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   Chapter 5 No.5

The Wolf Cub By Patrick Casey Characters: 14725

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The Golden Ones approached at a run, showing in their hands carbines of no recent fashion. They were rough-bearded fellows of impetuous courage but of little skill or fame; reckless scapegraces whom he had picked up, on the plains and in the mountains, to reinforce him in this most pretentious and uncommon hold-up.

After the consummation of the deed, they would go their ways and he his. Like most Spanish bandoleros en grande, Jacinto Quesada preferred, whenever he could, to keep his heels clean of confederates and coadjutors; he preferred to hold himself aloof and solitary. However, they were his compa?eros for the nonce; for the nonce, they were his dorados, his golden, his trustworthy ones.

One of them clambered up into the cab after the fireman, Benito. The rest, under the supervision of Jacinto Quesada, proceeded to turn inside out the Seville-to-Madrid.

Pretentious train robberies are forever much alike. Save that those waylaid and despoiled were Spaniards, and Spaniards are eternally themselves, and their souls glow frankly and incandescently out through their bodies in everything they do, the hold-up of the Seville-to-Madrid was like an American train robbery, like a train robbery anywhere.

The mail coach was first disposed of. Then the highwaymen turned their attention to the passengers. In a jostling, milling, frightened drove on the open plain to the right of the stalled coaches, the passengers were herded by the four taciturn workmanlike bandoleros. Then one by one each passenger was led forward from the rest and searched for money and valuables.

Those who were cowardly, quaked and walked knock-kneed, their mouths stuttering rapid prayers. Those who were courageous but overawed, clenched their teeth in their lips, held their eyes pasted upon the bandoleros, and did silently and with utter obedience that which they were told to do. Those who were weak, wept. Few words were said, yet the faces of all were as a loudly chanted litany of dreads.

Jacinto Quesada took little part in the searching; he left that to his journeymen. He stood aloof, his revolver in hand, his eyes studying pensively, as they were put to the search, the demeanor of the brave and the base.

Many of the herded and driven and robbed wondered at this boy with no vestige of hair on his smooth brown cheeks. They did not know him. They thought Jacinto Quesada, he who had begun making such a great noise through Spain, one of the bearded, black-visaged, older men.

First to be led forward and made to deliver was a traveler for a Barcelona manufactory. Then came two brokers who had been speeding about Spain to make contracts on the grape, olive, orange, and apricot crops. Then came a wine taster, one cork grower, and three cattle breeders; and then a troupe of Gitanos, Gypsy musicians and dancers of the metropolitan cafés. And these having been plucked in their proper sequence, there was led forward a wisp of black-clad nuns.

Jacinto Quesada stepped forward and took off his hat to the nuns. He motioned that they should be brought back to their old places without suffering the sacrilege of search, and he said, "Your pardon, Ladies of God!"

Then was led forward a foreign looking man, a globe-trotter who had been traveling alone. He was big, broad-shouldered, fair-haired and as smooth-shaven as any bullfighter. He was square of face, his jaw was a round resolute knob, and his eyes were blue and hinted of being quick to laugh. Struck by the foreign look of the man, Jacinto Quesada stepped forward once again and, with an air of ingenuous curiosity, asked, "You are a Frenchman, are you not?"

It is a fact that most Spaniards mistake all foreigners for either Frenchmen or Englishmen. And they never can distinguish between persons of the two races.

Answered the outlander, "I am neither, muchacho. I am what you Spaniards call a Yanqui, a Norte Americano."

"Cascaras! You are one of those who gave Spain such a great beating a few years ago and robbed us of Cuba and the Philippines. Thorough and impudent salteadores de camino, you Yanquis seem to me! But sometimes it does a person or a country good to be beaten and robbed. Spain is the better for having had her buttocks soundly spanked; and the Philippines and Cuba-zut! they were ulcers on her flesh, and Spain is sincerely thankful she submitted to the surgeon's knife, now that the thing is done!"

At the philosophical and rather elevated tone of the boy, the American raised his eyebrows in surprise. Yet he had traveled in Spain some months already, and he should have been used to Spanish logic and Spanish eloquence.

The race of the Cristinos Viejos is an old, old race, full of salt and masculinity and knowledge that is not to be acquired in schools. In a country where any peasant will argue or exchange racy jokes with Alfonso and even slap him on the back in the ensuing hurly-burly of merriment, where a hidalgo will eat with his coachman, and a beggar light his cigarette from that of a bishop, how otherwise than the way Jacinto Quesada talked, would a man of the people talk?

So this was the notorious Jacinto Quesada, he whom all Spain had commenced talking about! Smiling a smile of appreciation, the American said:

"I think you are very well right about the recent war. You Spaniards are certainly long on common sense. But you are young to be a philosopher, Don Jacinto."

At least, that was what he tried to say. But he was speaking in Spanish and he was not altogether at home in the idioms of the language. However, Jacinto Quesada got his meaning.

He felt pleased, did Jacinto Quesada, to be called a philosopher. With a smile he remembered the ferocious way of thinking which had caused him, when a child, to seek to be the dorado of the poor dead Pernales-that savage philosophy which had finally moved him to become a bandolero. He was not nearly so impetuous and fiery and bigoted a youngster as then; he was more serene, more Apollonian, more pensively thoughtful.

But the American was speaking. Thinking to be polite and, at the same time, rid his system of a sally typically American in humor, he said, "It is pleasant to meet a Spaniard like you!"

Quesada caught the inference. He smiled, showing his clean white teeth, and returned, "It is pleasant to rob you, senor!"

And he added, struck with surprise that a man could joke while in such an awkward and even perilous position, and startled by his surprise into admiration and wonder:

"To know you, caballero, is to know why your countrymen won the recent war. You are a man of the great bravery; you are as brave as the very God Himself!"

Your American is forever afraid lest he be made the butt of irony and ridicule, the target of satire and sarcasm. His very self-consciousness indicates how vulnerable he is to others' opinions of him; and his extreme reserve is only a cloak worn eternally to mask the weakness. This particular American changed countenance as he had never changed countenance when menaced by the bandoleros' carbines; he went white and cold, his eyes flashed angrily. And sharply, he exploded:

"Why do you say that?"

"Because you do not recoil from the rough touch of my dorados; because your eye fearlessly meets my eye; because you talk without falter and without affected ease; because you a

ct like a man who is a man!" explained Jacinto Quesada with sincerity. And to clinch the argument, he added, Spaniard-like, "I am utterly brave myself. Do you think I cannot recognize men of my own kind?"

The American fidgeted, blushed slightly, and smiled a very rueful smile.

"But why, if I am so very brave," he countered, "did I not rebel and kill some of you when your men herded me out on the prairie with the rest, and then yanked me forward to pick my pockets? There is a Colt's automatic in my hip pocket, but you'll notice I have not used it!"

"A brave man is not necessarily a brave fool like the hidalgo don, Quixote of La Mancha," returned Quesada shortly. "You Americans are a sentimental race."

Then, turning to one of the searchers, he ordered, "Relieve the Yanqui caballero of the pistol that is such a temptation to him, Rafael Perez!"

Presently, eager to have their turns and be done with the necessary formalities, pressed forward a cuadrilla of bullfighters. A few of them wore the ordinary street dress of men of the profession. They would be known anywhere in Spain for bullfighters by their broad, stiff-brimmed, low-crowned black hats and their black, tightly fitting clothes.

The most of them were still in bull-ring costume, however. In the busy months of the Taurine Season, when bullfights are almost daily events and contracts must be fulfilled, the Brethren of the Coleta are kept continually on the jump-rushing precipitantly from town to town, from bull ring to railroad train and straightway again to bull ring-and they have little or no time to change from bull ring costume into street clothes and scarcely more time to spend in eating, sleeping, or doing anything else than murdering bulls. Therefore, it is a habit with bullfighters to railroad everywhere about the peninsula in full ring regalia; and one often sees these athletes speeding, gorgeously clad, over the desert vegas or alighting at the depots of bullfight-crazy towns.

First to come forward was the espada, the dexterous with the sword, the murderer of bulls, the man of death.

Jacinto Quesada took one look at him, then with gusto cried, "Por los Clavos de Cristo! if here is not the great Morales!"

"Seguramente, yes, I am the great Morales!" returned the matador, bowing in acknowledgment of the swift and hearty recognition. He wore pink silk stockings, gold-braided green silk breeches, waistcoat, and jacket, a white ruffled shirt, a crimson tie, and a black cap. He wore the black rosette and ribbons of the matador in his coleta, his queue-that long, thick, and sacred lock of hair all bullfighters wear as the time-honored insignia of their ancient profession.

He was not yet thirty. He was a little below the middle height. He had a long body and short muscular legs. He was all iron and strength. And his brown Andalusian face was the typical young bull fighter's face, boyish, almost effeminate with its mild contours; a face made expressive and pleasing by eyes soft, dark, thick-lashed and very brave; a face that was the easily read table-of-contents of an honest, simple-souled, intrepid man.

Jacinto Quesada's eyes smiled, and his whole face beamed, as he looked at him, for he recognized in this man whom he had long admired because of his splendid courage in the bull ring a kindred spirit.

"And how are the wife and the children, Manuel?" he asked.

"Most excellent in health, thank you, Jacinto! And you? And your family?"

"Superb! But ah, Morales, what would I not give to be watching you killing your bulls in the Seville bull ring at this moment, instead of doing what I am-setting my dogs of ladrones upon you to rob you of your hard-earned money! Say but the word, and you will be exempted from this indignity!"

"A thousand thanks; but no, I would rather not! It is too much honor!"

"Too much honor for you, one of the three bravest men in Spain? You, whom I have ridden fifty miles many times to see give the suerte de matar, the stroke of death! Why, to sit in the sun and watch you perform, I have ventured into Seville in disguise when the men of the Guardia Civil were as thick about the bull ring as flea-bitten curs about a camp of Gitanos; and I have counted the risk nothing!"

"But if I am one of the three bravest men in Spain, as you say, who are the others? Who is the second? Who is the third?"

"The second! Can you not guess?"

"Ah, chispas! yes. Yourself, Jacinto Quesada, of course!"

"And the third?"

The brow of the matador darkened with professional jealousy. Tentatively he asked, "You do not mean the espada, Lagartijo, do you?"

"No; I do not like Lagartijo's ceremoniousness and caution; I like only diestros of the good old charge-and-take-a-chance Sevillian school. I mean that Yanqui traveler over there. He is like us two; he is an iron-boweled man!"

The bullfighter turned around and took a good look at the lone American. Then he slapped his breeches and jacket and invited the bearded salteadores to continue with the search.

After the cuadrilla of bullfighters came a fat gray parish priest; then several tourists from Central and South America; then a pretty flight of rosy and demure young convent girls, bound northward under the vigilant watch of two prim sallow duennas; and then a tall blond man with a straw-colored mustache darkened and stiff with wax.

It was palpable this man was no Spaniard. He was dressed with neatness, even elegance. Strangely, his face looked much older than his lithe athletic body. It was a sharp, clever face, but a peculiar ashy pallor overspread it and, about the mouth, there were hard grim lines. The nose was long, high-bridged, predatory. The eyes were slate-colored, small and bright and furtive. They had a peculiar trick of drooping at the outer corners, a trick that gave him a calculating and rather sinister look.

He had been traveling with his young wife, a very lovely slip of a girl. Her turn was to come next. She stood at the edge of the muster of people, looking after her foreign-looking husband with blue eyes oddly eager rather than anxious. She was a golden-haired girl of the rare Castilian blond type. She seemed made all of gold, ivory, and rose petals. Among all those frightened people, she alone was without fear. As she stood there, looking calmly about her, she seemed altogether the innocent and trustful child; to all appearances she should have been still in some Spanish convent, sequestered and secure-not abroad in the world where there are bandoleros and even men of worse sorts.

Her husband, the foreign-looking man, was about to be put to the search when, aroused by something more than curiosity, Jacinto Quesada stepped forward and asked brusquely, "You are a Frenchman?"

"I am a Frenchman, monse?or."

"And why, Frenchman, do you make signs with your hands to me?"

With good reason Jacinto Quesada asked that question. Ever since he had been singled out for the search, the Frenchman, looking everywhere but at his hands, had been persistently making covert signals with those hands. First he drew two fingers down across his left cheek; then he made certain finger movements very like the word-spelling finger movements of the deaf and dumb; and finally he stroked his throat and Adam's apple with a certain lingering wistful care!

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