“Take my word for it, we shall yet hear good news of our missing friend. Let us at least believe it until we know otherwise. Ah! my dear Mrs. Markham, why should the Unknown always fill us with apprehension? Its surprises are equally often agreeable.”
“But we have all been so happy before this; and this seems such an unnecessary and cruel awakening,” said Miss Keene, lifting her sad eyes to the speaker, “that I can’t help thinking it’s the beginning of the end. Good heavens! what’s that?”
She had started at the dark figure of one of the foreign-looking sailors, who seemed to have suddenly risen out of the deck beside them.
“The Senor Perkins,” he said, with an apologetic gesture of his hand to his hatless head.
“You want me, my good man?” asked Senor Perkins paternally.
“Si, Senor; the mate wishes to see the Patrono,” he said in Spanish.
“I will come presently.”
The sailor hesitated. Senor Perkins took a step nearer to him benignantly. The man raised his eyes to Senor Perkins, and said,—
“Bueno!” returned the Senor gently. “Excuse me, ladies, for a moment.”
“Perhaps it is some news of poor Mr. Hurlstone?” said Miss Keene, with an instinctive girlish movement of hope.
“Who knows?” returned Senor Perkins, waving his hand as he gayly tripped after his guide. “Let us believe in the best, dear young lady, the best!”
Without exchanging another word with his escort, Senor Perkins followed him to the main hatch, where they descended and groped their way through the half obscurity of the lower deck. Here they passed one or two shadows, that, recognizing the Senor, seemed to draw aside in a half awed, half suppressed shyness, as of caged animals in the presence of their trainer. At the fore-hatch they again descended, passing a figure that appeared to be keeping watch at the foot of the ladder, and almost instantly came upon a group lit up by the glare of a bull’s-eye lantern. It was composed of the first and second mate, a vicious-looking Peruvian sailor with a bandaged head, and, to the Senor’s astonishment, the missing passenger Hurlstone, seated on the deck, heavily ironed.
“Tell him what you know, Pedro,” said the first mate to the Peruvian sailor curtly.