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 September! Springtime! Buenos Aires with all the handsome trees of its avenues, its parks and open squares, and of its wide promenades along the river bank, was turning green as if by magic, offering to the delighted eye every conceivable shade of verdure. It was as though the hand of a great and invisible artist were retouching the somewhat faded picture Winter had turned over to him. He crushed under his swift brush the emerald of English lawns, spattered canary yellow on the shoots of young shrubs, with an impatient stroke of the knife scraped from the leaf fronds their velvety coverings of dull blue, burnt sienna and fawn, in order to freshen them up with aurora yellow, sepia, cobalt; poured out on the great parks all the chromes of his cosmic palate; rejuvenated the willows with ingenious splashes of those gamboge shades which remind one of fantastic tropical climes; and turned high noon into a glittering dream of gold. Oh, Springtime in Buenos Aires! Season of awakening grace and enchanting harmony, with nothing of the torpor of hot climates, the over-vivid colorings of the tropics, nor of the sluggishness of those lands where nature puts human energy to sleep through a long winter! Springtime in Buenos Aires! The air quivers with a dust of gold, which seems to float down from the brilliant sky, emanate from the trees, the flowers, and the grass, enveloping the buildings and transfiguring the human beings who pass through it. Springtime in Buenos Aires! But for Monsalvat the spring was a season of sadness. To him the light and color and sounds of the reinvigorated city were meaningless. He noticed neither the satisfaction of the plants and grasses in the stir of life within them, nor the delight shining in the faces about him. He was alone in the Universe, a stranger to the world he lived in, for that world was now his enemy; a stranger also, through birth and station, to the world of those who are down-trodden, and oppressed. His mother dead, his sister lost, and that other woman in whom his new life had taken form, as yet unfound, he was alone. The friends of former times laughed at his ideas and ideals, said he had a new "pose," thought him crazy. What could he discuss with them except the trivial events of the social farce? They neither understood him nor wished to understand. He was utterly and irrevocably alone. If some one chanced to mention the beauty of the day, he answered—but to himself—"What is that to me?" What is there beyond our own sensations? Does even the material world exist save as our senses make us aware of it? And his sensations told him that there was nothing but sadness, grief, loneliness and gloom in all the human beings around him. The world was his own unhappy creation, the work of his agonized spirit. No, that Springtide was for him a time of bitterness.
All the while Nacha, with her somewhat ingenuous aspirations to a new kind of life was hiding at Mlle. Dupont's, Monsalvat had been searching for her. With Torres, he had sought her at Mme. Annette's toward the beginning of September, about a month before Nacha had gone there. He had been also to the house of Juanita Sanmartino, and the more recent disappointment of not finding Nacha there filled him with gloomy foreboding. Where was she? No one knew. Torres was certain she had not returned to her former means of livelihood; for in that case she would have appeared at one of these houses. It was Torres' theory that she was living with someone, perhaps some former friend, perhaps a recent chance acquaintance.
And Eugenia Monsalvat? No one could give him any clue to her whereabouts either. Had she changed her name? Was she dead? Or dragging out a wretched existence in the big city's underworld?
Towards the end of September, an appointment as second chief of staff in a department of the Ministry of Foreign Relations came to distract Monsalvat from his obsession of loneliness and failure. He began now to spend all his afternoons working at the Ministry. Some of his colleagues, who had heard the rumors current about Monsalvat's opinions and eccentricities, tried to make him talk, to force him to commit himself; but he maintained his reserve, and skillfully turned aside the indiscreet insinuations aimed at him.
On a certain morning of this same month, Monsalvat betook himself to his mother's former lodgings, for he thought it time to call upon the Morenos. Since the morning when he had suspected that Irene was in danger of falling in love with him, he had avoided seeing her. What might such a feeling on her part lead to? Yet, free as he was from other entanglements why should he not accept the affection of this pretty and passionate girl? She was experienced enough to know what she was doing—there would be no deception.... In his solitude, with no friend on all the wide horizon of his life, why run away from Irene?... But there was Nacha.... What though his search had been useless, and he had no news of her, nor any kind of assurance that she ever thought of him? No; he could not, now, permit himself to love another woman. He was bound as by a vow. Was he then in love with Nacha? One whole week he fought out the answer; called himself ridiculous, despised himself, tried to detach his thoughts from everything which might draw him towards her; it was of no avail. On the contrary, the more he thought of her the more he longed to find her. But he had not forgotten Irene. He did not go to see her; but he sent her money in amounts which to her family seemed enormous. Irene wrote to thank him and asked to be allowed to see him in his rooms if he would not come to call on her.
On this September afternoon Monsalvat found the entire Moreno family at home, to his relief; for he did not want to be alone with Irene.
"My Protector," exclaimed Moreno, at sight of him, "my Doctor, Savior of my accursed tribe, Light of Legal Science! Model of Generosity!"
Monsalvat protested at these eulogies and tried to escape from Moreno's determined embrace. His wife was laughing at her husband, and at the same time, crying, as she kissed Monsalvat's hand and pointed to the children.
"We cannot permit such modesty, Doctor. We are yours, entirely yours. To think that the whole Moreno family, and Moreno himself ... Quantum mutatus ab illo! as Cicero said. You see I do not forget my Latin! Culture, Doctor! I was a man of law once, I lived among books and historic cases—and now I am a pauper, a drunkard, a...."
Irene, standing in a corner of the room, covered her face, ashamed. From the moment Monsalvat had come into the room she had not moved, waiting for the avalanche of thanks she had foreseen, to pass. Monsalvat, as embarrassed as she by Moreno's words, finally made his way through the huddling children and held out his hand to her.
"The flower of my house!" exclaimed Moreno, adding in a melancholy tone, "Ah, if we were not so poor, I would give her to no one but a Prince—or—pardon me—to a Dr. Monsalvat, who is like a prince; for he is a Prince of Jurisprudence...."
Neither Monsalvat nor Irene were listening. Monsalvat had started when he felt Irene's burning hand in his, and saw her eyes, darkened with the passion that consumed her. He looked at her a moment and, not knowing what to say, turned to address Mo............
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