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Gustave Aimard
Stoneheart A Romance

CHAPTER I.
SYMPATHY

Sympathy is a feeling admitting neither analyzation nor discussion. It masters us, whether we will or no. Persons we meet unconsciously attract or repel us at first sight. And why? It is a question impossible to answer, but the fact is indubitable. An irresistible magnetic influence draws us towards people whom, if we listened to the promptings of self-interest, we ought to shun; while, on the other hand, the same influence compels us to avoid others, in whom this very interest should induce us to confide.

And it is an extraordinary fact, well worthy of remark, that this intuition, acting in opposition to our reasoning powers, seldom if ever misleads us. Sooner or later we are forced to acknowledge as right what to the prejudiced eyes of the world appeared erroneous, and find that our sympathy, far from deceiving, has only led us to the truth.

The result of this sympathy and antipathy are so palpable, so many persons have experienced the effects of this mysterious influence, that it would be superfluous for us to linger longer over the topic.

Don Estevan and Stoneheart had become acquainted under circumstances which might have induced enmity between them, or, at all events, made them indifferent to each other: the reputation of the bee-hunter, and the singular life he led, were ample reasons why the young and straightforward mayor domo of Don Pedro de Luna should feel himself repelled by them; and yet a diametrically opposite effect was produced without the two young men knowing why, and they suddenly felt themselves friends, bound together, not by one of those vapid sentimentalities so common in civilised life in Europe, where the word "friend" means no more than a mere acquaintance, and is one of the titles most easily and constantly profaned, but by the strong, true feeling, admitting neither limit nor reasoning, which shoots up so strongly in a few hours that it engrosses an immense part of the existence of those of whom it has taken possession.

They had never seen each other before their casual encounter in the road to San Lucar, and yet they seemed to have known each other for ages, and now only to have met again after a long parting.

Singular to say, the same effect was produced on both at the same moment, without calculation or reservation.

What we have asserted is so true, that Don Estevan, notwithstanding the innate prudence of his character, had not hesitated to confide to Stoneheart, on the spur of the moment, the history of his master, or, to speak more correctly, his benefactor. He had recounted this history in all its details, without disguising anything, or omitting a title, induced to act as he did by the secret presentiment which apprised him that he had found a man worthy of sharing the burden of this important secret.

The course of this tale will furnish us with still stronger proofs of the singular confidence these two men had instantly felt for each other.

The sun was setting in a flood of purple and gold behind the snowy crests of the lofty and jagged mountains of the Sierra Madre, when Don Estevan ceased speaking.

The landscape assumed that garb of placid melancholy in which it clothes itself at the approach of eve; the birds came flying in countless flocks, to nestle, twittering, under the leafy boughs of the grand old trees. Vaqueros and peones, galloping in all directions, mustered the cattle, and drove them towards the hacienda; and in the distance appeared a camp of arrieros, whose watch fires already began to tinge the rapidly darkening sky with a ruddy glow.

"And now," resumed Don Estevan, "having acquired as intimate a knowledge as my own of the secrets of the family with whom chance has brought you into contact, what do you intend to do?"

"First, and before all a single word," answered Stoneheart.

"Say on; you must indeed have many things to confide to me in your turn."

"Not so many as you think. You already know as much of my life as I do myself; that is to say, almost nothing. But that is not the question between us at present."

"What can it be, then?" said Don Estevan, unable to repress his curiosity.

"I am about to tell you. Surely you have not told me this long and interesting tale with the sole purpose of satisfying a curiosity I never exhibited; there must be some other motive in your thoughts, and I think I have guessed it. Don Estevan Diaz, two bold men, bound to each other as closely as the ivy and the oak, with thoughts running in the same channel, with but one will between them, – two such men are mighty; for the one forms the complement to the other, and what each alone would not dare to essay, the two will undertake without hesitation, and be almost certain to succeed, however hazardous and rash their projects may seem. Are you of the same way of thinking?"

"Most surely, Don Fernando; I am entirely of the same opinion."

A flash of joy illumined the face of the bee-hunter. "Good!" said he, stretching out his arm; "Here is my hand, Don Estevan; it belongs to a man who, with his hand, offers you a loyal and honest heart, whatever may be said to the contrary: will you accept them?"

"¡Vive Dios!" eagerly exclaimed the mayor domo, heartily pressing in his own the hand so frankly tendered; "I accept both one and the other. Thanks, brother! I was on the point of making the same offer to you; we are now one for life or death. I am yours, as the handle is to the blade."

"Ah!" said Don Fernando, with a sigh of pleasure, "At last I have a friend. I shall no longer wander through life alone: joy and sorrow, grief and happiness, – I shall have one to whom I can confide them all."

"You shall have more than one to sympathise with you, brother; you shall have a mother too. Mine shall be yours also. Come, let us mount; it grows late. We have still many things to talk of."

"Let us go," was all the hunter answered.

The horses had not strayed from the neighbourhood of the rancho, near which they found abundant pasturage: the men easily lassoed them, and five minutes later the friends rode side by side in the direction of Don Estevan's dwelling.

Ña Manuela was awaiting them at the entrance. She was smiling.

"Make haste!" she cried, as soon as she perceived them; "the angelus has rung an hour ago. It is supper time."

"Which means to say, mother, that we are dying with hunger," replied her son, dismounting; "so, if you have not prepared an ample meal, you run great risk of leaving our appetites unappeased."

"No fear of that, Estevan. I thought you would arrive in some such condition; so I took my precautions."

"Can you forgive me, madam," said the bee-hunter, "for making this fresh inroad on your hospitality?"

The mistress of the house smiled kindly.

"I am so ready to forgive you, señor," said she, "that, feeling convinced we should have you a long time with us, I have myself arranged your cuarto (quarters)."

Don Fernando did not reply at once: a lively blush overspread his features; he dismounted, and approaching the old lady:

"Señora," said he, much affected, "I know not how to thank you; you have guessed the dearest wish of my heart. Your son calls me brother: would you deign to permit me to call you mother? How happy it would make me!"

Ña Manuela fixed upon him a long and steadfast gaze: her face exhibited tokens of vivid emotion; two tears coursed slowly down her pallid cheeks. Then, stretching out her hand to the hunter, she said:

"Be it so! Instead of one, I have now two children. Come, my sons, supper is waiting."

"My name is Fernando, mother."

"I will not forget it," was her smiling answer. They entered the dwelling, while some peones led away the horses to the corral.

Don Fernando had not deceived his friend; he had in truth given him a mother.

The meal proceeded with the cheerfulness to be expected from three persons who, although strangers three days before, had suddenly understood and appreciated each other: that is to say, it was gay and cordial. No allusion was made to the impromptu band which had linked them together so intimately and unexpectedly.

As soon as the peones had retired, and their masters found themselves alone, they left the table, and betook themselves, as on the previous day, to an inner room, where, sheltered from prying eyes and ears, they ran no risk of having their conversation overheard, commented on, and perhaps reported.

"Shut the door," said Don Estevan to Don Fernando, who was the last to enter.

"Not so," replied the latter; "we will leave it open: by this means we shall both see and hear anyone who may come near us. Take this as a general rule: never close the door when you have secrets to tell."

Don Estevan drew forward some butacas (seats), sat down, lit his cigarette, and turning to the hunter, said:

"Now for our talk!"

There are certain situations in life where the most insignificant word becomes of the greatest importance. So, when Don Estevan said, "Now for our talk!" each of the three felt that the conversation to ensue would not be confined to the limits of pleasant chat, but would almost assume the proportions of a congress with closed doors, so extremely grave were the matters which would be propounded.

It was Don Fernando who first commenced the conversation in the decided and clear manner which was habitual to him.

"My friend, I have pondered deeply on what you told me today: you would never have intrusted such an important secret to me, if grave reasons had not induced you. I think I have divined your reasons; they are these: the tranquillity which Don Pedro has enjoyed since he lived here is menaced; you dread evil to Doña Hermosa. Are these your motives, or am I mistaken?"

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Stoneheart: A Romance

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На этой странице вы можете прочитать онлайн книгу «Stoneheart: A Romance», автора Gustave Aimard. Данная книга имеет возрастное ограничение 12+, относится к жанру «Зарубежная классика».. Книга «Stoneheart: A Romance» была издана в 2017 году. Приятного чтения!