IV. Retribution

Although for a long time Dona Isabel had been sure in her own mind that Pancho Cueto, her administrador, was robbing her, she had never mustered courage to call him to a reckoning. And there was a reason for her cowardice. Nevertheless, De Castano's blunt accusation, coupled with her own urgent needs, served to fix her resolution, and on the day after the merchant's visit she sent for the overseer, who at the time was living on one of the plantations.

Once the message was on its way, Isabel fell into a condition bordering upon panic, and was half minded to countermand her order. She spent an evening of suspense, and a miserable night. This last, however, was nothing unusual with her; she was accustomed to unpleasant dreams, and she was not surprised when old familiar shapes came to harass her. Nor, in view of her somnambulistic vagaries, was she greatly concerned to find, when she woke in the morning, that her slippers were stained and that her skirt was bedraggled with dew and filled with burs.

Scarcely a month passed that she did not walk in her sleep.

Cueto was plainly curious to learn why he had been sent for, but since he asked no questions, his employer was forced to open the subject herself. Several times he led up to it unsuccessfully; then she took the plunge. Through dry, white lips she began:

"My dear Pancho, times are hard. The plantations are failing, and so--" Pancho Cueto's eyes were set close to his nose, his face was long and thin and harsh; he regarded the speaker with such a sinister, unblinking stare that she could scarcely finish: "--and so I--can no longer afford to retain you as administrador."

"Times will improve," he said.

"Impossible! This war threatens to bring utter ruin; and now that Esteban and Rosa are home they spend money like water. I groan with poverty."

"Yes, they are extravagant. It is the more reason for me to remain in your service."

"No, no! I tell you I'm bankrupt."

"So? Then the remedy is simple--sell a part of your land."

Although this suggestion came naturally enough, Dona Isabel turned cold, and felt her smile stiffen into a grimace. She wondered if Cueto could be feeling her out deliberately. "Sell the Varona lands?" she queried, after a momentary struggle with herself. "Esteban would rise from his grave. No. It was his wish that the plantations go to his children intact."

"And his wish is sacred to you, eh?" Cueto nodded his approval, although his smile was disconcerting. "An admirable sentiment! It does you honor! But speaking on this subject, I am reminded of that dispute with Jose Oroz over the boundary to La Joya. He is a rascal, that Oroz; he would steal the sap out of your standing cane if he could. I have promised to show him the original deed to La Joya and to furnish him with the proofs about the boundary line. That would be better than a lawsuit, wouldn't it?"

"Decidedly! But--I will settle with him myself."

Cueto lifted an admonitory hand, his face alight with the faintest glimmer of ironic mirth. "I couldn't trust you to the mercies of that rascal," he said, piously. "No, I shall go on as I am, even at a sacrifice to myself. I love Don Esteban's children as my very own; and you, senora--"

Isabel knew that she must win a complete victory at once or accept irretrievable defeat,

"Never!" she interrupted, with a tone of finality. "I can't accept your sacrifice. I am not worthy. Kindly arrange to turn over your books of account at once. I shall make you as handsome a present as my circumstances will permit in recognition of your long and faithful service."

Then Pancho Cueto did an unexpected thing: he laughed shortly and shook his head.

Dona Isabel was ready to faint and her voice quavered as she went on: "Understand me, we part the best of friends despite all I have heard against you. I do not believe these stories people tell, for you probably have enemies. Even if all they say were true I should force myself to be lenient because of your affection for my husband."

The man rose, still smiling. "It is I who have been lenient," said he.

"Eh? Speak plainly."

"Gladly. I have long suspected that Don Esteban hid the deeds of his property with the rest of his valuables, and now that you admit--"

Dona Isabel recoiled sharply. "Admit! Are you mad? Deeds! What are you talking about?" Her eyes met his bravely enough, but she could feel her lips trembling loosely.

Casting aside all pretense, the overseer exclaimed: "Por el amor de Dios! An end to this! I know why you sent for me. You think I have been robbing you. Well, to be honest, so I have. Why should I toil as I do while you and those twins live here in luxury and idleness, squandering money to which you have no right?"

"Have I lost my reason?" gasped the widow. "No right?"

"At least no better right than I. Don't you understand? You have no title to those plantations! They are mine, for I have paid the taxes out of my own pockets now these many years."

"Taxes! What do you mean?"

"I paid them. The receipts are in my name."

"God! Such perfidy! And you who knew him!"

"The deeds have been lost for so long that the property would have reverted to the crown had it not been for me. You doubt that, eh? Well, appeal to the court and you will find that it is true. For that matter, the officials make new laws to fit each case, and should they learn that Esteban Varona died intestate they would arrange somehow to seize all his property and leave you without a roof over your head. Fortunately I can prevent that, for I have a title that will stand, in want of a better one."

There was a momentary silence while the unhappy woman struggled with herself. Then:

"You took advantage of my ignorance of business to rob me," she declared. "Well, I know something about the Government officials: if they would make a law to fit my case they will make one to fit yours. When I tell them what you have done perhaps you will not fare so well with them as you expect." She was fighting now with the desperation of one cornered.

"Perhaps." Cueto shrugged. "That is what I want to talk to you about, if only you will be sensible. Now then, let us be frank. Inasmuch as we're both in much the same fix, hadn't we better continue our present arrangements?" He stared unblinkingly at his listener. "Oh, I mean it! Is it not better for you to be content with what my generosity prompts me to give, rather than to risk ruin for both of us by grasping for too much?"

"Merciful God! The outrage! I warrant you have grown rich through your stealing." Isabel's voice had gone flat with consternation.

"Rich? Well, not exactly, but comfortably well off." Cueto actually smiled again. "No doubt my frankness is a shock to you. You are angry at my proposition, eh? Never mind. You will think better of it in time, if you are a sensible woman."

"What a fiend! Have you no sentiment?"

"Oh, senora! I am all sentiment. Don Esteban was my benefactor. I revere his memory, and I feel it my duty to see that his family does not want. That is why I have provided for you, and will continue to provide--in proper measure. But now, since at last we enjoy such confidential relations, let us have no more of these miserable suspicions of each other. Let us entirely forget this unpleasant misunderstanding and be the same good friends as before."

Having said this, Pancho Cueto stood silent a moment in polite expectancy; then receiving no intelligible reply, he bowed low and left the room.

To the avaricious Dona Isabel Cueto's frank acknowledgment of theft was maddening, and the realization that she was helpless, nay, dependent upon his charity for her living, fairly crucified her proud spirit.

All day she brooded, and by the time evening came she had worked herself into such a state of nerves that she could eat no dinner. Locking herself into her room, she paced the floor, now wringing her hands, now twisting in agony upon her bed, now biting her wrists in an endeavor to clear her head and to devise some means of outwitting this treacherous overseer. But mere thought of the law frightened her; the longer she pondered her situation the more she realized her own impotence. There was no doubt that the courts were corrupt: they were notoriously venal at best, and this war had made them worse. Graft was rampant everywhere. To confess publicly that Esteban Varona had left no deeds, no title to his property, would indeed be the sheerest folly. No, Cueto had her at his mercy.

Sometime during the course of the evening a wild idea came to Isabel. Knowing that the manager would spend the night beneath her roof, she planned to kill him. At first it seemed a simple thing to do--merely a matter of a dagger or a pistol, while he slept-- but further thought revealed appalling risks and difficulties, and she decided to wait. Poison was far safer.

That night she lay awake a long time putting her scheme into final shape, and then for an interval that seemed longer she hung poised in those penumbral regions midway between wakefulness and slumber. Through her mind meanwhile there passed a whirling phantasmagoria, an interminable procession of figures, of memories, real yet unreal, convincing yet unconvincing. When she did at last lose all awareness of reality the effect was merely to enhance the vividness of those phantoms, to lend substance to her vaporous visions. Constant brooding over the treasure had long since affected Dona Isabel's brain, and as a consequence she often dreamed about it. She dreamed about it again to-night, and, strangely enough, her dreams were pleasant. Sebastian appeared, but for once he neither cursed nor threatened her; and Esteban, when he came, was again the lover who had courted her in Habana. It was all very wonderful, very exciting, very real. Dona Isabel found herself robed for him in her wedding-gown of white, and realized that she was beautiful. It seemed also as if her powers of attraction were magically enhanced, for she exercised a potent influence over him. Her senses were quickened a thousandfold, too. For instance, she could see great distances--a novel and agreeable sensation; she enjoyed strange, unsuspected perfumes; she heard the music of distant waterfalls and understood the whispered language of the breeze. It was amazing, delightful. Esteban and she were walking through the grounds of the quinta and he was telling her about his casks of Spanish sovereigns, about those boxes bound with iron, about the gold and silver ornaments of heavenly, beauty and the pearls as large as plums. As he talked, Isabel felt herself grow hot and cold with anticipation; she experienced spasms of delight. She felt that she must dance, must run, must cast her arms aloft in ecstasy. Never had she experienced so keen an intoxication of joy as now, while Esteban was leading her toward the treasure and wooing her with youthful ardor.

Then of a sudden Isabel's whole dream-world dissolved. She awoke, or thought she did, at hearing her name shouted. But although she underwent the mental and the physical shock of being startled from slumber, although she felt the first swift fright of a person aroused to strange surroundings, she knew on the instant that she must still be asleep; for everything about her was dim and dark, the air was cold and damp, wet grass rose to her knees. It flashed through her mind that she had simply been whirled from a pleasant dream into one of terror. As she fought with herself to throw off the illusion of this nightmare its reality became overwhelming. Warring, incongruous sensations, far too swift for her mind to compass, were crowded into the minutest fraction of time. Before she could half realize her own condition she felt herself plunged into space. Now the sensation of falling was not strange to Isabel--it is common to all sufferers from nightmare-- nevertheless, she experienced the dawn of a horror such as she had never guessed. She heard herself scream hoarsely, fearfully, and knew, too late, that she was indeed awake. Then--whirling chaos--A sudden, blinding crash of lights and sounds--Nothing more!

Esteban Varona sat until a late hour that night over a letter which required the utmost care in its composition. It was written upon the thinnest of paper, and when it was finished the writer inclosed it in an envelope of the same material. Esteban put the letter in his pocket without addressing it. Then he extinguished his light, tip-toed to the door connecting his and Rosa's rooms, and listened. No sound whatever came to his ears, for his sister slept like a kitten. Reassured, he stole out into the hall. Here he paused a moment with his ear first to Pancho Cueto's door, and then to the door of his step-mother's room. He could hear the overseer's heavy breathing and Isabel's senseless babbling--the latter was moaning and muttering ceaselessly, but, being accustomed to her restlessness, Esteban paid no heed.

Letting himself out into the night, he took the path that led to the old sunken garden. Nocturnal birds were chirruping; his way was barred with spider-webs, heavy with dew and gleaming in the moonlight like tiny ropes of jewels; the odor of gardenias was overpowering. He passed close by the well, and its gaping black mouth, only half protected by the broken coping, reminded him that he had promised Rosa to cover it with planks. In its present condition it was a menace to animals, if not to human beings who were unaware of its presence. He told himself he would attend to it on the morrow.

Seating himself on one of the old stone benches, the young man lit a cigarette and composed himself to wait. He sat there for a long time, grumbling inwardly, for the night was damp and he was sleepy; but at last a figure stole out of the gloom and joined him. The new-comer was a ragged negro, dressed in the fashion of the poorer country people.

"Well, Asensio, I thought you'd never come. I'll get a fever from this!" Esteban said, irritably.

"It is a long way, Don Esteban, and Evangelina made me wait until dark. I tell you we have to be careful these days."

"What is the news? What did you hear?"

Asensio sighed gratefully as he seated himself. "One hears a great deal, but one never knows what to believe, There is fighting in Santa Clara, and Maceo sweeps westward."

Taking the unaddressed letter from his pocket, Esteban said, "I have another message for Colonel Lopez."

"That Lopez! He's here to-day and there to-morrow; one can never find him."

"Well, you must find him, and immediately, Asensio. This letter contains important news--so important, in fact"--Esteban laughed lightly--"that if you find yourself in danger from the Spaniards I'd advise you to chew it up and swallow it as quickly as you can."

"I'll remember that," said the negro, "for there's danger enough. Still, I fear these Spaniards less than the guerrilleros: they are everywhere. They call themselves patriots, but they are nothing more than robbers. They--"

Asensio paused abruptly. He seized his companion by the arm and, leaning forward, stared across the level garden into the shadows opposite. Something was moving there, under the trees; the men could see that it was white and formless, and that it pursued an erratic course.

"What's that?" gasped the negro. He began to tremble violently and his breath became audible. Esteban was compelled to hold him down by main force. "Jesus Cristo! It's old Don Esteban, your father. They say he walks at midnight, carrying his head in his two hands."

Young Varona managed to whisper, with some show of courage: "Hush! Wait! I don't believe in ghosts." Nevertheless, he was on the point of setting Asensio an example of undignified flight when the mysterious object emerged from the shadows into the open moonlight; then he sighed with relief: "Ah-h! Now I see! It is my stepmother. She is asleep."

"Asleep?" Asensio was incredulous. He was still so unnerved by his first fright that Esteban dared not release him.

"Yes; her eyes are open, but she sees nothing."

"I don't like such things," the negro confessed in a shaky voice. "How can she walk if she is asleep? If her eyes are open, how can she help seeing us? You know she hates Evangelina and me."

"I tell you she sees nothing, knows nothing--" For a moment or two they watched the progress of the white-robed figure; then Esteban stirred and rose from his seat. "She's too close to that well. There is--" He started forward a pace or two. "They say people who walk at night go mad if they're awakened too suddenly, and yet--"

Dona Isabel was talking in a low, throaty, unnatural tone. Her words were meaningless, but the effect, at that hour and in those surroundings, was bizarre and fearsome. Esteban felt his scalp prickling uncomfortably. This was very creepy.

When the somnambulist's deliberate progress toward the mouth of the well continued he called her name softly. "Dona Isabel!" Then he repeated it louder. "Dona Isabel! Wake up."

The woman seemed to hear and yet not to hear. She turned her head to listen, but continued to walk.

"Don't be alarmed," he said, reassuringly. "It is only Esteban-- Dona Isabel! Stop!" Esteban sprang forward, shouting at the top of his voice, for at the sound of his name Isabel had abruptly swerved to her right, a movement which brought her dangerously close to the lip of the well.

"Stop! Go back!" screamed the young man.

Above his warning there came a shriek, shrill and agonized--a wail of such abysmal terror as to shock the night birds and the insects into stillness. Dona Isabel slipped, or stumbled, to her knees, she balanced briefly, clutching at random while the earth and crumbling cement gave way beneath her; then she slid forward and disappeared, almost out from between Esteban's hands. There was a noisy rattle of rock and pebble and a great splash far below; a chuckle of little stones striking the water, then a faint bubbling. Nothing more. The stepson stood in his tracks, sick, blind with horror; he was swaying over the opening when Asensio dragged him back.

Pancho Cueto, being a heavy sleeper, was the last to be roused by Esteban's outcries. When he had hurriedly slipped into his clothes in response to the pounding on his door, the few servants that the establishment supported had been thoroughly awakened. Esteban was shouting at them, explaining that Dona Isabel had met with an accident. He was calling for a lantern, too, and a stout rope. Cueto thought they must all be out of their minds until he learned what had befallen the mistress of the house. Then, being a man of action, he, too, issued swift orders, with the result that by the time he and Esteban had run to the well both rope and lantern were ready for their use. Before Esteban could form and fit a loop for his shoulders there was sufficient help on hand to lower him into the treacherous abyss.

It was a commentary upon Dona Isabel's character that during the long, slow moments of uncertainty while Esteban was being lowered the negroes exhibited more curiosity than concern over her fate. In half-pleased excitement they whispered and giggled and muttered together, while Pancho lay prone at the edge of the orifice, directing them how to manipulate the rope.

That was a gruesome task which fell to Esteban, for the well had been long unused, its sides were oozing slime, its waters were stale and black. He was on the point of fainting when he finally climbed out, leaving the negroes to hoist the dripping, inert weight which he had found at the bottom.

Old Sebastian's curse had come true; Dona Isabel had met the fate he had called down upon her that day when he hung exhausted in his chains and when the flies tormented him. The treasure for which the woman had intrigued so tirelessly had been her death. Like an ignis fatuus, it had lured her to destruction. Furthermore, as if in orirnmest irony, she had been permitted at the very last to find it. Living, she had searched to no purpose whatsoever; dying, she had almost grasped it in her arms.

Once the first excitement had abated and a messenger had been sent to town, Cueto drew Esteban aside and questioned him.

"A shocking tragedy and most peculiar," said the overseer. "Nothing could amaze me more."

"Exactly! And all because of her sleep-walking. I'm all in a tremble."

"She was asleep? You are sure?"

"Have I not told you so?" Esteban was impatient.

"But it is said that people given to that peculiarity never come to grief. They say some sixth sense guides them--gives them warning of pitfalls and dangers. I--I can't understand--"

"That well was a menace to a waking person. I didn't realize how near to it she was; and when I cried out to her it seemed only to hasten her steps." The young man shuddered, for the horror of the thing was still in his mind.

"Tell me, how did you come to be there at such an hour, eh?"

Esteban saw the malevolent curiosity in Cueto's face and started. "I--That is my affair. Surely you don't think--"

"Come, come! You can trust me." The overseer winked and smiled.

"I had business that took me there," stiffly declared the younger man.

"Exactly! And a profitable business it proved!" Cueto laughed openly now. "Well, I don't mind telling you, Dona Isabel's death is no disappointment to any one. Anybody could see--"

"Stop!" Esteban was turning alternately red and white. "You seem to imply something outrageous."

"Now let us be sensible. I understand you perfectly, my boy. But an officer of the Guardia Civil may arrive at any moment and he will want to know how you came to be with your stepmother when she plunged into that trap. So prepare yourself. If only you had not given the alarm. If only you had waited until morning. But--in the dead of night! Alone! He will think it queer. Suppose, too, he learns that you and Dona Isabel quarreled the other day over money matters?"

Young Varona recovered himself quickly. He was watching his inquisitor now with a faintly speculative frown. When Cueto had finished, Esteban said:

"Dona Isabel and I frequently quarreled over money matters, so there is nothing strange in that. You would like me to confess to some black iniquity that would make us better friends, eh? Well, it so happens that I was not alone to-night, but that another person saw the poor woman's death and can bear me out in everything I say. No, Pancho, you overreach yourself. Now then"-- Esteban was quick-tempered, and for years he had struggled against an instinctive distrust and dislike of the plantation manager-- "remember that I have become the head of this house, and your employer. You will do better to think of your own affairs than of mine. Do you understand me? I have long suspected that certain matters of yours need attention, and at the first opportunity I intend to have a careful reckoning with you. I think you know I have a good head for figures." Turning his back upon the elder man, he walked away.

Now it did not occur to Cueto really to doubt the boy's innocence, though the circumstances of Dona Isabel's death were suspicious enough to raise a question in any mind; but in view of Esteban's threat he thought it wise to protect himself by setting a back- fire. It was with some such vague idea in his head that he turned to the sunken garden as the first gray light of dawn appeared. He hoped to gain some inspiration by examining the place again, and, as it proved, he succeeded beyond his most sanguine expectations.

As he sat on an old stone bench, moodily repicturing the catastrophe as Esteban had described it, his attention fell upon an envelope at his feet. It was sealed; it was unaddressed. Cueto idly broke it open and began to read. Before he had gone far he started; then he cast a furtive glance about. But the place was secluded; he was unobserved. When he finished reading he rose, smiling. He no longer feared Esteban. On the contrary, he rather pitied the young fool; for here between his fingers was that which not only promised to remove the boy from his path forever, but to place in his hands the entire Varona estates. Fate was kind. After years of patient scheming Cueto had obtained his reward.

One afternoon, perhaps a week later, Don Mario de Castano came puffing and blowing up to the quinta, demanding to see Rosa without a moment's delay. The girl appeared before her caller had managed to dry up the streams of perspiration resulting from his exertions. With a directness unusual even in him Don Mario began:

"Rosa, my dear, you and Esteban have been discovered! I was at lunch with the comandante when I learned the truth. Through friendship I prevailed upon him to give you an hour's grace."

"What do you mean, Don Mario?" inquired the girl.

"Come, come!" the planter cried, impatiently. "Don't you see you can trust me? God! The recklessness, the folly of young people! Could you not leave this insurrection to your elders? Or perhaps you thought it a matter of no great importance, an amusing thing-- "

"Don Mario!" Rosa interrupted. "I don't know what you are talking about."

"You don't, eh?" The caller's wet cheeks grew redder; he blew like a porpoise. "Then call Esteban quickly! There is not a moment to lose." When the brother appeared De Castano blurted out at him accusingly: "Well, sir! A fine fix you've put yourself in. I came here to warn you, but Rosa pretends ignorance. Perhaps you will be interested to learn that Colonel Fernandez has issued orders to arrest you and your sister as agents of the Insurrectos."

"What?" Esteban drew back. Rosa turned white as a lily and laid a fluttering hand upon her throat.

"You two will sleep to-night in San Severino," grimly announced the rotund visitor. "You know what that means. Cubans who enter the Castillo seldom come out. Have you noticed the big sharks that swim about under the walls of it? Do you know what bait keeps them there? Well, I'll tell you! It's the bodies of rebel sympathizers- -foolish people like you who call themselves patriots."

Rosa uttered a smothered cry.

"Colonel Fernandez," Don Mario proceeded, impressively, "did me this favor, knowing me to be a suitor for Rosa's hand. In spite of his duty and the evidence he--"

"Evidence? What evidence?" Esteban asked, sharply.

"For one thing, your own letter to Lopez, the rebel, warning him to beware of the trap prepared for him in Santa Clara, and advising him of the Government force at Sabanilla. Oh, don't try to deny it! I read it with my own eyes, and it means--death."

In the ensuing silence the fat man's asthmatic breathing sounded loudly; it was like the respirations of an excited eavesdropper.

At last Rosa said, faintly: "Esteban! I warned you."

Esteban was taken aback, but it was plain that he was not in the least frightened. "They haven't caught me yet," he laughed.

"You say they intend to arrest me also?" Rosa eyed the caller anxiously.


"But why?"

"Yes! Who accuses her, and of what?" Esteban indignantly demanded.

"That also I have discovered through the courtesy of Colonel Fernandez. Your accuser is none other than Pancho Cueto."


"Yes, he has denounced both of you as rebels, and the letter is only part of his proof, I believe. I don't know what other evidence he has, but, take my word for it, the Government does not require much proof these days. Suspicion is enough. Now, then, you can guess why I am here. I am not without influence; I can save Rosa, but for you, Esteban, I fear I can do nothing. You must look out for yourself. Well? What do you say? We're wasting precious time standing here with our mouths open."

When Esteban saw how pale his sister had grown, he took her in his arms, saying, gently: "I'm sorry, dear. It's all my fault." Then to the merchant, "It was very good of you to warn us."

"Ha!" Don Mario fanned himself. "I'm glad you appreciate my efforts. It's a good thing to have the right kind of a friend. I'll marry Rosa within an hour, and I fancy my name will be a sufficient shield--"

Rosa turned to her elderly suitor and made a deep courtesy. "I am unworthy of the honor," said she. "You see, I--I do not love you, Don Mario."

"Love!" exploded the visitor. "God bless you! What has love to do with the matter? Esteban will have to ride for his life in ten minutes and your property will be seized. So you had better make yourself ready to go with me." But Rosa shook her head.

"Eh? What ails you? What do you expect to do?"

"I shall go with Esteban," said the girl.

This calm announcement seemed to stupefy De Castano. He sat down heavily in the nearest chair, and with his wet handkerchief poised in one pudgy hand he stared fixedly at the speaker. His eyes were round and bulging, the sweat streamed unheeded from his temples. He resembled some queer bloated marine monster just emerged from the sea and momentarily dazzled by the light.

"You--You're mad," he finally gasped. "Esteban, tell her what it means."

But this Esteban could not do, for he himself had not the faintest notion of what was in store for him. War seemed to him a glorious thing; he had been told that the hills were peopled with patriots. He was very young, his heart was ablaze with hatred for the Spaniards and for Pancho Cueto. He longed to risk his life for a free Cuba. Therefore he said: "Rosa shall do as she pleases. If we must be exiles we shall share each other's hardships. It will not be for long."

"Idiot!" stormed the fat man. "Better that you gave her to the sharks below San Severino. There is no law, no safety for women outside of the cities. The island is in anarchy. These patriots you talk about are the blacks, the mulattoes, the--lowest, laziest savages in Cuba."

"Please! Don Mario!" the girl pleaded. "I cannot marry you, for--I love another."


"I love another. I'm betrothed to O'Reilly, the American--and he's coming back to marry me."

De Castano twisted himself laboriously out of his chair and waddled toward the door. He was purple with rage and mortification. On the threshold he paused to wheeze: "Very well, then. Go! I'm done with both of you. I would have lent you a hand with this rascal Cueto, but now he will fall heir to your entire property. Well, it is a time for bandits! I--I--" Unable to think of a parting speech sufficiently bitter to match his disappointment, Don Mario plunged out into the sunlight, muttering and stammering to himself.

Within an hour the twins were on their way up the Yumuri, toward the home of Asensio and Evangelina; for it was thither that they naturally turned. It was well that they had made haste, for as they rode down into the valley, up the other side of the hill from Matanzas came a squad of the Guardia Civil, and at its head rode Pancho Cueto.