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Chapter VI

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To the open chagrin of most of the gentlemen and the unexpected relief of some of her own sex, Maruja, after an evening of more than usual caprice and willfulness, retired early to her chamber. Here she beguiled Enriquita, a younger sister, to share her solitude for an hour, and with a new and charming melancholy presented her with mature counsel and some younger trinkets and adornments.

"Thou wilt find them but folly, 'Riquita; but thou art young, and wilt outgrow them as I have. I am sick of the Indian beads, everybody wears them; but they seem to suit thy complexion. Thou art not yet quite old enough for jewelry; but take thy choice of these." "'Ruja," replied Enriquita, eagerly, "surely thou wilt not give up this necklace of carved amber, that was brought thee from Manilla--it becomes thee so! Everybody says it. All the caballeros, Raymond and Victor, swear that it sets off thy beauty like nothing else." "When thou knowest men better," responded Maruja, in a deep voice, "thou wilt care less for what they say, and despise what they do. Besides, I wore it to-day--and--I hate it." "But what fan wilt thou keep thyself? The one of sandal-wood thou hadst to-day?" continued Enriquita, timidly eying the pretty things upon the table. "None," responded Maruja, didactically, "but the simplest, which I shall buy myself. Truly, it is time to set one's self against this extravagance. Girls think nothing of spending as much upon a fan as would buy a horse and saddle for a poor man." "But why so serious tonight, my sister?" said the little Enriquita, her eyes filling with ready tears. "It grieves me," responded Maruja, promptly, "to find thee, like the rest, giving thy soul up to the mere glitter of the world. However, go, child, take the heads, but leave the amber; it would make thee yellower than thou art; which the blessed Virgin forbid! Good-night!"

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She kissed her affectionately, and pushed her from the room. Nevertheless, after a moment's survey of her lonely chamber, she hastily slipped on a pale satin dressing-gown, and, darting across the passage, dashed into the bedroom of the youngest Miss Wilson, haled that sentimental brunette from her night toilet, dragged her into her own chamber, and, enwrapping her in a huge mantle of silk and gray fur, fed her with chocolates and chestnuts, and, reclining on her sympathetic shoulder, continued her arraignment of the world and its follies until nearly daybreak.

It was past noon when Maruja awoke, to find Faquita standing by her bedside with ill-concealed impatience.

"I ventured to awaken the Dona Maruja," she said, with vivacious alacrity, "for news! Terrible news! The American, Dr. West, is found dead this morning in the San Jose road!"

"Dr. West dead!" repeated Maruja, thoughtfully, but without emotion.

"Surely dead--very dead. He was thrown from his horse and dragged by the stirrups--how far, the Blessed Virgin only knows. But he is found dead--this Dr. West--his foot in the broken stirrup, his hand holding a piece of the bridle! I thought I would waken the Dona Maruja, that no one else should break it to the Dona Maria."

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