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the bishop's coach, like a torrent breaking round a boulder. The great heavy machine rocked, mules plunged, torches swayed.
The archway had been cleared. Outside, the slaves were forming in the open space before the Casa, while Cesar, with a few others, labored to swing the heavy gates to. Hats, torn cloaks, knives strewed the flagstones, and the dim light of the lamps, fastened high up on the walls, fell on the faces of three men stretched out on their backs. Another, lying huddled up in a heap, got up suddenly and rushed out.
The thought of Seraphina clinging to the lifeless body of her father upstairs came to me; it came over me in horror, and I let the musket fall out of my hand. A silence like the silence of despair reigned in the house. She would hate me now. I felt as if I could walk out and give myself up, had it not been for the sight of O'Brien.
He was leaning his shoulders against the wall in the posture of a man suddenly overcome by a deadly disease. No one was looking at us. It came to me that he could not have many illusions left to him now. He looked up wearily, saw me, and, waking up at once, thrust his hands into the pockets of his breeches. I thought of his pistol. No wild hope of love would prevent him, now, from killing me outright. The fatal shot that had put an end to Don Balthasar's life must have brought to him an awakening worse than death. I made one stride, caught him by both arms swiftly, and pinned him to the wall with all my strength. We struggled in silence.
I found him much more vigorous than I had expected; but, at the same time, I felt at once that I was more than a match for him. We did not say a word. We made no noise. But, in our struggle, we got away from the wall into the middle of the gateway. I dared not let go of his arms to take him by the throat. He only tried to jerk and wrench himself away. Had he succeeded, it would have been death for me. We never moved our feet from the spot fairly in the middle of the archway, but nearer to the gate than to the patio. The slaves, formed outside, guarded the bishop's coach, and I do not know that there was anybody else actually with us under the vault of the entrance. We glared into each other's faces, and the world seemed very still around us. I
felt in me a passion—not of hate, but of determination to be done with him; and from his face it was possible to guess his suffering, his despair, or his rage.
In the midst of our straining I heard a sibilant sound. I detached my eyes from his; his struggles redoubled, and, behind him, stealing in towards us from the court, black on the strip of crimson cloth, I saw Tomas Castro. He flung his cloak back. The light of the lanthorn under the keystone of the arch glimmered feebly on the blade of his maimed arm. He made a discreet and bloodcurdling gesture to me with the other.
How could I hold a man so that he should be stabbed from behind in my arms? Castro was running up swiftly, his cloak opening like a pair of sable wings. Collecting all my strength, I forced O'Brien round, and we swung about in a flash. Now he had his back to the gate. My effort seemed to have uprooted him. I felt him give way all over.
As soon as our position had changed, Castro checked himself, and stepped aside into the shadow of the guardroom doorway. I don't think O'Brien had been aware of what had been going on. His strength was overborne by mine. I drove him backwards. His eyes blinked wildly. He bared his teeth. He resisted, as though I had been forcing him over the brink of perdition. His feet clung to the flagstones. I shook him till his head rolled. “Viper brood!” he spluttered.
Out you go!” I hissed. I had found nothing heroic, nothing romantic to say-nothing that would express my desperate resolve to rid the world of his presence. All I could do was to Aling him out. The Casa Riego was all my world a world full of great pain, great mourning, and love. I saw him pitch headlong under the wheels of the bishop's enormous carriage. The black coachman who had sat aloft, unmoved through all the tumult, in his white stockings and three-cornered hat, glanced down from his high box. And the two parts of the gate came together with a clang of ironwork and a heavy crash that seemed as loud as thunder under that vault.
OT even in memory am I willing to live over again those three days when Father Antonio, the old major-domo,
and myself would meet each other in the galleries, in the patio, in the empty rooms, moving in the stillness of the house with heavy hearts and desolate eyes, which seemed to demand, What is there to do?”
Of course, precautions were taken against the Lugareños. They were besieging the Casa from afar. They had established a sort of camp at the end of the street, and they prowled about amongst the old, barricaded houses in their pointed hats, in their rags and finery; women, with food, passed constantly between the villages and the panic-stricken town; there were groups on the beach; and one of the schooners had been towed down the bay, and was lying, now, moored stem and stern opposite the great gate. They did nothing whatever active against us. They lay around and watched, as if in pursuance of a plan traced by a superior authority. They were watching for me. But when, by some mischance, they burnt the roof off the outbuildings that were at some distance from the Casa, their chiefs sent up a deputation of three, with apologies. Those men came unarmed, and, as it were, under Castro's protection, and absolutely whimpered with regrets before Father Antonio. “ Would his reverence kindly intercede with the most noble señorita?' ...'
“Silence! Dare not pronounce her name! thundered the good priest, snatching away his hand, which they attempted to grab and kiss.
I, in the background, noted their black looks at me, even as they cringed. The man who had fired the shot, they said, had expired of his wounds ofter great torments. Their other dead had been thrust out of the gate before. A long fellow, with slanting eyebrows and a scar on his cheek, called El Rechado, tried to inform Cesar, confidentially, that Manuel, his friend, had been opposed to
any encroachment of the Casa's offices, only:
“ That Domingo
As soon as we discovered what was their object (their apparent object, at any rate), they were pushed out of the gate unceremoniously,—still protesting their love and respect,—by the Riego negroes.
Castro followed them out again, after exchanging a heaning look with Father Antonio. To live in the two camps, as it were, was a triumph of Castro's diplomacy, of his saturnine mysteriousness. He kept us in touch with the outer world, coming in under all sorts of pretenses, mostly with messages from the bishop, or escorting the priests that came in relays to pray by the bodies of the two last Riegos lying in state, side by side, rigid in black velvet and white lace ruffles, on the great bed dragged out into the middle of the room.
Two enormous wax torches in iron stands flamed and guttered at the door; a black cloth draped the emblazoned shields; and the wind from the sea, blowing through the open casement, inclined all together the flames of a hundred candles, pale in the sunlight, extremely ardent in the night. The murmur of prayers for these souls went on incessantly; I have it in my ears now. There would be always some figure of the household kneeling in prayer at the door; or the old major-domo would come in to stand at the foot, motionless for a time; or, through the open door, I would see the cassock of Father Antonio, Aung on his knees, with his forehead resting on the edge of the bed, his hands clasped above his ton
Apart from what was necessary for defense, all the life of the house seemed stopped. Not a woman appeared; all the doors were closed; and the numbing desolation of a great bereavement was symbolized by Don Balthasar's chair in the patio, which had remained lying overturned in full view of every part of the house, till I could bear the sight no longer, and asked Cesar to have it put away. Si, señor," he said deferentially, and a few tears ran suddenly down his withered cheeks. The English flowers had been trampled down; an unclean hat floated on the basin, now here, now there, frightening the goldfish from one side to the other.
And Seraphina. It seems not fitting that I should write of her in these days. I hardly dared let my thoughts approach her, but
I had to think of her all the time. Her sorrow was the very
soul of the house.
Shortly after I had thrown O'Brien out the bishop had left, and then I learned from Father Antonio that she had been carried away to her own apartments in a fainting condition. The excellent man was almost incoherent with distress and trouble of mind, and walked up and down, his big head drooping on his capacious chest, the joints of his entwined fingers cracking. I had met him in the gallery, as I was making my way back to Carlos' room in anxiety and fear, and we had stepped aside into a large saloon, seldom used, above the gateway. I shall never forget the restless, swift pacing of that burly figure, while, feeling utterly crushed, now the excitement was over, I leaned against a console. Three long bands of moonlight fell, chilly bluish, into the vast room, with its French Empire furniture stiffly arranged about the white walls.
And that man? he asked me at last.
I could have killed him with my own hands," I said. “I was the stronger. He had his pistols on him, I am certain, only I could not be a party to an assassination.
Oh, my son, it would have been no sin to have exerted the strength which God had blessed you with,” he interrupted. “We are allowed to kill venomous snakes, wild beasts; we are given our strength for that, our intelligence.
And all the time he walked about, wringing his hands.
Yes, your reverence," I said, feeling the most miserable and helpless of lovers on earth; “but there was no time. If I had not thrown him out, Castro would have stabbed him in the back in my very hands. And that would have been Words failed me.
I had been obliged not only to desist myself, but to save his life from Castro. I had been obliged! There had been no option. Murderous enemy as he was, it seemed to me I should never have slept a wink all the rest of my life.
“Yes, it is just, it is just. What else ? Alas!" Father Antonio repeated disconnectedly. “Those feelings implanted in your breast — I have served my king, as you know, in my sacred calling, but in the midst of war, which is the outcome of the wickedness natural to our fallen state. I understand; I understand. It may be that God, in his mercy, did not wish the death of that