Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

care.

on that."

[ocr errors]

Niño Diablo ; he galloped past the bouse, loudly, to within two yards of the door. whistling like a partridge that knows no In a few minutes the saddle was thrown

Why must my two sons be called off, the fore-feet of the bell mare fettered, away, while he, a youth without occupa- and the horses allowed to wander away in tion and with no mother to cry for him, quest of pasturage ; then the two men remains behind ?”

turned into the kitchen. “You talk folly, Magdalen,” replied A short, burly man aged about fifty, her lord. Complain ihat the ostrich wearing a soft bat thrust far back on his and puina are more favored than your sons, head, with truculent greenish eyes beneath since no man calls on them to serve the arcbed bushy eyebrows, and a thick shapestate ; but mention not the Niño, for he less nose surmounting a bristly mustache is freer than the wild things which Heaven -such was cousin Polycarr. From neck has made, and fights not on this side nor to feet he was covered with a blue cloth

poncho, and on his heels he wore enormous "Coward ! Miserable !" murmured silver spurs that clanked and jangled over the incensed mother.

the floor like the felters of a convict. AfWhereupon one of the twins flushed ter greeting the women and bestowing the scarlet, and retorted, “He is not a coward, avuncular blessing on the children, who inother !''

had clamored for it as for some inestima. And if not a coward why does he sit ble boon-he sat down, and flinging back on the hearth among women and old men his poncho displayed at his waist a huge in times like these ? Grieved am I to bear silver-bilted knife and a heavy brass-bara daughter of mine speak in defence of relled horse-pistol. one who is a vagabond and a stealer of “ Heaven be praised for its goodness, other men's horses !”

cousin Magdalen,

he said.

" What with The girl's eyes flashed angrily, but she pies and spices your kitchen is more fraanswered not a word.

grant than a garden of flowers.

That's as your tongue, woman, and ac- it should be, for nothing but rum have I cuse no man of crimes,” spoke Gregory. tasted this bleak day. And the boys are Let every

Christian take proper care of away fighting, Gregory tells me. Good ! his animals ; and as for the infidel's horses, When the eaglets have found ont their he is a virtuous man that steals them. wings let them try their talons. Wbat, The girl speaks truth; the Niño is no cousin Magdalen, crying for the boys ! coward, but he fights not with our weap- Would you have had them girls ?”' The web of the spider is coarse and

“Yes, a thousand times," she replied, ill-made compared with the snare he drying her wet eyes on her apron. spreads to entangle his prey. Therefore * Ah, Magdalen, daughters cau't be albe warned in season, iny daughter, and ways young and sweet-tempered, like your fall not into the snare of the Niño Diablo.' brace of pretty partridges yonder! They

Again the girl bluslied and hung her grow old, cousin Magdalen-old and ugly head.

and spiteful ; and are

bitter and . At this moment a clatter of hoofs, the worthless than the wild pumpkin. But I jangling of a bell, and shouts of a traveller speak not of those who are present, for I . to the horses driven before him, came in would say nothing to offend my respected at the open door. The dogs roused themcousin Ascension, whom may God preselves, almost overturning the children in serve, though she never married.' their hurry to rush out; and up roso

“Listen to me, cousin Polycarp, Gregory to find out who was approaching turned the insulted dame so pointedly al. with so much noise.

luded to. Say nothing to me nor of me, " I know, papita,' cried one of the and I will also hold my peace concerning children. “It is uncle Polycarp."

you ; for

you
know
very

well that if I “You are right, child,” said her father. were disposed to open my lips I could say “Cousin Polycarp always arrives at night, a thousand things. shouting to bis animals like a troop of Ind- Enough, enough, you have already

And with that he went out to said them a thousand times,” he interwelcome his boisterous relative.

rupted. “I know all that, cousin ; let The traveller soon arrived, spurring his us say no more." horse, scared at the light and snorting “That is only what I ask," she re

ons,

more

re

ians.

torted," for I have never loved to bandy breath, the children manifesting the greatwords with you; and you know already, est joy at his appearance. But old Greg.

. therefore I need not recall it to your mind, ory spoke with affected anger. · that if I am single it is not because some do you always drop on us in this treachermen whose names I could mention if I felt ous way, like rain through a leaky thatch ?” disposed--and they are the names not of he exclaimed. “Keep these strange arts dead but of living men—would not have for your visits in the infidel country ; here been glad to marry me ; but because I we are all Christians, and praise God on preferred my liberty and the goods I in the threshold when we visit a neighbor's herited from my father ; and I see not house. And now, Niño Diablo, wbat what advantage there is in being the wife news of the Indians ?'' of one who is a brawler and drunkard and Nothing do I know and little do I spender of other people's money, and I concern myself about specks on the horiknow not what besides.

zon,' ” returned the visitor with a light “There it is !” said Polycarp, appeal- laugh. And at once all the children ing to the fire. “I knew that I had thrust gathered round hiin, for the Niño they my foot into a red ant's nest-careless that considered to belong to them when he I am! But in truth, Ascension, it was came, and not to their elders with their fortunate for you in those distant days you solemn talk about Indian warfare and lost mention that

you
hardened

pour

heari horses. And now, now he would finish against all lovers. For wives, like cattle that wonderful story, long in the telling, that must be branded with their owner's of the little girl alone and lost in the great mark, are first of all taught subinission to desert, and surrounded by all the wild anitheir husbands ; and consider, cousin, mals met to discuss what they should do · what tears ! what sufferings !” And bav- with ber. It was a grand story, even ing ended thus abruptly, he planted his mother Magdalen listened, though she preelbows on his knees and busied himself tended all the time to be thinking only of with the cigarette he had been trying to her pies—and the teller, like the grand roll up with his cold drunken fingers for old historians of other days, put most elothe last five minutes.

quent speeches, all made out of his own Ascension gave a nervous twitch at the head, into the lips (and beaks) of the red cotton kerchief on her head, and various actors-puma, ostrich, deer, cavy, cleared her throat with a sound “ sharp and the rest. and short like the shrill swallow's cry, In the midst of this performance supper when

was announced, and all gathered willingly Madre del Cielo, how you frightened round a dish of Magdalen's pies, filled with me !" screamed one of the twins, giving minced meat, hard-boiled eggs chopped a great start.

small, raisins, and plenty of spice. After The cause of this sudden ontcry was the pies came roast beef ; and, finally, discovered in the presence of a young man great basins of mutton broth fragrant with quietly seated on the bench at the girl's berbs and cummin-seed. The rage of side. He had not been there a minute hunger satisfied, each one said a prayer, before, and no person had seen him enter the elders murmuring with bowed heads, the room, what wonder that the girl was the children on their knees uplifting shrill startled! He was slender in form, and voices. Then followed the concluding had 'small hands and feet, an oval olive semi religious ceremony of the day, when face, smooth as a girl's except for the in- each child in its turn asked a blessing of cipient mustache on his lip. In place of father, mother, grandmother, uncle, aunt, a bat he wore only a scarlet ribbon bound and not omitting the stranger within the abont his head, to keep back the glossy gates, even the Niño Diablo of evil-soundblack hair that fell to his shoulders ; and ing name. he was wrapped in a white woollen Indian The men drew forth their pouches, and poncho, while his lower limbs were cased began making their cigarettes, when once in white colt-skin coverings, shaped like the children gathered round the stockings to his feet, with the red tassels story-teller, their faces glowing with exof his embroidered garters falling to the pectation. ankles.

No, no,” cried their mother. "No " The Niño Diablo !" all cried in a more stories to-night-to bed, to bed !”

inore

ܕܙ

" said

66

[ocr errors]

Oh, mother, mother!!! cried Rosita it well—it pleases me mightily,' pleadingly, and struggling to free herself ; Polycarp. * And what more, cousin for the good woman had dashed in among Gregory ?”. them to enforce obedience. Oh, let me “ More than I can tell, cousin. Where stay till the story ends ! The reed-cat has he comes the dogs bark not-- who knows said such things! Oh, what will they do why ? Ilis tread is softer than the cat's; with the little girl ?”:

the untamed horse is tame for him. Al" And oh, mother mine !" drowsily ways in the midst of dangers, yet no harm, sobbed her little sister ; the armadillo no scratch. Why? Because he stoops that said—that said nothing because it had like the falcon, makes his stroke and is nothing to say, and the partridge that gone-Heaven knows where !" whistled and said, -" and here she broke “ What strange things are you telling into a prolonged wail. The boys also me? Wonderful! And what more, cousadded their voices until the hubbub was no in Gregory ?" longer to be borne, and Gregory rose up “He often goes into the Indian coun. in his wrath and called on some one to try, and lives freely with the infidel, dislend him a big whip; only then they guised, for they do not know him who yielded, and still sobbing and casting many was once their captive. They speak of a lingering look behind, were led from the the Niño Diablo to him, saying that when kitchen.

they catch that thief they will flay him During this scene the Niño had been alive. He listens to their strange stories, carrying on a whispered conversation with then leaves thein, taking their finest pon. the pretty Magdalen of his choice, heed. chos and silver ornaments, and the flower less of the uproar of which he had been of their horses." the indirect cause ; deaf also to the biiter " A brave youth, one after my own remarks of Ascension concerning some heart, cousin Gregory, Heaven defend people who, having no homes of their own, and prosper him in all his journeys into were fond of coming uninvited into other the Indian territory! Before we part I people's houses, only to repay the hospi- shall embrace him and offer him my friend. tality extended to them by stealing their ship, which is worth something. More, silly daughter's affections, and teaching tell me more, cousin Gregory ?' their children to rebel against their au- “ These things I tell you to put you on thority.

your gnard ; look well to your horses, But the noise and confusion had served cousin. to arouse Polycarp from a drowsy fit ; for, " What !” shouted the other, lifting like a boa constrictor, he had dined large- himself up from his stooping posture, and ly after his long fast, and dinner bad made staring at his relation with astonishment him dull ; bending toward his cousin he and kindling anger in his countenance. whispered earnestly, “Who is this young The conversation had been carried on stranger, Gregory ?"

in a low tone, and the sudden loud ex“ In what corner of the earth have you clamation startled them all—all except the been hiding to ask who the Niño Diablo Niño, who continued smoking and chatting is ?'' returned the other.

pleasantly to the twins. “Must I know the history of

“ Lightning and pestilence, what is this and dog ??'

you say to me, Gregory Gorostiaga !” “ The Niño is not cat nor dog, cousin, continued Polycarp, violently slapping his but a inan among men, like a falcon among thigh and thrusting lis hat farther back birds. When a child of six the Indians on his head. killed all his relations and carried him into “ Prudence !!! whispered Gregory. captivity. After five years he escaped out Say nothing to offend the Niño ; he of their hands, and, guided by sun and never forgives an enemy-with horses." stars and signs on the earth, he found his “Talk not to me of prudence !” bawled way back to the Christian's country, bring- the other. “You lit me on the apple of ing many beautiful horses stolen from his the eye and counsel me not to cry out. captors ; also the name of Niño Diablo What! bave not I, whom men call Polyfirst given to him by the infidel. We carp of the South, wrestled with tigers in know him by no other.”

the desert, and must I hold my peace beThis is a good story ; in truth I like cause of a boy-even a boy devil ? Talk

every cat

66

of what you like, cousin, and I am a meek bers it behooved him to look well after his man-meek as a sucking babe ; but touch cattle. Then he came back and sat down not on my horses, for then I am a whirl- again. “Perhaps,” he remarked, with a wind, a conflagration, a river flooded inside glance at the Niño, " a better plan winter, and all wrath and destruction like would be to watch the thief. A Jie, cousan invasion of Indians! Who can stand in Gregory ; no lapwings are screaming ; before me? Ribs of steel are no protec- no single horseman approaching at a fast tion ! Look at my knife ; do you ask gallop! The night is serene, and earth as why there are stains on the blade ? Lis- silent as the sepulchre.' ten; because it has gone- straight to the

• Prudence !' whispered Gregory robber's heart !” And with that be drew again. Ah ! cousin, always playful like out his great knife and flourished it wildly, a kitten ; when will you grow old and and made stabs and slashes at an imaginary wise ? Can yon not see a sleeping snake foe suspended above the fire.

without turning aside to stir it up with The pretty girls grew silent and pale your naked foot ?" and trembled like poplar leaves ; the old Strange to say, Polycarp made no reply. grandmother rose up, and clutching at her A long experience in getting up quarrels sbaw toddled hurriedly away, while Ascen- had taught him that these impassive men sion uttered a snort of disdain. But the were, in truth, often enough like venomNiño still talked and smiled, blowing thin ous snakes, quick and deadly when roused. smoke-clouds from his lips, careless of He became secret and watchful in his manthat tempest of wrath gathering before ner. him ; till, seeing the other so calm, the All now were intently listening. Then man of war returned his weapon to its said Gregory,“ Tell us, Niño, what voices, sheath, and glancing round and lowering fine as the trumpet of the smallest fly, do his voice to a conversational tone, in- you hear coming from tbat great silence ? formed his hearers that his name was Pul. Das the mother skunk put her little ones ycarp, one known and feared by all men, to sleep in their kennel and gone out to -especially in the south ; that he was seek for the pipit's nest ? Have fox and disposed to live in peace and amity with armadillo met to challenge each other to the entire human race, and he therefore fresh trials of strength and cunning ? considered it unreasonable of some men to What is the owl saying this moinent to follow him about the world asking him to his mistress in praise of her big green kill them. "Perhaps," he concluded, eyes?" with a touch of irony, “ they think I gain The young man smiled slightly but an. something by putting them to death. A swered not ; and for full five minutes more mistake, good friends ; I gain notbing by all listened, then sounds of approaching it! I am not a vulture, and their dead hoofs became audible. Dogs began to bodies can be of no use to me.

bark, horses to suort in alarm, and GregJust after this sanguinary protest and ory rose and went forth to receive the late disclaimer. the Niño all at once made a night-wanderer. Soon he appeared, beatgesturu as if to inpose silence, and turned ing the angry barking dogs off with his his face toward the door, his nostrils di- whip, a white-faced, wild-haired man, lating, and his eyes appearing to grow fariously spurring his horse like a person large and luminous like those of a cat. demented or flying from robbers.

" What do you hear, Niño?" asked " Ave Maria !!” he shouted aloud ; and Gregory.

when the answer was given in suitable I hear lapwings screaming,” he re- pious words, the scared looking stranger plied.

drew near, and bending down said, Tell "Only, at a fox perhaps," said the me, good friend, is one whon nien call other. “But go to the door, Niño, and Niño Diablo with you ; for to this honse

I have been directed in my search for "No need,” he returned, dropping his him ?" hand, the light of a sudden excitement “He is within, friend," answered Gregpassing from bis face.

" 'Tis only a single ory: Follow me and you shall see him borseman riding this way at a fast gallop. with your own eyes. Only first unsaddle,

Polycarp got up and went to the door, so that your horse may roll before the saying that when a man was among rob- sweat dries on him."

listen."

no

a

How many horses hare I ridden their or we shall quarrel.” And liere he tapped last journcy on this quest !” said the stran: his weapon significantly. ger, hurriedly pulling off the saddle and

At this juncture, Gregory, who took his rugs.

“ But tell me one thing more ; is time about everything, thought proper to he well-no indisposition ? Las he met interpose. “You are mistaken, friend,” with accident a broken bone, said he. “ The young man sitting on sprained ankle ?"

your right is the Niño Diablo, for wlioni “ Friend,” said Gregory,“ I have heard you inquired a little while ago. that once in past times the moon met with A look of astonishment, followed by an accident, but of the Niño no such thing one of intense relief, came over the stranhas been reported to ine.”

ger's face. Turning to the young man ho With this assurance the stranger fol. said, “ My friend, forgive me this mistake. lowed his host into the kitchen, made his Grief has perhaps dimmed my sight; but salutation, and sat down by the fire. He sometimes the iron blade and the blade of was about thirty years old, a good looking finest temper are not easily distinguished man, but his face was haggard, his eyes by the eye. When we try them we know bloodshot, his manner restless, and he ap- which is the brute metal, and cast it aside peared like one balf crazed by some great to take up the other, and trust our life to calamity. The hospitable Magdalen placed it. The words I have spoken were meant food before him and pressed him to eat. for you, and you have heard them.He complied, although reluctantly, des- " What can I do for you, friend ?” said patched his supper in a few moments, and the Niño. murmured a prayer ; then, glancing curi- Oh, sir, the greatest service ! You ously at the two men seated near him, can restore my lost wife to me. The he addressed bimself to the burly, well s.vages have taken her away into captivity. arined, and dangerous-looking Polycarp. What can I do to save her-I who cannot “ Friend,” he said, his agitation increasing make myself invisible, and fly like the as he spoke, “ four days have I been seek- wind, and compass all things !" And ing you, taking neither food nor rest, so here he bowed his head, and covering his great was my need of your assistance. face gave way to over mastering grief. You alone, after God, can help me. Help “ Be comforted, friend,” said the other, me in this strait, and half of all I possess touching hiin lightly on the arm. "I in land and cattle and gold shall be freely will restore her to you." given to you, and the angels above will ap- Oh, friend, how shall I thank

you plaud your deed !"

these words !"' cried the unhappy man, “ Drunk or mad ?" was the only reply seizing and pressing the Niño's hand. vouchsafed to this appeal.

“ Tell me her name-describe her to "Sir," said the stranger with dignity, mc." “ I have not tasted wine these many days, " Torcuata is her name--Torcuata de la nor has my great grief crazed me.

Rosa. She is one finger's width taller 6. Then what ails the man ?” said Pol- than this young woman, indicating one ycarp. “ Fear perhaps, for he is white of the twins who was standing. in the face like one who has seen the Ind- not dark; her cheeks are rosy-no, no, I ians.

forget, they will be pale now, whiter than " In truth I have seen them. I was the grass.plumes, with stains of dark.color one of those unfortunates who first opposed under the eyes. Brown hair and blue them, and most of the friends who were eyes, but very deep blue.

Look well, with me

now food for wild dogs. friend, lest you think them black and leave Where our houses stood there are only her to perish.” ashes and a stain of blood on the grouud. “ Never !” remarked Gregory, shaking Oh, friend, can you not guess why you his head. alone were in iny thoughts when this “Enough-you have told me enough, trouble came to me-wly I have ridden friend,” said the Niño, rolling up a cigarday and night to find you?"

ette. * Demons !”

exclaimed Polycarp, “Enough!" repeated the other, sur"into what quagmires would this man prised. But

you do not know ; she is lead me ? Once for all I understand you my life ; my life is in your hands. How not ! Leave me in peace, strange man, can I persuade you to be with me? Cat

66

for

[ocr errors]

" But

are

« VorigeDoorgaan »