« PreviousContinue »
locks and slight disguise had imposed on him, as a stranger, his foster-sister Christoval Balboa. The sounds of conflict rolled still farther away, leaving them alone in the forest. He proceeded to bathe her face and restore her to consciousness. When at last she opened her eyes, he spoke to her:
“Christoval, sister, I recognize you at last. Why did you disguise yourself and go with the army?”
“To be with you,” she answered, no longer disguising her voice.
“You must return to Cuba at once.” “And you?”
“I dare not go until my pardon is obtained. Meanwhile I will wait àt Panama or Darien.”
“Cannot I go there also ?”
“No, you have been too long from our parents; go to them with my blessing.”
He kept her secret; at the first opportunity she was sent to Cuba; and a week later he sailed for Panama.
THE SECRET MARRIAGE.
With a strange feeling of fear and hope, Christopher Estevan saw the town of Panama come in sight. Would he find Inez there? Was she still true to him, or had some other won her in his absence? Bay and shore loomed up to view; then fort and castle, and finally, rounding a point of headland, the whole town lay before them.
The deafening boom of cannon announced their approach, and from the fort came, in response, a succession of heavy shots, awakening the echoes of all the surrounding hills. The ship came to anchor, and cheer after cheer rang out on the air from ship and shore. There was the excitement and confusion usual on the arrival of a vessel, and boats put off from shore to learn the very latest from Peru.
Estevan landed among the first and was surrounded by scores of people eager to learn full particulars of that remarkable conquest of which they
had only heard the wildest rumors. As soon as possible he rid himself of the questioners, and made his way to a small public-house, where he ordered food. The proprietor, a fat old Spaniard, as anxious to impart the information he had as to gain more, brought the refreshments, and, seating himself by the side of his guest, began a fire of questions.
“Where do you live?" was the first one.
Then came a silence. The fat Spaniard poured for himself a mug of wine, and, drinking it off, resumed:
“Well, of course you know your business; but I should go to Peru.”
“You have an excellent opportunity to go," Estevan answered.
“Ah, not at my age; but if I were a young fellow and not quite so stout, you know, I should enjoy nothing better than the land where so much wealth abounds."
“How long have you lived here?” Estevan
asked, to change the subject, and gain the information he so much desired.
“Nine years ago, señor, I came from old Spain. I was born and reared at Truxillo; yes, señor, right in the same town with Pizarro. I knew the rogue when a lad. He was naught but a swine-herd then; but, St. Anthony! see to what he has arisen.”
Estevan cared nothing for the early life of his host, nor was he interested in the biography of Pizarro. His wish was to gain some information from the garrulous fellow without exposing his design.
“You must know almost every one in Panama ?”
“Verily, señor, I do, and I saw Pizarro and Almagro both when they were here. Many is the time that they drank and ate at this board.”
“Do you know Oviedo ?”
“The chronicler who came with Ojeda to Darien, you mean? I know him right well, señor.”
“I don't mean him, but his brother, Don Oviedo,” explained Estevan.
“You refer to the rich hidalgo who came from Spain three or four years ago ?”
“Come with me to this door, señor, and I will show you. Look at the castle upon the hill and you will see his place of abode.”
He led Estevan to the door of the house and pointed out a castle which stood on a considerable eminence. Estevan returned to the table and the garrulous old Spaniard followed him, keeping up a lively conversation on every subject except that which interested his auditor. Without abandoning hope, Estevan continued to ply him with questions whenever he had an opportunity to do so.
“Does the old Don live alone?” he asked.
“Quite alone, señor, with no one but his servants and daughter, the Doña Inez; but if all rumors be true, I suppose they will not long live a lonely life.”
“Why?” asked Estevan, his heart beating wildly within his breast.
“Why, I have heard that he is soon to have a son-in-law, the gallant Antonio Velasquez, nephew to the governor of Cuba.”
Estevan bounded to his feet, as if his flesh had been pricked by a lance. He could not utter a word, and, to conceal his emotion, he hastened out into open air.