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Castro shook his head. “Malediction on his green eyes! He baptizes the offspring of this vermin sometimes, and sits for hours in the shade before the door of Domingo's posada telling his beads as piously as a devil that had turned monk for the greater undoing of us Christians. These women crowd there to kiss his oily paw. What else they- Basta! Only I wanted to tell you, Señor, that this evening (I just come from taking a pasear that way) there is much talk in the villages of an evil-intentioned heretic that has introduced himself into this our town; of an Inglez hungry for men to hang of you, in short.”
The moon, far advanced in its first quarter, threw an ashen, bluish light upon one-half of the courtyard; and the straight shadow upon the other seemed to lie at the foot of the columns, black as a broad stroke of Indian ink.
“And what do you think of it, Castro?” I asked.
“I think that Domingo has his orders. Manuel has made a song already. And do you know its burden, Señor? Killing is its burden. I would the devil had all these Improvisadores. They gape round him while he twangs and screeches, the wind-bag! And he knows what words to sing to them, too. He has talent. Maladetta!”
“Well, and what do you advise?”
“I advise the señor to keep, now, within the Casa. No songs can give that vermin the audacity to seek the señor here. The gate remains barred; the firearms are always loaded; and Cesar is a sagacious African. But methinks this moon would fall out of the heaven first before they would dare.... Keep to the Casa, I say-I, Tomas Castro.”
He flung the corner of his cloak over his left shoulder, and preceded me to the door of my room; then, after a
“God guard you, Señor," continued along the colonnade. Before I had shut my door it occurred to me that he was going on towards the part of the gallery on which Seraphina's apartments opened. Why? What could he want there?
I am not so much ashamed of my sudden suspicion of him-one did not know whom to trust—but I am a little ashamed to confess that, kicking off my shoes, I crept out instantly to spy upon him.
This part of the house was dark in the inky flood of shadow; and before I had come to a recess in the wall, I heard the discreet scratching of a finger-nail on a door. A streak of light darted and disappeared, like a signal for the murmurs of two voices.
I recognized the woman's at once. It belonged to one of Seraphina's maids, a pretty little quadroon-a favourite of hers-called La Chica. She had slipped out, and her twitter-like whispering reached me in the still solemnity of the quadrangle. She addressed Castro as “His Worship” at every second word, for the saturnine little man, in his unbrushed cloak and battered hat, was immensely respected by the household. Had he not been sent to Europe to fetch Don Carlos? He was in the confidence of the masters—their humble friend. The little tire-woman twittered of her mistress. The señorita had been most anxious all day—ever since she had heard the friar had come. Castro muttered:
“Tell the Excellency that her orders have been obeyed. The English caballero has been warned. I have been sleepless in my watchfulness over the guest of the house, as the señorita has desired—for the honour of the Riegos. Let her set her mind at ease.”
The girl then whispered to him with great animation. Did not his worship think that it was the señorita's heart which was not at ease?
Then the quadrangle became dumb in its immobility, half sheen, half night, with its arcades, the soothing plash of water, with its expiring lights, in a suggestion of Castilian severity, enveloped by the exotic softness of the air.
“What folly!” uttered Castro's sombre voice. “You women do not mind how many corpses come into your imaginings of love. The mere whisper of such a
She murmured swiftly. He interrupted her.
“Thine eyes, La Chica—thine eyes see only the silliness of thine own heart. Think of thine own lovers, niña. Por Dios !—he changed to a tone of severe appreciation—“thy foolish face looks well by moonlight.”
I believe he was chucking her gravely under the chin. I heard her soft, gratified cooing in answer to the compliment; the streak of light flashed on the polished shaft of a pillar; and Castro went on, going round to the staircase, evidently so as not to pass again before my open door.
I forgot to shut it. I did not stop until I was in the middle of my room; and then I stood still for a long time in a self-forgetful ecstasy, while the many wax candles of the high candelabrum burned without a flicker in a rich cluster of flames, as if lighted to throw the splendour of a celebration upon the pageant of my thoughts.
For the honour of the Riegos!
I came to myself. Well, it was sweet to be the object of her anxiety and care, even on these terms-on any terms. And I felt a sort of profound, inexpressible, grateful emotion, as though no one, never, on no day, on no occasion, had taken thought of me before.
I should not be able to sleep. I went to the window, and leaned my forehead on the iron bar. There was no
glass; the heavy shutter was thrown open; and, under the faint crescent of the moon I saw a small part of the beach, very white, the long streak of light lying mistily on the bay, and two black shapes, cloaked, moving and stopping all of a piece like pillars, their immensely long shadows running away from their feet, with the points of the hats touching the wall of the Casa Riego. Another, a shorter, thicker shape, appeared, walking with dignity. It was Castro. The other two had a movement of recoil, then took off their hats.
“Buenas noches, caballeros,” his voice said, with grim politeness. “You are out late.”
“So is your worship. Vaya, Señor, con Dios. We are taking the air.”
They walked away, while Castro remained looking after them. But I, from my elevation, noticed that they had suddenly crouched behind some scrubby bushes growing on the edge of the sand. Then Castro, too, passed out of my sight in the opposite direction, muttering angrily.
I forgot them all. Everything on earth was still, and I seemed to be looking through a casement out of an enchanted castle standing in the dreamland of romance. I breathed out the name of Seraphina into che moonlight in an increasing transport. “Seraphina! Seraphina! Seraphina!” The repeated beauty of the sound intoxicated me. “Seraphina!” I cried aloud, and stopped, astounded at myself. And the moonlight of romance seemed to whisper spitefully from below: C
“Death to the traitor! Vengeance for our brothers dead on the English gallows!”
“Come away, Manuel.” “No. I am an artist. It is necessary for my soul.” “Be guiet!”
Then why druh
ROMANCE Their hissing ascended along the wall from under the window. The two Lugareños had stolen in unnoticed by me. There was a stifled metallic ringing, as of a guitar carried under a cloak. “Vengeance on the heretic Inglez !”
“Come away! They may suddenly open the gate and fall upon us with sticks.”
“My gentle spirit is roused to the accomplishment of great things. I feel in me a valiance, an inspiration. I am no vulgar seller of aguardiente, like Domingo. I was born to be the capataz of the Lugareños.”
“We shall be set upon and beaten, oh, thou Manuel. Come away!”
There were no footsteps, only a noiseless flitting of two shadows, and a distant voice crying:
My senon us with hey mtic Ingles,
I had not needed Castro's warning to understand the meaning of this. O'Brien was setting his power to work, only this Manuel's restless vanity had taught me exactly how the thing was to be done. The friar had been exciting the minds of this rabble against me; awakening their suspicions, their hatred, their fears.
I remained at the casement, lost in rather sombre reflections. I was now a prisoner within the walls of the Casa. After all, it mattered little. I did not want to go away unless I could carry off Seraphina with me. What a dream! What an impossible dream! Alone, without friends, with no place to go to, without means of going; without, by Heaven, the right of even as much as speaking of it to her. Carlos—Carlos dreameda dream of his dying hours. England was so far, the enemy so near; and—Providence itself seemed to have forgotten me.
A sound of panting made me turn my head. Father Antonio was mopping his brow in the doorway. Though