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could perceive Conyngham quickly throw back his cape in order to have a free hand. Then there came the sound of scuffling feet, and an indefinable sense of strife in the very air.
"But we will see we will see who is in the carriage!" cried a shrill voice, and a hoarse shout from many bibulous throats confirmed the desire.
"Quick!" said Conyngham's voice "quick! Take your reins; never mind the lamps!"
And the carriage swayed as the man leapt to his place. Estella made movement to look out of the window, but Concha had stood up against it, opposing his broad back alike to curious glances or a knife or a bullet. At the other window, the general, better versed in such matters, held the leather cushion upon which he had been sitting across the sash. With his left hand he restrained Estella.
"Keep still," he said. "Sit back. Conyngham can take care of himself."
The carriage swayed forward, and a volley of stones rattled on it like hail. It rose jerkily on one side and bumped over some obstacle.
"One who has his quietus," said Concha. "These royal carriages are heavy."
The horses were galloping now. Con cha sat down, rubbing his back. Conyngham was galloping by the window, and they could see his spur flashing in the moonlight as he used it. The reins hung loose and both his hands were employed elsewhere, for he had a man half across the saddle in front of him, who held to him with one arm thrown round his neck, while the other was raised and a gleam of steel was at the end of it. Concepcion, from the other side, threw a knife over the roof of the carriage he could hit a cork at twenty paces-but he missed this time.
The general from within leant across Estella, sword in hand, with gleaming eyes. But Conyngham seemed to have got the hold he desired, for his assailant came suddenly swinging over the horse's neck, and one of his flying heels crashed through the window by Concha's head, making that ecclesiastic
swear like any layman. The carriage was lifted on one side again and bumped heavily.
"Another," said Concha, looking for broken glass in the folds of his cassock. "That is a pretty trick of Conyngham's."
"And the man is a horseman," added the general, sheathing his sword-"a horseman. It warms the heart to see it."
Then he leant out of the window and asked if any were hurt.
"I am afraid, excellency, that I hurt one," answered Vara-"where the neck joins the shoulder. It is a pretty spot for the knife, nothing to turn a point.”
He rubbed a sulphur match on the leg of his trousers, and lighted a cigarette as he rode along.
"On our side no accidents," continued Vara, with a careless grandeur, "unless the reverendo received a kick in the face."
"The reverendo received a stone in the small of the back," growled Concha pessimistically, "where there was already a corner of lumbago."
Conyngham, standing in his stirrups, was looking back. A man lay motionless on the road, and beyond, at the cross-roads, another was riding up a hill to the right at a hard gallop.
"It is the road to Madrid," said Concepcion, noting the direction of the Englishman's glance.
The general, leaning out of the carriage window, was also looking back anxiously.
"They have sent a messenger to Madrid, excellency, with the news that the queen is on the road to Toledo," said Concepcion.
"It is well," answered Vincente with a laugh.
As they journeyed, although it was nearly midnight, there appeared from time to time and for the most part in the neighborhood of a village, one who seemed to have been awaiting their passage, and immediately set out on foot or horseback by one of the shorter bridle-paths that abound in Spain. No one of these spies escaped the notice of Concepcion, whose training amid the
mountains of Andalusia had sharpened his eyesight and added keenness every sense.
"It is like a cat walking down an alley full of dogs," he muttered.
At last the lights of Toledo hove in sight, and across the river came the sound of the city clocks tolling the hour.
"Midnight," said Concha, “and all respectable folk are in their beds. At night all cats are grey."
No one heeded him. Estella was sitting upright, bright-eyed and wakeful. The general looked out of the window at every moment. Across the river they could see lights moving, and many houses that had been illuminated were suddenly dark.
"See," said the general, leaning out of the window and speaking to Conyngham; "they have heard the sound of our wheels."
At the farther end of the Bridge of Alcantara, on the road which now leads to the railway station, two horsemen were stationed, hidden in the shadow of the trees that border the pathway.
"Those should be guardia civile," said Concepcion, who had studied the ways of these gentry all his life, "but they are not. They have horses that have never been taught to stand still."
As he spoke the men vanished, moving noiselessly in the thick dust which lay on the Madrid road.
The general saw them go and smiled. These men carried word to their fellows in Madrid for the seizure of the little queen. But before they could reach the capital the queen regent herself would be there, a woman in a thousand, of inflexible nerve, of infinite re source.
The carriage rattled over the narrow bridge, which rings hollow to the sound of wheels. It passed under the gate that Wamba built, and up the tree-girt incline to the city. The streets were deserted, and no window showed a light. A watchman in his shelter at the corner by the synagogue peered at them over the folds of his cloak, and noting the clank of scabbard against VOL. XV. 746
spur, paid no further heed to a traveller who took the road with such outward signs of authority.
"It is still enough and quiet," said Concha, looking out.
"As quiet as a watching cat," replied Vincente.
THE CITY OF STRIFE.
Whose foresight preaches peace, my heart so slow
Through these quiet streets the party clattered noisily enough, for the rain had left the round stones slippery, and the horses were too tired for a sure step. There were no lights at the street corners, for these had been extinguished at midnight, and the only glimmer of a lamp that relieved darkness was shining through the stained-glass windows of the cathedral where the sacred oil burnt night and day.
The queen was evidently expected at the Casa del Ayuntamiento, for at the approach of the carriage the great doors were thrown open and a number of servants appeared in the patio, which was but dimly lighted. By the general's orders the small bodyguard passed through the doors, which were then closed, instead of continuing their way to the barracks in the Alcazar.
This Casa del Ayuntamiento stands, as many travellers know, in the plaza of the same name, and faces the cathedral, which is, without doubt, the oldest, as it assuredly is the most beautiful church in the world. The Mansion House of Toledo, in addition to some palatial halls, which are of historic renown, has several suites of rooms, used from time to time by great personages passing through or visiting the city. The house itself is old, as we esteem age in England, while in comparison to the buildings around it is modern. Built, however, at a period when beauty of architecture was secondary to power of resistance, the place is strong enough, and General Vincente smiled happily as the great doors were closed. He was the last to look out
into the streets and across the little long to enable the queen regent to Plaza del Ayuntamiento, which was reach Madrid. In order to make cerdeserted and looked peaceful enough in tain of this we must lead the people to the light of a waning moon. understand that the queen is in this house until, at least, daylight. Given so much advantage, I think that her Majesty can reach the capital an hour before any messenger from Toledo. Two horsemen quitted the bridge of Alcantara as we crossed it, riding toward Madrid, but they will not reach the capital. I have seen to that."
He paused and walked to one of the long windows, which he opened. The outer shutters remained closed, and he did not unbar them, but stood listening.
"All is still as yet," he said, returning to the table, where Father Concha was philosophically cutting up a cold chicken.
"That is a good idea of yours," he said; "we may all require our full forces of mind and body before the dawn."
The carriage door was opened by a lackey, and Conyngham gave Estella his hand. All the servants bowed as she passed up the stairs, her face screened by the folds of her white mantilla. There was a queer hush in the great house and in the manner of the servants. The cathedral clock rang out the half hour. The general led the way to the room on the first floor that overlooks the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. It is a vast apartment hung with tapestries and pictures, such as men travel many miles to see. The windows, which are large in proportion to the height of the room, open upon a stone balcony, which runs the length of the house, and looks down upon the plaza and across this to the great façade of the cathedral. Candles hurriedly lighted made the room into a very desert of shadows. At the far end a table was spread with cold meats, and lighted by high silver candelabras.
"Ah!" said Concha, going toward the supper table.
Estella turned, and for the first time met Conyngham's eyes. His face startled her, it was so grave.
"Were you hurt?" she asked sharply. "Not this time, señorita."
Then she turned with a sudden laugh toward her father.
"Did I play my part well?" she asked.
"Yes, my child;" and even he was grave.
"Unless I am mistaken," he continued, glancing at the shuttered windows, "we have only begun our task." He was reading as he spoke some despatches, which a servant had handed to him.
"There is one advantage in a soldier's life," he said, smiling at Conyngham, "which is not, I think, sufficiently recognized-namely, that one's duty is so often clearly defined. At the present moment it is a question of keeping up the deception we have practised upon these good people of Toledo sufficiently
He drew forward a chair, and Estella, obeying his gesture, sat down, and so far controlled her feelings as to eat a little.
"Do queens always feed on old birds, such as this?" asked Concha discontentedly, and Vincente, spreading out his napkin, laughed with gay good hu
"Before the dawn," he said to Conyngham, "we may all be great men, and the good padre here on the highroad to a bishopric."
"He would rather be in bed," muttered Concha, with his mouth full.
It was a queer scene, such as we only act in real life. The vast room, with its gorgeous hangings, the flickering candles, the table spread with delicacies, and the strange party seated at it; Concha, eating steadily; the general, looking round with his domesticated little smile; Estella, with a new light in her eyes and a new happiness on her face; Conyngham, a giant among these southerners, in his dustladen uniform-all made up a picture that none forgot.
"They will probably attack this place," said the general, pouring out a glass of wine; "but the house is a
"Where is the queen regent?" she asked, looking from one face to the other, and seeing all her foes assembled as if by magic before her.
"Her Majesty is on the road between Aranjuez and Madrid, in safety, my dear Julia," replied the general. soothingly.
"But they think she is here. The people are in the streets. Look out of the window. They are in the plaza."
"I know it, my dear," said the general.
Concepcion bowed ceremoniously and withdrew. He might have been an ambassador, and his salutation was worthy of an Imperial Court.
A moment later Julia Barenna came into the room, her dark eyes wide with terror, her face pale and drawn.
"They are armed; they are going to attack this house."
"I am aware of it."
"Their plan is to murder the queen." "So we understand," said the general gently. He had a horror of anything approaching sensation or a scene, a feeling which Spaniards share with Englishmen. "That is the queen for the time being," added Vincente, pointing to Estella.
Julia stood looking from one to the other, a self-contained woman made strong by love, for there is nothing in life or human experience that raises and strengthens man or woman SO much as a great and abiding love. But Julia was driven and almost panicstricken. She held herself in control by an effort that was drawing lines in her face never to be wiped out.
"But you will tell them. I will do it. Let me go to them. I am not afraid."
"No one must leave this house now," said the general. "You have come to us, my dear, you must now throw in your lot with ours."
"But Estella must not take this risk!" exclaimed Julia. "Let me do it."
And some woman's instinct sent her to Estella's side, two women alone in that great house amid this man's work and strife of reckless politicians.
"And you and Señor Conyngham," she cried; "you must not run this great
"It is what we are paid for, my dear Julia," answered the general, holding out his arm and indicating the gold stripes upon it.
He walked to the window and opened
the massive shutters, which swung back heavily. Then he stepped out on to the balcony without fear or hesitation.
"See," he said, "the square is full of them."
He came back into the room, and Conyngham, standing beside him, looked down into the moonlit plaza. The square was, indeed, thronged with dark and silent shadows, while others, stealing from the doorways and narrow alleys, with which Toledo abounded, joined the group with stealthy steps. No one spoke, though the sound of their whispering arose in the still night-air like the murmur of a breeze through reeds. A hundred faces peered upward through the darkness at the two intrepid figures on the balcony.
"And these are Spaniards, my dear Conyngham," whispered the general"a hundred of them against one woman. Name of God, I blush for them!"
The throng increased every moment, and withal the silence never lifted, but brooded breathlessly over the ancient town. Instead of living men, these might well have been the shades of the countless and forgotten dead, who had come to a violent end in the streets of a city where peace has never found a home since the days of Nebuchadnez
Vincente came back into the room, leaving both the shutter and window open.
"They cannot see in," he said, "the building is too high. And across the plaza there is nothing but the cathedral which has no windows accessible without ladders."
He paused, looking at his watch. "They are in doubt," he said, speaking to Conyngham, "they are not sure that the queen is here. We will keep them in doubt for a short time. Every minute lost by them is an inestimable gain to us. That open window will whet their curiosity, and give them something to whisper about. It is so easy to deceive a crowd."
He sat down and began to peel a peach. Julia looked at him, wondering
wherein this man's greatness lay, and yet perceiving dimly that against such as he men like Esteban Larralde could do nothing.
Concha, having supped satisfactorily, was now sitting back in his chair, seeking for something in the pockets of his cassock.
"It is to be presumed, he said, "that one may smoke, even in a palace."
And under their gaze he quietly lighted a cigarette, with the deliberation of one whom a long solitary life had bred habits only to be broken at last by death.
Presently the general rose and went to the window again.
"They are still doubtful," he said, returning, "and I think their numbers have decreased. We cannot allow them to disperse."
He paused, thinking deeply.
"My child," he said suddenly to Estella, "you must show yourself on the balcony."
Estella rose at once, but Julia held her back.
"No," she said; "let me do it. Give me the white mantilla."
There was a momentary silence, while Estella freed herself from her cousin's grasp. Conyngham looked at the woman he loved while she stood, little more than a child, with something youthful and inimitably graceful in the lines of her throat and averted face. Would she accept Julia's offer? Conyngham bit his lips and awaited her decision. Then, as if divining his thought, she turned and looked at him gravely.
"No," she said; "I will do it." She went toward the window. father and Conyngham had taken their places, one on each side, as if she were the queen indeed. She stood for a moment on the threshold, and then passed out into the moonlight alone. Immediately there arose the most terrifying of all earthly sounds, the dull, antagonistic roar of a thousand angry throats. Estella walked to the front of the balcony and stood, with an intrepidity which was worthy of the royal woman