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that fiend? Is it true that the señorita has disappeared? These tales are told."
I said it was very true.
“ 'They shall be avenged,” he declared, "to-morrow! I shall seek out the señorita. I shall find her. I shall find her! For me she was destined by my venerable friend.”
He snatched a black velvet jacket from the table and put it on.
“Afterwards, señor, you shall relate. Have no fear. I shall save you. I shall save all men oppressed by this scourge of the land. For the moment afford me the opportunity to meditate.” He crossed his arms, and dropped his round head. “Alas, yes!” he meditated.
Suddenly he waved towards the door. “Señor," he said swiftly, “I must have air; I stifle. Come with me to the corridor.
He went towards the window giving on to the patio; he stood in the shadow, his arms folded, his head hanging dejectedly. At the moment it grew suddenly dark, as if a veil had been thrown over a lamp. The sun had set outside the walls. A drum began to beat. Down below in the obscurity the crowd separated into three strings and moved slowly towards the barren tunnels. Under our feet the white shirts disappeared; the ragged crowd gravitated to the left; the small children strung into the square cage-door. The drum beat again and the crowd hurried. Then there was a clang of closing grilles and lights began to show behind the bars from deep recesses. In a little time there was a repulsive hash of heads and limbs to be seen under the arches vanishing a long way within, and a little light washed across the gravel of the patio from within.
“Señor," the Cuban said suddenly, "I will pronounce his panegyric. He was a man of a great gentleness, of an inevitable nobility, of an invariable courtesy. Where, in this degenerate age, shall we find the like!” He stopped to breathe a sound of intense exasperation. “When I think of these Irish, ...," he said.
," he said. “Of that O'Brien.
A servant was arranging the shining room that we had left. Salazar interrupted himself to give some orders about a banquet, then returned to me. “I tell you I am here for introducing my knife to the spine of some sort of Madrid embus
tero, a man who was insolent to my amiga Clara. Do you believe that for that this O'Brien, by the influence of the priests whose soles he licks with his tongue, has had me inclosed for many months? Because he feared me! Aha! I was about to expose him to the noble don who is now dead! I was about to wed the señorita who has disappeared. But to-morrow ... I shall expose his intrigue to the Captain-General. You, señor, shall be my witness! I extend my protection to you. .
He crossed his arms and spoke with much deliberation. "Señor, this Irishman incommodes me, Don Vincente Salazar de Valdepeñas y Forli. ..." He nodded his head expressively. Señor, we offered these Irish the shelter of our robe for that your Government was making martyrs of them who were good Christians, and it behooves us to act in despite of your Government, who are heretics and not to be tolerated upon God's Christian earth. But, Señor, if they incommoded your Government as they do us, I do not wonder that there was a desire to remove them. Señor, the life of that man is not worth the price of eight mules, which is the price I have paid for my release. I might walk free at this moment, but it is not fitting that I should slink away under cover of darkness. I shall go out in the daylight with my carriage. And I will have an offering to show my friends who, like me, are incommoded by this. The man was a monomaniac; but it struck me that, if I had been O'Brien, I should have felt uncomfortable.
In the dark of the corridor a long shape appeared, lounging. The Cuban beside me started hospitably forward.
“Vamos," he said briskly; " to the banquet. ..." He waved his hand towards the shining door and stood aside. We entered.
The other man was undoubtedly the Nova Scotian mate of the Thames, the man who had dissuaded me from following Carlos on the day we sailed into Kingston Harbor. He was chewing a toothpick, and at the ruminant motion of his knife-jaws I seemed to see him, sitting naked to the waist in his bunk, instead of upright there in red trousers and a blue shirt-an immense lank-length of each. I pieced his history together in a sort of flash. He was the true Nikola el Escoces; his name was Nichols, and he came from Nova Scotia. He had been the chief of O'Brien's Lugareños. He
surveyed me now with a twinkle in his eyes, his yellow jaws as shiny-shaven as of old; his arms as much like a semaphore. He said mockingly:
“So you went there, after all?”
But the Cuban was pressing us towards his banquet; there was gaspacho in silver plates, and a man in livery holding something in a napkin. It worried me. We surveyed each other in silence. I wondered what Nichols knew; what it would be safe to tell him; how much he could help me? One or other of these men undoubtedly might. The Cuban was an imbecile; but he might have some influence—and if he really were going out on the morrow, and really did go to the Captain-General, he certainly could further his own revenge on O'Brien by helping me. But as for Nichols.
Salazar began to tell a long, exaggerated story about his cook, whom he had imported from Paris.
"Think," he said; “I bring the fool two thousand miles—and then—not even able to begin on a land-crab. A fool!”
The Nova Scotian cast an uninterested side glance at him, and said in English, which Salazar did not understand:
So you went there, after all ? And now he's got you.” I did not answer him. “I know all about yeh,” he added.
It's more than I do about yeh,” I said. He rose and suddenly jerked the door open, peered on each side of the corridor, and then sat down again.
“I'm not afraid to tell," he said defiantly. “I'm not afraid of anything. I'm safe."
The Cuban said to me in Spanish: “This señor is my friend. Everyone who hates that devil is my friend."
“I'm safe,” Nichols repeated. “I know too much about our friend the raparee.” He lowered his voice. “They say you're to be given up for piracy, eh?” His eyes had an extraordinary anxious leer. “You are now, eh? For how much? Can't you tell a man? We're in the same boat! I kin help yeh!”
Salazar accidentally knocked a silver goblet off the table and, at the sound, Nichols sprang half off his chair. He glared in a wild scare around him, then grasped at a fagon of aguardiente and drank.
"I'm not afraid of any damn thing," he said. “I've got a hold on that man. He dursen't give me up. I kin see! He's going to give you up and say you're responsible for it all.”
“I don't know what he's going to do," I answered.
“Will you not, señor," Salazar said suddenly, “relate, if you can without distress, the heroic death of that venerated man ?
I glanced involuntarily at Nichols. “The distress," I said, "would be very great. I was Don Balthasar's kinsman. The Señor O'Brien had a great fear of my influence in the Casa. It was in trying to take ine away that Don Balthasar, who defended me, was slain by the Lugareños of O'Brien."
Salazar said, “Aha! Aha! We are kindred spirits. Hated and loved by the same souls. This fiend, señor. And then. ...
“I escaped by sea-in an open boat, in the confusion. When I reached Havana, the Juez had me arrested.”
Salazar raised both hands; his gestures, made for large, grave men, were comic in him. They reduced Spanish manners to absurdity. He said:
That man dies. That man dies. To-morrow I go to the Captain-General. He shall hear this story of yours, señor. He shall know of these machinations which bring honest men to this place. We are a band of brothers. .
That's what I say.” Nichols leered at me. “We're all in the same boat.”
I expect he noticed that I wasn't moved by his declaration. He said, still in English:
“Let us be open. Let's have a council of war. This Juez hates me because I wouldn't fire on my own countrymen." He glanced furtively at me. “I wouldn't," he asserted; "he wanted me to fire into their boats; but I wouldn't. Don't you believe the tales they tell about me! They tell worse about you. Who says I would fire on my countrymen? Where's the man who says it?” He had been drinking more brandy and glared ferociously
“None of your tricks, my hearty,” he said. “None of your getting out and spreading tales. O'Brien's my friend; he'll never give me up. He dursen't. I know too much. You're a pirate! No doubt it was you who fired into them boats. By God, I'll be witness against you if they give me up. I'll show you up."
All the while the little Cuban talked swiftly and with a saturnine enthusiasm. He passed the wine rapidly.
"My own countrymen!" Nichols shouted. "Never! I shot a Yankee lieutenant-Allen he was—with my own hand. That's another thing. I'm not a man to trifle with. No, sir. Don't you try it. ... Why, I've papers that would hang O'Brien. I sent them home to Halifax. I know a trick worth his. By God, let him try it! Let him only try it. He dursen't give me up. ..
The man in livery came in to snuff the candles. Nichols sprang from his seat in a panic and drew his knife with frantic haste. He continued, glaring at me from the wall, the knife in his hand: Don't
you dream of tricks. I've cut more throats than you've kissed gals in your little life.”
Salazar himself drew an immense pointed knife with a shagreen hilt. He kissed it rapturously,
Aha! ... Aha!” he said, “ bear this kiss into his ribs at the back. His eyes glistened with this mania. “I swear it; when I next see this dog; this friend of the priests." He threw the knife on the table. Look," he said, was ever steel truer or more thirsty?"
“Don't you make no mistake,” Nichols continued to me. “Don't you think to presume. O'Brien's my friend. I'm here snug and out of the way of the old fool of an admiral. That's why he's kept waiting off the Morro. When he goes, I walk out free. Don't you try to frighten me. I'm not a man to be frightened.”
Salazar bubbled: "Ah, but now the wine flows and is red. We are a band of brothers, each loving the other. Brothers, let us drink.”
The air of close confinement, the blaze, the feel of the jail, pressed upon me, and I felt sore, suddenly, at having eaten and drunk with those two. The idea of Seraphina, asleep perhaps, crying perhaps, something pure and distant and very blissful, came in upon me irresistibly.
The little Cuban said, “We have had a very delightful conversation. It is very plain this O'Brien must die.”
I rose to my feet. "Gentlemen," I said in Spanish, “I am very weary; I will go and sleep in the corridor.”