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“We're backwards hereabouts," O'Brien jeered. "But over there they winked and chuckled at the judge, and they do the same in Havana at us."
Suddenly from behind us the voice of the young girl said, " Of what do you discourse, my English cousin?"
O'Brien interposed deferentially. “ Senorita, I ask him to come to Rio," he said.
She turned her large dark eyes scrutinizingly upon me, then dropped them again. She was arranging some melon seeds in a rayed circle round the lizard that looked motionlessly at her.
"Do not speak very loudly, lest you awaken my father," she warned us.
The old Don's face was still turned to the ceiling. Carlos, standing behind his chair, opened his mouth a little in a half smile. I was really angry with O'Brien by that time, with his air of omniscience, superiority, and self-content, as if he were talking to a child or someone very credulous and weak-minded.
"What right have you to speak for me, Senor Juez?” I said in the best Spanish I could.
The young girl looked at me once more, and then again looked down.
"Oh, I can speak for you," he answered in English, “because I know. Your position's this." He sat down in his rocking chair, crossed his legs, and looked at me as if he expected me to show signs of astonishment at his knowing so much. "You're in a hole. You must leave this island of Jamaica—surely it's as distressful as my own dear land—and you can't go home, because the runners would be after you. You're 'wanted' here as well as there, and you've nowhere to go."
I looked at him, quite startled by this view of my case. He extended one plump hand towards me, and still further lowered his voice.
"Now, I offer you a good berth, a snug berth. And 'tis a pretty spot." He got a sort of languorous honey into his voice, and drawled out, " The—the Senorita's." He took an air of businesslike candor. "You can help us, and we you; we could do without you better than you without us. Our undertaking—there's big names in it, just as in the Free Trading you know so well, don't be saying you don't—is worked from Havana. What we need is a man we can trust. We had one—Nichols. You remember the mate of the ship you came over in. He was Nicola el Demonio; he won't be any longer—I can't tell you why, it's too long a story."
I did remember very vividly that cadaverous Nova Scotian mate of the Thames, who had warned me with truculent menaces against showing my face in Rio Medio. I remembered his sallow, shiny cheeks, and the exaggerated gestures of his clawlike hands.
O'Brien smiled. "Nichols is alive right enough, but no more good than if he were dead. And that's the truth. He pretends his nerve's gone; he was a devil among tailors for a time, but he's taken to crying now. It was when your blundering old admiral's boats had to be beaten off that his zeal cooled. He thinks the British Government will rise in its strength." There was a bitter contempt in his voice, but he regained his calm business tone. “ It will do nothing of the sort. I've given them those seven poor devils that had to die to-day without absolution. So Nichols is done for, as far as we are concerned. I've got him put away to keep him from blabbing. You can have his place—and better than his place. He was only a sailor, which you are not. However, you know enough of ships, and what we want is a man with courage, of course, but also a man we can trust. Any of the Creoles would bolt into the bush the moment they'd five dollars in hand. We'll pay you well; a large share of all you take."
I laughed outright. "You're quite mistaken in your man," I said. "You are, really."
He shook his head gently, and brushed an invisible speck from his plump black knees.
"You must go somewhere," he said. "Why not go with us?" I looked at him, puzzled by his tenacity and assurance.
"Ramon here has told us you battered the admiral last night; and there's a warrant out already against you for attempted murder. You're hand and glove with the best of the Separationists in this island, I know, but they won't save you from being committed —for rebellion, perhaps. You know it as well as I do. You were down here to take a passage to-day, weren't you, now?"
I remembered that the Island Loyalists said that the pirates and Separationists worked together to bother the admiral and raise discontent. Living in the center of Separationist discontent with the Macdonalds, I knew it was not true. But nothing was too bad to say against the planters who clamored for union with the United States.
O'Brien leaned forward. His voice had a note of disdain, and then took one of deeper earnestness; it sank into his chest. He extended his hand; his eyebrows twitched. He looked—he was— a conspirator.
"I tell you I do it for the sake of Ireland," he said passionately. "Every ship we take, every clamor they raise here, is a stroke and is disgrace for them over there that have murdered us and ruined my own dear land." His face worked convulsively; I was in presence of one of the primeval passions. But he grew calm immediately after. "You want Separation for reasons of your own. I don't ask what they are. No doubt you and your crony Macdonald and the rest of them will feather your own nests; I don't ask. But help me to be a thorn in their sides—just a little—just a little longer. What do I put in your way? Just what you want. Have your Jamaica joined to the United States. You'll be able to come back with your pockets full, and I'll be joyful—for the sake of my own dear land."
I said suddenly and recklessly—if I had to face one race-passion, he had to look at another; we were cat and dog—Celt and Saxon, as it was in the beginning:
"I am not a traitor to my country."
Then I realized with sudden concern that I had probably awakened the old Don. He stirred uneasily in his chair, and lifted one hand. : “The moment I go out from here I'll denounce you," I said very low; "I swear I will. You're here; you can't get away; you'll swing."
O'Brien started. His eyes blazed at me. Then he frowned, “ I've been misled," he muttered, with a dark glance at Carlos. And recovering his jocular serenity, "Ye mean it?" he asked; "it's not British heroics?"
The old Don stirred again and sighed.
said, " you have so irritated my English cousin that he has awakened my father."
O'Brien grinned gently. “ 'Tis ever the way," he said sardon ically. "The English fools do the harm and the Irish fool gets the kicking." He rose to his feet, quite collected, a spick-and-span little man. "I suppose I've said too much. Well, well! You are going to denounce the senior judge of the Marine Court of Havana as a pirate. I wonder who will believe you!" He went behind the old Don's chair with the gliding motion of a Spanish lawyer, and slipped down the open trap-hatch near the window.
It was the disappearance of a shadow. I heard some guttural mutterings come up through the hatch, a rustling, then silence. If he was afraid of me at all he carried it off very well. I apologized to the young girl for having awakened her father. Her color was very high, and her eyes sparkled. If she had not been so very beautiful I should have gone away at once. She said angrily:
"He is odious to me, the Senor Juez. Too long my father has suffered his insolence." She was very small, but she had an extraordinary dignity of command. "I could see, senor, that he was annoying you. Why should you consider such a creature?" Her head drooped. "But my father is very old."
I turned upon Carlos, who stood all black in the light of the window.
"Why did you make me meet him? He may be a judge of your Marine Court, but he's nothing but a scoundrelly bogtrotter."
Carlos said a little haughtily, "You must not denounce him. You should not leave this place if I feared you would try thus to bring dishonor on this gray head, and involve this young girl in a public scandal." His manner became soft. "For the honor of the house you shall say nothing. And you shall come with us. I need
I was full of mistrust now. If he did countenance this unlawful enterprise, whose headquarters were in Rio Medio, he was not the man for me. Though it was big enough to be made, by the papers at home, of political importance, it was, after all, neither more nor less than piracy. The idea of my turning a sort of Irish traitor was so extravagantly outrageous that now I could smile at the imbecility of that fellow O'Brien. As to turning into a sea-thief for lucre—my blood boiled.
No. There was something else there. Something deep; something dangerous; some intrigue, that I could not conceive even the first notion of. But that Carlos wanted anxiously to make use of me for some purpose was clear. I was mystified to the point of forgetting how heavily I was compromised even in Jamaica, though it was worth remembering, because at that time an indictment for rebellion—under the Black Act—was no joking matter. I might be sent home under arrest; and even then, there was my affair with the runners.
"It is coming to pay a visit," he was saying persuasively," while your affair here blows over, my Juan—and—and—making my last hours easy, perhaps."
I looked at him; he was worn to a shadow—a shadow with dark wistful eyes. "I don't understand you," I faltered.
The old man stirred, opened his lids, and put a gold vinaigrette to his nostrils.
"Of course I shall not denounce O'Brien," I said. "I, too, respect the honor of your house."
"You are even better than I thought you. And if I entreat you, for the love of your mother—of your sister ? Juan, it is not for myself, it is "
The young girl was pouring some drops from a green phial into a silver goblet; she passed close to us, and handed it to her father, who had leant a little forward in his chair. Every movement of hers affected me with an intimate joy; it was as if I had been waiting to see just that carriage of the neck, just that proud glance from the eyes, just that droop of eyelashes upon the cheeks, for years and years.
"No, I shall hold my tongue, and that's enough," I said.
At that moment the old Don sat up and cleared his throat. Carlos sprang towards him with an infinite grace of tender obsequiousness. He mentioned my name and the relationship, then rehearsed the innumerable titles of his uncle, ending “and patron of the Bishopric of Pinar del Rio."
I stood stiffly in front of the old man. He bowed his head at intervals, holding the silver cup carefully whilst his chair rocked
hemo had leant' he passed clos some drops