A Young Man's Heart

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Authors: Cornell Woolrich
undid it again to allow himself the luxury of tying it a second time. It was perhaps on some such day as this that the habit of introspection first took hold of Blair. For everything he did to-day, no matter how trivial, he stood apart from and analyzed, constantly reminding himself that it was for the last time he did that one certain thing, at least in this setting of his early youth. It was as though he were a spectator, surveying the actions of another person, not himself.
    He entered the kitchen with his newly watered hair gleaming in the sunlight, the tips of his fingers thrust under his belt in what he felt sure must be a very dégagé manner, and announced,
    “To-night I go.”
    And the Spanish of it, in his own ears, had the infinite sadness only Spanish can have:
    “Esta noche me voy yo.”
    The old woman said, “He told us that already,” and Mariquita turned abruptly to leave the room. Blair mechanically accepted a cup of lacy chocolate and followed her with his eyes. The desire for breakfast and the wish to further dramatize himself in Mariquita’s sight conflicted for a moment.
    The old woman, with a shrewd glance at him sidewise, declared, “If you put it down, I won’t heat it again.”
    He remained to drink.
    Later, when he found her, she was in the kiosk near the Legation, sitting there with haunted eyes, stripping part of a vine of its leaves. He had come after her bent almost double, walking the baby before him by supporting it under the armpits.
    “Look what you left behind,” he said.
    “What do I care about that one,” she answered, “I will never see you again.”
    “Yes, in a very little while. It’s just for school.”
    “That’s what you say,” she answered sullenly. “Don’t try to pretend, I know better. You will stay there until you grow up. Your father doesn’t want you back.”
    “Who told you?”
    “You will stay there. You will never think of me. You will marry there. Then it will be over.”
    “Who told you?” he repeated, enjoying the sense of importance she gave him.
    He sat down beside her.
    “I will never marry anyone else, Mariquita. Mariquita, I will never love anyone else.”
    She turned to look at him with an expression of almost anguished pleasure on her face.
    “Until the end of your life?”
    “Until the end of my life.”
    She drew the oblivious baby toward her and put her arms about its neck, detaching a chain of small turquoise beads which lay hidden under its smock, ending in a diminutive agate cross. She held this out to him on the flat of her hand.
    “Touch it,” she said, “and promise.”
    His lighter hand covered her tawny palm for a moment, the cross pressed flat between the two of them, with the beads escaping in a bright blue loop over their wrists, like a subtle hidden manacle.
    “If you don’t keep your word,” she threatened vaguely, “something terrible will happen to you, you wait and see.”
    In the afternoon Blair packed, a matter that took five or ten minutes, throwing his few belongings into a venerable satchel that Giraldy had emptied and left standing in a corner for him. The old woman, come to look on, allowed him to finish and then got to her knees with a snarl of dissatisfaction, pulled everything out, and packed it over again.
    Giraldy was later than usual in returning home, and with six o’clock well past and the smells of lard and peppers that emanated from the kitchen momentarily increasing in strength, Blair began to worry that they would miss the train, an anxiety that would have been inconceivable to him a week or two earlier. He went to the door of the house several times to scan the street and see if his father was approaching.
    Finally Giraldy arrived, and with him in the carriage was the Reynaud girl, flushed with pleasure and toying with a carnation in her gloved hands, twirling it about on its stalk and beating time with it against her wrist, occasionally flirting it past her nostrils. It was evident that

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