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O'Brien asks me to do, I do. I would put a knife into anyone who inconvenienced the Senor Juez O'Brien, who is a good Catholic; we would all do that, as is right and fitting. But this Castro this Andalou, who is nearly as bad as a heretic! When my day comes, I will have his arms flayed and the soles of his feet, and I will rub red pepper into them; and all the men of Rio who do not love foreigners will applaud. And I will stick little thorns under his tongue, and I will cut off his eyelids with little scissors, and set him facing the sun. Caballero, you would love me; I have a gentle spirit. I am a pleasant companion." He rose and squeezed round the table. "Listen "—his eyes lit up with rapture—“you shall hear me. It is divine—ah, it is very pleasant, you will say."
He seized his mandolin, slung it round his neck, and leant against the bulkhead. The bright light from the port-hole gilded the outlines of his body, as he swayed about and moved his long fingers across the strings; they tinkled metallically. He sang in a nasal voice:
• Listen!' the young girls say as they hasten to the barred window. • Listen! Ah, surely that is the guitar of Man—u—el—del-Popolo, As he glides along the wall in the twilight.'"
It was a very long song. He gesticulated freely with his hand in between the scratching of the strings, which seemed to be a matter of luck. His eyes gazed distantly at the wall above my head. The performance bewildered and impressed me; I wondered if this was what they had carried me off for. It was like being mad. He made a decresendo tinkling, and his lofty features lapsed into their normal mournfulness.
At that moment Castro put his face round the door, then entered altogether. He sighed in a satisfied manner, and had an air of having finished a laborious undertaking.
"We have arranged the confusion up above," he said to Manueldel-Popolo; " you may go and see to the sailing. ... Hurry; it is growing late."
Manuel blazed silently, and stalked out of the door as if he had an electric cloud round his head. Tomas Castro turned towards “You are better?" he asked benevolently. "You exerted yourself too much. ... But still, if you liked— ” He picked up the mandolin, and began negligently scratching the strings. I noticed an alteration in him; he had grown softer in the flesh in the past years; there were little threads of gray in the knotted curls of his beard. It was as if he had lived well, on the whole. He bent his head over the strings, plucked one, tightened a peg, plucked it again, then set the instrument on the table, and dropped onto the mattress. "Will you have some rum?" he said. "You have grown broad and strong, like a bull. ... You made those men fly, sacre nom d'une pipe. ... One would have thought you were in earnest. ... Ah, well!" He stretched himself at length on the mattress, and closed his eyes.
I looked at him to discover traces of irony. There weren't any. He was talking quietly; he even reproved me for having carried the pretense of resistance beyond a joke.
"You fought too much; you struck many men—and hard. You will have made enemies. The picaros of this dirty little town are as conceited as pigs. You must take care, or you will have a knife in your back."
He lay with his hands crossed on his stomach, which was round like a pudding. After a time he opened his eyes, and looked at the dancing white reflection of the water on the grimy ceiling.
"To think of seeing you again, after all these years," he said. "I did not believe my ears when Don Carlos asked me to fetch you like this. Who would have believed it? But, as they say," he added philosophically, “ The water flows to the sea, and the little stones find their places.'" He paused to listen to the sounds that came from above. "That Manuel is a fool," he said without rancor; "he is mad with jealousy because for this day I have command here. But, all the same, they are dangerous pigs, these slaves of the Senor O'Brien. I wish the town were rid of them. One day there will be a riot—a function—with their jealousies and madness."
I sat and said nothing, and things fitted themselves together, little patches of information going in here and there like the pieces of a puzzle map. O'Brien had gone on to Havana in the ship from which I had escaped, to render an account of the pirates that had been hung at Kingston; the Riegos had been landed in boats at Rio Medio, of course.
"That poor Don Carlos!” Castro moaned lamentably. "They had the barbarity to take him out in the night, in that raw fog. He coughed and coughed; it made me faint to hear him. He could not even speak to me—his Tomas; it was pitiful. He could not speak when we got to the Casa."
I could not really understand why I had been a second time kidnaped. Castro said that O'Brien had not been unwilling that I should reach Havana. It was Carlos that had ordered Tomas to take me out of the Breeze. He had come down in the raw morning, before the schooner had put out from behind the point, to impress very elaborate directions upon Tomas Castro; indeed, it was whilst talking to Tomas that he had burst a blood vessel.
"He said to me: 'Have a care now. Listen. He is my dear friend, that Senor Juan. I love him as if he were my only brother. Be very careful, Tomas Castro. Make it appear that he come? to us much against his will. Let him be dragged on board by many men. You are to understand, Tomas, that he is a youth of noble family, and that you are to be as careful of compromising him as you are of the honor of Our Lady.'”.
Tomas Castro looked across at me. "You will be able to report well of me," he said; “I did my best. If you are compromised, it was you who did it by talking to me as if you knew me."
I remembered, then, that Tomas certainly had resented my seeming to recognize him before Cowper and Lumsden. He closed his eyes again. After a time he added:
"Vaya! After all, it is foolishness to fear being compromised. You would never believe that his Excellency Don Balthasar had led a riotous life—to look at him with his silver head. It is said he had three friars killed once in Seville, a very, very long time ago. It was dangerous in those days to come against our Mother, the Church." He paused, and undid his shirt, laying bare an incredibly hairy chest; then slowly kicked off his shoes. "One stifles here," he said. "Ah! in the old days— "
Suddenly he turned to me and said, with an air of indescribable interest, as if he were gloating over an obscene idea:
"So they would hang a gentleman like you, if they caught youi What savages you English people are !—what savages! Like cannibals! You did well to make that comedy of resisting. Quel pays! . . What a people ... I dream of them still. ... The eyes; the teeth! Ah, well! in an hour we shall be in Rio. I must sleep. ..."
Y two of the afternoon we were running into the inlet of
started out of his doze. I wanted to see. We went round violently as I emerged, and, clinging to the side, I saw, in a whirl, tall, baked, brown hills dropping sheer down to a strip of flat land and a belt of dark-green scrub at the water's edge; little pink squares of house-walls dropped here and there, mounting the hillside among palms, like men standing in tall grass, running back, hiding in a steep valley; silver-gray huts with ragged dun roofs, like disheveled shocks of hair; a great pink church-face, very tall and narrow, pyramidal towards the top, and pierced for seven bells, but having only three. It looked as if it had been hidden for centuries in the folds of an ancient land, as it lay there asleep in the blighting sunlight.
When we anchored, Tomas, beside me in saturnine silence, grunted and spat into the water.
"Look here," I said. "What is the meaning of it all? What is it? What is at the bottom?"
He shrugged his shoulders gloomily. "If your worship does not know, who should ?” he said. "It is not for me to say why people should wish to come here."
"Then take me to Carlos," I said. "I must get this settled."
Castro looked at me suspiciously. "You will not excite him?" he said. "I have known people die right out when they were like that."
"Oh, I won't excite him," I said.
As we were rowed ashore, he began to point out the houses of the notables. Rio Medio had been one of the principal ports of the Antilles in the seventeenth century, but it had failed before the rivalry of Havana because its harbor would not take the large vessels of modern draft. Now it had no trade, no life, no anything except a bishop and a great monastery, a few retired officials