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   Chapter 17 No.17

The Wolf Cub By Patrick Casey Characters: 9664

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


That night, after the storm ceased and a spell before the moon rose, a man of the Guardia Civil rode across hills sweetened by the rain, and came in a roundabout way to the ancient wild olive at the portal of the barranca of the Gitanos. Here he dismounted and waited like one keeping a tryst, smoking innumerable cigarettes and kicking up the soft loam impatiently. He was Miguel Alvarado.

At length and on the sudden, he heard sounds as of some one coming toward him down the canyon through the dripping leaves. He hearkened a moment, then lifted his voice in a rich but gentle baritone:

"Loud sang the Spanish cavalier,

And thus his ditty ran:

God send the Gypsy lassie here,

And not the Gypsy man."

She came to him from out the trees, the wench Paquita. She was clad in a dress of vermilions and yellows, those vermilions and yellows now bedusked by the soft light of the night. In her hair was wound a green scarf. And, as she approached, she sang the answering quatrain:

"At midnight, when the moon began

To show her silver flame,

There came to him no Gypsy man,

The Gypsy lassie came."

Impulsively he ran to meet her. They were like shadows that merged together and became one. They trembled, they swayed; they swayed as the wild olive swayed in the wind of the night. They kissed long and ardently. Then she drew herself away, throwing her head back and holding him off with arms rigidly extended.

"Ah, Miguel, my caballero of the impetuous lips," she sighed, "I could love you with all my heart and soul, but for one little thing!"

"Carajo! what is that?" he asked, his voice sharp with anxiety and eagerness. "Have I not always been the most adoring and tender of lovers-aye, and the most voracious and headlong, too? Did I not hurry pellmell for this meeting, the moment you sent word to me by that Gypsy brat? What have I done to make you think dismally of me? How have I displeased you? Tell me; I burn to know!"

She suddenly drew herself to him and clung there once again, kissing his lips and fondling his head with her hands. He shivered in every limb. He moaned in an ecstasy of delight, and pressed her to him with such impetuosity and gusto that it seemed as if his arms would break her body in two.

Beneath the ardor of his greedy embrace, the girl Paquita shuddered and went very pale in the gloom. A scream rose in her throat but she smothered it, unborn. Across her shoulders, under her gaudy gown, were red raw furrows where her father's greenhide had bitten and seared her. But she made no outcry, she gave no sign, though she was as one who has been tortured horribly and then given up to the iron caresses of a terrible, crushing machine.

His arms relaxed somewhat after a little, and she lay upon his neck and whispered:

"It is not what you have done; you were always the perfect lover. It is what you are. You are a policeman, one of those feared and hated and despised by my clan. I feel shame in loving a man of the Guardia Civil; there is something in my Gypsy blood that makes me feel that shame. It is the uniform you wear, the things that it symbolizes."

"We Guardias Civiles are the bravest of Spaniards. We are most brave and mettlesome men, every one!" returned the young policeman slowly, seeking to marshal his arguments in order. "Most Spanish girls are quick to love us if only because of our smart uniforms and gallantry and daring. And it is as natural for me to be a policeman as it is for you to be a Gitana. My father is a sergeant of the police; he has been in the Guardia Civil for thirty years. And all my male ancestors have been Guardias Civiles back to the long-ago, when they were bandoleros and outlaws who grew tired of being hunted and became Miquelets."

"But if you were more like your ancestors, the Miquelets-ah, then I could love you body and soul!" breathed the girl Paquita. And she went on very softly:

"Last night, there came to our camp in the barranca an outlaw, a salteador de camino. He was strong, he was magnificently strong, and he had a long absolute jaw and bold, proud, imperious eyes. About him, like an odor, hung the reek of the imposing and cruel and terrible things he had done.

"It is natural for us Gitanas to love an outlaw; we Gitanas are outlaws to the core, ourselves. And he was as arrogant as a Bourbon prince, or a sheik of Barbary, or an Andalusian sun on a noonday; but he looked at me only with the eyes of contempt, granite eyes. I made the fool of myself by flinging my body and soul at his feet. He-"

"Cascaras! what was his name?" cried Miguel Alvarado sharply. It was as though a knife had been plunged into his side and twisted this way and that.

"He was the glorious bandolero, Jacinto Quesada!"

"Jacinto Quesada! That swollen toad, that strutting mountebank in

rags and tinsel, that upstart, the zascandil! Por los Clavos de Cristo! and you flung yourself at him?"

"But he is altogether the arrogant and brave man, altogether the savage and magnificent one!"

"Carjo! he is only a mountaineer's brat. We grew up on opposite slopes of the same mountain of the Sierra Nevada. His clodhopper of a father sold firewood to the sweet mother of me! He is uneducated; has no resource or originality. And he lacks entrails as well as brains! I am more varonil, I tell you; more impetuous with headlong daring than he. Were there a man such as Miguel Alvarado in the shoes of Jacinto Quesada, there would be things done, I wot! But I will show you what is what. I-"

"Yes, yes, you will show me-how, when?"

But to the ears of Miguel Alvarado the wind had borne sound of the to-do raised by an approaching horse. He hearkened to that pounding and clattering, looking down the sweep of foothills below the barranca. He saw nothing just at once. But the sounds became more distinct, drew nearer. Those sounds leaped toward them in great panther leaps.

Suddenly a man on horseback came bounding over the hogback of a hill right below. He wore the tight uniform and the businesslike look of a man of the Guardia Civil. His policeman's three-cornered hat of shiny leather shimmered in the light of the newly risen moon. With the velocity and abandon of a French dragoon, he galloped full tilt up toward the barranca. And as he came, he shouted:

"Hola, Miguelillo!"

"It is my officer, my parent!" whispered the young policeman, and he swore softly in disappointment. Then, with the absolute obedience of only a Spanish son, he shouted back: "Here I am, Don Esteban, my father! What do you want of me?"

The sergeant of police came up like a driving pillar of sand and dismounted while his horse was in full charge. Swinging his quirta, he advanced swiftly upon the pair. There was in him no sign of the weakness of age. He had a short, knife-sharp white beard, and a face as lean and haughty as a griffon vulture's. From his tricorn hat still hung down, behind his head, a sun shield of white linen cloth.

"Come away with me!" he ordered peremptorily. "I have word that Jacinto Quesada is in the mountains near the Pass of Despenaperros. While there's work to do for Spanish policemen, I'll not have you playing the bear for the entertainment of any senorita in Spain, no matter how fine the moon!"

He peered into the soft shade beneath the wild olive.

"Aha, the maiden is with you, I see! But, zut! this is bad. She and you alone in this abandoned glen-has the girl no thought for what the people of her village will say of her?"

"The girl is a Gitana!" spoke up Paquita proudly.

"A Gitana! Blood of Christ! my son keeping tryst with a Gitana! Have you no respect for your Christian mother, you ungrateful whelp? Have you no pride in your policeman father and in your ancestors that have been keepers of the peace of Spain for a hundred years? Have you no thought of the uniform you wear?"

The father was severely angry.

"This is disgraceful, this is vile, Alvarado, my son! A Gitana, eh! Come away with me, at once. Come away, and no more words with this wanton Gypsy wench, or I shall lay my quirta across your back!"

The imperious old man turned on his heel, strode away, and leaped with one lithe strong spring upon his horse's back. Miguel Alvarado turned from the girl and moved reluctantly toward his own horse. He feared his father too much to disobey him. He feared his father as he feared neither God nor the Devil. He knew his father would beat him without qualm or ruth at the first word or look of defiance or rebellion.

Man-grown though he was, he could prove to you an acquaintance with his father's rawhide quirta by merely baring his young body to the waist. Spanish family life is the most solid and wholesome thing about Spain. Spanish sons and daughters respect and revere those who gave them life; they have been taught respect and reverence at the ends of whips. In the same manner, Jehovah made the Israelites love him; and who, through all the years of the world, have been more faithful to God than the stern race of Jews?

"I will be here, at this wild olive, ere the waning of three nights. At midnight of the third night, meet me, Paquita, virgin of my soul!" whispered Miguel Alvarado, bending down from the saddle.

"You will tell me then what you will do?" she whispered in return. "You will tell me then, will you not, my caballero of the impetuous lips and the great courage? I will remain chaste as gold, pure as a sacrament, for you, caballerete!"

"I will prove to you that I am not unworthy of your great love, my little one. This Jacinto Quesada-za!"

He thundered away after his proud and haughty parent.

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