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   Chapter 15 No.15

The Wolf Cub By Patrick Casey Characters: 10193

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Not at once did the girl Paquita return to the camp of the Gitanos. Her low broad brow clouded with sullen anger, her dusky eyes somber and morosely smoldering, she clambered swiftly down the rocks of the watercourse. In the precipitancy of her descent, in the headlong hurry and indecorum with which she moved through swale and sunlight and between boulders and clumps of rhododendron, there was yet something of cold decision and steadfastness to purpose. She came out, at last, on the tiny beach of white sand beside the pool.

A red cloth on a rock caught her eye. She snatched it up and clenched it to her heart. It was the head-kerchief of Jacinto Quesada. When but lately he had sat and gloomed on that boulder above the pool, he had dropped it from his pocket and gone off unawares.

She replaced the red headcloth upon the boulder. It lay there in a crumpled crimson heap, and it pulsed a little as its folds eased out. It looked like a dying heart.

From some recess in her bosom, the girl Paquita drew forth a small moleskin sack on a string and shook its contents out upon the top of the rock. There was a looking-glass, smaller than the palm of her small brown hand. There was a flint and a bit of steel. There was a chunk of lodestone, the magnetic iron-ore which the Gypsies of Spain call La Bar Lachi and which they claim is possessed of a thousand magical and miraculous properties. There were, also, a half dozen other uncouth Rommany charms and talismans.

She propped the hand-glass upright against the crumpled head-kerchief. She fell to her knees before it. With an unwavering and strangely intense gaze, with a stark contemplation, she stared into the eyes reflected from the mirror.

Five minutes, then ten snailed painfully by. The process of self-hypnosis went on. She was like one transfixed by a hooded cobra. Her body grew gradually rigid, and her breathing ever deeper and slower. At last she seemed not to breathe at all. Her eyes vacant and numbly fixed, she rose slowly to her feet.

She crossed the tiny beach of clean white sand. She stooped with a fluent graceful flexure at the brim of the pool, filled her hands with wet sand, and slowly pressed and molded that wet sand into an uncouth little image of a man.

The diminutive effigy she deposited upon the beach, setting it upright on its vaguely defined and overbroad feet. A second time, she stooped at the water's edge, filled her hands with sand, and again packed and shaped that wet sand into a squat little figure. Only this time the effigy bore a crude but easily perceived resemblance to a woman.

She deposited the one image on the beach beside the other. She gathered dry leaves and scraps of tinder-rot and made two little piles of them, each before a tiny figurine. She returned to the boulder, swathed the lodestone in the red headcloth and, lodestone and cloth in hand, bore them back across the beach. And everything was done with extreme slowness, with acute and painful deliberation. She was like a somnambulist in a walking sleep.

She fetched the flint and the steel from the boulder. She could execute, it seemed, only one errand at a time. She dropped to her knees above one of the tiny piles of dry leaves and tinder-rot, and busied herself with the flint and steel. So soon as the one leafy hillock commenced to burn bravely, she translated its flame. The other little bonfire cackled with a like eagerness and gusto.

Stepping back from her uncouth little idols and tiny sacrificial fires, she undid a catch here and another catch there, and her shoulders and then her hips emerged from the green gown, and the gown fell in a swishing billow about her brown bare feet. Clad only in her olive-pale, satin-smooth and satin-glowing skin, she stepped out of the atoll of green cloth and commenced a slow and strange dance there upon the sands.

It was not a dance voluptuous or obscene. It was a solemn dance of statuesque attitudes, and flowing flexures, and ceremonious pauses. Very like was it to some ritualistic dance of the sacerdotal dancing boys of the Cathedral of Toledo. And yet there was in it a taint of sorcery and demonolatry.

She stooped at the water's edge to dip therein her hands. Dancing on, she shook a few drops of water from her finger tips down upon the flames. Smoke arose, a gust of smoke for each trinity of drops. The while her eyes remained fixed and vacant and she danced slowly, she chanted a sort of weird incantation in the gerigonza of the Zincali.

Her voice was very low and came as with great effort. This was the rigmarole she chanted, translated from the Romany, which is descended from the Sanskrit and which it much resembles:

"To the Mountain of Olives one morning I hied,

Three little black goats before me I spied,

Those three little goats on three cars I laid,

Black cheeses three from their milk I made;

The one I bestow on the lodestone of power,

That save me it may from all ills that lower;

The second to Mary Padilla[1] I give,

And to all the witch hags about her that live;

The third

I reserve for Asmodeus[2] lame,

That fetch me he may whatever I name."

The rhythm of that solemn dance grew ever more sprightly. Her languor dropped from her like a discarded shift. Faster and faster her brown bare feet beat the sands. She leaped ecstatically in air. Suddenly the dance ended in a whirl of exaltation. Then, for a long minute, she stood like one petrified, like a statue sculptured in onyx, her brown arms upflung, her face uplifted and sublimated. And in the voice of a demoniac, she screamed:

"Oh, el buen Baron! O Asmodeus the Lame! Send an evil upon the arrogant head of the stripling Quesada, he who tore the heart from my virgin breast and then ground it beneath his heel as though it were a ball of dung! Accursed was the salt placed in his mouth in the church when he was baptized, the vile Busno! He is too disdainful of me, too contemptuous! Send a black evil upon him and his, O Asmodeus! O Apollyon! By the three black little goats and the three black little cheeses, I invoke you!

"Humble him, break his heart of arrogant cold granite by making those he loves most fondly fall into fevers and die like flies in a frost! Send an evil of hideous disease upon those about him! Make those about him fall ill of horrid discharges and cramps of the stomach; then weaken them by causing them to vomit a gray pasty whey; then turn their bodies to blue and purple, and then let them die within twelve or twenty-four hours!

"Break his spirit as my father breaks the spirit of a proud black stallion, O Asmodeus the Lame! Do this for thy handmaid and votaress, do this for Caste Sonacai, known to the Busne as Paquita, the child of Flammenco Chorolengro, hetman of the clan of Barolengro and count of the people of Zend!"

You must know that the Gypsies of Spain practice a magic of two kinds. Their magic of the first kind is compounded of pure bunkum and fraud. Always in public do they practice this charlatanry and upon gullible Gentiles whom they hope to hocus-pocus and swindle out of a few pesetas. When they tell a buena ventura, or fortune, by crossing the dupe's palm with a piece of the dupe's gold, this is the sort of arrant nonsense they practice. The Hokkano Baro, the Great Trick, is another of their thieves' devices. The Ustilar Pastesas and the Chiving Drao are still others. In not one of the swindling tricks mentioned do they use any true clairvoyancy or authentic warlockry; it is all sleight-of-hand and humbuggery. At this kind of magic the Gypsies laugh loudest themselves.

Those who in public practice magic in order to hoodwink others, always practice in secret another sort of magic which they consider the true magic, and in which they devoutly believe. This is dogma. Did not the priests of ancient Egypt make magic in public to the cat-headed god Bast, the bull Ptah, and the lioness Sakhmi whom they despised as images of stone and machinery, but to whom they salaamed that the ignorant rabble might continue to be hoodwinked? And did not those same priests make magic in secret to the one true God? Thus with the Gypsies. In secret they practice another and second kind of sorcery which they believe in with a fanatic faith!

And that was the kind of magic the girl Paquita practiced in secret down on the tiny beach by the oleander-arcaded pool. Her execration solemnly concluded, the beautiful and youthful dealer in the warlockry of the Roms became again a hot wind of action. Swiftly she ran to the pool, filled her cupped hands with water, and as swiftly came back again.

The fires had died down into twin nests of coals. She cast no water upon them. What water she carried in her cupped hands, she threw upon that little sand image which resembled a man.

Without pausing to watch the havoc she played with her handiwork, she repeated the action, this time throwing water upon the little effigy which looked vaguely like a woman. Then, her midnight-black hair falling about her face and her dusky eyes burning from beneath the obscuring oily threads with a strange sibylline fire, she crouched on her brown bare heels before the two sodden hillocks of sand.

Now, when standing upright, the two little images of sand had seemed mated divinities, bound together by a common majesty. In their downfall and watery ruin, however, one might say that they had become antagonized; there was that in the way they fell which suggested a coldness between them, a rift, a void. In melting and crumbling, the two watersoaked little images had fallen gently away from each other.

Paquita got up and shook back the hair from her face. Her face was flushed, her eyes glowing with glad triumph. She laughed long and arrantly.

"It is written in the sands!" she exclaimed. "She will never have Jacinto Quesada for her bridegroom. It is written; it has been shown to me! Never will those two lie down together on the bed of marriage! And a plague-even that hideous plague I asked for-shall come upon them; a plague of low fevers and cramps of the stomach; a plague that shall color their bodies blue and purple!"

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