The Black Rider

The Black Rider by Max Brand

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Authors: Max Brand
hunters. If I cross this frog-faced devil, I suppose that he would set the dogs on me?” She began to laugh, savagely, without mirth.
    “Lucia, poor child,” moaned the spinster, “I have had a foreboding of evil to come. Let us pray God to bring you happiness in spite of all!”
    “It is time to think and to plan,” said Lucia. “It is time to remember that I am a d’Arquista. It is time to wish that I were a man!”

XIII “The Seventh Encounter!”
    P rudence held some sway in even Francisco Torreño, however, and after supper he walked with the girl in the outer garden where they could hear the steady roar of distant water through a ravine, a sullen noise which seemed to come from the quivering ground beneath their feet.
    “Now, Lucia,” he said, “while we are alone, and without anger, let us talk over everything and admit that we have made mistakes…both of us. I was wrong in treating you as if you were without a brain and a will of your own. You were wrong in saying that you did not wish to marry Carlos. Shall we begin by admitting these things?”
    “Señor
Torreño,” said the girl, “there is no need for sorrow. We have seen the truth about one another. You,
señor
, have no room on all of your lands for more than one person…and that is yourself, of course. I have the same need of room,
señor.
We could never be happy near one another.”
    Torreño felt the blind rage swell in his heart. But he controlled himself. He even managed to smile.
    “You are still angry,” he said. “Young people remain angry longer than old ones do. Because anger is a childish passion, do you see? But, Lucia, how could your wishes conflict with mine? What is there which we mutually could desire? Will you have rich clothes and many of them? Whatever is made in China or Flanders and allthe lands between is yours! Are you fond of jewels? I already have caskets heaped with them…trays piled deep as your fingers can clutch! But if you wish more, you shall have more. Are you a lover of hunting! The finest English runners shall be brought half the distance around the world and put in your stables…
your
stables, Lucia. Do you hear me? Perhaps you love hawking. We have some falcons already. You shall have more! Do you love rich fittings in a house? You may plate your walls with solid gold if you choose! What more is there that a woman can wish? I have known of some bold hearts among your sex who loved the water. Lucia, there are many waterways where the sea is quiet between the islands and the coast. Aye, Lucia, and if you wish to be alone and reign like a queen and never feel any power, you shall have one of those islands…the largest…for your own. It shall be stocked with cattle and with servants. You shall build a house there according to your will. You shall build ships and trade with them on the seven seas, if you desire.
    “You see, child, that when you speak of finding room on my estate, you may have as much as any prince…and more! And still, I shall never notice what you have taken!”
    To this lordly tale the girl listened with a faint smile.
    “There is one rock on which all of those plans would split,” she said.
    “And that?” asked Torreño.
    “Don Carlos.”
    “Ah? What of him?”
    “Which of us would rule him?”
    Torreño’s face grew dark with angry blood.
    “He shall rule himself,
señorita”
    She waved her hand. “That is folly,
señor.
I can twist him around my finger; and your very breath makes hiswhole strong body tremble like a dead leaf! Which would prove the stronger with him? Which of us would he dread the most? Which would he prefer…that I should laugh at him or that you should rage at him? I cannot tell. But I feel,
señor
, that after a time I should be too strong for you. Therefore I advise you for your own sake. Break off this unhappy marriage.”
    There was enough of the fox in Torreño to appreciate craft in others. He looked at Lucia with a glint of appreciation in his

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