The belle and the soldier.
Whoever has been in Havana, that strange and peculiar city, whose every association and belonging seem to bring to mind the period of centuries gone by, whose time-worn and moss-covered cathedrals appear to stand as grim records of the past, whose noble palaces and residences of the rich give token of the fact of its great wealth and extraordinary resources—whoever, we say, has been in this capital of Cuba, has of course visited its well-known and far-famed Tacon Paseo. It is here, just outside the city walls, in a beautiful tract of land, laid out in tempting walks, ornamented with the fragrant flowers of the tropics, and with statues and fountains innumerable, that the beauty and fashion of the town resort each afternoon to drive in their volantes, and to meet and greet each other.
It was on the afternoon subsequent to that of the accident recorded in the preceding chapter, that a young officer, off duty, might be seen partially reclining upon one of the broad seats that here and there line the foot-path of the circular drive in the Paseo. He possessed a fine manly figure, and was perhaps of twenty-four or five years of age, and clothed in the plain undress uniform of the Spanish army. His features were of that national and handsome cast that is peculiar to the full-blooded Castilian, and the pure olive of his complexion contrasted finely with a moustache and imperial as black as the dark flowing hair that fell from beneath his foraging cap. At the moment when we introduce him he was playing with a small, light walking-stick, with which he thrashed his boots most immoderately; but his thoughts were busy enough in another quarter, as any one might conjecture even at a single glance.
Suddenly his whole manner changed; he rose quickly to his feet, and lifting his cap gracefully, he saluted and acknowledged the particular notice of a lady who bent partially forward from a richly mounted volante drawn by as richly it caparisoned horse, and driven by as richly dressed a calesaro. The manner of the young officer from that moment was the very antipodes of what it had been a few moments before. A change seemed to have come over the spirit of his dream. His fine military figure became erect and dignified, and a slight indication of satisfied pride was just visible in the fine lines of his expressive lips. As he passed on his way, after a momentary pause, he met General Harero, who stiffly acknowledged his military salute, with anything but kindness expressed in the stern lines of his forbidding countenance. He even took some pains to scowl upon the young soldier as they passed each other.