Chapter XIII.

The family retired early in its brief seasons of reclusion, and at ten o'clock Casa Grande was dark and quiet. Reinaldo opened his door and listened cautiously, then stepped softly to the green bench and felt beneath for the lump of tallow. It was there. He returned to his room and swung himself from his window into the yard, about which were irregularly disposed the manufactories of the Indians, a high wall protecting the small town. All was quiet here, and had been for hours. He stole to the wooden tower and mounted a ladder, lifting it from story to story until he reached the attic under the pointed roof. Then he lit a candle, and, removing a board from the floor, peered down into the room whose door was always so securely locked. The stars shone through the uncurtained windows and were no yellower than the gold coins heaped on the large table and overflowing the baskets. Reinaldo took a long pole from a corner and applied to one end a piece of the soft tallow. He lowered the pole and pressed it firmly into the pile of gold on the table. The pole was withdrawn, and this ingenious fisherman removed a large gold fish from the bait. He fished patiently for an hour, then filled a bag he had brought for the purpose, and returned as he had come. Not to his bed, however. Once more he opened his door and stole forth, this time to the town, to hold high revel around the gaming-table, where he was welcomed hilariously by his boon companions.

A wild fandango in a neighboring booth provided relaxation for the gamblers. In an hour or two Reinaldo found his way to this well-known haven. Black-eyed dancing-girls in short skirts of tawdry satin trimmed with cotton lace, mock jewels on their bare necks and in their coarse black hair, flew about the room and screamed with delight as Reinaldo flung gold pieces among them. The excitement continued in all its variations until morning. Men bet and lost all the gold they had brought with them, then sold horse, serape, and sombrero to the men who neither drank nor gambled, but came prepared for close and profitable bargains. Reinaldo lost his purloins, won them again, stood upon the table and spoke with torrential eloquence of his wrongs and virtues, kissed all the girls, and when by easy and rapid stages he had succeeded in converting himself into a tank of aguardiente, he was carried home and put to bed by such of his companions as were sober enough to make no noise.