The Alcalde's Visit
MISSER WILLIAMS had just returned from the North. He had come down in the fruit steamer. He had taken Tete to the North with him to wait upon the señnora, having borrowed him from the Señorita Carlota. Of the two ladies, Tete did not know which he adored the more.
Misser Williams had lost several valuable articles. This he had not discovered until after he had left the steamer, so that now he was sending Tete back at once with letters to the American captain and the Alcalde at Saltona, to see if they could aid him in finding out the whereabouts of his belongings.
Tete had tried to catch a ride on the fruit train, but Garcia was inexorable. His orders were that the peons, natives, workingmen, and boys should not be allowed to travel thus through the plantations, and Tete must perforce walk all the way to the company’s wharf under the rays of the scorching sun. As usual, he was grumbling one moment and smiling the next. The train rumbled down from a side plantation and ran round the curve. Tete shook his head. “ No,” he said. “ They will not allow that I ride. And what difference, — I that have the good legs ! ”
He ran up the little path that here arose and skirted the track. The breeze began to blow upon his face, — the strong, sweet breeze from the bay. Tete stopped under a great tree, himself as straight as a young palm. He stretched out his arms ; his fine, straight hair blew about his eyes.
“ I love to live ! ” he shouted to the parrots overhead. “ I love, I love to live ! Their North is fine ! Their casas are grand! But give to me my island, my breezes, my palms, my bananas, and my people ! ” A listener would have thought little Tete a real-estate owner, a planter, a sovereign.
When Tete reached the wharf it was midday. The cars had arrived long before him with their load of green fruit. The inspector, a large, red-faced Scotchman, was busy counting the bunches as they were handed over the side.
“ We feel that the sun shine, but we have not the red skin to show,” said Tete. “ That Seño’ Inspecto’ will soon be wash away. He maike several river every minute.”
Tete had joined the peons near, and stood with them watching the disposition of their favorite fruit. They gazed with longing eyes at the bunches which were thrown overboard, and floated on the waters of the bay. One might have been tempted to jump into the water to save some of the finest five-hand bunches, but for that scavenger the shark. The fin which he poked above the surface, now and then, showed that he was ready for his next meal at any time.
“ And what will you be doing here, Tete ? ” asked the inspector.
“ It is Misser Williams who send me to Saltona on some messages, seño’.”
“ Messages ? ”
“Si, seño’.” Tete’s pouting lip closed downward like the lid of a trap, at the suggestion of curiosity in the inspector’s tone.
“ And how will you be getting there ? ”
“ The Esperanza will carry me, Seño’ Inspecto’.”
The inspector went on counting, — “ Nine, eight, ten, ten, eight. Suppose I refuse to let ye go, me lad ? Ten, nine, ten.” The inspector almost lost count of the numbers of hands on the different bunches.
“ The messages of the Misser Williams must be carry, Seño’ Inspecto’.”
“ That will be a poor six-hand bunch, Petrozo. Throw it overboard. Suppose I refuse ye, lad — seven, eight, ten, seven. They will be getting smaller, Petrozo.”
“ Those message must go there, Seño’ Inspecto’.”
“ Try it, me lad.”
“ I will do as the seño’ advise.”
“ Captain, this youngster says he will be going to Saltona with ye.”
“ Can’t go ! ”
Tete pouted. He did not express his feeling at once in words. Like others of the human race, he took it out on somebody else. He turned and rushed along the stringpiece of the wharf. He came to where Antonio Tallaza was sitting. Antonio Tallaza was fishing. Tete seated himself on the other side of the piles, his legs hanging down toward the water. The pile against which he leaned swayed with his slight weight.
“ Those toredos! They will leave them no wharf at all, the next thing! ”
Antonio Tallaza scowled at Tete’s muttering. He scowled more fiercely at the shark which came nosing round the hook and carried away his bait. He was experimenting with the oysters that grow on trees. Of that in sequel.
Tete laughed. Antonio Tallaza turned upon him with rage. He raised a piece of the filling of the wharf. Tete jumped to his feet. He seized the stone from Antonio Tallaza, and threw it with a great splash at the shark.
“ Thou fish of the devil! ” said he. beating the American captain over the shoulders of the shark, “ thou swimmer from hell! stealing the morsel which is dangling to tempt thy Christian brother ! ”
“You will hand to me that branch of oysters, Tete.”
Tete lifted the branch which was hanging full with shells. At that moment the steamer’s whistle sounded. He dropped the mass of bait into the water. The shark opened his jaws. The dainty clisappeared.
“Ah! that thou wert there, also!” ejaculated Antonio Tallaza, as he saw the great jaws close.
So the loading was over. The steamer would he starting in a moment. No one had ever got ahead of the American captain. No, no. not even in this land where getting ahead was meat and drink. Tete stood stolid, deaf even to the revilings of Antonio Tallaza. What was it to him that Antonio Tallaza must walk up the long, hot wharf; that he must plunge into the mud left by the falling tide, to pluck from the roots of the mangrove the bivalve - ridden stems ? He, Tete, had other worlds to conquer.
“ Thou wilt lose thy boat! That please me very well,’ growled Antonio Tallaza, as he plodded up the track.
“ I know my business best, Antonio Tallaza ; you may employ yourself in attending to your shark. ”
The fruit steamer had been warped round from the end of the wharf to avoid Palm Tree Island.
“ Let go your lines ! ” shouted the American captain from his station on the upper deck.
The gangplank was removed. The propeller turned over once, twice. Tete ran lightly along the stringpiece. The steamer was well away from the wharf, and getting farther away every second. Could he do it ? If he did not, there was no small boat to save him, and there were the sharks. One’s heart stood still. It was a phenomenal leap. The slight body flew swift and straight as a die. It landed on the lower deck, just escaping the rail.
The American captain saw it with the tails of the eyes which were avoiding Palm Tree Island on the one side, and the coral reef on the other. This was no time for discipline. Later he would see to that. But later he remembered nothing save the pluck and the courage.
“ I have a great mind to put back to the wharf, you young devil,” smiled the American captain.
“ I would be glad to save you that trouble, Seño’ Capitan,” said Tete very politely.
The señora had tried to teach Tete that polite words are never wasted. Fortunately, he sometimes remembered this.
Arrived at Saltona, twelve miles across the great bay as the crow flies, Tete skirmished. Juan Ruiz, who kept the cockpit outside the town, wondered what little Tete Dessange was doing so far from home. “ And has the little Tete brought his cock to fight at my Gallera to-night ? ” he asked. “ I have not brought my cock, Juan Ruiz. It is the truth, no doubt, that my fine young cock could tear the brains from every cock in Saltona. Then I should take thy dollars back to the Cattle Farm with me, Juan Ruiz. But I am here on much more important businesses than that fighting of the cock.”
Juan shrugged his shoulders and turned on his horny heel. He knew only too well the reputation of Tete’s black oneeyed cock.
Then Tete addressed a gentleman who was lounging slowly down the baking, uneven street. The stranger was a finelooking man, though his skin was darker than Tete’s own. His starched white suit, fresh pink shirt, and fine Panama hat proclaimed him a personage of some importance. He raised his cigarette to his lips and puffed lazily. Probably, if Tete could have read his thoughts, he would have found that the gentleman was saying to himself over and over, “ The English company must be squeezed a little more, — just a little more ! They can stand it. They could not leave now ! It would be fatal to them. They have invested so much in ” —
“You wish to speak to me, muchacho ? ” for Tete had touched his crownless hat. As he did so, he noticed the large seal ring on the slim dark hand that held the cigarette.
“ Will the seño’ be so good direct me to the Seño’ Alcalde ? ”
“ What should you want with the Alcalde, boy ? ” The tone was pleasant enough.
“ I have some messages for the Seño’ Alcalde, seño’.”
The stranger held out his hand. Then Tete formed his plans, and soliloquized thus : “ Betta retain those messages in my bosom. That will serve Misser Williams the best. The man that is on the spot know the most than the other man which is not there.”
“ A letter ? You can give it to me. I am the Alcalde.”
Tete pulled the straw brim from off the wisps of black hair which stuck up like burned branches. He bowed politely, and looked about to left, to right, assuming an air of great secrecy and importance.
“ I convey a message to the Seño’ Alcalde, it is true, but no written message.” How limp and wet the manager’s letter to the Alcalde felt against his warm little body! “ The message
is from the Don Felipe Rodriguez, the father of my Seño’it’ Carlota. The Don Felipe ask the Seño’ Alcalde to present himself at the Cattle Farm on Thursday and dine.”
The Alcalde’s cunning eyes shot forth a gleam of joy. He raised his slim fingers and stroked his drooping mustache to hide an exultant smile. Then it might not be true about the Don Hilario ! Else the Don Felipe would never send for him.
“ On what day, muchacho ? Thursday ? ”
“ Si, Seño’ Alcalde.”
Tete watched every movement of the Alcalde. He noted the well - starched cuffs and the gleam of the handsome sleeve-links.
The Alcalde pondered for a moment. He desired to accept, above all things. What was in the way to prevent ? Only that he might meet some one whom he did not care just now to see.
“ Where is the American managero. muchacho ? At Las Lilas ? ”
“No, Seño’ Alcalde. Mister Williams has return to the es-States. He go in steamer Esperanza, who sail today.”
“ Ah ! North again ! He must be fond of that North. For me, I like not that North, Here I am great man, gentleman. There I am — Well, well ! say to the señorita — ahem!—the Señor Don Felipe — that I will come with great pleasure. Thursday, — why, that is the day after to-morrow, boy ! ”
“ And to bring a small hair trunk, and remain days without number, seño’.” Tete’s experience had been with visitors from the States.
The Alcalde raised his hand to his mouth again. His joy was as broad as his smile. She must have rejected Don Hilario, then !
“ Where is the Señora Sagas— Williams, muchacho ? ” The Alcalde was a wise man ; he wished to be sure of his ground.
“ She accompany the Misser Williams. Also the old señora, the Señora Cordeza; also the peons. John Francios and Carrate ; also the maid Fanaelie ; also ” — Tete had lost his wits in the mazes of invention.
“ I care not about the plans of the Sefior Managero. How shall I get from the wharf to the Cattle Farm ? My horse is afraid of the fin-keel. No steamer for some days yet.”
“ The seño’it’ — I would say, then, the Sefio Don Felipe — will have a horse at the wharf, the company’s wharf. And now I return, Seño’ Alcalde.”
The Alcalde mused, smiling. “ The boy’s slips are certainly reassuring. She has undoubtedly sent for me. Of that I am certain.” And then aloud, “ You shall take my boat, muchacho.” They were walking toward the quay. “ There is a fine fresh breeze. Here, Garcia, take the muchacho across to the company’s wharf. Return at once. I shall need the boat on Thursday. She must be painted.” Fine visions flew through the brain of the Alcalde of a magic name on the stern, and a moonlight sail on the waters of the bay with one— “ And to bring a little hair trunk, Seño’ Alcalde.”
“ I shall arrive on the Thursday, muchacho.”
“ And I will myself meet the Seño’ Alcalde when he shall arrive.”
Tete’s airs of importance rivaled those of an ambassador who had come on a mission for the arrangement of a royal wedding.
As Tete started on his return trip his pout was gone. A smile illumined his lips. His eye had grown soft and gentle as a fawn’s.
Tete stood at the mast, his arm clasping it, to insure safety, his straight black hair blowing in the wild, sweet breeze.
“ And why should I not do those for my Misser Williams, who make a travel person of me? And if in the es-States I carry the señora’ shawl, can I do less for those who are kind in their hearts to me ? And if I do use my Seño’it’ Carlota’ name, will she not laugh and show her white teeth when I reveal to her all this fine plan which I make ? ”
Tete felt in the bosom of his shirt, and drew therefrom a letter addressed in Misser Williams’s round, straightforward hand. The outer covering was stained by the fine red string which was tied round the packet, but Tete knew that the inner paper was intact.
“ To be sure it is soak of my sweat,” said Tete, ” but it dry in the trade wind. If I deliver this letter, would not those sleeve-link get hid ? And am I wrong in supposing that the round, flat thing on some one’s ‘es-stomack, I have seen, oh ! many times before ? I should like
to put my ear to that es-stomack. It is the firs’ time a es-stomack shall tick! I shall return the letter to Misser Williams when the time come, and I must inform Misser Williams that my way better than hees way. One must put salt on the tails of such a bird.”
On the following Thursday the Alcalde of Saltona set sail for Cañno Sandros in his fine fin-keel boat. He had changed its name from “ La Paloma ” to “ La Carlota.’ The paint was scarcely dry. The waves lap-lapping at the stern washed it away little by little. It was as well that the Alcalde did not know this ; he was, in a measure, superstitious. The boat had a holiday appearance, and the Alcalde, in his greenstriped suit, and his lilac shirt with pink dots, set off with an orange-colored tie, looked the embodiment of happy hopes. True to his promise, Tete was in waiting at the company’s wharf. He bestrode a large brown bull, and held the rein of a fine gray stallion.
“ That horse looks very much like the one that belonged to old Sagasta, — the one that the American managero rides now,” thought the Alcalde.
There was no train at the wharf. The fruit ready for the market had all been cut for the week and sent North. The hair trunk, which had been brought by the Alcalde at Tete’s suggestion, was hoisted out of the boat and dumped upon the wharf.
“ The fine hair trunk of the Seño’ Alcalde will be sent for by train,” said Tete. “ The agent has give the order.” Tete’s imagination had no limit. It was boundless as the ocean upon which he gazed.
The strangely assorted pair struck back into the interior. The Alcalde led upon the gray, which he thought had been sent for him by the order of Don Felipe,—the gray which had in reality belonged to the Señor Sagasta, and which Misser Williams, ignorant and trusting, believed to be resting in the stall as cure for a slight sprain.
Tete followed the Alcalde, upon the big brown bull, which Misser Williams, grown a little lazier now, and less inquisitive, thought far away over the hills, carrying suckers to the newly cleared land.
The Alcalde rode with the ease and assurance of the accomplished horseman. Tete rode with the same ease and assurance, though with less grace. His short legs stood out straight from the sides of the aparejo upon which he sat. Sometimes he varied the monotony of his journey by standing upright on his flat pack saddle, and with the crooked stick that he carried he goaded the bull into a run. This annoyed the gray, who jumped and caracoled unpleasantly, at which Tete chuckled silently. When the Alcalde remonstrated in rather violent language, Tete, ever polite where interest demanded, answered, “ It is this devil of a bull that run, seño’. He wish to gore the horse. I should not be surprise if he gore the horse before we arrive at the Cattle Farm.” On account of such remarks the Alcalde did not ride with his accustomed pleasure.
As the pair neared the outskirts of the home inclosure of Las Lilas, a horseman came riding swiftly down toward them. It was Misser Williams astride the little roan. When the Alcalde saw that it was the American manager, he made as if to turn the gray short in his tracks. The path was narrow, and Tete, who had also caught sight of the manager, strange to say, had placed the bull across it. He was standing up on the saddle to pick some lilies that drooped from an overhanging vine.
The rage that consumed the Alcalde turned his face to a dull ash color. He saw at once that the boy had duped him ; for what cause he could not determine. That the American manager was here at Las Lilas instead of steaming Northward in the Esperanza made him feel anything but comfortable, A quick backward glance over his shoulder showed him a narrow path, with a steep precipice on one side, on the other a high wall of ragged rock, and across the path the heavy body of the big brown bull. There was nothing for it but to go on. The Alcalde gave the spur to the gray and faced Misser Williams.
“ Ah, señor, a pleasant surprise ! ” said Misser Williams.
The Alcalde raised his line large Panama and made the American a sweeping bow. “ Señor,” he said, “ this imp of the devil has had the assurance to tell me that you and the señora had gone again into the North. I am pleased to find that the Señor Superintendente is still among us.”
“ The gray ! ” gasped the manager, as he eyed the stallion. “ You are welcome to all that I have, Señor Alcalde: my house is yours, my servants are yours.”
The Alcalde interrupted the manager : “ Pardon, Señor Managero, but I should like to own that devil’s spawn” — he pointed backward at Tete — “ for the space of a half hour.”
“Tete belongs at the Cattle Farm,” said the manager, smiling, " though he is as much here as there. But the gray, señor—I cannot understand — he has been laid up with a sprain.”
Misser Williams looked searchingly at Tete, who stood on his saddle plucking great yellow tubes. Then the Alcalde wheeled the stallion, and together they regarded the boy. Apparently, both gentlemen were beginning to realize that some one had been taking liberties. As the gaze of two pairs of eyes brought no response from Tete, the American signed to the Alcalde to precede him.
“After you, Alcalde.”
The Alcalde, seeing that there was no possibility of passing by Tete and the bull, resigned himself to the inevitable.
“ Why did you tell the Señor Alcalde that I had gone, Tete ? ” called back Misser Williams.
“ Because I wished the Alcalde to believe it, seño’.”
Misser Williams raised his shoulders with a careless shrug. “You see, Señor Alcalde. They never have a reason for what they do ; they are hopeless liars.”
Suddenly the Alcalde’s saddle slipped. He put his slim hand quickly behind him and clutched the crupper to right it. This action shortened his coat-sleeve. There was a flash from his wrist. Misser Williams started.
“ This is the path to Las Lilas, Señor Alcalde. You will go home with me and dine.” The tone sounded more like a command than the manager intended that it should.
“ I should be most happy, señor, but I am promised at the Cattle Farm of the Señor Felipe.”
Not to-night, surely, señor. They are all away at Haldez. They have gone on some very particular business. I am going to join them this evening. Come home and dine with me, and we can ride over together when the sun goes down. They will be delighted to welcome you.’’
The Alcalde had no intention of spending more time in the manager’s company than was necessary. He was consumed with rage, but he was also consumed with hunger. The fame of the cook at Las Lilas had reached even farther than Saltona. He leaned out of his saddle and glowered back at the toes of Tete, who was seated sidewise. His bull plodded with wide strides slowly after the horses. The Alcalde thought, “ What excuse can I give for wanting to turn and rush down to the coast again in this devil’s sun ? ” Aloud he said, “ That young liar ! He brought me a message from Don Felipe.”
“ And not one from me ? ” asked Misser Williams.
The manager was regarding Tete. The boy shook his head violently and waved the letter in the sun. Then he stood up on his saddle.
“ You are right, Señor Alcalde,” said he, smiling. “ I have my motives.”
“ Imp of the devil! I shall ask you to send that boy to the cep’ to-morrow, Señor Managero.”
The manager was thinking deeply. “ If Tete has done wrong, he shall certainly be punished, Señor Alcalde.” For the borrowing of the stallion and the brown bidl Fete might need disciplinary measures. Misser Williams looked serious. “ But you will not refuse my invitation, señor ? I am alone, with the exception of the Señora Cordeza.”
The Alcalde’s inner man was gnawing, and, all things considered, he could do nothing but accept.
And now they had reached the veranda steps. The gentlemen alighted. The horses were led away, the bull trotted after, and all were tethered so securely by Tete that no slight effort would release them.
“Lola, show the Señor Alcalde to the green chamber, and bring pure water and some fresh clothes.”
“ The blue room is nearer, ” said Lola, argumentative like her race.
“ Take the Señor Alcalde to the green room, Lola.” The entire order was repeated.
Lola retreated sulkily. The Alcalde followed in her wake. The woman went for water. The Alcalde tried to close his door. It had swollen and would not close, as all the household knew. For doors grow, as every one must know who has built a house.
Misser Williams was not long behind his guest. He hovered over him ; he made it a point of hospitality to see with his own eyes that fresh water and cool linen were brought to the chamber. He sat just outside the door, where he could watch his every movement, and talked with his guest.
The Alcalde was constrained, and did his dressing in a very awkward manner. Sometimes he turned his back on the manager ; without ostentation, however.
When Tete went to the stables, Cito Mores was lounging against one of the posts. Bully, Leon, and two ragged grooms were each busily engaged in lounging against his own particular post, each one chewing his own particular straw.
“Why did you bring the Alcalde to Las Lilas, boy ? ” asked Cito Mores.
“ That is my business, Cito Mores. I must look after Misser Williams, since there is no one else to look after him. Perhaps, Leon, and you, Bully, it would be a good thing to attend to the roan and the gray, and not eat up all of the straw that they may have no beds.”
“ But the Alcalde,” persisted Cito Mores. “ Why did he come ? ”
“ He knows no more than you yourself, Cito Mores. Do you think that he would have come if I tell to him the reasons ? If you will take the advice from one which has travel and which know the world, you will draw near the casa; the Señor Managero may require you presence.”
Misser Williams and his guest sat upon the broad veranda, beneath the shade of a bougainvillea vine. Lola brought out a tray with cigarillos and some fine old rum. She took the yellow water jar from its short branch upon the natural pilotijo. She placed it, dripping with moisture, upon the table. It made a wet, cold ring. Old Marta must have the time to concoct a special dish for so distinguished a guest as the Alcalde. Juan must bring mangoes from the large tree down by the river. He must also bring aguacate pears of the finest from the pasture patch, though they were not well ripe as yet.
The Alcalde sat with his green-striped coat buttoned tightly across his breast, his arms squarely folded. The heat was excessive ; the breeze had died away.
“ Open your coat, Senor Alcalde, I beg of you. It is a hot day, even at Las Lilas. Let me hand you a fan.” Misser Williams took a palm leaf from the rack behind his head.
The Alcalde sat like a statue. He bowed stiffly.
“ I thank you, Señor Superintendente. I find it cool enough.”
Silent contradictors in the shape of round beads of moisture stood upon the Alcalde’s brow. He felt sick and faint. It was a long, hot ride to the coast, but if the stallion had stood at the steps, the Alcalde would have made a vault and spurred for distance and for honor. He wondered feebly how all this was to end. He took up his glass in an embarrassed manner. He allowed the manager to pour out his drink for him. He thanked him, with a constrained bow.
Spicy odors were wafted appetizingly round the corner of the casa. One could hear old Marta, with Pedro to hinder, clattering her dishes and discoursing on different methods of flavoring. The Alcalde might have had the strength of mind to take his departure, but had he the strength of stomach ? His inner man almost spoke aloud.
“A light for your cigarillo, Señor Alcalde.”
Lola was standing near, smiling and bare of foot, her dress starched and full of holes. She held a tray with a silver dragon all aflame. A broken saucer for ashes was in this proud company.
A stiff bow from the Alcalde ; stiffer acknowledgment in the words, “ My thanks to you, Señor Managero. I have given up the practice — my heart ” — The Alcalde pressed his hand upon the place where that member beat with rage, disappointment, and chagrin. Underneath that hand was a round, flat object, of somewhat different shape and size from the organ named.
Misser Williams puffed silently. He was musing upon the fact of having come upon the Alcalde just as he tossed away a cigar, very long and very black. Few persons lie gratuitously. There must always be a motive for premeditated sin; unless, like the French, one pursues the habit to keep his hand in. What could be the Alcalde’s motive ?
The Alcalde grew fixed, rigid ; he clasped his hands over the vacuum within him.
At the suggestion of Tete, Cito Mores, with the grooms, had come round from the stables. The three had seated themselves upon the lowest of the veranda steps. Tete had been exercising his legs by balancing himself upon the veranda rail, his motions like those of DondyJeem, a tight-rope walker whom he had once seen over at Haldez. He, however, kept a close watch upon the Alcalde. At times he withdrew his gaze to fix a pitying glance upon Misser Williams, as if to say, “ Poor innocent! So ignorant of the world ! It is I, Tete, which must employ myself in serving those interest of yours.”
“ The dinner is served, Sefior Managero.”
It was Lola who spoke, trying to fasten together the edges of a hole in her waist, where the starch would not allow the pin to enter.
The manager arose. He bowed to the Alcalde and signed to him to lead the way.
They entered the dining-room. The Señora Cordeza entered at the same moment from another door. Wrinkled and yellow, her mantilla thrown over the high comb that she wore, she stepped lightly toward the table. She bowed to the Alcalde with a certain dignity combined with a languid grace, which reminded one, in spite of himself, of moonlit verandas and odorous breezes of the night. Her eyes, once the pride and toast of all the estates round about Las Lilas, were still large and dark, and they sent a challenge to the Alcalde as they were raised to his. Now was her harvest. The young señora was away. For when does a daughter of the sunny South realize that she has long passed by the milestone where the word " attractiveness ” is " writ large ” ?
That glance of the Señora Cordeza met with no response. The Alcalde felt that he was meat for her masters. He had matters of more importance to distract him than the mere smiles of woman. Unlike the luminous orbs of the Señora Cordeza, his small eyes were set far back in his head and close to his aquiline nose. His movements were embarrassed. Each awkward gesture seemed to confess, " I am in a devil of a box ; how am I to get out of it ? ”
“ A little of the san-coche, Señor Alcalde ? ’
The half-famished man was minded to reply, “ I am not hungry, I have no appetite.” But St. Anthony himself could not have withstood the spicy odors of that seductive dish, although he might have withstood the charms of the Señora Cordeza. The Alcalde pulled the sleeves of his green-striped coat down, down over his knuckles ; he grasped his spoon ; he began to eat with ungraceful motions.
The san-coche was delicious. A feast for the gods ! Who could be prudent ? In a twinkling the soup-plate was bare. He would enjoy yet another dish of this delightful stew. Custom makes us unmindful. To compass our desires prudence is thrown to the winds ; we grow careless to the point of discovery, from the habitual coquette to the chronic embezzler of other men’s money. With one hand the Alcalde pushed back the long, drooping mustache ; with the other he raised the spoon hurriedly to his lips. The green-striped sleeve slipped upward toward the elbow. Misser Williams’s eyes grew round and large; they were glued to the objects before him. The Alcalde laid his spoon down with a sigh of contentment, to find the manager’s gaze iixed upon his cuffs.
“Those sleeve-links remind me very much of some that I lost on the steamer, Señor Alcalde, — those of which I wrote you.” The manager’s tone had never been more polite.
The Alcalde’s eyes dropped. He started hurriedly to pull his sleeves over his cuffs, but at once thought better of it.
“ These sleeve-links ? Señor Managero — Ah ! How could I forget my errand ! Will my dear Señor Managero pardon me? I put them in my cuffs this morning, that I might bring them to the Señor Managero myself.”
“ How more than kind, Señor Alcalde ! ” The manager rivaled the Alcalde in bows and smiles. " Do not remove them, I beg. They are yours.”
The Alcalde, having appreciated from the time that he could speak the amount of truth that lies in this generous declaration. slowly removed the links from his cuffs.
“ Allow me,” he said, and placed the links in the manager’s politely reluctant hand. No defeated general on the field of battle ever surrendered his sword with a greater degree of grace. “They were discovered upon the wretched peon who stole them from the managero. I have him safe in the cep’ at Saltona. His feet are in the stocks.”The Alcalde concealed the fact that he should be more than glad to see the Señor Managero in the same predicament. '' He awaits the Señor Managero’s disposition. Shall it be the army, or shall he be shot at once, as he deserves ? ”
“ You may put him in the army, Señor Alcalde.” Misser Williams smiled sweetly. “ They prefer death, I believe.”
Tete had followed Lola into the room with some peppers.
“ The Señor Alcalde has a very fine watch,” hazarded Tete. (He stood gazing at the Alcalde as if he would say, " Who is deserving of the cep’ now ? ”) “ I saw it open wide when he leave the fin-keel.”
“ Ah ! ” Misser Williams’s tone was one of pleased discovery.
Cito Mores and the grooms had lounged near the doorless opening of the dining-room. All eyes were fixed upon the Alcalde.
“ Your fine dishes make me forget my errand.” The Alcalde slid those long, brown fingers into his waistcoat pocket. " I started with the purpose of bringing the Señor Managero all of his belongings. Is it then certain, señor, that this fine watch belongs to you ? ”
The familiar timepiece was laid in Misser Williams’s hand. " It was a present from my wife; one that belonged to the Señor Sagasta,” he said simply. He pressed the spring. The cover flew back. “ We say in the North, the blessed, honest North,” — Misser Williams spoke with emphasis, — “' He who runs may read.’ ”
“ That depend on which ways he will run at that time, Misser Williams. Now, if the Señor Alcalde run to the coast ” — " Be quiet, Tete ! ” The reproachful tone was sugared with a smile. The
manager handed the watch back to the Alcalde.
The Alcalde put the dear temptation from him with a sigh. “ I do not read the English, Señor Managero.”
“ That is a mistake, senor. It is well to know all languages. It often prevents misunderstandings.”
Misser Williams turned the inside of the cover to all the light that the jalousies allowed to enter, and read, “ ‘ Presented to John Thomas Williams by his loving wife, Suzon.’ Bless her ! ” he added.
“ Every one in the island knows that watch, high as well as low. It is not difficult to find the owner of such a watch. The Señor Sagasta bought it on the last visit he made to Spain.”
It was the Señora Cordeza who spoke, in the purest Spanish. One should be cautious how one undervalues the charms even of a Señora Cordeza.
“ It is useful to know all languages,” repeated the American manager. " I suffer from much the same trouble with the Spanish. Not quite the same, either.” Misser Williams smiled broadly. “And — and — there was — the Señor Alcalde will pardon me — a long note-case — did — did — did — you ” —
The Alcalde glanced toward the opening. Cito Mores and the grooms, with the freedom of the trusted servants of that indolent land, were leaning against the veranda posts. They were resolutelooking men. Their faces showed a watchful interest. The Alcalde remembered with joy the changing of some large bills from his pocket to his safe, that very morning, — bills for which the American captain would gladly exchange his silver dollars.
He put his hand into his breast pocket and drew forth a case. “ Is this the one, perhaps, Señor Superintendente ? ”
The manager took the case eagerly, and opened the leathern flap. He looked up blankly. If one could have analyzed the expression on the Alcalde’s face, one would have said that it was a look of concealed triumph.
“ I suppose there was no money in it. when it was recovered, señor ? ”
“Not a peso, Señor Managero.”
Misser Williams proceeded to search the interior of the note-case with the familiarity which old acquaintance gives. He took from it a gold-bearing draft.
Mama Cordeza’s inquisitive eye caught the number 1000.
“ Let us be thankful for small favors, Alcalde. This draft would be of no use to any one else.”
“ Of not the very slightest use, Señor Managero.”
The Alcalde spoke with a settled conviction. He ground his teeth together. Regardless of the Señora Cordeza’s presence, he raised his clenched hands and shook them in air. The linkless sleeves Happed against the dark wrists.
“ Ah ! But that thief ! Ah ! But that jail bird ' I will have him shot ! I will have him to remain in the cep’ until his feet rot from his ankles ! He shall never walk again ! A-a-a-a-ah ! Any death is much too good for a thief ! And that he should have stolen from my good friend the managero ! He shall be taken to-morrow outside the town ! He shall be stood against the wall! He shall be sent to hell, where he belongs ! ”
Misser Williams was slowly removing the ivory studs which had done duty for the links, and replacing them with his recovered treasures. The Alcalde addressed himself again to the savory stew.
“ How can I thank you, my dear Señor Alcalde ? I have my buttons just in time to wear them to the wedding of the Sehorita Carlota. She marries the Don Hilario at Haldez to-morrow morning.”
The Alcalde dropped his spoon with a tremendous splash.
“And they will tell you in the States that there is no honesty in the Spaniard ! ” said Misser Williams in a musing tone.
“ Thus one sees how unjustly we are represented the world over,” added the Alcalde in an almost even voice.
“ Let us continue our dinner,” rejoined the manager. “ The san-coche will be cold, and we shall not get to the wedding.”
Mrs. Schuyler Crowninshield.