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- Jane Cable - 40/52 -
"Jane, dear Jane, you must not feel that way!" he cried, as she started quickly away. "It's---" But she turned and motioned for him to cease. There were tears in her eyes. He stood stock still. "She's wonderful!" he said to himself, as she walked away. "Even now, I believe I could--Pshaw! It ought not to make any difference! If it wasn't for my family--What's in a name, anyway? A name---" He started to answer his own question, but halted abruptly, squared his shoulders and then with true Southern, military bearing strode away, murmuring:
"A name is something; yes, family is everything."
Jane went at once to Graydon. His great grey eyes smiled a glad welcome. She took his hand in hers and sat upon the ground beside him, watching his face until they were ready to resume the journey.
"Would it not be better if he were to die?" she found herself wondering, with strange inconstancy to her purpose. "Why could it not have been I instead of he? How hard it will be for us to live after this. Dear, dear Graydon, if--if I only were different from what I am."
Not a word of his father's conduct toward her, not a word of blame for the blow his father had struck. She held him to no account for the baseness of that father; only did she hold herself unfit to be his wife. All of the ignominy and shame fell to her lot, none to the well-born son of the traducer.
Fortune and strength went hand in hand for the uext two days and the famished, worn-out company came to the coast. The wounded men were half-delirious once more for lack of proper attention, and the hardships of travel. But the ill-wind had spent its force. Bray's instructions were to place his charges on board ship at San Fernando de Union, and then await further orders in the little coast town. It meant good-bye to Jane, and that meant more to him than, he was willing to admit, despite all that she had said to him. He went to her when the ship was ready to leave port.
"Good-bye!" he said. "I'm more grieved than I can tell you, because I believe you think I am a cad."
"Lieutenant Bray, a cad never would have helped me as you have helped me, in spite of yourself. Good-bye!"
He went out of her life in that moment.
There were vexatious delays, however, before sailings Almost at the last moment Jane was approached by Teresa Velasquez, now partly dressed as a Red Cross nurse. The Spanish girl was nervous and uneasy. Her dark eyes held two ever changing lights--one sombre, the other bright and piercing.
"I have decided to wait for the next ship," she announced briefly.
"You are not going with us?" cried Jane in surprise and distress. "What has happened?"
"It is impossible; I cannot go with you. Pray do not ask for my reason. Good-bye. Will you say good-bye to--to him for me?"
Jane was silent for a long time, studying the eyes of the Spanish girl.
"I think I understand," she said at last, taking Teresa's hands in hers.
"It is better that it be ended here," said Teresa, "I have endured it as long as I can. You have been good to me, and I want to say good-bye while there is love for you in my heart. I am afraid to stay near you--and him. Don't you see? I cannot go on in this way."
"Yes, yes, I know it is wrong, but how can I help it? I've loved him ever since I first saw him--saved his life." Jane was astounded. The thrust pierced her to the quick.
"Saved his life?"
"Yes, though he does not know it. It was when we were prisoners of the Filipinos. My poor brother was dying. From the convent Aguinaldo and his men were watching and directing the fight on the plaza. They paid no attention to me--a girl. The noise of the fighting men was terrible, and I climbed up to a window where I could see. Sudrenly, below me, I saw two men fighting apart from the struggling mass. In an instant it flashed through my mind that the Filipino was overpowering the other--was going to kill him. Although I hated them equally, there was something in the young soldier's face--I could not see him murdered. I seized a pistol that was lying near me and fired; the Filipino fell. In terror of the deed and fear of discovery, I ran to my brother. In a moment the Americans broke into the convent. You know the rest."
Jane was suffering the keenest pangs of jealousy, and asked, excitedly:
"You--you did that?"
"And finally, when I had learned to care for him and he was wounded, to have been denied the right of nursing him back to life--my place usurped by you. Surely, I have as much to be proud of as you and I love him a great deal more!"
"As much to be proud of---" Jane was saying, for the moment all the warmth gone from her voice, the flame from her cheeks; but her meaning could not have been understood by the other who proudly, defiantly tossed back her head. Beautiful indeed was this brown-skinned, black-eyed girl, as she stood there pleading her rights to an unrequited love--a heart already tenanted by another, and that other, the womam before her.
"Now, can you imagine," the girl went on, "how it has hurt me to see you caring for him, to see his eyes forever searching for you? No?" They were silent a moment. A wistful look was in her eyes now, and her voice unmistakably reconcilable when she resumed: "Ah, he was so good and true when I was alone with them--before you came! I pray God, now, that he may be well and that you may make him happy."
"Alas, I am afraid that can never be! You cannot understand, and I cannot explain."
"Your family objects because he is poor and a common soldier? Yes?" She laughed bitterly, a green light in her eyes. "If it were I, no one could keep me from belonging to him--I would---"
"Don't! Don't say it! You don't understand!" Jane reiterated.
"Dios, how I loved him! I would have gone through my whole life with him! He must have known it, too."
"He was true to me," said Jane, her figure straightening involuntarily, a new gleam in her eyes.
"Ah, you are lucky, senorita! I love you, and I could hate you so easily! Go! Go! Take him with you and give him life! Forget me as I shall forget you both!" And impulsively taking from round her neck an Agnus Dei which she was wearing, she placed it in Jane's hands, and added: "Give this to him, please, and do not forget to tell him that I sent good-bye and good luck."
Jane would have kissed her had not the blazing eyes of the other forbade. They merely clasped hands, and Teresa turned away.
"My uncle lives in Manila. He will take me to Maclrid. We cannot live here with these pigs of Americans about us," she said shortly. A moment later she was lost in the crowd.
Jane's heart was heavy when the ship moved away. Her eyes searched through the throng for the slight figure of the girl who had abandoned a lost cause.
"IF THEY DON'T KILL YOU"
Jane had been a nurse in the Red Cross society for a little more than six weeks. She was inexperienced but willing and there was such urgent need for nurses that the army accepted any and all who seemed capable of development under the training of experts. There had been tremendous opposition on the part of the Harbins, but in the end, finding her unalterably determined, the colonel permitted her to go out in the service. She was sent forth on the special expedition in the wake of Major March's forces, her secret desire being to be near Graydon Bansemer in event of his injury. She gave no heed to their protest that the name of Bansemer should be hateful to her; she ignored the ugly remarks of her aunt and the angry reproaches of the colonel. It was more the spirit of spite than any other motive which at last compelled him to accept the situation; he even went so far as to growl to his wife: "Cursed good riddance, that's what I say. I didn't want her to come in the first place."
But when, after a month, she brought Bansemer back to the city, wounded almost to death, the heart, of the soldier was touched. It was Colonel Harbin who wrestled with the hospital authorities and, after two or three days, had her installed regularly as a nurse for Bansemer, a concession not willingly granted. Those days were like years to her. She was thin and worn when she came down from the north, but she was haggard with anxiety and despair when the two days of suspense were ended.
Ethel Harbin was her ablest ally. This rather lawless young person laid aside the hearts with which she was toying and bent her every endeavour to the cause of romance. It was not long before every young officer in the city was more or less interested in the welfare of Graydon Bansemer. She threw a fine cloak of mystery about the "millionaire's son" and the great devotion of her cousin, The youth of the army followed Ethel to and from the hospital for days and days; without Ethel it is quite doubtful if anybody could have known what a monstrous important personage Private Bansemer really was.
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