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'I did not expect—them,' said Vincente, slowly, “before the dawn.'
The sound of the horses' feet and the clatter of arms died away as the troop passed on towards the Calle de la Ciudad, and the quiet of night was again unbroken.
Then Concha, getting down on to his knees, began reciting from memory the office, which, alas ! he knew too well.
When it was finished and the gruff voice died away, Vincente opened his eyes.
' Every man to his trade,' he said, with a little laugh. Then suddenly he made a grimace.
'A twinge of pain,' he said, deprecatingly, as if apologising for giving them the sorrow of seeing it. It will pass—before
• the dawn.'
Presently he opened his eyes again and smiled at Estella before he moved with a tired sigh and turned his face towards that Dawn which knows no eventide.
THE DAWN OF PEACE.
Quien no ama, no vive.'
The fall of Morella had proved to be, as many anticipated, the knell of the Carlist cause. Cabrera, that great general and consummate leader, followed Don Carlos, who had months earlier Aled to France. General Espartero-a man made and strengthened by circumstances—was now at the height of his fame, and for the moment peace seemed to be assured to Spain. It was now a struggle between Espartero and Queen Christina. But with these matters the people of Spain had little to do. Such warfare of the council-chamber and the boudoir is carried on quietly, and the sound of it rarely reaches the ear, and never the heart, of the masses. Politics, indeed, had been the daily fare of the Spaniards for so long that their palates were now prepared to accept any sop 80 long as it was flavoured with peace. Aragon was devastated, and the northern provinces had neither seed nor labourers for the coming autumn. The peasants who, having lost faith in Don Carlos, rallied round Cabrera, now saw themselves abandoned by their worshipped leader, and turned hopelessly enough homewards.
Thus gradually the country relapsed into quiet, and empty garners compelled many to lay aside the bayonet and take up the spade who, having tasted the thrill of battle, had no longer any taste for the ways of peace.
Frederick Conyngham was brought into sudden prominence by the part he played in the disturbance at Toledo-which diturbance proved, as history tells, to be a forerunner of the great revolution a year later in Madrid. Promotion was at this time rapid, and the Englishman made many strides in a few months. Jealousy was so rife among the Spanish leaders, Christinos distrusted so thoroughly the reformed Carlists, that one who wa outside these petty considerations received from both sides many honours on the sole recommendation of his neutrality.
* And besides,' said Father Concha, sitting in the sunlight on his church steps at Ronda reading to the barber, and the shoemaker, and other of his parishioners, the latest newspaper, and besides—he is clever.'
He paused, slowly taking a pinch of snuff.
The barber wagged his head after the manner of one who will never admit that he does not understand an allusion. And before any could speak the clatter of horses in the narrow street diverted attention. Concha rose to his feet.
• Ah!' he said, and went forward to meet Conyngham, who was riding with Concepcion at his side.
'So you have come, my son,' he said, shaking hands. He looked up into the Englishman's face which was burnt brown by service under a merciless sun. Conyngham looked lean and strong, but his eyes had no rest in them. This was not a man who had all he wanted.
• Are you come to Ronda, or are you passing through ?' asked the priest.
* To Ronda. As I passed the Casa Barenna I made inquiries. The ladies are in the town, it appears.'
*Yes; they are with Estella in the house you know-unless you have forgotten it.'
'No,' answered Conyngham getting out of the saddle. “No, I have forgotten nothing.'
Concepcion came forward and led the horse away.
'I will walk to the Casa Vincente. Have you the time to accompany me?' said Conyngbam.
I have always time--for my neighbour's business,' replied oncha. And they set off together. *You walk stiffly,' said Concha. "Have you ridden far ?
From Osuna—forty miles since daybreak.' "You are in a hurry.' "Yes, I am in a hurry.'
a Without further comment he extracted from inside his smart anic a letter--the famous letter in a pink envelope--which he Landed to Concha.
'Yes,' said the priest, turning it over. "You and I first saw his in the Hotel de la Marina at Algeciras, when we were fools not to throw it into the nearest brazier. We should have saved a good man's life, my friend.'
He handed the letter back and thoughtfully dusted his cassock where it was worn and shiny with constant dusting, so that the snuff had naught to cling to.
And you have got it-at last. Holy saints-these Englishmen! Do you always get what you want, my son ?'
Not always,' replied Conyngham with an uneasy laugh. ‘But I should be a fool not to try.
' Assuredly,' said Concha, 'assuredly. And you have come to Ronda-to try ?'
They walked on in silence, on the shady side of the street, and presently passed and saluted a priest-one of Concha's colleagues in this city of the South.
* There walks a tragedy,' said Concha, in his curt way. 'Inside every cassock there walks a tragedy-or a villain.'
After a pause it was Concha who again broke the silence. Conyngham seemed to be occupied with his own thoughts. ' "And Larralde---?' said the priest.
. 'I come from him from Barcelona,' answered Conyngham, 'where he is in safety. Catalonia is full of such as he. Sir John Pleydell, before leaving Spain, bought this letter for two hundred pounds—a few months ago-when I was a poor man and could not offer a price for it. But Larralde disappeared when the plot failed, and I have only found him lately in Barcelona.'
In Barcelona,' echoed Concha.
'Yes ; where he can take a passage to Cuba, and where he awaits Julia Barenna.'
Ah !' said Concha, so he also is faithful because life is not
long, my son. That is the only reason. How wise was the great God when he made a human life short !
'I have a letter, continued Conyngham,'from Larralde to the Señorita Barenna.'
So you parted friends in Barcelona-after all—when his knife has been between your shoulders ?'
"God bless you, my son !' said the priest in Latin, with his careless, hurried gesture of the Cross.
After they had walked a few paces he spoke again.
'I shall go to Barcelona with her,' he said, 'and marry her to this man.
When one has no affairs of one's own there always remain--for old women and priests—the affairs of one's neighbour. Tell me—'he paused and looked fiercely at him under shaggy brows. Tell me why you came to Spain.'
*You want to know who and what I am-before we reach the Calle Mayor,' said Conyngham.
'I know what you are, amigo mio, better than yourself perhaps.'
As they walked through the narrow streets Conyngham told his simple history, dwelling more particularly on the circumstances preceding his departure from England, and Concha listened with no further sign of interest than a grimace or a dry smile here and there.
“The mill gains by going and not by standing still,' he said, and added, after a pause, But it is always a mistake to grind another's wheat for nothing.'
They were now approaching the old house in the Calle Mayor, and Conyngham lapsed into a silence which his companion respected. They passed under the great doorway into the patio, which was quiet and shady at this afternoon hour. The servants, of whom there are a multitude in all great Spanish houses, had apparently retired to the seclusion of their own quarters. One person alone was discernible amid the orange trees and in the neighbourhood of the murmuring fountain. She was asleep in a rocking-chair, with a newspaper on her lap. She preferred the patio to the garden, which was too quiet for one of her temperament. In the patio she found herself better placed to exchange a word with those engaged in the business of the house, to learn, in fact, from the servants the latest gossip, to ask futile questions of them, and to sit in that idleness which will not allow others to be employed. In a word, this was the Señora Barenna,
and Concha, seeing her, stood for a moment in hesitation. Then, with a signal to Conyngham, he crept noiselessly across the tesselated pavement to the shadow of the staircase. They passed up the broad steps without sound and without awaking the sleeping lady. In the gallery above, the priest paused and looked down into the courtyard, his grim face twisted in a queer smile. Then, at the woman sitting there-at life and all its illusions perhaps—he shrugged his shoulders and passed on.
In the drawing-room they found Julia, who leapt to her feet and hurried across the floor when she saw Conyngham. She stood looking at him breathlessly, her whole history written in her eyes.
“Yes,' she whispered, as if he had called her. Yes-what is it? Have you come to tell me--something ?'
'I have come to give you a letter, Señorita,' he answered, handing her Larralde's missive. She held out her hand and never took her
from his face. Concha walked to the window-the window whence the Alcalde of Ronda had seen Conyngham hand Julia Barenna another letter. The old priest stood looking down into the garden, where, amid the feathery foliage of the pepper trees and the bamboos, he could perceive the shadow of a black dress. Conyngham also turned away, and thus the two men who held this woman's happiness in the hollow of their hands stood listening to the crisp rattle of the paper as she tore the envelope and unfolded her lover's letter. A great happiness and a great sorrow are alike impossible of realisation. We only perceive their extent when their importance has begun to wane.
Julia Barenna read the letter through to the end, and it is possible (for women are blind in such matters) failed to perceive the selfishness in every line of it. Then, with the message of happiness in her hand, she returned to the chair she had just quitted, with a vague wonder in her mind, and the very human doubt that accompanies all possession, as to whether the price paid has not been too high.
Concha was the first to move. He turned and crossed the room towards Conyngham.
'I see,' he said, 'Estella in the garden.'
And they passed out of the room together, leaving Julia Barenna alone with her thoughts. On the broad stone balcony
'I will stay here,' he said. He looked over the balustrade. Señora Barenna was still asleep.