The story of Angelito and Senor Tommy and the dancing girl who wore the white flower of faith
MAUD MAY THOMAS
I WAS pruning one evening at dusk when this little Americana came walking along the calle Amor de Dios, which is to say, the Street of the Love of God, named for that one in Seville. When she saw me she said, “Hello! This must be the Inn of the Birds and you are the innkeeper, Angelito.”
I knew then that she was the one my son Gordito wrote me was coming for the fiesta. She was travelling in Spain to study our dances of the country, because she wanted to get the attention of someone in America called Hollywood.
I started to put my pruning knife in my apron pocket, but then I saw how the shadows were fading under the olive trees, and I turned and threw the knife at the small block fastened beside the tool-shed door. For many seasons I had been doing this and thought nothing of it, but when the señorita saw the blade quivering in the centre of the block, she gave a quick cry. “But Angelito, that is marvellous,” she cried, making her eyes, which were of a blue grey, very wide.
“Señorita,” I said, taking her bag from her, “if you had let me know, I would have met you. Ycu are very young to be walking alone in the dusk.”
She gave a little laugh which was ven' young indeed, and signed her name on the book with a very big blot. I did not see the name she wrote because I was looking at her. One of such fair coloring as this one would bring trouble, I was thinking. Always our hidalgos follow these pale gold ones, and this señorita was muy bellis ima, tall and golden, and she had a way of walking as if my colored tiles were rich velvet and many hidalgos’ eyes were upon her.
I saw her looking through the grille gate which opens to the patio cooled by a fountain, and I said. “Señorita, it is a clean place with no fleas,” for that is what the Americanas always want to know.
She nodded, smiling. “Your son Gordito told me. I am so glad that you speak English so well. I have a thousand questions without answers waiting for you. Have you been in America, Angelito?”
“Señorita, no,” I said. “An Englishman who stays here these many years for his health has taught me. I am not good at new things and I did not want to learn, but he said that it would bring me the Americanos.”
“Well, it brought me,” she said, wrinkling her nose at the spreading blot. “When does this fiesta begin? Not for a whole week? Oh, well, perhaps I can pick up a new dance while I wait. Are there any other Americans here at the inn? Any nice ones, I mean. What you call simpático?”
THEY always ask that too as if another Americano makes a place the better. “Si, señorita,” I said, “there is the one whose name is Señor Tommy. He is muy simpático, but he is never here except to sleep. He goes about taking the pictures all the time. He carries two boxes on straps. The straps have worn a place in his coat. One is for the moving pictures and one is for the kind he calls candid, that takes a man as he is. He took one of me when I was smoking my pipe in the sun. My eyes were
closed and 1 was wearing my apron and no shoes. What kind of a picture is that, señorita?”
She looked at me and smiled as if she saw something which pleased her. Just then this Señor Tommy came in. I was going to introduce them but they both said, “Hello,” before I could make out her name on the txx>k the name she was never called in our town, as it happened.
“SÍ) you have met?” I asked in surprise, and at that, for no reason, they both laughed and Señor Tommy said. “Angelito is very okay but he is a Spaniard.” He was always saying that, but afterward he would pat me on the shoulder and I grew to like it.
This senorita’s hair was very brillante in the light and her skin was like fine cream. Señor Tommy squinted his blue eyes at her the way he does when he is taking a very good picture, and he said, “Il'm'm. Very . . . nice . . . indeed, Amarillita.”
Amarica is our word for yellow, and it was a gixx:! word for her. She was dressed in shades of amarilla, with a big scarf tied under her chin and a little straw hat on the back of her shining head. We called her AmariUila—Little Yellow Oneafter that.
This Tommy was a big señor, muy hombre, with wide shoulders and a wide smile. He had red hair and blue eyes, not handsome in the manner of our Spanish caballeros but when he smiled you liked him like a fine son. You could see that Amarillita liked him too. so I left them together for 1 had w'ork to do.
Since my Maria died and my two sons left to join the revolution at the first uprising, the Inn of the Birds is all I have and I give it all my time. 1 do my own cooking and my own pruning and my own thinking, though they are saying that there are for a Spaniard two ways only to think now. Either you are a Leftist or you are a Rightist. But sometimes I find myself thinking both ways, for Gordito went to Madrid and the other joined with Franco’s relx-ls. When a country divides against itself, it divides the family heart as well, for the heart grx-s always to war with the hombre.
These two Americanos were not IxHhered about revolutions now that they had met. They went about the town taking pictures and watching the dancers practice for the fiesta. This Tommy was seeing pictures every time he looked at Amarillita, and it. was the same with her. The second day. when he heard about this Hollywood she wanted to dance for, lie said, “Angelito, we will do something about this. Have you a big shawl like your women wear? And one of those cagey fans?"
"Si, señor. My Maria had a fine mantón de Manila, also a fan. but as for the cage ”
“Just a plain fan will do,” laughed Amarillita. “I think 1 can give it the cage.”
I showed Amarillita how the mantón should lxworn, and I cut a red (lower for her hair with my pruning knife and fastened the flower over one temple. “Always the red flower, señorita, for the fiesta.”
“Now if you are any good at dancing,” said Tommy, “this camera will know it. It is a smart baby and you can’t fool it.”
Amarillita danced in front of the grille gate. Then she danced behind it, with the sun making a shadow pattern of the grille upon her. When she had finished Tommy said, “Amarillita, this is going to be a cinch. I will have Hollywood hollering for you by the time you go back with these Spanish dances you are learning.”
From the first this fiesta was not like the others. The day Amarillita arrived we had received orders from the Government at Madrid that all Government towns were to be kept darkened for fear of air raids. Our town was a Government town, loyalist, so we became a dark town under the stars as the plans for the fiesta went on.
nPHERE were whispers that Florecita, the Little Flower from the Franco camp, was here again. She was said to be a favorite with the soldiers and the best dancer south of Madrid. But it was not for that she had been coming and going of late. It had ft) do with one they now called by a new name, El Tigre, the 'Liger. He had started off for Madrid as a loyalist, but later we heard that he was in Morocco with Franco’s Moorish Legion. When they crossed over to march u|x>n Madrid, El Tigre did not march with them as might have been expected, but he came back to this town where he was born, though not to his old friends or home No, he lived mostly, I was told, in the wine shops, sleeping none knew where. When I met him on the street and called him by the old name, he turned away.
He had Ix-en an olive picker, as I was before 1 took the inn. A very good-looking one and a swaggerer by nature. Then he had an illness, and after that he walked with a limp, and a deep hate grew in his eyes for all who walked straight and ,fine as they passed him.
He hated the dancing girls, though he was always watching their clever feet while he drank more and more of the wine, cursing in his heart. There was an ugly tale that he had given this Florecita a permanent limp with a bullet through her ankle. It is true that she was still limping, but she would not say that he had fired the shot, so that it was just another of those dark whisperings, part of the darkness which drew nearer and nearer so that no man saw the other clearly.
When the two Americanos left for the plaza the first night of the fiesta, they came to the kitchen to get me, but I told them that I would come later as I was still in my working clothes. They had no sooner gone than my old friend Miguel came running in, his useless lantern bobbing beside him though he had no lights to attend now. 1 le gasjxd out that Florecita and El Tigre had been quarrelling. He had heard only a few words but A ¡adre de Dios! I he rebels were to march on the town this night!
Without waiting to hear more, I began to run toward the plaza. '1 he calle Amor de Dios is a winding street paved with cobbles and lined with sleepy whitewashed houses with colored tile roofs and fine old grille balconies. There are orange trees and roses and flowering vines with a macaw swinging among the branches, and inside the patio the music of a fountain. I knew it was like this because it has always been so on the little street named for the heart of God, but tonight I did not see it for I was looking toward the plaza, listening for a dread new sound. The sound of hate marching upon the
town. Hearts marching against hearts about to break.
I saw not a soul on the way and I began to call, but the click of the castanets and the twang of guitars filled their ears. They were dancing in the dark, which was something new in the town, and they liked it. They thought it romantic, no doubt, and the glow of cigarettes between their lips wove patterns of fire over the strong beat of the rhythm. I was shouting more loudly as I ran, but no one heard. Then there came that sound that I had dreaded, the sound of men marching on a happy town. It is a sound to remember and ponder on.
The rebel cry of Air iba España, “Up Spain,” ran suddenly over heads. The music broke off in the darkness to a discord of harsh shouts and terrified cries. Frightened feet stumbled and rang over the cobbles as the dancers ran helplessly out before the marching legion, which fired over their heads in warning.
THERE had been some pretense at military training among us, but we had few arms as yet. We weren’t ready, so what was there to do but surrender peaceably? Yet some fenol ish one fired at the soldiers, and I saw from where I stood, unable to move, clenched fists raised against the stars in the loyalists’ salute. This defiance was answered sharply by another crackling of rifles, this time aimed lower. I moved aside and pressed close against a garden wall, for I thought my old knees would not carry me with that surging mass of humanity.
From the doorway of a wine shop a little señorita ran out, and as I looked she gave a high mortal scream and fell into the arms of another who ran out at the sound. When I could see the señoritas once more, one lay still and one was running with swiftness toward the old castle on the
hill above town. I saw that it was Amarillita running and I thought she was lost so I called, “This way, señorita.” though it mattered not which way you ran that night. She did not hear because of the noise, but ran on toward the dark old ruins which have been closed for years. Soon she was lost in the night, and I was thinking of this señorita left alone. I would stay and comfort her, I thought. I began to move slowly toward her in the shadows, so it happened that I was not driven to the far end of town with the rest.
“Where are you hurt?” I whispered, bending over her. When she made no reply I put my hand over her heart and then I made a prayer for her soul. Not knowing what to do next, I went into the wine shop and, finding no one there. I rapped softly on the next door and on the next. While I was doing this I saw another had managed to hide in the darkness, and now that the soldiers w-ere passed, he moved stealthily toward the castle as Amarillita had done. This was indeed strange, for I knew by the limp that this was El Tigre, the Tiger.
In his manner was that which led me to believe that he was very much afraid, and that he did not intend to be seen either by his friends or by the soldiers. A terrible fear fastened itself upon my heart; was it perhaps that he had betrayed us to the rebels and now was ashamed to march openly against us? I called his name softly—the old name —but his lame foot tapped more quickly, and presently the sound was lost as he too mounted the hill.
I looked down at the little señorita and I thought, “I will wrap her in my coat and leave her here, for she has nothing of which to be afraid any more.” There was a half-open flower in her hair. It seemed almost black, so dark it was, and I wondered what kind of a strange flower this might be. As I straightened her decently. I saw that one ankle was bandaged and a little crooked. Then I knew that this was Florecita, the dancer who had refused to accuse El Tigre though it was certain he had shot her and that she hated him.
Now a second bullet had ended her life. Was it perhaps that the rebels did not recognize her and have shot the favorite of the camp? But Dios mio! This bullet has entered her back, which is not possible for she has been facing the soldiers! Now I think of El Tigre who is hiding in the shadows whence this bullet might have come. The claws of fear fasten deeper in my heart. I cannot see the little dancer for my tears. I look in the direction of my people and the enemy. By the sounds, I know that already my Inn of the Birds is taken by the soldiers. There is nothing there any more for me. With heavy steps I turn toward the castle, for the little Amarillita is there and may have need of me.
THE castle door facing the town gave slowly to a stout push of my shoulder, so that I knew that Amarillita and the lame one had come in this way though there was no sign of them as I stood inside, listening. There was an old fountain in the centre of the court. Its drops of constancy fell in the deserted stillness like drops of time that are not stopped by the coming or going of hidalgos. The don was a great hidalgo, but he is gone and the fountain plays on,
I had never been in this part of the castle before. In my day, a man of the soil kept his place and was happy in it. I looked without envy at the dim, paved court of marble, lighted only by the narrow slits of windows far above. On one side was a stone stair curving up to galleries, part of
which were open to the sky where the roof had fallen in long ago. It is a fine thing to be born in a castle, but it is a finer thing for a man to keep his roof mended over his head. I said this once to El Tigre as he sat beside my hearth, but he had laughed and spat. By then he had begun to talk of what a man might get out of this revolution for himself. A new type of general was appearing. One was said to be a stone breaker on the road and one a miner. Why not an olive picker, he asked me. and spat again, saying that as for him, he cared not a peseta which side gave him the gold braid.
A whisper of sound reached me now from above. It was a light footfall on rough stones. I thought of the way Amarillita walked, as if my tiled floor were fine velvet, and I knew she was there. But why? And why was this lame one hiding? Of late he had been strutting as only a lame man can contrive to strut. Now why was he thinking so well of himself of late? “Because.” I reasoned to myself, “he thinks that he is going to be a great general now.” But on which side was not yet clear to me.
I felt that I must speak to him tonight. Tomorrow might be too late. Slowly I mounted the stairs, listening, peering ahead in the narrow corridors. When I came to the salon
where the don had last lived I expected to see a splendor ravaged by time, but there were only a few dim portraits on the wall, and on the floor the scar where the dais had stood.
He plays on, his eyes following her strangely, as if in search of that he cannot find.
Pushing on the door beyond, I found myself looking out on the roof. The serrated parapets cast deep shadows, and in those shadows stood the Americano Tommy and Amarillita talking in low tones. “I nearly wrecked my equipment chasing you up here in the dark,” he was saying, and then, though his cameras are more to him than fresh meat or old wine, he looked up anxiously and said, “You are all right? You aren’t hurt?”
“I thought you were one of the soldiers following me,” she answered, half crying. “I was nearly sh-shot. I ’ve been in a r-revolution and all you think of is your cameras! I thought you liked me.”
“1 do,” said Señor Tommy. “Like the very dickens. But if anything happens to my equipment, how do you suppose you and I are going to eat and buy our neckties? And what’s the big idea of beating it up here the minute I leave you? Is this a rendezvous or something?”
AMARILLITA reached in the little yellow bag that holds the powder for the nose and the mirror she looks into with one eye, and found her handkerchief. “I am not a news reporter,” she said, wiping her nose. “I don’t know things until they happen. If you had told me you stuck me down in that wine shop cellar to keep me out of a w-war !”
“Gosh, honey. I’m sorry. It was just a hunch I had, and I went out to make sure. When things began to break I rushed straight back but you were gone.”
“It was because of Florecita, Tommy. She came down the cellar looking for El Tigre. The one you said to keep away from. That handsome cripple you were going to punch because he looked at me that way, you know.”
“I haven’t forgotten,” said Señor Tommy, “and I’m shipping you across the border tomorrow. These Spaniards are loco over blondes, and this is not going to lx; any place for you. But go on. I presume you did have a reason for running out on me and half scaring me to death, thinking you’d been shot or something?”
“Don’t be mean,” said Amarillita. “Of course I had a reason. I am trying to tell you. This girl was crying wildly that she loved El Tigre and oh, why had she done this wicked thing, for now he would surely lx; shot as a traitor. She was crazed, so that she stood there shouting the most dangerous things, saying that El T igre had been suspected of dealings with both sides and she had been sent to find out the truth.
“They wanted to be sure of El Tigre before they attacked the town,” continued Amarillita. “If he was guilty she was to wear a dark flower like the rest of the dancers, and the comrade who accompanied her would send the message. She discovered that he was guilty, but at the same time she found she still loved him so she put off wearing the flower. Finally, today, she tried to save him by putting on the white flower, but it was too late. Her comrade had vanished.”
Here Señor Tommy interrupted with, “Great gosh, honey. You aren’t actually mixed up in this mess, are you? Surely you couldn’t be such a little fool.”
“It was all so quick and terrifying,” said Amarillita. “Florecita was shouting all this in the cellar when we heard the soldiers. T must go out and show them the white flower.’ she cried. ‘Señorita, you have a lover. Would you like to see him killed because of you? See. I write a warning to him on this fan. Carry it. señorita. No one will notice the fan tonight on the Americana. Try first the keep of the
castle. And vaya con Dios God go with you, señorita, for with me. I have a feeling that 1 will go with God this night.” Señor Tommy put his hands on Amarillita and gave her a hard shake. “You little fool!” he muttered. “Give me that fan. They’re shooting jx-ople for less.”
“1 didn’t want to take it," faltered Amarillita, bending over her stocking, “but when 1 tried to give it back to her in the doorway. I found she was dead.”
While she was fumbling with her stocking I heard a sound behind me. Someone else was approaching in the dark and, being afraid to speak now or to open the door any wider, I whispered to Señor Tommy to hide, and I moved quickly away in the opjxisite direction. When I found that I was not followed, 1 hurried down to the keep. I wanted to find El Tigre and beg him to stand with the town like a man and forget this locum or madness which ixissessed him. For that was all it was, a madness of hate. I íe had taken up the rebel cry, “Up Spain,” meaning only Up Hate. Up El Tigre!
Y\ 7TIEN I saw a slit of light and heard voices ahead, I W knew this must be the keep. The great stone door was partly open, and the odor of newly opened wine drifted to me. Someone was playing the cello. There was a lawlessness in the playing, with rebel notes breaking the order of the old gipsy song. No one but El Tigre plays the flamenco like that. Sometimes when he sat before my door and played I thought that he might become un hombre grande, but that was when he was very young, and it turned out that he was only a wild rebel at heart, with those rebel notes sounding always in what he did.
As I crept near, fearful yet urged by the necessity of haste, I saw why the salon above me was so bare. The keep had been turned into a throne room, and in a high-backed ceremonial chair was El Tigre, surrounded by a dozen or so of traitors. A huge lighted candelabra at his side made of his shadow a black monster which crouched over the room. Over himself, as if waiting to destroy him.
There were bottles of old vintage, some already emptied, lying about. He was drunk tonight, partly with the wine they had found in the cellars and partly with those big ideas alx>ut sitting on a throne and giving orders. T he fear’s which had sent him here when the soldiers marched in. were warmed by the wine. He thought, no doubt, that he could save himself when the time came, for he was just pleasant !y drunk and a fool.
When he saw me lie was very angry. “What does this mean?” lie roared. “Bring this viejo, this old one, in and tu* him before he destroys someone.”
At this they laughed very loud, for it is well known that I have never harmed anyone. When it is time to kill the worms on the vines I do so mercifully and with no relish, and because the things which they devour must live.
In his mind he was a king, or jxissibly an emjx'ror, and though he was seated he managed to strut. When I tried to speak to him, my voice was drowned with their drunken laughter. T hey bound and gagged me, and I wasset against the wall to be forgotten, for then, Dios mio, this Tommy came in with his red hair over his eyes and his coat torn. He was hugging his cameras to him while he talked to Amarillita, who was behind him with a rifle at her back.
This man with the rifle was one of the plotters and he forced them into the keep. When El Tigre saw them he let the cello rest between his knees and roared like a bull, and Amarillita cried, "Oh, Tommy, it's he,” as if she realized now what she had done in coming here.
Señor Tommy said over his shoulder which now had no sleeve, “Keep your chin up, honey. Don't let them see you’re scared.”
I SAW him give a quick look around to see how many there were, and then he was studying El Tigre and I knew that he was worried for Amarillita. It was not a nice place for her. She was too pretty. When he saw me a prisoner he did not feel any better, but he smiled at Amarillita to show her how okay everything was. though so very Sjranish. T hen he got some papers out of his jxxket and explained to El Tigre about their being Americanos, and how he couldn’t do anything to them if he knew what was good for him. El Tigre let him talk while he trxik another drink of wine very slowly as if he had plenty of time and was enjoying himself, then he motioned to the men and they gagged Tommy and tied him, having a great deal of amusement like bad boys at rough play. But he did not try to cause them any trouble now because that would have frightened Amarillita, so his cameras were still on their straps over his shoulder when they pushed him down beside me.
Amarillita watched all this with great horror, and Señor Tommy had to smile at her with his eyes, above the gag. to show her how very okay he felt. She tried to smile back, and when El Tigre spoke to her she sbxxl there very straight with her chin up. though my Maria’s mantón rippled across her Ixick with the trembling.
Now El T igre turned to Amarillita and he gave her a look of such liking that she shrank back, and Señor Tommy’s blue eyes blazed through the red hair which would not now stay off his face, and he made sounds in his throat until one of the men kicked him.
The men were all watching El Tigre to see what he would do about this Amarillita whom he likes, and none knows what is going to happen. El Tigre himself does not know. The only thing he is ever quick about is his loves and his hates, for then he does no thinking. It angered him because he could not think of something right away that would look good to the men, so he scowled and drew his bow across a cello string. It made a sound like a woman crying, and that pleased him.
This cry he repeated several times, making it better and better until a chill ran down our spines. He looked at Amarillita who was not liking him. "Señorita,” he said with too much softness. “señorita, when you look at me you must like me.”
The men nodded to each other. This was as it should to'. El Tigre made another long cry on that string, then he leaned back in his chair and enjoyed himself very much. Amarillita’s hands were tight on the little yellow bag which held the powder for her nose, and we heard the mirror inside crack between her fingers.
Now she remembered something and she turned to Señor Tommy, saying. “Darling, the fan. Shall I give it to him, Tommy?"
Tommy thought a minute, then he nodded, yes. So she turned her back and took out the fan and held it out, trying to tell El Tigre about Florecita and how she wanted him to escape.
EL TIGRE snatched it from her, and when he saw the writing he held it up to the candlelight, but he could make
nothing of it because Florecitas blood had blotted out the words that might have saved him. “Surely this is the hand of God upon him,” I thought.
The stained fan fell from his fingers while he poured the fine wine down his thick throat. He is a very big man now indeed. He has made himself a throne, and is liking to have this pale señorita see him so important. She pleases him more and more as he looks at her over his wine. Still, she does not admire him as he wishes. The old tapestry makes a tearing sound under his heels as he stretches back and thinks with his muddled brain about this. His fingers groping about his middle, find the pistol in his belt, and when he takes it out and looks slowly about I feel the cold sweat upon my forehead.
The sight of Señor Tommy and me staring at him over our gags pleases him. He motions the señorita to watch while he steadies his elbow on the chair. I do not think he knows by now who I am. He has forgotten who we all are. He, himself, is a king.
He pulled the trigger with a smile and I said a prayer for my soul, but he was only shooting a circle around my despised head. It was the mercy of God that the bullets he was shooting glanced off the stones and did not kill someone. My right ear was split and the blood ran suddenly warm on my neck. Amarillita stood there wringing her hands and crying to herself, with her lower lip caught hard between her white teeth.
El Tigre put in some more cartridges and studied Amarillita. She was not admiring him as he desired, but was looking at
Señor Tommy in a very special way. “So,” said El Tigre in an ugly tone and aimed his pistol at Tommy. When Amarillita understood she turned so white that it seemed that she would fall to the floor. But no. She did then a most brave but foolish thing which, if it had failed, Dios mio, might have meant the end had come for us all.
Because she was trained to be very quick in all her movements, the thing which happened next was like a flash of time too quick to follow. She reached for the full bottle of wine before him, and brought it down on El Tigre’s hand over the pistol with all her might.
The pistol dropped at her feet, but instead of reaching for it, which would have meant a dozen bullets in her back, she put one small foot over it and stood there smiling at him. hands on hips, face lifted in a quick audacity, making a sudden picture like a turn in a dance. Though she had not moved, with that smile she made it seem that she had come closer. This was what he had wanted, and now the tension in the room broke with a long sigh. El Tigre’s eyes went slowly over her from under lowered lids, and the way she stood there, still smiling that bright provocative smile, you would have thought she liked it.
Only Tommy and I knew that now she was the dancer, smiling the way she was taught to smile in the dances.
AMERICANAS have the quick mind, - and while we stared at this she tossed her head and began to hum the flamenco El Tigre had been playing, making a gesture toward the cello which said, “You will play it for me? Yes?” And while he hesitated she began to sing the words in English, looking at El Tigre, only they said something now to Señor Tommy which the rest could not understand. They said, with some little runs of the syllables to get them in, “Dar— ling, I am going—to-do—this-dance for them and may—be you-can—get free.”
Señor Tommy grunted very hard in his throat and loved her fiercely with his eyes. He could see that she was safer while dancing. 1 tried to think of some way I could help poor Señor Tommy to get free, and 1 remembered the pruning knife in my back pocket and hard against my back. I pushed my foot against him to get attention, and turned so that he could see the bulge of the knife. He brightened and kxiked quickly about, but everyone was staring at Amarillita.
There before our eyes she made the little Amarillita vanish, and there stood the Spanish caballero of the danza with his fine cloak swinging from his shoulders. We saw that it was a night for love, and the señoritas had best do their sighing safe behind their grated windows.
This dance was always a favorite with the men, and she could have chosen nothing better. I saw El Tigre lean forward. I saw his hands fall of their own will into place on the cello and carry on the tune. After a moment he was putting in those rebel notes which came from some part of him I never understood.
Life was bitter in the town tonight and with the morning some of us no doubt were to die, hut after the first measures of the dance, this was forgotten. If you do not think that this can be so, it is because you are not a Spaniard.
When the gipsy music mingles with a Spaniard’s wine all life swings into step, and this Amarillita was very fine indeed in the dance. Even with our señoritas I have never seen anyone better. Life outside this moment faded pleasantly away. There was only the music throbbing, swaying in us like one great pulse, even in me who am old but yet a Spaniard.
The bold caballero is no longer there, hut a gay señorita, her mantón fastened low about her slim hips which have become very feminine. She may or may not be won, this señorita of the fiery dark glances, hut she shows her lover that she is very desirable.
A Spaniard dances with the eyes and the hands so much as with the feet, and now this one is bold, thrusting herself forward with haughty disdain, arms akimbo, her eyes teasing, inviting, mocking her lover with a stamp of lier foot.
The music is very throbbing and rebel. The men in the keep are beating time with hands, feet, their heads and bcxlies swaying. The keep is growing warm with the lire of the dancing. El Tigre knows that he is good; that they are good together. Amarillita tells him this by the way she dances to those rebel notes.
El Tigre plays as no one has ever heard him play before. There is something new coming out under his lingers, from that lost part of him. He forgets the hate which gnaws at his vitals of late. This señorita is showing him a better thing within himself than he has known. He plays on. his eyes following her strangely, as if in search of this that he cannot quite find. Himself. He is not the king now, but something better. He is the happy olive picker.
There is nothing I would not have done for the little Amarillita then, because of what she has shown this unhappy lame one. The tears are running down my cheeks. I scarcely notice what Señor Tommy is doing as he works at my back with his bound hands.
AMARILLITA never looked our way ■e\~ again. St, she kept her eyes away and gave Señor Tommy his chance. She had the great courage and the cool head, and something else which could turn the hearts
of foolish men to happiness. Señor Tommy | had worked his bonds across the knot on his wrists. He made a motion for caution as he freed me, and left everything in place so that no one would notice until the time came. He had a plan now, but I did not know what it was.
The lovers in the danza were about to kiss in the shelter of the caballero’s cloak when I looked again. When they kissed the long kiss of passion, the danza would be done. I warned Tommy of this in a whisper. He nodded. He was screwing a flash bulb into his camera. I thought that he was going to take a picture and this seemed very mad even for Señor Tommy, but then I understood. He was waiting for Amarillita to look at him. Then he was going to blind the men with his flash so that we would have a moment of escape.
Perhaps Señor Tommy could have saved us, but the rebels came in time. The ones El Tigre had forgotten about and had hidden from. They came in through the half-open door of the keep, and the first to come was el capitan with the little dancer, Florecita, across his outstretched arms. Her head fell back and her eyes were closed, but the bud in her hair had fully opened. It had been pure white when she put it on to save her lover, but the leaves were dark with her blood, so that she came in among us wearing the dark flower that meant his end.
Because the plotters were so full of this music they did not see what had happened, but were all watching that long, long kiss at the end. The rebels had their rifles at shoulders and suddenly the rebel cry of “Up Spain!” was ringing against the stones.
Señor Tommy was on his feet, running toward Amarillita. He stood between her and the rifles, pressing her face hard against his coat so that she should not see what might be about to happen.
It was the soldiers he was fearing, but because I knew El Tigre better than the rest, I alone saw this thing. The high moment of his life had broken and the old hate was turning in his breast. He was the cripple again without any throne. He looked wildly about. Of us all, he hated Amarillita the most in that moment. I saw his arm raise from his side and the candlelight gleamed on the blade in his hand.
There was no time. That pruning knife was in my hand, and I threw it from where I stood, the way I threw it at sunset when the day’s work was done. I meant only to strike his arm, but he moved and I saw his body jerk as from a mortal blow and his head fell forward on his breast with the cello crying deeply in its throat. So then I knew what I had done.
Señor Tommy’s arms were tight about Amarillita, and he looked over her yellow head at the picture of the dais which showed a man as he was. “W hat a picture!” he whispered, and from habit he reached for his camera. Then he saw me standing there, my empty hand still in the air. and after a second he let the strap fall.
“Angelito,” he said, “you saved her life. Angelito, you are very okay,” and this time he did not add that about my being a Spaniard. It was his business to get the news with his camera, and he must have known by then that El Tigre was my son.