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The Earthquake

The Earthquake image
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Surely no building of its size ever contained niorofood for the imaginatiou that my trieúd Norman'a riverside bungalow. It was fairly crammed with curiosities froin nmuy Liuds. Jack Norman had not ouly "been everywhere aud seen everything, ' ' as the saying is - he had brought home a shipload of ruute but conviucing witnesses. Capital yarus be would spin about his treasures too, but of one object neither he nor his pretty Spanish-Anierican wife could be induced to speak, except casually. "The Liberator is sacred,'1 he would say when asked where he gotit, or "The Liberator has been in au earthquake. ' ' when its battered appearance was coinmented upon. It was the figure of a satyr in bronze, about 8 feet high, with the legs and hoofs of a goat, short, blunted horns, huge pointed ears, grinning, lopsided mouth and a broken'nose. lts left eye had also been in the wars - the metal was dented as if by a heavy blow, which had ahanged thefigure's original roguish expression into a hideous leer. Often have I seen Jack put his arm round its wry neck and talk to it with all the affectiou that a parent bestows on his offspring But it was Mrs. Norman who gave me tbe clew to the secret. Jack had been seriously ill - a return of jungle fever. His wife carne to me in the drawing room. "Oh, he is so nruch better, " she said, with her dark eyes swimming. "He soon will be well. Ah, me ! What would I do without my brave, true husband? I think no wife has ever been so happy as I. And'1 - turning to the hideous satyr - "you gave him tome, you dear old thingl" She flung her arms round the twisted neck and kissed the grinning mouth. A dozen times she pressed her warm lips to the cold bronze. I could not help smiling. "You laugh," she said, "but it is trne. Someday Jack shall teil you, perhaps. We do not like to speak of it. There is a grave bevond the sea. A mother tends it who would grieve if the truth were known. ': So.on afterward I had the good lnck to do Norman a service. "I must niake you a present," he said. "Look round and teil me what you would like. I bar the Liberator, of course. ' ' "Iwon't take anything, " Ianswered. "If you'll teil me why you set such store by that old bronze, we shall be quits. " "I couldn't have done it a week ago for a certaiïi reason. But the person ooncerned is dead. " I had noticed that Mrs. Norman was iu deep njourniug. He took anude, guardless sword f rom the wall. "Do you know what this is?" he asked. "Some sort of sword," I replied. "It is a Nicaraguan machete, carried by all the men and mauy of the women in that unquiet country. Look along the edge. ' ' I did so and perceived a dull stain near the square point. Jack drew his fluger down a long white scar on his bronzed cheek. 'That stain is blood. It carne frorn here - some of it. I got a worse cut on the head. Now I'll teil you the story. " He lit a cigar, flung himself into an easy chair and began. "Some years ago I had an interest in a Segovian gold mine. Segovia, I should say, is in Nicaragua, between the Great lake and Honduras. Tiring of the wild life, I resolved to visit Granada. One night I passed in the hotel, and that was too long, for I was eaten alive. Next day I songht out a vacant house, found the owner and struck a bargain. "The house I rented was an immense building, erected on three sides of a courtyard paved with marble. There was not a pane of glass in it, but plenty of iron bars. The courtyard had a broken fountain ín the center, waterless, of course, and half hidden by rubbish and shrubs, run wild long since. "The time hung pretty heavily npon my hands, so one rnorning I set to work to clear away the rnbbish that choked the basin of the fountain. At the very bottom of the heap I found the Liberator. "I cleaned the statue myself. Pepe dared not touch it at first. He said it was a Oarib god, It wasn't in its present battered condition then, and I considered it a great flnd. We set it up on a shelf above my bed, and in 48 hours I had forgotten all abont it. "Of course I visited the cafes, where you may drink bad chocolate and gam ble to your heart's content. Everybody does both there, and 'rhen one is in Rome' - you know the adage? "At a gambling house I met Don Manuel Arguello. By way of return for the money he had won of me he took me home and introduced me to his mother and cousin. After that I oalled every day, for I had fallen in love with the Señora Isabel. "The passion of my life was returned. But I was unaware that Don Manuel also loved her. I did not learn until too late that he had long looked forward to repairing bis broken fortunes by marriage with his cousin. He enlighteued me - need not describe the scène - and I refused to stand aside. Then he threatened to take my life. "As you know, rny wife is a capital horsewoniaii. and it was our castora to rlde daily ou the Los Cocos road. One moruing ruy darliug faiied to meet me at the trysting place. I dismounted to wait, leaving my horse with Pepe. Presently he oalled me. and I found him exarnining the tracks ' 'Senor, ' said he in his grave fashion. 'here is the trail of the señora 's mare. It is fresh. It was made this morning. ' He moved on. bent doublé Otherhorses have halted here. have I plunged about and have gone. The senora's mare went with thern Again fae moved on ' 'Ah " heexclaimed presentiy. there is the print of a lasso ring which has missed the mark There the seuora's mare halted suddeuly, like the wise animal she is. That lasso did not miss, and she has had a fall before maybe' - 'What ou earth are you driviug at?' I cried ' 'The señora turued there and spurted the mare,' hesaid. 'The other horses followed in a great hurry senor. She did not gallop far, as we have seen. Afterward she went quietly. ' '" 'Por the love of heaven teil me what you have learned I' I cried. ' A nrile farther on. señor, ' answered the Indian stolidly. 'there is a path whioh leads to Don Manuel's hacienda. If the seuora's mare turns tliere. that is where the Señora Isabel will have gone - not williugly, señor. ' "We galloped hard to the byway spoken of. Sure euongh, all the tracks left the road there The observant Indiau veas right. "I had my pistols, he his machete. We pursued the abdnctors and caught thein before they reached the hacienda - as ugly a quartet as I ever set eyes on. The prudent Don Manuel had directed the business frorn a safe distance. "His fellows showed fight, of course, but I nianaged to wing one at the first flre, when they all turued tai] I took my darling back to her aunt, with she was quite safe. Don Manuel did not show up. He knew better. ' ' Mrs. Norman carne in just then, and Jack abrupt ly changed the subject Half au hour later Jack resumed. i " "My darling was very fond of her annt and unwilling to hurt her, so we said nothing of her son 's villainy. But when Pepe and I got back to our ruinous palace he advised me to barricade the door of rny room. However, I didn't think it worth while, but at nightfall I stretched myself on the hide bed and feil asleep, with a revolver close to my hand. "About tnidnight I was awakened by a cut on the head, whioh, luckily. did not stun me, or I shouldn't be spinning bh is yarn now I started up with the blood streaming down my face. "Don Manuel stood over me with my revolver in one hand and an uplifted machete in the other. There's the machete. " 'Now you shall die, robber!' he hissed and aimed another blow at me, which I avoided. Shouting loudly for Pepe, I grappied with him and got hold of his wrists. I was the strouger, bnt loss of blood had weakened me. He wrenched his right hand f ree and cut me across the cheek. The blow dazed me ; I staggered and feil on the bed. ' ' Before I could rise his knee was on my chest, the machete at my throat. I feit the edge. With a last effort I flung hiin from me. That instant the bed heaved and tossed, the stout walls shook, the sleeping city awoke wih a scream of terror. Dazed as I was, I kuew what had happened. So did my enemy. ' ' 'The earthquake shall not save yon !' he yelled, and rushed at me over the quivering floor. But again the bed heaved beneath me Something feil from above. Therewas a dull, sickeuing thud - a scream of agony - and Don Manuel rolled over and lay still, leaviug the machete across my neck. Ah. that was a close shave ! ' ' I staggered to my feet and groped my way through clouds of dust to the street. which was full of people, shrieking, wailing, praying to the saiuts Ac hour the earthquake lasted, shock following shock. "When all was quiet and the people had ceased to wail and pray, I retnrned to the palace. Pepe lay iu his hammock, boundand gagged. Together we entered the room where I had so narrowly esoaped death. ' ' The body of Don Manuel, with the skull crushed in, lay beside my bed. Close at hand lay the Liberator in the condition iu which you see it. The statue had toppled over in the nick of time, killed the would be murderer and set me free. On such chances do the lives of men hang. "Don Manuel's mother never knew the truth respecting his death. It was attributed to the earthquake. as also were the cuts on my head and cheek I left Granada as soon as I could. taking my bride with me. ' ' Now you know why we treasnre the Liberator, and whv we have nor, dareri to talk about it. "


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