THE HAUNTED GARDEN
Rosa Varona did not die. On the contrary, under her lover’s care she made so amazingly swift a recovery that improvement was visible from hour to hour; she rallied like a wilted flower under a refreshing rain. It was O’Reilly’s presence as much as the nourishing diet provided by his money which effected this marvel, although the certainty that Esteban was alive and safe put added force into her determination to live. Rosa found hope springing up in her breast, and one day she caught herself laughing. The marvel of it was unbelievable. O’Reilly was sitting beside her bed of leaves at the time; impulsively she pressed his hand to her lips, repeating a question she had asked him many times:
“Do you love me?”
For answer he bent and kissed her. What he said was of no consequence.
Rosa held his hand against her cheek, at a loss for words with which to voice her gladness.
“Such happiness as mine belongs in heaven,” she managed to tell him. “Sometimes it frightens me. With you by my side this prison is a paradise and I want for nothing. War, suffering, distress—I can’t imagine they longer exist.”
“Nevertheless, they do, and Matanzas is anything but a paradise,” said he. “It is—hell, and we must set about quickly to get out of it.”
“Escape, do you mean? But that is impossible. Asensio can tell you all about that. The Spaniards used to issue passes for the men to go outside the lines in search of food. It was just a trick. They never came back—all of them were killed. Every one knows better than to try, now.”
“Nevertheless, we can’t stay here much longer.” In answer to the girl’s puzzled inquiry he explained: “My money is gone—all but a few cents. This is the last of our food and there is no chance of getting more. Jacket has some mysterious source of supply and he manages to bring in something every now and then, but there are five of us to feed, and he can’t furnish more than enough for himself. No, we must make a move at once, while we have the strength.”
Rosa had not asked the source whence came the blessed food which was bringing the life blood back into her body, and although that food was not much—a little meal, a plantain, an occasional scrap of meat or fish—it had never occurred to her that the supply might be limited. She met the problem bravely, however.
“I have been close to death so long that it means little to me,” she confessed. “I have you, and—well, with you at my side I can face the worst.”
“Oh, we won’t give up until we have to,” he assured her. “If I had money it would be a simple proposition to bribe some guard to pass us through the lines, but I have spent all that General Betancourt gave me.” He smoothed back Rosa’s dark hair and smiled reassuringly at her. “Well, I’ll manage somehow; so don’t worry your pretty head. I’ll find the price, if I have to waylay old Don Mario and rob him. Don’t you think I look like a bandit? The very sight of me would terrify that fat rascal.”