Professor Bow knew no one could hate like a Spaniard, but that didn’t stop him from keeping a promise
HIGH among the summits rang a cry like a hunting horn’s. Henry Bow, exchange professor of history at a French university, glanced from the window of the little three-car electric train.
Through the glass of the window, he felt the sun’s heat on his tanned, thin face, meditative and humorous. He was thirty-six, with wiry, dark hair, slightly receded from the temples, and long, gangling, grey-flanneled legs. A worn leather jacket was zipped open over his khaki shirt. On the seat beside him lay a disreputable tweed fishing hat and an old valise on which his onetime military rank, major, had been paiainted out.
Lighting his cigarette, he glanced through the flat-spreading smoke at his fellow jiassengers. The diminutive car was oven-hot, dense with garlic. The wrinkled, dark men in their blue cotton suits, the black-veiled women hugging jiackages from Palma in their lajis, drowsed uneasily, with snorts of protest as the train jogged.
For the fiftieth time, he took from his shirt jiocket a letter that he knew already by heart. It was from Ned Marlyn, the best friend he’d had in the Army.
Long ago, in the summer of 1936, Ned, then a student in college, had s fient a vacation in this Spanish island of Majorca, in the Mediterranean. He had fallen in love with a girl here, even^younger than himself, called Sofia Robledo.
Henry glanced at the letter:
“Call it an idyll, call it a folly, call that summer anything you like, Henry. The fact remains that we were married and soon after I left, meaning to send for her. The civil war broke out in Spain and not until 1942, when I
was in the Army myself, did I get word from Sofia and know that I had a son nearly six. Sebastian, she had called him ”
The train rocked, gathering sjjeed as it gained the j>ass. The great, gleaming, streamlined hospital from which Ned had written this letter seemed to Henry as distant and improbable as another planet. Ned had been wounded in the last days of the war in Eurojje and had been in one hosjhtal or another. For over a year now, Ned had been through with hospitalsand with life.
“There was nothing I could do excejjt send what money 1 had through the consul. She swore they were all right, though it seems her brother, Rafael—I remember him as a reckless,
handsome devil mixed UJJ in the contrabandrunning that’s rife around Majorca—had threatened to kill me on sight.”
The hunting-horn note echoed shrilly again among the tumbled, sun-glittering boulders of the jjass.
“Sebastian’s my son. I’m worried about his education, his chance in life. One day I’ll get out of this hosjhtal, but the boy’s already twelve. Would it be fair to him, to Sofia, to ask that they should come to me? Yet, what’s the real situation there? What ought ƒ to do? Henry, you’re there in France, not far away. Take in Majorca on your next vacation. Go and see them for me, will you? Give me the straight dojje. Give me your advice. I can trust you.”
THE floor of the car tilted abruptly as the train began to clang downward in a series óf precipitous, looping turns. Now, in place of the rocks of the pass, ajjjjeared the crumbling stone walls of terraced groves, olives, oranges and jjomegranates. He buttoned the letter thoughtfully into his shirt pocket.
The trees fell away. He glimjjsed the small town of Soller below, with spires and flat roofs pricking the foam of verdure in the bowl of the valley. There was a hollow misgiving in him. His mission was delicate. He had undertaken it because the veteran in him was loyal to a dead comrade; but, as a jjrofessor of history, he knew the sensitivity and fiery jjride of the Spaniard.
Twelve years was a long time.
The hunting-horn note clarioned the triumph of arrival as the train jolted to a standstill in a little, white-walled, shaded station, gay with blossoms.
gay Short, swarthy soldiers in grey-green uniforms,
with slung carbines,
Continued on page 40
Continued from page 16
closed in purposefully on the longlegged stranger with the travel-worn appearance and slight, scholarly stoop. His ticket, valise, passport and visa all came in for suspicious examination before he was thumbed grudgingly from the station.
The only person in sight was a man in a Cordoba hat. Leaning with crossed legs against the flank of a tasseled, flytwitching mule, he was peeling a peach with his thumbnail. At Henry’s question he looked up from this absorbing task.
“Sofia Robledo?” He stared darkly, intently a moment. “Señora Casal, serior. In the square down there—the house with blue shutters.”
Trolley lines that looked little used threaded the dust down the slope. The small square at the foot of the street was garish with the striped awnings of market stalls, looked down on by tall, old, flat-fronted houses with wroughtiron balconies. And Henry saw at once the house with blue shutters. The shutters were tightly closed, but through the open door at ground level he could see a shadowy, cool entrada with rush-seated chairs ranked around a flagstoned floor. On the wall a brass plate announced: F. Arrigo Casal.
Henry’s misgiving deepened. Señora Casalshe had married again then since Ned’s death. Never had he felt more embarrassingly an intruder, almost a spy, than standing here hesitant before this old house in the lull and shine of noon. And he was on the point of turning away, of crossing the square to a cafe to sit down and ponder his opening gambit, when he heard the quick tap of heels. A woman appeared in the entrada. She glanced straight at him and involuntarily he removed his hat.
“Si, señor?” She was perhaps thirty, slender, with a proud bearing. She wore white shoes, a white frock with a black belt. Her face, framed in the black lace which veiled her hair and fell in graceful folds to her shoulders, was ivory pale, fine-drawn, with calm lips and eyes that regarded Henry, standing there in the glare of the sun, with a dark composure.
“My name is Row,” Henry said, in his precise, academic Spanish. “I’m a friend of Edward Marlyn’s.”
He was startled by the change in her expression. As though he had struck her across the mouth, her eyes widened: she raised a hand to a fold of her veil, gazing at him. She looked at him searchingly, drew a long breath. “Enter, señor. And—forgive me—I have bad news for you, as a friend of Eduardo’s.”
“The boy?” Henry said.
“Yes— the boy,” she said. “You had better know at once. He’s not here. For two months we’ve known only that he’s—somewhere with my brother Rafael.”
He saw the ivory shine of her knuckles as her slim hand tightened, gripping the black lace fold of the veil at her cheek.
She looked up at him. “Rafael is a fugitive,” she said. “Wanted for murder.”
HENRY had pictured many different circumstances which he might find when he reached this house, but the story told to him by Sofia and Arrigo Casal was outside his calculations.
The doctor was a big, vigorous man, perhaps ten years older than his wife. His hair was shot with grey. He had a dark, strong face. At lunch in the cool dining room, looking out over a garden shaded by orange trees to the long sweep of a mountain which rose to a peak, pale against the blue, he filled Henry’s wineglass.
“Tell me frankly why you have
come, señor,” he said. And when Henry
told him, he nodded slowly, and he put
a hand on his wife’s. “We don’t talk
much about the past, Señor Row. We
understand each other—that’s enough.
We have a child of our own, now, a
little girl. We would not stand between
Sebastian and any plans his father may
have had for him. Maybe there could
have been between those two some-
thing that there never has been be-
tween Sebastian and me. Not from
any lack of the desire on my part—as
Dona Sofia will witness. Rut he was
already nine when we married. That’s
old enough for hero worship and
Sebastian’s hero, unfortunately, was
his uncle, Rafael Robledo, contra-
bandista, civil war soldier, famous
Continued on page 42
Continued from page 40
slinger.” He smiled grimly. “A
formidable influence for a middle-aged
doctor to combat in a boy’s mind!”
Henry agreed. “You used the word ‘slinger,’ ” he said. “The men of Majorca, the Balearic slingers, were prized auxiliaries of the Roman legions—”
“The stone-hurling sling,” Don Arrigo said, “survives as a means of sport among our young men. With Rafael Robledo it’s been always a passion. I’ve watched him, out on the mountain you see there—Puij Mayor— knock down hawks on the wing. Now it’s his sling that’s made him a fugitive. He cut the eye out of a civil guard, killed him instantly, in a smuggling affray on Deya beach two months ago.”
So that was it, Henry thought. A Balearic slinger. A murderer. He said, “The boy was with him?”
“Countless times,” said Don Arrigo, “he’s been out with Rafael in the contraband luggers. Countless times I’ve punished him for it and his mother has pleaded with him, predicted disaster to him—vainly. But, as it
happened, he wasn’t with Rafael on that occasion.”
He nodded toward the open window, with the mountain beyond, sweltering in the heat.
“Rafael escaped,” he said. “He got away into the broken country beyond Puij Mayor there. No one knows it better than he. The posses combed it interminably without finding any trace of him. And, a week after his disappearance, one night Sebastian was gone, too. Vanished. Oh, we had no doubt where he had gone! He’d often absent himself for days together to roam with Rafael in the hills. He knew his uncle’s secrets, his hide-outs. Rafael was always his hero. Rafael as outlaw ‘wolf's head’ as we say here— was irresistible to him. He’d gone to join Rafael.”
“And that was nearly two months ago?” Henry said. “But how can you be certain he’s with Rafael?”
“We’ve good reason,” Don Arrigo said. He glanced toward the door, lowered his voice. “The guardias have long since given up their search in the hills, Señor Bow. They’re still keeping a keen watch on the contrabandistas' bolt holes around the coast, but they’re more than half convinced that Rafael’s already escaped from the island here. Dona Sofia and I know otherwise. Four mornings ago I found a shutter forced, in this house. That was a small window just big enough for a boy to squeeze through. I searched carefully and found just one thing missing— from Sebastian’s own room. It was a hoard he had made of thongs and supple pouches for slings.”
“Four mornings ago?” Henry said.
Don Arrigo nodded, glanced at his wife. “Tell him of the memory which that nocturnal visit stirred for you, cara."
Sofia said, “Once, years ago, I was in the hills there with Rafael and he showed me the place, a dry watercourse, where he got the stones, certain black pebbles, very heavy and beautifully round, for his sling. He said it was those stones which had made him the best slinger in the island and he jealously guarded the secret of that, place. He swore me to secrecy.”
Don Arrigo took a map from his pocket. “Dona Sofia has marked the place here. If we sent the guardias to set a trap there, they might get Rafael. He must hunt for food; he must need ammunition, stones. But we daren’t send the guardias. They’d shoot on sight. The boy might be killed, too —Sebastian.”
Henry thought of those swarthy,
tough soldiers he had seen at thq station. He nodded.
“I’ve thought of going myself,’ƒ Don Arrigo said. “I have a plan—very simple. I should conceal myself at the place of stones and watch. If and when they came, Rafael and the boy, I should trail them to their hide-out. 1 should keep it under observation till they emerged again, then I should slip inside and—one moment.”
He rose, opened a door. Henry glimpsed the white cabinets of a surgery; and, returning, Don Arrigo laid a tiny, corked phial on the checkered tablecloth.
“A doctor’s weapon,” he said—“the only one I should take. No shooting. Nothing that could endanger the boy. Simply, I should drop this powder into the water, wine, whatever they have there. And when they returned and drank—they would sleep for twenty-four hours or so. 1 should carry the boy away.”
Henry looked at him steadily. “And Rafael?”
“I could send the guardias to bring him in or—I could keep a still tongue. I don’t know,” Don Arrigo said. “He is Dona Sofia’s brother. She can’t bring herself to believe, as 1 believe, that he’s never forgiven your friend Edward Marlyn. No one can hate like a Spaniard, if he so chooses, and it’s my belief that Rafael’s influence over Sebastian has been exercised deliberately for evil. Rafael’s been denied direct revenge on Marlyn so strikes at him indirectly by leading the boy into wickedness, corruption, danger.” He glanced at his wife. “I am sorry, Sofia—”
She said only, “You can’t go, Arrigo, you know it. This might involve days of watching, of vigil. The only doctor in Soller, with patients you dare not leave, how can you go?”
“Yet supposing I suggested this plan to the guardias,” Don Arrigo said, “can you see them using the patience it calls for? The whole point is to safeguard the boy. One glimpse of Rafael and they’d start shooting, regardless of Sebastian. Oh, we’ve been over it interminably!”
Henry was looking at the phial on the tablecloth. There was a slow thud in his chest. The historian in him was thinking, “A Balearic slinger, direct descendant of the auxiliaries of the legions of Trajan—outlaw in his own terrain.” But the veteran in him was thinking of Ned Marlyn’s son—and of Ned, a year ago, in a gleaming white, streamlined hospital thousands of miles awayof a promise to a man now dead.
Almost of its own accord, his hand moved, closed on the phial, dropped it into his shirt pocket. He saw the sudden light of incredulity and hope in Sofia’s dark eyes.
He said dryly, “It’s a good plan.”
BUT by the blazing midafternoon of his third day in the hills bsyond Puij Mayor, his faith in Don Arrigo’s plan had withered almost to extinction in the heat quiver over charred wilderness .
It was lonesome, arid country of razor-edged ridges and boulder-strewn arroyos. From a cranny amoag rocks he was gazing down the slope of parched watercourse. The only sign of life was a yellovv-and-black lizard streaking over the stones. The only sound was the brittle seething of crickets.
He ran a finger around under the handkerchief knotted at his throat, uncorked the wineskin loaned to him by Don Arrigo. The warm, acid liquor stung his lips, cracked by the heat. As he passed the back of his hand over them, he felt the prick of beard stubble. Six miles away stood the monastery
of Puij Mayor, the only building in this desolation. By tradition, the monks gave to the wayfarer the hospitality of a cell for a limit of four nights; but they didn’t, Henry reflected, rasping his stubble, run to candles to light the toilet of guests who rose in the dark long before dawn.
He had made the monastery his headquarters. It seemed unlikely that Rafael Robledo would seek stones for his sling after dark. Therefore, Henry had trudged back each night to the monastery to sleep. But after tonight, his fourth, the monastery would be closed to himemdash;unless, perhaps, he were to explain to the almoner his real purpose in these hills.
Staring absently at the sun shimmer over the stones as he thrust the cork back into the wineskin, he wondered whether it would be worth while to seek an extension from the almoner. Three days he’d had, now, of this vain vigil. He was at the exact spot which Sofia had declared to be the source of Rafael Robledo’s black stones. Beside him, under a pair of field glasses loaned to him by Don Arrigo, lay the map Sofia had marked. There could be no question but that this was the place. But what real chance was there that Robledo would come?
Silently over the rocks sailed a black dot of shadow. Looking up, he saw a vulture hovering in blue infinities.
“What do you see?” Henry wondered. “A man and a boy prowling, fugitive, in this scorched hinterland?” Or were they gone, slipped away to sea in some contraband lugger? Did he alone, he and the striped lizards, move and breathe in this wilderness?
Sitting with his back to a rock, hot to his shoulder blades, he rolled a cigarette. It was a measure of his discouragement, for fearing a wisp of smoke might betray him just as Robledo came, this was the first cigarette he had risked.
And he didn’t light it.
The matchbox was in his hand when a sudden rattle of stones made him snatch the cigarette from his lips and sprawl full length. He peered out between the boulders, felt the thud of his heart.
Thirty yards away, down the opposite bank tumbled a small cascade of pebbles, followed instantly by a brown streak that hurtled from between two cactus clumps and landed on neat, bunched hooves on the dry stones of the stream bed.
He glimpsed the curled, massy horns and pale eyes of a mountain goat. It wheeled away, bounded fleet-footed down the watercourseemdash;and a leather thong cracked in the air like a whiplash. A stone hummed, venomous as a hornet, struck a rock and ricocheted in a whining arc.
A figure had appeared on the crest of the opposite bank, against the sky.
It was a boy, shirtless, in blue cotton trousers, with a pouch dangling from his leather belt. His brown, bare chest heaved; sweat made rivulets down his dusty ribs. His hair was a dark, closecurling mop. Thumbing a new stone into the sling pouch in his left hand, with his right he jerked the thongs taut, slanting across his body.
“Aqui!” he shouted. “Aqui, Rafael; this way!”
He plunged down fiercely through the cactus.
His shout had been directed roughly in Henry’s direction and simultaneously Henry heard the clatter of a loose stone nearby. There was a sudden thud of hempen sandals and a shadow fell across him. He twisted his head, glancing round and up.
Gigantic against the sky, a man stood poised on a boulder, staring down at him in stupefaction.
Henry moved swiftly, heaving to his knees. But Robledo was swifter. He dived. His hands crushed in on Henry’s throat. Hurled back, Henry’s head met the rock behind him with an impact that burst in his skull like a bomb.
NOW, he was just one solid ache above the shoulders and his head weighed a ton. He tried to raise a hand to it, but couldn’t; his wrists were lashed together under him. The discovery galvanized his memory and he opened his eyes in a hurry.
Above him was a roof of groined, pale rock, quivered over by sun shimmer and tree shadow. He stared up at the moving patterns in wonder and a face came and looked down at him. It was a brown, boy’s face, clean-cut like \ Dona Sofia’s, blue-eyed and black -browed like Ned Marlyn’s.
For a moment the boy and tin historian gazed at each other wordlessly, then Henry smiled with stiiV lips. “Que tel, amigo?" he said. “Rafael!” the boy shouted.
Henry rolled his pulsing head sideways. He was lying against the rear ! wall of a shallow cave with a floor of drifted sand. The arched cave mouth was almost blocked by a growing atom* pine. A hand pulled the branches aside and he saw the white lightning of the sun on tumbled rocks.
A man ducked into the cave. Lithe ■ and hard-muscled like the boy, he wore only trousers and hempen sandals, j with a pouch at his belt. He had Don Arrigo’s field glasses in his hand. His j hair gleamed black as enamel; his | clean-shaven, handsome, aquiline face ; was olive-skinned, with a strange rigidity of expression. He looked down at Henry with dark, hard eyes.
“All right,” he said to the hoy. “Untie his hands and give him some breakfast.”
“Breakfast?” Henry said.
Robledo sat down on a ledge of rock, began to roll a cigarette. The package of tobacco and hook of papers were Henry’s own.
“You slept all night,” Robledo said. “The sun’s been up two hours, Pro1 fessor Bow.”
“All night?” Henry said. A thought ! struck him. “How did you know mv name?”
Robledo held up a letter. Henry saw the address on the envelope. It was the letter from Ned Marlyn.
“Very interesting,” Robledo said. “I can read English, you know.” lie lighted his cigarette, the smoke drift ing across his keen, rigid face. “So Marlyn wanted the boy back, eh? And my sister sent you to the place where I get my sling stonesemdash;and hunting that j goat, we ran right on top of you. What , was your idea, professor? What was | your plan?”
The boy had freed Henry’s hands. His ankles remained bound. He heaved himself to a sitting position, his back to the cave wall. The boy thrust an ensaimadaemdash;a kind of dough cakeat him and a chipped enamel mug with wine in it.
“Well?” Robledo said.
“I wanted a parley with you,” I Henry said. “There is a matter of great I importance that I mustemdash;”
“To get me to hand over the boy? I ! see.” Robledo held out a hand. On his palm lay the corked, glass phial. “And this? Some damned drug to put me to sleep if the parley failed? To be dropped into your wineskin before you offered it to me? ‘No hard feelings, Robledoemdash;have a drink.’ And when I’d passed out, you’d have taken the boy. Was that the idea?”
“Something like that,” Henry admitted.
“A suggestion of my brother-in-law.
the medico, I suspect,” Robledo said. “Dios, how they hate me.”
“You’re allowing an innocent boy to share your danger. Sooner or later, you’ll be caught.”
“Never! Not alive!”
“And Sebastian’s to share that fate? For no other reason,” Henry said, “than that you’re his hero? You can accept the sacrifice from a twelveyear-old boy’s loyalty?”
Robledo gestured contemptuously. “High talk !”
“What good does it do you to keep the boy with you?” Henry said. “You killed a man. Now, you must fight for your own life. But it’s your fight, not the boy’s. Let me take him away.”
“To America?” Robledo laughed. “What was it the letter said? To give him education, opportunity, a chance in life? You hear, Sebastian? Classrooms and a part in your hair and games with an oval ball! You hear what the professor offers you? Untie his ankles, Sebastian. Go on. go with him! Should I stop you—I—wolf’s head? Go on,” he shouted, with sudden violence, “get out!”
The boy stood sullenly, with clenched hands.
“Digo hombre,” Robledo grinned “what’s this? Can it be you’d rather come tonight in the boat with Granero and me? There’ll be guardias along the coast, mark you—with guns—watching for us. Safer to go with the professor, Sebastian!”
The boy, meeting Henry’s eyes, spat deliberately on the sand on the ground and ground it with his hempen sandal.
“So,” said Robledo. “All right, get out there and keep an eye peeled for Granero.”
He drew deeply on his cigarette, watching Henry with narrowed eyes through the drift of smoke, as the boy went out.
Henry said dryly, “A cheap triumph, Robledo. It means nothing to you, then—the boy’s loyalty, these weeks of companionship in the hills here, the danger he’s shared with you voluntarily? It’s given you no feeling for him, no affection? You know, I wanted to meet you—a descendant of the Balearic slingers, the hold men who marched with the legions. After all, you’re only half a man—degenerate—”
A thrust of Robledo’s foot hurled him on his side. A hard knee ground into his back as Robledo jerked the thongs taut about his wrists.
“I pay my debts,” Rafael Robledo said softly. “You shouldn’t have come, Professor Bow.”
The branches swished in the cave mouth as he went out.
LONG twisting and straining at the leather thongs only rasped the skin from his wrists, Henry found, and made the sweat stream from him. The cave, filled with amber, filtered sunshine, grew hot as a kiln as the day advanced.
His head ached viciously. He'could hear nothing of the man and hoy—only a deep, drowsy hum of flies, the occasional whirring of a cricket. Pain and heat made his thoughts wander. At last, from exhaustion, he dozed.
“Thirsty, professor?” He wakened with a start as a foot nudged his ribs. Robledo stood over him. “ Una capita?”
Henry moistened his parched lips. “I could use one,” he said.
The cave was as hot as ever; from the light, he judged the time to be midafternoon. Robledo, squatting, splashed wine from a skin into the battered mug.
Straightening up, holding the mug, he said, “A little flavoring to it, eh?” He held up Don Arrigo’s glass phial between finger and thumb, then hit
the cork from the phial, spat out the cork, dropped the powder into the! mug. “Now, professor!” He dropped; on one knee at Henry’s side. “Lift your head and I’ll play nurse.”
“What’s the idea?” Henry said. His heart thumped.
Robledo’s eyes were fixed on him keenly. “For your own good, professor. We’ll be gone in a few hours, the boy and me. Are we to let you.go —to put the guardias on the alert all around the coast? No, señor! Then shall we leave you here, bound? You will die, professor, and maybe one day your bones will be found in this cave. A pity. We have no quarrel with you. What then? You brought your own salvation with you—the powder, eh? You will drink the potion you meant me to drink. A sleeping draught, verdad? Good. When you’re asleep. I’ll cut your bonds. And when you wake— why, you’re free to go. We shall he at sea by then—well at sea. Come, professor, lift your head!”
There was nothing he could do. His helplessness had the quality of nightmare. The handsome, dark face above him was rigid, implacable; the jetblack, fine eyes stared down at him with a bitter scorn.
“Must I use force?” Robledo said. “A knee in your chest? Your nose held?”
He moved abruptly—and checked, listening, as a shout came, urgent, from beyond the cave mouth: “Rafael! Rafael!”
Robledo rose swiftly, set the mug on the ledge of rock, whipped out his sling. Jerking the thongs taut, he dived out through the branches.
Henry heaved himself with difficulty to a sitting position, his back to the wall. He listened, his breath held. No
sound but the hum of flies, weaving sharp-angled patterns in the tawny light. Then a loose stone rattled. He heard the thud of sandals, running. The branches were whipped aside and Sebastian ducked in.
Panting, he glanced around the cave. Don Arrigo’s field glasses stood on the ledge of rock. The boy seized them, saw the filled mug, drained it so hastily that wine spilled on his chest; and with the field glasses in his hand he ran out.
Henry sat rigid.
So swift had been the incident, so unexpected, he had had no chance to give warning. The boy had taken the sleeping draught. And into the mind of the historian, as he sat intently listening, there came the glimmer of a possibility.
He didn’t know what was happening out there, what had alarmed them. Perhaps help was coming. But if it weren’t—if it wt.e a false alarm—
His idea limned itself in Henry’s mind. It was a long shot, a gamble. For all Robledo’s bitter taunt that he would see the boy dead before Marlyn should have him, it seemed to Henry impossible that the boy’s loyalty, his companionship through weeks of danger, could have been utterly without effect on the slinger.
Henry shouted suddenly, “Robledo! Robledo!”
No answer. Only the surge of the pulse in his own head. Minutes passed. He fought again with the thongs about his wrists—fought vainly. Sweat streamed down his haggard face.
“Robledo!” he shouted again.
He heard someone coming, then. Robledo brushed through the branches. He carried the boy in his arms. He laid Sebastian down on the sanded floor,
snatched the mug from the ledge, looked at Henry.
“I couldn’t stop him,” Henry said. “It happened too quick.”
Robledo hurled the mug from him. “It was a priest out there, very far off,” he said—“just a priest from the monastery. And now this!” He looked down at the boy. “Well, we’ll carry him, that’s all—Granero and me. He comes with us tonight.”
“No,” Henry said. “You get him to a doctor, get him there quick, or he’ll be dead by tonight!” He drew in his breath. “We’ve been tricked, both of us, Robledo—by your brother-in-law. Hate you? I’ll tell you what he said of you. He said you were a mad dog that you should be removed painlessly, like any other mad dog. I’d have fought you with my teeth rather than drink that, wine just now. Every instinct told me that that was no simple sleeping draught in that phial. His instructions were too implicit that it was for you—for you alone! It wasn’t a sleeping draught, Robledo. It was a draught for a mad dog not meant to wake!"
Robledo took a pace forward. He looked at Henry with a dark shine in his eyes. “Liar!” he said, quite softly. His hand smashed across Henry’s mouth. “Liar!” he repeated and struck again, back-handed. “Liar! Liar!”
Blood from cut lips was salt in Henry’s mouth. It brought him a fierce exaltation. This man, after all, had feeling—something in him beyond the rigor of hatred. The boy meant something to him, whether he had realized it or not. Hope flared in Henry.
He said steadily, “You half guessed, yourself, that that phial was lethal— when I refused to drink. You suspected, Robledo! As I did!”
Robledo straightened suddenly, looking down at the boy.
“Get him to a doctor,” Henry said. “Or, if you daren’t, let me take him in—”
Robledo stood unmoving. In the filtered, burning sunshine his face might have been a carved rock.
“You’d rather see him die at your feet than give him a chance?” Henry said. “You meant that? All right., Robledo. It may take a few hours. It’ll be painless. Don Arrigo is a doctor—a humane man—”
Robledo stooped. From the fingers of the boy’s limp hand he unwound the thongs of a sling. He straightened slowly, looking at it.
Henry didn’t breathe.
Rafael Robledo’s hand closed hard on the thongs, then threw them from him. He took a knife from his pocket, flicked open the long blade. He slashed Henry’s bonds at wrist and ankle and straightened, stepping back. Without a glance at the boy, he thrust through the branches across the cave mouth and was gone.
ON A ridge half a mile distant from the cave, Henry Bow turned and looked back. Heat currents still quivered visibly over rock and cactus, though the sun was sinking toward the peak of Puij Mayor and his own shadow lay elongated.
He could see the stone pine at the cave mouth, but there was no sign of Rafael Robledo. A lizard streaked across the stones; the crickets seethed.
Henry drew a long breath. He shifted the sleeping boy to a more comfortable position across his shoulder. Thin and tall, with his slight stoop, the old tweed hat shading his haggard, meditative face, he turned and trudged on.
From far off, beyond the peak of Puij Mayor, came a cry like a hunting horn’s. Henry Bow smiled slightly, and his stride lengthened. +