Headless Horseman by Mayne Reid - Chapter Twenty Six. Still on the Azotea

To banish from the thoughts one who has been passionately loved is a simple impossibility. Time may do much to subdue the pain of an unreciprocated passion, and absence more. But neither time, nor absence, can hinder the continued recurrence of that longing for the lost loved one—or quiet the heart aching with that void that has never been satisfactorily filled.

Louise Poindexter had imbibed a passion that could not be easily stifled. Though of brief existence, it had been of rapid growth—vigorously overriding all obstacles to its indulgence. It was already strong enough to overcome such ordinary scruples as parental consent, or the inequality of rank; and, had it been reciprocated, neither would have stood in the way, so far as she herself was concerned. For the former, she was of age; and felt—as most of her countrywomen do—capable of taking care of herself. For the latter, who ever really loved that cared a straw for class, or caste? Love has no such meanness in its composition. At all events, there was none such in the passion of Louise Poindexter.

It could scarce be called the first illusion of her life. It was, however, the first, where disappointment was likely to prove dangerous to the tranquillity of her spirit.

She was not unaware of this. She anticipated unhappiness for a while—hoping that time would enable her to subdue the expected pain.

At first, she fancied she would find a friend in her own strong will; and another in the natural buoyancy of her spirit. But as the days passed, she found reason to distrust both: for in spite of both, she could not erase from her thoughts the image of the man who had so completely captivated her imagination.

There were times when she hated him, or tried to do so—when she could have killed him, or seen him killed, without making an effort to save him! They were but moments; each succeeded by an interval of more righteous reflection, when she felt that the fault was hers alone, as hers only the misfortune.

No matter for this. It mattered not if he had been her enemy—the enemy of all mankind. If Lucifer himself—to whom in her wild fancy she had once likened him—she would have loved him all the same!

And it would have proved nothing abnormal in her disposition—nothing to separate her from the rest of womankind, all the world over. In the mind of man, or woman either, there is no connection between the moral and the passional. They are as different from each other as fire from water. They may chance to run in the same channel; but they may go diametrically opposite. In other words, we may love the very being we hate—ay, the one we despise!

Louise Poindexter could neither hate, nor despise, Maurice Gerald. She could only endeavour to feel indifference.

It was a vain effort, and ended in failure. She could not restrain herself from ascending to the azotea, and scrutinising the road where she had first beheld the cause of her jealousy. Each day, and almost every hour of the day, was the ascent repeated.

Still more. Notwithstanding her resolve, to avoid the accident of an encounter with the man who had made her miserable, she was oft in the saddle and abroad, scouring the country around—riding through the streets of the village—with no other object than to meet him.

During the three days that followed that unpleasant discovery, once again had she seen—from the housetop as before—the lady of the lazo en route up the road, as before accompanied by her attendant with the pannier across his arm—that Pandora’s box that had bred such mischief in her mind—while she herself stood trembling with jealousy—envious of the other’s errand.

She knew more now, though not much. Only had she learnt the name and social standing of her rival. The Doña Isidora Covarubio de los Llanos—daughter of a wealthy haciendado, who lived upon the Rio Grande, and niece to another whose estate lay upon the Leona, a mile beyond the boundaries of her father’s new purchase. An eccentric young lady, as some thought, who could throw a lazo, tame a wild steed, or anything else excepting her own caprices.

Such was the character of the Mexican señorita, as known to the American settlers on the Leona.

A knowledge of it did not remove the jealous suspicions of the Creole. On the contrary, it tended to confirm them. Such practices were her own predilections. She had been created with an instinct to admire them. She supposed that others must do the same. The young Irishman was not likely to be an exception.

There was an interval of several days—during which the lady of the lazo was not seen again.

“He has recovered from his wounds?” reflected the Creole. “He no longer needs such unremitting attention.”

She was upon the azotea at the moment of making this reflection—lorgnette in hand, as she had often been before.

It was in the morning, shortly after sunrise: the hour when the Mexican had been wont to make her appearance. Louise had been looking towards the quarter whence the señorita might have been expected to come.

On turning her eyes in the opposite direction, she beheld—that which caused her something more than surprise. She saw Maurice Gerald, mounted on horseback, and riding down the road!

Though seated somewhat stiffly in the saddle, and going at a slow pace, it was certainly he. The glass declared his identity; at the same time disclosing the fact, that his left arm was suspended in a sling.

On recognising him, she shrank behind the parapet—as she did so, giving utterance to a suppressed cry.

Why that anguished utterance? Was it the sight of the disabled arm, or the pallid face: for the glass had enabled her to distinguish both?

Neither one nor the other. Neither could be a cause of surprise. Besides, it was an exclamation far differently intoned to those of either pity or astonishment. It was an expression of sorrow, that had for its origin some heartfelt chagrin.

The invalid was convalescent. He no longer needed to be visited by his nurse. He was on the way to visit her!

Cowering behind the parapet—screened by the flower-spike of the yucca—Louise Poindexter watched the passing horseman. The lorgnette enabled her to note every movement made by him—almost to the play of his features.

She felt some slight gratification on observing that he turned his face at intervals and fixed his regard upon Casa del Corvo. It was increased, when on reaching a copse, that stood by the side of the road, and nearly opposite the house, he reined up behind the trees, and for a long time remained in the same spot, as if reconnoitring the mansion.

She almost conceived a hope, that he might be thinking of its mistress!

It was but a gleam of joy, departing like the sunlight under the certain shadow of an eclipse. It was succeeded by a sadness that might be appropriately compared to such shadow: for to her the world at that moment seemed filled with gloom.

Maurice Gerald had ridden on. He had entered the chapparal; and become lost to view with the road upon which he was riding.

Whither was he bound? Whither, but to visit Doña Isidora Covarubio de los Llanos?

It mattered not that he returned within less than an hour. They might have met in the woods—within eyeshot of that jealous spectator—but for the screening of the trees. An hour was sufficient interview—for lovers, who could every day claim unrestricted indulgence.

It mattered not, that in passing upwards he again cast regards towards Casa del Corvo; again halted behind the copse, and passed some time in apparent scrutiny of the mansion.

It was but mockery—or exultation. He might well feel triumphant; but why should he be cruel, with kisses upon his lips—the kisses he had received from the Doña Isidora Covarubio de los Llanos?