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I felt horribly hipped. “But all these things tell me nothing," I said, with an attempt towards briskness.
“I have to husband my voice.” He closed his eyes.
There is no saying that I did not believe him; I did, every word. I had simply been influenced by Rooksby's suspicions. I had made an ass of myself over that business on board the Thames. The passage of Carlos and his faithful Tomas had been arranged for by some agent of O'Brien in London, who was in communication with Ramon and Rio Medio. The same man had engaged Nichols, that Nova Scotian mate, an unscrupulous sailor, for O'Brien's service. He was to leave the ship in Kingston, and report himself to Ramon, who furnished him with the means to go to Cuba. That man, seeing me intimate with two persons going to Rio Medio, had got it into his head that I was going there, too. And, very naturally, he did not want an Englishman for a witness of his doings.
But Rooksby's behavior, his veiled accusations, his innuendoes against Carlos, had influenced me more than anything else. I remem'bered a hundred little things now that I knew that Carlos loved Veronica. I understood Rooksby's jealous impatience, Veronica's friendly glances at Carlos, the fact that Rooksby had proposed to Veronica on the very day that Carlos had come again into the neighborhood with the runners after him. I saw very well that there was no more connection between the Casa Riego and the rascality of Rio Medio than there was between Ralph himself and old drunken Rangsley on Hythe beach. There was less, perhaps.
Ah, you have had a sad life, my Carlos,” I said, after a long time.
He opened his eyes, and smiled his brave smile. "Ah, as to that," he said, one kept on. One has to husband one's voice, though, and not waste it over lamentations. I have to tell you He paused and fixed his eyes upon me.
“Figure to yourself that this house, this town, an immense part of this island, much even yet in Castile itself, much gold, many slaves, a great name-a very great name—are what I shall leave behind me. Now think that there is a very noble old man, one who has been very great in the world, who shall die very soon; then all these things shall go to a young girl. That old man is very old, is a
little foolish with age; that young girl knows very little of the world, and is very passionate, very proud, very helpless.
Add, now, to that a great menace—a very dangerous, crafty, subtle personage, who has the ear of that old man; whose aim it is to become the possessor of that young girl and of that vast wealth. The old man is much subject to the other. Old men are like that, especially the very great. They have many things to think of; it is necessary that they rely on somebody. I am, in fact, speaking of my uncle and the man called O'Brien. You have seen him.” Carlos spoke in a voice hardly above a whisper, but he stuck to his task with indomitable courage. “If I die and leave him here, he will have my uncle to himself. He is a terrible man. Where would all that great fortune go? For the re-establishing the true faith in Ireland ? Quien sabe? Into the hands of O'Brien, at any rate. And the daughter, too—a young girl—she would be in the hands of O'Brien, too. If I could expect to live, it might be different. That is the greatest distress of all.” He swallowed painfully, and put his frail hand on to the white ruffle at his neck. “I was in great trouble to find how to thwart this O'Brien. My uncle went to Kingston because he was persuaded it was his place to see that the execution of those unhappy men was conducted with due humanity. O'Brien came with us as his secretary. I was in the greatest horror of mind. I prayed for guidance. Then my eyes fell upon you, who were pressed against our very carriage wheels. It was like an answer to my prayers.” Carlos suddenly reached out and caught my hand.
I thought he was wandering, and I was immensely sorry for him. He looked at me so wistfully with his immense eyes. He continued to press my hand.
But when I saw you,” he went on, after a time, “ it had come into my head, “That is the man who is sent in answer to my prayers.' I knew it, I say. If you could have my cousin and my lands, I thought, it would be like my having your sister—not quite, but good enough for a man who is to die in a short while, and leave no trace but a marble tomb. Ah, one desires very much to leave a mark under God's blessed sun, and to be able to know a little how things will go after one is dead. . . . I arranged the matter very quickly in my mind. There was the difficulty of O'Brien. If I
had said, 'Here is the man who is to marry my cousin,' he would have had you or me murdered; he would stop at nothing. So I said to him very quietly, “Look here, Señor Secretary, that is the man you have need of to replace your Nicholsa devil to fight; but I think he will not consent without a little persuasion. Decoy him, then, to Ramon's, and do your persuading.' O'Brien was very glad, because he thought that at last I was coming to take an interest in his schemes, and because it was bringing humiliation to an Englishman. And Seraphina was glad, because I had often spoken of you with enthusiasm, as very fearless and very honorable. Then I made that man Ramon decoy you, thinking that the matter would be left to me.
That was what Carlos had expected. But O'Brien, talking with Ramon, had heard me described as an extreme Separationist so positively that he had thought it safe to open himself fully. He must have counted, also, on my youth, my stupidity, or my want of principle. Finding out his mistake, he very soon made up his mind how to act; and Carlos, fearing that worse might befall me, had let him.
But when the young girl had helped me to escape, Carlos, who understood fully the very great risks I ran in going to Havana in the ship that picked me up, had made use of O'Brien's own picaroons to save me from him. That was the story.
Towards the end his breath came fast and short; there was a flush on his face; his eyes gazed imploringly at me.
“You will stay here, now, till I die, and then I want you to protect He fell back on the pillows.
LL this is in my mind now, softened by distance, by the
tenderness of things remembered—the wonderful dawn of
life, with all the mystery and promise of the young day breaking amongst heavy thunder-clouds. At the time I was overwhelmed—I can't express it otherwise. I felt like a man thrown out to sink or swim, trying to keep his head above water. Of course, I did not suspect Carlos now; I was ashamed of ever having done so. I had long ago forgiven him his methods. “In a great need, you must,” he had said, looking at me anxiously, recur to desperate remedies." And he was going to die. I had made no answer, and only hung my head—not in resentment, but in doubt of my strength to bear the burden of the great trust that this man whom I loved for his gayety, his recklessness and romance, was going to leave in my inexperienced hands.
He had talked till, at last exhausted, he sank back gently on the pillows of the enormous bed emblazoned like a monument. I went out, following a gray-headed negro, and the nun glided in, and stood at the foot with her white hands folded patiently.
"Señor!" I heard her mutter reproachfully to the invalid.
"Do not scold a poor sinner, Doña Maria,” he addressed her feebly, with valiant jocularity. “The days are not many now."
The strangeness and tremendousness of what was happening came over me very strongly whilst, in a large chamber with barred loopholes, I was throwing off the rags in which I had entered this house. The night had come already, and I was putting on some of Carlos' clothes by the many flames of candles burning in a tall bronze candelabrum, whose three legs figured the paws of a lion. And never, since I had gone on the road to wait for the smugglers,