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Chapter 2


CHAPTER II - LETTER FROM ROUEN - TO GENERAL ALISON

My dear Brother-in-Law, - Please let me write again in Spanish, I
cannot trust my English, and I am aware, from what your brother
used to say, that army officers educated at the Military Academy of
the United States are taught our tongue.  It is as I told you in my
other letter:  both my poor sister and her husband, when they found
they could not recover, expressed the wish that you should have
their little Catherine - as knowing that you would presently be
retired from the army - rather than that she should remain with me,
who am broken in health, or go to your mother in California, whose
health is also frail.

You do not know the child, therefore I must tell you something
about her.  You will not be ashamed of her looks, for she is a copy
in little of her beautiful mother - and it is that Andalusian
beauty which is not surpassable, even in your country.  She has her
mother's charm and grace and good heart and sense of justice, and
she has her father's vivacity and cheerfulness and pluck and spirit
of enterprise, with the affectionate disposition and sincerity of
both parents.

My sister pined for her Spanish home all these years of exile; she
was always talking of Spain to the child, and tending and
nourishing the love of Spain in the little thing's heart as a
precious flower; and she died happy in the knowledge that the
fruitage of her patriotic labors was as rich as even she could
desire.

Cathy is a sufficiently good little scholar, for her nine years;
her mother taught her Spanish herself, and kept it always fresh
upon her ear and her tongue by hardly ever speaking with her in any
other tongue; her father was her English teacher, and talked with
her in that language almost exclusively; French has been her
everyday speech for more than seven years among her playmates here;
she has a good working use of governess - German and Italian.  It
is true that there is always a faint foreign fragrance about her
speech, no matter what language she is talking, but it is only just
noticeable, nothing more, and is rather a charm than a mar, I
think.  In the ordinary child-studies Cathy is neither before nor
behind the average child of nine, I should say.  But I can say this
for her:  in love for her friends and in high-mindedness and good-
heartedness she has not many equals, and in my opinion no
superiors.  And I beg of you, let her have her way with the dumb
animals - they are her worship.  It is an inheritance from her
mother.  She knows but little of cruelties and oppressions - keep
them from her sight if you can.  She would flare up at them and
make trouble, in her small but quite decided and resolute way; for
she has a character of her own, and lacks neither promptness nor
initiative.  Sometimes her judgment is at fault, but I think her
intentions are always right.  Once when she was a little creature
of three or four years she suddenly brought her tiny foot down upon
the floor in an apparent outbreak of indignation, then fetched it a
backward wipe, and stooped down to examine the result.  Her mother
said:

"Why, what is it, child?  What has stirred you so?"

"Mamma, the big ant was trying to kill the little one."

"And so you protected the little one."

"Yes, manure, because he had no friend, and I wouldn't let the big
one kill him."

"But you have killed them both."

Cathy was distressed, and her lip trembled.  She picked up the
remains and laid them upon her palm, and said:

"Poor little anty, I'm so sorry; and I didn't mean to kill you, but
there wasn't any other way to save you, it was such a hurry."

She is a dear and sweet little lady, and when she goes it will give
me a sore heart.  But she will be happy with you, and if your heart
is old and tired, give it into her keeping; she will make it young
again, she will refresh it, she will make it sing.  Be good to her,
for all our sakes!

My exile will soon be over now.  As soon as I am a little stronger
I shall see my Spain again; and that will make me young again!

MERCEDES.


Mark Twain

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