“That’s all, gentlemen,” broke in the practical voice of Cranch. “Whether there are proofs enough to make Francisca the heiress of her father’s wealth, the lawyers must say. I reckon it’s enough for me that they give me the chance of repairing a wrong by taking her father’s place. After all, it was a mere chance.”
“It was the will of God,” said Father Pedro, solemnly.
They were the last words he addressed them. For when the fog had begun to creep inshore, hastening their departure, he only answered their farewells by a silent pressure of the hand, mute lips, and far-off eyes.
When the sound of their laboring oars grew fainter, he told Antonio to lead him and Sanchicha again to the buried boat. There he bade her kneel beside him. “We will do penance here, thou and I, daughter,” he said gravely. When the fog had drawn its curtain gently around the strange pair, and sea and shore were blotted out, he whispered, “Tell me, it was even so, was it not, daughter, on the night she came?” When the distant clatter of blocks and rattle of cordage came from the unseen vessel, now standing out to sea, he whispered again, “So, this is what thou didst hear, even then.” And so during the night he marked, more or less audibly to the half-conscious woman at his side, the low whisper of the waves, the murmur of the far-off breakers, the lightening and thickening of the fog, the phantoms of moving shapes, and the slow coming of the dawn. And when the morning sun had rent the veil over land and sea, Antonio and Jose found him, haggard, but erect, beside the trembling old woman, with a blessing on his lips, pointing to the horizon where a single sail still glimmered:—
“Va Usted con Dios.”
She was barely twenty-three years old. It is probable that up to that age, and the beginning of this episode, her life had been uneventful. Born to the easy mediocrity of such compensating extremes as a small farmhouse and large lands, a good position and no society, in that vast grazing district of Kentucky known as the “Blue Grass” region, all the possibilities of a Western American girl’s existence lay before her. A piano in the bare-walled house, the latest patented mower in the limitless meadows, and a silk dress sweeping the rough floor of the unpainted “meeting-house” were already the promise of those possibilities. Beautiful she was, but the power of that beauty was limited by being equally shared with her few neighbors. There were small, narrow, arched feet besides her own that trod the uncarpeted floors of outlying log-cabins with equal grace and dignity; bright, clearly opened eyes that were equally capable of looking unabashed upon princes and potentates, as a few later did, and the heiress of the county judge read her own beauty without envy in the frank