As soon as the Indian’s face appeared above the rock Pharaoh and _nstinctively moved towards him, whereupon he disappeared again with a sudde_harp cry, which was immediately answered from above.
“Now, we shall have the whole pack upon us,” said my companion.
In this prediction he was right, for within a moment the whole body of twelv_ndians had surrounded us, and stood gazing at us with faces in which I looke_n vain for any sign of compassion at our forlorn state. Behind them came th_onk, still clad in his shroud-like cowl, and moving with silent steps as i_e were a ghost rather than a living man. But as he drew near to where w_tood he threw back the hood from his head, and then we saw his face for th_irst time.
I will describe this man to you, because he was not only the most remarkabl_ut also the most relentlessly cruel man that I have ever come across in m_ife. As for his name, which we learnt ere long, it was Bartolomeo de lo_ios, and his one aim and passion was the hunting, torturing, and burning o_eretics. He had the faculties of a sleuth-hound and the instincts of _erpent, and when he had once set his heart on hunting a man to his death, i_as only by God’s mercy that that man escaped.
Nevertheless this man as he stood before us, looking steadily upon us fro_nder his cowl, did not seem so fearful a monster of cruelty as we afterward_new him to be. We saw simply a thin, dark-faced monk, whose face was pale a_archment, and whose eyes were extraordinarily bright and keen. The lines an_urrows on his brow and cheeks seemed to tell of pain or thought, and hi_ightly-pursed, thin lips betokened firmness and resolution. I think he coul_ave stood calmly by while his own father was being tortured and have change_o muscle of his face. Thus he was an object of much greater fear than th_ndians, who were certainly horrible enough to frighten anybody that had neve_een them before.
We stood gazing at the monk and his Indians for a moment ere either of u_poke. The Indians seemed to wait instructions from the monk, and looke_oward him with eager eyes. As for Pharaoh and myself, we waited to see wha_ould happen. I think we both realized that fortune had suddenly deserted us, but nevertheless we kept a firm grip on our cudgels, and were both resolved t_se them if necessary.
The monk spoke. His voice was low, sweet and gentle—there was naught o_ruelty in it.
“Greeting, my children,” said he, addressing us. “Be not afraid. There shal_o harm come to you.”
“It will be ill for the man who threatens us with any,” answered Pharaoh i_panish. “We are travelers, and have no mind to be disturbed.”
“You travel by strange paths,” said the monk. “To what part of the country ar_ou going?”
“To Acapulco,” answered Pharaoh, adding to me, in English, “there is no har_n telling him that.”
“There is a good road from Oaxaca to Acapulco,” said the monk. “Why not follo_t?”
“We are minded to take our own way,” said Pharaoh doggedly.
“You Englishmen are fond of that,” observed the monk with a strange smile.
“Who says we are English?” asked Pharaoh.
“Your Spanish is proof of that.”
“I am from Catalonia,” said Pharaoh. “We do not speak pure Castilian there.”
“And your companion? Is he, too, from Catalonia, or is he dumb?”
To that Pharaoh answered nothing. The monk turned his bright eyes on me.
“What is your business here?” he said, in very good English. “If you canno_peak to me in my tongue, I must talk with you in yours.”
“Answer him,” said Pharaoh. “There is no use in further concealment.”
“I see no reason why I should answer you, master,” said I, feeling somewha_ettled at the man’s peremptory tone. “What right have you to stop us in thi_ashion?”
He smiled again, if that could be called a smile which was simply a sudde_lash of the eyes and a tightening of the thin lips, and looked round at hi_ndians.
“The right of force,” said he quietly. “You are two—we are many.”
“Two Englishmen are worth twenty Spanish devils,” said I sulkily.
“If it is to come to fighting,” said Pharaoh, gripping his cudgel.
The monk said a word in a low tone. The Indians on the instant raised thei_ows and drew their arrows to the full extent of the string. The tips pointe_ead upon us.
“Englishmen,” said the monk, “look at those arrows. Every one of them i_ipped with poison. If you move I give the word, and those arrows will find _esting place in you. Let them but touch your arms, your shoulders, inflictin_ut a scratch, in a few seconds you will be as one that is paralyzed, in a fe_inutes you will lie dead.”
The man’s words were gentle enough, but somehow his low, sweet voice made m_lood run cold. Why did cruelty veil itself in such a honeyed tone?
“What is it you want of us, master?” asked Pharaoh presently.
“Your names and business.”
“That is easily answered. This gentleman is one Master Humphrey Salkeld, o_orkshire in England, who hath many powerful friends at court; as for me, I a_ sailor, and my name is Pharaoh Nanjulian, of Marazion in Cornwall. As fo_ur business, we are shipwrecked mariners, or as good, and our hope is to fin_n English vessel at Acapulco and so return home. If you be a Christian yo_ill help us.”
“Christians help only Christians. I fear ye are Lutherans, enemies of God.”
“That we are not,” answered Pharaoh stoutly. “I will say my Paternoster i_nglish with anybody, and my Belief too, for that matter.”
The monk sighed. Perhaps he was disappointed to find that Pharaoh had so muc_nowledge.
“And you?” he said, turning to me.
“I am a Christian,” I answered, surlily enough, for I did not like thi_xamination.
“We are both Christians, master,” said Pharaoh. “Maybe we think not as you d_n some points, but ’tis naught. So help us of your charity, and assist us t_et out of this country to our own, and we will say a Paternoster for yo_ight and morning.”
“Verily,” answered the monk, “you speak fairly. I will help you. You shall g_ith me to Mexico, and there we will see what ships there are at Vera Cruz.”
“We would rather push forward to Acapulco,” answered Pharaoh. “There are mor_ikely to be English ships there.”
“English ships have gone there little during recent years, and you will fin_one now,” said the monk.
“For all that we would rather take our chance there,” said Pharaoh.
“It will be better for you to accompany me to Mexico. Vera Cruz is close a_and. And now, as the day waxes late, we will proceed.”
Now, there was no use in further argument, for the monk had every advantage o_s, and was clearly minded to have us accompany him at whatever cost.
Therefore we had to yield ourselves to his will but never did men give in wit_orse grace or heavier hearts than we.
“God help us!” said Pharaoh. “We are going into the very jaws of death i_oing to Mexico. We shall meet Nunez there, and even if we do not, we shall b_anded over to the Inquisitors. But God’s will be done. Moreover, while ther_s life there is hope. We may pull through yet.”
So we set out, the monk going first and taking no further notice of us fo_ome time. He would walk for hours as if absorbed in his own thoughts, an_gain for a long stretch of time he would read his book or count his beads, but to us he said little. He walked in the midst of the Indians, who for thei_art were kind and considerate to us, and indulged in no cruelties. Indeed, during our journey to the City of Mexico we had no reason to complain o_iscomfort or poor fare, for we had all that men can require, and were wel_reated, save that at night they guarded us more closely than we liked. But a_o food and drink, we were abundantly served, and so began to wax fat, i_pite of our anxiety.
There was no restriction placed upon our tongues at this time, and therefor_haraoh and I talked freely whenever we were out of hearing of the monk. A_or our conversation, it was all of one thing—the prospect that awaited us i_exico.
“What will come of this venture, Pharaoh?” I asked him one day as we drew nea_ur destination. “Shall we come off with whole skins, or what?”
“It will be well if we come off with our lives, master. I have been thinkin_hings over to-day, and I make no doubt that this monk will hand us over t_he Inquisition. Put no trust in what he says about finding us a ship at Ver_ruz. The only ship he will find us will be a dungeon in some of thei_risons. Well, now, what are our chances when we fall into the hands of thes_ellows?”
“Nay, very small I should say. I am well-nigh resigned to anything.
Nevertheless, Pharaoh, I shall make a fight for it.”
“It may not come to fighting. Can you say the Paternoster, the Ave Maria, an_he Creed?”
“I can say two of them, and I can learn the third. But what difference doe_hat make?”
“All the difference ’twixt burning at the stake and wearing a San-benito in _onastery for a year or two. Now, if we are burnt there is an end of us, bu_f they put us into a monastery with a San-benito on our backs we shall stil_ave a chance of life, and shall be poor Englishmen if we do not take it.”
Thus we talked, striving to comfort ourselves, until at the end of the fourt_ay we were brought by our captors to the City of Mexico.