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"I am afraid, Gines Spinello," said one of the voices, " that this cursed creature will spoil our sport for to-night.1'
Now it was no wonder that the gentleman became so much interested in their conversation, for the fellow just mentioned was a notorious robber, and the terror of the whole province. The Hidalgo, therefore, felt a natural curiosity to behold so remarkable a character; and peeping down very cautiously between the leaves, he saw the two men sitting astride, with their faces towards each other, on the lowermost bough. They were so much below him, that he could not judge of their physiognomies ; but of course the very hair of their heads seemed, to his fancy, to partake of a very ruffianly expression.
"As for that matter," returned Spinello, " our job to-night is a trifling one that may be dispatched in two hours. What frets me more is to be obliged to sit thus, cock-horse, upon a cursed branch ; for I have always a misgiving at getting up into a tree, since nothing has proved so fatal to several of our gang."
The other, laughing heartily at these expressions, which he supposed to allude to the gallows, Gines interrupted him in a very grave tone.
"I mean no such matter," said he, "as you conclude. The gibbet indeed has made an end of some of us; but the trees I mean, were as much growing and flourishing as this. It was a chestnut too, that cost so dear to poor Lazarillo; wherefore, I would rather that this tree had been a cypress, or a yew even, or of some other kind."
"For my part, chestnut or not," said the other, "I feel myself much beholden to this good plant: notwithstanding, I should like to hear what happened to Lazarillo, and the others of the gang."
The Hidalgo by this time was quite as much interested in the mishap of Lazarillo: so laying himself along the bough, and grasping it with both his arms, he stooped his head sideways as low as he could, to listen to the story that Gines was going to relate.
"You are aware," said Spinello, "that when we have no affair of moment upon our hands, which requires us to go in company, it is usual for some of the cleverest amongst us to go abroad singly, on little adventures of their own. Thus it befel Lazarillo to take it in his head to pay a visit to a certain Hidalgo, who resides not a long way from this spot. There was a clump of chestnut trees in front of the house, all of them of wonderful bulk, having stood there a great many years, and it was the season when they were in full leaf. Lazarillo, coming a little too soon, and seeing a great many lights in the windows, clambered up into the greatest of these trees, which stood nearest to the house, in order to hide himself till dark, as well as to observe what was going on within the house. The boughs being very broad and smooth, he found his nest comfortable enough; and, besides, he was very well diverted to watch the motions of the servants, for some of the branches grew against the chamber windows, so that he could even see how the people bestowed the plate and valuables against the night. Whilst he was amusing himself in this way, the Hidalgo, who had been out sporting, came homewards with his fowling-piece in his hand; when just at this nick there flew up some large kind of bird, and made off directly for the tree.1'
"Well, wherefore do you stop?" asked the other rogue very eagerly, for at these worda Gines had made a tolerable long pause.
"I was thinking," said Gines, " that I heard a rustling overhead; but it was only some breeze amongst the leaves. I suppose the Hidalgo was willing to discharge his gun before he entered the house, for it was loaded with very large shot, which are never used to kill birds with; however, he fired after the fowl into the very middle of the leaves, and the devil guiding the lead, some of it went into the body of poor Lazarillo, who tumbled in a trice to the ground. If the shot had not killed him, the fall would have broken his neck, so that he was stone-dead upon the spot: however, to make sure of that matter, our governors made a point of hanging him afterwards upon another tree."
Herewith Gines vented a thousand horrible imprecations against the unfortunate sportsman; who had the evil luck to be sitting at that very moment above his head. The unhappy Hidalgo, though he was miserably terrified, dared not even to quake—the least motion causing a rustling amongst the leaves, or a creaking of the bough; and getting cramped, as any one must, to ride so long on a wooden chestnut horse, without a saddle, yet he could not venture to stretch a limb to relieve himself. In the mean time, fear caused such a boiling noise in his ears, as if of the devil's cauldron at a gallop, that he could not make out the history of the other robbers who had perished by means of