At all events a
change came over his spirit; he became more rational and even
apologetic, and Barboza graciously accepted the assurance that he had
no desire to provoke a quarrel.
And so there was no fight after all!
The second occasion was about two years later - a long period, during
which there had been a good many duels with knives in our
neighbourhood; but Barboza was not in any of them, no person had come
forward to challenge his supremacy. It is commonly said among the
gauchos that when a man has proved his prowess by killing a few of his
opponents, he is thereafter permitted to live in peace.
One day I attended a cattle-marking at a small native estancia a few
miles from home, owned by an old woman whom I used to think the oldest
person in the world as she hobbled about supporting herself with two
sticks, bent nearly double, with her half-blind, colourless eyes
always fixed on the ground. But she had granddaughters living with her
who were not bad-looking: the eldest, Antonia, a big loud-voiced young
woman, known as the "white mare" on account of the whiteness of her
skin and large size, and three others. It was not strange that cattle-
branding at this estancia brought all the men and youths for leagues
around to do a service to the venerable Dona Lucia del Ombu.