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suffered too much; I wanted rest, woman's love, slackening off. And here was another endless coil—endless. If it didn't end in a knife in the back, he might keep me for ages in Havana; or he might get me sent to England, where it would take months, an endless time, to prove merely that I wasn't Nikola el Escoces. I should prove it; but, in the meantime, what would become of Seraphina? Would she follow me to England? Would she even know that I had gone there? Or would she think me dead and die herself? O'Brien knew nothing; his spies might report a hundred uncertainties. He was standing rigidly still now, as if afraid to move for fear of breaking down. He said suddenly:
“You came in some ship; you can't deceive me, I shall have them all searched again.”
I said desperately, “Search and be damned—whatever ships you like.
“You cold, pitiless, English scoundrel,” he shrieked suddenly. The breaking down of his restraint had let him go right into madness. “You have murdered her. You cared nothing; you came from nowhere. A beggarly fool, too stupid to be even an adventurer. A miserable blunderer, coming in blind; coming out blind; and leaving ruin and worse than hell. What good have you done yourself? What could you? What did you see? What did you hope? Sorrow? Ruin? Death? I acquainted with them. It is in the blood; 'tis in the tone; in the entrails of us, in our mother's milk. Your accursed land has brought always that on our own dear and sorrowful country.
You waste, you ruin, you spoil. What for?
Tell me what for? Tell me? Tell me? What did you gain? What will you ever gain? An unending curse!
But, ah, ye've no souls."
He called very loudly, as if with a passionate relief, his voice giving life to an unsuspected, misgiving echo: “Guards! Soldiers!
You shall be shot, now!”
He was going to cut the knot that way. Two soldiers pushed the door noisily open, their muskets advanced. He took no notice of them; and they retained an attitude of military stupidity, their eyes upon him. He whispered:
“No, no! Not yet!”
Then he looked at me searchingly, as if he still hoped to get some certainty from my face, some inkling, perhaps some inspiration of what would persuade me to speak. Then he shook his wrists violently, as if in fear of himself.
“Take him away,” he said. “Away! Out of reach of my hands. Out of reach of my hands.”
I was trembling a good deal; when the soldiers entered I thought I had got to my last minute. But, as it was, he had not learnt a thing from me. Not a thing. And I did not see where else he could go for information.
The entrance to the common prison of Havana was a sort of lofty tunnel, finished by great, iron-rusted, wooden gates. A civil guard was exhibiting the judge's warrant for my committal to a white-haired man, with a red face and blue eyes, that seemed to look through tumbled bushes of silver eyebrows—the alcayde of the prison. He bowed, and rattled two farcically large keys. A practicable postern was ajar on the yellow wood of the studded gates. It was as if it afforded a glimpse of the other side of the world. The venerable turnkey, a gnome in a steeple-crowned hat, protruded a blood-red hand backwards in the direction of the postern.
“Señor Caballero," he croaked, “I pray you to consider this house your own. My servants are yours.
Within was a gravel yard, shut in by portentous leadwhite house-sides with black window holes. Under each row of windows was a vast vaulted tunnel, caged with iron bars, for all the world like beasts' dens. It being day, the beasts were out and lounging about the patio. They had an effect of infinite tranquillity, as if they were ladies and gentlemen parading in a Sunday avenue. Perhaps twenty of them, in snowy white shirts and black velvet knee-breeches, strutted like pigeons in a knot, some with one woman on the arm, some with two. Bundles of variegated rags lay against the walls, as if they were sweepings. Well, they were the sweepings of Havana jail. The men in white and black were the great thieves
there were children, too—the place was the city orphanage. For the fifth part of a second my advent made no difference. Then, at the far end, one of the men in black and white separated himself, and came swiftly to me across the sunny patio. The others followed slowly, with pea-fowl steps, their women hanging to them and whispering. The bundles of rags rose up towards me; others slunk furtively out of the barred dens. The man who was approaching had the head of a Julius Cæsar of fifty, for all the world as if he had stolen a bust and endowed it with yellow skin and stubby gray and silver hair. He saluted me with intense gravity and an imperial glance of yellow eyes along a hooked nose. His linen was the most spotless broidered and embossed stuff; from the crimson scarf round his waist protruded the shagreen and silver handle of a long dagger. He said:
“Señor, I have the honour to salute you. Crisostomo Garcia. I ask the courtesy of your trousers.
I did not answer him. I did not see what he wanted with my trousers, which weren't anyway as valuable as his own. The others were closing in on me like a solid wall. I leant back against the gate; I was not frightened, but I was mightily excited. The man like Cæsar looked fiercely at me, swayed a long way back on his haunches, and imperiously motioned the crowd to recede.
“Señor Inglesito,” he said, “the gift I have the honour to ask of you is the price of my protection. Without it these, my brothers, will tear you limb from limb, there will nothing of you remain.”
His brothers set up a stealthy, sinister growl, that went round among the heads like the mutter of an obscene echo among the mountain-tops. I wondered
whether this, perhaps, was the man who, O'Brien said, would put a knife in my back. I hadn't any knife; I might knock the fellow's teeth down his throat, though.
The alcayde thrust his immense hat, blood-red face, and long, ragged, silver locks out of the little door. His features were convulsed with indignation. He had been whispering with the Civil Guard.
“Are you mad, gentlemen?” he said. “Do you wish to visit hell before your times? Do you know who the señor is? Did you ever hear of Carlos el Demonio? This is the Inglesito of Rio Medio!”
It was plain that my deeds, such as they were, reported by O'Brien spies, by the Lugareños, by all sorts of credulous gossipers, had got me the devil of a reputation in the patio of the jail. Men detached themselves from the crowd, and went running about to announce my arrival. The alcayde drew his long body into the patio, and turned to lock the little door with an immense key. In the crowd all sorts of little movements happened. Women crossed themselves, and furtively thrust pairs of crooked, skinny, brown, black-nailed fingers in my direction. The man like Cæsar said:
“I ask your pardon, Señor Caballero. I did not know. How could I tell? You are free of all the patios in this land.”
The tall alcayde finished grinding the immense key in the lock, and touched me on the arm.
"If the señor will follow me," he said. “I will do the honours of this humble mansion, and indicate a choice of rooms where he may be free from the visits of these gentry.”
We went up steps, and through long, shadowy corridors, with here and there a dark, lounging figure, like a