« EelmineJätka »
and one of them is coming to see you The poor man had the air of a funeral, this afternoon."
and took his wine as if it were sour. "Ah!” said the girl indifferently. Ah! these civilians, they amuse one; "General Vincente.”
they take life so seriously." Julia changed color, and her eyelids He laughed and looked round on flickered for a moment as she looked those assembled, as if inviting them to out of the open window.
join him in a gayer and easier view of "A good friend," continued Concha, existence. The padre's furrowed face "but-"
answered the summons in a sudden He finished the phrase with an elo- smile, but it was with grave eyes that quent little gesture of the hand. At he looked searchingly at the most powthis moment they both heard the sound erful man in Andalusia, for General of an approaching carriage.
Vincente's word was law south of the "He is coming now,” said Concha; Tagus. "he is driving, so Estella is with him." The two men sat side by side in strong "Estella is, of course, jealous." contrast. Fate, indeed, seems to shake The priest looked at her with a slow, men together in a bag and cast them wise smile, and said nothing.
out upon the world, heedless where they "She" began Julia, and then closed may fall for here was a soldier in the her lips-true to that esprit de sexe priest's habit, and one carrying a sword which has ruled through all the ages. who had the keen heart and sure symThen Julia Barenna gave a sharp sigh pathy for joy or sorrow that should ever as her mind reverted from Estella's be found within a black coat if the Mas. affairs to her own.
ter's work is to be well done. Sitting thus in silence, the two occu- General Vincente smiled at Estella pants of the quiet room heard the ap- with sang froid and an unruffled good proach of steps and the clink of spurs nature, while the Padre Concha, whose in the corridor.
place it surely was to take the lead in "It is the reverendo who visits the such woman's work as this, slowly señorita," they heard the voice of the rubbed his bony hands together at a sentinel explain deprecatingly,
loss and incompetent to meet the urThe priest rose and went to the door, gency of the moment. which he opened.
"Our guest left us yesterday morn"Only as a friend,” he said. "Come ing,” said the general, “and of course in, general.”
the alcalde placed no hindrance on his General Vincente entered the room, departure.” followed by Estella. He nodded to He did not look at Julia, who drew a Concha and kissed his niece affection- deep breath and glanced at Estella. ately.
“I do not know if Señor Conyngham "Still obdurate?” he said, with a semi- left any message for you with Estella, playful tap on her shoulder. "Still to me he said nothing," continued Esobdurate? My dear Julia, in peace and tella's father; and that young lady shook war the greatest quality in the strong is her head. mercy. You have proved yourself "No," she put in composedly. strong-you have worsted that unfortu- "Then it remains for us to close this nate alcalde—be merciful to him now, foolish incident, my dear Julia, and and let this incident finish.”
for me to remind you, seeing you are He drew forward a chair, the others fatherless, that there are in Spain many being seated, and laid aside his gloves. adventurers who come here seeking the The sword which he held upright be- sport of love or war, who will ride tween his knees, with his two hands away when they have had their fill of resting on the hilt, looked incongruously either. large and reached the level of his eyes. He ceased speaking with a tolerant He gave a little chuckling laugh. laugh, as one who, being a soldier him.
“I saw him last night at the Café Real. self, would beg indulgence for the fail
ings of his comrades, examined the hilt The sun had set, and in the hollows of of his sword, and then looked blandly the distant mountains the shades of round on three faces which refused to night already lay like a blue veil. class the absent Englishman in this The priest walked on and presently category.
reached the highroad. "It remains, my dear niece, to satisfy A single figure was upon it, the figure the alcalde, a mere glance at the let- of a man sitting in the shadow of an ter-sufficient to satisfy him to ilex-tree, half a mile up the road toward the nature of its contents."
Bobadilla. The man crouched low “I have no letter,” said Julia quietly, against a heap of stones, and had the with her level red lips set firmly.
air of a wanderer. His face was con"Not in your possession, but perhaps cealed in the folds of his cloak. concealed in some place at hand, unless “Blown over," muttered the padre, it is destroyed."
as he turned his back upon Bobadilla "I have destroyed no letter, I have and went on toward his church—"blown concealed no letter, and I have no let over, of course, but what is Concepcion ter," said the girl quietly.
Vara doing in the neighborhood of Estella moved uneasily in her chair. Ronda to-night?" Her face was colorless and her eyes shone. She watched her cousin's face
CHAPTER XII. intently, and beneath his shaggy brows
ON THE TOLEDO ROAD. the old priest's eyes went from one fair countenance to the other.
“Une bonne intention est une échelle trop "Then," cried the general, rising to
courte." his feet with an air of relief, “you have Conyngham made his way without but to assure the alcalde of this, and difficulty or incident from Xeres to Corthe whole incident is terminated-blown dova, riding for the most part in front over, my dear Concha-blown over." of the clumsy diligencia, wherein he had
He tapped the priest on the shoulder bestowed his luggage. The road was with great good-nature. Indeed, the wearisome enough, and the last stages, world seemed sunny enough and free through the fertile plains bordering the from cares when General Vincente had Guadalquivir, dusty and monotonous. to deal with it.
At Cordova the traveller found com“Yes, yes," said the padre, snuff-box fortable quarters in an old inn overlookin hand; "blown over, of course." ing the river. The ancient city was
"Then I may send the alcalde to you, then, as it is now, a great military cenJulia, and you will tell him what you tre, and the headquarters of the pichave told us. He cannot but take the turesque corps of horsetamers, the Reword of a lady."
monta, who are responsible for the “Yes, if you like," answered Julia.
mounting of a cavalry. and the artillery The general's joy knew no bounds. of Spain. Conyngham had, at the sug
"That is well,” he cried. “I knew gestion of General Vincente, made such we could rely upon your good sense. small changes in his costume as would Kiss me, Julia; that is well. Come, serve to allay curiosity and prevent Estella, we must not keep the horses that gossip of the stable and kitchen waiting.”
which may follow a traveller to his hurt With a laugh and a nod he went from one side of a continent to the toward the door.
other. “Blown over, my dear Concha," he “Wherever you may go, learn your said, over his shoulder.
way in and out of every town, and you A few minutes later the priest walked will thus store up knowledge most usedown the avenue of walnut-trees alone. ful to a soldier," the general had said The bell was ringing for Vespers, but in his easy way. the padre was an autocratic shepherd, "See you,” Concepcion had observed, and did not hurry toward his flock. wagging his head over a cigarette, "to
go about the world with the eyes open valley of the Alcadia to Ciudad Real, is to conquer the world.”
Toledo, and Madrid. From his guide, moreover, whose "You will ride,” the Innkeeper told methods were those that nature teaches him, “from the Guadalquivir to the to men who live their daily lives in her Guadiana, and if there is rain you may company, Conyngham learnt much of be a month upon the road." that road-craft which had raised Con- Conyngham set out in the early morncepcion Vara to such a proud eminence ing, and as he threw his leg across the among the rascals of Andalusia.
Cor- saddle the sun rose over the far misty dova was a good object upon which to hills of Ronda, and Concepcion Vara practise, for Roman and Goth, Moor awoke from his night's rest under the and Christian have combined to make wall of an olive terrace above the Bobaits tortuous streets well-nigh in- dilla road, to begin another day of pacomprehensible to the traveller's tient waiting and watching to get mind.
speech with the maid or the mistress, Here Conyngham wandered, or else for he had already inaugurated what he he sat somnolently on a seat in the lightly called “an affair” with Julia's Paseo del Gran Cápitan, in the shade flighty attendant. The sun rose also of the orange-trees, awaiting the arrival over the plains of Xeres, and lighted up of Concepcion Vara. He made a few the picturesque form of Esteban Laracquaintances, as every traveller who is ralde, in the saddle this hour and more, not a bear must needs do in a country having learnt that Colonel Monreal's where politeness and hospitality and a death took place an hour before Conynggrave good fellowship are the natural ham's arrival in the town of Xeres de habit of high and low alike. A bull- la Frontera. The letter, therefore, had fighter or two, who beguiled the long not been delivered to Colonel Monreal, winter months when the rings are and was still in Conyngham's possesclosed by a little innocent horse-deal- sion. ing, joined him quietly in the streets, Larralde bestrode a shocking steed, and offered him a horse, as between and had but an indifferent seat in the gentlemen of undoubted honor, at a saddle, but the dust rose beneath his price much below the current value. Or horse's feet, and his spurs flashed in it was, perhaps, a beggar who came to the sunlight as this man of many parts him on the old yellow marble seat hurried on toward Utera and Cordova. under the orange-trees, and chatted In the old Moorish palace in Ronda, affably about his business as being bad General Vincente, summoned to a great in these times of war. Once, indeed, council of war at Madrid, was making it was a white-haired gentleman who curt military preparations for his jourspoke in English, and asked some very ney and the conveyance of his housenatural questions as to the affairs that hold to the capital. Señora Barenna brought an Englishman to the town of was for the moment forgetful of her Cordova. This sweet-spoken old man nerves in the excitement of despatching explained that strangers would do well servants in advance to Toledo, where to avoid all questions of politics and reli- she owned a summer residence. Julia gion, which he classed together in one was nervously anxious to be on the road dangerous whole. Nevertheless Co- again, and showed by every word and nyngham thought that he perceived his action that restlessness of spirit which ancient friend the same evening hurry- is the inheritance of hungry hearts. ing up the steps of the Jesuit College of Estella, quiet and self-contained, atLa Campania.
tended to the details of moving a vast Two days elapsed and Concepcion and formal household with a certain Vara made neither appearance nor sign, eagerness, which in no way resembled On the second evening Conyngham de- Julia's feverish haste. Estella seemed cided to go on alone, prosecuting his to be one of those happy people who journey through the sparsely populated know what they want.
Thus Frederick Conyngham, riding rose and fell in a straight line across the northward alone, seemed to be but a tableland without tree or hedge, and pilot to all those persons, into whose Madrid seemed to belong to another lives he had suddenly stepped as from a world, for the horizon, which was disside issue, for they were one and all tant enough, bore no sign of cathedral making ready to follow him to the spire or castled height. colder plains of Castile, where existence Conyngham turned in his saddle to was full of strife and ambition, of war look back, and there, not a mile away, and those inner wheels that ever jar the form of a hurrying horseman broke and grind where politicians contend to the bare line of the dusty road. There gether for the mastery of a moment. was something weird and disturbing in
As he rodeon, Conyngham left a this figure, a suggestion of pursuit in message from time to time for his self- every line, for this was not Concepcion appointed servant. At the offices of the Vara. Conyngham would have known diligencias in various towns on the him at once. This was one wearing a great road from Cordova to Madrid he better coat; indeed, Concepcion preleft word for Concepcion Vara to follow, ferred to face life and the chances of the should the spirit of travel be still upon road in shirt-sleeves. him, knowing that at these places, Conyngham sat in his saddle awaiting where travellers were ever passing, the the newcomer. To meet on such a road tittle-tattle of the road was on the in Spain without pausing to exchange a tongue of every hostler and stable help. salutation would be a gratuitous insult; And truly enough there followed one to ride in solitude within hail of another who made careful inquiries as to the traveller were to excite or betray the movements of the Englishman, and deepest distrust. It was characteristic heard his messages with a grim smile; of Conyngham that he already waved but this was not Concepcion Vara. his hand in salutation, and was pre
It was late one evening when Conyng- pared to hail the newcomer as the jolliham, who had quitted Toledo in the est companion in the world. morning, began to hunger for the sight Esteban Larralde, seeing the salutaof the towers and steeples of Madrid. tion, gave a short laugh, and jerked the He had ridden all day through the bare reins of his tired horse. He himself country of Cervantes, where to this day wore a weary look, as if the flight he Spain rears her wittiest men and plain had in hand were an uphill one. He est women. The sun had just set be- had long recognized Conyngham; inhind the distant hills of old Castile, and deed, the chase had been one of little from the east, over Aranjuez, where the excitement, but rather an exercise of great river cuts Spain in two parts, patience and dogged perseverance. He from its centre to the sea, a grey cloud raised his hat to indicate that the En-a very shade of night-was slowly glishman's gay salutations were perrising. The aspect of the brown plains ceived, and pulled the wide brim. well was dismal, and on the horizon the roll- forward again. ing, unbroken land seemed to melt "He will change his attitude when it away into eternity and infinite space. becomes apparent who I am,” he mut
Conyngham reined in and looked tered. around him. So far as eye could reach But Conyngham's first word would no house arose to testify to the presence appear to suggest that Esteban Larof man. No laborer toiled home to his ralde was a much less impressive person lonely hut, for in this country of many than he considered himself. wars and interminable strife it has, “Why, it's the devout lover!” he since the days of Nebuchadnezzar, been cried. “Señor Larralde, you rememthe custom of the people to congregate ber me-Algeciras—and your pink lovein villages and small townships, where letter. Deuced fishy love-letter that. a common danger secured some protec- Nearly got me into a devil of a row, I tion against a lawless foe. The road can tell you. How are you-eh?"
And the Englishman rode forward ognize the necessity of quarrelling, but with a jolly laugh and his band held proposed to do so as light-heartedly as out. Larralde took it without en- possible. They were both on horseback thusiasm. It was rather difficult to pick in the middle of the road, Larralde a a picturesque quarrel with such a per- few paces in the direction of Madrid. son as this. Moreover, the true con- Conyngham indicated the road with spirator never believes in another man's an inviting wave of the hand. honesty.
“Will you go on?” he asked. "Who would have expected to meet Larralde sat looking at him with glityou here?" went on Conyngham jovi- tering eyes and said nothing. ally.
“Then I will continue my journey," "It is not as surprising as you think." said the Englishman, touching his horse "Ah!"
lightly with the spur. The horse moved There was no mistaking Larralde's on and passed within a yard of the manner, and the Englishman's gay, blue other. At this moment Larralde rose eyes hardened suddenly and rather sur- in his stirrups and flung himself on one prisingly.
side. "No; I have followed you. I want Conyn im gave a sharp cry of pain that letter."
and threw back his head. Larralde had "Well, as it happens, Señor Larralde, stabbed him in the back. I have not got your letter, and if I had The Englishman swayed in the sadI am not quite sure that I would give it dle, as if trying to balance himself; his to you. Your conduct in the matter legs bent back from the knee in the has not been over nice; and to tell the sharpness of a biting pain. The heavy truth, I don't think much of a man who stirrups swung free. Then, slowly, Cogets strangers and women to do his nyngham toppled forward and rolled out dirty work for him.”
05 the saddle, falling on to the road Larralde stroked his moustache with with a thud. a half-furtive air of contempt.
Larralde watched him with a white "I should have given the confounded face and staring eyes. Then he looked letter to the alcalde of Ronda if it had quickly round over the darkening landnot been that a lady would have suf- scape. There was no one in sight. This fered for it, and let you take your was one of the waste places of the chance, Señor Larralde."
world. Larralde seemed to remember Larralde shrugged his shoulders. the Eye that seeth even there, and
"You would not have given it to the crossed himself as he slipped from the alcalde of Ronda,” he said in a sneer- saddle to the ground. He was shaking ing voice, “because you want it your all over. His face was ashen, for it is a self. You require it in order to make terrible thing to kill a man and be left your peace with Estella Vincente.” alone with him. "We are not going to talk of Señorita Conyngham's
closed. Vincente," said Conyngham quietly. There was blood on his lips. With "You say you followed me because you hands that shook like leaves Esteban wanted that letter. It is not in my pos- Larralde searched the Englishman, session. I left it in the house of Colo- found nothing, and cursed his ill-fornel Monreal at Xeres. If you are tune. Then he stood upright, and in going on to Madrid, I think I will sit the dim light his face shone as if he had down here and have a cigarette. If, on dipped it in water. He crept into the the other hand, you propose resting saddle, and rode on toward Madrid. here, I shall proceed, as it is getting It was quite dark when Conyngham late."
recovered consciousness. In turning Conyngham looked at his companion him over to search his pockets Larralde with a nod and a smile, which was not bad perhaps, unwittingly, saved his life in the least friendly and at the same by placing him in a position that time quite cheerful. He seemed to rec- checked the internal hemorrhage.