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The Devotion of Enriquez
by [?]

I looked, and to my horror saw that Enriquez, possibly incited by the delicate gold eyeglasses of Miss Mannersley, had divested himself of his coat, and was winding the four handkerchiefs, tied together, picturesquely around his waist, preparatory to some new performance. I tried furtively to give him a warning look, but in vain.

“Isn’t he really too absurd for anything?” said Miss Mannersley, yet with a certain comfortable anticipation in her voice. “You know, I never saw anything like this before. I wouldn’t have believed such a creature could have existed.”

Even had I succeeded in warning him, I doubt if it would have been of any avail. For, seizing a guitar from one of the musicians, he struck a few chords, and suddenly began to zigzag into the center of the floor, swaying his body languishingly from side to side in time with the music and the pitch of a thin Spanish tenor. It was a gypsy love song. Possibly Miss Mannersley’s lingual accomplishments did not include a knowledge of Castilian, but she could not fail to see that the gestures and illustrative pantomime were addressed to her. Passionately assuring her that she was the most favored daughter of the Virgin, that her eyes were like votive tapers, and yet in the same breath accusing her of being a “brigand” and “assassin” in her attitude toward “his heart,” he balanced with quivering timidity toward her, threw an imaginary cloak in front of her neat boots as a carpet for her to tread on, and with a final astonishing pirouette and a languishing twang of his guitar, sank on one knee, and blew, with a rose, a kiss at her feet.

If I had been seriously angry with him before for his grotesque extravagance, I could have pitied him now for the young girl’s absolute unconsciousness of anything but his utter ludicrousness. The applause of dancers and bystanders was instantaneous and hearty; her only contribution to it was a slight parting of her thin red lips in a half-incredulous smile. In the silence that followed the applause, as Enriquez walked pantingly away, I heard her saying, half to herself, “Certainly a most extraordinary creature!” In my indignation I could not help turning suddenly upon her and looking straight into her eyes. They were brown, with that peculiar velvet opacity common to the pupils of nearsighted persons, and seemed to defy internal scrutiny. She only repeated carelessly, “Isn’t he?” and added: “Please see if you can find Jocasta. I suppose we ought to be going now; and I dare say he won’t be doing it again. Ah! there she is. Good gracious, child! what have you got there?”

It was Enriquez’ rose which Jocasta had picked up, and was timidly holding out toward her mistress.

“Heavens! I don’t want it. Keep it yourself.”

I walked with them to the door, as I did not fancy a certain glitter in the black eyes of the Senoritas Manuela and Pepita, who were watching her curiously. But I think she was as oblivious of this as she was of Enriquez’ particular attentions. As we reached the street I felt that I ought to say something more.

“You know,” I began casually, “that although those poor people meet here in this public way, their gathering is really quite a homely pastoral and a national custom; and these girls are all honest, hardworking peons or servants enjoying themselves in quite the old idyllic fashion.”

“Certainly,” said the young girl, half-abstractedly. “Of course it’s a Moorish dance, originally brought over, I suppose, by those old Andalusian immigrants two hundred years ago. It’s quite Arabic in its suggestions. I have got something like it in an old CANCIONERO I picked up at a bookstall in Boston. But,” she added, with a gasp of reminiscent satisfaction, “that’s not like HIM! Oh, no! HE is decidedly original. Heavens! yes.”