“Don Miguel Briones,
of the Order of San Francisco d’Assisis.
“Don Ramon Ramirez,
Alcalde of the Pueblo of Todos Santos.”
The captain follows his ship.
When Padre Esteban had finished reading the document he laid it down and fixed his eyes on the young man. Hurlstone met his look with a glance of impatient disdain.
“What have you to say to this?” asked the ecclesiastic, a little impressed by his manner.
“That as far as it concerns myself it is a farrago of absurdity. If I were the person described there, why should I have sought you with what you call a lie of ‘sentimental passion,’ when I could have claimed protection openly with my sister patriot,” he added, with a bitter laugh.
“Because you did not know then the sympathy of the people nor the decision of the Council,” said the priest.
“But I know it now, and I refuse to accept it.”
“You refuse—to—to accept it?” echoed the priest.
“I do.” He walked towards the door. “Before I go, let me thank you for the few hours’ rest and security that you have given to one who may be a cursed man, yet is no impostor. But I do not blame you for doubting one who talks like a desperate man, yet lacks the courage of desperation. Good-by!”
“Where are you going?”
“What matters? There is a safer protection and security to be found than even that offered by the Council of Todos Santos.”
His eyes were averted, but not before the priest had seen them glaze again with the same gloomy absorption that had horrified him in the church the evening before. Father Esteban stepped forward and placed his soft hand on Hurlstone’s shoulder.
“Look at me. Don’t turn your face aside, but hear me; for I believe your story.”
Without raising his eyes, the young man lifted Father Esteban’s hand from his shoulder, pressed it lightly, and put it quietly aside.
“I thank you,” he said, “for keeping at least that unstained memory of me. But it matters little now. Good-by!”
He had his hand upon the door, but the priest again withheld him.
“When I tell you I believe your story, it is only to tell you more. I believe that God has directed your wayward, wandering feet here to His house, that you may lay down the burden of your weak and suffering manhood before His altar, and become once more a child of His. I stand here to offer you, not a refuge of a day or a night, but for all time; not a hiding-place from man or woman, but from yourself, my son—yourself, your weak and mortal self, more fatal to you than all. I stand here to open for you not only the door of this humble