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Chapter 24 - The Rifle Rangers by Mayne Reid

Lupé and Luz

Shortly after, we debouched from the forest, entering the open fields of Don Cosmé’s plantation. There was a flowery brilliance around us, full of novelty. We had been accustomed to the ruder scenes of a northern clime. The tropical moon threw a gauzy veil over objects that softened their outlines; and the notes of the nightingale were the only sounds that broke the stillness of what seemed a sleeping elysium.

Once a vanilla plantation, here and there the aromatic bean grew wild, its ground usurped by the pita-plant, the acacia, and the thorny cactus. The dry reservoir and the ruined acequia proved the care that had in former times been bestowed on its irrigation. Guardarayas of palms and orange-trees, choked up with vines and jessamines, marked the ancient boundaries of the fields. Clusters of fruit and flowers hung from the drooping branches, and the aroma of a thousand sweet-scented shrubs was wafted upon the night air. We felt its narcotic influence as we rode along. The helianthus bowed its golden head, as if weeping at the absence of its god; and the cereus spread its bell-shaped blossom, joying in the more mellow light of the moon.

The guide pointed to one of the guardarayas that led to the house. We struck into it, and rode forward. The path was pictured by the moonbeams as they glanced through the half-shadowing leaves. A wild roe bounded away before us, brushing his soft flanks against the rustling thorns of the mezquite.

Farther on we reached the grounds, and, halting behind the jessamines, dismounted. Clayley and myself entered the inclosure.

As we pushed through a copse we were saluted by the hoarse bark of a couple of mastiffs, and we could perceive several forms moving in front of the rancho. We stopped a moment to observe them.

“Quitate, Carlo! Pompo!” (Be off, Carlo! Pompo!) The dogs growled fiercely, barking at intervals.

“Papa, mandalos!” (Papa, order them off!)

We recognised the voices, and pressed forward.

“Afuera, malditos perros! abajo!” (Out of the way, wicked dogs!—down!) shouted Don Cosmé, chiding the fierce brutes and driving them back.

The dogs were secured by several domestics, and we advanced.

“Quien es?” inquired Don Cosmé.

“Amigos” (Friends), I replied.

“Papa! papa! es el capitan!” (Papa, it is the captain!) cried one of the sisters, who had run out in advance, and whom I recognised as the elder one.

“Do not be alarmed, Señorita,” said I, approaching.

“Oh! you are safe—you are safe!—papa, he is safe!” cried both the girls at once; while Don Cosmé exhibited his joy by hugging my comrade and myself alternately.

Suddenly letting go, he threw up his hands, and inquired with a look of anxiety:

“Y el señor gordo?” (And the fat gentleman?)

“Oh! he’s all right,” replied Clayley, with a laugh; “he has saved his bacon, Don Cosmé; though I imagine about this time he wouldn’t object to a little of yours.”

I translated my companion’s answer. The latter part of it seemed to act upon Don Cosmé as a hint, and we were immediately hurried to the dining-room, where we found the Dona Joaquina preparing supper.

During our meal I recounted the principal events of the day. Don Cosmé knew nothing of these guerilleros, although he had heard that there were bands in the neighbourhood. Learning from the guide that we had been attacked, he had despatched a trusty servant to the American camp, and Raoul had met the party coming to our rescue.

After supper Don Cosmé left us to give some orders relative to his departure in the morning. His lady set about preparing the sleeping apartments, and my companion and I were left for some time in the sweet companionship of Lupé and Luz.

Both were exquisite musicians, playing the harp and guitar with equal cleverness. Many a pure Spanish melody was poured into the delighted ears of my friend and myself. The thoughts that arose in our minds were doubtless of a similar kind; and yet how strange that our hearts should have been warmed to love by beings so different in character! The gay, free spirit of my comrade seemed to have met a responsive echo. He and his brilliant partner laughed, chatted, and sang in turns. In the incidents of the moment this light-hearted creature had forgotten her brother, yet the next moment she would weep for him. A tender heart—a heart of joys and sorrows—of ever-changing emotions, coming and passing like shadows thrown by straggling clouds upon the sun-lit stream!

Unlike was our converse—more serious. We may not laugh, lest we should profane the holy sentiment that is stealing upon us. There is no mirth in love. There are joy, pleasure, luxury; but laughter finds no echo in the heart that loves. Love is a feeling of anxiety—of expectation. The harp is set aside. The guitar lies untouched for a sweeter music—the music that vibrates from the strings of the heart. Are our eyes not held together by some invisible chain? Are not our souls in communion through some mysterious means? It is not language—at least, not the language of words; for we are conversing upon indifferent things—not indifferent, either. Narcisso, Narcisso—a theme fraternal. His peril casts a cloud over our happiness.

“Oh! that he were here—then we could be happy indeed.”

“He will return; fear not—grieve not; to-morrow your father will easily find him. I shall leave no means untried to restore him to so fond a sister.”

“Thanks! thanks! Oh! we are already indebted to you so much.”

Are those eyes swimming with love, or gratitude, or both at once? Surely gratitude alone does not speak so wildly. Could this scene not last for ever?


“Señores, pasan Vds. buena noche!” (Gentlemen, may you pass a pleasant night!)

They are gone, and those oval developments of face and figure are floating before me, as though the body itself were still present. It is the soft memory of love in all its growing distinctness!

We were shown to our sleeping apartments. Our men picketed their horses under the olives, and slept in the bamboo rancho, a single sentry walking his rounds during the night.


Note. Vds. Usted, contraction of Vuestra merced, “your grace”, usually written as Vd., is the polite form of address in Spanish.

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