Young Varona struggled from his hammock. “Rosa!” he called, loudly, “Rosa!”
Norine ran and caught him or he would have fallen prone. He pawed and fumbled in a weak attempt to free himself from her restraining arms; a wildness was upon him; he shook as if with palsy. “Did he bring her with him? Is she here? Why don’t you answer me? Rosa—” He began to mutter unintelligibly, his vitality flared up, and it was with difficulty that Norine could hold him down. His gaze, fixed upon the square of sunlight framed by the low doorway, was blazing with excitement. To Norine it seemed as if his spirit, in the uncertainty of this moment, was straining to leap forth in an effort to learn his sister’s fate.
The crowd was near at hand now. There came the scuffling of feet and murmur of many voices. Esteban fell silent, he closed his hot, bony hands upon Norine’s wrists in a painful grip. He bent forward, his soul centered in his tortured eyes.
There came a shadow, then in the doorway the figure of a man, a tattered scarecrow of a man whose feet were bare and whose brown calves were exposed through flapping rags. His breast was naked where thorns had tried to stay him; his beard, even his hair, were matted and unkempt, and the mud of many trails lay caked upon his garments.
It was O’Reilly!
He peered, blinking, into the obscurity, then he turned and drew forward a frail hunchbacked boy whose face was almost a mulatto hue. Hand in hand they stepped into the hut and once again Esteban Varona’s soul found outlet in his sister’s name. He held out his shaking, hungry arms and the misshapen lad ran into them.
Dumb with amazement, blind with tears, Norine found herself staring upward into O’Reilly’s face, and heard him saying:
“I told you I would bring her home.”
The next instant she lay upon his breast and sobs of joy were tearing at her.
WHAT HAPPENED AT SUNDOWN
The story of Rosa’s rescue came slowly and in fragments, for the news of O’Reilly’s return caused a sensation. His recital was interrupted many times. So numerous and so noisy did these diversions become that Norine, fearing for the welfare of her patient, banished O’Reilly’s visitors and bore him and Branch off to her own cabin, leaving the brother and sister alone. In the privacy of Norine’s quarters O’Reilly finished telling her the more important details of his adventures. He was well-nigh worn out, but his two friends would not respect his weariness; they were half hysterical with joy at his safety, treating him like one returned from the dead; so he rambled disjointedly through his tale. He told them of his hazardous trip westward, of his and Jacket’s entrance into Matanzas and of the distressing scenes they witnessed there. When he had finished the account of his dramatic meeting with Rosa his hearers’ eyes were wet. The recital of the escape held them breathless.