Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

A Case for Lombroso
by [?]

This story is to be about young Stayne and a girl named Cresencia Hromada, and it harks back to that fable of Aesop’s about the two jars. You remember that fable of Aesop’s about these jars. They were superlatively beautiful jars, and they were floating in a cistern. They made the discovery that so long as they kept apart they were safe—the moment they should come together they would break and fill and sink. Haec fabula docetand all the rest.

Young Stayne, when I knew him, before the time of this tale, was as fine a young fellow as you could find between two oceans. He was just out of Harvard, where he had obtained “Deturs” and very particular and especial credits. He had been one of the speakers in the Yale debate, had been vice president of the “Pudding,” and had even been taken on by the “Porcellian” in his senior year. You others who have been at Harvard will know just what all this means. Stayne was a “torrowbred” to his very boots. No man in San Francisco had more friends than he. He was not liked in the sense that a merely “popular” man is liked—he was liked because of his genuineness and his fine male strength and honesty and courage. Furthermore, he was well-looking, but that’s a detail.

Cresencia Hromada (as you may have very shrewdly suspected from her name) was Spanish, and belonged to that branch of the Hromadas whose original grant from the Spanish government was large enough to make three or four counties when the Gringoes dispossessed them. She was a rare one, was Cresencia—fair as Viking, with that fairness that is the mark of the oldest and purest Spanish blood known to the college of Heralds. It dates back to the time of the Ostrogoths, and beside it the Castillians are mushroom interlopers of yesterday. Miss Hromada’s dominant characteristic was her pride. She was proud of her name, proud of her family, proud of her beauty (which was a marvel), proud of her exclusiveness, proud even of her pride itself. Otherwise, she was blessed or cursed (whichever you will) with a temperament as delicately poised and as sensitive as goldsmith’s scales, nerves as tightly stretched and as responsive as the strings of a Stradivarius. The odours of certain flowers giddied her, she could see eight colours in the rainbow, a musical discord made her head ache upon the instant, and she could feel the spots on a playing card with her finger tips. I suppose this almost hysterical sensitiveness was morbid and unnatural. She had come of a family of unmixed blood, whose stock had never been replenished or strengthened by an alien cross. Her race was almost exhausted, its vitality low, and its temperament refined to the evaporation point. To-day Cresencia might have been called a degenerate.

One day, when she was about twenty-one or twenty-two, she heard Stayne’s name for the first time. Someone was telling someone else a story in which Stayne had shone with particular brilliancy, had donea thing especially generous, had sacrificed himself and concealed the fact. A little after Miss Hromada heard his name again, and heard it coupled with extravagant praise. Next she saw a picture of him, and his facepleased her. He was pointed out to her on the deck of a yacht, and it pleased her all the more. Afterthis a mutual friend, who knew them both, told her that Stayne was in love with her and spent his nights in devising ways and means to meet her. Then at last they met.

Cresencia came away from that meeting in a state of mystic exaltation, such as we are told sometimes comes upon nuns before the Stations of the Cross. As for young Stayne, he filled himself a pipe in our room and said to me:

“Ever met that Miss Hromada? Stunning girl and clever as they make ’em. I’m going to work it to get a bid to their place during the tournamant.”

He got his bid right enough about a month later, but in the meanwhile Things had happened. A very proud girl, such as Cresencia, rarely falls in love with any man, but when she does it is with a proud disregard of reticence and restraint that is splendid to see. Cresencia was too proud even to try to conceal her affection for young Stayne. In ten days she had all San Francisco, from Pacific Heights to Russian Hill, talking. On the eleventh San Francisco had them engaged. Next came the tournament and the house party at the Hromadas’ place that was to last a week.