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   Chapter 33 No.33

The Wolf Cub By Patrick Casey Characters: 13617

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Now it may have been because of the miraculous interposition of the Espiritu Santo, or it may have been by reason of the sudden and brutal exposure; but all at once, as he was borne away in the arms of Robledo, the boy Gabriel took an abrupt turn for the worse-a cruel cramping fit seized him in its formidable vise!

Violent spasms shook and threw him about like a tossed beanbag; his teeth clenched together with the paralysis of lockjaw; his legs and arms knotted up and flung out again as if they would tear themselves apart from his body. All in a trice, and ere Robledo could prevent, he writhed out of the bullfighter's grasp and fell rolling and squirming upon the ground, his fingers clawing at the yellow earth.

Blind to everything else, screaming his fear and horror, Quesada leaped toward him. But some one bulked before the bandolero, blocked his way, dashed head-bent for the boy's side.

That some one held in his hand an instrument of gleaming silver, needle-sharp at one end. He dropped to his knees beside the pitifully contorted Gabriel. He shoved the needle point into the boy's knotted arm above the wrist; gave it a quick jab. That some one was the hidalgo doctor, Don Jaime!

Once the hypodermic injection acted on the spinal cord and the medulla oblongata, the spasms would be checked, quieted, allayed. But there must be a circulation of blood. Too slow, altogether too slow, was the blood trickling through the lad's veins. He was sinking fast.

With swift harsh hands, Don Jaime rubbed desperately the boy's arms, legs and spine. But Gabriel's pulse was dying; rapidly his skin was turning to a blue tinge; like dew chilling to frost, the surface of his body was freezing icily. The injection of morphia failed to impact on the nerve centers. It was without effect.

On a sudden the little fellow kicked out, then lay rigid as one who stiffens in the petrifying clutch of death. All the breath had fled his nostrils. He was in the asphyxial stage of the cholera.

Don Jaime, kneeling beside the collapsed form, tore with his harsh hands at jaw and brow to force open the vised mouth. Between the boy's clenching teeth, he wedged the blunt end of the silver syringe. Then he strove to force air into the sunken empty lungs. He strove brusquely yet carefully, as one strives over a drowning man. He lifted the reedlike arms above the boy's head, then back to his sides and up again.

He worked feverishly, he worked heroically. He reached for the black leather box he had thrown behind him. The broken straps on that box showed where it had been torn with sudden violence from the cantle of his saddle.

Quesada hastened to aid his groping hand. He picked up the box and held it open.

"Ammonia!" snapped the doctor. "Hold it to his nose!"

Quesada withdrew from the box a labeled blue bottle. As Don Jaime worked the puny arms up and down with a certain circumspect precision, Quesada held the pungent salts beneath the slightly fluttering nostrils.

"Build a fire! Heat water!" Don Jaime exploded, never ceasing his labors. "Quick! We must give the boy a hot bath to circulate the blood and save him from dying!"

"We have a fire going night and day," returned Quesada. "We have only to remove the heated stones to the bathing pool."

"Where is it, this pool? Lead the way!"

The haughty doctor leaped afoot. He had no thought but for the urgent business at hand. He was a thrall to grim and importunate necessity. Even as his personal honor was to him more precious than life, so was his physician's honor a covenant with Jehovah, tyrannical and imperious to command him.

Quesada, flinging his rickety legs wide apart, went swaying and floundering up the uneven street. Don Jaime followed after the bandolero, the little Gabriel in his own hidalgo arms.

The heat of the bath circulated the lad's blood. By slow degrees, he drew out of the chill collapse. Don Jaime wrapped him snug in a blanket. Once again, in his own hidalgo arms, the grandee doctor carried the boy back to the sick bay.

As he entered that fetid moaning place, a kind of shiver trembled through Don Jaime. He made along the runway between the platforms of tossing, groaning, and emaciated sick, his gray eyes darting from side to side. At the upper end of the chapel, near the dingy altar, he laid the boy down.

What of the hot bath and resultant circulation of blood, the injection of morphia was now at last achieving its purpose. No sooner had the poor lad touched the pine slabs than he passed blissfully into the dwelling place of sleep.

Don Jaime looked down the two platforms of blanketed sick. Slowly and gloomily he shook his white head. He turned to Quesada following doglike after him. His narrow face was a cinder-gray.

"You have spoken aright, son of a mangy she-wolf," he said. "I came nigh to forgetting my duty. I am a priest of the body. My first duty is to the suffering and dying here! After that-"

He paused ominously. He looked about as if in search of something. Of a sudden his roving eyes became focused, riveted; they flashed like cressets of fire. Through the hospital doorway, out into the cold sunlight he gazed.

He saw Felicidad down the village street. From the spell of terror and despair she was only then recovering. She glanced quickly about her. It was as if she had been away on a long journey and was astounded now to find everything as it had been before. She shuddered visibly like one starting to life who had been dead for intolerable moments.

Lip quivering but head held with a quiet proud demeanor, she turned toward the cabana wherein the American lay. As she entered the low doorway Jacques Ferou, lurking in the dark, sidled past her and out.

The Frenchman's whole malignant soul was bunched and crouched in his eyes. He threw after the golden form of the girl a look searing and blasting. It was as if, now that the vengeance of the hidalgo had failed him, he would kill the girl himself with that one glare from his slaty eyes.

Don Jaime's lips clicked together. Looking piercingly through the doorway, his agate eyes lunged like sharp knives at the venomous Frenchman and the white trembling girl. In a voice chill as a glacial wind, he spoke.

"After I have fulfilled here my duty to the sick," he said-"after that, by the Life, I slay!"

He would say no more. His lips tightened into a line thin and grim as if chiseled in stone.

He went down and up the line of platforms, dosing each sufferer in turn. To some he gave stimulants and astringents; to those in the more severe stages of the disease, he doled out opiates.

He went from cabana to choza outside, bringing brandy and nutritive food to the convalescing. He was leaving the choza of one villager when Quesada, dogging his steps

, plucked him by the sleeve.

"You have seen, senor don hidalgo?" asked the bandolero. "The Frenchman Ferou is up here, also."

"I know," nodded Don Jaime austerely. "He is wherever trouble is. He is the scum that gathers where things are filthy, an abomination to be squashed under the heel! Za!" he ended, with profound loathing. "He is a human leech!"

Quickly then, as they approached the next cabana, he related with characteristic frankness and bitter contempt, all he had seen and heard that morning in the gorge at the foot of the goat path.

Quesada showed little surprise. What could one expect from the French vulture!

But what did surprise him not a little was to find, upon putting his hand inside his sheepskin zamarra, that the small mahogany-colored leather purse of the doctor was no longer there. Carajo! what had become of the purse and money of Don Jaime?

"It is that Frenchman!" he quickly surmised. "Don Jaime, he has stolen your money for a second time! I took the purse from him in that affair of the Seville-to-Madrid; I was holding all those five thousand peseta bills for you, my senor doctor; but while I was down sick and knew nothing, the French ferret must have gone through my pockets!"

Don Jaime only grunted.

They entered the obscurity of the next cabana. Within, Felicidad was sitting at the bedside of the convalescing American, explaining all that had occurred. At their appearance, she abruptly quieted.

Pointing to the American upon the leaf-stuffed couch, Quesada explained in a few sketchy sentences just who Carson was and all he had done. Then the bandolero told how Ferou had charged Carson for the medicines so vital to his recovery and even for the bare necessities of life.

"The Frenchman is a plunderer, an extortioner, Don Jaime. He charged prices, exorbitant prices. He robbed this man of all his ready money. Senor Don Dios, it was outrageous, detestable! There was no need of prices; the man was down on his back, helpless, well-nigh dead; there was no need of prices of any kind. But what could we do? In all the barrio, Ferou was the only one armed."

The hidalgo doctor lifted Carson's heavy hand to feel his pulse. He said no word. He never once looked toward Felicidad who had arisen to her feet and stepped to one side.

Yet Quesada knew. In this expose of Ferou's execrable character, it was plain by comparison that the Frenchman had artfully cajoled Felicidad and then used her as a cat's-paw to pluck golden chestnuts out of the fire. The girl had been duped and ensnared by the creature's wiles. Even to the adamantine mind of the senor doctor, the blow and blot of his daughter's conduct must inevitably pall before the odiousness of the Frenchman's villainy.

But again Don Jaime said no word. He only prescribed a certain diet for Carson. Without so much as a softening glance toward the pale and fearful girl, he marched out of the cabana, his boots clamping down in firm measured strides.

They returned to the hospital only to find Gabriel suffering, once more, in the grip of the plague. To ease the poor lad's griping pangs and still the heart-tearing cries for his dead mother, the senor doctor dropped a few beads of chloroform down his throat.

"Do not despair, my precious little man!" encouraged Morales, in a husky voice, from his place down the platform. "Have a high fearless heart, and the great Torreblanca will yet pull you through."

With an utterness of gratitude at having won such inspiriting words from the matador whom he so venerated, the boy thanked Morales with black eyes that were smoldering great coals in their deep pits.

Don Jaime turned to Quesada. Morales had tossed off the upper end of his blanket and the hidalgo had suddenly noticed the gold-braided green jacket about the matador's torso. With that characteristic frankness of his which so often sounded brutal and coarse, he queried:

"Who is this hombre in gold-tinsel and green that has such faith in the ability and concoctions of Torreblanca y Moncada?"

"Que, que!" exclaimed the bandolero, distinctly surprised. "What, what! Does not the senor doctor know?"

But the doctor did not even remember having seen the man in the excitement of his first rounds.

"That is Morales, the bravest espada in all the Spains!"

"Morales? Manuel Morales, that great murderer of bulls, that supremely dexterous one with the sword? And here!"

Don Jaime went at once to the side of the wanly smiling matador.

"My Manuel Morales," he said with earnestness, "all Spain mourns for its lost pastime while you lie helpless here. We must quickly get you well. But valgame Dios! no poor few remedies of mine will work the miracle half so speedily as that own brave golden Moorish heart of you!"

Interposed Quesada quietly:

"Jacques Ferou robbed our Manuel, too. And you know the great Morales, Don Jaime! He would rather starve than play the mouse to this hawk. Yet he had to pay!

"Ah, Torreblanca y Moncada," he added with rising vehemence, "this hombre Ferou, is a human bloodsucker, as you say! He is a greedy, foul buzzard!"

Don Jaime snapped erect. A portentous gleam was in his stony eyes.

"He robbed Manuel Morales, too!" he exclaimed. "That's enough; not another word! We will give the creature short shrift! Carajo! I have a plan."

Quesada and Morales looked about to see that no henchman of Ferou had chanced to overhear. The doctor understood their wary glances. He lowered his voice.

"All the short jump up the goat path," he said in even tones, "ever since this morning when I heard the French ringworm's conversation in the gorge, I have been formulating this plan. And it is a good plan; it will attain many ends at the one time. It will blight the treacherous plot of Ferou, save you from the Guardia Civil, Quesada, and in the same breath win back for me my stolen money! Ah, it is almost divine in its justice! Mediante Dios-God willing, I will use it as another instrument of my vengeance!"

Quesada gasped.

"You mean to kill the French leech? But my senor doctor, in the whole pueblo, Jacques Ferou is the only man armed! No lo quiera Dios, Don Jaime! God forbid, yet I fear he will slay you first!"

"I have a horse-pistol," said the physician with grave significance. "Yet I do not mean to sully these hidalgo hands of mine by killing him myself. Seguramente, no! He shall die, but from no bullet of mine!"

He shook his white head slowly as if fixing something definite in his mind.

"To-morrow noon," he added imperiously. "To-morrow noon, he shall die!"

It was the selfsame hour Ferou himself had bargained with the Guardias Civiles for the killing of Quesada!

Don Jaime would say no more. He was as arrogantly enigmatic as the very God Himself!

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