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mistake his motives. Only a man of mature years, and really possessed by a great passion—by a passion that had grown slowly, till it was exactly as big as his soul—could have acted like this with that profound simplicity, with such resignation, with such horrible moderation. But I wanted to find out more. And when would you want me to go ?” I asked, with a dissimulation of which I would not have suspected myself capable a moment before. I was maturing in the fire of love, of danger; in the lurid light of life piercing through my youthful innocence.
“Ah," he said, banging the pistol onto the table hurriedly. “At once. To-night. Now."
"Without seeing anybody?” “Without seeing ... Oh, of course. In your own interest.”
He was very quiet now. “I thought you looked intelligent enough,” he said, appearing suddenly very tired. “I am glad you see your position. You shall go far in the Royal service, on the faith of Pat O'Brien, English as you are. I will make it my own business for the sake of—the Riego family. There is only one little condition.”
He pulled out of his pocket a piece of paper, a pen, a traveling inkstand. He looked the lawyer to the life; the Spanish family lawyer grafted on an Irish attorney.
"You can't see anybody. But you ought to write. Doña Seraphina naturally would be interested. A cousin and I shall explain to Don Balthasar, of course. . I will dictate: 'Out of regard for your future, and the desire for active life, of your own will, you accept eagerly Señor O'Brien's proposition.' She'll understand.”
"Oh, yes, she'll understand," I said.
“Yes. And that you will write of your safe arrival in Timaulipas. You must promise to write. Your word ...
“By heavens, Señor O'Brien !” I burst out with inexpressible scorn, “ I thought you meant your villains to cut my throat on the passage. I should have deserved no better fate.”
He started. I shook with rage. A change had come upon both of us as sudden as if we had been awakened by a violent noise. For a time we did not speak a word. One look at me was enough for him. He passed his hand over his forehead.
What devil's in you, boy?” he said. “I seem to make nothing but mistakes."
He went to the loophole window, and, advancing his head, cried out:
“ The schooner does not sail to-night."
He had some of his cut-throats posted under the window. I could not make out the reply he got; but after a while he said distinctly, so as to be heard below:
“I give up that spy to you.” Then he came back, put the pistol in his pocket, and said to me, “ Fool! I'll make you long for death yet.”
“You've given yourself away pretty well," I said. “Some day I shall unmask you. It will be my revenge on you for daring to propose to me
“What?” he interrupted, over his shoulder. “You? Not you—and I'll tell you why. It's because dead men tell no tales."
He passed through the door-a back view of a dapper Spanish lawyer, all in black, in a lofty frame. The calm, strolling footsteps went away along the gallery. He turned the corner. The tapping of his heels echoed in the patio, into whose blackness filtered the first suggestion of the dawn.
REMEMBER walking about the room, and thinking to myself, “ This is bad, this is very bad; what shall I do now?"
A sort of mad meditation that in this meaningless way became so tense as to positively frighten me. Then it occurred to me that I could do nothing whatever at present, and I was soothed by this sense of powerlessness, which, one would think, ought to have driven me to distraction. I went to sleep ultimately, just as a man sentenced to death goes to sleep, lulled in a sort of ghastly way by the finality of his doom. Even when I awoke it kept me steady, in a way. I washed, dressed, walked, ate, said “Goodmorning, Cesar," to the old major-domo I met in the gallery; exchanged grins with the negro boys under the gateway, and watched the mules being ridden out barebacked by other nearly naked negro boys into the sea, with great splashing of water and a noise of voices. A small knot of men, unmistakably Lugareños, stood on the beach, also, watching the mules, and exchanging loud jocular shouts with the blacks. Rio Medio, the dead, forsaken, and desecrated city, was lying, as bare as a skeleto:1, on the sands. They were yellow; the bay was very blue, the wooded hills very green.
After the mules had been ridden uproariously back to the stables, wet and capering, and shaking their long ears, all the life of the land seemed to take refuge in this vivid coloring. As I looked at it from the outer balcony above the great gate, the small group of Lugareños turned about to look at the Casa Riego. They recognized me, no doubt, and one of them flourished, threateningly, an arm from under his cloak. I retreated indoors.
This was the only menacing sign, absolutely the only one sign that marked this day. It was a day of pause. Seraphina did not leave her apartments; Don Balthasar did not show himself; Father Antonio, hurrying towards the sick room, greeted me with only a wave of the hand. I was not admitted to see Carlos; the
nun came to the door, shook her head at me, and closed it gently in my face. Castro, sitting on the floor not very far away, seemed unaware of me in so marked a manner that it inspired me with the idea of not taking the slightest notice of him. Now and then the figure of a maid in white linen and bright petticoat Aitted in the upper gallery, and once I fancied I saw the black, rigid carriage of the duenna disappearing behind a pillar.
Señor O'Brien, old Cesar whispered, without looking at me, was extremely occupied in the Cancillaria. His midday meal was served him there. I had mine all alone, and then the sunny, heatladen stillness of siesta-time fell upon the Castilian dignity of the house.
I sank into a kind of reposeful belief in the work of accident. Something would happen. I did not know how soon and how atrociously my belief was to be justified. I exercised my ingenuity in the most approved lover-fashion-in devising means how to get secret speech with Seraphina. The confounded silly maids fled from my most distant appearance, as though I had the pest. I was wondering whether I should not go simply and audaciously and knock at her door, when I fancied I heard a scratching at mine. It was a very stealthy sound, quite capable of awakening my dormant emotions.
I went to the door and listened. Then, opening it the merest crack, I saw the inexplicable emptiness of the gallery. Castro, on his hands and knees, startled me by whispering at my feet:
"Stand aside, señor."
He entered my room on all-fours, and waited till I got the door closed before he stood up.
“Even he may sleep sometimes," he said. “And the balustrade has hidden me.
To see this little saturnine bandit, who generally stalked about haughtily, as if the whole Casa belonged to him by right of fidelity, crawl into my room like this was inexpressibly startling. He shook the folds of his cloak, and dropped his hat on the floor.
Still, it is better so. The very women of the house are not safe,” he said. Señor, I have no mind to be delivered to the English for hanging. But I have not been admitted to see Don Carlos, and, therefore, I must make my report to you. These are
Don Carlos' orders. "Serve him, Castro, when I am dead, as if my soul had passed into his body.'”
He nodded sadly. “ Si! But Don Carlos is a friend to me and you—you." He shook his head, and drew me away from the door. “Two Lugareños,” he said, “Manuel and another one, did go last night, as directed by the friar”-he supposed—" to meet the Juez in the bush outside Rio Medio.”
I had guessed that much, and told him of Manuel's behavior under my window. How did they know my chamber?
"Bad, bad," muttered Castro. “La Chica told her lover, no doubt." He hissed, and stamped his foot.
She was pretty, but flighty. The lover was a silly boy of decent, Christian parents, who was always hanging about in the low villages. No matter.
What he could not understand was why some boats should have been held in readiness till nearly the morning to tow a schooner outside. Manuel came along at dawn, and dismissed the crews. They had separated, making a great noise on the beach, and yelling, “Death to the Inglez."
I cleared up that point for him. He told me that O'Brien had the duenna called to his room that morning. Nothing had been heard outside, but the woman came out staggering, with her hand on the wall. He had terrified her. God knows what he had said to her. The widow—as Castro called her-had a son, an escrivano in one of the Courts of Justice. No doubt it was that.
“There it is, señor," murmured Castro, scowling all round, as if every wall of the room was an enemy. “ He holds all the people in his hand in some way. Even I must be cautious, though. I am a humble, trusted friend of the Casa! “What harm could he do you?" I asked.
He is civil to me. Amigo Castro here, and Amigo Castro there. Bah! The devil, alone, is his friend! He could deliver me to justice, and get my life sworn away. He could Quien sabe? What need he care what he does -a man that can get absolution from the archbishop himself if he likes.”
He meditated. "No! there is only one remedy for him." He tiptoed to my ear. “ The knife!”
He made a pass in the air with his blade, and I remembered