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.The incandescent afternoon sunlight picked brassy splinters in her loosened hair and fragments of fire in her spectacles.“If we can get him out of there at all.He’ll be at the churchyard at Mictlán tonight, playing for the ghosts of los niños.”“And Don Prospero will be watching him like a hawk,” January reminded her.“Tonight is our only chance to hear whatever Valentina has to tell—I think we need to take it.I have an idea of how to convince Don Prospero of Hannibal’s innocence.”“If you can explain to Don Prospero not only that morbid sensitivities exist, but that his son was poisoned with a handful of peanuts,” said Rose, “I take my hat off to you, sir.I can’t imagine even how I’d try.”January smiled.“That’s because you don’t have a voodooienne for a sister,” he said.“It’s all in how one puts things; and I think I know how to make Don Prospero hear.”The sun sank, and coolness seemed to rise from the earth like the breath of a sleeper, to bless the parched world.When January went out to water the horses again, he could see lights in the village, gold and amber jewels on the dove-colored velvet evening, and heard music from the churchyard, sweet and gay.He saddled the horses and he and Rose rode around to the churchyard, tying them out of sight among the willows by its wall.The gate of the cemetery glowed from the bonfires within, like a cheerful Hell-mouth, and the warm bright torchflame dyed the cinnabar tilework of the church-tower until it stood out like a column of fiery flowers against the darkening sky.Lilies, marigolds, poppies, and coxcomb garlanded the tall gateposts, made ropes and swags around the necks of the statues on the little church’s façade.January was amused to note that the Archangels Michael and Gabriel wore feathers in their hair, the mark of an Indian warrior, and held, not swords, but the obsidian-edged clubs of Quetzalcoatl and Huitzilopochtli: In righteousness he judges and makes war.Under the gaze of those Aztec angels, the churchyard was a fairyland of blossom.Every tomb was now lush with the offerings of the living: baskets of tamales, brilliantly glazed pottery bowls of chicken and mole, little plates of cigars, bottles of pulque and wine.Golden oranges glowed in heaps, pan de muerto sparkled.Skulls wrought of sugar grinned cheerfully on all sides.And among them the laces, the gloves, the tortoiseshell combs, and simple tools of those who had gone on to other worlds.In a green pottery dish, a necklace of amber beads: whose? A wooden model of a boat, with ADRIAN on its prow.A little owl wrought of lead.Music wove the gold-laced darkness.Men greeted one another with embraces, women with kisses.Children dashed about in sticky-handed excitement, brandishing pralines and stripped stalks of sugar-cane.Candles flowed into the churchyard like a river, villagers bearing baskets of food and flowers, calling out to their friends.Indians and mestizos, villagers and the rancheros from the surrounding settlements, vaqueros and the rough muleteers who returned to their home villages on this night, to be with their families, living and dead.The women laughed together, dressed in their best: two-colored skirts stiffened out in approximation of wide petticoats, short-sleeved chemises, satin vests and sashes jingling with ornaments.The warm night gave back the scent of copal, from where, just out of the disapproving young priest’s sight, a leathery old man in a peasant’s white clothing was smoke-blessing men and women; the priest stayed by the doors of his church, greeting all who came to him.Someone—probably the mayordomo and other acomodados—had laid offerings on the big family tomb, but it was clear by their sparseness that Don Anastasio had not yet arrived.Among the candy skulls and baskets of mangos was a bowl of sugared peanuts; January knelt and turned the pale, smooth legumes with his huge fingers, smelling the irresistible sweet-saltiness of honey and pepper and wondering if Anastasio would order them taken away.From childhood he’d loved them—ground-nuts, they were called on Bellefleur Plantation, or monkey-nuts.When his mother had gotten a white protector and moved to New Orleans as a free woman, she wouldn’t have them in the house.He’d had to sneak out and buy them from the old man on the corner.“It has to have been peanuts, doesn’t it?” asked Rose.“I think so.Doña Maria-Exaltación died of eating ‘poisoned candy’—it could easily have been a praline.And in a pulqueria, it’s what young Orlando would have eaten the first time he slipped away at the age of fourteen to drink with the men and prove himself a man.Anastasio’s one of the few people who could come and go from Guillenormand’s kitchen without comment—it would be easy for him to carry a handful of powdered nuts wrapped in paper and dump them into the strongest-tasting dish he could find.If they didn’t kill Fernando outright, they would certainly incapacitate him to the point that, if necessary, Don Anastasio could go into the study and hold a pillow over his face until the job was done.”Rose, usually so calmly logical, grimaced.“But.why?”January shook his head and stood up again.“It doesn’t matter why,” he said.“Maybe he did want to elope with Natividad Lorcha.Or he’d conceived a chivalrous passion for Natividad and couldn’t bear the thought of Fernando laying a hand on her.Myself, I think there was something in that will that touched Don Anastasio, something we don’t know about—and probably never will know about, since Anastasio was one of the first people into the study after Fernando’s death.”“You’re probably right,” she agreed.Somewhere a child shrieked joyfully, and the band struck up a wistful barcarole.“Still.How on earth are we going to prove it?”“We aren’t,” said January grimly.“We can’t.All we can do—all we need to do—is.”“Doña Isabella!” called out a voice, and January drew Rose aside, into the shadows of the gorgeously-decorated tombs.Three women in black made their way among the crowds, stopping to embrace this woman or that, their dark silks somber against the gay skirts, the embroidered blouses and aprons of the poblanas, the flower-stitched Indian huipils.It was the closest he’d seen Doña Isabella, who bore a strong resemblance to the several portraits of her deceased brother that January had seen.But her narrow face, with its close-set hazel eyes, was pleasant and good-natured within the frame of her black point-lace veils.She bent to hug this child or that, laughing and kissing their mothers, almost like a sister.Or like the lady from the Big House, thought January, going down to visit the quarters at Christmas.Santa Anna had boasted on a number of occasions that there was no slavery in Mexico.But January had seen in the city—and saw here now more clearly—the subtler enslavement of a land in chaos, where the weak must become slaves of the strong in order to feed their children.And unless that was secured, he thought, the legal right not to be bought and sold meant very little.Valentina walked behind her half-sister, clothed like her in a black silk dress of European cut, kissing and greeting and clasping hands as Isabella did.Her mother’s sapphire earrings glinted under the smoke of her mantilla.But the girl was clearly distracted, scanning the darkness beyond the light of the cressets and candles, her whole body stiff, as if beneath her corsets she could barely breathe from excitement.Waiting for her moment, thought January [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]