Johnnie shivered apprehensively at the directness with which Miss Evans put her request. “You understand, I want to go and see for myself,” she was saying. “If you need medicines I’ll give them— bushels of the nastiest stuff I can buy. I’ll organize a field hospital. ... Oh, very well, call it a bribe, if you like. Anyhow, I’ve fully determined to go, and Mr. O’Reilly has volunteered to take care of me. He’s charmed with the idea.” Miss Evans giggled. “That means you’ll have to take him along, too.”
There followed a pause during which the two men exchanged dismayed glances.
“She doesn’t seem to care what she says,” O’Reilly murmured. “But--I’ll put a flea in Enriquez’s ear.”
“Put it in writing, please.” There was another wait. “Now read it to me. ... Good!” Miss Evans fairly purred over the telephone. “Send it to me by messenger right away; that’s a dear. I’m at Doctor Alvarado’s house, and he’s beside himself with joy. Thanks, awfully. You’re so nice.” A moment, and she was back in the dining-room facing her two friends—a picture of triumph. “You have nothing more to say about it,” she gloated. “’The Provisional Government of Cuba, through its New York representatives, extends to Miss Norine Evans an invitation to visit its temporary headquarters in the Sierra de—something-or-other, and deems it an honor to have her as its guest so long as she wishes to remain there. It requests that all military and civil officers afford her every safety and convenience within their power.’ That’s practically what Mr. Enriquez read to me. In fifteen minutes it will be here in black and white. Now then, let’s celebrate.”
She executed a dance step, pirouetted around the room, then plumped herself down into her chair. She rattled her cup and saucer noisily, crying, “Fill them up, Doctor Gloom. Let’s drink to Cuba Libre.”
Johnnie managed to smile as he raised his demi-tasse. “Here’s to my success as a chaperon,” said he. “I’m disliked by the Spaniards, and now the Cubans will hate me. I can see happy days ahead.”
Leslie Branch was asleep when O’Reilly returned to their room, but he awoke sufficiently to listen to the latter’s breathless account of the dinner-party.
“I’m rattled,” Johnnie confessed. “Why, that girl just bounced right into the middle of everything, and—and I can’t bounce her out again.”
“You say she’s young, and pretty, and—rich?” Leslie was incredulous.
“Y-yes! All of that.”
“Um-m! Doctor Alvarado must mix a good cocktail.”
“Because you’re drunk and delirious. They don’t come that way, my boy. When they’re rich they’re old and ugly.”
“I tell you this girl is young and—stunning.”
“Of course she is,” Branch agreed, soothingly. “Now go to sleep and don’t think any more about her, there’s a good boy! Everything will be all right in the morning. Perhaps it never happened; perhaps you didn’t meet any woman at all.” The speaker yawned and turned over.