Old Nuflo, strange to say, had proved better than his word. Instead of inventing new causes for delay, as I had imagined would be the case, he now informed me that his preparations for the journey were all but complete, that he had only waited for my return to set out.
Rima soon left us in her customary way, and then, talking by the fire, I gave an account of my detention by the Indians and of the loss of my revolver, which I thought very serious.
"You seem to think little of it," I said, observing that he took it very coolly. "Yet I know not how I shall defend myself in case of an attack."
"I have no fear of an attack," he answered. "It seems to me the same thing whether you have a revolver or many revolvers and carbines and swords, or no revolver — no weapon at all. And for a very simple reason. While Rima is with us, so long as we are on her business, we are protected from above. The angels, senor, will watch over us by day and night. What need of weapons, then, except to procure food?"
"Why should not the angels provide us with food also?" said I.
"No, no, that is a different thing," he returned. "That is a small and low thing, a necessity common to all creatures, which all know how to meet. You would not expect an angel to drive away a cloud of mosquitoes, or to remove a bush-tick from your person. No, sir, you may talk of natural gifts, and try to make Rima believe that she is what she is, and knows what she knows, because, like a humming-bird or some plants with a peculiar fragrance, she has been made so. It is wrong, senor, and, pardon me for saying it, it ill becomes you to put such fables into her head."
I answered, with a smile: "She herself seems to doubt what you believe."
"But, senor, what can you expect from an ignorant girl like Rima? She knows nothing, or very little, and will not listen to reason. If she would only remain quietly indoors, with her hair braided, and pray and read her Catechism, instead of running about after flowers and birds and butterflies and such unsubstantial things, it would be better for both of us."
"In what way, old man?"
"Why, it is plain that if she would cultivate the acquaintance of the people that surround her — I mean those that come to her from her sainted mother — and are ready to do her bidding in everything, she could make it more safe for us in this place. For example, there is Runi and his people; why should they remain living so near us as to be a constant danger when a pestilence of small-pox or some other fever might easily be sent to kill them off?"
"And have you ever suggested such a thing to your grandchild?"
He looked surprised and grieved at the question. "Yes, many times, senor," he said. "I should have been a poor Christian had I not mentioned it. But when I speak of it she gives me a look and is gone, and I see no more of her all day, and when I see her she refuses even to answer me — so perverse, so foolish is she in her ignorance; for, as you can see for yourself, she has no more sense or concern about what is most important than some little painted fly that flits about all day long without any object."