The whole country is in chaos. There is no work—nothing but suspicion, hatred, and violence. Oh, what desolation this war has wrought! Esteban has already become a guerrillero. He has stolen a cow, and so we have milk for our coffee; but there is only a handful of coffee left, and little hope of more. Marauding bands of Spaniards are everywhere, and the country people tell atrocious tales about them. How will it end? How long before they will discover us and the worst will happen?
Soon after our arrival Esteban went to the camp of Colonel Lopez to arrange for us to join his army, but returned heart-broken. It was impossible, it seems, on my account. Conditions with the patriots are worse than with us here, and the colonel acknowledged frankly that he could not be burdened with a woman in his command. So Esteban has given up for the present his dream of fighting, and devotes himself to protecting me. You see there is no sanctuary, no help but his right arm. The towns are in Spanish hands, the manigua is infested with lawless men, and there is no place in which to hide me. So I feel myself a burden. Esteban has plans to arm a band of his own. I am numb with dread of what it may lead to, for his hatred is centered upon Cueto, that false servant whose wickedness reduced us to this extremity. Esteban is so young and reckless. If only you were here to counsel him.
If only you were here—Oh, my dearest Juan! If only you were here--to take me in your arms and banish this ever constant terror at my heart. If only you were here to tell me that you love me still in spite of my misfortune. See! The tears are falling as I write. My eyes are dim, my fingers trace uncertain letters on the sheet, and I can only steady them when I remember that you promised to return. You will return, will you not? I could not write like this if I were sure that you would read these lines. My nightly prayer--But I will not tell you of my prayers, for fate may guide this letter to you, after all, and the hearts of men do change. In those dark hours when my doubts arise I try to tell myself that you will surely come and search me out.
Sometimes I play a game with Evangelina—our only game. We gather wild flowers. We assort the few belongings that I managed to bring with me and I array myself for you. And then I smile and laugh for a little while, and she tells me I am beautiful enough to please you. But the flowers fade, and I know that beauty, too, will fade in such surroundings. What then? I ask myself.
When you return to Cuba—see, my faith is strong again—avoid Matanzas, for your own sake and mine. Don Mario wanted to marry me to save me this exile. But I refused; I told him I was pledged to you, and he was furious. He is powerful; he would balk you, and there is always room for one more in San Severino. Pancho Cueto, too, living in luxury upon the fruits of his crime, would certainly consider you a menace to his security. You see how cunning my love for you has made me?