Meanwhile, let no one suppose that the Mexican meant to let his lady love go to Fort Yuma. He had his plan for stopping her, and we may put confidence enough in him to believe that it was a good one; only at the last moment circumstances turned up which decided him to drop it. Yes, at the last moment, just as he was about to pull his leading strings, he saw good reason for wishing her far away from San Francisco.
A face appeared to him; at the first glimpse of it Coronado slipped into the nearest doorway, and from that moment his chief anxiety was to cause the girl to vanish. Yes, he must get her started on her voyage, even at the risk of her continuing it.
“What the devil is he here for?” he muttered. “Has he found out that she is living?”
At noon the Lolotte, a broad-beamed, flat-floored brig of light draught and good sailing qualities, hove up her anchor and began beating out of the Bay of San Francisco, with Coronado and Clara on her quarter-deck.
“You have no other passengers, I understood you to say, captain,” observed Coronado, who was anxious on that point, preferring there should be none.
The master, a Dane by birth named Jansen, who had grown up in the American mercantile service, was a middle-sized, broad-shouldered man, with a red complexion, red whiskers, and a look which was at once grave and fiery. He paused in his heavy lurching to and fro, looked at the Mexican with an air which was civil but very stiff, and answered in that discouraging tone with which skippers are apt to smother conversation when they have business on hand, “Yes, sir, one other.”
Coronado presently slipped down the companionway, found the colored steward, chinked five dollars into his horny palm, and said, “My good fellow, you must look out for me; I shall want a good deal of help during the passage.”
“Yes, sah, very good, sah,” was the answer, uttered in a greasy chuckle, as though it were the speech of a slab of bacon fat. “Make you up any little thing, sah. Have a sup now, sah? Little gruel? Little brof?”
“No, thank you,” returned Coronado, turning half sick at the mention of those delicacies. “Nothing at present. By the way, one of the staterooms is occupied I see. Who is the other passenger?”
“Dunno, sah; keeps hisself shut up, an’ says nothin’ to nobody. ’Pears like he is sailin’ under secret orders. Cur’ous’ lookin’ old gent; got only one eye.”
One eye! Coronado thought of the face which had frightened him out of San Francisco, and wondered whether he were shut up in the Lolotte with it.
“One eye?” he asked. “Short, stout, dark old gentleman? Indeed! I think I know him.”
Stepping to the door of a stateroom which he had already noticed as being kept closed, he tapped lightly. There was a muttering inside, a shuffling as of some one getting out of a berth, and then a low inquiry in Spanish, “Who is there?”