“Are you Senor Don Jose de Rey?” asked the peasant, raising his hand to his hat.
“Yes; and you, I take it,” answered the traveller joyfully, “are Dona Perfecta’s servant, who have come to the station to meet me and show me the way to Orbajosa?”
“The same. Whenever you are ready to start. The pony runs like the wind. And Senor Don Jose, I am sure, is a good rider. For what comes by race—”
“Which is the way out?” asked the traveller, with impatience. “Come, let us start, senor—What is your name?”
“My name is Pedro Lucas,” answered the man of the gray cloak, again making a motion to take off his hat; “but they call me Uncle Licurgo. Where is the young gentleman’s baggage?”
“There it is—there under the cloak. There are three pieces—two portmanteaus and a box of books for Senor Don Cayetano. Here is the check.”
A moment later cavalier and squire found themselves behind the barracks called a depot, and facing a road which, starting at this point, disappeared among the neighboring hills, on whose naked slopes could be vaguely distinguished the miserable hamlet of Villahorrenda. There were three animals to carry the men and the luggage. A not ill-looking nag was destined for the cavalier; Uncle Licurgo was to ride a venerable hack, somewhat loose in the joints, but sure-footed; and the mule, which was to be led by a stout country boy of active limbs and fiery blood, was to carry the luggage.
Before the caravan had put itself in motion the train had started, and was now creeping along the road with the lazy deliberation of a way train, awakening, as it receded in the distance, deep subterranean echoes. As it entered the tunnel at kilometre 172, the steam issued from the steam whistle with a shriek that resounded through the air. From the dark mouth of the tunnel came volumes of whitish smoke, a succession of shrill screams like the blasts of a trumpet followed, and at the sound of its stentorian voice villages, towns, the whole surrounding country awoke. Here a cock began to crow, further on another. Day was beginning to dawn.
A JOURNEY IN THE HEART OF SPAIN
When they had proceeded some distance on their way and had left behind them the hovels of Villahorrenda, the traveller, who was young and handsome spoke thus:
“Tell me, Senor Solon—”
“Licurgo, at your service.”
“Senor Licurgo, I mean. But I was right in giving you the name of a wise legislator of antiquity. Excuse the mistake. But to come to the point. Tell me, how is my aunt?”
“As handsome as ever,” answered the peasant, pushing his beast forward a little. “Time seems to stand still with Senora Dona Perfecta. They say that God gives long life to the good, and if that is so that angel of the Lord ought to live a thousand years. If all the blessings that are showered on her in this world were feathers, the senora would need no other wings to go up to heaven with.”