Full Online Books
BOOK CATEGORIES
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
LINKS
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
donate
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSoldiers Of Fortune - Chapter XII
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
Soldiers Of Fortune - Chapter XII Post by :arobin Category :Long Stories Author :Richard Harding Davis Date :March 2011 Read :893

Click below to download : Soldiers Of Fortune - Chapter XII (Format : PDF)

Soldiers Of Fortune - Chapter XII

The day of the review rose clear and warm, tempered by a light
breeze from the sea. As it was a fete day, the harbor wore an
air of unwonted inactivity; no lighters passed heavily from the
levees to the merchantmen at anchor, and the warehouses along the
wharves were closed and deserted. A thin line of smoke from the
funnels of the `Vesta' showed that her fires were burning, and
the fact that she rode on a single anchor chain seemed to promise
that at any moment she might slip away to sea.

As Clay was finishing his coffee two notes were brought to him
from messengers who had ridden out that morning, and who sat in
their saddles looking at the armed force around the office with
amused intelligence.

One note was from Mendoza, and said he had decided not to call
out the regiment at the mines, as he feared their long absence
from drill would make them compare unfavorably with their
comrades, and do him more harm than credit. ``He is afraid of
them since last night,'' was Clay's comment, as he passed the
note on to MacWilliams. ``He's quite right, they might do
him harm.''

The second note was from Stuart. He said the city was already
wide awake and restless, but whether this was due to the fact
that it was a fete day, or to some other cause which would
disclose itself later, he could not tell. Madame Alvarez, the
afternoon before, while riding in the Alameda, had been insulted
by a group of men around a cafe', who had risen and shouted
after her, one of them throwing a wine-glass into her lap as she
rode past. His troopers had charged the sidewalk and carried off
six of the men to the carcel. He and Rojas had urged the
President to make every preparation for immediate flight, to have
the horses put to his travelling carriage, and had warned him
when at the review to take up his position at the point nearest
to his own body-guard, and as far as possible from the troops led
by Mendoza. Stuart added that he had absolute confidence in the
former. The policeman who had attempted to carry Burke's note to
Mendoza had confessed that he was the only traitor in the camp,
and that he had tried to work on his comrades without success.
Stuart begged Clay to join him as quickly as possible. Clay went
up the hill to the Palms, and after consulting with Mr. Langham,
dictated an order to Kirkland, instructing him to call the
men together and to point out to them how much better their
condition had been since they had entered the mines, and to
promise them an increase of wages if they remained faithful to
Mr. Langham's interests, and a small pension to any one who might
be injured ``from any cause whatsoever'' while serving him.

``Tell them, if they are loyal, they can live in their shacks
rent free hereafter,'' wrote Clay. ``They are always asking for
that. It's a cheap generosity,'' he added aloud to Mr. Langham,
``because we've never been able to collect rent from any of them
yet.''

At noon young Langham ordered the best three horses in the
stables to be brought to the door of the Palms for Clay,
MacWilliams, and himself. Clay's last words to King were to have
the yacht in readiness to put to sea when he telephoned him to do
so, and he advised the women to have their dresses and more
valuable possessions packed ready to be taken on board.

``Don't you think I might see the review if I went on
horseback?'' Hope asked. ``I could get away then, if there
should be any trouble.''

Clay answered with a look of such alarm and surprise that Hope
laughed.

``See the review! I should say not,'' he exclaimed. ``I don't
even want Ted to be there.''

``Oh, that's always the way,'' said Hope, ``I miss everything. I
think I'll come, however, anyhow. The servants are all going,
and I'll go with them disguised in a turban.''

As the men neared Valencia, Clay turned in his saddle, and asked
Langham if he thought his sister would really venture into the
town.

``She'd better not let me catch her, if she does,'' the fond
brother replied.

The reviewing party left the Government Palace for the Alameda at
three o'clock, President Alvarez riding on horseback in advance,
and Madame Alvarez sitting in the State carriage with one of her
attendants, and with Stuart's troopers gathered so closely about
her that the men's boots scraped against the wheels, and their
numbers hid her almost entirely from sight.

The great square in which the evolutions were to take place was
lined on its four sides by the carriages of the wealthy
Olanchoans, except at the two gates, where there was a wide space
left open to admit the soldiers. The branches of the trees on
the edges of the bare parade ground were black with men and boys,
and the balconies and roofs of the houses that faced it were gay
with streamers and flags, and alive with women wrapped for the
occasion in their colored shawls. Seated on the grass between
the carriages, or surging up and down behind them, were
thousands of people, each hurrying to gain a better place of
vantage, or striving to hold the one he had, and forming a
restless, turbulent audience in which all individual cries were
lost in a great murmur of laughter, and calls, and cheers. The
mass knit together, and pressed forward as the President's band
swung jauntily into the square and halted in one corner, and a
shout of expectancy went up from the trees and housetops as the
President's body-guard entered at the lower gate, and the broken
place in its ranks showed that it was escorting the State
carriage. The troopers fell back on two sides, and the carriage,
with the President riding at its head, passed on, and took up a
position in front of the other carriages, and close to one of the
sides of the hollow square. At Stuart's orders Clay,
MacWilliams, and Langham had pushed their horses into the rear
rank of cavalry, and remained wedged between the troopers within
twenty feet of where Madame Alvarez was sitting. She was very
white, and the powder on her face gave her an added and unnatural
pallor. As the people cheered her husband and herself she raised
her head slightly and seemed to be trying to catch any sound of
dissent in their greeting, or some possible undercurrent of
disfavor, but the welcome appeared to be both genuine and
hearty, until a second shout smothered it completely as the
figure of old General Rojas, the Vice-President, and the most
dearly loved by the common people, came through the gate at the
head of his regiment. There was such greeting for him that the
welcome to the President seemed mean in comparison, and it was
with an embarrassment which both felt that the two men drew near
together, and each leaned from his saddle to grasp the other's
hand. Madame Alvarez sank back rigidly on her cushions, and her
eyes flashed with anticipation and excitement. She drew her
mantilla a little closer about her shoulders, with a nervous
shudder as though she were cold. Suddenly the look of anxiety in
her eyes changed to one of annoyance, and she beckoned Clay
imperiously to the side of the carriage.

``Look,'' she said, pointing across the square. ``If I am not
mistaken that is Miss Langham, Miss Hope. The one on the black
horse--it must be she, for none of the native ladies ride. It is
not safe for her to be here alone. Go,'' she commanded, ``bring
her here to me. Put her next to the carriage, or perhaps she
will be safer with you among the troopers.''

Clay had recognized Hope before Madame Alvarez had finished
speaking, and dashed off at a gallop, skirting the line of
carriages. Hope had stopped her horse beside a victoria,
and was talking to the native women who occupied it, and who were
scandalized at her appearance in a public place with no one but a
groom to attend her.

``Why, it's the same thing as a polo match,'' protested Hope, as
Clay pulled up angrily beside the victoria. ``I always ride over
to polo alone at Newport, at least with James,'' she added,
nodding her head toward the servant.

The man approached Clay and touched his hat apologetically,
``Miss Hope would come, sir,'' he said, ``and I thought I'd
better be with her than to go off and tell Mr. Langham, sir. I
knew she wouldn't wait for me.''

``I asked you not to come,'' Clay said to Hope, in a low voice.

``I wanted to know the worst at once,'' she answered. ``I was
anxious about Ted--and you.''

``Well, it can't be helped now,'' he said. ``Come, we must
hurry, here is our friend, the enemy.'' He bowed to their
acquaintances in the victoria and they trotted briskly off to the
side of the President's carriage, just as a yell arose from the
crowd that made all the other shouts which had preceded it sound
like the cheers of children at recess.

``It reminds me of a football match,'' whispered young Langham,
excitedly, ``when the teams run on the field. Look at
Alvarez and Rojas watching Mendoza.''

Mendoza advanced at the front of his three troops of cavalry,
looking neither to the left nor right, and by no sign
acknowledging the fierce uproarious greeting of the people.
Close behind him came his chosen band of cowboys and ruffians.
They were the best equipped and least disciplined soldiers in the
army, and were, to the great relief of the people, seldom seen in
the city, but were kept moving in the mountain passes and along
the coast line, on the lookout for smugglers with whom they were
on the most friendly terms. They were a picturesque body of
blackguards, in their hightopped boots and silver-tipped
sombreros and heavy, gaudy saddles, but the shout that had gone
up at their advance was due as much to the fear they inspired as
to any great love for them or their chief.

``Now all the chessmen are on the board, and the game can
begin,'' said Clay. ``It's like the scene in the play, where
each man has his sword at another man's throat and no one dares
make the first move.'' He smiled as he noted, with the eye of
one who had seen Continental troops in action, the shuffling
steps and slovenly carriage of the half-grown soldiers that
followed Mendoza's cavalry at a quick step. Stuart's picked
men, over whom he had spent many hot and weary hours, looked
like a troop of Life Guardsmen in comparison. Clay noted their
superiority, but he also saw that in numbers they were most
woefully at a disadvantage.

It was a brilliant scene for so modest a capital. The sun
flashed on the trappings of the soldiers, on the lacquer and
polished metal work of the carriages; and the Parisian gowns of
their occupants and the fluttering flags and banners filled the
air with color and movement, while back of all, framing the
parade ground with a band of black, was the restless mob of
people applauding the evolutions, and cheering for their
favorites, Alvarez, Mendoza, and Rojas, moved by an excitement
that was in disturbing contrast to the easy good-nature of their
usual manner.

The marching and countermarching of the troops had continued with
spirit for some time, and there was a halt in the evolutions
which left the field vacant, except for the presence of Mendoza's
cavalrymen, who were moving at a walk along one side of the
quadrangle. Alvarez and Vice-President Rojas, with Stuart, as an
adjutant at their side, were sitting their horses within some
fifty yards of the State carriage and the body-guard. Alvarez
made a conspicuous contrast in his black coat and high hat to the
brilliant greens and reds of his generals' uniforms, but he
sat his saddle as well as either of the others, and his white
hair, white imperial and mustache, and the dignity of his bearing
distinguished him above them both. Little Stuart, sitting at his
side, with his blue eyes glaring from under his white helmet and
his face burned to almost as red a tint as his curly hair, looked
like a fierce little bull-dog in comparison. None of the three
men spoke as they sat motionless and quite alone waiting for the
next movement of the troops.

It proved to be one of moment. Even before Mendoza had ridden
toward them with his sword at salute, Clay gave an exclamation of
enlightenment and concern. He saw that the men who were believed
to be devoted to Rojas, had been halted and left standing at the
farthest corner of the plaza, nearly two hundred yards from where
the President had taken his place, that Mendoza's infantry
surrounded them on every side, and that Mendoza's cowboys, who
had been walking their horses, had wheeled and were coming up
with an increasing momentum, a flying mass of horses and men
directed straight at the President himself.

Mendoza galloped up to Alvarez with his sword still in salute.
His eyes were burning with excitement and with the light of
success. No one but Stuart and Rojas heard his words; to the
spectators and to the army he appeared as though he was, in
his capacity of Commander-in-Chief, delivering some brief report,
or asking for instructions.

``Dr. Alvarez,'' he said, ``as the head of the army I arrest you
for high treason; you have plotted to place yourself in office
without popular election. You are also accused of large thefts
of public funds. I must ask you to ride with me to the military
prison. General Rojas, I regret that as an accomplice of the
President's, you must come with us also. I will explain my
action to the people when you are safe in prison, and I will
proclaim martial law. If your troops attempt to interfere, my
men have orders to fire on them and you.''

Stuart did not wait for his sentence. He had heard the heavy
beat of the cavalry coming up on them at a trot. He saw the
ranks open and two men catch at each bridle rein of both Alvarez
and Rojas and drag them on with them, buried in the crush of
horses about them, and swept forward by the weight and impetus of
the moving mass behind. Stuart dashed off to the State carriage
and seized the nearest of the horses by the bridle. ``To the
Palace!'' he shouted to his men. ``Shoot any one who tries to
stop you. Forward, at a gallop,'' he commanded.

The populace had not discovered what had occurred until it was
finished. The coup d'etat had been long considered and the
manner in which it was to be carried out carefully planned. The
cavalry had swept across the parade ground and up the street
before the people saw that they carried Rojas and Alvarez with
them. The regiment commanded by Rojas found itself hemmed in
before and behind by Mendoza's two regiments. They were greatly
outnumbered, but they fired a scattering shot, and following
their captured leader, broke through the line around them and
pursued the cavalry toward the military prison.

It was impossible to tell in the uproar which followed how many
or how few had been parties to the plot. The mob, shrieking and
shouting and leaping in the air, swarmed across the parade
ground, and from a dozen different points men rose above the
heads of the people and harangued them in violent speeches. And
while some of the soldiers and the citizens gathered anxiously
about these orators, others ran through the city calling for the
rescue of the President, for an attack on the palace, and
shrieking ``Long live the Government!'' and ``Long live the
Revolution!'' The State carriage raced through the narrow
streets with its body-guard galloping around it, sweeping down in
its rush stray pedestrians, and scattering the chairs and
tables in front of the cafe's. As it dashed up the long avenue
of the palace, Stuart called his men back and ordered them to
shut and barricade the great iron gates and to guard them against
the coming of the mob, while MacWilliams and young Langham pulled
open the carriage door and assisted the President's wife and her
terrified companion to alight. Madame Alvarez was trembling with
excitement as she leaned on Langham's arm, but she showed no
signs of fear in her face or in her manner.

``Mr. Clay has gone to bring your travelling carriage to the rear
door,'' Langham said. ``Stuart tells us it is harnessed and
ready. You will hurry, please, and get whatever you need to
carry with you. We will see you safely to the coast.''

As they entered the hall, and were ascending the great marble
stairway, Hope and her groom, who had followed in the rear of the
cavalry, came running to meet them. ``I got in by the back
way,'' Hope explained. ``The streets there are all deserted.
How can I help you?'' she asked, eagerly.

``By leaving me,'' cried the older woman. ``Good God, child,
have I not enough to answer for without dragging you into this?
Go home at once through the botanical garden, and then by
way of the wharves. That part of the city is still empty.''

``Where are your servants; why are they not here?'' Hope demanded
without heeding her. The palace was strangely empty; no
footsteps came running to greet them, no doors opened or shut as
they hurried to Madame Alvarez's apartments. The servants of the
household had fled at the first sound of the uproar in the city,
and the dresses and ornaments scattered on the floor told that
they had not gone empty-handed. The woman who had accompanied
Madame Alvarez to the review sank weeping on the bed, and then,
as the shouts grew suddenly louder and more near, ran to hide
herself in the upper stories of the house. Hope crossed to the
window and saw a great mob of soldiers and citizens sweep around
the corner and throw themselves against the iron fence of the
palace. ``You will have to hurry,'' she said. ``Remember, you
are risking the lives of those boys by your delay.''

There was a large bed in the room, and Madame Alvarez had pulled
it forward and was bending over a safe that had opened in the
wall, and which had been hidden by the head board of the bed.
She held up a bundle of papers in her hand, wrapped in a leather
portfolio. ``Do you see these?'' she cried, ``they are drafts
for five millions of dollars.'' She tossed them back into
the safe and swung the door shut.

``You are a witness. I do not take them,'' she said.

``I don't understand,'' Hope answered, ``but hurry. Have you
everything you want--have you your jewels?''

``Yes,'' the woman answered, as she rose to her feet, ``they are
mine.''

A yell more loud and terrible than any that had gone before rose
from the garden below, and there was the sound of iron beating
against iron, and cries of rage and execration from a great
multitude.

``I will not go!'' the Spanish woman cried, suddenly. ``I will
not leave Alvarez to that mob. If they want to kill me, let them
kill me.'' She threw the bag that held her jewels on the bed,
and pushing open the window stepped out upon the balcony. She
was conspicuous in her black dress against the yellow stucco of
the wall, and in an instant the mob saw her and a mad shout of
exultation and anger rose from the mass that beat and crushed
itself against the high iron railings of the garden. Hope caught
the woman by the skirt and dragged her back. ``You are mad,''
she said. ``What good can you do your husband here? Save
yourself and he will come to you when he can. There is
nothing you can do for him now; you cannot give your life for
him. You are wasting it, and you are risking the lives of the
men who are waiting for us below. Come, I tell you.''

MacWilliams left Clay waiting beside the diligence and ran from
the stable through the empty house and down the marble stairs to
the garden without meeting any one on his way. He saw Stuart
helping and directing his men to barricade the gates with iron
urns and garden benches and sentry-boxes. Outside the mob were
firing at him with their revolvers, and calling him foul names,
but Stuart did not seem to hear them. He greeted MacWilliams
with a cheerful little laugh. ``Well,'' he asked, ``is she
ready?''

``No, but we are. Clay and I've been waiting there for five
minutes. We found Miss Hope's groom and sent him back to the
Palms with a message to King. We told him to run the yacht to
Los Bocos and lie off shore until we came. He is to take her on
down the coast to Truxillo, where our man-of-war is lying, and
they will give her shelter as a political refugee.''

``Why don't you drive her to the Palms at once?'' demanded
Stuart, anxiously, ``and take her on board the yacht there? It
is ten miles to Bocos and the roads are very bad.''

``Clay says we could never get her through the city,''
MacWilliams answered. ``We should have to fight all the way.
But the city to the south is deserted, and by going out by the
back roads, we can make Bocos by ten o'clock to-night. The yacht
should reach there by seven.''

``You are right; go back. I will call off some of my men. The
rest must hold this mob back until you start; then I will follow
with the others. Where is Miss Hope?''

``We don't know. Clay is frantic. Her groom says she is
somewhere in the palace.''

``Hurry,'' Stuart commanded. ``If Mendoza gets here before
Madame Alvarez leaves, it will be too late.''

MacWilliams sprang up the steps of the palace, and Stuart,
calling to the men nearest him to follow, started after him on a
run.

As Stuart entered the palace with his men at his heels, Clay was
hurrying from its rear entrance along the upper hall, and Hope
and Madame Alvarez were leaving the apartments of the latter at
its front. They met at the top of the main stairway just as
Stuart put his foot on its lower step. The young Englishman
heard the clatter of his men following close behind him and
leaped eagerly forward. Half way to the top the noise behind him
ceased, and turning his head quickly he looked back over his
shoulder and saw that the men had halted at the foot of the
stairs and stood huddled together in disorder looking up at him.
Stuart glanced over their heads and down the hallway to the
garden beyond to see if they were followed, but the mob still
fought from the outer side of the barricade. He waved his sword
impatiently and started forward again. ``Come on!'' he shouted.
But the men below him did not move. Stuart halted once more and
this time turned about and looked down upon them with surprise
and anger. There was not one of them he could not have called by
name. He knew all their little troubles, their love-affairs,
even. They came to him for comfort and advice, and to beg for
money. He had regarded them as his children, and he was proud of
them as soldiers because they were the work of his hands.

So, instead of a sharp command, he asked, ``What is it?'' in
surprise, and stared at them wondering. He could not or would
not comprehend, even though he saw that those in the front rank
were pushing back and those behind were urging them forward. The
muzzles of their carbines were directed at every point, and on
their faces fear and hate and cowardice were written in varying
likenesses.

``What does this mean?'' Stuart demanded, sharply. ``What are
you waiting for?''

Clay had just reached the top of the stairs. He saw Madame
Alvarez and Hope coming toward him, and at the sight of Hope he
gave an exclamation of relief.

Then his eyes turned and fell on the tableau below, on Stuart's
back, as he stood confronting the men, and on their scowling
upturned faces and half-lifted carbines. Clay had lived for a
longer time among Spanish-Americans than had the English
subaltern, or else he was the quicker of the two to believe in
evil and ingratitude, for he gave a cry of warning, and motioned
the women away.

``Stuart!'' he cried. ``Come away; for God's sake, what are you
doing? Come back!''

The Englishman started at the sound of his friend's voice, but he
did not turn his head. He began to descend the stairs slowly, a
step at a time, staring at the mob so fiercely that they shrank
back before the look of wounded pride and anger in his eyes.
Those in the rear raised and levelled their rifles. Without
taking his eyes from theirs, Stuart drew his revolver, and with
his sword swinging from its wrist-strap, pointed his weapon at
the mass below him.

``What does this mean?'' he demanded. ``Is this mutiny?''

A voice from the rear of the crowd of men shrieked: ``Death to
the Spanish woman. Death to all traitors. Long live
Mendoza,'' and the others echoed the cry in chorus.

Clay sprang down the broad stairs calling, ``Come to me;'' but
before he could reach Stuart, a woman's voice rang out, in a long
terrible cry of terror, a cry that was neither a prayer nor an
imprecation, but which held the agony of both. Stuart started,
and looked up to where Madame Alvarez had thrown herself toward
him across the broad balustrade of the stairway. She was silent
with fear, and her hand clutched at the air, as she beckoned
wildly to him. Stuart stared at her with a troubled smile and
waved his empty hand to reassure her. The movement was final,
for the men below, freed from the reproach of his eyes, flung up
their carbines and fired, some wildly, without placing their guns
at rest, and others steadily and aiming straight at his heart.

As the volley rang out and the smoke drifted up the great
staircase, the subaltern's hands tossed high above his head, his
body sank into itself and toppled backward, and, like a tired
child falling to sleep, the defeated soldier of fortune dropped
back into the outstretched arms of his friend.

Clay lifted him upon his knee, and crushed him closer against his
breast with one arm, while he tore with his free hand at the
stock about the throat and pushed his fingers in between the
buttons of the tunic. They came forth again wet and colored
crimson.

``Stuart!'' Clay gasped. ``Stuart, speak to me, look at me!''
He shook the body in his arms with fierce roughness, peering into
the face that rested on his shoulder, as though he could command
the eyes back again to light and life. ``Don't leave me!'' he
said. ``For God's sake, old man, don't leave me!''

But the head on his shoulder only sank the closer and the body
stiffened in his arms. Clay raised his eyes and saw the soldiers
still standing, irresolute and appalled at what they had done,
and awe-struck at the sight of the grief before them.

Clay gave a cry as terrible as the cry of a woman who has seen
her child mangled before her eyes, and lowering the body quickly
to the steps, he ran at the scattering mass below him. As he
came they fled down the corridor, shrieking and calling to their
friends to throw open the gates and begging them to admit the
mob. When they reached the outer porch they turned, encouraged
by the touch of numbers, and halted to fire at the man who still
followed them.

Clay stopped, with a look in his eyes which no one who knew them
had ever seen there, and smiled with pleasure in knowing himself
a master in what he had to do. And at each report of his
revolver one of Stuart's assassins stumbled and pitched heavily
forward on his face. Then he turned and walked slowly back up
the hall to the stairway like a man moving in his sleep. He
neither saw nor heard the bullets that bit spitefully at the
walls about him and rattled among the glass pendants of the great
chandeliers above his head. When he came to the step on which
the body lay he stooped and picked it up gently, and holding it
across his breast, strode on up the stairs. MacWilliams and
Langham were coming toward him, and saw the helpless figure in
his arms.

``What is it?'' they cried; ``is he wounded, is he hurt?''

``He is dead,'' Clay answered, passing on with his burden. ``Get
Hope away.''

Madame Alvarez stood with the girl's arms about her, her eyes
closed and her figure trembling.

``Let me be!'' she moaned. ``Don't touch me; let me die. My
God, what have I to live for now?'' She shook off Hope's
supporting arm, and stood before them, all her former courage
gone, trembling and shivering in agony. ``I do not care what
they do to me!'' she cried. She tore her lace mantilla from her
shoulders and threw it on the floor. ``I shall not leave this
place. He is dead. Why should I go? He is dead. They
have murdered him; he is dead.''

``She is fainting,'' said Hope. Her voice was strained and hard.

To her brother she seemed to have grown suddenly much older, and
he looked to her to tell him what to do.

``Take hold of her,'' she said. ``She will fall.'' The woman
sank back into the arms of the men, trembling and moaning feebly.

``Now carry her to the carriage,'' said Hope. ``She has fainted;
it is better; she does not know what has happened.''

Clay, still bearing the body in his arms, pushed open the first
door that stood ajar before him with his foot. It opened into
the great banqueting hall of the palace, but he could not choose.

He had to consider now the safety of the living, whose lives were
still in jeopardy.

The long table in the centre of the hall was laid with places for
many people, for it had been prepared for the President and the
President's guests, who were to have joined with him in
celebrating the successful conclusion of the review. From
outside the light of the sun, which was just sinking behind the
mountains, shone dimly upon the silver on the board, on the glass
and napery, and the massive gilt centre-pieces filled with great
clusters of fresh flowers. It looked as though the servants
had but just left the room. Even the candles had been lit in
readiness, and as their flames wavered and smoked in the evening
breeze they cast uncertain shadows on the walls and showed the
stern faces of the soldier presidents frowning down on the
crowded table from their gilded frames.

There was a great leather lounge stretching along one side of the
hall, and Clay moved toward this quickly and laid his burden
down. He was conscious that Hope was still following him. He
straightened the limbs of the body and folded the arms across the
breast and pressed his hand for an instant on the cold hands of
his friend, and then whispering something between his lips,
turned and walked hurriedly away.

Hope confronted him in the doorway. She was sobbing silently.
``Must we leave him,'' she pleaded, ``must we leave him--like
this?''

From the garden there came the sound of hammers ringing on the
iron hinges, and a great crash of noises as the gate fell back
from its fastenings, and the mob rushed over the obstacles upon
which it had fallen. It seemed as if their yells of exultation
and anger must reach even the ears of the dead man.

``They are calling Mendoza,'' Clay whispered, ``he must be with
them. Come, we will have to run for our lives now.''

But before he could guess what Hope was about to do, or could
prevent her, she had slipped past him and picked up Stuart's
sword that had fallen from his wrist to the floor, and laid it on
the soldier's body, and closed his hands upon its hilt. She
glanced quickly about her as though looking for something, and
then with a sob of relief ran to the table, and sweeping it of an
armful of its flowers, stepped swiftly back again to the lounge
and heaped them upon it.

``Come, for God's sake, come!'' Clay called to her in a whisper
from the door.

Hope stood for an instant staring at the young Englishman as the
candle-light flickered over his white face, and then, dropping on
her knees, she pushed back the curly hair from about the boy's
forehead and kissed him. Then, without turning to look again,
she placed her hand in Clay's and he ran with her, dragging her
behind him down the length of the hall, just as the mob entered
it on the floor below them and filled the palace with their
shouts of triumph.

As the sun sank lower its light fell more dimly on the lonely
figure in the vast diningDhall, and as the gloom deepened there,
the candles burned with greater brilliancy, and the faces of the
portraits shone more clearly.

They seemed to be staring down less sternly now upon the
white mortal face of the brother-in-arms who had just joined
them.

One who had known him among his own people would have seen in the
attitude and in the profile of the English soldier a likeness to
his ancestors of the Crusades who lay carved in stone in the
village church, with their faces turned to the sky, their
faithful hounds waiting at their feet, and their hands pressed
upward in prayer.

And when, a moment later, the half-crazed mob of men and boys
swept into the great room, with Mendoza at their head, something
of the pathos of the young Englishman's death in his foreign
place of exile must have touched them, for they stopped appalled
and startled, and pressed back upon their fellows, with eager
whispers. The Spanish-American General strode boldly forward,
but his eyes lowered before the calm, white face, and either
because the lighted candles and the flowers awoke in him some
memory of the great Church that had nursed him, or because the
jagged holes in the soldier's tunic appealed to what was bravest
in him, he crossed himself quickly, and then raising his hands
slowly to his visor, lifted his hat and pointed with it to the
door. And the mob, without once looking back at the rich
treasure of silver on the table, pushed out before him, stepping
softly, as though they had intruded on a shrine.

If you like this book please share to your friends :
NEXT BOOKS

Soldiers Of Fortune - Chapter XIII Soldiers Of Fortune - Chapter XIII

Soldiers Of Fortune - Chapter XIII
The President's travelling carriage was a double-seated diligencecovered with heavy hoods and with places on the box for two men. Only one of the coachmen, the same man who had driven the Statecarriage from the review, had remained at the stables. As heknew the roads to Los Bocos, Clay ordered him up to the driver'sseat, and MacWilliams climbed into the place beside him afterfirst storing three rifles under the lap-robe.Hope pulled open the leather curtains of the carriage and foundMadame Alvarez where the men had laid her upon the cushions, weakand hysterical. The girl crept in beside her, and
PREVIOUS BOOKS

Soldiers Of Fortune - Chapter XI Soldiers Of Fortune - Chapter XI

Soldiers Of Fortune - Chapter XI
There was no chance for Clay to speak to Hope again, though hefelt the cruelty of having to leave her with everything betweenthem in this interrupted state. But their friends stood abouther, interested and excited over this expedition of smuggledarms, unconscious of the great miracle that had come into hislife and of his need to speak to and to touch the woman who hadwrought it. Clay felt how much more binding than the laws oflife are the little social conventions that must be observed attimes, even though the heart is leaping with joy or racked withsorrow. He stood
NEXT 10 BOOKS | PREVIOUS 10 BOOKS | RANDOM 10 BOOKS
LEAVE A COMMENT