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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 flitted in the upper gallery, and once I fancied I saw the black, rigid carriage of the duenna disappearing behind a pillar.
Senor 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, senor."
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. "Senor, 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 art 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 Lugarenos" 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, senor," 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. Amiga Castro here, and Amiga 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
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 senorita—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 senora 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 that man. 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, senor. 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 senor 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: