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   Chapter 34 No.34

The Wolf Cub By Patrick Casey Characters: 10500

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Don Jaime worked that day. That night he slaved. About eventide Alfonso Robledo, the banderillero who so bravely had seconded Quesada that morning, suffered all at once a severe relapse. Perhaps it came from the overheating excitement of that crucial time upon the rock; perhaps the abrupt exposure in that intrepid try to avert Felicidad's cruel and barbarous fate, had brought it on; at any rate and all on a sudden, his weakened body began writhing in an agony of cramps.

There was nothing else for it. The hidalgo doctor gave the bullfighter a hypodermic injection of morphia. The paroxysms lessened, altogether ceased. The eyelids of the banderillero rolled down heavily, and he slumped into a deep stertorous sleep.

That reawakened in Don Jaime the Fear. He made once more a round of the hospital. He went from choza to cabana outside, seeking new cases. Where a man could not sleep or a woman persisted in moaning, he administered narcotics.

When morning dawned through wisps of rain, the long night of taxing and intolerable work showed plainly in the doctor. His narrow face looked thin and long as a ferule; the cheek bones were high, the aquiline nose never more imperious. What with all the coffee he had drunk like a good Moor, to accelerate the action of his brain and steady the movement of his hand, his skin seemed tinged to a deeper swarth.

Quesada awoke early and with a renewed strength. He brewed for the grandee another pot of fresh aromatic coffee.

Don Jaime had gone down behind the cabanas to release his hobbled old skate of a horse and lead him to water. When he returned, his huge horse-pistol was strapped to his waist.

He quaffed two cups of the coffee in quick succession. He stained, with marked and aloof indifference, his usually immaculate white point of a beard. Then, without a word, with feruled face determined and grim, he returned into the hospital to his urgent ministry.

It was coming noon. Quesada was sunning himself before the hospital, according to his daily wont, when Ferou appeared around one mud wall with the suddenness of a jack-in-the-box.

In his right hand the Frenchman showed a revolver. He pointed the revolver at Quesada. With a politeness that seemed more deadly than the gleam of the gun, he said:

"You will arise, Senor Don Jacinto. You will do all that which I tell you to do. Aupa!"

The chair, tilted against the mud wall, banged down upon its forlegs. Quesada got to his feet.

"March forward past me. Now stop. It is good, my brave bandolero. Now, with me behind you, march toward that great rock on the brink of the pueblo!"

Everything was happening as the doctor had foretold. The tall Frenchman nudged Quesada with the muzzle of the revolver in the small of his back. They started on. And then, all at once, from the gloom of the chapel behind them, came the galvanic voice of the hidalgo:

"Alto! Drop that gun, you French leech!"

Quesada did not dare turn round. But Ferou, his blond lids fluttering with stupendous surprise, gave a quick glance back over his shoulder. He saw the hidalgo doctor standing in the low doorway, the huge horse-pistol leveled in one harsh fist, his eyes gleaming like quartz in the sun.

The Frenchman gave a precipitant leap to one side. He was quick as an ape. He slewed round, his revolver lifted.

An explosion burst from the pistol of the doctor. Ferou's revolver dropped to the mud. He clutched his right wrist. It was trickling blood from where a bullet had creased the flesh like a branding wire.

"Quesada!" cracked the thin lips of Don Jaime. "Pick up that revolver. You, Ferou, march in here!" He menaced the Frenchman with that huge gun which was loaded and ready for more quick work.

Quesada turned round, thereat, and lifted from the mud the Frenchman's revolver. He shook off the clinging silt and pointed it at Ferou. His ashy face working like a monkey's with abrupt and nervous apprehension, the Frenchman marched into the hospital.

Once inside, in the runway between the blanketed figures of plague sufferers, Don Jaime snapped out a terse and inexplicable command. Ferou thought himself the only one that understood its purpose. A shuddering fit seized him. He knew that, in the receptacles beneath his armpits, were concealed the small mahogany-colored leather purse he had taken from Quesada and the peseta bills he had pitilessly mulcted out of Carson and Morales. He thought that the doctor was searching for them.

"Undress!" repeated the hidalgo.

The Frenchman's slate-colored eyes fluttered about. He saw Quesada threatening him with his own revolver. There was no help for it. With fingers suddenly thick and clumsy with nervousness, he began to unbutton his gray tweeds.

"And you, too, Quesada!" ended the doctor. "Give the Frenchman's revolver into the keeping of Morales, and undress, too!"

Quesada did not at all understand. He saw Morales sitting up, as if prepared to lend aid, a pillow bolstering his back. He passed the Frenchman's revolver into the hands of the matador. Then bewildered but blindly obedient, he began to doff his alpagartas, rough corduroys, and sheepskin zamarra.

The Frenchman stood forth in his nether garments, a tall, quaking

and almost ludicrous figure. He watched Quesada, a nameless fear sharpening his slate-colored eyes.

"Hand over the money, Senor Ferou," said Don Jaime with frosty politeness; then explosively: "All of it! Pronto!"

The eyes of the Frenchman flashed like the eyes of a ferocious animal about to be robbed of its meat. But quickly he got himself in hand; the baleful gleam dulled. He shot a questioning glance toward the disrobing bandolero. Perhaps this thing he sensed and dreaded was only a grisly figment of his imagination. Perhaps, after all, the doctor only wanted the money. It were wise to obey.

With an astonishing readiness, he produced, from the receptacles cunningly prepared beneath his armpits, the purse of the doctor and the bills belonging to Morales and Carson.

Don Jaime did not wait to open the purse and inspect its contents. He shoved the wallet into his pocket. He cast the roll of loose bills upon the platform beside Morales.

"They belong to you and the American. You can take what is due you and return the others to Senor Carson. But hola! let the division go till later!"

He kicked the gray tweeds of Ferou over the hard-tamped earth floor toward Quesada.

"Put them on," he commanded bluntly.

The bandolero nodded, though as yet he did not comprehend the whyfore of it all. With dispatch, he commenced to garb himself in the tweeds of the Frenchman which, despite the hard usage of the last few weeks, still showed the ineradicable signs of good material.

"You, Ferou!" the doctor bit out. "You don the clothes of Quesada!"

The growing nameless fear in Ferou's brain bourgeoned, at that command, into noisome bloom. His jaw slacked and began an incontrollable quivering. His eyes glittered in a pasty sweating face.

"Mais non, mais non!" he cried, lapsing in his extremity into his native tongue. "Not that, monsieur! You cannot demand that! The clothes, they are dirty, foul!"

It was only the subterfuge of a time of dire peril. His eyes darted wildly about. They sought Morales. Morales had been very tender with the sick. Perhaps-

But Morales was leveling his own revolver at him with a hand only a trifle less steady than that of the doctor. His face, parchment-dry and sunken of flesh from the ravages of disease, was forbidding with grim determination.

"Put them on!" persisted Don Jaime.

Solemnly then and very laboriously, with jaw still quivering and shaking hands, Ferou dressed in the sheepskin zamarra, rough corduroys, and alpagartas of the bandolero. Don Jaime himself clapped upon Ferou's blond head the high-pointed hat of Quesada.

"Now, march!" he exploded. "March toward that great rock on the brink of the village!"

All the Frenchman's dismal fears became quick and instant. He was sure now! The nostrils of his predatory nose twitching and working, his whole pasty face working and grimacing, with unrestrainable fear, like a horrible mask of rubber, he groveled on his knees and held out his two arms to the doctor in abject supplication.

"Mercy, Don Jaime! Mon Dieu, you would not have me shot like a dog!"

"March!" the hidalgo insisted. His voice rang with metallic timbre; his gray eyes flashed as if they were bits of flint upon which steel had struck. He shoved the muzzle of his pistol against the Frenchman's chest.

Ferou stumbled to his feet and backed out the doorway. The doctor followed him step by step. Quesada, a great light coruscating in his brain, recovered the revolver from the bedridden Morales and bounded out in the wake of the two.

Thus, the Frenchman retreating before the importunate muzzle of the senor doctor's pistol, Quesada following after, they went down the muddy street toward that great rock which glared, in the noontide sunlight, on the brink of the village.

Once the Frenchman paused. Imploringly, he lifted his still bleeding right hand.

"Monsenor!" he cried. "For the love of Christ, monsenor-"

Came the sharp click of a pistol being cocked. Then, like a sharper echo of it, the command of the doctor.


A mad notion to turn and run for it seized Ferou. But no! They would shoot him down ere he could take ten steps. They were too close.

The police, on the other hand, would be far below, in the gorge. Maybe their carbines would miss. There was always hope.

He backed out upon the hot glaring rock.

Came a yell from the hidalgo, sounding shrill and bodiless in the thin air, and carrying back and far away in ringing echoes:

"Hola, mis Guardias Civiles! Jacinto Quesada-he is here!"

An answering shout spiraled up from the deeps of the gorge. Then, on the heels of it, one long slithering shaft of sound. The crang of a carbine!

Ferou threw up his arms and, his face black with congested blood, half spilled forward as if he had been struck by a blow between the shoulders. He swayed back and forth on the balls of his feet, caught himself, hung still for intolerable moments. Then, as is usually the case with a man killed by a bullet, he tottered backward, slipped on the crumbling lip of the rock and went over, clutching with white clawing hands at the brink, twisting, turning, and shrieking-shrieking for minutes afterward, shrieking hideously!

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