There—you do not understand me. I trust that you will understand me some day. Meanwhile, I think—I only say I think—you know I told you how humble we must be whenever we speak of Lady Why—that we may guess at something like a good reason for the terrible earthquakes in South America. I do not wish to be hard upon poor people in great affliction: but I cannot help thinking that they have been doing for hundreds of years past something very like what the Bible calls “tempting God”—staking their property and their lives upon the chances of no earthquakes coming, while they ought to have known that an earthquake might come any day. They have fulfilled (and little thought I that it would be fulfilled so soon) the parable that I told you once, of the nation of the Do-as-you-likes, who lived careless and happy at the foot of the burning mountain, and would not be warned by the smoke that came out of the top, or by the slag and cinders which lay all about them; till the mountain blew up, and destroyed them miserably.
Then I think that they ought to have expected an earthquake.
Well—it is not for us to judge any one, especially if they live in a part of the world in which we have not been ourselves. But I think that we know, and that they ought to have known, enough about earthquakes to have been more prudent than they have been for many a year. At least we will hope that, though they would not learn their lesson till this year, they will learn it now, and will listen to the message which I think Madam How has brought them, spoken in a voice of thunder, and written in letters of flame.
And what is that?
My dear child, if the landlord of our house was in the habit of pulling the roof down upon our heads, and putting gunpowder under the foundations to blow us up, do you not think we should know what he meant, even though he never spoke a word? He would be very wrong in behaving so, of course: but one thing would be certain,—that he did not intend us to live in his house any longer if he could help it; and was giving us, in a very rough fashion, notice to quit. And so it seems to me that these poor Spanish Americans have received from the Landlord of all landlords, who can do no wrong, such a notice to quit as perhaps no people ever had before; which says to them in unmistakable words, “You must leave this country: or perish.” And I believe that that message, like all Lady Why’s messages, is at heart a merciful and loving one; that if these Spaniards would leave the western coast of Peru, and cross the Andes into the green forests of the eastern side of their own land, they might not only live free from earthquakes, but (if they would only be good and industrious) become a great, rich, and happy nation, instead of the idle, and useless, and I am afraid not over good, people which they have been. For in that eastern part of their own land God’s gifts are waiting for them, in a