O’Reilly peeped through a dirt-stained cabin window and saw that the volandra was slipping past the stern of the ironclad, so he withdrew his head quickly.
In spite of his hospitable invitation, Captain Morin made no move to come about, but instead held his schooner on its course, meanwhile exchanging shouts with the unseen speaker. It seemed incredible that Spanish discipline could be so lax, that the schooner would be allowed to depart, even for a coastwise run, without some formalities of clearance; but so it seemed. Evidently the Spaniards had tired of examining these small craft. It was typical of their carelessness.
Of course this was but one danger past and there were many more ahead, for Morin’s schooner was liable to be stopped by any of the numerous patrol-boats on duty to the eastward. Nevertheless, when an anxious hour had gone by and she was well out toward the harbor mouth, the refugees told one another they were safe.
Morin shoved back the companionway hatch and thrust a grinning face into view. “Ho, there! my lazy little cousins!” he cried. “Wake up, for I smell Pancho’s coffee boiling.”
THREE TRAVELERS COME HOME
Esteban Varona made slow progress toward recovery. In the weeks following O’Reilly’s departure from Cubitas his gain was steady, but beyond a certain point he seemed unable to go. Then he began to lose strength. Norine was the first to realize the truth, but it was some time before she would acknowledge it, even to herself. At last, however, she had to face the fact that Esteban’s months of prison fare, the abuse, the neglect he had suffered in Spanish hands, had left him little more than a living corpse. It seemed as if fever had burned him out, or else some dregs of disease still lingered in his system and had all but quenched that elusive spark which for want of a better name we call vitality.
Esteban, too, awoke to the fact that he was losing ground, and his dismay was keen, for a wonderful thing had come into his life and he spent much of his time in delicious contemplative day dreams concerning it, waiting for the hour when he would dare translate those dreams into realities. It seemed to him that he had always loved Norine; certainly she had enshrined herself in his heart long before his mind had regained its clarity, for he had come out of his delirious wanderings with his love full grown. There had been no conscious beginning to it; he had emerged from darkness into dazzling glory, all in an instant. Not until he found himself slipping backward did he attempt to set a guard upon himself, for up to that hour he had never questioned his right to love. He found his new task heavy, almost too much for him to bear. That he attempted it spoke well for the fellow’s strength of character.
The time came finally when he could no longer permit the girl to deceive herself or him with her brave assumption of cheerfulness. Norine had just told him that he was doing famously, but he smiled and shook his weary head.