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- Rainbow's End - 1/70 -
By REX BEACH
Author of "THE AUCTION BLOCK" "THE SPOILERS" "THE IRON TRAIL" Etc.
I. THE VALLEY OF DELIGHT
II. SPANISH GOLD
III. "THE O'REILLY"
V. A CRY FROM THE WILDERNESS
VI. THE QUEST BEGINS
VII. THE MAN WHO WOULD KNOW LIFE
VIII. THE SPANISH DOUBLOON
X. O'REILLY TALKS HOG LATIN
XI. THE HAND OF THE CAPTAIN-GENERAL
XII. WHEN THE WORLD RAN BACKWARD
XIV. A WOMAN WITH A MISSION
XVI. THE CITY AMONG THE LEAVES
XVII. THE CITY OF BEGGARS
XVIII. SPEAKING OF FOOD
XIX. THAT SICK MAN FROM SAN ANTONIO
XX. EL DEMONIO'S CHILD
XXII. THE TROCHA
XXIII. INTO THE CITY OF DEATH
XXV. THE HAUNTED GARDEN
XXVI. HOW COBO STOOD ON HIS HEAD
XXVII. MORIN, THE FISHERMAN
XXVIII. THREE TRAVELERS COME HOME
XXIX. WHAT HAPPENED AT SUNDOWN
XXX. THE OWL AND THE PUSSY-CAT
THE VALLEY OF DELIGHT
In all probability your first view of the valley of the Yumuri will be from the Hermitage of Montserrate, for it is there that the cocheros drive you. Up the winding road they take you, with the bay at your back and the gorge at your right, to the crest of a narrow ridge where the chapel stands. Once there, you overlook the fairest sight in all Christendom--"the loveliest valley in the world," as Humboldt called it--for the Yumuri nestles right at your feet, a vale of pure delight, a glimpse of Paradise that bewilders the eye and fills the soul with ecstasy.
It is larger than it seems at first sight; through it meanders the river, coiling and uncoiling, hidden here and there by jungle growths, and seeking final outlet through a cleft in the wall not unlike a crack in the side of a painted bowl. The place seems to have been fashioned as a dwelling for dryads and hamadryads, for nixies and pixies, and all the fabled spirits of forest and stream. Fairy hands tinted its steep slopes and carpeted its level floor with the richest of green brocades. Nowhere is there a clash of color; nowhere does a naked hillside or monstrous jut of rock obtrude to mar its placid beauty; nowhere can you see a crude, disfiguring mark of man's handiwork--there are only fields, and bowers, with an occasional thatched roof faded gray by the sun.
Royal palms, most perfect of trees, are scattered everywhere. They stand alone or in stately groves, their lush fronds drooping like gigantic ostrich plumes, their slim trunks as smooth and regular and white as if turned in a giant lathe and then rubbed with pipe- clay. In all Cuba, island of bewitching vistas, there is no other Yumuri, and in all the wide world, perhaps, there is no valley of moods and aspects so varying. You should see it at evening, all warm and slumberous, all gold and green and purple; or at early dawn, when the mists are fading like pale memories of dreams and the tints are delicate; or again, during a tempest, when it is a caldron of whirling vapors and when the palm-trees bend like coryphees, tossing their arms to the galloping hurricane. But whatever the time of day or the season of the year at which you visit it, the Yumuri will render you wordless with delight, and you will vow that it is the happiest valley men's eyes have ever looked upon.
Standing there beside the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrate, you will see beyond the cleft through which the river emerges another hill, La Cumbre, from which the view is almost as wonderful, and your driver may tell you about the splendid homes that used to grace its slopes in the golden days when Cuba had an aristocracy. They were classic Roman villas, such as once lined the Via Appia-- little palaces, with mosaics and marbles and precious woods imported from Europe, and furnished with the rarest treasures--for in those days the Cuban planters were rich and spent their money lavishly. Melancholy reminders of this splendor exist even now in the shape of a crumbled ruin here and there, a lichened pillar, an occasional porcelain urn in its place atop a vine-grown bit of wall. Your cochero may point out a certain grove of orange-trees, now little more than a rank tangle, and tell you about the quinta of Don Esteban Varona, and its hidden treasure; about little Esteban and Rosa, the twins; and about Sebastian, the giant slave, who died in fury, taking with him the secret of the well.
The Spanish Main is rich in tales of treasure-trove, for when the Antilles were most affluent they were least secure, and men were put to strange shifts to protect their fortunes. Certain hoards, like jewels of tragic history, in time assumed a sort of evil personality, not infrequently exercising a dire influence over the lives of those who chanced to fall under their spells. It was as if the money were accursed, for certainly the seekers often came to evil. Of such a character was the Varona treasure. Don Esteban himself was neither better nor worse than other men of his time, and although part of the money he hid was wrung from the toil of slaves and the traffic in their bodies, much of it was clean enough, and in time the earth purified it all. Since his acts made so deep an impress, and since the treasure he left played so big a part in the destinies of those who came after him, it is well that some account of these matters should be given.
The story, please remember, is an old one; it has been often told, and in the telling and retelling it is but natural that a certain glamour, a certain tropical extravagance, should attach to it, therefore you should make allowance for some exaggeration, some accretions due to the lapse of time. In the main, however, it is well authenticated and runs parallel to fact.
Dona Rosa Varona lived barely long enough to learn that she had given birth to twins. Don Esteban, whom people knew as a grim man, took the blow of his sudden bereavement as became one of his strong fiber. Leaving the priest upon his knees and the doctor busied with the babies, he strode through the house and out into the sunset, followed by the wails of the slave women. From the negro quarters came the sound of other and even louder lamentations, for Dona Rosa had been well loved and the news of her passing had spread quickly.
Don Esteban was at heart a selfish man, and now, therefore, he felt a sullen, fierce resentment mingled with his grief. What trick was this? he asked himself. What had he done to merit such misfortune? Had he not made rich gifts to the Church? Had he not gone on foot to the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrate with a splendid votive offering--a pair of eardrops, a necklace, and a crucifix, all of diamonds that quivered in the sunlight like drops of purest water? Had he not knelt and prayed for his wife's safe delivery and then hung his gifts upon the sacred image, as Loyola had hung up his weapons before that other counterpart of Our Lady? Don Esteban scowled at the memory, for those gems were of the finest, and certainly of a value sufficient to recompense the Virgin for any ordinary miracle. They were worth five thousand pesos at least, he told himself; they represented the price of five slaves--five of his finest girls, schooled in housekeeping and of an age suitable for breeding. An extravagance, truly! Don Esteban knew the value of money as well as anybody, and he swore now that he would give no more to the Church.
He looked up from his unhappy musings to find a gigantic, barefooted negro standing before him. The slave was middle-aged; his kinky hair was growing gray; but he was of superb proportions, and the muscles which showed through the rents in his cotton garments were as smooth and supple as those of a stripling. His
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