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that he thought our governor's palace would have been hardly less barbarous. “But I am sorry,” he said suddenly, “because I wanted you—you and all your countrymen—to make a good impression on him. You must do it yourself alone. And you will. You are not like these others. You are our kinsman, and I have praised you very much. You saved my life.”
I began to say that I had done nothing at all, but he waved his hand with a little smile.
“You are very brave," he said, as if to silence me. “I am not ungrateful."
He began again to ask for news from home from my home. · I told him that Veronica had a baby, and he sighed.
“She married the excellent Rooksby?” he asked. “Ah, what a waste.” He relapsed into silence again. “There was no woman in your land like her. She might have And to marry that--that excellent personage, my good cousin. It is a tragedy."
“It was a very good match," I answered.
He sighed again. “My uncle is asleep in there, now, he said, after a pause, pointing at the inner door. “We must not wake him; he is a very old man. You do not mind talking to me? You will wait to see them? Doña Seraphina is here, too."
“You have not married your cousin?” I asked.
I wanted very much to see the young girl who had looked at me for a moment, and I certainly should have been distressed if Carlos had said she was married.
He answered, “What would you have?” and shrugged his shoulders gently. A smile came into his face. “She is very willful. I did not please her, I do not know why. Perhaps she has seen too many men like me.”
He told me that, when he reached Cuba, after parting with me on the Thames, his uncle, “in spite of certain
influences,” had received him quite naturally as his heir, and the future head of the family. But Seraphina, whom by the laws of convenience he ought to have married, had quite calmly refused him.
"I did not impress her; she is romantic. She wanted a very bold man, a Cid, something that it is not easy to have."
He paused again, and looked at me with some sort of challenge in his eyes.
“She could have met no one better than you,” I said.
He waved his hand a little. “Oh, for that,” he said deprecatingly. “Besides, I am dying. I have never been well since I went into your cold sea, over there, after we left your sister. You remember how I coughed on board that miserable ship.”
I did remember it very well.
He went to the inner door, looked in, and then came back to me.
"Seraphina needs a guide-a controller-someone very strong and gentle, and kind and brave. My uncle will never ask her to marry against her wish; he is too old and has too little will. And for any man who would marry her-except one—there would be great dangers, for her and for him. It would need a cool man, and a brave man, and a good one, too, to hazard, perhaps even life, for her sake. She will be very rich. All our lands, all our towns, all our gold.” There was a suggestion of fabulousness in his dreamy voice. “They shall never be mine," he added. “Vaya.”
He looked at me with his piercing eyes set to an expression that might have been gentle mockery. At any rate, it also contained intense scrutiny, and, perhaps, a little of appeal. I sighed myself.
“There is a man called O'Brien in there,” he said. “He does us the honour to pretend to my cousin's hand.”
I felt singularly angry. “Well, he's not a Spaniard," I said.
Carlos answered mockingly, “Oh, for Spaniard, no. He is a descendant of the Irish kings.”
“He's an adventurer,” I said. “You ought to be on your guard. You don't know these bog-trotting fortune-hunters. They're the laughter of Europe, kings and all.”
Carlos smiled again. “He's a very dangerous man for all that,” he said. “I should not advise any one to come to Rio Medio, my uncle's town, without making a friend of the Señor O'Brien.”
He went once more to the inner door, and, after a moment's whispering with someone within, returned
“My uncle still sleeps,” he said. “I must keep you a little longer. Ah, yes, the Señor O'Brien. He shall marry my cousin, I think, when I am dead.”
“You don't know these fellows,” I said.
“Oh, I know them very well," Carlos smiled, “there are many of them at Havana. They came there after what they call the '98, when there was great rebellion in Ireland, and many good Catholics were killed and ruined."
“Then he's a rebel, and ought to be hung,” I said.
Carlos laughed as of old. “It may be, but, my good Juan, we Christians do not see eye to eye with you. This man rebelled against your government, but, also, he suffered for the true faith. He is a good Catholic; he has suffered for it; and in the Ever Faithful Island, that is a passport. He has climbed very high; he is a judge of the Marine Court at Havana. That is why he is here to-day, attending my uncle in this affair of delivering up the pirates. My uncle loves him very much. O'Brien was at first my uncle's clerk, and my uncle made him a juez, and he is also the intendant of my uncle's estates, and he has a great influence in my uncle's town of Rio Medio. I tell you, if you come to visit us, it will be as well to be on good terms with the Señor Juez O'Brien. My uncle is a very old man, and if I die before him, this O'Brien, I think, will end by v marrying my cousin, because my poor uncle is very much in his hands. There are other pretenders, but they have little chance, because it is so very dangerous to come to my uncle's town of Rio Medio, on account of this man's intrigues and of his power with the populace.
I looked at Carlos intently. The name of the town had seemed to be familiar to me. Now I suddenly remembered that it was where Nicolas el Demonio, the pirate who was so famous as to be almost mythical, had beaten off Admiral Rowley's boats.
“Come, you had better see this Irish hidalgo who wants to do us so much honour,”-he gave an inscrutable glance at me,"but do not talk loudly till my uncle wakes."
He threw the door open. I followed him into the room, where the vision of the ancient Don and the charming apparition of the young girl had retreated only a few moments before.
The room was very lofty and coldly dim; there were great bars in front of the begrimed windows. It was very bare, containing only a long black table, some packing cases, and half a dozen rocking chairs. Of these, five were very new and one very old, black and heavy, with a green leather seat and a coat of arms worked on its back cushions. There were little heaps of mahogany sawdust here and there on the dirty tiled floor, and a pile of sacking in one corner. Beneath a window the flap of an open trap-door half hid a large green damp-stain; a deep recess in the wall yawned like a cavern, and had two or three tubs in the right corner; a man with a blond head, slightly bald as if he had been tonsured, was rocking gently in one of the new chairs.
Opposite him, with his aged face towards us, sat the old Don asleep in the high chair. His delicate white hands lay along the arms, one of them holding a gold vinaigrette; his black, silver-headed cane was between his silk-stockinged legs. The diamond buckles of his shoes shot out little vivid rays, even in that gloomy place. The young girl was sitting with her hands to her temples and her elbows on the long table, minutely examining the motionlessness of a baby lizard, a tiny thing with golden eyes, whom fear seemed to have turned into stone.
We entered quietly, and after a moment she looked up candidly into my eyes, and placed her finger on her lips, motioning her head towards her father. She placed her hand in mine, and whispered very clearly: