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move of that sort. The ruffian kneeling within a foot of me thumped and bellowed in an ecstasy of piety. As to me, I own I stood there looking with impatience at a passing canopy that seemed all gold, with three priests in gorgeous capes walking slowly under it, and I absolutely forgot to take off my hat. The bearded ruffian looked up from the midst of his penitential exercises, and before I realized I was outraging his or anybody else's feelings, leaped up with a yell, “Thou sacrilegious infidel,” and sent my hat flying off my head.
Just then the band crashed again, the bells pealed out, and no one heard his shout. With one blow of my fist I sent him staggering backwards. The procession had passed; people were rising from their knees and pouring out of the narrow street. Swearing, he fumbled under his cloak; I watched him narrowly; but in a moment he sprang away and lost himself amongst the moving crowd. I picked up my hat.
For a time I stood very uneasy, and then retreated under a doorway. Nothing happened, and I was anxious to get on. It was possible to cross the wide street now. That Lugareño did not know me. He was a Lugareño, though. No doubt about it. I would make a dash now; but first I stole a hasty glance at the plan of my route which I kept in the hollow of my palm.
“Señor,” said a voice. I lifted my head.
An elderly man in black, with a white moustache and imperial, stood before me. The ruffian was stalking up to his side, and four soldiers with an officer were coming behind. I took in the whole disaster at a glance.
“The señor is no doubt a foreigner-perhaps an Englishman," said the official in black. He had a lace collar, a chain on his neck, velvet breeches, a well-turned leg in black stockings. His voice was soft.
I was so disconcerted that I nodded at him.
“The señor is young and inconsiderate. Religious feelings ought to be respected.” The official in black was addressing me in sad and measured tones. “This good Catholic,” he continued, eying the bearded ruffian dubiously, "has made a formal statement to me of your impious demonstration.”
What a fatal accident, I thought, appalled; but I tried to explain the matter. I expressed regret. The other gazed at me benevolently.
“Nevertheless, Señor, pray follow me. Even for your own safety. You must give some account of yourself.”
This I was firmly resolved not to give. But the Lugareño had been going through a pantomime of scrutinizing my person.
He crouched up, stepped back, then to one side.
“This worthy man,” began the official in black, “complains of your violence, too.
“This worthy man,” I shouted stupidly, “is a pirate He is a Rio Medio Lugareño. He is a criminal.”
The official seemed astounded, and I saw my idiotic mistake at once—too late!
"Strange,” he murmured, and, at the same time, the ruffianly wretch began to shout:
“It is he! The traitor! The heretic! I recognize him!”
"Peace, peace!” said the man in black.
"I demand to be taken before the Juez Don Patricio for a deposition,” shrieked the Lugareño. A crowd was beginning to collect.
The official and the officer exchanged consulting glances. At a word from the latter, the soldiers closed upon me.
I felt utterly overcome, as if the earth had crumbled under my feet, and the heavens had been rent in twain.
I walked between my captors across the street amongst hooting knots of people, and up the steps of the portico, as if in a frightful dream.
In the gloomy, chilly hall they made me wait. A soldier stood on each side of me, and there, absolutely before my eyes on a little table, reposed Mrs. Williams' shawl and Sebright's cap. This was the very hall of the Palace of Justice of which Sebright had spoken. It was more than ever like an absurd dream, now. But I had the leisure to collect my wits. I could not claim the Consul's protection simply because I should have to give him a truthful account of myself, and that would mean giving up Seraphina. The Consul could not protect her. But the Lion would sail on the morrow. Sebright would understand it if Williams did not. I trusted Sebright's sagacity. Yes, she would sail tomorrow evening. A day and a half. If I could only keep the knowledge of Seraphina from O'Brien till then—she was safe, and I should be safe, too, for my lips would be unsealed. I could claim the protection of my Consul and proclaim the villainy of the Juez.
"Go in there now, Señor, to be confronted with your accuser,” said the official in black, appearing before me. He pointed at a small door to thc left. My heart was beating steadily. I felt a sort of intrepid resignation.