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With this volume terminates the series in which Gustave Aimard has described the sad fate of the Count de Raousset-Boulbon, who fell a victim to Mexican treachery. In the next volume to be published, under the title of the "Trail Hunter," will be found the earlier history of some of the characters whose acquaintance the reader has formed, I trust with pleasure, in the present series. The Jesuits founded in Mexico missions round which, with the patience that constantly distinguished them, an unbounded charity, and a perseverance which nothing could discourage, they succeeded in collecting a large of Indians, whom they instructed in the principal and most touching dogmas of their faith—whom they baptized, instructed, and induced to till the soil.
These missions, at first inificant and a great distance apart, insensibly increased. The Indians, attracted by the gentle amenity of the good fathers, placed themselves under their protection; and there is no doubt that if the Jesuits, victims to the jealousy of the Spanish viceroys, had not been shamefully plundered and expelled from Mexico, they would have brought around them the majority of the fiercest Indios Bravoshave civilised them, and made them give up their nomadic life. It is to one of these missions we purpose conducting the reader, a month after the events we have narrated in a preceding work.
Nothing can equal the grandeur and originality of its position. Nothing can compare, in wild grandeur and imposing severity, with the majestically terrible landscape which presents itself to the vision, and fills the heart with terror and a melancholy joy, at the sight of the frightful and gloomy rocks which tower over the river like colossal walls and gigantic parapets, apparently formed by some convulsion of nature; while in the midst of this chaos, at the foot of these astounding precipices, past which the river rushes in impetuous cascades, and in a delicious valley covered with verdure, stands the house, commanded on three sides by immense mountains, which raise their distant peaks almost to the heavens.
The terrified members of this simple and innocent community, scattered by persecution, sought refuge in the desert, and returned to that savage life from which they were rescued with so much difficulty. Wild beasts dwell in the house of God, and nothing is heard save the voice of solitude murmuring unceasingly through the deserted houses and crumbling walls, which parasitic plants are rapidly invading, and will soon level with the ground, covering them with a winding sheet of verdure.
It was evening. The wind roared hoarsely through the trees. The sky, like a dome of diamond, flashed with those millions of stars which are also worlds; the moon spread around a vague and mysterious light; and the atmosphere, refreshed by a gusty breeze, was embalmed with those desert odours which it is so healthy to respire. Still the night was somewhat fresh, and three travellers, crouching round a large brasero kindled amid the ruins, seemed to appreciate its kindly warmth.
These travellers, on whose hard features the changing flashes of light were reflected, would have supplied a splendid subject for an artist, with their strange costumes, as they were encamped there in the midst of the wild and startling landscape. A little distance behind the principal group four hobbled horses were munching their provender, while their riders, for their part, were concluding a scanty meal, composed of a slice of venison, a few pieces of tasajoand maize tortillas, the whole washed down with water slightly dashed with refino to take off its hardness.
Although they ate like true hunters—that is to say, with good appetite, and not losing a mouthful—it was easy to guess that our friends were engaged with serious matters for thought. Their eyes wandered incessantly around, consulting the shadows, and striving to pierce the darkness. At times the hand stopped half way to the mouth—the lump of tasajo remained in suspense: with their left hand they instinctively sought the rifle that lay on the ground near them.
They stretched forth their necks, and listened attentively, analysing those thousand nameless noises of the great American deserts, which all have a cause, and are an infallible warning to the man who knows how to understand them. Still the meal drew to an end. Valentine was in deep reflection. Louis had risen, and, leaning against a wall, looked cautiously out into the desert. A long period elapsed ere a word was exchanged, until Louis seated himself again by the hunter's side. He has left us for nearly three hours without telling us the reason, and has not returned yet.
I do not suspect; I am restless, that is all. Like yourself, I feel a too lively and sincere friendship for the chief not to fear some accident. If he has not returned, there are important reasons for it, be assured. Perhaps our safety depends on this very absence. Believe me, Louis, I know Curumilla much better than you do. I have slept too long side by side with him not to place the utmost confidence in him. Thus, you see, I patiently await his return. Valentine regarded his foster brother with a most peculiar look; then he replied, with a shrug of his shoulders, and an air of supreme contempt,—.
Curumilla dead! Nonsense, brother, you must be jesting! You know perfectly well that is impossible. What do we want of him at this moment? You do not intend to leave this bivouac, I fancy? Well, what consequence is it if he return an hour sooner or later? Ten minutes later, Don Louis, despite his ill temper, overcome by fatigue, slept as if he were never to wake up again. Valentine allowed a quarter of an hour to elapse ere he made a move; then he rose gently, crept up to his foster brother, bent over him, and examined him attentively for two or three minutes.
The hunter thrust into his girdle the pistols he had laid on the ground, threw his rifle over his shoulder, and stepping carefully across the stones and rubbish that burdened the soil, rapidly but noiselessly retired, and speedily disappeared in the darkness. He walked in this way for about ten minutes, when he reached a dense thicket. Then he crouched behind a shrub, and, after taking a cautious survey of the surrounding country, whistled gently thrice, being careful to leave an equal space of time between each al.
At the expiration of two or three minutes the cry of the moorhen was heard twice from the midst of the trees that bordered the river's bank only a few paces from the spot where the hunter was standing. And the worthy hunter set the hammer of his rifle.
After taking this precaution he left the thicket in which he had been concealed, and advanced with apparent resolution, but still without neglecting any precaution to avoid a surprise, toward the spot whence the reply to his al had come. When he had covered about half the distance four or five persons came forward to meet him. Still, you requested this interview; hence you are bound to accept my conditions, and not I yours. Still, the first time we had a conference together, I found you much more facile. The man to whom Valentine displayed so little confidence, or, to speak more clearly, whom he doubted so greatly, was no other than General Don Sebastian Guerrero.
I think I have given you a great proof of my condescension," the general said as he ed him. I am certain of what I assert, that is all. What probability is there that a great personage like you, general, Governor of Sonora, and Lord knows what else, would lower yourself to solicit from a poor fellow of a hunter like myself an interview at night, in the heart of the desert, unless he hoped to obtain a great advantage from that interview?
A man must be mad or a fool not to see that at the first glance; and Heaven be thanked, I am neither one nor the other. Our first relations, as you reminded me just now, ought to have proved to you that I am easy enough in business matters. Still the transaction I have to propose to you is of rather a peculiar nature, and I am afraid——". After all, that is possible. Would you like me to save you the trouble of an explanation?
The two men were standing just two paces apart, looking in each other's eyes. Still Valentine, ever on his guard, was carefully watching, though not appearing to do so, the four men left behind. Don Sebastian, at these words, pronounced with a cutting accent, involuntarily gave a of surprise, and fell back a pace.
Now that you have discovered Don Louis is not the accomplice you hoped to find, who would raise you to the president's chair, and as you despair of changing his views, you wish to get rid of him—that is natural.
For that purpose you can hit on nothing better than buying him. Indeed, you are used to such transactions. I have in my hands the proofs of several which do you a great deal of honour. The general was livid with terror and rage. He clenched his fists and stamped, while uttering unconnected words. The hunter seemed not to notice this agitation, and continued imperturbably,—. I am no Dog-face, a fellow with whom you made a famous bargain some years ago. I have dealt in cattle, but never in human flesh.
Each man has his speciality, and I leave that to you.
Did you accept this interview for the purpose of insulting me? I want to propose a business transaction.
I have in my possession various papers, which, if they saw light, and were, handed to certain persons, might cost you not only your fortune, but possibly your life. But the latter was on his guard. By a movement as quick as his adversary's, he seized the general by the throat, threw himself upon him, and laid his foot on his chest. Certainly the general was a brave man.
Many times he had supplied unequivocal proofs of a courage carried almost to temerity: still he saw such resolution flashing in the hunter's tawny eye, that he felt a shudder pass through all his limbs—he was lost, he was afraid. I hold both in my hands. Now, one word—take care that you do nothing against the count.
The general had profited by the hunter's permission to rise; but so soon as he felt himself free, and his feet were firmly attached to the ground, a revolution was effected in him, and he felt his courage return. It is now a war to the death between us, without pity and without mercy. If I have to carry my head to the scaffold, the count shall die; for I hate him, and I require his death to satisfy my vengeance. I do not care if you employ the papers with which you threatened me, for I am invulnerable.
And, taking advantage of the general's stupefaction, the hunter uttered a hoarse laugh and rushed into the thicket, where it was impossible to follow him. My daughter! And he reed his companions, and went off with them, not responding to one of the questions they asked him. Valentine, after suddenly parting from the general as we narrated, did not appear at all alarmed about pursuit; and if he hurried on at first, he soon relaxed his speed.
On arriving about a hundred yards from the spot where his interview with Don Sebastian had taken place, he stopped, raised his eyes to the sky, and seemed to consult his position. Then he went on; but, instead of proceeding toward the mission, he turned his back completely on it, and returned to the bank of the river, whence he had before been retrograding.
Although the hunter was walking at a quick pace, he seemed greatly preoccupied, and looked mechanically around him. At times he stopped, not to listen to any strange sound, but through the thoughts which oppressed him, and robbed him of all sense of external things. Evidently Valentine was seeking the solution of a problem that troubled him. At length, after about a quarter of an hour, he saw a faint light a few paces ahead of him. It glistened through the trees, and seemed to indicate an encampment. Valentine stopped and whistled softly. At the same moment the branches of a shrub, about five yards from him, parted, and a man appeared.
It was Curumilla. The hunter made an angry gesture. As they let themselves ever be guided by passion, they overthrow unconsciously the surest combinations. Well, lead me to her. I will try to convince her. The Indian smiled maliciously, but made no reply. He turned away and led the hunter to the fire. Ten paces behind the females, several peons, armed to the teeth, leant on their long lances, awaiting the pleasure of their mistress. The young lady made a gesture ifying her readiness to hear something which she knew beforehand would be disagreeable.
I shall have got back before he comes.
I have nothing to fear on that side. The young lady remained thoughtful for a moment; then she raised her head, and shook it several times. Do you not know that your father is our most inveterate foe? You ought to have urged these objections when I sent my request to you. Return as speedily as possible to the hacienda.Latino Fremont looking for mujeres atrevidas
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THE INDIAN CHIEF