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who lived on illusions, and was inclined to put implicit faith in his wishes. His desire of revenge on me, the downfall of his hopes (he could no longer deceive himself), a desperate striving of thought for their regaining, his impulse towards the impossibleall these emotions paralyzed his will.
Don Balthasar beckoned to me.
"Don't go near him," said O'Brien, in a thick, mumbling voice. “ I shall I must -"
I put him aside. Don Balthasar took my arm. "Misguided populace," he whispered. "They have been a source of sorrow to me lately. But this wicked folly is incredible. I shall call upon them to come to their senses. My voice "
The court below was strongly lighted, so that I saw the bearded, bronzed, wild faces of the Lugarenos looking up. We, also, were strongly shown by the light of the doorway behind us, and by the torches burning in the gallery.
That morning, in my helplessness, I had come to put my trust in accident—in some accident—I hardly knew of what naturemy own death, perhaps—that would find a solution for my responsibilities, put an end to my tormenting thoughts. And now the accident came with a terrible swiftness, at which I shudder to this day.
We were looking down into the patio. Don Balthasar had just said, "You are nowhere as safe as by my side," when I noticed a Lugareno withdrawing himself from the throng about the basin. His face came to me familiarly. He was the pirate with the broken nose, who had had a taste of my fist. He had the sentry's musket on his shoulder, and was slinking away towards the gate.
Don Balthasar extended his hand over the balustrade, and there was a general movement of recoil below. I wondered why the slaves on the stairs did not charge and clear the patio; but I suppose with such a mob outside there was a natural hesitation in bringing the position to an issue. The Lugarenos were muttering, “ Look at the Inglez!” then cried out together, " Excellency, give up this Inglez!"
Don Balthasar seemed ten years younger suddenly. I had never seen him so imposingly erect.
"Insensate!” he began, without any anger.
“He's going to fire!” yelled Castro's voice somewhere in the gallery.
I saw a red dart in the shadow of the gate. The broken-nosed pirate had fired at me. The report, deadened in the vault, hardly reached my ears. Don Balthasar's arm seemed to swing me back.
Then I felt him lean heavily on my shoulder. I did not know what had happened till I heard him say:
"Pray for me, gentlemen."
For a second after the shot, the most dead silence prevailed in the court. It was broken by an affrighted howl below: and Seraphina's voice cried piercingly:
The priest, dropping on one knee, sustained the silvery head, with its thin features already calm in death. Don Balthasar had saved my life; and his daughter flung herself upon the body. O'Brien pressed his hands to his temples, and remained motion
I saw the bishop, in his stiff cope, creep up to the group with the motion of a tortoise. And, for a moment, his quavering voice pronouncing the absolution was the only sound in the house.
Then a most fiendish noise broke out below. The negroes had charged, and the Lugarenos, struck with terror at the unforeseen catastrophe, were rushing helter-skelter through the gate. The screaming of the maids was frightful. They ran up and down the galleries with their hair streaming. O'Brien passed me by swiftly, muttering like a madman.
I, also, got down into the courtyard in time to strike some heavy blows under the gateway; but I don't know who it was that thrust into my hands the musket which I used as a club. The sudden burst of shrieks, the cries of terror under the vault of the gate, yells of rage and consternation, silenced the mob outside. The Lugarenos, appalled at what had happened, shouted most pitifully. They squeaked like the vermin they were. I brought down the clubbed musket; two went down. Of two I am sure. The rush of flying feet swept through between the walls, bearing me along. For a time a black stream of men eddied in the moonlight round the bishop's coach, like a torrent breaking round a boulder. The great heavy machine rocked, mules plunged, torches swayed.
The archway had been cleared. Outside, the slaves were forming in the open space before the Casa, while Cesar, with a few others, labored to swing the heavy gates to. Hats, torn cloaks, knives strewed the flagstones, and the dim light of the lamps, fastened high up on the walls, fell on the faces of three men stretched out on their backs. Another, lying huddled up in a heap, got up suddenly and rushed out.
The thought of Seraphina clinging to the lifeless body of her father upstairs came to me; it came over me in horror, and I let the musket fall out of my hand. A silence like the silence of despair reigned in the house. She would hate me now. I felt as if I could walk out and give myself up, had it not been for the sight of O'Brien.
He was leaning his shoulders against the wall in the posture of a man suddenly overcome by a deadly disease. No one was looking at us. It came to me that he could not have many illusions left to him now. He looked up wearily, saw me, and, waking up at once, thrust his hands into the pockets of his breeches. I thought of his pistol. No wild hope of love would prevent him, now, from killing me outright. The fatal shot that had put an end to Don Balthasar's life must have brought to him an awakening worse than death. I made one stride, caught him by both arms swiftly, and pinned him to the wall with all my strength. We struggled in silence.
I found him much more vigorous than I had expected; but, at the same time, I felt at once that I was more than a match for him. We did not say a word. We made no noise. But, in our struggle, we got away from the wall into the middle of the gateway. I dared not let go of his arms to take him by the throat. He only tried to jerk and wrench himself away. Had he succeeded, it would have been death for me. We never moved our feet from the spot fairly in the middle of the archway, but nearer to the gate than to the patio. The slaves, formed outside, guarded the bishop's coach, and I do not know that there was anybody else actually with us under the vault of the entrance. We glared into each othex's faces, and the world seemed very still around us. I
I found hure, I felt at once. We made no moiddle of
telt in me a passion—not of hate, but of determination to be done with him; and from his face it was possible to guess his suffering, his despair, or his rage.
In the midst of our straining I heard a sibilant sound. I detached my eyes from his; his struggles redoubled, and, behind him, stealing in towards us from the court, black on the strip of crimson cloth, I saw Tomas Castro. He flung his cloak back. The light of the lanthorn under the keystone of the arch glimmered feebly on the blade of his maimed arm. He made a discreet and bloodcurdling gesture to me with the other.
How could I hold a man so that he should be stabbed from behind in my arms ? Castro was running up swiftly, his cloak opening like a pair of sable wings. Collecting all my strength, I forced O'Brien round, and we swung about in a flash. Now he had his back to the gate. My effort seemed to have uprooted him. I felt him give way all over.
As soon as our position had changed, Castro checked himself, and stepped aside into the shadow of the guardroom doorway. I don't think O'Brien had been aware of what had been going on. His strength was overborne by mine. I drove him backwards. His eyes blinked wildly. He bared his teeth. He resisted, as though I had been forcing him over the brink of perdition. His feet clung to the flagstones. I shook him till his head rolled.
"Viper brood!" he spluttered. "Out you go!” I hissed.
I had found nothing heroic, nothing romantic to say—nothing that would express my desperate resolve to rid the world of his presence. All I could do was to fling him out. The Casa Riego was all my world—a world full of great pain, great mourning, and love. I saw him pitch headlong under the wheels of the bishop's enormous carriage. The black coachman who had sat aloft, unmoved through all the tumult, in his white stockings and three-cornered hat, glanced down from his high box. And the two parts of the gate came together with a clang of ironwork and a heavy crash that seemed as loud as thunder under that vault.
NOT even in memory am I willing to live over again those
three days when Father Antonio, the old major-domo,
and myself would meet each other in the galleries, in the patio, in the empty rooms, moving in the stillness of the house with heavy hearts and desolate eyes, which seemed to demand, "What is there to do?"
Of course, precautions were taken against the Lugareños They were besieging the Casa from afar. They had established a sort of camp at the end of the street, and they prowled about amongst the old, barricaded houses in their pointed hats, in their rags and finery; women, with food, passed constantly between the villages and the panic-stricken town; there were groups on the beach; and one of the schooners had been towed down the bay, and was lying, now, moored stem and stern opposite the great gate. They did nothing whatever active against us. They lay around and watched, as if in pursuance of a plan traced by a superior authority. They were watching for me. But when, by some mischance, they burnt the roof off the outbuildings that were at some distance from the Casa, their chiefs sent up a deputation of three, with apologies. Those men came unarmed, and, as it were, under Castro's protection, and absolutely whimpered with regrets before Father Antonio. "Would his reverence kindly intercede with the most noble señorita? . . .
"Silence! Dare not pronounce her name!" thundered the good priest, snatching away his hand, which they attempted to grab and kiss.
I, in the background, noted their black looks at me, even as they cringed. The man who had fired the shot, they said, had expired of his wounds ofter great torments. Their other dead had been thrust out of the gate before. A long fellow, with slanting eyebrows and a scar on his cheek, called El Rechado, tried to inform Cesar, confidentially, that Manuel, his friend, had been opposed to