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   Chapter 27 No.27

The Wolf Cub By Patrick Casey Characters: 8656

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


John Fremont Carson stood upon the great rock at the brink of the village and surveyed, above the ugly snub nose of his automatic, the surge of men before him. One shot from that automatic had garroted the rebellion. At his feet sprawled the short thick-set form of Baptista Monterey, a tiny flaming crater in his right temple where a steel-jacketed bullet had found his life.

Behind Carson lay Jacinto Quesada, stricken and spread-eagled from the plague. The men stood staggered and cowed before him, fascinated with fear and deep awe.

"Quick, one of you!" exploded the American. "Carry Quesada to the sick bay!"

There was a sudden stir among the apprehensively huddled men. The tall gray-suited Frenchman stepped forward,

"Allow me, monsenor."

With a gentle concern, astonishing from him, he rolled the long-legged form of the bandolero snugly in his serape and then, staggering under the weight, leaden with unconsciousness, started off up the uneven street toward the chapel.

Carson flourished his automatic.

"Pronto!" he yelled. "Into your huts, you serranos! You of the cuadrilla, back to your work in the hospital!"

The men dispersed like a foggy neblina under the rays of the sun.

Ferou was some distance ahead of the cuadrilla as it tramped, bowed of head, back up the street. Carson and Morales remained on the rock, busying with the fire which would cremate the remains. There was no one to see.

The Frenchman seized the opportunity. With one hand, he reached under the long mountaineer's shawl that swathed Quesada's body; he reached into the inside pocket of the sheepskin zamarra. He drew forth a small mahogany-colored leather purse. That purse had once been his own.

Without bothering to open it, he thrust it into a pocket of his gray tweed suit. He knew. Within, in that small mahogany-colored leather purse, was the tightly wound roll of five-thousand peseta bills he had stolen from Don Jaime de Torreblanca y Moncada!

When Carson hurried up, a short spell later, to tend to Quesada, Ferou was awaiting him in the hospital, apparent anxiety upon his ashy-hued face.

"Monsenor Carson," he said deferentially, "to-day must have taught you a lesson. It is not wise that these bullfighters and serranos should be armed. They might rise again. I would some advice give you. Collect all the arms in the barrio and keep them under your own hand."

The suggestion met with accord from the American. Readily he could see its precautionary value against future rebellion.

"Just a little, and I'll be finished doing all I can for Jacinto; then I'll be with you."

Together they made a round of the cabanas. They requisitioned ancient muzzle-loading smooth-bores, Mannlichers, Mauser carbines, revolvers, old-fashioned pistols, and guns with muzzles wide as the mouth of a French horn. In Quesada's choza, where Felicidad slept and hourly gained strength, they found a modern smokeless breech-loading hunting gun, a cordite repeater.

They were tireless and microscopically thorough in the search. Despite the mutterings and scowls of the serranos, they seized every instrument which might be used as a weapon of offense. They collected Manchegan knives, navajas, razors, and even alpenstocks and shovels. Against the cork-oak tree in the center of the pueblo street, they made a heap of the conglomeration.

They had circled back to the hospital, and Ferou had entered to disarm the members of the cuadrilla therein, when Carson, following at his heels, made a sudden clutch at the jamb of the door.

"Hola!" exclaimed Morales, just then coming up behind from the cremation rock at the brink of the pueblo. "Sacred blood, what's the matter, Don Juan!"

Ferou slewed swiftly round. Both men, the one within, the other without the chapel, eyed the American in the doorway. There was a strange, almost hopeful expectancy in the slate-colored eyes of the Frenchman; in the dark thick-lashed eyes of the matador a terrible voiceless dread.

Carson drew himself up. It was a visible effort. His angular face looked grayly haggard; his lips were drawn tight over his teeth.

"It is nothing," he said slowly. "I feel a little faint, that's all. I guess the excitement of this morning has upset me. It will soon pass off."

"You must lie down, mi camarada," said Moral

es gently but firmly. "You have not slept in two nights-since the night when that boy's mother died, and last night when Robledo of my cuadrilla slapped under. You need rest. You have been doing the work of three men, of thirty men, tending Felicidad, doctoring in here, directing and administering to all. You must lie down."

The American made to stagger through into the sick bay; but Morales stopped him with a steadying hand upon his shoulder.

"Not here," he advised softly. "We are overcrowded already. Besides, for you to lie in this atmosphere, would make you more liable to the plague. Come to Quesada's cabana. Felicidad is feeling quite strong to-day. There is an unused couch there. Felicidad will see that you want for nothing."

"But Quesada-"

"I will take care of him. Jacinto is a brave man; he has the will to live. Everything in my power I shall do, Don Juan, to see that he does live."

With one shaking hand, Carson fumbled in his pocket. He finally drew out a number of yellow printed leaves that had been torn from a book.

"Here are the instructions of what to do," he said wearily.

Morales took the yellow illumined pages. His honest Andalusian face was grave with an intenseness of sincerity.

"Senor Carson," he said almost formally, "everything you have done, I will attempt to do. You may rest easily in the knowledge and conviction that I am carrying forward all that you planned. Your methods have proved good methods. There have been deaths, true; but never, in an epidemic of cholera, have I known so few deceases, so many recoveries. Steadfastly, with fortitude and without deviation, with a stout heart and an iron hand, I shall put through your modern sanitary methods. Senor, I will even cremate the dead!"

It was enough. Guided and aided by the matador, Carson stumbled down the uneven street toward Quesada's cabana. The Frenchman looked after the two, through the chapel doorway, and smiled his calculating and very superior smile.

When Morales returned, Ferou pointed out the heaped-up scramble of weapons under the cork-oak tree and explained what he and Carson had been about.

"If the Senor Americano thought it a good plan," said Morales with promptitude and decision, "I will go through with it. My word has been given in promise. Whatever Don Juan started, that shall I attempt to finish."

He entered the hospital. Within, what remained of his cuadrilla were watching and nursing the sick. They were now only three. Of the others, the banderillero, Baptista Monterey, had been killed in the rebellion on the rock; Coruncho Lopez, the picador, was dead from the plague; and another banderillero, Alfonso Robledo, was still numbered among the blanketed patients on the platforms.

"Here, you peones," said Morales to the three. "Take off your guns and knives! It is the order of the Senor Carson."

The bullfighters darted quick glances at one another. They were nervous and suspicious. Why did the matador want them to disarm? What did he purpose doing, once he had them unarmed-punish them for their participation in that morning's rebellion? They feared to disobey the matador, yet they feared more the intent behind the command. They hesitated.

"Shed your own weapons, Don Manuel," suggested the insidious Ferou in a whisper. "Then the men will understand that it is a general order which applies to all, without favoritism."

"Dios hombre!" exclaimed Morales, growing irritated. "Must I coax my peones to obey the command of their own matador?"

"It is not that, Don Manuel. These men are only poor silly Spaniards who do not understand. They are afraid of your reason for thus asking them to disarm. If you discard your weapons, they will realize there is nothing to fear. They will follow suit. And you will have set the peones the example, like a true matador!"

"Disparate!" ejaculated Morales. "What nonsense!" But just the same, realizing that it was the simplest way to attain the end in view, he removed from about his waist the belt on which were suspended a revolver and sheathed knife.

Readily then the three bullfighters emulated his example. And Jacques Ferou carried all the weapons to the pile beneath the cork-oak tree. Outside and beyond eyeshot, he saw fit to indulge, once more, in his exasperating smile.

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