On entering his house, he was met in the hall by Dona Luisa, who told him that Lacour was waiting for him.
“Very good!” he responded gaily. “Let us see what our illustrious father-in-law has to say.”
His good wife was uneasy. She had felt alarmed without knowing exactly why at the senator’s solemn appearance; with that feminine instinct which perforates all masculine precautions, she surmised some hidden mission. She had noticed, too, that Rene and his father were talking together in a low tone, with repressed emotion.
Moved by an irresistible impulse, she hovered near the closed door, hoping to hear something definite. Her wait was not long.
Suddenly a cry . . . a groan . . . the groan that can come only from a body from which all vitality is escaping.
And Dona Luisa rushed in just in time to support her husband as he was falling to the floor.
The senator was excusing himself confusedly to the walls, the furniture, and turning his back in his agitation on the dismayed Rene, the only one who could have listened to him.
“He did not let me finish. . . . He guessed from the very first word. . . .”
Hearing the outcry, Chichi hastened in in time to see her father slipping from his wife’s arms to the sofa, and from there to the floor, with glassy, staring eyes, and foaming at the mouth.
From the luxurious rooms came forth the world-old cry, always the same from the humblest home to the highest and loneliest:—
“Oh, Julio! . . . Oh, my son, my son! . . .”
THE BURIAL FIELDS
The automobile was going slowly forward under the colorless sky of a winter morning.
In the distance, the earth’s surface seemed trembling with white, fluttering things resembling a band of butterflies poised on the furrows. On one of the fields the swarm was of great size, on others, it was broken into small groups.
As the machine approached these white butterflies, they seemed to be taking on other colors. One wing was turning blue, another flesh-colored. . . . They were little flags, by the hundreds, by the thousands which palpitated night and day, in the mild, sunny, morning breeze, in the damp drip of the dull mornings, in the biting cold of the interminable nights. The rains had washed and re-washed them, stealing away the most of their color. Some of the borders of the restless little strips were mildewed by the dampness while others were scorched by the sun, like insects which have just grazed the flames.
In the midst of the fluttering flags could be seen the black crosses of wood. On these were hanging dark kepis, red caps, and helmets topped with tufts of horsehair, slowly disintegrating and weeping atmospheric tears at every point.
“How many are dead!” sighed Don Marcelo’s voice from the automobile.