DEAD STARS by Paz Marquez Benitez THROUGH the open window the air-steeped outdoors passed into

his room, quietly e nveloping him, stealing into his very thought. Esperanza, Julia, the sorry mess he had made of life, the years to come even now beginning to weigh down, to crus h--they lost concreteness, diffused into formless melancholy. The tranquil murmu r of conversation issued from the brick-tiled azotea where Don Julian and Carmen were busy puttering away among the rose pots. "Papa, and when will the 'long table' be set?" "I don't know yet. Alfredo is not very specific, but I understand Esperanza want s it to be next month." Carmen sighed impatiently. "Why is he not a bit more decided, I wonder. He is ov er thirty, is he not? And still a bachelor! Esperanza must be tired waiting." "She does not seem to be in much of a hurry either," Don Julian nasally commente d, while his rose scissors busily snipped away. "How can a woman be in a hurry when the man does not hurry her?" Carmen returned , pinching off a worm with a careful, somewhat absent air. "Papa, do you remembe r how much in love he was?" "In love? With whom?" "With Esperanza, of course. He has not had another love affair that I know of," she said with good-natured contempt. "What I mean is that at the beginning he wa s enthusiastic--flowers, serenades, notes, and things like that--" Alfredo remembered that period with a wonder not unmixed with shame. That was le ss than four years ago. He could not understand those months of a great hunger t hat was not of the body nor yet of the mind, a craving that had seized on him on e quiet night when the moon was abroad and under the dappled shadow of the trees in the plaza, man wooed maid. Was he being cheated by life? Love--he seemed to have missed it. Or was the love that others told about a mere fabrication of per fervid imagination, an exaggeration of the commonplace, a glorification of insip id monotonies such as made up his love life? Was love a combination of circumsta nces, or sheer native capacity of soul? In those days love was, for him, still t he eternal puzzle; for love, as he knew it, was a stranger to love as he divined it might be. Sitting quietly in his room now, he could almost revive the restlessness of thos e days, the feeling of tumultuous haste, such as he knew so well in his boyhood when something beautiful was going on somewhere and he was trying to get there i n time to see. "Hurry, hurry, or you will miss it," someone had seemed to urge i n his ears. So he had avidly seized on the shadow of Love and deluded himself fo r a long while in the way of humanity from time immemorial. In the meantime, he became very much engaged to Esperanza. Why would men so mismanage their lives? Greed, he thought, was what ruined so ma ny. Greed--the desire to crowd into a moment all the enjoyment it will hold, to squeeze from the hour all the emotion it will yield. Men commit themselves when but half-meaning to do so, sacrificing possible future fullness of ecstasy to th e craving for immediate excitement. Greed--mortgaging the future--forcing the ha nd of Time, or of Fate. "What do you think happened?" asked Carmen, pursuing her thought.

He was puzzled that she should smile with evident delight every time he addresse d her thus. a judge's good will. Even his friends had amusedly diagnosed his blood as cool and thin. A v ery dignified rather austere name. Under st raight recalcitrant hair. "Bes ides. a s he had supposed. dreamer's eyes. he moved with an indolent ease that verged on grace. as I see it. "A little mental relaxation now and then is beneficial. ya se conocen?"--with the consequence that Alfredo call ed her Miss del Valle throughout the evening. Few certainly would credit Alfredo Salazar with hot blood. was Alfredo's last race with escaping yout h--" Carmen laughed aloud at the thought of her brother's perfect physical repose--al most indolence--disturbed in the role suggested by her father's figurative langu age. he thought. I think they are oftener cool than warm. on the g ravel road bordered along the farther side by madre cacao hedge in tardy lavende r bloom. through the little tarre d gate which he left swinging back and forth. then went down the path shaded by immature acacias. In the charac teristic Filipino way formal introductions had been omitted--the judge limiting himself to a casual "Ah. This particular evening however. that. but now-One evening he had gone "neighboring" with Don Julian. Besides. he did not even know her name. a rare enough occurrence. he had allowed himself to be persuaded. his resonant. To his apology."I supposed long-engaged people are like that. He rose and quietly went out of the house. He was talki ng now with an evident relish in words. Still. or both. he was greatly embarrassed. Later Don Julian informed him that she was not the Judge's sister. but his sister-in-law. He lingered a moment on the stone ste ps. slo w. you know. and that her name was Julia Salas. It was evident from the excitement of th e Judge's children that she was a recent and very welcome arrival. open porches he could glimpse through the heat-shrivelled tamarinds in the Marti nez yard. rather a poet with wayward humor. very nasal voice toned dow n to monologue pitch. and felt that he should e xplain. Tall and slender. warm now. Six weeks ago that house meant nothing to him save that it was the Martinez hous e." the old man had said. citing incontrovertible evidence. The very fact that an engagement has been allow ed to prolong itself argues a certain placidity of temperament--or of affection-on the part of either. now opening. cool tomorrow. Each time I was about to correct . rented and occupied by Judge del Valle and his family. a fastidious artist with keen. the young lady should have corrected him." Don Julian loved to philosophize. and astonishing freshness of lips--indeed Alfredo Salazar's a ppearance betokened little of exuberant masculinity. "A last spurt of hot blood. she replied. since he made it a point to avoid all appearance of currying favor with the Jud ge. As it was. Six weeks ago Julia Sa las meant nothing to him. whose wide. A young woman had met them at the door. clear brain. The gravel road narrowed as it slanted up to the house on the hill. "That phase you were speaking of is natural enough for a b eginning. "That is nothing. now closing." the rest of the thought--"is worth a risin g young lawyer's trouble"--Don Julian conveyed through a shrug and a smile that derided his own worldly wisdom." finished the old man. a thin face with a satisfying breadth of forehead.

" "As you did this time. I have found out. of course. quiet March hours--sped by. if he were engaged. Manalang. with wide brown eyes. If a man were married. "The best thing to do under the circumstances. clearly defined eyebrows. because he was not habitually untrut hful." He answered that he went home to work. but she was much darker. father and son would go crunching up the gravel r oad to the house on the hill. why. th e young man rose from his seat and said suddenly. He had been eager to go "neighbori ng." she pursued." "Oh. he could not possibly love another woman . Esperanza was not prone to indulge in unprovoked jealousi es. Esperanza had wanted to know if he went straight home after mass. On Sunday mornings after mass. but my name is Man alang. She was a believer in the regenerative virtue of institutions. After the tenth time or so. " is to pretend not to hear. I never forgave him!" He laughed with her. whi ch Don Julian enjoyed and Alfredo did not." She dropped the topic." he drawled out. and d elicately modeled hips--a pretty woman with the complexion of a baby and the exp ression of a likable cow. and wondered irrelevantly if Miss Sa las could sing. Still. were absorbed in a game of chess. She was small and plump. Only when Esperanza chanced to ask him i ndirectly about those visits did some uneasiness creep into his thoughts of the girl next door.' You know. then Alfredo and Julia Salas would go out to the porch to chat. The lone piano in the neighborhood alternately tinkled and banged away as the player's moods altered. After a half hour or so. and to let the other person find out his mistake with out help. vastly relieved. although Doña Adela was of a different type altogether . That half-lie told him what he had not admitted openly to himself. so he and Julia Salas had gone off to chat in the vine-covere d porch. He listened.you. He enjoyed talking with her and it was evident th at she liked his company. in their powe r to regulate feeling as well as conduct. The Judge's wife invariably offered them beer. that he was g . And. Julia was taller. not so obviously pretty. added. of a smooth rich brown with un derlying tones of crimson which heightened the impression she gave of abounding vitality. She had the same eyebrows and lips. he loved his wife. 'Pardon me. she had such a charming speaking voice. but I remembered a similar experience I had once before. "Sometimes I go with Papa to Judge del Valle's." Don Julian and his uncommunicative friend. The young man had tired of playing appreciative spectator and desultory conversationalist. yet what feeling there was between them was so undistu rbed that it seemed a matter of course. "A man named Manalang--I kept calling him Manalo. She sat in the low hammock and he in a rocking chair and the hours--war m. the Judge. Alfredo sudden ly realized that for several Sundays now he had not waited for Esperanza to come out of the church as he had been wont to do. you looked amused every time I--" "I was thinking of Mr. Manalang. He was mildly surprised to note from her appearance that she was unmistakably a sister of the Judge's wife. the chessboa rd would be brought out.

" "You have known me a few weeks. with such a willful shutting out of fact as asto unded him in his calmer moments. After the merienda. day by day. while an errant breeze strayed in from s omewhere." he had continued. bringing elusive." Was he becoming a poet. ." Those six weeks were now so swift--seeming in the memory. laughed. I n the darkness the fireflies glimmered. Don Julian invited the judge and his family to spend Sund ay afternoon at Tanda where he had a coconut plantation and a house on the beach . how Doña Adela's Dionisio was the most absentminded of men. yet had they been so d eep in the living. sometim es going out without his collar. She and Doña Adela spent most of the time indoors directing the preparation of the merienda and discussing th e likeable absurdities of their husbands--how Carmen's Vicente was so absorbed i n his farms that he would not even take time off to accompany her on this visit to her father. faraway sounds as of voices in a dream. his voice somewhat indistinct. away from the prying eyes of the world. Because neith er the past nor the future had relevance or meaning. convoyed by Julia Salas. Don Julian sauntered off with the judge to show him what a t hriving young coconut looked like--"plenty of leaves. upturned to the stars. close set. It was so easy to forget up there. "the road is too broad. Just before Holy Week. so ea sy and so poignantly sweet. "Up here I find--something--" He and Julia Salas stood looking out into the she quiet night. and he followed on. so charged with compelling power and sweetness. "that is so brief--" "Not in some. or is there a poet lurking in the heart of every man? "Down there. They were far down." "So long?" "I should like to. the sha dows around. so the mystery. Carmen also came with her four energetic children. walking at the edge of the water. "Mystery--" she answered lightly. "Amusement?" "No. he lived only the present. indistinctly outlined against the gray of the out-curving beach.iving Julia Salas something which he was not free to give. "Not in you." "I could study you all my life and still not find it. or with unmatched socks. he standing close to her. found unending entertainment in the r ippling sand left by the ebbing tide. woman-like. The beloved woman. lived it intensely." "Down there" beyond the ancient tamarinds lay the road. He realized that." quickly. enfolding. yet something that would not be denied beckoned imperiously. asking. too trodden by feet. youth--its spirit--" "Are you so old?" "And heart's desire. too barren of mystery. Sensing unwanted intensity. rich green"--wh ile the children.

It looks like home to me. "Do I seem especially industrious to you?" "If you are. as you say. you never look it. and calm. narrow. then smiled with frank pleasure. hasn't it?" Then. is the l ast time--we can visit. arched.Alfredo left his perch on the bamboo ladder of the house and followed. all the more compelling because it was an inner quality." "Like a carabao in a mud pool. she flushed. The lure was there. as a busy man ought to be. an achievement of the s pirit." he said with a questioning inflection. and of a piquant perverseness which is sauce to charm." "I used to think so too. "I wish that were true. except that we do not have such a lovely b each. of naturalness. The girl had grace. Here were her footsteps. "Very much. of a thoughtful." She smiled to herself." "Not perspiring or breathless. calm and placid. sunny temper. When he came up. of an alert vitality of mind and body . In the picture was something of eager freedom as of wings poised in flight. She waited. yet she had a tantalizing charm." There was a breeze from the water." she retorted perversely "Who? I?" "Oh. no!" "You said I am calm and placid." he said after a meditative pause." He noted an evasive quality in the answer. and whipped the tucked-up skirt around her straight. you will be too busy perhaps. "The afternoon has seemed very short. Her face was not notably pretty. I think. too unhurried. "This. . slender figure." "The last? Why?" "Oh. distinction. It blew the hair away from her forehead." "That is what I think." "But--" "Always unhurried. Shows how little we know ourselves. He laughed at himself for his black canvas footw ear which he removed forthwith and tossed high up on dry sand. "I hope you are enjoying this. "A man is happier if he is." It was strange to him that he could be wooing thus: with tone and look and cover t phrase.

" Then she turned serious. "I'll inquire about--" "What?" "The house of the prettiest girl in the town. less unrelated." ." she smiled teasingly. "Nothing? There is you. yet wit hal more distant. the sunlight lay on the dimming waters in a broad." "It must be ugly. bunut roofs with ferns growing on them. and sometimes squashes. at least. "No." "There is nothing to see--little crooked streets. until you are there." "It is." "Always?" Toward the west. There isn't even one American there!" "Well--Americans are rather essential to my entertainment. "I thought you. glinting str eamer of crimsoned gold. of course. of course you are right." "Oh." "Could I find that?" "If you don't ask for Miss del Valle. maybe." "Will you come? You will find it dull." "I will not go. It made her seem less detached." he averred slowly. "We live on Calle Luz. "Now. "Exactly." "There is where you will lose your way. as if that background claimed her and excluded him. Something is pretty when it pleases the eye--it is more than that when--" "If it saddens?" she interrupted hastily. would not say such things. that is not quite sincere. but emphatically." She laughed."I should like to see your home town." "Pretty--pretty--a foolish word! But there is none other more handy I did not me an that quite--" "Are you withdrawing the compliment?" "Re-enforcing it. a little street with trees." That was the background. me? But I am here.

encumbrances." "Can't I come to say good-bye?" "Oh. mistakes. shortening. They want me to spend Holy Week at home." II ALFREDO Salazar turned to the right where. Cam e too the young men in droves. She turned and looked into his face. of indolent drug stores and tailor shops. Don Julian's nasal summons came to them on the wind. old baggage. Alfredo gripped the soft hand so near his own. Flocking came the de vout with their long wax candles." "I know. of dingy shoe-repairing establish ments. "Good-bye. old things. heart of grass-grown plaza reposeful with trees. of ancient churc h and convento. but he heard her voice say very low. heart of old brick-roofed houses with quaint hand-and-ball knocker s on the door. older women in sober black skirts. now circled by swallows gliding in flight as smooth and soft as the afternoon itself."Why did you say this is the last time?" he asked quietly as they turned back. until it looked no more than a pool far away at the rim of the world. a peace that is not contentment but a cessatio n of tumult when all violence of feeling tones down to the wistful serenity of r egret. the voice of the bigg est of the church bells kept ringing its insistent summons. "Tomorrow. unwil ling to mar the hour. and a cluttered goldsmith's cubbyhole where a consumptive bent over a mag nifying lens. Into the quickly deepening twilight." "There is no time. "Home seems so far from here. but I want to. you don't need to!" "No. a vibrant quiet that affects t he senses as does solemn harmony. This is Elsewhere." She seemed to be waiting for him to speak. He walked close. elbowing each other under the talisay tree near t . This is almost like another life. young women in vivid apparel (for this was Hol y Thursday and the Lord was still alive). and yet strange enough." The end of an impossible dream! "When?" after a long silence. the road broadened and en tered the heart of the town--heart of Chinese stores sheltered under low-hung ro ofs. in her dark eyes a ghost of sunset s adness. At his touch. his hand sometimes touching hers for one whirling second." He said it lightly. the girl turned her face away. Stillness. "I am going home." The golden streamer was withdrawing. "That is why I said this is the last time." "Old things?" "Oh. farther on. I cannot get rid of the old things. I received a letter from Father and Mother yesterday.

" he said in a voice that w as both excited and troubled. Along the sti ll densely shadowed streets the young women with their rear guard of males loite red and. Soon a double row of lights emerged from the church and uncoiled down the length of the street like a huge jewelled band studded with glittering clusters where the saints' platforms were. whose voices now echoed from the arched ceiling. leaving Calle Real to those who lived farther out." Her tone told him that she had learned. yet had no place in the completed ordering of his life. and could not. where. at last. heirlooms from a day when grasspith wicks floating in coconut oil were the chief lighting devic e. The line kept moving on. "I had been thinking all this time that you had gone." she broke into his silence. "I wish to congratulate you. whitening the iron roofs and dimming the lanterns at the windows. Esperanza stiffened self-consciously." "Oh. The line moved on. he caught up with Julia Salas. The gaily decked rice-paper lanterns were again on display while from the windows of the older houses hung colored glass globes. As lawyer--and as lover--Alfredo had found that out long before. Her glance of abstracted devotion fell on him and came to a brief stop. Alfredo's slow blood began to beat violently.he church door. "Mr." The provincial docket had been cleared. took the longest way home. "For what?" . according to the old proverb. is the Judge going?" "Yes. tried to look unaware. Salazar. all processions end. and Esperanza would be expecting him in a littl e while: yet the thought did not hurry him as he said "Good evening" and fell in to step with the girl. A round orange moon. my sister asked me to stay until they are ready to go. "No. the woman tha t could cause violent commotion in his heart. steeped in incense and the acrid fumes of burning wax. It was past eight. wending its circuitous route away from the church and t hen back again. That was inevitable. and Judge del Valle had been assigned el sewhere. A girl was coming down the line--a girl that was striking. maybe. The crowd had dispersed into the side streets. irregularly. and with her the priest and the choir. Toward the end of the row of Chinese stores." rose lazily into a clear sky. Above the measured music rose the untutored voices o f the choir. and vividly alive. The bells rang the close of the procession. The sight of Esperanza and her mother sedately pacing behind Our Lady of Sorrows suddenly destroyed the illusion of continuity and broke up those lines of light into component individuals. "huge as a winnowing basket. Suddenly. At last Our Lady of Sorrows entered the church.

thoughtful manner. "Are weddings interesting to you?" he finally brought out quietly "When they are of friends. almost deta ched from personality." he said in his slow. Then you will?" "If you will ask me. a wish that. Yet what could he say that would not offen d? "I should have offered congratulations long before." she said. that all the bewilderments of the present were not. yes." she said with disdain. simply the old voice--cool." The gravel road lay before them. then you could understand a man wh o was in such a situation. "May is the month of happiness they say." . He listened not so much to what she said as to the nuances in her voice. flexible and vibrant." he replied briefly. but you know mere visitors a re slow about getting the news. I am just asking." she continued." "Then I will be there. Then it is foolish t o ask whether one will or will not. with what seemed to him a sh ade of irony. "They say. except that she had reverted to the formal tones of early acquaintance." he pursued when she did not answer. But there is a point where a thing escapes u s and rushes downward of its own weight. Perhaps not. There swept over the spirit of Alfredo Salazar a longing so kee n that it was pain."For your approaching wedding. at the road's end the lighted windows of the ho use on the hill. after a long pause. No revelation there. indifferently. suggesting potentialities of song." slowly. "did you ever have to choose b etween something you wanted to do and something you had to do?" "No!" "I thought maybe you had had that experience. dragging us along. Julita. and that this woman by his side were his long wedded w ife." "Would you come if I asked you?" "When is it going to be?" "May. because it no longer depends on him. "Julita. returning with him to the peace of home. "Is--is this man sure of what he should do?" "I don't know. He hear d nothing to enlighten him. "Would you come?" "Why not?" "No reason." Some explanation was due her. that house were his. surely." "You are fortunate. "Then I ask you.

Yet a feeble flutter of hope trembled in his mind though set against that hope were three years of engagement . goaded by a deep. accumulated exasperation. a woman past first bloom." "No." What had Calixta done? Homely. wha t of it?" The remark sounded ruder than he had intended." indifferently. He looked attentively at her where she sat on the sofa. und erstanding imperfectly. Esper anza the efficient. Living with a man to whom s he is not married--is that it? It may be wrong. and Esperanza herself--Esperanza waiting. perfect understanding between the parents. "She is not married to him. "But do you approve?" "Of what?" "What she did. Nanay practically brought her up. his own consci ence. Alfredo perceived." "My ideas?" he retorted. Esperanza no longer young. It had. she was always herself. "Oh. She was pursuing an indignant relation about something or other. what do I know? That is his p roblem after all. "All I say is that it is not necessarily wicked. Mr. middle-aged Calixta? "You are very positive about her badness. appraisingly. At a pause he drawled out to fill in the gap: "Well. Esperanza was alw ays positive. I did not know that your ideas were like that. on the street."But then why--why--" her muffled voice came. At home. nervously pitched v oice. She never surprised one with unexpected homeliness nor with startling reserves of beauty. a woman dressed with self-consciou s care. she should have thought of us. We never thought she would turn out bad. a woman distinctly not average. I am right. we are at the house. their note-carrier. in church. and with a kind of aversion which he tried to control. "Well?" He was suddenly impelled by a desire to disturb the unvexed orthodoxy of her min d. the literal-minded. light and clear of complexion. something about Calixta. Am I injuring anybody? N o? Then I am justified in my conscience. spare of arms and of br east. and again it may not. "Besides." "Why shouldn't it be? You talked like an--immoral man." Without lifting her eyes she quickly turned and walked away. Salazar. even elegance. "The only t est I wish to apply to conduct is the test of fairness. so he merely half-listened. She was one of those fortunate women who have the gift of uniformly acceptable a ppearance. with a slight convexity to thin throat." Esperanza insisted in her thin. the intensely acquisitive." . a very near wedding." he commented dryly. Had the final word been said? He wondered." "Doesn't it--interest you?" "Why must it? I--I have to say good-bye.

in time. no more stirring u p of emotions that got a man nowhere. of m y place. but he knows he must n ot heed the radiant beckoning." Her voice trembled. appalled by the passion in his voice. He was supposed to be in Sta. III AS Alfredo Salazar leaned against the boat rail to watch the evening settling ov er the lake."She has injured us. one does not dare--" "What do you mean?" she asked with repressed violence. diffidently. He had to find th at elusive old woman. She was ungrateful. That the search was leading him to that particular lake to wn which was Julia Salas' home should not disturb him unduly Yet he was disturbe d to a degree utterly out of proportion to the prosaicalness of his errand. f inds a certain restfulness in level paths made easy to his feet. "one trie s to be fair--according to his lights--but it is hard. He looks up som etimes from the valley where settles the dusk of evening. he had tried to be content and not to remember too much. he would cease even to look up. and the chill. I see and hear what p to keep from me. to find a man. Cruz whither the case of the People of the Philippine Islands vs. or was that a covert attack on Julia Salas? "Esperanza--" a desperate plea lay in his stumbling words. the lonesomeness. The last word had been said. Still. I am not blind." Did she mean by this irrelevant remark that he it was who had sought her. Maybe. He felt no rebellion: only the calm of capit ulation to what he recognized as irresistible forces of circumstance and of char acter. From his capacity of complete detachment h . "If you--suppose I--" Yet how could a mere man word such a plea? "If you mean you want to take back your word. I have never gone out of my way. The climb er of mountains who has known the back-break. Belina et al had kept him. if you are tired of--why don't you tell me you are tired of me?" she burst out in a storm of weeping that left him completely shamed and unnerved. and no doubt they are many in your eyes. "The trouble with you." he said hesitatingly. What would she say next? "Why don't you speak out frankly before it is too late? You need not think of me and of what people will say. or deaf. He had long realized that he could not forget Julia Salas. That inner tumult was no surprise to him. Esperanza. is that you are--" he stopped. "Whatever my shortcomings . as if merely thinking aloud. Alfredo was suffering as he could not remember ever having suffered before." The blood surged into his very eyes and to points of acute pain. But that is too easy. One would like to be fair to one's self first. no more struggles." Her voice was tight with resentment. What people will say--what will they not say? What don't they say when long engageme nts are broken almost on the eve of the wedding? "Yes. "Why do you get angry? ve been indifferent to erhaps some are trying his hearing sharpened I do not understand you at all! I think I know why you ha me lately. and there he would have b een if Brigida Samuy had not been so important to the defense. he wondered if Esperanza would attribute any significance to this t rip of his. He was not unhappy in his marriage. in the last eight years he had become used to such occasional storms. His life had simply ordered itself.

How peaceful the town was! Here and there a little tienda was still open. its di m light issuing forlornly through the single window which served as counter. Lights were springing into life on the shore. The presidente had left with Brigida Samuy--Tandang "Binday"--that noon for Santa Cruz. Peculiar hill inflections came to his ears from the crowd a ssembled to meet the boat--slow. Fro m a distance came the shrill voices of children playing games on the street--tub igan perhaps. always be free and alone. Just the n a voice shouted. or "hawk-and-chicken. lugubriously tolled from the bell tower. but immeasurably far away. a little up-til ted town nestling in the dark greenness of the groves. he was gentle. A snubcrested belfry stoo d beside the ancient church. he reflected. "but he could not write because we he ard that Tandang Binday was in San Antonio so we went there to find her. as sometimes they did. he reflected. and went down to the landing. and from that vantage he saw things and people around him as r emote and alien. he retreated into th e inner fastness. That must be the presidente. even tender. would. At such times did Esperanza f eel baffled and helpless. Alfredo. "Yes. It was too early to sleep: he would walk around the town. found the boat settled i nto a somnolent quiet. It was a policeman. There was a young moon which grew slowly luminous as the coral tints in the sky yielded to the darker blues of evening. He would sleep on board sin ce the boat would leave at four the next morning anyway. singing cadences. the women's chinelas making scraping sounds. She had not married --why? Faithfulness. the presidente! He. From where he stood he could not distinguish faces. so he had no way of knowing whether the presidente was there to meet him or not. So the presidente had r eceived his first letter? Alfredo did not know because that official had not sen t an answer. characteristic of the Laguna lake-shore speech. "Go and meet the abo gado and invite him to our house. "Is the abogado there? Abogado!" "What abogado?" someone irately asked. Eight o'clock. trailing a wake of long golden ripple s on the dark water. His heart beat faster as he picked his way to shore over the ra fts made fast to sundry piles driven into the water. The essential himself. beyond her reach. was not a conscious effort at regretful memor . but it was too bare to be inviting at that hour. but the wife had read it and said. On the outskirts the evening smudges glowed red thr ough the sinuous mists of smoke that rose and lost themselves in the purple shad ows of the hills. How would life seem now if he had married Julia Salas? Had he meant anything to her? That unforgettable red-and-gold afternoon in early April haunted him with a sense of incompleteness as restless as other unlaid ghosts." The thought of Julia Salas in that quiet pl ace filled him with a pitying sadness. he thought.e derived a strange solace." San Antonio was up in the hills! Good man. a tall pock-marked individual. That was the town. The vessel approached the landing quietly. Whe n claims encroached too insistently." Alfredo Salazar courteously declined the invitation. Señor Salazar's second letter had arrived late. It was not every day that one met with such willingness to he lp. A cot had been brought out and spread for him. must do something for him. the himself that had its bein g in the core of his thought." the policeman replied. as incidents that did not matter. An occasional couple sauntered by.

But Julia Salas had left t he window. He missed it. The girl must have noticed. An immense sadness as of loss invaded his spirit. The young moon had set. in a so ber. "Good evening. far-away sounds as of voices in a dream--at times moved him to an oddly irresistible impulse to listen as to an insistent. His vague plans had not included this. and where live on in unchanging freshness. She asked him about the home town. He could not take his eyes from h er face." he said. . about this and that." he answered with a feeling of painful constraint. looking thoughtfully into her fine dark eyes. yet seemingly still in their appointed places in the heavens. A few inquiries led him to a certain little tree-ceilinged street where the youn g moon wove indistinct filigrees of fight and shadow. still y midnight the cock's first call rose in tall. Did she still care? The answer to the question har dly interested him. not so eagerly alive. He sensed rather than saw her start of vivid surprise. someone came down stairs with a lighted candle to open the door. sitting opposite her. "Good evening. calling to her mother as she did so. though with a growing wonder that he should be there at all. "Won't you come up?" He considered. somewhat meditative tone.y. for her cheek darkened in a blush. Where else. It was something unvolitional. He conversed with increasing ease. What had she lost? Or was the loss his? He felt an impersonal curiosity creeping into his gaze. the dear. yet somet hing had gone. maybe a recurrent awareness of irreplaceabilit y. and from the uninviting cot he could see one half of a s tar-studded sky. After a while. soaring jets of sound. a vast homesickness for some i mmutable refuge of the heart far away where faded gardens bloom again. unfinished prayer. At last--he was shaking her hand. Calle Luz. So that was all over. raising his hat. Somehow or other. Why had he obstinately clung to that dream? So all these years--since when?--he had been seeing the light of dead stars. he had known that he would find her house because she would su rely be sitting at the window. She had not changed much--a little less slender. Oh! Are you in town?" "On some little business. Gently--was it experimentally?--he pressed her hand at parting. and in the cool. lon g extinguished. but his own felt undisturbed and emotionless. before bedtime on a moonlit night? Th e house was low and the light in the sala behind her threw her head into unmista kable relief. In the gardens the cotton tree threw its angular shadow athwart the low stone wall. Irrelevant trifles--a cool wind on his forehead. dead loves of vanished youth.