“We had better leave the horses here.” Pancho Cueto hesitatingly addressed the dim blur which he knew to be Colonel Cobo. The Colonel of Volunteers was in a vile temper, what with the long night ride and an error of Cueto’s which had considerably lengthened the journey.
“Where is the house?” growled the officer.
“Not far. But the path is rocky and the horses’ feet—”
“God, yes!” There was a creak of saddle leathers and a groan as the colonel dismounted. “Now, my good Cueto,” he threatened, “another of your mistakes and I’ll give you something to remember me by. Damnation! What a night! As black as hell.”
“It will be daylight before we know it,” the other said, nervously.
“Excellent! Then I can see to deal with you if you’ve fooled me.” A curt order brought his men out of their saddles. One of their number was detailed to guard the animals, while the rest fell in behind Cueto and followed him up the trail by the starglow.
The surprise was easily effected, for Colonel Cobo’s men were accomplished in this sort of work. Rosa, crouching upon her bench, heard nothing, saw nothing, until out of the shadows beside her human forms materialized. Her white dress, like a dim phosphorescent glow in dark waters, betrayed her presence, and as she sprang to her feet rough hands seized her. She screamed once, twice; then a palm closed over her mouth and she began to struggle like a cat.
Evangelina, who had waked at the first outcry, met the marauders as they rushed through the door. The hush of the sleeping Jungle was shattered now; there were shouts and curses, loudly bellowed orders, a great scuffling and pounding of feet upon the dirt floor of the hut, the rickety, bark-covered walls bulged and creaked. Over all sounded the shrieks of the negress battling in the pitch-black interior like an animal in its lair. Then some one set fire to the thatch; the flames licked up the dead palm-leaves to the ridge-pole, and the surroundings leaped into view.
Rosa saw a swarthy, thick-set man in the uniform of a Colonel of Volunteers, and behind him Pancho Cueto. Tearing the hand from her lips for a moment, she cried Cueto’s name, but he gave no heed. He was straining his gaze upon the door of the bohio in the immediate expectation of seeing Esteban emerge. He clutched a revolver in his hand, but it was plain from the nerveless way in which he held the weapon that he had little stomach for the adventure. He was, in fact, more inclined to run than to stand his ground. Rosa shrieked his name again; then she heard the officer say:
“Where is the young fellow? I hear nothing but the squeals of that common wench.”
Evangelina’s cries of rage and defiance suddenly ceased, and with them the sounds of combat. From the blazing bohio ran two armed men, brushing sparks from their clothing. A third followed, dragging Evangelina by one naked arm. The black woman was inert; her scanty garments were well-nigh ripped from her body: she lay huddled where the soldier flung her.