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   Chapter 11 No.11

The Wolf Cub By Patrick Casey Characters: 11926

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Dismounting, Miguel Alvarado stepped swiftly to the girl's side, threw his arms about her shoulder and waist, and drew her back among the trees and out of sight of those about the fires. She did not scream; she did not seem affrighted in the least. Only when he strove to kiss her, she put a slow but determined hand upon his forehead and pushed away his impetuous lips.

He forebore to combat her for that which she would not give. Crushing her to him, he whispered triumphantly, "Ah, my Paquita, maiden of my soul! Did I not say rightly, when I said we should meet again?"

Evidently she had not been quite certain whom he was until he spoke. For now, she writhed free from his arms, her face contorted with loathing and wrath.

"So you come sweethearting again, you vile louse of a Busno! Si, seguramente, si-we meet again! But I met with hunger when I was a child, and I met hunger often since, and I like hunger the less at each of our meetings. The same with the cholera! The same with you!"

A cold and haughty tower of ivory, she faced him. Her face was superbly royal with high disdain.

"Go away at once or I will set our scavenger curs on you! Have I not warned you before this never to approach me with your treacle words of love, your kissing lips that turn my blood to vinegar, your caressing arms that make my skin shudder and creep? Go away, you itch, you ringworm! You are not a man; there is nothing masculine, varonil, strong and savage about you. All you can do is to moon and coo and sigh; you are a sot ever thirsty for love; you are a soft, shapeless blubber of passion! And how can you come near me when you know you are one of the order of men who murdered my brother for poisoning a few poor pigs and for stealing a few poor horses?-you, a man of the Guardia Civil, the enemy of my clan and race since time out of mind; our blight, our scourge!"

Beneath the bite and lash of her words, beneath the scorching fire of her scorn-filled eyes, a lesser man than Miguel Alvarado would have shriveled into a smoking black cinder. But never he. Folding his arms across his chest, he waited in a dramatic silence while the wrack and tempest swept over him. Then, slowly, theatrically, he raised his arms above his head, and uplifted his eyes, and addressed himself to the serene heavens-under the circumstances, the obvious and altogether Spanish thing to do.

"Senor Don Dios!" he apostrophized solemnly. "My soul leaps like a flame with love for her-I love her unto death. And she repulses me! What shall I do?"

Go away and leave her victorious in her disdain? Not Miguel Alvarado!

When Pascual Montara finished questioning the Gypsy chieftain and hetman, and came seeking his compa?ero through the trees, he found them together still-the hot-blooded young policeman and the lithe Paquita of the nut-brown legs. Miguel Alvarado had progressed some way with his bitterly contested love-making. But she still shrugged away from him when impetuously he approached too close.

Having left his horse in a distant quarter of the clearing, on foot through the gloaming came Pascual Montara; and, glimpsing the girl in the shadow of the trees, he halted dead and eyed her with wonder and admiration. She wore a printed calico dress of deep vermilions and flaming saffrons, and a grass-green scarf was wound, in the Gypsy fashion, among her ink-black tresses. There was a string of copper coins upon her bosom and a bangle of copper coins upon one wrist. Her dress came but little more than half-way down her bare, symmetrical and richly polished legs, and it was open at the throat to show glimpses of her small brown breasts and of the swale between.

Letting Miguel Alvarado talk as he willed, she stood watching him out of slow gloomy eyes. His elocution was fluent, full of zest, soul-moving; his words were gorgeous, magnificent, glowing with color and music. One moment he called her a baggage, a jade, a wanton, a thing of ugliness, a soiled and tawdry wench. The next, he called her a virgin most pure, most chaste, most admirable, and endowed her with every beauty and charm ever conceded by a lover's tongue, appraising separately and in sequence her features, her contours, her color, the texture of her skin, the fineness of her hair. With bold, splendid splashes of color and enunciation, he lifted her up, up from the degradation and the mire to which he so lately had debased her, and put her upon the apex of the world, erecting her upon a pedestal above all other women, his words a coronation, a canonization, and an apotheosis. When he had done, she raised a little brown hand to her mouth, and yawned prodigiously. Then she turned away.

Pascual Montara came forward, loudly rattling the fallen leaves with his feet to apprise Alvarado of his nearness.

"Let us be on our way," he said. "I have questioned this Pepe Flammenca and others of the Gypsy bucks, questioned them as though I were Fray Tomas de Torquemada himself! They know less of the men we seek than do sucking infants of sin. Come, Miguel Alvarado! It grows dark, and you will forget your duty to the Guardia Civil if you linger long here!"

Young Alvarado flashed an angry look at him. Then, suddenly getting in hand, he shrugged himself calm and said:

"Morales and the rest have not been here, eh? Well, let us clear our heels of the filth of this vile-smelling place before dark, then."

Without another word, he turned his back upon the girl and went seeking his pony among the trees. A sibilant, softly called Gypsy word, repeated twice, and the horse came clattering through the underwood toward him like a well-trained dog.

He mounted. Pascual Montara had gone striding across the clearing to retrieve his own animal. The girl lingered under the trees, standing as he had found her, her back against the trunk of an algarroba, the toes of one nut-brown leg scratching the calf of the other, her eyes pensive.

"My Paquit

a," said Miguel Alvarado, sidling near her on his horse, "there is an ancient and massive wild olive far down at the gateway to this barranca. And it looks like a tall and handsome cavalier waiting for the moon to rise that he may have a meeting with some Gypsy girl who is his beloved."

She looked slowly up at him, then away.

"My Paquita," he persisted, "you have seen this wild olive, have you not?"

She did not answer him.

"My Paquita," he said again, "you are a Gitana. Tell me; you are wise in reading nature; will there be a moon clear of clouds to-morrow night?"

She slipped away from the trunk of the algarroba and started off toward the clearing. Suddenly, she paused and looked back over one shoulder. She answered his questions in the order asked.

"The wild olive is well-known to me, and there will be a fine moon to-morrow night. But there will be no meetings at the wild olive between you and me. I have no appetite for your caresses and kisses; I would hate you, did I not think too little of you. You are only a cinder in my eye! I have kept myself a virgin all these years for some man more bold and brutal and magnificent than you!"

Pascual Montara had mounted his horse and was waiting in growing impatience.

"Hola, mi compa?ero!" he called. "What is keeping you?"

Trotting his horse out into the open space where were the three fires of black smoke and dancing embers, Alvarado joined him. Together the two policemen rode away up the shadow-haunted alleys of the steep and narrow barranca.

With a great gusto, the Gypsy bucks assaulted their evening meal. They had no need of plates nor forks. Three wolfish circles of men swiftly formed about the three steaming pots, which had been taken off the fires and left standing upon the grass. The pots contained the ubiquitous national dish of Spain, the puchero, that most savory of stews. Into the pots the Gypsies dipped with their navajas-those long, wicked-looking clasp-knives-and with their fingers.

It was like a grab-bag. In that puchero one could not know what variety of meat or vegetable one might pluck forth. The Gitanos went at the business of eating with a singular moroseness; they were like glum and voracious animals. When any secured a chunk of meat too large to be swallowed in one desperate mouthful, it was torn into more reasonable pieces by hands and teeth, or sawed into lengths by the ever ready navajas.

The women and children waited wistfully apart. It was not for them to sit and eat until the last of the males had done. They were the weaker, and they must take thankfully that which was left them by the strong.

One by one, the bucks got up from about the pots of puchero, licking their lips and reaching for papers and tobacco. The three fires had decayed and become mere hillocks of embers. The men formed new and more indolent circles about these, smoking lazily, their eyes dull and complacent with eating. Chattering like famished sparrows, their voices sharp with eagerness, the women and children fell hastily upon the remnants their men had left.

It was about this time that a party of cabalgadores, riding hard, passed the massive wild olive that stood at the dingle's gateway like a sereno, like a metropolitan night policeman at the corner of a dark and narrow street. Keeping steadily on, they rode through the obscurity of the corridorlike reaches of the barranca, and swiftly drew near the opening among the trees and the camp of the Gypsies.

Soon they glimpsed the red of firelight through the underwood, and caught snatches of the shrill chattering of the women and children. There was an undertone of music from the camp, the soft reedlike notes of an accordion, and suddenly a man's voice began chanting "The Song of Juanito Ralli":

"The false Juanito, day and night,

Had best with caution go,

The Gypsy Cales of Yeira height

Have sworn to lay him low.

"Throughout the night, the dusky night,

I prowl in silence round,

And with my eyes look left and right,

For him, the Spanish hound,

That with my knife I him may smite,

And to the vitals wound.

"I'll wash not in the limpid flood

The shirt which binds my frame;

But in Juanito Ralli's blood

I'll bravely wash the same."

The strangers halted in the concealing underwood, drawing close together. Words passed in whispers; then the group of five separated. Three of the party moved slowly and quietly away through the trees; the other two waited, motionless as rock.

At length, the feat in strategy was successfully accomplished. In each of four sectors of the palisading circle of foliage and shadows which surrounded the opening among the trees, there waited a man, silent and watchful, a carbine ready in his two hands. No one of the four dismounted, but suddenly one rode briskly out into the clearing.

"Who is this?" cried Pepe Flammenca, starting up. "Not another policeman!"

"No, lo quiera Dios!" quietly returned the horseman. "God forbid, no!"

He halted his horse half-way to the groups about the fires. The Gypsy fellow with the open shirt and yellow sash had abruptly quit singing and playing the accordion. The very children were frightened into large-eyed silence.

"Ah, you are one of the Errate, one of the Blood!" exclaimed Flammenca. "It is a Zincalo that speaks, a Romano, a Cale. Is it not, hombre?"

"God forbid that too!" the horseman laughed shortly. "Approach, Pepe Flammenca, and see for yourself whom I am."

There was in his voice a certain imperious note. The gigantic Gypsy count moved slowly forward. He peered at the brown youthful face beneath the broad-brimmed felt.

"Jacinto Quesada!" he whispered sharply, falling back a step. He looked over his shoulder at his Roms scattered upon the grass. They had heard his sharply sibilated whisper; and an echo of that whisper had passed over them as each repeated the name and sat up, dramatically moved.

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