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   Chapter 14 No.14

The Wolf Cub By Patrick Casey Characters: 9462

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


"We chanced to look down from a great rock on the mountain above," explained Pepe Flammenca, as swiftly he and Quesada returned to the clearing, "and we saw them moving across the broad sallow face of the plain, like slow-crawling sticky flies. For quite a time we watched them, wondering if they would come this way. They approached across the high plains, making straight for the entrance to this barranca. They ascended the hills, and then I returned alone to warn you that they would be here shortly. My lads continued on without me. They will skulk along the fringe of the Senor Don Pablo's great monteria, and I am willing to swear they will not come back empty-handed."

"You counted the cabalgadores-there were nine?"

"Seguramente, yes. And the noses of their carbines flashed like leaping trout in the sun. And two wore scarlet, two yellow, and another green. The green one was Morales himself, yes?"

Quesada nodded shortly.

"They did not ride with impetuosity, you say; they rode painfully slow? We have still time then, friend Pepe, to make a clean get-away before they climb through the barranca. With but fifteen minutes' grace I will guarantee to show my heels to the fleetest caballeros in all the Spains!"

They entered the clearing. Before one of the tents of many colors sat Felicidad like a golden-headed queen. A little court of scantily clad, brown-limbed Gypsy toddlers were ringed about her, engaged in lisping the songs of the Zincali for her entertainment. The verses sounded very strange coming from those soft baby lips; for the words were all of love, ardent and free, of murder and revenge, and of theft and treachery.

His amber Moorish eyes liquid and softly glowing, Jacinto Quesada halted a few feet off, and watched her and listened. A tousle-headed urchin of nine, his only uniform an abbreviated and airy shirt, stepped forward and chanted, with gusto, "The Laws of Romany":

"O never with the Gentiles wend,

Nor deem their speeches true;

Or else, be certain in the end

Thy blood will lose its hue.

"There runs a swine down yonder hill,

As fast as e'er he can,

And as he runs he crieth still,

Come, steal me, Gypsy man.

"To blessed Jesus' holy feet

I'd rush to kill and slay

My plighted lass so fair and sweet,

Should she the wanton play.

"Thy sire and mother wrath and hate

Have vowed against me, love!

The first, first night that from the gate

We two together rove.

"The girl I love more dear than life,

Should other gallant woo,

I'd straight unsheath my dudgeon knife

And cut his weasand through;

Or he, the conqueror in the strife,

The same to me should do.

"O, I am not of gentle clan,

I'm sprung from Gypsy tree;

And I will be no gentleman,

But an Egyptian free."

Felicidad looked up and flushed to a carnation color under the ardor of his eyes. Then, looking away, she asked, "What is it, Jacinto?"

"Come, my Felicidad! The sun is already high in the sky; it will be thirsty-hot on the upper slopes of the mountains. Let us mount and ride."

Pepe Flammenca had gone through the underwood seeking Rafael Perez, Garcia, and Pio Estrada; he found them out behind the wagons, busily engaged in currycombing and burnishing their new horses. Now he returned with the three at his heels, himself and two of Quesada's dorados bearing a raffle of harness in their hands and saddles on their shoulders, and the third leading by their halters the five barebacked animals.

At once and swiftly, Quesada's ruffians commenced to cinch the saddles upon the horses. Despite haste, the work was done most efficiently.

Quesada called Pepe Flammenca aside. He had become possessed of a new idea. He and the Gypsy chieftain put their heads together. Then Quesada called Rafael Perez over to them with a beckon of the hand. Perez, too, joined in the low-whispered zipizape of words. An impudent and fantastic intrigue was plotted out, then and there, by that assorted trinity. As they separated again, Jacinto Quesada asked with sudden doubt:

"Will it be very difficult to change the appearance of Perez?"

"Not for Pepe Flammenca! Am I not of the Zincali? We of the Zincali can make a young horse seem old and decrepit, and an old horse show as much fire and hauteur as an unbroken stallion! And chachipe! we can change a black horse to white, and a piebald one to the color of tobacco! It is very simple, Don Jacinto, for the Children of Egypt."

"If you can make me pleasing to look at," chuckled Rafael Perez, "you will do wonders!"

Then he and Pepe Flammenca went together into the tent of the Gypsy chieftain, a more imposing tent than the others. His horse thereupon was led back behind

the wagons and its harness hung upon the limb of a tree.

"Let us not tarry now. Aupa, you!" commanded Jacinto Quesada.

At the command, Pio Estrada and Ignacio Garcia flung themselves upon their horses. Quesada stood beside the horse of Felicidad and made a cup of his hands. The golden-haired girl put her little foot in the cup and was lifted into the saddle.

Then Quesada walked over to the tent of Pepe Flammenca to say a final word to Rafael Perez. Unaided by a mirror, Rafael Perez was shaving himself with care and yet with extreme haste. Pepe Flammenca sat cross-legged at his feet, mixing a dark stew of pigments in an age-blackened calabash.

"I go, Rafael Perez," said Jacinto Quesada, poking his head under the flap. "I abandon you to your vices, and to Manuel Morales and his cabalgadores. Be prudent and discreet and sagacious, for henceforth you must enterprise single-handed and under cover. And may God go with thee!"

"And with thee, Don Jacinto of my soul!"

Quesada came back and threw himself astride his horse. "Adelante!" he commanded. The three men and the girl Felicidad filed slowly, on horseback, out of the clearing.

As they proceeded up the shadow-haunted alleys of the barranca, their pace quickened. At a smart trot they were approaching the upper end when, all at once, they were confronted by a girl who lingered beside the way. It was Paquita-Paquita with a pink rhododendron in her blue-black hair.

"You here, Paquita?" Quesada blurted. He was in the lead, and the girl disclosed herself with such surprising suddenness that she seemed a spirit conjured up in a blink of the eye.

"I waited here to say farewell to you, senor caballero of my heart," she replied. He made to push by, but she put her hands on stirrup and leg, yearning close. And panting with eagerness, she cried:

"Take me with you, Don Jacinto! For love of you I will give up wandering and all my other Gypsy ways! We shall have a cabana hidden somewhere in the mountains and secure from the Guardia Civil, and there you will repair to be made blissful by me! Take me with you, or I shall sicken and die, for I love you so ardently that I am consumed by fires within!"

"For shame, girl! I am a Busno-I am of another race!"

She got on tiptoe and clasped her bare arms about his waist and clung tenaciously, passionately.

"Leave me behind then, but first-kiss me! Taste of my lips, they are as sweet as the sweetest! Wrap me in your arms so that I suffocate! Then kill me, if you will! Gladly would I die under your hands-death is better than to be disdained by you!"

Quesada, appalled by the strength and ferocity of her passion, drew away. He felt shame before Felicidad. His face aflame, he cried angrily, "I will have nothing to do with you!" And he started on again.

Very suddenly, then, her whole look changed. The ardent light fled from her eyes; forlornly her hands dropped to her sides; her slim girlish figure drooped and wilted. Most woebegone and piteous was she to see. And her voice a plaintive, fluttering sob, she called after him:

"Little caballero of the handsome face, there is a great tree at the entrance to this barranca-a wild olive that stands alone and waiting like a young bandolero who attends in patience until the coming of nightfall and his brown Gypsy love. There will be a fine moon to-morrow night."

"It is of no importa!" said Quesada, without looking back. "There shall be no more meetings of you and me. Go thou with God!"

The girl quivered beneath the scorning words like a flame harshly blown upon. But suddenly she pulsed rigid; a heat sharp as pepper, bitter as bile, violent as the sun, coursed through her veins; her face grew ashy and drawn, her dusky eyes glittered like a cat's. Like a cat she was then, like a beautiful she-leopard wounded into a barbarous and terrible ferocity.

"Go thou!" she screamed-"Go thou with Satanas, the foul-smelling, the gangrened! You are not a man; you are a putrescent sore, an ulcer, a leprosy! I hate you, I loathe you, and I will have your life taken from you some day!"

She ran after him, shrilly screaming her rage. She was a virago, a witch-woman! She picked up a stone and flung it after him. It struck the horse of Felicidad upon the withers. She picked up more stones and flung these. And a thousand vile curses she flung also. Coming thus from a woman's lips, they were worse than an abomination of sound; they were a pollution, a hideous obscenity.

Even Quesada's ruffians were appalled. For himself, Quesada was most glad that the horse of Felicidad was the one struck by the first stone. In a panic, it galloped away. She was soon out of earshot.

They hurried after her.

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