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   Chapter 39 No.39

The Wolf Cub By Patrick Casey Characters: 12494

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


"By gad!" exclaimed Carson, leaping to the side of Felicidad and lifting her tenderly in his arms. "There will yet be a wedding down in the casa of Torreblanca y Moncada outside Granada! Come, Jacinto; lend us your aid. Get horses! We must overtake the hidalgo doctor!"

"There are no horses in Minas de la Sierra," returned Quesada. "There are only mules and borricos which the serranos use to sleigh their cords of pine down to the lower torrents, and to carry their panniers of white manzanilla into the towns."

"Anything!" urged the American. Felicidad in his arms was showing signs of recovering consciousness. "Mules, borricos, anything upon which we can ride!"

"Muy bueno," assented Quesada readily. "It is very good, and I will go along with you. They say Jacinto Quesada is dead; I can ride the roads with impunity. And the roads are paved with gold for such as I!"

"I will go also," volunteered Morales-"I, and what remains of my cuadrilla. In his offices down in Seville sits my manager, the Senor Don Arturo Guerra, signing contract after contract; and these contracts I must soon fulfill, or lose much money and much prestige with the presidentes of the bull rings and the aficionados of Spain."

"Hola, mis serranos!" called Quesada. "Fetch forth your beasts. The caballeros would look at them and pay you well in golden notes on the Bank of Spain!"

A little later, the cavalcade wound down the loops of the goat path. In all the pueblo, there had proved to be only three burden-bearing animals-two mules and one ass. However, Morales' cuadrilla had been depleted by the loss through the plague of Alfonso Robledo and Coruncho Lopez, and the death in the rebellion of the banderillero, Baptista Monterey; so the party managed, by doubling up, to make shift.

There were altogether seven of them. Morales and the three surviving men of the cuadrilla paired off on the two mules. Felicidad, still pale from her faint and pensive with longing, jogged behind Carson on the crupper of the sturdy sure-footed ass.

Quesada laughed when they begged him also to mount one of the mules.

"It would be too much for the animal. And besides," he added with a return of his old pride, "I am the Wolf of the Sierras. My long mountaineer's legs are swifter to move now and even more tireless than the slow hoofs of any stupid borrico. Hold your peace, mis camaradas. Ere nightfall, you shall see!"

Accoutred in the neat gray tweeds and slouch hat of the deceased Frenchman, he led the way with swinging strides. Long after they had disappeared down the gorge, the mountain boy Gabriel, yellow of skin and oddly wrinkled of face, stood on the rock at the brink of the village and sought to follow them with his wistful eyes.

The cavalcade convoluted through the gorges. Never once did they sight the senor doctor. Mounted as he was on the nag, slow with age yet swifter-paced than the ambling donkeys, the hidalgo had easily put dust and distance between them, and buried himself in the lower passes.

They came, in the due course of nights and days, to the mournful Pass of the Blessed Trinity. There were three diverging roads leading out and down from it. Quesada, many yards in the lead, waited until the cavalcade overtook him. Then pointing to that dusty road which snaked most sweepingly to the left, he said:

"Felicidad will now recognize the way. That road winds through the Alpujarras and directly down into Granada. For myself, I bid thee adios!"

Felicidad exclaimed in surprise and deep disappointment:

"You are going to desolate us, Jacintito, by absenting yourself?"

"And you are not going to help us assault the hidalgo doctor's casa with bell and book and ring?" from Morales.

Said the American with quiet appeal, "I intended you for my best man, Jacinto."

But to all Quesada shook his head in dissent.

"Down in Getafe," he returned, "there are ten thousand pesetas awaiting me-the reward for my own death!"

"But that affair of the Christ of the Pass!" exclaimed Carson. "You there proclaimed yourself to the police as still alive. The Guardia Civil must know now that Montara and the dead sergeant made a mistake. They may even guess it was Ferou that was killed. To go to Getafe, after all this, will be to put your head into a noose!"

Quesada smiled grimly.

"But they may have taken me for a rank impostor. They may have thought me some serrano friend of the Alvarados who, overhearing the old mother's story and lacking ingenuity, announced myself as Jacinto Quesada just to dumbfound the police and save poor Miguel."

"Hardly likely," remarked Carson drily.

"Ea pues!" exclaimed Quesada. "Well, then! How about the fact that the honor of the Guardia Civil was jeopardized by young Alvarado's treachery and that, before my very eyes, Capitan Luis Guevara and his troop swore themselves to secrecy? Senor Carson, you do not know the Spanish police as do I. Even as Don Jaime and Sargento Esteban Alvarado thought more of their personal honor than they did of the lives of their offspring, even and just so do the Guardia Civil think more of their honor and good name than they do of capturing a mere bandolero, of keeping secure the peace of Spain!

"That troop of police has not told headquarters. I am even taking the chance that Montara filed his report as if nothing had happened that night at the shrine. Getafe will not know of my resurrection until I play this little trick. For the interval, I am Monsenor Jacques Ferou!"

"It is a coup!" enthused Morales.

"But a tremendously risky one," qualified the American dubiously. "You stand to win ten thousand pesetas, Quesada, but you stand by far longer odds to lose your life. For what do you need money so badly, Jacinto, that you should stake red alfonsos against your precious neck?"

"Am I not forever risking everything to gain mere gold?" countered Quesada. "But carajo! that is not my reason. I have a higher incentive."

His gaunt face became priestly with a sudden somber tenderness.

"Up in Minas de la Sierra," he went on, "there is a mountaineer's orphan bantling with heart of fire and soul of gold. To-day he dreams to be a great man of Spain. But the God of Spain smiles derisively

upon a son of the people who would seek to rise above his fellows. Spain is a country of limited opportunities. Here there are only two careers open for a son of the soil. My little mountain brat may become a bullfighter, a gran espada like our Manuel; or he may become a bandolero like me. There is naught else for him. I know, Senor Carson; I have lived Spain myself!

"Up here in these desolate hills, my lad is too far removed from the cities of the plains. Never will he see the brutal savage encounter of bull and man; never will be waked in him the glamour and ambition for the blood and sand of the arena. Never will he be a bullfighter!

"But carajo! never shall he be a bandolero! I, Jacinto Quesada, say it! I will not have him go houseless in the wind and rain, forever hounded by the podencos of the Guardia Civil. By the Nails of Christ, no!"

"What would you then, Jacinto?" asked Felicidad with the quick sympathy of a woman.

Interposed the matador with a sudden deep interest: "Of what child do you speak, Quesada?"

"Of the boy Gabriel! Half of the blood money shall be used to send him to the great University of Salamanca! I will make our little Gabriel a superb senor doctor like Felicidad's own haughty father, Don Jaime!"

"I will put an equal amount to the furtherance of the noble project!" Morales pledged himself enthusiastically.

"But the other half, Quesada?" questioned Carson with characteristic acuteness. "What do you purpose doing with the remaining five thousand pesetas?"

"I have a plan wherewith to use them," returned Quesada evasively.

He started away. He would say no more. Waving his hand to them in adieu, he called back:

"Go thou with God, my friends. The orange trees of the Alpujarras are in white and fragrant bloom. To thee, Senor Carson, and to mia camarista Felicidad, I wish all the blessings of God on thy new and great happiness!"

* * *

A week later, a wolfishly gaunt man in gray tweeds and slouch traveling hat invaded the headquarters of the Guardia Civil at Getafe and presented himself before the desk sergeant.

"I am Monsenor Jacques Ferou," he said. "I come to claim the reward for the killing, up in Minas de la Sierra, of the bandolero, Jacinto Quesada."

The desk sergeant was very glad to meet Senor Ferou. He shook his hand warmly. He knew from the foreign swagger of his clothes that the man was an outlander. As with all Spaniards, he had two guesses as to the country of the stranger's nativity. From the man's name then and swarthy complexion, he decided, by some unaccountable quirk of the mind, that he was an Englishman!

To secure the authority and money, he dispatched one of the policemen waiting in the room to the office of the Ministro de Gobernacion. Meanwhile, making conversation, he politely inquired whether Senor Ferou liked the country.

"Si; I like Spain very much," the pseudo-Englishman returned, smiling pleasantly. "I have made many good friends here, and Dios sabe! perhaps a few poor enemies. I shall remain here for some time."

"That was a very brave thing you did up in the Sierra Nevadas. Jacinto Quesada has long harassed and terrorized us poor Moors. All Spain thanks you and feels you well merit the reward. But have you any plans for the spending of all those pesetas?"

"I have two plans. One is to aid a protege of mine, a motherless little child; the other to pay the costs of a certain fete. There is going to be a wedding over in the foothills of the Sierra Morena. It is to be a wedding among the gypsies. You know how costly and lavish are the marital feasts of the Zincali. They celebrate for two weeks, hand-running, just like the Jews of Barbary. You see, sargento mio, I am to marry a girl of the Gitano, one Paquita, daughter of Pepe Flammenca, count of a gypsy clan!"

"Ah!" exclaimed the sergeant, his face wrinkling into a broad smile. "Most certainly are you English both eccentric and adventurous! But you seek your love in such strange places! Do not our white, soft-eyed maids of Andalusia captivate you?"

"They do not," returned the man in the gray tweeds with vehemence. "When your Andalusian virgins caress me with languishing looks and their tongues drip liquid flattery and love, my masculinity rebels at the thought of being wooed by a woman. You know we Englishmen joy in being the seeker, the stalker, the predatory one!"

"Eh, eh! This Gitana treated you with disdain, what? She fled from you, was cold to your kisses, took on as if you were a dust-mote in her eye, no? Perhaps she even prodded a knife between your ribs-it is a way they have, these soft brown leopards of the Zincali!"

"She did more than that. She stabbed at my pride. She made love to another man, a sad fool, whom she had imitate and ape me just to show how little importa I was-"

The policeman returned, just then, holding in his hand two five-thousand peseta bills and a receipt to be signed. The man in the gray tweeds affixed his name with a flourish. Then the sergeant handed him the bills and although his eyes were greedy, he politely said:

"Go thou with God, my brave Englishman, and may Heaven bless your coming happiness."

He looked after the man as he went out the door, and sighed heavily.

"Ah, I knew them well when I was young, the brown maidens of the Zincali! They are wine to kiss and soft silk to caress, but the very tigers when aroused. But I am getting on now-getting on and too old for such thoughts!"

He looked down at the receipt in his hand. He started.

"Dios hombre!" he ejaculated.

The policemen crowded around him. But he had recovered.

"It is nothing," he said.

He went back to his desk. There, for a long time, slyly and secretly he eyed the receipt the man had given him. Upon it was written:

"Received payment, Jacinto Quesada."

Very stealthily, the desk sergeant tore the paper into a thousand little bits.

THE END

* * *

[1] Mary de Padilla, a notorious witch of Medieval Spain and mistress of Peter the Cruel of Castile (1333-1369).

[2] Asmodeus, an evil demon. Appears in later Jewish traditions as "king of demons." Also Beelzebub and Apollyon. Familiarly called the genius of matrimonial unhappiness, or jealousy.

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