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Page 74

CHAPTER III - Fortieth Birthday

from his eyes, the movement of his hand was so odd, quick, light as he ate, so easily a movement of shooting, or of flashing a knife into the body of some adversary, and his darkcoloured lips were so helplessly savage, as he ate or briefly spoke, that her heart stood still. There was something undeveloped and intense in him, the intensity and the crudity of the semi-savage. She could well understand the potency of the snake upon the Aztec and Maya imagination. Something smooth, undeveloped, yet vital in this man suggested the heavy-ebbing blood of reptiles in his veins. That was what it was, the heavy-ebbing blood of powerful reptiles, the dragon of Mexico.
So that unconsciously she shrank when his black, big, glittering eyes turned on her for a moment. They were not, like Don Ramon's, dark eyes. They were black, as black as jewels into which one could not look without a sensation of fear. And her fascination was tinged with fear. She felt somewhat as the bird feels when the snake is watching it.
She wondered almost that Don Ramon was not afraid. Because she had noticed that usually, when an Indian looked to a white man, both men stood back from actual contact, from actual meeting of each other's eyes. They left a wide space of neutral territory between them. But Cipriano looked at Ramon with a curious intimacy, glittering, steady, warrior-like, and at the same time betraying an almost menacing trust in the other man.
Kate realized that Ramon had a good deal to stand up to. But he kept a little, foiling laugh on his face, and lowered his beautiful head with the black hair touched with grey, as if he would put a veil before his countenance.
`Do you think one can make this miracle come?' she asked of him.
`The miracle is always there,' he said, `for the man who can pass his hand through to it, to take it.'
They finished dinner, and went to sit out on the veranda, looking into the garden where the light from the house fell uncannily on the blossoming trees and the dark tufts of Yucca and the strange great writhing trunks of the Laurel de India.
Cipriano had sat down next to her, smoking a cigarette.
`It is a strange darkness, the Mexican darkness !' she said.

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