a Thrilling Serial
After forty years of adventuring in both Americas, John Warde lies ill in the bedroom of his San Francisco home. A handsome fellow dressed like a tramp calls and demands to see him on urgent business. While waiting, the stranger plays a haunting gypsy song on the piano. He tells Nan, daughter of the house, that he is Anthony Carteret and recently escaped from a convict colony in Boriador after spending ten years there. He implies that Mr. Warde has something to do with his imprisonment. He goes upstairs to see the sick man, and when he comes down he kisses Nan violently, leaves the bedroom key in her hand and walks off. Nan, flying upstairs, finds her father dead on the floor with a bruise on his forehead. The police do not succeed in arresting the stranger.
With Dick Couzens, her fiancé. Nan goes south to the Republic of San Lozada to visit the Yacoo Mines ivhich she now owns. The courJry’s dictator, General Roman, is absent, but has placed his palace at the capital, El Taranta, at her disposal.
While riding, Nan and Dick lose their way, and Nan is amazed to hear the gypsy song which Carteret sang in her San Francisco home. She finds Carteret in a cabin along with an old native woman and a native girl called Chiquita. Carteret tells Nan he did not kill her father. He claims that the old gentleman, after acknowledging a certain debt, fell in his excitement and was killed by striking the floor.
Dick pulls a pistol on Carteret, saying he is going to take him to General Romôn: but at that instant Nan feels the point of Chiquita’s knife at her back.
CARTERET ceased the pantomime with which he had diverted their attention while the girl did the old duenna’s bidding. He said: “Again I’m sorry. But one thing leads to another. You,” he ordered Dick, “put down that gun where I can reach it and back up against the wall.”
Nan said: “Do nothing of the sort. Dick. She wouldn’t dare.”
Carteret warned: “And if you think that too, take a look at Chiquita’s face.” As Nan began to struggle he snapped: “Don’t you be silly ! Steady, little one.”
Over Nan’s shoulder Dick saw the girl’s expression, and hastily he laid down the gun and backed to the wall.
Carteret picked up the weapon, glanced at the safety catch and smiled at Chiquita. “Bueno, little one. And a thousand thanks.”
They stood, a curiously assorted company, immobilized by intense emotion, while a big moth raced about the lamp and the night things shrilled outside. Carteret said: “Please go out and keep going until I say stop. I’ll be close behind you.”
Perforce they did as they were bid. At the trail he said : “Well, here we part. I’ll need your horses, because we must be a long way off by the time my friend Roman hears that I’m in the country. Keep this trail till it cuts a cart
road with a cantina at the fork. Turn left and it will take you into town. Miss Warde, what I have told you is the truth, but I can see you mean to have me tried for murder. You have the power and perhaps you’ll be successful. But I warn you, there are things in the past which are best left buried. If I am tried they will appear. And I promise you that if they do you will regret it till the day you die. Good night.”
They tramped in silence down the trail. The dust was deep, the unfamiliar odors pungent. A million insects sang in chorus; stars twinkled and the big green moon was low. Dick said: “Well, I’ll be darned. I thought all along that this was where the answer should be.”
Nan said: “It’s like fiction. It isn’t real. It can’t be. The whole thing, from the beginning, isn’t.”
“It’s real all right.”
They trudged on, blundering in their riding boots through the dark among the roots, till presently he said: “The fellow’s tale seemed plausible.”
“Plausible! He’s an ex-convict. He came with threats from the beginning. He said he’d waited ten years to get father and would if it was the last thing he did.”
“I know. But I’m not convinced. There’s more to this than we supposed. He’s an Englishman, I’d bet on it. Then why did he come here after San Francisco, when he’d spent the last ten years in prison three thousand miles away? And did you spot his crack about our host?”
“You mean General Roman?”
“Yes. Didn’t you notice he made clear that Román would know him—I mean quite apart from what we might have told? You get the point?”
“Point? No. That easily might be.”
“Just so. But the police here replied to our enquiry that they knew nothing of him. I saw the letter. It was signed Pedro Roman, Chief of Police. What do you make of that?”
“How can I make anything? The whole thing is fantastic.”
“Well, I don’t pretend to guess what’s behind all this, but I think it’s plenty. And I tell you straight I liked that chap.”
“So I’ve noticed. He stands there responsible for all that harm—even if he didn’t knock father down, it was distress at the intrusion that caused the death—and that creature is wearing some of the very stuff he stole, and you say you like him and defend him to me.”
“Can a man help his convictions?”
For a long time there was silence, while they emerged from an inky tunnel through the bush and the trail curved into open llano, quiet and silver in the moonlight, till at last he said :
“Since you resent my feelings so, I’d better be explicit. In that shack I received two impressions. I don’t reason ’em, I just feel ’em. The first was that that fellow spoke
the truth.” He waited for her comment, but she made none; he heard her draw her breath and knew her face was stubbornly inimical. “And the second is that that girl would have used her knife. She’s wild about him.”
NAN WARDE awoke and lay half conscious, her mind groping for its hold upon another day. When she moved her frame was one big ache, and she remembered that it came from two hours jolting in a springless cart on execrable roads, and the blisters on her heels from dark miles stumbled in her riding boots through jungle trails crisscrossed by roots.
The Indian servant girl moved near her bed on naked feet, saw her eyes open and said softly: “Buenas dias,
señorita.” Then she went out.
The high, unfamiliar room was dusky; save for a mewing sound which reached her from the kites that wheeled about the twin towers of the church across the square, it was in silence; the sunshine, slanting through the slats of the ciosed jalousies, made golden washboards on the old blue tiles.
She sai up and saw a note propped on her clock: “Six a.m. 1 ve cold them to let you sleep. I’m off to dig out Tucker and start the police. See you at lunch. Hope the blisters aren’f too bad. Dick. XXX.”
Then she realized the time and was angry. Ten o’clock ! Why hadn’t she been called? There was so much to do. And then it came to her that the impulse was mere silly egotism. There was no need in the morning’s task for her. Dick would have done everything, hours ago.
A sound man, Dick. John Warde had said so—high praise indeed, from him. She found herself resentful against Dick. His judicial and broad attitude toward the man Carteret held a suggestion of smallness on her part which offended her. And both Dick and the man himself had contrived to transmit the inference that she was in some way culpable. The harm which Carteret had done in San Francisco they ignored in favor of some higher value in which they mutually dealt. At the thought her resentment changed to anger. The facts were that he had forced himself by threats into her sick father’s room, caused his death and robbed him, and then, at once after having locked the door on his dead body, actually kissed her. Her hand went to her mouth and she felt the blush suffuse her face, as at the thought it always did. And she was asked now calmly to accept the tale that this was all circumstantial and that the man’s motives had been of the best, together with a hint that if wrong had been done, in some fantastic way she and her father were responsible. It was preposterous.
Roused thoroughly by her indignation, she flung back the covers and got out of bed to open the jalousies. The hard mountain sunlight slanted in on the tall blonde girl in blue silk pyjamas, writh her rope of hair across one
creamy shoulder from which the coat had slipped. The bloom of sleep was on her still, which, with the flush of her anger and the light of resentment in her wide grey eyes, brought out a feline quality quite absent from her normal cool and well-groomed self.
The Indian girl returned with sliced fresh pineapple and steaming coffee, and while she ate the sharply scented fruit Nan heard her bath in preparation.
Dressed in plain white, she took her breakfast in the patio, beneath the beam-roofed loggia that lined two sides. The place was still and drowsy. No wind could reach there. From it led many doors and carved and pillared archways. The waxy blossoms of camellias, dead white or coral, the warm cream of frangipanni. lemon of coimba. scarlet of hibiscus and the glazed green foliage of their kind, were bright against the ancient stone and tile-work. There were lotuses on the pool, upon whose yellow blooms and smooth green pads drops from the slender fountain pattered, and from the portico hung orchids, still blooming on their parent stems cut from the jungle. A big macaw, blue, red and yellow, was chained to a perch, and gay hued finches flitted through the foliage.
She let the feeling of the place possess her, and slowly stole back echoes of her early childhood, spent in that city.
SHE ROSE by and by and strolled about, putting her face down to inhale the heavy perfumes, till there glided from an inner room the crow-like form of Mama Gomez to pay her morning courtesy.
Nan did not like the creature. There was about her something that seemed evil; her oily manner held some constant innuendo Nan could not interpret but which turned her thoughts toward closets full of sumptuous women’s garments in this household of a bachelor.
The old duenna had been told, she explained to Nan, of the banditry that had occurred last night.
Don Pedro’s horses stolen. Such a thing ! When His Excellency returned there would be great and rapid justice done. Don Pedro was a great caballero, a most illustrious caballero. Before the day was out the señorita should see for herself. Would she care to inspect Don Pedro’s house?
Mama Gomez ushered Nan from room to quiet, vaulted room When that house was built, rosewood, cedar and the beautiful striped palmolalla grew to the city’s rim, and silver was as cheap as iron. And these materials had been lavished on it with the skill combined of craftsmen native and of Spain in her glory. But the contents did not grace the building. Though it w'as a museum of exquisite furnishings, an effect had been produced which was not pleasing. It was faintly overdone and vulgar, like a man too carefully dressed or a woman w'hose loveliness is altogether carnal.
There was a library with many books, which she approached with pleasure. She would find something and read till Dick came back. Don Pedro seemed to have a catholic taste in bindings—Russia, calf, morocco, vellum, stamped and illuminated, filled the cases. But she was dismayed to find them all in Spanish. No, here was an English Shakespeare, a complete set in old tooled vellum. Treasure trove!
She loved Shakespeare. She w’ould read “As You Like It” in the shade of the portico beside that big camellia filled with blossom while she awaited Dick’s return for lunch. That would be perfect.
She found the proper volume. The edition was much older than she had anticipated and a fine example of the Elizabethan binders’ art. On the yellowed flyleaf had been fixed a private bookplate, a coat-of-arms topped by a crested helmet, beautifully etched in line. Engraved under the scroll with its motto was the first owner’s name. The word seemed to leap out at her: “Carteret !”
She stood staring at the dignified heraldic composition with its motto, “Honor” and the name inscribed simply: “Carteret.”
What was this?
By and by, dismissing Mama Gomez, she went slowly to the patio and took a long chair in a shady comer with the book in her lap. But she did not see the yellowed flyleaf with its gracefully curved scrollwork. She saw instead two deep blue eyes that met hers levelly, and heard a voice that spoke with quiet emphasis oí: things in the past which were best left buried, and which had said: “I give my word you will regret it till the day you die.”
Behind her in the hall came footsteps, followed by Dick’s cheery hail: “Hullo there, you’re up then? None the worse for the walking tour?”
He strode in, big, fresh and friendly, and pulled up a chair: “Thirsty work, tearing round this man’s town. I want one of these pink limey drinks. Have one? I dug out Tucker first thing and we saw Colonel Gamio, who’s in charge of police while his nibs is out of town. He sent off truckloads of his burlesque coppers—why, what’s up?” She handed him the opened book: “I found this inside. There’s a whole set, all with the plate.”
SHE WATCHED his eyes widen as he took it in. Then he looked up: “I’m not surprised. That chap wasn’t holed up in those hills for nothing, you can bet your life. I knew he was no ordinary hobo. I saw he was a gentleman the minute I laid eyes on him in San Francisco' What I guessed last night was right: Roman lied when he wrote us that he knew no Carteret. This Roman must be quite a fellowr. Tucker tells me he’s a one-man government, in addition to being all the head officials. He sets the taxes, spends ’em, keeps a private force of imported toughs at fancy wrages, and has his own spies absolutely everywhere. Years ago he bought, played or shot out all the opposition, to the point where the place is absolutely peaceful. That’s genius—to be a despot and yet keep a country quiet and not seething underneath you all the time. Tucker says every blessed soul with any spirit w’as obliterated years ago, and the rest are glad to pay the price and live in peace. The last opposition, a bandit called Emilio Cerazé, transferred his business to the neighboring states because he saw that it was just a case of time before Roman strung him up. Tucker said he wanted to tell us that we might not like it here, but, not knowing us from Adam, didn’t dare. He needs his job and wouldn’t have it half an hour if Román turned against him.”
One of the stocky Indians with the eyes of a hurt dog
bowed beside them: “The meal is ready, Excellence.”
They had taken a delicious soup and were occupied with fish when Nan suddenly stopped eating. “Dick!” she ejaculated. “Look at your fork-handle.”
The tableware was fine old English sterling, and on each piece, worn by the years but unmistakable, was engraved the crest she had discovered in the Shakespeare, a mailed fist clutching a broken sword, and the motto, “Honor.”
Dick sat turning his fork in his hands, nibbling at his lip and nodding. Then he looked up. as from a little distance sounded the melodious bugling of the cream-andscarlet car, by w'hich the peace that held the house was brought abruptly to an end. The place stirred like a prodded hive; voices called warningly to and fro with a common note of apprehension; doors banged and soft footsteps scurried; a servant fled like a hare across the patio and another ran to the door. Appeared from inner regions Mama Gomez, wno bent beside Nan confidentially. When the skinny fingers touched Nan’s arm. her flesh revolted. The crone told her in a voice like an unclean caress: “Señorita, it is his most Illustrious Excellency, Don Pedro.”
The duenna disappeared and they waited tensely, infected by the apprehension so much to be felt about them. As the massive door at the far end of the hall sw’ung open, giving a glimpse of sunlight and the hoary church across the square. Dick said: "Leave the talking about Carteret to me at first, will you? I want to see what I can glean.”
She nodded, watching the form of the President of San Lozada as he came through the shadowy hall toward the light. He was a startling contrast to the sleek dark L itin she had visualized. For a moment she thought of Don Quixote de la Mancha, till the man’s near approach showed the resemblance to be confined to the physical. The old tilter at windmills had been benevolent and dreamy; this fellow' w'as malign as an adder. Even at that distance the cold breath of his grimness reached her.
He w'as a tall, scrawny man in white, w’ith hock-bottle shoulders, gaunt face and glazed, wrinkled skin. His sparse beard was greying—it had been the color of his yellow' flesh —and his mustache straggled over sensuous red lips. His most conspicuous feature was his eyes, which were round
and slightly prominent, bleared blue in dead yellow and as cold and hard as stone.
Pedro Román stemmed straight from the old conqixisladores, who with 500 men and sixteen horses conquered twenty million people, burned out their emperor’s eyes and Christianized and despoiled them with identical inducements—boiling oil and red-hot pincers, the thumbscrew and the rack.
As he neared, with a curious driving gait, he glanced at a mirror, pulled down his coat and smoothed the thin hair on his high-domed cranium. Descending the three steps between stone spiral pillars, he outstretched a hand that bore a diamond half an inch across, and said in a voice that rasped as though his throat were parchment: “My dear Mees Warde. This is indeed an honor. Pray pardon that I am not here to receive you. I have much duties of the State and the date of your arrival was not made clear.” His hand was bony, cold and strong, and his close proximity made her feel as though she had collided with a wall, so hard, frigid and devoid of sympathy he seemed.
He turned to Dick, though with no more than casual courtesy: “And you, too, señor, pray consider my house your own.”
Dick, watching those marbled eyes that were so hard and yet so avid, bowed his acknowledgment. He had not missed the smug glance in the mirror or the hand at the mauve necktie; he had seen the huge diamond and had marked the fellow’s turning back u|x>n his guests the onus of his absence, and had added their significance to the things which he already knew.
Pedro Roman drew himself up, his hand at his beard : “1 see I interrupt your luncheon. I had arranged to arrive in time, but it is served somewhat earlier than my usual hour. Is it permitted that I join you?”
One of the hovering servants scurried forward with a chair and they sat down. Dick found himself ignored completely, while his host gave Nan assiduous attention, preening himself like a bird. With Pedro Roman, Nan’s usual weapons failed her utterly; she was appalled, bound, made impotent by his superb ¡xjssessiveness and conceit.
Dick, not a fearful man, realized that this was a fellow always to be feared and, if his life touched yours, to be
watched and resisted tirelessly. He understood now many things he had observed in San Lozada. He judged, too, that Roman had come straight to the house and so had not yet learned of their last night’s adventure.
Roman was saying: “You have seen this city, señorita. I have made it. I do not, like so many of our wealthy people, go for my pleasure to the United States or Europe. 1 give my life to my country. I am glad you are here to see what I have done. You will not remember, but long ago it was poor
and miserable—when I was making the Jacaranda with your father and you were small. I shall show' you the work that I have done. We will speak of your father. I helped him greatly at the first, and all that he became he owed to me. Now tell me: This man, this miscreant who has
murdered him—I trust he has since been taken?”
If he had an especial interest in this subject he concealed it admirably. It was the cue for which Dick had been waiting and he seized it. “Not yet,” he interjected. “Our police told me, general, that you could not help them as to the man’s identity.”
Roman turned slowly, with an air of faint surprise, as if for the first time aware of some quite inconsiderable being: “That is correct, señor .”
Dick drew a bow at a venture: “But you knew a man of that name, did you not—a long time ago, I mean?”
T)EDRO ROMAN’S face was like a weathered ivory by a
Chinese master, as rich in shade and detail and as unrevealing. Yet Dick could sense the conflict of his cunning with his lust to bully. The man remembered that this fairhaired guest of his was not a San Lozadan, impotently subject to his will, but an American—and trustee of the Warde Estate, with all it meant, at that.
Dick pressed his advantage, watching the hard, cold eyes: “An old man, was it not, general; a tall old gentleman with snow-white hair?”
For a moment he thought that Roman would try and browbeat him. But the President of San Lozada knew where craft served best, and the value of truth to support a lie. So he said evenly, returning Dick a level look: “That is so, señor. I knew such a man. But he has been dead many years. Of the one who killed my dear comrade I have not the slightest knowledge.”
“Then you’d be surprised to hear that he’s in San Lozada?”
Roman sat up: “Eh?” he rasped. “What are you
“Antony Carteret is in San Lozada. We almost captured him last night.”
Roman came forward in his chair and Dick felt that adamantine hardness which had startled Nan. He had to brace himself. “What is that?” Roman snapped at him.
To this demand, made without pretense of courtesy, Dick answered with the tale of yesterday’s adventure.
“What sort of man is this? Describe heem.” Román ordered, in a voice filled with threat.
Dick complied, watching the gaunt, yellow-bearded face, which gave no sign.
At last Román declared: “It could not be. It is not IXDSsible.”
That was not well said. It was the first glimpse of his mind that he had given. It accorded yesterday’s event the status of a development in some matter of which he was acutely conscious.
Dick tried to jolt him into an admission. Copying Román’s own movement, he came forward in the chair. “I don’t quite understand you, general. Just what is it that is so impossible?”
And then, he realized, for the first time Román regarded him as someone of significance, as a man not easily to be ignored, and he sensed the rearing of the man’s monstrous intolerance. They faced one another, taking each the other’s measure, while the patio drowsed so quietly that an iridescent lizard crept from a jasmine root across the blue and terracotta tiling to the rose bed round the pool. The suspicion came to Dick that he was dealing with a man near madness, devoured by conceit and self-aggrandisement, a megalomaniac.
Yet Román’s reply was disappointing: “Señor, it is my pride that this State is well administered. It is not pleasant to be told that such a thing has happened to my guests. You have informed the police?”
“Of course. Colonel Gamio assured me that everything would be done.”
Román regarded him a moment with his full lower lip stuck out, then turned and gave vent to his spleen in a tearing shout: “Ignacio!”
A frightened Indian came running: “Colonel Gamio and Colonel de Marquina. Here, at once.” Pedro Román commanded. The servant fled incontinently.
A WEEK had passed when, in the evening cool, Nan walked her horse away from Pedro Román’s house in the square of La Virgen Purísima. The sun was almost down, the life of the city stirring after the heat of noon. The hoofs clacked hollowly between the high, blank yellow houses with the fretted doors and iron-grilled windows. This part of the city had survived unaltered from the earliest days of Spanish occupation. Steel-morioned conquistadores had built those streets, lived there and loved and lusted, plundering an enslaved people; the emanations of three centuries of their passions seemed to linger in the quiet ways.
Though Pedro Román raved and threatened, and police in truckloads scoured the country, Carteret had not been captured. Nan and Dick had contrived to lead a troop of small brown cavalry to the spot where they had stumbled on him. It was deserted; and, though they did not know this, sundry floggings of the nearest villagers had elicited no information. The San Lozadan Indians were not sad for nothing.
Dick was busy every day. In the evening a horse was sent for him, and Nan met him part way home to ride together until dusk.
She left the cloistered quiet of the old Spanish quarter, skirted the palm-fringed plaza where the band would soon begin and the small brown, cream and olive citizens were congregating for their evening pasear. These were the middle classes of the country, tradesmen and clerks; they showed few marks of the despotism under which they lived, being naturally a cheerful breed, and in spite of tropic heat kept energetic by the crisp air 8,000 feet above the sea. The women smiled, the men doffed their hats as Nan rode past. Only the Indians, those squat bronzed folk who owned the land before Spain came, passed humbly bent beneath their loads. It had been market day, and she saw many trudging homeward, heavy laden in the cool of the afternoon, a tragic brotherhood whose melancholy troubled her. As the first brazen strains of music sounded, she turned from the plaza into the road down which Dick would come, and presently was aware of a half-caste urchin at her stirrup. Would the señorita be pleased to listen? He was the bearer of a message from the caballero who had ridden aside with the Señor Tucker on an affair of business. He, Manoel, had been sent to lead her to them. Would she graciously be pleased to follow?
The boy led through a street or two of good-class dwellings, past the drab whitewashed terraces housing the poorer whites, into the suburbs of the mestizos. Here, the household plots lay all haphazard ; bamboos, bananas and a riot of flowering shrubs made picturesque the squalor of white, pink or yellow dobe hovels; pigs, goats and babies wandered in the road, and dingy vultures with blue, naked heads scrabbled with the dogs among the garbage.
The boy trotted on ahead till the thatched huts grew infrequent and the growth more rank, at length to leave the cart road for a path into a neglected coffee finca, its groves choked with jungle which she brushed as she passed and whose depths breathed humid odors. They came by-and-by to an untidy clearing, with a decayed house deep in
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boungainvillea and near by a hooded cart with two white oxen. Beyond and above the house, distant between the plumes of tall bamboos, she saw the lush green of the foothills and the blue bulk of the mountain rolling skyward.
A smiling young mestizo stepped to her stirrup with a bow. Then he seized her foot and heaved it up so that she rolled helpless into the arms of Indians who had materialized on her other side. Her mouth was stopped and many hands, despite her frantic struggles, held her powerless. She was bound, gagged and blindfolded, carried a little way and then laid down; whereafter came a rustling, together with an aromatic odor and a sense of suffocation, and at once began the screech of ungreased wheels. She realized that she was in the ox-cart, hidden under hay, and the cart was leaving.
"D RUISED, frightened and bewildered, Nan fought her bonds till she could fight no longer and lay panting and defeated. The cart jolted on. Through the axles’ steady screech she heard now and then the "whack” of the stick and the Indian driver grunting to his oxen. The hay half smothered her, tickling her exposed flesh unmercifully; her bound wrists throbbed with pain. Her ankles, protected by her riding boots, were not so bad, but the gag was a horror.
She realized that she must keep her head, lay still awhile, marshalling her wits and courage, then began to work more calmly at her bonds again. It was useless. They were of thin twine, tied with cunning. The abduction had been planned meticulously and carried out without a hitch. Dick would ride home and, not meeting her, conclude she had preferred to be alone. There would be no alarm till dark, and when search did begin it would be for a woman on a fine grey horse, not hidden in one of the many native carts which on market day would be crawling back into the foothills. And whoever had planned this coup so skilfully would know enough to keep her horse concealed.
She lay fighting for her self-control, while her limbs grew numb, and loneliness and fear of the unknown devoured her. After a while, she lost her sense of time, not knowing whether she had been tormented for one hour or five, and the numbness slowly absorbed all her body. Perhaps she slept from sheer exhaustion, perhaps she fainted, but consciousness at last deserted her . . .
She was being stretched on a rack. Every inch of her agonized. Then the ropes snapped and she fell for aeons, till a vast shape swooped down and clutched her in grey, scaly talons. Huge wings thrashed the air above her and she strove to see the form between them. It was a man-headed hawk, which sang in tones to wring the heart. No, a hawk-headed man with hunted eyes. She felt its beak tear her limbs . . .
Then she was conscious again and remembered, and realized that the cart had stopped. Someone removed the stifling hay, and cool air laved her sweat-greased face. Beneath the edge of her blindfold she was aware of yellow light and, throwing back her head and squinting downward, she contrived to see against the dark of night outside a hand that held into the cart a lantern. It was a hand she recognized, with grey old skin almost completely peeled from new pink flesh, and on the wrist the deep scar of a long-worn fetter. This was a development she had all along anticipated. But when the owner of this not-to-be-mistaken limb said in Spanish: "Señorita, do you hear me?” her newroused anger yielded to amazement. This was not Carteret! Carteret’s voice was deep and vibrant, unmistakably Anglo-
Saxon, but this man had the soft tones of a cultured Spaniard.
Then there were in San Lozada not one but two men who had worked nitrate in chains! Her unknown captor reiterated: "Señorita, do you hear me?” and she nodded.
He said courteously: “We are going to a certain place and shall reach there in the second night. If you would give me your parole I should be able to untie you, otherwise you must travel as you are.”
Her pain and fear flared to defiance and she shook her head emphatically, squirming in the attempt to see his face. But all she made out was the hand with the scarred wrist, holding the lantern, glimpsed by squinting down her nose beneath the bandage.
"Señorita,” he persisted, “I implore you. If you do not you must travel as you are. How is there sense in that? Pray give your word, just till we have arrived.”
She realized the force of his contention. Two nights of this would almost kill her. Better to take the easy way and reach her destination strong enough to face what was to come. She saw with fury that the sane thing was to yield.
He begged: “Will you not reconsider, señorita?”
She nodded. “Ah !” he said. “How glad I am.”
The light disappeared and she felt him lean in and untie the gag. “You promise,” he said, “palabra d'lnglese—word of an Englishman—that you will not attempt to escape or to communicate or attract attention, let us say, till sunrise on the next day but one?”
At so comprehensive a commitment she rebelled and did not answer. “Say it, if you please, señorita.” he insisted.
At last she got it out : “I promise.”
“On your honor?”
' I 'HE LASHINGS were cut from her -L numb limbs and the bandage taken from her eyes. She was in the dark, with no sign of a light. They had put out the lantern. There was only an arch of starry sky seen at the cart’s end, and in the dark below the darker shapes of men.
The seep of blood into her strangled veins was at first sheer pain, but by and by this yielded to a glow that was part suffering, part, ecstasy. She made no attempt to move. Just to lie still and let the blood flow through her, was a delight sufficient for the moment.
“Señorita, when you are ready, will you not descend for a while?”
He must have realized her condition, for he waited patiently till at last she stirred and essayed to climb down from the cart-tail. Hands helped her into the cool dark, with overhead a belt of stars edged by the black silhouettes of palms and thicker foliage below. She realized that they were in a narrow road through jungle.
The man beside her said: “We will wait a little. You must have suffered. They will make a bed for you of the hay.”
“Your thoughtfulness is touching,” she replied. “Did you enjoy the prison at Quisunta so much that you wish to end your days in another?”
His form was but a shadow in the gloom, but she could tell if her shot had found its mark. She felt his sudden stiffening, his staring at her through the darkness.
For a little time he did not speak. There were the snuffiings of the bullocks and the rustle of the Indians with the bedding in the cart. The night things shrilled in the brake, and the heavy odors penned between the lush walls filled her nostrils. At length he said: “I do not know what you mean.”
“Oh, yes you do! I saw your hand. I have seen such hands before and know
what they signify. What do you want with me, you and your friend Carteret? You must be mad to think that you can get away with this.”
His voice was gentle, a little sad and with a queer note of fatalism: “Not mad, señorita. only caught in the tide of circumstance, as now you are also. And may 1 presume to offer you advice? I assure you that you are in no danger, and that if all goes well you will be soon set free. That is, as things are at present. Hut do not try to know more than you do already. This affair is greater than you are, greater than I or any single jx'rson. If need arise, any of us must be sacrificed to a larger interest. And if it should transpire that you know too much, we might be forced to change our plans. Do I make myself quite clear?” I íe did !
She realized that she had erred in telling him how much she knew. His courteous warning awed her infinitely more than could have done a coarser threat.
“You’re very sure of yourselves,” she said. “Do you imagine that when I am free I’ll let this matter rest?”
“I fear that you will not, but that is for monona. The cart is ready, will you olease get in.”
What could she do?
“At the head.” said her abductor, "is a basket of fruit. I brought it. hoping that you would be reasonable.”
THE HAY was deep and soft; she lay on it full length and realized with awe and wonderment what all-sufficing joy can be in the mere absence of pain. Just to be free, to feel the blood course through scarred limbs, to fill the lungs with air . . .
They travelled till the dawn began to break, and held her all next day in a small cell in what seemed to lie a ruined monastery. Outside was a reek of much green coffee, such as pervaded El Taranta railroad station, with the heavy rush of falling water. Her cell was bare, with a crucifix carved in its old teak door, and in one wall a domed niche with a hollow sill beneath such as might hold an image of the Virgin and some holy water. She had a bed of hay and blankets, and to eat, fruit, wine and tortillas. They hid her there before the dawn and did not take her out till night. She never saw the leader of the party, no more than his vague shape beside her in the dark.
It seemed an age since she had started on the second night’s slow travel when she
woke from an uneasy doze and found the cart was halted.
There was a hush, a loneliness about the moment, marked by the absence of that shrilling of frogs, birds and insects which in the lower lands never ceased. She heard the bullocks’ heavy breathing, and from a little distance came the mutter of men’s speech.
It must be close to dawn; her parole expired then, she remembered. Where could she be? Ten hours last night by oxcart—twenty miles, twenty-five, thirty, as much again tonight. Fifty miles from El Taranta, maybe sixty. And what now?
Footsteps approached. “Señorita,” said the now familiar tones, “will you be pleased to descend?”
She felt cool air flow in as the mat was raised, and got out stiffly to delicious freshness and a sense of space. They seemed to be on a mountain road, between a high cliff and a yawning valley. Far overhead she saw a line of crags against the stars, while on the other side the open sky swept to a low horizon. The sky was dark blue space in which swam multitudes of stars, the earth below a sea of variegated darkness.
There was an eerie unexpected magic, a sense of release and soaring in that unknown rendezvous.
Then her heart jerked as beside her spoke the voice for which her ears had been attuned since she perforce had started this strange journey.
“The parole was till sunrise then, Baltazar?” said Tony Carteret.
“Till sunrise, Toni.”
“Bueno!” approved the man whose presence had at once roused her resentment.
Carteret addressed her now without preamble; “Miss Warde, there is a path too dangerous for you in the dark. I shall have to carry you.”
Her tone was as studiously level as was his. “Please spare me that. One of the Indians would be less distasteful.”
“I quite understand. Quira, you are to carry the señorita. She is here.”
She braced herself against revulsion as the man felt for his hold, and had to master the impulse to strike out at him. She was raised like a sack across his shoulder and he moved off without effort.
Behind her Carteret called; “Buenas noches, Baltazar. Go with God.”
“Buenas noches, amigo mio.”
Their voices held the ring of friendship.
/CARRIED without dignity or comfort on the shoulder of an Indian who smelt like a beast, it required all Nan’s self-control to keep from panic. She hung face downward, with the fellow’s arm locked round her legs, while he bore her through the dark on paths she felt to be both rough and steep. Sometimes there was sky above them, twice they passed through inky caverns where moisture dripped and the sounds of their progress echoed; and once there was a narrow trail whose edge dropped sheer to water, far below and still as glass, in which she saw the stars reflected. Her ribs began to ache, her ears to throb from the congestion of blood in her head, and when sometimes the man did not seem certain of his footing, her heart was in her mouth.
She had reached the point where she felt she could bear the strain no longer and must cry out for a halt, when the nightmare was brought to an end and Carteret said, “Well, here we are,” and she was set down on her feet.
Around her was darkness; above, she saw the sky, an area enclosed by silhouettes of crags, about what seemed to be a pocket in the mountain.
There was no wind, but the smell was strong of conifers, together with the reek of wood smoke. A hush lay on the place like that of death.
Carteret said, “This way, if you please,” and steered her across a level floor until they passed out of that confined space to where in front was open sky with, far below, the gleam of water.
She was aware of a doorway framed in yellow light: “Will you go in?” he said.
She stepped into a hut of hewn stone blocks roofed with bamboo and thatch, which held a strange and moving sense of welcome. She had a quick impression of the taste with which its native furnishings had been arranged; of color, fruit and flowers, with a most delicious perfume. Behind her she heard Carteret call, “Mozayte,” and an old Indian woman shuffled in. Following, he said to Nan:
“That time in San Francisco I took your word for something that to me was pretty serious. Please take mine now. You are perfectly safe here. There’s no need for you to feel restrained in any way. I expect to return you to your friends quite soon. Meanwhile this woman will attend you and your privacy will to secure. And—better not wander round till daylight. Three yards to the right there’s a precipice.”
He returned her look with one from which she could read nothing, though she sensed that he achieved his poise not without effort. He was dressed as he had been when last she saw him, in a mestizo’s thin cotton clothes and espadrilles of grass; his manner held both diffidence and determination, as well as the careful courtesy a gentleman accords an unaccustomed guest.
She said: “And would it be too much if I asked for an explanation?”
His manner did not change, if his tone took on the tiniest edge: “As I’ve said
before, I need money, a great deal of money. Your turning up in El Taranta was a gift from the gods to me. I’m holding you for a quarter of a million ransom.” He towed. “Good night.” The blanket fell behind him and his footsteps lisped off into silence.
Nan stood staring at the place where he had been and toiled with rage, of which she realized the impotence. while old Mozayte watched her with brown, liquid eyes. A quarter of a million ransom, just like that, as if it were the price of a horse !
"DUT WITH the fellow gone, the quiet and the strange sense of welcome that the hut enclosed dulled Nan’s resentment, and she turned and looked about it curiously. It had been arranged with care and insight for a woman’s comfort. On bed and floor the Indian blankets with their told designs of red, chocolate and cream were of the best, and clean. The dresser had been improvised from one of these spread on a packing case: “Glotz and Co., Inc.,
Chicago. Fine Soaps.” On it was a cheap brush and comb, quite new, with a wooden bowl of flowers and a piece of soap in a crock. A projecting wall-stone held a little mirror. There were two new towels on a peg. A stool tore an earthen wash-basin with beside it two big-bellied water ollas, while another had a great bowl filled with fruit. Examining these, she realized why the place was fragrant: Two of the most delicious perfumes known to man were mingled in it. that of the fruit ylang-ylang and of the precious clay the Mayas know, which, wrought into water jars, ¡jerpetually distils its fragrance.
In her voluminous skirts of dingy pink and emerald green waist, and on her head a gaily stitched black shawl or reboso, by the door stood old Mozayte, like a benign brown image. Catching Nan’s eye. she beamed and tobbed her head, motioning to the chamber as she said in queer, broad Spanish: “Is it not beautiful? El señor
Toni with his own hands prepared it. He has labored greatly.”
Nan stepped up to her. “Tell me,” she asked, “who is el señor, and where is this place?”
The Mayan woman shook her head. “For tonight, rest, nina. Tomorrow is a brave new day.”
Nan saw at once the futility of pumping her. “You may go. I do not need you now.”
Mozayte curtsied and left her. Nan stood a moment, listening to the silence, then slowly she went to the bowl of flowers. They were mostly orchids, with a filling of jasmine for its scent and a few perfect
camellias, arranged, as was the fruit in the other bowl, with a fine eye for line and color. She turned over tire cheap brush and comb.
By-and-by she went to the door, moved aside the gay-hued blanket and stepped out. There was darkness and starlight, the pungent smell of wood smoke and cedar, and over all a silence such as she had never dreamed of, a hush so deep as to be like the roaring of a cataract. She was not afraid. She was not lonely. All she felt were awe and wonder, a strange poignance at her heart and a sense of some transcendent happening for which she waited. Returning within, she looked into the mirror, seeing a fair dishevelled girl with grimy face and grey eyes wide and rimmed with shadow, her hair filled with grass and seeds. She felt indignant and began immediately to mend the condition.
She sat down and worried off her riding boots—lacking a jack, no easy task—and then, without any apprehension for her privacy, she stripped. After seventy-two hours of acute discomfort, the shedding of lier clothes was a delight, the benison of water as she bathed was ecstasy.
Refreshed, she put on her underthings, drew a blanket round her and sat on the bed to brush her hair with steady strokes. Then she plaited it in two long braids and again looked in the mirror. She was herself again, and yet not quite herself. There was a quality in her face that she had never seen before and which she did not understand.
She moved the lantern to the floor and turned down the bed. It was of native make, strung with cord, mattressed with a cotton petate, two sheepskins over this and blankets over them. The two for her to sleep between were of vicuna, light and silky. She got in and pulled up the covers.
The hush was alrclute, and in her weariness seduced her like a lover. There was a sense of peace illimitable; languor pulled at her limbs; her eyes were rough with sleep. She leaned out and turned the lantern to a glimmer, then rolled over with a sigh of complete relaxation.
WHEN SHE awoke, a square beam of sunlight slanted through the unglazed window, gilding the grey stone walls and deepening the raw hues of the native gear, the fruit and the flowers. She lay between doubt and wonder, orienting herself to that strange day. The hut held a queer charm, a sense of newness, of rebirth for her spirit that both moved and puzzled her. She noticed that the door and window lintels were of massive timber, exquisitely carved.
What place could this be? And what now?
She rolled out of bed, surprised at first to find that she was in her underclothes, went to the door and peeped out between post and blanket. She saw a level space no more than twenty yards across, walled opposite her door by a cliff that rose up sheer to a considerable height. To the right, not ten yards off, the shelf dropped into emptiness. Here and there lay squared stones such as those of which the hut was built, and through the brown trunks of dwarf mounI tain cedars growing near the edge she
caught the glint of bright-blue water, glittering in the sun far down below. Pacing to and fro along the brink was Carteret.
She realized he was unaware of her regard and was able for the first time to observe him freely.
He paced with his hands behind him, his bare, dark head erect, and suddenly she thought of the old Shakespeare in Roman’s house, with its coat-of-arms and the name, Carteret.
What had he to do with that, with the motto “Honor”—a convict, a browbeater of women, a thief, a kidnapper, perhaps a murderer? She had a vision, which angrily she put out of her mind, of his head crowned with that knightly helmet.
His face she failed to read. It was the face of a man’s man, with its thick black brows, its bold nose and the firm line of its jaw, yet it was filled with feeling which she could not interpret. His eyes had that hungry look that she remembered, his mouth a hovering droop that hinted of despair. And then she realized what it was about him that was strangest. It was loneliness. He looked forlorn, denuded, derelict, as lonely as the last man on a dying planet.
Suddenly she was ashamed, feeling that she had vulgarly intruded on his privacy, and she started back. And at once she was angry that, of all people in the world, he should have been able so to make her feel.
In this mood, heightened by her recollections of what he had inflicted on her since the day they met, she bathed and dressed, for want of hooks dragging on her smart black boots with the greatest difficulty. She checked over the contents of her pockets—handkerchief, lipstick and powder compact, a folder with thirty dollars and a petrol lighter. Then she looked in the mirror. Her heavy hair was sleek about her head, her face quick with the exasperation she had felt. lier riding suit of dovegrey linen had lost some of its last night’s creases. The morning was so hot already that she dispensed with the coat.
When she peered out, Carteret had disappeared. She raised the blanket, stepping into hot sunshine and that singing silence.
THE SUN was high—she must have slept till nearly noon—the ledge was empty. It was a strange and splendid eyrie, a level space roughly triangular, its base the precipice, its sides sheer walls of rock that met in an angle at its greatest depth. There was another hut like her own, and a scattering of the crooked mountain cedars from which the heat distilled so sweet an odor. She stepped between those growing on the brink and saw a sheer drop to a sloping spoil-bank of what looked like gravel and which sloped down cleanly into reed-grown shallows. Nan was a fine ski jumper, and it occurred to her that if one jumped and hit that slope just right, and if the slope proved soft as it appeared to be, they might land safely in the reed bed at the bottom. But there was no way of descending the sheer cliff before the slope began, and the deposit, if not actually hard, was more than likely filled with boulders. Opposite was a rocky eminence forming a narrow inlet of the lake, which ran to the right 200 yards till at its head the jungle came down to the water. The great lake to the left, which extended out of sight in both directions, was of a curious pale sapphire color. The sun was baking, the lake still as glass. Nothing about her moved or made the slightest sound, and the emanation of the sun-warmed cedar was a fragrant incense.
She walked to the ledge’s greatest depth and found unexpectedly a passage, open to the sky and ten feet wide or so, that ran into the living rock. Following this a dozen steps, it turned slightly and she stopped, astonished. In the mountain’s heart was a level space a hundred yards or so across, roughly round and walled by cliffs which after sixty feet or so ran back
to tree-clad heights against the sky. On her left were half a dozen of the small stone houses, from one of which smoke rose and cutside which old Mozayte squatted, grinding com in a stone metate. The circumference of this strange arena was dotted with gnarled cedars, and facing her across the open, its back against the farther cliff and as high as a two-storied house, was a grotesque stone-seated image in the likeness of a brooding woman.
The sense of unreality which had been growing on her now took charge. The day became as unreal as a play. Mozayte saw her, clambered to her feet and came across, with her soft smile and her big brown eyes: “Buenos dias, nina. I trust the night was sweet. There will be food this instant. El señor is away, but he will return pronto. He gave orders that the señorita was not to be disturbed.”
She called crackedly: “Quira! Hola
Quira!” and shepherded Nan to a makeshift table underneath a cedar near the house which smoked. A broad-backed young Indian with a brow-band on his lank black hair looked out, ducked in again and emerged immediately with a steaming coffee pot. Nan, nothing loth, sat on a squared stone and was offered soon a steaming olla podrida of chicken, also r'ruit, coffee and tortillas. Much to the Indians’ disgust, she refused all but fruit and coffee, of which she breakfasted excellently. While she did so, she observed :he white form of Carteret slip from among the cedars on the other side and through the gap to the open ledge. He carried a big basket filled with flowers.
WHEN SHE had eaten, she crossed the arena to the great stone image, her footsteps clearly echoing between the sheer grey walls. Her captors must be very sure of her security; though her parole had expired at sunrise, no one took the slightest notice of her movements. There was no sign of any entrance to that secret place. She stood before the image, looking at the face that stared above her into distance. It was not ugly; though grotesque, it had strength, wisdom and a haunting sadness. Behind her in the cookhouse someone dropped a knife, and the sharp sound in the baking silence startled her. Then she saw Carteret. She had not heard him come, fie had materialized beside her, looking up at the image.
“Solemn old lady,” he remarked. “That’s Tonantzin, mother of the old-time gods. You know, you’re seeing something. Except for one other and myself, you’re the only white who’s seen her. Since the Spaniard overthrew the Maya, this has been the only place from sea to sea the Indian could call his own. This is the only image that the old priests didn’t smash, and for the last four hundred years the Indians have gathered here on feast days to pray for deliverance.”
Nan had a vision of that secret amphitheatre, not hushed and empty but close packed from wall to wall with Indians, a sea of upturned dumb bronze faces with the frightened eyes of Roman’s servants, chanting their supplications.
“Hasn’t done ’em much good so far,” Tony Carteret went on, “but it may yet, who knows? What’s four hundred years in the life of a people? There’s a church in the city, La Virgen Purisima, built of the stones from Tonantzin’s temple that the monks pulled down. On Tonantzin’s feast days you’ll find somewhere in it native offerings and the old-time symbols marked in chicken’s blood. The old priests made a penalty of death for that, but it goes on to this day. There’s a scarlet vine grows down the front. It looks wonderful. People think it happened there. But the Indians and a few men know that it’s Tonantzin’s emblem of the blood of life. As I said, what’s four hundred years? That old girl’s been there five thousand, and they put her up. She may yet see gold and feather robes and turquoises heaped up in thankfulness.” Nan said: “And how do you come to be here, if it’s so exclusive?”
He looked down from Tonantzin’s
haunting face and met her eyes. “Strange as it may seem to you. the people trust me. They know Pedro Roman’s ability too well, so after the night we—met, they brought me here to hide. They’re interested in my venture into kidnapping, and I prevailed on them to let me bring you, so that you might be both safe and comfortable. There’s no risk to them. You’ll never find the passage in again. Roman’s been hunting it for twenty years. He even knows vaguely where it is, but can’t get farther. And for the water side: The trees screen everything, there are a hundred miles of lake to choose from, thousands of inlets, just like this. I don’t think you’ll be here more than a week. My letter reached town yesterday. They’ll have to fly to Panama or Mexico for that much U.S. currency, but they can do it and deliver in a day or two.”
Her tone was careful as was his. while she watched a big grey lizard basking on the square base of Tonantzin’s plinth. “You’re very certain of yourself.”
He nodded. “Yes. I’m pretty well informed and have arranged for everything. I know that the big chap who’s always bobbing up in doorways is trustee of Mr. Warde’s estate. Also he’s in love with you. He has authority and he’ll move fast.”
She bit on her rising anger. “I’m afraid your judgment is at fault. He won’t move at all. He’ll call your bluff. You wouldn’t harm me and he knows it. In fact, hehappens not to share my low opinion of you. He went so far as to believe your tale.”
Carteret showed his white teeth in a smile of undisguised delight. “He did? Well, I’m darned glad of that, because I took to him the minute I set eyes on him. But I’m afraid you’re oversanguine. I saw the weakness in the scheme just as you did and arranged for it. There used to be hereabouts a bandit called Emilio Cerazé. Román made it so hot for Emilio that he crossed the border into where they aren’t so hard on bandits, and it’s well known that he’s been there in business ever since. When we planned this scheme we spread the tale that he was back. The day we grabbed you it was gossip in the market and there were Indians there who said they actually had seen him. Román would have heard of it—he hears everything. The note I sent was written by a semiliterate mestizo, signed Emilio Cerazé. Couzens won’t suspect me. Why should he? Román knows that a prize like you could tempt Cerazé back for one big scoop. And when they tell poor Couzens what Emilio can do to people whose relations don’t pay up, he’ll write a cheque inside ten minutes.” To be Continued
THE DISCOVERY of a Berlin chemist, Kerr Aretz, that refuse can be so treated as to provide an almost perfect material for housebuilding may be of great value in the future development of cities. With the rapid growth in population, the problem of disposal of rubbish has long puzzled the city authorities. In Berlin alone, about 300,000 cubic metres of refuse have to be dealt with on an average each year. Latterly a natural process of fermentation opened the way to making some part of the refuse profitable as artificial manure.
No details of the chemical processes behind this discovery are revealed, but it is stated that the fibrous compressed building plates, about six centimeters thick, fulfill all tests and are more satisfactory than most of the building sheets at present imported from abroad. They can be sawn, have nails driven in, be planed, cleaned, painted or papered. This new material has also an amazing degree of insulation and resists fire to such an extent that it will in all probability be used universally for the inner surfaces of masonry walls. -Christian Science Monitor.