A few Indian girls appeared to be the only people about. She dragged herself upstairs and shut herself in her room. The bed had been pushed back against the wall, but she did not have the force to pull it out into the center where she wanted it. When Don Federico and the others returned, Lucha, who had been reading downstairs, went to the gate. When she emerged from her room onto the veranda, a woman was dusting the rocking chairs and arranging them in a row against the wall.
There was a bend in the river—the only part of it that came within sight of the house—just below her, and a portion of the bank was visible to her through the foliage from where she sat. A large breadfruit tree spread its branches out almost to the opposite side of the stream. An Indian sauntered out of the undergrowth and calmly removed his trousers, then his shirt. He stood there a moment, stark naked, looking at the water, before he walked into it and began to splash and swim.
When he had finished bathing he stood again on the bank, smoothing his blue-black hair. With a sudden strange sensation as she watched him, she realized it was Roberto and that he was wholly conscious of her presence at that moment. The idea of vengeance upon the boy filled her with a delicious excitement.
She watched his deliberate movements as he dressed. He sat down on a rock with only his shirt on and combed his hair. The late afternoon sun shone through the leaves and gave his brown skin an orange cast. When finally he had gone away without once glancing up at the house, she rose and went into her room. Maneuvering the bed into the middle of the floor once more, she began to walk around it; her mood was growing more and more turbulent as she circled about the room.
She heard the truck door slam, and a moment later, voices downstairs. With her finger to her temple, where she always put it when her heart was beating very fast, she slipped out onto the veranda and downstairs. Don Federico was in the commissary, which he opened for a half hour each morning and evening. Two children were pushing their copper coins along the counter, pointing at the candy they wanted. By the lamp a woman was looking at a bolt of goods. Don Federico was on a ladder, getting down another bolt. In an open cigar box almost touching her hand was a pile of dirty bank notes.
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She was back in the room before she knew it. She shut the door and saw that she had four ten-colon notes in her hand. She stuffed them into her breeches pocket. At dinner they made fun of her for having slept all the afternoon, telling her that now she would lie awake again all night. Lucha was ecstatic. The men and boys began to assemble soon after dinner.
There was laughter, and guitars were strummed in the dark on the terrace. The two sisters went to sit at the end near the dining room, Don Federico was in the middle with the vaqueros, and the servants were ranged at the kitchen end. After several solo songs by various men with guitars, Raul and a friend began to play the marimba. Roberto was seated on the floor among the cowboys who were not performing.
They moved about together at one end of the terrace for a moment, but no one else stirred. Several of the girls started to dance timidly in couples, with loud giggling. None of the men would budge. The marimba players went on pounding out the same piece over and over again. Instead of going upstairs to bed she crossed onto the front veranda and sat looking across the vast moonlit clearing.
The night was thick with eternity. She could feel it there, just beyond the gate. Only the monotonous, tinkling music kept the house within the confines of time, saved it from being engulfed.
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As she listened to the merrymaking progress, she had the impression that the men were taking more part in it. At last it sounded as though everyone were dancing. Her curiosity having risen to a high pitch, she was about to rise and return to the terrace, when a figure appeared at the other end of the veranda. She needed no one to tell her it was Roberto. He was walking soundlessly toward her; he seemed to hesitate as he came up to her, then he squatted down by her chair and looked up at her. She had been right: he smelled of rum.
She felt impelled to remain silent. As he crouched there with his face shining in the moonlight, she bent forward and passed her hand over his smooth hair. Keeping her fingers on the back of his neck, she leaned still further forward and kissed his lips. The rum was very strong. He did not move.
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I have a present for you. Forty colones. Not a word to anyone. I must go now. He rose and went out the gate. She went straight upstairs to bed, and as she went to sleep the music was still going on. Much later she awoke and lit her lamp. It was half past four. Day would soon break. In the paddock the horses stirred. She walked by it and started along the road to the village. It was a very silent hour: the night insects had ceased their noises and the birds had not yet begun their early-morning twitter.
The moon was low in the sky, so that it remained behind the trees most of the time. Ahead of her Venus flared like a minor moon. She walked quickly, with only a twinge of pain now and then in her hip. Something dark lying in the road ahead of her made her stop walking. It did not move. She watched it closely, stepping cautiously toward it, ready to run the other way. As her eyes grew accustomed to its form, she saw that it was a man lying absolutely still. And as she drew near, she knew it was Roberto.
She touched his arm with her foot. He did not respond. She leaned over and put her hand on his chest. He was breathing deeply, and the smell of liquor was almost overpowering. She straightened and kicked him lightly in the head. There was a tiny groan from far within. This also, she said to herself, would have to be done quickly. She felt wonderfully light and powerful as she slowly maneuvered his body with her feet to the right-hand side of the road. There was a small cliff there, about twenty feet high. When she got him to the edge, she waited a while, looking at his features in the moonlight.
His mouth was open a little, and the white teeth peeked out from behind the lips. She smoothed his forehead a few times and with a gentle push rolled him over the edge. He fell very heavily, making a strange animal sound as he hit.
She walked back to the ranch at top speed. It was getting light when she arrived. She thought Don Federico looked preoccupied when he set out on his morning tour of inspection, after closing the commissary. She thought he still did when he returned; she told him so at lunch. During the afternoon some cowboys brought Roberto in. He was conscious, lying on the floor with all the other Indians staring at him.
One of the cowboys laughed.