license of affirmation, its impudent affirmations of God’s thoughts and desires, its coarse assumptions of knowledge of the inner workings of the mind of Omnipotence, we likewise know. But, on the other hand, we know that he feared to break with the accepted faith. The claims of Protestantism, though lacking the pomp and pageantry of Catholicism to give them attractiveness, offered him an interpretation of Christ’s mission that was little better than the teachings he was receiving. And so his hesitant and vacillating nature, which hurled him into the lists to-day as the resolute foe of dogma and superstition, and to-morrow would leave him weak and doubting at the feet of the enemy, kept him wavering, silent and unhappy, on the thin edge of resolution throughout the greater part of his course. His lack of force, or the holding of his force in check by his filial honesty and his uncertainty of conviction, kept him in the seminary for eight years, during which his being was slowly, imperceptibly descending into him. At the age of twenty he was still unsettled, but further than even he himself realized from Rome. Who shall say that he was not at the same time nearer to God?

On the day that he was twenty, three things of the gravest import happened to the young Josè. His warm friend, Bernardo, died suddenly, almost in his arms; his uncle, Rafaél de Rincón, paid an unexpected visit to the Vatican; and the lad received the startling announcement that he would be ordained to the priesthood on the following day.

The sudden demise of the young Bernardo plunged Josè into an excess of grief and again encompassed him with the fear and horror of death. He shut himself up in his room, and toward the close of the day took his writing materials and penned a passionate appeal to his mother, begging her to absolve him from his promises, and let him go out into the world, a free man in search of truth. But scarcely had he finished his letter when he was summoned into the Rector’s office. There it was explained to him that, in recognition of his high scholarship, of his penitence and loyal obedience since the Testament episode, and of the advanced work which he was now doing in the seminary and the splendid promise he was giving, the Holy Father had been asked to grant a special indult, waiving the usual age requirement and permitting the boy to be ordained 53 with the class which was to receive the holy order of the priesthood the following day. It was further announced that after ordination he should spend a year in travel with the Papal Legate, and on his return might enter the office of the Papal Secretary of State, as an under-secretary, or office assistant. While there, he would be called upon to teach in the seminary, and later might be sent to the University to pursue higher studies leading to the degree of Doctor.

Before the boy had awakened to his situation, the day of his ordination arrived. The proud mother, learning from the secretary of the precipitation of events, and doting on the boy whom she had never understood; in total ignorance of the complex elements of his soul, and little realizing that between her and her beloved son there was now a gulf fixed which would never be bridged, saw only the happy fruition of a life ambition. Fortunately she had been kept in ignorance of the dubious incident of the Testament translation and its results upon the boy; and when the long anticipated day dawned her eyes swam in tears of hallowed joy. The Archbishop and his grim secretary each congratulated the other heartily, and the latter, breaking into one of his rare smiles, murmured gratefully, “At last! And our enemies have lost a champion!”

The night before the ordination Josè had begged to occupy a room alone. The appeal which emanated from his sad face, his thin and stooping body, his whole drawn and tortured being, would have melted flint. His request was granted. Throughout the night the boy, on his knees beside the little bed, wrestled with the emotions which were tearing his soul. Despondency lay over him like a pall. A vague presentiment of impending disaster pressed upon him like a millstone. Ceaselessly he weighed and reviewed the forces which had combined to drive him into the inconsistent position which he now occupied. Inconsistent, for his highest ideal had been truth. He was by nature consecrated to it. He had sought it diligently in the Church, and now that he was about to become her priest he could not make himself believe that he had found it. Now, when bound to her altars, he faced a life of deception, of falsehood, as the champion of a faith which he could not unreservedly embrace.

But he had accepted his education from the Church; and would he shrink from making payment therefor? Yet, on the other hand, must he sacrifice honor––yea, his whole future––to the payment of a debt forced upon him before he had reached the age of reason? The oath of ordination, the priest’s oath, echoed in his throbbing ears like a soul-sentence to eternal doom; while spectral shades of moving priests and bishops, laying 54 cold and unfeeling hands upon him, sealing him to endless servitude to superstition and deception, glided to and fro through the darkness before his straining eyes. Could he receive the ordination to-morrow? He had promised––but the assumption of its obligations would brand his shrinking soul with torturing falsehood! If he sank under doubt and fear, could he still retract? What then of his mother and his promise to her? What of the Rincón honor and pride? Living disgrace, or a living lie––which? Sacrifice of self––or mother? God knew, he had never deliberately countenanced a falsehood––yet, through circumstances which he did not have the will to control, he was a living one!

Fair visions of a life untrammeled by creed or religious convention hovered at times that night before his mental gaze. He saw a cottage, rose-bowered, glowing in the haze of the summer sun. He saw before its door a woman, fresh and fair––his wife––and children––his––shouting their joyous greetings as they trooped out to welcome him returning from his day’s labors. How he clung to this picture when it faded and left him, an oath-bound celibate, facing his lonely and cheerless destiny! God! what has the Church to offer for such sacrifice as this! An education? Yea, an induction into relative truths and mortal opinions, and the sad record of the devious wanderings of the human mind! An opportunity for service? God knows, the free, unhampered mind, open to truth and progress, loosed from mediaeval dogma and ignorant convention, seeing its brothers’ needs and meeting in them its own, has opportunities for rich service to-day outside the Church the like of which have never before been offered!

To and fro his heaving thought ebbed and flowed. Back and forth the arguments, pro and con, surged through the still hours of the night. After all, had he definite proof that the tenets of Holy Church were false? No, he could not honestly say that he had. The question still stood in abeyance. Even his conviction of their falsity at times had sorely wavered. And if his heart cried out against their acceptance, it nevertheless had nothing tangibly definite to offer in substitution. But––the end had come so suddenly! With his life free and untrammeled he might yet find the truth. Oath-bound and limited to the strictures of the Church, what hope was there but the acceptance of prescribed canons of human belief? Still, the falsities which he believed he had found within the Church were not greater than those against which she herself fought in the world. And if she accepted him, did it not indicate on her part a tacit recognition of the need of just what he had to offer, a searching spirit of inquiry and consecration to the unfoldment of truth? Alas! 55 the incident of the Greek translation threw its shadow of doubt upon that hope.

But if the Church accepted him, she must accept his stand! He would raise his voice in protest, and would continually point to the truth as he discerned it! If he received the order of priesthood from her it was with the understanding that his acceptance of her tenets was tentative! But––forlorn expedient! He knew something of ecclesiastical history. He thought he knew––young as he was––that the Church stood not for progress, not for conformity to changing ideals, not for alignment with the world’s great reforms, but for herself, first, midst, and last!

Thus the conflict raged, while thoughts, momentous for even a mature thinker, tore through the mind of this lad of twenty. Prayers for light––prayers which would have rent the heart of an Ivan––burst at times from the feverish lips of this child of circumstance. Infinite Father––Divine Influence––Spirit of Love––whatever Thou art––wilt Thou not illumine the thought-processes of this distracted youth and thus provide the way of escape from impending destruction? Can it be Thy will that this fair mind shall be utterly crushed? Do the agonized words of appeal which rise to Thee from his riven soul fall broken against ears of stone?

“Occupy till I come!” Yea, beloved Master, he hears thy voice and strives to obey––but the night is filled with terror––the clouds of error lower about him––the storm bursts––and thou art not there!

Day dawned. A classmate, sent to summon the lad, roused him from the fitful sleep into which he had sunk on the cold floor. His mind was no longer active. Dumbly following his preceptors at the appointed hour, he proceeded with the class to the chapel. Dimly conscious of his surroundings, his thought befogged as if in a dream, his eyes half-blinded by the gray haze which seemed to hang before them, he celebrated the Mass, like one under hypnosis, received the holy orders, and assumed the obligations which constituted him a priest of Holy Church.


On a sweltering midsummer afternoon, a year after the events just related, Rome lay panting for breath and counting the interminable hours which must elapse before the unpitying sun would grant her a short night’s respite from her discomfort. Her streets were deserted by all except those 56 whose affairs necessitated their presence in them. Her palaces and villas had been abandoned for weeks by their fortunate owners, who had betaken themselves to the seashore or to the more distance resorts of the North. The few inexperienced tourists whose lack of practical knowledge in the matter of globe-trotting had brought them into the city so unseasonably were hastily and indignantly assembling their luggage and completing arrangements to flee from their over-warm reception.

In a richly appointed suite of the city’s most modern and ultra-fashionable hotel two maids, a butler, and the head porter were packing and removing a formidable array of trunks and suit cases, while a woman of considerably less than middle age, comely in person and tastefully attired in a loose dressing gown of flowered silk, alternated between giving sharp directions to the perspiring workers and venting her abundant wrath and disappointment upon the chief clerk, as with evident reluctance she filled one of a number of signed checks to cover the hotel expenses of herself and servants for a period of three weeks, although they had arrived only the day before and, on account of the stifling heat, were leaving on the night express for Lucerne. The clerk regretted exceedingly, but on Madam Ames’ order the suite had been held vacant for that length of time, during which the management had daily looked for her arrival, and had received no word of her delay. Had Madam herself not just admitted that she had altered her plans en route, without notifying the hotel, and had gone first to the Italian lakes, without cancelling her order for the suite? And so her sense of justice must convince her that the management was acting wholly within its rights in making this demand.

While the preparations for departure were in progress the woman’s two children played about the trunks and raced through the rooms and adjoining corridor with a child’s indifference to climatal conditions.

“Let’s ring for the elevator and then hide, Sidney!” suggested the girl, as she panted after her brother, who had run to the far end of the long hall.

“No, Kathleen, it wouldn’t be right,” objected the boy.

“Right! Ho! ho! What’s the harm, goody-goody? Go tell mother, if you want to!” she called after him, as he started back to their rooms. Refusing to accompany him, the girl leaned against the balustrade of a stairway which led to the floor below and watched her brother until he disappeared around a turn of the corridor.

“Baby!” burst from her pouting lips. “’Fraid of everything! It’s no fun playing with him!” Then, casting a glance of inquiry 57 about her, “I’d just like to hide down these stairs. Mother and nurse never let me go where I want to.”

Obeying the impulse stimulated by her freedom for the moment, the child suddenly turned and darted down the stairway. On the floor beneath she found herself at the head of a similar stairway, down which she likewise hurried, with no other thought than to annoy her brother, who was sure to be sent in search of her when her mother discovered her absence. Opening the door below, the child unexpectedly found herself in an alley back of the hotel.

Her sense of freedom was exhilarating. The sunlit alley beckoned to a delightful journey of discovery. With a happy laugh and a toss of her yellow curls she hurried along the narrow way and into the street which crossed it a short distance beyond. Here she paused and looked in each direction, uncertain which way to continue. In one direction, far in the distance, she saw trees. They looked promising; she would go that way. And trotting along the blazing, deserted street, she at length reached the grateful shade and threw herself on the soft grass beneath, tired and panting, but happy in the excitement of her little adventure.

Recovering quickly, the child rose to explore her environment. She was in one of those numerous public parks lining the Tiber and forming the city’s playground for her less fortunate wards. Here and there were scattered a few people, mostly men, who had braved the heat of the streets in the hope of obtaining a breath of cool air near the water. At the river’s edge a group of ragged urchins were romping noisily; and on a bench near them a young priest sat, writing in a notebook. As she walked toward them a beggar roused himself from the grass and looked covetously through his evil eyes at the child’s rich clothes.

The gamins stopped their play as the girl approached, and stared at her in expectant curiosity. One of them, a girl of apparently her own age, spoke to her, but in a language which she did not understand. Receiving no reply, the urchins suddenly closed together, and holding hands, began to circle around her, shouting like little Indians.

The child stood for a moment perplexed. Then terror seized her. Hurling herself through the circle, she fled blindly, with the gamins in pursuit. With no sense of direction, her only thought to escape from the dirty band at her heels, she rushed straight to the river and over the low bank into the sluggish, yellow water. A moment later the priest who had been sitting on the bench near the river, startled by the frenzied cries of the now frightened children, rushed into the shallow water and brought the girl in safety to the bank.


Speaking to her in her own language, the priest sought to soothe the child and learn her identity as he carried her to the edge of the park and out into the street. But his efforts were unavailing. She could only sob hysterically and call piteously for her mother. A civil guard appeared at the street corner, and the priest summoned him. But scarcely had he reported the details of the accident when, suddenly uttering a cry, the priest thrust the girl into the arms of the astonished officer and fled back to the bench where he had been sitting. Another cry escaped him when he reached it. Throwing himself upon the grass, he searched beneath the bench and explored the ground about it. Then, his face blanched with fear, he rose and traversed the entire park, questioning every occupant. The gamins who had caused the accident had fled. The beggar, too, had disappeared. The park was all but deserted. Returning again to the bench, the priest sank upon it and buried his head in his hands, groaning aloud. A few minutes later he abruptly rose and, glancing furtively around as if he feared to be seen, hastened out to the street. Then, darting into a narrow crossroad, he disappeared in the direction of the Vatican.

At midnight, Padre Josè de Rincón was still pacing the floor of his room, frantic with apprehension. At the same hour, the small girl who had so unwittingly plunged him into the gravest danger was safely asleep in her mother’s arms on the night express, which shrieked and thundered on its way to Lucerne.


Always as a child Josè had been the tortured victim of a vague, unformed apprehension of impending disaster, a presentiment that some day a great evil would befall him. The danger before which he now grew white with fear seemed to realize that fatidic thought, and hang suspended above him on a filament more tenuous than the hair which held aloft the fabled sword of Damocles. That filament was the slender chance that the notebook with which he was occupied when the terrified child precipitated herself into the river, and which he had hastily dropped on seeing her plight and rushing to the rescue, had been picked up by those who would consider its value nil as an instrument of either good or evil. Before the accident occurred he had been absorbed in his writing and was unaware of other occupants of the park than himself and the children, whose boisterous romping in such close proximity had scarce interrupted his occupation. Then their frightened cries 59 roused him to an absorbing sense of the girl’s danger. Nor did he think again of the notebook until he was relating the details of the accident to the guard at the edge of the park, when, like a blow from above, the thought of it struck him.

Trembling with dread anticipation, he had hurried back to the bench, only to find his fears realized. The book had disappeared! His frenzied search yielded no hint of its probable mode of removal. Overcome by a sickening sense of misfortune, he had sunk upon the bench in despair. But fear again roused him and drove him, slinking like a hunted beast, from the park––fear that the possessor of the book, appreciating its contents, but with no thought of returning it, might be hovering near, with the view of seeing what manner of priest it could be who would thus carelessly leave such writings as these in the public parks and within the very shadow of St. Peter’s.

But to escape immediate identification as their author did not remove his danger. Their character was such that, should they fall into certain hands, his identity must surely be established. Even though his name did not appear, they abounded in references which could hardly fail to point to him. But, far worse, they cited names of personages high in political and ecclesiastical circles in references which, should they become public, must inevitably set in motion forces whose far-reaching and disastrous effects he dared not even imagine.

For the notebook contained the soul-history of the man. It was the journal intime which he had begun as a youth, and continued and amplified through succeeding years. It was the repository of his inmost thoughts, the receptacle of his secret convictions. It held, crystallized in writing, his earliest protests against the circumstances which were molding his life. It voiced the subsequent agonized outpourings of his soul when the holy order of priesthood was conferred upon him. It recorded his views of life, of religion, of the cosmos. It held in burning words his thoughts anent the Holy Catholic faith––his sense of its virtues, its weaknesses, its assumptions, its fallacies. It set forth his confession of helplessness before circumstances too strong for his feeble will, and it cited therewith, as partial justification for his conduct, his tender love for his mother and his firm intention of keeping forever inviolable his promises to her. It voiced his passionate prayers for light, and his dim hopes for the future, while portraying the wreck of a life whose elements had been too complex for him to sift and classify and combine in their normal proportions.

A year had passed since the unhappy lad had opened his mouth to receive the iron bit which Destiny had pressed so mercilessly against it. During that time the Church had conscientiously 60 carried out her program as announced to him just prior to his ordination. Associated with the Papal Legate, he had traveled extensively through Europe, his impressionable mind avidly absorbing the customs, languages, and thought-processes of many lands. At Lourdes he had stood in deep meditation before the miraculous shrine, surrounded with its piles of discarded canes and crutches, and wondered what could be the principle, human or divine, that had effected such cures. In Naples he had witnessed the miraculous liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius. He had seen the priests pass through the great assemblage with the little vial in which the red clot slowly dissolved into liquid before their credulous eyes; and he had turned away that they might not mark his flush of shame. In the Cathedral at Cologne he had gazed long at the supposed skulls of the three Magi who had worshipped at the rude cradle of the Christ. Set in brilliant jewels, in a resplendent gilded shrine, these whitened relics, which Bishop Reinald is believed to have discovered in the twelfth century, seemed to mock him in the very boldness of the pious fraud which they externalized. Was the mystery of the Christ involved in such deceit as this? And perpetrated by his Church? In unhappy Ireland he had been forced to the conviction that misdirected religious zeal must some day urge the sturdy Protesters of the North into armed conflict with their Catholic brothers of the South in another of those deplorable religious––nay, rather, theological––conflicts which have stained the earth with human blood in the name of the Prince of Peace. It was all incomprehensible to him, incongruous, and damnably wicked. Why could not they come together to submit their creeds, their religious beliefs and tenets, to the test of practical demonstration, and then discard those which world-history has long since shown inimical to progress and happiness? Paul urged this very thing when he wrote, “Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good.” But, alas! the human doctrine of infallibility now stood squarely in the way.

From his travels with the Legate, Josè returned to Rome, burning with the holy desire to lend his influence to the institution of those reforms within the Church of which now he so clearly saw the need. Savonarola had burned with this same selfless desire to reform the Church from within. And his life became the forfeit. But the present age was perforce more tolerant; and was likewise wanting in those peculiar political conditions which had combined with the religious issue to send the great reformer to a martyr’s death.

As Josè entered Rome he found the city in a state of turmoil. The occasion was the march of the Catholic gymnastic 61 associations from the church where they had heard the Mass to St. Peter’s, where they were to be received by the Holy Father. Cries of “Long live free-thinking!” were issuing from the rabble which followed hooting in the wake of the procession. To these were retorted, “Viva il Papa Re!” Josè had been caught in the mêlée, and, but for the interference of the civil authorities, might have suffered bodily injury. With his corporeal bruises he now bore away another ineffaceable mental impression. Were the Italian patriots justified in their hostility toward the Vatican? Had United Italy come into existence with the support of the Papacy, or in despite of it? Would the Church forever set herself against freedom of thought? Always seek to imprison the human mind? Was her unreasonably stubborn attitude directly accountable for the presence of atheism in the place, of all places, where her own influence ought to be most potent, the city of St. Peter?

For reasons which he could only surmise––perhaps because of his high scholarship––perhaps because of his remarkable memory, which constituted him a living encyclopedia in respect of all that entered it––Josè was now installed in the office of the Papal Secretary of State as an office assistant. He had received the appointment with indifference, for he was wholly devoid of ecclesiastical ambition. And yet it was with a sense of relief that he now felt assured of a career in the service of the Administrative Congregation of the Church, and for all time removed from the likelihood of being relegated to the performance of merely priestly functions. He therefore prepared to bide his time, and patiently to await opportunities to lend his willing support to the uplift of the Church and his fellow-men.

The limitations with which he had always been hedged about had not permitted the lad to know much, if anything, of the multitude of books on religious and philosophical subjects annually published throughout the world; and his oath of obedience would have prevented him from reading them if he had. But he saw no reason why, as part preparation for his work of moral uplift, he should not continue to seek, at first hand, the answer to the world-stirring query, What does the Bible mean? If God gave it, if the theory of verbal inspiration is correct, and if it is infallible, why then was it necessary to revise it, as had been done in the wonderful Jerusalem Chamber which he had once visited? Were those of his associates justified who had scoffed at that work, and, with a sneer on their lips, voiced the caustic query, “Fools! Why don’t they let the Bible alone?” If the world is to be instructed out of the old sensual theology, does the Bible contain the truth with which to 62 replace it? For to tear down an ideal without substituting for it a better one is nothing short of criminal. And so Josè plunged deeply into the study of Scriptural sources.

He had thought the rich treasures of the Vatican library unrestrictedly open to him, and he therefore brought his fine Latin and Greek scholarship to bear on its oldest uncial manuscripts. He began the study of Hebrew, that he might later read the Talmud and the ancient Jewish rabbinical lore. He pursued unflaggingly his studies of the English, French, and German languages, that he might search for the truth crystallized in those tongues. As his work progressed, the flush of health came to his cheeks. His eyes reflected the consuming fire which glowed in his eager soul. As he labored, he wrote; and his discoveries and meditations all found lodgment in his sole confidant, his journal.

If the Church knew what Christianity was, then Josè was forced to admit that he did not. He, weak, frail, fallible, remit sins? Preposterous! What was the true remission of sins but their utter destruction? He change the wafer and wine into the flesh and blood of Jesus? Nay, he was no spiritual thaumaturgus! He could not do even the least of the works of the Master, despite his priestly character! Yet, it was not he, but the Christ, operating through him as a channel, who performed the work. Then why did not the Christ through him heal the sick and raise the dead? “Nay,” he deplored, as he bent over his task, “the Church may teach that the bones, the teeth, the hair, and other human relics of canonized Saints can heal the sick––but even the Cardinals and the Holy Father when they fall ill demand the services, not of these, but of earthly physicians. They seek not the Christ-healing then; nor can they by their boasted powers heal themselves.”

Israel’s theme was: Righteousness is salvation. But Josè knew not how to define righteousness. Surely it did not mean adherence to human creeds! It was vastly more than observance of forms! “God is a spirit,” he read; “and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” Then, voicing his own comments, “Why, then, this crass materializing of worship? Are images of Saviour, Virgin, and Saint necessary to excite the people to devotion? Nay, would not the healing of the sick, the restoration of sight to the blind, and the performance of the works of the Master by us priests do more than wooden or marble images to lead men to worship? Proof! proof! proof! ‘Show us your works, and we will show you our faith,’ cry the people. ‘Then will we no longer sacrifice our independence of thought to the merciless tyranny of human tradition.’” And he knew that this related to Catholic and Protestant, Jew and Mohammedan alike.


One day a Cardinal, passing through the library, saw the diligent student at work, and paused to inquire into his labors. “And what do you seek, my son?” was the kindly query of the aged churchman.

“Scriptural justification for the fundamental tenets of our faith,” Josè replied quickly, carried away by his soul’s animation.

“And you find it, without doubt?”

“Nay, Father, except through what is, to me, unwarranted license and assumption.”

The Cardinal silently continued his way. But permission to translate further from the Vatican manuscripts was that day withdrawn from Josè.

Again the youth lapsed into his former habit of moody revery. Shackled and restless, driven anew into himself, he increasingly poured his turbulent thought into his journal, not for other and profane eyes to read––hardly, either, for his own reference––but simply because he must have some outlet for the expression of his heaving mind. He turned to it, as he had in other crises in his life, when his pent soul cried out for some form of relief. He began to revise the record of the impressions received on his travels with the Papal Legate. He recorded conversations and impressions of scenes and people which his abnormally developed reticence would not permit him to discuss verbally with his associates. He embodied his protests against the restrictions of ecclesiastical authority. And he noted, too, many a protest against the political, rather than religious, character of much of the business transacted in the office to which he was attached. In the discharge of his ordinary duties he necessarily became acquainted with much of the inner administrative polity of the Vatican, and thus at times he learned of policies which stirred his alien soul to revolt. In his inferior position he could not hope to raise his voice in protest against these measures which excited his indignation; but in the loneliness of his room, or on his frequent long walks after office hours, he was wont to brood over them until his mind became surcharged and found relief only in emptying itself into this journal. And often on summer days, when the intense heat rendered his little room in the dormitory uninhabitable, he would take his books and papers to some one of the smaller parks lining the Tiber, and there would lose himself in study and meditation and the recording of the ceaseless voicing of his lonely soul.

On this particular afternoon, however, his mind had been occupied with matters of more than ordinary import. It happened that a Bishop from the United States had arrived in 64 Rome the preceding day to pay his decennial visit to the Vatican and report on the spiritual condition of his diocese. While awaiting the return of the Papal Secretary, he had engaged in earnest conversation with a Cardinal-Bishop of the Administrative Congregation, in a small room adjoining the one where Josè was occupied with his clerical duties. The talk had been animated, and the heavy tapestry at the door had not prevented much of it from reaching the ears of the young priest and becoming fixed in his retentive memory.

“While I feel most keenly the persecution to which the Church must submit in the United States,” the Bishop had said, “nevertheless Your Eminence will admit that there is some ground for complaint in the conduct of certain of her clergy. It is for the purpose of removing such vantage ground from our critics that I again urge an investigation of American priests, with the view of improving their moral status.”

“You say, ‘persecution to which the Church must submit.’ Is that quite true?” returned the Cardinal-Bishop. “That is, in the face of your own gratifying reports? News from the American field is not only encouraging, but highly stimulating. The statistics which are just at hand from Monsignor, our Delegate in Washington, reveal the truly astonishing growth of our beloved cause for the restoration of all things in Christ. Has not God shown even in our beloved America that our way of worshiping Him is the way He approves?”

“But, Your Eminence, the constant defections! It was only last week that a priest and his entire congregation went over to the Episcopal faith. And––”

“What of that? ‘It must needs be that offenses come.’ Where one drops out, ten take his place.”

“True, while we recruit our depleted ranks from the Old World. But, with restricted immigration––”

“Which is not restricted, as yet,” replied the Cardinal-Bishop with a sapient smile. “Nor is there any restriction upon the inspiration, political as well as spiritual, which the American Government draws from Rome––an inspiration much more potent, I think, than our Protestant brethren would care to admit.”

“Is that inspiration such, think you, as to draw the American Government more and more into the hands of the Church?”

“Its effect in the past unquestionably has been such,” said the Cardinal-Bishop meditatively.

“And shall our dreams of an age be fulfilled––that the Holy Father will throw off the shackles which now hold him a prisoner within the Vatican, and that he will then personally direct the carrying out of those policies of world expansion which shall gather all mankind into the fold of Holy Church?”


“There is a lessening doubt of it,” was the tentative reply.

“And––” the Bishop hesitated. “And––shall we say that those all-embracing policies ultimately will be directed by the Holy Father from Washington itself?”

A long pause ensued, during which Josè was all ears.

“Why not?” finally returned the Cardinal-Bishop slowly. “Why not, if it should better suit our purposes? It may become advisable to remove the Holy See from Rome.”


“Not at all––quite possible, though I will not say probable. But let us see, can we not say that the time has arrived when no President of the United States can be elected without the Catholic vote? Having our vote, we have his pledges to support our policies. These statistics before us show that already seventy-five per cent of all Government employes in Washington are of our faith. We control Federal, State, County and City offices without number. I think––I think the time is not distant when we shall be able to set up a candidate of our faith for the Presidency, if we care to. And,” he mused, “we shall elect him. But, all in good time, all in good time.”

“And is that,” the Bishop interrogated eagerly, “what the Holy Father is now contemplating?”

“I cannot say that it is,” answered the noncommittal Cardinal-Bishop. “But the Holy Father loves America. He rejoices in your report of progress in your diocese. The successes attained by Catholic candidates in the recent elections are most gratifying to him. This not only testifies to the progress of Catholicism in America, but is tangible proof of the growth of tolerance and liberal-mindedness in that great nation. The fact that the Catholic Mass is now being said in the American army affords further proof.”

“Yes,” meditated the Bishop. “Our candidates who receive election are quite generally loyal to the Church.”

“And should constitute a most potent factor in the holy work of making America dominantly Catholic,” added the older man.

“True, Your Eminence. And yet, this great desideratum can never come about until the youth are brought into the true fold. And that means, as you well know, the abolishing of the public school system.”

“What think you of that?” asked the Cardinal-Bishop off-handedly.

The Bishop waxed suddenly animated. A subject had been broached which lay close to his heart. “The public schools constitute a godless sink of pollution!” he replied heatedly. “They are nurseries of vice! They are part of an immoral and 66 vicious system of education which is undermining the religion of American children! I have always contended that we, the Holy Catholic Church, must control education! I hold that education outside of the Church is heresy of the most damnable kind! We have heretofore weakly protested against this pernicious system, but without success, excepting”––and here he smiled cynically––“that we have very generally succeeded in forcing the discontinuance of Bible reading in the public schools. And in certain towns where our parochial schools do not instruct beyond the eighth grade, it looks as if we might force the introduction of a form of the Catholic Mass to be read each morning in the High School.”

“Excellent!” exclaimed the Cardinal-Bishop. “Your voice thrills me like a trumpet call.”

“I would it were such,” cried the Bishop excitedly, “summoning the faithful to strike a blow which shall be felt! What right have the United States, or any nation, to educate the young? None whatever! Education belongs to the Church! Our rights in this respect have been usurped! But they shall be restored––if need be, at the point of the––”

“You positively make my old heart leap to the fray,” interrupted the smiling, white-haired churchman. “But I feel assured that we shall accomplish just that without violence or bloodshed, my son. You echo my sentiments exactly on the pregnant question. And yet, by getting Catholics employed in the public schools as teachers, and by electing our candidates to public offices, we quietly accomplish our ends, do we not?”

“But when will the Holy Father recognize the time as propitious for a more decisive step in that respect?”

“Why, my son, I think you fail to see that we keep continually stepping. We are growing by leaps and bounds in America. At the close of the War of Independence the United States numbered some forty-five thousand adherents to the Catholic faith. Now the number has increased to twelve or fifteen millions. Of these, some four millions are voters. A goodly number, is it not?”

“Then,” cried the Bishop, “let the Holy Father boldly make the demand that the States appropriate money for the support of our parochial schools!”

Josè’s ears throbbed. Before his ordination he had heard the Liturgy for the conversion of America recited in the chapel of the seminary. And as often he had sought to picture the condition of the New World under the religio-political influence which has for centuries dominated the Old. But he had always dismissed the idea of such domination as wholly improbable, if not quite impossible in America. Yet, since coming into 67 the Papal Secretary’s office, his views were slowly undergoing revision. The Church was concentrating on America. Of that there could be no doubt. Indeed, he had come to believe its success as a future world-power to be a function of the stand which it could secure and maintain in the United States. Now, as he strained his ears, he could hear the aged Cardinal-Bishop’s low, tense words––

“There can be no real separation of Church and State. The Church is not inferior to the civil power, nor is it in any way dependent upon it. And the Church can never be excluded from educating and training the young, from molding society, from making laws, and governing, temporally and spiritually. From this attitude we shall never depart! Ours is the only true religion. England and Germany have been spiritually dead. But, praise to the blessed Virgin who has heard our prayers and made intercession for us, England, after long centuries of struggle with man-made sects and indefinite dogma, its spiritually-starving people fast drifting into atheism and infidelity because of nothing to hold to, has awakened, and in these first hours of her resurrection is fast returning to the Holy Church of Rome. America, in these latter days, is rousing from the blight of Puritanism, Protestantism, and their inevitable result, free-thinking and anarchy, and is becoming the brightest jewel in the Papal crown.”

The Bishop smiled dubiously. “And yet, Your Eminence,” he replied, “we are heralded from one end of the land to the other as a menace to Republican institutions.”

“Ah, true. And you must agree that Romanism is a distinct menace to the insane license of speech and press. It is a decided menace to the insanity of Protestantism. But,” he added archly, while his eyes twinkled, “I have no doubt that when Catholic education has advanced a little further many of your American preachers, editors, and Chautauqua demagogues will find themselves behind the bars of madhouses. Fortunately, that editor of the prominent American magazine of which you were speaking switched from his heretic Episcopal faith in time to avoid this unpleasant consequence.”

The Bishop reflected for a moment. Then, deliberately, as if meditating the great import of his words, “Your Eminence, in view of our strength, and our impregnable position as God’s chosen, cannot the Holy Father insist that the United States mails be barred against the infamous publications that so basely vilify our Church?”

“And thereby precipitate a revolution?” It was the firm voice of the Papal Secretary himself, who at that moment entered the room.


“But, Monsignor,” said the Bishop, as he rose and saluted the newcomer, “how much longer must we submit to the gross injustice and indignities practiced upon us by non-believers?”

“As long as the infallible Holy Father directs,” replied that eminent personage. “Obey him, as you would God himself,” the Secretary continued. “And teach your flock to do likewise. The ballot will do for us in America what armed resistance never could. Listen, friend, my finger is on the religious pulse of the world. Nowhere does this pulse beat as strongly as in that part which we call the United States. For years I have been watching the various contending forces in that country, diligently and earnestly studying the elements acting and reacting upon our Church there. I have come to the conclusion that the success of Holy Church throughout the world depends upon its advance in the United States during the next few years. I have become an American enthusiast! The glorious work of making America Catholic is so fraught with consequences of vastest import that my blood surges with the enthusiasm of an old Crusader! But there is much still to be done. America is a field white for the harvest, almost unobstructed.”

“Then,” queried the Bishop, “you do not reckon Protestantism an obstruction?”

“Protestantism!” the Secretary rejoined with a cynical laugh. “No, I reckon it as nothing. Protestantism in America is decadent. It has split, divided, and disintegrated, until it is scarcely recognizable. Its adherents are falling away in great numbers. Its weak tenets and senile faith hold but comparatively few and lukewarm supporters. It has degenerated into a sort of social organization, with musicals, pink teas, and church suppers as attractions. No, America is bound to be classed as a Catholic nation––and I expect to live to see it thus. Our material and spiritual progress in the United States is amazing, showing how nobly American Catholics have responded to the Holy Father’s appeal. New dioceses are springing up everywhere. Churches are multiplying with astonishing rapidity. The discouraging outlook in Europe is more, far more, than counterbalanced by our wonderful progress in the United States. We might say that the Vatican now rests upon American backs, for the United States send more Peter’s Pence to Rome than all other Catholic countries together. We practically control her polls and her press. America was discovered by Christopher Columbus, a Catholic in the service of a Catholic ruler. It is Catholic in essence, and it shall so be recognized! The Holy Catholic Church always has been and always will be the sole and only Christian authority. The Catholic religion by rights ought to be, and ultimately shall be, the exclusively 69 dominant religion of the world, and every other sort of worship shall be banished––interdicted––destroyed!”

For a while Josè heard no more. His ears burned and his brain throbbed. He had become conscious of but one all-absorbing thought, the fact of his vassalage to a world-embracing political system, working in the name of the Christ. Not a new thought, by any means––indeed an old one, often held––but now driven home to him most emphatically. He forgot his clerical duties and sank into profound revery on his inconsistent position in the office of the highest functionary of Holy Church aside from the Supreme Pontiff himself.

He was aroused at length from his meditations by the departure of the American Bishop. “It is true, as you report,” the Papal Secretary was saying earnestly. “America seems rife with modernism. Free-masonry, socialism, and countless other fads and religious superstitions are widely prevalent there. Nor do I underestimate their strength and influence. And yet, I fear them not. There are also certain freak religions, philosophical beliefs, wrung from the simple teachings of our blessed Saviour, the rapid spread of which at one time did give me some concern. The Holy Father mentioned one or two of them to-day, in reference to his contemplated encyclical on modernism. But I now see that they are cults based upon human personality; and with their leaders removed, the fabrics will of themselves crumble.”

He took leave of the Bishop, and turned again to address the Cardinal-Bishop within. “A matter of the gravest import has arisen,” he began in a low voice; “and one that may directly affect our negotiations in regard to the support which the Holy Father will need in case he issues a pronunciamento that France, Spain, and Austria shall no longer exercise the right of veto in papal elections. That rumor regarding Isabella’s daughter is again afloat. I have summoned Father Rafaél de Rincón to Rome to state what he knows. But––” He rose and looked out through the door at Josè, bending over his littered desk. Then he went back, and resumed his conversation with the Cardinal-Bishop, but in a tone so low that Josè could catch only disconnected scraps.

“What, Colombia?” he at length heard the Cardinal-Bishop exclaim.

“Yes,” was the Secretary’s reply. “And presumably at the instigation of that busybody, Wenceslas Ortiz. Though what concern he might have in the Infanta is to me incomprehensible––assuming, of course, that there is such a royal daughter.”

“But––Colombia elects a President soon, is it not so?”

“On the eve of election now,” replied the Secretary. “And 70 if the influence of Wenceslas with the Bishop of Cartagena is what I am almost forced to admit that it is, then the election is in his hands. But, the Infanta––” The sound of his voice did not carry the rest of his words to Josè’s itching ears.

An hour later the Secretary and the Cardinal-Bishop came out of the room and left the office together. “Yes,” the Secretary was saying, “in the case of Wenceslas it was ‘pull and percuniam’ that secured him his place. The Church did not put him there.”

The Cardinal-Bishop laughed genially. “Then the Holy Ghost was not consulted, I take it,” he said.

“No,” replied the Secretary grimly. “And he has so complicated the already delicate situation in Colombia that I fear Congress will table the bill prohibiting Free-masonry. It is to be deplored. Among all the Latin Republics none has been more thoroughly Catholic than Colombia.”

“Is the Holy Father’s unpublished order regarding the sale and distribution of Bibles loyally observed there?” queried the Cardinal-Bishop.

The door closed upon them and Josè heard no more. His day’s duties ended, he went to his room to write and reflect. But the intense afternoon heat again drove him forth to seek what comfort he might near the river. With his notebook in hand he went to the little park, as was his frequent wont. An hour or so later, while he was jotting down his remembrance of the conversation just overheard, together with his own caustic and protesting opinions, his absorption was broken by the strange child’s accident. A few minutes later the notebook had disappeared.

And now the thought of all this medley of personal material and secret matters of Church polity falling into the hands of those who might make capital of it, and thereby drag the Rincón honor through the mire, cast the man prostrate in the dust.


Days passed––days whose every dawn found the priest staring in sleepless, wide-eyed terror at the ceiling above––days crowded with torturing apprehension and sickening suggestion––days when his knees quaked and his hands shook when his superiors addressed him in the performance of his customary duties. No mental picture was too frightful or abhorrent for him to entertain as portraying a possible consequence of the loss of his journal. He cowered in agony before 71 these visions. He dared not seek the little park again. He feared to show himself in the streets. He dreaded the short walk from his dormitory to the Vatican. His life became a sustained torture––a consuming agony of uncertainty, interminable suspense, fearful foreboding. The cruelty of his position corroded him. His health suffered, and his cassock hung like a bag about his emaciated form.

Then the filament snapped and the sword fell. On a dismal, rainy morning, some two months after the incident in the park, Josè was summoned into the private office of the Papal Secretary of State. As the priest entered the small room the Secretary, sitting alone at his desk, turned and looked at him long and fixedly.

“So, my son,” he said in a voice that froze the priest’s blood, “you are still alive?” Then, taking up a paper-covered book of medium size which apparently he had been reading, he held it out without comment.

Josè took it mechanically. The book was crudely printed and showed evidence of having been hastily issued. It came from the press of a Viennese publisher, and bore the startling title, “Confessions of a Roman Catholic Priest.” As in a dream Josè opened it. A cry escaped him, and the book fell from his hands. It was his journal!

There are sometimes crises in human lives when the storm-spent mind, tossing on the waves of heaving emotion, tugs and strains at the ties which moor it to reason, until they snap, and it sweeps out into the unknown, where blackness and terror rage above the fathomless deep. Such a crisis had entered the life of the unhappy priest, who now held in his shaking hand the garbled publication of his life’s most sacred thoughts. Into whose hands his notes had fallen on that black day when he had sacrificed everything for an unknown child, he knew not. How they had made their way into Austria, and into the pressroom of the heretical modernist who had gleefully issued them, twisted, exaggerated, but unabridged, he might not even imagine. The terrible fact remained that there in his hands they stared up at him in hideous mockery, his soul-convictions, his heart’s deepest and most inviolable thoughts, details of his own personal history, secrets of state––all ruthlessly exposed to the world’s vulgar curiosity and the rapacity of those who would not fail to play them up to the certain advantages to which they lent themselves all too well.

And there before him, too, were the Secretary’s sharp eyes, burning into his very soul. He essayed to speak, to rise to his own defense. But his throat filled, and the words which he would utter died on his trembling lips. The room whirled about 72 him. Floods of memory began to sweep over him in huge billows. The conflicting forces which had culminated in placing him in the paradoxical position in which he now stood raced before him in confused review. Objects lost their definite outlines and melted into the haze which rose before his straining eyes. All things at last merged into the terrible presence of the Papal Secretary, as he slowly rose, tall and gaunt, and with arm extended and long, bony finger pointing to the yellow river in the distance, said in words whose cruel suggestion scorched the raw soul of the suffering priest:

“My son, be advised: the Tiber covers many sins.”

Then pitying oblivion opened wide her arms, and the tired priest sank gently into them.


Rome again lay scorching beneath a merciless summer sun. But the energetic uncle of Josè was not thereby restrained from making another hurried visit to the Vatican. What his mission was does not appear in papal records; but, like the one which he found occasion to make just prior to the ordination of his nephew, this visit was not extended to include Josè, who throughout that enervating summer lay tossing in delirium in the great hospital of the Santo Spirito. We may be sure, however, that its influence upon the disposition of the priest’s case after the recent dénoûement was not inconsiderable, and that it was largely responsible for his presence before the Holy Father himself when, after weeks of racking fever, wan and emaciated, and leaning upon the arm of the confidential valet of His Holiness, the young priest faced that august personage and heard the infallible judgment of the Holy See upon his unfortunate conduct.

On the throne of St. Peter, in the heavily tapestried private audience room of the great Vatican prison-palace, and guarded from intrusion by armed soldiery and hosts of watchful ecclesiastics of all grades, sat the Infallible Council, the Vicar-General of the humble Nazarene, the aged leader at whose beck a hundred million faithful followers bent in lowly genuflection. Near him stood the Papal Secretary of State and two Cardinal-Bishops of the Administrative Congregation.

Josè dragged himself wearily before the Supreme Pontiff and bent low.

Benedicite, my erring son.” The soft voice of His Holiness floated not unmusically through the tense silence of the room.


“Arise. The hand of the Lord already has been laid heavily upon you in wholesome chastening for your part in this deplorable affair. And the same omnipotent hand has been stretched forth to prevent the baneful effects of your thoughtless conduct. We do not condemn you, my son. It was the work of the Evil One, who has ever found through your weaknesses easy access to your soul.”

Josè raised his blurred eyes and gazed at the Holy Father in perplexed astonishment. But the genial countenance of the patriarch seemed to confirm his mild words. A smile, tender and patronizing, in which Josè read forgiveness––and yet with it a certain undefined something which augured conditions upon which alone penalty for his culpability would be remitted––lighted up the pale features of the Holy Father and warmed the frozen life-currents of the shrinking priest.

“My son,” the Pontiff continued tenderly, “our love for our wandering children is but stimulated by their need of our protecting care. Fear not; the guilty publisher of your notes has been awakened to his fault, and the book which he so thoughtlessly issued has been quite suppressed.”

Josè bent his head and patiently awaited the conclusion.

“You have lain for weeks at death’s door, my son. The words which you uttered in your delirium corroborated our own thought of your innocence of intentional wrong. And now that you have regained your reason, you will confess to us that your reports, and especially your account of the recent conversation between the Cardinal-Secretary of State and the Cardinal-Bishop, were written under that depression of mind which has long afflicted you, producing a form of mental derangement, and giving rise to frequent hallucination. It is this which has caused us to extend to you our sympathy and protection. Long and intense study, family sorrow, and certain inherited traits of disposition, whose rapid development have tended to lack of normal mental balance, account to us for those deeds of eccentricity on your part which have plunged us into extreme embarrassment and yourself into the illness which threatened your young life. Is it not so, my son?”

The priest stared up at the speaker in bewilderment. This unexpected turn of affairs had swept his defense from his mind.

“The Holy Father awaits your reply,” the Papal Secretary spoke with severity. His own thought had been greatly ruffled that morning, and his patience severely taxed by a threatened mutiny among the Swiss guards, whose demands in regard to the quantity of wine allowed them and whose memorial recounting other alleged grievances he had just flatly rejected. The muffled cries of “Viva Garibaldi!” as the petitioners left 74 his presence were still echoing in the Secretary’s ears, and his anger had scarce begun to cool.

“We are patient, my Cardinal-Nephew,” the Pontiff resumed mildly. “Our love for this erring son enfolds him.” Then, turning again to Josè, “We have correctly summarized the causes of your recent conduct, have we not?”

The priest made as if to reply, but hesitated, with the words fluttering on his lips.

“My dear son”––the Holy Father bent toward the wondering priest in an attitude of loving solicitation––“our blessed Saviour was ofttimes confronted with those possessed of demons. Did he reject them? No; and, despite the accusations against us in your writings, for which we know you were not morally responsible, we, Christ’s representative on earth, are still touched with his love and pity for one so unfortunate as you. With your help we shall stop the mouths of calumny, and set you right before the world. We shall use our great resources to save the Rincón honor which, through the working of Satan within you, is now unjustly besmirched. We shall labor to restore you to your right mind, and to the usefulness which your scholarly gifts make possible to you. We indeed rejoice that your piteous appeal has reached our ears. We rejoice to correct those erroneous views which you, in the temporary aberration of reason, were driven to commit to writing, and which so unfortunately fell into the hands of Satan’s alert emissaries. Your ravings during these weeks of delirium shed much light upon the obsessing thoughts which plunged you into mild insanity. And they have stirred the immeasurable depths of pity within us.”

The Holy Father paused after this unwontedly long speech. A dumb sense of stupefaction seemed to possess the priest, and he passed his shrunken hands before his eyes as if he would brush away a mist.

“That this unfortunate book is but the uttering of delirium, we have already announced to the world,” His Holiness gently continued. “But out of our deep love for a family which has supplied so many illustrious sons to our beloved Church we have suppressed mention of your name in connection therewith.”

The priest started, as he vaguely sensed the impending issue. What was it that His Holiness was about to demand? That he denounce his journal, over his own signature, as the ravings of a man temporarily insane? He was well aware that the Vatican’s mere denial of the allegations therein contained, and its attributing of them to a mad priest, would scarcely carry conviction to the Courts of Spain and Austria, 75 or to an astonished world. But, for him to declare them the garbled and unauthentic utterances of an aberrant mind, and to make public such statement in his own name, would save the situation, possibly the Rincón honor, even though it stultify his own.

His Holiness waited a few moments for the priest’s reply; but receiving none, he continued with deep significance:

“You will not make it necessary, we know, for us to announce that a mad priest, a son of the house of Rincón, now confined in an asylum, voiced these heretical and treasonable utterances.”

The voice of His Holiness flowed like cadences of softest music, charming in its tenderness, winning in its appeal, but momentous in its certain implication.

“In our solicitude for your recovery we commanded our own physicians to attend you. To them you owe your life. To them, too, we owe our gratitude for that report on your case which reveals the true nature of the malady afflicting you.”

The low voice vibrated in rhythmic waves through the dead silence of the room.

“To them also you now owe this opportunity to abjure the writings which have caused us and yourself such great sorrow; to them you owe this privilege of confessing before us, who will receive your recantation, remit your unintentional sins, and restore you to honor and service in our beloved Church.”

Josè suddenly came to himself. Recant! Confess! In God’s name, what? Abjure his writings, the convictions of a lifetime!

“These writings, my son, are not your sane and rational convictions,” the Pontiff suggested.

Josè still stood mute before him.

“You renounce them now, in the clear light of restored reason; and you swear future lealty to us and to Holy Church,” the aged Father continued.

“Make answer!” commanded one of the Cardinal-Bishops, starting toward the wavering priest. “Down on your knees before the Holy Father, who waits to forgive your venial sin!”

Josè turned swiftly to the approaching Cardinal and held up a hand. The man stopped short. The Pontiff and his associates bent forward in eager anticipation. The valet fell back, and Josè stood alone. In that tense mental atmosphere the shrinking priest seemed to be transformed into a Daniel.

“No, Holy Father, you mistake!” His voice rang through the room like a clarion. “I do not recant! My writings do express my deepest and sanest convictions!”

The Pontiff’s pallid face went dark. The eyes of the other 76 auditors bulged with astonishment. A dumb spell settled over the room.

“Father, my guilt lies not in having recorded my honest convictions, nor in the fact that these records fell into the hands of those who eagerly grasp every opportunity to attack their common enemy, the Church. It lies rather in my weak resistance to those influences which in early life combined to force upon me a career to which I was by temperament and instinct utterly disinclined. It lies in my having sacrificed myself to the selfish love of my mother and my own exaggerated sense of family pride. It lies in my still remaining outwardly a priest of the Catholic faith, when every fiber of my soul revolts against the hypocrisy!”

“You are a subject of the Church!” the Papal Secretary interrupted. “You have sworn to her and to the Sovereign Pontiff as loyal and unquestioning obedience as to the will of God himself!”

Josè turned upon him. “Before my ordination,” he cried, “I was a voluntary subject of the Sovereign of Spain. Did that ceremony render me an unwilling subject of the Holy Father? Does the ceremony of ordination constitute the Romanizing of Spain? No, I am not a subject of Rome, but of my conscience!”

Another dead pause followed, in which for some moments nothing disturbed the oppressive silence. Josè looked eagerly into the delicate features of the living Head of the Church. Then, with decreased ardor, and in a voice tinged with pathos, he continued:

“Father, my mistakes have been only such as are natural to one of my peculiar character. I came to know, but too late, that my life-motives, though pure, found not in me the will for their direction. I became a tool in the hands of those stronger than myself. For what ultimate purpose, I know not. Of this only am I certain, that my mother’s ambitions, though selfish, were the only pure motives among those which united to force the order of priesthood upon me.”

“Force!” burst in one of the Cardinal-Bishops. “Do you assume to make the Holy Father believe that the priesthood can be forced upon a man? You assumed it willingly, gladly, as was your proper return for the benefits which the Mother Church had bestowed upon you!”

“In a state of utmost confusion, bordering a mental breakdown, I assumed it––outwardly,” returned the priest sadly, “but my heart never ceased to reject it. Once ordained, however, I sought in my feeble way to study the needs of the Church, and prepare myself to assist in the inauguration of reforms which I felt she must some day undertake.”


The Pontiff’s features twitched with ill-concealed irritation at this confession; but before he could speak Josè continued:

“Oh, Father, and Cardinal-Princes of the Church, does not the need of your people for truth wring your hearts? Turn from your zealous dreams of world-conquest and see them, steeped in ignorance and superstition, wretched with poverty, war, and crime, extending their hands to you as their spiritual leaders––to you, Holy Father, who should be their Moses, to smite the rock of error, that the living, saving truth may gush out!”

He paused, as if fearful of his own rushing thought. Then: “Is not the past fraught with lessons of deepest import to us? Is not the Church being rejected by the nations of Europe because of our intolerance, our oppression, our stubborn clinging to broken idols and effete forms of faith? We are now turning from the wreckage which the Church has wrought in the Old World, and our eyes are upon America. But can we deceive ourselves that free, liberty-loving America will bow her neck to the mediaeval yoke which the Church would impose upon her? Why, oh, why cannot we see the Church’s tremendous opportunities for good in this century, and yield to that inevitable mental and moral progression which must sweep her from her foundations, unless she conform to its requirements and join in the movement toward universal emancipation! Our people are taught from childhood to be led; they are willing followers––none more willing in the world! But why lead them into the pit? Why muzzle them with fear, oppress them with threats, fetter them with outworn dogma and dead creed? Why continue to dazzle them with pagan ceremonialism and oriental glamour, and then, our exactions wrung from them, leave them to consume with disease and decay with moral contagion?”

“The man is mad with heresy!” muttered the Pontiff, turning to the Cardinal-Bishops.

“No, it is not I who is mad with heresy, but the Holy Church, of which you are the spiritual Head!” cried the priest, his loud voice trembling with indignation and his frail body swaying under his rapidly growing excitement. “She is guilty of the damnable heresy of concealing knowledge, of hiding truth, of stifling honest questionings! She is guilty of grossest intolerance, of deadliest hatred, of impurest motives––she, the self-constituted, self-endowed spiritual guide of mankind, arrogating to herself infallibility, superiority, supreme authority––yea, the very voice of God himself!”

The priest had now lost all sense of environment, and his voice waxed louder as he continued:


“The conduct of the Church throughout the centuries has made her the laughing-stock of history, an object of ridicule to every man of education and sense! She is filled with superstition––do you not know it? She is permeated with pagan idolatry, fetishism, and carnal-mindedness! She is pitiably ignorant of the real teachings of the Christ! Her dogmas have been formed by the subtle wits of Church theologians. They are in this century as childish as her political and social schemes are mischievous! Why have we formulated our doctrine of purgatory? Why so solicitous about souls in purgatorial torment, and yet so careless of them while still on earth? Where is our justification for the doctrine of infallibility? Is liberty to think the concession of God, or of the Holy Father? Where, oh, where is the divine Christ in our system of theology? Is he to be found in materialism, intolerance, the burning of Bibles, in hatred of so-called heretics, and in worldly practices? Are we not keeping the Christ in the sepulcher, refusing to permit him to arise?”

His speech soared into the impassioned energy of thundered denunciation.

“Yes, Holy Father, and Cardinal-Bishops, I am justified in criticizing the Holy Catholic Church! And I am likewise justified in condemning the Protestant Church! All have fallen woefully short of the glory of God, and none obeys the simple commands of the Christ. The Church throughout the world has become secularized, and worship is but hollow consistency in the strict performance of outward acts of devotion. Our religion is but a hypocritical show of conformity. Our asylums, our hospitals, our institutions of charity? Alas! they but evidence our woeful shortcoming, and our persistent refusal to rise into the strength of the healing, saving Christ, which would render these obsolete institutions unnecessary in the world of to-day! The Holy Catholic Church is but a human institution. Its worldliness, its scheming, its political machinations, make me shudder––!”

“Stop, madman!” thundered one of the Cardinal-Bishops, rushing upon the frail Josè with such force as to fell him to the floor. The Pontiff had risen, and sunk again into his chair. The valet hurried to his assistance. The Papal Secretary, his face contorted with rage, and his throat choking with the press of words which he strove to utter, hastened to the door to summon help. “Remove this man!” he commanded, pointing out the prostrate form of Josè to the two Swiss guards who had responded to his call. “Confine him! He is violent––a raging maniac!”

A few days later, Padre Josè de Rincón, having been pronounced 79 by the Vatican physicians mentally deranged, as the result of acute cerebral anaemia, was quietly conveyed to a sequestered monastery at Palazzola.

Two summers came, and fled again before the chill winds which blew from the Alban hills. Then one day Josè’s uncle appeared at the monastery door with a written order from His Holiness, effecting the priest’s conditional release. Together they journeyed at once to Seville, the uncle alert and energetic as ever, showing but slight trace of time’s devastating hand; Josè, the shadow of his former self physically, and his mind clouded with the somber pall of melancholia.

Toward the close of a quiet summer, spent with his mother in his boyhood home, Josè received from his uncle’s hand another letter, bearing the papal insignia. It was evident that it was not unexpected, for it found the priest with his effects packed and ready for a considerable journey. A hurried farewell to his mother, and the life-weary Josè, combining innocence and misery in exaggerated proportions, and still a vassal of Rome, set out for the port of Cadiz. There, in company with the Apostolic Delegate and Envoy Extraordinary to the Republic of Colombia, he embarked on the West Indian trader Sarnia, bound for Cartagena, in the New World.


There is no region in the Western Hemisphere more invested with the spirit of romance and adventure than that strip of Caribbean coast stretching from the Cape of Yucatan to the delta of the Orinoco and known as the Spanish Main. No more superb setting could have been chosen for the opening scenes of the New World drama. Skies of profoundest blue––the tropical sun flaming through massive clouds of vapor––a sea of exuberant color, foaming white over coral beaches––waving cocoa palms against a background of exotic verdure marking a tortuous shore line, which now rises sheer and precipitous from the water’s edge to dizzy, snowcapped, cloud-hung heights, now stretches away into vast reaches of oozy mangrove bog and dank cinchona grove––here flecked with stagnant lagoons that teem with slimy, crawling life––there flattened into interminable, forest-covered plains and untrodden, primeval wildernesses, impenetrable, defiant, alluring––and all perennially bathed in dazzling light, vivid color, and soft, fragrant winds––with everywhere redundant foliage––humming, chattering, 80 screaming life––profusion––extravagance––prodigality––riotous waste! Small wonder that when this enticing shore was first revealed to the astonished Conquistadores, where every form of Nature was wholly different from anything their past experience afforded, they were childishly receptive to every tale, however preposterous, of fountains of youth, of magical lakes, or enchanted cities with mountains of gold in the depths of the frowning jungle. They had come with their thought attuned to enchantment; their minds were fallow to the incredible; they were fresh from their conquest of the vast Mare Tenebrosum, with its mysteries and terrors. At a single stroke from the arm of the intrepid Genoese the mediaeval superstitions which peopled the unknown seas had fallen like fetters from these daring and adventurous souls. The slumbering spirit of knight-errantry awoke suddenly within their breasts; and when from their frail galleons they beheld with ravished eyes this land of magic and alluring mystery which spread out before them in such gorgeous panorama, they plunged into the glittering waters with waving swords and pennants, with shouts of praise and joy upon their lips, and inaugurated that series of prodigious enterprise, extravagant deeds of hardihood, and tremendous feats of prowess which still remain unsurpassed in the annals of history for brilliancy, picturesqueness, and wealth of incident.

With almost incredible rapidity and thoroughness the Spanish arms spread over the New World, urged by the corroding lust of gold and the sharp stimulus afforded by the mythical quests which animated the simple minds of these hardy searchers for the Golden Fleece. Neither trackless forests, withering heat, miasmatic climate nor savage Indians could dampen their ardor or check their search for riches and glory. They penetrated everywhere, steel-clad and glittering, with lance and helmet and streaming banner. Every nook, every promontory of a thousand miles of coast was minutely searched; every island was bounded; every towering mountain scaled. Even those vast regions of New Granada which to-day are as unknown as the least explored parts of darkest Africa became the scenes of stirring adventure and brilliant exploit of these daring crusaders of more than three centuries ago.

The real wonders yielded by this newly discovered land of enchantment far exceeded the fabled Manoa or El Dorado of mythical lore; and the adventurous expeditions that were first incited by these chimeras soon changed into practical colonizing and developing projects of real and permanent value. Amazing discoveries were made of empires which had already developed a state of civilization, mechanical, military, and 81 agricultural, which rivaled those of Europe. Natural resources were revealed such as the Old World had not even guessed were possible. Great rivers, vast fertile plains, huge veins of gold and copper ore, inexhaustible timber, a wealth of every material thing desired by man, could be had almost without effort. Fortunate, indeed, was the Spanish Conquistador in the possession of such immeasurable riches; fortunate, indeed, had he possessed the wisdom to meet the supreme test of character which this sudden accession of wealth and power was to bring!

With the opening of the vast treasure house flanked by the Spanish Main came the Spaniard’s supreme opportunity to master the world. Soon in undisputed possession of the greater part of the Western Hemisphere; with immeasurable wealth flowing into his coffers; sustained by dauntless courage and an intrepid spirit of adventure; with papal support, and the learning and genius of the centuries at his command, he faced the opportunity to extend his sway over the entire world and unite all peoples into a universal empire, both temporal and spiritual. That he failed to rise to this possibility was not due to any lack of appreciation of his tremendous opportunity, nor to a dearth of leaders of real military genius, but to a misapprehension of the great truth that the conquest of the world is not to be wrought by feats of arms, but by the exercise of those moral attributes and spiritual qualities of heart and soul which he did not possess––or possessing, had prostituted to the carnal influences of lust of material riches and temporal power.

In the immediate wake of the Spanish Conqueros surged the drift and flotsam of the Old World. Cities soon sprang up along the Spanish Main which reflected a curious blend of the old-time life of Seville and Madrid with the picturesque and turbulent elements of the adventurer and buccaneer. The spirit of the West has always been synonymous with a larger sense of freedom, a shaking off of prejudice and tradition and the trammels of convention. The sixteenth century towns of the New World were no exception, and their streets and plazas early exhibited a multicolored panorama, wherein freely mingled knight and predaceous priest, swashbuckler and staid hidalgo, timid Indian and veiled doncella––a potpourri of merchant, prelate, negro, thief, the broken in fortune and the blackened in character––all poured into the melting pot of the new West, and there steaming and straining, scheming and plotting, attuned to any pitch of venturesome project, so be it that gold and fame were the promised emoluments thereof.

And gold, and fame of a certain kind, were always to be had by those whose ethical code permitted of a little straining. For the great ships which carried the vast wealth of this new land 82 of magic back to the perennially empty coffers of Old Spain constituted a temptation far more readily recognized than resisted. These huge, slow-moving galleons, gilded and carved, crawling lazily over the surface of the bright tropical sea, and often so heavily freighted with treasure as to be unsafe in rough weather, came to be regarded as special dispensations of Providence by the cattle thieves and driers of beef who dwelt in the pirates’ paradise of Tortuga and Hispaniola, and little was required in way of soul-alchemy to transform the boucanier into the lawless and sanguinary, though picturesque, corsair of that romantic age. The buccaneer was but a natural evolution from the peculiar conditions then obtaining. Where human society in the process of formation has not yet arrived at the necessity of law to restrain the lust and greed of its members; and where at the same time untold wealth is to be had at the slight cost of a few lives; and, too, where even the children are taught that whosoever aids in the destruction of Spanish ships and Spanish lives renders a service to the Almighty, the buccaneer must be regarded as the logical result. He multiplied with astonishing rapidity in these warm, southern waters, and not a ship that sailed the Caribbean was safe from his sudden depredations. So extensive and thorough was his work that the bed of the Spanish Main is dotted with traditional treasure ships, and to this day remnants of doubloons or “pieces of eight” and bits of bullion and jewelry are washed up on the shining beaches of Panamá and northern Colombia as grim memorials of his lawless activities.

The expenditure of energy necessary to transport the gold, silver and precious stones from the New World to the bottomless treasury of Spain was stupendous. Yet not less stupendous was the amount of treasure transported. From the distant mines of Potosi, from the Pilcomayo, from the almost inaccessible fastnesses of what are now Bolivia and Ecuador, a precious stream poured into the leaking treasure box of Spain that totalled a value of no less than ten billion dollars. Much of the wealth which came from Peru was shipped up to the isthmus of Panamá, and thence transferred to plate-fleets. But the buccaneers became so active along the Pacific coast that water shipment was finally abandoned, and from that time transportation had to be made overland by way of the Andean plateau, sometimes a distance of two thousand miles, to the strongholds which were built to receive and protect the treasure until the plate-fleets could be made up. Of these strongholds there were two of the first importance, the old city of Panamá, on the isthmus, and the almost equally old city of Cartagena, on the northern coast of what is now the Republic of Colombia.


The spirit of ancient Carthage must have breathed upon this “Very Royal and Loyal City” which Pedro de Heredia in the sixteenth century founded on the north coast of New Granada, and bequeathed to it a portion of its own romance and tragedy. Superbly placed upon a narrow, tongue-shaped islet, one of a group that shield an ample harbor from the sharp tropical storms which burst unheralded over the sea without; girdled by huge, battlemented walls, and guarded by frowning fortresses, Cartagena commanded the gateway to the exhaustless wealth of the Cordilleras, at whose feet she still nestles, bathed in perpetual sunshine, and kissed by cool ocean breezes which temper the winds blowing hot from the steaming llanos of the interior. By the middle of the sixteenth century she offered all that the adventurous seeker of fame and fortune could desire, and attracted to herself not only the chivalry, but the beauty, wealth and learning which, mingled with rougher elements, poured into the New World so freely in the opening scenes of the great drama inaugurated by the arrival of the tiny caravels of Columbus a half century before.

The city waxed quickly rich and powerful. Its natural advantages of location, together with its massive fortifications, and its wonderful harbor, so extensive that the combined fleets of Spain might readily have found anchorage therein, early rendered it the choice of the Spanish monarch as his most dependable reservoir and shipping point for the accumulated treasure of his new possessions. The island upon which the city arose was singularly well chosen for defense. Fortified bridges were built to connect it with the mainland, and subterranean passageways led from the great walls encircling it to the impregnable fortress of San Felipe de Barajas, on Mount San Lázaro, a few hundred yards back of the city and commanding the avenues and approaches of the land side. To the east, and about a mile from the walls, the abrupt hill of La Popa rises, surmounted by the convent of Santa Candelaria, likewise connected by underground tunnels to the interior of the city, and commanding the harbor and its approaches from the sea. The harbor formerly connected with the open sea through two entrances, the Boca Grande, a wide, fortified pass between the island of Tierra Bomba and the tongue on which the city stands, and the Boca Chica, some nine miles farther west, a narrow, tortuous pass, wide enough to permit entry to but a single vessel at a time, and commanded by forts San Fernando and San Josè.

By the middle of the seventeenth century Cartagena, “Queen of the Indies and Queen of the Seas,” had expanded into a proud and beautiful city, the most important mart of the New World. 84 Under royal patronage its merchants enjoyed a monopoly of commerce with Spain. Under the special favor of Rome it became an episcopal See, and the seat of the Holy Inquisition. Its docks and warehouses, its great centers of commerce, its sumptuous dwellings, its magnificent Cathedral, its colleges and monasteries, and its proud aristocracy, all reflected the spirit of enterprise which animated its sons and found expression in a city which could boast a pride, a culture, and a wealth almost unrivalled even in the Old World.

But, not unlike her ancient prototype, Cartagena succumbed to the very influences which had made her great. Her wealth excited the cupidity of freebooters, and her power aroused the jealousy of her formidable rivals. Her religion itself became an excuse for the plundering hands of Spain’s enemies. Again and again the city was called upon to defend the challenge which her riches and massive walls perpetually issued. Again and again she was forced to yield to the heavy tributes and disgraceful penalties of buccaneers and legalized pirates who, like Drake, came to plunder her under royal patent. Cartagena rose and fell, and rose again. But the human heart which throbs beneath the lash of lust or revenge knows no barriers. Her great forts availed nothing against the lawless hordes which swarmed over them. Neither were her tremendous walls proof against starvation. Again and again, her streets filled with her gaunt dead, she stubbornly held her gates against the enemies of Spain who assaulted her in the name of religion, only at last to weaken with terror and throw them open in disgraceful welcome to the French de Pontis and his maudlin, rag-tag followers, who drained her of her last drop of life blood. As her gates swung wide and this nondescript band of marauders streamed in with curses and shouts of exultation, the glory of this royal mediaeval city passed out forever.

Almost from its inception, Cartagena had been the point of attack of every enterprise launched with the object of wresting from Spain her rich western possessions, so much coveted by her jealous and revengeful rivals. It was Spain herself who fought for very existence while Cartagena was holding her gates against the enemies of Holy Church. And these enemies knew that they had pierced the Spanish heart when the “Queen of the Indies” fell. And in no small measure did Spain deserve the fate which overtook her. For, had it not been for the stupendous amount of treasure derived from these new possessions, the dramatic and dominant part which she played in the affairs of Europe during the sixteenth century would have been impossible. This treasure she wrested from her South American colonies at a cost in the destruction of human life, in the 85 outraging of human instincts, in the debauching of ideals and the falsifying of hope, in hellish oppression and ghastly torture, that can never be adequately estimated. Her benevolent instruments of colonization were cannon and saintly relics. Her agents were swaggering soldiers and bigoted friars. Her system involved the impression of her language and her undemonstrable religious beliefs upon the harmless aborigines. The fruits of this system, which still linger after three centuries, are superstition, black ignorance, and woeful mental retardation. To the terrified aborigines the boasted Spanish civilization meant little more than “gold, liquor, and sadness.” Small wonder that the simple Indians, unable to comprehend the Christian’s lust for gold, poured the molten metal down the throats of their captives, crying, “Eat, Christian, eat!” They had borrowed their ideals from the Christian Spaniards, who by means of the stake and rack were convincing them that God was not in this western land until they came, bringing their debauched concept of Christianity.

And so Cartagena fell, late in the seventeenth century, never to regain more than a shadow of her former grandeur and prestige. But again she rose, in a semblance of her martial spirit, when her native sons, gathering fresh courage and inspiration from the waning powers of the mother-country in the early years of the century just closed, organized that federation which, after long years of almost hopeless struggle, lifted the yoke of Spanish misrule from New Granada and proclaimed the Republic of Colombia. Cartagena was the first city of Colombia to declare its independence from Spain. And in the great war which followed the “Heroic City” passed through terrible vicissitudes, emerging from it still further depleted and sunken, a shell of massive walls and battered defenses, with desolated homes and empty streets echoing the tread of the mendicant peon.

As the nineteenth century, so rich in invention, discovery, and stirring activity in the great States to the north, drew to a close, a chance visitor to this battle-scarred, mediaeval city would have found her asleep amid the dreams of her former greatness. Approaching from the harbor, especially if he arrived in the early hours of morning, his eyes would have met a view of exquisite beauty. Seen thus, great moss-grown structures rise from within the lofty encircling walls, with many a tower and gilded dome glittering in the clear sunlight and standing out in sharp relief against the green background of forest-plumed hills and towering mountains. The abysmal blue of the untainted tropical sky overhead contrasts sharply with the red-tiled roofs and dazzling white exteriors of the 86 buildings beneath; and the vivid tints, mingling with the iridescence of the scarcely rippling waters of the harbor, blend into a color scheme of rarest loveliness in the clear atmosphere which seems to magnify all distant objects and intensify every hue.

A closer approach to the citadel which lies within the landlocked harbor reveals in detail the features of the stupendous walls which guard this key to Spain’s former treasure house. Their immensity and their marvelous construction bear witness to the genius of her famous military engineers, and evoke the same admiration as do the great temples and monuments of ancient Egypt. These grim walls, in places sixty feet through, and pierced by numerous gates, are frequently widened into broad esplanades, and set here and there with bastions and watch towers to command strategic points. At the north end of the city they expand into an elaborately fortified citadel, within which are enormous fresh water tanks, formerly supplied by the rains, and made necessary by the absence of springs so near the coast. Within the walls at various points one finds the now abandoned barracks, storerooms, and echoing dungeons, the latter in the days of the stirring past too often pressed into service by the Holy Inquisition. Underground tunnels, still intact, lead from the walls to the Cathedral, the crumbling fortress of San Felipe de Barajas, and the deserted convent on the summit of La Popa. Time-defying, grim, dramatic reliques of an age forever past, breathing poetry and romance from every crevice––still in fancy echoing from moldering tower and scarred bulwark the clank of sabre, the tread of armored steed, and the shouts of exulting Conquistadores––aye, their ghostly echoes sinking in the fragrant air of night into soft whispers, which bear to the tropical moon dark hints of ancient tragedies enacted within these dim keeps and gloom-shrouded tunnels!

The pass of Boca Grande––“large mouth”––through which Drake’s band of marauders sailed triumphantly in the latter part of the sixteenth century, was formerly the usual entrance to the city’s magnificent harbor. But its wide, deep channel, only two miles from the city walls, afforded too easy access to undesirable visitors in the heyday of freebooters; and the harassed Cartagenians, wearied of the innumerable piratical attacks which this broad entrance constantly invited, undertook to fill it up. This they accomplished after years of heroic effort and an enormous expenditure of money, leaving the harbor only the slender, tortuous entrance of Boca Chica––“little mouth”––dangerous to incoming vessels because of the almost torrential flow of the tide through it, but much more readily 87 defended. The two castles of San Fernando and San Josè, frowning structures of stone dominating this entrance, have long since fallen into disuse, but are still admirably preserved. Beneath the former, and extending far below the surface of the water, is the old Bastile of the Inquisition, occasionally pressed into requisition now to house recalcitrant politicians, and where no great effort of the imagination is required still to hear the groans of the tortured and the sighs of the condemned, awaiting in chains and san benitos the approaching auto da fé.

But the greater distance from the present entrance of the harbor to the city walls affords the visitor a longer period in which to enjoy the charming panorama which seems to drift slowly out to meet him as he stands entranced before it. The spell of romance and chivalry is upon him long ere he disembarks; and once through the great gateway of the citadel itself, he yields easily to the ineluctable charm which seems to hover in the balmy air of this once proud city. Everywhere are evidences of ancient grandeur, mingling with memories of enormous wealth and violent scenes of strife. The narrow, winding streets, characteristic of oriental cities; the Moorish architecture displayed in the grandiose palaces and churches; the grated, unglazed windows, through which still peep timid señoritas, as in the romantic days of yore; the gaily painted balconies, over which bepowdered doncellas lean to pass the day’s gossip in the liquid tongue of Cervantes, all transport one in thought to the chivalrous past, when this picturesque survival of Spain’s power in America was indeed the very Queen of the western world and the proud boast of the haughty monarchs of Castile.

Nor was the city more dear to the Spanish King than to the spiritual Sovereign who sat on Peter’s throne. The Holy See strove to make Cartagena the chief ecclesiastical center of the New World; and churches, monasteries, colleges, and convents flourished there as luxuriantly as the tropical vegetation. The city was early elevated to a bishopric. A magnificent Cathedral was soon erected, followed by other churches and buildings to house ecclesiastical orders, including the Jesuit college, the University, the women’s seminary, and the homes for religious orders of both sexes. The same lavish expenditure of labor and wealth was bestowed upon the religious structures as on the walls and fortifications. The Cathedral and the church of San Juan de Dios, the latter the most conspicuous structure in the city, with its double towers and its immense monastery adjoining, became the special recipients of the liberal outpourings of a community rich not only in material wealth, but in culture and refinement as well. The latter church in particular 88 was the object of veneration of the patrons of America’s only Saint, the beneficent Pedro Claver, whose whitened bones now repose in a wonderful glass coffin bound with strips of gold beneath its magnificent marble altar. In the central plaza of the city still stands the building erected to house the Holy Inquisition, so well preserved that it yet serves as a dwelling. Adjacent to it, and lining the plaza, are spacious colonial edifices, once the homes of wealth and culture, each shaded by graceful palms and each enclosing its inner garden, or patio, where tropical plants and aromatic shrubs riot in richest color and fragrance throughout the year.

In the halcyon days of Cartagena’s greatness, when, under the protection of the powerful mother-country, her commerce extended to the confines of the known world, her streets and markets presented a scene of industry and activity wholly foreign to her in these latter days of her decadence. From her port the rich traffic which once centered in this thriving city moved, in constantly swelling volume, in every direction. In her marts were formulated those audacious plans which later took shape in ever-memorable expeditions up the Magdalena and Cauca rivers in search of gold, or to establish new colonies and extend the city’s sphere of influence. From her gates were launched those projects which had for their object the discovery of the mysterious regions where rivers were said to flow over sands of pure gold and silver, or the kingdom of El Dorado, where native potentates sprinkled their bodies with gold dust before bathing in the streams sacred to their deities. From this city the bold Quesada set out on the exploits of discovery and conquest which opened to the world the rich plateau of Bogotá, and ranked him among the greatest of the Conquistadores. In those days a canal had been cut through the swamps and dense coast lowlands to the majestic Magdalena river, some sixty-five miles distant, where a riverine town was founded and given the name of Calamar, the name Pedro de Heredia had first bestowed upon Cartagena. Through this dique the city’s merchant vessels passed to the great arterial stream beyond, and thence some thousand miles south into the heart of the rich and little known regions of upper Colombia. To-day, like the grass-grown streets of the ancient city, this canal, choked with weeds and débris, is but a green and turbid pool, but yet a reminder of the faded glory of the famous old town which played such a dramatic rôle in that age of desperate courage.

In the finished town of Cartagena Spain’s dreams of imperial pomp and magnificence were externalized. In her history the tragedy of the New World drama has been preserved. To-day, sunk in decadence, surrounded by the old mediaeval flavor, and 89 steeped in the romance of an age of chivalry forever past, her muniments and donjons, her gray, crenelated walls and time-defying structures continue to express that dogged tenacity of belief and stern defiance of unorthodox opinion which for two hundred years maintained the Inquisition within her gates and sacrificed her fair sons and daughters to an undemonstrable creed. The heavy air of ecclesiasticism still hangs over her. The priests and monks who accompanied every sanguinary expedition of the Conquistadores, ready at all times to absolve any desperado who might slay a harmless Indian in the name of Christ, have their successors to-day in the astute and untiring sons of Rome, who conserve the interests of Holy Church within these battered walls and guard their portals against the entrance of radical thought. Heredia had scarcely founded the city when King Philip sent it a Bishop. And less than a decade later the Cathedral, which to-day stands as the center of the episcopal See, was begun.

The Cathedral, though less imposing than the church of San Juan de Dios, is a fine example of the ecclesiastical architecture of the colonial era. Occupying a central position in the city, its ever-open doors invite rich and poor alike, citizen and stranger, to enter and linger in the refreshing atmosphere within, where the subdued light and cool shadows of the great nave and chapels afford a grateful respite from the glare and heat of the streets without. Massive in exterior appearance, and not beautiful within, the Cathedral nevertheless exhibits a construction which is at once broad, simple and harmonious. The nave is more than usually wide between its main piers, and its rounded arches are lofty and well proportioned. Excellent portraits of former Bishops adorn its white walls, and narrow rectangular windows at frequent intervals admit a dim, mellow light through their dark panes. Before one of these windows––apparently with no thought of incongruity in the exhibition of such a gruesome object attached to a Christian church––there has been affixed an iron grating, said to have served the Holy Inquisition as a gridiron on which to roast its heretical victims. Within, an ambulatory, supported on the first tier of arches, affords a walk along either side of the nave, and leads to the winding stairway of the bell tower. At one end of this ambulatory, its entrance commanding a full view of the nave and the capilla mayor, with its exquisitely carved marble altar, is located the Bishop’s sanctum. It was here that the young Spanish priest, Josè de Rincón, stood before the Bishop of Cartagena on the certain midday to which reference was made in the opening chapter of this recital, and received with dull ears the ecclesiastical order which removed him still farther from the world and 90 doomed him to a living burial in the crumbling town of Simití, in the wilderness of forgotten Guamocó.


“At last, you come!”

The querulous tones of the aged Bishop eddied the brooding silence within the Cathedral. Without waiting for a reply he turned again to his table and took up a paper containing a list of names.

“You wait until midday,” he continued testily; “but you give me time to reflect and decide. The parish of Simití has long been vacant. I have assigned you to it. The Honda touches at Calamar to-morrow, going up-river. You will take it.”

“Simití! Father––!”

Bien; and would you dispute this too!” quavered the ill-humored Bishop.

“But––Simití––you surely cannot mean––!”

The Bishop turned sharply around. “I mean that after what I learn from Rome I will not keep you here to teach your heresies in our University! I mean that after what I hear this morning of your evil practices I will not allow you to spend another day in Cartagena!” The angry ecclesiastic brought his bony fist hard against the table to emphasize the remark.

Madre de Dios!” he resumed, after some moments of nursing his choleric feelings. “Would you debate further! The Holy Father for some unexplained reason inflicts a madman upon me! And I, innocent of what you are, obey his instructions and place you in the University––with what result? You have the effrontery––the madness––to lecture to your classes on the heresies of Rome!”


“And as if that were not burden enough for these old shoulders, I must learn that I have taken a serpent to my bosom––but that you are still sane enough to propagate heresies––to plot revolution with the Radicals––and––shame consume you!––to wantonly ruin the fair daughters of our diocese! But, do you see now why I send you where you can do less evil than here in Cartagena?”

The priest slowly petrified under the tirade.

“The fault is not mine if I must act without instruction from Rome,” the Bishop went on petulantly. “Twice have I warned you against your teachings––but I did not suspect then, for only yesterday did I learn that before coming to me you had been 91 confined in a monastery––insane! But––Hombre! when you bring the blush of shame to my cheeks because of your godless practices––it is time to put you away without waiting for instruction!”

Godless practices! Was the Bishop or the priest going mad?

“Go now to your room,” the Bishop added, turning again to his table. “You have little enough time to prepare for your journey. Wenceslas will give you letters to the Alcalde of Simití.”

Wenceslas! The priest’s thought flew back over the events of the morning. Marcelena––Maria––the encounter below with––! Dios! Could it be that Wenceslas had fastened upon him the stigma of his own crime? The priest found his tongue.

“Father!––it is untrue!––these charges are false as hell!” he exclaimed excitedly. “I demand to know who brings them against me!”

The testy Bishop’s wrath flared up anew. “You demand! Am I to sit here and be catechised by you? It is enough that I know what occurs in my diocese, and am well informed of your conduct!”

The doorway darkened, and the priest turned to meet the object of his suspecting thought.

Bestowing a smile of patronage upon Josè, and bowing obsequiously before the Bishop, Wenceslas laid some papers upon the table, remarking as he did so, “The letters, Your Grace, to introduce our Josè to his new field. Also his instructions and expense money.”

“Wenceslas!” The priest confronted him fiercely. “Do you accuse me before the Bishop?”

“Accuse, amigo?” Wenceslas queried in a tone of assumed surprise. “Have I not said that your ready tongue and pen are your accusers? But,” with a conciliatory air, “we must remember that our good Bishop mercifully views your conduct in the light of your recent mental affliction, traces of which, unfortunately, have lingered to cause him sorrow. And so he graciously prepares a place for you, caro amigo, where rest and relief from the strain of teaching will do you much good, and where life among simple and affectionate people will restore you, he hopes, to soundness of mind.”

The priest turned again to the Bishop in a complexity of appeal. The soft speech of Wenceslas, so full of a double entendu, so markedly in contrast with the Bishop’s harsh but at least sincere tirade, left no doubt in his mind that he was now the victim of a plot, whose ramifications extended back to the confused circumstances of his early life, and the doubtful purposes of his uncle and his influence upon the sacerdotal directors 92 in Rome. And he saw himself a helpless and hopelessly entangled victim.

“Father!” In piteous appeal Josè held out his hands to the Bishop, who had turned his back upon him and was busy with the papers on his table.

Amigo, the interview is ended,” said Wenceslas quietly, stepping between the priest and his superior.

Josè pushed wildly past the large form of Wenceslas and seized the Bishop’s hand.

Santa Maria!” cried the petulant churchman. “Do you obey me, or no? If not, then leave the Church––and spend your remaining days as a hounded ex-priest and unfrocked apostate,” he finished significantly. “Go, prepare for your journey!”

Wenceslas slipped the letter and a few pesos into the hand of the smitten, bewildered Josè, and turning him to the door, gently urged him out and closed it after him.

Just why the monastery gates had opened to him after two years’ deadening confinement, Josè had not been apprised. All he knew was that his uncle had appeared with a papal appointment for him to the University of Cartagena, and had urged his acceptance of it as the only course likely to restore him both to health and position, and to meet the deferred hopes of his sorrowing mother.

“Accept it, sobrino mío,” the uncle had said. “Else, pass your remaining days in confinement. There can be no refutation of the charges against you. But, if these doors open again to you, think not ever to sever your connection with the Church of Rome. For, if the Rincón honor should prove inadequate to hold you to your oath, be assured that Rincón justice will follow you until the grave wipes out the stain upon our fair name.”

“Then, tío mío, let the Church at once dismiss me, as unworthy to be her son!” pleaded Josè.

“What, excommunication?” cried the horrified uncle. “Never! Death first! Are you still mad?”

Josè looked into the cold, emotionless eyes of the man and shuddered. The ancient spirit of the Holy Inquisition lurked there, and he cowered before it. But at least the semblance of freedom had been offered him. His numbed heart already had taken hope. He were indeed mad not to acquiesce in his uncle’s demands, and accept the proffered opportunity to leave forever the scenes of his suffering and disgrace. And so he bowed again before the inexorable.

Arriving in Cartagena some months before this narrative opens, he had gradually yielded himself to the restorative effects 93 of changed environment and the hope which his uncle’s warm assurances aroused, that a career would open to him in the New World, unclouded by the climacteric episode of the publishing of his journal and his subsequent arrogant bearing before the Holy Father, which had provoked his fate. Under the beneficent influences of the soft climate and the new interests of this tropic land he began to feel a budding of something like confidence, and the suggestions of an unfamiliar ambition to retrieve past failure and yet gratify, even if in small measure, the parental hope which had first directed him as a child into the fold of the Church. The Bishop had assigned him at once to pedagogical work in the University; and in the teaching of history, the languages, and, especially, his beloved Greek, Josè had found an absorption that was slowly dimming the memory of the dark days which he had left behind in the Old World.

But the University had not afforded him the only interest in his new field. He had not been many weeks on Colombian soil when his awakening perceptions sensed the people’s oppression under the tyranny of ecclesiastical politicians. Nor did he fail to scent the approach of a tremendous conflict, in which the country would pass through violent throes in the struggle to shake off the galling yoke of Rome. Maintaining an attitude of strict neutrality, he had striven quietly to gauge the anticlerical movement, and had been appalled to find it so widespread and menacing. Only a miracle could save unhappy Colombia from being rent by the fiercest of religious wars in the near future. Oh, if he but had the will, as he had the intellectual ability, to throw himself into the widening breach!

“There is but one remedy,” he murmured aloud, as he sat one evening on a bench in the plaza of Simón Bolívar, watching the stream of gaily dressed promenaders parading slowly about on the tesselated walks, but hearing little of their animated conversation.

“And what is that, may I ask, friend?”

The priest roused up with a start. He had no idea that his audible meditations had been overheard. Besides, he had spoken in English. But this question had been framed in the same tongue. He looked around. A tall, slender man, with thin, bronzed face and well-trimmed Van Dyke beard, sat beside him. The man laughed pleasantly.

“Didn’t know that I should find any one here to-night who could speak my lingo,” he said cordially. “But, I repeat, what is the remedy?”

“Christianity,” returned the amazed Josè, without knowing what he said.

“And the condition to be remedied?” continued the stranger.


“This country’s diseased––but to whom have I the honor of speaking?” drawing himself up a little stiffly, and glancing about to see who might be observing them.

“Oh, my credentials?” laughed the man, as he caught Josè’s wondering look. “I’m quite unknown in Cartagena, unfortunately. You must pardon my Yankee inquisitiveness, but I’ve watched you out here for several evenings, and have wondered what weighty problems you were wrestling with. A quite unpardonable offense, from the Spanish viewpoint, but wholly forgivable in an uncouth American, I’m sure. Besides, when I heard you speak my language it made me a bit homesick, and I wanted to hear more of the rugged tongue of the Gentiles.”

Laughing again good-naturedly, he reached into an inner pocket and drew out a wallet. “My name’s Hitt,” he said, handing Josè his card. “But I didn’t live up to it. That is, I failed to make a hit up north, and so I’m down here.” He chuckled at his own facetiousness. “Amos A. Hitt,” he went on affably. “There used to be a ‘Reverend’ before it. That was when I was exploring the Lord’s throne. I’ve dropped it, now that I’m humbly exploring His footstool instead.”

Josè yielded to the man’s friendly advances. This was not the first American he had met; yet it seemed a new type, and one that drew him strongly.

“So you think this country diseased, eh?” the American continued.

Josè did not answer. While there was nothing in the stranger’s appearance and frank, open countenance to arouse suspicion, yet he must be careful. He was living down one frightful mistake. He could not risk another. But the man did not wait for a reply.

“Well, I’m quite agreed with you. It has priest-itis.” He stopped and looked curiously at Josè, as if awaiting the effect of his bold words. Then––“I take it you are not really one of ’em?”

Josè stared at the man in amazement. Hitt laughed again. Then he drew forth a cigar and held it out. “Smoke?” he said. The priest shook his head. Hitt lighted the cigar himself, then settled back on the bench, his hands jammed into his trousers pockets, and his long legs stuck straight out in front, to the unconcealed annoyance of the passers-by. But, despite his brusquerie and his thoughtlessness, there was something about the American that was wonderfully attractive to the lonely priest.

“Yes, sir,” Hitt went on abstractedly in corroboration of his former statement, “Colombia is absolutely stagnant, due to Jesuitical politics, the bane of all good Catholic countries. If she could shake off priestcraft she’d have a chance––provided she didn’t fall into orthodox Protestantism.”


Josè gasped, though he strove to hide his wonder. “You––” he began hesitatingly, “you were in the ministry––?”

“Yes. Don’t be afraid to come right out with it. I was a Presbyterian divine some six years ago, in Cincinnati. Ever been there?”

Josè assured him that he had never seen the States.

“H’m,” mused the ex-preacher; “great country––wonderful––none like it in the world! I’ve been all over, Europe, Asia, Africa––seen ’em all. America’s the original Eden, and our women are the only true descendants of mother Eve. No question about it, that apple incident took place up in the States somewhere––probably in Ohio.”

Josè caught the man’s infectious humor and laughed heartily. Surely, this American was a tonic, and of the sort that he most needed. “Then, you are––still touring––?”

“I’m exploring,” Hitt replied. “I’m here to study what ancient records I may find in your library; then I shall go on to Medellin and Bogotá. I’m on the track of a prehistoric Inca city, located somewhere in the Andes––and no doubt in the most inaccessible spot imaginable. Tradition cites this lost city as the cradle of Inca civilization. Tampu Tocco, it is called in their legends, the place from which the Incas went out to found that marvelous empire which eventually included the greater part of South America. The difficulty is,” he added, knotting his brows, “that the city was evidently unknown to the Spaniards. I can find no mention of it in Spanish literature, and I’ve searched all through the libraries of Spain. My only hope now is that I shall run across some document down here that will allude to it, or some one who has heard likely Indian rumors.”

Josè rubbed his eyes and looked hard at the man. “Well!” he ejaculated, “you are––if I may be permitted to say it––an original type.”

“I presume I am,” admitted the American genially. “I’ve been all sorts of things in my day, preacher, teacher, editor. My father used to be a circuit rider in New England forty years ago or more. Pious––good Lord! Why, he was one of the kind who believe the good book ‘from kiver to kiver,’ you know. Used to preach interminable sermons about the mercy of the Lord in holding us all over the smoking pit and not dropping us in! Why, man! after listening to him expound the Scriptures at night I used to go to bed with my hair on end and my skin all goose-flesh. No wonder I urged him to send me to the Presbyterian Seminary!”

“And you were ordained?” queried Josè, dark memories rising in his own thought.


“Thoroughly so! And glad I was of it, too, for I had grown up as pious and orthodox as my good father. I considered the ordination a through ticket to paradise.”


“Oh, I found myself in time,” continued the man, answering Josè’s unspoken thought. “Then I stopped preaching beautiful legends, and tried to be genuinely helpful to my congregation. I had a fine church in Cincinnati at that time. But––well, I mixed a trifle too much heresy into my up-to-date sermons, I guess. Anyway, the Assembly didn’t approve my orthodoxy, and I had as little respect for its heterodoxy, and the upshot of it was that I quit––cold.” He laughed grimly as he finished the recital. “But,” he went on gravely, “I now see that it was due simply to my desire to progress beyond the acceptance of tradition and allegory as truth, and to find some better foundation upon which to build than the undemonstrable articles of faith embraced in the Westminster Confession. To me, that confession of faith had become a confession of ignorance.” He turned his shrewd eyes upon Josè. “I was in somewhat the same mental state that I think you are in now,” he added.

“And why, if I may ask, are you now exploring?” asked Josè, disregarding the implication.

“Oh, as for that,” replied the American easily, “I used to teach history and became especially interested in ancient civilizations, lost cities, and the like, in the Western Hemisphere. Long before I left the ministry oil was struck on our little Pennsylvania farm, and––well, I didn’t have to work after that. So for some years I’ve devoted myself strictly to my particular hobby of travel. And in my work I find it necessary to discard ceremony, and scrape acquaintance with all sorts and conditions. I especially cultivate clergymen. I’ve wanted to know you ever since I first saw you out here. But I couldn’t wait for a formal introduction. And so I broke in unceremoniously upon your meditations a few moments ago.”

“I am grateful to you for doing so,” said Josè frankly, holding out a hand. “There is much that you can tell me––much that I want to know. But––” He again looked cautiously around.

“Ah, I understand,” said Hitt, quickly sensing the priest’s uneasiness. “What say you, shall we meet somewhere down by the city wall? Say, at the old Inquisition cells?”

Josè nodded his acquiescence, and they separated. A few minutes later the two were seated in one of the cavernous archways of the long, echoing corridor which leads to the deserted barracks and the gloomy, bat-infested cells beneath. A vagrant breeze drifted now and then across the grim wall above them, 97 and the deserted road in front lay drenched in the yellow light of the tropic moon. There was little likelihood of detection here, where the dreamy plash of the sea drowned the low sound of their voices; and Josè breathed more freely than in the populous plaza which they had just left.

“Good Lord!” muttered the explorer, returning from a peep into the foul blackness of a subterranean tunnel, “imagine what took place here some three centuries ago!”

“Yes,” returned Josè sadly; “and in the reeking dungeons of San Fernando, out there at the harbor entrance. And, what is worse, my own ancestors were among the perpetrators of those black deeds committed in the name of Christ.”

“Whew! You don’t say! Tell me about it.” The explorer drew closer. Josè knew somehow that he could trust this stranger, and so he briefly sketched his ancestral story to his sympathetic listener. “And no one knows,” he concluded in a depressed tone, “how many of the thousands of victims of the Inquisition in Cartagena were sent to their doom by the house of Rincón. It may be,” he sighed, “that the sins of my fathers have been visited upon me––that I am now paying in part the penalty for their criminal zeal.”

The explorer sat for some time in silent meditation. “Perhaps,” he said, “your family fell under the spell of old Saint Dominic. You know the legend? How God deliberated long whether to punish the wickedness of mankind by sending down war, plague, or famine, and was finally prevailed upon by Saint Dominic to send, instead, the Holy Inquisition. Another choice example of the convenient way the world has always had of attributing the foulest deeds of men to the Almighty. No wonder religion has so woefully declined!”

“But is it so up in the great North?” asked Josè. “Tell me, what is the religious status there? My limitations have been such that I have––I have not kept abreast of current theological thought.”

“In the United States the conventional, passive submission to orthodox dogma is rapidly becoming a thing of the past,” the explorer replied. “The people are beginning to think on these topics. All human opinion, philosophical, religious, or scientific, is in a state of liquefaction––not yet solidified. Just what will crystallize out of the magma is uncertain. The country is experiencing a religious crisis, and an irresistible determination to know is abroad in the land. Everything is being turned upside-down, and one hardly dares longer say what he believes, for the dogma of to-day is the fairy-tale of to-morrow. And, through it all, as some one has tersely said, ‘orthodoxy is hanging onto the coat-tails of progress in a vain attempt to stop 98 her.’ We are facing in the United States the momentous question, Is Christianity a failure? Although no one knows what Christianity really is. But one thing is certain, the brand of Christianity handed out by Protestant and Catholic alike is mighty close to the borderline of dismal failure.”

“But is there in the North no distinct trend in religious belief?” queried Josè.

The explorer hesitated. “Yes,” he said slowly, “there is. The man who holds and promulgates any belief, religious or scientific, is being more and more insistently forced to the point of demonstration. The citation of patristic authority is becoming daily more thoroughly obsolete.”

“And there is no one who demonstrates practical Christianity?”

“No. Do you? Is there any one in your Church, or in the Protestant faith, who does the works which Christ is reported to have done? Is there any one who really tries to do them? Or thinks he could if he tried? The good church Fathers from the third century down could figure out that the world was created on the night before the twenty-third of October, four thousand and four B. C., and that Adam’s fall occurred about noon of the day he was created. They could dilate ad nauseam on transubstantiation, the divine essence, and the mystery of the Trinity; they could astonishingly allegorize the Bible legends, and read into every word a deep, hidden, incomprehensible sense; they could prove to their own satisfaction that Adam composed certain of the Psalms; that Moses wrote every word of the Pentateuch, even the story of his own death and burial; and that the entire Bible was delivered by God to man, word for word, just as it stands, including the punctuation. And yet, not one of them followed the simple commands of Jesus closely enough to enable him to cure a toothache, to say nothing of generally healing the sick and raising the dead! Am I not right?”

“Yes––I am sorry to have to admit,” murmured Josè.

“Well,” went on the explorer, “that’s what removed me from the Presbyterian ministry. It is not Christianity that is a dismal failure, but men’s interpretation of it. Of true Christianity, I confess I know little. Oh, I’m a fine preacher! And yet I am representative of thousands of others, like myself, all at sea. Only, the others are either ashamed or afraid to make this confession. But, in my case, my daily bread did not depend upon my continuance in the pulpit.”

“But supposing that it had––”

“The result doubtless would have been the same. The orthodox faith was utterly failing to supply me with a satisfying interpretation 99 of life, and it afforded me no means of escaping the discords of mundane existence. It could only hold out an undemonstrable promise of a life after death, provided I was elected, and provided I did not too greatly offend the Creator during the few short years that I might spend on earth. If I did that, then, according to the glorious Westminster Confession, I was doomed––for we are not so fortunate as you in having a purgatory from which we may escape through the suffrages of the faithful,” he concluded with a chuckle.

Josè knew, as he listened, that his own Church would hold this man a blasphemer. The man by his own confession was branded a Protestant heretic. And he, Josè, was anathema for listening to these sincere, brutally frank confidences, and tendering them his warm sympathy. Yet he sat spellbound.

“And so I retired from the ministry,” continued the explorer. “I had become ashamed of tearing down other men’s religious beliefs. I was weary of having to apologize constantly for the organization to which I was attached. At home I had been taught a devout faith in revealed religion; in the world I was thrown upon its inquiring doubts; I yearned for faith, yet demanded scientific proof. Why, I would have been satisfied with even the slight degree of proof which we are able to advance for our various physical sciences. But, no, it was not forthcoming. I must believe because the Fathers had believed. I struggled between emotion and reason, until––well, until I had to throw it all over to keep from going mad.”

Josè bowed in silence before this recital of a soul-experience so closely paralleling his own.

“But, come,” said the explorer cheerily, “I’m doing all the talking. Now––”

“No! no!” interrupted the eager Josè. “I do not wish to talk. I want to hear you. Go on, I beg of you! Your words are like rain to a parched field. You will yet offer me something upon which I can build with new hope.”

“Do not be so sanguine, my friend,” returned the explorer in a kindly tone. “I fear I shall be only the reaper, who cuts the weeds and stubble, and prepares the field for the sower. I have said that I am an explorer. But my field is not limited to this material world. I am an explorer of men’s thoughts as well. I am in search of a religion. I manifest this century’s earnest quest for demonstrable truth. And so I stop and question every one I meet, if perchance he may point me in the right direction. My incessant wandering about the globe is, if I may put it that way, but the outward manifestation of my ceaseless search in the realm of the soul.”

He paused. Then, reaching out and laying a hand upon the 100 priest’s knee, he said in a low, earnest voice, “My friend, something happened in that first year of our so-called Christian era. What it was we do not know. But out of the smoke and dust, the haze and mist of that great cataclysm has proceeded the character Jesus––absolutely unique. It is a character which has had a terrific influence upon the world ever since. Because of it empires have crumbled; a hundred million human lives have been destroyed; and the thought-processes of a world have been overthrown or reversed. Just what he said, just what he did, just how he came, and how he went, we may not know with any high degree of accuracy. But, beneath all the myth and legend, the lore and childish human speculation of the intervening centuries, there must be a foundation of eternal truth. And it must be broad––very broad. I am digging for it––as I dug on the sites of ancient Troy and Babylon––as I have dug over the buried civilizations of Mexico and Yucatan––as I shall dig for the hidden Inca towns on the wooded heights of the Andes. And while I dig materially I am also digging spiritually.”

“And what have you found?” asked Josè hoarsely.

“I am still in the overburden of débris which the sedulous, tireless Fathers heaped mountain high upon the few recorded teachings of Jesus. But already I see indications of things to come that would make the members of the Council of Trent and the cocksure framers of the Westminster Confession burst from their graves by sheer force of astonishment! There are even now foreshadowings of such revolutionary changes in our concept of God, of the universe, of matter, and the human mind, of evil, and all the controverted points of theological discussion of this day, as to make me tremble when I contemplate them. In my first hasty judgment, after dipping into the ‘Higher Criticism,’ I concluded that Jesus was but a charlatan, who had learned thaumaturgy in Egypt and practiced it in Judea. Thanks to a better appreciation of the same ‘Higher Criticism’ I am reconstructing my concept of him now, and on a better basis. I once denounced God as the creator of both good and evil, and of a man who He knew must inevitably fall, even before the clay of which he was made had become fairly dry. I changed that concept later to Matthew Arnold’s ‘that something not ourselves that makes for righteousness.’ But mighty few to-day recognize such a God! Again, in Jesus’ teaching that sin brought death into the world, I began to see what is so dimly foreshadowed to-day, the mental nature of all things. ‘Sin’ is the English translation of the original ‘hamartio,’ which means, ‘to miss the mark,’ a term used in archery. Well, then, missing the mark is the mental result of nonconformity to law, is it 101 not? And, going further, if death is the result of missing the mark, and that is itself due to mental cause, and, since death results from sickness, old age, or catastrophe, then these things must likewise be mental. Sickness, therefore, becomes wholly mental, does it not? Death becomes mental. Sin is mental. Spirit, the Creator, is mental. Matter is mental. And we live and act in a mental realm, do we not? The sick man, then, becomes one who misses the mark, and therefore a sinner. I think you will agree with me that the sick man is not at peace with God, if God is ‘that which makes for righteousness.’ Surely the maker of that old Icelandic sixteenth-century Bible must have been inspired when, translating from Luther’s Bible, he wrote in the first chapter of Genesis, ‘And God created man after His own likeness, in the likeness of Mind shaped He him.’ Cannot you see the foreshadowing to which I have referred?”

Josè kept silence. The current of his thought seemed about to swerve from its wonted course.

“What is coming is this,” continued the explorer earnestly, “a tremendous broadening of our concept of God, a more exalted, a more worthy concept of Him as spirit––or, if you will, as mind. An abandonment of the puerile concept of Him as a sort of magnified man, susceptible to the influence of preachers, or of Virgin and Saints, and yielding to their petitions, to their higher sense of justice, and to money-bought earthly ceremonies to lift an imaginary curse from His own creatures. And with it will come that wonderful consciousness of Him which I now begin to realize that Jesus must have had, a consciousness of Him as omnipotent, omnipresent good. As I to-day read the teachings of Jesus I am constrained to believe that he was conscious only of God and God’s spiritual manifestation. And in that remarkable consciousness the man Jesus realized his own life––indeed, that consciousness was his life––and it included no sense of evil. The great lesson which I draw from it is that evil must, therefore, be utterly unreal and non-existent. And heaven is but the acquisition of that mind or consciousness which was in Christ Jesus.”

“But, Mr. Hitt, such ideas are revolutionary!”

“True, if immediately and generally adopted. And so you see why the Church strives to hold the people to its own archaic and innocuous religious tenets; why your Church strives so zealously to hold its adherents fast to the rules laid down by pagan emperors and ignorant, often illiterate churchmen, in their councils and synods; and why the Protestant church is so quick to denounce as unevangelical everything that does not measure to its devitalized concept of Christianity. They do not practice what they preach; yet they would not have you 102 practice anything else. The human mind that calls itself a Christian is a funny thing, isn’t it?”

He laughed lightly; then lapsed into silence. The sea breeze rose and sighed among the great, incrusted arches. The restless waves moaned in their eternal assault upon the defiant walls. The moon clouded, and a warm rain began to fall. Josè rose. “I must return to the dormitory,” he announced briefly. “When you pass me in the plaza to-morrow evening, come at once to this place. I will meet you here. You have––I must––”

But he did not finish. Pressing the explorer’s hand, he turned abruptly and hurried up the dim, narrow street.


All through the following day the priest mused over the conversation of the preceding night. The precipitation with which this new friendship had been formed, and the subsequent abrupt exchange of confidences, had scarcely impressed him as unusual. He was wholly absorbed by the radical thought which the man had voiced. He mulled over it in his wakeful hours that night. He could not prevent it from coloring the lecture which he delivered to his class in ancient history that day. And when the sun at length dropped behind La Popa, he hurried eagerly to the plaza. A few minutes later he and the ex-clergyman met in the appointed rendezvous.

“I dropped in to have a look at the remains of Pedro Claver to-day,” his new friend remarked. “The old sexton scraped and bowed with huge joy as he led me behind the altar and lighted up the grewsome thing. I suppose he believed that Pedro’s soul was up in the clouds making intercession with the Lord for him, while he, poor devil, was toting tourists around to gaze at the Saint’s ghastly bones in their glass coffin. The thing would be funny were it not for its sad side, namely, the dense and superstitious ignorance in which such as this poor sexton are held all their lives by your Church. It’s a shame to feed them with the bones of dead Saints, instead of with the bread of life! But,” he reflected, “I was myself just as bigoted at one time. And my zeal to convert the world to Protestantism was just as hot as any that ever animated the missionaries of your faith.”

He paused and looked quizzically at Josè. He seemed to be studying the length to which he could go in his criticism of the ancient faith of the house of Rincón. But Josè remained in expectant silence.


“Speaking of missionaries,” the man resumed, “I shall never forget an experience I had in China. My wealthy and ultra-aristocratic congregation decided that I needed rest, and so sent me on a world tour. It was a member of that same congregation, by the way, a stuffy old dame whose wealth footed up to millions, who once remarked to me in all confidence that she had no doubt the aristocracy of heaven was composed of Presbyterians. Poor, old, empty-headed prig! What could I do but assure her that I held the same comforting conviction! Well, through influential friends in Pekin I was introduced to the eminent Chinese statesman, Wang Fo, of delightful memory. Our conversation turned on religion, and then I made the most inexcusable faux pas that a blithering Yankee could make, that of expressing regret that he was not of our faith. Good heavens! But he was the most gracious gentleman in the world, and his biting rebuke was couched in tones of silken softness.

“‘What is it that you offer me?’ he said mildly. ‘Blind opinion? Undemonstrated and undemonstrable theory? Why, may I ask, do you come over here to convert us heathen, when your own Christian land is rife with evil, with sedition, with religious hatred of man for man, with bloodshed and greed? If your religious belief is true, then you can demonstrate it––prove it beyond doubt. Do you say that the wonderful material progress which your great country manifests is due to Christianity? I answer you, no. It is due to the unfettering of the human mind, to the laying off of much of the mediaeval superstition which in the past ages has blighted mankind. It is due largely to the abandonment of much of what you are still pleased to call Christianity. The liberated human mind has expanded to a degree never before seen in the world. We Chinese are still mentally fettered by our stubborn resistance to change, to progression. Your great inventors and your great men of finance are but little hampered by religious superstition. Hence the mental flights which they so boldly undertake, and the stupendous achievements they attain. Is it not so?’

“What could I say? He had me. But he hadn’t finished me quite.

“‘I once devoted much time to the study of Chemistry,’ he went on blandly, ‘and when I tell you that there is a law to the effect that the volume of a gas is a function of its pressure I do so with the full knowledge that I can furnish you indisputable proof therefor. But when you come to me with your religious theories, and I mildly request your proofs, you wish to imprison or hang me for doubting the absurdities which you cannot establish!’

“He laughed genially, then took me kindly by the arm. 104 ‘Proof, my zealous friend, proof,’ he said. ‘Give me proof this side of the grave for what you believe, and then you will have converted the heathen. And can your Catholic friend––or, shall I say enemy?––prove his laughable doctrine of purgatory? The dead in purgatory dependent upon the living! Why, I tell him, that smacks of Shintoism, wherein the living feed the dead! Then he points in holy indignation to the Bible. Bah! Cannot I prove anything I may wish from your Bible? What will you have? Polygamy? Incest? Murder? Graft? Hand me your Bible, and I will establish its divinity. No, my good friend. When you come to me with proofs that you really do the works of him whom you profess to follow, then will I gladly listen, for I, too, seek truth. But in the present deplorable absence of proofs I take much more comfort in the adoration of my amiable ancestors than I could in your laughable and undemonstrable religious creeds.’

“I left his presence a saddened but chastened man, and went home to do a little independent thinking. When I approached my Bible without the bias of the Westminster Confession I discovered that it did serve admirably as a wardrobe in which to hang any sort of religious prejudice. Continued study made me see that religious faith is generally mere human credulity. I discovered that in my pitying contempt for those of differing belief I much resembled the Yankee who ridiculed a Chinaman for wearing a pig-tail. ‘True,’ the Celestial replied, ‘we still wear the badge of our former slavery. But you emancipated Americans, do you not wear the badge of a present and much worse form of slavery in your domination by Tammany Hall, by your corrupt politicians, and your organizers and protectors of crime?’

“As time passed I gradually began to feel much more kindly toward Matthew Arnold, who said, ‘Orthodox theology is an immense misunderstanding of the Bible.’ And I began likewise to respect his statement that our Bible language is ‘fluid and passing’––that much of it is the purest poetry, beautiful and inspiring, but symbolical.”

“But,” broke in Josè, “you must admit that there is something awfully wrong with the world, with––”

“Well,” interrupted Hitt, “and what is it? As historical fact, that story about Adam and Eve eating an apple and thereby bringing down God’s curse upon the whole innocent human race is but a figment of little minds, and an insult to divine intelligence. But, as symbolizing the dire penalty we pay for a belief in the reality of both good and evil––ah, that is a note just beginning to be sounded in the world at large. And it may account for the presence of the world’s evil.”


“Yet, our experience certainly shows that evil is just as real and just as immanent as good! And, indeed, more powerful in this life.”

“If so,” replied the explorer gravely, “then God created or instituted it. And in that case I must break with God.”

“Then you think it is all a question of our own individual idea of God?”

“Entirely. And human concepts of Him have been many and varied. But that worst of Old Testament interpreters of the first century, Philo, came terribly close to the truth, I think, when, in a burst of inspiration, he one day wrote: ‘Heaven is mind, and earth is sensation.’ Matthew Arnold, I think, likewise came very close to the truth when he said that the only God we can recognize is ‘that something not ourselves that makes for righteousness.’ And, as for evil, up in the United States there are some who are now lumping it all under the head of ‘mortal mind,’ considering it all but the ‘one lie’ which Jesus so often referred to, and regarding it as the ‘suppositional opposite’ of the mind that is God, and so, powerless. Not a bad idea, I think. But whether the money-loving Yankee will ever leave his mad chase for gold long enough to live this premise and so demonstrate it, is a question. I’m watching its development with intense interest. We in the States have wonderful, exceptional opportunities for study and research. We ought to uncover the truth, if any people should.”

He fell into thoughtfulness again. Josè drew a long sigh. “I wish––I wish,” he murmured, “that I might go there––that I might live and work and search up there.”

The explorer roused up. “And why not?” he asked abruptly. “Look here, come with me and spend a year or so digging around for buried Inca towns. Then we will go back to the States. Why, man! it would make you over. I’ll take you as interpreter. And in the States I’ll find a place for you. Come. Will you?”

For a moment the doors of imagination swung wide, and in the burst of light from within Josè saw the dreams of a lifetime fulfilled. Emancipation lay that way. Freedom, soul-expansion, truth. It was his God-given privilege. Who had the right to lay a detaining hand upon him? Was not his soul his own, and his God’s?

Then a dark hand stole out from the surrounding shadows and closed the doors. From the blackness there seemed to rise a hollow voice, uttering the single word, Honor. He thrust out an arm, as if to ward off the assaults of temptation. “No, no,” he said aloud, “I am bound to the Church!”

“But why remain longer in an institution with which you are quite out of sympathy?” the explorer urged.


“First, to help the Church. Who will uplift her if we desert her? And, second, to help this, my ancestral country,” replied Josè in deep earnestness.

“Worthy aims, both,” assented Hitt. “But, my friend, what will you accomplish here, unless you can educate these people to think? I have learned much about conditions in this country. I find that the priest in Colombia is even more intolerant than in Ireland, for here he has a monopoly, no competition. He is absolute. The Colombian is the logical product of the doctrines of Holy Church. It is so in Mexico. It is so wherever the curse of a fixed mentality is imposed upon a people. For that engenders determined opposition to mobility. It quenches responsiveness to new concepts and new ideas. It throttles a nation. The bane of mental progress is the Semper Idem of your Church.”

“Christianity will remove the curse.”

“I have no doubt whatever of that. It probably is the future cure for all social ills and evils of every sort. But if so, it must be the Christianity which Jesus taught and demonstrated––not the theological chaff now disseminated in his name. Do not forget that we no longer know what Christianity is. It is a lost science.”

“It can and will be recovered!” cried Josè warmly.

“I have said that is foreshadowed. But we must have the whole garment of the Christ, without human addenda. He is reported as having said, ‘The works that I do bear witness of me.’ Now the works of the Christian Church bear ample witness that she has not the true understanding of the Christ. Nor has that eminent Protestant divine, now teaching in a theological seminary in the States, who recently said that, although Jesus ministered miraculously to the physical man, yet it was not his intention that his disciples should continue that sort of ministry; that the healing which Jesus did was wholly incidental, and was not an example to be permanently imitated. Good heavens! how these poor theologians hide their inability to do the works of the Master by taking refuge in such ridiculously unwarranted assertions. To them the rule seems to be that, if you can’t do a thing you must deny the possibility of its being done. Great logic, isn’t it?

“And yet,” he went on, “the Church has had nearly two thousand years in which to learn to do the works of the Master. Pretty dull pupil, I think. And we’ve had nearly two thousand years of theology from this slow pupil. Would that she would from now on give us a little real Christianity! Heavens! the world needs it. And yet, do you know, sectarian feeling is still so bitter in the so-called Church of God that if a Bishop of 107 the Anglican Church should admit Presbyterians, Methodists, or members of other denominations to his communion table a scream of rage would go up all over England, and a mighty demand would be raised to impeach the Bishop for heresy! Think of it! God above! the puny human mind. Do you wonder that the dogma of the Church has lost force? That, despite its thunders, thinking men laugh? I freely admit that our great need is to find an adequate substitute for the authority which others would like to impose upon us. But where shall we find such authority, if not in those who demonstrate their ability to do the works of the Master? Show me your works, and I’ll show you my faith. This is my perpetual challenge.

“But, now,” he said, “returning to the subject so near your heart: the condition of this country is that of a large part of South America, where the population is unsettled, even turbulent, and where a priesthood, fanatical, intolerant, often unscrupulous, pursue their devious means to extend and perpetuate unhindered the sway of your Church. Colombia is struggling to remove the blight which Spain laid upon her, namely, mediaeval religion. It is this same blighting religion, coupled with her remorseless greed, which has brought Spain to her present decrepit, empty state. And how she did strive to force that religion upon the world! Whole nations, like the Incas, for example, ruthlessly slaughtered by the papal-benisoned riffraff of Spain in her attempts to foist herself into world prestige and to bolster up the monstrous assumptions of Holy Church! The Incas were a grand nation, with a splendid mental viewpoint. But it withered under the touch of the mediaeval narrowness fastened upon it. Whole nations wasted in support of papal assumptions––and do you think that the end is yet? Far from it! War is coming here in Colombia. It may come in other parts of this Western Hemisphere, certainly in Mexico, certainly in Peru and Bolivia and Chili, rocked in the cradle of Holy Church for ages, but now at last awaking to a sense of their backward condition and its cause. If ever the Church had a chance to show what she could do when given a free hand, she has had it in these countries, particularly in Mexico. In all the nearly four centuries of her unmolested control in that fair land, oppressed by sword and crucifix, did she ever make an attempt worth the name to uplift and emancipate the common man? Not one. She took his few, hard-earned pesos to get his weary soul out of an imagined purgatory––but she left him to rot in peonage while on earth! But, friend, I repeat, the struggle is coming here in Colombia. And look you well to your own escape when it arrives!”

“And can I do nothing to help avert it?” cried the distressed Josè.


“Well,” returned the explorer meditatively, “such bondage is removable either through education or war. But in Colombia I fear the latter will overtake the former by many decades.”

“Then rest assured that I shall in the meantime do what in me lies to instruct my fellow-countrymen, and to avoid such a catastrophe!”

“Good luck to you, friend. And––by the way, here is a little book that may help you in your work. I’m quite sure you’ve never read it. Under the ban, you know. Renan’s Vie de Jésus. It can do you no harm, and may be useful.”

Josè reached out and took the little volume. It was anathema, he knew, but he could not refuse to accept it.

“And there is another book that I strongly recommend to you. I’m sorry I haven’t a copy here. It once created quite a sensation. It is called, ‘Confessions of a Roman Catholic Priest.’ Published anonymously, in Vienna, but unquestionably bearing the earmarks of authenticity. It mentions this country––”

Without speaking, Josè had slowly risen and started down the musty corridor, his thought aflame with the single desire to get away. Down past the empty barracks and gaping cells he went, without stopping to peer into their tenebrous depths––on and on, skirting the grim walls that typified the mediaevalism surrounding and fettering his restless thought––on to the long incline which led up to the broad esplanade on the summit. Must he forever flee this pursuing Nemesis? Or should he hurl himself from the wall, once he gained the top? At the upper end of the incline he heard the low sound of voices. A priest and a young girl who sat there on the parapet rose as he approached. He stopped abruptly in front of them. “Wenceslas!” he exclaimed. “And Maria!”

“Ah, amigo, a quiet stroll before retiring? It is a sultry night.”

“Yes,” slowly replied Josè, looking at the girl, who drew back into the shadow cast by the body of her companion. Then, bowing, he passed on down the wall and disappeared in the darkness that shrouded the distance.

A few minutes later the long form of the explorer appeared above the incline. Wenceslas and the girl had departed. Seeing no one, the American turned and descended to the ground, shaking his head in deep perplexity.



The next day was one of the Church’s innumerable feast-days, and Josè was free to utilize it as he might. He determined on a visit to the suburb of Turbaco, some eight miles from Cartagena, and once the site of Don Ignacio’s magnificent country home. Although he had been some months in Cartagena, he had never before felt any desire to pass beyond its walls. Now it seemed to him that he must break the limitation which those encircling walls typified, that his restless thought might expand ere it formulated into definite concepts and plans for future work. This morning he wanted to be alone. The old injury done to his sensitive spirit by the publication of his journal had been unwittingly opened anew. The old slowness had crept again into his gait since the evening before. Over night his countenance had resumed its wonted heaviness; and his slender shoulders bent again beneath their former burden.

When Josè arrived in Cartagena he had found it a city of vivid contrasts. There mediaevalism still strove with the spirit of modern progress; and so it suited well as an environment for the dilation of his shrunken soul-arteries. The lethal influence of the monastery long lay over him, beneath which he continued to manifest those eccentric habits which his prolonged state of loneliness had engendered. He looked askance at the amenities which his associates tentatively held out to him. He sank himself deep in study, and for weeks, even months, he shunned the world of people and things. He found no stimulus to a search for his ancestral palace within the city, nor for a study of the Rincón records which lay moldering in the ancient city’s archives.

But, as the sunlit days drifted dreamily past with peaceful, unvarying monotony, Josè’s faculties, which had always been alert until he had been declared insane, gradually awakened. His violently disturbed balance began to right itself; his equilibrium became in a measure restored. The deadening thought that he had accomplished nothing in his vitiated life yielded to a hopeful determination to yet retrieve past failure. The pride and fear which had balked the thought of self-destruction now served to fan the flame of fresh resolve. He dared not do any writing, it was true. But he could delve and study. And a thousand avenues opened to him through which he could serve his fellow-men. The papal instructions which his traveling companion, the Apostolic Delegate, had brought to the Bishop 110 of Cartagena, evidently had sufficed for his credentials; and the latter had made no occasion to refer to the priest’s past. An order from the Vatican was law; and the Bishop obeyed it with no other thought than its inerrancy and inexorability. And with the lapse of the several months which had slipped rapidly away while he sought to forget and to clear from his mind the dark clouds of melancholia which had settled over it, Josè became convinced that the Bishop knew nothing of his career prior to his arrival in Colombia.

And it is possible that the young priest’s secret would have died with him––that he would have lived out his life amid the peaceful scenes of this old, romantic town, and gone to his long rest at last with the consciousness of having accomplished his mite in the service of his fellow-beings; it is possible that Rome would have forgotten him; and that his uncle’s ambitions, to which he knew that he had been regarded as in some way useful, would have flagged and perished over the watery waste which separated the New World from the Old, but for the intervention of one man, who crossed Josè’s path early in his new life, found him inimical to his own worldly projects, and removed him, therefore, as sincerely in the name of Christ as the ancient Conquistadores, with priestly blessing, hewed from their paths of conquest the simple and harmless aborigines.

That man was Wenceslas Ortiz, trusted servant of Holy Church, who had established himself in Cartagena to keep a watchful eye on anticlerical proceedings. That he was able to do this, and at the same time turn them greatly to his own advantage, marks him as a man of more than usually keen and resourceful mentality. He was a native son, born of prosperous parents in the riverine town of Mompox, which, until the erratic Magdalena sought for itself a new channel, was the chief port between Barranquilla and the distant Honda. There had been neither family custom nor parental hopes to consider among the motives which had directed him into the Church. He was a born worldling, but with unmistakable talents for and keen appreciation of the art of politics. His love of money was subordinate only to his love of power. To both, his talents made access easy. In the contemplation of a career in his early years he had hesitated long between the Church and the Army; but had finally thrown his lot with the former, as offering not only equal possibilities of worldly preferment and riches, but far greater stability in those periodic revolutions to which his country was so addicted. The Army was frequently overthrown; the Church, never. The Government changed with every successful political revolution; the Church remained immovable. And so with the art of a trained politician he cultivated 111 his chosen field with such intensity that even the Holy See felt the glow of his ardor, and in recognition of his marked abilities, his pious fervor and great influence, was constrained to place him just where he wished to be, at the right hand of the Bishop of Cartagena, and probable successor to that aged incumbent, who had grown to lean heavily and confidingly upon him.

As coadjutor, or suffragan to the Bishop of Cartagena, Wenceslas Ortiz had at length gathered unto himself sufficient influence of divers nature as, in his opinion, to ensure him the See in case the bishopric should, as was contemplated, be raised eventually to the status of a Metropolitan. It was he, rather than the Bishop, who distributed parishes to ambitious pastors and emoluments to greedy politicians. His irons in ecclesiastical, political, social and commercial fires were innumerable. The doctrine of the indivisibility of Church and State had in him an able champion––but only because he thereby found a sure means of increasing his prestige and augmenting his power and wealth. His methods of work manifested keenness, subtlety, shrewdness and skill. His rewards were lavish. His punishments, terrible. The latter smacked of the Inquisition: he preferred torture to quick despatch.

It had not taken Wenceslas long to estimate the character of the newcomer, Josè. Nor was he slow to perceive that this liberal pietist was cast in an unusual mold. Polity necessitated the cultivation of Josè, as it required the friendship––or, in any event, the thorough appraisement––of every one with whom Wenceslas might be associated. But the blandishments, artifice, diplomacy and hints of advancements which he poured out in profusion upon Josè he early saw would fail utterly to penetrate the armor of moral reserve with which the priest was clad, or effect in the slightest degree the impression which they were calculated to make.

In the course of time the priest became irritating; later, annoying; and finally, positively dangerous to the ambitions of Wenceslas. For, to illustrate, Josè had once discovered him, in the absence of the Bishop, celebrating Mass in a state of inebriation. This irritated. Wenceslas had only been careless. Again, Josè had several times shown himself suspicious of his fast-and-loose methods with the rival political factions of Cartagena. This was annoying. Finally, he had come upon Josè in the market place a few weeks prior, in earnest conference with Marcelena and the girl, Maria; and subsequent conversation with him developed the fact that the priest had other dark suspicions which were but too well founded. This was dangerous. It was high time to prepare for possible contingencies.


And so, in due time, carefully wording his hint that Padre Josè de Rincón might be a Radical spy in the ecclesiastical camp, Wenceslas found means to obtain from Rome a fairly comprehensive account of the priest’s past history. He mused over this until an idea suddenly occurred to him, namely, the similarity of this account with many of the passages which he had found in a certain book, “The Confessions of a Roman Catholic Priest”––a book which had cast the shadow of distrust upon Wenceslas himself in relation to certain matters of ecclesiastical politics in Colombia nearly three years before, and at a most unfortunate time. Indeed, this sudden, unheralded exposure had forced him to a hurried recasting of certain cherished plans, and drawn from him a burning, unquenchable desire to lay his pious hands upon the writer.

His influence with Rome at length revealed the secret of the wretched book’s authorship. And from the moment that he learned it, Josè’s fate was sealed. The crafty politician laughed aloud as he read the priest’s history. Then he drew his plans and waited. But in the interim he made further investigations; and these he extended far back into the ancestral history of this unfortunate scion of the once powerful house of Rincón.

Meantime, a few carefully chosen words to the Bishop aroused a dull interest in that quarter. Josè had been seen mingling freely with men of very liberal political views. It would be well to warn him. Again, weeks later, Wenceslas was certain, from inquiries made among the students, that Josè’s work in the classroom bordered a trifle too closely on radicalism. It were well to admonish him. And, still later, happening to call at Josè’s quarters just above his own in the ecclesiastical dormitory, and not finding him in, he had been struck by the absence of crucifix or other religious symbol in the room. Was the young priest becoming careless of his example?

And now, on this important feast-day, where was Padre Josè? On the preceding evening, as Wenceslas leaned over the parapet of the wall after his surprise by Josè, he had noted in the dim light the salient features of a foreigner who, he had just learned, was registered at the Hotel Mariano from the United States. Moreover, Wenceslas had just come from Josè’s room, whither he had gone in search of him, and––may the Saints pardon his excess of holy zeal which impelled him to examine the absent priest’s effects!––he had returned now to the Bishop bearing a copy of Renan’s Vie de Jésus, with the American’s name on the flyleaf. It certainly were well to admonish Padre Josè again, and severely!

The Bishop, hardly to the surprise of his crafty coadjutor, 113 flew into a towering rage. He was a man of irascible temper, bitterly intolerant, and unreasoningly violent against all unbelievers, especially Americans whose affairs brought them to Colombia. In this respect he was the epitome of the ecclesiastical anti-foreign sentiment which obtained in that country. His intolerance of heretics was such that he would gladly have bound his own kin to the stake had he believed their opinions unorthodox. Yet he was thoroughly conscientious, a devout churchman, and saturated with the beliefs of papal infallibility and the divine origin of the Church. In the observance of church rites and ceremonies he was unremitting. In the soul-burning desire to witness the conversion of the world, and especially to see the lost children of Europe either coaxed or beaten back into the embrace of Holy Church, his zeal amounted to fanaticism. In the present case––

“Your Eminence,” suggested the suave Wenceslas to his exasperated superior, “may I propose that you defer action until I can discover the exact status of this American?”

And the Bishop forthwith placed the whole matter in his trusted assistant’s helpful hands.

Meantime, Josè and the American explorer sat in the shade of a magnificent palm on a high hill in beautiful Turbaco, looking out over the shimmering sea beyond. For Hitt had wandered into the Plaza de Coches just as Josè was taking a carriage, and the latter could not well refuse his proffered companionship for the day. Yet Josè feared to be seen in broad daylight with this stranger, and he involuntarily murmured a Loado sea Dios! when they reached Turbaco, as he believed, unobserved. He did not know that a sharp-eyed young novitiate, whom Wenceslas had detailed to keep the priest under surveillance, had hurried back to his superior with the report of Josè’s departure with the Americano on this innocent pleasure jaunt.

“Say no more, my friend, in apology for your abrupt departure last evening,” the explorer urged. “But tell me, rather, about your illustrious grandfather who had his country seat in this delightful spot. Why, man! this is paradise. I’ve a notion to come here to live some day.”

Josè cast his apprehensions upon the soft ocean breeze, and gave himself up to the inspiriting influence of his charming environment. He dwelt at length upon the Rincón greatness of mediaeval days, and expressed the resolve sometime to delve into the family records which he knew must be hidden away in the moldering old city of Cartagena. “But now,” he concluded, after another reference to the Church, “is Colombia to witness again the horror of those days of carnage? And over the human mind’s interpretation of the Christ? God forbid!”


The American shook his head dubiously. “There is but one remedy––education. Not sectarian, partisan, worldly education––not instruction in relative truths and the chaff of materialistic speculation––but that sort of education whereby the selfish human mind is lifted in a measure out of itself, out of its petty jealousies and envyings, out of sneaking graft and touting for worldly emolument, and into a sense of the eternal truth that real prosperity and soundness of states and institutions are to be realized only when the Christ-principle, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ is made the measure of conduct. There is a tremendous truth which has long since been demonstrated, and yet which the world is most woefully slow to grasp, namely, that the surest, quickest means of realizing one’s own prosperity and happiness is in that of others––not in a world to come, but right here and now.”

“But that means the inauguration of the millennium,” protested Josè.

“Well, and why not so?” returned the explorer calmly. “Has not that been the ultimate aim of Christianity, and of all serious effort for reform for the past two thousand years? And, do you know, the millennium could be ushered in to-morrow, if men only thought so? Within an incredibly short time evil, even to death itself, could be completely wiped off the earth. But this wiping-off process must take place in the minds and thoughts of men. Of that I am thoroughly convinced. But, tell me, have you ever expressed to the Bishop your views regarding the condition of this country?”

Josè flushed. “Yes,” he replied in embarrassment. “Only a week ago I tried again to convince him of the inevitable trend of events here unless drastic measures were interposed by the Church. I had even lectured on it in my classes.”

“Well, what did he say?”

“The Bishop is a man of very narrow vision,” replied Josè. “He rebuked me severely and truculantly bade me confine my attention to the particular work assigned me and let affairs of politics alone. Of course, that meant leaving them to his assistant, Wenceslas. Mr. Hitt, Colombia needs a Luther!”

“Just so,” returned the explorer gravely. “Priestcraft from the very earliest times has been one of the greatest curses of mankind. Its abuses date far back to Egyptian times, when even prostitution was countenanced by the priests, and when they practiced all sorts of impostures upon the ignorant masses. In the Middle Ages they turned Christianity, the richest of blessings, into a snare, a delusion, a rank farce. They arrogated to themselves all learning, all science. In Peru it was even illicit for any one not belonging to the nobility to attempt 115 to acquire learning. That was the sole privilege of priests and kings. In all nations, from the remotest antiquity, and whether civilized or not, learning has been claimed by the priests as the unique privilege of their caste––a privilege bestowed upon them by the special favor of the ruling deity. That’s why they always sought to surround their intellectual treasures with a veil of mystery. Roger Bacon, the English monk, once said that it was necessary to keep the discoveries of the philosophers from those unworthy of knowing them. How did he expect a realization of ‘Thy kingdom come,’ I wonder?”

“They didn’t expect it to come––on earth,” said Josè.

“No. They relegated that to the imagined realm which was to be entered through the gateway of death. It’s mighty convenient to be able to relegate your proofs to that mysterious realm beyond the grave. That has always been a tremendous power in the hands of priests of all times and lands. By the way, did you know that the story of Abel’s assassination was one of many handed down, in one form or another, by the priests of India and Egypt?”

“Do you mean it?” inquired Josè eagerly.

“Certainly. The story doubtless comes from the ancient Egyptian tale which the priests of that time used to relate regarding the murder of Osiris by his brother, Set. It was a deed of jealousy. The story later became incorporated into the sacred books of India and Egypt, and was afterward taken over by the Hebrews, when they were captives in Egypt. The Hebrews learned much of Egyptian theology, and their own religion was greatly tinctured by it subsequently. The legend of the deluge, for example, is another tradition of those primitive days, and credited by the nations of antiquity. But here there is the likelihood of a connection with the great cataclysm of antiquity, the disappearance of the island of Atlantis in consequence of a violent earthquake and volcanic action. This alleged island, supposed to be a portion of the strip at one time connecting South America with Africa, is thought to have sunk beneath the waters of the present Atlantic ocean some nine thousand years before Solon visited Egypt, and hence, some eleven thousand years ago. Anyway, the story of this awful catastrophe got into the Egyptian records in the earliest times, and was handed down to the Hebrews, who probably based their story of the flood upon it. You see, there is a foundation of some sort for all those legends in the book of Genesis. The difficulty has been that humanity has for centuries childishly accepted them as historical fact. For example, the serpent story. Now in very primitive times the serpent was the special emblem of Kneph, the creator of the world, and 116 was regarded as a sort of good genius. It is still so regarded by the Chinese, who make of it one of their most beautiful symbols, the dragon. Later it became the emblem of Set, the slayer of Osiris; and after that it was looked upon with horror as the enemy of mankind, the destroyer, the evil principle. Hence, in Egypt, the Hebrew captives adopted the serpent as emblematical of evil, and later used it in their scriptural records as the evil genius that tempted Eve and brought about the fall of man. And so all people whose religious beliefs are founded upon the Hebrew Bible now look upon the serpent as the symbol of evil. Jews, Christians, and Mohammedans thus regard it.”

Josè gazed at the man with rapt interest. “Don’t stop!” he urged. “Go on! go on!”

Hitt laughed. “Well,” he resumed, “the tree and the serpent were worshiped all through eastern countries, from Scandinavia to the Asiatic peninsula and down into Egypt. And, do you know, we even find vestiges of such worship in America? Down in Adams county, Ohio, on the banks of Brush creek, there is a great mound, called the serpent mound. It is seven hundred feet long, and greatly resembles the one in Glen Feechan, Argyleshire, Scotland. It also resembles the one I found in the ancient city of Tiahuanuco, whose ruins lie at an elevation of some thirteen thousand feet above the Pacific ocean, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, near the Bolivian frontier. This ancient city ages ago sent out colonists all over North and South America. These primitive people believed that a serpent emitted an egg from its mouth, and that the earth was born of that egg. Now the serpent mound in Ohio has an egg in its mouth. What is the logical inference?”

“You don’t mean it!” exclaimed Josè, his eyes wide with astonishment.

Hitt laughed again in evident enjoyment of the priest’s wonder. Then he resumed: “It has been established to my entire satisfaction that the ancient Egyptians and the Mayas of Central and South America used almost identical symbols. And from all antiquity, and by all nations, the symbols of the tree and serpent and their worship have been so closely identified as to render it certain that their origin is the same. What, then, are the serpent and tree of knowledge in the Hebrew Bible but an outgrowth of this? The tree of life, of civilization, of knowledge, was placed in the middle of the land, of the ‘garden,’ of the primitive country of the race, Mayax. And the empire of the Mayas was situated between the two great continents of North and South America. These people spread out in all directions. They populated the then existing island of Atlantis. And when the terrible earthquake 117 occurred, whereby this island was sunk beneath the waves of the Atlantic ocean, why, to these people the world had been drowned! The story got to Egypt, to Chaldea, and to India. Hence the deluge record of Genesis.”

“But, these primitive people, how ancient are they?” queried Josè.

“No one can form any adequate estimate,” said Hitt in reply. “The wonderful city of Tiahuanuco was in ruins when Manco Capac laid the foundations of the Inca empire, which was later devastated by the Spaniards. And the Indians told the Spaniards that it had been constructed by giants before the sun shone in heaven.”

“Astonishing!” exclaimed Josè. “Such facts as these––if facts they be––relegate much of the Scriptural authority to the realm of legend and myth!”

“Quite so,” returned the explorer. “When the human mind of this century forces itself to approach a subject without prejudice or bias, and without the desire to erect or maintain a purely human institution at whatever cost to world-progress, then it finds that much of the hampering, fettering dogma of mediaevalism now laid upon it by the Church becomes pure fiction, without justifiable warrant or basis. Remember, the Hebrew people gave us the Old Testament, in which they had recorded for ages their tribal and national history, their poetry, their beliefs and hopes, as well as their legends, gathered from all sources. We have likewise the historical records of other nations. But the Hebrew possessed one characteristic which differentiated him from all other people. He was a monotheist, and he saw his God in every thing, every event, every place. His concept of God was his life-motif. This concept evolved slowly, painfully, throughout the centuries. The ancient Hebrew patriarchs saw it as a variable God, changeful, fickle, now violently angry, now humbly repentant, now making contracts with mankind, now petulantly destroying His own handiwork. He was a God who could order the slaughter of innocent babes, as in the book of Samuel; or He was a tender, merciful Father, as in the Psalms. He could harden hearts, wage bloody wars, walk with men ‘in the cool of the day,’ create a universe with His fist, or spend long days designing and devising the material utensils and furniture of sacrifice to be used in His own worship. In short, men saw in Him just what they saw in themselves. They saw but their mental concept. The Bible records humanity’s changing, evolving concept of God, of that ‘something not ourselves which makes for righteousness.’ And this concept gradually changed from the magnified God-man of the Old Testament, a creature of human 118 whims and passions, down to that held by the man of Nazareth, a new and beautiful concept of God as love. This new concept Jesus joyously gave to a sin-weary world that had utterly missed the mark. But it cost him his earthly life to do it. And the dark record of the so-called Christian Church, both Protestant and Catholic, contains the name of many a one who has paid the same penalty for a similar service of love.

“The Chaldeans and Egyptians,” he went on, after a moment’s reflective pause, “gave the Hebrews their account of the creation of the universe, the fall of man, the flood, and many other bits of mythical lore. And into these stories the Hebrews read the activity of their God, and drew from them deep moral lessons. Egypt gave the Hebrews at least a part of the story of Joseph, as embodied in the hieroglyphics which may be read on the banks of the Nile to-day. They probably also gave the Hebrews the account of the creation found in the second chapter of Genesis, for to this day you can see in some of the oldest Egyptian temples pictures of the gods making men out of lumps of clay. The discovery of the remains of the ‘Neanderthal man’ and the ‘Ape-man of Java’ now places the dawn of human reason at a period some three to five hundred thousand years prior to our present century, and, combined with the development of the science of geology, which shows that the total age of the earth’s stratified rocks alone cannot be much less than fifty-five millions of years, serves to cast additional ridicule upon the Church’s present attitude of stubborn adherence to these prehistoric scriptural legends as literal, God-given fact. But, to make the right use of these legends––well, that is another thing.”

“And that?”

The explorer hesitated. “I find it difficult to explain,” he said at length. “But, remember what I have already said, there is, there must be, a foundation beneath all these legends which admonish mankind to turn from evil to good. And, as I also said, that foundation must be very broad. I have said that I was in search of a religion. Why not, you may ask, accept the religious standard which Jesus set? That was the new concept of God as love. Very good. I am quite convinced that love is the religion, the tie which binds all things together and to a common source and cause. And I am equally convinced that Jesus is the only person recorded in history who ever lived a life of pure reflection of the love which he called God. And so you see why I am chipping and hewing away at the theological conception of the Christ, and trying to get at the reality buried deep beneath in the theological misconceptions of the centuries. I am quite convinced that if men loved one another, 119 as Jesus bade them do, all war, strife, disease, poverty, and discord of every sort would vanish from human experience. But––and here is a serious question––did Jesus ask the impossible? Did he command us to love the sinful, erring mortal whom we see in our daily walk––or did he––did he have a new thought, namely, that by loving the real man, for which, perhaps, this human concept stands in the human mind, that this very act would change that distorted concept and cause it to yield its place to the real one? I believe Jesus to have been the wisest man who ever trod this earth. But I likewise believe that no man has ever been more deplorably misunderstood, misquoted, and misinterpreted than he. And so I am delving down, down beneath the mass of human conjecture and ridiculous hypothesis which the Church Fathers and our own theologians have heaped up over this unique character, if perchance I may some day discover just what he was, just what he really said, and just what the message which he sought to convey to mankind.”

He leaned over and laid a hand on Josè’s arm. “My young friend,” he said earnestly, “I believe there are meanings in the life and words of Jesus of which the Church in its astounding self-sufficiency has never even dreamed. Did he walk on the water? Did he feed the multitude with a few loaves? Did he raise Lazarus? Did he himself issue from the tomb? No more momentous questions were ever asked than these. For, if so, then the message of Jesus has a bearing on the material universe, on the human mind, and the whole realm of thought that is utterly revolutionary! What was that message? Did the man’s own apostles and immediate followers understand it? Did Paul? Certain we are, however, that the theology which Rome gave to her barbarian conquerors was wholly different from that taught by Jesus and his disciples. And we know that the history of Europe from the fall of the Roman Empire down to the Franco-Prussian war is largely a recital of the development of the religious beliefs which Rome handed down to her conquerors, and their influence upon the human mind. These beliefs constitute the working hypothesis of that institution known to-day as the Holy Roman Catholic Church, and its separated offshoots, the Greek Catholic and the Protestant Churches, including the numberless ramifications and divisions of the latter. The question as to whether eternal salvation is a function of complete immersion of the human body, or only a gentle sprinkling, appears most lamentably puerile in the face of the tremendous revolutionary truths hinted by the deeds of Jesus, assuming that he has been correctly reported in the Gospels. No; Renan, in his Vie de Jésus, which I gave you last 120 night, missed it. Before him, Voltaire and countless other critics of man-made theology missed it. The writings of these men do serve, however, to mow down the theological stubble in the world’s field of thought. What is it, this gigantic truth which Jesus brought? I do not know. But he himself is reported to have said, ‘If ye keep my commands, ye shall know of the doctrine.’ And his chief command was, that we love God and our fellow-men. I have no doubt whatever that, when we follow this command, we shall know of the doctrine which he came to establish in the hearts of men.”

“But his message was the brotherhood of man,” said Josè.

“Nay,” replied the explorer, “it was the fatherhood of God, rather. For that includes the brotherhood of man. But, while we agree thus far, who can say what the fatherhood of God implies? Who, realizing that this was Jesus’ message, knows how to make it practical, as he did? To him it meant––ah, what did it not mean! It meant a consciousness that held not one trace of evil. It meant a consciousness of God as omnipotent power, the irresistible power of good, which, in the form of spirit, or mind, as some will have it, is ever present. Is it not so? Well, then, who is there to-day, within the Church or without, who understands the divine message of the fatherhood of God sufficiently to acquire such a consciousness, and to make the intensely practical application of the message to every problem of mind, or body, or environment? Who to-day in your Church or mine, for example, realizes that Jesus must have seen something in matter far different from the solid, indestructible thing that we think we see, and that this was due to his understanding of the immanence of his Father as spirit––an understanding which enabled him to walk on the waves, and to treat material things as if they were not? No, my friend, the Christ-message of the fatherhood of God is hardly apprehended in the world to-day in the slightest degree by priest or prelate, church or sect. And yet, the influence of Jesus is tremendous!”

Josè’s brow knit in perplexity. “I––I don’t believe I follow you, quite,” he said.

“I am not surprised,” replied the explorer gently. “I sometimes wonder if I understand myself just what it is that I am trying to express. My belief is still in a state of transition. I am still searching. The field has been cleared. And now––now I am waiting for the new seed. I have abandoned forever the sterile, non-productive religious beliefs of current theology. I have abandoned such belittling views of God as the Presbyterian sublapsarian view of election. I have turned wearily from the puerile dogma of your Church as unworthy of the Father 121 of Jesus. From delving into the mysteries of the Brahminism of India, of ancestor-worship in Japan, of Confucianism in China, of Islamism in the far East, I have come back to the wonderful man of Nazareth. And now I am trying to see what Christianity would be if purged of its adulterations––purged of the Greek philosophy of the early Fathers; of the forgeries of the Middle Ages; of the pagan ceremonialism and priestly rites and assumptions of power to save or damn in this present century. And what do I find, after all this rubbish has been filtered out? Love, friend––love; the unfathomable love of the Father of Jesus, who knows no evil, no sin, no sickness, no death, no hell, no material heaven, but whose kingdom is the harmonious realm of spirit, or mind, wherein the individual consciousness knows no discord of any name or nature.”

The afternoon haze had been long gathering when Josè roused the sleeping cochero and prepared to return to the stifling ecclesiastical atmosphere from which for a brief day he had been so happily free. A cold chill swept over him when he took his seat in the carriage, and he shuddered as if with an evil presentiment.

“And you still adhere to your determination to remain in the Church?” his friend asked, as they turned from the green hills and nodding palms of Turbaco, and set their course, toward the distant mediaeval city.

“Yes,” came the scarcely audible reply. But as Josè spoke, he knew that his mind had that day been stripped of its last remaining vestige of the old theology, leaving it bare, exposed––and receptive.

A week passed. The explorer had gone, as silently and unannounced as he had come. The evening before his departure he and Josè had sat again in the thick shadows of the old wall. The next morning he was on the mighty river; and the priest was left with a great void in his heart.

One noon, as Josè was returning from his classes, he pondered deeply the last words of the explorer, “Remember, nothing that has been invented by mankind or evolved by the human mind can stand, or remain. We might just as well accept that great fact now as later, and adjust ourselves to it. But the things of the spirit remain. And Paul has told us what they are.”

As he passed slowly along the winding little street toward the dormitory, a messenger approached him with a summons from the Bishop. He turned and started wonderingly toward the Cathedral. He had been reprimanded once, twice, for the liberal views which he had expressed to his classes. Was he 122 to receive another rebuke now? He had tried to be more careful of late. Had he been seen with the explorer?

An hour later, his eyes set and unseeing, and his thin lips trembling, Josè dragged himself up the stone steps to his little room and threw himself upon the bed. The bonds which had been slowly, imperceptibly tightening during these few months of precious liberty had been drawn suddenly taut. The Bishop, in the rôle of Inquisitor Natus, had just revealed a full knowledge of his dismal past, and had summarily dismissed him from the University faculty. Josè, bewildered and stunned, had tried vainly to defend himself. Then, realizing his impotence before the uncompromising bigotry of this choleric ecclesiastic, he had burst suddenly into a torrent of frenzied declarations of his undeserved wrongs, of his resolve now to renounce his oath, to leave the Church, to abandon honor, family, everything that held or claimed him, and to flee into unknown and unknowing parts, where his harassed soul might find a few years of rest before its final flight! The Bishop became bitterly and implacably infuriated, and remanded the excited priest to his room to reflect upon his wild words, and to await the final disposition of his case––unless he should have determined already to try the devious route of apostasy.

Rising the next morning at dawn from the chill floor where he had spent the torturing hours of an interminable night, and still clinging forlornly to his battered sense of honor and family pride, Josè again received the Bishop’s summons; and, after the events of the morning already related, faced the angry churchman’s furious tirade, and with it, what he could not have imagined before, a charge of hideous immorality. Then had been set before him a choice between apostasy and acceptance of the assignment to the parish of far-off Simití.

“And now, unpitying Fate,” he murmured, as the door of the Bishop’s sanctum closed behind him, and he wandered down through the gloom of the quiet Cathedral, “receive your victim. You have chosen well your carnal instruments––pride––ecclesiasticism––lust! My crimes? Aye, the very lowest; for I have loved liberty of thought and conscience; I have loved virtue and honor; the pursuits of intellect; the fair; the noble; yea, the better things of life. I have loved my fellow-men; and I have sought their emancipation from the thraldom of ignorance. I have loved truth, and the Christ who revealed it to the dull minds of mortals. Enough! I stand convicted! And––I accept the sentence––I have no desire to resist it. For the end is now not distant!”



The tropical moon shone in her fullness from an unclouded sky. Through the ethereal atmosphere which bathed the storied city her beams fell, plashing noiselessly upon the grim memorials of a stirring past. With a mantle of peace they gently covered the former scenes of violence and strife. With magic, intangible substance they filled out the rents in the grassy walls and smoothed away the scars of battle. The pale luster, streaming through narrow barbican and mildewed arch, touched the decaying ruin of San Felipe with the wand of enchantment, and restored it to pristine freshness and strength. Through the stillness of night the watery vapor streamed upward from garden and patio, and mingled with the scent of flushing roses and tropical buds in a fragrant mist suffused with the moon’s yellow glow.

On the low parapet bordering the eastern esplanade of the city wall the solitary figure of the priest cast a narrow shadow in the pale moonlight. The sounds which eddied the enveloping silence seemed to echo in his ears the tread of mediaeval warriors. In the wraith-like shadows he saw the armored forms of Conquistadores in mortal strife with vulpine buccaneers. In the whirring of the bats which flouted his face he heard the singing of arrows and the hiss of hurled rocks. In the moan of the ocean as it broke on the coral reef below sounded the boom of cannon, the curses of combatants, and the groans of the dying. Here and there moved tonsured monks, now absolving in the name of the peaceful Christ the frenzied defenders of the Heroic City, now turning to hurl curses at the swarming enemy and consign their blackened souls to deepest hell, while holding images of the crucified Saviour to the quivering lips of stricken warriors.

In the fancied combat raging in the moonlight before him he saw the sons of the house of Rincón manifesting their devotion to Sovereign and Pope, their unshaken faith in Holy Church, their hot zeal which made them her valiant defenders, her support, her humble and devoted slaves for more than three centuries.

What was the charm by which she had held them? And why had its potency failed utterly when directed to him? But they were men of physical action, not thought––men of deeds which called only for brave hearts and stout bodies. It is true, there had been thinkers in those days, when the valiant sons of Rincón hurled the enemy from Cartagena’s walls––but 124 they lay rotting in dungeons––they lay broken on the rack, or hung breathing out their souls to God amid the hot flames which His self-appointed vicars kindled about them. The Rincóns of that day had not been thinkers. But the centuries had finally evolved from their number a man of thought. Alas! the evolution had developed intellect, it is true––but the process had refined away the rugged qualities of animal strength which, without a deeper hold on Truth and the way to demonstrate it than Josè possessed, must leave him the plaything of Fate.

Young in years, but old in sorrow; held by oaths which his ever-accusing sense of honor would not let him break; trembling for his mother’s sake, and for the sake of Rincón pride, lest the ban of excommunication fall upon him; yet little dreaming that Rome had no thought of this while his own peculiar elements of character bound him as they did to her; the man had at last yielded his life to the system which had wrecked it in the name of Christ, and was now awaiting the morrow, when the boat should bear him to far-off Simití. He went resignedly––even with a dull sense of gladness––for he went to die. Life had yielded him nothing––and constituted as he was, it could hold nothing for him in the future.

The glorious moon poured its full splendor upon the quiet city. Through the haze the convent on La Popa sparkled like an enchanted castle, with a pavement of soft moonbeams leading up to its doors. The trill of a distant nightingale rippled the scented air; and from the llanos were borne on the warm land breeze low feral sounds, broken now and then by the plaintive piping of a lonely toucan. The cocoa palms throughout the city stirred dreamily in the tempered moonlight; and the banana trees, bending with their luscious burden, cast great, mysterious shadows, wherein insect life rustled and scampered in nocturnal activity.

“Padre Josè!”

A woman’s voice called from below. The priest leaned over the wall.

“It is Catalina. I have been hunting everywhere. Maria is calling for you. She cannot live long. You will come?”

Come? Yes––ah, why did he let his own misery blind him to the sorrow of others even more unfortunate! Why had he forgotten the little Maria! Descending the broad incline to the road below, Josè hurried with the woman to the bedside of the dying girl. On the way the warm-hearted, garrulous Catalina relieved her troubled and angered soul.

“Padre Lorenzo came this morning. He would not shrive her unless we would pay him first. He said he would do it for 125 ten pesos––then five––and then three. And when we kept telling him that we had no money he told us to go out and borrow it, or he would leave the little Maria to die as she was. He said she was a vile sinner anyway––that she had not made her Easter duty––that she could not have the Sacrament––and her soul would go straight to hell––and there was no redemption! Then he came again this afternoon and said she must die; but he would shrive her for two pesos. And when we told him we could not borrow the money he was terribly angry, and cursed––and Marcelena was frightened––and the little Maria almost died. But I told him to go––that her little soul was whiter than his––and if he went to heaven I didn’t want Maria to go there too––and––!”

The woman’s words burned through the priest’s ears and into his sickened soul. Recovering her breath, Catalina went on:

“It is only a few days ago that the little Maria meets Sister Isabel in the plaza. ‘Ah,’ says Sister Isabel, ‘you are going to be a mother.’

“‘Yes, Sister,’ answers the little Maria, much confused; and she tries to hide behind Marcelena.

“‘It is very dangerous and you will suffer much unless you have a sacred cord of Saint Frances,’ says the Sister. ‘I will bring you one.’

“And then she asks where the little Maria lives; and that very day she brings a piece of rope, with knots in it, which she says the priest has blessed, and it is a sacred cord of Saint Frances, and if the little Maria will wear it around her waist she will not suffer at the parturition; and the little Maria must pay a peso oro for it––and the scared little lamb paid it, for she had saved a little money which Don Carlos Ojeda gave her for washing––and she wore it when the babe was born; but it didn’t help her––”

Dios!” ejaculated the priest.

“And Marcelena had paid a peso y medio,” continued the excited woman, “for a candle that Sister Natalia told her had come from the altar of the Virgin of Santander and was very holy and would help one through confinement. But the candle went out; and it was only a round stick of wood with a little piece of candle on the end. And I––Padre, I could not help it, I would do anything for the poor child––I paid two pesos oro for a new escapulario for her. Sister Natalia said it was very holy––it had been blessed by His Grace, the Bishop, just for women who were to be mothers, and it would carry them through––but if they died, it would take them right out of purgatory––and––!”


“Catalina!” interrupted the tortured priest. “Say no more!”

“But, Padre, the babe,” the woman persisted. “What will become of it? And––do you know?––Padre Lorenzo says it is yours! He told Juanita so––she lives below us. But Maria says no. She has told only Marcelena––and Marcelena will never tell. Who is its father, Padre?”

The priest, recognizing the inevitable, patiently resigned himself to the woman’s talk without further reply. Presently they turned into the Calle Lazano, and entering the house where Marcelena had greeted him that morning, mounted to the chamber above where lay the little Maria.

A single candle on a table near the head of the bed shed a flickering, uncertain light. But the window was open, and the moon’s beams poured into the room in golden profusion. Aside from the girl, there were no other occupants than Marcelena and the new-born child.

“Padre,” murmured the passing girl, “you will not let me die without the Sacrament?”

“No, child,” replied the priest, bending over her, hot tears streaming down his cheeks as she kissed his hand.

The girl had been beautiful, a type of that soft, southern beauty, whose graces of form, full, regular features, and rich olive tint mark them as truly Spanish, with but little admixture of inferior blood. Her features were drawn and set now; but her great, brown eyes which she raised to the priest were luminous with a wistful eagerness that in this final hour became sacred.

“Marcelena,” the priest hurriedly whispered to the woman. “I have no––but it matters not now; she need not know that I come unprepared. She must pass out of the world happy at last.”

“There is a drop of wine that the doctor left; and I will fetch a bit of bread,” replied the woman, catching the meaning of the priest’s words.

“Bring it; and I will let her confess now.”

Bending over the sinking girl, the priest bade her reveal the burden resting on her conscience.

Carita,” he said tenderly, when the confession was ended, “fear not. The blessed Saviour died for you. He went to prepare a place for you and for us all. He forgave the sinful woman––carita, he forgives you––yes, freely, gladly. He loves you, little one. Fear not what Padre Lorenzo said. He is a sinful priest. Forget all now but the good Saviour, who stands with open arms––with a smile on his beautiful face––to welcome his dear child––his little girl––you, carita, you.”

“Padre––my babe?”


“Yes, child, it shall be cared for.”

“But not by the Sisters”––excitedly––“not in an asylum––Padre, promise me!”

“There, carita, it shall be as you wish.”

“And you will care for it?”

“I, child?––ah, yes, I will care for it.”

The girl sank back again with a smile of happiness. A deep silence fell upon the room. At the feet of the priest Catalina huddled and wept softly. Marcelena, in the shadow of the bed where she might not be seen, rocked silently back and forth with breaking heart.

“Padre––you will––say Masses for me?” The words were scarcely audible.

“Yes, carita.”

“I––have no money––no money. He promised to give me––money––and clothes––”

“There, carita, I will say Masses for you without money––every day, for a year. And you shall have clothes––ah, carita, in heaven you shall have everything.”

The candle sputtered, and went out. The moon flooded the room with ethereal radiance.

“Padre––lift me up––it grows dark––oh, Padre, you are so good to me––so good.”

“No, child, it is not I who am good to you, but the blessed Christ. See him, carita––there––there in the moonlight he stands!”

The smoke from a neighboring chimney drifted slowly past the window and shone white in the silvery beams. The girl, supported by the arm of the priest, gazed at it through dimming eyes in reverent awe.

“Padre,” she whispered, “it is the Saviour! Pray to him for me.”

“Yes, child.” And turning toward the window the priest extended his hand.

“Blessed Saviour,” he prayed, “this is one of thy stricken lambs, lured by the wolf from the fold. And we have brought her back. Dost thou bid her come?”

The sobs of the weeping woman at his feet floated through the room.

“Ah, thou tender and pitying Master––best friend of the sinning, the sick, and the sorrowing––we offer to thee this bruised child. We find no sin, no guile, in her; for after the ignorant code of men she has paid the last farthing for satisfying the wolf’s greed. Dost thou bid her come?”

In the presence of death he felt his own terrible impotence. Of what avail then was his Christianity? Or the Church’s 128 traditional words of comfort? The priest’s tears fell fast. But something within––perhaps that “something not ourselves”––the voice of Israel’s almost forgotten God––whispered a hope that blossomed in this petition of tenderest love and pity. He had long since ceased to pray for himself; but in this, the only prayer that had welled from his chilled heart in months, his pitying desire to humor the wishes of a dying girl had unconsciously formulated his own soul’s appeal.

“Blessed Saviour, take her to thine arms; shield her forever more from the carnal lust of the wolf; lift her above the deadening superstitions and hypocritical creeds of those who touch but to stain; take her, Saviour, for we find her pure, innocent, clean; suffering and sorrow have purged away the sin. Dost thou bid her come?”

The scent of roses and orange blossoms from the garden below drifted into the room on the warm breeze. A bird, awakened by the swaying of its nest, peeped a few sweet notes of contentment, and slept again.

“We would save her––we would cure her––but we, too, have strayed from thee and forgotten thy commands––and the precious gift of healing which thou didst leave with men has long been lost. But thou art here––thy compassionate touch still heals and saves. Jesus, unique son of God, behold thy child. Wilt thou bid her come?”

“What says he, Padre?” murmured the sinking girl.

The priest bent close to her.

“He says come, carita––come!”

With a fluttering sigh the tired child sank back into the priest’s arms and dropped softly into her long sleep.


The twisted, turbid “Danube of New Granada,” under the gentle guidance of its patron, Saint Mary Magdalene, threads the greater part of its sinuous way through the heart of Colombia like an immense, slow-moving morass. Born of the arduous tropic sun and chill snows, and imbued by the river god with the nomadic instinct, it leaps from its pinnacled cradle and rushes, sparkling with youthful vigor, down precipice and perpendicular cliff; down rocky steeps and jagged ridges; whirling in merry, momentary dance in shaded basins; singing in swirling eddies; roaring in boisterous cataracts, to its mad plunge over the lofty wall of Tequendama, whence it subsides into the dignity of broad maturity, and begins its 129 long, wandering, adult life, which slowly draws to a sluggish old age and final oblivion in the infinite sea. Toward the close of its meandering course, long after the follies and excesses of early life, it takes unto itself a consort, the beautiful Cauca; and together they flow, broadening and deepening as life nears its end; merging their destinies; sharing their burdens; until at last, with labors ended, they sink their identities in the sunlit Caribbean.

When the simple-minded Conquistadores first pushed their frail cockleshells out into the gigantic embouchure of this tawny stream and looked vainly for the opposite shore, veiled by the dewy mists of a glittering morn, they unconsciously crossed themselves and, forgetful for the moment of greed and rapine and the lust of gold, stood in reverent awe before the handiwork of their Creator. Ere the Spaniard had laid his fell curse upon this ancient kingdom of the Chibchas, the flowering banks of the Magdalena, to-day so mournfully characterized by their frightful solitudes, were an almost unbroken village from the present coast city of Barranquilla to Honda, the limit of navigation, some nine hundred miles to the south. The cupidity of the heartless, bigoted rabble from mediaeval slums which poured into this wonderland late in the sixteenth century laid waste this luxuriant vale and exterminated its trustful inhabitants. Now the warm airs that sigh at night along the great river’s uncultivated borders seem still to echo the gentle laments of the once happy dwellers in this primitive paradise.

Sitting in the rounded bow of the wretched riverine steamer Honda, Padre Josè de Rincón gazed with vacant eyes upon the scenery on either hand. The boat had arrived from Barranquilla that morning, and was now experiencing the usual exasperating delay in embarking from Calamar. He had just returned to it, after wandering for hours through the forlorn little town, tormented physically by the myriad mosquitoes, and mentally by a surprising eagerness to reach his destination. He could account for the latter only on the ground of complete resignation––a feeling experienced by those unfortunate souls who have lost their way in life, and, after vain resistance to molding circumstances, after the thwarting of ambitions, the quenching of ideals, admit defeat, and await, with something of feverish anticipation, the end. He had left Cartagena early that morning on the ramshackle little train which, after hours of jolting over an undulating roadbed, set him down in Calamar, exhausted with the heat and dust-begrimed. He had not seen the Bishop nor Wenceslas since the interview of the preceding day. Before his departure, however, he had made provision for the burial of the girl, Maria, and the disposal of her child. 130 This he did at his own expense; and when the demands of doctor and sexton had been met, and he had provided Marcelena with funds for the care of herself and the child for at least a few weeks, his purse was pitiably light.

Late in the afternoon the straggling remnant of a sea breeze drifted up the river and tempered the scorching heat. Then the captain of the Honda drained his last glass of red rum in the posada, reiterated to his political affiliates with spiritous bombast his condensed opinion anent the Government, and dramatically signaled the pilot to get under way.

Beyond the fact that Simití lay somewhere behind the liana-veiled banks of the great river, perhaps three hundred miles from Cartagena, the priest knew nothing of his destination. There were no passengers bound for the place, the captain had told him; nor had the captain himself ever been there, although he knew that one must leave the boat at a point called Badillo, and thence go by canoe to the town in question.

But Josè’s interest in Simití was only such as one might manifest in a prison to which he was being conveyed. And, as a prisoner of the Church, he inwardly prayed that his remaining days might be few. The blows which had fallen, one after another, upon his keen, raw nerves had left him benumbed. The cruel bruises which his faith in man had received in Rome and Cartagena had left him listless, and without pain. He was accepting the Bishop’s final judgment mutely, for he had already borne all that human nature could endure. His severance from a life of faith and love was complete.

Nor could Josè learn when he might hope to reach Badillo, though he made listless inquiry.

Na, Señor Padre,” the captain had said, “we never know where to find the water. It is on the right to-day; on the left to-morrow. There is low tide to-night; the morning may see it ten feet higher. And Badillo––quien sabe? It might be washed away when we arrive.” And he shrugged his shoulders in complete disclaimer of any responsibility therefor.

The captain’s words were not idle, for the channel of the mighty river changes with the caprice of a maiden’s heart. With irresistible momentum the tawny flood rolls over the continent, now impatiently ploughing its way across a great bend, destroying plantations and abruptly leaving towns and villages many miles inland; now savagely filching away the soft loam banks beneath little settlements and greedily adding broad acres to the burden of its surcharged waters. Mighty giants of the forest, wrested from their footholds of centuries, plunge with terrifying noise into the relentless stream; great masses of earth, still cohering, break from their moorings and 131 glide into the whirling waters, where, like immense islands, they journey bobbing and tumbling toward the distant sea.

Against the strong current, whose quartzose sediment tinkled metallically about her iron prow, the clumsy Honda made slow headway. She was a craft of some two hundred tons burden, with iron hull, stern paddle wheel, and corrugated metal passenger deck and roof. Below the passenger deck, and well forward on the hull, stood the huge, wood-burning boiler, whose incandescent stack pierced the open space where the gasping travelers were forced to congregate to get what air they might. Midway on this deck she carried a few cabins at either side. These, bare of furnishings, might accommodate a dozen passengers, if the insufferable heat would permit them to be occupied. Each traveler was obliged to supply his own bedding, and likewise hammock, unless not too discriminating to use the soiled cot provided. Many of those whose affairs necessitated river travel––and there was no other mode of reaching the interior––were content at night to wrap a light blanket about them and lie down under their mosquito nets on the straw mats––petates––with which every peon goes provided. Of service, there was none that might be so designated. A few dirty, half-dressed negro boys from the streets of Barranquilla performed the functions of steward, waiting on table with unwashed hands, helping to sling hammocks, or assisting with the carving of the freshly killed beef on the slippery deck below. Accustomed as he had been to the comforts of Rome, and to the less elaborate though still adequate accommodations which Cartagena afforded, Josè viewed his prison boat with sinking heart. Iron hull, and above it the glowing boiler; over this the metal passenger deck; and above that the iron roof, upon which the fierce tropical sun poured its flaming heat all day; clouds of steam and vapor from the hot river enveloping the boat––had the Holy Inquisition itself sought to devise the most refined torture for a man of delicate sensibilities like Josè de Rincón, it could not have done better than send him up the great river at this season and on that miserable craft, in company with his own morbid and soul-corroding thoughts.

The day wore on; and late in the evening the Honda docked at the pretentious town of Maganguey, the point of transfer for the river Cauca. Like the other passengers, from whom he had held himself reservedly aloof, Josè gladly seized the opportunity to divert his thoughts for a few moments by going ashore. But the moments stretched into hours; and when he finally learned that the boat would not leave until daybreak, he lapsed into a state of sullen desperation which, but for the Rincón stubbornness, would have precipitated him into the 132 dark stream. Aimlessly he wandered about the town, avoiding any possible rencontre with priests, or with his fellow-passengers, many of whom, together with the bacchanalian captain, he saw in the various cantinas, making merry over rum and the native anisado.

The moon rose late, bathing the whitewashed town in a soft sheen and covering with its yellow veil the filth and squalor which met the priest at every turn as he wandered through its ill-lighted streets. Maganguey in plan did not depart from the time-honored custom of the Spaniards, who erected their cities by first locating the church, and then building the town around it. So long as the church had a good location, the rest of the town might shift for itself. Some of the better buildings dated from the old colonial period, and had tile roofs and red brick floors. Many bore scars received in the internecine warfare which has raged in the unhappy country with but brief intervals of peace since the days of Spanish occupation. But most of the houses were of the typical mud-plastered, palm-thatched variety, with dirt floors and scant furniture. Yet even in many of these Josè noted pianos and sewing machines, generally of German make, at which the housewife was occupied, while naked babes and squealing pigs––the latter of scarcely less value than the former––fought for places of preferment on the damp and grimy floors.

Wandering, blindly absorbed in thought, into a deserted road which branched off from one of the narrow streets on the outskirts of the town, Josè stumbled upon a figure crouching in the moonlight. Almost before he realized that it was a human being a hand had reached up and caught his.

Buen Padre!” came a thick voice from the mass, “for the love of the good Virgin, a few pesos!”

A beggar––perhaps a bandit! Ah, well; Josè’s purse was light––and his life of no value. So, recovering from his start, he sought in his pockets for some billetes. But––yes, he remembered that after purchasing his river transportation in Calamar he had carefully put his few remaining bills in his trunk.

Amigo, I am sorry, but I have no money with me,” he said regretfully. “But if you will come to the boat I will gladly give you something there.”

At this the figure emitted a scream of rage, and broke into a torrent of sulphurous oaths. “Na, the Saints curse you beggarly priests! You have no money, but you rob us poor devils with your lies, and then leave us to rot to death!”

“But, amigo, did I not say––” began Josè soothingly.


Maldito!” shrilled the figure; “may Joseph and Mary and Jesus curse you! A million curses on you, maldito!” Pulling itself upward, the shapeless thing sank its teeth deep into the priest’s hand.

With a cry of pain the startled Josè tore himself loose, his hand dripping with blood. At the same time the figure fell over into the road and its enveloping rags slipped off, disclosing in the bright moonlight a loathsome, distorted face and elephantine limbs, covered with festering sores.

“Good God!” cried Josè, recoiling. “A leper!”

Turning swiftly from the hideous object, his brain awhirl with the horrible nightmare, the priest fled blindly from the scene. Nauseated, quivering with horror, with the obscene ravings of the leper still ringing in his ears, he stumbled about the town until daybreak, when the boat’s shrieking whistle summoned him to embark.

The second day on the river seemed to Josè intolerable, as he shifted about the creaking, straining tub to avoid the sun’s piercing rays and the heat which, drifting back from the hot stack forward, enveloped the entire craft. There were but few passengers, some half dozen men and two slatternly attired women. Whither they were bound, he knew not, nor cared; and, though they saluted him courteously, he studiously avoided being drawn into their conversations. The emotional appeal of the great river and its forest-lined banks did not at first affect him. Yet he sought forgetfulness of self by concentrating his thought upon them.

The massed foliage constituted an impenetrable wall on either side. Everywhere his eyes met a maze of lianas, creeping plants, begonias, and bizarre vegetable forms, shapes and hues of which he had never before had any adequate conception. Often he caught the glint of great, rare butterflies hovering in the early sunlight which filtered through the interlaced fronds and branches. Often when the boat hugged the bank he saw indescribable buds and blossoms, and multicolored orchids clinging to the drooping bejucos which festooned the enormous trees. As the afternoon waned and the sun hung low, the magic stillness of the solitude began to cast its spell about him, and he could imagine that he was penetrating a fairy-land. The vast stream, winding, broadening, ramifying round wooded islets, throwing out long, dusky lagoons and swampy arms, incessantly plying its numberless activities, at length held him enraptured. As he brooded over it all, his thought wandered back to the exploits of the intrepid Quesada and his stalwart band who, centuries before, had forced their perilous way along this same river, amid showers of poisoned 134 arrows from hostile natives, amid the assaults of tropical storms and malarial fevers, to the plateau of Cundinamarca, the home of the primitive Muiscas; and there gathering fresh strength and inspiration, had pushed on to the site of Santa Fé de Bogotá.

A cry suddenly rang through the boat. “Man overboard!”

The clang of the pilot’s bell stopped the clumsy craft; but not before the ragged little negro boy who had served at Josè’s table as steward had been swept far away by the rapid current.

The utmost confusion immediately prevailed. Every one of the rabble rout of stokers, stewards, and stevedores lost his wits and set up a frenzied yell. Some who remembered that there was such a thing, tore at the ropes which held the single lifeboat. But the boat had been put on for appearance’s sake, not for service, and successfully resisted all efforts at removal. No one dared risk his life in attempted rescue, for the river swarmed with crocodiles. There was vain racing, counseling and gesticulating; but at length, the first wave of excitement over, passengers and crew settled down to watch the outcome of the boy’s struggle for life, while the pilot endeavored to turn the unwieldy steamer about.

“Now is the time to put up a prayer for the youngster, Padre,” said a voice behind Josè.

The priest turned. The speaker was evidently a native Colombian. Josè had noticed him on the boat when he embarked at Calamar, and surmised that he had probably come up from Barranquilla.

“An excellent opportunity to try the merits of a prayer to the Virgin, no? If she can fish us out of purgatory she ought to pull this boy out of the river, eh?” continued the speaker with a cynical smile.

“I would rather trust to a canoe and a pair of stout arms than a prayer at present,” returned Josè with candor.

Corriente!” replied the man; “my way of thinking, exactly! But if I had a good rifle now I’d put that little fellow out of his misery, for he’s going down, sure!”

It was not unkindly said; and Josè appreciated the man’s rude sentiment. Minutes passed in strained silence.

Hombre!” cried the man. “He’s going!”

The lad was evidently weakening. The rapid, swirling current continually frustrated his efforts to reach the shore. Again the head went under.

Dios!” Josè exclaimed. “Is there no help?”

Jesus had walked the waves. Yet here his earthly representative, trained in all the learning and culture of Holy Church to be an Alter Christus, stood helplessly by and watched a 135 child drown! God above! what avail religious creed and churchly dogma? How impotent the beliefs of men in such an hour! Could the Holy Father himself, with all his assumptions, spiritual and temporal––with all his power to loose from sin and from the imaginary torments of purgatory––save this drowning boy?

Josè turned away in bitterness of heart. As he did so a murmur of awe arose from the spectators. The priest looked again down the river. Impelled from below, the body of the boy was hurled out of the water. Then, as it fell, it disappeared.

Cayman!” gasped the horrified crew.

Josè stood spellbound, as the ghastly truth dawned upon him. A crocodile, gliding beneath the struggling lad, had tossed him upward, and caught him in its loathsome jaws when he fell. Then it had dragged him beneath the yellow waters, where he was seen no more.

Life is held cheaply by the Magdalena negro––excepting his own. Shiftless and improvident child of the tropics, his animal wants are readily satisfied by the fruits and fish which nature provides for him so bountifully. Spiritual wants he has none––until calamity touches him and he thinks he is about to die. Then witchcraft, charm, incantation, the priest––anything that promises help is hurriedly pressed into requisition to prolong his useless existence. If he recovers, he forgets it all as hurriedly. The tragedy which had just been enacted before the Honda’s crew produced a ripple of excitement––a momentary stirring of emotion––and was then speedily forgotten, while the boat turned and drove its way up-stream against the muddy waters.

But Josè could not forget. Nature had endowed him with a memory which recorded as minutely and as lastingly as the phonographic cylinder. The violent death of the boy haunted him, and mingled with the recurrent memories of the sad passing of the little Maria, and his own bitter life experience. Oh, the mystery of it all! The tragedy of life! The sudden blighting of hopes! The ruthless crushing of hearts! What did it mean? Did this infinite variety of good and evil which we call life unite to manifest an infinite Creator? Nay, for then were God more wicked than the lowest sinner! Was evil as real as good, and more powerful? Yes. Did love and the soul’s desire to be and do good count for nothing in the end? No; for the end is death––always death! And after that––who knows?

“We are coming to Banco, Padre,” said the man who had addressed Josè before, rousing him from his doleful meditations 136 and pointing to the lights of the distant town, now shimmering through the gathering dusk.

As the boat with shrilly shrieking whistle drew near the landing, a crowd hurriedly gathered on the bank to receive it. Venders of guava jelly, rude pottery, and straw mats hastily spread out their merchandise on the muddy ground and began to dilate loudly on their merits. A scantily clad man held aloft a rare leopard skin, which he vigorously offered for two pesos gold. Slatternly women, peddling queer delectables of uncertain composition, waved their thin, bare arms and shrilly advertised their wares. Black, naked children bobbed excitedly about; and gaunt dogs and shrieking pigs scampered recklessly through the crowd and added to the general confusion. Here and there Josè could see dignified looking men, dressed in white cotton, and wearing straw––jipijapa––hats. These were merchants, patiently awaiting consignments which they had perhaps ordered months before. Crazy, ramshackle dwellings, perched unsteadily upon long, slender stilts, rose from the water’s edge; but substantial brick buildings of fair size, with red-tile roofs and whitewashed walls, mingled at intervals with the thatched mud huts and rude hovels farther within the town. In a distant doorway he descried a woman nursing a babe at one breast and a suckling pig at the other. Convention is rigid in these Colombian river towns; but it is widely inclusive.

“Come ashore with me, Padre, and forget what is worrying you,” said Josè’s new acquaintance, taking him by the arm. “I have friends here––Hola! Padre Diego Guillermo!” he suddenly called, catching sight of a black-frocked priest standing in the crowd on the shore.

The priest addressed, a short, stout, coarse-featured man of perhaps forty, waved back a vigorous salutation.

Hombre!” the man ejaculated, holding Josè’s arm and starting down the gangplank. “What new deviltry is the rogue up to now!”

The man and the priest addressed as Diego embraced warmly.

“Padre Diego Guillermo Polo, I have the extreme honor to present my friend, the eminent Padre––” ceremoniously waving a hand toward Josè.

“Josè de Rincón,” supplied the latter, bowing.

“Rincón!” murmured the priest Diego. Then, abruptly, “Of Cartagena?”

“Yes,” returned Josè, with awakened interest.

“Not of Don Ignacio––?”

“My grandfather,” Josè replied promptly, and with a touch of pride.


“Ha! he owned much property––many fincas––about here; and farther west, in the Guamocó country, many mines, eh, Don Jorge?” exchanging a significant look with the latter.

“But,” he added, glancing at the perspiring Honda, “this old tub is going to hang up here for the night. So do me the honor, señores, to visit my little cell, and we will fight the cursed mosquitoes over a sip of red rum. I have some of very excellent quality.”

Josè and Don Jorge bowed their acquiescence and followed him up the muddy road. The cell referred to consisted of a suite of several rooms, commodiously furnished, and looking out from the second story of one of the better colonial houses of the town upon a richly blooming interior patio. As the visitors entered, a comely young woman who had just lighted an oil-burning “student” lamp and placed it upon the center table, disappeared into one of the more remote rooms.

“My niece,” said the priest Diego, winking at Don Jorge as he set out cigars and a garrafón of Jamaica rum. “I have ordered a case of American beer,” he continued, lighting a cigar. “But that was two months ago, and it hasn’t arrived yet. Diablo! but the good médico tells me I drink too much rum for this very Christian climate.”

Don Jorge swept the place with an appraising glance. “H’m,” he commented, as he poured himself a liberal libation from the garrafón. “The Lord surely provides for His faithful children.”

“Yes, the Lord, that’s right,” laughed Padre Diego; “still I am daily rendering no small thanks to His Grace, Don Wenceslas, future Bishop of Cartagena.”

“And eminent services into the bargain, I’ll venture,” added Don Jorge.

Padre Diego’s eyes twinkled merrily. Josè started. Then even in this remote town the artful Wenceslas maintained his agent!

“But our friend is neither drinking nor smoking,” said Padre Diego, turning inquiringly to Josè, who had left his glass untouched.

“With your permission,” replied the latter; “I do not use liquor or tobacco.”

“Nor women either, eh?” laughed Padre Diego. “Por Dios! what is it the Dutchman says?

‘Wer nicht liebt Wein, Weib und Gesang,
Der bleibt ein Narr sein Lebenlang.’

Caramba! but my German has all slipped from me.”

“Don’t worry,” commented Don Jorge cynically; “for I’ll wager it took nothing good with it.”


Hombre! but you are hard on a loyal servant of the Lord,” exclaimed Padre Diego in a tone of mock injury, as he drained another glass of the fiery liquor.

“Servant of the Lord!” guffawed Don Jorge. “Of the Lord Pope, Lord Wenceslas, or the Lord God, may we ask?”

Qué chiste! Why, stupid, all three. I do not put all my eggs into one basket, however large. But tell me, now,” he inquired, turning the conversation from himself, “what is it brings you into this region forsaken of the gods?”

Sepulcros,” Don Jorge briefly announced.

“Ha! Indian graves again! But have you abandoned your quest of La Tumba del Diablo, in the Sinu valley?”

“Naturally, since the records show that it was opened centuries ago. And I spent a good year’s search on it, too! Dios! They say it yielded above thirty thousand pesos gold.”


“But I am on the track of others. I go now to Medellin; then to Remedios; and there outfit for a trip of grave hunting through the old Guamocó district.”

“Guamocó! Then you will naturally come down the Simití trail, which brings you out to the Magdalena.”

“Simití?” interrupted Josè eagerly, turning to the speaker. “Do you know the place?”

“Somewhat!” replied Padre Diego, laughing. “I had charge of that parish for a few months––”

“But found it highly convenient to leave, no?” finished the merciless Don Jorge.

Caramba! Would you have me die of ennui in such a hell-hole?” cried Diego with some aspersion.

“Hell-hole!” echoed Josè. “Is it so bad as that?”

Hombre! Yes––worse! They say that after the good Lord created heaven and earth He had a few handfuls of dirt left, and these He threw away. But crafty Satan, always with an eye single to going the Lord one better, slyly gathered this dirt together again and made Simití.” Diego quickly finished another glass of rum, as if he would drown the memory of the town.

Josè’s heart slowly sank under the words.

“But why do you ask? You are not going there?” Padre Diego inquired. Josè nodded an affirmative.

Diablo! Assigned?”

“Yes,” in a voice scarcely audible.

The Padre whistled softly. “Then in that case,” he said, brightening, “we are brother sinners. So let us exchange confidences. What was your crime, if one may ask?”

“Crime!” exclaimed Josè in amazement.


“Aye; who was she? Rich? Beautiful? Native? Or foreign? Come, the story. We have a long night before us.” And the coarse fellow settled back expectantly in his chair.

Josè paled. “What do you mean?” he asked in a trembling voice.

Caramba!” returned the Padre impatiently. “You surely know that no respectable priest is ever sent to Simití! That it is the good Bishop’s penal colony for fallen clergy––and, I may add, the refuge of political offenders of this and adjacent countries. Why, the present schoolmaster there is a political outcast from Salvador!”

“No, I did not know it,” replied Josè.

Por Dios! Then you are being jobbed, amigo! Did Don Wenceslas give you letters to the Alcalde?”


“And––by the way, has Wenceslas been misbehaving of late?––for when he does, somebody other than himself has to settle the score.”

Josè remained silent.

“Ah,” mused Diego, “but Don Wenceslas is artful. And yet, I think I see the direction of his trained hand in this.” Then he burst into a rude laugh. “Come, amigo,” he said, noting Josè’s dejected mien; “let us have your story. We may be able to advise. And we’ve had experience––eh, Don Jorge?”

But Josè slowly shook his head. What mattered it now? Simití would serve as well to bury him as any other tomb. He knew he was sent as a lamb to the slaughter. But it was his affair––and his God’s. Honor and conscience had presented the score; and he was paying in full. His was not a story to be bandied about by lewd priests like Padre Diego.

“No,” he replied to the Padre’s insistent solicitations; “with your permission, we will talk of it no more.”

“But––Hombre!” cried the Padre at last, in his coarse way stirred by Josè’s evident truthfulness. “Well––as you wish––I will not pry into your secrets. But, take a bit of counsel from one who knows: when you reach Simití, inquire for a man who hates me, one Rosendo Ariza––”

At this juncture the Honda’s diabolical whistle pierced the murky night air.

Caramba!” cried Don Jorge, starting up. “Are they going to try the river to-night?” And the men hurried back to the landing.

The moon was up, and the boat was getting under way. Padre Diego went aboard to take leave of his friends.

Bien, amigo,” he said to Don Jorge; “I am sorry your stay is so short. I had much to tell you. Interesting developments 140 are forward, and I hope you are well out of Guamocó when the trouble starts. For the rivals of Antioquia and Simití will pay off a few scores in the next revolution––a few left over from the last; and it would be well not to get caught between them when they come together.”

“And so it is coming?” said Don Jorge thoughtfully.

“Coming! Hombre! It is all but here! The Hercules went up-river yesterday. You will pass her. She has gone to keep a look-out in the vicinity of Puerto Berrio. I am sorry for our friend,” nodding toward Josè, who was leaning over the boat’s rail at some distance; “but there is a job there. He doesn’t belong in this country. And Simití will finish him.”

“Bah! only another priest less––and a weak-kneed one at that,” said Don Jorge with contempt; “and we have too many of them now, Lord knows!”

“You forget that I am a priest,” chuckled Diego.

“You! Yes, so you are,” laughed Don Jorge; “but of the diocese of hell! Well, we’re off. I’ll send a runner down the trail when I reach the Tiguí river; and if you will have a letter in Simití informing me of the status of things political, he can bring it up. Conque, adios, my consummate villain.”

The Honda, whistling prodigiously, swung out into mid-stream and set her course up-river, warily feeling through the velvety darkness for the uncertain channel. Once she grated over a hidden bar and hung for a few moments, while her stack vomited torrents of sparks and her great wheel angrily churned the water into creamy foam in the clear moonlight. Once, rounding a sharp bend, she collided squarely with a huge mahogany tree, rolling and plunging menacingly in the seaward rushing waters.

Diablo!” muttered Don Jorge, as he helped Josè swing his hammock and adjust the mosquito netting. “I shall offer a candle a foot thick to the blessed Virgin if I reach Puerto Berrio safely! Santo Dios!” as the boat grazed another sand bar. “I’ve heard tell of steamers hanging up on bars in this river for six weeks! And look!” pointing to the projecting smoke-stack of a sunken steamer. “Caramba! That is what we just escaped!”

But Josè manifested slight interest in the dangers of river navigation. His thoughts were revolving about the incidents of the past few days, and, more especially, about Padre Diego and his significant words. Don Jorge had volunteered no further explanation of the man or his conversation; and Josè’s reticence would not permit him to make other inquiry. But, after all, his thought-processes always evolved the same conclusion: What mattered it now? His interest in life was at 141 an end. He had not told Don Jorge of his experience with the leper in Maganguey. He was trying to forget it. But his hand ached cruelly; and the pain was always associated with loathsome and repellant thoughts of the event.

The eastern sky was blushing at the approach of the amorous sun when Josè left his hammock and prepared to endure another day on the river. To the south the deep blue vault of heaven was dotted with downy clouds. Behind the laboring steamer the river glittered through a dazzling white haze. Ahead, its course was traceable for miles by the thin vapor always rising from it. The jungle on either side was brilliant with color and resonant with the songs of forest lyrists. In the lofty fronds of venerable palms and cedars noisy macaws gossiped and squabbled, and excited monkeys discussed the passing boat and commented volubly on its character. In the shallow water at the margin of the river blue herons and spindle-legged cranes were searching out their morning meal. Crocodiles lay dozing on the playas, with mouths opened invitingly to the stupid birds which were sure to yield to the mesmerism. Far in the distance up-stream a young deer was drinking at the water’s edge.

The charm of the rare scene held the priest spellbound. As he gazed upon it a king vulture––called by the natives the Vulture Papa, or Pope Vulture––suddenly swooped down from the depths of heaven and, lighting upon the carcass of a monster crocodile floating down the river, began to feast upon the choicest morsels, while the buzzards which had been circling about the carrion and feeding at will respectfully withdrew until the royal appetite should be satiated.

“Holy graft, eh, Padre?” commented Don Jorge, coming up. “Those brainless buzzards, if they only knew it and had sense enough to unite, could strip every feather off that swaggering vulture and send him packing. Fools! And we poor Colombians, if we had the courage, could as easily throw the Church into the sea, holy candles, holy oils, holy incense and all! Diablo! But we are fleeced like sheep!”

To Josè it did not seem strange that this man should speak so frankly to him, a priest. He felt that Don Jorge was not so much lacking in courtesy and delicate respect for the feelings and opinions of others as he was ruggedly honest and fearlessly sincere in his hatred of the dissimulation and graft practiced upon the ignorant and unsuspecting. For the rest of the day Don Jorge was busy with his maps and papers, and Josè was left to himself.

The character of the landscape had altered with the narrowing 142 of the stream, and the river-plain now lay in a great volcanic basin flanked by distant verdure-clad hills. Far to the southwest Josè could see the faint outlines of the lofty Cordilleras. Somewhere in that direction lay Simití. And back of it lay the ancient treasure house of Spain, where countless thousands of sweating slaves had worn out their straining bodies under the goad and lash, that the monarchs of Castile might carry on their foolish religious wars and attempt their vain projects of self-aggrandizement.

The day wore on without interest, and darkness closed in quickly when the sun dropped behind the Sierras. It was to be Josè’s last night on the Magdalena, for the captain had told him that, barring disaster, the next afternoon should find them at Badillo. After the evening meal the priest took his chair to the bow of the steamer and gave himself over to the gentle influences of the rare and soothing environment. The churning of the boat was softly echoed by the sleeping forest. The late moon shimmered through clouds of murky vapor, and cast ghostly reflections along the broad river. The balmy air, trembling with the radiating heat, was impregnated with sweetest odors from the myriad buds and balsamic plants of the dark jungle wilderness on either hand, where impervious walls rose in majestic, deterrant, awesome silence from the low shore line, and tangled shrubs and bushes, rioting in wild profusion, jealously hung to the water’s edge that they might hide every trace of the muddy banks. What shapes and forms the black depths of that untrodden bush hid from his eyes, Josè might only imagine. But he felt their presence––crawling, creeping things that lay in patient ambush for their unwitting prey––slimy lizards, gorgeously caparisoned––dank, twisting serpents––elephantine tapirs––dull-witted sloths––sleek, wary jaguars––fierce formicidae, poisonous and carnivorous. He might not see them, but he felt that he was the cynosure of hundreds of keen eyes that followed him as the boat glided close to the shore and silently crept through the shadows which lay thick upon the river’s edge. And the matted jungle, with its colossal vegetation, he felt was peopled with other things––influences intangible, and perhaps still unreal, but mightily potent with the symbolized presence of the great Unknown, which stands back of all phenomena and eagerly watches the movements of its children. These influences had already cast their spell upon him. He was yielding, slowly, to the “lure of the tropics,” which few who come under its attachment ever find the strength to dispel.

No habitations were visible on the dark shores. Only here and there in the yellow glow of the boat’s lanterns appeared the 143 customary piles of wood which the natives sell to the passing steamers for boiler fuel, and which are found at frequent intervals along the river. At one of these the Honda halted to replenish its supply. The usual bickering between the negro owner and the boat captain resulted in a bargain, and the half-naked stevedores began to transfer the wood to the vessel, carrying it on their shoulders in the most primitive manner, held in a strip of burlap. The rising moon had at last thrown off its veil of murky clouds, and was shining in undimmed splendor in a starry sky. Josè went ashore with the passengers; for the boat might remain there for hours while her crew labored leisurely, with much bantering and singing, and no anxious thought for the morrow.

The strumming of a tiple in the distance attracted him. Following it, he found a small settlement of bamboo huts hidden away in a beautiful grove of moriche palms, through which the moonbeams filtered in silvery stringers. Little gardens lay back of the dwellings, and the usual number of goats and pigs were dozing in the heavy shadows of the scarcely stirring trees. Reserved matrons and shy doncellas appeared in the doorways; and curious children, naked and chubby, hid in their mothers’ scant skirts and peeped cautiously out at the newcomers. The tranquil night was sweet with delicate odors wafted from numberless plants and blossoms in the adjacent forest, and with the fragrance breathed from the roses, gardenias and dahlias with which these unpretentious dwellings were fairly embowered. A spirit of calm and peaceful contentment hovered over the spot, and the round, white moon smiled down in holy benediction upon the gentle folk who passed their simple lives in this bower of delight, free from the goad of human ambition, untrammeled by the false sense of wealth and its entailments, and unspoiled by the artificialities of civilization.

One of the passengers suggested a dance, while waiting for the boat to take on its fuel. The owner of the wood, apparently the chief authority of the little settlement, immediately procured a tom-tom, and gave orders for the baile. At his direction men, women and children gathered in the moonlit clearing on the river bank and, while the musician beat a monotonous tattoo on the crude drum, circled about in the stately and dignified movements of their native dance.

It was a picture that Josè would not forget. The balmy air, soft as velvet, and laden with delicious fragrance; the vast solitude, stretching in trackless wilderness to unknown reaches on either hand; the magic stillness of the tropic night; the figures of the dancers weirdly silhouetted in the gorgeous moonlight; with the low, unvaried beat of the tom-tom rising dully 144 through the warm air––all merged into a scene of exquisite beauty and delight, which made an indelible impression upon the priest’s receptive mind.

And when the sounds of simple happiness had again died into silence, and he lay in his hammock, listening to the spirit of the jungle sighing through the night-blown palms, as the boat glided gently through the lights and shadows of the quiet river, his soul voiced a nameless yearning, a vague, unformed longing for an approach to the life of simple content and child-like happiness of the kind and gentle folk with whom he had been privileged to make this brief sojourn.

The crimson flush of the dawn-sky heralded another day of implacable heat. The emerald coronals of palms and towering caobas burned in the early beams of the torrid sun. Light fogs rose reluctantly from the river’s bosom and dispersed in delicate vapors of opal and violet. The tangled banks of dripping bush shone freshly green in the misty light. The wilderness, grim and trenchant, reigned in unchallenged despotism. Solitude, soul-oppressing, unbroken but for the calls of feathered life, brooded over the birth of Josè’s last day on the Magdalena. About midday the steamer touched at the little village of Bodega Central; but the iron-covered warehouse and the whitewashed mud hovels glittered garishly in the fierce heat and stifled all desire to go ashore. The call was brief, and the boat soon resumed its course through the solitude and heat of the mighty river.

Immediately after leaving Bodega Central, Don Jorge approached Josè and beckoned him to an unoccupied corner of the boat.

Amigo,” he began, after assuring himself that his words would not carry to the other passengers, “the captain tells me the next stop is Badillo, where you leave us. If all goes well you will be in Simití to-night. No doubt a report of our meeting with Padre Diego has already reached Don Wenceslas, who, you may be sure, has no thought of forgetting you. I have no reason to tell you this other than the fact that I think, as Padre Diego put it, you are being jobbed––not by the Church, but by Wenceslas. I want to warn you, that is all. I hate priests! They got me early––got my wife and girl, too! I hate the Church, and the whole ghastly farce which it puts over on the ignorant people of this country! But––,” eying him sharply, “I would hardly class you as a real priest. There, never mind!” as Josè was about to interrupt. “I think I understand. You simply went wrong. You meant well, but something happened––as always does when one means well in this world. But now to the point.”


Shifting his chair closer to Josè, the man resumed earnestly.

“Your grandfather, Don Ignacio, was a very rich man. The war stripped him. He got just what he deserved. His fincas and herds and mines melted away from him like grease from a holy candle. And nobody cared––any more than the Lord cares about candle grease. Most of his property fell into the hands of his former slaves––and he had hundreds of them hereabouts. But his most valuable possession, the great mine of La Libertad, disappeared as completely as if blotted from the face of the earth.

“That mine––no, not a mine, but a mountain of free gold––was located somewhere in the Guamocó district. After the war this whole country slipped back into the jungle, and had to be rediscovered. The Guamocó region is to-day as unknown as it was before the Spaniards came. Somewhere in the district, but covered deep beneath brush and forest growth, is that mine, the richest in Colombia.

“Now, as you know, Don Ignacio left this country in considerable of a hurry. But I think he always intended to come back again. Death killed that ambition. I don’t know about his sons. But the fact remains that La Libertad has never been rediscovered since Don Ignacio’s day. The old records in Cartagena show the existence of such a mine in Spanish times, and give a more or less accurate statement of its production. Diablo! I hesitate to say how much! The old fellow had arrastras, mills, and so on, in which slaves crushed the ore. The bullion was melted into bars and brought down the trail to Simití, where he had agents and warehouses and a store or two. From there it was shipped down the river to Cartagena. But the war lasted thirteen years. And during that time everything was in a state of terrible confusion. The existence of mines was forgotten. The plantations were left unworked. The male population was all but killed off. And the country sank back into wilderness.

Bueno; so much for history. Now to your friends on the coast––and elsewhere. Don Wenceslas is quietly searching for that mine––has been for years. He put his agent, Padre Diego, in Simití to learn what he might there. But the fool priest was run out after he had ruined a woman or two. However, Padre Diego is still in close touch with the town, and is on the keen search for La Libertad. Wenceslas thinks there may be descendants of some of Don Ignacio’s old slaves still living in Simití, or near there, and that they know the location of the lost mine. And, if I mistake not, he figures that you will learn the secret from them in some way, and that the mine will again come to light. Now, if you get wind of that mine and attempt 146 to locate it, or purchase it from the natives, you will be beaten out of it in a hurry. And you may be sure Don Wenceslas will be the one who will eventually have it, for there is no craftier, smoother, brighter rascal in Colombia than he. And so, take it from me, if you ever get wind of the location of that famous property––which by rights is yours, having belonged to your grandfather––keep the information strictly to yourself!

“I do not know Simití. But I shall be working in the Guamocó district for many months to come, hunting Indian graves. I shall have my runners up and down the Simití trail frequently, and may get in touch with you. It may be that you will need a friend. There! The boat is whistling for Badillo. A last word: Keep out of the way of both Wenceslas and Diego––cultivate the people of Simití––and keep your mouth closed.”

A few minutes later Josè stood on the river bank beside his little haircloth trunk and traveling bag, sadly watching the steamer draw away and resume her course up-stream. He watched it until it disappeared around a bend. And then he stood watching the smoke rise above the treetops, until that, too, faded in the distance. No one had waved him a farewell from the boat. No one met him with a greeting of welcome on the shore. He was a stranger among strangers.

He turned, with a heavy heart, to note his environment. It was a typical riverine point. A single street, if it might be so called; a half dozen bamboo dwellings, palm-thatched; and a score of natives, with their innumerable gaunt dogs and porcine companions––this was Badillo.

Señor Padre.” A tall, finely built native, clad in soiled white cotton shirt and trousers, approached and addressed him in a kindly tone. “Where do you go?”

“To Simití,” replied the priest, turning eagerly to the man. “But,” in bewilderment, “where is it?”

“Over there,” answered the native, pointing to the jungle on the far side of the river. “Many leagues.”

The wearied priest sat down on his trunk and buried his face in his hands. Faintness and nausea seized him. It was the after-effect of his long and difficult river experience. Or, perhaps, the deadly malaria was beginning its insidious poisoning. The man approached and laid a hand on his shoulder.

“Padre, why do you go to Simití?”

Josè raised his head and looked more closely at his interlocutor. The native was a man of perhaps sixty years. His figure was that of an athlete. He stood well over six feet high, with massive shoulders, and a waist as slender as a woman’s. His face was almost black in color, and mottled with patches of white, so common to the natives of the hot inlands. But there 147 was that in its expression, a something that looked out through those kindly black eyes, that assured Josè and bespoke his confidence.

The man gravely repeated his question.

“I have been sent there by the Bishop of Cartagena. I am to have charge of the parish,” Josè replied.

The man slowly shook his finely shaped head.

“We want no priest in Simití,” he said with quiet firmness. His manner of speaking was abrupt, yet not ungracious.

“But––do you live there?” inquired Josè anxiously.

“Yes, Padre.”

“Then you must know a man––Rosendo, I think his name––”

“I am Rosendo Ariza.”

Josè looked eagerly at the man. Then he wearily stretched out a hand.

“Rosendo––I am sick––I think. And––I have––no friends––”

Rosendo quickly grasped his hand and slipped an arm about his shoulders.

“I am your friend, Padre––” He stopped and appeared to reflect for a moment. Then he added quickly, “My canoe is ready; and we must hurry, or night will overtake us.”

The priest essayed to rise, but stumbled. Then, as if he had been a child, the man Rosendo picked him up and carried him down the bank to a rude canoe, where he deposited him on a pile of empty bags in the keel.

“Escolastico!” he called back to a young man who seemed to be the chief character of the village. “Sell the panela and yuccas á buen precio; and remind Captain Julio not to forget on the next trip to bring the little Carmen a doll from Barranquilla. I will be over again next month. And Juan,” addressing the sturdy youth who was preparing to accompany him, “set in the Padre’s baggage; and do you take the paddle, and I will pole. Conque, adioscito!” waving his battered straw hat to the natives congregated on the bank, while Juan pushed the canoe from the shore and paddled vigorously out into the river.

Adioscito! adioscito! Don Rosendo y Juan!” The hearty farewells of the natives followed the canoe far out into the broad stream.

Across the open river in the livid heat of the early afternoon the canoe slowly made its way. The sun from a cloudless sky viciously poured down its glowing rays like molten metal. The boat burned; the river steamed; the water was hot to his touch, when the priest feebly dipped his hands into it and bathed his throbbing brow. Badillo faded from view as they rounded a 148 densely wooded island and entered a long lagoon. Here they lost the slight breeze which they had had on the main stream. In this narrow channel, hemmed in between lofty forest walls of closely woven vines and foliage, it seemed to Josè that they had entered a flaming inferno. The two boatmen sat silent and inscrutable, plying their paddles without speaking.

Down the long lagoon the canoe drifted, keeping within what scant shade the banks afforded, for the sun stood now directly overhead. The heat was everywhere, insistent, unpitying. It burned, scalded, warped. The foliage on either side of the channel merged into the hot waves that rose trembling about them. The thin, burning air enveloped the little craft with fire. Josè gasped for breath. His tongue swelled. His pulse throbbed violently. His skin cracked. The quivering appearance of the atmosphere robbed him of confidence in his own vision. A cloud of insects hung always before his sight. Dead silence lay upon the scene. Not a sound issued from the jungle. Not a bird or animal betrayed its presence. The canoe was edging the Colombian “hells,” where even the denizens of the forest dare not venture forth on the low, open savannas in the killing heat of midday.

Josè sank down in the boat, wilting and semi-delirious. Through his dimmed eyes the boatman looked like glowing inhuman things set in flames. Rosendo came to him and placed his straw hat over his face. Hours, interminable and torturing, seemed to pass on leaden wings. Then Juan, deftly swerving his paddle, shot the canoe into a narrow arm, and the garish sunlight was suddenly lost in the densely intertwined branches overhanging the little stream.

“The outlet of La Cienaga, Padre,” Rosendo offered, laying aside his paddle and taking his long boat pole. “Lake Simití flows through this and into the Magdalena.” For a few moments he held the canoe steady, while from his wallet he drew a few leaves of tobacco and deftly rolled a long, thick cigar.

The real work of the boga now began, and Rosendo with his long punter settled down to the several hours’ strenuous grind which was necessary to force the heavy canoe up the little outlet and into the distant lake beyond. Back and forth he traveled through the half-length of the boat, setting the pole well forward in the soft bank, or out into the stream itself, and then, with its end against his shoulder, urging and teasing the craft a few feet at a time against the strong current. Josè imagined, as he dully watched him, that he could see death in the pestiferous effluvia which emanated from the black, slimy mud which every plunge of the long pole brought to the surface of the narrow stream.


The afternoon slowly waned, and the temperature lowered a few degrees. A warm, animal-like breath drifted languidly out from the moist jungle. The outlet, or caño, was heavily shaded throughout its length. Crocodiles lay along its muddy banks, and slid into the water at the approach of the canoe. Huge iguanas, the gorgeously colored lizards of tropical America, scurried noisily through the overarching branches. Here and there monkeys peeped curiously at the intruders and chattered excitedly as they swung among the lofty treetops. But for his exhaustion, Josè, as he lay propped up against his trunk, gazing vacantly upon the slowly unrolling panorama of marvelous plant and animal life on either hand, might have imagined himself in a realm of enchantment.

At length the vegetation abruptly ceased; the stream widened; and the canoe entered a broad lake, at the far end of which, three miles distant, its two whitewashed churches and its plastered houses reflecting the red glow of the setting sun, lay the ancient and decayed town of Simití, the northern outlet of Spain’s mediaeval treasure house, at the edge of the forgotten district of Guamocó.

Paddling gently across the unruffled surface of the tepid waters, Rosendo and Juan silently urged the canoe through the fast gathering dusk, and at length drew up on the shaly beach of the old town. As they did so, a little girl, bare of feet and with clustering brown curls, came running out of the darkness.

“Oh, padre Rosendo,” she called, “what have you brought me?”

Then, as she saw Rosendo and Juan assisting the priest from the boat, she drew back abashed.

“Look, Carmencita,” whispered Juan to the little maid; “we’ve brought you a big doll, haven’t we?”

Night fell as the priest stepped upon the shore of his new home.



Ay, to save and redeem and restore, snatch Saul, the mistake, Saul, the failure, the ruin he seems now,––and bid him awake from the dream, the probation, the prelude, to find himself set clear and safe in new light and new life,––a new harmony yet to be run and continued and ended.





Josè de Rincón opened his eyes and turned painfully on his hard bed. The early sun streamed through the wooden grating before the unglazed window. A slight, tepid breeze stirred the mosquito netting over him. He was in the single sleeping room of the house. It contained another bed like his own, of rough macana palm strips, over which lay a straw mat and a thin red blanket. Bed springs were unknown in Simití. On the rude door, cobwebbed and dusty, a scorpion clung torpidly. From the room beyond he heard subdued voices. His head and limbs ached dully; and frightful memories of the river trip and the awful journey from Badillo sickened him. With painful exertion he stood upon the moist dirt floor and drew on his damp clothes. He had only a vague recollection of the preceding night, but he knew that Rosendo had half led, half dragged him past rows of dimly lighted, ghostly white houses to his own abode, and there had put him to bed.

Muy buenos dias, Señor Padre,” Rosendo greeted him, as the priest dragged himself out into the living room. “You have slept long. But the señora will soon have your breakfast. Sit here––not in the sun!”

Rosendo placed one of the rough wooden chairs, with straight cowhide back and seat, near the table.

“Carmencita has gone to the boat for fresh water. But––here she comes. Pour the Señor Padre a cup, carita,” addressing a little girl who at that moment entered the doorway, carrying a large earthen bottle on her shoulder. It was the child who had met the boat when the priest arrived the night, before.

“Fill the basin, too, chiquita, that the Padre may wash his hands,” added Rosendo.

The child approached Josè, and with a dignified little courtesy and a frank smile offered him a cup of the lukewarm water. The priest accepted it languidly. But, glancing into her face, his eyes suddenly widened, and the hand that was carrying the tin cup to his lips stopped.


The barefoot girl, clad only in a short, sleeveless calico gown, stood before him like a portrait from an old master. Her skin was almost white, with but a tinge of olive. Her dark brown hair hung in curls to her shoulders and framed a face of rarest beauty. Innocence, purity, and love radiated from her fair features, from her beautifully rounded limbs, from her soft, dark eyes that looked so fearlessly into his own.

Josè felt himself strangely moved. Somewhere deep within his soul a chord had been suddenly struck by the little presence; and the sound was unfamiliar to him. Yet it awakened memories of distant scenes, of old dreams, and forgotten longings. It seemed to echo from realms of his soul that had never been penetrated. The tumult within died away. The raging thought sank into calm. The man forgot himself, forgot that he had come to Simití to die. His sorrow vanished. His sufferings faded. He remained conscious only of something that he could not outline, something in the soul of the child, a thing that perhaps he once possessed, and that he knew he yet prized above all else on earth.

He heard Rosendo’s voice through an immeasurable distance––

“Leave us now, chiquita; the Padre wishes to have his breakfast.”

The child without speaking turned obediently; and the priest’s eyes followed her until she disappeared into the kitchen.

“We call her ‘the smile of God,’” said Rosendo, noting the priest’s absorption, “because she is always happy.”

Josè remained sunk in thought. Then––

“A beautiful child!” he murmured. “A wonderfully beautiful child! I had no idea––!”

“Yes, Padre, she is heaven’s gift to us poor folk. I sometimes think the angels themselves left her on the river bank.”

“On the river bank!” Josè was awake now. “Why––she was not born here?”

“Oh, no, Padre, but in Badillo.”

“Ah, then you once lived in Badillo?”

Na, Señor Padre, she is not my child––except that the good God has given her to me to protect.”

“Not your child! Then whose is she?” The priest’s voice was unwontedly eager and his manner animated.

But Rosendo fell suddenly quiet and embarrassed, as if he realized that already he had said too much to a stranger. A shade of suspicion seemed to cross his face, and he rose hurriedly and went out into the kitchen. A moment later he returned with the priest’s breakfast––two fried eggs, a hot corn arepa, fried platanos, dried fish, and coffee sweetened with panela.


“When you have finished, Padre, we will visit the Alcalde,” he said quietly. “I must go down to the lake now to speak with Juan before he goes out to fish.”

Josè finished his meal alone. The interest which had been aroused by the child continued to increase without reaction. His torpid soul had been profoundly stirred. For the moment, though he knew not why, life seemed to hold a vague, unshaped interest for him. He began to notice his environment; he even thought he relished the coarse food set before him.

The house he was in was a typical native three-room dwelling, built of strips of macana palm, set upright and tied together with pieces of slender, tough bejuco vine. The interstices between the strips were filled with mud, and the whole whitewashed. The floors were dirt, trodden hard; the steep-pitched roof was thatched with palm. A few chairs like the one he occupied, the rude, uncovered table, some cheap prints and a battered crucifix on the wall, were the only furnishings of the living room.

While he was eating, the people of the town congregated quietly about the open door. Friendly curiosity to see the new Padre, and sincere desire to welcome him animated their simple minds. Naked babes crawled to the threshold and peeped timidly in. Coarsely clad women and young girls, many of the latter bedizened with bits of bright ribbon or cheap trinkets, smiled their gentle greetings. Black, dignified men, bare of feet, and wearing white cotton trousers and black ruanas––the cape affected by the poor males of the inlands––respectfully doffed their straw hats and bowed to him. Rosendo’s wife appeared from the kitchen and extended her hand to him in unfeigned hospitality. Attired in a fresh calico gown, her black hair plastered back over her head and tied with a clean black ribbon, her bare feet encased in hemp sandals, she bore herself with that grace and matronly dignity so indicative of her Spanish forbears, and so particularly characteristic of the inhabitants of this “valley of the pleasant ‘yes.’”

Breakfast finished, the priest stepped to the doorway and raised his hand in the invocation that was evidently expected from him.

Dominus vobiscum,” he repeated, not mechanically, not insincerely, but in a spirit of benevolence, of genuine well-wishing, which his contact with the child a few minutes before seemed to have aroused.

The people bent their heads piously and murmured, “Et cum spiritu tuo.

The open door looked out upon the central plaza, where stood a large church of typical colonial design and construction, 6 and with a single lateral bell tower. The building was set well up on a platform of shale, with broad shale steps, much broken and worn, leading up to it on all sides. Josè stepped out and mingled with the crowd, first regarding the old church curiously, and then looking vainly for the little girl, and sighing his disappointment when he did not see her.

In the plaza he was joined by Rosendo; and together they went to the house of the Alcalde. On the way the priest gazed about him with growing curiosity. To the north of the town stretched the lake, known to the residents only by the name of La Cienaga. It was a body of water of fair size, in a setting of exquisite tropical beauty. In a temperate climate, and a region more densely populated, this lake would have been priceless. Here in forgotten Guamocó it lay like an undiscovered gem, known only to those few inert and passive folk, who enjoyed it with an inadequate sense of its rare beauty and immeasurable worth. Several small and densely wooded isles rose from its unrippled bosom; and tropical birds of brilliant color hovered over it in the morning sun. Near one of its margins Josè distinguished countless white garzas, the graceful herons whose plumes yield the coveted aigrette of northern climes. They fed undisturbed, for this region sleeps unmolested, far from the beaten paths of tourist or vandal huntsman. To the west and south lay the hills of Guamocó, and the lofty Cordilleras, purpling in the light mist. Over the entire scene spread a damp warmth, like the atmosphere of a hot-house. By midday Josè knew that the heat would be insufferable.

The Alcalde, Don Mario Arvila, conducted his visitors through his shabby little store and into the patio in the rear, exclaiming repeatedly, “Ah, Señor Padre, we welcome you! All Simití welcomes you and kisses your hand!” In the shade of his arbor he sat down to examine Josè’s letters from Cartagena.

Don Mario was a large, florid man, huge of girth, with brown skin, heavy jowls, puffed eyes, and bald head. As he read, his eyes snapped, and at times he paused and looked up curiously at the priest. Then, without comment, he folded the letters and put them into a pocket of his crash coat.

Bien,” he said politely, “we must have the Padre meet Don Felipe Alcozer as soon as he returns. Some repairs are needed on the church; a few of the roof tiles have slipped, and the rain enters. Perhaps, Señor Padre, you may say the Mass there next Sunday. We will see. A––a––you had illustrious ancestors, Padre,” he added with hesitation.

“Do the letters mention my ancestry?” asked Josè with something of mingled surprise and pride.

“They speak of your family, which was, as we all know, quite renowned,” replied the Alcalde courteously.


“Very,” agreed Josè, wondering how much the Alcalde knew of his family.

“Don Ignacio was not unknown in this pueblo,” affably continued the Alcalde.

At these words Rosendo started visibly and looked fixedly at the priest.

“The family name of Rincón,” the Alcalde went on, “appears on the old records of Simití in many places, and it is said that Don Ignacio himself came here more than once. Perhaps you know, Señor Padre, that the Rincón family erected the church which stands in the plaza? And so it is quite appropriate that their son should officiate in it after all these centuries, is it not?”

No, Josè had not known it. He could not have imagined such a thing. He knew little of his family’s history. Of their former vast wealth he had a vague notion. But here in this land of romance and tragedy he seemed to be running upon their reliques everywhere.

The conversation drifted to parish matters; and soon Rosendo urged their departure, as the sun was mounting high.

Seated at the table for the midday lunch, Josè again became lost in contemplation of the child before him. Her fair face flushed under his searching gaze; but she returned a smile of confidence and sweet innocence that held him spellbound. Her great brown eyes were of infinite depth. They expressed a something that he had never seen before in human eyes. What manner of soul lay behind them? What was it that through them looked out into this world of evil? Childish innocence and purity, yes; but vastly more. Was it––God Himself? Josè started at his own thought. Through his meditations he heard Rosendo’s voice.

“Simití is very old, Padre. In the days of the Spaniards it was a large town, with many rich people. The Indians were all slaves then, and they worked in the mines up there,” indicating the distant mountains. “Much gold was brought down here and shipped down the Magdalena, for the caño was wider in those days, and it was not so hard to reach the river. This is the end of the Guamocó trail, which was called in those days the Camino Real.”

“You say the mines were very rich?” interrogated Josè; not that the question expressed a more than casual interest, but rather to keep Rosendo talking while he studied the child.

But at this question Rosendo suddenly became less loquacious. Josè then felt that he was suspected of prying into matters which Rosendo did not wish to discuss with him, and so he pressed the topic no further.


“How many people did Don Mario say the parish contained?” he asked by way of diverting the conversation.

“About two hundred, Padre.”

“And it has been vacant long?”

“Four years.”

“Four years since Padre Diego was here,” commented Josè casually.

It was an unfortunate remark. At the mention of the former priest’s name Doña Maria hurriedly left the table. Rosendo’s black face grew even darker, and took on a look of ineffable contempt. He did not reply. And the meal ended in silence.

It was now plain to Josè that Rosendo distrusted him. But it mattered little to the priest, beyond the fact that he had no wish to offend any one. What interest had he in boorish Simití, or Guamocó? The place was become his tomb––he had entered it to die. The child––the girl! Ah, yes, she had touched a strange chord within him; and for a time he had seemed to live again. But as the day waned, and pitiless heat and deadly silence brooded over the decayed town, his starving soul sank again into its former depression, and revived hope and interest died within him.

The implacable heat burned through the noon hour; the dusty streets were like the floor of a stone oven; the shale beds upon which the old town rested sent up fiery, quivering waves; the houses seethed; earth and sky were ablaze. How long could he endure it?

And the terrible ennui, the isolation, the utter lack of every trace of culture, of the varied interests that feed the educated, trained mind and minister to its comfort and growth––could he support it patiently while awaiting the end? Would he go mad before the final release came? He did not fear death; but he was horror-stricken at the thought of madness! Of losing that rational sense of the Ego which constituted his normal individuality!

Rosendo advised him to retire for the midday siesta. Through the seemingly interminable afternoon he lay upon his hard bed with his brain afire, while the events of his warped life moved before him in spectral review. The week which had passed since he left Cartagena seemed an age. When he might hope to receive word from the outside world, he could not imagine. His isolation was now complete. Even should letters succeed in reaching Simití for him, they must first pass through the hands of the Alcalde.

And what did the Alcalde know of him? And then, again, what did it matter? He must not lose sight of the fact that his 9 interest in the outside world––nay, his interest in all things had ceased. This was the end. He had yielded, after years of struggle, to pride, fear, doubt. He had bowed before his morbid sense of honor––a perverted sense, he now admitted, but still one which bound him in fetters of steel. His life had been one of grossest inconsistency. He was utterly out of tune with the universe. His incessant clash with the world of people and events had sounded nothing but agonizing discord. And his confusion of thought had become such that, were he asked why he was in Simití, he could scarcely have told. At length he dropped into a feverish sleep.

The day drew to a close, and the flaming sun rested for a brief moment on the lofty tip of Tolima. Josè awoke, dripping with perspiration, his steaming blood rushing wildly through its throbbing channels. Blindly he rose from his rough bed and stumbled out of the stifling chamber. The living room was deserted. Who might be in the kitchen, he did not stop to see. Dazed by the garish light and fierce heat, he rushed from the house and over the burning shales toward the lake.

What he intended to do, he knew not. His weltering thought held but a single concept––water! The lake would cool his burning skin––he would wade out into it until it rose to his cracking lips––he would lie down in it, till it quenched the fire in his head––he would sleep in it––he would never leave it––it was cool––perhaps cold! What did the word mean? Was there aught in the world but fire––flames––fierce, withering, smothering, consuming heat? He thought the shales crackled as they melted beneath him! He thought his feet sank to the ankles in molten lava, and were so heavy he scarce could drag them! He thought the blazing sun shot out great tongues of flame, like the arms of a monster devilfish, which twined about him, transforming his blood to vapor and sucking it out through his gaping pores!

A blinding light flashed before him as he reached the margin of the lake. The universe burst into a ball of fire. He clasped his head in his hands––stumbled––and fell, face down, in the tepid waters.


“It was the little Carmen, Padre, who saw you run to the lake. She was sitting at the kitchen door, studying her writing lesson.”

The priest essayed to rise from his bed. Night had fallen, and the feeble light of the candle cast heavy shadows over the 10 room, and made grotesque pictures of the black, anxious faces looking in at the grated window.

“But, Rosendo, it––was––a dream––a terrible dream!”

Na, Padre, it was true, for I myself took you from the lake,” replied Rosendo tenderly.

Josè struggled to a sitting posture, but would have fallen back again had not Rosendo’s strong arm supported him. He passed his hand slowly across his forehead, as if to brush the mental cobwebs from his awakening brain. Then he inquired feebly:

“What does the doctor say?”

“Padre, there is no doctor in Simití,” Rosendo answered quietly.

“No doctor!”

Josè kept silence for a few moments. Then––

“But perhaps I do not need one. What time did it occur?”

“It did not happen to-day, Padre,” said Rosendo with pitying compassion. “It was nearly a week ago.”

“Nearly a week! And have I lain here so long?”

“Yes, Padre.”

The priest stared at him uncomprehendingly. Then––

“The dreams were frightful! I must have talked––raved! Rosendo––you heard me––?” His voice betrayed anxiety.

“There, Padre, think no more about it. You were wild––I fought to keep you in bed––we thought you must die––all but Carmen––but you have your senses now––and you must forget the past.”

Forget the past! Then his wild delirium had laid bare his soul! And the man who had so faithfully nursed him through the crisis now possessed the sordid details of this wretched life!

Josè struggled to orient his undirected mind. A hot wave of anger swept over him at the thought that he was still living, that his battered soul had not torn itself from earth during his delirium and taken flight. Was he fated to live forever, to drag out an endless existence, with his heart written upon his sleeve for the world to read and turn to its own advantage? Rosendo had stood between him and death––but to what end? Had he not yet paid the score in full––good measure, pressed down and running over? His thoughts ran rapidly from one topic to another. Again they reverted to the little girl. He had dreamed of her in that week of black night. He wondered if he had also talked of her. He had lain at death’s door––Rosendo had said so––but he had had no physician. Perhaps these simple folk brewed their own homely remedies––he wondered what they had employed in his case. Above the welter of his thoughts this question pressed for answer.


“What medicine did you give me, Rosendo?” he feebly queried.

“None, Padre.”

Josè’s voice rose querulously in a little excess of excitement. “What! You left me here without medical aid, to live or die, as might be?”

The gentle Rosendo laid a soothing hand upon the priest’s feverish brow. “Na, Padre,”––there was a hurt tone in the soft answer––“we did all we could for you. We have neither doctors nor medicines. But we cared for you––and we prayed daily for your recovery. The little Carmen said our prayers would be answered––and, you see, they were.”

Again the child!

“And what had she to do with my recovery?” Josè demanded fretfully.

Quien sabe? It is sometimes that way when the little Carmen says people shall not die. And then,” he added sadly, “sometimes they do die just the same. It is strange; we do not understand it.” The gentle soul sighed its perplexity.

Josè looked up at him keenly. “Did the child say I should not die?” he asked softly, almost in a whisper.

“Yes, Padre; she says God’s children do not die,” returned Rosendo.

The priest’s blood stopped in its mad surge and slowly began to chill. God’s children do not die! What uncanny influence had he met with here in this crumbling, forgotten town? He sought the index of his memory for the sensations he had felt when he looked into the girl’s eyes on his first morning in Simití. But memory reported back only impressions of goodness––beauty––love.

Then a dim light––only a feeble gleam––seemed to flash before him, but at a great distance. Something called him––not by name, but by again touching that unfamiliar chord which had vibrated in his soul when the child had first stood before him. He felt a strange psychic presentiment as of things soon to be revealed. A sentiment akin to awe stole over him, as if he were standing in the presence of a great mystery––a mystery so transcendental that the groveling minds of mortals have never apprehended it. He turned again to the man sitting beside his bed.

“Rosendo––where is she?”

“Asleep, Padre,” pointing to the other bed. “But we must not wake her,” he admonished quickly, as the priest again sought to rise; “we will talk of her to-morrow. I think––”

Rosendo stopped abruptly and looked at the priest as if he would fathom the inmost nature of the man. Then he continued uncertainly:


“I––I may have some things to say to you to-morrow––if you are well enough to hear them. But I will think about it to-night, and––if––Bien! I will think about it.”

Rosendo rose slowly, as if weighted with heavy thoughts, and went out into the living room. Presently he returned with a rude, homemade broom and began to sweep a space on the dirt floor in the corner opposite Josè. This done, he spread out a light straw mat for his bed.

“The señora is preparing you a bowl of chicken broth and rice, Padre,” he said. “The little Carmen saved a hen for you when you should awake. She has fed it all the week on rice and goat’s milk. She said she knew you would wake up hungry.”

Josè’s eyes had closely followed Rosendo’s movements, although he seemed not to hear his words. Suddenly he broke forth in protest.

“Rosendo,” he cried, “have I your bed? And do you sleep there on the floor? I cannot permit this!”

“Say nothing, Padre,” replied Rosendo, gently forcing Josè back again upon his bed. “My house is yours.”

“But––the señora, your wife––where does she sleep?”

“She has her petate in the kitchen,” was the quiet answer.

Only the two poor beds, which were occupied by the priest and the child! And Rosendo and his good wife had slept on the hard dirt floor for a week! Josè’s eyes dimmed when he realized the extent of their unselfish hospitality. And would they continue to sleep thus on the ground, with nothing beneath them but a thin straw mat, as long as he might choose to remain with them? Aye, he knew that they would, uncomplainingly. For these are the children of the “valley of the pleasant ‘yes.’”

Josè awoke the next morning with a song echoing in his ears. He had dreamed of singing; and as consciousness slowly returned, the dream-song became real. It floated in from the living room on a clear, sweet soprano. When a child he had heard such voices in the choir loft of the great Seville cathedral, and he had thought that angels were singing. As he lay now listening to it, memories of his childish dreams swept over him in great waves. The soft, sweet cadences rose and fell. His own heart swelled and pulsated with them, and his barren soul once more surged under the impulse of a deep, potential desire to manifest itself, its true self, unhampered at last by limitation and convention, unfettered by superstition, human creeds and false ambition. Then the inevitable reaction set in; a sickening sense of the futility of his longing settled over him, and he turned his face to the wall, while hot tears streamed over his sunken cheeks.


Again through his wearied brain echoed the familiar admonition, “Occupy till I come.” Always the same invariable response to his strained yearnings. The sweet voice in the adjoining room floated in through the dusty palm door. It spread over his perturbed thought like oil on troubled waters. Perhaps it was the child singing. At this thought the sense of awe seemed to settle upon him again. A child––a babe––had said that he should live! If a doctor had said it he would have believed. But a child––absurd! It was a dream! But no; Rosendo had said it; and there was no reason to doubt him. But what had this child to do with it? Nothing! And yet––was that wholly true? Then whence his sensations when first he saw her? Whence that feeling of standing in the presence of a great mystery? “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings––” Foolishness! To be sure, the child may have said he should not die; but if he were to live––which God forbid!––his own recuperative powers would restore him. Rosendo’s lively imagination certainly had exaggerated the incident.

Exhausted by his mental efforts, and lulled by the low singing, the priest sank into fitful slumber. As he slept he dreamed. He was standing alone in a great desert. Darkness encompassed him, and a fearful loneliness froze his soul. About him lay bleaching bones. Neither trees nor vegetation broke the dull monotony of the cheerless scene. Nothing but waste, unutterably dreary waste, over which a chill wind tossed the tinkling sand in fitful gusts. In terror he cried aloud. The desert mocked his hollow cry. The darkness thickened. Again he called, his heart sinking with despair.

Then, over the desolate waste, through the heavy gloom, a voice seemed borne faint on the cold air, “Occupy till I come!” He sank to his knees. His straining eyes caught the feeble glint of a light, but at an immeasurable distance. Again he called; and again the same response, but nearer. A glow began to suffuse the blackness about him. Nearer, ever nearer drew the gleam. The darkness lifted. The rocks began to bud. Trees and vines sprang from the waste sand. As if in a tremendous explosion, a dazzling light burst full upon him, shattering the darkness, fusing the stones about him, and blinding his sight. A great presence stood before him. He struggled to his feet; and as he did so a loud voice cried, “Behold, I come quickly!”

Señor Padre, you have been dreaming!”

The priest, sitting upright and clutching at the rough sides of his bed, stared with wooden obliviousness into the face of the little Carmen.



“You are well now, aren’t you, Padre?”

It was not so much an interrogation as an affirmation, an assumption of fact.

“Now you must come and see my garden––and Cucumbra, too. And Cantar-las-horas; have you heard him? I scolded him lots; and I know he wants to mind; but he just thinks he can’t stop singing the Vespers––the old stupid!”

While the child prattled she drew a chair to the bedside and arranged the bowl of broth and the two wheat rolls she had brought.

“You are real hungry, and you are going to eat all of this and get strong again. Right away!” she added, emphatically expressing her confidence in the assumption.

Josè made no reply. He seemed again to be trying to sound the unfathomable depths of the child’s brown eyes. Mechanically he took the spoon she handed him.

“See!” she exclaimed, while her eyes danced. “A silver spoon! Madre Ariza borrowed it from Doña Maria Alcozer. They have lots of silver. Now eat.”

From his own great egoism, his years of heart-ache, sorrows, and shames, the priest’s heavy thought slowly lifted and centered upon the child’s beautiful face. The animated little figure before him radiated such abundant life that he himself caught the infection; and with it his sense of weakness passed like an illusion.

“And look, Padre! The broth––isn’t it good?”

Josè tasted, and declared it delicious.

“Well, you know”––the enthusiastic little maid clambered up on the bed––“yesterday it was Mañuela––she was my hen. I told her a week ago that you would need her––”

“And you gave up your hen for me, little one?” he interrupted.

“Why––yes, Padre. It was all right. I told her how it was. And she clucked so hard, I knew she was glad to help the good Cura. And she was so happy about it! I told her she really wouldn’t die. You know, things never do––do they?”

The priest hesitated. To hide his confusion and gain time he began to eat rapidly.

“No, they don’t,” said the girl confidently, answering her own question. “Because,” she added, “God is everywhere––isn’t He?”

What manner of answer could he, of all men, make to such 15 terribly direct questions as these! And it was well that Carmen evidently expected none––that in her great innocence she assumed for him the same beautiful faith which she herself held.

“Doña Jacinta didn’t die last week. But they said she did; and so they took her to the cemetery and put her in a dark bóveda. And the black buzzards sat on the wall and watched them. Padre Rosendo said she had gone to the angels––that God took her. But, Padre, God doesn’t make people sick, does He? They get sick because they don’t know who He is. Every day I told God I knew He would cure you. And He did, didn’t He?”

While the girl paused for breath, her eyes sparkled, and her face glowed with exaltation. Child-like, her active mind flew from one topic to another, with no thought of connecting links.

“This morning, Padre, two little green parrots flew across the lake and perched on our roof. And they sat there and watched Cucumbra eat his breakfast; and they tried to steal his fish; and they scolded so loud! Why did they want to steal from him, when there is so much to eat everywhere? But they didn’t know any better, did they? I don’t think parrots love each other very much, for they scold so hard. Padre, it is so dark in here; come out and see the sun and the lake and the mountains. And my garden––Padre, it is beautiful! Esteban said next time he went up the trail he would bring me a monkey for a pet; and I am going to name it Hombrecito. And Captain Julio is going to bring me a doll from down the river. But,” with a merry, musical trill, “Juan said the night you came that you were my doll! Isn’t he funny!” And throwing back her little head, the child laughed heartily.

“Padre, you must help padre Rosendo with his arithmetic. Every night he puts on his big spectacles and works so hard to understand it. He says he knows Satan made fractions. But, Padre, that isn’t so, is it? Not if God made everything. Padre, you know everything, don’t you? Padre Rosendo said you did. There are lots of things I want you to tell me––such lots of things that nobody here knows anything about. Padre,”––the child leaned toward the priest and whispered low––“the people here don’t know who God is; and you are going to teach them! There was a Cura here once, when I was a baby; but I guess he didn’t know God, either.”

She lapsed into silence, as if pondering this thought. Then, clapping her hands with unfeigned joy, she cried in a shrill little voice, “Oh, Padre, I am so glad you have come to Simití! I just knew God would not forget us!”


Josè had no reply to make. His thought was busy with the phenomenon before him: a child of man, but one who, like Israel of old, saw God and heard His voice at every turn of her daily walk. Untutored in the ways of men, without trace of sophistication or cant, unblemished as she moved among the soiled vessels about her, shining with celestial radiance in this unknown, moldering town so far from the world’s beaten paths.

The door opened softly and Rosendo entered, preceded by a cheery greeting.

“Hombre!” he exclaimed, surveying the priest, “but you mend fast! You have eaten all the broth! But I told the good wife that the little Carmen would be better than medicine for you, and that you must have her just as soon as you should awake.”

Josè’s eyes dilated with astonishment. Absorbed in the child, he had consumed almost his entire breakfast.

“He is well, padre Rosendo, he is well!” cried the girl, bounding up and down and dancing about the tall form of her foster-father. Then, darting to Josè, she seized his hand and cried, “Now to see my garden! And Cucumbra! And––!”

“Quiet, child!” commanded Rosendo, taking her by the arm. “The good Cura is ill, and must rest for several days yet.”

“No, padre Rosendo, he is well––all well! Aren’t you, Padre?” appealing to Josè, and again urging him forth.

The rapidity of the conversation and the animation of the beautiful child caused complete forgetfulness of self, and, together with the restorative effect of the wholesome food, acted upon the priest like a magical tonic. Weak though he was, he clung to her hand and, struggling out of the bed, stood uncertainly upon the floor. Instantly Rosendo’s arm was about him.

“Don’t try it, Padre,” the latter urged anxiously. “The heat will be too much for you. Another day or two of rest will make you right.”

But the priest, heedless of the admonition, suffered himself to be led by the child; and together they passed slowly out into the living room, through the kitchen, and thence into the diminutive rose garden, the pride of the little Carmen.

Doña Maria, wife of Rosendo, was bending over the primitive fireplace, busy with her matutinal duties, having just dusted the ashes from a corn arepa which she had prepared for her consort’s simple luncheon. She was a woman well into the autumn of life; but her form possessed something of the elegance of the Spanish dames of the colonial period; her countenance bore an expression of benevolence, which emanated 17 from a gentle and affectionate heart; and her manner combined both dignity and suavity. She greeted the priest tenderly, and expressed mingled surprise and joy that he felt able to leave his bed so soon. But as her eyes caught Rosendo’s meaning glance, and then turned to the child, they seemed to indicate a full comprehension of the situation.

The rose garden consisted of a few square feet of black earth, bordered by bits of shale, and seemingly scarce able to furnish nourishment for the three or four little bushes. But, though small, these were blooming in profusion.

“Padre Rosendo did this!” exclaimed the delighted girl. “Every night he brings water from La Cienaga for them!”

Rosendo smiled patronizingly upon the child; but Josè saw in the glance of his argus eyes a tenderness and depth of affection for her which bespoke nothing short of adoration.

Carmen bent over the roses, fondling and kissing them, and addressing them endearing names.

“She calls them God’s kisses,” whispered Rosendo to the priest.

At that moment a low growl was heard. Josè turned quickly and confronted a gaunt dog, a wild breed, with eyes fixed upon the priest and white fangs showing menacingly beneath a curling lip.

“Oh, Cucumbra!” cried the child, rushing to the beast and throwing her arms about its shaggy neck. “Haven’t I told you to love everybody? And is that the way to show it? Now kiss the Cura’s hand, for he loves you.”

The brute sank at her feet. Then as she took the priest’s hand and held it to the dog’s mouth, he licked it with his rough tongue.

The priest’s brain was now awhirl. He stood gazing at the child as if fascinated. Through his jumbled thought there ran an insistent strain, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. The Father dwelleth in me and I in Him.” He did not associate these words with the Nazarene now, but with the barefoot girl before him. Again within the farthest depths of his soul he heard the soft note of a vibrating chord––that chord which all the years of his unhappy life had hung mute, until here, in this moldering town, in the wilderness of forgotten Guamocó, the hand of Love had swept it.

The sun stood at the zenith. The day was white-hot. Doña Maria summoned her little family to the midday repast. Rosendo brought a chair for Josè and placed it near the rose garden in the shade of the house, for, despite all protest, the priest had stubbornly refused to return to his bed. Left now to himself, his thought hovered about the child, and then drifted 18 out across the incandescent shales to the beautiful lake beyond. The water lay like shimmering glass. In the distance the wooded slopes of the San Lucas mountains rose like green billows. Brooding silence spread over the scene. It was Nature’s hour of siesta. In his own heart there was a great peace––and a strange expectancy. He seemed to be awaiting a revelation of things close at hand. In a way he felt that he had accomplished his purpose of coming to Simití to die, and that he was now awaiting the resurrection.

The peaceful revery was interrupted by Rosendo. “Padre, if you will not return to your bed––” He regarded the priest dubiously.

“No, Rosendo. I grow stronger every minute. But––where is Carmen?”

“She must help her mother.”

A long pause ensued, while Josè impatiently waited for Rosendo to continue. The child was becoming his obsession. He was eager to talk of her, to learn her history, to see her, for her presence meant complete obliteration of self.

“Padre,” Rosendo at length emerged from his meditation. “I would like to speak of the little Carmen.”

“Yes,” responded Josè with animation. Life and strength seemed to return to him with a bound.

“But––what say you? Shall we visit the church, which is only across the road? There we can talk without interruption. No one will be in the streets during the heat. And I will carry you over.”

“Let us go to the church, yes; but I can walk. It is only a step.”

Josè leaned upon Rosendo, the latter supporting him with his great arm, and together they crossed the road and mounted the shale platform on which stood the ancient edifice. Rosendo produced a huge key of antique pattern; and the rusty lock, after much resistance, yielded with a groan, and the heavy door creaked open, emitting an odor of dampness and must. Doffing their hats, the men entered the long, barn-like room. Rosendo carefully closed and locked the door behind them, a precaution necessary in a drowsing town of this nature, where the simple folk who see day after day pass without concern or event to break the deadening monotony, assemble in eager, buzzing multitudes at the slightest prospect of extraordinary interest.

The room was dimly lighted, and was open to the peak of the roof. From the rough-hewn rafters above hung hundreds of hideous bats. At the far end stood the altar. It was adorned with decrepit images, and held a large wooden statue 19 of the Virgin. This latter object was veiled with two flimsy curtains, which were designed to be raised and lowered with great pomp and the ringing of a little bell during service. The image was attired in real clothes, covered with tawdry finery, gilt paper, and faded ribbons. The head bore a wig of hair; and the face was painted, although great sections of the paint had fallen, away, leaving the suggestion of pockmarks. Beneath this image was located the sagrario, the little cupboard in which the hostia, the sacred wafer, was wont to be kept exposed in the custodia, a cheap receptacle composed of two watch crystals. At either side of this stood half consumed wax tapers. A few rough benches were strewn about the floor; and dust and green mold lay thick over all.

At the far right-hand corner of the building a lean-to had been erected to serve as the sacristía, or vestry. In the worm-eaten wardrobe within hung a few vestments, adorned with cheap finery, and heavily laden with dust, over which scampered vermin of many varieties. An air of desolation and abandon hung over the whole church, and to Josè seemed to symbolize the decay of a sterile faith.

Rosendo carefully dusted off a bench near one of the windows and bade Josè be seated.

Padre,” he began, after some moments of deep reflection, “the little Carmen is not an ordinary child.”

“I have seen that, Rosendo,” interposed Josè.

“We––we do not understand her,” Rosendo went on, carefully weighing his words; “and we sometimes think she is not––not altogether like us––that her coming was a miracle. But you do not believe in miracles,” he added quizzically.

“Why do you say that, Rosendo?” Josè returned in surprise.

Rosendo paused before replying.

“You were very sick, Padre; and in the fever you––” the impeccably honest fellow hesitated.

“Yes, I thought so,” said Josè with an air of weary resignation. “And what else did I say, Rosendo?”

The faultless courtesy of the artless Rosendo, a courtesy so genuine that Josè knew it came right from the heart, made conversation on this topic a matter of extreme difficulty to him.

“Do not be uneasy, Padre,” he said reassuringly. “I alone heard you. Whenever you began to talk I would not let others listen; and I stayed with you every day and night. But––it is just because of what you said in the calentura that I am speaking to you now of the little Carmen.”

Because of what he had said in his delirium! Josè’s astonishment grew apace.


“Padre, many bad priests have been sent to Simití. It has been our curse. Priests who stirred up revolution elsewhere, who committed murder, and ruined the lives of fair women, have been put upon us. And when in Badillo I learned that you had been sent to our parish, I was filled with fear. I––I lost a daughter, Padre––”

The good man hesitated again. Then, as a look of stern resolution spread over his strong, dark face, he continued:

“It was Padre Diego! We drove him out of Simití four years ago. But my daughter, my only child, went with him.” The great frame shook with emotion, while he hurried on disconnectedly.

“Padre, the priest Diego said that the little Carmen should become a Sister––a nun––that she must be sent to the convent in Mompox––that she belonged to the Church, and the Church would some day have her. But, by the Holy Virgin, the Church shall not have her! And I myself will slay her before this altar rather than let such as Padre Diego lay their slimy paws upon the angel child!”

Rosendo leaped to his feet and began to pace the floor with great strides. The marvelous frame of the man, in which beat a heart too big for the sordid passions of the flesh, trembled as he walked. Josè watched him in mute admiration, mingled with astonishment and a heightened sense of expectancy. Presently Rosendo returned and seated himself again beside the priest.

“Padre, I have lived in terror ever since Diego left Simití. For myself I do not fear, for if ever I meet with the wretch I shall wring his neck with my naked hands! But––for the little Carmen––Dios! they might steal her at any time! There are men here who would do it for a few pesos! And how could I prevent it? I pray daily to the Virgin to protect her. She––she is the light of my life. I watch over her hourly. I neglect my hacienda, that I may guard her––and I am a poor man, and cannot afford not to work.”

The man buried his face in his huge hands and groaned aloud. Josè remained pityingly silent, knowing that Rosendo’s heaving heart must empty itself.

“Padre,” Rosendo at length raised his head. His features were drawn, but his eyes glowed fiercely. “Priests have committed dark deeds here, and this altar has dripped with blood. When a child, with my own eyes I saw a priest elevate the Host before this altar, as the people knelt in adoration. While their heads were bowed I saw him drive a knife into the neck of a man who was his enemy; and the blood spurted over the image of the Virgin and fell upon the Sacred Host itself! And what 21 did the wicked priest say in defense? Simply that he took this time to assassinate his man because then the victim could die adoring the Host and under the most favorable circumstances for salvation! Hombre! And did the priest pay the penalty for his crime? No! The Bishop of Cartagena transferred him to another parish, and told him to do better in future!”

Josè started in horror. But Rosendo did not stop.

“And I remember the story my father used to tell of the priest who poisoned a whole family in Simití with the communion wafer. Their estates had been willed to the Church, and he was impatient to have the management of them. Again nothing was done about it.”

“But, Rosendo, if Simití has been so afflicted by bad priests, why are you confiding in me?” Josè asked in wonder.

“Because, Padre,” Rosendo replied, “in the fever you said many things that made me think you were not a bad man. I did suspect you at first––but not after I heard you talk in your sleep. You, too, have suffered. And the Church has caused it. No, not God; but the men who say they know what He thinks and says. They make us all suffer. And after I heard you tell those things in your fever-sleep, I said to Maria that if you lived I knew you would help me protect the little Carmen. Then, too, you are a––” He lapsed abruptly into silence.

Josè pressed Rosendo’s hand. “Tell me about her. You have said she is not your daughter. I ask only because of sincere affection for you all, and because the child has aroused in me an unwonted interest.”

Rosendo looked steadily into the eyes of the priest for some moments. Josè as steadily returned the glance. From the eyes of the one there emanated a soul-searching scrutiny; from those of the other an answering bid for confidence. The bid was accepted.

“Padre,” began Rosendo, “I place trust in you. Something makes me believe that you are not like other priests I have known. And I have seen that you already love the little Carmen. No, she is not my child. One day, about eight years ago, a steamer on its way down the river touched at Badillo to put off a young woman, who was so sick that the captain feared she would die on board. He knew nothing of her, except that she had embarked at Honda and was bound for Barranquilla. He hoped that by leaving her in the care of the good people of Badillo something might be done. The boat went its way; and the next morning the woman died, shortly after her babe was born. They buried her back of the village, and Escolastico’s woman took the child. They tried to learn the history of the mother; but, though the captain of the boat made many inquiries, 22 he could only find that she had come from Bogotá the day before the boat left Honda, and that she was then very sick. Some weeks afterward Escolastico happened to come to Simití, and told me the story. He complained that his family was already large, and that his woman found the care of the babe a burden. I love children, Padre, and it seemed to me that I could find a place for the little one, and I told him I would fetch her. And so a few days later I brought her to Simití. But before leaving Badillo I fixed a wooden cross over the mother’s grave and wrote on it in pencil the name ‘Dolores,’ for that was the name in the little gold locket which we found in her valise. There were some clothes, better than the average, and the locket. In the locket were two small pictures, one of a young man, with the name ‘Guillermo’ written beneath it, and one of the woman, with ‘Dolores’ under it. That was all. Captain Julio took the locket to Honda when he made inquiries there; but brought it back again, saying that nobody recognized the faces. I named the babe Carmen, and have brought her up as my own child. She––Padre, I adore her!”

Josè listened in breathless silence.

“But we sometimes think,” said Rosendo, resuming his dramatic narrative, “that it was all a miracle, perhaps a dream; that it was the angels who left the babe on the river bank, for she herself is not of the earth.”

“Tell me, Rosendo, just what you mean,” said Josè reverently, laying his hand gently upon the older man’s arm.

Rosendo shook his head slowly. “Talk with her, Padre, and you will see. I cannot explain. Only, she is not like us. She is like––”

His voice dropped to a whisper.

“––she is like––God. And she knows Him better than she knows me.”

Josè’s head slowly sank upon his breast. The gloom within the musty church was thick; and the bats stirred restlessly among the dusty rafters overhead. Outside, the relentless heat poured down upon the deserted streets.

“Padre,” Rosendo resumed. “In the calentura you talked of wonderful things. You spoke of kings and popes and foreign lands, of beautiful cities and great marvels of which we know nothing. It was wonderful! And you recited beautiful poems––but often in other tongues than ours. Padre, you must be very learned. I listened, and was astonished, for we are so ignorant here in Simití, oh, so ignorant! We have no schools, and our poor little children grow up to be only peones and fishermen. But––the little Carmen––ah, she has a mind! Padre––”


Again he lapsed into silence, as if fearful to ask the boon.

“Yes, Rosendo, yes,” Josè eagerly reassured him. “Go on.”

Rosendo turned full upon the priest and spoke rapidly. “Padre, will you teach the little Carmen what you know? Will you make her a strong, learned woman, and fit her to do big things in the world––and then––then––”

“Yes, Rosendo?”

“––then get her away from Simití? She does not belong here, Padre. And––?” his voice sank to a hoarse whisper––“will you help me keep her from the Church?”

Josè sat staring at the man with dilating eyes.

“Padre, she has her own Church. It is her heart.”

He leaned over and laid a hand upon the priest’s knee. His dark eyes seemed to burn like glowing coals. His whispered words were fraught with a meaning which Josè would some day learn.

“Padre, that must be left alone!”

A long silence fell upon the two men, the one massive of frame and black of face, but with a mind as simple as a child’s and a heart as white as the snow that sprinkled his raven locks––the other a youth in years, but bowed with disappointment and suffering; yet now listening with hushed breath to the words that rolled with a mighty reverberation through the chambers of his soul:

“I am God, and there is none else! Behold, I come quickly! Arise, shine, for thy light is come!”

The sweet face of the child rose out of the gloom before the priest. The years rolled back like a curtain, and he saw himself at her tender age, a white, unformed soul, awaiting the sculptor’s hand. God forbid that the hand which shaped his career should form the plastic mind of this girl!

Of a sudden a great thought flashed out of the depths of eternity and into his brain, a thought which seemed to illumine his whole past life. In the clear light thereof he seemed instantly to read meanings in numberless events which to that hour had remained hidden. His complex, misshapen career––could it have been a preparation?––and for this? He had yearned to serve his fellow-men, but had miserably failed. For, while to will was always present with him, even as with Paul, yet how to perform that which was good he found not. But now––what an opportunity opened before him! What a beautiful offering of self was here made possible? God, what a privilege!

Rosendo sat stolid, buried in thought. Josè reached out through the dim light and grasped his black hand. His eyes were lucent, his heart burned with the fire of an unknown enthusiasm, and speech stumbled across his lips.


“Rosendo, I came to Simití to die. And now I know that I shall die––to myself. But thereby shall I live. Yes, I shall live! And here before this altar, in the sight of that God whom she knows so well, I pledge my new-found life to Carmen. My mind, my thought, my strength, are henceforth hers. May her God direct me in their right use for His beautiful child!”

Josè and Rosendo rose from the bench with hands still clasped. In that hour the priest was born again.


“He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

The reporters of the unique Man of Galilee, upon whose straining ears these words fell, noted them for future generations of footsore pilgrims on life’s wandering highway––for the rich, satiated with their gorgeous gluttonies; for the proud Levite, with his feet enmeshed in the lifeless letter of the Law; for the loathsome and outcast beggar at the gates of Dives. And for Josè de Rincón, priest of the Holy Catholic Church and vicar of Christ, scion of aristocracy and worldly learning, now humbled and blinded, like Paul on the road to Damascus, begging that his spiritual sight might be opened to the glory of the One with whom he had not known how to walk.

Returning in silence from the church to Rosendo’s humble cottage, Josè had asked leave to retire. He would be alone with the great Presence which had come to him across the desert of his life, and now stood before him in the brightness of the undimmed sun. He no longer felt ill nor exhausted. Indeed, quite the contrary; a quickened sense of life, an eagerness to embrace the opportunity opening before him, caused his chest to heave and his shrunken veins to throb.

On his bed in the darkened room he lay in a deep silence, broken only at intervals by the hurried scampering of lizards darting through the interstices of the dry walls. His uncomprehending eyes were fixed upon the dust-laden thatch of the roof overhead, where droning wasps toiled upon their frail abodes. He lay with the portals of his mind opened wide. Through them, in ceaseless flow, passed two streams which did not mingle. The one, outward bound, turbid with its burden of egoism, fear, perplexity, and hopelessness, which, like barnacles, had fastened to his soul on its chartless voyage; the other, a stream of hope and confidence and definite purpose, a stream which leaped and sang in the warm sunlight of Love as it poured into his receptive brain.


The fresh thought which flowed into his mental chambers rapidly formed into orderly plans, all centering upon the child, Carmen. What could he teach her? The relative truths and worldly knowledge––purified, as far as in him lay, from the dross of speculation and human opinion––which lay stored in the archives of his mind? Yes; but that was all. History, and its interpretation of human progress; the languages; mathematics, and the elements of the physical sciences; literature; and a knowledge of people and places. With these his retentive mind was replete. But beyond this he must learn of her. And her tutor, he now knew, was the Master Mind, omniscient God. And he knew, more, that she possessed secrets whose potency he might as yet scarcely imagine. For, in an environment which for dearth of mental stimulus and incentive could scarcely be matched; amid poverty but slightly raised above actual want; untouched by the temperamental hopelessness which lies just beneath the surface of these dull, simple folk, this child lived a life of such ecstasy as might well excite the envy of the world’s potentates.

But meantime, what should be his attitude toward the parish? He fully realized that he and the Church were now as far apart as the poles. Yet this was become his parish, the first he had ever held; and these were his people. And he must face them and preach––what? If not the Catholic faith, then would he be speedily removed. And that meant complete disruption of his rapidly formulating plans. But might he not in that event flee with Carmen, renounce the Church, and––

Impossible! Excommunication alone could sever the oath by which the Church held him. And for that he could not say that he was ready. For excommunication meant disgrace to his mother––perhaps the snapping of a heart already sorely strained. To renounce his oath was dishonor. To preach the Catholic faith without sincerity was scarcely less. Yet amid present circumstances this seemed the only course open to him.

But what must he teach Carmen in regard to the Church? Could he maintain his position in it, yet not of it; and at the same time rear her without its pale, yet so as not to conflict with the people of Simití, nor cause such comment as might reach the ears of the Bishop of Cartagena? God alone knew. It must be attempted, at any rate. There was no other way. And if it was God’s plan, he might safely trust Him for the requisite strength and wisdom. For this course the isolation of Simití and the childish simplicity of its people afforded a tremendous advantage. On the other hand, he knew that both he and Carmen had powerful enemies. Yet, one with God might rout a host. And Carmen walked with God.


Thus throughout the afternoon the priest weighed and pondered the thoughts that sought admission to his reawakened mind. He was not interrupted until sundown; and then Carmen entered the room with a bowl of chocolate and some small wheaten loaves. Behind her, with an amusing show of dignity, stalked a large heron, an elegant bird, with long, scarlet legs, gray plumage, and a gracefully curved neck. When the bird reached the threshold it stopped, and without warning gave vent to a prolonged series of shrill, unmusical sounds. The startled priest sat up in his bed and exclaimed in amazement.

“It is only Cantar-las-horas, Padre,” laughed the little maid. “He follows me wherever I go, unless he is off fishing. Sometimes when I go out in the boat with padre Rosendo he flies clear across the lake to meet us. He is lots older than I, and years ago, when there were Curas here, he learned his song. Whenever the Angelas rang he would try to sing just like it; and now he has the habit and can’t help it. But he is such a dear, wise old fellow,” twining a chubby arm lovingly about the bird’s slender neck; “and he always sings just at six o’clock, the time the Angelas used to ring.”

The heron manifested the deepest affection for the child as she gently stroked its plumage and caressed its long, pointed bill.

“But how do you suppose he knows when it is just six o’clock, chiquita?” asked Josè, deeply interested in the strange phenomenon.

“God tells him, Padre,” was the direct and simple reply.

Assuredly, he should have known that! But he was fast learning of this unusual child, whose every movement was a demonstration of Immanuel.

“Does God tell you what to do, Carmen?” he asked, seeking to draw out the girl’s strange thought, that he might probe deeper into her religious convictions.

“Why, yes, Padre.” Her tone expressed surprise. “Doesn’t He tell you, too?” Her great eyes searched him. He was a Cura; he should be very close to God.

“Yes, chiquita––that is, He has told me to-day what to do.”

There was a shade of disappointment in her voice when she replied: “I guess you mean you listened to Him to-day, don’t you, Padre? I think sometimes you don’t want to hear Him. But,” she finished with a little sigh, “there are lots of people here who don’t; and that is why they are sick and unhappy.”

Josè was learning another lesson, that of guarding his speech to this ingenuous girl. He discreetly changed the subject.


“What have you been doing this afternoon, little one?”

Her eyes instantly brightened, and the dark shade that had crossed her face disappeared.

“Well, after the siesta I helped madre Maria clean the yuccas for supper; and then I did my writing lesson. Padre Rosendo told me to-day that I could write better than he. But, Padre, will you teach madre Maria to read and write? And there are just lots of poor people here who can’t, too. There is a school teacher in Simití, but he charges a whole peso oro a month for teaching; and the people haven’t the money, and so they can’t learn.”

Always the child shifted his thought from herself to others. Again she showed him that the road to happiness wound among the needs of his fellow-men. The priest mentally recorded the instruction; and the girl continued:

“Padre Rosendo told madre Maria that you said you had come to Simití to die. You were not thinking of us then, were you, Padre? People who think only of themselves always want to die. That was why Don Luis died last year. He had lots of gold, and he always wanted more, and he was cruel and selfish, and he couldn’t talk about anything but himself and how rich he was––and so he died. He didn’t really die; but he thought about himself until he thought he died. And so they buried him. That’s what always happens to people who think about themselves all the time––they get buried.”

Josè was glad of the silence that fell upon them. Wrapped so long in his own egoism, he had now no worldly wisdom with which to match this girl’s sapient words. He waited. He felt that Carmen was but the channel through which a great Voice was speaking.

“Padre,” the tones were tender and soft, “you don’t always think of good things, do you?”

“I? Why, no, little girl. I guess I haven’t done so. That is, not always. But––”

“Because if you had you wouldn’t have been driven into the lake that day. And you wouldn’t be here now in Simití.”

“But, child, even a Cura cannot always think of good things, when he sees so much wickedness in the world!”

“But, Padre, God is good, isn’t He?”

“Yes, child.” The necessity to answer could not be avoided.

“And He is everywhere?”

“Yes.” He had to say it.

“Then where is the wickedness, Padre?”

“Why––but, chiquita, you don’t understand; you are too young to reason about such things; and––”

In his heart Josè knew he spoke not the truth. He felt the 28 great brown eyes of the girl penetrate his naked soul; and he knew that in the dark recesses of the inner man they fell upon the grinning skeleton of hypocrisy. Carmen might be, doubtless was, incapable of reasoning. Of logical processes she knew nothing. But by what crass assumption might he, admittedly woefully defeated in his combat with Fate, oppose his feeble shafts of worldly logic to this child’s instinct, an instinct of whose inerrancy her daily walk was a living demonstration? In quick penitence and humility he stretched out his arm and drew her unresisting to him.

“Dear little child of God,” he murmured, as he bent over her and touched his lips to her rich brown curls, “I have tried my life long to learn what you already know. And at last I have been led to you––to you, little one, who shall be a lamp unto my feet. Dearest child, I want to know your God as you know Him. I want you to lead me to Him, for you know where He is.”

“He is everywhere, Padre dear,” whispered the child, as she nestled close to the priest and stole her soft arms gently about his neck. “But we don’t see Him nor hear Him if we have bad thoughts, and if we don’t love everybody and everything, even Cucumbra, and Cantar-las-horas, and––”

“Yes, chiquita, I know now,” interrupted Josè. “I don’t wonder they all love you.”

“But, Padre dear, I love them––and I love you.”

The priest strained her to him. His famished heart yearned for love. Love! first of the tender graces which adorned this beautiful child. Verily, only those imbued with it become the real teachers of men. The beloved disciple’s last instruction to his dear children was the tender admonition to love one another. But why, oh, why are we bidden to love the fallen, sordid outcasts of this wicked world––the wretched, sinning pariahs––the greedy, grasping, self-centered mass of humanity that surges about us in such woeful confusion of good and evil? Because the wise Master did. Because he said that God was Love. Because he taught that he who loves not, knows not God. And because, oh, wonderful spiritual alchemy! because Love is the magical potion which, dropping like heavenly dew upon sinful humanity, dissolves the vice, the sorrow, the carnal passions, and transmutes the brutish mortal into the image and likeness of the perfect God.

Far into the night, while the child slept peacefully in the bed near him, Josè lay thinking of her and of the sharp turn which she had given to the direction of his life. Through the warm night air the hoarse croaking of distant frogs and the mournful note of the toucan floated to his ears. In the street 29 without he heard at intervals the pattering of bare feet in the hot, thick dust, as tardy fishermen returned from their labors. The hum of insects about his toldo lulled him with its low monotone. The call of a lonely jaguar drifted across the still lake from the brooding jungle beyond. A great peace lay over the ancient town; and when, in the early hours of morning, as the distorted moon hung low in the western sky, Josè awoke, the soft breathing of the child fell upon his ears like a benediction; and deep from his heart there welled a prayer––

“My God––her God––at last I thank Thee!”


The day following was filled to the brim with bustling activity. Josè plunged into his new life with an enthusiasm he had never known before. His first care was to relieve Rosendo and his good wife of the burden of housing him. Rosendo, protesting against the intimation that the priest could in any way inconvenience him, at last suggested that the house adjoining his own, a small, three-room cottage, was vacant, and might be had at a nominal rental. Some repairs were needed; the mud had fallen from the walls in several places; but he would plaster it up again and put it into habitable condition at once.

During the discussion Don Mario, the Alcalde, called to pay his respects to Josè. He had just returned from a week’s visit to Ocaña, whither he had gone on matters of business with Simití’s most eminent citizen, Don Felipe Alcozer, who was at present sojourning there for reasons of health. Learning of the priest’s recent severe illness, Don Mario had hastened at once to pay his devoirs. And now the Holy Virgin be praised that he beheld the Cura again fully restored! Yes, the dismal little house in question belonged to him, but would the Cura graciously accept it, rent free, and with his most sincere compliments? Josè glanced at Rosendo and, reading a meaning in the slight shake of his head, replied that, although overwhelmed by the Alcalde’s kindness, he could take the cottage only on the condition that it should become the parish house, which the Church must support. A shade of disappointment seemed to cross the heavy face of Don Mario, but he graciously acquiesced in the priest’s suggestion; and arrangements were at once concluded whereby the house became the dwelling place of the new Cura.

Rosendo thereupon sent out a call for assistants, to which 30 the entire unemployed male population of the town responded. Mud for the walls was hastily brought from the lake, and mixed with manure and dried grass. A half dozen young men started for the islands to cut fresh thatch for the roof. Others set about scraping the hard dirt floors; while Don Mario gave orders which secured a table, several rough chairs, together with iron stewpans and a variety of enameled metal dishes, all of which Rosendo insisted should be charged against the parish. The village carpenter, with his rusty tools and rough, undressed lumber, constructed a bed in one of the rooms; and Juan, the boatman, laboriously sought out stones of the proper shape and size to support the cooking utensils in the primitive dirt hearth.

Often, as he watched the progress of these arrangements, Josè’s thoughts reverted longingly to his father’s comfortable house in far-off Seville; to his former simple quarters in Rome; and to the less pretentious, but still wholly sufficient ménage of Cartagena. Compared with this primitive dwelling and the simple husbandry which it would shelter, his former abodes and manner of life had been extravagantly luxurious. At times he felt a sudden sinking of heart as he reflected that perhaps he should never again know anything better than the lowly life of this dead town. But when his gaze rested upon the little Carmen, flying hither and yon with an ardent, anticipatory interest in every detail of the preparations, and when he realized that, though her feet seemed to rest in the squalid setting afforded by this dreary place, yet her thought dwelt ever in heaven, his heart welled again with a great thankfulness for the inestimable privilege of giving his new life, in whatever environment, to a soul so fair as hers.

While his house was being set in order under the direction of Rosendo, Josè visited the church with the Alcalde to formulate plans for its immediate repair and renovation. As he surveyed the ancient pile and reflected that it stood as a monument to the inflexible religious convictions of his own distant progenitors, the priest’s sensibilities were profoundly stirred. How little he knew of that long line of illustrious ancestry which preceded him! He had been thrust from under the parental wing at the tender age of twelve; but he could not recall that even before that event his father had ever made more than casual mention of the family. Indeed, in the few months since arriving on ancestral soil Josè had gathered up more of the threads which bound him to the ancient house of Rincón than in all the years which preceded. Had he himself only been capable of the unquestioning acceptance of religious dogma which those old Conqueros and early forbears exhibited, 31 to what position of eminence in Holy Church might he not already have attained, with every avenue open to still greater preferment! How happy were his dear mother then! How glorious their honored name!––

With a sigh the priest roused himself and strove to thrust these disturbing thoughts from his mind by centering his attention upon the work in hand. Doña Maria came to him for permission to take the moldy vestments from the sacristía to her house to clean them. The Alcalde, bustling about, panting and perspiring, was distributing countless orders among his willing assistants. Carmen, who throughout the morning had been everywhere, bubbling with enthusiasm, now appeared at the church door. As she entered the musty, ill-smelling old building she hesitated on the threshold, her childish face screwed into an expression of disgust.

“Come in, little one; I need your inspiration,” called Josè cheerily.

The child approached, and slipped her hand into his. “Padre Rosendo says this is God’s house,” she commented, looking up at Josè. “He says you are going to talk about God here––in this dirty, smelly old place! Why don’t you talk about Him out of doors?”

Josè was becoming innured to the embarrassment which her direct questions occasioned. And he was learning not to dissemble in his replies.

“It is because the people want to come here, dear one; it is their custom.”

Would the people believe that the wafer and wine could be changed into the flesh and blood of Jesus elsewhere––even in Nature’s temple?

“But I don’t want to come here!” she asseverated.

“That was a naughty thing to say to the good Cura, child!” interposed Don Mario, who had overheard the girl’s remark. “You see, Padre, how we need a Cura here to save these children; otherwise the Church is going to lose them. They are running pretty wild, and especially this one. She is already dedicated to the Church; but she will have to learn to speak more reverently of holy things if she expects to become a good Sister.”

The child looked uncomprehendingly from, one to the other.

“Who dedicated her to the Church?” demanded Josè sharply.

“Oh, Padre Diego, at her baptism, when she was a baby,” replied Don Mario in a matter of fact tone.

Josè shuddered at the thought of that unholy man’s loathsome hands resting upon the innocent girl. But he made no 32 immediate reply. Of all things, he knew that the guarding of his own tongue was now most important. But his thought was busy with Rosendo’s burning words of the preceding day, and with his own solemn vow. He reflected on his present paradoxical, hazardous position; on the tremendous problem which here confronted him; and on his desperate need of wisdom––yea, superhuman wisdom––to ward off from this child the net which he knew the subtlety and cruel cunning of shrewd, unscrupulous men would some day cause to be cast about her. A soul like hers, mirrored in a body so wondrous fair, must eventually draw the devil’s most envenomed barbs.

To Josè’s great relief Don Mario turned immediately from the present topic to one relating to the work of renovation. Finding a pretext for sending Carmen back to the house, the priest gave his attention unreservedly to the Alcalde. But his mind ceased not to revolve the implications in Don Mario’s words relative to the girl; and when the midday siesta came upon him his brow was knotted and his eyes gazed vacantly at the manifestations of activity about him.

Hurrying across the road to escape the scalding heat, Josè’s ears again caught the sound of singing, issuing evidently from Rosendo’s house. It was very like the clear, sweet voice which had floated into his room the morning after he awoke from his delirium. He approached the door reverently and looked in. Carmen was arranging the few poor dishes upon the rough table, and as she worked, her soul flowed across her lips in song.

The man listened astonished. The words and the simple melody which carried them were evidently an improvisation. But the voice––did that issue from a human throat? Yes, for in distant Spain and far-off Rome, in great cathedrals and concert halls, he had sometimes listened entranced to voices like this––stronger, and delicately trained, but reared upon even less of primitive talent.

The girl caught sight of him; and the song died on the warm air.

The priest strode toward her and clasped her in his arms. “Carmen, child! Who taught you to sing like that?”

The girl smiled up in his face. “God, Padre.”

Of course! He should have known. And in future he need never ask.

“And I suppose He tells you when to sing, too, as He does Cantar-las-horas?” said Josè, smiling in amusement.

“No, Padre,” was the unaffected answer. “He just sings Himself in me.”

The man felt rebuked for his light remark; and a lump rose 33 in his throat. He looked again into her fair face with a deep yearning.

Oh, ye of little faith! Did you but know––could you but realize––that the kingdom of heaven is within you, would not celestial melody flow from your lips, too?

Throughout the afternoon, while he labored with his willing helpers in the church building and his homely cottage, the child’s song lingered in his brain, like the memory of a sweet perfume. His eyes followed her lithe, graceful form as she flitted about, and his mind was busy devising pretexts for keeping her near him. At times she would steal up close to him and put her little hand lovingly and confidingly into his own. Then as he looked down into her upturned face, wreathed with smiles of happiness, his breath would catch, and he would turn hurriedly away, that she might not see the tears which suffused his eyes.

When night crept down, unheralded, from the Sierras, the priest’s house stood ready for its occupant. Cantar-las-horas had dedicated it by singing the Angelus at the front door, for the hour of six had overtaken him as he stood, with cocked head, peering curiously within. The dwelling, though pitifully bare, was nevertheless as clean as these humble folk with the primitive means at their command could render it. Instead of the customary hard macana palm strips for the bed, Rosendo had thoughtfully substituted a large piece of tough white canvas, fastened to a rectangular frame, which rested on posts well above the damp floor. On this lay a white sheet and a light blanket of red flannel. Rosendo had insisted that, for the present, Josè should take his meals with him. The priest’s domestic arrangements, therefore, would be simple in the extreme; and Doña Maria quietly announced that these were in her charge. The church edifice would not be in order for some days yet, perhaps a week. But of this Josè was secretly glad, for he regarded with dread the necessity of discharging the priestly functions. And yet, upon that hinged his stay in Simití.

“Simití has two churches, you know, Padre,” remarked Rosendo during the evening meal. “There is another old one near the eastern edge of town. If you wish, we can visit it while there is yet light.”

Josè expressed his pleasure; and a few minutes later the two men, with Carmen dancing along happily beside them, were climbing the shaly eminence upon the summit of which stood the second church. On the way they passed the town cemetery.

“The Spanish cemetery never grows,” commented Josè, stopping at the crumbling gateway and peering in. The place 34 of sepulture was the epitome of utter desolation. A tumbled brick wall surrounded it, and there were a few broken brick vaults, in some of which whitening bones were visible. In a far corner was a heap of human bones and bits of decayed coffins.

“Their rent fell due, Padre,” said Rosendo with a little laugh, indicating the bones. “The Church rents this ground to the people––it is consecrated, you know. And if the payments are not made, why, the bones come up and are thrown over there.”

“Humph!” grunted Josè. “Worse than heathenish!”

“But you see, Padre, the Church is only concerned with souls. And it is better to pay the money to get souls out of purgatory than to rent a bit of ground for the body, is it not?”

Josè wisely vouchsafed no answer.

“Come, Padre,” continued Rosendo. “I would not want to have to spend the night here. For, you know, if a man spends a night in a cemetery an evil spirit settles upon him––is it not so?”

Josè still kept silence before the old man’s inbred superstition. A few minutes later they stood before the old church. It was in the Spanish mission style, but smaller than the one in the central plaza.

“This was built in the time of your great-grandfather, Padre, the father of Don Ignacio,” offered Rosendo. “The Rincón family had many powerful enemies throughout the country, and those in Simití even carried their ill feeling so far as to refuse to hear Mass in the church which your family built. So they erected this one. No one ever enters it now. Strange noises are sometimes heard inside, and the people are afraid to go in. You see there are no houses built near it. They say an angel of the devil lives here and thrashes around at times in terrible anger. There is a story that many years ago, when I was but a baby, the devil’s angel came and entered this church one dark night, when there was a terrible storm and the waves of the lake were so strong that they tossed the crocodiles far up on the shore. And when the bad angel saw the candles burning on the altar before the sacred wafer he roared in anger and blew them out. But there was a beautiful painting of the Virgin on the wall, and when the lights went out she came down out of her picture and lighted the candles again. But the devil’s angel blew them out once more. And then, they say, the Holy Virgin left the church in darkness and went out and locked the wicked angel in, where he has been ever since. That was to show her displeasure against the enemies of the great Rincóns for erecting this church. The Cura died suddenly that 35 night; and the church has never been used since The Virgin, you know, is the special guardian Saint of the Rincón family.”

“But you do not believe the story, Rosendo?” Josè asked.

Quien sabe?” was the noncommittal reply.

“Do you really think the Virgin could or would do such a thing, Rosendo?”

“Why not, Padre? She has the same power as God, has she not? The frame which held her picture”––reverting again to the story––“was found out in front of the church the next morning; but the picture itself was gone.”

Josè glanced down at Carmen, who had been listening with a tense, rapt expression on her face. What impression did this strange story make upon her? She looked up at the priest with a little laugh.

“Let us go in, Padre,” she said.

“No!” commanded Rosendo, seizing her hand.

“Are you afraid, Rosendo?” queried the amused Josè.

“I––I would––rather not,” the old man replied hesitatingly. “The Virgin has sealed it.” Physical danger was temperamental to this noble son of the jungle; yet the religious superstition which Spain had bequeathed to this oppressed land still shackled his limbs.

As they descended the hill Carmen seized an opportunity to speak to Josè alone. “Some day, Padre,” she whispered, “you and I will open the door and let the bad angel out, won’t we?”

Josè pressed her little hand. He knew that the door of his own mind had swung wide at her bidding in these few days, and many a bad angel had gone out forever.


The dawn of a new day broke white and glistering upon the ancient pueblo. From their hard beds of palm, and their straw mats on the dirt floors, the provincial dwellers in this abandoned treasure house of Old Spain rose already dressed to resume the monotonous routine of their lowly life. The duties which confronted them were few, scarce extending beyond the procurement of their simple food. And for all, excepting the two or three families which constituted the shabby aristocracy of Simití, this was limited in the extreme. Indian corn, panela, and coffee, with an occasional addition of platanos or rice, and now and then bits of bagre, the coarse fish yielded by the adjacent lake, constituted the staple diet of the 36 average citizen of this decayed hamlet. A few might purchase a bit of lard at rare intervals; and this they hoarded like precious jewels. Some occasionally had wheat flour; but the long, difficult transportation, and its rapid deterioration in that hot, moist climate, where swarms of voracious insects burrow into everything not cased in tin or iron, made its cost all but prohibitive. A few had goats and chickens. Some possessed pigs. And the latter even exceeded in value the black, naked babes that played in the hot dust of the streets with them.

Josè was up at dawn. Standing in the warm, unadulterated sunlight in his doorway he watched the village awaken. At a door across the plaza a woman appeared, smoking a cigar, with the lighted end in her mouth. Josè viewed with astonishment this curious custom which prevails in the Tierra Caliente. He had observed that in Simití nearly everybody of both sexes was addicted to the use of tobacco, and it was no uncommon sight to see children of tender age smoking heavy, black cigars with keen enjoyment. From another door issued two fishermen, who, seeing the priest, approached and asked his blessing on their day’s work. Some moments later he heard a loud tattoo, and soon the Alcalde of the village appeared, marching pompously through the streets, preceded by his tall, black secretary, who was beating lustily upon a small drum. At each street intersection the little procession halted, while the Alcalde with great impressiveness sonorously read a proclamation just received from the central Government at Bogotá to the effect that thereafter no cattle might be killed in the country without the payment of a tax as therein set forth. Groups of peones gathered slowly about the few little stores in the main street, or entered and inspected for the thousandth time the shabby stocks. Matrons with black, shining faces cheerily greeted one another from their doorways. Everywhere prevailed a gentle decorum of speech and manners. For, however lowly the station, however pinched the environment, the dwellers in this ancient town were ever gentle, courteous and dignified. Their conversation dealt with the simple affairs of their quiet life. They knew nothing of the complex problems, social, economic, or religious, which harassed their brethren of the North. No dubious aspirations or ambitions stirred their breasts. Nothing of the frenzied greed and lust of material accumulation touched their child-like minds. They dwelt upon a plane far, far removed, in whatever direction, from the mental state of their educated and civilized brothers of the great States, who from time to time undertake to advise them how to live, while ruthlessly exploiting them for material gain. And thus they have been exploited ever since the heavy hand of the 37 Spaniard was laid upon them, four centuries ago. Thus they will continue to be, until that distant day when mankind shall have learned to find their own in another’s good.

As his eyes swept his environment, the untutored folk, the old church, the dismally decrepit mud houses, with an air of desolation and utter abandon brooding over all; and as he reflected that his own complex nature, rather than any special malice of fortune, had brought this to him, Josè’s heart began to sink under the sting of a condemning conscience. He turned back into his house. Its pitiful emptiness smote him sore. No books, no pictures, no furnishings, nothing that ministers to the comfort of a civilized and educated man! And yet, amid this barrenness he had resolved to live.

A song drifted to him through the pulsing heat of the morning air. It sifted through the mud walls of his poor dwelling, and poured into the open doorway, where it hovered, quivering, like the dust motes in the sunbeams. Instantly the man righted himself. It was Carmen, the child to whom his life now belonged. Resolutely he again set his wandering mind toward the great thing he would accomplish––the protection and training of this girl, even while, if might be, he found his life again in hers. Nothing on earth should shake him from that purpose! Doubt and uncertainty were powerless to dull the edge of his efforts. His bridges were burned behind him; and on the other side of the great gulf lay the dead self which he had abandoned forever.

A harsh medley of loud, angry growls, interspersed with shrill yelps, suddenly arose before his house, and Josè hastened to the door just in time to see Carmen rush into the street and fearlessly throw herself upon two fighting dogs.

“Cucumbra! Stop it instantly!” she exclaimed, dragging the angry brute from a thoroughly frightened puppy.

“Shame! shame! And after all I’ve talked to you about loving that puppy!”

The gaunt animal slunk down, with its tail between its legs.

“Did you ever gain anything at all by fighting? You know you never did! And right down in your heart you know you love that puppy. You’ve got to love him; you can’t help it! And you might as well begin right now.”

The beast whimpered at her little bare feet.

“Cucumbra, you let bad thoughts use you, didn’t you? Yes, you did; and you’re sorry for it now. Well, there’s the puppy,” pointing to the little dog, which stood hesitant some yards away. “Now go and play with him,” she urged. “Play with him!” rousing the larger dog and pointing toward the puppy. “Play with him! You know you love him!”


Cucumbra hesitated, looking alternately at the small, resolute girl and the smaller dog. Her arm remained rigidly extended, and determination was written large in her set features. The puppy uttered a sharp bark, as if in forgiveness, and began to scamper playfully about. Cucumbra threw a final glance at the girl.

“Play with him!” she again commanded.

The large dog bounded after the puppy, and together they disappeared around the street corner.

The child turned and saw Josè, who had regarded the scene in mute astonishment.

Muy buenos dias, Señor Padre,” dropping a little courtesy. “But isn’t Cucumbra foolish to have bad thoughts?”

“Why, yes––he certainly is,” replied Josè slowly, hard pressed by the unusual question.

“He has just got to love that puppy, or else he will never be happy, will he, Padre?”

Why would this girl persist in ending her statements with an interrogation! How could he know whether Cucumbra’s happiness would be imperfect if he failed in love toward the puppy?

“Because, you know, Padre,” the child continued, coming up to him and slipping her hand into his, “padre Rosendo once told me that God was Love; and after that I knew we just had to love everything and everybody, or else He can’t see us––can He, Padre?”

He can’t see us––if we don’t love everything and everybody! Well! Josè wondered what sort of interpretation the Vatican, with its fiery hatred of heretics, would put upon this remark.

“Can He, Padre?” insisted the girl.

“Dear child, in these matters you are teaching me; not I you,” replied the noncommittal priest.

“But, Padre, you are going to teach the people in the church,” the girl ventured quizzically.

Ah, so he was! And he had wondered what. In his hour of need the answer was vouchsafed him.

“Yes, dearest child––and I am going to teach them what I learn from you.”

Carmen regarded him for a moment uncertainly. “But, padre Rosendo says you are to teach me,” she averred.

“And so I am, little one,” the priest replied; “but not one half as much as I shall learn from you.”

Doña Maria’s summons to breakfast interrupted the conversation. Throughout the repast Josè felt himself subjected to the closest scrutiny by Carmen. What was running through her thought, he could only vaguely surmise. But he instinctively 39 felt that he was being weighed and appraised by this strange child, and that she was finding him wanting in her estimate of what manner of man a priest of God ought to be. And yet he knew that she embraced him in her great love. Oftentimes his quick glance at her would find her serious gaze bent upon him. But whenever their eyes met, her sweet face would instantly relax and glow with a smile of tenderest love––a love which, he felt, was somehow, in some way, destined to reconstruct his shattered life.

Josè’s plans for educating the girl had gradually evolved into completion during the past two days. He explained them at length to Rosendo after the morning meal; and the latter, with dilating eyes, manifested his great joy by clasping the priest in his brawny arms.

“But remember, Rosendo,” Josè said, “learning is not knowing. I can only teach her book-knowledge. But even now, an untutored child, she knows more that is real than I do.”

“Ah, Padre, have I not told you many times that she is not like us? And now you know it!” exclaimed the emotional Rosendo, his eyes suffused with tears of joy as he beheld his cherished ideals and his longing of years at last at the point of realization. What he, too, had instinctively seen in the child was now to be summoned forth; and the vague, half-understood motive which had impelled him to take the abandoned babe from Badillo into the shelter of his own great heart would at length be revealed. The man’s joy was ecstatic. With a final clasp of the priest’s hand, he rushed from the house to plunge into the work in progress at the church.

Josè summoned Carmen into the quiet of his own dwelling. She came joyfully, bringing an ancient and obsolete arithmetic and a much tattered book, which Josè discovered to be a chronicle of the heroic deeds of the early Conquistadores.

“I’m through decimals!” she exclaimed with glistening eyes; “and I’ve read some of this, but I don’t like it,” making a little moue of disgust and holding aloft the battered history.

“Padre Rosendo told me to show it to you,” she continued. “But it is all about murder, you know. And yet,” with a little sigh, “he has nothing else to read, excepting old newspapers which the steamers sometimes leave at Bodega Central. And they are all about murder, and stealing, and bad things, too. Padre, why don’t people write about good things?”

Josè gazed at her reverently, as of old the sculptor Phidias might have stood in awe before the vision which he saw in the unchiseled marble.

“Padre Rosendo helped me with the fractions,” went on the girl, flitting lightly to another topic; “but I had to learn the 40 decimals myself. He couldn’t understand them. And they are so easy, aren’t they? I just love arithmetic!” hugging the old book to her little bosom.

Both volumes, printed in Madrid, were reliques of Spanish colonial days.

“Read to me, Carmen,” said Josè, handing her the history.

The child took the book and began to read, with clear enunciation, the narrative of Quesada’s sanguinary expedition to Bogotá, undertaken in the name of the gentle Christ. Josè wondered as he listened what interpretation this fresh young mind would put upon the motives of that renowned exploit. Suddenly she snapped the book shut.

“Tell me about Jesus,” she demanded.

The precipitation with which the question had been propounded almost took his breath away. He raised his eyes to hers, and looked long and wonderingly into their infinite depths. And then the vastness of the problem enunciated by her demand loomed before him. What, after all, did he know about Jesus? Had he not arrived in Simití in a state of agnosticism regarding religion? Had he not come there enveloped in confusion, baffled, beaten, hopeless? And then, after his wonderful talk with Rosendo, had he not agreed with him that the child’s thought must be kept free and open––that her own instinctive religious ideas must be allowed to develop normally, unhampered and unfettered by the external warp and bias of human speculation? It was part of his plan that all reference to matters theological should be omitted from Carmen’s educational scheme. Yet here was that name on her lips––the first time he had ever heard it voiced by her. And it smote him like a hammer. He made haste to divert further inquiry.

“Not now, little one,” he said hastily. “I want to hear you read more from your book.”

“No,” she replied firmly, laying the volume upon the table. “I don’t like it; and I shouldn’t think you would, either. Besides, it isn’t true; it never really happened.”

“Why, of course it is true, child! It is history, the story of how the brave Spaniards came into this country long ago. We will read a great deal more about them later.”

“No,” with a decisive shake of her brown head; “not if it is like this. It isn’t true; I told padre Rosendo it wasn’t.”

“Well, what do you mean, child?” asked the uncomprehending priest.

“It is only a lot of bad thoughts printed in a book,” she replied slowly. “And it isn’t true, because God is everywhere.”

Clearly the man was encountering difficulties at the outset; and a part, at least, of his well-ordered curriculum stood in 41 grave danger of repudiation at the hands of this earnest little maid.

The girl stood looking at him wistfully. Then her sober little face melted in smiles. With childish impulsiveness she clambered into his lap, and twining her arms about his neck, impressed a kiss upon his cheek.

“I love you, Padre,” she murmured; “and you love me, don’t you?”

He pressed her to him, startled though he was. “God knows I do, little one!” he exclaimed.

“Of course He does,” she eagerly agreed; “and He knows you don’t want to teach me anything that isn’t true, doesn’t He, Padre dear?”

Yea, and more; for Josè was realizing now, what he had not seen before, that it was beyond his power to teach her that which was not true. The magnitude and sacredness of his task impressed him as never before. His puzzled brain grappled feebly with the enormous problem. She had rebuked him for trying to teach her things which, if he accepted the immanence of God as fact, her logic had shown him were utterly false. Clearly the grooves in which this child’s pure thought ran were not his own. And if she would not think as he did, what recourse was there left him but to accept the alternative and think with her? For he would not, even if he could, force upon her his own thought-processes.

“Then, Carmen,” he finally ventured, “you do not wish to learn about people and what they have done and are doing in the big world about you?”

“Oh, yes, Padre; tell me all about the good things they did!”

“But they did many wicked things too, chiquita. And the good and the bad are all mixed up together.”

“No,” she shook her head vigorously; “there isn’t any bad. There is only good, for God is everywhere––isn’t He?”

She raised up and looked squarely into the priest’s eyes. Dissimulation, hypocrisy, quibble, cant––nothing but fearless truth could meet that gaze.

Suddenly a light broke in upon his clouded thought. This girl––this tender plant of God––why, she had shown it from the very beginning! And he, oh, blind that he was! he could not see nor accept it. The secret of her power, of her ecstasy of life––what was it but this?––she knew no evil!

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

Oh, great God! It was the first––the very first––lesson 42 which Thou didst teach Thy child, Israel, as the curtain rose upon the drama of human life! And the awful warning has rung down through the corridors of time from the mouths of the prophets, whom we slew lest they wake us from our mesmeric sleep! Israel forgot Thy words; and the world has forgotten them, long, long since. Daily we mix our perfumed draft of good and evil, and sink under its lethal influence! Hourly we eat of the forbidden tree, till the pangs of death encompass us!

And when at last the dark angel hovered over the sin-stricken earth and claimed it for his own, the great Master came to sound again the warning––“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he!” But they would have none of him, and nailed him to a tree!

Oh, Jerusalem! Oh, ye incarnate human mind! Even the unique Son of God wept as he looked with yearning upon you! Why? Because of your stubborn clinging to false ways, false beliefs, false thoughts of God and man! Because ye would not be healed; ye would not be made whole! Ye loved evil––ye gave it life and power, and ye rolled it like a sweet morsel beneath your tongue––and so ye died! So came death into this fair world, through the heart, the brain, the mind of man, who sought to know what God could not!

“Padre dear, you are so quiet.” The girl nestled closer to the awed priest. Aye! And so the multitude on Sinai had stood in awed quiet as they listened to the voice of God.

This child knew no evil! The man could not grasp the infinite import of the marvelous fact. And yet he had sought to teach her falsities––to teach her that evil did exist, as real and as potent as good, and that it was to be accepted and honored by mankind! But she had turned her back upon the temptation.

“Padre, are you going to tell me about Jesus?”

The priest roused from his deep meditation.

“Yes, yes––I want to know nothing else! I will get my Bible, and we will read about him!”

“Bible? What is that, Padre dear?”

“What! You don’t know what the Bible is?” cried the astonished priest.

“No, Padre.”

“But have you never––has your padre Rosendo never told you that it is the book that tells––?”

“No,” the girl shook her head. “But,” her face kindling, “he told me that Jesus was God’s only son. But we are all His children, aren’t we?”

“Yes––especially you, little one! But Jesus was the greatest––”


“Did Jesus write the Bible, Padre?” the girl asked earnestly.

“No––we don’t know who did. People used to think God wrote it; but I guess He didn’t.”

“Then we will not read it, Padre.”

The man bent reverently over the little brown head and prayed again for guidance. What could he do with this child, who dwelt with Jehovah––who saw His reflection in every flower and hill and fleecy cloud––who heard His voice in the sough of the wind, and the ripple of the waters on the pebbly shore! And, oh, that some one had bent over him and prayed for guidance when he was a tender lad and his heart burned with yearning for truth!

“God wrote the arithmetic––I mean, He told people how to write it, didn’t He, Padre?”

Surely the priest could acquiesce in this, for mathematics is purely metaphysical, and without guile.

“Yes, chiquita. And we will go right through this little book. Then, if I can, I will send for others that will teach you wonderful things about what we call mathematics.”

The child smiled her approval. The priest had now found the only path which she would tread with him, and he continued with enthusiasm.

“And God taught people how to talk, little one; but they don’t all talk as we do. There is a great land up north of us, which we call the United States, and there the people would not understand us, for we speak Spanish. I must teach you their language, chiquita, and I must teach you others, too, for you will not always live in Simití.”

“I want to stay here always, Padre. I love Simití.” “No, Carmen; God has work for you out in His big world. You have something to tell His people some day, a message for them. But you and I have much work to do here first. And so we will begin with the arithmetic and English. Later we will study other languages, and we will talk them to each other until you speak them as fluently as your own. And meanwhile, I will tell you about the great countries of the world, and about the people that live in them. And we will study about the stars, and the rocks, and the animals; and we will read and work and read and work all day long, every day!” The priest’s face was aglow with animation.

“But, Padre, when shall I have time to think?”

“Why, you will be thinking all the time, child!”

“No, you don’t understand. I have to think about other things.”

Josè looked at her with a puzzled expression. “What other things do you have to think about, chiquita?”


“About all the people here who are sick and unhappy, and who quarrel and don’t love one another.”

“Do you think about people when they are sick?” he asked with heightened curiosity.

“Yes, always!” she replied vigorously “When they are sick I go where nobody can find me and then just think that it isn’t so.”

Hombre!” the priest ejaculated, his astonishment soaring Then––

“But when people are sick it is really so, isn’t it, chiquita?”

“No!” emphatically. “It can’t be––not if God is everywhere. Does He make them sick?” The child drove the heart-searching question straight into him.

“Why––no, I can’t say that He does. And yet they somehow get sick.”

“Because they think bad things, Padre. Because they don’t think about God. They don’t think He is here. And they don’t care about Him––they don’t love Him. And so they get sick,” she explained succinctly.

Josè’s mind reverted to what Rosendo had told him. When he lay tossing in delirium Carmen had said that he would not die. And yet that was perfectly logical, if she refused to admit the existence of evil.

“I thought lots about you last week, Padre.”

The soft voice was close to his ear, and every breath swept over his heartstrings and made them vibrate.

“Every night when I went to sleep I told God I knew He would cure you.”

The priest’s head sank upon his breast.

Verily, I have not seen such faith, no, not in Israel! And the faith of this child had glorified her vision until she saw “the heavens open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

“Carmen”––the priest spoke reverently––“do the sick ones always get well when you think about them?”

There was not a shade of euphemism in the unhesitating reply––

“They are never really sick, Padre.”

“But, by that you mean––”

“They only have bad thoughts.”

“Sick thoughts, then?” he suggested by way of drawing out her full meaning.

“Yes, Padre––for God, you know, really is everywhere.”

“Carmen!” cried the man. “What put such ideas into your little head? Who told you these things?”

Her brown eyes looked full into his own. “God, Padre dear.”


God! Yes, of a verity she spoke truth. For nothing but her constant communion with Him could have filled her pure thought with a deeper, truer lore than man has ever quaffed at the world’s great fountains of learning. He himself, trained by Holy Church, deeply versed in letters, science, and theology, grounded in all human learning, sat in humility at her feet, drinking in what his heart told him he had at length found––Truth.

He had one more question to ask. “Carmen, how do you know, how are you sure, that He told you?”

“Because it is true, Padre.”

“But just how do you know that it is true?” he insisted.

“Why––it comes out that way; just like the answers to the problems in arithmetic. I used to try to see if by thinking only good thoughts to-day I would be better and happier to-morrow.”

“Yes, and––?”

“Well, I always was, Padre. And so now I don’t think anything but good thoughts.”

“That is, you think only about God?”

“I always think about Him first, Padre.”

He had no further need to question her proofs, for he knew she was taught by the Master himself.

“That will be all for this morning, Carmen,” he said quietly, as he put her down. “Leave me now. I, too, have some thinking to do.”

When Carmen left him, Josè lapsed into profound meditation. Musing over his life experiences, he at last summed them all up in the vain attempt to evolve an acceptable concept of God, an idea of Him that would satisfy. He had felt that in Christianity he had hold of something beneficent, something real; but he had never been able to formulate it, nor lift it above the shadows into the clear light of full comprehension. And the result of his futile efforts to this end had been agnosticism. His inability conscientiously to accept the mad reasoning of theologians and the impudent claims of Rome had been the stumbling block to his own and his family’s dearest earthly hopes. He knew that popular Christianity was a disfigurement of truth. He knew that the theological claptrap which the Church, with such oracular assurance, such indubitable certainty and gross assumption of superhuman knowledge, handed out to a suffering world, was a travesty of the divinely simple teachings of Jesus, and that it had estranged mankind from their only visible source of salvation, the Bible. He saw more clearly than ever before that in the actual achievements of popular theology there had been ridiculously little that a seriously-minded 46 man could accept as supports to its claims to be a divinely revealed scheme of salvation. Yet there was no vital question on which certainty was so little demanded, and seemingly of so little consequence, as this, even though the joints of the theologians’ armor flapped wide to the assaults of unprejudiced criticism.

But if the slate were swept clean––if current theological dogma were overthrown, and the stage set anew––what could be reared in their stead? Is it true that the Bible is based upon propositions which can be verified by all? The explorer in Cartagena had given Josè a new thought in Arnold’s concept of God as “the Eternal, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness.” And it was not to be denied that, from first to last, the Bible is a call to righteousness.

But what is righteousness? Ethical conduct? Assuredly something vastly more profound, for even that “misses the mark.” No, righteousness was right conduct until the marvelous Jesus appeared. But he swept it at once from the material into the mental; from the outward into the inward; and defined it as right-thinking!

“Righteousness!” murmured Josè, sitting with head buried in his hands. “Aye, the whole scheme of salvation is held in that one word! And the wreck of my life has been caused by my blind ignorance of its tremendous meaning! For righteousness is salvation. But Carmen, wise little soul, divined it instinctively; for, if there is one thing that is patent, it is that if a thing is evil it does not exist for her. Righteousness! Of course it means thinking no evil! Jesus lived his thorough understanding of it. And so does Carmen. And so would the world, but for the withering influence of priestly authority!”

At that moment Carmen reappeared to summon him to lunch.

“Come here, little girl,” said Josè, drawing her to him. “You asked me to tell you about Jesus. He was the greatest and best man that ever lived. And it was because he never had a bad thought.”

“Did he know that God was everywhere?” The little face turned lovingly up to his.

“He did, sweet child. And so do I––now; for I have found Him even in desolate Simití.”



Carmen’s studies began in earnest that afternoon. In the quiet of his humble cottage Josè, now “a prisoner of the Lord,” opened the door of his mental storehouse and carefully selected those first bits of knowledge for the foundation stones on which to rear for her, little by little, a broad education.

He found her a facile learner; her thorough ease in the rudiments of arithmetic and in the handling of her own language delighted him. His plan of tutelage, although the result of long contemplation, and involving many radical ideas regarding the training of children, ideas which had been slowly developing in his mind for years, he nevertheless felt in her case to be tentative. For he was dealing with no ordinary child; and so the usual methods of instruction were here wholly out of the question.

But on several points he was already firmly resolved. First, he would get well below the surface of this child’s mind, and he would endeavor to train her to live in a depth of thought far, far beneath the froth and superficiality of the every-day thinking of mankind. Fortunately, she had had no previous bad training to be counteracted now. Nature had been her only tutor; and Rosendo’s canny wisdom had kept out all human interference. Her associates in Simití were few. Her unusual and mature thought had set up an intellectual barrier between herself and the playmates she might have had. Fortunately, too, Josè had now to deal with a child who all her life had thought vigorously––and, he was forced to conclude, correctly. Habits of accurate observation and quick and correct interpretation would not be difficult to form in such a mind. Moreover, to this end he would aim to maintain her interest at the point of intensity in every subject undertaken; yet without forcing, and without sacrifice of the joys of childhood. He would be, not teacher only, but fellow-student. He would strive to learn with her to conceive the ideal without losing sight of the fact that it was a human world in which they dwelt. When she wished to play, he would play with her. But he would contrive and direct their amusements so as to carry instruction, to elucidate and exemplify it, to point morals, and steadily to contribute to her store of knowledge. His plan was ideal, he knew. But he could not know then that Nature––if we may thus call it––had anticipated him, and that the child, long since started upon the quest for truth, would quickly outstrip him 48 in the matter of conceiving the ideal and living in this world of relative fact with an eye single to the truth which shines so dimly through it.

Josè knew, as he studied Carmen and planned her training, that whatever instruction he offered her must be without taint of evil, so far as he might prevent. And yet, the thought of any attempt to withhold from her a knowledge of evil brought a sardonic smile to his lips. She had as yet everything to learn of the world about her. Could such learning be imparted to her free from error or hypothesis, and apart from the fiat of the speculative human mind? It must be; for he knew from experience that she would accept his teaching only as he presented every apparent fact, every object, every event, as a reflection in some degree of her immanent God, and subject to rigid demonstration. Where historical events externalized only the evil motives of the carnal mind, he must contrive to omit them entirely, or else present them as unreality, the result of “bad thoughts” and forgetfulness of God. In other words, only as he assumed to be the channel through which God spoke to her could he hope for success. To impart to her a knowledge of both good and evil was, at least at present, impossible. To force it upon her later would be criminal. Moreover, why not try the audacious experiment of permitting and aiding this child to grow up without a knowledge of evil?––that is, in her present conviction that only good is real, potent and permanent, while evil is impotent illusion and to be met and overcome on that basis. Would the resultant training make of her a tower of strength––or would it render her incapable of resisting the onslaughts of evil when at length she faced the world? His own heart sanctioned the plan; and––well, the final judgment should be left to Carmen herself.

The work proceeded joyously. At times Cucumbra interrupted by bounding in, as if impatient of the attention his little mistress was giving her tutor. Frequently the inquisitive Cantar-las-horas stalked through the room, displaying a most dignified and laudable interest in the proceedings. Late in the afternoon, when the sun was low, Bosendo appeared at the door. As he stood listening to Josè’s narrative of men and places in the outside world, his eyes bulged. At length his untutored mind became strained to its elastic limit.

“Is that true, Padre?” he could not refrain from interrupting, when Josè had spoken of the fast trains of England. “Why, the Simití trail to Tachí is one hundred and fifty miles long; and it always took me six days to walk it. And do you say there are trains that travel that distance in as many hours?”

“There are trains, Rosendo, that traverse the distance in three hours.”


Na, Padre, it can’t be done!” cried the incredulous Rosendo, shaking his head.

“Leave us, unbeliever!” laughed Josè, motioning him away. “I have more pliable material here to handle than you.”

But Rosendo remained; and it was evident to the priest that he had come on an errand of importance. Moreover, the supper hour was at hand, and perhaps Doña Maria needed Carmen’s help. So, dismissing the child, Josè turned to Rosendo.

“You were right,” he began, as if taking up the thread of a broken discourse. “Carmen was left on the river bank by the angels.”

“Then you do think it was a miracle!” said Rosendo in a voice of awe, as he sank into a chair.

The priest smiled. “Everything is a miracle, friend; for a miracle is simply a sign of God’s presence. And finding Carmen in this musty, forgotten place is one of the greatest. For where she is, He is.”

“Yes, Padre, that is true,” assented Rosendo gravely.

“I was led here,” continued Josè; “I see it now. Rosendo, all my life I have regarded evil as just as real and powerful as good. And my life has been one of bitterness and woe. Carmen sees only the good God everywhere. And she dwells in heaven. What is the logical inference? Simply that my mental attitude has been all wrong, my views erroneous, my thinking bad. I have tried to know both good and evil, to eat of the forbidden tree. And for so doing I was banished from paradise. Do you understand me?”

“Why––well, no, Padre––that is, I––” The honest fellow was becoming confused.

“Well, just this, then,” explained the priest with animation. “I haven’t gotten anywhere in life, and neither have you, because we have limited ourselves and crippled our efforts by yielding to fear, pride, ignorance, and the belief in evil as a real power opposed to good.”

“I have often wondered myself, Padre, how there could be a devil if God is almighty. For in that case He would have had to make the devil, wouldn’t He?”

“Just so!” cried Josè enthusiastically. “And as He did make everything, then either He made the devil, or else there isn’t any.”

“But that is pretty hard to see, Padre,” replied the puzzled Rosendo. “Something makes us do wicked things.”

“Simply the belief that there is a power apart from God.”

“But doesn’t that belief come from the devil?”

“Surely––the devil of imagination! Listen, Rosendo: 50 Carmen is daily putting into practice her instinctive knowledge of a mighty fact. She will reveal it all to us in due time. Let us patiently watch her, and try to see and understand and believe as she does. But in the meantime, let us guard our minds as we would a treasure house, and strive never to let a thought of evil get inside! My past life should serve as a perpetual warning.”

Rosendo did not reply at once, but sat staring vacantly at the ground. Josè knew that his thoughts were with his wayward daughter. Then, as if suddenly remembering the object of his call, he took from his wallet two letters, which he handed to Josè with the comment: “Juan brought them up from Bodega Central this morning.”

Josè took them with quickening pulse. One was from Spain, from his uncle. He devoured it eagerly. It was six weeks old when it arrived in Simití, and had been written before the news of his removal from Cartagena had reached Seville. His mother was well; and her hopes for her son’s preferment were steadily reviving, after the cruel blow which his disgrace in Rome had given them. For his uncle’s part, he hoped that Josè had now seen the futility of opposition to Holy Church, and that, yielding humbly to her gentle chastisement for the great injury he had inflicted upon her, he would now make amends and merit the favors which she was sure to bestow upon him in due season. To this end the uncle would bring to bear his own influence and that of His Eminence, the Archbishop of Seville. The letter closed with an invocation to the Saints and the ever-blessed Virgin.

Josè opened the second letter. It was nominally from the Bishop of Cartagena, although written, he well knew, by Wenceslas. His Reverence regretted that Josè had not come to him again before leaving Cartagena. He deplored exceedingly the necessity of assigning him to so lowly a parish; but it was discipline. His tenure of the parish would be a matter of probation. Assuming a penitent desire on the part of the priest to make reparation for past indiscretions, His Grace extended assurances of his support and tender consideration. And, regarding him still as a faithful son, he was setting forth herewith certain instructions which Josè would zealously carry out, to the glory of the sacred Mother Church and the blessed Virgin, and to his own edification, to wit: In the matter of the confessional he must be unremittingly zealous, not failing to put such questions to the people of Simití as would draw out their most secret thoughts. In the present crisis it was especially necessary to learn their political views. Likewise, he must not fail to impress upon them the sin of concealing wealth, and of 51 withholding contributions to the support of the glorious Mother. He, as priest of the parish, would be held personally responsible for the collection of an adequate “Peter’s Pence,” which must be sent to Cartagena at frequent intervals for subsequent shipment to Rome. For all contributions he was to allow liberal plenary indulgences. In the matter of inciting zeal for the salvation of those unfortunate souls lingering in the torments of purgatory, Josè must be unflagging. Each family in the parish should be constantly admonished and threatened, if necessary, to have Masses said for their deceased members; and he must forward the proceeds from such Masses at once to Cartagena. No less important, he must keep constantly before him the great fact that the hope of the blessed Mother lay in her young. To this end he must see that all children in his parish were in due time confirmed, and every effort made to have the females sent to the convent of Mompox. To encourage his parishioners, he might assure them of His Reverence’s tender regard for them as his beloved children, and that he had certain special favors to grant to them in due time. Also, that a statue of the Virgin, which had arrived from Rome, and which carried the most potent blessing of the Holy Father, was to be bestowed upon that church in the diocese which within the next twelve months should contribute the largest amount of Peter’s Pence in proportion to population. This plan should be especially attractive to the people of Simití, as the town lay on the confines of a district renowned in the ancient annals for its mineral wealth. Herein, too, lay a great opportunity for the priest; and His Reverence rejoiced in the certain knowledge that he would embrace it. Invoking the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Ever-Blessed Virgin and Saint Joseph, His Grace awaited with interest the priest’s first report from the parish of Simití.

The letter fell like a wet blanket upon Josè, chilling him to the marrow, for it revived with cruel poignancy the fact that he was still a servant of Rome. In the past few happy days he had dwelt apart from the world in the consciousness of a new heaven and a new earth, revealed by Carmen. This sudden call to duty was like a summons from Mephistopheles to the fulfillment of a forgotten pact.

He carefully read the letter again. Beneath the specious kindliness of Wenceslas lay sinister motives, he knew. Among them, greed, of course. But––a darker thought––did Wenceslas know of Carmen’s existence? Could Cartagena have received any intimation of his plans for her? Refusal to comply with these instructions meant––he dared not think what! On the other hand, strict compliance with them certainly was out of the question.


As for Peter’s Pence, what could the impoverished folk of this decrepit town furnish! And yet, if a reasonable sum could only be contributed at frequent intervals, would not the vampire Wenceslas rest content, at least for a while? Oh, for a fortune of his own, that he might dump it all into the yawning maw of Holy Church, and thus gain a few years’ respite for himself and Carmen!

“Bad news, Padre?” Rosendo inquired, anxiously regarding the priest’s strained features.

What could the man do or say, limited, hounded, and without resources? Could he force these simple people to buy Masses? Could he take their money on a pretext which he felt to be utterly false? Yet Cartagena must be kept quiet at any hazard!

“Rosendo,” he asked earnestly, “when you had a priest in Simití, did the people have Masses offered for their dead?”

Na, Padre, we have little money for Masses,” replied Rosendo sadly.

“But you have bought them?”

“At times––long ago––for my first wife, when she died without a priest, up in the Tiguí country. But not when Padre Diego was here. I couldn’t see how Masses said by that drunken priest could please God, or make Him release souls from purgatory––and Padre Diego was drunk most of the time.”

Josè became desperate. “Rosendo, we must send money to the Bishop in Cartagena. I must stay here––I must! And I can stay only by satisfying Wenceslas! If I can send him money he will think me too valuable to remove. It is not the Church, Rosendo, but Wenceslas who is persecuting me. It is he who has placed me here. He is using the Church for his own evil ends. It is he who must be placated. But I––I can’t make these poor people buy Masses! And––but here, read his letter,” thrusting it into Rosendo’s hand.

Rosendo shook his head thoughtfully, and a cloud had gathered over his strong face when he returned the Bishop’s letter to Josè.

“Padre, we will be hard pressed to support the church and you, without buying Masses. There are about two hundred people here, perhaps fifty families. But they are very, very poor. Only a few can afford to pay even a peso oro a month to the schoolmaster to have their children taught. They may be able to give twenty pesos a month to support you and the church. But hardly more.”

It seemed to Josè that his soul must burst under its limitations.

“Rosendo, let us take Carmen and flee!” he cried wildly.


“How far would we get, Padre? Have you money?”

No, Josè had nothing. He lapsed into silence-shrouded despair.

The sun dropped below the wooded hills, and Cantar-las-horas had sung his weird vesper song. Dusk was thickening into night, though upon the distant Sierras a mellow glow still illumined the frosted peaks. Moments crept slowly through the enveloping silence.

Then the mental gloom parted, and through it arose the great soul of the black-faced man sitting beside the despairing priest.

“Padre”––Rosendo spoke slowly and with deep emotion. Tears trickled down his swart cheeks––“I am no longer young. More than sixty years of hardship and heavy toil rest upon me. My parents––I have not told you this––were slaves. They worked in the mines of Guamocó, under hard masters. They lived in bamboo huts, and slept on the damp ground. At four each morning, year after year, they were driven from their hard beds and sent out to toil under the lash fourteen hours a day, washing gold from the streams. The gold went to the building of Cartagena’s walls, and to her Bishop, to buy idleness and luxury for him and his fat priests. When the war came it lasted thirteen years; but we drove the Christian Spaniards into the sea! Then my father and mother went back to Guamocó; and there I was born. When I was old enough to use a batea I, too, washed gold in the Tiguí, and in the little streams so numerous in that region. But they had been pretty well washed out under the Spaniards; and so my father came down here and made a little hacienda on the hills across the lake from Simití. Then he and my poor mother lay down and died, worn out with their long years of toil for their cruel masters.”

He brushed the tears from his eyes; then resumed: “The district of Guamocó gradually became deserted. Revolution after revolution broke out in this unhappy country, sometimes stirred up by the priests, sometimes by political agitators who tried to get control of the Government. The men and boys went to the wars, and were killed off. Guamocó was again swallowed up by the forest––”

He stopped abruptly, and sat some moments silent.

“I have been back there many times since, and often I have washed gold again along the beautiful Tiguí,” he continued. “But the awful loneliness of the jungle, and the memories of those gloomy days when I toiled there as a boy, and the thoughts of my poor parents’ sufferings under the Spaniards, made me so sad that I could not stay. And then I got too old for that 54 kind of work, standing bent over in the cold mountain water all day long, swinging a batea heavy with gravel.”

He paused again, and seemed to lose himself in the memory of those dark days.

“But there is still gold in the Tiguí. I can find it. It means hard work––but I can do it. Padre, I will go back there and wash out gold for you to send to the Bishop of Cartagena, that you may stay here and protect and teach the little Carmen. Perhaps in time I can wash enough to get you both out of the country; but it will take many months, it may be, years.”

O, you, whose path in life winds among pleasant places, where roses nod in the scented breeze and fountains play, picture to yourself, if you may, the self-immolation of this sweet-souled man, who, in the winter of life, the shadows of eternity fast gathering about him, bends his black shoulders again to the burden which Love would lay upon them. Aye, Love, into which all else merged––Love for the unknown babe, left helpless and alone on the great river’s bank––Love for the radiant child, whose white soul the agents of carnal greed and lust would prostitute to their iniquitous system.

Night fell. By the light of their single candle the priest and Rosendo ate their simple fare in silence. Carmen was asleep, and the angels watched over her lowly bed.

The meal ended, Rosendo took up the candle, and Josè followed him into the bedroom. Reverently the two men approached the sleeping child and looked down upon her. The priest’s hand again sought Rosendo’s in a grasp which sealed anew the pact between them.


Like the great Exemplar in the days of his preparation, Josè was early driven by the spirit into the wilderness, where temptation smote him sore. But his soul had been saved––“yet so as by fire.” Slowly old beliefs and faiths crumbled into dust, while the new remained still unrevealed. The drift toward atheism which had set in during his long incarceration in the convent of Palazzola had not made him yield to the temptation to raise the mask of hypocrisy and plunge into the pleasures of the world, nor accept the specious proffer of ecclesiastical preferment in exchange for his honest convictions. Honor, however bigoted the sense, bound him to his oath, or at least to a compromising observance of it harmless to the Church. Pride contributed to hold him from the degradation 55 of a renegade and apostate priest. And both rested primarily on an unshaken basis of maternal affection, which fell little short of obsession, leaving him without the strength to say, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?”

But, though atheism in belief leads almost inevitably to disintegration of morals, Josè had kept himself untainted. For his vital problems he had now, after many days, found “grace sufficient.” In what he had regarded as the contemptible tricks of fate, he was beginning to discern the guiding hand of a wisdom greater than the world’s. The danger threatened by Cartagena was, temporarily, at least, averted by Rosendo’s magnificent spirit. Under the spur of that sacrifice his own courage rose mightily to second it.

Rosendo spent the day in preparation for his journey into the Guamocó country. He had discussed with Josè, long and earnestly, its probable effect upon the people of Simití, and especially upon Don Mario, the Alcalde; but it was decided that no further explanation should be made than that he was again going to prospect in the mineral districts already so familiar to him. As Rosendo had said, this venture, together with the unannounced and unsolicited presence of the priest in the town, could not but excite extreme curiosity and raise the most lively conjectures, which might, in time, reach Wenceslas. On the other hand, if success attended his efforts, it was more than probable that Cartagena would remain quiet, as long as her itching palm was brightened with the yellow metal which he hoped to wrest from the sands of Guamocó. “It is only a chance, Padre,” Rosendo said dubiously. “In the days of the Spaniards the river sands of Guamocó produced from two to ten reales a day to each slave. But the rivers have been almost washed out.”

Josè made a quick mental calculation. A Spanish real was equivalent to half a franc. Then ten reales would amount to five francs, the very best he could hope for as a day’s yield.

“And my supplies and the support of the señora and Carmen must come out of that,” Rosendo added. “Besides, I must pay Juan for working the hacienda across the lake for me while I am away.”

Possibly ten pesos oro, or forty francs, might remain at the end of each month for them to send to Cartagena. Josè sighed heavily as he busied himself with the preparations.

“I got these supplies from Don Mario on credit, Padre,” explained Rosendo. “I thought best to buy from him to prevent making him angry. I have coffee, panela, rice, beans, and tobacco for a month. He was very willing to let me have them––but do you know why? He wants me to go up there and fail. 56 Then he will have me in his debt, and I become his peon––and I would never be anything after that but his slave, for never again would he let me get out of debt to him.”

Josè shuddered at the thought of the awful system of peonage prevalent in these Latin countries, an inhuman custom only a degree removed from the slavery of colonial times. This venture was, without doubt, a desperate risk. But it was for Carmen––and its expediency could not be questioned.

Josè penned a letter to the Bishop of Cartagena that morning, and sent it by Juan to Bodega Central to await the next down-river steamer. He did not know that Juan carried another letter for the Bishop, and addressed in the flowing hand of the Alcalde. Josè briefly acknowledged the Bishop’s communication, and replied that he would labor unflaggingly to uplift his people and further their spiritual development. As to the Bishop’s instructions, he would endeavor to make Simití’s contribution to the support of Holy Church, both material and spiritual, fully commensurate with the population. He did not touch on the other instructions, but closed with fervent assurances of his intention to serve his little flock with an undivided heart. Carmen received no lesson that day, and her rapidly flowing questions anent the unusual activity in the household were met with the single explanation that her padre Rosendo had found it necessary to go up to the Tiguí river, a journey which some day she might perhaps take with him.

During the afternoon Josè wrote two more letters, one to his uncle, briefly announcing his appointment to the parish of Simití, and his already lively interest in his new field; the other to his beloved mother, in which he only hinted at the new-found hope which served as his pillow at night. He did not mention Carmen, for fear that his letter might be opened ere it left Cartagena. But in tenderest expressions of affection, and regret that he had been the unwitting cause of his mother’s sorrow, he begged her to believe that his life had received a stimulus which could not but result in great happiness for them both, for he was convinced that he had at last found his métier, even though among a lowly people and in a sequestered part of the world. He hoped again to be reunited to her––possibly she might some day meet him in Cartagena. And until then he would always hold her in tenderest love and the brightest and purest thought.

He brushed aside the tears as he folded this letter; and, lest regret and self-condemnation seize him again, hurried forth in search of Carmen, whose radiance always dispelled his gloom as the rushing dawn shatters the night.

She was not in Rosendo’s house, and Doña Maria said she 57 had seen the child some time before going in the direction of the “shales.” These were broad beds of rock to the south of town, much broken and deeply fissured, and so glaringly hot during most of the day as to be impassable. Thither Josè bent his steps, and at length came upon the girl sitting in the shade of a stunted algarroba tree some distance from the usual trail.

“Well, what are you doing here, little one?” he inquired in surprise.

The child looked up visibly embarrassed. “I was thinking, Padre,” she made slow reply.

“But do you have to go away from home to think?” he queried.

“I wanted to be alone; and there was so much going on in the house that I came out here.”

“And what have you been thinking about, Carmen?” pursued Josè, suspecting that her presence in the hot shale beds held some deeper significance than she had as yet revealed.

“I––I was just thinking that God is everywhere,” she faltered.

“Yes, chiquita. And––?”

“That He is where padre Rosendo is going, and that He will take care of him up there, and bring him back to Simití again.”

“And were you asking Him to do it, little one?”

“No, Padre; I was just knowing that He would.”

The little lip quivered, and the brown eyes were wet with tears. But Josè could see that faith had conquered, whatever the struggle might have been. The child evidently had sought solitude, that she might most forcibly bring her trust in God to bear upon the little problem confronting her––that she might make the certainty of His immanence and goodness destroy in her thought every dark suggestion of fear or doubt.

“God will take care of him, won’t He, Padre?”

Josè had taken her hand and was leading her back to the house.

“You have said it, child; and I believe you are a law unto yourself,” was the priest’s low, earnest reply. The child smiled up at him; and Josè knew he had spoken truth.

That evening, the preparations for departure completed, Rosendo and Josè took their chairs out before the house, where they sat late, each loath to separate lest some final word be left unsaid. The tepid evening melted into night, which died away in a deep silence that hung wraith-like over the old town. Myriad stars rained their shimmering lustre out of the unfathomable vault above.

Un canasto de flores,” mused Rosendo, looking off into the infinite blue.


“A basket of flowers, indeed,” responded Josè reverently.

“Padre––” Rosendo’s brain seemed to struggle with a tremendous thought––“I often try to think of what is beyond the stars; and I cannot. Where is the end?”

“There is none, Rosendo.”

“But, if we could get out to the last star––what then?”

“Still no end, no limit,” replied Josè.

“And they are very far away––how far, Padre?”

“You would not comprehend, even if I could tell you, Rosendo. But––how shall I say it? Some are millions of miles from us. Others so far that their light reaches us only after the lapse of centuries.”

“Their light!” returned Rosendo quizzically.

“Yes. Light from those stars above us travels nearly two hundred thousand miles a second––”

Hombre!” ejaculated the uncomprehending Rosendo.

“And yet, even at that awful rate of speed, it is probable that there are many stars whose light has not yet reached the earth since it became inhabited by men.”


“You may well say so, friend.”

“But, Padre––does the light never stop? When does it reach an end––a stopping-place?”

“There is no stopping-place, Rosendo. There is no solid sky above us. Go whichever way you will, you can never reach an end.”

Rosendo’s brow knotted with puzzled wonder: Even Josè’s own mind staggered anew at its concept of the immeasurable depths of space.

“But, Padre, if we could go far enough up we would get to heaven, wouldn’t we?” pursued Rosendo. “And if we went far enough down we would reach purgatory, and then hell, is it not so?”

Restraint fell upon the priest. He dared not answer lest he reveal his own paucity of ideas regarding these things. Happily the loquacious Rosendo continued without waiting for reply.

“Padre Simón used to say when I was a child that the red we saw in the sky at sunset was the reflection of the flames of hell; so I have always thought that hell was below us––perhaps in the center of the earth.”

For a time his simple mind mused over this puerile idea. Then––

“What do you suppose God looks like, Padre?”

Josè’s thought flew back to the galleries and chapels of Europe, where the masters have so often portrayed their ideas of God in the shape of an old, gray-haired man, partly bald, 59 and with long, flowing beard. Alas! how pitifully crude, how lamentably impotent such childish concepts. For they saw in God only their own frailties infinitely magnified. Small wonder that they lived and died in spiritual gloom!

“Padre,” Rosendo went on, “if there is no limit to the universe, then it is––”

“Infinite in extent, Rosendo,” finished Josè.

“Then whoever made it is infinite, too,” Rosendo added hypothetically.

“An infinite effect implies an infinite cause––yes, certainly,” Josè answered.

“So, if God made the universe, He is infinite, is He not, Padre?”


“Then He can’t be at all like us,” was the logical conclusion.

Josè was thinking hard. The universe stands as something created. And scientists agree that it is infinite in extent. Its creator therefore must be infinite in extent. And as the universe continues to exist, that which called it into being, and still maintains it, must likewise continue to exist. Hence, God is.

“Padre, what holds the stars in place?” Rosendo’s questions were as persistent as a child’s.

“They are held in place by laws, Rosendo,” the priest replied evasively. But as he made answer he revolved in his own mind that the laws by which an infinite universe is created and maintained must themselves be infinite.

“And God made those laws?”

“Yes, Rosendo.”

But, the priest mused, a power great enough to frame infinite laws must be itself all-powerful. And if it has ever been all-powerful, it could never cease to be so, for there could be nothing to deprive it of its power. Omnipotence excludes everything else. Or, what is the same thing, is all-inclusive.

But laws originate, even as among human beings, in mind, for a law is a mental thing. So the infinite laws which bind the stars together, and by which the universe was designed and is still maintained, could have originated only in a mind, and that one infinite.

“Then God surely must know everything,” commented Rosendo, by way of simple and satisfying conclusion.

Certainly the creator of an infinite universe––a universe, moreover, which reveals intelligence and knowledge on the part of its cause––the originator of infinite laws, which reveal omnipotence in their maker––must have all knowledge, all wisdom, at his command. But, on the other hand, intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, are ever mental things. What could embrace 60 these things, and by them create an infinite universe, but an infinite mind?

Josè’s thought reverted to Cardinal Newman’s reference to God as “an initial principle.” Surely the history of the universe reveals the patent fact that, despite the mutations of time, despite growth, maturity, and decay, despite “the wreck of matter and the crash of worlds,” something endures. What is it––law? Yes, but more. Ideas? Still more. Mind? Yes, the mind which is the anima mundi, the principle, of all things.

“But if He is so great, Padre, and knows everything, I don’t see why He made the devil,” continued Rosendo; “for the devil fights against Him all the time.”

Ah, simple-hearted child of nature! A mind so pure as yours should give no heed to thoughts of Satan. And the man at your side is now too deeply buried in the channels which run below the superficiality of the world’s thought to hear your childish question. Wait. The cause of an infinite effect must itself be infinite. The framer of infinite laws must be an infinite mind. And an infinite mind must contain all knowledge, and have all power. But were it to contain any seeds or germs of decay, or any elements of discord––in a word, any evil––it must disintegrate. Then it would cease to be omnipotent. Verily, to be eternal and perfect it must be wholly good! “And so,” the priest mused aloud, “we call it God.”

But, he continued to reflect, when we accept the conclusion that the universe is the product of an infinite mind, we are driven to certain other inevitable conclusions, if we would be logical. The minds of men manifest themselves continually, and the manifestation is in mental processes and things. Mental activity results in the unfolding of ideas. Does the activity of an infinite mind differ in this respect? And, if not, can the universe be other than a mental thing? For, if an infinite mind created a universe, it must have done so by the unfolding of its own ideas! And, remaining infinite, filling all space, this mind must ever continue to contain those ideas. And the universe––the creation––is mental.

The burden of thought oppressed the priest, and he got up from his chair and paced back and forth before the house. But still his searching mind burrowed incessantly, as if it would unearth a living thing that had been buried since the beginning.

In order to fully express itself, an infinite mind would have to unfold an infinite number and variety of ideas. And this unfolding would go on forever, since an infinite number is never reached. This is “creation,” and it could never terminate.

“Rosendo,” said Josè, returning to his chair, “you have 61 asked what God looks like. I cannot say, for God must be mind, unlimited mind. He has all knowledge and wisdom, as well as all power. He is necessarily eternal––has always existed, and always will, for He is entirely perfect and harmonious, without the slightest trace or taint of discord or evil.”

“Then you think He does not look like us?” queried the simple Rosendo.

“Mind does not look like a human body, Rosendo. And an infinite cause can be infinite only by being mind, not body. Moreover, He is unchanging––for He could not change and remain eternal. Carmen insists that He is everywhere. To be always present He must be what the Bible says He is spirit. Or, what is the same thing, mind. Rosendo, He manifests Himself everywhere and in everything––there is no other conclusion admissible. And to be eternal He has got to be absolutely good!”

“But, Padre,” persisted Rosendo, “who made the devil?”

“There is no devil!”

“But there is wickedness––”

“No!” interrupted Josè emphatically. “God is infinite good, and there can be no real evil.”

“But how do you know that, Padre?”

“I can’t say how I know it––it reasons out that way logically. I think I begin to see the light. Can you not see that for some reason Carmen doesn’t admit the existence of evil? And you know, and I know, that she is on the right track. I have followed the opposite path all my life; and it led right into the slough of despond. Now I have turned, and am trying to follow her. And do you put the thought of Satan out of your mentality and do likewise.”

“But, the Virgin Mary––she has power with God?” Rosendo’s primitive ideas were in a hopeless tangle.

“Good friend, forget the Virgin Mary,” said Josè gently, laying his hand on Rosendo’s arm.

“Forget her! Hombre! Why––she has all power––she works miracles every hour––she directs the angels––gives commands to God himself! Padre Simón said she was the absolute mistress of heaven and earth, and that men and animals, the plants, the winds, all health, sickness, life and death, depended upon her will! He said she did not die as we must, but that she was taken up into heaven, and that her body was not allowed to decay and return to dust, as ours will. Hombre! She is in heaven now, praying for us. What would become of us but for her?––for she prays to God for us––she––!”

“No, Rosendo, she does nothing of the kind. God is infinite, unchanging. He could not be moved or influenced by 62 the Virgin Mary or any one else. He is unlimited good. He is not angry with us––He couldn’t be, for He could not know anger. Did not Jesus say that God was Love? Love does not afflict––Love does not need to be importuned or prayed to. I see it now. I see something of what Carmen sees. We suffer when we sin, because we ‘miss the mark.’ But the punishment lasts only as long as the sin continues. And we suffer only until we know that God is infinite good, and that there is no evil. That is the truth, I feel sure, which Jesus came to teach, and which he said would make us free. Free from what? From the awful beliefs that use us, and to which we are now subject, until we learn the facts about God and His creation. Don’t you see that infinite good could never create evil, nor ever permit evil to be created, nor allow it to really exist?”

“Well, then, what is evil? And where did it come from?”

“That we must wait to learn, Rosendo, little by little. You know, the Spanish proverb says, ‘Step by step goes a great way.’ But meantime, let us go forward, clinging to this great truth: God is infinite good––He is love––we are His dear children––and evil was not made by Him, and does not have His sanction. It therefore cannot be real. It must be illusion. And, being such, it can be overcome, as Jesus said it could.”

Na, Padre––”

“Wait, Rosendo!” Josè held up his hand. “Carmen is doing just what I am advising you to do––is she not?”

“Yes, Padre.”

“Do you think she is mistaken?”

“Padre, she knows God better than she knows me,” the man whispered.

“It was you who first told her that God was everywhere, was it not?”

“Yes, Padre.”

And the mind of the child, keenly sensitive and receptive to truth, had eagerly grasped this dictum and made it the motif of her life. She knew nothing of Jesus, nothing of current theology. Divine Wisdom had used Rosendo, credulous and superstitious though he himself was, to guard this girl’s mind against the entrance of errors which were taught him as a child, and which in manhood held him shackled in chains which he might not break.

“Rosendo,” Josè spoke low and reverently, “I believe now that you and I have both been guided by that great mind which I am calling God. I believe we are being used for some beneficent purpose, and that it has to do with Carmen. That purpose will be unfolded to us as we bow to His will. Every way closed against me, excepting the one that led to Simití. Here I 63 found her. And now there seems to be but one way open to you––to go back to Guamocó. And you go, forgetful of self, thinking only that you serve her. Ah, friend, you are serving Him whom you reflect in love to His beautiful child.”

“Yes, Padre.”

“But, while we accept our tasks gratefully, I feel that we shall be tried––and we may not live to see the results of our labors. There are influences abroad which threaten danger to Carmen and to us. Perhaps we shall not avert them. But we have given ourselves to her, and through her to the great purpose with which I feel she is concerned.”

Rosendo slowly rose, and his great height and magnificent physique cast the shadow of a Brobdignan in the light as he stood in the doorway.

“Padre,” he replied, “I am an old man, and I have but few years left. But however many they be, they are hers. And had I a thousand, I would drag them all through the fires of hell for the child! I cannot follow you when you talk about God. My mind gets weary. But this I know, the One who brought me here and then went away will some day call for me––and I am always ready.”

He turned into the house and sought his hard bed. The great soul knew not that he reflected the light of divine Love with a radiance unknown to many a boasting “vicar of Christ.”


At the first faint flush of morn Rosendo departed for the hills. The emerald coronels of the giant ceibas on the far lake verge burned softly with a ruddy glow. From the water’s dimpling surface downy vapors rose languidly in delicate tints and drew slowly out in nebulous bands across the dawn sky. The smiling softness of the velvety hills beckoned him, and the pungent odor of moist earth dilated his nostrils. He laughed aloud as the joyousness of youth surged again through his veins. The village still slumbered, and no one saw him as he smote his great chest and strode to the boat, where Juan had disposed his outfit and was waiting to pole him across. Only the faithful Doña Maria had softly called a final “adioscito” to him when he left his house. A half hour later, when the dugout poked its blunt nose into the ooze of the opposite shore, he leaped out and hurriedly divested himself of his clothing. Then he lifted his chair with its supplies to his shoulders, and Juan strapped it securely to his back, drawing 64 the heavy band tightly across his forehead. With a farewell wave of his hand to the lad, the man turned and plunged into the Guamocó trail, and was quickly lost in the dense thicket. Six days later, if no accident befell, he would reach his destination, the singing waters of the crystal Tiguí.

His heart leaped as he strode, though none knew better than he what hardships those six days held for him––days of plunging through fever-laden bogs; staggering in withering heat across open savannas; now scaling the slippery slopes of great mountains; now swimming the chill waters of rushing streams; making his bed where night overtook him, among the softly pattering forest denizens and the swarming insect life of the dripping woods. His black skin glistened with perspiration and the heavy dew wiped from the close-growing bush. With one hand he leaned upon a young sapling cut for a staff. With the other he incessantly swung his machete to clear the dim trail. His eyes were held fixed to the ground, to escape tripping over low vines, and to avoid contact with crawling creatures of the jungle, whose sting, inflicted without provocation, might so easily prove fatal. His active mind sported the while among the fresh thoughts stimulated by. his journey, though back of all, as through a veil, the vision of Carmen rose like the pillar of cloud which guided the wandering Israel. Toil and danger fled its presence; and from it radiated a warm glow which suffused his soul with light.

When Josè arose that morning he was still puzzling over the logical conclusions drawn from his premise of the evening before, and trying to reconcile them with common sense and prevalent belief. In a way, he seemed to be an explorer, carving a path to hidden wonders. Doña Maria greeted him at the breakfast table with the simple announcement of Rosendo’s early departure. No sign of sorrow ruffled her quiet and dignified demeanor. Nor did Carmen, who bounded into his arms, fresh as a new-blown rose, manifest the slightest indication of anxiety regarding Rosendo’s welfare. Josè might not divine the thoughts which the woman’s placid exterior concealed. But for the child, he well knew that her problem had been met and solved, and that she had laid it aside with a trust in immanent good which he did not believe all the worldly argument of pedant or philosopher could shake.

“Now to business once more!” cried Josè joyously, the meal finished. “Just a look-in at the church, to get the boys started; and then to devote the day to you, señorita!” The child laughed at the appellation.

Returning from the church some moments later, Josè found Carmen bending over the fireplace, struggling to remove a heavy kettle from the hot stones.


“Careful, child!” he cried in apprehension, hurrying to her assistance. “You will burn your fingers, or hurt yourself!”

“Not unless you make me, Padre,” Carmen quickly replied, rising and confronting the priest with a demeanor whose every element spelled rebuke.

“Well, I certainly shall not make you!” the man exclaimed in surprise.

“No, Padre. God will not let you. He does not burn or hurt people.”

“Certainly not! But––”

“And nothing else can, for He is everywhere––isn’t He?”

“Well––perhaps so,” the priest retorted impatiently. “But somehow people get burnt and hurt just the same, and it is well to be careful.”

The child studied him for a moment. Then she said quietly––

“I guess people burn and hurt themselves because they are afraid––don’t they? And I am not afraid.”

She tossed her brown curls as if in defiance of the thought of fear. Yet Josè somehow felt that she never really defied evil, but rather met its suggestions with a firm conviction of its impotence in the presence of immanent good. He checked the impulse to further conversation. Bidding the child come to him as soon as possible to begin the day’s work, he went back to his own abode to reflect.

He had previously said that this child should be brought up to know no evil. And yet, was he not suggesting evil to her at every turn? Did not his insistence upon the likelihood of hurting or burning herself emphasize his own stalwart belief in evil as an immanent power and contingency? Was he thus always to maintain a house divided against itself? But some day she must know, whether by instruction or dire experience, that evil is a fact to be reckoned with! And as her protector, it was his duty to––But he had not the heart to shatter such beautiful confidence!

Then he fell to wondering how long that pure faith could endure. Certainly not long if she were subjected to the sort of instruction which the children of this world receive. But was it not his duty with proper tutelage to make it last as long as possible? Was it not even now so firmly grounded that it never could be shaken?

He dwelt on the fact that nearly all children at some period early in life commune with their concept of God. He had, himself. As a very young child he had even felt himself on such terms of familiarity with God that he could not sleep without first bidding Him good night. As a young child, too, 66 he had known no evil. Nor do any children, until their perfect confidence in good is chilled by the false instruction of parents and teachers, who parade evil before them in all its hideous garb.

Alas! for the baneful belief that years bring wisdom. How pitiable, and how cruelly detrimental to the child are an ignorant parent’s assumptions of superiority! How tremendous the responsibility that now lay at his own door! Yet no greater than that which lies at the door of every parent throughout the world.

It is sadly true, he reflected, that children are educated almost entirely along material lines. Even in the imparting of religious instruction, the spiritual is so tainted with materialism, and its concomitants of fear and limitation, that the preponderance of faith is always on the material side. Josè had believed that as he had grown older in years he had lost faith. Far from it! The quantity of his faith remained fixed; but the quality had changed, through education, from faith in good to faith in evil. And though trained as a priest of God, in reality he had been taught wholly to distrust spiritual power.

But how could a parent rely on spiritual power to save a child about to fall into the fire? Must not children be warned, and taught to protect themselves from accident and disaster, as far as may be? True––yet, what causes accident and disaster? Has the parent’s thought aught to do with it? Has the world’s thought? Can it be traced to the universal acceptance of evil as a power, real and operative? Does mankind’s woeful lack of faith in good manifest itself in accident, sickness, and death?

A cry roused Josè from his revery. It came from back of the house. Hastening to the rear door he saw Doña Maria standing petrified, looking in wide-eyed horror toward the lake. Josè followed her gaze, and his blood froze. Carmen had been sent to meet the canoe that daily supplied fresh water to the village from the Juncal river, which flowed into the lake at the far north end. It had not yet arrived, and she had sat down beside her jar at the water’s edge, and was lost in dreams as she looked out over the shimmering expanse. A huge crocodile which had been lying in the shadow of a shale ledge had marked the child, and was steadily creeping up behind her. The reptile was but a few feet from her when Doña Maria, wondering at her delay, had gone to the rear door and witnessed her peril.

In a flash Josè recalled the tale related to him but a few days before by Fidel Avila, who was working in the church.

“Padre,” Fidel had said, “as soon as the church is ready I 67 shall offer a candle to good Santa Catalina for protecting my sister.”

“How was that, my son?” inquired Josè.

“She protected her from a crocodile a year ago, Padre. The girl had gone to the lake to get water to wash our clothes, and as she sat in the stern of the boat dipping the water, a great crocodile rose and seized her arm. I heard her scream, and I was saying the rosary at the time. And so I prayed to Santa Catalina not to let the crocodile eat her, and she didn’t.”

“Then your sister was saved?”

“The crocodile pulled her under the water, Padre, and she was drowned. But he did not eat her; and we got her body and buried her here in the cemetery. We were very grateful.”

Sancta simplicitas! That such childish credulity might be turned into proper channels!

But there were times when fish were scarce in the lake. Then the crocodiles became bold; and many babes had been seized and dragged off by them, never to return. The fishing this season had been very poor. And more than one fisherman had asked Josè to invoke the Virgin in his behalf.

Nearer crept the monster toward the unsuspecting girl. Suddenly she turned and looked squarely at it. She might almost have touched it with her hand. For Josè it was one of those crises that “crowd eternity into an hour.” The child and the reptile might have been painted against that wondrous tropic background. The great brute stood bolt upright on its squat legs, its hideous jaws partly open. The girl made no motion, but seemed to hold it with her steady gaze. Then––the creature dropped; its jaws snapped shut; and it scampered into the water.

“God above!” cried Josè, as he rushed to the girl and clasped her in his arms. “Forgive me if I ever doubted the miracles of Jesus!”

Doña Maria turned and quietly resumed her work; but the man was completely unstrung.

“What is it, Padre?” Carmen asked in unfeigned surprise. “I am not afraid of crocodiles––are you? You couldn’t be, if you knew that God is everywhere.”

“But don’t you know, child, that crocodiles have carried off––”

He checked himself. No––he would not say it. He had had his lesson.

“What, Padre?”

“Nothing––nothing––I forgot––that’s all. A––a––come, let us begin our lessons now.”

But his mind refused to be held to the work. Finally he had to ask––he could not help it.


“Carmen, what did you do? Did you talk to the crocodile?”

“Why, no, Padre––crocodiles don’t talk!” And throwing her little head back she laughed heartily at the absurd idea.

“But––you did something! What was it? Tell me.”

“No, Padre, I did nothing,” the child persisted.

He saw he must reach her thought in another way. “Why did the crocodile come up to you, Carmen?” he asked.

“Why––I guess because it loved me––I don’t know.”

“And did you love it as you sat looking at it?”

“Of course, Padre. We have just got to love everything. Don’t you know that?”

“Y––yes––that is so, chiquita. I––I just thought I would ask you. Now let us begin the arithmetic lesson.”

The child loved the hideous saurian! And “perfect love casteth out fear.” What turned the monster from the girl and drove it into the lake? Love, again, before which evil falls in sheer impotence? Had she worked a miracle? Certainly not! Had God interposed in her behalf? Again, no. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” And would divine Love always protect her? There could be no question about it, as long as she knew no evil.

The morning hours sped past. From arithmetic, they turned to the English lesson. Next to perfection in her own Castilian, Josè felt that this language was most important for her. And she delighted in it, although her odd little pronunciations, and her vain attempts to manipulate words to conform to her own ideas of enunciation brought many a hearty laugh, in which she joined with enthusiasm. The afternoon, as was his plan for future work, was devoted to narratives of men and events, and to descriptions of places. It was a ceaseless wonder to Josè how her mind absorbed his instruction.

“How readily you see these things, Carmen,” he said, as he concluded the work for the day.

“See them, Padre? But not with my outside eyes.”

The remark seemed to start a train of thought within her mentality. “Padre,” she at length asked, “how do we see with our eyes?”

“It is very simple, chiquita,” Josè replied. “Here, let me draw a picture of an eye.”

He quickly sketched a rough outline of the human organ of sight. “Now,” he began, “you know you cannot see in the dark, don’t you?”

“Yes, Padre?”

“In order to see, we must have light.”


“What is light, Padre dear?”

“Well––light is––is vibrations. That is, rapid movement.”

“What moves?”

“A––a––a––well, nothing––that is, light is just vibrations. The pendulum of the old clock in Don Mario’s store vibrates, you know––moves back and forth.”

“And light does that?”

“Yes; light is that. Now that chair there, for example, reflects light, just as a mirror does. It reflects vibrations. And these are all of just a certain length, for vibrations of just that length and moving up and down just so fast make light. The light enters the eye, like this,” tracing the rays on his sketch. “It makes a little picture of the chair on the back of the eye, where the optic nerve is fastened. Now the light makes the little ends of this nerve vibrate, too––move very rapidly. And that movement is carried along the nerve to some place in the brain––to what we call the center of sight. And there we see the chair.”

The child studied the sketch long and seriously.

“But, Padre, is the picture of the chair carried on the nerve to the brain?”

“Oh, no, chiquita, only vibrations. It is as if the nerve moved just a little distance, but very, very fast, back and forth, or up and down.”

“And no picture is carried to the brain?”

“No, there is just a vibration in the brain.”

“And that vibration makes us see the chair?”

“Yes, little one.”

A moment of silence. Then––

“Padre dear, I don’t believe it.”

“Why, chiquita!”

“Well, Padre, what is it that sees the chair, anyway?”

“The mind, dear.”

“Is the mind up there in the brain?”

“Well––no, we can’t say that it is.”

“Where is it, then?”

“A––a––well, no place in particular––that is, it is right here all the time.”

“Well, then, when the mind wants to see the chair does it have to climb up into the brain and watch that little nerve wiggle?”

The man was at a loss for an answer. Carmen suddenly crumpled the sketch in her small hand and smiled up at him.

“Padre dear, I don’t believe our outside eyes see anything. We just think they do, don’t we?”

Josè looked out through the open door. Carmen’s weird heron was stalking in immense dignity past the house.


“I think Cantar-las-horas is getting ready to sing the Vespers, chiquita. And so Doña Maria probably needs you now. We will talk more about the eye to-morrow.”

By the light of his sputtering candle that night Josè sat with elbows propped on the table, his head clasped in his hands, and a sketch of the human eye before him. In his confident attempt to explain to Carmen the process of cognition he had been completely baffled. Certainly, light coming from an object enters the eye and casts a picture upon the retina. He had often seen the photographic camera exhibit the same phenomenon. The law of the impenetrability of matter had to be set aside, of course––or else light must be pure vibration, without a material vibrating concomitant. Then, too, it was plain that the light in some way communicated its vibration to the little projecting ends of the optic nerve, which lie spread out over the rear inner surface of the eye. And equally patent that this vibration is in some way taken up by the optic nerve and transmitted to the center of sight in the brain. But after that––what? He laughed again at Carmen’s pertinent question about the mind climbing up into the brain to see the vibrating nerve. But was it so silly a presumption, after all? Is the mind within the brain, awaiting in Stygian darkness the advent of the vibrations which shall give it pictures of the outside world? Or is the mind outside of the brain, but still slavishly forced to look at these vibrations of the optic nerve and then translate them into terms of things without? What could a vibrating nerve suggest to a well-ordered mind, anyway? He might as logically wave a piece of meat and expect thereby to see a world! He laughed aloud at the thought. Why does not the foolish mind leave the brain and look at the picture on the retina? Or why does it not throw off its shackles and look directly at the object to be cognized, instead of submitting to dependence upon so frail a thing as fleshly eyes and nerves?

As he mused and sketched, unmindful of the voracious mosquitoes or the blundering moths that momentarily threatened his light, it dawned slowly upon him that the mind’s awareness of material objects could not possibly depend upon the vibrations of pieces of nerve tissue, so minute as to be almost invisible to the unaided sight. Still more absurd did it appear to him that his own mind, of which he might justly boast tremendous powers, could be prostituted to such a degree that its knowledge of things must be served to it on waving pieces of flesh.

And how about the other senses––touch, hearing? Did the ear hear, or the hand feel? He had always accepted the 71 general belief that man is dependent absolutely upon the five physical senses for his knowledge of an outside world. And now a little thought showed that from these five senses man could not possibly receive anything more than a series of disconnected vibrations! And, going a step further, anything that the mind infers from these vibrations is unquestionably inferred without a particle of outside authority!

He rose and paced the floor. A tremendous idea seemed to be knocking at the portal of his mentality.

What can the mind know? Assuredly nothing but the contents of itself. But the contents of mind are thoughts, ideas, mental things. Do solid material objects enter the mind? Certainly not! Then the mind knows not things, but its thoughts of things. And instead of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling solid material objects, the mind sees, hears, smells, tastes, and feels––what? The contents of itself! Its own thoughts and ideas! And the outer world? Is only what the mind believes it to be. But surely his mind saw an outer world through the medium of his eye! No. His mind saw only its own concepts of an outer world––and these concepts, being mental, might take on whatever hue and tinge his mind decreed. In other words, instead of seeing a world of matter, he was seeing only a mental picture of a world. And that picture was in his own mind, and formed by that mind!

The man seized his hat and hurried out into the night. He walked rapidly the full length of the town. His mind was wrestling with stupendous thoughts.

An hour later he returned to his house, and seizing a pencil, wrote rapidly: Matter is mental. We do not see or feel matter, but we think it. It is formed and held as a mental concept in every human mind. The material universe is but the human mind’s concept of a universe, and can only be this mentality’s translation to itself of infinite Mind’s purely mental Creation.

“And so,” he commented aloud, sitting back and regarding his writing, “all my miserable life I have been seeing only my own thoughts! And I have let them use me and color my whole outlook!”

He extinguished the candle and threw himself, fully dressed, upon his bed.



Momentous changes, of far-reaching effect, had come swiftly upon Josè de Rincón during the last few days, changes which were destined after much vacillation and great mental struggle to leave a reversed outlook. But let no one think these changes fortuitous or casual, the chance result of a new throw of Fate’s dice. Josè, seeing them dimly outlined, did not so regard them, but rather looked upon them as the working of great mental laws, still unknown, whose cumulative effect had begun a transformation in his soul. How often in his seminary days he had pondered the scripture, “He left not Himself without witness.” How often he had tried to see the hopeless confusion of good and evil in the world about him as a witness to the One who is of purer eyes than to behold evil. And he had at last abandoned his efforts in despair. Yet that there must be something behind the complex phenomena which men call life, he knew. Call it what he would––law, force, mind, God, or even X, the great unknown quantity for which life’s intricate equations must be solved––yet something there was in it all which endured in an eternal manifestation. But could that something endure in an expression both good and evil?

He had long since abandoned all study of the Bible. But in these last days there had begun to dawn upon him the conviction that within that strange book were locked mysteries which far transcended the wildest imaginings of the human mind. With it came also the certainty that Jesus had been in complete possession of those sacred mysteries. There could be no question now that his mission had been woefully misunderstood, often deliberately misinterpreted, and too frequently maliciously misused by mankind. His greatest sayings, teachings so pregnant with truth that, had they been rightfully appropriated by men, ere this would have dematerialized the universe and revealed the spiritual kingdom of God, had been warped by cunning minds into crude systems of theology and righteous shams, behind which the world’s money-changers and sellers of doves still drove their wicked traffic and offered insults to Truth in the temple of the Most High.

Oh, how he now lamented the narrowness and the intellectual limitations with which his seminary training had been hedged about! The world’s thought had been a closed book to him. Because of his morbid honesty, only such pages reached his eye as had passed the bigoted censorship of Holy 73 Church. His religious instruction had been served to him with the seal of infallible authority. Of other systems of theology he had been permitted only the Vatican’s biased interpretation, for the curse of Holy Church rested upon them. Of current philosophical thought, of Bible criticism and the results of independent scriptural research, he knew practically nothing––little beyond what the explorer had told him in their memorable talks a few weeks before in Cartagena. But, had he known it, these had unbarred the portals of his mind to the reception of the new ideas which, under a most powerful stimulus, were now flowing so steadily through them. That stimulus was Carmen.

To meet with a child of tender years who knows no evil is, after all, a not uncommon thing. For, did we but realize it, the world abounds in them. They are its glory, its radiance––until they are taught to heed the hiss of the serpent. Their pure knowledge of immanent good would endure––ah, who may say how long?––did not we who measure our wisdom by years forbid them with the fear-born mandate: “Thus far!” What manner of being was he who said, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not?” Oh, ye parents, who forbid your little ones to come to the Christ by hourly heaping up before them the limitations of fear and doubt, of faith in the power and reality of sin and evil, of false instruction, and withering material beliefs! Would not the Christ pray for you to-day, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”?

When Josè met Carmen she was holding steadfastly to her vision––the immanence and allness of God. Each day she created the morrow; and she knew to a certainty that it would be happy. Would he, clanking his fetters of worldly beliefs, be the one to shatter her illusion, if illusion it be? Nay, rather should he seek to learn of her, if; haply she be in possession of that jewel for which he had searched a vain lifetime. Already from the stimulus which his intercourse with the child had given his mental processes there had come a sudden liberation of thought. Into his freer mentality the Christ-idea now flowed.

Mankind complain that they cannot “prove” God. But Paul long since declared emphatically that to prove Him the human mind must be transformed. In the light of the great ideas which had dawned upon him in the past few days––the nature of God as mind, unlimited, immanent, eternal, and good; and the specious character of the five physical senses, which from the beginning have deluded mankind into the false belief that through them comes a true knowledge of the cosmos––Josè’s mentality was being formed anew.


Hegel, delving for truth in a world of illusion, summed up a lifetime of patient research in the pregnant statement, “The true knowledge of God begins when we know that things as they are have no truth in them.” The testimony of the five physical senses constitutes “things as they are.” But––if Josè’s reasoning be not illogical––the human mind receives no testimony from these senses, which, at most, can offer but insensate and meaningless vibrations in a pulpy mass called the brain. The true knowledge of God, for which Josè had yearned and striven, begins only when men turn from the mesmeric deception of the physical senses, and learn that there is something, knowable and usable, behind them, and of whose existence they give not the slightest intimation.

It was Saturday. The church edifice was so far put in order that Josè found no reason for not holding service on the morrow. He therefore announced the fact, and told Carmen that he must devote the day to preparation. Their lessons must go over to Monday. Seeking the solitude of his house, Josè returned to his Bible.

He began with Genesis. “In the beginning––God.” Not, as in the codes of men, God last, and after every material expedient has been exhausted––but “to begin with.” Josè could not deny that for all that exists there is a cause. Nor can the human mind object to the implication that the cause of an existing universe must itself continue to exist. Even less can it deny that the framer of the worlds, bound together in infinite space by the unbreakable cables of infinite laws, must be omnipotent. And to retain its omnipotence, that cause must be perfect––absolutely good––every whit pure, sound, and harmonious; for evil is demonstrably self-destructive. And, lastly, what power could operate thus but an infinite intelligence, an all-inclusive mind?

Now let the human mentality continue its own reasoning, if so be that it hold fast to fact and employ logical processes. If “like produces like”––and from thistles figs do not grow––that which mind creates must be mental. And a good cause can produce only a good effect. So the ancient writer, “And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.” The inspired scribe––inspired? Yes, mused Josè, for inspiration is but the flow of truth into one’s mentality––stopped not until he had said, “So God created man in His own image”––

Wait! He will drive that home.

––“in the image of God”––not in the image of matter, not in the likeness of evil––“created He him.” But what had now become of that man?


So Jesus, centuries later, “God is spirit,” and, “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Or, man––true man––expresses mind, God, and is His eternal and spiritual likeness and reflection. But, to make this still clearer to torpid minds, Paul wrote, “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being.” Then he added, “To be spiritually minded is life.” As if he would say, True life is the consciousness of spiritual things only.

Is human life aught but a series of states of consciousness? And is consciousness aught but mental activity?––for when the mind’s activity ceases, the man dies. But mental activity is the activity of thought.

“It is the activity of thought,” said Josè aloud, “that makes us believe that fleshly eyes see and ears hear. We see only our thoughts; and in some way they become externalized as our environment.”

His reasoning faculty went busily on. Thought builds images, or mental concepts, within the mind. These are the thought-objects which mankind believe they see as material things in an outer world. And so the world is within, not without. Jesus must have known this when he said, “The kingdom of heaven is within you.” Did he not know the tremendous effects of thought when he said, “For as a man thinketh, so is he”? In other words, a man builds his own mental image of himself, and conveys it to the fellow-minds about him.

Josè again opened his Bible at random. His eye fell upon the warning of Jeremiah, “Hear, O earth, behold I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts!” Alas! he needed no warning to show him now the dire results of his own past wrong thinking. Evil is but wrong thinking wrought out in life experience. And so the chief of sins is the breaking of the very first Commandment, the belief in other powers than God, the infinite mind that framed the spiritual universe.

“But we simply can’t help breaking the Commandment,” cried Josè, “when we see nothing but evil about us! And yet––we are seeing only the thoughts in our own minds. True––but how came they there? And whence? From God?”

Josè was quite ready to concede a mental basis for everything; to believe that even sin is but the thought of sin, false thought regarding God and His Creation. But, if God is all-inclusive mind, He must be the only thinker. And so all thought must proceed from Him. All thought, both good and evil? No, for then were God maintaining a house divided against itself. And that would mean His ultimate dissolution.


Infinite, omnipotent mind is by very logic compelled to be perfect. Then the thoughts issuing from that mind must be good. So it must follow that evil thoughts come from another source. But if God is infinite, there is no other source, no other cause. Then there is but the single alternative left––evil thoughts must be unreal.

What was it that the explorer had said to him in regard to Spencer’s definition of reality? “That which endures.” But, for that matter, evil seems to be just as enduring as good, and to run its course as undeviatingly. After all, what is it that says there is evil? The five physical senses. But that again reduces to the thought of evil, for men see only their thoughts. These so-called senses say that the world is flat––that the sun circles the earth––that objects diminish in size with distance. They testify not to truth. Jesus said that evil, or the “devil,” was “a liar and the father of lies.” Then the testimony of the physical senses to evil––and there is no other testimony to its existence and power––is a lie. A lie is––what? Nothing. Reason has had to correct sense-testimony in the field of astronomy and show that the earth is not flat. Where, indeed, has reason not had to correct sense-testimony? For Josè could now see that all such testimony was essentially false. “Things as they are have no truth in them.” In other words, sense-testimony is false belief. Again, a lie. And the habitat of a lie is––nowhere. Did the world by clinging to evil and trying to make something of it, to classify it and reduce it to definite rules and terms, thus tend to make it real? Assuredly so. And as long as the world held evil to be real, could evil be overcome? Again, no. A reality endures forever.

Josè arose from his study. He believed he was close to the discovery of that solid basis of truth on which to stand while teaching Carmen. At any rate, her faith, which he could no longer believe to be baseless illusion, would not be shattered by him.


Two weeks after his arrival in Simití Josè conducted his first services in the ancient church. After four years of silence, the rusty bell sent out its raucous call from the old tower that still morning and announced the revival of public worship.

As the priest stepped from the sacristy and approached the altar his heart experienced a sudden sinking. Before him his little flock bowed reverently and expectantly. Looking out at 77 them, a lump rose in his throat. He was their pastor, and daily his love had grown for these kindly, simple folk. And now, what would he not have given could he have stretched forth his hands, as did the Master, to heal them of their ills and lift them out of the shadows of ignorance! Ah, if he could have thrown aside the mummery and pagan ceremonialism which he was there to conduct, and have sat down among them, as Jesus was wont to do on those still mornings in Galilee! Instead, he stood before them an apostate vassal of Rome, hypocritically using the Church to shield and maintain himself in Simití while he reared away from her the child Carmen.

Yet, what could he do? He had heard the call; and he had answered, “Master, here am I.” And now he was occupying, while waiting to be led, step by step, out of his cruelly anomalous position and into his rightful domain. A traitor to Holy Church? Nay, he thought he would have been a traitor to all that was best and holiest within himself had he done otherwise. In the name of the Church he would serve these humble people. Serving them, he honored the Master. And honoring Christ, he could not dishonor the Church.

Josè’s conduct of the Mass was perfunctory. Vainly he strove to hold in thought the symbolism of the service, the offering of Christ as a propitiation for the world’s sins. But gradually the folly of Milton’s extravagant, wild dream, which the poet clothed in such imperishable beauty, stole over him and blinded this vision. He saw the Holy Trinity sitting in solemn council in the courts of heaven. He heard their perplexed discussion of the ravages of Satan in the terrestrial paradise below. He heard the Father pronounce His awful curse upon mankind. And he beheld the Son rise and with celestial magnanimity offer himself as the sacrificial lamb, whose blood should wash away the serpent-stain of sin. How inept the whole drama!

And then he thought of Carmen. He had seen her, as he looked out over his people, sitting with Doña Maria, arrayed in a clean white frock, and swinging her plump bare legs beneath the bench, while wonder and amazement peered out from her big brown eyes as she followed his every move. What would such things mean to her, whose God was ever-present good? What did they mean to the priest himself, who was beginning to see Him as infinite, divine mind, knowing no evil––the One whose thoughts are not as ours?

He took up the holy water and sprinkled the assemblage. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” But how is the human mind purged of error? By giving it truth. And does the infinite 78 mind purge the thought of men in any other way? His mind was full as he took up the Missal. “Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison.”

He hesitated. With a tug he pulled his mind back to the work before him. But why was he invoking clemency from One who knows no evil? Heretofore he had always thought that God knew evil, that He must recognize it, and that He strove Himself to overcome it. But if God knew evil, then evil were real and eternal! Dreamily he began to intone the Gloria in Excelsis Deo. All hail, thou infinite mind, whose measureless depths mortal man has not even begun to sound! His soul could echo that strain forever.

He turned to the Lesson and read: “But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.” He stopped a moment for thought. The Lord God! The mist of error watered the false thought––the one lie about God––and out of it formed the man of flesh, the false concept which is held in the minds of mortals. Aye, it was the lie, posing as the Lord of creation, which had formed its false man out of the dust of the ground, and had forced it upon the acceptance of mankind! Josè turned back and read the whole of the first chapter of Genesis, where he felt that he stood upon truth.

The tapers on the altar flickered fitfully. The disturbed bats blundered among the rafters overhead. Outside, the dusty roads burned with a white glare. Within, he and the people were worshiping God. Worship? This? “God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” In Truth!

Josè recited the Nicene creed, with the thought that its man-made fetters had bound the Christian world for dreary centuries. Then, the Preface and Canon concluded, he pronounced the solemn words of consecration which turned the bread and wine before him into the flesh and blood of Christ Jesus. He looked at the wafer and the chalice long and earnestly. He––Josè de Rincón––mortal, human, a weakling among weaklings––could he command God by his “Hoc est enim corpus meum” to descend from heaven to this altar? Could he so invoke the power of the Christ as to change bread and wine into actual flesh and blood? And yet, with all the priestly powers which Holy Church had conferred upon him, he could not heal a single bodily ill, nor avert one human misfortune!

Ah, pagan Rome! Well have you avenged yourself upon those who wrought your fall, for in the death conflict you left the taint of your paganism upon them, and it endures in their sons even to this fair day!


Josè deferred his sermon until the close of the service. He wanted time to think over again what he could say to these simple people. They sat before him, dull, inert, yet impressionable––bare of feet, or wearing hempen sandals, and clad in cheap cottons and calicos, with here and there a flash of bright ribbon among the women, and occasionally a parasol of brilliant hue, which the owner fondly clasped, while impatiently awaiting the close of the service that she might proudly parade it. A few of the men wore starched linen shirts, but without collars. The Alcalde, with his numerous family, and the family of Don Felipe Alcozer, sat well in front. The former regarded Josè expectantly, as the priest turned to deliver his simple sermon.

“My children,” Josè began, “when the good man whom we call the Saviour sent his disciples out into the world he told them to preach the gospel and heal the sick. We have no record that he asked them to do more, for that included his whole mission. I am here to do his work. And, as I believe myself to have been led to you, so I shall preach what I believe to be given me by the great Father of us all. I shall teach you the Christ as I comprehend him. I would I could heal the sick as well. But the gift of healing which Jesus bestowed has been lost to mankind.” He paused and seemed to think deeply. Then he continued:

“I am your servant, and your friend. I want you to believe that whatever I do in your midst and whatever I say to you follows only after I have prayerfully considered your welfare. As time has passed I have seemed to see things in a clearer light than before. What I may see in the future I shall point out to you as you are able to understand me. To that end we must suffer many things to be as they are for the present, for I am learning with you. I shall give you a single thought to take with you to-day. Jesus once said, ‘As a man thinketh, so is he.’ I want you to remember that, if you would be well and happy and prosperous, you must think only about good things. Some day you will see why this is so. But go back now to your fincas and your fishing, to your little stores and your humble homes, firmly resolving never to think a bad thought, whether about yourself or your neighbor. And pray for yourselves and me––”

He looked off into the gloom overhead. Again he seemed to hear the Man of Galilee: “Ask and ye shall receive.”

“And, my children––”

He thought suddenly of Carmen and her visits to the shales. His face shone for a moment with a new light.

“––let your prayers be no mere requests that God will bless 80 us, but rather let them be statements that He is infinite good, and that He cannot do otherwise than give us all we need. No, I ask not that you intercede for me; nor shall I do so for you. But I do ask that you join with me in trying to realize that God is good; that He loves us as His dear children; and that He is daily, hourly pouring out His inexhaustible goodness upon us. We shall all see that goodness when we learn to think no evil.”

His eyes rested upon Carmen as he spoke these last words. Then with a simple invocation he dismissed the congregation.

The Alcalde carried Josè off to dinner with him, much against the inclination of the priest, who preferred to be alone. But the Alcalde was the chief influence in the town, and it was policy to cultivate him.

“The blessed Virgin shows that she has not forgotten Simití, Padre, by sending you here,” said Don Mario, when they were seated in the shade of the ample patio.

Josè knew the Alcalde was sounding him. “Yes, friend,” with just a trace of amusement in his voice. “It was doubtless because of the Virgin that I was directed here,” he replied, thinking of Carmen.

“Excellent advice that you gave the people, Padre; but it is not likely they understood you, poor fools! Now if Padre Diego had been preaching he would have ranted like a windstorm; but he would have made an impression. I am afraid soft words will not sink into their thick skulls.”

Dinner was served in the open, during which the Alcalde chattered volubly.

“Don Rosendo returns soon?” he finally ventured. Josè knew that for some time he had been edging toward the question.

Quien sabe, señor!” replied the priest, with a careless shrug of his shoulders.

“But––Caramba! he is old to prospect for gold––and alone, too!” Don Mario eyed Josè sharply.

“Ah, you priests!” he burst out laughing. “You are all alike when it comes to money. Padre Diego was up to the same schemes; and before he left he had a hat full of titles to mines.”

“But I am not seeking to acquire mineral property!” exclaimed Josè with some aspersion.

“No? Then you had nothing to do with Rosendo’s trip?”

Josè kept silence.

Na, Padre, let us be confidential,” said the Alcalde, hitching his chair closer to the priest. “Look, I understand why Rosendo went into the Guamocó country––but you can trust 81 me to say nothing about it. Only, Padre, if he should find the mine he will have trouble enough to hold it. But I can help you both. You know the denouncement papers must go through my hands, and I send them to Cartagena for registration.”

He sat back in his chair with a knowing look.

“There is only one man here to be afraid of,” he resumed; “and that is Don Felipe Alcozer; although he may never return to Simití.” He reflected a few moments. Then:

“Now, Padre, let us have some understanding about interests in the mine, should Rosendo find it. The mine will be useless to us unless we work it, for there is no one to buy it from us. To work it, we must have a stamp-mill, or arrastras. The Antioquanians are skilled in the making of wooden stamp-mills; but one would cost perhaps two thousand pesos oro. Nobody here can furnish so much money but Don Felipe. I will arrange with him for a suitable interest. And I will fix all the papers so that the title will be held by us three. Rosendo is only a peon. You can pay him for his trouble, and he need not have an interest.”

Josè breathed easier while this recital was in progress. So Don Mario believed Rosendo to have gone in search of the lost mine, La Libertad! Good; for Cartagena would soon get the report, and his own tenure of the parish would be rendered doubly sure thereby. The monthly greasing of Wenceslas’ palm with what Rosendo might extract from the Guamocó sands, coupled with the belief that Josè was maintaining a man in the field in search of Don Ignacio’s lost mine, rendered Cartagena’s interference a very remote contingency. He almost laughed as he replied:

“Rosendo will doubtless prospect for some months, Don Mario, and I am sure we shall have plenty of time to discuss any arrangement of interests later, should occasion arise. But this is the Sabbath day. So let us not talk business any further.”

When the afternoon heat began to wane, Josè left the Alcalde and returned to his cottage. Since the service of the morning he had been fighting a constantly deepening sense of depression. An awful loneliness now gripped his heart, and dank gloom was again sweeping through the corridors of his soul. God, what a sacrifice, to remain buried in that dismal town! His continuance in the priesthood of an abjured faith was violative of every principle of honesty! The time would come when the mask of hypocrisy would have to be raised, and the resultant exposure would be worse then than open apostasy now!


He entered his dreary little abode and threw himself upon a chair. There had been no reaction like this for days. He looked out into the deserted street. Mud hovels; ragged, thatched roofs; lowly peones drowsing away life’s little hour within! There was scarcely a book in the town. Few of its inhabitants could even read or write. Culture, education, refinement––all wanting. Nothing but primal existence––the barest necessities of real life. He could not stand it! He had been a fool all his years! He would throw everything to the winds and go out into the world to live his life as it had been intended he should live it. He would send his resignation to the Bishop to-morrow. Then he would hire Juan to take him to Bodega Central; and the few pesos he had left would get him to Barranquilla. There he would work until he had earned enough for his passage to the great States up north, of which the explorer had told such wonderful tales. Once there, he could teach, or––

His thought turned to Rosendo. He saw him, bent with age, and wearied with toil, alone in the awful solitude of the jungle, standing knee deep in the cold mountain water, while from early dawn till sunset he incessantly swung the heavy batea to concentrate the few flakes of precious gold it might contain. And the old man was facing years of just such loneliness and heavy toil––facing them gladly.

He thought of Carmen. Was she worth such sacrifice as he and Rosendo were making? God forgive him! Yes––a thousand times yes! If he betrayed Rosendo’s confidence and fled like a coward now, leaving her to fall into the sooty hands of men like Padre Diego, to be crushed, warped, and squeezed into the molds of Holy Church, could he ever again face his fellow-men?

He jumped to his feet. “Get thee behind me, Satan!” he cried in a voice that echoed through the barren rooms. He smote his chest and paced the floor. Then he stopped still. He heard Carmen’s voice again. It was the same simple melody she had sung the day he awoke from his fever. He stood listening. His eyes filled. Then––

“Love took up the harp of life, and smote on all the chords with might,
Smote the chord of self, that, trembling, passed in music out of sight.”



In the days that followed, while at times Josè still struggled desperately against the depression of his primal environment, and against its insidious suggestions of license, Carmen moved before him like the shechinah of Israel, symbolizing the divine presence. When the dark hours came and his pronounced egoism bade fair to overwhelm him; when his self-centered thought clung with the tenacity of a limpet to his dreary surroundings and his unfilled longings; when self-condemnation and self-pity rived his soul, and despair of solving life’s intricate problems settled again like a pall upon him, he turned to her. Under the soft influence of her instinct for primitive good, he was learning, even if slowly, to jettison his heavily laden soul, and day by day to ride the tossing waves of his stormy thought with a lighter cargo. Her simple faith in immanent good was working upon his mind like a spiritual catharsis, to purge it of its clogging beliefs. Her unselfed love flowed over him like heavenly balm, salving the bleeding wounds of the spiritual mayhem which he had suffered at the violent hands of Holy Church’s worldly agents.

Carmen’s days were filled to the brim with a measure of joy that constantly overflowed upon all among whom she moved. Her slight dependence upon her impoverished material environment, her contempt of its ennui, were constant reminders to Josè that heaven is but a state of mind. Even in desolate Simití, life to her was an endless series of delightful experiences, of wonderful surprises in the discovery of God’s presence everywhere. Her enthusiasms were always ardent and inexhaustible. Sparkling animation and abounding vitality characterized her every movement. Her thought was free, unstrained, natural, and untrammeled by those inherited and educated beliefs in evil in which Josè had early been so completely swamped. In worldly knowledge she was the purest novice; and the engaging naïveté with which she met the priest’s explanations of historical events and the motives from which they sprang charmed him beyond measure, and made his work with her a constant delight. Her sense of humor was keen, and her merriment when his recitals touched her risibility was extravagant. She laughed at danger, laughed at the weaknesses and foibles of men, when he told of the political and social ambitions which stirred mankind in the outside world. But he knew that her merriment proceeded not from an ephemeral sense of the ludicrous, but from a righteous appraisal 84 of the folly and littleness of those things for which the world so sorely strives.

And daily the little maid wrapped herself about his heart. Daily her wondrous love coiled its soft folds tighter around him, squeezing from his atrabilious soul, drop by drop, its sad taciturnity and inherent morbidness, that it might later fill his empty life with a spiritual richness which he had never known before.

On the day following the opening of the church Carmen had asked many questions. It was the first religious service she had ever voluntarily attended. To her former queries regarding the function of the church edifice, Rosendo had vouchsafed but one reply: it was the house of God, and in it the people used to gather to learn of Him. But she protested that she had no need of the musty, ramshackle, barn-like old building as a locus in which to center her thought upon God. She walked with Him, and she much preferred the bright, sunlit out-of-doors in which to commune with Him. Josè explained the need of a central gathering place as a shelter from the hot sun. But the images––the pictures of Saints and Virgin––and the Mass itself?

“They are what the people are accustomed to, dear child, to direct their thought toward God,” he explained. “And we will use them until we can teach them something better.” He had omitted from the church service as far as possible the collects and all invocations addressed to the Virgin and the Saints, and had rendered it short and extremely simple. Carmen seemed satisfied with his explanation, and with his insistence that, for the sake of appearance, she attend the Sunday services. He would trust her God to guide them both.

The days sped by silently and swiftly. Josè and the child dwelt together apart from the world, in a universe purely mental. As he taught her, she hung upon his every word, and seized the proffered tutelage with avidity. Often, after the day’s work, Josè, in his customary strolls about the little town, would come across the girl in the doorway of a neighboring house, with a group of wide-eyed youngsters about her, relating again the wonder-tales which she had gathered from him. Marvelous tales they were, too, of knight and hidalgo, of court and camp, of fairies, pyxies, gnomes and sprites, of mossy legend and historic fact, bubbling from the girl’s childish lips with an engaging naïveté of interpretation that held the man enchanted. Even the schoolmaster, who had besought Josè in vain to turn Carmen over to him, was often a spellbound listener at these little gatherings.

The result was that in a short time a delegation, headed 85 by the Alcalde himself, waited upon Josè and begged him to lecture to the people of Simití in the church building at least two or three evenings a week upon places and people he had seen in the great world of which they knew nothing. Josè’s eyes were moist as he looked at the great, brawny men, stout of heart, but simple as children. He grieved to give up his evenings, for he had formed the habit of late of devoting them to the study of his Bible, and to meditation on those ideas which had so recently come to him. But the appeal from these innocent, untutored people again quenched the thought of self, and he bade them be assured that their request was granted.

The new ideas which had found entrance into Josè’s liberated mentality in the past few days had formed a basis on which he was not afraid to stand while teaching Carmen; and his entire instruction was thenceforth colored by them. He knew not why, in all the preceding years, such ideas had not come to him before. But he was to learn, some day, that his previous tenacious clinging to evil as a reality, together with his material beliefs and his worldly intellectuality, had stood as barriers at the portals of his thought, and kept the truth from entering. His mind had been already full––but its contents were unbelief, fear, the conviction of evil as real and operative, and the failure to know God as immanent, omnipotent and perfect mind, to whom evil is forever unknown and unreal. Pride, egoism, and his morbid sense of honesty had added their portion to the already impassable obstruction at the gateway of his thought. And so the error had been kept within, the good without. The “power of the Lord” had not been absent; but it had remained unapplied. Thus he had wandered through the desolate wilderness; but yet sustained and kept alive, that he should not go down to the pit.

Josè’s days were now so crowded that he was forced to borrow heavily from the night. The Alcalde continued his unctuous flattery, and the priest, in turn, cultivated him assiduously. To that official’s query as to the restitution of the confessional in the church, the priest replied that he could spare time to hear only such confessions from his flock as might be necessary to elicit from him the advice or assistance requisite for their needs. He was there to help them solve their life problems, not to pry into their sacred secrets; and their confessions must relate only to their necessities.

The Alcalde went away with a puzzled look. Of a truth a new sort of priest had now to be reckoned with in Simití––a very different sort from Padre Diego.

In the first days of Josè’s incumbency he found many serious 86 matters to adjust. He had learned from Rosendo that not half the residents of Simití were married to the consorts with whom they lived, and that many of the children who played in the streets did not know who their fathers were. So prevalent was this evil condition that the custom among the men of having their initials embroidered upon the bosoms of their shirts was extended to include the initial of the mother’s family name. Josè had questioned Rosendo as to the meaning of the letters R. A. S. upon his shirt.

“The S, Padre, is the initial of my mother’s family name. I am Rosendo Ariza, son of the daughter of Saurez. My parents were married by a priest. But half the people of Simití have never been really married.”

Josè sought the cause of this dereliction. Fidel Avila was living with a woman, by whom he had three children. The priest summoned him to the parish house.

“Fidel,” he questioned sternly, “Jacinta, the woman you live with, is your wife?”

“Yes, Señor Padre.”

“And you were married by the Church?”

“No, Padre.”

“But was there a priest here when you began to live with Jacinta?”

“Yes, Padre. The Cura, Don Diego Polo, was here.”

“Then why were you not married by him? Do you not know how wicked it is to live as you are doing? Think of your children!”

“Yes, Padre, and I asked the Cura, Don Diego, to marry us. But he charged twenty pesos oro for doing it; and I could not afford it. I loved Jacinta. And so we decided to live together without the marriage.”

“But––!” Josè stopped. He knew that the Church recognized no marriage unless it were performed by a priest. The civil magistrate had no jurisdiction in such a case. And a former priest’s rapacity had resulted in forcing illegitimacy upon half the children of this benighted hamlet, because of their parents’ inability to afford the luxury of a canonical marriage.

“Fidel, were your father and mother married?” he asked in kinder tones.

“I do not know, Padre. Only a few people in Guamocó can afford to pay to be married. The men and women live together, perhaps for all time, perhaps for only a few months. If a man wishes to leave his woman and live with another, he does so. If there are children, the woman always has to keep and care for them.”


“And could you leave Jacinta if you wished, and live with another woman?”

“Yes, Padre.”

“And she would have to lake care of your children?”


“And all because you are not married?”

“I think so, Padre.”

Hombre! But that will do, Fidel.”

Oh, the sordid greed of those who abuse their sacred commission! What punishment is mete for such as exploit these lowly folk in the name of religion! Josè strode off to consult the Alcalde.

“Don Mario, the men in Simití who are living with women have got to be married to them! It is shameful! I shall make a canvass of the town at once!”

The Alcalde laughed. “Costumbre, Padre. You can’t change it.”

Costumbre del país! It is a final answer all through South America. No matter how unreasonable a thing may be, if it is the custom of the country it is a Medean law.

“But you know this is subversive of Church discipline!” Josè retorted warmly. “Look you, Don Mario,” he added suggestively, “you and I are to work together, are we not?”

The Alcalde blinked his pig eyes, but thought hard about La Libertad. “Cierto, Señor Padre!” he hastened to exclaim.

“Then I demand that you summon before me every man and woman who are living together unmarried.”

With a thought single to his own future advantage, the wary Alcalde complied. Within the week following this interview Josè married twenty couples, and without charge. Some offered him a few pesos. These he took and immediately turned over to Don Mario as treasurer of the parish. Those couples who refused to be married were forced by the Alcalde to separate. But of these there were few. Among them was one Julio Gomez. Packing his few household effects upon his back, and muttering imprecations against the priest, Gomez set out for the hills, still followed by his woman, with a babe slung over her shoulders and two naked children toddling at her bare heels.

Verily, the ancient town was being profoundly stirred by the man who had sought to find his tomb there. Gradually the people lost their suspicions and distrust, bred of former bitter experience with priests, and joined heartily with Josè to ameliorate the social status of the place. His sincere love for them, and his utter selflessness, secured their confidence, and ere his first month among them closed, he had won them, almost to a man.


Meantime, six weeks had passed since Rosendo had departed to take up his lonely task of self-renouncing love. Then one day he returned, worn and emaciated, his great frame shaking like a withered leaf in a chill blast.

“It is the terciana, Padre,” he said, as he sank shuddering upon his bed. “It comes every third day. I went as far as Tachí––fifty leagues from Simití––and there the fever overtook me. I have been eight days coming back; and day before yesterday I ran out of food. Last evening I found a wild melon at the side of the trail. A coral snake struck at me when I reached for it, but he hit my machete instead. Caramba!

Josè pressed his wet hand, while Doña Maria laid damp cloths upon his burning forehead.

“The streams are washed out, Padre,” Rosendo continued sadly. “I worked at Colorado, Popales, and Tambora. But I got no more than five pesos worth. And that will not pay for half of my supplies. It is there in a little bag,” pointing to his soaked and muddy kit.

Josè’s heart was wrung by the suffering and disappointment of the old man. Sadly he carried the little handful of gold flakes to Don Mario, and then returned to the exhausted Rosendo.

All through the night the sick man tossed and moaned. By morning he was delirious. Then Josè and Doña Maria became genuinely alarmed. The toil and exposure had been too much for Rosendo at his advanced age. In his delirium he talked brokenly of the swamps through which he had floundered, for he had taken the trail in the wet season, and fully half of its one hundred and fifty miles of length was oozy and all but impassable bog.

By afternoon the fever had greatly increased. Don Mario shook his head as he stood over him.

“I have seen many in that condition, Padre, and they didn’t wake up! If we had quinine, perhaps he might be saved. But there isn’t a flake in the town.”

“Then send Juan to Bodega Central at once for it!” cried Josè, wild with apprehension.

“I doubt if he would find it there either, Padre. But we can try. However, Juan cannot make the trip in less than two days. And I fear Rosendo will not last that long.”

Doña Maria sat by the bedside, dumb with grief. Josè wrung his hands in despair. The day drew slowly to a close. The Alcalde had dispatched Juan down to the river to signal any steamer that he should meet, if perchance he might purchase a few grains of the only drug that could save the sick man. Carmen had absented herself during the day; but she 89 returned in time to assist Doña Maria with the evening meal, after which she went at once to her bed.

Late at night, when the sympathizing townsmen had sorrowfully departed and Josè had induced Doña Maria to seek a few moments rest on her petate in the living room, Carmen climbed quietly out of her bed and came to where the priest sat alone with the unconscious Rosendo.

Josè was bending over the delirious man. “Oh, if Jesus were only here now!” he murmured.

“Padre dear.”

Josè looked down into the little face beside him.

“People don’t die, you know. They don’t really die.” The little head shook as if to emphasize the words.

Josè was startled. But he put his arm about the child and drew her to him. “Chiquita, why do you say that?” he asked sorrowfully.

“Because God doesn’t die, you know,” she quickly replied. “And we are like Him, Padre, aren’t we?”

“But He calls us to Him, chiquita. And––I guess––He is––is calling your padre Rosendo now.”

Does God kill mankind in order to give them life? Is that His way? Death denies God, eternal Life. And––

“Why, no, Padre,” returned the innocent child. “He is always here; and we are always with Him, you know. He can not call people away from where He is, can He?”

Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world. The Christ-principle, the saving truth about God and man, is ever present in an uncomprehending world.

Josè knew that there was no material dependence now. Something told him that Rosendo lay dying. There was no physician, no drug, in the isolated little town. There was none but God to save. And He––

But only sinners are taught by priests and preachers to look to God for help. The sick are not so taught. How much more deplorable, then, is their condition than that of the wicked!

“I told God out on the shales this afternoon that I just knew padre Rosendo wouldn’t die!” The soft, sweet voice hovered on the silence like celestial melody.

If ye ask anything in my name––in my character––it shall be given you. Carmen asked in the character of the sinless Christ, for her asking was an assertion of what she instinctively knew to be truth, despite the evidence of the physical senses. Her petitions were affirmations of Immanuel––God with us.

“Carmen,” whispered the priest hoarsely, “go back to your 90 bed, and know, just know that God is here! Know that He did not make padre Rosendo sick, and that He will not let him die! Know it for him––and for me!”

“Why, Padre, I know that now!” The child looked up into the priest’s face with her luminous eyes radiating unshaken trust––a trust that seemed born of understanding. Yea, she knew that all good was there, for God is omnipotent. They had but to stretch forth their hands to touch the robe of His Christ. The healing principle which cleansed the lepers and raised the dead was even with them there in that quiet room. Josè had only to realize it, nothing doubting. Carmen had done her work, and her mind now was stayed on Him. Infinite Intelligence did not know Rosendo as Josè was trying to know him, sick and dying. God is Life––and there is no death!

Carmen was again asleep. Josè sat alone, his open Bible before him and his thought with his God.

Oh, for even a slight conception of Him who is Life! Moses worked “as seeing Him who is invisible.” Carmen lived with her eyes on Him, despite her dreary mundane encompassment. And Josè, as he sat there throughout the watches of the night, facing the black terror, was striving to pierce the mist which had gone up from the face of the ground and was separating him from his God. Through the long, dark hours, with the quiet of death upon the desolate chamber, he sat mute before the veil that was “still untaken away.”

What was it that kept telling him that Rosendo lay dying before him? Does matter talk? Did the serpent talk to Eve? Do fleshly nerves and frail bodily organs converse with men? Can the externalization of thought report back to the thought itself? Nay, the report came to him from the physical senses––naught else. And they reported––nothing! He was seeing but his own thoughts of mixed good and evil. And they were false, because they testified against God.

Surely God knew Rosendo. But not as the physical senses were trying to make Josè know him, sick and dying. Surely the subjective determines the objective; for as we think, so are we––the Christ said that. From his human standpoint Josè was seeing his thoughts of a dying mortal. And now he was trying to know that those thoughts did not come from God––that they had no authority back of them––that they were children of the “one lie” about God––that they were false, false as hell, and therefore impotent and unreal.

What, then, had he to fear? Nothing, for truth is beyond the reach of personal sense. So God and His ideas, reflected by the real Rosendo, were beyond the reach of evil.

If this were true, then he must clear his own mentality––even 91 as he now knew Carmen had done out on the shales that afternoon. He was no longer dealing with a material Rosendo, but with false beliefs about a son of God. He was handling mental concepts. And to the serpent, error, he was trying to say: “What is your authority?”

If man lives, he never dies. If man is, then he always has been. And he was never born––and never passes into oblivion. A fact never changes. If two and two make four to-day, they always have done so, and always will.

Can good produce evil? Then evil can have no creator. Rosendo, when moved by good, had gone into the wilds of Guamocó on a mission of love. Did evil have power to smite him for his noble sacrifice?

What is this human life of ours? Real existence? No, but a sense of existence––and a false sense, for it postulates a god of evil opposed to the one supreme Creator of all that really is. Then the testimony that said Rosendo must die was cruelly false. And, more, it was powerless––unless Josè himself gave it power.

Did Carmen know that? Had she so reasoned? Assuredly no! But she knew God as Josè had never known Him. And, despite the testimony of the fleshly eyes, she had turned from physical sense to Him.

“It is not practicable!” the world cries in startled protest.

But, behold her life!

Josè had begun to see that discord was the result of unrighteousness, false thought. He began to understand why it was that Jesus always linked disease with sin. His own paradoxical career had furnished ample proof of that. Yet his numberless tribulations were not due solely to his own wrong thinking, but likewise to the wrong thought of others with respect to him, thought which he knew not how to neutralize. And the channels for this false, malicious, carnal thought had been his beloved parents, his uncle, the Archbishop, his tutors, and, in fact, all with whom he had been associated until he came to Simití. There he had found Carmen. And there the false thought had met a check, a reversal. The evil had begun to destroy itself. And he was slowly awaking to find nothing but good.

The night hours flitted through the heavy gloom like spectral acolytes. Rosendo sank into a deep sleep. The steady roll of the frogs in the lake at length died away. A flush stole timidly across the eastern sky.

“Padre dear, he will not die.”

It was Carmen’s voice that awoke the slumbering priest. The child stood at his side, and her little hand clasped his. 92 Rosendo slept. His chest rose and fell with the rhythmic breathing. Josè looked down upon him. A great lump came into his throat, and his voice trembled as he spoke.

“You are right, chiquita. Go, call your madre Maria now, and I will go home to rest.”


That day Rosendo left his bed. Two days later he again set out for Guamocó.

“There is gold there, and I must, I will find it!” he repeatedly exclaimed as he pushed his preparations.

The courage of the man was magnificent. On its rebound it carried him over the protest of Doña Maria and the gloomy forebodings of his fellow-townsmen, and launched him again on the desolate trail.

But Josè had uttered no protest. He moved about wrapped in undefinable awe. For he believed he had seen Rosendo lifted from the bed of death. And no one might tell him that it was not by the same power that long ago had raised the dead man of Nain. Carmen had not spoken of the incident again; and something laid a restraint upon Josè’s lips.

The eyes of the Alcalde bulged with astonishment when Rosendo entered his store that morning in quest of further supplies.

Caramba! Go back to your bed, compadre!” he exclaimed, bounding from his chair. “You are walking in your delirium!”

Na, amigo,” replied Rosendo with a smile, “the fever has left me. And now I must have another month’s supplies, for I go back to Guamocó as soon as my legs tremble less.”

“Caramba! caramba!”

The Alcalde acted as if he were in the presence of a ghost. But at length becoming convinced that Rosendo was there on matters of business, and in his right mind, he checked further expression of wonder and, with a shrug of his fat shoulders, assumed his wonted air of a man of large affairs.

“I can allow you five pesos oro on account of the gold which the Cura brought me yesterday,” he said severely. “But that leaves you still owing ten pesos for your first supplies; and thirty if I give you what you ask for now. If you cannot pay this amount when you return, you will have to work it out for me.”

His little eyes grew steely and cold. Rosendo well knew what the threat implied. But he did not falter.


Bien, compadre,” he quietly replied, “it will be as you say.”

Late that afternoon Juan returned from Bodega Central with a half ounce of quinine. He had made the trip with astonishing celerity, and had arrived at the riverine town just as a large steamer was docking. The purser supplied him with the drug, and he immediately started on his return.

The Alcalde set out to deliver the drug to Rosendo; but not finding him at home, looked in at the parish house. Josè and Carmen were deep in their studies.

“A thousand pardons, Señor Padre, but I have the medicine you ordered for Rosendo,” placing the small package upon the table.

“You may set it down against me, Don Mario,” said Josè.

“No!” exclaimed the Alcalde, “this must not be charged to the parish!”

“I said to me, amigo,” replied the priest firmly.

“It is the same thing, Padre!” blurted the petty merchant.

The priest’s anger began to rise, but he restrained it. “Padre Diego is no longer here, you must remember,” he said quietly.

“But the parish pays your debts; and it would not pay the full value of this and Juan’s trip,” was the coarse retort.

“Very well, then, Don Mario,” answered Josè. “You may charge it to Rosendo. But tell me first how much you will place against him for it.”

The Alcalde reflected a moment. “The quinine will be five pesos oro, and Juan’s trip three additional. Is it not worth it?” he demanded, blustering before Josè’s steady gaze. “If Rosendo had been really sick it would have saved his life!”

“Then you do not believe he was dangerously ill?” asked Josè with some curiosity.

“He couldn’t have been really sick and be around to-day––could he?” the Alcalde demanded.

The priest glanced at Carmen. She met the look with a smile.

“No,” he said slowly, “not really sick.” Then he quickly added:

“If you charge Rosendo eight pesos for that bit of quinine, Don Mario, you and I are no longer working together, for I do not take base advantage of any man’s necessities.”

The Alcalde became confused. He was going too far. “Na, Señor Padre,” he said hastily, with a sheepish grin. “I will leave the quinine with you, and do you settle the account with Juan.” With which he beat a disordered retreat.

Josè was thankful that, for a few months, at least, he would have a powerful hold on this man through his rapacity. What 94 would happen when the Alcalde at length learned that Rosendo was not searching for Don Ignacio’s lost mine, he did not care to conjecture. That matter was in other hands than his, and he was glad to leave it there. He asked now only to see each single step as he progressed.

“Did Don Mario say that stuff would cure padre Rosendo?” asked Carmen, pointing to the quinine.

“Yes, chiquita.”

“Why did he say so, Padre?”

“Because he really believed it, carita.”

“But what is it, Padre––and how can it cure sick people?”

“It is the bark of a certain tree, little one, that people take as medicine. It is a sort of poison which people take to counteract another poison. A great school of medicine is founded upon that principle, Carmen,” he added. And then he fell to wondering if it really was a principle, after all. If so, it was evil overcoming evil. But would the world believe that both he and Rosendo had been cured by––what? Faith? True prayer? By the operation of a great, almost unknown principle? Or would it scoff at such an idea?

But what cared he for that? He saw himself and Rosendo restored, and that was enough. He turned to the child. “They think the quinine cures fever, little one,” he resumed.

“And does it?” The little face wore an anxious look as she put the question.

“They think it does, chiquita,” replied the priest, wondering what he should say.

“But it is just because they think so that they get well, isn’t it?” the girl continued.

“I guess it is, child.”

“And if they thought right they would be cured without this––is it not so, Padre dear?”

“I am sure of it––now,” replied the priest. “In fact, if they always kept their thoughts right I am sure they would never be sick.”

“You mean, if they always thought about God,” the child amended.

“Yes––I mean just that. If they knew, really knew, that God is everywhere, that He is good, and that He never makes people sick, they would always be well.”

“Of course, Padre. It is only their bad thoughts that make them sick. And even then they are not really sick,” the child concluded. “They think they are, and they think they die––and then they wake up and find it isn’t so at all.”

Had the child made this remark to him a few weeks before, he had crushed it with the dull, lifeless, conventional formulæ 95 of human belief. To-day in penitent humility he was trying to walk hand in hand with her the path she trod. For he was learning from her that righteousness is salvation. A few weeks ago he had lain at death’s door, yearning to pass the portal. Yesterday he believed he had again seen the dark angel, hovering over the stricken Rosendo. But in each case something had intervened. Perhaps that “something not ourselves that makes for righteousness,” the unknown, almost unacknowledged force that ceases not to combat evil in the human consciousness. Clinging to his petty egoisms; hugging close his shabby convictions of an evil power opposed to God; stuffed with worldly learning and pride of race and intellect, in due season, as he sank under the burden of his imaginings, the veil had been drawn aside for a fleeting moment––and his soul had frozen with awe at what it beheld!

For, back of the density of the human concept, the fleeting, inexplicable medley of good and evil which constitutes the phenomenon of mortal existence, he had seen God! He had seen Him as all-inclusive mind, omnipotent, immanent, perfect, eternal. He had caught a moment’s glimpse of the tremendous Presence which holds all wisdom, all knowledge, yet knows no evil. He had seen a blinding flash of that “something” toward which his life had strained and yearned. With it had come a dim perception of the falsity of the testimony of physical sense, and the human life that is reared upon it. And though he counted not himself to have apprehended as yet, he was struggling, even with thanksgiving, up out of his bondage, toward the gleam. The shafts of error hissed about him, and black doubt and chill despair still felled him with their awful blows. But he walked with Carmen. With his hand in hers, he knew he was journeying toward God.

On the afternoon before his departure Rosendo entered the parish house in apprehension. “I have lost my escapulario, Padre!” he exclaimed. “The string caught in the brush, and the whole thing was torn from my neck. I––I don’t like to go back without one,” he added dubiously.

“Ah, then you have nothing left but Christ,” replied Josè with fine irony. “Well, it is of no consequence.”

“But, Padre, it had been blessed by the Bishop!”

“Well, don’t worry. Why, the Holy Father himself once blessed this republic of ours, and now it is about the most unfortunate country in the whole world! But you are a good Catholic, Rosendo, so you need not fear.”

Rosendo was, indeed, a good Catholic. He accepted the faith of his fathers without reserve. He had never known any other. Simple, superstitious, and great of heart, he held with 96 rigid credulity to all that had been taught him in the name of religion. But until Josè’s advent he had feared and hated priests. Nevertheless, his faith in signs and miracles and the healing power of blessed images was child-like. Once when he saw in the store of Don Mario a colored chromo of Venus and Cupid, a cheap print that had come with goods imported from abroad, he had devoutly crossed himself, believing it to be the Virgin Mary with the Christ-child.

“But I will fix you up, Rosendo,” said Josè, noting the man’s genuine anxiety. “Have Doña Maria cut out a cloth heart and fasten it to a stout cord. I will take it to the church altar and bless it before the image of the Virgin. You told me once that the Virgin was the Rincón family’s patron, you know.”

Bueno!” ejaculated the pleased Rosendo, as he hastened off to execute the commission.

Several times before Rosendo went back to Guamocó Josè had sought to draw him into conversation about his illness, and to get his view of the probable cause of his rapid recovery. But the old man seemed loath to dwell on the topic, and Josè could get little from him. At any mention of the episode a troubled look would come over his face, and he would fall silent, or would find an excuse to leave the presence of the priest.

“Rosendo,” Josè abruptly remarked to him as he was busy with his pack late the night before his departure, “will you take with you the quinine that Juan brought?”

Rosendo looked up quickly. “I can not, Padre.”

“And why?”

“On account of Carmen.”

“But what has she to do with it, amigo?” Josè asked in surprise.

Rosendo looked embarrassed. “I––Bien, Padre, I promised her I would not.”


“To-day, Padre.”

Josè reflected on the child’s unusual request. Then:

“But if you fell sick up in Guamocó, Rosendo, what could you do?”

Quien sabe, Padre! Perhaps I could gather herbs and make a tea––I don’t know. She didn’t say anything about that.” He looked at Josè and laughed. Then, in an anxious tone:

“Padre, what can I do? The little Carmen asks me not to take the quinine, and I can not refuse her. But I may get sick. I––I have always taken medicine when I needed it and could get it. But the only medicine we have in Simití is the stuff 97 that some of the women make––teas and drinks brewed from roots and bark. I have never seen a doctor here, nor any real medicines but quinine. And even that is hard to get, as you know. I used to make a salve out of the livers of mápina snakes––it was for the rheumatism––I suffered terribly when I worked in the cold waters in Guamocó. I think the salve helped me. But if I should get the disease now, would Carmen let me make the salve again?”

He bent over his outfit for some moments. “She says if I trust God I will not get sick,” he at length resumed. “She says I must not think about it. Caramba! What has that to do with it? People get sick whether they think about it or not. Do you believe, Padre, this new escapulario will protect me?”

The man’s words reflected the strange mixture of mature and childish thought typical of these untutored jungle folk, in which longing for the good is so heavily overshadowed by an educated belief in the power of evil.

“Rosendo,” said Josè, finding at last his opportunity, “tell me, do you think you were seriously ill day before yesterday?”

Quien sabe, Padre! Perhaps it was only the terciana, after all.”

“Well, then,” pursuing another tack, “do you think I was very sick that day when I rushed to the lake––?”

Caramba, Padre! But you were turning cold––you hardly breathed––we all thought you must die––all but Carmen!”

“And what cured me, Rosendo?” the priest asked in a low, steady voice.

“Why––Padre, I can not say.”

“Nor can I, positively, my friend. But I do know that the little Carmen said I should not die. And she said the same of you when, as I would swear, you were in the fell clutches of the death angel himself.”

“Padre––” Rosendo’s eyes were large, and his voice trembled in awesome whisper––“is she––the little Carmen––is she––an hada?”

“A witch? Hombre! No!” cried Josè, bursting into a laugh at the perturbed features of the older man. “No, amigo, she is not an hada! Let us say, rather, as you first expressed it to me, she is an angel––and let us appreciate her as such.

“But,” he continued, “I tell you in all seriousness, there are things that such as you and I, with our limited outlook, have never dreamed of; and that child seems to have penetrated the veil that hides spiritual things from the material vision of men like us. Let us wait, and if we value that ‘something’ which she seems to possess and know how to use, let us cut off our right hands before we yield to the temptation to place any 98 obstacle in the way of her development along the lines which she has chosen, or which some unseen Power has chosen for her. It is for you and me, Rosendo, to stand aside and watch, while we protect her, if haply we may be privileged some day to learn her secret in full. You and I are the unlearned, while she is filled with wisdom. The world would say otherwise, and would condemn us as fools. Thank God we are out of the world here in Simití!”

He choked back the inrush of memories and brushed away a tear.

“Rosendo,” he concluded, “be advised. If Carmen told you not to think of sickness while in Guamocó, then follow her instructions. It is not the child, but a mighty Power that is speaking through her. Of that I have long been thoroughly convinced. And I am as thoroughly convinced that that same Power has appointed you and me her protectors and her followers. You and I have a mighty compact––”

Hombre!” interrupted Rosendo, clasping the priest’s hand, “my life is hers––you know it––she has only to speak, and I obey! Is it not so?”

“Assuredly, Rosendo,” returned Josè. “And now a final word. Let us keep solely to ourselves what we have learned of her. Our plans are well formulated. Let us adhere to them in strict silence. I know not whither we are being led. But we are in the hands of that ‘something’ that speaks and works through her––and we are satisfied. Are we not?”

They clasped hands again. The next morning Rosendo set his face once more toward the emerald hills of Guamocó.

As the days passed, Josè became more silent and thoughtful. But it was a silence bred of wonder and reverence, as he dwelt upon the things that had been revealed to him. Who and what was this unusual child, so human, and yet so strangely removed from the world’s plane of thought? A child who understood the language of the birds, and heard the grass grow––a child whom Torquemada would have burnt as a witch, and yet with whom he could not doubt the Christ dwelt.

Josè often studied her features while she bent over her work. He spent hours, too, poring over the little locket which had been found among her mother’s few effects. The portrait of the man was dim and soiled. Josè wondered if the poor woman’s kisses and tears had blurred it. The people of Badillo said she had died with it pressed to her lips. But its condition rendered futile all speculation in regard to its original. That of the mother, however, was still fresh and clear. Josè conjectured that she must have been either wholly Spanish, or one of the more refined and cultured women of Colombia. And she 99 had doubtless been very young and beautiful when the portrait was made. With what dark tragedy was that little locket associated? Would it ever yield its secret?

But Carmen’s brown curls and light skin––whence came they? Were they wholly Latin? Josè had grave doubts. And her keen mind, and deep religious instinct? Who knew? He could only be sure that they had come from a source far, far above her present lowly environment. With that much he must for the present be content.

Another month unfolded its length in quiet days, and Rosendo again returned. Not ill this time, nor even much exhausted. Nor did the little leathern pouch contain more than a few pesos in gold dust. But determination was written grim and trenchant upon his black face as he strode into the parish house and extended his great hand to the priest.

“I have only come for more supplies, Padre,” he said. “I have some three pesos worth of gold. Most of this I got around Culata, near Don Felipe’s quartz vein, the Andandodias. Caramba, what veins in those hills! If we had money to build a mill, and knew how to catch the gold, we would not need to wash the river sands that have been gone over again and again for hundreds of years!”

But Josè’s thoughts were of the Alcalde. He determined to send for him at once, while Rosendo was removing the soil of travel.

Don Mario came and estimated the weight of the gold by his hand. Then he coolly remarked: “Bien, Señor Padre, I will send Rosendo to my hacienda to-morrow to cut cane and make panela.”

“And how is that, Don Mario?” inquired Josè.

The Alcalde began to bluster. “He owes me thirty pesos oro, less this, if you wish me to keep it. I see no likelihood that he can ever repay me. And so he must now work out his debt.”

“How long will that take him, amigo?”

Quien sabe? Señor Padre,” the Alcalde replied, his eyes narrowing.

The priest braced himself, and his face assumed an expression that it had not worn before he came to Simití. “Look you now, my friend,” he began in tones pregnant with meaning. “I have made some inquiries regarding your system of peonage. I find that you pay your peones from twenty to thirty cents a day for their hard labor, and at the same time charge them as much a day for food. Or you force them to buy from you tobacco and rum at prices which keep them always in your debt. Is it not so?”


Na, Padre, you have been misinformed,” the Alcalde demurred, with a deprecating gesture.

“I have not. Lázaro Ortiz is now working for you on that system. And daily he becomes more deeply indebted to you, is it not so?”

“But, Padre––”

“It is useless for you to deny it, Don Mario, for I have facts. Now listen to me. Let us understand each other clearly, nor attempt to dissimulate. That iniquitous system of peonage has got to cease in my parish!”

Caramba, but Padre Diego had peones!” the Alcalde exploded.

“And he was a wicked man,” added Josè. Then he continued:

“I know not what information you may have from the Bishop regarding me, yet this I tell you: I shall report you to Bogotá, and I will band the citizens of Simití together to drive you out of town, if you do not at once release Lázaro, and put an end to this wicked practice. The people will follow if I lead!”

It was a bold stroke, and the priest knew that he was standing upon shaky ground. But the man before him was superstitious, untutored and child-like. A show of courage, backed by an assertion of authority, might produce the desired effect. Moreover, Josè knew that he was in the right. And right must prevail!

Don Mario glared at him, while an ugly look spread over his coarse features. The priest went on:

“Lázaro has long since worked out his debt, and you shall release him at once. As to Rosendo, he must have the supplies he needs to return to Guamocó. You understand?”

Caramba!” Don Mario’s face was purple with rage. “You think you can tell me what to do––me, the Alcalde!” he volleyed. “You think you can make us change our customs! Caramba! You are no better than the priest Diego, whom you try to make me believe so wicked! Hombre, you were driven out of Cartagena yourself! A nice sort to be teaching a little girl––!”

“Stop, man!” thundered Josè, striding toward him with upraised arm.

Don Mario fell back in his chair and quailed before the mountainous wrath of the priest.

A shadow fell across the open doorway. Glancing up, Josè saw Carmen. For a moment the girl stood looking in wonder at the angry men. Then she went quickly to the priest and slipped a hand into his. A feeling of shame swept over him, 101 and he went back to his chair. Carmen leaned against him, but she appeared to be confused. Silence fell upon them all.

“Cucumbra doesn’t fight any more, Padre,” the girl at length began in hesitation. “He and the puppy play together all the time now. He has learned a lot, and now he loves the puppy.”

So had the priest learned much. He recalled the lesson. “Bien,” he said in soft tones, “I think we became a bit too earnest, Don Mario. We are good friends, is it not so? And we are working together for the good of Simití. But to have good come to us, we must do good to others.”

He went to his trunk and took out a wallet. “Here are twenty pesos, Don Mario.” It was all he had in the world, but he did not tell the Alcalde so. “Take them on Rosendo’s account. Let him have the new supplies he needs, and I will be his surety. And, friend, you are going to let me prove to you with time that the report you have from Cartagena regarding me is false.”

Don Mario’s features relaxed somewhat when his hand closed over the grimy bills.

“Do not forget, amigo,” added Josè, assuming an air of mystery as he pursued the advantage, “that you and I are associated in various business matters, is it not so?”

The Alcalde’s mouth twitched, but finally extended in an unctuous grin. After all, the priest was a descendant of the famous Don Ignacio, and––who knew?––he might have resources of which the Alcalde little dreamed.

Cierto, Padre!” he cried, rising to depart. “And we will yet uncover La Libertad! You guarantee Rosendo’s debt? Bien, he shall have the supplies. But I think he should take another man with him. Lázaro might do, no?”

It was a gracious and unlooked for condescension.

“Send Lázaro to me, Don Mario,” said Josè. “We will find use for him, I think.”

And thus Rosendo was enabled to depart a third time to the solitudes of Guamocó.


With Rosendo again on the trail, Josè and Carmen bent once more to their work. Within a few days the grateful Lázaro was sent to Rosendo’s hacienda, biding the time when the priest should have a larger commission to bestow upon him. With the advent of the dry season, peace settled over the sequestered town, while its artless folk drowsed 102 away the long, hot days and danced at night in the silvery moonlight to the twang of the guitar and the drone of the amorous canzonet. Josè was deeply grateful for these days of unbroken quiet, and for the opportunity they afforded him to probe the child’s thought and develop his own. Day after day he taught her. Night after night he visited the members of his little parish, getting better acquainted with them, administering to their simple needs, talking to them in the church edifice on the marvels of the outside world, and then returning to his little cottage to prepare by the feeble rays of his flickering candle Carmen’s lessons for the following day. He had no texts, save the battered little arithmetic; and even that was abandoned as soon as Carmen had mastered the decimal system. Thereafter he wrote out each lesson for her, carefully wording it that it might contain nothing to shock her acute sense of the allness of God, and omitting from the vocabulary every reference to evil, to failure, disaster, sin and death. In mathematics he was sure of his ground, for there he dealt wholly with the metaphysical. But history caused him many an hour of perplexity in his efforts to purge it of the dross of human thought. If Carmen were some day to go out into the world she must know the story of its past. And yet, as Josè faced her in the classroom and looked down into her unfathomable eyes, in whose liquid depths there seemed to dwell a soul of unexampled purity, he could not bring himself even to mention the sordid events in the development of the human race which manifested the darker elements of the carnal mind. Perhaps, after all, she might never go out into the world. He had not the faintest idea how such a thing could be accomplished. And so under his tutelage the child grew to know a world of naught but brightness and beauty, where love and happiness dwelt ever with men, and wicked thoughts were seen as powerless and transient, harmless to the one who knew God to be “everywhere.” The man taught the child with the sad remembrance of his own seminary training always before him, and with a desire, amounting almost to frenzy, to keep from her every limiting influence and benumbing belief of the carnal mind.

The decimal system mastered, Carmen was inducted into the elements of algebra.

“How funny,” she exclaimed, laughing, “to use letters for numbers!”

“They are only general symbols, little one,” he explained. “Symbols are signs, or things that stand for other things.”

Then came suddenly into his mind how the great Apostle Paul taught that the things we see, or think we see, are themselves but symbols, reflections as from a mirror, and how we 103 must make them out as best we can for the present, knowing that, in due season, we shall see the realities for which these things stand to the human mind. He knew that back of the mathematical symbols stood the eternal, unvarying, indestructible principles which govern their use. And he had begun to see that back of the symbols, the phenomena, of human existence stands the great principle––infinite God––the eternal mind. In the realm of mathematics the principles are omnipotent for the solution of problems––omnipotent in the hands of the one who understands and uses them aright. And is not God the omnipotent principle to the one who understands and uses Him aright in the solving of life’s intricate problems?

“They are so easy when you know how, Padre dear,” said Carmen, referring to her tasks.

“But there will be harder ones, chiquita.”

“Yes, Padre. But then I shall know more about the rules that you call principles.”

She took up each problem with confidence. Josè watched her eagerly. “You do not know what the answer will be, chiquita,” he ventured.

“No, Padre dear. But I don’t care. If I use the rule in the right way I shall get the correct answer, shall I not? Look!” she cried joyfully, as she held up her paper with the completed solution of a problem.

“But how do you know that it is correct?” he queried.

“Why––well, we can prove it––can’t we?” She looked up at him questioningly. Then she bent again over her task and worked assiduously for some moments in silence.

“There! I worked it back again to the starting point. And it is right.”

“And in proving it, little one, you have proved the principle and established its correctness. Is it not so, chiquita?”

“Yes, Padre, it shows that the rule is right.”

The child lapsed into silence, while Josè, as was becoming his wont, awaited the result of her meditation. Then:

“Padre dear, there are rules for arithmetic, and algebra, and––and for everything, are there not?”

“Yes, child, for music, for art, for everything. We can do nothing correctly without using principles.”

“And, Padre, there are principles that tell us how to live?” she queried.

“What is your opinion on that point, queridita?”

“Just one principle, I guess, Padre dear,” she finally ventured, after a pause.

“And that, little one?”

“Just God.”


“And God is––?” Josè began, then hesitated. The Apostle John had dwelt with the Master. What had he urged so often upon the dull ears of his timid followers?

The child looked up at the priest with a smile whose tenderness dissolved the rising clouds of doubt.

“And God is––love,” he finished softly.

“That’s it, Padre!” The child clapped her little hands and laughed aloud.

Love! Jesus had said, “I and my Father are one.” Having seen him, the world has seen the Father. But Jesus was the highest manifestation of love that tired humanity has ever known. “Love God!” he had cried in tones that have echoed through the centuries. “Love thy neighbor!” Aye, love everything, everybody! Apply the Principle of principles, Love, to every task, every problem, every situation, every condition! For what is the Christ-principle but Love? All things are possible to him who loves, for Love casteth out fear, the root of every discord. Men ask why God remains hidden from them, why their understanding of Him is dim. They forget that God is Love. They forget that to know Him they must first love their fellow-men. And so the world goes sorrowfully on, hating, cheating, grasping, abusing; still wondering dully why men droop and stumble, why they consume with disease, and, with the despairing conviction that God is unknowable, sinking at last into oblivion.

Josè, if he knew aught, knew that Carmen greatly loved––loved all things deeply and tenderly as reflections of her immanent God. She had loved the hideous monster that had crept toward her as she sat unguarded on the lake’s rim. Unguarded? Not so, for the arms of Love were there about her. She had loved God––good––with unshaken fealty when Rosendo lay stricken. She had known that Love could not manifest in death when he himself had been dragged from the lake that burning afternoon a few weeks before.

“God is the rule, isn’t He, Padre dear?” The child’s unexampled eyes glowed like burning coals. “And we can prove Him, too,” she continued confidently.

Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Prove Him, O man, that He is Love, and that Love, casting out hate and fear, solves life’s every problem! But first––Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house. Bring your whole confidence, your trust, your knowledge of the allness of good, and the nothingness of evil. Bring, too, your every earthly hope, every mad ambition, 105 every corroding fear, and carnal belief; lay them down at the doorway of mine storehouse, and behold their nothingness!

As Carmen approached her simple algebraic problems Josè saw the working of a rule infinite in its adaptation. She knew not what the answers should be, yet she took up each problem with supreme confidence, knowing that she possessed and rightly understood the rule for correctly solving it. She knew that speculation regarding the probable results was an idle waste of time. And she likewise knew instinctively that fear of inability to solve them would paralyze her efforts and insure defeat at the outset.

Nor could she force solutions to correspond to what she might think they ought to be––as mankind attempt to force the solving of their life problems to correspond to human views. She was glad to work out her problems in the only way they could be solved. Love, humility, obedience, enabled her to understand and correctly apply the principle to her tasks. The results were invariable––harmony and exceeding joy.

Josè had learned another lesson. Again that little hand had softly swept his harp of life. And again he breathed in unison with its vibrating chords a deep “Thank God!”

“Padre dear.” Carmen looked up from a brown study. “What does zero really mean?”

“It stands for nothing, child,” the priest made reply, wondering what was to follow this introduction.

“And the minus sign in algebra is different from the one in arithmetic. What does it mean?”

“Less than nothing.”

“But, Padre, if God is all, how can you say there is nothing, or less than nothing?”

The priest had his answer ready. “They are only human ways of thinking, chiquita. The plus sign always represents something positive; the minus, something negative. The one is the opposite of the other.”

“Is there an opposite to everything, Padre?”

The priest hesitated. Then:

“No, chiquita––not a real opposite. But,” he added hastily, “we may suppose an opposite to everything.”

A moment’s pause ensued. “That is what makes people sick and unhappy, isn’t it, Padre?”

“What, child?” in unfeigned surprise.

“Supposing an opposite to God. Supposing that there can be nothing, when He is everywhere. Doesn’t all trouble come from just supposing things that are not so?”

Whence came such questions to the mind of this child? And why did they invariably lead to astonishing deductions in 106 his own? Why did he often give a great start as it dawned again upon him that he was not talking to one of mature age, but to a babe?

He tore a strip from the paper in his hand. Relatively the paper had lost in size and quantity, and there was a distinct separation. Absolutely, such a thing was an impossibility. The plus was always positive and real; the minus was always relative, and stood for unreality. And so it was throughout the entire realm of thought. Every real thing has its suppositional opposite. The difficulty is that the human mind, through long ages of usage, has come to regard the opposite as just as real as the thing itself. The opposite of love is hate; of health, disease; of good, evil; of the real, the counterfeit. God is positive––Truth. His opposite, the negative, is supposition. Oh, stupid, blundering, dull-eared humanity, not to have realized that this was just what Jesus said when he defined evil as the lie about God! No wonder the prophet proclaimed salvation to be righteousness, right thinking! But would gross humanity have understood the Master better if he had defined it this way? No, they would have stoned him on the spot!

Josè knew that when both he and Rosendo lay sick unto death Carmen’s thought had been positive, while theirs had been of the opposite sign. Was her pure thought stronger than their disbelief? Evidently so. Was this the case with Jesus? And with the prophets before him, whom the world laughed to scorn? The inference from Scripture is plain. What, then, is the overcoming of evil but the driving out of entrenched human beliefs?

Again Josè came back to the thought of Principle. Confucius had said that heaven was principle. And heaven is harmony. But had evil any principle? Mankind are accustomed to speak lightly and knowingly of their “principles.” But in their search for the Philosopher’s Stone they have overlooked the Principle which the Master used to effect his mighty works––“that Mind which was in Christ Jesus.” The Principle of Jesus was God. And, again, God is Love.

The word evil is a comprehensive term, including errors of every sort. And yet, in the world’s huge category of evils is there a single one that stands upon a definite principle? Josè had to admit to himself that there was not. Errors in mathematics result from ignorance of principles, or from their misapplication. But are the errors real and permanent?

“Padre, when I make a mistake, and then go back and do the problem over and get it right, what becomes of the mistake?”

Josè burst out laughing at the tremendous question. Carmen joined in heartily.


“But, Padre,” she pursued, “there are rules for solving problems; but there isn’t any rule or principle for making mistakes, is there?”

“Surely not, child!” Josè replied.

“And if I always knew the truth about things, I couldn’t make mistakes, could I?”


Josè waited for her further comments. They came after a brief meditation.

“Well, then, God doesn’t know anything about mistakes––does He?”

“No, chiquita.”

“And He knows everything.”


“Then, Padre dear, nobody can know anything about mistakes. People just think they can––don’t they?”

Josè thought hard for a few moments. “Chiquita, can you know that two and two are seven?”

“Why, Padre dear, how funny!”

“Yes––it does seem strange––now. And yet, I used to think I could know things just as absurd.”

“Why, what was that, Padre?”

“I thought, chiquita, that I could know evil––something that God does not and can not know.”

“But––could you, Padre?”

“No, child. It is absolutely impossible to know––to really know––error of any sort.”

“If we knew it, Padre, it would have a rule; or as you say, a principle, no?”

“Exactly, child.”

“And, since God is everywhere, He would have to be its principle.”

“Just the point. Now take another of the problems, chiquita, and work on it while I think about these things,” he said, assigning another of the simple tasks to the child.

For an idea was running through the man’s thought, and he had traced it back to the explorer in Cartagena. Reason and logic supported the thought of God as mind; of the creation as the unfolding of this mind’s ideas; and of man as the greatest idea of God. It also seemed to show that the physical senses afforded no testimony at all, and that human beings saw, heard and felt only in thought, in belief. On this basis everything reduced to a mental plane, and man became a mentality. But what sort of mentality was that which Josè saw all about him in sinful, sick and dying humanity? The human man is demonstrably mortal––and he is a sort of mind––ah, yes, that 108 was it! The explorer had said that up in that great country north there were those who referred to this sort of mentality as “mortal mind.” Josè thought it an excellent term. For, if the mortal man is a mind at all, he assuredly is a mortal mind.

And the mortal mind is the opposite of that mind which is the eternal God. But God can have no real opposite. Any so-called opposite to Him must be a supposition––or, as Jesus defined it, the lie about Him. This lie seems to counterfeit the eternal mind that is God. It seems to pose as a creative principle, and to simulate the powers and attributes of God himself. It assumes to create its universe of matter, the direct opposite of the spiritual universe. And, likewise, it assumes to create its man, its own idea of itself, and hence the direct opposite of the real man, the divine idea of God, made in His own image and likeness.

Josè rose and went to the doorway. “Surely,” he murmured low, “the material personality, called man, which sins, suffers and dies, is not real man, but his counterfeit, a creation of God’s opposite, the so-called mortal mind. It must be a part of the lie about God, the ‘mist’ that went up from the ground and watered the whole face of the earth, leaving the veil of supposition which obscures God from human sight. It is this sort of man and this sort of universe that I have always seen about me, and that the world refers to as human beings, or mortals, and the physical universe. And yet I have been looking only at my false thoughts of man.”

At that moment he caught sight of Juan running toward him from the lake. The lad had just returned from Bodega Central.

“Padre,” he exclaimed breathlessly, “there is war in the country again! The revolution has broken out, and they are fighting all along the river!”

Josè turned into the house and clasped Carmen in his arms.


Juan’s startling announcement linked Josè again with a fading past. Standing with his arm about Carmen, while the child looked up wonderingly at her grimly silent protector, the priest seemed to have fallen with dizzy precipitation from some spiritual height into a familiar material world of men and events. Into his chastened mentality there now rushed a rabble rout of suggestions, throwing into wild confusion the orderly forces of mind which he was striving to marshal to meet 109 the situation. He recalled, for the first time in his new environment, the significant conversation of Don Jorge and the priest Diego, in Banco. He saw again the dark clouds that were lowering above the unhappy country when he left Cartagena. Had they at last broken? And would carnal lust and rapine again drench fair Colombia with the blood of her misguided sons? Were the disturbance only a local uprising, headed by a coterie of selfish politicians, it would produce but a passing ripple. Colombia had witnessed many such, and had, by a judicious redistribution of public offices, generally met the crises with little difficulty. On the other hand, if the disorder drew its stimulus from the deep-seated, swelling sentiment of protest against the continued affiliation of Church and State, then what might not ensue before reason would again lay her restraining hand upon the rent nation! For––strange anomaly––no strife is so venomous, no wars so bloody, no issues so steeped in deadliest hatred, as those which break forth in the name of the humble Christ.

A buzzing concourse was gathering in the plaza before the church. Leaving Carmen in charge of Doña Maria, Josè mingled with the excited people. Juan had brought no definite information, other than that already imparted to Josè, but his elastic Latin imagination had supplied all lacking essentials, and now, with much gesticulation and rolling of eyes, with frequent alternations of shrill chatter and dignified pomp of phrase, he was portraying in a mélange of picturesque and poetic Spanish the supposed happenings along the great river.

Josè forced the lad gently aside and addressed the thoroughly excited people himself, assuring them that no reliable news was as yet at hand, and bidding them assemble in the church after the evening meal, where he would advise with them regarding their future course. He then sought the Alcalde, and drew him into his store, first closing the door against the excited multitude.

Bien, Señor Padre, what are you going to do?” The Alcalde was atremble with insuppressible excitement.

“Don Mario, we must protect Simití,” replied the priest, with a show of calm which he did not possess.

Caramba, but not a man will stay! They will run to the hills! The guerrillas will come, and Simití will be burned to the ground!”

“Will you stay––with me?”

Na, and be hacked by the machetes of the guerrillas, or lassoed by government soldiers and dragged off to the war?” The official mopped the damp from his purple brow.

Caramba!” he went on. “But the Antioquanians will come 110 down the Simití trail from Remedios and butcher every one they meet! They hate us Simitanians, since we whipped them in the revolution of seventy-six! And––Diablo! if we stay here and beat them back, then the federal troops will come with their ropes and chains and force us away to fight on their side! Nombre de Dios! I am for the mountains––pronto!”

Josè’s own fear mounted by leaps. And yet, in the welter of conflicting thought two objects stood out above the rest––Carmen and Rosendo. The latter was on the trail, somewhere. Would he fall afoul of the bandits who find in these revolutions their opportunities for plunder and bloodshed? As for Carmen––the priest’s apprehensions were piling mountain-high. He had quickly forgotten his recent theories regarding the nature of God and man. He had been swept by the force of ill tidings clean off the lofty spiritual plane up to which he had struggled during the past weeks. Again he was befouled in the mire of material fears and corroding speculations as to the probable manifestations of evil, real and immanent. Don Mario was right. He must take the child and fly at once. He would go to Doña Maria immediately and bid her prepare for the journey.

“You had best go to Don Nicolás,” replied Doña Maria, when the priest had voiced his fears to her. “He lives in Boque, and has a hacienda somewhere up that river. He will send you there in his canoe.”

“And Boque is––?”

“Three hours from Simití, across the shales. You must start with the dawn, or the heat will overtake you before you arrive.”

“Then make yourself ready, Doña Maria,” said Josè in relief, “and we will set out in the morning.”

“Padre, I will stay here,” the woman quietly replied.

“Stay here!” ejaculated the priest. “Impossible! But why?”

“There will be many women too old to leave the town, Padre. I will stay to help them if trouble comes. And I would not go without Rosendo.”

Shame fell upon the priest like a blanket. He, the Cura, was deserting his charge! And this quiet, dignified woman had shown herself stronger than the man of God! He turned to the door. Carmen was just entering. He took the child by the hand and led her to his own cottage.

“Carmen,” he said, as she stood expectantly before him, “we––there is trouble in the country––that is, men are fighting and killing down on the river––and they may come here. We must––I mean, I think it best for us to go away from Simití for a while.” The priest’s eyes fell before the perplexed gaze of the girl.


“Go away?” she repeated slowly. “But, Padre––why?”

“The soldiers might come––wicked men might come and harm you, chiquita!”

The child seemed not to comprehend. “Is it that you think they will, Padre?” she at length spoke.

“I fear so, little one,” he made reply.

“But––why should they?”

“Because they want to steal and kill,” he returned sadly.

“They can’t, Padre––they can’t!” the girl said quickly. “You told me that people see only their thoughts, you know. They only think they want to steal––and they don’t think right––”

“But,” he interrupted bitterly, “that doesn’t keep them from coming here just the same and––and––” He checked his words, as a faint memory of his recent talks with the girl glowed momentarily in his seething brain.

“But we can keep them from coming here, Padre––can’t we?”

“How, child?”

“By thinking right ourselves, Padre––you said so, days ago––don’t you remember?” The girl came to the frightened man and put her little arm about his neck. It was an action that had become habitual with her. “Padre dear, you read me something from your Bible just yesterday. It was about God, and He said, ‘I am that which was, and is, and is to come.’ Don’t you remember? But, Padre dear, if He is that which is to come, how can anything bad come?”

O, ye of little faith! Could ye not watch one hour with me––the Christ-principle? Must ye ever flee when the ghost of evil stalks before you with his gross assumptions?

Yes, Josè remembered. But he had said those things to her and evolved those beautiful theories in a time of peace. Now his feeble faith was flying in panic before the demon of unbelief, which had been aroused by sudden fear.

The villagers were gathering before his door like frightened sheep. They sought counsel, protection, from him, the unfaithful shepherd. Could he not, for their sakes, tear himself loose from bondage to his own deeply rooted beliefs, and launch out into his true orbit about God? Was life, happiness, all, at the disposal of physical sense? Did he not love these people? And could not his love for them cast out his fear? If the test had come, would he meet it, calmly, even alone with his God, if need be?––or would he basely flee? He was not alone. Carmen stood by him. She had no part in his cowardice. But Carmen––she was only a child, immature, inexperienced in the ways of the world! True. Yet the great God himself had caused His prophets to see that “a little child shall 112 lead them.” And surely Carmen was now leading in fearlessness and calm trust, in the face of impending evil.

Josè rose from his chair and threw back his shoulders. He stepped quickly to the door. “My children,” he said gently, holding out his arms over them. “Be not afraid. I shall not leave Simití, but remain here to help and protect all who will stay with me. If the guerrillas or soldiers come we will meet them here, where we shall be protecting our loved ones and our homes. Come to the church to-night, and there we will discuss plans. Go now, and remember that your Cura has said that there shall no harm befall you.”

Did he believe his own words? He wondered.

The people dispersed; Carmen was called by Doña Maria; and Josè dropped down upon his bed to strive again to clear his mind of the foul brood which had swept so suddenly into it, and to prepare for the evening meeting.

Late that night, as he crossed the road from the church to his little home, his pulse beat rapidly under the stimulus of real joy. He had conquered his own and the fears of the Alcalde, and that official had at length promised to stay and support him. The people’s fears of impressment into military service had been calmly met and assuaged, though Josè had yielded to their wish to form a company of militia; and had even agreed to drill them, as he had seen the troops of Europe drilled and prepared for conflict. There were neither guns nor ammunition in the town, but they could drill with their machetes––for, he repeated to himself, this was but a concession, an expedient, to keep the men occupied and their minds stimulated by his own show of courage and preparedness. It was decided to send Lázaro Ortiz at once into the Guamocó district, to find and warn Rosendo; while Juan was to go to Bodega Central for whatever news he might gather, and to return with immediate warning, should danger threaten their town. Similar instruction was to be sent to Escolastico, at Badillo. Within a few days a runner should be despatched over the Guamocó trail, to spread the information as judiciously as possible that the people of Simití were armed and on the alert to meet any incursion from guerrilla bands. The ripple of excitement quickly died away. The priest would now strive mightily to keep his own thought clear and his courage alive, to sustain his people in whatever experience might befall them.

Quiet reigned in the little village the next morning, and its people went about their familiar duties with but a passing thought of the events of the preceding day. The Alcalde called at the parish house early for further instructions in regard to 113 the proposed company of militia. The priest decided to drill his men twice a day, at the rising and setting of the sun. Carmen’s lessons were then resumed, and soon Josè was again laboring conscientiously to imbibe the spirit of calm trust which dwelt in this young girl.

The Master’s keynote before every threatening evil was, “Be not afraid.” Carmen’s life-motif was, “God is everywhere.” Josè strove to see that the Christ-principle was eternal, and as available to mankind now as when the great Exemplar propounded it to the dull ears of his followers. But men must learn how to use it. When they have done this, Christianity will be as scientific and demonstrable to mankind as is now the science of mathematics. A rule, though understood, is utterly ineffective if not applied. Yet, how to apply the Christ-principle? is the question convulsing a world to-day.

God, the infinite creative mind, is that principle. Jesus showed clearly––so clearly that the wonder is men could have missed the mark so completely––that the great principle becomes available only when men empty their minds of pride, selfishness, ignorance, and human will, and put in their place love, humility and truth. This step taken, there will flow into the human consciousness the qualities of God himself, giving powers that mortals believe utterly impossible to them. But hatred must go; self-love, too; carnal ambition must go; and fear––the cornerstone of every towering structure of mortal misery––must be utterly cast out by an understanding of the allness of the Mind that framed the spiritual universe.

Josè, looking at Carmen as she sat before him, tried to know that love was the salvation, the righteousness, right-thinking, by which alone the sons of men could be redeemed. The world would give such utterance the lie, he knew. To love an enemy is weakness! The sons of earth must be warriors, and valiantly fight! Alas! the tired old world has fought for ages untold, and gained––nothing. Did Jesus fight? Not as the world. He had a better way. He loved his enemies with a love that understood the allness of God, and the consequent nothingness of the human concept. Knowing the concept of man as mortal to be an illusion, Jesus then knew that he had no enemies.

The work-day closed, and Carmen was about to leave. A shadow fell across the open doorway. Josè looked up. A man, dressed in clerical garb, stood looking in, his eyes fixed upon Carmen. Josè’s heart stopped, and he sat as one stunned. The man was Padre Diego Polo.

“Ah, brother in Christ!” the newcomer cried, advancing with outstretched hands. “Well met, indeed! I ached to think I might not find you here! But––Caramba! can this be my 114 little Carmen, from whom I tore myself in tears four years ago and more? Diablo! but she has grown to be a charming señorita already.” He bent over and kissed the child loudly upon each cheek.

Josè with difficulty restrained himself from pouncing upon the man as he watched him pass his fat hands over the girl’s bare arms and feast his lecherous eyes upon her round figure and plump limbs. The child shrank under the withering touch. Freeing herself, she ran from the room, followed by a taunting laugh from Diego.

Caramba!” he exclaimed, sinking into the chair vacated by the girl. “But I had the devil’s own trouble getting here! And I find everything quiet as a funeral in this sink of a town, just as if hell were not spewing fire down on the river! Dios! But give me a bit of rum, amigo. My spirits droop like the torn wing of a heron.”

Josè slowly found his voice. “I have no rum. I regret exceedingly, friend. But doubtless the Alcalde can supply you. Have you seen him?”

Hombre! With what do you quench your thirst?” ejaculated the disappointed priest. “Lake water?” Then he added with a fatuous grin:

“No, I have not yet honored the Alcalde with a call. Anxious care drove me straight from the boat to you; for with you, a brother priest, I knew I would find hospitality and protection.”

Josè sat speechless. After a few moments, during which he fanned himself vigorously with his black felt hat, Diego continued volubly:

“You are consumed to know what brings me here, eh? Bien, I will anticipate your questions. The country is on fire around Banco. And––you know they do not love priests down that way––well, I saw that it had come around to my move. I therefore got out––quickly. H’m!

“But,” he continued, “luckily I had screwed plenty of Masses out of the Banco sheep this past year, and my treasure box was comfortably full. Bueno, I hired a canoe and a couple of strapping peones, who brought me by night, and by damnably slow degrees, up the river to Bodega Central. As luck would have it, I chanced to be there the day Juan arrived from Simití. So I straightway caused inquiry to be made of him respecting the present whereabouts of our esteemed friend, Don Rosendo. Learning that my worthy brother was prospecting for La Libertad, it occurred to me that this decaying town might afford me the asylum I needed until I could make the necessary preparations to get up into the mountains. Caramba! but I 115 shall not stay where a stray bullet or a badly directed machete may terminate my noble life-aspirations!”

Josè groaned inwardly. “But, how dared you come to Simití?” he exclaimed. “You were once forced to leave this town––!”

“Assuredly, amigo,” Diego replied with great coolness. “And I would not risk my tender skin again had I not believed that you were here to shield me. My only safety lies in making the mountains. Their most accessible point is by way of Simití. From here I can go to the San Lucas country; eventually get back to the Guamocó trail; and ultimately land in Remedios, or some other town farther south, where the anticlerical sentiment is not so cursedly strong. I have money and two negro boys. The boat I shall have to leave here in your care. Bien, learning that Rosendo, my principal annoyance and obstruction, was absent, and that you, my friend, were here, I decided to brave the wrath of the simple denizens of this hole, and spend a day or two as guest of yourself and my good friend, the Alcalde, before journeying farther. Thus you have it all, in parvo. But, Dios y diablo! that trip up the river has nearly done for me! We traveled by night and hid in the brush by day, where millions of gnats and mosquitoes literally devoured me! Caramba! and you so inhospitable as to have no rum!”

The garrulous priest paused for breath. Then he resumed:

“A voluptuous little wench, that Carmen! Keeping her for yourself, eh? But you will have to give her up. Belongs to the Church, you know. But don’t let our worthy Don Wenceslas hear of her good looks, for he’d pop her into a convent presto! And later he––Bien, you had better get rid of her before she makes you trouble. I’ll take her off your hands myself, even though I shall be traveling for the next few months. But, say,” changing the subject abruptly, “Don Wenceslas sprung his trap too soon, eh?”

“I don’t follow you,” said Josè, consuming with indignation over the priest’s coarse talk.

Diablo! he pulls a revolution before it is ripe. Is anything more absurd! It begins as he intended, anticlerical; and so it will run for a while. But after that––Bien, you will see it reverse itself and turn solely political, with the present Government on top at the last, and the end a matter of less than six weeks.”

“Do you think so?” asked Josè, eagerly grasping at a new hope.

“I know it!” ejaculated Diego. “Hombre! But I have been too close to matters religious and political in this country all my life not to know that Don Wenceslas has this time committed 116 the blunder of being a bit too eager. Had he waited a few months longer, and then pulled the string––Dios y diablo! there would have been such a fracas as to turn the Cordilleras bottom up! Now all that is set back for years––Quien sabe?”

“But,” queried the puzzled Josè, “how could Wenceslas, a priest, profit by an anticlerical war?”

Caramba, amigo! But the good Wenceslas is priest only in name! He is a politician, bred to the game. He lays his plans with the anticlericals, knowing full well that Church and State can not be separated in this land of mutton-headed peones. Bueno, the clever man precipitates a revolution that can have but one result, the closer union of Rome and the Colombian Government. And for this he receives the direction of the See of Cartagena and the disposition of the rich revenues from the mines and fincas of his diocese. Do you get me?”

“And, amigo, how long will this disturbance continue?” said Josè, speaking earnestly.

“I have told you, a few weeks at the most,” replied Diego with a show of petulance. “But, just the same, as agent of your friend Wenceslas, I have been a mite too active along the river, especially in the town of Banco, to find safety anywhere within the pale of civilization until this little fracas blows over. This one being an abortion, the next revolution can come only after several years of most painstaking preparation. But, mark me, amigo, that one will not miscarry, nor will it be less than a scourge of the Lord!”

Despite the sordidness of the man, Josè was profoundly grateful to him for this information. And there could be no doubt of its authenticity, coming as it did from a tool of Wenceslas himself. Josè became cheerful, even animated.

“Good, then! Now when do you expect to set out for San Lucas?” he asked. “Rosendo may return any day.”

Diablo! Then I must be off at once!”

“To-morrow?” suggested Josè eagerly.

Caramba, hermano! Why so desirous of my departure? To be sure, to-morrow, if possible. But I must have a chat with our good friend, the Alcalde. So do me the inexpressible favor to accompany me to his door, and there leave me. My peones are down at the boat, and I would rather not face the people of Simití alone.”

“Gladly,” assented Josè.

The man rose to depart. At that moment Doña Maria appeared at the door bearing a tray with Josè’s supper. She stopped short as she recognized Diego.

“Ah, Señora Doña Maria!” exclaimed Diego, bowing low. “I kiss your hand.”


The woman looked inquiringly from Diego to Josè. Without a word she set the tray on the table and quickly departed.

“H’m, amigo, I think it well to visit the Alcalde at once,” murmured Diego. “I regret that I bring the amiable señora no greeting from her charming daughter. Ay de mí!” he sighed, picking up his hat. “The conventions of this world are so narrow!”

Don Mario exclaimed loudly when he beheld the familiar figure of Padre Diego. Recovering from his astonishment he broke into a loud guffaw and clapped the grinning priest heartily upon the back.

Caramba, man! But I admire you at last! I can forgive all your wickedness at sight of such nerve! Ramona!” calling to his daughter in the patio. “That last garrafón and some glasses! But enter, enter, señores! Why stand you there? My poor hovel is yours!” stepping aside and ceremoniously waving them in.

“Our friend finds that his supper awaits him,” said Diego, laying a hand patronizingly upon Josè’s arm. “But I will eat with you, my good Don Mario, and occupy a petate on your floor to-night. Conque, until later, Don Josè,” waving a polite dismissal to the latter. “If not to-night, then in the morning temprano.”

The audacity of the man nettled Josè. He would have liked to be present during the interview between the Alcalde and this cunning religio-political agent, for he knew that the weak-kneed Don Mario would be putty in his oily hands. However, Diego had shown him that he was not wanted. And there was nothing to do but nurse his temper and await events.

But, whatever deplorable results the visit of Diego might entail, he had at least brought present comfort to Josè in his report of the militant uprising now in progress, and the latter would sleep this night without the torment of dread apprehension.

The next morning Diego entered the parish house just as master and pupil were beginning their day’s work.

“Ha!” he exclaimed, “our parochial school is quite discriminating! No? One pupil! Bien, are there not enough children in the town to warrant a larger school, and with a Sister in charge? I will report the matter to the good Bishop.”

Josè’s wrath leaped into flame. “There is a school here, as you know, amigo, with a competent master,” he replied with what calmness he could muster.

It was perhaps a hasty and unfortunate remark, for Josè knew he had been jealously selfish with Carmen.

Caramba, yes!” retorted Diego. “A private school, to 118 which the stubborn beasts that live in this sink will not send their brats! There must be a parochial school in Simití, supported by the people! Oh, don’t worry; there is gold enough here, buried in patios and under these innocent-looking mud walls, to support the Pope for a decade––and that,” he chuckled, “is no small sum!”

His eyes roved over Carmen and he began a mental appraisement of the girl. “Caramba!” muttering half to himself, after he had feasted his sight upon her for some moments, “but she is large for her age––and, Dios y diablo! a ravishing beauty!”

He stood for a while wrapped in thought. Then an idea seemed to filter through his cunning brain. His coarse, unmoral face brightened, and his thick lips parted in an evil smile.

“Come here, little one,” he said patronizingly, extending his arms to the child. “Come, give your good Padre his morning kiss.”

The girl shrank back in her chair and looked appealingly at Josè.

“No? Then I must come and steal it; and when you confess to good Padre Josè you may tell him it was all my fault.”

He started toward her. A look of horror came into the child’s face and she sprang from her seat. Josè swiftly rose. He seized Diego by the shoulder and whirled him quickly about. His face was menacing and his frame trembled.

“One moment, friend!” The voice was low, tense, and deliberate. “If you lay a hand on that child I will strike you dead at my feet!”

Diego recoiled. Cielo! was this the timid sheep that had stopped for a moment in Banco on its way to the slaughter? But there was no mistaking the spirit manifested now in that voice and attitude.

“Why, amigo!” he exclaimed, a foolish grin splitting his ugly features. “Your little joke startled me!”

Josè motioned Carmen to leave.

“Be seated, Don Diego. It would be well to understand each other more thoroughly.”

Had Josè gone too far? He wondered. Heaven knew, he could not afford to make enemies, especially at this juncture! But he had not misread the thought coursing through the foul mind of Diego. And yet, violence now might ruin both the child and himself. He must be wiser.

“I––I was perhaps a little hasty, amigo,” he began in gentler tones. “But, as you see, I have been quite wrought up of late––the news of the revolution, and––in these past months there have been many things to cause me worry. I––”


“Say no more, good friend,” interrupted the oily Diego, his beady eyes twinkling. “But you will not wonder it struck me odd that a father should not be permitted to embrace his own daughter.”

Dead silence, heavy and stifling, fell upon Josè. Slowly his throat filled, and his ears began to throb. Diego sat before him, smiling and twirling his fat thumbs. He looked like the images of Chinese gods Josè had seen in foreign lands.

Then the tortured man forced a laugh. Of course, the strain of yesterday had been too much for him! His overwrought mind had read into words and events meanings which they had not been meant to convey.

“True, amigo,” he managed to say, striving to steady his voice. “But we spiritual Fathers should not forget––”

Diego laughed egregiously. “Caramba, man! Let us get to the meat in the nut. Why do you think I am in Simití, braving the wrath of Rosendo and others? Why have I left my comfortable quarters in Banco, to undertake a journey, long and hazardous, to this godless hole?”

He paused, apparently enjoying the suffering he saw depicted upon Josè’s countenance.

“I will tell you,” he resumed. “But you will keep my confidence, no? We are brother priests, and must hold together. You protect me in this, and I return the favor in a like indiscretion. Bien, I explain: I am here partly because of the revolution, as I told you yesterday, and partly, as I did not tell you, to see my little girl, my daughter, Carmen––

Caramba, man!” he cried, bounding to his feet, as he saw Josè slowly rise before him. “Listen! It is God’s truth! Sit down! Sit down!”

Josè dropped back into his chair like a withered leaf in the lull of a winter’s wind.

Dios y diablo, but it rends me to make this confession, amigo! And yet, I look to you for support! The girl, Carmen––I am her father!

Diego paced dramatically up and down before the scarce hearing Josè and unfolded his story in a quick, jerky voice, with many a gesture and much rolling of his bright eyes.

“Her mother was a Spanish woman of high degree. We met in Bogotá. My vows prevented me from marrying her, else I should have done so. Caramba, but I loved her! Bien, I was called to Cartagena. She feared, in her delicate state, that I was deserting her. She tried to follow me, and at Badillo was put off the boat. There, poor child, she passed away in grief, leaving her babe. May she rest forever on the bosom of the blessed Virgin!” Diego bowed reverently and crossed himself.


“Then I lost all trace of her. My diligent inquiries revealed nothing. Two years later I was assigned to the parish of Simití. Here I saw the little locket which I had given her, and knew that Carmen was my child. Ah, Dios! what a revelation to a breaking heart! But I could not openly acknowledge her, for I was already in disgrace, as you know. And, once down, it is easy to sink still further. I confess, I was indiscreet here. I was forced to fly. Rosendo’s daughter followed me, despite my protests. I was assigned to Banco. Bien, time passed, and you came. I had hoped you would take the little Carmen under your protection. God, how I grieved for the child! At last I determined, come what might, to see her. The revolution drove me to the mountains; and love for my girl brought me by way of Simití. And now, amigo, you have my confession––and you will not be hard on me? Caramba, I need a friend!” He sat down, and mopped his wet brow. His talk had shaken him visibly.

Again oppressive silence. Josè was staring with unseeing eyes out through the open doorway. A stream of sunlight poured over the dusty threshold, and myriad motes danced in the golden flood.

Bien, amigo,” Diego resumed, with more confidence. “I had not thought to reveal this, my secret, to you––nor to any one, for that matter––but just to get a peep at my little daughter, and assure my anxious heart of her welfare. But since coming here and seeing how mature she is my plans have taken more definite shape. I shall leave at daybreak to-morrow, if Don Mario can have my supplies ready on this short notice, and––will take Carmen with me.”

Josè struggled wearily to his feet. The color had left his face, and ages seemed to bestride his bent shoulders. His voice quavered as he slowly spoke.

“Leave me now, Don Diego. It were better that we should not meet again until you depart.”

“But, amigo––ah, I feel for you, believe me! You are attached to the child––who would not be? Caramba, what is this world but a cemetery of bleaching hopes! But––how can I ask it? Amigo, send the child to me at the house of the Alcalde. I would hold her in my arms and feel a father’s joy. And bid the good Doña Maria make her ready for to-morrow’s journey.”

Josè turned to the man. An ominous calm now possessed him. “You said––the San Lucas district?”

Quien sabe? good friend,” Diego made hasty reply. “My plans seem quite altered since coming here. Bien, we must see. But I will leave you now. And you will send Carmen to 121 me at once? And bid her bring her mother’s locket. Conque, hasta luego, amigo.

He went to the door, and seeing his two negro peones loitering near, walked confidently and briskly to the house of Don Mario.

Josè, bewildered and benumbed, staggered into his sleeping room and sank upon the bed.

“Padre––Padre dear.”

Carmen stood beside the stricken priest, and her little hand crept into his.

“I watched until I saw him go, and then I came in. He has bad thoughts, hasn’t he? But––Padre dear, what is it? Did he make you think bad thoughts, too? He can’t, you know, if you don’t want to.”

She bent over him and laid her cheek against his. Josè stared unseeing up at the thatch roof.

“Padre dear, everything has a rule, a principle, you told me. Don’t you remember? But his thoughts haven’t any principle, have they? Any more than the mistakes I make in algebra. Aren’t we glad we know that!”

The child kissed the suffering man and wound her arms about his neck.

“Padre dear, he couldn’t say anything that could make you unhappy––he just couldn’t! God is everywhere, and you are His child––and I am, too––and––and there just isn’t anything here but God, and we are in Him. Why, Padre, we are in Him, just like the little fish in the lake! Isn’t it nice to know that––to really know it?”

Aye, if he had really known it he would not now be stretched upon a bed of torment. Yet, Carmen knew it. And his suffering was for her. Was he not really yielding to the mesmerism of human events? Why, oh, why could he not remain superior to them? Why continually rise and fall, tossed through his brief years like a dry weed in the blast?

It was because he would know evil, and yield to its mesmerism. His enemies were not without, but within. How could he hope to be free until he had passed from self-consciousness to the sole consciousness of infinite good?

“Padre dear, his bad thoughts have only the minus sign, haven’t they?”

Yes, and Josè’s now carried the same symbol of nothingness. Carmen was linked to the omnipresent mind that is God; and no power, be it Diego or his superior, Wenceslas, could effect a separation.

But if Carmen was Diego’s child, she must go with him. 122 Josè could no longer endure this torturing thought. He rose from the bed and sought Doña Maria.

“Señora,” he pleaded, “tell me again what you know of Carmen’s parents.”

The good woman was surprised at the question, but could add nothing to what Rosendo had already told him. He asked to see again the locket. Alas! study it as he might, the portrait of the man was wholly indistinguishable. The sweet, sad face of the young mother looked out from its frame like a suffering. Magdalen. In it he thought he saw a resemblance to Carmen. As for Diego, the child certainly did not resemble him in the least. But years of dissipation and evil doubtless had wrought their changes in his features.

He looked around for Carmen. She had disappeared. He rose and searched through the house for her. Doña Maria, busy in the kitchen, had not seen her leave. His search futile, he returned with heavy heart to his own house and sat down to think. Mechanically he opened his Bible.

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee. Not “if,” but “when.” The sharp experiences of human existence are not to be avoided. But in their very midst the Christ-principle is available to the faithful searcher and worker.

Doña Maria came with the midday meal. Carmen had not returned. Josè, alarmed beyond measure, prepared to set out in search of her. But at that moment one of Diego’s peones appeared at the door with his master’s request that the child be sent at once to him. At least, then, she was not in his hands; and Josè breathed more freely. It seemed to him that, should he see her in Diego’s arms, he must certainly strangle him. He shuddered at the thought. Only a few minutes before he had threatened to kill him!

He left his food untasted. Unspeakably wearied with his incessant mental battle, he threw himself again upon his bed, and at length sank into a deep sleep.

The shadows were gathering when he awoke with a start. He heard a call from the street. Leaping from the bed, he hastened to the door, just as Rosendo, swaying beneath his pack, and accompanied by Lázaro Ortiz, rounded the corner and made toward him.

“Hola, amigo Cura!” Rosendo shouted, his face radiant. “Come and bid me welcome, and receive good news!”

At the same moment Carmen came flying toward them from the direction of the shales. Josè instantly divined the motive which had sent her out there. He turned his face to hide the tears which sprang to his eyes.


“Thank God!” he murmured in a choking voice. Then he hastened to his faithful ally and clasped him in his arms.


Struggling vainly with his agitation, while the good tidings which he could no longer hold fairly bubbled from his lips, Rosendo dragged the priest into the parish house and made fast the doors. Swinging his chair to the floor, he hastily unstrapped his kit and extracted a canvas bag, which he handed to Josè.

“Padre,” he exclaimed in a loud whisper, “we have found it!”

“Found what?” the bewildered Josè managed to ask.

“Gold, Padre––gold! Look, the bag is full! Hombre! not less than forty pesos oro––and more up there––quien sabe how much! Caramba!

Rosendo fell into a chair, panting with excitement. Josè sat down with quickening pulse and waited for the full story. It was not long coming.

“Padre––I knew we would find it––but not this way! Hombre! It was back of Popales. I had been washing the sands there for two days after my return. There was a town at that place, years ago. The stone foundations of the houses can still be seen. The Tiguí was rich at that point then; but it is washed out now. Bien, one morning I started out at daybreak to prospect Popales creek, the little stream cutting back into the hills behind the old settlement. There was a heavy mist over the whole valley, and I could not see ten feet before my face. Bien, I had gone up-stream a long distance, perhaps several miles, without finding more than a few colors, when suddenly the mist began to clear, and there before me, only a few feet away, stood a young deer, just as dumfounded as I was.”

He paused a moment for breath, laughing meanwhile at the memory of his surprise. Then he resumed.

Bueno, fresh venison looked good to me, Padre, living on salt bagre and beans. But I had no weapon, save my machete. So I let drive with that, and with all my strength. The big knife struck the deer on a leg. The animal turned and started swiftly up the mountain side, with myself in pursuit. Caramba, that was a climb! But with his belly chasing him, a hungry man will climb anything! Through palms and ferns and high weeds, falling over rocks and tripping on ground vines we 124 went, clear to the top of the hill. Then the animal turned and plunged down a glen. On the descent it traveled faster, and in a few minutes had passed clean from my sight. Caramba, I was angry!”

He stopped to laugh again at the incident.

“The glen,” he continued, “ran down for perhaps a hundred yards, and then widened into a clearing. I have been in the Popales country many times, Padre, but I had never been to the top of this mountain, nor had I ever seen this glen, which seemed to be an ancient trail. So I went on down toward the clearing. As I approached it I crossed what apparently was the bed of an ancient stream, dry now, but with many pools of water from the recent rains, which are very heavy in that region. Bien, I turned and followed this dry bed for a long distance, and at last came out into the open. I found myself in a circular space, surrounded by high hills, with no opening but the stream bed along which I had come. At the far end of the basin-shaped clearing the creek bed stopped abruptly; and I then knew that the water had formerly come over the cliff above in a high waterfall, but had flowed in a direction opposite to that of Popales creek, this mountain being the divide.

Bueno; now for my discovery! I several times filled my batea with gravel from the dry bed and washed it in one of the pools. I got only a few scattered colors. But as I dug along the margin of the bed I noticed what seemed to be pieces of adobe bricks. I went on up one side of the bowl-shaped glen, and found many such pieces, and in some places stones that had served as foundations for houses at one time. So I knew that there had been a town there, long, long ago. But it must have been an Indian village, for had it been known to the Spaniards I surely would have learned of it from my parents. The ground higher up was strewn with the broken bricks. I picked up many of the pieces and examined them. Almost every one showed a color or two of gold; but not enough to pay washing the clay from which they had been made. But––and here is the end of my story––I have said that this open space was shaped like a bowl, with all sides dipping sharply to the center. It occurred to me that in the years––who knows how many?––that have passed since this town was abandoned, the heavy rains that had dissolved the mud bricks also must have washed the mud and the gold it carried down into the center of this basin, where, with great quantities of water sweeping over it every rainy season, the clay and sand would gradually wash out, leaving the gold concentrated in the center.”

The old man stopped to light the thick cigar which he had rolled during his recital.


Caramba! Padre, it was a lucky thought! I located the center of the big bowl as nearly as possible, and began to dig. I washed some of the dirt taken a foot or two below the surface. Hombre! it left a string of gold clear around the batea! I became so excited I could scarcely dig. Every batea, as I got deeper and deeper, yielded more and more gold! I hurried back to the Tiguí for my supplies; and then camped up there and washed the sand and clay for two weeks, until I had to come back to Simití for food. Forty pesos oro in fifteen days! Caramba! And there is more. And all concentrated from the mud bricks of that old, forgotten town in the mountains, miles back of Popales! May the Virgin bless that deer and mend its hurt leg!”

One hundred and sixty francs in shining gold flakes! And who knew how much more to be had for the digging!

“Ah, Padre,” mused Rosendo, “it is wonderful how things turn out––that is, when, as the little Carmen says, you think right! I thought I’d find it––I knew it was right! And here it is! Caramba!

At the mention of Carmen’s name Josè again became troubled. Rosendo as yet did not know of Diego’s presence in Simití. Should he tell him? It might lead to murder. Rosendo would learn of it soon enough; and Josè dared not cast a blight upon the happiness of this rare moment. He would wait.

As they sat reunited at the supper table in Rosendo’s house, a constant stream of townspeople passed and repassed the door, some stopping to greet the returned prospector, others lingering to witness Rosendo’s conduct when he should learn of Diego’s presence in the town, although no one would tell him of it. The atmosphere was tense with suppressed excitement, and Josè trembled with dread. Doña Maria moved quietly about, giving no hint of the secret she carried. Carmen laughed and chatted, but did not again mention the man from whose presence she had fled to the shales that morning. Who could doubt that in the midst of the prevalent mental confusion she had gone out there “to think”? And having performed that duty, she had, as usual, left her problem with her immanent God.

“I will go up and settle with Don Mario this very night,” Rosendo abruptly announced, as they rose from the table.

“Not yet, friend!” cried Josè quickly. “Lázaro has told you of the revolution; and we have many plans to consider, now that we have found gold. Come with me to the shales. We will not be interrupted there. We can slip out through the rear door, and so avoid these curious people. I have much to discuss with you.”


Rosendo chuckled. “My honest debts first, buen Cura,” he said sturdily. And throwing back his shoulders he strutted about the room with the air of a plutocrat. With his bare feet, his soiled, flapping attire, and his swelling sense of self-importance he cut a comical figure.

“But, Rosendo––” Josè was at his wits’ end. Then a happy thought struck him. “Why, man! I want to make you captain of the militia we are forming, and I must talk with you alone first!”

The childish egotism of the old man was instantly touched.

“Capitán! el capitán!” he cried in glee. He slapped his chest and strode proudly around the room. “Caramba! Capitán Don Rosendo Ariza, S! Ha! Shall I carry a sword and wear gold braid?––But these fellows are mighty curious,” he muttered, looking out through the door at the loitering townsfolk. “The shales, then, Padre! Close the front door, Carmencita.”

Josè scarcely breathed until, skirting the shore of the lake and making a detour of the town, he and Rosendo at length reached the shale beds unnoticed.

“Rosendo, the gold deposit that you have discovered––is it safe? Could others find it?” queried Josè at length.

“Never, Padre! No trail leads to it. And no one would think of looking there for gold. I discovered it by the merest chance, and I left no trace of my presence. Besides, there are no gold hunters in that country, and very few people in the entire district of Guamocó.”

“And how long will it take you to wash out the deposit, do you think?”

Quien sabe? Padre. A year––two years––perhaps longer.”

“But you cannot return to Guamocó until the revolution is over.”

Bien, Padre, I will remain in Simití a week or two. We may then know what to expect of the revolution.”

“You are not afraid?”

“Of what? Caramba, no!”

Josè sighed. No one seemed to fear but himself.

“Rosendo, about the gold for Cartagena: how can we send it, even when peace is restored?”

“Juan might go down each month,” Rosendo suggested.

“Impossible! The expense would be greater than the amount shipped. And it would not be safe. Besides, our work must be done with the utmost secrecy. No one but ourselves must know of your discovery. And no one else in Simití must know where we are sending the gold. Rosendo, it is a great problem.”

Caramba, yes!”


The men lapsed into profound meditation. Then:

“Rosendo, the little Carmen makes great progress.”

Por supuesto! I knew she would. She has a mind!”

“Have you no idea, Rosendo, who her parents might have been?”

“None whatever, Padre.”

“Has it ever occurred to you, Rosendo, that, because of her deeply religious nature, possibly her father was a priest?”

Caramba, no!” ejaculated Rosendo, turning upon Josè. “What puts that into your head, amigo?”

“As I have said, Rosendo,” Josè answered, “her religious instinct.”

Bien, Señor Padre, you forget that priests are not religious.”

“But some are, Rosendo,” persisted Josè in a tone of protest.

“Perhaps. But those who are do not have children,” was Rosendo’s simple manner of settling the argument.

Its force appealed to Josè, and he felt a shade of relief. But, if Diego were not the father of Carmen, what motive had he for wishing to take her with him, other than to train her eventually to become his concubine? The thought maddened him. He almost decided to tell Rosendo.

“But, Padre, we came out here to talk about the militia of which I am to be captain. Bien, we must begin work to-morrow. Hombre, but the señora’s eyes will stand out when she sees me marching at the head of the company!” He laughed like a pleased child.

“And now that we have gold, Padre, I must send to Cartagena for a gun. What would one cost?”

“You probably could not obtain one, Rosendo. The Government is so afraid of revolutions that it prohibits the importation of arms. But even if you could, it would cost not less than fifty pesos oro.”

“Fifty pesos! Caramba!” exclaimed the artless fellow. “Then I get no gun! But now let us name those who will form the company.”

By dwelling on the pleasing theme, Josè managed to keep Rosendo engaged until fatigue at length drove the old man to seek his bed. The town was wrapped in darkness as they passed through its quiet streets, and the ancient Spanish lantern, hanging crazily from its moldering sconce on the corner of Don Felipe’s house, threw the only light into the black mantle that lay upon the main thoroughfare.

At sunrise, Josè was awakened by Rosendo noisily entering 128 his house. A glance at the old man showed that he was laboring under strong emotion.

“What sort of friendship is this,” he demanded curtly, “that you keep me from learning of Diego’s presence in Simití? It was a trick you served me––and friends do not so to one another!” He stood looking darkly at the priest.

“Have you seen him, then? Good heavens, Rosendo! what have you done to him?” cried Josè, hastily leaving his bed.

“There, comfort yourself, Padre,” replied Rosendo, a sneer curling his lips. “Your friend is safe––for the present. He and his negro rascals fled before sunrise.”

“And which direction did they take?”

“Why do you ask? Would you go to them? Bueno, then across the lake, toward the Juncal. Don Mario stocked their boat last night, while you kept me out on the shales. Buen arreglo, no?

“Yes, Rosendo,” replied Josè gladly, “an excellent arrangement to keep you from dipping your hands in his foul blood. Why, man! is your vision so short? Have you no thought of Carmen and her future?”

“But––Dios! he has spread the report that he is her father! Caramba! For that I would tear him apart! He robbed me of one child; and now––Caramba! Why did you let him go?––why did you, Padre?”

Rosendo paced the floor like a caged lion, while great tears rolled down his black cheeks.

“But, Rosendo, if you had killed him––what then? Imprisonment for you, suffering for us all, and the complete wreck of our hopes. Is it worth it?”

Na, Padre, but I would have escaped to Guamocó, to the gold I have discovered. There no one would have found me. And you would have kept me supplied; and I would have given you the gold I washed to care for her––”

The man sank into a chair and buried his head in his hands. “Caramba!” he moaned. “But he will return when I am gone––and the Church is back of him, and they will come and steal her away––”

How childish, and yet how great he was in his wonderful love, thought Josè. He pitied him from the bottom of his heart; he loved him immeasurably; yet he knew the old man’s judgment was unsound in this case.

“Come, Rosendo,” he said gently, laying a hand upon the bent head. “This is a time when expediency bids us suffer an evil to remain for a little while, that a much greater good may follow.”

He hesitated. Then––“You do not think Diego is her father?”


“A thousand devils, no!” shouted Rosendo, springing up. “He the father of that angel-child? Cielo! His brats would be serpents! But I am losing time––” He turned to the door.

“Rosendo!” cried the priest in fresh alarm. “Where are you going? What are you––”

“I am going after Diego! Juan and Lázaro go with me! Before sundown that devil’s carcass will be buzzard meat!”

Josè threw himself in front of Rosendo.

“Rosendo, think of Carmen! Would you kill her, too? If you kill Diego nothing can save her from Wenceslas! Rosendo, for God’s sake, listen!”

But the old man, with his huge strength, tossed the frail priest lightly aside and rushed into the street. Blind with rage, he did not see Carmen standing a short distance from the door. The child had been sent to summon him to breakfast. Unable to check his momentum, the big man crashed full into her and bore her to the ground beneath him. As she fell her head struck the sharp edge of an ancient paving stone, and she lay quite still, while the warm blood slowly trickled through her long curls.

Uttering a frightened cry, Josè rushed to the dazed Rosendo and got him to his feet. Then he picked up the child, and, his heart numb with fear, bore her into the house.

Clasping Carmen fiercely in his arms, Josè tried to aid Doña Maria in staunching the freely flowing blood. Rosendo, crazed with grief, bent over them, giving vent to moans which, despite his own fears, wrung the priest’s heart with pity for the suffering old man. At length the child opened her eyes.

“Praise God!” cried Rosendo, kneeling and showering kisses upon her hands. “Loado sea el buen Dios! Caramba! Caramba!”

“Padre Rosendo,” the girl murmured, smiling down at him, “your thoughts were driving you, just like Benjamín drives his oxen. And they were bad, or you wouldn’t have knocked me over.”

“Bad!” Rosendo went to the doorway and squatted down upon the dirt floor in the sunlight. “Bad!” he repeated. “Caramba, but they were murder-thoughts!”

“And they tried to make you murder me, didn’t they, padre dear?” She laughed. “But it didn’t really happen, anyway,” she added.

Rosendo buried his head in his hands and groaned aloud. Carmen slipped down from Josè’s lap and went unsteadily to the old man.

“They were not yours, those thoughts, padre dear,” putting her arms around his neck. “But they were whipping you 130 hard, just as if you belonged to them. And see, it just shows that bad thoughts can’t do anything. Look, I’m all right!” She stood off and smiled at him.

Rosendo reached out and clasped her in his long arms. “Chiquita,” he cried, “if you were not, your old padre Rosendo would throw himself into the lake!”

“More bad thoughts, padre dear!” She laughed and held up a warning finger. “But I was to tell you the desayuno was ready; and see, we have forgotten all about it!” Her merry laugh rang through the room like a silver bell.

After breakfast Josè took Rosendo, still shaking, into the parish house. “I think,” he said gravely, “that we have learned another lesson, have we not, amigo?”

Rosendo’s head sank upon his great chest.

“And, if we are wise, we will profit by it––will we not, compadre?” He waited a moment, then continued:

“I have been seeing in a dim way, amigo, that our thought is always the vital thing to be reckoned with, more than we have even suspected before. I believe there is a mental law, though I cannot formulate it, that in some way the thoughts we hold use us, and become externalized in actions. You were wild with fear for Carmen, and your thoughts of Diego were murderous. Bien, they almost drove you to murder, and they reacted upon the very one you most love. Can you not see it, amigo?”

Rosendo looked up. His face was drawn. “Padre––I am almost afraid to think of anything––now.”

“Ah, amigo,” said Josè with deep compassion, “I, too, have had a deep lesson in thinking these past two days. I had evolved many beautiful theories, and worked out wonderful plans during these weeks of peace. Then suddenly came the news of the revolution, and, presto! they all flew to pieces! But Carmen––nothing disturbs her. Is it because she is too young to fear? I think not, amigo, I think not. I think, rather, that it is because she is too wise.”

“But––she is not of the earth, Padre.” The old man shook his head dubiously.

“Rosendo, she is! She is human, just as we are. But in some way she has learned a great truth, and that is that wrong thinking brings all the discord and woe that afflict the human race. We know this is true, you and I. In a way we have known it all our lives. But why, why do we not practice it? Why do I yield so readily to fear; and you to revenge? I rather think if we loved our enemies we would have none, for our only enemies are the thoughts that become externalized in wrong thought-concepts. And even this externalization is only 131 in our own consciousness. It is there, and only there, that we see evil.”

Quien sabe? Padre,” replied Rosendo, slowly shaking his head. “We know so little––so little!”

“But, Rosendo, we know enough to try to be like Carmen––”

Caramba, yes! And I try to be like her. But whenever danger threatens her, the very devils seize me, and I am no longer myself.”

“Yes, yes; I know. But will not her God protect her? Can not we trust her to Him?” Josè spoke with the conviction of right, however inconsistent his past conduct might have been.

“True, Padre––and I must try to love Diego––I know––though I hate him as the devil hates the cross! Carmen would say that he was used by bad thoughts, wouldn’t she?”

“Just so. She would not see the man, but the impersonal thought that seems to use him. And I believe she knows how to meet that kind of thought.”

“I know it, Padre. Bien, I must try to love him. I will try. And––Padre, whenever he comes into my mind I will try to think of him as God’s child––though I know he isn’t!”

Josè laughed loudly at this. “Hombre!” he exclaimed. “You must not think of the human Diego as God’s child! You must always think of the real child of God for which this human concept, Diego, stands in your consciousness. Do you understand me?”

“No, Padre. But perhaps I can learn. I will try. But Diego shall live. And––Bien, now let us talk about the company of militia. But here comes the Alcalde. Caramba! what does he want?”

With much oily ceremony and show of affection, Don Mario greeted the pair.

“I bring a message from Padre Diego,” he announced pompously, after the exchange of courtesies. “Bien, it is quite unfortunate that our friend Rosendo feels so hard toward him, especially as Don Diego has so long entrusted Carmen to Rosendo’s care. But––his letter, Señor Padre,” placing a folded paper in Josè’s hand.

Silently, but with swelling indignation, Josè read:

“Dear Brother in Christ: It is, as you must know, because of our good Rosendo’s foolish anger that I relieve him of the embarrassment of my presence in Simití. Not that I fear bodily harm, but lest his thoughtlessness urge him to attempt injury upon me; in which case nothing but unhappiness could result, as my two negro servants would protect me with their own lives. I rather choose peace, and to that end quietly depart. But I leave behind my bleeding heart in the little Carmen; and I beg that you will at once hand her over to the excellent Don Mario, with whom I have made arrangements to have her sent to me 132 in due season, whether in Banco or Remedios, I can not at present say. I am minded to make an excellent report of your parish to Don Wenceslas, and I am sure he will lend you support in your labors for the welfare of the good folk of Simití. Do not forget to include the little locket with Carmen’s effects when you deliver her to Don Mario. I assure you of my warm affection for you, and for Rosendo, who mistakes in his zeal to persecute me, as he will some day learn; and I commend you both to the protecting care of our blessed Mother Mary.

“I kiss your hand, as your servant in Christ, 

Josè looked long and fixedly at the Alcalde. “Don Mario,” he finally said, “do you believe Diego to be the father of Carmen?”

Cierto, Padre, I know it!” replied the official with fervor. “He has the proofs!”

“And what are they, may I ask?”

“I do not know, Padre; only that he has them. Surely the child is his, and must be sent to him when he commands. Meantime, you see, he gives the order to deliver her to me. He has kindly arranged to relieve you and Rosendo of further care of the girl.”

“Don Mario,” said Josè with terrible earnestness, “I will give you the benefit of the doubt, and say that Diego has basely deceived you. But as for him––he lies.”

Hombre! But I can not help if you disbelieve him. Still, you must comply with his request; otherwise, the Bishop may compel you to do so.”

Josè realized the terrible possibility of truth in this statement. For an instant all his old despair rushed upon him. Then he braced himself. Rosendo was holding his wrath in splendid check.

Bien, Don Mario,” resumed Josè, after a long meditation. “Let us ask our good Rosendo to leave us for a little moment that we may with greater freedom discuss the necessary arrangements. Bien, amigo!” holding up a hand to check Rosendo, who was rising menacingly before the Alcalde. “You will leave it to me.” He threw Rosendo a significant look; and the latter, after a momentary hesitation, bowed and passed out of the room.

A propósito, amigo,” resumed Josè, turning to the Alcalde and assuming utter indifference with regard to Carmen. “As you will recall, I stood security for Rosendo’s debts. The thirty pesos which he owes you will be ready this evening.”

The Alcalde smiled genially and rubbed his fat palms together. “Muy bien,” he murmured.

Josè reflected. Then:

“But, Don Mario, with regard to Carmen, justice must be done, is it not so?”


Cierto, Padre; and Padre Diego has the proofs––”

“Certainly; I accept your word for your conviction in the matter. But you will agree that there is something to be said for Rosendo. He has fed, clothed, and sheltered the girl for some eight years. Let us see, at the rate you charge your peones, say, fifty pesos a day, that would amount to––”

He took paper and pencil from the table and made a few figures.

“––to just fourteen hundred and sixty pesos oro,” he concluded. “This, then, is the amount now due Rosendo for the care of Diego’s child. You say he has made arrangements with you to care for her until he can send for her. Bien, we will deliver her to you for Diego, but only upon payment of the sum which I have just mentioned. Otherwise, how will Rosendo be reimbursed for the expense of her long maintenance?”

Ca––ram––ba! Fourteen hundred and sixty pesos oro! Why––it is a fortune!” ejaculated the outwitted Alcalde, his eyes bulging over his puffy cheeks.

“And,” continued Josè calmly, “if we deliver the girl to you to-day, I will retain the thirty pesos oro which Rosendo owes you, and you will stand surety for the balance of the debt, fourteen hundred and thirty, in that case.”

Diablo! but I will do nothing of the kind!” exploded the Alcalde. “Caramba! let Diego come and look after his own brat!”

“Then we shall consider the interview at an end, no?”

“But my thirty pesos oro?”

“To-night. And as much more for additional supplies. We are still working together, are we not, Don Mario?” he added suggestively.

Josè in Simití with money discounted a million Diegos fleeing through the jungle. The Alcalde’s heavy face melted in a foolish grin.

Cierto, buen Padre! and––La Libertad?”

“I have strong hopes,” replied Josè with bland assurance, while a significant look came into his face. Then he rose and bowed the Alcalde out. “And, Don Mario––”

He put a finger on his lips.

“––we remain very silent, no?”

Cierto, Padre, cierto! I am the grave itself!”

As the bulky official waddled off to his little shop, Josè turned back into his house with a great sigh of relief. Another problem had been met––temporarily.

He summoned Carmen to the day’s lessons.



Within the month Juan brought from Bodega Central the glad news of the revolution’s utter collapse. The anticlerical element, scenting treachery in their own ranks, and realizing almost from the outset that the end was a matter of only a few weeks, offered to capitulate on terms which they felt would be less distressing to their pride than those which their victors might dictate after inflicting a crushing defeat. The conservatives did not take advantage of the fiasco, but offered conciliation in the way of reapportioning certain minor public offices, and a show of somewhat lessened clerical influence. Peace followed rapidly. The fires of Jacobinism and popery were again banked, while priest and politician, statesman and orator set up the board and rearranged the pawns for the next play.

Nothing further had been heard of Padre Diego during the month, excepting that he had arrived at the settlement of Juncal in a state of extreme agitation, and had hurriedly set out that same day along the trail to the San Lucas district. Rosendo, meanwhile, assured that Diego would not return in the immediate future, yielded to Josè’s persuasion and departed at once for Guamocó on the news of the revolution’s close. Simití had remained unmolested; and now, with the assurance of indefinite peace, the old town dropped quickly back into her wonted state of listless repose, and yielded to the drowsy, dreamy influences that hover always about this scene of mediaeval romance.

Josè had recovered his equipoise; and even when Juan, returning from his next trip down to the river, brought the priest another sharp letter from Wenceslas, written in the Bishop’s name, he read it without a tremor. The letter complained of Josè’s silence, and especially of his failure to assist the Catholic cause in this crisal hour by contributions of Peter’s Pence. Nor had any report been received in Cartagena relative to the state of the parish of Simití, its resources and communicants; and not a peso had been offered to the support of their so dear citadel at a time when its enemies threatened its gates. Josè smiled happily as he penned his reply, for he knew that with Rosendo’s next return their contributions to Cartagena would begin. That meant the quieting of Wenceslas, regardless of whatever report Diego might make. And it was evident from this letter that neither Diego nor the Alcalde had as yet communicated anything of a startling nature to 135 Wenceslas regarding those things to which the priest had consecrated himself in Simití.

Josè’s life was never before so full. And never so sweet. To his little flock he was now preaching the Word of God only as he could interpret it to meet their simple needs. Gradually, as he got closer to them, he sought to enlighten them and to draw them at least a little way out of the dense materialism of their present religious beliefs. He also strove to give them the best of his own worldly knowledge, and to this end was talking to them three nights a week in the church building, where the simple people hung upon his words like children enwrapped in fairy lore. He was holding regular Sunday services, and offering Masses during the week for those of his parishioners who requested them, and who would have been shocked, puzzled, and unhappy had he refused to do so, or attempted to prove their uselessness. He was likewise saying diurnal Masses for the little Maria, to whom, as she lay breathing her last in his arms in Cartagena, he had given the promise to offer them daily in her behalf for, a year.

Nor was this the extent of his loving sacrifice for the girl. He had already sent a small sum of money to Catalina by Captain Julio, who promised to arrange at Calamar for its transmission, and for the safe convoy of a similar small packet monthly to Cartagena and into the hands of the two women who were caring for the infant son of Wenceslas and the ill-fated Maria. He had promised her that night that he would care for her babe. And his life had long since shown what a promise meant to him. He knew he would be unable to learn of the child’s progress directly from these women, for they were both illiterate. But Captain Julio brought an encouraging message from them, and assured Josè that he would always make inquiry for the babe on his trips down the river. Josè’s long-distance dealings with the genial captain had been conducted through Juan, who had constituted himself the priest’s faithful servant and the distant worshiper of the child Carmen.

“Padre Josè,” Juan had said one day, striving vainly to hide his embarrassment, “the little Carmen grows very beautiful. She is like the Pascua-flower, that shines through the ferns in the caño. She is like the great blue butterfly, that floats on the sunbeams that sift through the forest trees.”

“Yes, Juan, she is very beautiful.”

“Padre, you love her much, is it not so?”

“Very much, indeed, Juan.”

“And I, Padre, I, too, love her.” He paused and dug the hard ground with his bare toes.

“Padre,” he resumed, “the little Carmen will marry––some day, will she not?”


Josè started. The thought had never occurred to him! Carmen marry? After all, she was human, and–– But, no, he could not, he would not, think of it!

“Why, Juan––I––cannot say––”

“But, Padre, she will.” Juan was growing bolder. “And––and, Padre, I––I should like it if she would marry me. Ah, Señor Padre, already I adore her!”

Josè could not be angry. The faithful lad was deeply sincere. And the girl would reach the marriageable age of that country in all too short a time.

“But, Juan,” he remonstrated, “you are too young! And Carmen––why, she is but a child!”

“True, Padre. But I am seventeen––and I will wait for her. Only say now that she shall be mine when the time comes. Padre, say it now!”

Josè was deeply touched by the boy’s earnest pleading. He put his arm affectionately about the strong young shoulders.

“Wait, Juan, and see what develops. She is very, very young. We must all wait. And, meanwhile, do you serve her, faithfully, as you see Rosendo and me doing.”

The boy’s face brightened with hope. “Padre,” he exclaimed, “I am her slave!”

Josè went back to his work with Carmen with his thought full of mingled conjecture and resolve. He had thus far outlined nothing for the girl’s future. Nor had he the faintest idea what the years might bring forth. But he knew that, in a way, he was aiding in the preparation of the child for something different from the dull, animal existence with which she was at present surrounded, and that her path in life must eventually lead far, far away from the shabby, crumbling town which now constituted her material world. His task he felt to be tremendous in the responsibility which it laid upon him. What had he ever known of the manner of rearing children! He had previously given the question of child-education but scant consideration, although he had always held certain radical ideas regarding it; and some of these he was putting to the test. But had his present work been forecast while he lay sunken in despair on the river steamer, he would have repudiated the prediction as a figment of the imagination. Yet the gleam which flashed through his paralyzed brain that memorable day in the old church, when Rosendo opened his full heart to him, had roused him suddenly from his long and despondent lethargy, and worked a quick and marvelous renovation in his wasted life. Following the lead of this unusual child, he was now, though with many vicissitudes, slowly passing out of his prison of egoism, and into the full, clear sunlight of a world which he knew to be far less material than spiritual.


With the awakening had come the almost frenzied desire to realize in Carmen what he had failed to develop within himself; a vague hope that she might fill the void which a lifetime of longing had expressed. A tremendous opportunity now presented. Already the foundation had been well laid––but not by earthly hands. His task was to build upon it; and, as he did so, to learn himself. He had never before realized more than faintly the awful power for good or evil which a parent wields over a child. He had no more than the slightest conception of the mighty problem of child-education. And now Carmen herself had shown him that real education must be reared upon a foundation wholly spiritual. Yet this, he knew, was just what the world’s educators did not do. He could see now how in the world the religious instinct of the child is early quenched, smothered into complete or partial extinction beneath the false tutelage of parents and teachers, to whom years and adult stature are synonymous with wisdom, and who themselves have learned to see the universe only through the opaque lenses of matter and chance.

“If children were not falsely educated to know all manner of evil,” he mused, “what spiritual powers might they not develop in adult life, powers that are as yet not even imagined! But their primitive religious instinct is regarded by the worldly-wise parent as but a part of the infant existence, which must soon give place to the more solid and real beliefs and opinions which the world in general regards as established and conventional, even though their end is death. And so they teach their children to make evil real, even while admonishing them to protect themselves against it and eventually so to rise as to overcome it, little realizing that the carnal belief of the reality of evil which a child is taught to accept permeates its pure thought like an insidious poison, and becomes externalized in the conventional routine existence of mind in matter, soul in body, a few brief years of mingled good and evil, and then darkness––the end here certain; the future life a vague, impossible conjecture.”

Josè determined that Carmen’s education should be spiritual, largely because he knew, constituted as she was, it could not well be otherwise. And he resolved that from his teachings she should glean nothing but happiness, naught but good. With his own past as a continual warning, he vowed first that never should the mental germ of fear be planted within this child’s mind. He himself had cringed like a coward before it all his desolate life. And so his conduct had been consistently slavish, specious, and his thought stamped with the brand of the counterfeit. He knew not how much longer he must struggle 138 with it. But he knew that, if he would progress, the warfare must go on, until at length he should put it under his feet. His mind still bore the almost ineradicable mold of the fear deeply graven into it by the ignorant opinions, the worldly, material, unspiritual beliefs of his dear but unwise parents. His life had been hedged with baleful shadows because of it; and over every bright picture there hung its black draping. As he looked back over the path along which he had come, he could see every untoward event, every unhappiness and bitter disappointment, as the externalization of fear in some form, the germ of which had been early planted in the fertile soil of his plastic brain. Without it he might have risen to towering heights. Under its domination he had sunk until the swirling stream of life had eddied him upon the desolate shores of Simití. In the hands of the less fearful he had been a puppet. In his own eyes he was a fear-shaped manikin, the shadow of God’s real man. The fear germ had multiplied within him a billionfold, and in the abundant crop had yielded a mental depression and deep-seated melancholy that had utterly stifled his spirit and dried the marrow of his bones.

They were not pleasant, these thoughts. But now Josè could draw from them something salutary, something definite to shape and guide his work with Carmen. She, at least, should not grow up the slave of fearsome opinions and beliefs born of dense ignorance. Nor should the baseless figments of puerile religious systems find lodgment within her clear thought. The fear element, upon which so much of so-called Christian belief has been reared, and the damnable suggestions of hell and purgatory, of unpardonable sin and endless suffering, the stock-in-trade of poet, priest and prelate up to and overlapping our present brighter day, should remain forever a closed volume to this child, a book as wildly imaginative and as unacceptable as the fabled travels of Maundeville.

“I believe,” he would murmur to himself, as he strolled alone in the dusk beside the limpid lake, “that if I could plant myself firmly on the Scriptural statement that God is love, that He is good; and if I could regard Him as infinite mind, while at the same time striving to recognize no reality, no intelligence or life in things material, I could eventually triumph over the whole false concept, and rise out of beliefs of sickness, discord, and death, into an unalterable consciousness of good only.”

He had made a beginning when he strove to realize that man is not separated from God; that God is not a far-off abstraction; and that infinite mind is, as Carmen insisted, “everywhere.”


“It is only the five physical senses that tell us evil is real,” he reflected. “Indeed, without their testimony we would be utterly unconscious of evil! And I am convinced that their testimony is specious, and that we see, hear, and feel only in thought, or in belief. We think the sensations of seeing, hearing, and feeling come to us through the medium of these senses as outward, fleshly contrivances, which in some way communicate with the mind and bridge the gulf between the material and the mental. In reality, we do but see, hear and feel our own thoughts! The philosophers, many of them, said as much centuries ago. So did Jesus. But––the human mind has been mesmerized, simply mesmerized!”

These things he pondered day by day, and watched to see them wrought out in the life of Carmen. “Ah, yes,” he would sometimes say, as spiritual ideas unfolded to him, “you evolve beautiful theories, my good Josè, and you say many brave things. But, when the day of judgment comes, as it did when Juan brought you the news of the revolution, then, alas! your theories fly to pieces, and you find yourself very human, very material, and your God hidden behind the distant clouds. When the test comes, you find you cannot prove your beliefs.”

Yet the man did not often indulge in self-condemnation, for somehow he knew his ideas were right. When he realized the character and specious nature of evil, and realized, too, that “by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned,” he knew that the stirring up of evil by good, and the shaking of the ancient foundations of carnal belief within his mentality, might mean fiery trials, still awaiting him. And yet, the crown was for him who should overcome. Overcome what? The false opinions of mankind, the ignorant beliefs in matter and evil. For what, after all, is responsible for all the evil in this world of ours? What but a false concept of God? “And if I keep my nose buried forever in matter, how can I hope to see God, who is Spirit? And how can I follow the Christ unless I think as he thought?” he said.

But it was in the classroom with Carmen that he always received his greatest stimulus.

“See, Padre dear,” she said one day, “if I erase a wrong figure and then set down the right one instead, I get the right answer. And it is just like that when we think. If we always put good thoughts in the place of the bad ones, why, everything comes out right, doesn’t it?”

Josè smiled at the apt comparison. “Of course, chiquita,” he replied. “Only in your algebra you know which are the right figures to put down. But how do you know which thoughts are right?”


“I always know, Padre. I can’t make even the least mistake about the thoughts. Why, it is easier to mistake with figures than it is with thoughts.”

“How is that, little one?”

“Because, if you always think God first, you can never think wrong. Now can you? And if you think of other things first you are almost sure to think of the wrong thing, is it not so, Padre?”

The priest had to admit the force of her statement.

“And, you know, Padre dear,” the girl went on, “when I understand the right rule in algebra, the answer just comes of itself. Well, it is so with everything when we understand that God is the right rule––you call Him principle, don’t you?––well, when we know that He is the only rule for everything, then the answers to all our problems just come of themselves.”

Aye, thought Josè, the healing works of the great Master were only the “signs following,” the “answers” to the people’s problems, the sure evidence that Jesus understood the Christ-principle.

“And when you say that God is the right rule for everything, just what do you mean, chiquita?”

“That He is everywhere,” the girl replied.

“That He is infinite and omnipresent good, then?” the priest amplified.

“He is good––and everywhere,” the child repeated firmly.

“And the necessary corollary of that is, that there is no evil,” Josè added.

“I don’t know what you mean by corollary, Padre dear. It’s a big word, isn’t it?”

“I mean––I think I know how you would put it, little one––if God is everywhere, then there is nothing bad. Is that right?”

“Yes, Padre. Don’t you see?”

Assuredly he saw. He saw that a fact can have no real opposite; that any predicated opposite must be supposition. And evil is the supposition; whereas good is the fact. The latter is “plus,” and the former “minus.” No wonder the origin of evil has never been found, although humanity has struggled with the problem for untold ages! Jesus diagnosed evil as a lie. He gave it the minus sign, the sign of nothingness. The world has tried to make it positive, something. From the false sense of evil as a reality has come the equally false sense of man’s estrangement from God, through some fictitious “fall”––a curse, truly, upon the human intellect, but not of God’s infliction. For false belief always curses with a reign of discord, which endures until the belief becomes corrected by truth. From the beginning, the human race has 141 vainly sought to postulate an equal and opposite to everything in the realm of both the spiritual and material. It has been hypnotized, obsessed, blinded, by this false zeal. The resultant belief in “dualism” has rendered hate the equal and opposite of Love, evil the equal and opposite of Good, and discord the eternal opponent of Harmony. To cope with evil as a reality is to render it immortal in our consciousness. To know its unreality is to master it.

“Throughout life,” Josè mused, “every positive has its negative, every affirmation its denial. But the opposites never mingle. And, moreover, the positive always dispels the negative, thus proving the specious nature of the latter. Darkness flees before the light, and ignorance dissolves in the morning rays of knowledge. Both cannot be real. The positive alone bears the stamp of immortality. Carmen has but one fundamental rule: God is everywhere. This gives her a sense of immanent power, with which all things are possible.”

Thus with study and meditation the days flowed past, with scarcely a ripple to break their quiet monotony. Rosendo came, and went again. He brought back at the end of his first month’s labors on the newly discovered deposit some ninety pesos in gold. He had reached the bedrock, and the deposit was yielding its maximum; but the yield would continue for many months, he said. His exultation overleaped all bounds, and it was with difficulty that Josè could bring him to a consideration of the problems still confronting them.

“I think, Rosendo,” said the priest, “that we will send, say, thirty pesos this month to Cartagena; the same next month; and then increase the amount slightly. This method is sure to have a beneficial effect upon the ecclesiastical authorities there.”

“Fine!” ejaculated Rosendo. “And how will you send it, Padre?”

Josè pondered the situation. “We cannot send the gold direct to the Bishop, for that would excite suspicion. Masses, you know, are not paid for in gold dust and nuggets. And we have no money. Nor could we get the gold exchanged for bills here in Simití, even if we dared run the risk of our discovery becoming known.”

For the Alcalde was already nosing about in an effort to ascertain the source of the gold with which Rosendo had just cancelled his debt and purchased further supplies. Josè now saw that, under existing conditions, it would be utterly impossible for Rosendo to obtain titles to mineral properties through Don Mario. He spent hours seeking a solution of the involved problem. Then, just before Rosendo departed again for the mountains, Josè called him into the parish house.


“Rosendo, I think I see a way. Bring me one of the paper boxes of candles which you have just purchased from Don Mario.”

“Carumba! Padre,” queried the surprised Rosendo, as he returned with the box, “and what is this for?”

“I merely want to get the name of the firm which sold the candles. The Empresa Alemania, Barranquilla. Good! Now listen. I have a method that is roundabout, but certainly promises much. I will write to the firm, appointing them my agents while I pose as Josè Rincón, miner. The agency established, I will send them our gold each month, asking them to return to me its equivalent in bills, deducting, of course, their commission. Then I will send these bills, or such part as we deem wise, to Wenceslas. Each month Juan, who will be sworn to secrecy, will convey the gold to Bodega Central in time to meet Captain Julio’s boat. The captain will both deliver the gold to the Empresa Alemania, and bring back the bills in exchange. Then, from Simití, and in the regular manner, I will send the small packet of bills to Wenceslas as contributions from the parish. We thus throw Don Mario off the scent, and arouse no suspicion in any quarter. As I receive mail matter at various times, the Alcalde will not know but what I also receive consignments of money from my own sources. I think the plan will work out. Juan already belongs to us. What, then, is there to fear?”

And so, as it was arranged, it worked out. Juan reveled in the honor of such intimate relations with the priest and Rosendo, and especially in the thought that he was working in secret for the girl he adored. By the time Rosendo returned again from Guamocó, Josè had sent his first consignment of money to the Bishop, carefully directing it to Wenceslas, personally, and had received an acknowledgment in a letter which caused him deep thought.

“To further stimulate the piety of your communicants,” it read, “and arouse them to more generous contributions to our glorious cause, you will inform them that, if their monetary contributions do not diminish in amount for the coming year, they will be made participants in the four solemn Novenas which will be offered by His Grace, the Bishop of Cartagena. Moreover, if their contributions increase, the names of the various contributors will be included in the one hundred Masses which are to be offered in December at the Shrine of Our Lady of Chiquinquía for their spiritual and temporal welfare. Contributors will also have a High Mass after death, offered by one of His Grace’s assistants, as soon as the notification of death is received here. In addition to these, His Grace, always mindful of the former importance of the parish of Simití, and acknowledging as its special patron the ever blessed Virgin, has arranged to bestow the episcopal blessing upon an image of the Sacred Heart, which will be shipped to his faithful children in Simití when the 143 amount of their contributions shall have met the expense thereof. Let us keep ever in mind the pious words of the Bl. Margaret Mary, who has conveyed to us the assurance which she received directly from Our Blessed Lord that He finds great joy in beholding His Sacred Heart visibly represented, that it may touch the hard hearts of mankind. Our blessed Saviour promised the gracious Margaret Mary that He would pour out abundantly of His rich treasure upon all who honor this image, and that it shall draw down from heaven every blessing upon those who adore and reverence it. Inform your parishioners that the recital of the offering, ‘O, Sacred Heart of Jesus, may it be everywhere adored!’ carries a hundred days’ indulgence each time.

“You will bear in mind that the General Intention for this month is The Conversion of America. Though our Church is founded on the Rock, and is to last forever, so that the gates of hell shall never prevail against her, nevertheless she has been called upon to withstand many assaults from her enemies, the advocates of modernism, in the land of liberal thought to our north. These assaults, though painful to her, can never be fatal to her spiritual life, although they unfortunately are so to many of her dear children, who yield to the insidious persuasions of the heretics who do the work of Satan among the Lord’s sheep. New and fantastic religions are springing up like noxious weeds in America of the north, and increasing infidelity is apparent on every hand. The Christ prayed that there might be one fold and one shepherd. It is for us this month to pray for the great day when they will be accomplished. But we must be united over the interests of the Sacred Heart. Therefore, liberal plenary indulgences will be granted to those of the faithful who contribute to this glorious cause, so dear to the heart of the blessed Saviour. We enclose leaflets indicating the three degrees, consisting of the Morning Offering, Our Father and ten Hail Marys daily, for the Pope and his interests, and the degree of reparation, by which a plenary indulgence may be gained.

“Stimulate your parishioners to compete joyfully for the statue of the Blessed Virgin, which we mentioned to you in our former communication. Teach them, especially, their entire dependence on Mary, on her prayers to God for their deliverance and welfare. Reveal to them her singularly powerful influence in the shaping of all great historical events of the world; how never has she refused our prayers to exert her mighty influence with her all-potent Son, when she has been appealed to in sincerity, for it rejoices the Sacred Heart of Jesus to yield to the requests of His Blessed Mother. Mary is omnipotent, for she can ask no favor of her Son that He will not grant. Competition for possession of this sacred image, which carries the potent blessing of His Holiness, should be regarded a privilege, and you will so impress it upon the minds of your parishioners.

“Finally, His Grace requests that you will immediately procure whatever information you may regarding the mineral resources of the district of Guamocó, and indicate upon a sketch the location of its various mines, old or new, as known to its inhabitants. Diligent and careful inquiry made by yourself among the people of the district will reveal many hidden facts regarding its resources, which should be made known to His Grace at the earliest possible moment, in view of the active preparations now in progress to forestall the precipitation of another political uprising with its consequent strain upon our Holy Church.”

“Money! money! money!” cried Josè. “One would think the Christ had established his Church solely for gold!”

He folded the letter and looked out through the rear door 144 to where Carmen sat, teaching Cucumbra a new trick. He realized then that never before had he been so far from the Holy Catholic faith as at that moment. And Carmen––

“Good God!” he muttered, as his eyes rested upon the child. “If the Church should get possession of Carmen, what would it do with her? Would it not set its forces to work to teach her that evil is a reality––that it is as powerful as good––that God formed man and the universe out of dust––that Jesus came down from a starry heaven that he might die to appease the wrath of a man-like Father––that Mary pleads with the Lord and Jesus, and by her powerful logic induces them to spare mankind and grant their foolish desires––all the dribble and rubbish of outlandish theology that has accumulated around the nucleus of pure Christianity like a gathering snowball throughout the ages! To make the great States up north dominantly Catholic, Rome must––simply must––have the children to educate, that she may saturate their absorbent minds with these puerile, undemonstrable, pagan beliefs before the child has developed its own independent thought. How wise is she––God, how worldly wise and cunning! And I still her priest––”

Carmen came bounding in, followed pellmell by Cucumbra. Cantar-las-horas stalked dignifiedly after her, and stopped at the threshold, where he stood with cocked head and blinking eyes, wondering what move his animated young mistress would make next.

“Padre!” she exclaimed, “the sun is down, and it is time for our walk!”

She seized his hand and drew him out into the road. The play of her expression as she looked up and laughed into his face was like the dance of sunbeams on moving water. They turned down the narrow street which led to the lake. As was her wont, in every object about her, in every trifling event, the child discovered rich treasures of happiness. The pebbles which she tossed with her bare toes were mines of delight. The pigs, which turned up their snouts expectantly as she stooped to scratch their dusty backs––the matronly hens that followed clucking after her––the black babies that toddled out to greet the Cura––all yielded a wealth of delight and interest. She seemed to Josè to uncover joy by a means not unlike the divining rod, which points to hidden gold where to the eye there is naught but barren ground.

Near the margin of the lake they stopped at the door of a cottage, where they were awaited by the matron who displayed a finger wrapped in a bit of cloth. She greeted the priest courteously.


Señor Padre,” she said, “this morning I had the misfortune to cut my finger while peeling yuccas, and I am not sure whether a piece of the skin went into the pot or not. Bueno, the yuccas are all cooked; and now my man says he will not eat them, for this is Friday, and there may be meat with the yuccas. What shall I do? Was it wicked to cook the yuccas, not knowing if a bit of the skin from my finger had fallen into the pot?”

Josè stood dumfounded before such ignorant credulity. Then he shook his head and replied sadly, “No, señora, it was not wicked. Tell your man he may eat the yuccas.”

The woman’s face brightened, and she hastened into the house to apprise her spouse of the Cura’s decision.

“God help us!” muttered Josè under his breath. “Two thousand years of Christianity, and still the world knows not what Jesus taught!”

“But you told me he had good thoughts, Padre dear,” said the little voice at his side, as he walked slowly away with bended head. “And that is enough to know.”

“Why do you say that, Carmen?” asked Josè, somewhat petulantly.

“Because, Padre, if he had good thoughts, he thought about God––didn’t he? And if he thought about God, he always thought of something good. And if we always think about good––well, isn’t that enough?”

Josè’s eyes struggled with hers. She almost invariably framed her replies with an interrogation, and, whether he would or not, he must perforce give answers which he knew in his heart were right, and yet which the sight of his eyes all too frequently denied.

“Padre, you are not thinking about God now––are you?”

“I am, indeed, child!” he answered abruptly.

“Well––perhaps you are thinking about Him; but you are not thinking with Him––are you?––the way He thinks. You know, He sends us His thoughts, and we have to pick them out from all the others that aren’t His, and then think them. If the señora and her man had been thinking God’s thoughts, they wouldn’t have been afraid to eat a piece of meat on Friday––would they?”

Cucumbra, forgetting his many months of instruction, suddenly yielded to the goad of animal instinct and started along the beach in mad pursuit of a squealing pig. Carmen dashed after him. As Josè watched her lithe, active little body bobbing over the shales behind the flying animals, she seemed to him like an animated sunbeam sporting among the shadows.

“Why should life,” he murmured aloud, “beginning in radiance, 146 proceed in ever deepening gloom, and end at last in black night? Why, but for the false education in evil which is inflicted upon us! The joys, the unbounded bliss of childhood, do indeed gush from its innocence––its innocence of the blighting belief in mixed good and evil––innocence of the false beliefs, the undemonstrable opinions, the mad worldly ambitions, the carnal lust, bloated pride, and black ignorance of men! It all comes from not knowing God, to know whom is life eternal! The struggle and mad strife of man––what does it all amount to, when ‘in the end he shall be a fool’? Do we in this latest of the centuries, with all our boasted progress in knowledge, really know so much, after all? Alas! we know nothing––nothing!”

“Come, Padre,” cried Carmen, returning to him, “we are going to just try now to have all the nice thoughts we can. Let’s just look all around us and see if we can’t think good thoughts about everything. And, do you know, Padre dear, I’ve tried it, and when I look at things and something tries to make me see if there could possibly be anything bad about them––why, I find there can’t! Try it, and see for yourself.”

Josè knew it. He knew that the minds of men are so profaned by constantly looking at evil that their thoughts are tinged with it. He was striving to look up. But in doing so he was combating a habit grown mighty by years of indulgence.

“When you always think good about a thing,” the girl went on, “you never can tell what it will do. But good always comes from it. I know. I do it all the time. If things look bad, I just say, ‘Why look, here’s something trying to tell me that two and two are seven!’ And then it goes away.”

“Your purity and goodness resist evil involuntarily, little one,” said Josè, more to himself than to the child.

“Why, Padre, what big words!”

“No, little one, it is just the meaning of the words that is big,” he replied.

The girl was silent for some moments. Then:

“Padre dear, I never thought of it before––but it is true: we don’t see the meaning of words with the same eyes that we see trees and stones and people, do we?”

Josè studied the question. “I don’t quite understand what you mean, chiquita,” he was finally forced to answer.

“Well,” she resumed, “the meaning of a word isn’t something that we can pick up, like a stone; or see, as we see the lake out there.”

“No, Carmen, the meaning is spiritual––mental; it is not physically tangible. It is not seen with the fleshly eyes.”

“The meaning of a word is the inside of it, isn’t it?”


“Yes, it is the inside, the soul, of the word.”

“And we don’t see the word, either, do we?” She shook her brown curls in vigorous negation.

“No, little one, we see only written or printed symbols; or hear only sounds that convey to us the words. But the words themselves are mental. We do not see them.”

“No, we think them.” She meditated a while. “But, Padre dear,” she continued, “the inside, or soul, of everything is mental. We never see it. We have to think it.”

“Yes, you are right. The things we think we see are only symbols. They stand for the real things.”

“Padre, they don’t stand for anything!” she replied abruptly.

Josè looked down at her in surprise. He waited.

“Padre, the real things are the things we don’t see. And the things we think we see are not real at all!”

Josè had ere this learned not to deny her rugged statements, but to study them for their inner meaning, which the child often found too deep for her limited vocabulary to express.

“The things we think we see,” he said, though he was addressing his own thought, “are called the physical. The things we do not see or cognize with the physical senses are called mental, or spiritual. Well?” he queried, looking down again into the serious little face.

“Padre, the very greatest things are those that we don’t see at all!”

“True, chiquita. Love, life, joy, knowledge, wisdom, health, harmony––all these are spiritual ideas. The physical sometimes manifests them––and sometimes does not. And in the end, called death, it ceases altogether to manifest them.”

“But––these things––the very greatest things there are––are the souls of everything––is it not so, Padre dear?”

“It must be, chiquita.”

“And all these things came from God, and He is everywhere, and so He is the soul of everything, no?”

He made the same affirmative reply.

“Padre––don’t you see it?––we are not seeing things all around us! We don’t see real things that we call trees and stones and people! We see only what we think we see. We see things that are not there at all! We see––”

“Yes, we see only our thoughts. And we think we see them as objects all about us, as trees, and houses, and people. But in the final analysis we see only thoughts,” he finished.

“But these thoughts do not come from God,” she insisted.

“No,” he replied slowly, “because they often manifest discord and error. I think I grasp what is struggling in your mind chiquita. God is––”


“Everywhere,” she interrupted.

“He is everywhere, and therefore He is the soul––the inside––the heart and core––of everything. He is mind, and His thoughts are real, and are the only real thoughts there are. He is truth. The opposite of truth is a lie. But, in reality, truth cannot have an opposite. Therefore, a lie is a supposition. And so the thought that we seem to see externalized all about us, and that we call physical objects, is supposition only. And, a supposition being unreal, the whole physical universe, including material man, is unreal––is a supposition, a supposition of mixed good and evil, for it manifests both. It is the lie about God. And, since a lie has no real existence, this human concept of a universe and mankind composed of matter is utterly unreal, an image of thought, an illusion, existing in false thought only––a belief––a supposition pure and simple!”

As he talked he grew more and more animated. He seemed to forget the presence of the child, and appeared to be addressing only his own insistent questionings.

They walked along together in silence for some moments. Then the girl again took up the conversation.

“Padre,” she said, “you know, you taught me to prove my problems in arithmetic and algebra. Well, I have proved something about thinking, too. If I think a thing, and just keep thinking it, pretty soon I see it––in some way––outside of me.”

A light seemed to flash through Josè’s mental chambers, and he recalled the words of the explorer in Cartagena. Yes, that was exactly what he had said––“every thought that comes into the mind tends to become externalized, either upon the body as a physical condition, or in the environment, or as an event, good or bad.” It was a law, dimly perceived, but nevertheless sufficiently understood in its workings to indicate a tremendous field as yet all but unknown. The explorer had called it the law of the externalization of thought. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he,” said the Master, twenty centuries before. Did he recognize the law?

Josè’s thought swept over his past. Had his own wrong thinking, or the wrong thought of others, been the cause of his unhappiness and acute mental suffering? But why personalize it? What difference whether it be called his, or the Archbishop’s, or whose? Let it suffice that it was false thought, undirected by the Christ-principle, God, that had been externalized in the wreckage which he now called his past life.

He again stood face to face with the most momentous question ever propounded by a waiting world: the question of causation. And he knew now that causation was wholly spiritual.


“Padre dear, you said just now that God was mind. But, if that is true, there is only one mind, for God is everywhere.”

“It must be so, chiquita,” dreamily responded the priest.

“Then He is your mind and my mind, is it not so?”


“Then, if He is my mind, there just isn’t anything good that I can’t do.”

Twilight does not linger in the tropics, and already the shadows that stole down through the valley had wrapped the man and child in their mystic folds. Hand in hand they turned homeward.

“Padre, if God is my mind, He will do my thinking for me. And all I have to do is to keep the door open and let His thoughts come in.”

Her sweet voice lingered on the still night air. There was a pensive gladness in the man’s heart as he tightly held her little hand and led her to Rosendo’s door.


The next morning Josè read to Rosendo portions of the communication from Wenceslas.

“Chiquinquía,” commented the latter. “I remember that Padre Diego collected much money from our people for Masses to be said at that shrine.”

“But where is it, Rosendo?” asked Josè.

“You do not know the story?” queried Rosendo in surprise. “Why, there is not a shrine in the whole of Colombia that works so many cures as this one. Your grandfather, Don Ignacio, knew the place. And it was from him that my––that is, I learned the legend when I was only a boy. It is said that a poor, sick young girl in the little Indian village of Chiquinquía, north of Bogotá, stood praying in her shabby little cottage before an old, torn picture of the blessed Virgin.” He stopped and crossed himself devoutly. Then he resumed:

Bueno, while the girl prayed, the picture suddenly rose up in the air; the torn places all closed; the faded colors came again as fresh as ever; and the girl was cured of her affliction. The people of the village immediately built a shrine, over which they hung the picture; and ever since then the most wonderful miracles have been performed by it there.”

Josè laughed. “You don’t believe that, do you, Rosendo?” he asked in banter.

Hombre, yes!” exclaimed the latter a bit testily. “I know 150 it! Did not Don Felipe go there when the doctor in Mompox told him the little white spot on his hand was leprosy? And he came back cured.”

Leprosy! Josè started as if he had received a blow. He looked furtively at the scar on his own hand, the hand which the leper in Maganguey had lacerated that dreadful night, and which often burned and ached as if seared by a hot iron. He had never dared to voice the carking fear that tightened about his heart at times. But often in the depths of night, when dread anticipation sat like a spectre upon his bed, he had risen and gone out into the darkness to wrestle with his black thoughts. Leprosy! All the gladness and joy left his heart, and a pall of darkness settled over his thought. He turned back into his cottage and tried to find forgetfulness in the simple duties that lay at hand.

“Why is it,” he asked himself, as he sat wearily down at his little table, “that I always think of evil first; while Carmen’s first thought is invariably of God?”

He looked at the ugly scar on his hand. What thought was externalized in the loathsome experience which produced that? he wondered. Was it the summation of all the fear, the weakness, the wrong belief, that had filled his previous years? And now why was he finding it so difficult to practice what Carmen lived, even though he knew it was truth?

“Alas!” he murmured aloud, “it was the seminary that did it. For there my thought was educated away from the simple teachings of Jesus. To Carmen there is no mystery in godliness. Though she knows utterly nothing about Jesus, yet she hourly uses the Christ-principle. It is the children who grasp the simple truths of God; while the lack of spirituality which results from increasing years shrinks maturer minds until they no longer afford entrance to it. For godliness is broad; and the mind that receives it must be opened wide.”

As he sat with his bowed head clasped in his hands, a sweet, airy voice greeted him.

“Why, Padre dear––ah, I caught you that time!––you were thinking that two and two are seven, weren’t you?” She shook a rebuking finger at him.

Framed in the doorway like an old masterpiece, the sunlight bronzing her heavy brown curls, the olive-tinted skin of her bare arms and legs flushing with health, and her cheap calico gown held tightly about her, showing the contour of her full and shapely figure, the girl appeared to Josè like a vision from the realm of enchantment. And he knew that she did dwell in the land of spiritual enchantment, where happiness is not at the mercy of physical sense.


“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

“The Lord our God is a right-thinking God, and right-thinking is what He desires in His people.”

Josè thought of this as he looked at Carmen. This barefoot girl, who walked humbly, trustingly, with her God, had she not supplied him with a working formula for his every problem, even to the casting out of the corroding fear planted in his heart by that awful experience in Maganguey? Though he had suffered much, yet much had been done for him. The brusque logic of the explorer had swept his mind clear of its last vestige of theological superstition, and prepared it for the truth which, under the benign stimulus of this clear-minded child, would remake his life, if he could now yield himself utterly to it. He must––he would––ceaselessly strive, even though he fell daily, to make his life a pattern of hers, wherein there was no knowledge of evil!

The girl came to the priest and leaned fondly against him. Then a little sigh escaped her lips, as she looked down into his face with pitying affection.

“Padre dear,” she said, in a tone that echoed a strain of sadness, “I––I don’t believe––you love God very much.”

The man was startled, and resentment began to well in his heart. “What a thing to say, Carmen!” he answered reprovingly.

The girl looked up at him with great, wondering eyes. “But, Padre,” she protested, “were you not thinking of things that are not true when I came in?”

“No––I was––I was thinking of the future––of––well, chiquita, I was thinking of something that might happen some day, that is all.” He stumbled through it with difficulty, for he knew he must not lie to the child. Would she ever trust him again if he did?

“And, Padre, were you afraid?”

“Afraid? Yes, chiquita, I was.” He hung his head.

Carmen looked at him reproachfully. “Then, Padre, I was right––for, if you loved God, you would trust Him––and then you couldn’t be afraid of anything––could you? People who love Him are not afraid.”

He turned his head away. “Ah, child,” he murmured, “you will find that out in the world people don’t love God in this day and generation. At least they don’t love Him that way.”

“They don’t love Him enough to trust him?” she asked wistfully.


“No.” He shook his head sadly. “Nobody trusts Him, not even the preachers themselves. When things happen, they rush for a doctor, or some other human being to help them out of their difficulty. They don’t turn to Him any more. They seldom speak His name.”

“Have––they––forgotten Him?” she asked slowly, her voice sinking to a whisper.

“Absolutely!” He again buried his head in his hands.

The child stood in silence for some moments. Then:

“What made them forget Him, Padre?”

“I guess, chiquita, they turned from Him because He didn’t answer their prayers. I used to pray to Him, too. I prayed hours at a time. But nothing seemed to come of it. And so I stopped.” He spoke bitterly.

“You prayed! You mean––”

“I asked Him for things––to help me out of trouble––I asked Him to give me––”

“Why, Padre! Why––that’s the very reason!”

He looked up at her blankly. “What is the very reason? What are you trying to tell me, child?”

“Why, He is everywhere, and He is right here all the time. And so there couldn’t be any real trouble for Him to help you out of; and He couldn’t give you anything, for He has already done that, long ago. We are in Him, don’t you know? Just like the little fishes in the lake. And so when you asked Him for things it showed that you didn’t believe He had already given them to you. And––you know what you said last night about thinking, and that when we think things, we see them? Well, He has given you everything; but you thought He hadn’t, and so you saw it that way––isn’t it so?”

She paused for breath. She had talked rapidly and with animation. But before he could reply she resumed:

“Padre dear, you know you told me that Jesus was the best man that ever lived, and that it was because he never had a bad thought––isn’t that so?”

“Yes,” he murmured.

“Well, did he pray––did he ask God for things?”

“Of course he did, child!” the priest exclaimed. “He always asked Him for things. Why, he was always praying––the New Testament is full of it!”

Acting on a sudden impulse, he rose and went into the sleeping room to get his Bible. The child’s face took on an expression of disappointment as she heard his words. Her brow knotted, and a troubled look came into her brown eyes.

Josè returned with his Bible and seated himself again at the table. Opening the book, his eyes fell upon a verse of 153 Mark’s Gospel. He stopped to read it; and then read it again. Suddenly he looked up at the waiting girl.

“What is it, Padre? What does it say?”

He hesitated. He read the verse again; then he scanned the child closely, as if he would read a mystery hidden within her bodily presence. Abruptly he turned to the book and read aloud:

“‘Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.’”

The girl drew a long breath, almost a sigh, as if a weight had been removed from her mind. “Did Jesus say that?” she asked in glad, eager tones.

“Yes––at least it is so reported here,” he answered absently.

“Well––he knew, didn’t he?”

“Knew what, child?”

“Why, Padre, he told the people to know––just know––that they already had everything––that God had given them everything good––and that if they would know it, they would see it.”

Externalization of thought? Yes; or rather, the externalization of truth. Josè fell into abstraction, his eyes glued to the page. There it stood––the words almost shouted it at him! And there it had stood for nearly two thousand years, while priest and prelate, scribe and commentator had gone over it again and again through the ages, without even guessing its true meaning––without even the remotest idea of the infinite riches it held for mankind!

He turned reflectively to Matthew; and then to John. He remembered the passages well––in the past he had spent hours of mortal agony poring over them and wondering bitterly why God had failed to keep the promises they contain.

“And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”

All things––when ye ask believing! But that Greek word surely held vastly more than the translators have drawn from it. Nay, not believing only, but understanding the allness of God as good, and the consequent nothingness of evil, all that seems to oppose Him! How could the translators have so completely missed the mark! And Carmen––had never seen a Bible until he came into her life; yet she knew, knew instinctively, that a good God who was “everywhere” could not possibly withhold anything good from His children. It was the simplest kind of logic.

But, thought Josè again, if the promises are kept, why have we fallen so woefully short of their realization? Then he 154 read again, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” The promise carries a condition––abiding in his words––obeying his commands––keeping the very first Commandment, which is that “Ye shall have no other gods before me”––no gods of evil, sickness, chance, or death. The promises are fulfilled only on the condition of righteousness––right-thinking about God and His infinite, spiritual manifestation.

He turned to Carmen. “Chiquita,” he said tenderly, “you never ask God to give you things, do you?”

“Why, no, Padre; why should I? He gives me everything I need, doesn’t He?”

“Yes––when you go out to the shales, you––”

“I don’t ask Him for things, Padre dear. I just tell Him I know He is everywhere.”

“I see––yes, you told me that long ago––I understand, chiquita.” His spirit bowed in humble reverence before such divine faith. This untutored, unlearned girl, isolated upon these burning shales, far, far from the haunts of men of pride and power and worldly lore––this barefoot child whose coffers held of material riches scarce more than the little calico dress upon her back––this lowly being knew that which all the fabled wealth of Ind could never buy! Her prayers were not the selfish pleadings that spring from narrow souls, the souls that “ask amiss”––not the frenzied yearnings wrung from suffering, ignorant hearts––nor were they the inflated instructions addressed to the Almighty by a smug, complacent clergy, the self-constituted press-bureau of infinite Wisdom. Her prayers, which so often drifted like sweetest incense about those steaming shales, were not petitions, but affirmations. They did not limit God. She did not plead with Him. She simply knew that He had already met her needs. And that righteousness––right-thinking––became externalized in her consciousness in the good she sought. Jesus did the same thing, over and over again; but the poor, stupid minds of the people were so full of wrong beliefs about his infinite Father that they could not understand, no, not even when he called Lazarus from the tomb.

“Ask in my name,” urged the patient Jesus. But the poor fishermen thought he meant his human name to be a talisman, a sort of “Open Sesame,” when he was striving all the time, by precept and deed, to show them that they must ask in his character, must be like him, to whom, though of himself he could do nothing, yet all things were possible.

Josè’s heart began to echo the Master’s words: “Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” He put his arm about Carmen and drew her to him.


“Little one,” he murmured, “how much has happened in these past few weeks!”

Carmen looked up at him with an enigmatical glance and laughed. “Well, Padre dear, I don’t think anything ever really happens, do you?”

“Why not?” he asked.

“Mistakes happen, as in solving my algebra problems. But good things never happen, any more than the answers to my problems happen. You know, there are rules for getting the answers; but there are no rules for making mistakes––are there? But when anything comes out according to the rule, it doesn’t happen. And the mistakes, which have no rules, are not real––the answers are real, but the mistakes are not––and so nothing ever really happens. Don’t you see, Padre dear?”

“Surely, I see,” he acquiesced. Then, while he held the girl close to him, he reflected: Good is never fortuitous. It results from the application of the Principle of all things. The answer to a mathematical problem is a form of good, and it results from the application of the principle of mathematics. Mistakes, and the various things which “happen” when we solve mathematical problems, do not have rules, or principles. They result from ignorance of them, or their misapplication. And so in life; for chance, fate, luck, accident and the merely casual, come, not from the application of principles, but from not applying them, or from ignorance of their use. The human mind or consciousness, which is a mental activity, an activity of thought, is concerned with mixed thoughts of good and evil. But it operates without any principle whatsoever. For, if God is infinite good, then the beliefs of evil which the human mind holds must be false beliefs, illusions, suppositions. A supposition has no principle, no rule. And so, it is only the unreal that happens. And even that sort of “happening” can be prevented by knowing and using the principle of all good, God. A knowledge of evil is not knowledge at all. Evil has no rules. Has an accident a principle? He laughed aloud at the idea.

“What is it, Padre?” asked Carmen.

“Nothing, child––and everything! But we are neglecting our work,” he hastily added, as he roused himself. “What are the lessons for to-day? Come! come! We have much to do!” And arranging his papers, and bidding Carmen draw up to the table, he began the morning session of his very select little school.

More than six months had elapsed since Josè first set foot upon the hot shales of Simití. In that time his mentality had been turned over like a fallow field beneath the plowshare. 156 After peace had been established in the country he had often thought to consecrate himself to the task of collecting the fragmentary ideas which had been evolved in his mind during these past weeks of strange and almost weird experience, and trying to formulate them into definite statements of truth. Then he would enter upon the task of establishing them by actual demonstration, regardless of the years that might be required to do so. He realized now that the explorer had done a great work in clearing his mind of many of its darker shadows. But it was to Carmen’s purer, more spiritual influence that he knew his debt was heaviest.

Let it not seem strange that mature manhood and extensive travel had never before brought to this man’s mind the truths, many of which have been current almost since the curtain first arose on the melodrama of mundane existence. Well nigh impassable limitations had been set to them by his own natal characteristics; by his acutely morbid sense of filial love which bound him, at whatever cost, to observe the bigoted, selfish wishes of his parents; and by the strictness with which his mind had been hedged about both in the seminary and in the ecclesiastical office where he subsequently labored. The first rays of mental freedom did not dawn upon his darkened thought until he was sent as an outcast to the New World. Then, when his greater latitude in Cartagena, and his still more expanded sense of freedom in Simití, had lowered the bars, there had rushed into his mentality such a flood of ideas that he was all but swept away in the swirling current.

It is not strange that he rose and fell, to-day strong in the conviction of the immanence of infinite good, to-morrow sunken in mortal despair of ever demonstrating the truth of the ideas which were swelling his shrunken mind. His line of progress in truth was an undulating curve, slowly advancing toward the distant goal to which Carmen seemed to move in a straight, undeviating line. What though Emerson had said that Mind was “the only reality of which men and all other natures are better or worse reflectors”? Josè was unaware of the sage’s mighty deduction. What though Plato had said that we move as shadows in a world of ideas? Even if Josè had known of it, it had meant nothing to him. What though the Transcendentalists called the universe “a metaphore of the human mind”? Josè’s thought was too firmly clutched by his self-centered, material beliefs to grasp it. Doubt of the reality of things material succumbed to the evidence of the physical senses and the ridicule of his seminary preceptors. True, he believed with Paul, that the “things that are seen are temporal; the things that are unseen, are eternal.” But this pregnant utterance conveyed 157 nothing more to him than a belief of a material heaven to follow his exit from a world of matter. It had never occurred to him that the world of matter might be the product of those same delusive physical senses, through which he believed he gained his knowledge of it. It is true that while in the seminary, and before, he had insisted upon a more spiritual interpretation of the mission of Jesus––had insisted that Christian priests should obey the Master’s injunction, and heal the sick as well as preach the gospel. But with the advent of the troubles which filled the intervening years, these things had gradually faded; and the mounting sun that dawned upon him six months before, as he lay on the damp floor of his little cell in the ecclesiastical dormitory in Cartagena, awaiting the Bishop’s summons, illumined only a shell, in which agnosticism sat enthroned upon a stool of black despair.

Then Carmen entered his life. And her beautiful love, which enfolded him like a garment, and her sublime faith, which moved before him like the Bethlehem star to where the Christ-principle lay, were, little by little, dissolving the mist and revealing the majesty of the great God.

In assuming to teach the child, Josè early found that the outer world meant nothing to her until he had purged it of its carnal elements. Often in days past, when he had launched out upon the dramatic recital of some important historical event, wherein crime and bloodshed had shaped the incident, the girl would start hastily from her chair and put her little hand over his mouth.

“Don’t, Padre dear! It is not true!” she would exclaim. “God didn’t do it, and it isn’t so!”

And thereby he learned to differentiate more closely between those historical events which sprang from good motives, and those which manifested only human passion, selfish ambition, and the primitive question, “Who shall be greatest?” Moreover, he had found it best in his frequent talks to the people in the church during the week to omit all reference to the evil methods of mankind in their dealings one with another, and to pass over in silence the criminal aims and low motives, and their externalization, which have marked the unfolding of the human mind, and which the world preserves in its annals as historical fact. The child seemed to divine the great truth that history is but the record of human conduct, conduct manifesting the mortal mind of man, a mind utterly opposed to the mind that is God, and therefore unreal, supposititious, and bearing the “minus” sign. Carmen would have none of it that did not reflect good. She refused utterly to turn her mental gaze toward recorded evil.


“Padre,” she once protested, “when I want to see the sun rise, I don’t look toward the west. And if you want to see the good come up, why do you look at these stories of bad men and their bad thoughts?”

Josè admitted that they were records of the mortal mind––and the mind that is mortal is no mind.

“I am learning,” he frequently said to himself, after Carmen had left at the close of their day’s work. “But my real education did not commence until I began to see, even though faintly, that the Creator is mind and infinite good, and that there is nothing real to the belief in evil; that the five physical senses give us no testimony of any nature whatsoever; and that real man never could, never did, fall.”

Thus the days glided swiftly past, and Josè completed his first year amid the drowsy influences of this little town, slumbering peacefully in its sequestered nook at the feet of the green Cordilleras. No further event ruffled its archaic civilization; and only with rare frequency did fugitive bits of news steal in from the outer world, which, to the untraveled thought of this primitive folk, remained always a realm vague and mysterious. Quietly the people followed the routine of their colorless existence. Each morn broke softly over the limpid lake; each evening left the blush of its roseate sunset on the glassy waters; each night wound its velvety arms gently about the nodding town, while the stars beamed like jewels through the clear, soft atmosphere above, or the yellow moonbeams stole noiselessly down the old, sunken trail to dream on the lake’s invisible waves.

Each month, with unvarying regularity, Rosendo came and went. At times Josè thought he detected traces of weariness, insidious and persistently lurking, in the old man’s demeanor. At times his limbs trembled, and his step seemed heavy. Once Josè had found him, seated back of his cottage, rubbing the knotted muscles of his legs, and groaning aloud. But when he became aware of Josè presence, the groans ceased, and the old man sprang to his feet with a look of such grim determination written across his face that the priest smothered his apprehensions and forbore to speak. Rosendo was immolating himself upon his love for the child. Josè knew it; but he would not, if he could, prevent the sacrifice.

Each month their contributions were sent to Cartagena; and as regularly came a message from Wenceslas, admonishing them to greater efforts. With the money that was sent to the Bishop went also a smaller packet to the two women who were caring for the unfortunate Maria’s little babe. The sources of Josè’s remittances to Cartagena were never questioned by Wenceslas. 159 But Simití slowly awakened to the mysterious monthly trips of Rosendo; and Don Mario’s suspicion became conviction. He bribed men to follow Rosendo secretly. They came back, footsore and angry. Rosendo had thrown them completely off the scent. Then Don Mario outfitted and sent his paid emissary after the old man. He wasted two full months in vain search along the Guamocó trail. But the fever came upon him, and he refused to continue the hunt. The Alcalde counted the cost, then loudly cursed himself and Rosendo for the many good pesos so ruthlessly squandered. Then he began to ply Josè and Rosendo with skillfully framed questions. He worried the citizens of the village with his suggestions. Finally he bethought himself to apprise the Bishop of his suspicions. But second consideration disclosed that plan as likely to yield him nothing but loss. He knew Rosendo was getting gold from some source. But, too, he was driving a good trade with the old man on supplies. He settled back upon his fat haunches at last, determined to keep his own counsel and let well-enough alone for the present, while he awaited events.

Rosendo’s vivid interest in Carmen’s progress was almost pathetic. When in Simití he hung over the child in rapt absorption as she worked out her problems, or recited her lessons to Josè. Often he shook his head in witness of his utter lack of comprehension. But Carmen understood, and that sufficed. His admiration for the priest’s learning was deep and reverential. He was a silent worshiper, this great-hearted man, at the shrine of intellect; but, alas! he himself knew only the rudiments, which he had acquired by years of patient, struggling effort, through long days and nights filled with toil. His particular passion was his Castilian mother-tongue; and the precision with which he at times used it, his careful selection of words, and his wide vocabulary, occasioned Josè no little astonishment. One day, after returning from the hills, he approached Josè as the latter was hearing Carmen’s lessons, and, with considerable embarrassment, offered him a bit of paper on which were written in his ample hand several verses. Josè read them, and then looked up wonderingly at the old man.

“Why, Rosendo, these are beautiful! Where did you get them?”

“I––they are mine, Padre,” replied Rosendo, his face glowing with pleasure.

“Yours! Do you mean that you wrote them?” Josè queried in astonishment.

“Yes, Padre. Nights, up in Guamocó, when I had finished my work, and when I was so lonely, I would sometimes light my candle and try to write out the thoughts that came to me.”


Josè could not keep back the tears. He turned his head, that Rosendo might not see them. Of the three little poems, two were indited to the Virgin Mary, and one to Carmen. He lingered over one of the verses of the latter, for it awoke responsive echoes in his own soul:

“Without you, the world––a desert of sadness;
 But with you, sweet child––a vale of delight;
You laugh, like the sunbeam––my gloom becomes gladness;
 You sing––from my heart flee the shadows of night.”

“I––I have written a good deal of poetry during my life, Padre. I will show you some of it, if you wish,” Rosendo advanced, encouraged by Josè’s approbation.

“Decidedly, I would!” returned Josè with animation. “And to think, without instruction, without training! What a lesson!”

“Yes, Padre, when I think of the blessed Virgin or the little Carmen, my thoughts seem to come in poetry.” He stooped over the girl and kissed her. The child reached up and clasped her arms about his black neck.

“Padre Rosendo,” she said sweetly, “you are a poem, a big one, a beautiful one.”

“Aye,” seconded Josè, and there was a hitch in his voice, “you are an epic––and the world is the poorer that it cannot read you!”

But, though showing such laudable curiosity regarding the elements which entered into their simple life in Simití, Rosendo seldom spoke of matters pertaining to religion. Yet Josè knew that the old faith held him, and that he would never, on this plane of existence, break away from it. He clung to his escapulario; he prostrated himself before the statue of the Virgin; he invoked the aid of Virgin and Saints when in distress; and, unlike most of the male inhabitants of the town, he scrupulously prayed his rosary every night, whether at home, or on the lonely margins of the Tiguí. He had once said to Josè that he was glad Padre Diego had baptised the little Carmen––he felt safer to have it so. And yet he would not have her brought up in the Holy Catholic faith. Let her choose or formulate her own religious beliefs, they should not be influenced by him or others.

“You can never make me believe, Padre,” he would sometimes say to the priest, “that the little Carmen was not left by the angels on the river bank.”

“But, Rosendo, how foolish!” remonstrated Josè. “You have Escolastico’s account, and the boat captain’s.”

“Well, and what then? Even the blessed Saviour was born 161 of a woman; and yet he came from heaven. The angels brought him, guarded him as he lay in the manger, protected him all his life, and then took him back to heaven again. And I tell you, Padre, the angels brought Carmen, and they are always with her!”

Josè ceased to dispute the old man’s contentions. For, had he been pressed, he would have been forced to admit that there was in the child’s pure presence a haunting spell of mystery––perhaps the mystery of godliness––but yet an undefinable something that always made him approach her with a feeling akin to awe.

And in the calm, untroubled seclusion of Simití, in its mediaeval atmosphere of romance, and amid its ceaseless dreams of a stirring past, the child unfolded a nature that bore the stamp of divinity, a nature that communed incessantly with her God, and that read His name in every trivial incident, in every stone and flower, in the sunbeams, the stars, and the whispering breeze. In that ancient town, crumbling into the final stages of decrepitude, she dwelt in heaven. To her, the rude adobe huts were marble castles; the shabby rawhide chairs and hard wooden beds were softest down; the coarse food was richer than a king’s spiced viands; and over it all she cast a mantle of love that was rich enough, great enough, to transform with the grace of fresh and heavenly beauty the ruins and squalor of her earthly environment.

“Can a child like Carmen live a sinless life, and still be human?” Josè often mused, as he watched her flitting through the sunlit hours. “It is recorded that Jesus did. Ah, yes; but he was born of a virgin, spotless herself. And Carmen? Is she any less a child of God?” Josè often wondered, wondered deeply, as he gazed at her absorbed in her tasks. And yet––how was she born? Might he not, in the absence of definite knowledge, accept Rosendo’s belief––accept it because of its beautiful, haunting mystery––that she, too, was miraculously born of a virgin, and “left by the angels on the river bank”? For, as far as he might judge, her life was sinless. It was true, she did at rare intervals display little outbursts of childish temper; she sometimes forgot and spoke sharply to her few playmates, and even to Doña Maria; and he had seen her cry for sheer vexation. And yet, these were but tiny shadows that were cast at rarest intervals, melting quickly when they came into the glorious sunlight of her radiant nature.

But the mystery shrouding the child’s parentage, however he might regard it, often roused within his mind thoughts dark and apprehensive. Only one communication had come from Padre Diego, and that some four months after his precipitous 162 flight. He had gained the Guamocó trail, it said, and finally arrived at Remedios. He purposed returning to Banco ultimately; and, until then, must leave the little Carmen in the care of those in whom he had immovable confidence, and to whom he would some day try, however feebly, to repay in an appropriate manner his infinite debt of gratitude.

Caramba!” muttered Rosendo, on reading the note. “Does the villain think we are fools?”

But none the less could the old man quiet the fear that haunted him, nor still the apprehension that some day Diego would make capital of his claim. What that claim might accomplish if laid before Wenceslas, he shuddered to think. And so he kept the girl at his side when in Simití, and bound Josè and the faithful Juan to redoubled vigilance when he was again obliged to return to the mountains.

Time passed. The care-free children of this tropic realm drowsed through the long, hot days and gossiped and danced in the soft airs of night. Rosendo held his unremitting, lonely vigil of toil in the ghastly solitudes of Guamocó. Josè, exiled and outcast, clung desperately to the child’s hand, and strove to rise into the spiritual consciousness in which she dwelt. And thus the year fell softly into the yawning arms of the past and became a memory.

Then one day Simití awoke from its lethargy in terror, with the spectre of pestilence stalking through her narrow streets.


Feliz Gomez, who had been sent to Bodega Central for merchandise which Don Mario was awaiting from the coast, had collapsed as he stepped from his boat on his return to Simití. When he regained consciousness he called wildly for the priest.

“Padre!” he cried, when Josè arrived, “it is la plaga! Ah, Santísima Virgen––I am dying!––dying!” He writhed in agony on the ground.

The priest bent over him, his heart throbbing with apprehension.

“Padre––” The lad strove to raise his head. “The innkeeper at Bodega Central––he told me I might sleep in an empty house back of the inn. Dios mío! There was an old cot there––I slept on it two nights––Caramba! Padre, they told me then––Ah, Bendita Virgen! Don’t let me die, Padre! Carísima Virgen, don’t let me die! Ah, Dios––!


His body twisted in convulsions. Josè lifted him and dragged him to the nearby shed where the lad had been living alone. A terror-stricken concourse gathered quickly about the doorway and peered in wide-eyed horror through the narrow window.

“Feliz, what did they tell you?” cried Josè, laying the sufferer upon the bed and chafing his cold hands. The boy rallied.

“They told me––a Turk, bound for Zaragoza on the Nechí river––had taken the wrong boat––in Maganguey. He had been sick––terribly sick there. Ah, Dios! It is coming again, Padre––the pain! Caramba! Dios mío! Save me, Padre, save me!”

“Jacinta! Rosa! I must have help!” cried Josè, turning to the stunned people. “Bring cloths––hot water––and send for Don Mario. Doña Lucia, prepare an olla of your herb tea at once!”

“Padre”––the boy had become quieter––“when the Turk learned that he was on the wrong boat––he asked to be put off at the next town––which was Bodega Central. The innkeeper put him in the empty house––and he––Dios! he died––on that bed where I slept!”

“Well?” said Josè.

“Padre, he died––the day before I arrived there––and––ah, Santísima Virgen! they said––he died––of––of––la cólera!”

“Cholera!” cried the priest, starting up. At the mention of the disease a loud murmur arose from the people, and they fell back from the shed.

“Padre!––ah, Dios, how I suffer! Give me the sacrament––I cannot live––! Padre––let me confess––now. Ah, Padre, shall I go––to heaven? Tell me––!”

Josè’s blood froze. He stood with eyes riveted in horror upon the tormented lad.

“Padre”––the boy’s voice grew weaker––“I fell sick that day––I started for Simití––I died a thousand times in the caño––ah, caramba! But, Padre––promise to get me out of purgatory––I have no money for Masses. Caramba! I cannot stand it! Oh, Dios! Padre––quick––I have not been very wicked––but I stole––Dios, how I suffer!––I stole two pesos from the innkeeper at Bodega Central––he thought he lost them––but I took them out of the drawer––Padre, pay him for me––then I will not go to hell! Dios!

Rosendo at that moment entered the house.

“Don’t come in here!” cried Josè, turning upon him in wild apprehension. “Keep away, for God’s sake, keep away!”

In sullen silence Rosendo disregarded the priest’s frenzied 164 appeal. His eyes widened when he saw the boy torn with convulsions, but he did not flinch. Only when he saw Carmen approaching, attracted by the great crowd, he hastily bade one of the women turn her back home.

Hour after hour the poor sufferer tossed and writhed. Again and again he lapsed into unconsciousness, from which he would emerge to piteously beg the priest to save him. “Ah! Dios, Padre!” he pleaded, extending his trembling arms to Josè, “can you do nothing? Can you not help me? Santísima Virgen, how I suffer!”

Then, when the evening shadows were gathering, the final convulsions seized him and wrenched his poor soul loose. Josè and Rosendo were alone with him when the end came. The people had early fled from the stricken lad, and were gathering in little groups before their homes and on the corners, discussing in low, strained tones the advent of the scourge. Those who had been close to the sick boy were now cold with fear. Women wept, and children clung whimpering to their skirts. The men talked excitedly in hoarse whispers, or lapsed into a state of terrified dullness.

Josè went from the death-bed to the Alcalde. Don Mario saw him coming, and fled into the house, securing the door after him. “Go away, Padre!” he shouted through the shutters. “For the love of the Virgin do not come here! Caramba!

“But, Don Mario, the lad is dead!” cried Josè in desperation. “And what shall we do? We must face the situation. Come, you are the Alcalde. Let us talk about––”

Caramba! Do what you want to! I shall get out! Nombre de Dios! If I live through the night I shall go to the mountains to-morrow!”

“But we must have a coffin to bury the lad! You must let us have one!”

“No! You cannot enter here, Padre!” shrilled Don Mario, jumping up and down in his excitement. “Bury him in a blanket––anything––but keep away from my house!”

Josè turned sadly away and passed through the deserted streets back to the lonely shed. Rosendo met him at the door. “Bien, Padre,” he said quietly, “we are exiled.”

“Have you been home yet?” asked Josè.

Hombre, no! I cannot go home now. I might carry the disease to the señora and the little Carmen. I must stay here. And,” he added, “you too, Padre.”

Josè’s heart turned to lead. “But, the boy?” he exclaimed, pointing toward the bed.

“When it is dark, Padre,” replied Rosendo, “we will take him out through the back door and bury him beyond the shales. Hombre! I must see now if I can find a shovel.”


Josè sank down upon the threshold, a prey to corroding despair, while Rosendo went out in search of the implement. The streets were dead, and few lights shone from the latticed windows. The pall of fear had settled thick upon the stricken town. Those who were standing before their houses as Rosendo approached hastily turned in and closed their doors. Josè, in the presence of death in a terrible form, sat mute. In an hour Rosendo returned.

“No shovel, Padre,” he announced. “But I crept up back of my house and got this bar which I had left standing there when I came back from the mountains. I can scrape up the loose earth with my hands. Come now.”

Josè wearily rose. He was but a tool in the hands of a man to whom physical danger was but a matter of temperament. He absently helped Rosendo wrap the black, distorted corpse in the frayed blanket; and then together they passed out into the night with their grewsome burden.

“Why not to the cemetery, Rosendo?” asked Josè, as the old man took an opposite course.

Hombre, no!” cried Rosendo. “The cemetery is on shale, and I could not dig through it in time. We must get the body under ground at once. Caramba! If we put it in one of the bóvedas in the cemetery the buzzards will eat it and scatter the plague all over the town. The bóvedas are broken, and have no longer any doors, you remember.”

So beyond the shales they went, stumbling through the darkness, their minds freighted with a burden of apprehension more terrible than the thing they bore in their arms. The shales crossed, Rosendo left the trail, cutting a way through the bush with his machete a distance of several hundred feet. Then, by the weird yellow light of a single candle, he opened the moist earth and laid the hideous, twisted thing within. Josè watched the procedure in dull apathy.

“And now, Padre,” said Rosendo, at length breaking the awful silence, “where will you sleep to-night? I cannot let you go back to your house. It is too near the señora and Carmen. No man in town will let you stay in his house, since you have handled the plague. Will you sleep in the shed where the lad died? Or out on the shales with me? I called to the señora when I went after the bar, and she will lay two blankets out in the plaza for us. And in the morning she will put food where we can get it. What say you?”

Josè stood dazed. His mind had congealed with the horror of the situation. Rosendo took him by the arm. “Come, Padre,” he said gently. “The hill up back of the second church is high, and no one lives near. I will get the blankets and we will pass the night out there.”


“But, Rosendo!” Josè found his voice. “What is it? Is it––la cólera?”

Quien sabe? Padre,” returned Rosendo. “There has been plague here––these people, some of them, still remember it––but it was long ago. There have been cases along the river––and brought, I doubt not, by Turks, like this one.”

“And do you think that it is now all along the river? That Bodega Central is being ravaged by the scourge? That it will sweep through the country?”

Quien sabe? Padre. All I do know is that the people of Simití are terribly frightened, and the pestilence may wipe away the town before it leaves.”

“But––good God! what can we do, Rosendo?”

“Nothing, Padre––but stay and meet it,” the man replied quietly.

They reached the hill in silence. Then Rosendo wrapped himself in one of the blankets which he had picked up as he passed through the plaza, and lay down upon the shale.

But Josè slept not that night. The warm, sluggish air lay about him, mephitic in its touch. The great vampire bats that soughed through it symbolized the “pestilence that walketh in darkness.” Lonely calls drifted across the warm lake waters from the dripping jungle like the hollow echoes of lost souls. Rosendo tossed fitfully, and now and then uttered deep groans. The atmosphere was prescient with horror. He struggled to his feet and paced gloomily back and forth along the brow of the hill. The second church stood near, deserted, gloomy, no longer a temple of God, but a charnel house of fear and black superstition. In the distance the ghostly white walls of the Rincón church glowed faintly in the feeble light that dripped from the yellow stars. There was now no thought of God––no thought of divine aid. Josè was riding again the mountainous billows of fear and unbelief; nor did he look for the Master to come to him through the thick night across the heaving waters.

The tardy dawn brought Doña Maria to the foot of the hill, where she deposited food, and held distant converse with the exiles. Don Mario had just departed, taking the direction across the lake toward San Lucas. He had compelled his wife to remain in Simití to watch over the little store, while he fled with two boatmen and abundant supplies. Others likewise were preparing to flee, some to the Boque river, some up the Guamocó trail. Doña Maria was keeping Carmen closely, nor would she permit her to as much as venture from the house.

“Why should not the señora take Carmen and go to Boque, Rosendo?” asked Josè. “Then you and I could occupy our own houses until we knew what the future had in store for us.”


Rosendo agreed at once. Carmen would be safe in the protecting care of Don Nicolás. Doña Maria yielded only after much persuasion. From the hilltop Josè could descry the Alcalde’s boat slowly wending its way across the lake toward the Juncal. Rosendo, having finished his morning meal, prepared to meet the day.

Bien, Padre,” he said, “when the sun gets high we cannot stay here. We must seek shade––but where?” He looked about dubiously.

“Why not in the old church, Rosendo?”

Caramba, never!” cried Rosendo. “Hombre! that old church is haunted!”

Josè could never understand the nature of this man, so brave in the face of physical danger, yet so permeated with superstitious dread of those imaginary inhabitants of the invisible realm.

“Padre,” suggested Rosendo at length. “We will go down there, nearer the lake, to the old shack where the blacksmith had his forge. He died two years ago, and the place has since been empty.”

“Go then, Rosendo, and I will follow later,” assented Josè, who now craved solitude for the struggle for self-mastery which he saw impending.

While Rosendo moved off toward the deserted shack, the priest continued his restless pacing along the crest of the hill. The morning was glorious––but for the blighting thoughts of men. The vivid green of the dewy hills shone like new-laid color. The lake lay like a diamond set in emeralds. The dead town glowed brilliantly white in the mounting sun. Josè knew that the heat would soon drive him from the hill. He glanced questioningly at the old church. He walked toward it; then mounted the broken steps. The hinges, rusted and broken, had let the heavy door, now bored through and through by comején ants, slip to one side. Through the opening thus afforded, Josè could peer into the cavernous blackness within. The sun shot its terrific heat at him, and the stone steps burned his sandaled feet. He pushed against the door. It yielded. Then through the opening he entered the dusty, ill-smelling old edifice.

When his eyes had become accustomed to the dimness within, he saw that the interior was like that of the other church, only in a more dilapidated state. There were but few benches; and the brick altar, poorer in construction, had crumbled away at one side. Dust, mold, and cobwebs covered everything; but the air was gratefully cool. Josè brushed the 168 thick dust from one of the benches. Then he lay down upon it, and was soon sunk in heavy sleep.

The sun had just crossed the meridian. Josè awoke, conscious that he was not alone. The weird legend that hung about the old church filtered slowly through his dazed brain. Rosendo had said that an angel of some kind dwelt in the place. And surely a presence sat on the bench in the twilight before him! He roused up, rubbed his sleepy eyes, and peered at it. A soft laugh echoed through the stillness.

“I looked all around for the bad angel that padre Rosendo said lived here, and I didn’t find anything but you.”

“Carmen, child! What are you doing here? Don’t come near me!” cried Josè, drawing away.

“Why, Padre––what is it? Why must I keep away from you? First, madre Maria tells me I must go to Boque with her. And now you will not let me come near you. And I love you so––” Tears choked her voice, and she sat looking in mute appeal at the priest.

Josè’s wit seemed hopelessly scattered. He passed his hand dully across his brow as if to brush the mist from his befogged brain.

“Padre dear.” The pathetic little voice wrung his heart. “Padre dear, when madre Maria told me I had to go to Boque, I went to your house to ask you, and––and you weren’t there. And I couldn’t find padre Rosendo either––and there wasn’t anybody in the streets at all––and I came up here. Then I saw the blanket out on the hill, and I kept hunting for you––I wanted to see you so much. And when I saw the door of the church broken, I thought you might be in here––and so I came in––and, oh, Padre dear, I was so glad to find you––but I wouldn’t wake you up––and while you were sleeping I just knew that God was taking care of you all the time––”

Josè had sunk again upon the bench.

“Padre dear!” Carmen came flying to him across the darkness and threw her arms about his neck. “Padre dear! I just couldn’t stand it to leave you!” The flood-gates opened wide, and the girl sobbed upon his shoulder.

“Carmen––child!” But his own tears were mingling freely with hers. The strain of the preceding night had left him weak. He strove feebly to loosen the tightly clasped arms of the weeping girl. Then he buried his drawn face in her thick curls and strained her to his heaving breast. What this might mean to Carmen he knew full well. But––why not have it so? If she preceded him into the dark vale, it would be for only a little while. He would not live without her.


The sobs died away, and the girl looked up at the suffering man.

“Padre dear, you will not send me away––will you?” she pleaded.

“No! no!” he cried fiercely, “not now!”

A happy little sigh escaped her lips. Then she drew herself closer to him and whispered softly, “Padre dear––I love you.”

A groan burst from the man. “God above!” he cried, “have you the heart to let evil attack such a one as this!”

The girl looked up at him in wonder. “Why, Padre dear––what is it? Tell me.”

“Nothing, child––nothing! Did––er––did your madre Maria say why you must go to Boque?” he asked hesitatingly.

“She said Feliz Gomez died last night of the plague, and that the people were afraid they would all get sick and die too. And she said––Padre dear, she said you were afraid I would get sick, and so you told her to take me away. You didn’t mean that, did you? She didn’t understand you, did she? You are not afraid, are you? You can’t be, you know, can you? You and I are not afraid of anything. We know––don’t we, Padre dear?”

“What do we know, child?” he asked sadly.

“Why––why, we know that God is everywhere!” She looked at him wonderingly. What could she understand of a nature so wavering?––firm when the sun shone bright above––tottering when the blasts of adversity whirled about it? He had said such beautiful things to her, such wonderful things about God and His children only yesterday. And now––why this awful change? Why again this sudden lowering of standards?

He had sunk deep into his dark thoughts. “Death is inevitable!” he muttered grimly, forgetful of the child’s presence.

“Oh, Padre dear!” she pleaded, passing her little hand tenderly over his cheek. Then her face brightened. “I know what it is!” she exclaimed. “You are just trying to think that two and two are seven––and you can’t prove it––and so you’d better stop trying!” She broke into a little forced laugh.

Josè sat wrapped in black silence.

“Padre dear.” Her voice was full of plaintive tenderness. “You have talked so much about that good man Jesus. What would he say if he saw you trying to make two and two equal seven? And if he had been here last night––would he have let Feliz die?”

The priest made no answer. None was required when Carmen put her questions.


“Padre dear,” she continued softly. “Why didn’t you cure Feliz?”

His soul withered under the shock.

“You have told me, often, that Jesus cured sick people. And you said he even made the dead ones live again––didn’t you, Padre dear?”

“Yes,” he murmured; “they say he did.”

“And you read to me once from your Bible where he told the people that he gave them power over everything. And you said he was the great rule––you called him the Christ-principle––and you said he never went away from us. Well, Padre dear,” she concluded with quick emphasis, “why don’t you use him now?”

She waited a moment. Then, when no reply came––

“Feliz didn’t die, Padre.”

Hombre! It’s all the same––he’s gone!” he cried in a tone of sullen bitterness.

“You think he is gone, Padre dear. And Feliz thought he had to go. And so now you both see it that way––that’s all. If you would see things the way that good man Jesus told you to––well, wouldn’t they be different––wouldn’t they, Padre dear?”

“No doubt they would, child, no doubt. But––”

She waited a moment for him to express the limitation which the conjunctive implied. Then:

“Padre dear, how do you think he did it? How did he cure sick people, and make the dead ones live again?”

“I––I don’t know, child––I am not sure. That knowledge has been lost, long since.”

“You do know, Padre,” she insisted; “you do! Did he know that God was everywhere?”


“And what did he say sickness was?”

“He classed it with all evil under the one heading––a lie––a lie about God.”

“But when a person tells a lie, he doesn’t speak the truth, does he?”


“And a lie has no rule, no principle?”


“And so it isn’t anything––doesn’t come from anything true––hasn’t any real life, has it?”

“No, a lie is utterly unreal, not founded on anything but supposition, either ignorant or malicious.”

“Then Jesus said sickness was a supposition, didn’t he?”



“And God, who made everything real, didn’t make suppositions. He made only real things.”

“True, child.”

“Well, Padre dear, if you know all that, why don’t you act as if you did?”

Act? Yes, act your knowledge! Acknowledge Him in all your ways! Then He shall bring it to pass! What? That which is real––life, not death––immortality, not oblivion––love, not hate––good, not evil!

Chiquita––” His voice was thick. “You––you believe all that, don’t you?”

“No, Padre dear”––she smiled up at him through the darkness––“I don’t believe it, I know it.”

“But––how––how do you know it?”

“God tells me, Padre. I hear Him, always. And I prove it every day. The trouble is, you believe it, but I don’t think you ever try to prove it. If you believed my problems in algebra could be solved, but never tried to prove it––well, you wouldn’t do very much in algebra, would you?” She laughed at the apt comparison.

Josè’s straining eyes were peering straight ahead. Through the thick gloom he saw the mutilated figure of the Christ hanging on its cross beside the crumbling altar. It reflected the broken image of the Christ-principle in the hearts of men. And was he not again crucifying the gentle Christ? Did not the world daily crucify him and nail him with their false beliefs to the cross of carnal error which they set up in the Golgotha of their own souls? And were they not daily paying the awful penalty therefor? Aye, paying it in agony, in torturing agony of soul and body, in blasted hopes, crumbling ambitions, and inevitable death!

“Padre dear, what did the good man say sickness came from?” Carmen’s soft voice brought him back from his reflections.

“Sickness? Why, he always coupled disease with sin.”

“And sin?”

“Sin is––is unrighteousness.”

“And that is––?” she pursued relentlessly.

“Wrong conduct, based on wrong thinking. And wrong thinking is based on wrong beliefs, false thought.”

“But to believe that there is anything but God, and the things He made, is sin, isn’t it, Padre dear?”

“Sin is––yes, to believe in other powers than God is to break the very first Commandment––and that is the chief of sins!”

“Well, Padre dear, can’t you make yourself think right? Do you know what you really think about God, anyway?”


Josè rose and paced up and down through the dark aisle.

“I try to think,” he answered, “that He is mind; that He is infinite, everywhere; that He is all-powerful; that He knows all things; and that He is perfect and good. I try not to think that He made evil, or anything that is or could be bad, or that could become sick, or decay, or die. Whatever He made must be real, and real things last forever, are immortal, eternal. I strive to think He did make man in His image and likeness––and that man has never been anything else––that man never ‘fell.’”

“What is that, Padre?”

“Only an old, outworn theological belief. But, to resume: I believe that, since God is mind, man must be an idea of His. Since God is infinite, man must exist in Him. I know that any number of lies can be made up about true things. And any number of falsities can be assumed about God and what He has made. I am sure that the material universe and man are a part of the lie about God and the way He manifests and expresses Himself in and through His ideas. Everything is mental. We must hold to that! The mental realm includes all truth, all fact. But there may be all sorts of supposition about this fact. And yet, while fact is based upon absolute and undeviating principle––and I believe that principle to be God––supposition is utterly without any rule or principle whatsoever. It is wholly subject to truth, to Principle, to God. Hence, bad or wrong thought is absolutely subject to good or real thought, and must go down before it. The mortal man is a product of wrong thought. He is a supposition; and so is the universe of matter in which he is supposed to live. We have already learned that the things he thinks he hears, feels, tastes, smells, and sees are only his own thoughts. And these turn out to be suppositions. Hence, they are nothing real.”

“Well, Padre! How fast you talk! And––such big words! I––I don’t think I understand all you say. But, anyway, I guess it is right.” She laughed again.

“I know it is right!” he exclaimed, forgetting that he was talking to a child. “Evil, which includes sickness and death, is only a false idea of good. It is a misinterpretation, made in the thought-activity which constitutes what we call the human consciousness. And that is the opposite––the suppositional opposite––of the mind that is God. Evil, then, becomes a supposition and a lie. Just what Jesus said it was!”

“But, Padre––I don’t see why you don’t act as if you really believed all that!”

“Fear––only fear! It has not yet been eradicated from my thought,” he answered slowly.


“But, Padre, what will drive it out?”

“Love, child––love only, for ‘perfect love casteth out fear.’”

“Oh, then, Padre dear, I will just love it all out of you, every bit!” she exclaimed, clasping her arms about him again and burying her face in his shoulder.

“Ah, little one,” he said sadly, “I must love more. I must love my fellow-men and good more than myself and evil. If I didn’t love myself so much, I would have no fear. If I loved God as you do, dearest child, I would never come under fear’s heavy shadow.”

“You do love everybody––you have got to, for you are God’s child. And now,” she added, getting down and drawing him toward the door, “let us go out of this smelly old church. I want you to come home. We’ve got to have our lessons, you know.”

“But––child, the people will not let me come near them––nor you either, now,” he said, holding back. “They think we may give them the disease.”

She looked up at him with a tender, wistful smile. Then she shook her head. “Padre dear, I love you,” she said, “but you make me lots of trouble. But––we are going to love all the fear away, and––” stamping her little bare foot––“we are going to get the right answer to your problem, too!”

The priest took her hand, and together they passed out into the dazzling sunlight.

On the brow of the hill stood Rosendo, talking excitedly, and with much vehement gesticulation, to Doña Maria, who remained a safe distance from him. The latter and her good consort exclaimed in horror when they saw Carmen with the priest.

“Caramba!” cried Rosendo, darting toward them. “I could kill you for this, Padre! Hombre! How came the child here, and with you? Dios mío! Have you no heart, but that, when you know you may die, you would take her with you?” He swung his long arms menacingly before the priest, and his face worked with passion.

The girl ran between the two men. “Padre Rosendo!” she cried, seizing one of his hands in both of her own. “I came of myself. He did not call me. I found him asleep. And he isn’t going to die––nor I, either!”

Doña Maria approached and quietly joined the little group.

“Caramba! Go back!” cried the distressed Rosendo, turning upon her. “Hombre! Dios y diablo! will you all die?” He stamped the ground and tore his hair in his impotent protest.

Na, Rosendo,” said the woman placidly, “if you are in 174 danger, I will be too. If you must die, so will I. I will not be left alone.”

A thrill of admiration swept over the priest. Then he smiled wanly. “Bien,” he said, “we have all been exposed to the plague now, and we will stand together. Shall we return home?”

Rosendo’s anger soon evaporated, but his face retained traces of deep anxiety. “Maria tells me, Padre,” he said, “that Amado Sanchez fell sick last night with the flux, and nobody will stay with him, excepting his woman.”

“Let us go to him, then,” replied the priest. “Doña Maria, do you and Carmen return to your house, whilst Rosendo and I seek to be of service to those who may need us.”

Together they started down the main street of the town. Dead silence reigned everywhere. Many of the inhabitants had fled to the hills. But there were still many whose circumstances would not permit of flight. As they neared Rosendo’s house the little party were hailed from a distance by Juan Mendoza and Pedro Cárdenas, neighbors living on either side of Rosendo and the priest.

Hola, Padre and Don Rosendo!” they called; “you cannot return to your homes, for you would expose us to the plague! Go back! Go back! We will burn the houses over your heads if you return!”

“But, amigos––” Josè began.

Na, Padre,” they cried in tense excitement, “it is for the best! Go back to the hill! We will supply you with food and blankets––but you must not come here! Amado Sanchez is sick; Guillermo Hernandez is sick. Go back! You must not expose us!” The attitude of the frightened, desperate men was threatening. Josè saw that it would be unwise to resist them.

Bien, compadres, we will go,” he said, his heart breaking with sorrow for these children of fear. Then, assembling his little family, he turned and retraced his steps sadly through the street that burned in lonely silence in the torrid heat.

Carmen’s eyes were big with wonder; but a happy idea soon drove all apprehension from her thought. “Padre!” she exclaimed, “we will live in the old church, and we will play house there!” She clapped her hands in merriment.

“Never!” muttered Rosendo. “I will not enter that place! It would bring the plague upon me! Na! na!” he insisted, when they reached the steps, “do you go in if you wish; but I will stay outside in the shadow of the building.” Nor would the combined entreaties of Carmen and Josè induce him to yield. Doña Maria calmly and silently prepared to remain with him.


“Pull off the old door, Padre!” cried Carmen excitedly. “And open all the shutters. Look! Look, Padre! There goes the bad angel that padre Rosendo was afraid of!” A number of bats, startled at the noise and the sudden influx of light, were scurrying out through the open door.

“Like the legion of demons which Jesus sent into the swine,” said Josè. “I will tell you the story some day, chiquita,” he said, in answer to her look of inquiry.

The day passed quickly for the child, nor did she seem to cast another thought in the direction of the cloud which hung over the sorrowing town. At dusk, Mendoza and Cárdenas came to the foot of the hill with food and blankets.

“Amado Sanchez has just died,” they reported.

“What!” cried Josè. “So soon? Why––he fell sick only yesterday!”

“No, Padre, he had been ailing for many days––but it may have been the plague just the same. Perhaps it was with us before Feliz brought it. But we have not exposed ourselves to the disease and––Padre––there is not a man in Simití who will bury Amado. What shall we do?”

Josè divined the man’s thought. “Bien, amigo,” he replied. “Go you back to your homes. To-night Rosendo and I will come and bury him.”

Josè had sent Carmen and Doña Maria beyond the church, that they might not hear the grewsome tidings. When the men had returned to their homes, the little band on the hilltop ate their evening meal in silence. Then a bench was swept clean for Carmen’s bed, for she insisted on sleeping in the old church with Josè when she learned that he intended to pass the night there.

Again, as the heavy shadows were gathering, Josè and Rosendo descended into the town and bore out the body of Amado Sanchez to a resting place beside the poor lad who had died the day before. To a man of such delicate sensibilities as Josè, whose nerves were raw from continual friction with a world with which he was ever at variance, this task was one of almost unendurable horror. He returned to the old church in a state bordering on collapse.

“Rosendo,” he murmured, as they seated themselves on the hillside in the still night, “I think we shall all die of the plague. And it were well so. I am tired, utterly tired of striving to live against such odds. Bien, let it come!”

“Courage, compadre!” urged Rosendo, putting his great arm about the priest’s shoulders. “We must all go some time, and perhaps now; but while we live let us live like men!”

“You do not fear death?”


“No––what is it that the old history of mine says? ‘Death is not departing, but arriving.’ I am not afraid. But the little Carmen––I wish that she might live. She––ah, Padre, she could do much good in the world. Bien, we are all in the hands of the One who brought us here––and He will take us in the way and at the time that He appoints––is it not so, Padre?”

Josè lapsed again into meditation. No, he could not say that it was so. The thoughts which he had expressed to Carmen that morning still flitted through his mind. The child was right––Rosendo’s philosophy was that of resignation born of ignorance. It was the despair of doubt. And he did not really think that Carmen would be smitten of the plague. Something seemed to tell him that it was impossible. But, on the other hand, he would himself observe every precaution in regard to her. No, he would not sleep in the church that night. He had handled the body of the plague’s second victim, and he could not rest near the child. Perhaps exposure to the night air and the heavy dews would serve to cleanse him. And so he wrapped himself in the blanket which Doña Maria brought from within the church, and lay down beside the faithful pair.

In the long hours of that lonely night Josè lay beneath the shimmering stars pondering, wondering. Down below in the smitten town the poor children of his flock were eating their hearts out in anxious dread and bitter sorrow. Was it through any fault of theirs that this thing had come upon them, like a bolt from a cloudless sky? No––except that they were human, mortal. And if the thing were real, it came from the mind that is God; if unreal––but it seemed real to these simple folk, terribly so!

His heart yearned toward them as his thought penetrated the still reaches of the night and hovered about their lonely vigil. Yet, what had he to offer? What balm could he extend to those wearing out weary hours on beds of agony below? Religion? True religion, if they could but understand it; but not again the empty husks of the faith that had been taught them in the name of Christ! Where did scholastic theology stand in such an hour as this? Did it offer easement from their torture of mind and body? No. Strength to bear in patience their heavy burden? No. Hope? Not of this life––nay, naught but the thread-worn, undemonstrable promise of a life to come, if, indeed, they might happily avoid the pangs of purgatory and the horrors of the quenchless flames of hell! God, what had not the Church to answer for!

And yet, these ignorant children were but succumbing to the evidence of their material senses––though small good it would do to tell them so! Could they but know––as did Carmen––that 177 rejection of error and reception of truth meant life––ah, could they but know! Could he himself but know––really know––that God is neither the producer of evil, nor the powerless witness of its ravages––could he but understand and prove that evil is not a self-existing entity, warring eternally with God, what might he not accomplish! For Jesus had said: “These signs”––the cure of disease, the rout of death––“shall follow them that believe,” that understand, that know. Why could he not go down to those beds of torture and say with the Christ: “Arise, for God hath made thee whole”? He knew why––“without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh of God must believe”––must know––“that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” The suffering victims in the town below were asleep in a state of religious dullness. The task of independent thinking was onerous to such as they. Gladly did they leave it to the Church to do their thinking for them. And thus did they suffer for the trust betrayed!

But truth is omnipotent, and “one with God is a majority.” Jesus gave few rules, but none more fundamental than that “with God all things are possible.” Was he, Josè, walking with God? If so, he might arise and go down into the stricken town and bid its frightened children be whole. If he fully recognized “the Father” as all-powerful, all-good, and if he could clearly see and retain his grasp on the truth that evil, the supposititious opposite of good, had neither place nor power, except in the minds of mortals receptive to it––ah, then––then–––

A soft patter of little feet on the shales broke in upon his thought. He turned and beheld Carmen coming through the night.

“Padre dear,” she whispered, “why didn’t you come and sleep in the church with me?” She crept close to him. He had not the heart nor the courage to send her away. He put out his arm and drew her to him.

“Padre dear,” the child murmured, “it is nice out here under the stars––and I want to be with you––I love you––love you––” The whisper died away, and the child slept on his arm.

“Perfect love casteth out fear.”



Dawn brought Juan Mendoza and Pedro Cárdenas again to the hill, and with them came others. “Mateo Gil, Pablo Polo, and Juanita Gomez are sick, Padre,” announced Mendoza, the spokesman. “They ask for the last sacrament. You could come down and give it to them, and then return to the hill, is it not so?”

“Yes,” assented Josè, “I will come.”

“And, Padre,” continued Mendoza, “we talked it over last night, after Amado Sanchez died, and we think it would help if you said a Mass for us in the church to-day.”

“I will do so this afternoon, after I have visited the sick,” he replied pityingly.

Mendoza hesitated. Then––

“We think, too, Padre, that if we held a procession––in honor of Santa Barbara––perhaps she would pray for us, and might stop the sickness. We could march through the town this evening, while you stood here and prayed as we passed around the hill. What say you, Padre?”

Josè was about to express a vehement protest. But the anxious faces directed toward him melted his heart.

“Yes, children,” he replied gently, “do as you wish. Keep your houses this afternoon while I visit the sick and offer the Mass. I will leave the hostia on the altar. You need not fear to touch it. Carry it with you in your rogation to Santa Barbara this evening, and I will stand here and pray for you.”

The people departed, sorrowing, but grateful. Hope revived in the breasts of some. But most of them awaited in trembling the icy touch of the plague.

“Padre,” said Rosendo, when the people had gone. “I have been thinking about the sickness, and I remember what my father told me he learned from a Jesuit missionary. It was that the fat from a human body would cure rheumatism. And then the missionary laughed and said that the fat from a plump woman would cure all diseases of mind and body. If that is so, Padre, and Juanita Gomez dies––she is very plump, Padre––could we not take some of the fat from her body and rub it on the sick––”

“God above, Rosendo! what are you saying!” cried Josè recoiling in horror.

“Caramba!” retorted the honest man. “Would you not try everything that might possibly save these people? What the missionary said may be true.”


“No, my faithful ally,” replied Josè. “You did not get the sense in which he said it. Neither human fat nor medicine of any kind will help these people. Nothing will be accomplished for them until their fear has been removed. For, I––well, the symptoms manifested by poor Feliz may have been those of Asiatic cholera. But––I begin to doubt. And as for Sanchez––Bien, we do not know––not for certain.” He stopped and pondered the question.

“Padre,” pursued Rosendo, “I have used the liver of a lizard for toothache, and it was very good.”

“I have no doubt of it, Rosendo,” replied Josè, with a smile. “And in days past stranger remedies than that were used by supposedly wise people. When the eyesight was poor, they rubbed wax from the human ear upon the eyes, and I doubt not marvelous restorations of sight were made. So also dogs’ teeth were ground into powder and taken to alleviate certain bodily pains. Almost everything that could be swallowed has been taken by mankind to cure their aches and torments. But they still ache to-day; and will continue to do so, I believe, until their present state of mind greatly changes.”

When the simple midday meal of corn arepa and black coffee was finished, Josè descended into the quiet town. “It is absurd that we should be kept on the hill,” he had said to Rosendo, “but these dull, simple minds believe that, having handled those dead of the plague, we have become agents of infection. They forget that they themselves are living either in the same house with it, or closely adjacent. But it humors them, poor children, and we will stay here for their sakes.”

Caramba! and they have made us their sextons!” muttered Rosendo.

Josè shuddered. The clammy hand of fear again reached for his heart. He turned to Carmen, who was busily occupied in the shade of the old church.

“Your lessons, chiquita?” he queried, going to her for a moment’s abstraction.

“No, Padre dear,” she replied, smiling up at him, while she quickly concealed the bit of paper on which she had been writing.

“Then what are you doing, little one?” he insisted.

“Padre dear––don’t––don’t always make me tell you everything,” she pleaded, but only half in earnest, as she cast an enigmatical glance at him.

“But this time I insist on knowing; so you might as well tell me.”

“Well then, if you must know,” she replied, her face beaming with a happiness which seemed to Josè strangely out of 180 place in that tense atmosphere, “I have been writing a question to God.” She held out the paper.

“Writing a question to God! Well––!”

“Why, yes, Padre dear. I have done that for a long, long time. When I want to know what to do, and think I don’t see just what is best, I write my question to God on a piece of paper. Then I read it to Him, and tell Him I know He knows the answer and that He will tell me. And then I put the paper under a stone some place, and––well, that’s all, Padre. Isn’t it a good way?” She beamed at him like a glorious noonday sun.

The priest stood before her in wonder and admiration. “And does He tell you the answers to your questions, chiquita?” he asked tenderly.

“Always, Padre dear. Not always right away––but He never fails––never!”

“Will you tell me what you are asking Him now?” he said.

She handed him the paper. His eyes dimmed as he read:

“Dear, dear Father, please tell your little girl and her dear Padre Josè what it is that makes the people think they have to die down in the town.”

“And where will you put the paper, little girl?” he asked, striving to control his voice.

“Why, I don’t know, Padre. Oh, why not put it under the altar in this old church?” she exclaimed, pleased with the thought of such a novel hiding place.

“Excellent!” assented Josè; and together they entered the building. After much stumbling over rubbish, much soiling of hands and disturbing of bats and lizards, while Carmen’s happy laugh rang merrily through the gloomy old pile, they laid the paper carefully away behind the altar in a little pocket, and covered it with an adobe brick.

“There!” panted the girl, the task finished. “Now we will wait for the answer.”

Josè went down into the ominous silence of the town with a lighter heart. The sublime faith of the child moved before him like a beacon. To the sick he spoke words of comfort, with the vision of Carmen always before him. At the altar in the empty church, where he offered the Mass in fulfillment of his promise to the people, her fair form glowed with heavenly radiance from the pedestal where before had stood the dilapidated image of the Virgin. He prepared the sacred wafer and left a part of it on the altar for the people to carry in their procession to Santa Barbara. The other portion he took to the sick ones who had asked for the sacrament.

Two more had fallen ill that afternoon. Mateo Gil, he 181 thought, could not live the night through. He knelt at the loathsome bedside of the suffering man and prayed long and earnestly for light. He tried not to ask, but to know. While there, he heard a call from the street, announcing the passing of Guillermo Hernandez. Another one! His heart sank again. The plague was upon them in all its cruel virulence.

Sadly he returned to the hill, just as the sun tipped the highest peaks of the Cordilleras. Standing on the crest, he waited with heavy heart, while the mournful little procession wended its sad way through the streets below. An old, battered wooden image of one of the Saints, rescued from the oblivion of the sacristía, had been dressed to represent Santa Barbara. This, bedecked with bits of bright colored ribbon, was carried at the head of the procession by the faithful Juan. Following him, Pedro Gonzales, old and tottering, bore a dinner plate, on which rested the hostia, while over the wafer a tall young lad held a soiled umbrella, for there was no canopy.

A slow chant rose from the lips of the people like a dirge. It struck the heart of the priest like a chill wind. “Ora pro nobis! Ora pro nobis!” Tears streamed from his eyes while he gazed upon his stricken people. Slowly, wearily, they wound around the base of the hill, some sullen with despair, others with eyes turned beseechingly upward to where the priest of God stood with outstretched hands, his full heart pouring forth a passionate appeal to Him to turn His light upon these simple-minded children. When they had gone back down the road, their bare feet raising a cloud of thick dust which hid them from his view, Josè sank down upon the rock and buried his face in his hands.

“I know––I think I know, oh, God,” he murmured; “but as yet I have not proved––not yet. But grant that I may soon––for their sakes.”

Rosendo touched his shoulder. “There is another body to bury to-night, Padre. Eat now, and we will go down.”

Standing over the new grave, in the solemn hush of night, the priest murmured: “I am the resurrection and the life.” But the mound upon which Rosendo was stolidly heaping the loose earth marked only another victory of the mortal law of death over a human sense of life. And there was no one there to call forth the sleeping man.

“Behold, I give you power over all things,” said the marvelous Jesus. The wondrous, irresistible power which he exerted in behalf of suffering humanity, he left with the world when he went away. But where is it now?

“Still here,” sighed the sorrowing priest, “still here––lo, 182 always here––but we know it not. Sunken in materiality, and enslaved to the false testimony of the physical senses, we lack the spirituality that alone would enable us to grasp and use that Christ-power, which is the resurrection and the life.”

“Padre,” said Rosendo, when they turned back toward the hill, “Hernandez is now with the angels. You gave him the sacrament, did you not?”

“Yes, Rosendo.”

Bien, then you remitted his sins, and he is doubtless in paradise. But,” he mused, “it may be that he had first to pass through purgatory. Caramba! I like not the thought of those hot fires!”

“Rosendo!” exclaimed Josè in impatience. “Your mental wanderings at times are puerile! You talk like the veriest child! Do not be deceived, Hernandez is still the same man, even though he has left his earthly body behind. Do not think he has been lifted at once into eternal bliss. The Church has taught such rubbish for ages, and has based its pernicious teachings upon the grossly misunderstood words of Jesus. The Church is a failure––a dead, dead failure, in every sense of the word! And that man lying there in his grave is a ghastly proof of it!”

Rosendo looked wonderingly at the excited priest, whose bitter words rang out so harshly on the still night air.

“The Church has failed utterly to preserve the simple gospel of the Christ! It has basely, wantonly betrayed its traditional trust! It has fought and slain and burned for centuries over trivial, vulnerable non-essentials, and thrown its greatest pearls to the swine! It no longer prophesies; it carps and reviles! It no longer heals the sick; but it conducts a purgatorial lottery at so much a head! It has become a jumble of idle words, a mumbling of silly formulæ, a category of stupid, insensate ceremonies! Its children are taught to derive their faith from such legends as that of the holy Saint Francis, who, to convince a heretic, showed the hostia to an ass, which on beholding the sacred dough immediately kneeled! Good God!”

Ca-ram-ba! But you speak hard words, Padre!” muttered Rosendo, vague speculations flitting through his brain as to the priest’s mental state.

“God!” continued Josè heatedly, “the Church has fought truth desperately ever since the Master’s day! It has fawned at the feet of emperor and plutocrat, and licked the bloody hand of the usurer who tossed her a pittance of his foul gains! In the great world-battles for reform, for the rights of man, for freedom from the slavery of man to man or to drink and 183 drugs, she has come up only as the smoke has cleared away, but always in time to demand the spoils! She has filched from the systems of philosophy of every land and age, and after bedaubing them with her own gaudy colors, has foisted them upon unthinking mankind as divine decrees and mandates! She has foully insulted God and man!––”

Caramba, Padre! You are not well! Hombre, we must get back to the hill! You are falling sick!”

“I am not, Rosendo! You voice the Church’s stock complaint of every man who exposes her shams: ‘He hath a devil!’”

Rosendo whistled softly. Josè went on more excitedly:

“You ask if Hernandez is in paradise or purgatory. He is in a state no better nor worse than our own, for both are wholly mental. We are now in the fires of as great a purgatory as any man can ever experience! Yes, there is a purgatory––right here on earth––and it follows us after death, and after every death that we shall die, until we learn to know God and see Him as infinite good, without taint or trace of evil! The flames of hell are eternal to us as long as we eat of ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’––as long as we believe in other powers than God––as long as we believe sin and disease and evil to be as real and as potent as good! When we know these things as awful human illusions, and when we recognize God as the infinite mind that did not create evil, and does not know or behold it, then, and then only, will the flames of purgatory and hell in this state of consciousness which we mistakenly call life, and in the states of consciousness still to come, begin to diminish in intensity, and finally die out!”

He walked along in silence for some moments. Then he turned to Rosendo and put his hand affectionately upon the old man’s shoulder. “My good friend,” he said more calmly, “I speak with intense feeling, for I have suffered much through the intolerance, the unspirituality, and the worldly ambition of the agents of Holy Church. I suffer, because I see what she is, and how widely she has missed the mark. But, worse, I see how blindly, how cruelly, she leads and betrays her trusting children––and it is the thought of that which at times almost drives me mad! But never mind me, Rosendo. Let me rave. My full heart must empty itself. Do you but look to Carmen for your faith. She is not of the Church. She knows God, and she will lead you straight to Him. And as you follow her, your foolish ideas of purgatory, hell, and paradise, of wafers and virgins––all the tawdry beliefs which the Church has laid upon you, will drop off, one by one, and melt away as do the mists on the lake when the sun mounts high.”


Carmen and Doña Maria sat against the wall of the old church, waiting for them. The child ran through the darkness and grasped Josè’s hand.

“I wouldn’t go to sleep until you came, Padre!” she cried happily. “I wanted to be sure you wouldn’t sleep anywhere else than right next to me.”

“Padre,” admonished Rosendo anxiously, “do you think you ought to let her come close to you now? The plague––”

Josè turned to him and spoke low. “There is no power or influence that we can exert upon her, Rosendo, either for good or evil. She is obeying a spiritual law of which we know but little.”

“And that, Padre?”

“Just this, Rosendo: ‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.’

The late moon peeped timidly above the drowsing treetops. Its yellow beams stole silently across the still lake and up the hillside to the crumbling church. When they reached the four quiet figures, huddled close against the ghostly wall, they filtered like streams of liquid gold through the brown curls of the little head lying on the priest’s shoulder. And there they dwelt as symbols of Love’s protecting care over the trusting children of this world, until the full dawn of the glorious sun of Truth.


Josè rose from his hard bed stiff and weary. Depression sat heavily upon his soul, and he felt miserably unable to meet the day. Doña Maria was preparing the coffee over a little fire back of the church. The odor of the steaming liquid drifted to him on the warm morning air and gave him a feeling of nausea. A sharp pain shot through his body. His heart stopped. Was the plague’s cold hand settling upon him? Giddiness seized him, and he sat down again upon the rocks.

In the road below a cloud of dust was rising, and across the distance a murmur of voices floated up to his ears. Men were approaching. He wondered dully what additional trouble it portended. Rosendo came to him at that moment.

Muy buenos dias, Padre. I saw a boat come across the lake some minutes ago. I wonder if Don Mario has returned.”

The men below were ascending the hill. Josè struggled to his feet and went forth to meet them. A familiar voice greeted him cheerily.


Hola, Señor Padre Josè! Dios mío, but your hill is steep!”

Josè strained his eyes at the newcomer. The man quickly gained the summit, and hurried to grasp the bewildered priest’s hand.

“Love of the Virgin! don’t you know me, Señor Padre?” he cried, slapping Josè roundly upon the back.

The light of recognition slowly came into the priest’s eyes. The man was Don Jorge, his erstwhile traveling companion on the Magdalena river.

“And now a cup of that coffee, if you will do me the favor, my good Cura. And then tell me what ails you here,” he added, seating himself. “Caramba, what a town! Diego was right––the devil himself made this place! But they say you have all taken to dying! Have you nothing else to do? Caramba, I do not wonder! Such a God-forsaken spot! Well, what is it? Speak, man!”

Josè collected his scattered thoughts. “The cholera!” he said hoarsely.

“Cholera! Caramba! so they told me down below, and I would not believe them! But where did it come from?”

“One of our men brought it from Bodega Central.”

“Bodega Central!” ejaculated Don Jorge. “Impossible! I came from there this morning myself. Have been there two days. There isn’t a trace of cholera in the place, as far as I know! You have all gone crazy––but small wonder!” looking out over the decrepit town.

The priest’s head was awhirl. He felt his senses leaving him. His ears were reporting things basely false. “You say––” he began in bewilderment.

“I say what I have said, amigo! There is no more cholera in Bodega Central than there is in heaven! I arrived there day before yesterday, and left before sunrise this morning. So I should know.”

Josè sank weakly down at the man’s side. “But––Don Jorge––Feliz Gomez returned from there three nights ago, and reported that a Turk, who had come up from the coast, had died of the plague!”

Don Jorge’s brows knit in perplexity. “I recall now,” he said slowly, after some moments of study. “The innkeeper did say that a Turk had died there––some sort of intestinal trouble, I believe. When I told him I was bound for Simití, he laughed as if he would split, and then began to talk about the great fright he had given a man from here. Said he scared the fellow until his black face turned white. But I was occupied with my own affairs, and paid him little attention. But come, tell me all about it.”


With the truth slowly dawning upon his clouded thought, Josè related the grewsome experiences of the past three days.

“Ca-ram-ba!” Don Jorge whistled softly. “Who would have thought it! But, was Feliz Gomez sick before he went to Bodega Central?”

“I do not know,” replied Josè.

“Yes, señor,” interposed Rosendo. “He and Amado Sanchez both had bowel trouble. Their women told my wife so, after you and I, Padre, had come up here to the hill. But it was nothing. We have it here often, as you know.”

“True,” assented Josè, “but we have never given it any serious thought.”

Don Jorge leaned back and broke into a roar of laughter. “Por el amor del cielo! You are all crazy, amigo––you die like rats of fear! Did you ever put a mouse into a bottle and then scare it to death with a loud noise? Hombre! That is what has happened to you!” The hill reverberated with his loud shouts.

But Josè could not share in the merriment. The awful consequences of the innkeeper’s coarse joke upon the childish minds of these poor, impressionable people pressed heavily upon his heart. Bitter tears welled to his eyes. He sprang to his feet.

“Come, Rosendo!” he cried. “We must go down and tell these people the truth!”

Don Jorge joined them, and they all hastened down into the town. Ramona Chaves met them in the plaza, her eyes streaming.

“Padre,” she wailed, “my man Pedro has the sickness! He is dying!”

“Nothing of the kind, Ramona!” loudly cried Josè; “there is no cholera here!” He hastened to the bedside of the writhing Pedro.

“Up, man!” he shouted, seizing his hand. “Up! You are not sick! There is no cholera in Simití! There is none in Bodega Central! Feliz did not bring it! He and Amado had only a touch of the flux, and they died of fear!”

The priest’s ringing words acted upon the man like magic. He roused up from his lethargy and stared at the assemblage. Don Jorge repeated the priest’s words, and added his own laughing and boisterous comments. Pedro rose from his bed, and stood staring.

Together, their little band augmented at every corner by the startled people, they hurried to the homes of all who lay upon beds of sickness, spreading the glad tidings, until the little town was in a state of uproar. Like black shadows before 187 the light, the plague fled into the realm of imagination from which it had come. By night, all but Mateo Gil were up and about their usual affairs. But even Mateo had revived wonderfully; and Josè was confident that the good news would be the leaven of health that would work a complete restoration within him in time. The exiles left the hilltop and the old church, and returned again to their homes. Don Jorge took up his abode with Josè.

Bien,” he said, as they sat at the rear door of the priest’s house, looking through the late afternoon haze out over the lake, “you have had a strange experience––Caramba! most strange!––and yet one from which you should gather an excellent lesson. You are dealing with children here––children who have always been rocked in the cradle of the Church. But––” looking archly at Josè, “do I offend? For, as I told you on the boat a year ago, I do not think you are a good priest.” He laughed softly. “Bien,” he added, “I will correct that. You are good––but not a priest, is it not so?”

“I have some views, Don Jorge, which differ radically from those of the faith,” Josè said cautiously.

Caramba! I should hope so!” his friend ejaculated.

“But,” interposed Josè, anxious to direct the conversation into other channels, “may I ask how and where you have occupied yourself since I left the boat at Badillo?”

“Ah, Dios!” said Don Jorge, shaking his head, although his eyes twinkled. “I have wandered ever since––and am poorer now than when I started. I left our boat at Puerto Nacional, to go to Medellin; and from there to Remedios and Guamocó. But while in the river town I met another guaquero––grave hunter, you know––who was preparing to go to Honda, to investigate the ‘castles’ at that place. There is a strange legend––you may have heard it––hanging over those rocks. It appears that a lone hermit lived in one of the many caverns in the great limestone deposits rising abruptly from the river near the town of Honda. How he came there, no one knew. Day after day, year after year, he labored in his cave, extending it further into the hillside. People laughed at him for tunneling in that barren rock, for gold has never been found anywhere in it. But the fellow paid them no attention; and gradually he was accepted as a harmless fanatic, and was left unmolested to dig his way into the hill as far as he would. Years passed. No one knew how the fellow lived, for he held no human intercourse. Kind people often brought food and left it at the mouth of his cavern, but he would have none of it. They brought clothes, but they rotted where they were left. What he ate, no one could discover. At last some good soul 188 planted a fig tree near the cave, hoping that the fruit in time would prove acceptable to him. One day they found the tree cut down. Bien, time passed, and he was forgotten. One day some men, passing the cave, found his body, pale and thin, with long, white hair, lying at the entrance. But––Caramba! when they buried the body they found it was that of a woman!”

He paused to draw some leaves of tobacco from his wallet and roll a thick cigar. The sudden turn of his story drew an expression of amazement from the priest.

Bien,” he resumed, “where the woman came from, and who she was, never was learned. Nor how she lived. But of course some one must have supplied her with food and clothes all these years. Perhaps she was some grand dame, with a dramatic past, who had come there to escape the world and do penance for her sins. What sorrow, what black tragedy that cave concealed, no one may ever know! Nor am I at all interested in that. The point is, either she found gold there, or had a quantity of it that she brought with her––at least so I thought at the time. So, when the guaquero at Puerto Nacional told me the story, nothing would do but I must go with him to search the cave. Caramba! We wasted three full months prying around there––and had our labor for our pains!”

He tilted his chair back and puffed savagely at his cigar.

“Well, then I got on the windy side of another legend, a wild tale of buried treasure in the vicinity of Mompox. Of course I hurried after it. Spent six months pawing the hot dirt around that old town. Fell in with your estimable citizen, Don Felipe, who swindled me out of a hundred good pesos oro on a fraudulent location and a forged map. Then I cursed him and the place and went up to Banco.”

“Banco!” Josè’s heart began beating rapidly. Don Jorge went on:

“Your genial friend Diego is back there. Told me about his trip to Simití to see his little daughter.”

“What did he say about her, amigo?” asked Josè in a controlled voice.

“Not much––only that he expected to send for her soon. You know, Rosendo’s daughter is living with him. Fine looking wench, too!”

“But, Don Jorge,” pursued Josè anxiously, “what think you, is the little Carmen Diego’s child?”

Hombre! How should I know? He no doubt has many.”

“She does not look like him,” asserted Josè, clinging to his note of optimism.

“No. And fortunate she is in that! Caramba, but he looks like an imp from sheol!”


Josè saw that little consolation was to be derived from Don Jorge as far as Carmen was concerned. So he allowed the subject to lapse.

Bien,” continued Don Jorge, whose present volubility was in striking contrast to his reticence on the boat the year before, “I had occasion to come up to Bodega Central––another legend, if I must confess it. And there Don Carlos Norosí directed me here.”

“What a life!” exclaimed Josè.

“Yes, no doubt it appears so to you, Señor Padre,” replied Don Jorge. “And yet my business, that of treasure hunting, has in times past proved very lucrative. The Indian graves of Colombia have yielded enormous quantities of gold. The Spaniards opened many of them; and in one, that of a famous chieftain, discovered down below us, near Zaragoza, they found a solid gold pineapple, a marvelous piece of workmanship, and of immense value. They sent it to the king of Spain. Caramba! it never would have reached him if I had been there!

“But,” he resumed, “we have no idea of the amount of treasure that has been buried in various parts of Colombia. This country has been, and still is, enormously rich in minerals––a veritable gold mine of itself. And since the time of the Spanish conquest it has been in a state of almost constant turmoil. Nothing and nobody has been safe. And, up to very recent times, whenever the people collected a bit of gold above their daily needs, they promptly banked it with good Mother Earth. Then, like as not, they got themselves killed in the wars, and the treasure was left for some curious and greedy hunter like myself to dig up years after. The Royalists and Tories buried huge sums all over the country during the War of Independence. Why, it was only a year or so ago that two men came over from Spain and went up the Magdalena river to Bucaramanga. They were close-mouthed fellows, well-dressed, and evidently well-to-do. But they had nothing to say to anybody. The innkeeper pried around until he discovered that they spent much time in their room poring over maps and papers. Then they set off alone, with an outfit of mules and supplies to last several weeks. Bueno, they came back at last with a box of good size, made of mahogany, and bound around with iron bands. Caramba! They did not tarry long, you may be sure. And I learned afterward that they sailed away safely from Cartagena, box and all, for sunny Spain, where, I doubt not, they are now living in idleness and gentlemanly ease on what they found in the big coffer they dug up near that old Spanish city.”

Josè listened eagerly. To him, cooped up for a year and 190 more in the narrow confines of Simití, the ready flow of this man’s conversation was like a fountain of sparkling water to a thirsty traveler. He urged him to go on, plying him with questions about his strange avocation.

Caramba, but the old Indian chiefs were wise fellows!” Don Jorge pursued. “They seemed to know that greedy vandals like myself would some day poke around in their last resting places for the gold that was always buried with them––possibly to pay their freight across the dark river. And so they dug their graves in the form of an L, in the extreme tip of which the royal carcasses were laid. In this way they have deceived many a grave-hunter, who dug straight down without finding the body, which was safely tucked away in the toe of the L. I have gone back and reopened many a grave that I had abandoned as empty, and found His Royal Highness five or six feet to one side of the straight shaft I had previously sunk.”

“I suppose,” mused Josè, “that you now follow this work because of its fascination––for you must have found and laid aside much treasure in the years that you have pursued it.”

“Caramba!” ejaculated the guaquero. “I have been rich and poor, like the rising and setting of the sun! What I find, I spend again hunting more. It is the way of the world. The man who has enough money never knows it. And his greed for more––more that he needs not, and cannot possibly spend on himself––generally results, as in my case, in the loss of what he already has. But there are reasons aside from the excitement of the chase that keep me at it.”

He fell strangely silent, and Josè knew that there were aroused within him memories that seared the tissues of the brain as they entered.

Amigo,” Don Jorge resumed. His voice was low, tense and cold. “There are some things which I am trying to forget. This exciting and dangerous business of mine keeps my thought occupied. I care nothing now for the treasure I may discover. But I crave forgetfulness. Do you understand?”

“Surely, good friend,” replied Josè quickly; “and I ask pardon for recalling those things to you.”

“De nada, amigo!” said Don Jorge, with a gesture of deprecation. Then: “I told you on the boat that I had lost a wife and girl. The Church got them both. I tell you this because I know you, too, have grievances against her. Caramba! Yet I will tell you only a part. I lived in Maganguey, where my wife’s brother kept a store and did an excellent commission business. I was mining and hunting graves in the Cauca region, sometimes going up the Magdalena, too, and working on both sides of the river. Maganguey was a convenient place 191 for me to live, as it stands at the junction of the two great rivers. Besides, my wife wished to remain near her own people. Bien, we had a daughter. She grew up fair and good. And then, one day, the priest told my wife that the girl was destined to a great future, and must enter a convent and consecrate herself to the Church. Caramba! I am not a Catholic––was never one! My parents were patriots, and both took part in the great war that gave liberty to this country. But they were liberal in thought; and I was never confirmed to the Church. Bien, the priest made my life a hell––my wife became estranged from me––and one day, returning from the Cauca, I found my house deserted. Wife and girl and the child’s nurse had gone down the river!”

The man’s face darkened, and hard lines drew around his mouth.

“They had taken my money chest, some thousands of pesos. I sought the priest. He laughed at me, and––Caramba! I struck him such a blow between his pig eyes that he lay senseless for hours!”

Josè glanced at the broad shoulders and the great knots of muscle on the man’s arms. He was of medium height, but with a frame of iron.

Bien, Señor Padre, I, too, fled wild and raving from Maganguey that night, and plunged into the jungle. Months later I drifted down the river, as far as Mompox. And there one day I chanced upon old Marcelena, the child’s nurse. Like a cayman I seized her and dragged her into an alley. She confessed that my wife and girl were living there––the wife had become housekeeper for a young priest––the girl was in the convent. Caramba! I hurled the woman to the ground and turned my back upon the city!”

Josè’s interest in the all too common recital received a sudden stimulus.

“Your daughter’s name, Don Jorge, was––”

“Maria, Señor Padre.”

“And––she would now be, how old, perhaps?”

“About twenty-two, I think.”

“Her appearance?”

“Fair––complexion light, like her mother’s. Maria was a beautiful child––and good as she was beautiful.”

“But––the child’s nurse remained with her?”

“Marcelena? Yes. She was devoted to the little Maria. The woman was old and ugly––but she loved the child.”

“Did you not inquire for them when you were in Mompox a few months ago?” pursued Josè eagerly.

“I made slight inquiry through the clerk in the office of 192 the Alcalde. I did not intend to––but I could not help it. Caramba! He made further inquiry, but said only that he was told they had long since gone down to Cartagena, and nothing had been heard from them.”

The gates of memory’s great reservoir opened at the touch of this man’s story, and Josè again lived through that moonlit night in Cartagena, when the little victim of Wenceslas breathed out her life of sorrow and shame in his arms. He heard again the sobs of Marcelena and the simple-minded Catalina. He saw again the figure of the compassionate Christ in the smoke that drifted past the window. And now the father of that wronged girl sat before him, wrapped in the tatters of a shredded happiness! Should he tell him? Should he say that he had cared for this man’s little grandson since his advent into this sense of existence that mortals call life? For there could be no doubt now that the little Maria was his daughter.

“Don Jorge,” he said, “you have suffered much. My heart bleeds for you. And yet––”

Na, Padre, there is nothing to do. Were I to find my family I could only slay them and the priests who came between us!”

“But, Don Jorge,” cried Josè in horror, “you surely meditate no such vengeance as that!”

The man smiled grimly. “Señor Padre,” he returned coldly, “I am Spanish. The blood of the old cavaliers flows in my veins. I have been betrayed, trapped, fooled, and my honored name has been foully soiled. What will remove the stain, think you? Blood––nothing else! Caramba! The priest of Maganguey who poured the first drop of poison into my wife’s too willing ears––Bien, I have said enough!”

Hombre! You don’t mean––”

“I mean, Señor Padre, that I drifted down the river, unseen, to Maganguey one night. I entered that priest’s house. He did not awake the next morning.”

“God!” exclaimed Josè, starting up.

Na, Padre, not God, but Satan! He rules this world.”

Josè sank back in his chair. Don Jorge leaned forward and laid a hand upon his knee. “My friend,” he said evenly, “you are young––how old, may I ask?”

“Twenty-seven,” murmured Josè.

Caramba! A child! Bien, you have much to learn. I took to you on the boat because I knew you had made a mess of things, and it was not entirely your fault. I have seen others like you. You are no more in the Church than I am. Now why do you stay here? Do I offend in asking?”


Josè hesitated. “I––I have––work here, señor,” he replied.

“True,” said Don Jorge, “a chance to do much for these poor people––if the odds are not too strong against you. But––are you working for them alone? Or––does Diego’s child figure in the case? No offense, I assure you––I have reason to ask.”

Josè sought to read his eyes. The man looked squarely into his own, and the priest found no deception in their black depths.

“I––señor, she cannot be Diego’s child––and I––I would save her!”

Don Jorge nodded his head. “Bien,” he said, “to-morrow I leave for San Lucas. I will return this way.”

After the evening meal the guaquero spread his petate upon the floor and disposed himself for the night. He stubbornly refused to accept the priest’s bed. “Caramba!” he muttered, after he had lain quiet for some time, “why does not the Church permit its clergy to marry, like civilized beings! Do you know, Señor Padre, I once met a woman in Bogotá and held some discussion with her on this topic. She said, as between a priest who had children, and a married minister, she would infinitely prefer the priest, because, as she put it, no matter how dissolute the priest, the sacraments from his hands would still retain their validity––but never from those of a married minister! Caramba! what can you do against such bigotry and awful narrowness, such dense ignorance! Cielo!”

The following morning, before sunrise, Don Jorge and his boatmen were on the lake, leaving Josè to meditate on the vivid experiences of the past few days, their strange mental origin, and the lesson which they brought.


“Padre dear,” said Carmen, “you know the question that we put under the altar of the old church? Well, God answered it, didn’t He?”

“I––why, I had forgotten it, child. What was it? You asked Him to tell us why the people thought they had to die, did you not? Well––and what was His answer?”

“Why, He told us that they were frightened to death, you know.”

“True, chiquita. Fear killed them––nothing else! They paid the penalty of death for believing that Feliz Gomez had slept on a bed where a man had died of the plague. They died because they––”


“Because they didn’t know that God was everywhere, Padre dear,” interrupted Carmen.

“Just so, chiquita. And that is why all people die. And yet,” he added sadly, “how are we going to make them know that He is everywhere?”

“Why, Padre dear, by showing them in our talk and our actions that we know it––by proving it, you know, just as we prove our problems in algebra.”

“Yes, poor Feliz, and Amado, and Guillermo died because they sinned,” he mused. “They broke the first Commandment by believing that there was another power than God. And that sin brought its inevitable wage, death. They ‘missed the mark,’ and sank into the oblivion of their false beliefs. God above! that I could keep my own mentality free from these same carnal beliefs, and so be a true missionary to suffering humanity! But you, Carmen, you are going to be such a missionary. And I believe,” he muttered through his set teeth, “that I am appointed to shield the girl until God is ready to send her forth! But what, oh, what will she do when she meets that world which lies beyond her little Simití?”

Rosendo had returned to Guamocó. “The deposit will not last much longer,” he said to Josè, shaking his head dubiously. “And then––”

“Why, then we will find another, Rosendo,” replied the priest optimistically.

“Ojalá!” exclaimed the old man, starting for the trail.

The day after Don Jorge’s departure the Alcalde returned. He stole shamefacedly through the streets and barricaded himself in his house. There he gave vent to his monumental wrath. He cruelly abused his long-suffering spouse, and ended by striking her across the face. After which he sat down and laboriously penned a long letter to Padre Diego, in which the names of Josè and Carmen figured plentifully.

For Don Jorge had met the Alcalde in Juncal, and had roundly jeered him for his cowardly flight. He cited Josè and Rosendo as examples of valor, and pointed out that the Alcalde greatly resembled a captain who fled at the smell of gunpowder. Don Mario swelled with indignation and shame. His spleen worked particularly against Rosendo and the priest. Come what might, it was time Diego and his superiors in Cartagena knew what was going on in the parish of Simití!

A few days later an unctuous letter came to Josè from Diego, requesting that Carmen be sent to him at once, as he now desired to place her in a convent and thus supplement the religious education which he was sure Josè had so well begun in her. The priest had scarcely read the letter when Don Mario appeared at the parish house.


Bien, Padre,” he began smoothly, but without concealing the malice which lurked beneath his oily words, “Padre Diego sends for the little Carmen, and bids me arrange to have her conveyed at once to Banco. I think Juan will take her down, is it not so?”

Josè looked him squarely in the eyes. “No, señor,” he said in a voice that trembled with agitation, “it is not so!”

“Hombre!” exclaimed Don Mario, swelling with suppressed rage. “You refuse to give Diego his own child?”

“No, señor, but I refuse to give him a child that is not his.”

Caramba! but she is––he has the proofs! And I shall send her to him this day!”

The Alcalde shrilled forth his rage like a ruffled parrot. Josè seized him by the shoulders and, turning him swiftly about, pushed him out into the road. He then entered the rear door of Rosendo’s house and bade Doña Maria keep the child close to her.

A few minutes later Fernando Perez appeared at Josè’s door. He was municipal clerk, secretary, and constable of Simití, all in one. He saluted the priest gravely, and demanded the body of the child Carmen, to be returned to her proper father.

Josè groaned inwardly. What could he do against the established authority?

Bien, Padre,” said Fernando, after delivering his message, “the hour is too late to send her down the river to-day. But deliver her to me, and she shall go down at daybreak.”

“Listen,” Josè pleaded desperately, “Fernando, leave her here to-night––this is sudden, you must acknowledge––she must have time to take leave of Doña Maria––and––”

Señor Padre, the Alcalde’s order is that she go with me now. I must obey.”

Josè felt his control oozing fast. Scarce knowing what he did, he quickly stepped back through the rear door, and going to Rosendo’s house, seized a large machete, with which he returned to face the constable.

“Look you, Fernando,” he cried, holding the weapon menacingly aloft, “if you lay a hand on that girl, I will scatter your brains through yonder plaza!”

“Caramba!” muttered the constable, falling back. “Bien,” he hastily added, “I will make this report to the Alcalde!” With which he beat an abrupt retreat.

Josè sank into a chair. But he hastily arose and went into Rosendo’s house. “Doña Maria!” he cried excitedly, “leave Carmen with me, and do you hurry through the town and see if Juan is here, and if Lázaro Ortiz has returned from the 196 hacienda. Bid them come to me at once, and bring their machetes!”

The woman set out on her errand. Josè seized his machete firmly in one hand, and with the other drew Carmen to him.

“What is it, Padre dear?” the child asked, her eyes big with wonder. “Why do you tremble? I wish you wouldn’t always go around thinking that two and two are seven!”

“Carmen, child––you do not understand––you are too young, and as yet you have had no experience with––with the world! You must trust me now!”

“I do not trust you, Padre,” she said sadly. “I can’t trust anybody who always sees things that are not so.”

“Carmen––you are in danger––and you do not comprehend––” cried the desperate man.

“I am not in danger––and I do understand––a great deal better than you do, Padre. Now let me go––you are afraid! People who are afraid die of the plague!” The irony of her words sank into his soul.

Juan looked in at the door. Josè rose hastily. “Did you meet Doña Maria?” he asked.

“No, señor,” the lad replied.

“She is searching for you––have you your machete?”

“Yes, Padre, I have just come back from the island, where I was cutting wood.”

“Good, then! Remain here with me. I need you––or may.”

He went to the door and looked eagerly down the street. “Ah!” he exclaimed with relief, “here come Doña Maria and Lázaro! Now, friends,” he began, when they were assembled before him, “grave danger threatens––”

“Padre!” It was Doña Maria’s voice. “Where is Carmen?”

Josè turned. The child had disappeared.

“Lázaro!” he cried, “go at once to the Boque trail! Let no one pass that way with Carmen, if your life be the penalty! Juan, hurry to the lake! If either of you see her, call loudly, and I will come! Doña Maria, start through the town! We must find her! God above, help us!”

The afternoon dragged its interminable length across the valley. Josè wearily entered his house and threw himself upon a chair. He had not dared call at the Alcalde’s house, for fear he might do that official violence. But he had seen Fernando in the street, and had avoided him. Then, of a sudden, a thought came to him from out the darkness. He sprang to his feet and hurried off toward the shales. There, beneath the stunted algarroba tree, sat the child.

“Carmen!” He rushed to her and clasped her in his arms. “Why did you do this––?”


“Padre,” she replied, when she could get her breath, “I had to come out here and try to know for you the things you ought to know for yourself.”

He said nothing; but, holding her hand tightly, he led her back to the house.

That evening Josè sent for Don Mario, the constable, and Juan and Lázaro. Assembling them before him in his living room, he talked with them long and earnestly.

Compadres,” he said, “this week we have passed through a sad experience, and the dark angel has robbed us of three of our beloved friends. Is it your wish that death again visit us?”

They looked at one another in wonder. The Alcalde scowled darkly at the priest beneath his heavy brows. Josè continued:

Bien, it is planned to seize the little Carmen by force, and send her down the river to Padre Diego––”

“Dios y diablo!” Juan had sprung to his feet. “Who says that, Padre?” he demanded savagely. The Alcalde shrank back in his chair.

“Be calm, Juan!” Josè replied. “Padre Diego sends for her by letter––is it not so, Don Mario?”

The latter grunted. Juan wheeled about and stared menacingly at the bulky official.

“Now, friends,” Josè pursued, “it has not been shown that Carmen belongs to Diego––in fact, all things point to the conclusion that she is not his child. My wish is to be just to all concerned. But shall we let the child go to him, knowing what manner of man he is, until it is proven beyond all doubt that he is her father?”

Caramba! No!” exclaimed Juan and Lázaro in unison.

“And I am of the opinion that the majority of our citizens would support us in the contention. What think you, friends?”

“Every man in Simití, Padre,” replied Lázaro earnestly.

“Don Mario,” said Josè, turning to the Alcalde, “until it is established that Diego has a parent’s claim to the girl, Juan and Lázaro and I will protect her with our lives. Is it not so, amigos?” addressing the two men.

Hombre! Let me see a hand laid upon her!” cried Juan rising.

Lázaro spoke more deliberately. “Padre,” he said. “I owe you much. I know you to be q good man––not like Padre Diego. I know not what claim he may have on the girl, but this I say: I will follow and support you until it is shown me that you are in the wrong.”

Josè went over and clasped his hand. Then, to the town officials:


Bien, amigos, we will let the matter rest thus, shall we not? We now understand one another. If harm comes to the child, the death angel will again stalk through this town, and––” he looked hard at Don Mario, whilst that official visibly shrank in size––“Bien,” he concluded, “a sharp watch will be kept over the child. We will submit to proofs––but to nothing less. And violence will bring bloodshed and death.”

“But––Caramba!” cried Don Mario, at last finding his voice. “If Diego has the Bishop back of him, he will force us to deliver the girl––or the Bishop will have the government soldiers sent here! I can ask for them––and if necessary I will!”

Josè paled slightly. He knew the Alcalde spoke truth. Don Mario, seeing that his words had taken effect, quickly followed up the advantage. “Now you, Juan and Lázaro, do you think the little whelp worth that?”

The words were scarcely out of his mouth when Juan leaped across the floor and fell upon him. Josè seized the lad and, with Fernando’s help, tore him loose. Lázaro held his machete aloft, ready to strike. Josè’s voice rang out sharply:

“Hold, men! Stop! Go you to your homes now! Juan, do you stay here with me!”

The lad faced the Alcalde and shook his fist. “Bien,” he sputtered, “send for the soldiers, fat dog that you are! But when I see them crossing the lake, I will come first to your house and cut open that big belly!”

“Arrest him, Fernando!” shrilled the Alcalde, shaking with rage.

“I will cut off the hand that is laid on Juan!” cried Lázaro, advancing.

“Men! Men! Don Mario and Fernando, go now! Enough of this! And for God’s sake think twice before you make any further move!”

Don Mario and his constable departed in sullen silence. Josè let Lázaro out through the rear door, while he bade Juan pass the night in the parish house. A consultation was held with Doña Maria, and it was arranged that Carmen should sleep in the room with Josè, with Juan lying before the door, until Rosendo should return from the mountains. Then Josè sat down and wrote to the Bishop.

No reply came from Cartagena until Rosendo returned at the end of the month. Meanwhile, Josè had never for a moment permitted Carmen to leave his side. The child chafed under the limitation; but Josè and Doña Maria were firm. Juan lived with the priest; and Lázaro lurked about the parish house like a shadow. The Alcalde and his constable remained discreetly aloof.


But with Rosendo’s return came letters from both Wenceslas and Diego. The latter had laid aside his unction, and now made a curt and peremptory demand upon Josè for the child. The letter from Wenceslas was noncommittal, stating only that he was quite uninformed of Diego’s claim, but that an investigation should be made. Josè wondered if he had blundered in laying the case before him.

“Hombre!” ejaculated Rosendo, when he heard Josè’s story. “It is as I feared! And now the Bishop has the matter in hand! Caramba! We shall lose her yet!

“And, Padre,” he added, “the deposit is played out. There is no more gold there. And, now that we shall have none to send to the Bishop each month, Carmen’s fate is settled––unless we go away. And where shall we go? We could not get out of the country.” He hung his head and sat in gloomy dejection.

For more than a year Rosendo had panned the isolated alluvial deposit, and on his regular monthly returns to Simití he and the priest had sent from thirty to ninety pesos gold to Wenceslas. To this Josè sometimes added small amounts collected from the people of Simití, which they had gratuitously given him for Masses and for the support of the parish. Wenceslas, knowing the feeble strength of the parish, was surprised, but discreet; and though he continually urged Josè to greater efforts, and held out the allurements of “indulgences and special dispensations,” he made no inquiries regarding the source of the monthly contributions.

For many days following, Rosendo and the priest went about as in a thick, black cloud. “Rosendo,” said Josè at length, “go back to the mountains and search again. God was with us before. Have we any reason to doubt Him now?”

“And leave Carmen here, exposed to the danger that always hangs over her? Caramba, no! I would not go back now even if the deposit were not worked out! No!” Josè knew it would be futile to urge him.

Carmen came to the priest that same day. “Padre, I heard you and padre Rosendo talking this morning. Have you no money, no gold?”

“Why, child––there seems to be a need just at present,” he replied lightly. “But we might––well, we might send another of your questions to God. What say you?”

“Of course!” she cried delightedly, turning at once and hurrying away for pencil and paper.

“Now,” she panted, seating herself at the table. “Let us see; we want Him to give us pesos, don’t we?”

“Yes––many––a large sum. Make it big,” he said facetiously.


“Well, you know, Padre dear,” she replied seriously, “we can’t ask for too much––for we already have everything, haven’t we? After all, we can only ask to see what we really already have.

“Say ‘yes,’ Padre dear,” she pleaded, looking up appealingly at him staring silently at her. Oh, if she could only impart to him even a little of her abundant faith! She had enough, and to spare!

“Well, here it is,” she said, holding out the paper.

He took it and read––“Dear, dear God: Padre Josè needs pesos––lots of them. What shall he do?”

“And now,” she continued, “shall we put it under the altar of the old church?”

He smiled; but immediately assumed an expression of great seriousness. “Why not in the church here, the one we are using? The other is so far away?” he suggested. “And it is getting dark now.”

“But––no, we will go where we went before,” she concluded firmly.

Again he yielded. Taking matches and a piece of candle, he set off with the girl in a circuitous route for the hill, which they gained unobserved. Within the musty old church he struck a light, and they climbed over the débris and to the rear of the crumbling altar.

“See!” she cried joyously. “Here is my other question that He answered! Doesn’t He answer them quick though! Why, it took only a day!”

She drew the old paper from beneath the adobe brick. Then she hesitated. “Let us put this question in a new place,” she said. “Look, up there, where the bricks have fallen out,” pointing to the part of the altar that had crumbled away.

Josè rose obediently to execute the commission. His thought was far off, even in Cartagena, where sat the powers that must be held quiet if his cherished plans were not to fail. He reached out and grasped one of the projecting bricks to steady himself. As he did so, the brick, which was loose, gave way with him, and he fell, almost across Carmen, followed by a shower of rubbish, as another portion of the old altar fell out.

“Hombre!” he ejaculated, picking himself up. “What good luck that the candle was not extinguished! And now, señorita, are you willing that we should bury this important question here on the floor; or must I again try to put it in the altar itself?”

“Up there,” insisted the child, laughing and still pointing above.

He rose and looked about, searching for a convenient place 201 to deposit the paper. Then something attracted his attention, something buried in the altar, but now exposed by the falling out of the fresh portion. It was metal, and it glittered in the feeble candle light. He reached in and hastily scraped away more of the hard mud. Then, trembling with suppressed excitement, he pulled out another brick. Clearly, it was a box that had been buried in there––who knows when? He gave the candle to Carmen and bade her stand up close. Then with both hands he carefully removed the adjacent bricks until the entire box was in view.

“Hombre!” he muttered. “What do you suppose this is? A box––”

“Oh!” exclaimed the girl in delight. “A box to put our question in, Padre!”

“More likely the answer itself, child!” muttered the excited priest, straining and tugging away at it. “Carmen! Stand aside!” he suddenly commanded. “Now––” He gave a final pull. A crash of falling bricks followed; the candle was extinguished; and both he and the child were precipitated to the floor.

“Carmen!” called the priest, choking with dust, “are you hurt?”

“No, Padre dear,” came the laughing answer through the darkness. “But I’m pretty full of dust. And the candle is buried.”

Josè groped about for the box. It lay near, a small, wooden coffer, bound about with two narrow bands of steel. He dragged it out and bore it down the aisle to the door, followed by Carmen.

“Padre!” she exclaimed eagerly. “What is it?”

He dusted it off and examined it carefully in the fast fading light. It was some twelve inches square by three deep, well made of mahogany, and secured by a small, iron padlock. On the top there was a crest of arms and the letters, “I de R,” burned into the wood.

Night had closed in, and the priest and girl made their way hurriedly back home by way of the lake, to avoid being seen. Under his cassock Josè carried the box, so heavy that it chafed the skin from his hip as they stumbled along.

“Carmen, say nothing––but tell your padre Rosendo to come to me at once!”

With the doors secured, and Carmen and Doña Maria standing guard outside to apprise them of danger, Josè and Rosendo covertly examined the discovery.

“I de R!” pondered Rosendo, studying the box. Then––“Caramba! Padre––Caramba! It is Ignacio de Rincón! Hombre! 202 And the crest––it is his! I have seen it before––years and years ago! Caramba! Caramba!” The old man danced about like a child.

“Ignacio de Rincón! Your grandfather!” he kept exclaiming, his eyes big as saucers. Then, hastening out to get his iron bar, he returned and with a blow broke the rusty padlock. Tearing open the hinged cover, he fell back with a loud cry.

Before their strained gaze, packed carefully in sawdust, lay several bars of yellow metal. Rosendo took them out with trembling hands and laid them upon the floor. “Gold, Padre, gold!” he muttered hoarsely. “Gold, buried by your grandfather! Caramba!––

“Hold these, Padre!” hurrying out and returning with a pair of homemade wooden balances. Again and again he carefully weighed the bars. Then he began to calculate. It seemed to Josè that the old man wasted hours arriving at a satisfactory result.

“Padre,” he finally announced in tones which he strove vainly to control, “there cannot be less than six thousand pesos oro here!”

Josè drew a long breath. “Six thousand pesos––twenty-four thousand francs! It is a fortune! Rosendo, we are rich!”

The trembling old man replaced the bars and carried them to Josè’s bed. The priest opened the door and called to Carmen.

“What was in the old box, Padre?” she asked happily, bounding into the room.

He stooped and picked her up, almost crushing her in his arms. “The answer to your question, chiquita. ‘Before they call I will answer: and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.’”


When Josè awoke the next morning he quickly put his hand under his pillow. Yes, the little coffer was there! It had not been a dream. He drew it forth and raised the cover. The yellow bars glittered in the morning rays sifting through the overhanging thatch at the window. He passed his hand gently across them. What a fortunate discovery! And how strangely brought about. They were rich! Now he could take Carmen and flee! His heart leaped within him as he hastily threw on his scant attire and went out into the balsamic air of the tropical morning. Rosendo had gone to the village of Boque, starting before sun-up, so Doña Maria announced. 203 Some sudden impulse had seized him, and he had set out forthwith, not stopping to discuss the motive with his faithful consort. Josè concluded his desayuno, and then summoned Carmen to the parish house for the day’s lessons. She came with a song on her lips.

“Don’t stop, chiquita! Sing it again––it is beautiful; and my soul drinks it in like heavenly dew!” he cried, as the child danced up to him and threw her plump arms about his neck.

She turned about and sat down on the dusty threshold and repeated the little song. The glittering sunlight streamed through her rich curls like stringers of wire gold. Cucumbra came fawning to her and nestled at her little bare feet, caressing them at frequent intervals with his rough tongue. Cantar-las-horas approached with dignified tread, and, stopping before his adored little mistress, cocked his head to one side and listened attentively, his beady eyes blinking in the dazzling light.

Josè marveled anew as he listened. Where had that voice come from? Had either of her parents been so gifted? he wondered. And yet, it was only the voicing of a soul of stainless purity––a conscience clear as the light that gilded her curls––a trust, a faith, a knowledge of immanent good, that manifested daily, hourly, in a tide of happiness whose far verge melted into the shore of eternity. As he sat with closed eyes the adobe hut, with its dirt floor and shabby furnishings, expanded into a castle, hung with richest tapestries, rarest pictures, and glittering with plate of gold. The familiar odors of garlic and saffron, which penetrated from the primitive kitchen of Doña Maria, were transmuted into delicate perfumes. The sun drew nearer, and suffused him with its glittering flood. The girl became a white-robed vision, and her song a benediction, voicing “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of good will.”

The song ended, and left the thought with him: “To men of good will?” Yes, to men of God’s will––the will that is good––to men of sound mind––that mind which was in Christ Jesus––the mind that knows no evil! To such is eternal peace.

Chiquita,” the priest said gently, when the girl returned to him. “Your question was quickly answered yesterday, was it not?”

She laughed up into his face. “It was answered, Padre, before we asked it. God has the answers to all questions that could ever be asked. We would always know the answers if we thought the way He does.”

“But––tell me, chiquita, do you think He put that little box up there in the altar purposely for us?”


“No, Padre––I guess it was hidden there by some man, long ago, who was afraid he would lose it. And since he was afraid he would lose it, why––he did, for now we have it.”

“Yes, the thing that he greatly feared came upon him. But what is your idea regarding the way we happened to find it? Did God lead us to it?”

“God leads to everything good, Padre dear,” was the simple response.

“Of course. But, in this particular case––would we have been led to the little box if you had not asked your question of God?”

“Why not, Padre? People are always led right when they think right.”

“And so thinking right was the cause of this discovery, was it?” he pursued, relentlessly probing her thought to its depths.

“Why––yes, Padre––of course. We had to have money––you said so, you know. And you told me to ask for lots of pesos. Well, we both knew that God had already given us more pesos than we could ever know what to do with––He always does. He just can’t help giving Himself to everybody. And He gave Himself to us––why, we have always had Him! We are in Him, you know. And when anybody just knows that––why, he sees nothing but good everywhere, and he always has all that he needs.”

“All that he wants, you mean, chiquita?”

“No, Padre, not all that he wants. Just all that he needs. You might want all the gold in the world––but you wouldn’t need it.”

“No, that would be only a selfish, human want. It would be covetousness. But––you still think we were led right to the little box, do you?”

“I know it, Padre dear,” she replied emphatically. “When we think good, we see good. It always comes out that way. It is just as sure as getting the right answers to my problems in algebra when I think right about them.”

“And thinking right about them means using the right rule, does it not?”

“Yes––of course. If I didn’t use the right rule––why, what sort of answers would I get? All jumbled up!”

“Surely––perfect chaos. But still,” vigorously pursuing the subject, “you don’t think we happened upon the little box just by good luck?”

“Padre,” she shook her curls insistently, “things never happen, never! We see only what we think––always!”

“Yes, there surely does seem to be a definite law of cause and effect. But you did not think gold yesterday, chiquita.”


“Oh, Padre dear, what a bother you are! No, I didn’t think gold yesterday. I never think gold. But I always think good. And that is gold and everything else that we need. Can’t you see? And it wasn’t just because I thought good yesterday, but because I think good every day, that I saw the gold. It was because we needed it, and God had already given us all that we needed. And I knew that it just had to come. And so did you. Then, because we really needed it, and knew that it was right and that it must come––well, it did. Can’t you see?” Her little face was very serious as she looked up appealingly into his.

“Yes, chiquita, yes, I see. I just wanted to know how you would explain it. It becomes clearer to me every day that there are no such things as miracles––never were! Christ Jesus never performed miracles, if by that we mean that he set aside God’s laws for the benefit of mankind. But he acted in perfect accord with those laws––and no wonder the results seemed miraculous to dull-witted human minds, who had always seen only their coarse, material thought externalized in material laws and objects, in chance, mixed good and evil, and a God of human characteristics!”

“Yes––I––guess so, Padre dear––only, I don’t understand your big words.”

“Ah, chiquita, you understand far, far better than I do! Why, I am learning it all from you! But come, now for the lessons.”

And Josè had learned by this time, too, that between merely recognizing righteousness as right-thinking, and actually practicing it––putting it to the test so as to “prove” God––there is a vast difference. Things cannot be “thought” into existence, nor evils “thought” away––the stumbling block of the mere tyro in the study of mental cause and effect. A vast development in spirituality must precede those “signs following” before mankind shall again do the works of the Master. Josè knew this; and he bowed in humble submission, praying for daily light.

At dusk Rosendo returned. “Bien, Padre, I have it now, I think!” he cried excitedly, pacing back and forth in the little room.

“What, Rosendo?” asked the wondering priest.

“The secret of the little box! Come, while we eat I will tell you!”

The little group gathered about the table, while Rosendo unfolded his theory.

“I went to Boque this morning to talk with Doña Lucia. She is very aged, the oldest inhabitant in these parts. Bien, I 206 knew that she had known Don Ignacio, although she was not his slave. Her story brought back to me also the things my father had often told me about Don Ignacio’s last trip to Simití. Putting all these things together, I think I now know how the little box came to be hidden in the altar of the old church.”

The old man’s eyes sparkled with happiness, while his auditors drew closer about him to drink in his dramatic recital. For Rosendo, like a true Latin, reveled in a wonder-tale. And his recitals were always accompanied by profuse gesticulation and wonderful facial expressions and much rolling of the eyes.

Bien,” he continued, “it was this way. Don Ignacio’s possessions in Guamocó were enormous, and in the then prosperous city of Simití he had stores and warehouses and much property. When the War of Independence neared its end, and he saw that the Royalist cause was lost, he made a last and flying trip to Simití, going up the Magdalena river from Cartagena in his own champán, propelled by some of his still faithful slaves.

Bien, he found that one of his foremen had just returned from the mountains with the final clean-up from La Libertad arrastras. These had been abandoned, for most of the slaves had deserted, or gone to fight the Spaniards. But the foreman, who was not a slave, but a faithful employe, had cleaned up the arrastras and hidden the amalgam until he could find a favorable opportunity to come down to Simití with it.

“Now, when Don Ignacio arrived here, he found the town practically deserted. So he and the foreman retorted the amalgam and melted the gold into bars. But, just as they had completed their task, a messenger came flying to town and reported that a body of Royalist soldiers were at Badillo, and that they had learned that Simití was the bodega of the rich Guamocó district, and were preparing to come over and sack the town. They were fleeing down the river to the coast, to get away to Spain as soon as possible, but had put off at Badillo to come over here. Fortunately, they had become very intoxicated, and their expedition was for that reason delayed.

Bueno, at the news the foreman dropped everything and fled for his life. A few people gathered with the priest in the Rincón church, the one you are using now, Padre. The priest of the other old church on the hill fled. Caramba, but he was a coward––and he got well paid for it, too! But of that later.

“Don Ignacio’s champán was at Badillo, and he had come across to Simití by canoe. Bien, he dared not take this gold back with him; and so he thought of hiding it in one of the churches, for that is always a sacred place. There were people in his own church, and so he hurried to the one on the hill. Evidently, as he looked about in the deserted building for a 207 place to hide the bars, he saw that some of the bricks could easily be removed from the rear of the altar. A couple of hours sufficed to do the work of secreting the box. Then he fled across the shales to the town of Boque, where he got a canoe to take him down to the Magdalena; and there he waited until he saw the soldiers come across and enter the caño. Then he fled to Badillo. Don Nicolás, son of Doña Lucia, was his boatman, and he says that he remained with your grandfather at that place over night, and that there they received the report that the Royalists had been terribly whipped in the battle––the battle of––Caramba! I forget––”

“Of Ayacucho,” suggested Josè.

“Just so,” resumed Rosendo. “Bien, there was nothing for the poor man to do but hasten down the river to Cartagena as fast as possible, for he knew not what might have befallen his family. He did not dare go back to Simití then for the box. And so the gold was left in the altar.”

“Hombre!” exclaimed Josè. “Now I understand what he meant by that note in his old diary, which we had in my father’s house, in Spain! Of course! Arriving in Cartagena he went at once to the Department of Mines and tore out all the pages of the register that contained descriptions of his mineral properties. He intended some day to return to Guamocó and again locate them. And meantime, he protected himself by destroying all the registered locations. It was easy for him to do this, influential as he was in Cartagena. And doubtless at that stormy time the office of the Department of Mines was deserted. This note, Rosendo, I have read in his old diary, many times, but never knew to what it referred.”

“Hombre!” ejaculated Rosendo. “Bueno, the soldiers sacked Simití and slaughtered all the people they could find. Then they set fire to the town, and left. My parents had fled to Guamocó.

“But now for the old church and the picture of the Virgin that was lost during the terrible storm when the priest fell dead. We will have to guess that later, when peace had been restored, the priest of the old church in prying around the altar discovered the loose bricks and the box behind them. Bueno, the night of the awful storm he had gone secretly to the church to remove the box. I remember that my father said the priest had arranged for my father to take him down to Bodega Central the very next day. You see, he was going to flee with the gold, the rogue! Bien, while he was in the church taking out the loose bricks, that storm broke––and, from what I remember, it was terrible! The heavens were ablaze with lightning; the thunder roared like cannon; and the lake rose right out of its 208 bed! Caramba! The door of the church crashed open, and the wind whistled in and blew out the candles on the altar. The wind also tore loose a beautiful picture of the Virgin that was hanging near the altar. The picture was blown out of its frame and swept off to the hills, or into the lake. It was never seen again, although the frame was found just outside the door. Perhaps it was the extinguishing of the candles and the falling of the picture that frightened the old priest so terribly. At any rate he ran from the church to his house, and when he reached his door he fell dead of apoplexy.

Bueno, after that you could never get any of the Simití people to enter the church again. They closed the doors and left it, just as it was, for they thought the curse of God had fallen upon it because it had been erected by the enemies of the Rincón family, whose patron saint was the blessed Virgin herself. Well, the old altar began to crumble, and parts of it fell away from time to time. And when the people heard the bricks falling they said it was the bad angel that the Virgin had locked in there––the angel of Satan that had extinguished the candles on the altar that night of the storm. Caramba! And I believed it, too! I am a fool, Padre, a fool!”

“We are all fools, Rosendo, when we yield ourselves to superstition and false belief,” said Josè solemnly. “But you have worked out a very ingenious story, and I doubt not you have come very near to accounting in the right way for the presence of the little box in the altar. But now, amigo, come with me to my house. I would discuss a plan with you.

“It is this, Rosendo,” he said, when they were alone. “We now have gold, and the way has been providentially opened. Carmen is in great danger here. What say you, shall we take her and leave Simití?”

Rosendo’s face became grave. He did not reply for some moments.

“Padre,” he said at length, “you are right. It would be best for her if we could get her away. But––you would have to leave the country. I see now that neither she nor you would be safe anywhere in Colombia if you left Simití.”

“True, Rosendo,” replied Josè. “And I am sure that no country offers the asylum that America does––the America of the north. I have never been there, amigo; but of all countries I learn that it is the most tolerant in matters religious. And it offers the greatest opportunities to one, like Carmen, just entering upon life. We will go there. And, Rosendo, prepare yourself and Doña Maria at once, for we had best start without delay.”

But Rosendo shook his head. “No, Padre,” he said slowly. 209 “No. I could not go to the North with you; nor could Maria.”

“But, Rosendo!” exclaimed the priest impatiently, “why?”

Bien, Padre, we are old. And we know not the language of those up there. Nor the customs. We could not adapt ourselves to their ways of life––no, not at our age. Nor could we endure the change of climate. You tell me they have cold, ice, snow, up there. What could we do? We would die. No, we must remain here. But––” his voice choked.

Bien, Padre, do you go, and take the girl. Bring her up to be a power for good in that great land. We––Maria and I––will remain in Simití. It is not permitted that we should ever leave. This has always been our home, and here we will die.”

Josè exclaimed again in impatience. But the old man was immovable.

“No, Padre, we could not make so great a change. Anywhere in Colombia would be but little different from Simití. But up north––in that great country where they do those wonderful things you have told me about––no, Padre, Maria and I could not make so great a change.

“But, Padre,” he continued, “what will you do––leave the Church? Or will you still be a priest up there?”

The question startled Josè rudely. In the great joy which the discovery of the gold had stimulated, and in the thought of the possibilities opened by it, he had given no heed to his status respecting the Church. Yet, if he remained in the Church, he could not make this transfer without the approval of the Vatican. And that, he well knew, could not be obtained. No, if he went, he must leave behind all ecclesiastical ties. And with them, doubtless, the ties which still bound him to his distant mother and the family whose honored name he bore. It was not so easy a matter to take the girl and leave Simití, now that he gave the project further consideration.

And yet he could not abandon the idea, however great his present sense of disappointment. He would cling to it as an ideal, some day to be realized, and to be worked up to as rapidly as might be, without exciting suspicion, and without abruptly severing the ties which, on serious reflection, he found he was not morally strong enough as yet to break.

Bien, Rosendo,” he concluded in chastened tones. “We will think it over, and try to devise ways to accomplish the greatest good for the child. I shall remain here for the present.”

Rosendo’s face beamed with joy. “The way will be shown us some time, Padre!” he exclaimed. “And while we wait, we will keep our eyes open, no?”

Yes, Josè would keep his eyes open and his heart receptive. 210 After all, as he meditated the situation in the quiet of his little cottage that evening, he was not sorry that circumstances kept him longer in Simití. For he had long been meditating a plan, and the distraction incident upon a complete change of environment certainly would delay, if not entirely defeat, its consummation. He had planned to translate his Testament anew, in the light of various works on Bible criticism which the explorer had mentioned, and which the possession of the newly discovered gold now made attainable. He had with him his Greek lexicon. He would now, in the freedom from interruption which Simití could and probably would afford for the ensuing few months, give himself up to his consecrated desire to extract from the sacred writings the spiritual meaning crystallized within them. The vivid experiences which had fallen to him in Simití had resulted in the evolution of ideas––radically at variance with the world’s materialistic thought, it is true––which he was learning to look upon as demonstrable truths. The Bible had slowly taken on a new meaning to him, a meaning far different from that set forth in the clumsy, awkward phrases and expressions into which the translators so frequently poured the wine of the spirit, and which, literally interpreted, have resulted in such violent controversies, such puerile ideas of God and His thought toward man, and such religious hatred and bigotry, bloodshed, suffering, and material stagnation throughout the so-called Christian era. He would approach the Gospels, not as books of almost undecipherable mystery, not as the biography of the blessed Virgin, but as containing the highest human interpretation of truth and its relation to mankind.

“I seek knowledge,” he repeated aloud, as he paced back and forth through his little living room at night; “but it is not a knowledge of Goethe, of Kant, or Shakespeare; it is not a knowledge of the poets, the scientists, the philosophers, all whom the world holds greatest in the realm of thought; it is a knowledge of Thee, my God, to know whom is life eternal! Men think they can know Homer, Plato, Confucius––and so they can. But they think they can not know Thee! And yet Thou art nearer to us than the air we breathe, for Thou art Life! What is there out in the world among the multifold interests of mankind that can equal in importance a demonstrable knowledge of Thee? Not the unproven theories and opinions, the so-called ‘authority’ of the ancient Fathers, good men though they may have been; not modern pseudo-science, half-truths and relative facts, saturated with materialism and founded on speculation and hypothesis; but real knowledge, a knowledge of Thee that is as demonstrable as the simplest rule in mathematics! 211 Alas! that men should be so mesmerized by their own beliefs as to say Thou canst not be known. Alas! for the burden which such thinkers as Spencer have laid upon the shoulders of stumbling