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vividly the cockroach he had impaled with such accuracy on board the Thames. His baneful glance reminded me of his murderous capering in the steerage, when he had thought that the only remedy for me was the knife.
He went to the loop-hole, and passed the steel thoughtfully on the stone edge. I had not moved.
“The knife; but what would you have? Before, when I talked of this to Don Carlos, he only laughed at me. That was his way in matters of importance. Now they will not let me come in to him. He is too near God—and the señorita—why, she is too near the saints for all the great nobility of her spirit. But, que diableria, when I-in my devotion-opened my mouth to her I saw some of that spirit in her eyes.
There was a slight irony in his voice. “No! Me—Castro! to be told that an English señora would have dismissed me forever from her presence for such a hint. 'Your Excellency,' I said, deign, then, to find it good that I should avoid giving offense to
It is not my desire to run my neck into the iron collar.'
He looked at me fixedly, as if expecting me to make a sign, then shrugged his shoulders.
“Bueno. You see this? Then look to it yourself, señor. You are to me even as Don Carlos—all except for the love.
No English body is big enough to receive his soul. No friend will be left that would risk his very honor of a noble for a man like Tomas Castro. Let me warn you not to leave the Casa, even if a shining angel stood outside the gate and called you by name. The gate is barred, now, night and day. I have dropped a hint to Cesar, and that old African knows more than the señor would suppose. I cannot tell how soon I may have the opportunity to talk to you again.”
He peeped through the crack of the door, then slipped out, suddenly falling at once on his hands and knees, so as to be hidden by the stone balustrade from anybody in the patio. He, too, did not think himself safe.
Early in the evening I descended into the court, and Father Antonio, walking up and down the patio with his eyes on his breviary, muttered to me:
“Sit on this chair," and went on without stopping.
I took a chair near the marble rim of the basin with its border of English flowers, its splashing thread of water. The goldfishes that had been lying motionless, with their heads pointing different ways, glided into a bunch to the fall of my shadow, waiting for crumbs of bread.
Father Antonio, his head down, and the open breviary under his nose, brushed my foot with the skirt of his cassock.
"Have you any plan?”
At his next turn I pronounced rapidly, "I should like to see Carlos."
He frowned over the edge of the book.
I understood that he refused to let me in. And, after all, why should I disturb that dying man? The news about him was that he felt stronger that day. But he was preparing for eternity. Father Antonio's business was to save souls. I felt horribly crushed and alone. The priest asked, hardly moving his lips:
What do you trust to?" I had the time to meditate my reply. “Tell Carlos I think of escape by sea.”
He made a little sign of assent, turned off towards the staircase, and went back to the sick room.
“The folly of it," I thought. How could I think of it? Escape where? I dared not even show myself outside the Casa. My safety within depended on old Cesar more than on anybody else. He had the key of the gate, and the gate was practically the only thing between me and a miserable death at the hands of the first ruffian I met outside. And with the thought I seemed to stifle in that patio open to the sky.
That gate seemed to cut off the breath of life from me. I was there, as if in a trap. Should I-I asked myself—try to enlighten Don Balthasar? Why not? He would understand me. I would tell him that in his own town, as he always called Rio Medio, there lurked assassination for his guest. That would move him if anything could.
He was then walking with O'Brien after dinner, as he had walked with me on the day of my arrival. Only Seraphina had
not appeared, and we three men had sat out the silent meal alone.
They stopped as I approached, and Don Balthasar listened to me benignantly. “Ah, yes, yes! Times have changed." But there was no reason for alarm. There were some undesirable persons. Had they not arrived lately? He turned to O'Brien, who stood by, in readiness to resume the walk, and answered, “Yes, quite lately. Very undesirable,” in a matter-of-fact tone. The excellent Don Patricio would take measures to have them removed, the old man soothed me. But it was not really dangerous for anyone to go out. Again he addressed O'Brien, who only smiled gently, as much as to say, “What an absurdity." I must not forget, continued the old man, the veneration for the very name of Riego that still, thank Heaven, survived in these godless and revolutionary times in the Riegos' own town.
He straightened his back a little, looking at me with dignity, and then glanced at the other, who inclined his head affirmatively. The utter and complete hopelessness of the position appalled me for a moment. The old man had not put foot outside his door for years, not even to go to church. Father Antonio said Mass for him every day in the little chapel next the dining room. When O'Brien—for his own purposes, and the better to conceal his own connection with the Rio Medio piracies—had persuaded him to go to Jamaica officially, he had been rowed in state to the ship waiting outside. For many years now it had been impossible to enlighten him as to the true condition of affairs. He listened to people's talk as though it had been children's prattle. I have related how he received Carlos' denunciations. If one insisted, he would draw himself up in displeasure. But in his decay he had preserved a great dignity, a grave firmness that intimidated me a little.
I did not, of course, insist that evening, and, after giving me my dismissal in a gesture of blessing, he resumed his engrossing conversation with O'Brien. It related to the services commemorating his wife's death, those services that, once every twelve months, draped in black all the churches in Havana. A hundred masses, no less, had to be said that day; a distribution of alms had to be made. O'Brien was charged with all the arrangements, and I caught, as they crept past me up and down the patio, snatches of phrases re