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The Crossed Gloves
by [?]

“Although you have not been near Ronda for five years,” said the Spanish Commandant severely to Dennis Shere, “the face of the country has not changed. You are certainly the most suitable officer I can select, since I am told you are well acquainted with the neighbourhood. You will ride therefore to-day to Olvera and deliver this sealed letter to the officer commanding the temporary garrison there. But it is not necessary that it should reach him before eleven at night, so that you will still have an hour or two before you start in which you can renew your acquaintanceships, as I can very well understand you are anxious to do.”

Dennis Shere’s reluctance, however, was now changed into alacrity. For the road to Olvera ran past the gates of that white-walled, straggling residencia where he had planned to spend this first evening that he was stationed at Ronda. On his way back from his colonel’s quarters he even avoided those squares and streets where he would be likely to meet with old acquaintances, foreseeing their questions as to why he was now a Spanish subject and wore the uniform of a captain of Spanish cavalry and by seven o’clock he was already riding through the Plaza de Toros upon his mission. There, however, a familiar voice hailed him, and turning about in his saddle he saw an old padre who had once gained a small prize for logic at the University of Barcelona, and who had since made his inferences and deductions an excuse for a great deal of inquisitiveness. Shere had no option but to stop. He broke in, however, at once on the inevitable questions as to his uniform with the statement that he must be at Olvera by eleven.

“Fifteen miles,” said the padre. “Does it need four hours and a fresh horse to journey fifteen miles?”

“But I have friends to visit on the way,” and to give convincing details to an excuse which was plainly disbelieved, Shere added, “Just this side of Setenil I have friends.”

The padre was still dissatisfied. “There is only one house just this side of Setenil, and Esteban Silvela I saw with my own eyes to-day in Ronda.”

“He may well be home by now, and it is not Esteban whom I go to see.”

“Not Esteban,” exclaimed the padre. “Then it will be–“

“His sister, the Senora Christina,” said Shere with a laugh at his companion’s persistency. “Since the brother and sister live alone, and it is not the brother, why it will be the sister. You argue still very closely, padre.”

The padre stood back a little from Shere and stared. Then he said slyly, and with the air of one who quotes:

“All women are born tricksters.”

“Those were rank words,” said Shere composedly.

“Yet they were often spoken when you grew vines in the Ronda Valley.”

“Then a crowd of men must know me for a fool. A young man may make a mistake, padre, and exaggerate a disappointment. Besides, I had not then seen the senora. Esteban I knew, but she was a child, and known to me only by name.” And then, warmed by the pleasure in his old friend’s face, he said, “I will tell you about it.”

They walked on slowly side by side, while Shere, who now that he had begun to confide was quite swept away, bent over his saddle and told how after inheriting a modest fortune, after wandering for three years from city to city, he had at last come to Paris, and there, at a Carlist conversazione, had heard the familiar name called from a doorway, and had seen the unfamiliar face appear. Shere described Christina. She walked with the grace of a deer, as though the floor beneath her foot had the spring of turf. The blood was bright in her face; her brown hair shone; she was sweet with youth; the suppleness of her body showed it and the steadiness of her great clear eyes.