Nothing was seen, not even a denser shadow in the moonless dark. Framtree joined them, and they waited expectantly for Jaffier’s index of light to pick up the mystery. Ten minutes passed before the gunboat, following doggedly, and whipping her light over sea, suddenly uncovered the dark from a big tramp steamer, aimed at the Inlet. For an instant it was lost again, but the searchlight swept back, groped until the tramp was caught, and this time held—in all her unlit wickedness.
“Framtree,” said Bedient, “I believe we are about to lose our convoy——”
“Looks that way,” Framtree replied. “Miss Mallory has steered——”
“Miss Mallory has steered—Equatoria off a revolutionary shoal,” Bedient finished.
“You mean the Senora——?” Miss Mallory intervened.
“I’m very tired and stupid; please tell me in little words,” she pleaded.
“You changed the ship’s course?”
“I didn’t. It changed itself. I didn’t dare to change back, because of the reefs,” she added hastily. “Didn’t the Senor mean to run the convoy aground if they didn’t give up the chase?”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Bedient said. “Mr. Framtree, hadn’t you better explain to Miss Mallory?”
“No, that’s for you.”
“Perhaps you will correct me if I am wrong.... The black tramp yonder was making for The Pleiad Inlet, with a cargo of guns and ammunition for the rebellion. The little sailing-trip of Senor Rey was designed to pull the gunboat afar off in the Southwest, the original course, as you say, to permit the tramp to make the Inlet unmolested. Jaffier won’t need the guns, but they’re a moral force——”
“As a war correspondent,” Miss Mallory remarked, “I am rather a spectacular failure.”
“It’s a boy’s game,” said Bedient.
IN THE LITTLE ROOM NEXT
They sailed around open water until daybreak, when Bedient brought the Savonarola into a river-mouth on Carreras land, and forcing her in out of the current, dropped anchor. The small boat was launched and pulled ashore. Six, a silent and weary six, they were. The hacienda was five miles inland. Bedient sent natives there for saddle-ponies, and made the party comfortable until these were brought. The roads would not permit vehicle of any sort, and though saddling was an ordeal for the Glow-worm and Madame Sorenson, the distance was not great, and from every eminence there were flashes of morning glory upon the endless company of hills.
Falk and Leadley stood upon the great porch as the cavalcade drew up. They steadied and leaned upon each other in this climacteric moment of their service.... There was breakfast with Carreras coffee, and the party separated for rest. The still torrid day became more vivid, and the native women and children hushed one another under the large open windows.... Miss Mallory was last in the breakfast room. Bedient saw that she wanted to speak with him, and they walked out on the porch together.