**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


The Poisoned Ice
by [?]

“And consequently, while we slept–“

“Excuse me, I have not slept.”

“You have been keeping watch?”

“Not for the buccaneers, my Lord. They left before daybreak. But the dogs of the city are starving, even as we: and like us they have taken to hunting in company. Now this is a handsome courtyard, but the gate does not happen to be too secure.”

I shivered. Felipe watched me with an amiable grin.

“But let us not,” he continued, “speak contemptuously of our inheritance. It is, after all, a very fair kingdom for three. Captain Morgan and his men are accomplished scoundrels, but careless: they have not that eye for trifles which is acquired in our noble profession, and they have no instinct at all for hiding-places. I assure you this city yet contains palaces to live in, linen and silver plate to keep us comfortable. Food is scarce, I grant, but we shall have wines of the very first quality. We shall live royally. But, alas! Heaven has exacted more than its tithe of my enjoyment. I had looked forward to seeing Teresa in a palace of her own. What a queen she would have made, to be sure!”

“Are we three the only souls in Panama?”

Felipe rubbed his chin. “I think there is one other. But he is a philosopher, and despises purple and linen. We who value them, within reason, could desire no better subject.” He arose and treated me to a regal bow. “Shall we inspect our legacy, my brother, and make arrangements for the coronation?”

“We might pick up something to eat on the way,” said I.

Felipe hobbled over to the terrace. “Poor old —-,” he muttered, touching the corpse with his staff, and dwelling on the vile word with pondering affection. “Senorita,” said he aloud, “much grief is not good on an empty stomach. If Juan here will lift her feet–“

We carried Dona Teresa into the large cool room, and laid her on a couch. Felipe tore down the silken hangings from one of the windows and spread them over her to her chin, which he tied up with the yellow kerchief which had been her only headgear for years. The Carmelite meanwhile detached two heavy silver sconces from a great candelabrum and set them by her feet. But we could find no tinder-box to light the candles–big enough for an altar.

“She will do handsomely until evening,” said Felipe, and added under his breath, “but we must contrive to fasten the gate of the patio.”

“I will watch by her,” said Sister Marta.

Felipe glanced at us and shook his head. I knew he was thinking of the dogs. “That would not do at all, Senorita. ‘For the living, the living,’ as they say. If we live, we will return this evening and attend to her; but while my poor head remains clear (and Heaven knows how long that will be) there is more important work to be done.”

“To bury the dead–“

“It is one of the Seven Corporal Acts of Mercy, Senorita, and it won Raphael to the house of Tobit. But in this instance Raphael shuts himself up and we must go to him. While Teresa lived, all was well: but now, with two lives depending on my wits, and my wits not to be depended on for an hour, it does not suit with my conscience to lose time in finding you another protector.”

“But they–they have gone?”

“The Lutheran dogs have gone, and have taken the city’s victuals with them.”

“I do not want to live, my friend.”

“Granted: but I do not think that Juanito, here, is quite of your mind.”

She considered for a moment. “I will go with you,” she said: and we quitted the patio together.

The gate opened upon a narrow alley, encumbered now with charred beams and heaps of refuse from a burnt house across the way. The fury of the pirates had been extravagant, but careless (as Felipe had said). In their lust of robbing, firing, murdering, they had followed no system; and so it happened that a few houses, even wealthy ones, stood intact, like islands, in the general ruin. For the most part, to be sure, there were houses which hid their comfort behind mean walls. But once or twice we were fairly staggered by the blind rage which had passed over a mansion crowded with valuables and wrecked a dozen poor habitations all around it. The mischief was that from such houses Felipe, our forager, brought reports of wealth to make the mouth water, but nothing to stay the stomach. The meat in the larders was putrid; the bread hard as a stone. We were thankful at last for a few oranges, on which we snatched a breakfast in an angle of ruined wall on the north side of the Cathedral, pricking up our ears at the baying of the dogs as they hunted their food somewhere in the northern suburbs.