If I could come to you, I would, but I am marked. So if you still desire me you must search me out. You will? I pin my faith to that as to the Cross. To doubt would be to perish. If we should have to find another hiding-place, and that is always likely, you can learn of our whereabouts from Colonel Lopez.
Alas! If you had asked me to go with you that day! I would have followed you, for my heart beat then as it beats to-day, for you alone.
The candle is burning low and it will soon be daylight, and then this letter must begin its long, uncertain journey. I must creep into my bed now, to pray and then to dream. It is cold, before the dawn, and the thatch above me rustles. I am very poor and sad and lonely, O’Reilly, but my cheeks are full and red; my lips could learn to smile again, and you would not be ashamed of me.
Asensio is rising. He goes to find his horse and I must close. God grant this reaches you, some time, somehow. I trust the many blots upon the paper will not give you a wrong impression of my writing, for I am neat, and I write nicely; only now the ink is poor and there is very little of it. There is little of anything, here at Asensio’s house, except tears. Of those I fear there are too many to please you, my Juan, for men do not like tears. Therefore I try to smile as I sign myself,
Your loving and your faithful
O God! Come quickly, if you love me.
THE QUEST BEGINS
When O’Reilly had finished his second reading of the letter there were fresh blots upon the pitifully untidy pages. “I write nicely, only the ink is poor—” “There is little of anything here at Asensio’s house—” “It is cold before the dawn—” ... Poor little Rosa! He had always thought of her as so proud, so high-spirited, so playful, but another Rosa had written this letter. Her appeal stirred every chord of tenderness, every impulse of chivalry in his impressionable Irish nature. She doubted him; she feared he would not come’ to her. Well, he would set her doubts at rest. “O God! Come quickly, if you love me.” He leaped to his feet; he dashed the tears from his eyes.
Mr. Slack looked up astonished at the apparition which burst in upon him. He was accustomed to O’Reilly’s high head of steam and disapproved of it, but he had never seen the fellow so surcharged as now. He was positively jumpy; his voice was sharp; his hands were unsteady; his eyes were bright and blue and hard.
“I want my salary, quick,” Johnnie began.
Mr. Slack resented emotion, he abominated haste; he had cultivated what he considered to be a thorough commercial deliberation.
“My dear man,” he said, “I’d advise you—”
“I don’t want advice; I want money,” snapped the other. “I’ve quit, resigned, skipped, fled.”
“Indeed? When does your resignation take effect?”