Chapter XXI.
 

Reinaldo did not go to his Prudencia. He went down to the booths in the town and joined the late revelers. Don Guillermo, rising before dawn, and walking up and down the corridor to conquer the pangs of Dona Trinidad's dulces, noticed that the door of his son's room was ajar. He paused before it and heard slow, regular, patient sobs. He opened the door and went in. Prudencia, alone, curled up in a far corner of her bed, the clothes over her head, was bemoaning many things incidental to matrimony. As she heard the sound of heavy steps she gave a little shriek.

"It is I, Prudencia," said her uncle. "Where is Reinaldo?"

"I--do--not--know."

"Did he not come from the ball-room with thee?"

"N-o-o-o-o."

"Dost thou know where he has gone?"

"N-o-o-o, senor."

"Art thou afraid?"

"Ay! God--of--my--life!"

"Never mind," said the old gentleman. "Go to sleep. Thy uncle will protect thee, and this will not happen again."

He seated himself by the bedside. Prudencia's sobs ceased gradually, and she fell asleep. An hour later the door opened softly, and Reinaldo entered. In spite of the mescal in him, his knees shook as he saw the indulgent but stern arbiter of the Iturbi y Moncada destinies sitting in judgment at the bedside of his wife.

"Where have you been, sir?"

"To take a walk,--to see to--"

"No lying! It makes no difference where you have been. What I want to know is this: Is it your duty to gallivant about town? or is your place at this hour beside your wife?"

"Here, senor."

The old man rose, and, seizing the bride-groom by the shoulders, shook him until his teeth clattered together. "Then see that you stay here with her hereafter, or you shall no longer be a married man." And he stamped out and slammed the door behind him.