THROUGH the open window the air-steeped outdoors passed into his room, quietly enveloping him, stealing into his very thought. "How can a woman be in a hurry when the man does not hurry her? In those days love was, for him, still the eternal puzzle; for love, as he knew it, was a stranger to love as he divined it might be.
Esperanza, Julia, the sorry mess he had made of life, the years to come even now beginning to weigh down, to crush--they lost concreteness, diffused into formless melancholy. Alfredo is not very specific, but I understand Esperanza wants it to be next month." Carmen sighed impatiently. " Carmen returned, pinching off a worm with a careful, somewhat absent air. Sitting quietly in his room now, he could almost revive the restlessness of those days, the feeling of tumultuous haste, such as he knew so well in his boyhood when something beautiful was going on somewhere and he was trying to get there in time to see.
"That phase you were speaking of is natural enough for a beginning.
Besides, that, as I see it, was Alfredo's last race with escaping youth--" Carmen laughed aloud at the thought of her brother's perfect physical repose--almost indolence--disturbed in the role suggested by her father's figurative language. Few certainly would credit Alfredo Salazar with hot blood.
He had been eager to go "neighboring." He answered that he went home to work.
And, because he was not habitually untruthful, added, "Sometimes I go with Papa to Judge del Valle's." She dropped the topic."--with the consequence that Alfredo called her Miss del Valle throughout the evening.He was puzzled that she should smile with evident delight every time he addressed her thus. As it was, he was greatly embarrassed, and felt that he should explain.In the meantime, he became very much engaged to Esperanza. Men commit themselves when but half-meaning to do so, sacrificing possible future fullness of ecstasy to the craving for immediate excitement. "I supposed long-engaged people are like that; warm now, cool tomorrow. The very fact that an engagement has been allowed to prolong itself argues a certain placidity of temperament--or of affection--on the part of either, or both." Don Julian loved to philosophize.Greed--mortgaging the future--forcing the hand of Time, or of Fate. He was talking now with an evident relish in words, his resonant, very nasal voice toned down to monologue pitch.The tranquil murmur of conversation issued from the brick-tiled azotea where Don Julian and Carmen were busy puttering away among the rose pots. "Hurry, hurry, or you will miss it," someone had seemed to urge in his ears. Esperanza must be tired waiting." "She does not seem to be in much of a hurry either," Don Julian nasally commented, while his rose scissors busily snipped away. "What I mean is that at the beginning he was enthusiastic--flowers, serenades, notes, and things like that--" Alfredo remembered that period with a wonder not unmixed with shame. He could not understand those months of a great hunger that was not of the body nor yet of the mind, a craving that had seized on him one quiet night when the moon was abroad and under the dappled shadow of the trees in the plaza, man wooed maid. Was love a combination of circumstances, or sheer native capacity of soul?Under straight recalcitrant hair, a thin face with a satisfying breadth of forehead, slow, dreamer's eyes, and astonishing freshness of lips--indeed Alfredo Salazar's appearance betokened little of exuberant masculinity; rather a poet with wayward humor, a fastidious artist with keen, clear brain. He lingered a moment on the stone steps; then went down the path shaded by immature acacias, through the little tarred gate which he left swinging back and forth, now opening, now closing, on the gravel road bordered along the farther side by madre cacao hedge in tardy lavender bloom.The gravel road narrowed as it slanted up to the house on the hill, whose wide, open porches he could glimpse through the heat-shrivelled tamarinds in the Martinez yard. He has not had another love affair that I know of," she said with good-natured contempt. Or was the love that others told about a mere fabrication of perfervid imagination, an exaggeration of the commonplace, a glorification of insipid monotonies such as made up his love life?So he had avidly seized on the shadow of Love and deluded himself for a long while in the way of humanity from time immemorial. Greed--the desire to crowd into a moment all the enjoyment it will hold, to squeeze from the hour all the emotion it will yield.