Sarrion and Marcos were on the terrace smoking. The small new moon was nearing the west. The night would be dark after its setting. They were silent, listening to the voice of their ancestral river as it growled, heavy with snow, through the defile. Presently a servant brought coffee and told Marcos that a messenger was waiting to deliver a note. After the manner of Spain the messenger was invited to come and deliver his letter in person. He was a traveling knife-grinder, he explained, and had received the letter from a man on the road whose horse had gone lame. One must be mutually helpful on the road.
The letter was from Zeneta at the end of the valley; written hastily in pencil. The Carlists were in force between him and Pampeluna; would Marcos ride down to the camp and hear details?
Marcos rose at once and threw his cigarette away. He looked towards the lighted windows of the drawing-room.
“No good saying anything about it,” he said. “I shall be back by breakfast time. They will probably not notice my absence.”
He was gone—the sound of his horse’s feet was drowned in the voice of the river—before Juanita came out to the terrace, a slim shadowy form in her white evening dress. She stood for a minute or two in silence, until, her eyes becoming accustomed to the darkness, she perceived Sarrion and an empty chair. Perro usually walked gravely to her and stood in front of her awaiting a jest whenever she came. She looked round. Perro was not there.
“Where is Marcos?” she asked, taking the empty chair.
“He has been sent for to the valley. He has gone.”
“Gone!” echoed Juanita, standing up again. She went to the stone balustrade of the terrace and looked over into the darkness.
“I heard him cross the bridge a few minutes ago,” Sarrion said quietly.
“He might have said good-bye.”
Sarrion turned slowly in his chair and looked at her.
“He probably did not wish his comings and goings to be talked of by Cousin Peligros,” he suggested.
“Still, he might have said good-bye ... to me.”
She turned again and leaning her arms on the gray stone she stood in silence looking down into the valley.
Juanita grows up Marcos’ horse, the Moor, had performed the journey to Pampeluna once in the last twelve hours. He was a strong horse accustomed to long journeys. But Marcos chose another, an older and staider animal of less value, better fitted for night work.
He wished to do the journey quickly and return by breakfast-time; he was not in a mood to spare his beast. Men who live in stirring times and meet death face to face quite familiarly from day to day, as Englishmen meet the rain, soon acquire the philosophy which consists in taking the good things the gods send them, unhesitatingly and thankfully.