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Serenade in Mexico

ISSUE:  Autumn 1936

Mexico, for most casual American visitors, is a land to be seen, smelled, tasted. The barrier of the language and the briefness of the stay reduce such visitors to the common denominator of sense impressions. This has its advantages, for Mexico’s most vital message for the outsider is aesthetic. But to fit the taste of a mango, the color of a serape, the smell of open-air pig-grease kitchens, into an intelligible scheme of life; or to reconstruct from such details the patterns of social organization or the psychology of a whole people—this indeed requires a rare imagination.

This perhaps explains many romantic myths about the country. The visitor who has had no deeper founts of knowledge is always pleased when his favorite author pictures the Indian—and over eighty per cent of Mexico’s population is Indian or mixed—as a mysterious, taciturn soul, beyond the power of the Anglo-Saxon mind to fathom. As a matter of fact, he is a simple peasant being, far more understandable, his conduct more predictable, than is true of a leg-artist girl of the Vanities or a member of the New York Nation’s editorial board.

For me, thanks to fortunate training and experience, Mexico has been a land to be experienced in every possible form, not merely through sense impressions, There are many Mex-icos. And whatever my own capacities for observation, invariably I have seen a different Mexico according to my company. I have seen it through the eyes of Indians, anthropologists, ornithologists, school inspectors, tax collectors, generals, politicians, Armenian peddlers, priests, bandits, artists—respectable and unrespectable people of all sorts. On this occasion the Baron Szilard von Kluckhorn gave everything an entirely new flavor.

I do not know why a wandering European aristocrat but a short time in the country should have been able to provide any particular insight or experience, but perhaps precisely because he came from Old Europe with definitely formed criteria, he fitted into certain interstices of the local scene in a way that no American would.

He had both a superciliousness toward Mexico and a genial human acceptance of it. He was not supercilious as an Anierican is, because of relative lack of modern technical equipment and sanitation. Nor wits he at all impressed, as an American invariably is, by old churches and ruins. His own country has older, more magnificent churches, more ancient buildings, and things just as picturesque and beautiful. Nor was he shocked, as is an American, by class divisions and Indian poverty. What annoyed him far more were the uncouth local manners, the exaggerated affectations of Mexican politeness, and the shallowness of intellectual circles. But, having discovered all this, he was willing to accept all its life as a human being, in fact in far more democratic fashion than would most Americans troubled with feelings of race, rather than class, superiority. Perhaps this was also partly due to the fact that he had a little independent income and no specific purpose in life.

More likely it was because the Baron was an unusual, adventurous soul. He had the tall, erect bearing of his Prussian army training plus great physical sensitivity, a certain Teutonic melancholy overlaid with rigid discipline and coldblooded ruthlessness. Apparently his limited funds had made it impossible for him to function properly in his own high circles in Europe or to recoup his fortune there by marriage, for such chances were slim following the disasters of the War and the post-War period. He might, he thought vaguely at times, seek an American heiress, but basically the idea repelled him. He preferred, he had about decided, to follow the dictates of his own heart in everything and lay aside forever his old class inhibitions.

But he was, he told me over a gin and vermouth in Bach’s gay little basement bar, a ruined man, a man with an unalterable obsession that till now had held him in unbreakable chains. Now he was wandering over the face of the earth to forget that which had brought him poignant memories. I was not long in surmising that a woman plagued him. But the more he wandered, the more he remembered her. He would never be free and happy again until he could completely forget her.

“Trying to forget”—I put forth callow philosophy—”is the best way to remember. Recall the old adage, ‘A new nail drives out the old.’ “

He told me the story. He, a German Baron, of one of the proudest families in the land, had fallen in love with Brunhilda, a girl who excelled all other women, be sure of that, but who had the disgrace to be a Communist. To all his advances, she replied with scorn for his breeding, his birth, and his money, said that they were an insurmountable bar to their union. At bottom I judged he had rather liked the sensation of experiencing her open contempt for all that he had long been taught was superior. The more she spurned him, the more importunate he became. She told him that in no case could she marry; her heart was in the cause.

Still he persisted. One day she finally hinted that she might relent if he volunteered for a dangerous task. The Spartacist revolt was about to flare up. If he and two other men would assault a dangerous key outpost, a deed which meant inevitable death, her feelings toward him might change. He agreed at once.

All the night before the attack they were together. He left in the foggy dawn to go to his doom. His two companions were dying for the cause; he was dying for a woman.

At the crucial moment, just as the machine-gun fire swept over them, he tripped and fell. His two companions were blown to bits; he did not even scratch his hands. In the excitement, he escaped.

It broke up the romance completely. The girl upbraided him hotly. She, too, had made a sacrifice for him. His not dying had made her sacrifice all in vain. “Curious the way women reason,” lamented the Baron. And when the revolt finally collapsed, Brunhilda heaped all the blame on him, made him a symbol of the failure. It had failed precisely because he was not killed. She drove him from her side harshly. He realized further importunity was quite hopeless.

Since then he had visited nearly every country on the face of the globe, trying to forget her, and couldn’t. Here he was in Mexico, not a tourist, not as a man trying to make his home, but a disembodied soul suspended in the ether of his own grief.

The story may have been true. In any case it was true for him, the clue to his conduct.

Our friendship ripened. An omnivorous reader, he brought me books. Spengler became his great guide—”the most marvelous mind Europe has produced in a generation.” He was disappointed that I could not entirely share his enthusiasm.

Numbers of times I ran into him in the company of women —but always a different one. Out at the pyramids of Teoti-huacan, we clambered up the steep steps to the summit overlooking the checkerboard of maguey fields, with Freda, a winsome brooding Swedish girl, who believed ardently in theosophy and surveyed the universe with celestial blue eyes of calm conviction.

She was thrilled by the ferocious carved stone snake-heads of the Pyramid of the Serpent; she was thrilled by the carved hands in the dark passageways in the bowls of the Pyramid of the Sun; she was thrilled by the traces of ancient fresco—plumed ochre warriors in a frieze—near the Pyramid of the Moon. Everything corroborated her faith in her doctrines of Americanized mystic Orientalism.

“Think,” groaned the Baron when I was alone with him, “all of life she would be looking at snakes’ heads theoso-phically and I would be looking at them Spenglerishly with the proper mellowing of good wine and a consciousness of barbaric beauty interpreted in the light of the cyclic fatalism of human tragedy.”

“The difference,” I retorted, “does not seem so vast as the gulf between the ideas of you and Brunhilda.”

Apparently the real reason for his failure to appreciate Freda, as a certain amount of probing revealed, was the peculiarly perfect shape of Brunhilda’s chin and nose as compared to Freda’s. And soul—”Soul,” declaimed the Baron, “is something apart from the ideas or philosophies in which it may be clothed.”

Through the Xochimilco canals we floated in a native dugout with Helen, an American girl, who rose out of a green dress like a poised white lily, all grace and swank elegance, self-assurance, and enthusiasm. She was slim and aglow with health and sarcastically doubtful of the Baron’s good intentions.

“How is Helen?” I asked him several days later at the bull-fight. We had just settled back into our seats in the sombra, with a gasp of relief as Gaona whirled his red cape and self thrillingly out of the rush of the bull’s horns.

He shrugged. “She knows too much and too little.” His lips drooped. He held out his silver monogrammed cigarette case, with its baronial coat-of-arms, to me. “She is a very efficient little body, but lacking in subtlety, either intellectual or emotional.” From his prior account of Brunhilda, I had not been impressed that subtlety was one of her outstanding traits. But she was still “the obsession.”

In Amecameca, at the foot of the volcanoes, I discovered him sitting on a plaza bench with Mercedes, an Italian girl. She had a fluffy mass of black curls about a doll-like olive face. They were drinking in the beauty of the old plaza church and the snow-clad Sleeping Woman, the volcano towering there in the turquoise sky—through the duplicate frame of a triple arch and their own emotions. I tried not to disturb them, but the Baron spied me and presented me gravely to his latest find.

Her black eyes surveyed me critically, then softened in a quick friendly fashion. “Let us three,” she suggested, “have a glass of wine out of those little Mexican green glasses— over there at the open-air booth. It is chilly. The air is thin here in Amecameca.”

We touched glasses. Then she suggested, “Let us three climb up to the churches on the Sacremonte.” She gestured —a birdlike flutter of her hand—at the little hill behind the flat-roofed town. “From there we can watch the sunset on the volcanoes.”

I excused myself, and that was the last I ever saw of Mercedes. It seemed that she was “just a pool of muddied emotions.”

December 12, when all of Mexico celebrates Guadalupe day, I went with the Baron and Gretchen out to the little suburb, jammed with Indians and worshipers of every kind. Pilgrims had come from all over the land. Tehuantepec Indians were there in their bright red gold-embroidered blouses and ample lace headdresses. Otomi Indians camped over their cooking braziers in the plaza and side streets, whole families of them. The women’s bright striped skirts were wrapped in pleats about their loins. The men were in white “pajmas” and weatherbeaten straw hats.

Gretchen enjoyed it all. She was a German girl of Juno-esque lines, built like a Greek statue. Her ample white arms were like marble. She had both dignity and warmth.

A German girl, I thought, will do him good.

We wandered through the stalls with their heaps of green and red and black pottery, their dazzling piles of serapes, their painted-pig savings banks; we investigated the whole

» market, then went into the blue Mudejar chapel of the Holy Well and climbed up the zigzag stone path to the place where the Virgin is said to have appeared to the awe-stricken Indian Diego four centuries before. From there we could see the whole valley of Mexico, its glistening lakes, the tall towers of Mexico City, the brown fallow fields, the lofty snow-draped volcanoes. The Baron and Gretchen seemed tender and happy together. Already they adored each other. I was greatly relieved, for a man cannot go through life always with a pain in his heart and a bruised soul.

But at the Fronton the following night, the Baron seemed wholly intent on the rapid-fire jai alai game. He tucked a twenty-peso bill into the split tennis ball and tossed it back to the red-capped bookmaker. A few minutes later he walked out of the place two hundred pesos to the good.

“Lucky! Bah! You know the old saying.” He crunched a cigarette under heel and hailed a taxi. “You needn’t ask me,” he blazed out. “You know the way she would catch up her dress when she started to cross the street; well—Brunhilda used to do that,”

He bunched up in a corner of the taxi, his face ashen. “For me to drink,” he growled, “would only make things worse. To read—tonight that is impossible. The shows are closed. A cabaret—more damned women! What would you suggest?”

We sat in the corner of a little bar over very long glasses of beers and talked until three in the morning. I learned vividly the tragedy of a man who has no roots, no purpose in life, and a sufficient, though small, income.

I fear that I am making the Baron out as a petulant, self-indulgent ass, something of a bore. Nothing is further from the truth. He had character—at least people immediately obeyed him. He had a charm that won the lowest and the highest. He was brilliant and caustic, his mind replete with information. He understood people and life. I never spent a bored moment in his company.

These agreeable qualities made it all the more tragic to see him so utterly adrift, eating his heart out for a useless memory. Or was it all a genteel pose, an excuse for being a vagabond of sorts, a shield against the obligation to make something out of life? Whichever was true—men’s deeper motives are difficult to ascertain—one could not doubt that until his obsession for Brunhilda were broken, he would remain driftwood on the current of life.

Out in a little village on the flank of the Anahuac hills—a place of tilted stony flower-smothered lanes between little thatched or adobe houses—I remarked how contented, though poverty-stricken, the Indians seemed as they went about their fields.

“Don’t get sentimental,” he snapped. “That is well enough for them, not for us. We have been touched by the wand of knowledge. We know life’s futility. Ours is an inevitable cosmic despair. We cannot merely live and breed like animals.”

“They are happier.”

“Who wants to be happy. That is a weak or ignorant man’s refuge. I know very well that I am the dead end of a world that has come to a dead end, of a class that has no further usefulness on earth and can only exist in terms of senile greed. It had much better disappear. Once we served a social purpose just being cultured and elegant, guiding the state suavely, going off to battle when it was really necessary. But our day is done. We are just a dead weight in society. Our class is useless. We are useless, save a few who could change. And so I am a prey to my personal dilemma, a man now in the grip of just a memory, a scented beautiful memory more real than reality. Which means, as I told you long ago, I am a lost soul. But for that nostalgia of that romance, what would I be, how would I exist?” Behind the mockery of his words, I saw that he had analyzed himself far better than I could.

It was on my lips to say that as he saw his problem so clearly—but I realized in time this was a superfluous remark.

He called to an Indian at the door of a little hut. We turned in through the gate of a cactus fence.

The Indian patiently waited our approach. He was a study in brown and white, broad brown face, white shirt, and full white pantaloons. Thong sandals were on his bare feet. He laid down his broad straw sombrero on the stone at the doorway.

“Buenos dias, senores,” he said with gentle friendliness. “Buenos dias, caballero.”

“You are strangers here,” he said. “You are welcome.”

We chatted. The Baron asked him about his work, his fields, his family. The mysterious Indian—in ten minutes the Baron had made him his friend and slave and had laid bare the mainsprings of the man’s existence.

“What would you like to have most in the world if you could?” the Baron asked.

The Indian looked blank. “I need nothing, senor,” he said, spreading out his hands in a puzzled fashion.

The Baron went away laughing softly, a bit bitterly. “To want nothing! Happy man!” he muttered. “The curse of the world is wanting something. That which is far away seems good. That which is close at hand is scorned. The Indian back there has learned eternal wisdom. But has he?” The Baron stopped and meditatively pushed a stone off the path. “Has he? Human greed, greed of experience, of knowledge, of wealth, of love, of power—wanting things— ah, that wanting, that eternal wanting of things has made the world turn round. It caused the first monkey to stand on his legs and be a man. Wanting things—that is the difference between a stone and mankind. We would like the peace of not wanting, of not needing to want. But that is death, death for a man and a people.”

“Even that Indian wants something, though he spoke to the contrary.”

The Baron stopped in his tracks. “You are right. He wants the sunrise and the sunsets, the good rains, the good seed, the swelling bud, the blessings of Saint Anthony, children, the fiesta, good pulque. He wants things he can reasonably secure. He may even have dreams, but he couldn’t tell you so.”

“He works toward his dream, however limited, instead of merely watching it glimmer from afar. He has a means of functioning—”

“I know. I know,” the Baron interrupted brusquely.

He avoided me for three weeks—at least I thought he did. But when I saw him again, he was a different Baron. The sag had gone out of his cheeks, the veiled lusterless quality of his eyes had been replaced by a kindling glance. There was tone in his face and acts. He was alive.

“Who is she?” I demanded.

“At last—the new nail. No doubt this time. The only woman who has ever made me forget Brunhilda. She is a Mexican girl—oh, not like all these we see. Something rare and special.”

He dragged me straight to her house.

She was enough to turn any man’s head—slender, young, tender, obviously wealthy and of good breeding. She was apparently in part descended from the good Celts who immigrated into Spain before the dawn of history. She had smooth black hair drawn back from a wide forehead and a white, white skin, whiter than any woman’s skin I have ever seen, and from her face shone those great blue eyes. She carried herself with stately grace. Her bosom was high, her limbs long and flowing. Physically she matched the Baron well. I soon discovered she had poise, but also spriteliness, and had been educated in Europe.

As soon as I heard her name, Beatriz Baranquilla del Castillo, I knew she came from an old leading family, one now at outs with the newer Mexico of the revolution, which I thought might unfortunately drag the Baron back into his aristocratic preoccupations and prevent him from getting a grip on the soil of life again.

But there was no doubting the worthiness of his choice.

From then on I did not see much of him, except when I ran into him with Beatriz, of course properly chaperoned in good Mexican fashion—her little sister, her mother, her brother. At the time the Russian ballet came to town, I saw them in a box at the National Theatre, She was strikingly beautiful in her black and gold gown. They made a magnificent pair. I also saw them walking under the avocado trees and among the bright red berries of the coffee plants in the Borda gardens in Cuernavaca. Almost always they had tea in the blue-tiled room at Sanborn’s or went to Chapultepec Park and sat on the terrace watching sundown on the old castle and among the huge trees of the garden. They were at the German boat club in Xochimilco for the international regatta. She smiled at me, that slow sweet but animated way of hers, from under a white broad-brimmed flouncing hat. And I saw them dancing at the old convent, now San Angel Inn, out in the suburbs. Their names appeared in the social columns as guests at nearly every diplomatic reception.

The change in the Baron was even more marked when I met him one noon on Madero Street. He dragged me into Bach’s. Yes, he was going to marry her. It would settle everything. He would make his permanent home in Mexico. Oh, of course they would travel, a honeymoon to Germany and that sort of thing. He would take the opportunity to revive business connections, planned to go into the importing business. He saw all sorts of possibilities in Mexico now. He wanted to learn more about its history, its archaeology, its flora, lots of things. He even had his hobbies worked out.

I was greatly relieved. We all expected the engagement to be announced any day.

Three weeks later at eleven at night, my door bell rang. There stood the Baron, haggard, a fuming volcano of a man. He came in and slumped into a chair.

“I’m done. It’s no use. I’m going to blow my brains out —tonight.”

This, I saw, was no idle threat. His hand even seemed to go toward his overcoat pocket. He actually panted when he tried to talk. It was the first time I had ever seen him without that insouciant ironical protective mantle of his. All his culture, his intelligence, his brain were utterly useless at this particular moment. He was unbalanced. All his guards were down. He had been sliced back to the core of raw despair. “Yes, I shall blow my brains out,” he repeated.

I tried to bridge the shock by facetiousness, which must have jarred him exceedingly. “Spare my carpet, whatever you do. If you must commit the gory deed, at least let us seek a more appropriate and less embarrassing spot. What in hell has happened?”

“I have just left Beatriz at home. We were dancing a waltz at L’Escargot. I never felt closer to any woman than at that moment. We were perfectly attuned to each other in body and spirit. Then suddenly I felt something that was not attuned, some slight quiver of her body, something no one else in the world could have noticed. Human beings in love are super-sensitive. I realized that some other man at that very moment had made some vivid impression on her. It broke the intimate connection between us. Then she flashed a coquettish smile at another person.”

“Women are that way,” I said drily.

“Yes and at any other moment I might not have minded. There is little harm in such things. Beatriz is stunningly beautiful. All men are irresistibly attracted by her. Inevitable. Inevitable also that there should be some spark occasionally between her and some other man. There are little corners in every person which some one else besides the loved one can bring to the surface. Such corners should not remain dark and hidden. Her smile was natural, to be expected. At any other moment it would not have affected me. At that moment it was fatal.”

His tenseness eased away from him as he talked. I marveled that though so shaken he could analyze things so well. He continued:

“I asked her whom she was smiling at.

“She denied smiling. That infuriated me. ‘You are not telling me the truth,’ I blazed. Stopping in the middle of the dance, I led her back to our table. Her sister looked at me questioningly.

“Beatriz became suddenly petulant herself. ‘Yes, I suppose I was smiling. I had not realized it.’

” ‘Who is the gentleman?’ I saw a tall handsome looking bandit, the type every man knows to be a scoundrel, but to whom all women are immediately attracted.

” ‘I never saw him before in my life,’ she said, pulling a rose from the centerpiece to bits.

“She had deliberately flirted. I grew sullen. Once more we danced. Again she smiled at him, in part, I suppose, precisely because she had discovered that it tormented me.

“With a cold smile I twisted her arm cruelly. She cried out. I was glad to hurt her. She saw it, and her eyes filled with tears. At that moment I knew that all was forever over between us.”

“You are too hasty,” I protested. “Such an incident might arise between any two people of opposite sex. One cannot always attune one’s body and mind to another person, however beloved. A bit of tiredness or temporary perverseness, anything—”

“I know. I know. I have reasoned that ten thousand times between her door and here. But that moment, in that very instant, all was done. I led her back to the table, called for her wraps, took her home in silence and left her.”

“But tomorrow—”

“Not tomorrow, never—” he cried in an anguished tone. “I tell you it is all over, done, dead, buried except for the pain of it. The worst of it is, I think she is the most remarkable woman I ever met. But when Beatriz smiled at that scoundrel, Brunhilda suddenly looked over her shoulder. Brunhilda held me the exact moment when part of Beatriz abandoned me. Beatriz has had an invisible competitor all the time. I thought she had won. I wanted her to. But suddenly tonight, I didn’t want Beatriz any more. I don’t want her now. I won’t ever want her. I want only Brunhilda. It is not just a mood. I know myself. If I ever had any real love for Beatriz, it died. A smile killed it. A little careless smile.”

He dragged me out into the streets. I dared not leave him to his own devices. In a fever he dashed here, there, everywhere, to this and that center of diversion, high and low. “If you leave me, I’d surely end it all tonight,” he threatened.

Mostly we hit low dives. He seemed to get a sort of masochistic delight out of them. We went to a suburban dance hall, known to the police as “Bucket of Blood” because of the frequent killings there. It was a barn-like place with bright colored paper festoons, a Cuban orchestra, and benches around the; side crowded with frowsy looking girls and shabby men of the Indian or half-breed classes. A policeman frisked us at the door for guns, and inside the men danced with their hats on. I achieved considerable pleasure in seeing the fastidious Baron in such a plebeian setting. We went to a vividly painted dance hall in the tough Peravillo ward, also famed for its underworld violences. It had an orchestra high up in a little loft with a wooden railing, and gay leather upholstered side-booths, known in Mexico as “Pullmans.”

In the course of our peregrinations, we picked up a vagabond violinist whom the Baron added to our entourage with promises of great lucre. Under our praise and the many drinks we poured down his throat—he was the thirstiest man I have ever known—his genius unfolded like a pond lily in early spring. He grew inspired. He sawed furiously at his battered instrument. He sang sobbingly to all the world. He did not stop between places. He was going to earn his keep—there was not the slightest doubt of that.

Nowhere did we suffer any mishap. In the places where according to the story books we should have had our throats promptly cut, we were received with open arms. Everyone was gallant and generous. Everyone was profoundly touched by our solicitude for the ratty-looking violinist in his greenish coat, with its puffing elbows. The dance folk were scarcely deceived by the Baron’s grand manners, his flourishing presentation of our great maestro, whom he assured everyone was a worthy competitor of Kreisler and a long list of other famous violinists. The depraved folk in those dives heartily cheered our perspiring violinist, who twisted his pointed mustachios, rolled up his shining eyes, and wrung the blood out of his heart to prove himself worthy of our attentions.

I cannot remember that the Baron danced with any of the hostesses. One perky gay little thing in a yellow dress, a flaring glass-sparkling comb, and long bobbing earrings, perched on the side of our Pullman, and then retreated, perplexed by the Baron’s barrage of banter, perplexed and slightly sullen, not quite sure whether she had been insulted or not.

Nor did we outstay our welcome anywhere. The Baron flitted from cabaret to cabaret with the intense purposeful-ness with which he flitted from country to country—trying to forget the marvelous Brunhilda, and now also his new disappointment.

We ended up in the cold miserable dawn in the little plaza in front of the San Juan flower market. The three of us stretched out on the dewy grass, weary beyond words. The violinist, using his case for a pillow, dropped off at once into

loudly sonorous sleep. Dazedly we watched the Indian women, their blue shawls tight about their brown faces, bobbing about their business in the wan half-light. A goodly part of the night they had probably been trotting into town with their big loads of carnations and lilies and violets, but now they looked fresh and busy. They splattered water around with gusto to wash off their stalls and the sidewalks, and it filled the thin upland air with penetrating damp. Despite the matter-of-factness of those women, their world seemed wholly unreal, and the fresh fragrance of the flowers merely made a vague symphony of perfume from a realm of unbelievable fantasy.

But the Baron suddenly seemed, to become as fresh and alive as the Indian women. All his old control over himself seemed regained. He watched the market bustle with concentrated interest. “Look at those marvelous wreaths!” he exclaimed, pointing at the big floral funeral wheels, some eight feet across—purple and white flowers twined with black crepe.

“I have it,” he suddenly shouted. “An old Mexican custom. We must serenade the lady and take her a proper floral offering. A serenade. Have you ever been awakened out of profound slumber by sweet music? It is an ethereal sensation. Heaven cannot surpass it. The dulcet strains creep into your consciousness like a delicate perfume, like the slow flush of wine. Such music is like the caress of the hand of a lover. One smiles in one’s sleep. One stirs almost imperceptibly. One breathes deeply as though to inhale the sensation. One is drawn into day by fairy threads, a prisoner of pleasure and happiness. Do you remember how Wagner in exile and in poverty woke his wife on her birthday with music specially composed? Come. This is the witching hour.”

He shook the violinist awake. The latter groaned and shivered. His face was gray and shrunken. With his protruding teeth and funny mustache, he looked like a little muskrat. “Can you play mananitas, morning serenades,” demanded the Baron.

The violinist, plainly intoxicated, affected to be insulted by such a question. “Mananitas are my specialty.” Then he groaned again.

The Baron strode over to a market-stall and after dickering with the Indian woman, purchased a gigantic purple wreath, the largest in stock. We hailed a cab. The wreath was so big it had to be tied on top of the hood. With some effort we dumped the groggy violinist inside.

He slept again almost immediately as we joggled over the cobblestones on a short-cut street to the Colonia del Valle residential section. We drew up before Beatriz’ house.

We untied the wreath and propped it against the front door.

The violinist responded only partially to our shaking, but at last we managed to support him on either side—he was quite unable to stand alone—while he played and sang a mananita. Despite his condition he did fairly well. It was a sweet song.

He played and played. The light brightened to silver haze on the two snow-clad volcanoes behind which the sun was still hidden. Vapor was curling up from the gardens about. A milk-driver stopped his cart for a few minutes to watch us, then flicked his whip over his horse with a perplexed shake of his head.

Presently Beatriz opened one of the long upstairs balcony windows and leaned out in a silk dressing gown. She smiled and waved, then disappeared again. Her face was radiant. She apparently felt that the misunderstanding of the night before had been properly erased.

The Baron rang the front door bell and hurried back. We loaded our tipsy violinist into the car.

The Baron waited until the front door opened, knocking down the wreath. Then he ordered the car to speed away.

“Our love is dead. I have placed the proper wreath on the affair as a gentleman should do.”

Thoughtfully he took out his monogrammed case and lit his last cigarette, then handed the case to me. “I should like you to keep this case with my family crest on it—always— as a memento of tonight and of me,” he said gravely.

I looked at him alarmed. “You aren’t going to do something foolish!” I began.

He laughed. “My good friend, I died long ago. Suicide would be a foolish superfluous gesture. Have you ever heard of Geisha girls in Japan?” he asked. “I think I shall be leaving Mexico soon—very soon.”


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