On the night before their departure Rosa Varona prayed long and earnestly, asking little for herself, but much for the two black people who had suffered so much for her. She prayed also that O’Reilly would come before it was too late.
A WOMAN WITH A MISSION
Within a few hours after O’Reilly’s return to New York he telephoned to Felipe Alvarado, explaining briefly the disastrous failure of his Cuban trip.
“I feared as much,” the doctor told him. “You were lucky to escape with your life.”
“Well, I’m going back.”
“Of course; but have you made any plans?”
“Not yet. I dare say I’ll have to join some filibustering outfit. Won’t you intercede for me with the Junta? They’re constantly sending parties.”
“Um-m! not quite so often as that.” Alvarado was silent for a moment; then he said: “Dine with me to-night and we’ll talk it over. I’m eager for news of my brothers and—there is some one I wish you to meet. She is interested in our cause.”
“‘She’? A woman?”
“Yes, and an unusual woman. She has contributed liberally to our cause. I would like you to meet her.”
“Very well; but I’ve only one suit of clothes, and it looks as if I’d slept in it.”
“Oh, bother the clothes!” laughed the physician. “I’ve given most of mine to my destitute countrymen. Don’t expect too much to eat, either; every extra dollar, you know, goes the same way as my extra trousers. It will be a sort of patriotic ‘poverty party.’ Come at seven, please.”
“Dining out, eh? Lucky devil!” said Leslie Branch when he had learned of his companion’s invitation. “And to meet a philanthropic old lady! Gee! Maybe she’ll offer to adopt you. Who knows?”
“I wish you’d offer to lend me a clean shirt.”
“I’ll do it,” readily agreed the other. “I’ll stake you to my last one. But keep it clean! Have a care for the cuffs—a little inadvertency with the soup may ruin my prospects for a job. You understand, don’t you, that our next meal after this one may depend upon this shirt’s prosperous appearance?” Branch dove into his bag and emerged with a stiffly laundered shirt done up in a Cuban newspaper. He unwrapped the garment and gazed fondly upon it, murmuring, “’Tis a pretty thing, is it not?” His exertions had brought on a violent coughing-spell, which left him weak and gasping; but when he had regained his breath he went on in the same key: “Again I solemnly warn you that this spotless bosom is our bulwark against poverty. One stain may cut down my space rates; editors are an infernally fastidious lot. Fortunately they want facts about the war in Cuba, and I’m full of ’em: I’ve fought in the trenches and heard the song of grape and canister—”
“Grape-fruit and canned goods, you mean,” O’Reilly grinned.
“Well, I shall write with both in mind. The hope of one will stir memories of the other. And who is there to dispute me? At least I know what a battle should be like, and I shall thrill my readers with imaginary combats.”