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   Chapter 30 No.30

The Wolf Cub By Patrick Casey Characters: 8712

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


It was a strangely assorted trio. Over the lip of the great rock on the brink of the village of Minas de la Sierra extended the athletic shoulders and sharp ashy face of Jacques Ferou, lying flat on his stomach. Below in the gorge at the foot of the corkscrew goat path, straining their necks backward and looking up, were the two Guardias Civiles, Pascual Montara and Sergeant Esteban Alvarado. All three were deeply absorbed in a distance-spanning conversation.

"That Americain lied!" the Frenchman was shouting down with heated earnestness. "Jacinto Quesada is himself in this village. He has been sick with the great illness and with a mad fever, too; but this morning his head is once more his own, and he is repairing rapidly in strength. He is here, I tell you!"

"Muy bueno!" shouted back the old sergeant with glad resolution. "We will come up for him immediately!"

"Non, non, mi sargento! There is the pestilence to fear, and there is also my revolver which barks no, no!"

"What would you, then?" asked sullenly that apelike one, Montara.

Now, so thoroughly were the trio engrossed in the matter of words, that their minds were completely monopolized and all other perceptions were excluded from their senses. They did not hear the clatter of a horse's hoofs approaching up the gorge. When that clatter abruptly ceased, their unheeding ears received no sensation of change or difference.

They did not know that, five yards behind the policeman, concealed from above by the leafy branches of pines and alders and from the guardsmen ahead by a thick underwood of tall buckthorn and entangled genista, a horseman had halted and now, leaning his two hands upon the pommel of the saddle, was observing them attentively.

He was quite a rememberable-looking man. His hair was white; his skin from exposure to wind and weather was a deep swarth; and his eyes were gray. Not many Spaniards have gray eyes. The eyes of Don Jaime de Torreblanca y Moncada were a clear, cold, agate-gray. All in all, there was about his appearance, especially the long aquiline nose, the stony eyes and pointed white beard, something which seemed to hearken back to the days of ruffs and ready swords-the days of the terrible Spanish infantry, the Armada, the Bigotes, the "Bearded Men," the Conquistadores.

He strained his eyes through the greeny plait above him. Suddenly, as he glimpsed the man sprawled on the great rock, his narrow face blanched as if gutted of blood; a look of savage ferocity leaped into his eyes; and his hand strayed back to the heavy horse pistol slung from the saddle.

But abruptly his reaching hand stopped. A few random words of the trio's conversation had impinged upon his ears and aroused his curiosity.

"There is something foul going forward here!" he breathed vehemently. "I shall listen. Of what use to snap off the snake's head, now and impetuously? Let him bare his fangs. With cold patience, even as the Christ waits for his Judgment Day, I will wait for my moment of vengeance on this creature!"

Don Jaime was a grandee of Spain, one entitled to wear his hat in the presence of his monarch. Well now, as he applied his ear to the conversation, his stony eyes filled with a profundity of contempt that none but a grandee could plumb. Carajo! this was no ordinary conversation he was overhearing. It was the bartering for money of the living body of a man!

Shouted down Ferou, repeating the last question of Montara:

"What would I, what would I have you do? Oh, a very little, monsenores policemen-I would merely have you attend to the simple matter of my reward. I will do all the rest. For the reward, I will deliver Quesada up to you-I will deliver him walking upon his own two legs, so you will not have to touch his infectious clothes. It is good, what? And you will give me the reward of ten thousand pesetas, eh?"

"When you have done all that you say you will do," returned the old sergeant, sternly noncommittal, "then, and not before, shall you have earned the ten thousand pesetas. But you need have no fears for the money! When I shoot down this sacrilegious swollen toad of a Quesada, I shall make my report to headquarters at Getafe. Your name-"

"It is Jacques Ferou."

"I will remember, Senor Don Jacques Ferou. You shall be given all due credit. In two weeks' time from the da

y you deliver Jacinto Quesada to us, you can collect the reward by presenting yourself at Getafe. Most certainly, Spain shall consider herself the best off in the bargain!"

"Tres bien!" exclaimed the Frenchman, lapsing with emotion into his native tongue; then recovering: "It is good. I agree."

"When may we expect you with the heretical dog?" asked Montara.

"To-morrow at noon. When this great rock is hot with midday glare, I will force him out here, my gun nuzzling his back. You policemen can shoot him from below."

Vigorously the old sergeant nodded his polished tricorn hat.

"Muy bueno!" he approved heartily. Then in adieu: "Go thou thy way with God!"

"Always at the feet of the Guardia Civil who keep the peace of Spain," ended the man on the rock, after the fashion of Spanish courtesy. He withdrew from view, thereupon, much as a turtle's head withdraws from view between its carapax and plastron shells.

Don Jaime crashed his rawboned old horse through the tall buckthorn and entangled genista.

"Alto a la Guardia Civil!" thundered Montara, springing back and jerking his carbine to his shoulder.

"Down, you apelike one!" commanded the aged sergeant. "Can't you see? It is the hidalgo doctor, Don Jaime de Torreblanca y Moncada!" And he swept his tricorn hat off his close-clipped white head.

Don Jaime reined in his horse to a quick stop. He disdained altogether the mortified Montara. He looked down at the bared white head, the knife-sharp white beard, and the lean and haughty face of the aged sergeant.

It was, then, as if he looked down upon a singular edition of himself. Don Jaime was a grandee by birth and breeding, and these things amount in Spain; but the old sergeant was no less grand with adamantine adhesion to principle, with eagle-sternness and eagle-haughtiness. They eyed each other with mutual recognition and respect. They were both of the same old Spanish imperial school, unforgiving of injury, inexorable to avenge.

Said the doctor, "Peace be to you, mi sargento."

"And to you peace, Don Jaime of my soul."

"But what is this scheme I hear you hatching?"

"It is a way we have of keeping the peace of Spain."

"Cannot you drag down the Wolf-Cub without the aid of this blood-hound, Ferou?"

"We of the Guardia Civil are not podencos that can drag down the Wolf in the open. Senor Don Dios! we have tried and each time failed!"

"But the man Ferou is a human leech! Oh, I overheard your secret talk. I tell you, the Frenchman sucks life-blood for money!"

"It is thief catch thief, Don Jaime. The Wolf-Cub, Quesada, is a cancer in the side of Spain. And Spain must be healed. We will loose the leech to suck this evil cancer from the side of Spain!"

"You are hatching a snake's egg, mi gran caballero. The fruit of it shall stink in the nostrils of all brave Moors! You may take your oath on that, Don Esteban! I for one will be no party to it!"

"No lo quiera Dios! God forbid, proud Torreblanca y Moncada, that we of the police should expect your aid! You have a higher call. Up in Minas de la Sierra, there is wailing and much sickness-ah, so many men have slapped under and died, and so many more suffer in earthly purgatory!"

"Sea como Dios quiera!" muttered Don Jaime. "God's will be done!"

The sergeant looked up at him, old eyes alive with strange fervor.

"They say of you, Don Jaime-si, and of me, too!-that we have granite boulders for hearts. But I know. Arrogante Torreblanca y Moncada is very tender with the sick. He has hands of gold for calling one back to life and for closing softly the lids of the dying. Vaya, mi gran hidalgo doctor! Go thou in the companionship of the sublime Christ and Mary, the All Compassionate!"

He stepped to one side. Don Jaime bade him a courteous adieu. Then, with all the hauteur of one riding an Arabian barb, sitting rigid in the saddle, the senor doctor loped his rawboned old nag up the winding goat path toward the barrio.

The policeman looked after him. Pascual Montara chewed fiercely the ends of his black mustache. He muttered:

"To-morrow at noon. When that great rock is hot with midday glare, this hombre Jacques Ferou will force the Sacrilegious One out upon the brink."

"Carajo, yes!" grimly agreed the old sergeant. "And we of the Guardia Civil will shoot him from below!"

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