Evangelina’s joy at having the girl to herself, where she could daily see her, touch her, serve her, was tempered only by the knowledge of Rosa’s unhappiness. She scolded and tyrannized, she mothered and adored the girl to her heart’s content; she watched over her like a hawk; she deemed no labor in her service too exacting. It would have gone ill with any one who offered harm to Rosa, for Evangelina was strong and capable; she had the arms and the hands of a man, and she possessed the smoldering black temper of Sebastian, her father.
Even in peaceful times few people came to this clearing, in the woods, far off from the main-traveled roads of the Yumuri, and the day, as usual, passed uneventfully. Evangelina worked, with one eye upon her Rosa, the other watchfully alert for danger. When evening came she prepared their scanty meal, upbraiding Rosa, meanwhile, for her attempts to assist her. Then they sat for an hour or two on the bench outside the door, talking about Juan O’Rail-ye and the probable hour of his coming.
There were no candles in Asensio’s house now, and had there been, neither woman would have dared light one. To hunted creatures darkness is a friend; danger stalks under the sun.
When Rosa fretted about her brother, the negress reassured her. “Don’t be frightened, little dove; he has the makings of a great soldier. It’s a good thing for the Spaniards that he isn’t general. Cuba would be free in no time.”
“He’s so reckless.”
“Oh, he knows what he’s doing. Besides, Asensio wouldn’t let him be hurt. I took pains to tell him that if ever he permitted Esteban to suffer so much as a scratch I would disembowel him with his own machete. He knows me. Now, then, it is growing cool and the night air carries fevers. Creep into your bed and dream about that handsome lover of yours.”
“No, I’ll keep watch with you.”
Evangelina was indignant. “Go!” she stormed. “What will happen to those red cheeks if you don’t sleep? Do you think the American will want to marry an old woman with wrinkles? He may be here to-morrow—yes, I have a certain feeling about it.”
Rosa obeyed, although reluctantly. “I’ll sleep for a while,” she compromised, “then I’ll come out and take my turn.”
This exactly suited the elder woman, who knew something about the slumbers of youth. Nevertheless, dawn was still a long way off when, true to her promise, Rosa emerged from the hut with an apology for having slept so long. Evangelina protested, though her eyes were heavy and she had been yawning prodigiously for hours. But for once the girl was firm. “I can’t sleep,” she declared. “Why force me to lie staring into the dark while you suffer?” Having finally prevailed in her determination, she seated herself in the warm place Evangelina had vacated, and, curling her small feet under her, she settled herself, chin in hand, to think of O’Reilly. It was a good time to think, for the jungle was very still and the night like a velvet curtain.