The student looked up from his book. “It
is a great
Age!” he said and returned to his reading.
When we had finished dinner, we paid the tall, gaunt woman and leaving the robbers, if robbers they were, still at table, went out into the street. Here the friars, the alcalde and the lawyer moved in the direction of the small, staring white and ruined mosque that was to be transformed into the church of San Jago the Deliverer. That was the one thing of which the friars had spoken. A long bench ran by inn wall and here the shipmaster took his seat and began to discourse with those already there. Book under arm, the student moved dreamily down the opposite lane. Juan Lepe walked away alone.
Through the remainder of this day he had now company and adventure without, now solitude and adventure within. That night he spent in a ruined tower where young trees grew and an owl was his comrade and he read the face of a glorious moon. Dawn. He bathed in a stream that ran by the mound of the tower and ate a piece of bread from his wallet and took the road.
The sun mounted above the trees. A man upon a mule came up behind me and was passing. “There is a stone wedged in his shoe,” I said. The rider drew rein and I lifted the creature’s foreleg and took out the pebble. The rider made search for a bit of money. I said that the deed was short and easy and needed no payment, whereupon he put up the coin and regarded me out of his fine blue eyes. He was quite fair, a young man still, and dressed after a manner of his own in garments not at all new but with a beauty of fashioning and putting on. He and his mule looked a corner out of a great painting. And I had no sooner thought that than he said, “I see in you, friend, a face and figure for my `Draught of Fishes.’ And by Saint Christopher, there is water over yonder and just the landscape!” He leaned from the saddle and spoke persuasively, “Come from the road a bit down to the water and let me draw you! You are not dressed like the kin of Midas! I will give you the price of dinner.” As he talked he drew out of a richly worked bag a book of paper and pencils. I thought, “This beard and the clothes of Juan Lepe. He can hardly make it so that any may recognize.” It was resting time and the man attracted. I agreed, if he would take no more than an hour.
“The drawing, no!—Bent far over, gathering the net strongly—Andrew or Mark perhaps, since, traditionally, John must have youth.”
He had continued to study me all this time, and now we left the road and moved over the plain to the stream that here widened into a pool fringed with rushes and a few twisted trees. An ancient, half-sunken boat drowsing under the bank he hailed again in the name of Saint Christopher. Dismounting, he fastened his mule to a willow and proceeded to place me, then himself found a root of a tree, and taking out his knife fell to sharpening pencil. This done, he rested book against knee and began to draw.