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Chapter I.7
"MRS. GOULD was too intelligently sympathetic not to share that feeling. It made
life exciting, and she was too much of a woman not to like excitement. But it
frightened her, too, a little; and when Don Jose Avellanos, rocking in the
American chair, would go so far as to say, "Even, my dear Carlos, if you had
failed; even if some untoward event were yet to destroy your work--which God
forbid!--you would have deserved well of your country," Mrs. Gould would look up
from the tea-table profoundly at her unmoved husband stirring the spoon in the
cup as though he had not heard a word.
Not that Don Jose anticipated anything of the sort. He could not praise enough
dear Carlos's tact and courage. His English, rock-like quality of character was his
best safeguard, Don Jose affirmed; and, turning to Mrs. Gould, "As to you,
Emilia, my soul"--he would address her with the familiarity of his age and old
friendship--"you are as true a patriot as though you had been born in our midst."
This might have been less or more than the truth. Mrs. Gould, accompanying her
husband all over the province in the search for labour, had seen the land with a
deeper glance than a trueborn Costaguanera could have done. In her travel-worn
riding habit, her face powdered white like a plaster cast, with a further protection
of a small silk mask during the heat of the day, she rode on a well-shaped, light-
footed pony in the centre of a little cavalcade. Two mozos de campo, picturesque
in great hats, with spurred bare heels, in white embroidered calzoneras, leather
jackets and striped ponchos, rode ahead with carbines across their shoulders,
swaying in unison to the pace of the horses. A tropilla of pack mules brought up
the rear in charge of a thin brown muleteer, sitting his long-eared beast very near
the tail, legs thrust far forward, the wide brim of his hat set far back, making a
sort of halo for his head. An old Costaguana officer, a retired senior major of
humble origin, but patronized by the first families on account of his Blanco
opinions, had been recommended by Don Jose for commissary and organizer of
that expedition. The points of his grey moustache hung far below his chin, and,
riding on Mrs. Gould's left hand, he looked about with kindly eyes, pointing out
the features of the country, telling the names of the little pueblos and of the
estates, of the smooth-walled haciendas like long fortresses crowning the knolls
above the level of the Sulaco Valley. It unrolled itself, with green young crops,
plains, woodland, and gleams of water, park-like, from the blue vapour of the
distant sierra to an immense quivering horizon of grass and sky, where big white
clouds seemed to fall slowly into the darkness of their own shadows.
Men ploughed with wooden ploughs and yoked oxen, small on a boundless
expanse, as if attacking immensity itself. The mounted figures of vaqueros
galloped in the distance, and the great herds fed with all their horned heads one
way, in one single wavering line as far as eye could reach across the broad
potreros. A spreading cotton-wool tree shaded a thatched ranche by the road;
the trudging files of burdened Indians taking off their hats, would lift sad, mute
eyes to the cavalcade raising the dust of the crumbling camino real made by the
hands of their enslaved forefathers. And Mrs. Gould, with each day's journey,