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The Virgin's Diamond






Category: IN THE CARIBBEAN

Source: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

Miguel Jose was a loving and dutiful son, but he could help the old
folks only a little. He had a heartache every time a letter came
from Leon, for he knew it held a request for money, and a private's
pay, which at best is small, is frequently nothing in a Spanish
regiment. Young Miguel had been on service in Havana for a couple of
years, and his parents had been growing steadily poorer. He could
hardly buy cigarettes. First it was a pig that was wanted at home;
then a better roof on the cottage; then a contribution for a new
altar in the village church; finally it was illness, and his mother
needed medicines and delicacies. How could he get money? The paymaster
had received none in months, he said, and even the officers were in
debt. His fellow-soldiers? No; they were as poorly off as he,--so he
could not borrow. He could not steal in the streets, for his uniform
would betray him. He was not allowed to accept work from civilians,
for that was against the army regulations. After dress-parade one
evening he went to a lonely place behind the barracks and cried. Then,
having leave of absence, he went to one of the churches and knelt for
a long time before the Virgin's shrine, imploring her, with moans and
tears, to give him some means of relieving his mother's distress. She
was a mother. She would understand. She would pity the sufferings
of others. There was no answer. He left the dark and empty building
tired and disheartened.

Next evening he returned, and for an hour and more he begged the
Virgin to bestow some material mercy on his mother. Looking up he was
startled, though delighted, to see that the statue of Mary was rolling
its glass eyes upon him, and tears stood in them. He bent to the floor,
overcome by his emotions. Then a light step sounded over the stones,
and, behold! the Virgin had left her pedestal and was regarding him
with kindness and pity in her face. Slowly she extended her hand. He
gazed with new astonishment, for this was the right hand, bearing
the famous diamond which had been placed upon it some years before
by a pious resident of Havana. It could not be that she intended
this treasure for him! Yes, she smiled and nodded assuringly. With
trembling fingers he withdrew the jewel, kissed the outreached hand,
stammered his thanks, and, hardly waiting till she had remounted her
pedestal, ran from the church.

There was in the city at that time one Senor Hyman Izaaks, whose
business--which a cruel law required him to follow in secret--was the
relief of pecuniary embarrassments, on security, and our soldier went
straightway to the office of that philanthropist, arriving breathless
but happy. Senor Izaaks advanced a larger sum on the diamond than
Jose had dared to hope for. He wrote a hasty letter, enclosing the
banknotes, and mailed it to his parents on that very night.

Next morning the sacristan of the church, who was making his
rounds and placing fresh candles on the altar, received a shock. The
Virgin's diamond was gone! The priests, the bishop, the governor, the
general, the police were notified, and there was a mighty coil. What
sacrilegious wretch had done this thing? Miguel had been seen to enter
the church on the previous night; therefore suspicion attached to
him. He was arrested and charged with the crime. To the astonishment
of all, he made no secret of it, though he protested against the word
"theft." He was proud to have been the recipient of kindness from
heaven, and he related, frankly and circumstantially, how he had
appealed to the Virgin, for what good purpose, how she had answered,
how Senor Izaaks had taken the stone and given him money for it. A
military court was ordered to try him, but it was puzzled to know
what to do with him. If the fellow were a common thief he deserved
more than prison: he merited the gallows and a quicklime burial,
for he had added sacrilege to robbery. But if he were a thief, why
did he confess so freely, and even glory in his sin? Then, too, if
it were the wish of the Virgin that he should receive this gift, by
what right did any civic or military body interfere, for would it not
be blasphemy to doubt or deny the designs of Providence? Was not the
accused soldier under the acknowledged protection of the Virgin? Would
she not visit with indignation, if she did not vigorously punish,
the attempt to set aside her benefits?

Truly, here was a pickle! The confession of the accused man had
enabled the police to secure the diamond,--which they did without any
formalities of payment to Senor Izaaks, to his unbounded grief,--and
the ring being restored to the finger of the statue, and the money
being on its way across the sea, and the soldier being entitled to
some part of it as back-pay, the court-martial at length resolved to
release Miguel Jose from arrest. It did so with the historic finding of
"Not guilty, but don't do it again."





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