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Title: The White Mice
Author: Davis, Richard Harding, 1864-1916
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The White Mice" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



 THE

 WHITE MICE

 BY

 RICHARD HARDING DAVIS

 ILLUSTRATED BY

 _GEORGE GIBBS_

 CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
 NEW YORK _1912_



 COPYRIGHT, 1909,
 BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS



[Illustration: "What does anything matter, when I know--that the end
is near!"]



ILLUSTRATIONS


 "What does anything matter, when I know--that the
 end is near!"                                        _Frontispiece_

                                                           FACING PAGE

 "_O-i-i-ga_, you Moso! Get a move on! _Pronto!_ If
 you don't I'll do that myself"                                   20

 "I hear the call of the White Mice," said Peter de
 Peyster                                                          30

 Under the blow, the masked man staggered drunkenly               70

 Shifting the reins to his left hand, Roddy let the
 other fall upon his revolver                                    114

 "Now I know why I came to Venezuela!"                           144

 On such a night, Leander swam the Hellespont                    198

 Her fingers traced the sign of the cross                        294



THE WHITE MICE



I


Once upon a time a lion dropped his paw upon a mouse.

"Please let me live!" begged the mouse, "and some day I will do as
much for you."

"That is so funny," roared the king of beasts, "that we will release
you. We had no idea mice had a sense of humor."

And then, as you remember, the lion was caught in the net of the
hunter, and struggled, and fought, and struck blindly, until his
spirit and strength were broken, and he lay helpless and dying.

And the mouse, happening to pass that way, gnawed and nibbled at the
net, and gave the lion his life.

The morals are: that an appreciation of humor is a precious thing;
that God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform, and that
you never can tell.

In regard to this fable it is urged that, according to the doctrine
of chances, it is extremely unlikely that at the very moment the lion
lay bound and helpless the very same mouse should pass by. But the
explanation is very simple and bromidic.

It is this--that this is a small world.

People who are stay-at-home bodies come to believe the whole world is
the village in which they live. People who are rolling-stones claim
that if you travel far enough and long enough the whole world becomes
as one village; that sooner or later you make friends with every one
in it; that the only difference between the stay-at-homes and the
gadabouts is that while the former answer local telephone calls, the
others receive picture postal-cards. There is a story that seems to
illustrate how small this world is. In fact, this is the story.

       *       *       *       *       *

General Don Miguel Rojas, who as a young man was called the Lion of
Valencia, and who later had honorably served Venezuela as Minister of
Foreign Affairs, as Secretary of War, as Minister to the Court of St.
James and to the Republic of France, having reached the age of sixty
found himself in a dungeon-cell underneath the fortress in the harbor
of Porto Cabello. He had been there two years. The dungeon was dark
and very damp, and at high-tide the waters of the harbor oozed through
the pores of the limestone walls. The air was the air of a
receiving-vault, and held the odor of a fisherman's creel.

General Rojas sat huddled upon a canvas cot, with a blanket about his
throat and a blanket about his knees, reading by the light of a candle
the story of Don Quixote. Sometimes a drop of water fell upon the
candle and it sputtered, and its light was nearly lost in the
darkness. Sometimes so many drops gathered upon the white head of the
Lion of Valencia that he sputtered, too, and coughed so violently
that, in agony, he beat with feeble hands upon his breast. And _his_
light, also, nearly escaped into the darkness.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the other side of the world, four young Americans, with legs
crossed and without their shoes, sat on the mats of the tea-house of
the Hundred and One Steps. On their sun-tanned faces was the glare of
Yokohama Bay, in their eyes the light of youth, of intelligent
interest, of adventure. In the hand of each was a tiny cup of acrid
tea. Three of them were under thirty, and each wore the suit of silk
pongee that in eighteen hours C. Tom, or Little Ah Sing, the Chinese
King, fits to any figure, and which in the Far East is the badge of
the tourist tribe. Of the three, one was Rodman Forrester. His
father, besides being pointed out as the parent of "Roddy" Forrester,
the one-time celebrated Yale pitcher, was himself not unfavorably
known to many governments as a constructor of sky-scrapers,
breakwaters, bridges, wharves and light-houses, which latter he
planted on slippery rocks along inaccessible coast-lines. Among his
fellow Captains of Industry he was known as the Forrester Construction
Company, or, for short, the "F. C. C." Under that alias Mr. Forrester
was now trying to sell to the Japanese three light-houses, to
illuminate the Inner Sea between Kobe and Shimoneseki. To hasten the
sale he had shipped "Roddy" straight from the machine-shops to
Yokohama.

Three years before, when Roddy left Yale, his father ordered him
abroad to improve his mind by travel, and to inspect certain
light-houses and breakwaters on both shores of the English Channel.
While crossing from Dover to Calais on his way to Paris, Roddy made a
very superficial survey of the light-houses and reported that, so far
as he could see by daylight, they still were on the job. His father,
who had his own breezy sense of humor, cancelled Roddy's letter of
credit, cabled him home, and put him to work in the machine-shop.
There the manager reported that, except that he had shown himself a
good "mixer," and had organized picnics for the benefit societies, and
a base-ball team, he had not earned his fifteen dollars a week.

When Roddy was called before him, his father said:

"It is wrong that your rare talents as a 'mixer' should be wasted in
front of a turning-lathe. Callahan tells me you can talk your way
through boiler-plate, so I am going to give you a chance to talk the
Japs into giving us a contract. But, remember this, Roddy," his father
continued sententiously, "the Japs are the Jews of the present. Be
polite, but don't appear _too_ anxious. If you do, they will beat you
down in the price."

Perhaps this parting injunction explains why, from the time Roddy
first burst upon the Land of the Rising Sun, he had devoted himself
entirely to the Yokohama tea-houses and the base-ball grounds of the
American Naval Hospital. He was trying, he said, not to appear too
anxious. He hoped father would be pleased.

With Roddy to Japan, as a companion, friend and fellow-tourist, came
Peter de Peyster, who hailed from the banks of the Hudson, and of what
Roddy called "one of our ancient poltroon families." At Yale, although
he had been two classes in advance of Roddy, the two had been
roommates, and such firm friends that they contradicted each other
without ceasing. Having quarrelled through two years of college life,
they were on terms of such perfect understanding as to be inseparable.

The third youth was the "Orchid Hunter." His father manufactured the
beer that, so Roddy said, had made his home town bilious. He was not
really an orchid hunter, but on his journeyings around the globe he
had become so ashamed of telling people he had no other business than
to spend his father's money that he had decided to say he was
collecting orchids.

"It shows imagination," he explained, "and I have spent enough money
on orchids on Fifth Avenue to make good."

The fourth youth in the group wore the uniform and insignia of a
Lieutenant of the United States Navy. His name was Perry, and, looking
down from the toy balcony of the tea-house, clinging like a
bird's-nest to the face of the rock, they could see his battle-ship on
the berth. It was Perry who had convoyed them to O Kin San and her
delectable tea-house, and it was Perry who was talking shop.

"But the most important member of the ship's company on a submarine,"
said the sailor-man, "doesn't draw any pay at all, and he has no
rating. He is a mouse."

"He's a _what_?" demanded the Orchid Hunter. He had been patriotically
celebrating the arrival of the American Squadron. During tiffin, the
sight of the white uniforms in the hotel dining-room had increased his
patriotism; and after tiffin the departure of the Pacific Mail,
carrying to the Golden Gate so many "good fellows," further aroused
it. Until the night before, in the billiard-room, he had never met any
of the good fellows; but the thought that he might never see them
again now depressed him. And the tea he was drinking neither cheered
nor inebriated. So when the Orchid Hunter spoke he showed a touch of
temper.

"Don't talk sea slang to me," he commanded; "when you say he is a
mouse, what do you mean by a mouse?"

"I mean a mouse," said the Lieutenant, "a white mouse with pink eyes.
He bunks in the engine-room, and when he smells sulphuric gas escaping
anywhere he squeals; and the chief finds the leak, and the ship isn't
blown up. Sometimes, one little, white mouse will save the lives of a
dozen bluejackets."

Roddy and Peter de Peyster nodded appreciatively.

"Mos' extr'd'n'ry!" said the Orchid Hunter. "Mos' sad, too. I will
now drink to the mouse. The moral of the story is," he pointed out,
"that everybody, no matter how impecunious, can help; even you fellows
could help. So could I."

His voice rose in sudden excitement. "I will now," he cried, "organize
the Society of the Order of the White Mice. The object of the society
is to save everybody's life. Don't tell me," he objected scornfully,
"that you fellows will let a little white mice save twelve hundred
bluejackets, an' you sit there an' grin. You mus' all be a White Mice.
You mus' all save somebody's life. An'--then--then we give ourself a
dinner."

"And medals!" suggested Peter de Peyster.

The Orchid Hunter frowned. He regarded the amendment with suspicion.

"Is't th' intention of the Hon'ble Member from N'York," he asked,
"that _each_ of us gets a medal, or just th' one that does th'
saving?"

"Just one," said Peter de Peyster.

"No, we all get 'em," protested Roddy. "Each time!"

"Th' 'men'ment to th' 'men'ment is carried," announced the Orchid
Hunter. He untwisted his legs and clapped his hands. The paper walls
slid apart, the little Nezans, giggling, bowing, ironing out their
knees with open palms, came tripping and stumbling to obey.

"Take away the tea!" shouted the Orchid Hunter. "It makes me nervous.
Bring us fizzy-water, in larges' size, cold, expensive bottles. And
now, you fellows," proclaimed the Orchid Hunter, "I'm goin' into
secret session and initiate you into Yokohama Chapter, Secret Order of
White Mice. And--I will be Mos' Exalted Secret White Mouse."

When he returned to the ship Perry told the wardroom about it and
laughed, and the wardroom laughed, and that night at the Grand Hotel,
while the Japanese band played "Give My Regards to Broadway," which
Peter de Peyster told them was the American national anthem, the White
Mice gave their first annual dinner. For, as the Orchid Hunter pointed
out, in order to save life, one must sustain it.

And Louis Eppinger himself designed that dinner, and the Paymaster,
and Perry's brother-officers, who were honored guests, still speak of
it with awe; and the next week's _Box of Curios_ said of it
editorially: "And while our little Yokohama police know much of
ju-jitsu, they found that they had still something to learn of the
short jab to the jaw and the quick getaway."

Indeed, throughout, it was a most successful dinner.

And just to show how small this world is, and that "God moves in a
mysterious way, His wonders to perform," at three o'clock that
morning, when the dinner-party in rickshaws were rolling down the
Bund, singing "We're Little White Mice Who Have Gone Astray," their
voices carried across the Pacific, across the Cordilleras and the
Caribbean Sea; and an old man in his cell, tossing and shivering with
fever, smiled and sank to sleep; for in his dreams he had heard the
scampering feet of the White Mice, and he had seen the gates of his
prison-cell roll open.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Forrester Construction Company did not get the contract to build
the three light-houses. The Japanese preferred a light-house made by
an English firm. They said it was cheaper. It _was_ cheaper, because
they bought the working plans from a draughtsman the English firm had
discharged for drunkenness, and, by causing the revolving light to
wink once instead of twice, dodged their own patent laws.

Mr. Forrester agreed with the English firm that the Japanese were "a
wonderful little people," and then looked about for some one
individual he could blame. Finding no one else, he blamed Roddy. The
interview took place on the twenty-seventh story of the Forrester
Building, in a room that overlooked the Brooklyn Bridge.

"You didn't fall down on the job," the fond parent was carefully
explaining, "because you never were _on_ the job. You didn't even
_start_. It was thoughtful of you to bring back kimonos to mother and
the girls. But the one you brought me does not entirely compensate me
for the ninety thousand dollars you didn't bring back. I would _like_
my friends to see me in a kimono with silk storks and purple wistarias
down the front, but I feel I cannot afford to pay ninety thousand
dollars for a bathrobe.

"Nor do I find," continued the irate parent coldly, "that the honor
you did the company by disguising yourself as a stoker and helping the
base-ball team of the _Louisiana_ to win the pennant of the Asiatic
Squadron, altogether reconciles us to the loss of a government
contract. I have paid a good deal to have you taught mechanical
engineering, and I should like to know how soon you expect to give me
the interest on my money."

Roddy grinned sheepishly, and said he would begin at once, by taking
his father out to lunch.

"Good!" said Forrester, Senior. "But before we go, Roddy, I want you
to look over there to the Brooklyn side. Do you see pier number
eleven--just south of the bridge? Yes? Then do you see a white steamer
taking on supplies?"

Roddy, delighted at the change of subject, nodded.

"That ship," continued his father, "is sailing to Venezuela, where we
have a concession from the government to build breakwaters and buoy
the harbors and put up light-houses. We have been working there for
two years and we've spent about two million dollars. And some day we
hope to get our money. Sometimes," continued Mr. Forrester, "it is
necessary to throw good money after bad. That is what we are doing in
Venezuela."

"I don't understand," interrupted Roddy with polite interest.

"You are not expected to," said his father. "If you will kindly
condescend to hold down the jobs I give you, you can safely leave the
high finance of the company to your father."

"Quite so," said Roddy hastily. "Where shall we go to lunch?"

As though he had not heard him, Forrester, Senior, continued
relentlessly: "To-morrow," he said, "you are sailing on that ship for
Porto Cabello; we have just started a light-house at Porto Cabello,
and are buoying the harbor. You are going for the F. C. C. You are an
inspector."

Roddy groaned and sank into a chair.

"Go on," he commanded, "break it to me quick! _What_ do I inspect?"

"You sit in the sun," said Mr. Forrester, "with a pencil, and every
time our men empty a bag of cement into the ocean you make a mark. At
the same time, if you are not an utter idiot and completely blind, you
can't help but see how a light-house is set up. The company is having
trouble in Venezuela, trouble in collecting its money. You might as
well know that, because everybody in Venezuela will tell you so. But
that's all you need to know. The other men working for the company
down there will think, because you are my son, that you know more
about what I'm doing in Venezuela than they do. Now, understand, you
don't know anything, and I want you to say so. I want you to stick to
your own job, and not mix up in anything that doesn't concern you.
There will be nothing to distract you. McKildrick writes me that in
Porto Cabello there are no tea-houses, no roads for automobiles, and,
except for the fire-flies, all the white lights go out at nine
o'clock.

"Now, Roddy," concluded Mr. Forrester warningly, "this is your chance,
and it is the last chance for dinner in the dining-car, for you. If
you fail the company, and by the company I mean myself, _this_ time,
you can ask Fred Sterry for a job on the waiters' nine at Palm Beach."

       *       *       *       *       *

Like all the other great captains, Mr. Forrester succeeded through the
work of his lieutenants. For him, in every part of the world, more
especially in those parts of it in which the white man was but just
feeling his way, they were at work.

In Siberia, in British East Africa, in Upper Burmah, engineers of the
Forrester Construction Company had tamed, shackled and bridged great
rivers. In the Soudan they had thrown up ramparts against the Nile.
Along the coasts of South America they had cast the rays of the
Forrester revolving light upon the face of the waters of both the
South Atlantic and the Pacific.

They were of all ages, from the boys who had never before looked
through a transit except across the college campus, to sun-tanned,
fever-haunted veterans who, for many years, had fought Nature where
she was most stubborn, petulant and cruel. They had seen a tidal-wave
crumple up a breakwater which had cost them a half-year of labor, and
slide it into the ocean. They had seen swollen rivers, drunk with the
rains, trip bridges by the ankles and toss them on the banks, twisted
and sprawling; they had seen a tropical hurricane overturn a
half-finished light-house as gayly as a summer breeze upsets a
rocking-chair; they had fought with wild beasts, they had fought with
wild men, with Soudanese of the Desert, with Federated Sons of Labor,
with Yaqui Indians, and they had seen cholera, sleeping-sickness and
the white man's gin turn their compounds into pest-camps and
crematories.

Of these things Mr. Forrester, in the twenty-seven-story Forrester
sky-scraper, where gray-coated special policemen and elevator-starters
touched their caps to him, had seen nothing. He regarded these
misadventures by flood and field only as obstacles to his carrying out
in the time stipulated a business contract. He accepted them patiently
as he would a strike of the workmen on the apartment-house his firm
was building on Fifty-ninth Street.

Sometimes, in order to better show the progress they were making, his
engineers sent him from strange lands photographs of their work. At
these, for a moment, he would glance curiously, at the pictures of
naked, dark-skinned coolies in turbans, of elephants dragging iron
girders, _his_ iron girders; and perhaps he would wonder if the man
in the muddy boots and the heavy sun hat was McKenzie. His interest
went no further than that; his imagination was not stirred.

Sometimes McKenzie returned and, in evening dress, dined with him at
his up-town club, or at a fashionable restaurant, where the senses of
the engineer were stifled by the steam heat, the music and the scent
of flowers; where, through a joyous mist of red candle-shades and
golden champagne, he once more looked upon women of his own color. It
was not under such conditions that Mr. Forrester could expect to know
the real McKenzie. This was not the McKenzie who, two months before,
was fighting death on a diet of fruit salts, and who, against the sun,
wore a bath-towel down his spinal column. On such occasions Mr.
Forrester wanted to know if, with native labor costing but a few yards
of cotton and a bowl of rice, the new mechanical rivet-drivers were
not an extravagance. How, he would ask, did salt water and a sweating
temperature of one hundred and five degrees act upon the new anti-rust
paint? That was what he wanted to know.

Once one of his young lieutenants, inspired by a marvellous dinner,
called to him across the table: "You remember, sir, that light-house
we put up in the Persian Gulf? The Consul at Aden told me, this last
trip, that before that light was there the wrecks on the coast
averaged fifteen a year and the deaths from drowning over a hundred.
You will be glad to hear that since your light went up, three years
ago, there have been only two wrecks and no deaths."

Mr. Forrester nodded gravely.

"I remember," he said. "That was the time we made the mistake of
sending cement through the Canal instead of around the Cape, and the
tolls cost us five thousand dollars."

It was not that Mr. Forrester weighed the loss of the five thousand
dollars against a credit of lives saved. It was rather that he was not
in the life-saving business. Like all his brother captains, he was,
in a magnificent way, mechanically charitable. For institutions that
did make it a business to save life he wrote large checks. But he
never mixed charity and business. In what he was doing in the world he
either was unable to see, or was not interested in seeing, what was
human, dramatic, picturesque. When he forced himself to rest from his
labor, his relaxation was the reading of novels of romance, of
adventure--novels that told of strange places and strange peoples.
Between the after-dinner hour and bedtime, or while his yacht picked
her way up the Sound, these tales filled him with surprise. Often he
would exclaim admiringly: "I don't see how these fellows think up such
things."

He did not know that, in his own business, there were melodramas,
romances which made those of the fiction-writers ridiculous.

And so, when young Sam Caldwell, the third vice-president, told Mr.
Forrester that if the company hoped to obtain the money it had sunk
in Venezuela it must finance a revolution, Mr. Forrester, without
question, consented to the expense, and put it down under "Political."
Had Sam Caldwell shown him that what was needed was a construction-raft
or a half-dozen giant steam-shovels, he would have furnished the money
as readily and with as little curiosity.

Sam Caldwell, the third vice-president, was a very smart young man.
Every one, even men much older than he, said as much, and no one was
more sure of it than was Sam Caldwell himself. His vanity on that
point was, indeed, his most prepossessing human quality.

He was very proud of his freedom from those weak scruples that
prevented rival business men from underbidding the F. C. C. He
congratulated himself on the fact that at thirty-four he was much more
of a cynic than men of sixty. He held no illusions, and he rejoiced
in a sense of superiority over those of his own class in college, who,
in matters of business, were still hampered by old-time traditions.

If in any foreign country the work of the F. C. C. was halted by
politicians, it was always Sam Caldwell who was sent across the sea to
confer with them. He could quote you the market-price on a Russian
grand-duke, or a Portuguese colonial governor, as accurately as he
could that of a Tammany sachem. His was the non-publicity department.
People who did not like him called him Mr. Forrester's jackal. When
the lawyers of the company had studied how they could evade the law on
corporations, and had shown how the officers of the F. C. C. could do
a certain thing and still keep out of jail, Sam Caldwell was the man
who did that thing.

He had been to Venezuela "to look over the ground," and he had
reported that President Alvarez must go, and that some one who would
be friendly to the F. C. C. must be put in his place. That was all Mr.
Forrester knew, or cared to know. With the delay in Venezuela he was
impatient. He wanted to close up that business and move his fleet of
tenders, dredges and rafts to another coast. So, as was the official
routine, he turned over the matter to Sam Caldwell, to settle it in
Sam Caldwell's own way.

Two weeks after his talk with his father, Roddy, ignorant of Mr.
Caldwell's intentions, was in Venezuela, sitting on the edge of a
construction-raft, dangling his rubber boots in the ocean, and
watching a steel skeleton creep up from a coral reef into a blazing,
burning sky. At intervals he would wake to remove his cigarette, and
shout fiercely: "_O-i-i-ga_, you Moso! Get a move on! _Pronto!_ If you
don't I'll do that myself."

Every ten minutes El Señor Roddy had made the same threat, and the
workmen, once hopeful that he would carry it into effect, had grown
despondent.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the mind of Peter de Peyster there was no doubt that, unless
something was done, and at once, the Order of the White Mice would
cease to exist. The call of Gain, of Duty, of Pleasure had scattered
the charter members to distant corners of the world. Their dues were
unpaid, the pages of the Golden Book of Record were blank. Without the
necessary quorum of two there could be no meetings, without meetings
there could be no dinners, and, incidentally, over all the world
people continued to die, and the White Mice were doing nothing to
prevent it. Peter de Peyster, mindful of his oath, of his duty as the
Most Secret Secretary and High Historian of the Order, shot arrows in
the air in the form of irate postal-cards. He charged all White Mice
to instantly report to the Historian the names of those persons whom,
up to date, they had saved from death.

[Illustration: "_O-i-i-ga_, you Moso! Get a move on! _Pronto!_ If you
don't I'll do that myself."]

From the battle-ship _Louisiana_, Perry wrote briefly:

     "Beg to report during gale off Finisterre, went to rescue of
     man overboard. Man overboard proved to be Reagan, gunner's
     mate, first class, holding long-distance championship for
     swimming and two medals for saving life. After I sank the
     third time, Reagan got me by the hair and towed me to the
     ship. Who gets the assist?"

From Raffles' Hotel, Singapore, the Orchid Hunter cabled:

     "Have saved own valuable life by refusing any longer to
     drink Father's beer. Give everybody medal."

From Porto Cabello, Venezuela, Roddy wrote:

     "I have saved lives of fifty Jamaica coolies daily by not
     carrying an axe. If you want to save my life from suicide,
     sunstroke and sleeping-sickness--which attacks me with
     special virulence immediately after lunch--come by next
     steamer."

A week later, Peter de Peyster took the Red D boat south, and after
touching at Porto Rico and at the Island of Curaçao, swept into Porto
Cabello and into the arms of his friend.

On the wharf, after the shouts of welcome had died away, Roddy
inquired anxiously: "As you made the harbor, Peter, did you notice
any red and black buoys? Those are _my_ buoys. _I_ put them
there--_myself_. And I laid out that entire channel you came in
by, all by myself, too!"

Much time had passed since the two friends had been able to insult
each other face to face.

"Roddy," coldly declared Peter, "if I thought _you_ had charted that
channel I'd go home on foot, by land."

"Do you mean you think I can't plant deep-sea buoys?" demanded Roddy.

"You can't plant potatoes!" said Peter. "If you had to set up
lamp-posts, with the street names on them, along Broadway, you would
put the ones marked Union Square in Columbus Circle."

"I want you to know," shouted Roddy, "that my buoys are the talk of
this port. These people are just crazy about my buoys--especially the
red buoys. If you didn't come to Venezuela to see my buoys, why did
you come? I will plant a buoy for you to-morrow!" challenged Roddy. "I
will show you!"

"You will _have_ to show me," said Peter.

       *       *       *       *       *

Peter had been a week in Porto Cabello, and, in keeping Roddy at work,
had immensely enjoyed himself. Each morning, in the company's gasoline
launch, the two friends went put-put-putting outside the harbor, where
Roddy made soundings for his buoys, and Peter lolled in the stern and
fished. His special pleasure was in trying to haul man-eating sharks
into the launch at the moment Roddy was leaning over the gunwale,
taking a sounding.

One evening at sunset, on their return trip, as they were under the
shadow of the fortress, the engine of the launch broke down. While the
black man from Trinidad was diagnosing the trouble, Peter was
endeavoring to interest Roddy in the quaint little Dutch Island of
Curaçao that lay one hundred miles to the east of them. He chose to
talk of Curaçao because the ship that carried him from the States had
touched there, while the ship that brought Roddy south had not. This
fact irritated Roddy, so Peter naturally selected the moment when the
launch had broken down and Roddy was both hungry and peevish to talk
of Curaçao.

"Think of your never having seen Curaçao!" he sighed. "Some day you
certainly must visit it. With a sea as flat as this is to-night you
could make the run in the launch in twelve hours. It is a place you
should see."

"That is so like you," exclaimed Roddy indignantly. "I have been here
four months, and you have been here a week, and you try to tell _me_
about Curaçao! It is the place where curaçao and revolutionists come
from. All the exiles from Venezuela wait over there until there is a
revolution over here, and then they come across. You can't tell _me_
anything about Curaçao. _I_ don't have to _go_ to a place to know
about it."

"I'll bet," challenged Peter, "you don't know about the mother and the
two daughters who were exiled from Venezuela and live in Curaçao, and
who look over here every night at sunset?"

Roddy laughed scornfully. "Why, that is the first thing they tell
you," he cried; "the purser points them out from the ship, and tells
you----"

"Tells _you_, yes," cried Peter triumphantly, "but I _saw_ them. As we
left the harbor they were standing on the cliff--three women in
white--looking toward Venezuela. They told me the father of the two
girls is in prison here. He was----"

"_Told_ you, yes," mimicked Roddy, "told you he was in prison. I have
_seen_ him in prison. There is the prison."

Roddy pointed at the flat, yellow fortress that rose above them.
Behind the tiny promontory on which the fortress crouched was the
town, separated from it by a stretch of water so narrow that a
golf-player, using the quay of the custom-house for a tee, could have
driven a ball against the prison wall.

Daily, from the town, Peter had looked across the narrow harbor toward
the level stretch of limestone rock that led to the prison gates, and
had seen the petty criminals, in chains, splash through the pools left
by the falling tide, had watched each pick up a cask of fresh water,
and, guarded by the barefooted, red-capped soldiers, drag his chains
back to the prison. Now, only the boat's-length from them, he saw the
sheer face of the fortress, where it slipped to depths unknown into
the sea. It impressed him most unpleasantly. It had the look less of a
fortress than of a neglected tomb. Its front was broken by wind and
waves, its surface, blotched and mildewed, white with crusted salt,
hideous with an eruption of dead barnacles. As each wave lifted and
retreated, leaving the porous wall dripping like a sponge, it
disturbed countless crabs, rock scorpions and creeping, leech-like
things that ran blindly into the holes in the limestone; and, at the
water-line, the sea-weed, licking hungrily at the wall, rose and fell,
the great arms twisting and coiling like the tentacles of many
devilfish.

Distaste at what he saw, or the fever that at sunset drives wise
Venezuelans behind closed shutters, caused Peter to shiver slightly.

For some moments, with grave faces and in silence, the two young men
sat motionless, the mind of each trying to conceive what life must be
behind those rusted bars and moss-grown walls.

"Somewhere, buried in there," said Roddy, "is General Rojas, the Lion
of Valencia, a man," he added sententiously, "beloved by the people.
He has held all the cabinet positions, and been ambassador in Europe,
and Alvarez is more afraid of him than of any other man in Venezuela.
And why? For the simple reason that he is good. When the people found
out what a blackguard Alvarez is they begged Rojas to run for
President against him, and Rojas promised that if, at the next
election, the people still desired it, he would do as they wished.
That night Alvarez hauled him out of bed and put him in there. He has
been there two years. There _are_ healthy prisons, but Alvarez put
Rojas in this one, hoping it would kill him. He is afraid to murder
him openly, because the people love him. When I first came here I went
through the fortress with Vicenti, the prison doctor, on a sort of
Seeing-Porto-Cabello trip. He pointed out Rojas to me through the
bars, same as you would point out a monument to a dead man. Rojas was
sitting at a table, writing, wrapped in a shawl. The cell was lit by a
candle, and I give you my word, although it was blazing hot outside,
the place was as damp as a refrigerator. When we raised our lanterns
he stood up, and I got a good look at him. He is a thin, frail little
man with white hair and big, sad eyes, with a terribly lonely look in
them. At least I thought so; and I felt so ashamed at staring at him
that I bowed and salaamed to him through the bars, and he gave me the
most splendid bow, just as though he were still an ambassador and I a
visiting prince. The doctor had studied medicine in New York, so
probably he talked to me a little more freely than he should. He says
he warned the commandant of the fortress that unless Rojas is moved to
the upper tier of cells, above the water-line, he will die in six
months. And the commandant told him not to meddle in affairs of state,
that his orders from the President were that Rojas 'must never again
feel the heat of the sun.'"

Peter de Peyster exclaimed profanely. "Are there no men in this
country?" he growled. "Why don't his friends get him out?"

"They'd have to get themselves out first," explained Roddy. "Alvarez
made a clean sweep of it, even of his wife and his two daughters, the
women you saw. He exiled them, and they went to Curaçao. They have
plenty of money, and they _could_ have lived in Paris or London. He
has been minister in both places, and has many friends over there, but
even though they cannot see him or communicate with him, they settled
down in Curaçao so that they might be near him.

"The night his wife was ordered out of the country she was allowed to
say good-by to him in the fortress, and there she arranged that every
night at sunset she and her daughters would look toward Port Cabello,
and he would look toward Curaçao. The women bought a villa on the
cliff, to the left of the harbor of Willemstad as you enter, and the
people, the Dutch and the Spaniards and negroes, all know the story,
and when they see the three women on the cliff at sunset it is like
the Angelus ringing, and, they say, the people pray that the women may
see him again."

For a long time Peter de Peyster sat scowling at the prison, and Roddy
did not speak, for it is not possible to room with another man through
two years of college life and not know something of his moods.

Then Peter leaned toward Roddy and stared into his face. His voice
carried the suggestion of a challenge.

"I hear something!" he whispered.

Whether his friend spoke in metaphor or stated a fact, Roddy could not
determine. He looked at him questioningly, and raised his head to
listen. Save for the whisper of the waves against the base of the
fortress, there was no sound.

"What?" asked Roddy.

"I hear the call of the White Mice," said Peter de Peyster.

There was a long silence. Then Roddy laughed softly, his eyes half
closed; the muscles around the lower jaw drew tight.

Often before Peter had seen the look in his face, notably on a
memorable afternoon when Roddy went to the bat, with three men on
base, two runs needed to win the championship and twenty thousand
shrieking people trying to break his nerve.

"I will go as far as you like," said Roddy.

       *       *       *       *       *

Porto Cabello is laid out within the four boundaries of a square.
The boundary on the east and the boundary on the north of the square
meet at a point that juts into the harbor. The wharves and the
custom-house, looking toward the promontory on which stands the
fortress prison, form the eastern side of the square, and along the
northern edge are the Aquatic Club, with its veranda over the water,
the hotel, with its bath-rooms underneath the water, and farther along
the harbor front houses set in gardens. As his work was in the harbor,
Roddy had rented one of these houses. It was discreetly hidden by
mango-trees and palmetto, and in the rear of the garden, steps cut in
the living rock led down into the water. In a semicircle beyond these
steps was a fence of bamboo stout enough to protect a bather from the
harbor sharks and to serve as a breakwater for the launch.

[Illustration: "I hear the call of the White Mice," said Peter de
Peyster.]

"When I rented this house," said Roddy, "I thought I took it because I
could eat mangoes while I was in bathing and up to my ears in water,
which is the only way you can eat a mango and keep your self-respect.
But I see now that Providence sent me here because we can steal away
in the launch without any one knowing it."

"If you can move that launch its own length without the whole town
knowing it," commented Peter, "you will have to chloroform it. It
barks like a machine gun."

"My idea was," explained Roddy, "that we would row to the fortress.
After we get the General on board, the more it sounds like a machine
gun the better."

Since their return in the launch, and during dinner, which had been
served in the tiny _patio_ under the stars, the White Mice had been
discussing ways and means. A hundred plans had been proposed,
criticised, rejected; but by one in the morning, when the candles were
guttering in the harbor breeze and the Scotch whiskey had shrunk
several inches, the conspirators found themselves agreed. They had
decided they could do nothing until they knew in which cell the
General was imprisoned, and especially the position of his window in
that cell that looked out upon the harbor; that, with the aid of the
launch, the rescue must be made from the water, and that the rescuers
must work from the outside. To get at Rojas from the inside it would
be necessary to take into their confidence some one of the prison
officials, and there was no one they dared to trust. Had it been a
question of money, Roddy pointed out, the friends of Rojas would
already have set him free. That they had failed to do so proved, not
that the prison officials were incorruptible, but that their fear of
the wrath of Alvarez was greater than their cupidity.

"There are several reasons why we should not attempt to bribe any
one," said Roddy, "and the best one is the same reason the man gave
for not playing poker. To-morrow I will introduce you to Vicenti, the
prison doctor, and we'll ask him to take us over the prison, and count
the cells, and try to mark the one in which we see Rojas. Perhaps we'd
better have the doctor in to dinner. He likes to tell you what a devil
of a fellow he was in New York, and you must pretend to believe he
was. We might also have the captain of the port, and get him to give
us permission to take the launch out at night. This port is still
under martial law, and after the sunset gun no boat may move about the
harbor. Then we must have some harpoons made and get out that
headlight, and spear eels."

"You couldn't spear an eel," objected Peter, "and if you could I
wouldn't eat it."

"You don't have to eat it!" explained Roddy; "the eels are only an
excuse. We want to get the sentries used to seeing us flashing around
the harbor at night. If we went out there without some excuse, and
without permission, exploding like a barrel of fire-crackers, they'd
sink us. So we must say we are out spearing eels."

The next morning Roddy showed a blacksmith how to hammer out tridents
for spearing eels, and that night those people who lived along the
harbor front were kept awake by quick-fire explosions, and the glare
in their windows of a shifting search-light. But at the end of the
week the launch of the Gringos, as it darted noisily in and out of the
harbor, and carelessly flashed its search-light on the walls of the
fortress, came to be regarded less as a nuisance than a blessing. For
with noble self-sacrifice the harbor eels lent themselves to the
deception. By hundreds they swarmed in front of the dazzling
headlight; by dozens they impaled themselves upon the tines of the
pitchforks. So expert did Roddy and Peter become in harpooning, that
soon they were able each morning to send to the captain of the port,
to the commandant, to the prison doctor, to every citizen who objected
to having his sleep punctuated, a basket of eels. It was noticed that
at intervals the engine of the launch would not act properly, and the
gringos were seen propelling the boat with oars. Also, the light
often went out, leaving them in darkness. They spoke freely of these
accidents with bitter annoyance, and people sympathized with them.

One night, when they were seated plotting in the _patio_, Roddy was
overwhelmed with sudden misgivings.

"Wouldn't it be awful," he cried, "if, after we have cut the bars and
shown him the rope ladder and the launch, he refuses to come with us!"

"Is that _all_ that's worrying you?" asked Peter.

"How is he to know?" persisted Roddy, "that we are not paid by
Alvarez, that we aren't leading him on to escape so that the sentries
can have an excuse to shoot him. That has been done before. It is an
old trick, like killing a man in his cell and giving out that he
committed suicide. The first thing Rojas will ask us is, who sends us,
and where are our credentials."

"I guess he will take his chance," said Peter. "He'll see we are not
Venezuelans."

"That is the very thing that will make him refuse," protested Roddy.
"Why should he trust himself to strangers--to gringos? No, I tell you,
we can't go on without credentials." He lowered his voice and glanced
suspiciously into the dark corners of the _patio_. "And the only
people who can give them to us," he added, tapping impressively upon
the table, "live in Curaçao."

With sudden enthusiasm Peter de Peyster sat upright.

"I am on in that scene," he protested.

"I thought of it first," said Roddy.

"We will toss," compromised Peter. "The head of Bolivar, you go. The
arms of Venezuela, I go, and you stay here and catch eels."

The silver peso rang upon the table, and Roddy exclaimed jubilantly:

"Heads! I go!" he cried. But the effort of Peter to show he was not
disappointed was so unconvincing that Roddy instantly relented.

"We had better both go!" he amended. "Your headwork is better than
mine, so you come, too. And if you give me the right signals, I'll try
to put the ball where you can reach it."

As though in his eagerness he would set forth on the instant, Roddy
sprang to his feet and stood smiling down at Peter, his face lit with
pleasurable excitement. Then suddenly his expression grew thoughtful.

"Peter," he inquired, "how old do you think the daughters are?"



II


The next day Roddy and Peter sailed for Willemstad, the chief port and
the capital of the tiny island colony of Holland. In twelve hours they
had made their land-fall and were entering the harbor mouth. The sun
was just rising, and as its rays touched the cliff from which, twelve
hours later, Señora Rojas and her daughters would look toward Porto
Cabello, they felt a thrill of possible adventure.

Roddy knew that, as a refuge for revolutionists exiled from Venezuela,
Willemstad was policed with secret agents of Alvarez, and he knew that
were these spies to learn that during his visit either he or Peter had
called upon the family of Rojas they would be reported to Caracas as
"suspect," and the chance of their saving the Lion of Valencia would
be at an end. So it became them to be careful.

Before leaving Porto Cabello Roddy had told McKildrick, the foreman of
the Construction Company's work there, that some boxes of new
machinery and supplies for his launch had gone astray and that he
wished permission to cross to Curaçao to look them up. McKildrick
believed the missing boxes were only an excuse for a holiday, but he
was not anxious to assert his authority over the son and heir of the
F. C. C., and so gave Roddy his leave of absence. And at the wharf at
Porto Cabello, while waiting for the ship to weigh anchor, Roddy had
complained to the custom-house officials at having to cross to
Curaçao. He gave them the same reason for the trip, and said it was
most annoying.

In order to be consistent, when, on landing at Willemstad, three
soiled individuals approached Roddy and introduced themselves as
guides, he told them the same story. He was looking for boxes of
machinery invoiced for Porto Cabello; he feared they had been carried
on to La Guayra or dropped at Willemstad. Could they direct him to the
office of the steamship line and to the American Consul? One of the
soiled persons led him across the quay to the office of the agent, and
while Roddy repeated his complaint, listened so eagerly that to both
Peter and Roddy it was quite evident the business of the guide was not
to disclose Curaçao to strangers, but to learn what brought strangers
to Curaçao. The agent was only too delighted to serve the son of one
who in money meant so much to the line. For an hour he searched his
books, his warehouse and the quays. But, naturally, the search was
unsuccessful, and with most genuine apologies Roddy left him, saying
that at the office of the American Consul he would continue his search
for the lost boxes.

Meanwhile, Peter, in his character of tourist, engaged rooms for them
at the Hotel Commercial, and started off alone to explore the town.

At the Consulate, the soiled person listened to the beginning of
Roddy's speech, and then, apparently satisfied he had learned all that
was necessary, retreated to the outer office.

The Consul promptly rose and closed the door.

The representative of the United States was an elderly man, of unusual
height, with searching, honest blue eyes under white eyebrows. His
hair was white, his beard, worn long, was white, and his clothes were
of white duck.

His name was Sylvanus Cobb Codman, with the added title of captain,
which he had earned when, as a younger man, he had been owner and
master of one of the finest whalers that ever cleared the harbor of
New Bedford. During his cruises he had found the life of the West
Indies much to his liking, and when, at the age of fifty, he ceased to
follow the sea, he had asked for an appointment as consul to Porto
Cabello. Since then, except when at home on leave at Fairhaven, he had
lived in the Spanish Americas, and at many ports had served the State
Department faithfully and well. In spite of his age, Captain Codman
gave a pleasant impression of strength and nervous energy. Roddy felt
that the mind and body of the man were as clean as his clothes, and
that the Consul was one who could be trusted.

As Captain Codman seated himself behind his desk he was frowning.

"You must look out for that guide," he said. "He is from Caracas. He
is an agent of Alvarez. It just shows," he went on impatiently, "what
little sense these spies have, that he didn't recognize your name. The
Forrester Construction Company is certainly well enough known. That
the son of your father should be spied on is ridiculous."

"Then, again," said Roddy mysteriously, "maybe it isn't. I haven't got
such a clean bill of health. That's why I came to you." With an air
which he considered was becoming in a conspirator, he lowered his
voice. "May I ask, sir," he said, "if you are acquainted with Señora
Rojas, who is in exile here?"

The blue eyes of the Consul opened slightly, but he answered with
directness, "I am. I have that honor."

"And with her daughters?" added Roddy anxiously.

With dignity the Consul inclined his head.

"I want very much to meet them--her," corrected Roddy. "I am going to
set her husband free!"

For a moment, as though considering whether he were not confronted by
a madman, the Consul regarded Roddy with an expression of concern.
Then, in the deprecatory tone of one who believes he has not heard
aright, he asked, "You are going to do--_what_?"

"I am going to help General Rojas to escape," Roddy went on
briskly--"myself and another fellow. But we are afraid he won't trust
himself to us, so I am over here to get credentials from his wife.
But, you see, I have first got to get credentials to her. So I came to
ask you if you'd sort of vouch for me, tell her who I am--and all
that."

The Consul was staring at him so strangely that Roddy believed he had
not made himself fully understood.

"You know what I mean," he explained. "Credentials, something he will
know came from her--a ring or a piece of paper saying, 'These are
friends. Go with them.' Or a lock of her hair, or--or--you know,"
urged Roddy in embarrassment--"credentials."

"Are you jesting?" asked the older man coldly.

Roddy felt genuinely uncomfortable. He was conscious he was blushing.
"Certainly not," he protested. "It is serious enough, isn't it?"

The voice of the Consul dropped to a whisper.

"Who sent you here?" he demanded. Without waiting for an answer he
suddenly rose. Moving with surprising lightness to the door, he jerked
it open. But if by this manoeuvre he expected to precipitate the spy
into the room, he was disappointed, for the outer office was empty.
The Consul crossed it quickly to the window. He saw the spy
disappearing into a neighboring wine-shop.

When Captain Codman again entered the inner office he did not return
to his seat, but, after closing the door, as though to shut Roddy from
the only means of escape, he stood with his back against it. He was
very much excited.

"Mr. Forrester," he began angrily, "I don't know who is back of you,
and," he cried violently, "I don't _mean_ to know. I have been
American Consul in these Central American countries for fifteen years,
and I have never mixed myself up with what doesn't concern me. I
represent the United States government. I don't represent anything
else. I am not down here to assist any corporation, no matter how
rich, any junta, any revolutionary party----"

"Here! Wait!" cried Roddy anxiously. "You don't understand! I am not a
revolution. There is only me and Peter."

"What is that?" snapped the Consul savagely. The exclamation was like
the crack of a flapping jib.

"You see, it's this way," began Roddy. He started to explain
elaborately. "Peter and I belong to the Secret Order----"

"Stop!" thundered the Consul. "I tell you I won't listen to you!"

The rebuff was most embarrassing. Ignorant as to how he had offended
the Consul, and uncertain as to whether the Consul had not offended
him, Roddy helplessly rubbed his handkerchief over his perplexed and
perspiring countenance. He wondered if, as a conspirator, he had not
been lacking in finesse, if he had not been too communicative.

In the corner of the room, in a tin cage, a great green parrot, with
its head cocked on one side, had been regarding Roddy with mocking,
malevolent eyes. Now, to further add to his discomfiture, it suddenly
emitted a chuckle, human and contemptuous. As though choking with
hidden laughter, the bird gurgled feebly, "Polly, Polly." And then, in
a tone of stern disapproval, added briskly, "You talk too much!" At
this flank attack Roddy flushed indignantly. He began to wish he had
brought Peter with him, to give him the proper signals.

With his hands clinched behind him, and tossing his white beard from
side to side, the Consul paced the room.

"So that is it!" he muttered. "_That_ is why he left Paris. That
explains the _Restaurador_. Of course," he added indignantly as he
passed Roddy, throwing the words at him over his shoulder, "_that_ is
where the money came from!"

Roddy, now thoroughly exasperated, protested warmly: "Look here," he
cried, "if you aren't careful you'll tell me something you don't want
me to know."

The Consul came to an instant pause. From his great height he stood
staring at his visitor, the placid depths of his blue eyes glowering
with doubt and excitement.

"I give you my word," continued Roddy sulkily, "I don't know what you
are talking about."

"Do you mean to tell me," demanded the old man truculently, "that you
are _not_ Mr. Forrester's son?"

"Certainly I am his son," cried Roddy.

"Then," returned the Consul, "perhaps you will deny he is suing
Alvarez for two million dollars gold, you will deny that he might get
it if Alvarez were thrown out, you will deny that a--a certain person
might ratify the concession, and pay your father for the harbor
improvements he has already made? You see!" exclaimed the Consul
triumphantly. "And these missing boxes!" he cried as though following
up an advantage, "shall I tell you what is in them?" He lowered his
voice. "Cartridges and rifles! Do you deny it?"

Roddy found that at last he was on firm ground.

"Of course I deny it," he answered, "because there are no boxes.
They're only an invention of mine to get me to Curaçao. Now, you let
_me_ talk."

The Consul retreated behind his desk, and as Roddy spoke regarded him
sternly and with open suspicion. In concluding his story Roddy said:
"We have no other object in saving General Rojas than that he's an old
man, that he's dying, and that Peter and I can't sleep of nights for
thinking of him lying in a damp cell, not three hundred yards from us,
coughing himself to death."

At the words the eyes of the Consul closed quickly; he pressed his
great, tanned, freckled fingers nervously against his lip. But
instantly the stern look of the cross-examiner returned. "Go on," he
commanded.

"If we have cut in on some one's private wire," continued Roddy, "it's
an accident; and when you talk about father recovering two million
dollars you are telling me things I don't know. Father is not a chatty
person. He has often said to me that the only safe time to talk of
what you are doing, or are going to do, is when you have done it. So,
if the Venezuelan government owes the Forrester Construction Company
two millions and father's making a fight for it, I am probably the
last person in the world he would talk to about it. All I know is that
he pays me twenty dollars a week to plant buoys. But out of working
hours I can do as I please, and my friend and I please to get General
Rojas out of prison." Roddy rose, smiling pleasantly. "So, if you
won't introduce me to Señora Rojas," he concluded, "I guess I will
have to introduce myself."

With an angry gesture the Consul motioned him to be seated. From his
manner it was evident that Captain Codman was uncertain whether Roddy
was or was not to be believed, that, in his perplexity, he was
fearful of saying too much or too little.

"Either," the old man exclaimed angrily, "you are a very clever young
man, or you are extremely ignorant. Either," he went on with
increasing indignation, "they have sent you here to test me, or you
know nothing, and you are blundering in where other men are doing
work. If you know nothing you are going to upset the plans of those
men. In any case I will have nothing further to do with you. I wash my
hands of you. Good-morning."

Then, as though excusing himself, he added sharply, "Besides, you talk
too much."

Roddy, deeply hurt, answered with equal asperity:

"That is what your parrot thinks. Maybe you are both wrong."

When Roddy had reached the top of the stairs leading to the street,
and was on the point of disappearing, the Consul called sharply to him
and followed into the hall.

"Before you go," the old man whispered earnestly, "I want you clearly
to understand my position toward the Rojas family. When I was Consul
in Porto Cabello, General Rojas became the best friend I had. Since I
have been stationed here it has been my privilege to be of service to
his wife. His daughters treat me as kindly as though I were their own
grandfather. No man on earth could wish General Rojas free as much as
I wish it." The voice of Captain Codman trembled. For an instant his
face, as though swept with sudden pain, twisted in strange lines. "No
one," he protested, "could wish to serve him as I do, but I warn you
if you go on with this you will land in prison yourself, and you will
bring General Rojas to his death. Take my advice--and go back to Porto
Cabello, and keep out of politics. Or, what is better--go home. You
are too young to understand the Venezuelans, and, if you stay here,
you are going to make trouble for many people. For your father, and
for--for many people."

As though with the hope of finally dissuading Roddy, he added
ominously, "And these Venezuelans have a nasty trick of sticking a
knife----"

"Oh, you go to the devil!" retorted Roddy.

As he ran down the dark stairs and out into the glaring street he
heard faintly the voice of the parrot pursuing him, with mocking and
triumphant jeers.

The Consul returned slowly to his office, and, sinking into his chair,
buried his face in his great, knotty hands and bent his head upon the
table. A ray of sunshine, filtering through the heavy Venetian
blinds, touched the white hair and turned it into silver.

For a short space, save for the scratching of the parrot at the tin
bars of his cage, and the steady drip, drip of the water-jar, there
was no sound; then the voice of the sea-captain, as many times before
it had been raised in thanksgiving in the meeting-house in Fairhaven,
and from the deck of his ship as she drifted under the Southern Cross,
was lifted in entreaty. The blue eyes, as the old man raised them,
were wet; his bronzed fists fiercely interlocked.

"Oh, Thou," he prayed, "who walked beside me on the waters, make clear
to me what I am to do. I am old, but I pray Thee to let me live to see
Thine enemies perish, to see those who love Thee reunited once more,
happy, at home. If, in Thy wisdom, even as Thou sent forth David
against Goliath, Thou hast sent this child against Thine enemies, make
that clear to me. His speech is foolish, but his heart seems filled
with pity. What he would do, I would do. But the way is very dark. If
I serve this boy, may I serve Thee? Teach me!"

Outside the Consulate, Roddy found his convoy, the guide, waiting for
him, and, to allay the suspicion of that person, gave him a cable to
put on the wire for McKildrick. It read: "No trace of freight; it may
come next steamer; will wait."

He returned to the agent of the line and told him he now believed the
freight had been left behind in New York and that he would remain in
Willemstad until the arrival of the next steamer, which was due in
three days.

At the hotel he found Peter anxiously awaiting him. Having locked
themselves in the room the two conspirators sat down to talk things
over. From what had escaped the Consul, Roddy pointed out certain
facts that seemed evident: Alvarez had not paid the Forrester
Construction Company, or, in a word, his father, for the work already
completed in the last two years. His father, in order to obtain his
money, was interested in some scheme to get rid of Alvarez and in his
place put some one who would abide by the terms of the original
concession. This some one might be Rojas, and then, again, might not.
As Peter suggested, the Construction Company might prefer to back a
candidate for president, who, while he might not be so welcome to the
Venezuelans, would be more amenable to the wishes of the F. C. C. It
also would probably prefer to assist a man younger than Rojas, one
more easily controlled, perhaps one less scrupulously honest. It also
seemed likely that if, by revolution, the men of the Construction
Company intended to put in the field a candidate of their own, they
would choose one with whom they could consult daily, not one who,
while he might once have been a popular idol, had for the last two
years been buried from the sight of man, and with whom it now was
impossible to communicate.

The longer they discussed the matter the more sure they became that
Rojas could not be the man for whom the Construction Company was
plotting.

"If Rojas isn't the choice of the F. C. C.," argued Roddy, "his being
free, or in prison, does not interest them in the least. While, on the
other hand, if Rojas _is_ the candidate father is backing, the sooner
he is out of prison the better for everybody.

"Anyway," added Roddy, with the airy fatalism of one who nails his
banner to the mast, "if my father is going to lose two millions
because you and I set an old man free, then father is going to lose
two millions."

Having arrived at this dutiful conclusion Roddy proposed that,
covertly, in the guise of innocent sight-seers, they should explore
the town, and from a distance reconnoitre the home of Señora Rojas.
They accordingly hired one of the public landaus of Willemstad and
told the driver to show them the places of interest.

But in Willemstad there are no particular places of interest. It is
the place itself that is of interest. It is not like any other port in
the world.

"It used to be," Roddy pointed out, "that every comic opera had one
act on a tropical island. Then some fellow discovered Holland, and now
all comic operas run to blonde girls in patched breeches and wooden
shoes, and the back drops are 'Rotterdam, Amsterdam, any damn place at
all.' But this town combines both the ancient and modern schools. Its
scene is from Miss Hook of Holland, and the girls are out of Bandanna
Land."

Willemstad is compact and tiny, with a miniature governor and palace.
It is painted with all the primary colors, and, though rain seldom
falls on Curaçao Island, it is as clean as though the minute before it
had been washed by a spring shower and put out in the sun to dry.
Saint Ann Bay, which is the harbor of Willemstad, is less of a bay
than a canal. On entering it a captain from his bridge can almost see
what the people in the houses on either bank are eating for breakfast.
These houses are modeled like those that border the canals of The
Hague. They have the same peaked roofs, the front running in steps to
a point, the flat façades, the many stories. But they are painted in
the colors of tropical Spanish-America, in pink, yellow, cobalt blue,
and behind the peaked points are scarlet tiles. Under the southern sun
they are so brilliant, so theatrical, so unreal, that they look like
the houses of a Noah's Ark fresh from the toy shop. There are two
towns: Willemstad, and, joined to it by bridges, Otrabanda. It is on
the Willemstad side that the ships tie up, and where, from the deck to
the steamer, one can converse quite easily with the Monsanto brothers
in their drawing-room, or with the political exiles on the balconies
of the Hotel Commercial. The streets are narrow and, like the streets
of Holland, paved with round cobblestones as clean as a pan of rolls
just ready for the oven. Willemstad is the cleanest port in the West
Indies. It is the Spotless Town of the tropics. Beyond the town are
the orange plantations, and the favorite drive is from Willemstad
through these orange trees around the inner harbor, or the Schottegat,
to Otrabanda, and so back across the drawbridge of Good Queen Emma
into Willemstad. It is a drive of little over two hours, and Roddy and
Peter found it altogether charming.

About three miles outside of Willemstad they came upon the former
home of a rich Spanish planter, which had been turned into a
restaurant, and which, once the Groot du Crot, was now the Café
Ducrot. There is little shade on the Island of Curaçao and the young
men dived into the shadows of the Ducrot garden as into a cool bath.
Through orange trees and spreading palmettos, flowering bushes and a
tangle of vines, they followed paths of pebbles, and wandered in a
maze in which they lost themselves.

"It is the enchanted garden of the sleeping princess," said Peter.
"And there are her sleeping attendants," he added, pointing at two
waiters who were slumbering peacefully, their arms stretched out upon
the marble-top tables.

It seemed heartless to awaken them, and the young men explored further
until they found a stately, rambling mansion where a theatrical
landlord with much rubbing of his hands brought them glasses and
wonderful Holland gin.

"We must remember the Café Ducrot," said Roddy, as they drove on. "It
is so quiet and peaceful."

Afterward they recalled his having said this, and the fact caused them
much amusement.

From the Café Ducrot the road ran between high bushes and stunted
trees that shaded it in on either side; but could not shade it
completely. Then it turned toward Otrabanda along the cliff that
overlooks the sea.

On the land side was a wall of dusky mesquite bushes, bound
together by tangled vines, with here and there bending above them a
wind-tortured cocoanut palm. On the east side of the road, at great
distances apart, were villas surrounded by groves of such hardy trees
and plants as could survive the sweep of the sea winds. "If we ask the
driver," whispered Roddy, "who lives in each house, he won't suspect
we are looking for any one house in particular." Accordingly, as they
drew up even with a villa they rivaled each other in exclaiming over
its beauty. And the driver, his local pride becoming more and more
gratified, gave them the name of the owner of the house and his
history.

As he approached a villa all of white stucco, with high, white pillars
rising to the flat roof of the tropics, he needed no prompting, but,
with the air of one sure of his effect, pulled his horses to a halt
and pointed with his whip.

"That house, gentle-mans," he said, "belongs to Señora Rojas." Though
the house was one hundred yards from the road, as though fearful of
being overheard, the negro spoke in an impressive whisper. "She is
the lady of General Rojas. He is a great General, gentle-mans, and now
he be put in prison. President Alvarez, he put that General Rojas in
prison, down in the water, an' he chain him to the rock, an' he put
that lady in exile. President Alvarez he be very bad man.

"Every day at six o'clock that lady and the young ladies they stand on
that cliff and pray for that General Rojas. You like me to drive you,
gentle-mans, out here at six o'clock," he inquired insinuatingly, "an'
see those ladies pray?"

"Certainly not!" exclaimed Roddy indignantly.

But Peter, more discreet, yawned and stirred impatiently. "I am just
dying for something to eat!" he protested. "Let her out, driver."

For appearance's sake they drove nearly to the outskirts of Otrabanda,
and then, as though perversely, Roddy declared he wanted to drive back
the way they had come and breakfast at the Café Ducrot.

"Why should we eat in a hot, smelly dining-room," he demanded in tones
intended to reach the driver, "when we can eat under orange trees?"

Peter, with apparent reluctance, assented.

"Oh, have it your own way," he said. "Personally, I could eat under
any tree--under a gallows-tree."

For the second time they passed the Casa Blanca, and, while apparently
intent on planning an extensive breakfast, their eyes photographed its
every feature. Now, as the driver was not observing them, they were
able to note the position of the entrances, of the windows, rising
behind iron bars, from a terrace of white and black marble. They noted
the wing, used as a stable for horses and carriages, and, what was of
greater interest, that a hand-rail disappeared over the edge of the
cliff and suggested a landing-pier below.

But of those who lived in the white palace there was no sign. It hurt
Roddy to think that if, from the house, the inmates noted the two
young men in a public carriage, peering at their home, they would
regard the strangers only as impertinent sighters. They could not know
that the eyes of the tourists were filled with pity, that, at the
sight of the villa on the cliff the heart of each had quickened with
kindly emotions, with excitement, with the hope of possible adventure.

Roddy clutched Peter by the wrist; with the other hand he pointed
quickly. Through a narrow opening in a thicket that stood a few rods
from the house Peter descried the formal lines of a tennis court.
Roddy raised his eyebrows significantly. His smile was radiant,
triumphant.

"Which seems to prove," he remarked enigmatically, "that certain
parties of the first part are neither aged nor infirm."

His deduction gave him such satisfaction that when they drew up at the
Café Ducrot he was still smiling.

Within the short hour that had elapsed since they had last seen the
Ducrot garden a surprising transformation had taken place. No longer
the orange grove lay slumbering in silence. No longer the waiters
dozed beside the marble-topped tables. Drawn up outside the iron fence
that protected the garden from the road a half-dozen fiery Venezuelan
ponies under heavy saddles, and as many more fastened to landaus and
dog-carts, were neighing, squealing, jangling their silver harness,
and stamping holes in the highway. On the inside, through the heavy
foliage of the orange trees, came the voice of the maître d'hôtel,
from the kitchen the fat chef bellowed commands. The pebbles on the
walks grated harshly beneath the flying feet of the waiters.

Seated at breakfast around a long table in the far end of the garden
were over twenty men, and that it was in their service the restaurant
had roused itself was fairly evident. The gentlemen who made up the
breakfast-party were not the broadly-built, blonde Dutchmen of the
island, but Venezuelans. And a young and handsome Venezuelan, seated
at the head of the table, and facing the entrance to the garden, was
apparently the person in whose honor they were assembled. So much
younger, at least in looks, than the others, was the chief guest, that
Peter, who was displeased by this invasion of their sleeping palace,
suggested it was a coming-of-age party.

It was some time before the signals of the Americans were regarded.
Although they had established themselves at a table surrounded by
flowering shrubs, and yet strategically situated not too far distant
from the kitchen or the café, no one found time to wait upon them, and
they finally obtained the services of one of the waiters only by the
expedient of holding tightly to his flying apron. Roddy commanded him
to bring whatever was being served at the large table.

"That cook," Roddy pointed out, "is too excited to bother with our
order; but, if there's enough for twenty, there will be enough for two
more."

Although they were scorned by the waiters, the young men were
surprised to find that to the gentlemen of the birthday-party their
coming was of the utmost interest, and, though the tables were much
too far apart for Roddy to hear what was said, he could see that many
glances were cast in his direction, that the others were talking of
him, and that, for some reason, his presence was most disconcerting.

Finally, under pretence of giving an order to his coachman, one of the
birthday-party, both in going and returning from the gate, walked
close to their table and observed them narrowly. As he all but paused
in the gravel walk opposite them, Roddy said with conviction:

"No! Walter Pater never gave the Stoic philosophy a just
interpretation, while to Euphuism----"

"On the contrary," interrupted Peter warmly, "Oscar Hammerstein is the
ONLY impressario who can keep the pennant flying over grand opera and
a roof garden. Believe me----"

With a bewildered countenance the Venezuelan hastily passed on.
Placidly the two young men continued with their breakfast.

"Even if he _does_ understand English," continued Roddy, "that should
keep him guessing for a while."

As they, themselves, had no interest in the birthday-party, and as
they had eaten nothing since early coffee on the steamer, the young
men were soon deep in the joy of feasting. But they were not long to
remain in peace.

From the bushes behind them there emerged suddenly and quietly a young
negro. He was intelligent looking and of good appearance. His white
duck was freshly ironed, his straw hat sported a gay ribbon. Without
for an instant hesitating between the two men, he laid a letter in
front of Roddy. "For Mr. Forrester," he said, and turning, parted the
bushes and, as quickly as he had come, departed.

Roddy stared at the hedge through which the messenger had vanished,
and his wandering eyes turned toward the birthday-party. He found that
every one at that table was regarding him intently. It was evident all
had witnessed the incident. Roddy wondered if it were possible that
the letter came from them. Looking further he observed that the man
who was serving Peter and himself also was regarding him with greater
interest than seemed natural, and that he was not the man who first
had waited upon them.

"You," began Roddy doubtfully, "you are not the waiter who----"

The man shrugged his shoulders.

"That fellow he can't speakety English," he explained. "I speakety
English very good."

The man smiled knowingly, so it seemed to Roddy, impertinently. Roddy
felt uncomfortably convinced that some jest was going on behind his
back, and he resented the thought.

"Yes," he began hotly, "and I will bet you _understand_ it, too."

Under the table Peter kicked violently at his ankles.

"Read your letter," he said.

The envelope bore only the name Rodman Forrester. The letter began
abruptly and was not signed. It read:

     "Willemstad is a small place. Every one in it knows every
     one else. Therefore, the most conspicuous person in it is
     the last person to arrive. You are the last person to
     arrive, and, accordingly, everything you do is noted. That
     this morning you twice passed the Casa Blanca has been
     already reported both by those who guard it and by those who
     spy upon it. If you would bring disaster to those you say
     you wish to serve, keep on as idiotically as you have
     begun."

The rebuke, although anonymous, turned Roddy's cheeks a rosy red, but
he had sufficient self-control to toss the letter to his companion,
and to say carelessly: "He wants us to dine with him."

The waiter, who had been openly listening, moved off in the direction
of the kitchen. A moment later Roddy saw him bear a dish to the
Venezuelan at the head of the long table, and as he proffered it, the
two men whispered eagerly.

When Peter had read the warning he threw it, face down, upon the
table, and with a disturbed countenance pretended to devote his
attention to the salad dressing. Roddy was now grinning with pleasure,
and made no effort to conceal that fact.

"I wouldn't have missed this," he whispered, "for a week in God's
country. Apparently everybody's business is everybody else's business,
and every one spies on every one. It's like the island where they were
too proud to do their own washing, so everybody took in somebody
else's washing."

"Who is it from," interrupted Peter irritably, "the Consul?"

Roddy nodded and laughed.

"You may laugh," protested Peter, "but you don't know. You've been in
Venezuela only four months, and Captain Codman's been here eighteen
years. These people don't look at things the way we do. We think it's
all comic opera, but----"

"They're children," declared Roddy tolerantly, "children trying to
frighten you with a mask on. And old man Codman--he's caught it, too.
The fact that he's been down here eighteen years is the only thing
against him. He's lost his sense of humor. The idea," he exclaimed,
"of spying on us and sending us anonymous warnings. Why doesn't he
come to the hotel and say what he has to say? Where does he think he
is--in Siberia?"

Roddy chuckled and clapped his hands loudly for the waiter. He was
pleasantly at ease. The breakfast was to his liking, the orange trees
shielded him from the sun, and the wind from the sea stirred the
flowering shrubs and filled the air with spicy, pungent odors.

"Perhaps the Consul understands them better than you do," persisted
Peter. "These revolutionists----"

"They're a pack of cards," declared Roddy. "As Alice said to the King
and Queen, 'You're only a pack of cards.'"

As he was speaking Mr. Von Amberg, the agent of the steamship line,
with whom that morning he had been in consultation, and one of the
other commission merchants of Willemstad, came up the gravel walk and
halted at their table.

Both Von Amberg and his companion had but lately arrived from Holland.
They were big men, of generous girth, beaming with good health and
good humor. They looked like Kris Kringles in white duck. In
continental fashion they raised their Panama hats and bowed profusely.
They congratulated the young men on so soon having found their way to
the Café Ducrot, and that Mr. de Peyster, whose name appealed to them,
had pronounced the cooking excellent, afforded them personal
satisfaction.

Von Amberg told the young men he had just left cards for the club at
their hotel, and hoped they would make use of it. His launch, carriage
and he, himself, were at their disposition.

When Roddy invited the two merchants to join them Von Amberg thanked
him politely and explained that his table was already laid for
breakfast. With another exchange of bows the two gentlemen continued
up the twisting path and disappeared among the bushes.

"_That's_ what I mean!" exclaimed Roddy approvingly. "Now they are
_our_ people. They have better manners, perhaps, than we have, but
they're sensible, straight-from-the-shoulder men of business. _They_
aren't spying on anybody, or sending black-hand letters, or burying
old men alive in prisons. If they saw a revolution coming they
wouldn't know what----"

He was interrupted by the sudden reappearance of the men of whom he
spoke. They were moving rapidly in the direction of the gate, and the
countenance of each wore an expression of surprise and alarm. While
his companion passed them quickly, Mr. Von Amberg reluctantly
hesitated, and, in evident perplexity and with some suspicion, looked
from one to the other. The waiter had placed the coffee and bottles of
cognac and of curaçao upon the table; and Roddy hospitably moved a
chair forward.

"Won't you change your mind," he said, "and try some of the stuff that
made this island famous?"

In spite of his evident desire to escape, Von Amberg's good manners
did not forsake him. He bowed and raised his hat in protest.

"I--I should be very pleased--some other time," he stammered, "but now
I must return to town. I find to-day it is not possible to breakfast
here. There is a large party--" he paused, and his voice rose
interrogatively.

"Yes," Roddy replied with indifference. "We found them here. They took
all the waiters away from us."

The nature of the answer seemed greatly to surprise Von Amberg.

"You--you are not acquainted with those gentlemen?" he inquired.

In the fashion of his country, Roddy answered by another question.

"Who are they?" he asked. "Who is the one whose health they are all
the time drinking?"

For an instant Von Amberg continued to show complete bewilderment.
Then he smiled broadly. For him, apparently, the situation now
possessed an aspect as amusing as it had been disturbing. He made a
sly face and winked jovially.

"Oh! You Americans!" he exclaimed. "You make good politicians. Do not
fear," he added hurriedly. "I have seen nothing, and I say nothing. I
do not mix myself in politics." He started toward the gate, then
halted, and with one eye closed whispered hoarsely, "It is all right.
I will say nothing!" Nodding mysteriously, he hurried down the path.

Peter leaned back in his chair and chuckled delightedly.

"There go your sensible business men," he jeered, "running away! Now
what have you to say?"

Roddy was staring blankly down the path and shook his head.

"You can subpoena me," he sighed. "Why should they be afraid of a
birthday-party? Why!" he exclaimed, "they were even afraid of _me_! He
didn't believe that we don't know those Venezuelans. He said," Roddy
recapitulated, "he didn't mix in politics. That means, of course, that
those fellows are politicians, and, probably this is their fashion of
holding a primary. It must be the local method of floating a
revolution. But why should Von Amberg think we're in the plot, too?
Because my name's Forrester?"

Peter nodded. "That must be it," he said. "Your father is in deep with
these Venezuelans, and everybody knows that, and makes the mistake of
thinking you are also. I wish," he exclaimed patiently, "your father
was more confiding. It is all very well for him--plotting plots from
the top of the Forrester Building--but it makes it difficult for any
one down here inside the firing-line. If your father isn't more
careful," he protested warmly, "Alvarez will stand us blindfolded
against a wall, and we'll play blind man's buff with a firing-squad."

Peter's forebodings afforded Roddy much amusement. He laughed at his
friend, and mocked him, urging him to keep a better hold upon his
sense of humor.

"You have been down here too long yourself," he said. "You'll be
having tropic choler next. I tell you, you must think of them as
children: they're a pack of cards."

"Maybe they are," sighed Peter "but as long as we don't know the
game----"

From where Peter sat, with his back in their direction, he could not
see the Venezuelans; but Roddy, who was facing them, now observed that
they had finished their breakfast. Talking, gesticulating, laughing,
they were crowding down the path. He touched Peter, and Peter turned
in his chair to look at them.

At the same moment a man stepped from the bushes, and halting at one
side of Roddy, stood with his eyes fixed upon the men of the
birthday-party, waiting for them to approach. He wore the silk cap of
a chauffeur, a pair of automobile goggles, and a long automobile coat.
The attitude of the chauffeur suggested that he had come forward to
learn if his employer was among those now making their departure; and
Roddy wondered that he had heard no automobile arrive, and that he had
seen none in Willemstad. Except for that thought, so interested was
Roddy in the men who had shown so keen an interest in him, that to the
waiting figure he gave no further consideration.

The Venezuelans had found they were too many to walk abreast. Some had
scattered down other paths. Others had spread out over the grass. But
the chief guest still kept to the gravel walk which led to the gate.
And now Roddy saw him plainly.

Owing to a charming quality of youth, it was impossible to guess the
man's age. He might be under thirty. He might be forty. He was tall,
graceful, and yet soldierly-looking, with crisp, black hair clinging
close to a small, aristocratic head. Like many Venezuelans, he had the
brown skin, ruddy cheeks, and pointed mustache of a Neapolitan. His
eyes were radiant, liquid, brilliant. He was walking between two of
his friends, with a hand resting affectionately on the shoulder of
each; and though both of the men were older than himself, his notice
obviously flattered them. They were laughing, and nodding delighted
approval at what he said, and he was talking eagerly and smiling.
Roddy thought he had seldom seen a smile so winning, one that carried
with it so strong a personal appeal. Roddy altogether approved of the
young man. He found him gay, buoyant, in appearance entirely the
conquering hero, the Prince Charming. And even though of his charm the
young man seemed to be well aware, he appeared none the less a
graceful, gallant, triumphant figure.

As Roddy, mildly curious, watched him, the young man turned his head
gayly from the friend on his one side to address the one on the
other. It was but a movement of an instant, but in the short circuit
of the glance Roddy saw the eyes of the young man halt. As though
suddenly hypnotized, his lips slowly closed, his white teeth
disappeared, the charming smile grew rigid. He was regarding something
to the left of Roddy and above him.

Roddy turned and saw the waiting figure of the chauffeur. He had
stepped clear of the bushes, and, behind the mask-like goggles, his
eyes were fixed upon the young Venezuelan. He took a short step
forward, and his right hand reached up under his left cuff.

Roddy had seen Englishmen in searching for a handkerchief make a
similar movement, but now the gesture was swift and sinister. In the
attitude of the masked figure itself there was something prehensible
and menacing. The hand of the man came free, and Roddy saw that it
held a weapon.

As the quickest way to get his legs from under the table, Roddy shoved
the table and everything on it into the lap of Peter. With one spring
Roddy was beside the man, and as he struck him on the chin, with his
other hand he beat at the weapon. There were two reports and a sharp
high cry.

[Illustration: Under the blow, the masked man staggered drunkenly.]

Under the blow the masked man staggered drunkenly, his revolver
swaying in front of Roddy's eyes. Roddy clutched at it and there was a
struggle--another report--and then the man broke from him, and with
the swift, gliding movement of a snake, slipped through the bushes.



III


Roddy stood staring blankly, unconsciously sucking at a raw spot on
his finger where the powder had burned it. At his feet the bottle of
curaçao, from which he had just been drinking, was rolling upon the
gravel path, its life-blood bubbling out upon the pebbles. He stooped
and lifted it. Later he remembered wondering how it had come there,
and, at the time, that so much good liquor had been wasted had seemed
a most irritating circumstance.

He moved to replace the bottle upon the table and found the table
overturned, with Peter, his clothes dripping and his eyes aflame,
emerging from beneath it.

Further up the path the young Venezuelan was struggling in the arms of
his friends. Fearful that he might still be in danger they were
restraining him, and he, eager to pursue the man who had fired on him,
was crying aloud his protests. Others of his friends were racing down
the different paths, breaking through the bushes, and often, in their
excitement, seizing upon one another. Huddled together in a group,
the waiters and coachmen explained, gesticulated, shrieked.

But above the clamor of all, the voice of Peter was the most
insistent. Leaping from a wreck of plates and glasses, his clothing
splashed with claret, with coffee, with salad dressing, with the
tablecloth wound like a kilt about his legs, he jumped at Roddy and
Roddy retreated before him. Raging, and in the name of profane places,
Peter demanded what Roddy "meant" by it.

"Look at me!" he commanded. "Look what you did! Look at me!"

Roddy did not look. If he looked he knew he would laugh. And he knew
Peter was hoping he would laugh so that, at that crowning insult, he
might fall upon him.

In tones of humble, acute regret Roddy protested.

"I did it, Peter," he stammered hastily. "I did it--to save you. I was
afraid he would hit you. I had to act quickly----"

"Afraid _he'd_ hit me!" roared Peter. "_You_ hit me! Hit me with a
table! Look at my new white flannel suit! And look at this!" With his
fingers he gingerly parted his wet, disheveled hair. "Look at the bump
on the back of my head. Is _that_ your idea of saving me? I wish," he
exploded savagely, "I wish he'd shot you full of holes!"

The violent onslaught of Peter was interrupted by one hardly less
violent from the young Venezuelan. He had freed himself from his
friends, and, as it now was evident the man who had attempted his life
had escaped, and that to search further was useless, he ran to thank
the stranger who had served him. Extravagantly, but with real feeling,
he wrung both of Roddy's hands. In the native fashion he embraced him,
shook him by the shoulders, patted him affectionately on the back.
Eloquently but incoherently in Spanish, French and English he poured
forth his thanks. He hailed Roddy as his preserver, his _bon amigo_,
his _brav camarad_. In expressing their gratitude his friends were
equally voluble and generous. They praised, they applauded, they
admired; in swift, graceful gestures they reënacted for each other the
blow upon the chin, the struggle for the revolver, the escape of the
would-be assassin.

Even Peter, as the only one who had suffered, became a heroic figure.

It was many minutes before the Americans could depart, and then only
after every one had drunk to them in warm, sweet champagne.

When the glasses were filled the young Venezuelan turned to those
standing about him on the grass and commanded silence. He now spoke in
excellent English, but Roddy noted that those of the older men who
could not understand regarded him with uneasiness.

"I ask you, my friends," cried the Venezuelan, "to drink to the name
of Forrester. How much," he exclaimed, "does not that name mean to my
unhappy country. I--myself--that _my_ life should be taken--it is
nothing; but that it should be saved for my country by one of that
name is for us an omen--a lucky omen. It means," he cried, the soft,
liquid eyes flashing, "it means success. It means--" As though
suddenly conscious of the warning frowns of his friends, he paused
abruptly, and with a graceful bow, and waving his glass toward Roddy,
said quietly, "Let us drink to the son of a good friend of
Venezuela--to Mr. Forrester."

Not until the landau was well on its way to Willemstad did Roddy deem
it wise to make a certain inquiry.

"What," he asked of the driver, "is the name of the gentleman that the
other gentleman tried to shoot?"

The driver turned completely in his seat. His eyes were opened wide in
amazement.

"You don't know that gentleman!" he exclaimed. "I think everybody know
_that_ gentleman. He be very brave Venezuela gentleman; he be Colonel
Vega."

As though sure of the effect of that name, the driver paused
dramatically, but, except that the two Americans looked inquiringly at
each other, they made no sign.

"Mebbe I better call that gentleman--Pino?" the driver suggested.
"Everybody call him Pino, just like he be everybody's brother." The
man showed his teeth broadly, in a delighted grin. "The market womens,
the sailor mens, the police mens, the black peoples, and the white
gentlemens, everybodys--call him Pino. Pino he be exiled. If he go to
his country that President Alvarez he say he shoot him. So Pino go
over that way," with his whip he pointed to the east. "They say he go
live in Paris. But yesterday he come in that steamer, and all the
peoples be waiting at that wharf. Everybody be glad to see Pino."

"Everybody but that man with that gun," suggested Roddy.

The driver rolled his eyes darkly and pursed his lips. "That be bad
man," he said.

"Did President Alvarez," inquired Roddy pleasantly, "send that bad man
over here to shoot the too popular Pino?"

Peter uttered a sudden growl of indignation.

"Look where you are driving!" he ordered.

When the negro had turned to his horses Peter stared at Roddy long and
steadily.

"What that parrot said of you," he declared grimly, "was true."

Those Venezuelans who at once had set forth on their ponies to
overtake the would-be assassin already had brought word of the attempt
upon Colonel Vega to Willemstad, and the repose of the peaceful burgh
was greatly ruffled. The arrival of the young men increased the
excitement, and, though they fled to their rooms, from their balcony
overlooking the wharf they could hear their driver, enthroned upon his
box seat, describing the event to an intent and eager audience.

As Peter was changing into dry clothes he held his watch so that Roddy
could note the hour.

"How long would you have said we have been living on this island?" he
asked.

"Oh, at least a week!" exclaimed Roddy. "I have had more excitement
than I could get in New York in a year, and we haven't been here
twelve hours!"

"But it is all over now," Peter announced. "We can't stay here. We're
getting too chummy with this Venezuelan crowd, thanks to you."

"What have I done now?" complained Roddy.

"You can't help being who you are," admitted Peter, "but you can see
that this town is a red-hot incubator for revolutions. Every one in it
thinks of nothing else, and every one thinks you are in deep with your
father against Alvarez, and if we linger here Alvarez will think so,
too. We've got to get back to Porto Cabello where we have a clean bill
of health."

Roddy had stretched himself upon his cot, in preparation for his
afternoon siesta, but he sat upright, his face filled with dismay.

"And not see the Rojas family?" he cried.

Peter growled indignantly.

"See them! How can you see them?" he demanded. "We only drove past
their house, along a public road, and already everybody in town has a
flashlight picture of us doing it."

"But," objected Roddy, "we haven't got our credentials."

"We'll have to do without them," declared Peter. "I tell you, if you
get mixed up with Brother Pino when you get back to Porto Cabello
you'll go to jail. And what chance will we have then of saving General
Rojas? He will stay in prison and die there. As White Mice," announced
Peter firmly, "we have our work to do, and we must not be turned aside
by anybody's revolution, your father's, or Pino Vega's, or anybody's.
We're White Mice, first, last and all the time. Our duty isn't to take
life but to save it." As though suddenly surprised by a new idea Peter
halted abruptly.

"I suppose," he demanded scornfully, "you think you prevented a murder
this morning, and you will be claiming the White Mice medal for saving
life?"

"I certainly will," declared Roddy cheerfully, "and you will have to
certify I earned it, because you saw me earn it."

"But I didn't," declared Peter. "I was under the table."

Roddy closed his eyes and again fell back upon the cot. For so long a
time was he silent that Peter, who had gone out upon the balcony,
supposed him asleep, when Roddy suddenly raised himself on his elbow.

"Anyway," he began abruptly, "we can't leave here until the boat takes
us away, three days from now. I'll bet in three days I'll get all the
credentials we want."

Roddy had been awake since sunrise, the heat was soporific, the events
of the morning exhausting, and in two minutes, unmindful of
revolutions, indifferent to spies, to plots and counter-plots, he was
sleeping happily. But as he slumbered, in two lands, at great
distances apart, he and his affairs were being earnestly considered.
On the twenty-seventh floor of the Forrester Building his father, with
perplexed and frowning brows, studied a cablegram; in the Casa Blanca,
Señora Rojas and her daughters listened in amazement to a marvelous
tale. Had it not been their faithful friend and jealous guardian, the
American Consul, who was speaking, they could not have credited it.

At the Forrester Building the cablegram had been just translated from
the secret code of the company and placed upon the desk of Mr.
Forrester. It was signed by Von Amberg, and read: "To-day at meeting
your party, unknown man fired three shots Vega; Young Forrester
overpowered man; Vega unhurt; man escaped. Understand young Forrester
not in our confidence. Please instruct."

Three times Mr. Forrester read the cablegram, and then, laying it upon
his knee, sat staring out of the open window.

Before his physical eyes were deep cañons of office buildings like his
own, towering crag above crag, white curling columns of smoke from
busy tugboats, and the great loom of the Brooklyn Bridge with its
shuttles of clattering cable-cars. But what he saw was his son, alone
in a strange land, struggling with an unknown man, a man intent on
murder. With a hand that moved unsteadily the Light-house King lifted
the desk telephone and summoned the third vice-president, and when Mr.
Sam Caldwell had entered, silently gave him the cablegram.

Sam Caldwell read it and exclaimed with annoyance:

"Looks to me," he commented briskly, "as though they know why Pino
came back. Looks as though they had sent this fellow to do him up,
before we can----"

In a strange, thin voice, Mr. Forrester stopped him sharply.

"If the boy'd been hurt--they'd have said so, wouldn't they?" he
demanded.

Sam Caldwell recognized his error. Carefully he reread the cablegram.

"Why, of course," he assented heartily. "It says here he overpowered
the other fellow: says 'Vega unhurt.'"

In the same unfamiliar, strained tone Mr. Forrester interrupted. "It
doesn't say Roddy is unhurt," he objected.

The young man laughed reassuringly.

"But the very fact they don't say so shows--why, they'd know that's
what you most want to hear. I wouldn't worry about Roddy. Not for a
minute."

Embarrassed by his own feeling, annoyed that Sam Caldwell should have
discovered it, Mr. Forrester answered, "_You_ wouldn't. He isn't
_your_ son."

He reached for a cable form, and wrote rapidly:

"Von Amberg. Willemstad, Curaçao, W. I. Forrester most certainly not
in our confidence. Return him Cabello. Is he"--the pen hesitated and
then again moved swiftly--"unhurt?"

He drew another blank toward him and addressing it to McKildrick,
wrote: "Why is Forrester in Curaçao? Cable him return. Keep him on
job, or lose yours."

For a moment Mr. Forrester sat studying the two messages, then he
raised his eyes.

"I have half a mind," he said, "to order him home. I would, if he
weren't doing so well down there." With an effort to eliminate from
his voice any accent of fatherly pride, Mr. Forrester asked coldly:
"McKildrick reports that he is doing well, doesn't he?"

The third vice-president nodded affirmatively.

"If he comes back here," argued Mr. Forrester, "he'll do nothing but
race his car, and he'll learn nothing of the business. And then,
again," he added doubtfully, "while he's down there I don't want him
to learn too much of the business, not this Pino Vega end of it, or he
might want to take a hand, and that might embarrass us. Perhaps I had
better cable him, too."

He looked inquiringly at the third vice-president, but that gentleman
refused to be drawn.

"He isn't _my_ son," he remarked.

"I am not speaking of him as my son," snapped Mr. Forrester warmly.
"Speaking of him, not as my son, but as an employee of the company,
what would _you_ do with him?"

"I'd cable him to mind his own business," answered Sam Caldwell.

For the fraction of a second, under levelled eyebrows, Mr. Forrester
stared at young Mr. Caldwell, and then, as a sign that the interview
was at an end, swung in his swivel chair and picked up his letters.
Over his shoulder he said, "Cable him that."

       *       *       *       *       *

While Roddy in Willemstad was slumbering under his mosquito-net, and
Sam Caldwell in New York was concocting a cablegram, which, he
calculated, would put Roddy in his proper place, but which, instead,
put him in a very bad temper, Captain Codman, at Casa Blanca, had
just finished relating his marvelous tale.

It was the story of how young Forrester, without letters of
introduction, without credentials, had that morning walked into the
consulate and announced that, without asking advice, he intended to
liberate the Lion of Valencia.

Upon the members of the Rojas household the marvelous tale had a
widely different effect.

To understand why this should be so it is necessary to know something
of the three women who formed the Rojas household.

Señora Rojas was an American. When she was very young her father, a
professor at one of the smaller universities in New England, in order
to study the archives of the Spanish rulers of Venezuela, had visited
that country, and taken his daughter with him. She was spirited,
clever, and possessed of the particular type of beauty the Spaniard
admires. Young Rojas saw her, and at once fell in love with her, and,
after the death of her father, which occurred in the North, followed
her there and married her. She then was very young and he an attaché
in the diplomatic service. Since their marriage, unlike many of his
countrymen, Rojas had not looked with interest upon any other woman,
and, with each year of their life together, their affection had grown
stronger, their dependence upon each other had increased.

In wisdom, in experience, in honors, Rojas had grown rich. In
countries where his own was only a spot upon the map, Rojas himself,
the statesman, the diplomat, the man who spoke and read in many
languages, the charming host with the brilliant wife, was admired,
sought after. There were three children: the two girls, and a son, a
lieutenant of artillery, whose death during the revolution of Andreda
had brought to the family its first knowledge of grief.

Of the two sisters, Lolita, the elder, was like her father--grave,
gracious, speaking but seldom and, in spite of the years spent in
foreign capitals, still a Spanish-American. Her interests were in her
church, her music and the duties of the household.

Of all the names given at her christening to the younger sister, the
one that survived was Inez. Inez was a cosmopolitan. She had been
permitted to see too much of the world to make it possible for her
ever again to sit down tamely behind the iron bars of the Porto
Cabello drawing-room. She was too much like her American mother; not
as her mother was now, after thirty years in a Venezuelan's household,
but as her mother had been when she left the New England college
town. Unlike her sister, she could not be satisfied with the
cloister-like life of the young girls of Spanish-America. During the
time her father had served as minister to Paris she had been at school
in the convent at Neuilly, but at the time he was transferred to
London she was of an age to make her bow at court, and old enough to
move about with a freedom which, had it been permitted her at home,
would have created public scandal. She had been free to ride in the
Row, to play tennis, to walk abroad, even through public streets and
parks, even when it rained, even unattended. She had met men, not
always as prospective suitors, but as friends and companions.

And there had been a wonderful visit to her mother's country and her
mother's people, when for a summer she had rejoiced in the friendly,
inconsequent, out-of-door life of a Massachusetts' seaside colony.
Once on the North Shore, and later on Cape Cod, she had learned to
swim, to steer a knockabout, to dance the "Boston," even in
rubber-soled shoes, to "sit out" on the Casino balcony and hear young
men, with desperate anxiety, ask if there were any more in South
America like her. To this question she always replied that there were
not; and that, in consequence, if the young man had any thoughts on
the subject, she was the person to whom they should be addressed.

Then, following the calm, uneventful life of the convent, of London
and its gayeties, of the Massachusetts coast with its gray fogs and
open, drift-wood fires, came the return to her own country. There,
with her father, she rode over his plantations among the wild cattle,
or with her mother and sister sat in the _patio_ and read novels in
three languages, or sleepily watched the shadow of the tropical sun
creep across the yellow wall.

And then, suddenly, all of these different, happy lives were turned
into memories, shadows, happenings of a previous and unreal
existence. There came a night, which for months later in terrified
dreams returned to haunt her, a night when she woke to find her
bed surrounded by soldiers, to hear in the court-yard the sobs
of her mother and the shrieks of the serving-women, to see her
father--concerned only for his wife and daughters--in a circle of
the secret police, to see him, before she could speak with him,
hurried to a closed carriage and driven away.

Then had begun the two years of exile in Willemstad, the two years of
mourning, not of quiet grief for one at rest, but anxious, unending
distress for one alive, one dearly loved, one tortured in mind,
enduring petty indignities, bodily torments, degradations that killed
the soul and broke the brave spirit.

To the three women Rojas had been more than husband or father. He had
been their knight, their idol, their reason for happiness. They alone
knew how brave he was, how patient, how, beyond imagination,
considerate. That they should be free to eat and sleep, to work and
play, while he was punished like a felon, buried alive, unable to
carry on the work in the world God had given him to do, caused them
intolerable misery. While he suffered there was no taste in life, and
the three shut themselves from the world. They admitted only the
Consul, who had been his friend, and those who, like themselves, were
exiles, and in whose hatred of Alvarez lay their only hope of again
seeing the one they loved. Time after time a plan of rescue had
failed. A plot that promised release had been disclosed and the
conspirators punished. Hope had left them, and, on the part of their
friends, had been followed by lethargy.

But within the last three months a new hope had arisen, and with it,
for the younger daughter, a new distress.

It was whispered that a revolution, backed by great wealth and
sanctified by the prayers of the people, was to be started near
Valencia. Its leader in the field was to be young Pino Vega, in
several campaigns the personal aide-de-camp of General Rojas, a young
man indebted to his chief for many favors, devoted to him by reason of
mutual confidence and esteem. If successful, this revolt against
Alvarez was to put Vega in command of the army, to free Rojas and to
place him as president at Miraflores. To the women the thought that
Rojas might become president was intolerable. It was because he had
consented to be president that he had suffered. The mere thought of
the office, and of the cruelties that had been practised by the man
who held it, made it, to the women, terrifying.

For Rojas they wanted neither position nor power. They wanted Rojas
free. They wanted to hold him close, to touch him, to look into his
eyes, to see the gentle, understanding smile.

Each felt that there was nothing she could not do, no sacrifice she
would not make, if once more she could sit beside him, holding his
hand, waiting in silence for the joy of hearing him speak. And of the
younger girl the sacrifice has been required. At least a way in which
she could assist the cause that would lead to the freedom of her
father had been presented to her. From Paris, Pino Vega had written
her mother, requesting permission to ask Inez to be his wife.

To the girl, of all the men she knew in Venezuela, Pino was the most
attractive. They both had lived for years outside of their own country
and, in consequence, had much in common. He was thirty-seven, older
than she by fourteen years, but, as has already been pointed out, in
appearance, in manner, in spirits, he seemed much younger than his
years. To his detriment nothing could be said that could not have been
said of the other young men of his class in his country. But the girl
was not in love with the young man of that class, nor with her
country.

Her brother had been sacrificed in what to her had seemed but a
squalid struggle for place between two greedy politicians; her father,
for the very reason that he had served his country loyally,
faithfully, and was, in consequence, beloved by the people, had been
caged like a wild animal. She had no love for her native land. She
distrusted and feared it.

Night after night, as she paced the walk along the cliff where the
waves broke at her feet, she shuddered to think of returning to that
land, only sixty miles from her, that had robbed her of so much that
had made life beautiful; of all, up to the present, that had made it
happy. She wished never to see it again. Could her father have been
returned to her she would have rejoiced that they were exiles. And, as
she distrusted the country, she distrusted the men of the country, at
least those of the class to which Vega belonged. She knew them well,
the born orators, born fighters, born conspirators. To scheme, to
plot, to organize against the authority of the moment was in their
blood.

If she thought of a possible husband, and, in a country where a girl
marries at fifteen, and where her first, if not her only duty in life,
is to marry, it would have been surprising if she had not, the man she
considered as a husband was not a Venezuelan. For their deference to
women, for their courtesy to each other, for their courage as shown in
their campaigns, for their appreciation of art, of letters, of music,
she greatly admired her countrymen; but that they themselves created
nothing, that they scorned labor and all those who labored, made them,
to Inez, intolerable.

That she was half an American of the North was to her a source of
secret pride. With satisfaction she remembered young men she had known
during the summers on the North Shore and Cape Cod, the young men who,
during the first of the week, toiled and sweltered in their offices,
and who, when the week-end came, took their pleasures strenuously, in
exercise and sport. She liked to remember that her American and
English devotees had treated her as a comrade, as an intelligent,
thinking creature. They had not talked to her exclusively of the
beauty of her eyes, her teeth and hair.

She preferred their breathless, "Well played, partner!" to the
elaborate, "I saw the Señorita at mass this morning. As she raised her
eyes to Heaven--the angels grew jealous."

When the mother told Inez that Colonel Vega had written, proposing on
his return to pay his addresses to her, the girl was in genuine
distress. She protested earnestly.

In thirty years Señora Rojas unconsciously had assimilated the
thoughts, the habits, the attitude of mind of the women of her adopted
country, and, when Inez had finished her protest, her mother, seeing
the consequence from her own point of view, was greatly disturbed. "It
is most unfortunate," she said. "Pino is selfish; when he learns you
will not listen to him he will be very angry and he will be less eager
to help your father. He will think only of himself. If you only could
have cared----"

"Pino could not be so cruel," said the girl. But she spoke as though
she were arguing against her own conviction. "He cannot be so vain--so
spoiled," she protested, "that because one woman fails to fall on her
knees to him, he must punish her."

The talk between the mother and daughter had taken place a week before
Colonel Vega's arrival from Paris. On the day his steamer was due,
Señora Rojas again spoke to Inez.

"After mass this morning," she said, "I consulted Father Paul about
Pino. He hopes it will be possible for you not to give him a direct
answer. He says Pino will be leaving us almost at once. He is to land
north of Porto Cabello, and our people are to join him there. Father
Paul thinks," the Señora hesitated, and then went on hastily, "you
might let him go in ignorance. You might ask for time to consider. You
might even tell him----"

The girl's cheeks flushed crimson and the tears came to her eyes. The
mother looked away. After an instant's silence she exclaimed bitterly:
"It is only a lie to a man who has lied to many women! I think of
nothing," she declared, "but that it would keep him true to your
father. What else matters!" she broke forth, "I would lie, cheat,
steal," she cried, "if I could save your father one moment's
suffering."

The girl took the hand of the elder woman and pressed it to her cheek.
"I know," she whispered, "I know."

There was a moment's silence. "If it were anything else!" protested
the girl. "If I could change places with father I would run to do
it--you know that--but this"--with a gesture of repugnance the girl
threw out her hands--"to pretend--to care! It is degrading, it makes
me feel unclean."

"You will make an enemy," asked the mother coldly, "of the only person
who can bring your father back to us? Sooner than let Pino think you
care for him, you would let him turn against us? You and Pino," she
pleaded, "are old friends. Your father is his friend. What more
natural!" She broke forth hysterically. "I beg of you," she cried, "I
command you not to make an enemy of Pino. Tell him to wait, tell him
that now you can think of nothing but your father, but that when your
father is free, that if he will only set him free--" The mother held
the girl toward her, searching her eyes. "Promise me," she begged.

Inez regarded her mother unhappily, and turned away.

This, then, on the afternoon of Colonel Vega's arrival at Curaçao was
the position toward him and toward each other of the three women of
the Rojas household, and explains, perhaps, why, when that same
afternoon Captain Codman told them the marvelous tale of Roddy's
proposition, Señora Rojas and her daughter received the news each in a
different manner.

Before she had fully understood, Señora Rojas exclaimed with
gratitude:

"It is the hand of God. It is His hand working through this great
company."

"Not at all," snapped Captain Codman. "The company has nothing to
do with it. As far as I can see it is only the wild plan of a
harum-scarum young man. He has no authority. He's doing it for
excitement, for an adventure. He doesn't seem to know anything of--of
what is going on--and, personally, I think he's mad. He and his friend
are the two men who twice drove past your house this morning. What his
friend is like I don't know; but Forrester seems quite capable of
forcing his way in here. He wants what he calls 'credentials.' In
fact, when I refused to help him, he as much as threatened to come
here and get them for himself."

The voice of Señora Rojas was shaken with alarm. "He is coming here!"
she cried. "But if he is seen _here_ they will know at once at
Caracas, and my husband will suffer. It may mean the end of
everything." Her voice rose, trembling with indignation. "How dare he!
How dare he, for the sake of an adventure, risk the life of my
husband? How can he expect to succeed where our friends have failed,
and now, when Pino has returned and there is hope."

"I told him that," said the Consul.

"You warned him," insisted the Señora; "you told him he must not come
near us?"

Inez, who, with her sister, stood eagerly intent behind the chair in
which their mother was seated, laid her hand soothingly upon the
Señora's shoulder.

"Is it best," she asked, "to turn the young man away without learning
what he wishes to do? Living in Porto Cabello, he may know something
we could not know. Did you find out," she asked the Consul, "in what
way Mr. Forrester wishes to help us?"

"No," confessed Captain Codman, "I did not. I was so taken aback," he
explained; "he was so ignorant, so cocksure, that he made me mad. And
I just ordered him out, and I told him, told him for his own good, of
course," the Consul added hastily, "that he talked too much."

With critical eyes Inez regarded her old friend doubtfully, and shook
her head at him.

"And how did he take that?" she asked.

"He told me," answered the Consul, painfully truthful, "that my parrot
had said the same thing, and that we might both be wrong."

There was an instant's silence, and then Inez laughed. In shocked
tones her mother exclaimed reprovingly.

"But he comes here," protested the girl, "to do us a service, the
greatest service, and he is ordered away. Why should we refuse to let
him help us, to let any one help us. We should make the most of every
chance that offers."

Señora Rojas turned in her chair and looked steadily at her daughter.

"Your advice is good, Inez," she said, "but it comes strangely from
you."

At the same moment, as though conjured by her thought, a servant
announced Colonel Vega, and that gentleman, with several of those who
had lunched with him at the Café Ducrot, entered the room. In alarm
Captain Codman waited only to shake hands with the visitors and then
precipitately departed. But in the meeting of the exiles there was
nothing that would have compromised him. The reception of Colonel Vega
by the three women was without outward significance. They greeted
him, not as a leader of their conspiracy, but as they might have
received any friend who, after an absence, had returned to them. When
he bent over the hand of Inez he raised his liquid eyes to hers, but
the girl welcomed him simply, without confusion.

He decided that her mother could not as yet have told her of his
wishes. Had she done so he felt sure, in view of the honor he would
pay her, her embarrassment at meeting him would have been apparent to
all.

Vega himself elected to tell the ladies of the attack made upon him at
the Café Ducrot. He made little of it. He let the ladies understand
that his life, like that of all public men, was always at the mercy of
assassins. To Roddy he gave full credit.

"Imagine this man reaching for his weapon," he related dramatically,
"myself too far from him to fall upon him, and my arms resting upon
the shoulders of my two good friends. Their safety, also, is in my
mind. But I am helpless. I saw the villain smile confidently. He
points the weapon. Then the young man springs upon him and the bullets
pass us harmlessly. Believe me, but for Mr. Forrester all three of us,
General Pulido, Colonel Ramon and myself, might now be dead."

The two gentlemen designated dismissed the thought with a negligent
wave of the hand. It suggested that, to soldiers like themselves,
being dead was an annoyance to which they had grown accustomed.

"Mr. Forrester!" exclaimed Inez, catching at the name.

"Mr. Forrester!" repeated her mother. "But I thought--I was told only
just now that he knew nothing of our plans."

"That is quite true," Colonel Vega assured her. "He was not with us.
He was there by accident."

"Let us rather say," corrected Señora Rojas piously, "he was placed
there by a special Providence to save you."

That the Almighty should be especially concerned in his well-being did
not appear to Vega as at all unlikely.

He nodded his head gravely.

"It may be so," he admitted.

Through force of habit Señora Rojas glanced about her; but the open
windows showed the empty garden, and around her, seated in two rows of
rocking-chairs, the ladies facing the door, the men facing the ladies,
she saw only friends.

"But why," she asked, "is young Mr. Forrester _not_ in the confidence
of his father? Can he not trust his own son?"

As though sure of her answer she cast a triumphant glance at the
daughter who had dared, against Captain Codman and herself, to
champion Mr. Forrester's son. Pino frowned mysteriously. He did not
like to say that with any action of the great Mr. Forrester he was not
acquainted. So he scowled darkly and shook his head.

"It is a puzzle," he said; "the young man is a fine fellow. To him I
owe my life." He appealed to his friends, who, in time to the sedate
rocking of the chairs, nodded gravely. "But his father is very
decided. He cables us to send him at once to Porto Cabello. He
instructs us not to let him know what we plan to do. I learned that in
Porto Cabello he is only a workman, or, a little better, the foreman
of the Jamaica coolies. I do not say so," Pino pointed out, as though
if he wished he might say a great deal, "but it looks as though he
were here for some punishment--as though he had displeased his father.
Or," he demanded, "why should his father, who is so wealthy, give his
son the wages of a foreman?"

During the visit of the conspirators the traditions of Spanish
etiquette gave Colonel Vega no opportunity to separate Inez from the
others; and soon, without having spoken to her alone, he and his
followers departed.

When they had gone, Inez, as was her custom when she wished to be by
herself, ordered her pony and rode out on the cliff road toward the
orange groves. Riding unattended was a breach of Spanish-American
convention. But her mother permitted it, and, in the eyes of the
people of Willemstad, her long residence abroad, and the fact that she
was half American of the North, partially excused it. Every morning at
sunrise, before the heat of the day, and just before the sun set, Inez
made these excursions. They were the bright moments of her present
life. If she did not wish to think, they prevented her from thinking;
if she did wish to think, they protected her from intrusion, and gave
her strength and health to bear the grinding anxiety of the other
hours. They brought back to her, also, memories of rides of former
days, before her father had been taken from her, when they had trotted
politely over the tan bark of Rotten Row, or when, with her soldier
brother, she had chased the wild cattle on the plantation.

Now, with her head bent, with the hand that held the reins lying
loosely on her knee, she rode at a walk, her body relaxed, her eyes
seeing nothing. Her mind was intent upon her problem, one in which
her answer to Pino Vega was but a part. To carry out the plan she had
in mind she needed a man to help her, and there were two men to whom
she might appeal. But only one, not both of them, could help her. She
was determined not to return from her ride until she had decided which
one it should be.

After an hour, as though she had reached her decision and was fearful
lest she might reconsider it, she lifted the pony into a gallop and
raced to Casa Blanca. On arriving there she went directly to her room,
wrote a note, and returned with it to the stable where the groom was
just removing the saddle from her pony.

He was an old man, trusted by Inez. As a body servant he had first
served her brother, then her father, and after the imprisonment of
General Rojas, had volunteered to follow the women of the family into
exile. For a moment the girl regarded him earnestly.

"Pedro," she asked, "what would you do to save the master?"

When the man was assured he had understood her he lowered the saddle
to the ground, and standing erect threw out his arms with his open
palms toward her. In pantomime he seemed to signify that for the
purpose she named, his body, his life was at her disposition.

Inez showed him the note.

"You will take this," she said, "to an American, Mr. Forrester. He is
at one of the hotels. No one must know you are seeking him, no one
must see you give him this note. Not even my mother must suspect that
any message has been sent from this house to that gentleman. When he
has read the note he will say 'yes' or 'no.' If he asks questions you
will shake your head. As soon as you get your answer come directly to
me."

She gave him the note and after an impressive delay continued: "There
is a new plan to save my father. If you deliver this note safely you
will have taken the first step to set him free. If you blunder, if it
is found out that Mr. Forrester and one of the Rojas family are
conspiring together, it will mean greater cruelties for my father; it
may mean his death."

The girl had spoken in the way she knew would best appeal to the man
before her. And she was not disappointed. His eyes shone with
excitement. That he was conspiring, that he was a factor in a plot,
that the plot had in view the end he so much desired, filled him with
pleasure and pride. Crossing himself he promised to carry out her
orders.

As Inez returned to the main portion of the house the sun was just
sinking into the sea; and, to keep their daily tryst, her mother and
sister were moving toward the cliff. While the crimson disk descended,
the three women stood silent and immovable, the face of each turned
toward the rim of the horizon. As though her eyes could pierce the
sixty miles that lay between her and her father Inez leaned forward,
her fingers interlaced, her lips slightly apart. That, at that moment,
he was thinking of her, that he was looking to where he knew she was
on guard, and thinking of him, moved her as greatly as though the
daily ceremony was for the first time being carried forward. A
wandering breeze, not born of the sea, but of the soil, of tropical
plants and forests, and warm with sunshine, caressed her face. It came
from the land toward which her eyes were turned. It was comforting,
sheltering, breathing of peace. As it touched her she smiled slightly.
She accepted it as a good omen, as a message sent from across the sea,
to tell her that in the step she had taken she had done well.



IV


After their dinner at the hotel, Roddy and Peter strolled down the
quay and over the tiny drawbridge that binds Otrabanda to Willemstad.
There, for some time, half-way between the two towns, they loitered
against the railing of the bridge, smoking and enjoying the cool night
breeze from the sea. After his long nap Roddy was wakeful. He had been
told that Willemstad boasted of a _café chantant_, and he was for
finding it. But Peter, who had been awake since the ship's steward had
aroused him before sunrise, doubted that there was a _café chantant_,
and that if it did exist it could keep him from sleep, and announced
his determination to seek his bed.

Left to himself, Roddy strolled slowly around the narrow limits of the
town. A few of the shops and two of the cafés were still open,
throwing bright spaces of light across the narrow sidewalks, but the
greater number of houses were tightly barred; the streets slumbered in
darkness. For a quarter of an hour Roddy sauntered idly, and then
awoke to the fact that he was not alone. Behind him in the shadow, a
man with his face hidden in a shawl, the sound of his footsteps
muffled by his rope sandals, was following his wanderings.

Under the circumstances, after the developments of the day, Roddy was
not surprised, nor was he greatly interested. Even in Porto Cabello,
at one time or another, every one was beset by spies. And that here,
in the central office of the revolutionists, Alvarez should be well
represented was but natural.

Twice, softly and quickly, the man who followed had approached him
from the rear, and each time, lest he should have some more serious
purpose than to simply spy upon him, Roddy had stepped into the
street. But when for the third time the man drew near, his approach
was so swift that Roddy had no time to move away. The man brushed
against him, and when he had passed Roddy found a letter had been
pressed into his hand.

The hour was late, Roddy looked like a tourist, the note had been
delivered covertly. Roddy concluded it contained an invitation to some
disreputable adventure, and after calling the man the name associated
with what Roddy believed to be his ancient and dishonorable
profession, he tossed the note into the street.

With a cry of dismay the man ran toward it, but Roddy was before him.
As the note had left his hand his fingers had touched upon heavy,
waxen seals.

In an instant he had retrieved the note, and, followed eagerly by the
man, carried it to the light of a gas lamp. The envelope was not
illuminating, the sealing-wax was stamped with no crest or initials,
the handwriting was obviously disguised.

After observing that from the shadow the man still watched him, while
at the same time he kept an anxious lookout up and down the street,
Roddy opened the note. It read: "You have come to Curaçao for a
purpose. One who has the success of that purpose most at heart desires
to help you. To-morrow, just before sunrise, walk out the same road
over which you drove to-day. Beyond the Café Ducrot the bearer of this
letter will wait for you with a led horse. Follow him. If you think he
is leading you into danger, order him to ride in advance, and cover
him with your revolver. If you will come, say to the bearer,
'_Vengo_,' if not, '_No Vengo_.' He has orders not to reply to any
question of yours. If you speak of this to others, or if the bearer of
this suspects you have arranged for others to follow you, he will only
lead you back to your hotel, and your chance to right a great wrong
will have passed."

There was no signature. But as though it were an afterthought, at the
bottom of the page was written, "Adventures are for the adventurous."

Standing well in the light of the street lamp, with his back to the
houses, with his face toward the waiting messenger, Roddy read the
letter three times. But after the first reading his eyes neglected the
body of the note and raced to the postscript. That was the line that
beckoned and appealed; to him it seemed that whoever wrote the letter
doubted he would come to the rendezvous, and was by that line enticing
him, mocking him, daring him to refuse. It held forth both a promise
and a challenge.

As to who the writer of the note might be, there were in Roddy's mind
three explanations. He considered them hastily. Peter was the author
of the note, and it was a poor joke intended to test him. It was a
genuine offer from some one who had guessed the object of his visit to
Curaçao and honestly wished to be of service. It came from the man in
the mask and his associates, who, resenting his interference of the
morning, had pleasant thoughts of luring him down a lonely road and
leaving him lying there. Which of the three suppositions might be
correct it was impossible to know, but the postscript decided him. He
beckoned to the messenger, and the man ran eagerly forward. "I will
come," said Roddy. The man smiled with pleasure, bowed to him, and
dived into the darkness. As he ran down the street Roddy stood
listening until the soft patter of the sandals had ceased, and then
slowly returned to the hotel.

For an hour, still speculating as to who his anonymous friend might
be, he stood, smoking, upon the balcony. On the quay below him a negro
policeman dozed against a hawser-post. A group of cargadores,
stretched at length upon stacks of hides, chattered in drowsy
undertones. In the moonlight the lamps on the fishing-boats and on the
bridge, now locked against the outside world, burned mistily, and the
deck of the steamer moored directly below him was as deserted and
bare, as uncanny and ghostlike, as the deck of the ship of the Ancient
Mariner. Except for the chiming of ships' bells, the whisper of the
running tide, and the sleepy murmur of the longshoremen, the town of
Willemstad was steeped in sleep and silence. Roddy, finding he could
arrive at no satisfactory explanation of the note, woke the night
porter, and telling that official he was off before daybreak to shoot
wild pigeons, and wanted his coffee at that hour, betook himself to
his cot. It seemed as though he had not twice tossed on the pillow
before the night-watchman stood yawning at his side.

Roddy and Peter occupied adjoining rooms, and the door between the two
was unlocked. When Roddy had bathed, dressed, and, with a feeling of
some importance, stuck his revolver into his pocket, he opened the
door, and, still suspicious that his faithful friend was sending him
on a wild-goose chase, for a few moments stood beside his bed. But
Peter, deep in the sleep of innocence, was breathing evenly,
stentoriously. Not without envying him the hours of rest still before
him, Roddy helped himself to Peter's revolver, left him a line saying
it was he who had borrowed it, and went out into the dark and empty
streets.

Half awake and with his hunger only partially satisfied, Roddy now
regarded his expedition with little favor. He reverted strongly to the
theory that some one was making a fool of him. He reminded himself
that if in New York he had received such a note, he either would have
at once dismissed it as a hoax or turned it over to the precinct
station-house. But as the darkness changed to gray, and the black bulk
of the Café Ducrot came into view, his interest quickened. He
encouraged himself with the thought that while in New York the
wording of the note would be improbable, hysterical, melodramatic, in
hot, turbulent Venezuela it was in keeping with the country and with
the people.

Since setting forth from the hotel a half hour had passed, and as he
left the Café Ducrot behind him the night faded into the gray-blue
mist of dawn. Out of the mist, riding slowly toward him, mounted on
one pony and leading another, Roddy saw the man who on the night
before had brought him the letter. He was leaning forward, peering
through the uncertain light. When he recognized Roddy he galloped to
him, and with evident pleasure but without speaking, handed him the
reins of the led pony. Then motioning to Roddy to wait, he rode
rapidly down the road over which the American had just come. Roddy
settled himself in the saddle, and with a smile of satisfaction beamed
upon the ghostlike world around him. So far, at least, the adventure
promised to be genuine. Certainly, he argued, Peter could not have
prepared a joke so elaborate.

Apparently satisfied that Roddy had brought no one with him, the
messenger now rejoined him, and with a gesture of apology took the
lead, and at a smart trot started in the same direction in which Roddy
had been walking.

Roddy gave his guide a start of fifty feet, and followed. With the
idea of a possible ambush still in his mind, he held the pony well in
hand, and in front of him, in his belt, stuck one of the revolvers. He
now was fully awake. No longer in the darkness was he stumbling on
foot over the stones and ruts of the road. Instead, the day was
breaking and he had under him a good horse, on which, if necessary, he
could run away. The thought was comforting, and the sense of possible
danger excited him delightfully. When he remembered Peter, sleeping
stolidly and missing what was to come, he felt a touch of remorse. But
he had been warned to bring no one with him, and of the letter to
speak to no one. He would tell Peter later. But, he considered, what
if there should be nothing to tell, or, if there were, what if he
should not be alive to tell it? If the men who had planned to
assassinate Colonel Vega intended to punish him for his interference,
they could not have selected a place or hour better suited to their
purpose. In all the world, apparently, he was the only soul awake. On
either side of him were high hedges of the Spanish bayonet, and back
of them acres of orange groves. The homes of the planters lay far from
the highway, and along the sides of the road there were no houses, no
lodge gates, not even a peon's thatched hut.

Roddy was approaching a sharp turn in the road, a turn to the left at
almost right angles. It was marked by an impenetrable hedge. Up to
now, although the hedges would have concealed a regiment, the white
road itself had stretched before him, straight and open. But now the
turn shut it from his sight. The guide had reached the corner. Instead
of taking it, he turned in his saddle and pulled his pony to a walk.

To Roddy the act seemed significant. It was apparent that they had
arrived at their rendezvous. Sharply, Roddy also brought his pony to
a walk, and with a heavy pull on the reins moved slowly forward.
The guide drew to the right and halted. To Roddy's excited imagination
this manoeuvre could have but one explanation. The man was
withdrawing himself from a possible line of fire. Shifting the reins
to his left hand, Roddy let the other fall upon his revolver. Holding
in the pony and bending forward, Roddy peered cautiously around the
corner.

What he saw was so astonishing, so unlike what he expected, so utterly
out of place, that, still leaning forward, still with his hand on his
revolver, he stared stupidly.

For half a mile the road lay empty, but directly in front of him,
blocking the way, was a restless, pirouetting pony, and seated upon
the pony, unmoved either by his gyrations or by the appearance of a
stranger in her path, was a young girl.

As Roddy had cautiously made his approach he had in his mind a picture
of skulking Venezuelans with pointed carbines; his ears were prepared
for a command to throw up his hands, for the slap of a bullet. He had
convinced himself that around the angle of the impenetrable hedge this
was the welcome that awaited him. And when he was confronted by a girl
who apparently was no more a daughter of Venezuela than she was a
masked highwayman, his first thought was that this must be some
innocent foreigner stumbling in upon the ambush. In alarm for her
safety his eyes searched the road beyond her, the hedges on either
side. If she remained for an instant longer he feared she might be the
witness to a shocking tragedy, that she herself might even become a
victim. But the road lay empty, in the hedges of spiked cactus not a
frond stirred; and the aged man who had led him to the rendezvous sat
motionless, watchful but undisturbed.

[Illustration: Shifting the reins to his left hand, Roddy let the
other fall upon his revolver.]

Roddy again turned to the girl and found her closely observing him.
He sank back in his saddle and took off his hat. Still scanning the
hedges, he pushed his pony beside hers and spoke quickly.

"Pardon me," he said, "but I think you had better ride on. Some men
are coming here. They--they may be here now."

That his anxiety was entirely on her account was obvious. The girl
colored slightly, and smiled. As she smiled, Roddy for the first time
was looking directly at her, and as he looked his interest in
assassins and his anxiety as to what they might do passed entirely
from him. For months he had not seen a girl of his own people, and
that this girl was one of his own people he did not question. Had he
first seen her on her way to mass, with a lace shawl across her
shoulders, with a high comb and mantilla, he would have declared her
to be Spanish, and of the highest type of Spanish beauty. Now, in her
linen riding-skirt and mannish coat and stock, with her hair drawn
back under a broad-brimmed hat of black straw, she reminded him only
of certain girls with whom he had cantered along the Ocean Drive at
Newport or under the pines of Aiken. How a young woman so habited had
come to lose herself in a lonely road in Curaçao was incomprehensible.
Still, it was not for him to object. That the gods had found fit to
send her there was, to Roddy, sufficient in itself, and he was
extremely grateful. But that fact was too apparent. Though he was
unconscious of it, the pleasure in his eyes was evident. He still was
too startled to conceal his admiration.

The girl frowned, her slight, boyish figure grew more erect.

"My name is Rojas," she said. "My father is General Rojas. I was told
you wished to help him, and last night I sent you a note asking you to
meet me here."

She spoke in even, matter-of-fact tones. As she spoke she regarded
Roddy steadily. When, the night before, Inez had sent the note, she
had been able only to guess as to what manner of man it might be with
whom she was making a rendezvous at daybreak, in a lonely road. And
she had been more than anxious. Now that she saw him she recognized
the type and was reassured. But that he was worthy of the secret she
wished to confide in him she had yet to determine. As she waited for
him to disclose himself she was to all outward appearances tranquilly
studying him. But inwardly her heart was trembling, and it was with
real relief that, when she told him her name, she saw his look of
admiration disappear, and in his eyes come pity and genuine feeling.

"Oh!" gasped Roddy unhappily, his voice filled with concern. "Oh, I am
sorry!"

The girl slightly inclined her head.

"I came to ask you," she began, speaking with abrupt directness, "what
you propose to do?"

It was a most disconcerting question. Not knowing what he proposed to
do, Roddy, to gain time, slipped to the ground and, hat in hand, moved
close to the pommel of her saddle. As he did not answer, the girl
spoke again, this time in a tone more kindly. "And to ask why you wish
to help us?"

As though carefully considering his reply, Roddy scowled, but made no
answer. In a flash it had at last come to him that what to Peter and
to himself had seemed a most fascinating game was to others a
struggle, grim and momentous. He recognized that until now General
Rojas had never been to him a flesh-and-blood person, that he had not
appreciated that his rescue meant actual life and happiness. He had
considered him rather as one of the pieces in a game of chess, which
Peter and himself were secretly playing against the Commandant of the
San Carlos prison. And now, here, confronting him, was a human being,
living, breathing, suffering, the daughter of this chessman, bone of
his bone, flesh of his flesh, demanding of the stranger by what right
he made himself her father's champion, by what right he pushed himself
into the tragedy of the Rojas family. In his embarrassment Roddy
decided desperately to begin at the very beginning, to tell the exact
truth, to omit nothing, and then to throw himself upon the mercy of
the court.

The gray mist of the morning had lifted. Under the first warm rays of
the sun, like objects developing on a photographer's plate, the cactus
points stood out sharp and clear, the branches of the orange trees
separated, assuming form and outline, the clusters of fruit took on a
faint touch of yellow. From the palace yard in distant Willemstad
there drifted toward them the boom of the morning gun.

With his reins over his arm, his sombrero crumpled in his hands, his
face lifted to the face of the girl, Roddy stood in the road at
attention, like a trooper reporting to his superior officer.

"We were in the tea-house of the Hundred and One Steps," said Roddy.
"We called ourselves the White Mice."

Speaking quickly he brought his story down to the present moment. When
he had finished, Inez, who had been bending toward him, straightened
herself in the saddle and sat rigidly erect. Her lips and brows were
drawn into two level lines, her voice came to him from an
immeasurable distance.

"Then it was a joke?" she said.

"A joke!" cried Roddy hotly. "That's most unfair. If you will only
give us permission we'll prove to you that it is no joke. Perhaps, as
I told it, it sounded heartless. I told it badly. What could I
say--that I am sorry? Could I, a stranger, offer sympathy to you? But
we _are_ sorry. Ever since Peter proposed it, ever since I saw your
father----"

The girl threw herself forward, trembling. Her eyes opened wide.

"You saw my father!" she exclaimed. "Tell me," she begged, "did he
look well? Did he speak to you? When did you--" she stopped suddenly,
and turning her face from him, held her arm across her eyes.

"It was four months ago," said Roddy. "I was not allowed to speak to
him. We bowed to each other. That was all."

"I must tell them," cried the girl, "they must know that I have seen
some one who has seen him. But if they know I have seen you----"

She paused; as though asking advice she looked questioningly at Roddy.
He shook his head.

"I don't understand," he said.

"My mother and sister don't know that I am here," Inez told him. "If
they did they would be very angry. No one," she added warningly, "must
know. They are afraid of you. They cannot understand why you offer to
help us. And they mistrust you. That is why I had to see you here in
this way." With a shrug of distaste the girl glanced about her.
"Fortunately," she added, "you understand."

"Why, yes," Roddy assented doubtfully. "I understand your doing what
_you_ did, but I don't understand the others. Who is it," he asked,
"who mistrusts me? Who," he added smiling, "besides yourself?"

"My mother," answered Inez directly, "your consul, Captain Codman,
Colonel Vega, and----"

In surprise, Roddy laughed and raised his eyebrows.

"Vega!" he exclaimed. "Why should Vega mistrust me?" Knowing what was
in his mind, the girl made him a formal little bow.

"It is not," she answered, "because you saved his life." In obvious
embarrassment she added: "It is because you are not in the confidence
of your father. You can see that that must make it difficult for
Colonel Vega."

Bewildered, Roddy stared at her and again laughed.

"And what possible interest," he demanded, "can _my_ father have in
Colonel Vega?"

For a moment, with distrust written clearly in her eyes, the girl
regarded him reproachfully. Then she asked coldly:

"Do you seriously wish me to think that you do _not_ know that?"

While they had been speaking, even when Inez had made it most evident
to Roddy that to herself and to her friends he was a discredited
person, he had smiled patiently. His good humor had appeared
unassailable. But now his eyes snapped indignantly. He pressed his
lips together and made Inez an abrupt bow.

"I assure you, I know nothing," he said quickly.

He threw the reins over the neck of the pony, and with a slap on its
flank drove it across the road within reach of the waiting Pedro. Then
lifting his hat, and with another bow, he started in the direction of
Willemstad. Inez, too surprised to speak, sat staring after him. But
before he had taken a dozen steps, as though she had called him back
and asked him to explain, he halted and returned. He had entirely
recovered his good humor, but his manner when he spoke was not
conciliatory.

"The trouble is this," he said, "your friends are so deep in plots
that they have lost sight of the thing that counts. While they are
'mistrusting,' and suspecting, and spying on each other, a man is
dying. I know that much, anyway. That is all I care to know." As
though it were an extenuating fact, he added: "It is a question of
character. It is a Venezuelan way of doing things. But it is not our
way. It was very kind of you to give me this chance to explain our
interfering. But I see now--everybody," he added dryly, "has taken
pains to make it very plain--that we are a nuisance." He paused, and
to assure her it was not she he was upbraiding, smiled cheerfully. In
his most confidential manner he continued lightly: "For myself, I have
always thought there was something to say for the fools who rush in
where angels fear to tread. I remember once seeing a fool rush into a
burning building and rescue a child, while I and some other angels
shouted for ladders." He nodded, and again lifted his hat. "Good-by,"
he said, "and thank you." Leaving her seated silent in the saddle, he
walked away.

This time he had turned the bend in the road and had proceeded along
it some hundred yards, when from behind him he heard approaching at a
reckless pace the hoof-beats of a pony. Looking back, he saw a
whirlwind of fluttering skirts and scattered sparks and pebbles. Inez,
followed by Pedro, drew up even with him; and as she dragged her pony
to a halt, threw herself free of the pommel and dropped at his feet to
the road. Had he not caught her by the shoulders she would have
stumbled into his arms. A strand of hair had fallen across her face,
her eyes were eager, flashing. She raised her gloved hands
impulsively, and clasped them before him.

"Please!" she begged. "You must not go. It is true--what you say about
us, but you must help us. I did not know. I had forgotten. It is three
years since I talked to any one--any one from your country. I had
forgotten. It is true; we are suspicious, we are _not_ straightforward
like you, like the people in the States. But you must not punish us
for that. Not _me_!"

At all times the face raised to his was beautiful. Now, the delicate
lips, like those of a child before it breaks into sobs, were
trembling, the eyes, lifted appealingly, were eloquent with tears.

"You must advise me," said the girl. "You must help me."

She raised her clasped hands higher. She regarded him wistfully,
"Won't you?" she begged.

Her attack had been swift, masterly; every feminine weapon had been
brought into effective action; and the surrender of Roddy was sudden,
and complete. In abject submission he proceeded incoherently:

"My dear young lady!" he cried. "But, my dear young _lady_!"

He was rewarded with a brilliant, blinding smile.

"Then you _will_ help me?" Inez asked.

Roddy recovered himself quickly.

"My Spanish is very bad," he answered, "but what it sounds like in
English is, 'I am at your feet.'"

The sun now was shining brightly, and in the open road they were as
conspicuous as though they had stood in a shop window on Broadway.
Across the road, in the hedge opposite, a gate barred a path that led
into one of the plantations. Roddy opened the gate, and together,
followed by Pedro with the ponies, they found a spot where they were
hidden by the hedge from any one passing on the highway. Inez halted
in the shade of one of the orange trees. Speaking rapidly, she
sketched for Roddy a brief history of the various efforts that had
been made to rescue her father. She explained why these efforts had
failed. She told him of the revolution led by Pino Vega, and the good
it was expected to accomplish.

At first the girl spoke in some embarrassment. She knew that to be
where she was, at that hour, alone with a stranger, was, in the eyes
of her friends and family, an unpardonable offense. And though she
resented their point of view, the fact that it existed disquieted her.
But the man at her side did not seem to consider talking to a girl in
the open sunshine either as a novel experience or one especially
disgraceful. Politely, with lowered eyes, he gave to what she said the
closest attention. The circumstance that they were alone, even the
fact that she was young and attractive, did not once appear to occur
to him. Seeing this, Inez with each succeeding moment gained
confidence in Roddy and in herself and spoke freely.

"That is what we have tried to do," she said. "Now I am going to tell
you why I asked you to meet me here this morning, and how I believe
you can help me. Three days ago I received a message from my father."

Roddy exclaimed with interest, but motioned eagerly for her to
continue.

"It is in cipher," she continued, "but it is his handwriting. It is
unmistakable. It was given to me when I was at church. I was kneeling
in the chapel of St. Agnes, which is in the darkest corner of the
building. At first I was alone, and then a woman came and knelt close
beside me. She was a negress, poorly dressed, and her face was hidden
by her shawl. For a moment I thought she was murmuring her prayers,
and then I found she was repeating certain words and that she was
talking at me. 'I have a letter, a letter from your father,' she
whispered. I crowded closer, and she dropped a piece of paper in front
of me and then got to her feet and hurried away. I followed, but there
were many people at mass, and when I had reached the street she had
disappeared. The message she brought me is this: 'Page 54, paragraph
4.' That is all. It is the second message we have had from my father
in two years. The first one was by word of mouth, and came a month
ago. The meaning of that was only too plain. But what this one means I
cannot imagine, nor," proceeded Inez with distress, "can I see why, if
he had the chance to write to us, he did not write more openly."

She looked appealingly at Roddy, and paused for him to speak.

"He was afraid the message would be intercepted," said Roddy. "What he
probably means to do is to send it to you in two parts. The second
message will be the key that explains this one. He knew if he wrote
plainly, and it fell into the wrong hands--" Roddy interrupted
himself, and for a moment remained silent. "'Page 54, paragraph 4,'"
he repeated. "Has he sent you a book?" he asked. "Has any book come to
you anonymously?"

The girl shook her head. "No, I thought of that," she said, "but no
books have come to us that we haven't ordered ourselves."

"What do the others think?" asked Roddy.

The girl colored slightly and shook her head.

"I have not told them. I knew my mother would ask Pino to help her,
and," she explained, "though I like Pino, for certain reasons I do not
wish to be indebted to him for the life of my father. Before appealing
to him I have been trying for two days to find out the meaning of the
cipher, but I could not do it, and I was just about to show it to my
mother when Captain Codman told us of your offer. That made me
hesitate. And then, as between you and Pino, I decided you were better
able to help us. You live in Porto Cabello, within sight of the
prison. Pino will be in the field. His revolution may last a month, it
may last for years. During that time he would do nothing to help my
father. When you risked being shot yesterday, it seemed to me you
showed you had spirit, and also, _you_ are from the States, and Pino
is a Venezuelan, so----"

"You needn't take up the time of the court," said Roddy, "in
persuading me that I am the man to help you. To save time I will
concede that. What was the other message you received from your
father?"

The eyes of the girl grew troubled and her voice lost its eagerness.

"It was charged in a French paper," she said, "that the prisoners in
San Carlos were being killed by neglect. The French minister is a
friend of our family, and he asked Alvarez to appoint a committee of
doctors to make an investigation. Alvarez was afraid to refuse, and
sent the doctors to examine my father and report on his health. One of
them told him that Alvarez would permit him to send a message to my
mother, and to tell her himself whether he was, or was not, ill. This
is the message that they gave us as coming from my father.

"'I don't know what you gentlemen may decide as to my health,' he
said, 'but _I_ know that I am dying. Tell my wife that I wish to be
buried in my native country, and to place upon my tombstone my name
and this epitaph: "He wrote history, and made history."'" The voice of
the girl had dropped to a whisper. She recovered herself and
continued sadly: "Until three days ago that is the only word we have
received from my father in two years."

The expression on Roddy's face was one of polite incredulity. Seeing
this, Inez, as though answering his thought, said proudly: "My father
made history when he arranged the boundary line between British Guiana
and Venezuela."

Roddy shook his head impatiently.

"I wasn't thinking of that," he said. "I was thinking of the message.
It doesn't sound a bit like your father," he exclaimed. "Not like what
_I've_ heard of him."

The eyes of the girl grew anxious with disappointment.

"Do you mean," she asked, "that you think he did _not_ send that
message?"

"It doesn't sound to me," said Roddy, "like the sort of message he
would send, knowing the pain it would cause. He isn't the sort of man
to give up hope, either. Even if it were true, why should he tell your
mother he is dying? And that epitaph!" cried Roddy excitedly.
"_That's_ not like him, either! It is not modest." With sudden
eagerness he leaned toward her. "_Did_ your father write history?" he
demanded.

Unable to see the purpose of his question, the girl gazed at him in
bewilderment. "Why, of course," she answered.

"And does any part of it refer to Porto Cabello?"

After a moment of consideration Inez nodded. "The third chapter," she
said, "tells of the invasion by Sir Francis Drake."

"'Chapter three, page fifty-four, paragraph four!'" shouted Roddy.
"I'll bet my head on it! Don't you see what he has done?" he cried.
"He sent you the key before he sent you the cipher. The verbal message
is the key to the written one. They gave him a chance to send word to
your mother, and he took it. He told her he was dying only that he
might give her a direction, apparently about an epitaph, a boastful
epitaph. He never boasted while he was alive--why should he boast on
his tombstone? His real message is this: 'Look in the history I wrote
of Venezuela, on page fifty-four, paragraph four,' and when we have
found it," cried Roddy, "we'll have found the way to get him out of
prison!"

Inez was not convinced, but his enthusiasm was most inspiriting.

"We have the history at the house," she cried, "and I know you can
find it in the Spanish bookstore in Willemstad. I must go at once."

She moved forward, greatly excited, her eyes lit with the happiness of
this new hope. Roddy ran to bring her pony, and making a bridge of his
hands lifted her to the saddle. "If I am right about this," he said,
"I must see you again to-day. Where can I meet you?"

In spite of her eagerness, the girl hesitated. One by one the
traditions of a lifetime were smashing about her.

"I _must_ tell my mother," she pleaded. "And I know she will not allow
me----"

"And she'll tell Pino," interrupted Roddy. To detain her, he laid his
hand upon the reins and shook them sharply.

"Are you helping Pino to win a revolution," he demanded, "or are you
helping me to get your father out of prison?"

Inez gazed at him in dismay. In her brief twenty-two years no man had
spoken to her in such a manner. Among her friends she knew of no
Venezuelan who, no matter what the provocation, would have addressed
his wife, his sister, his daughter in a tone so discourteous. And yet
this stranger was treating her, who, as she had been frequently and
reliably informed, was the loveliest and most lovable of her sex, as
he might a mutinous younger brother. In spite of the new and serious
thought that now occupied her mind, this one was also sufficiently
novel to compel her attention. It both amused and fascinated her. Here
was at last one man who was working to help her father, and not only
in order to find favor in her bright eyes. He needed her wits and her
courage; he wanted her help, but he wanted it as from a comrade, as he
would have asked it of another man. Unconsciously he was paying her
the compliment that best pleased her. When she nodded in assent she
laughed delightedly, partly at him for bullying, partly at herself
that she should for a moment have resented it.

"I am helping _you_!" she said.

Not understanding why she laughed, Roddy regarded her doubtfully.

Imitating the directness of his manner, Inez spoke quickly. "You can
keep the pony. It is new to our stable and not known to belong to us.
To-morrow morning, before sunrise, ride out again, but this time take
the road to Otrabanda and along the cliff. Be sure to pass our house
before sunrise. Ride about a mile and turn down a bridle-path to your
left. That will bring you to the beach. If I cannot go, Pedro will
meet you. You will get the history my father wrote at Belancourts, in
Willemstad." For a moment she regarded him with friendly eyes. "If
you should be right," she exclaimed, "how can I ever thank you?"

Roddy smiled back at her and shook his head.

"I don't know that we were exactly looking for gratitude," he said.
"Now, go!" he ordered, "for I can't leave until you are well out of
sight."

With another delightful laugh, that to Roddy was again inexplicable,
the girl accepted her dismissal. It was her first rendezvous, but, in
spite of her inexperience, she knew that had it been made with a
Venezuelan the man would not have been the one first to bring it to an
end.

Roddy impatiently waited until a quarter of an hour had passed, then
galloped to Willemstad. On the way he put up the pony at a
livery-stable in the suburbs, and on foot made his way as quickly as
possible to the bookstore. What he wanted, he explained, were
guidebooks and histories of Venezuela. Among those the man showed him
was one in three volumes, in Spanish, by Señor Don Miguel Rojas.
Roddy's fingers itched to open it, but he restrained himself and,
after buying half a dozen other books, returned to his hotel. Peter
was still asleep, and he could not wait to waken him. Locking himself
in, he threw the books he did not want upon the floor, and, with
fingers that were all thumbs, fumbled at the first volume of the
history until he had found page fifty-four. His eyes ran down it to
the fourth paragraph. His knowledge of Spanish was slight, but it was
sufficient. Page fifty-four was the description of an attack from the
sea by Drake, upon the Fortress of San Carlos. Translated by Roddy,
paragraph four read as follows: "Seeing that it was no longer possible
to hold the fortress, the defenders were assembled in the guard-room,
and from there conducted to the mainland, through the tunnel that
connects San Carlos with the Fortress of El Morro."

Like a man in a trance, Roddy walked to the adjoining room and shook
the sleeping Peter by the shoulder. Peter opened his eyes, and the
look in Roddy's face startled him into instant wakefulness.

"What's wrong?" he demanded.

"Nothing!" said Roddy. Forgetting that to Peter it was unintelligible,
he pointed with a triumphant finger at paragraph four.

"I have found an underground passage into the cell of General Rojas,"
he said. "We must go back and dig him out."

In order to avoid the heat, those planters who lived some distance
from Willemstad were in the habit of rising by candlelight, and when
the sun rose it found them well advanced upon their journey. So when
on the following morning Roddy again set forth to meet Inez Rojas,
the few servants who knew of his early departure accepted it, and the
excuse he gave of wild-pigeon shooting, as a matter of course.

Without difficulty Roddy found the bridle-path leading down from the
cliff road to the sea, and after riding for a short distance along the
beach came upon Inez, guarded by the faithful Pedro. The cliff,
hollowed at its base by the sea, hung over them, hiding them from any
one on the cliff road, and the waves, breaking into spray on an outer
barrier of rock, shut them from the sight of those at sea.

As Inez rose from the rock on which she had been seated and came
eagerly to meet him, her face was radiant with happiness. Over night
she appeared to have gained in health and strength, to have grown
younger, and, were it possible, more beautiful. The satisfaction in
the eyes of Roddy assured her that he, also, had solved the riddle.

"You have seen the book," she called; "you understand?"

"I think so," replied Roddy. "Anyway, I've got a sort of blueprint
idea of it. Enough," he added, "to work on."

"I didn't tell my mother," Inez announced. "Nor," she continued, as
though defying her own misgivings, "do I mean to tell her. Until you
can get back word to me, until you say that _this_ time you believe we
may hope, it seems to me it would be kinder to keep her in ignorance.
But I told Pedro," she added. She flashed a grateful smile at the old
man, and he bowed and smiled eagerly in return. "And he has been able
to help me greatly. He tells me," she went on, "that his father, who
was in the artillery, was often stationed at Morro before it was
abandoned. That was fifty years ago. The tunnel was then used daily
and every one knew of it. But when the troops were withdrawn from
Morro the passage was walled up and each end blocked with stone. In
San Carlos it opened into the guard-room. El Morro was hardly a
fortress. It was more of a signal-station. Originally, in the days of
the pirates, it was used as a lookout. Only a few men were kept on
guard there, and only by day. They slept and messed at San Carlos.
Each morning they were assembled in the guard-room, and from there
marched through the tunnel to El Morro, returning again at sunset."

"I don't know El Morro," said Roddy.

"You have probably seen it," Inez explained, "without knowing it was a
fort. It's in ruins now. Have you noticed," she asked, "to the right
of the town, a little hill that overlooks the harbor? It is just
above the plain where the cattle are corralled until they are shipped
to Cuba. Well, the ruins of El Morro are on top of that hill. It is
about a quarter of a mile from San Carlos, so we know that is the
length of the tunnel. Pedro tells me, for a part of the way it runs
under the water of the harbor. It was cut through the solid rock by
the prisoners at San Carlos."

"There must be a lot of people," objected Roddy, "who know of it."

"Fifty years ago they knew of it," returned Inez eagerly, "but,
remember, for half a century it has virtually ceased to exist. And
besides, to my people there is nothing unusual in such a tunnel. You
will find them connected with every fort the Spaniards built along
this coast, and in Cuba, and on the Isthmus of Panama. All along the
Spanish Main, wherever there is more than one fort, you will find them
linked together by tunnels. They were intended to protect the soldiers
from the fire of the enemy while they were passing from one position
to another."

The young people had been standing ankle-deep in the soft, moist sand.
Now the girl moved toward her pony, but Roddy still stood looking out
to sea. He appeared to have entirely forgotten that Inez was present,
and to be intently regarding the waves that surged against the rocks,
and burst into glittering walls of foam. At last, with a serious
countenance, he came toward her.

"I shall tell the authorities at Porto Cabello," he said, "that they
ought to build a light-house on El Morro. At any rate, I will ask
permission to make a survey. As they don't intend to pay father for
any of his light-houses, they are not likely to object. And as I don't
intend to build one, father can't object. He will attribute my offer
to mistaken zeal on behalf of the company. And he will consider it
another evidence of the fact that I don't understand his business. As
soon as I find out anything definite I will let you know. And, by the
way," he asked, "_how_ am I to let you know?"

Inez gave him the address of a fellow-exile from Venezuela, living in
Willemstad, who was in secret communication with Pedro. Through this
man letters would reach her safely.

She turned to him in farewell, and held out her hand.

"You must be very careful," she said.

"Trust me!" answered Roddy heartily. "I promise you I'll be as
mysterious a double-dealer as any Venezuelan that ever plotted a plot.
I admit," he went on, "that when I came down here I was the frank,
wide-eyed child, but, I assure you, I've reformed. Your people have
made me a real Metternich, a genuine Machiavelli. Compared to me now,
a Japanese business man is as honest and truth-loving as Mrs. Wiggs of
the Cabbage Patch."

With a grin, Roddy invited the girl to sympathize with his effort to
conceal the seriousness of their undertaking, but she regarded him
doubtfully, and frowned. In his heart Roddy felt sorry for her. It
hurt him to think that any one so charming could not accept his
theory, that the only way to treat a serious matter was with
flippancy. But the girl undeceived him.

"You don't understand me," she said quietly. "I didn't mean to be
careful to protect our interests. I meant you to be careful of
yourself. If anything were to happen to you through this--" She
hesitated and looked away from him toward the sea. "Do you imagine,"
she demanded, "that it is easy for me to ask what I am asking of you?
_I_ know I have no right to do it. I know the only possible excuse for
me is that I am not asking it for myself, but for my father--although,
of course, that _is_ asking it for myself."

"Beauty in distress," began Roddy briskly, "is the one thing----"

"That's what I mean," interrupted the girl gratefully, "the way you
take it, the way you make it easier for me. Every other man I know
down here would tell me he was doing it only for me, and he would hope
I would believe him. But when _you_ say you are helping beauty in
distress, you are secretly frightened lest I may not have a sense of
humor--and believe you. I know you are doing this because you feel
deeply for my father. If I didn't know that, if I didn't feel that
that were true, all this I have asked of you would be impossible. But
it is possible, because I know you first tried to save my father of
your own accord. Because I know now that it is your nature to wish to
help others. Because you are brave, and you are generous."

But Roddy refused to be ennobled.

"It's because I'm a White Mice," he said. "My oath compels me! How
would you like," he demanded, frowning, "if we turned you into an
Honorary White Mouse?"

For an instant, with perplexed eyes and levelled brows, the girl
regarded him fixedly. Then she smiled upon him. It was the same
flashing, blinding smile which the morning before had betrayed him
into her hands, bound and captive. It was a smile that passed swiftly,
like a flash of sunshine over a garden of gay flowers. It brought out
unsuspected, ambushed dimples. It did fascinating and wholly
indefensible things to her lips. It filled her eyes with gracious,
beautiful meanings. Inez raised her head challengingly.

"You think," she declared, "that I cannot be foolish, too. But I can.
Let's sit down here on this rock and be quite foolish."



V


"I can be quite as foolish as you," Inez repeated as Roddy continued
to regard her. "Some day, when this is over, when you have made it all
come right, we will sit out here and pretend that we have escaped from
Venezuela, that we are up North in my mother's country--in your
country. We will play these are the rocks at York Harbor, and we'll be
quite young and quite happy. Have you ever sat on the rocks at York
Harbor," she demanded eagerly, "when the spray splashed you, and the
waves tried to catch your feet?"

Roddy was regarding her in open suspicion. He retreated warily.

"York Harbor!" he murmured. "I discovered it! It is named after me.
But you! I never imagined you'd been there, and I never imagined you
could be anything but serious, either. It makes you quite dangerous."

"Dangerous?" murmured the girl.

"One is dangerous," said Roddy, "when one is completely charming."

The girl frowned, and her shoulders moved slightly. "You speak," she
said, "like a Venezuelan."

But Roddy was in no mood to accept reproof.

"I told you," he said, "I admire the fools who rush in where angels
fear to tread. There is another man I admire equally, 'the man who
runs away.' It takes great courage to run away. I must do it now."

He retreated from her. His eyes were filled with a sudden, deep
delight in her, and a growing wonder. The girl regarded him steadily.

"Come here," she commanded, "and say 'Good-by' to me."

Roddy took the slim, gauntleted hand stretched out to him, and for an
instant the girl held his hand firmly, and then nodded. The smile this
time was very near to tears.

"What you are going to do," she said, "is the dangerous thing. You
don't know how dangerous. If I should not see you again----"

Roddy looked down into her eyes, and laughed from utter happiness.

"You will see _me_ again," he said.

His tone gave to the words a meaning which the girl entirely
disregarded.

"You will remember," she went on, as though he had not spoken, "that
we--that I am grateful."

Roddy turned and smiled out at the sunlit sea.

"You have given me," he answered, "other things to remember."

He pulled off his sombrero and took the gauntleted hand in both of
his. He bowed over it and brushed it with his lips. The girl still
regarded him steadily, questioningly.

"Good-by," faltered Roddy.

His eyes sought hers wistfully, appealingly, with all that he felt
showing in them. But her own told him nothing. Roddy released her hand
with an effort, as though it were bound to his with manacles.

"Now I know," he said gently, "why I came to Venezuela."

The girl made no answer, and silently Roddy mounted and rode away.
When he had reached the place where the rocks would hide her from
sight he glanced back. He saw Inez standing beside her pony, leaning
with her arms across the saddle, looking after him. Then, as he waved
his hand, she raised hers with a gesture that seemed to Roddy partly a
farewell, partly a benediction.

The stable at which Roddy had told Pedro he would leave the pony was
far in the suburbs, and by the time he had walked to Willemstad the
morning was well advanced.

[Illustration: "Now I know why I came to Venezuela!"]

As he approached the quay he recognized that in his absence some event
of unusual interest had claimed the attention of the people.
Everywhere men were gathered in little groups, gesticulating,
laughing, frowning importantly, and at the hotel Roddy was surprised
to see, on the balcony leading from his room, Peter and the American
Consul. The sight of him apparently afforded them great satisfaction,
and they waved and beckoned to him frantically. Ignoring their last
meeting, the Consul greeted Roddy as though he were an old friend.

"Have you heard the news?" he demanded. "It is of great local
interest, and it should interest you. Last night," he explained,
"President Alvarez declared an amnesty for his political opponents
living in foreign countries. All exiles may now return to their
homes."

He pointed at the small passenger steamer lying at the quay directly
below the window. The _Blue Peter_ was at the fore, and her deck was
crowded with excited, jubilant Venezuelans.

"You see," explained Captain Codman, "they have lost no time."

In a tone that precluded the possibility of discussion, Peter briskly
added: "And _we_ are going with them. I have packed your bag and paid
the bill. We sail in an hour."

The news of the amnesty bewildered Roddy. The wonderful possibilities
it so suddenly presented thrilled him. They were so important that
with difficulty he made his voice appear only politely interested.

"And Señora Rojas?" he asked.

"I regret to say," answered Captain Codman, "she decides to take
advantage of the amnesty. As soon as she can arrange her affairs here
she will return to Miramar, her home in Porto Cabello."

To Miramar! Roddy turned suddenly to the window, and with unseeing
eyes stared at the busy harbor. By sight he knew the former home of
the Rojas family. In his walks he had often passed before its
yellow-pillared front and windows barred with intricate screens of
wrought iron. Through the great gates that had hung before Miramar
since it had been the palace of the Spanish Governor-General, and
through which four horses could pass abreast, he had peered at the
beautiful gardens. He had wondered at the moss-covered statues, at the
orchids on the flamboyant trees, with their flowers of scarlet, at the
rare plants, now neglected and trailing riotously across the paths,
choked with unkempt weeds. Not an hour before, when he had parted from
Inez, he had determined to make sentimental journeys to that same
house. For she had walked in those gardens, it was through those gates
she had swept in her carriage to take the air in the Plaza; at night,
when she slept, some high-ceilinged, iron-barred room of that house
had sheltered her. He had pictured himself prowling outside the empty
mansion and uncared-for garden, thinking of the exile, keeping vigil
in the shadow of her home, freshly resolving to win back her father to
health and freedom.

And now, by a scratch of the pen, the best that could happen had come
to him. The house would waken to life. Instead of only the fragrance
clinging to the vase, the rose itself would bloom again. Again Inez
would walk under the arch of royal palms, would drive in the Alameda,
would kneel at Mass in the cool, dark church, while, hidden in the
shadows, he could stand and watch her. And though, if he hoped to save
her father, stealth and subterfuge would still be necessary, he could
see her, perhaps, speak to her; at least by the faithful Pedro he
could send her written words, flowers, foolish gifts, that were worth
only the meaning they carried with them.

Feeling very much of a hypocrite, Roddy exclaimed fervently:

"How wonderful for Señora Rojas! To be near him again! Is she happy?
Does it make it easier for her?"

With a disturbed countenance the Consul nodded gravely.

"Yes," he answered, "she welcomed the change. She believes it means
for her husband better conditions. She hopes even for his pardon;
but--" The Consul shook his head impatiently, and with pitying eyes
looked down upon the excited men on the steamer below them.

"But what?" demanded Roddy.

"I suspect every act of Alvarez," the Consul explained. "This _looks_
like the act of a generous opponent. But I cannot believe it is that.
I believe he knows all that is being plotted against him. I believe
this act of amnesty is only a device to put the plotters where he can
get his hand on them. He is the spider inviting the flies into his
parlor."

As the little steamer passed the harbor mouth and pushed her nose
toward Porto Cabello, Roddy, with Peter at his side, leaned upon the
starboard rail. Roddy had assured Inez that Peter must be given their
full confidence, and he now only waited a fitting moment to tell him
of what had occurred that morning, in so far, at least, as it referred
to the tunnel.

The eyes of both were turned toward Casa Blanca, now rapidly
retreating from them. And, as they watched it, the mind of each
occupied with thoughts of its inmates, they saw a white figure leave
the house, and, moving slowly, halt at the edge of the cliff.

Roddy, his eyes straining toward the coast-line, took off his hat and
stood with it clasped in his hands. Peter saw the movement, and to
hide a smile of sympathy, looked down at the white foam rushing below
them.

"Roddy," he asked, "what sort of a girl is Inez Rojas?"

His eyes still seeking the figure on the rocks, and without turning
his head, Roddy answered with startling directness:

"What sort of a girl?" he growled. "The sort of a girl _I_ am going to
marry!"

More moved than he knew, and thinking himself secure in the excited
babel about him and in the fact that the others spoke in Spanish,
Roddy had raised his voice. He was not conscious he had done so until,
as he spoke, he saw a man leaning on the rail with his back toward
him, give an involuntary start. Furious with himself, Roddy bit his
lip, and with impatience waited for the man to disclose himself. For a
moment the stranger remained motionless, and then, obviously to find
out who had spoken, slowly turned his head. Roddy found himself
looking into the glowing, angry eyes of Pino Vega. Of the two men,
Roddy was the first to recover. With eagerness he greeted the
Venezuelan; with enthusiasm he expressed his pleasure at finding him
among his fellow-passengers, he rejoiced that Colonel Vega no longer
was an exile. The Venezuelan, who had approached trembling with
resentment, sulkily murmured his thanks. With a hope that sounded more
like a threat that they would soon meet again, he begged to be allowed
to rejoin his friends.

"Now you've done it!" whispered Peter cheerily. "And he won't let it
rest there, either."

"Don't you suppose I know that better than you do," returned Roddy
miserably. He beat the rail with his fist. "It should not have
happened in a thousand years," he wailed. "He must not know I have
ever even seen her."

"He _does_ know," objected Peter, coming briskly to the point. "What
are you going to do?"

"Lie to him," said Roddy. "He is an old friend of the family. She told
me so herself. She thought even of appealing to him before she
appealed to us. If he finds out I have met her alone at daybreak, I
have either got to tell him why we met and what we are trying to do,
or he'll believe, in his nasty, suspicious, Spanish-American way, that
I am in love with her, and that she came there to let me tell her so."

Roddy turned on Peter savagely.

"_Why_ didn't you stop me?" he cried.

"Stop _you_--talking too much?" gasped Peter. "Is that my position? If
it is, I resign."

The moon that night threw black shadows of shrouds, and ratlines
across a deck that was washed by its radiance as white as a
bread-board. In the social hall, the happy exiles were rejoicing
noisily, but Roddy stood apart, far forward, looking over the ship's
side and considering bitterly the mistake of the morning. His
melancholy self-upbraidings were interrupted by a light, alert step,
and Pino Vega, now at ease, gracious and on guard, stood bowing before
him.

"I do not intrude?" he asked.

Roddy, at once equally on guard, bade him welcome.

"I have sought you out," said the Venezuelan pleasantly, "because I
would desire a little talk with you. I believe we have friends in
common."

"It is possible," said Roddy. "I have been in Porto Cabello about four
months now."

"It was not of Porto Cabello that I spoke," continued Vega, "but of
Curaçao." He looked into Roddy's eyes suddenly and warily, as a
swordsman holds the eyes of his opponent. "I did not understand," he
said, "that you knew the Rojas family?"

"I do not know them," answered Roddy.

Vega turned his back to the moon, so that his face was in shadow. With
an impatient gesture he flicked his cigarette into the sea. As though
he found Roddy's answer unsatisfactory, he paused. He appeared to wish
that Roddy should have a chance to reconsider it. As the American
remained silent, Vega continued, but his tone now was openly hostile.

"I have been Chief of Staff to General Rojas for years," he said. "I
have the honor to know his family well. Señora Rojas treats me as she
did her son, who was my dearest friend. I tell you this to explain why
I speak of a matter which you may think does not concern me. This
morning, entirely against my will, I overheard you speaking to your
friend. He asked you of a certain lady. You answered boldly you
intended to marry her." Vega's voice shook slightly, and he paused to
control it. "Now, you inform me that you are not acquainted with the
Rojas family. What am I to believe?"

"I am glad you spoke of that," said Roddy heartily. "I saw that you
overheard us, and I was afraid you'd misunderstand me----"

The Venezuelan interrupted sharply.

"I am well acquainted with your language!"

"You speak it perfectly," Roddy returned, "but you did not understand
it as I spoke it. The young lady is well known in Willemstad. Our
Consul, as you are aware, is her friend. He admires her greatly. He
told me that she is half American. She has been educated like an
American girl, she rides, she plays tennis. What my friend said to me
was, 'What sort of a girl is Señorita Rojas?' and I answered, 'She is
the sort of girl I am going to marry,' meaning she is like the girls
in my own country, one of our own people, like one of the women I some
day hope to marry."

Roddy smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

"Now do you understand?" he asked.

The Venezuelan gave no answering smile. His eyes shone with suspicion.
Roddy recognized that between his desire to believe and some fact that
kept him from believing, the man was acutely suffering.

"Tell me, in a word," demanded Vega sharply, "give me your word you do
not know her."

"I don't see," said Roddy, "that this is any of your damned business!"

The face of Vega checked him. At his refusal to answer, Roddy saw the
look of jealousy that came into the man's eyes and the torment it
brought with it. He felt a sudden pity for him, a certain respect as
for a fellow-sufferer. He himself had met Inez Rojas but twice, but,
as he had told her, he knew now why he had come to Venezuela. This
older man had known Inez for years, and to Roddy, arguing from his own
state of mind regarding her, the fact was evidence enough that Vega
must love her also. He began again, but now quietly, as he would argue
with a child.

"I see no reason for making any mystery of it," he said. "I did meet
Miss Rojas. But I can't say I know her. I met her when she was out
riding with her groom. I thought she was an American. She needed some
help, which I was able to give her. That is all."

Vega approached Roddy, leaning forward as though he were about to
spring on him. His eyes were close to Roddy's face.

"And what was the nature of this help?" he demanded.

"You are impertinent," said Roddy.

"Answer me!" cried the Venezuelan. "I have the right. No one has a
better right."

He flung up his right arm dramatically, and held it tense and
trembling, as though it were poised to hurl a weapon.

"You were watched!" he cried hysterically. "I _know_ that you met. And
you tried to deceive me. Both of you. She will try, also----"

The moonlight disappeared before the eyes of Colonel Vega, and when
again he opened them he was looking dizzily up at the swaying masts
and yards. Roddy, with his hand at Vega's throat, was forcing his
shoulders back against the rail. His free hand, rigid and heavy as a
hammer, swung above the Venezuelan's face.

"Yesterday," panted Roddy, "I saved your life. If you insult that girl
with your dirty, Latin mind, so help me--I will _take_ it!"

He flung the man from him, but Vega, choking with pain and
mortification, staggered forward.

"It is _you_ who insult her," he shrieked. "It is I who protect her.
Do you know _why_? Do you know what she is to me? She is my promised
wife!"

For a moment the two men stood, swaying with the gentle roll of the
ship, staring into each other's eyes. Above the sound of the wind in
the cordage and the whisper of the water against the ship's side,
Roddy could hear himself breathing in slow, heavy respirations. Not
for an instant did he doubt that the man told the truth. Vega had
spoken with a conviction that was only too genuine, and his statement,
while it could not justify, seemed to explain his recent, sudden
hostility. With a sharp effort, Roddy recovered himself. He saw that
no matter how deeply the announcement might affect him, Vega must
believe that to the American it was a matter of no possible
consequence.

"You should have told me this at first," he said quietly. "I thought
your questions were merely impertinent."

Roddy hesitated. The interview had become poignantly distasteful to
him. He wished to get away; to be alone. He was conscious that a
possibility had passed out of his life, the thought of which had been
very dear to him. He wanted to think, to plan against this new
condition. In discussing Inez with this man, in this way, he felt he
was degrading her and his regard for her. But he felt also that for
her immediate protection he must find out what Vega knew and what he
suspected. With the purpose of goading him into making some
disclosure, Roddy continued insolently:

"And I still think they are impertinent."

Roddy's indignation rose and got the upper hand. He cast caution
aside.

"With us," he continued, "when a woman promises to marry a man--he
does not spy on her."

"We spied on _you_," protested Vega. "We did not think it would lead
us to----"

Roddy cut him off with a sharp cry of warning.

"Be careful!" he challenged.

"You met in the road----"

"So I told you," returned Roddy.

"You dismounted and talked with her."

Roddy laughed, and with a gesture of impatience motioned Vega to be
silent.

"Is that all?" he demanded.

The Venezuelan saw the figure he presented. Back of him were hundreds
of years of Spanish traditions, in his veins was the blood of
generations of ancestors by nature suspicious, doubting, jealous. From
their viewpoint he was within his rights; they applauded, they gave
him countenance; but by the frank contempt of the young man before him
his self-respect was being rudely handled. Not even to himself could
he justify his attitude.

"In my country," he protested, "according to our customs, it was
enough."

The answer satisfied and relieved Roddy. It told him all he wished to
know. It was now evident that Vega's agent had seen only the first
meeting, that he was not aware that Inez followed after Roddy, or
that the next morning by the seashore they had again met. The American
brought the interview to an abrupt finish.

"I refuse," said Roddy loftily, "to discuss this matter with you
further. If the mother of Señorita Rojas wishes it, I shall be happy
to answer any questions she may ask. I have done nothing that requires
explanation or apology. I am responsible to no one. Good-night."

"Wait!" commanded Vega. "You will find that here you cannot so easily
avoid responsibilities. You have struck me. Well, we have other
customs, which gentlemen----"

"I am entirely at your service," said Roddy. He made as magnificent a
bow as though he himself had descended from a line of Spanish
grandees. Vega's eyes lit with pleasure. He was now playing a part in
which he felt assured he appeared to advantage. He almost was grateful
to Roddy for permitting him to reëstablish himself in his own esteem.

"My friends shall wait upon you," he said.

"Whenever you like," Roddy answered. He started up the deck and
returned again to Vega. "Understand me," he whispered, "as long as I'm
enjoying the hospitality of your country I accept the customs of your
country. If you'd made such a proposition to me in New York I'd have
laughed at you." Roddy came close to Vega and emphasized his words
with a pointed finger. "And understand _this_! We have quarrelled over
politics. You made an offensive remark about Alvarez; I defended him
and struck you. You now demand satisfaction. That is what happened.
And if you drag the name of any woman into this I won't give you
satisfaction. I will give you a thrashing until you can't stand or
see."

Roddy found Peter in the smoking-room, and beckoning him on deck, told
him what he had done.

"You're a nice White Mouse!" cried Peter indignantly. "You're not
supposed to go about killing people; you're supposed to save lives."

"No one is ever killed in a duel," said Roddy; "I'll fire in the air,
and he will probably miss me. I certainly hope so. But there will be
one good result. It will show Alvarez that I'm not a friend of Vega's,
nor helping him in his revolution."

"You don't have to shoot a man to show you're not a friend of his,"
protested Peter.

They were interrupted by the hasty approach of Vega's chief advisers
and nearest friends, General Pulido and Colonel Ramon.

"Pino seems in a hurry," said Roddy. "I had no idea he was so
bloodthirsty."

"Colonel Vega," began Pulido abruptly, "has just informed us of the
unfortunate incident. We have come to tell you that no duel can take
place. It is monstrous. The life of Colonel Vega does not belong to
him, it belongs to the Cause. We will not permit him to risk it
needlessly. You, of all people, should see that. You must apologize."

The demand, and the peremptory tone in which it was delivered, caused
the fighting blood of Roddy's Irish grandfathers to bubble in his
veins.

"'Must' and 'apologize!'" protested Roddy, in icy tones; "Those are
difficult words, gentlemen."

"Consider," cried Pulido, "what great events hang upon the life of
Colonel Vega."

"My own life is extremely interesting to me," said Roddy. "But I have
done nothing which needs apology."

Colonel Ramon now interrupted anxiously.

"You risked your life for Pino. Why now do you wish to take it? Think
of his importance to Venezuela, of the happiness he will bring his
country, and think what his loss would mean to your own father."

"My father!" exclaimed Roddy. "What has my father to do with this?"

The two Venezuelans looked at each other in bewilderment, and then
back at Roddy sternly and suspiciously.

"Are you jesting?" demanded General Pulido.

"Never been more serious in my life," said Roddy.

The two officers searched his face eagerly.

"It is as Pino says," exclaimed Pulido, with sudden enlightenment. "He
is telling the truth!"

"Of course I'm telling the truth!" cried Roddy fiercely. "Are you
looking for a duel, too?"

"Tell him!" cried Pulido.

"But Mr. Forrester's orders!" protested Colonel Ramon.

"He is more dangerous," declared Pulido, "knowing nothing, than he
would be if he understood."

He cast a rapid glance about him. With a scowl, his eyes finally
rested upon Peter.

"I'll be within knockout distance if you want me," said that young man
to Roddy, and moved to the rail opposite.

When he had gone, Pulido bent eagerly forward.

"Do you not know," he demanded, "what it is your father is doing in
our country?"

Roddy burst forth impatiently, "No!" he protested. "And I seem to be
the only man in the country who doesn't."

The two officers crowded close to him. In sepulchral tones, Pulido
exclaimed dramatically. He spoke as though he were initiating Roddy
into a secret order.

"Then understand," he whispered, "that your father supports Pino Vega
with five million bolivars; that Vega, whose life you are seeking, is
the man your father means to make President of Venezuela. Now do you
understand?"

For a long time Roddy remained silent. Then he exclaimed in tones of
extreme exasperation:

"I understand," he said, "that, if my father had given me his
telephone number, he would have saved me a lot of trouble. No wonder
everybody suspects me."

"And now," declared Pulido anxiously, "you are one of _us_!"

"I am nothing of the sort," snapped Roddy. "If my father does not wish
to tell me his plans I can't take advantage of what I learn of them
from strangers. I shall go on," he continued with suspicious meekness,
"with the work Father has sent me here to do. Who am I, that I should
push myself into the politics of your great country?"

"And the duel?" demanded Pulido.

"I am sure," hastily interjected Colonel Ramon, "if Colonel Vega
withdraws his offensive remark about President Alvarez, Mr. Forrester
will withdraw his blow."

Roddy failed to see how a blow that had left a raw spot on the chin of
Pino Vega could by mutual agreement be made to vanish. But if to the
minds of the Spanish-Americans such a miracle were possible, it seemed
ungracious not to consent to it.

"If I understand you," asked Roddy, "Colonel Vega withdraws his
offensive remark?"

The seconds of Pino Vega nodded vigorously.

"Then," continued Roddy, "as there was no offensive remark, there
could have been no blow, and there can be no duel."

Roddy's summing up delighted the Venezuelans, and declaring that the
honor of all was satisfied, they bowed themselves away.

Next morning at daybreak the fortress of San Carlos rose upon the
horizon, and by ten o'clock Roddy was again at work, threatening a
gang of Jamaica coolies. But no longer he swore at them with his
former wholeheartedness. His mind was occupied with other things. Now,
between him and his work, came thoughts of the tunnel that for half a
century had lain hidden from the sight of man; and of Inez, elusive,
beautiful, distracting, now galloping recklessly toward him down a
sunlit road, now a motionless statue standing on a white cliff, with
the waves of the Caribbean bending and bowing before her.

With the return of the exiles to Porto Cabello, that picturesque
seaport became a place of gay reunions, of banquets, of welcome and
rejoicing. The cafés again sprang to life. The Alameda was crowded
with loitering figures and smart carriages, whilst the vigilance and
activity of the government secret police increased. Roddy found
himself an object of universal interest. As the son of his father, and
as one who had prevented the assassination of Pino Vega, the members
of the government party suspected him. While the fact that in defense
of Alvarez he had quarrelled with Vega puzzled them greatly.

"If I can't persuade them I am with the government," said Roddy, "I
can at least keep them guessing."

A week passed before Peter and Roddy were able, without arousing
suspicion, and without being followed, to visit El Morro. They
approached it apparently by accident, at the end of a long walk
through the suburbs, and so timed their progress that, just as the sun
set, they reached the base of the hill on which the fortress stood.
They found that on one side the hill sloped gently toward the city,
and on the other toward the sea. The face toward the city, except for
some venturesome goats grazing on its scant herbage, was bare and
deserted. The side that sloped to the sea was closely overgrown with
hardy mesquite bushes and wild laurel, which would effectually conceal
any one approaching from that direction. What had been the fortress
was now only a broken wall, a few feet in height. It was covered with
moss, and hidden by naked bushes with bristling thorns. Inside the
circumference of the wall was a broken pavement of flat stones.
Between these, trailing vines had forced their way, their roots
creeping like snakes over the stones and through their interstices,
while giant, ill-smelling weeds had turned the once open court-yard
into a maze. These weeds were sufficiently high to conceal any one who
did not walk upright, and while Peter kept watch outside the walled
ring, Roddy, on his hands and knees, forced his way painfully from
stone to stone. After a quarter of an hour of this slow progress he
came upon what once had been the mouth of the tunnel. It was an
opening in the pavement corresponding to a trap in a roof, or to a
hatch in the deck of a ship. The combings were of stone, and were
still intact, as were also the upper stones of a flight of steps that
led down to the tunnel. But below the level of the upper steps,
blocking further descent, were two great slabs of stone. They were
buried deep in a bed of cement, and riveted together and to the walls
of the tunnel by bands of iron. Roddy signalled for Peter to join him,
and in dismay they gazed at the formidable mass of rusty iron, cement
and stone.

"We might as well try to break into the Rock of Gibraltar!" gasped
Peter.

"Don't think of the difficulties," begged Roddy. "Think that on the
other side of that barrier an old man is slowly dying. I admit it's
going to be a tough job. It will take months. But whatever a man has
put together, a man can pull to pieces."

"I also try to see the bright side of life," returned Peter coldly,
"but I can't resist pointing out that the other end of your tunnel
opens into a prison. Breaking into a bank I can understand, but
breaking into a prison seems almost like looking for trouble."

The dinner that followed under the stars in their own court-yard did
much to dispel Peter's misgivings, and by midnight, so assured was he
of their final success, that he declared it now was time that General
Rojas should share in their confidence.

"To a man placed as he is," he argued, "hope is everything; hope is
health, life. He must know that his message has reached the outside.
He must feel that some one is working toward him. He is the entombed
miner, and, to keep heart in him, we must let him hear the picks of
the rescuing party."

"Fine!" cried Roddy, "I am for that, too. I'll get my friend Vicenti,
the prison doctor, to show you over the fortress to-morrow. And we'll
try to think of some way to give Rojas warning."

They at once departed for the café of the _Dos Hermanos_, where the
gay youth of Porto Cabello were wont to congregate, and where they
found the doctor. During the evening he had been lucky at baccarat,
and had been investing his winnings in sweet champagne. He was in a
genial mood. He would be delighted to escort the friend of Señor Roddy
over the fortress, or to any other of the historical places of
interest for which Porto Cabello was celebrated.

"Where Alvarez punishes traitors," exclaimed Roddy in a loud tone, "is
what we most desire to see. And," he added, scowling darkly through
the smoke-laden café, "if we could see others who are still at liberty
in the same place we would be better pleased."

The remark, although directed at no one in particular, caused a
sensation, and led several of those who had been for two years in
exile to hurriedly finish their chocolate ices and seek their homes.

After making an appointment for the morrow with Doctor Vicenti, and
when they were safe in their own _patio_, Peter protested mildly.

"Your devotion to Alvarez," he said, "is too sudden. You overdo it.
Besides, it's making an expert liar of you. Don't get the habit."

"As the son of the man who is trying to destroy Alvarez," declared
Roddy, "my position is extremely delicate. And next week it will be
more so. McKildrick got a cable to-day saying that Sam Caldwell is
arriving here by the next boat. His starting for Porto Cabello the
very moment Vega arrives here means trouble for Alvarez, and that the
trouble is coming soon. For, wherever you find Sam Caldwell, there you
will find plotting, bribery, and all uncleanliness. And if I'm to help
Rojas out of prison I must have nothing to do with Sam. Alvarez
recognizes no neutrals. The man who is not with him is against him. So
I must be the friend of Alvarez and of his creatures. For public
occasions, my hand must be against the F. C. C., against Vega, and
especially against Sam Caldwell, because everybody knows he is the
personal agent of my father. Vega's friends know that my father treats
me as though he could not trust me. The Alvarez crowd must know that,
too. Even as it is, they think my being down here is a sort of
punishment. None of them has ever worked in his life, and the idea of
a rich man's son sweating at a donkey-engine with a gang of Conch
niggers, means to them only that my father and I have quarrelled. It
will be my object hereafter to persuade them that that is so. If I
have to act a bit, or lie a bit, what are a few lies against the
freedom of such a man as Rojas? So, to-morrow, if you should be so
lucky as to see Rojas, don't be a bit surprised if I should insult
that unhappy gentleman grossly. If I do, within an hour the fact will
be all over the cafés and the plazas, and with Alvarez it would be
counted to me for righteousness. Much that I may have to do of the
same sort will make the gentlemen of Vega's party consider me an
ungrateful son, and very much of a blackguard. They may, in their
turn, insult me, and want to fight more duels. But it's all in the
game. To save that old man is my only object for living, my only
interest. I don't care how many revolutions I tread on. I would
sacrifice everybody and everything--for him."

After his long speech, Roddy drew a deep breath and glared at Peter as
though inviting contradiction. But, instead of contradicting him,
Peter smiled skeptically and moved to his bedroom, which opened upon
the court-yard. At the door he turned.

"'And the woman,'" he quoted, "'was very fair.'"

The next morning the two Americans met Doctor Vicenti in the
guard-room of the fortress, and under his escort began a leisurely
inspection of the prison. They themselves saw to it that it was
leisurely, and by every device prolonged it. That their interest in
the one prisoner they had come to see might not be suspected, they
pretended a great curiosity in the doctor's patients and in all the
other prisoners. After each visit to a cell they would invite Vicenti
to give them the history of its inmate. They assured him these little
biographies, as he related them, were of surpassing brilliancy and
pathos. In consequence, Vicenti was so greatly flattered that, before
they reached the cell of General Rojas, each succeeding narrative had
steadily increased in length, and the young doctor had become
communicative and loquacious.

When at last they had descended to the lowest tier of cells, Vicenti
paused and pointed toward an iron-barred double door.

"In there," he whispered to Peter, "is our most distinguished
political prisoner, General Rojas. There is no one Alvarez would so
willingly see dead. And, if he keeps him here a month longer, Alvarez
will have his wish."

"But they say the man is a traitor," protested Roddy.

The doctor shrugged his shoulders.

"In my country," he answered, "every man who is not for the government
is a traitor."

He directed the turnkey who accompanied them to unlock the gate of the
cell, and with a gesture invited the Americans to enter. As they did
so, each dropped his right hand into his outside coat pocket. When it
came forth again, concealed under each little finger was a tiny roll
of rice-paper torn from a book of cigarette-wrappers. On each, in
pencil, was written, "54-4" and the word "Hope." The night previous
Peter and Roddy had prepared the papers, on the chance that while one
of them occupied the attention of the guide, the other could slip his
message to Rojas. Roddy had insisted upon the use of rice-paper,
because it could be swallowed without indigestion, and instead of the
word "Hope," had preferred a freehand drawing of an anchor, arguing
that the anchor was the emblem of hope, and was more picturesque than
the written word. To this Peter had objected that while they knew an
anchor signified hope, Rojas might not, and as they were risking their
lives to get a message to him, it was important he should understand
it. They compromised on the numerals, which would show Rojas his own
cipher messages had been received and understood, and the word "Hope"
was added to put heart into him and strengthen his desire to cling to
life.

But on entering the cell they saw at once that there would be no
chance to deliver their message. General Rojas was seated at a table
some ten feet from them, and the turnkey, who had submitted with ill
grace to the Americans entering any of the cells, and who seemed
especially to resent their presence in this one, at once placed
himself aggressively on guard.

As he did so he commanded sharply: "The visitors will not speak to the
prisoner."

"That is understood," Vicenti answered.

The Americans saw a room some forty by twenty feet in size, with
walls, arched ceiling and floor entirely of stone. There were no
windows, but it was well lighted by candles, and the lanterns carried
by Vicenti and the turnkey threw a full light into each corner. They
saw a cot, a table, a chair, a number of shelves loaded to the bending
point with books and, at one end of the cell, an immense archway. This
archway had been blocked with stone, roughly hewn and held together by
cement. At the first glance, it was obvious that this was the other
entrance to the tunnel. As he beheld its solid front, the heart of
each of the young men sank in dismay.

General Rojas had risen, and stood shading his eyes from the
unaccustomed light of the lanterns.

"I have taken the liberty of intruding upon you," Vicenti was saying,
"because these two gentlemen are interested in the history of the
fortress."

General Rojas bowed gravely, and with a deprecatory gesture, glanced
at the turnkey, as though to explain why he did not address them.

"This part of the fortress," Vicenti began hurriedly, "is very old. It
was built in the sixteenth century, and was, I think, originally the
messroom. It is now used only for the most important political
prisoners."

For an instant there was an awkward silence, and then Roddy broke it
with a laugh, short and contemptuous.

"You mean traitors," he sneered.

General Rojas straightened as suddenly as though Roddy had struck at
him. The young doctor was no less moved. He turned on the American
with an exclamation of indignation.

"You forget yourself, sir!" he said.

Though Peter had been warned that Roddy might try by insulting Rojas
to make capital for himself, his insolence to a helpless old man was
unpardonable. He felt his cheeks burn with mortification. The turnkey
alone showed his pleasure, and grinned appreciatively. Roddy himself
was entirely unashamed.

"I have no sympathy for such men!" he continued defiantly. "A murderer
takes only human life; a traitor would take the life of his country.
In the States," he cried hotly, "we make short work with traitors. We
hang them!"

He wheeled furiously on Peter, as though Peter had contradicted him.

"I say we do," he exclaimed. "It's in the Constitution. It's the law.
You've read it yourself. It's page fifty-four, paragraph four, of the
Constitution of the United States. 'Punishment for Traitors.' Page
fifty-four, paragraph four."

Apparently with sudden remorse at his impetuosity, he turned to the
doctor.

"I beg your pardon," he exclaimed. "I _did_ forget myself. But to me,
men like that are intolerable."

Vicenti was not to be mollified.

"Then you had better avoid their presence," he said angrily.

With an impatient gesture he motioned the two Americans into the
corridor, and in distress approached the prisoner.

"I apologize, sir," he said, "for having subjected you to such an
incident."

But General Rojas made no answer. To his surprise, Vicenti found that
the old man was suffering from the scene even more keenly than he had
feared. Like one suddenly bereft of strength, General Rojas had sunk
into his chair. His bloodless, delicate hands trembled upon the table.
Great tears crept down his white, wrinkled face. In the two years
through which the young doctor had watched his patient he had never
before seen in his eyes the strange, mad light that now shone there.
To the medical man, it meant only that the end was nearer than he had
supposed. Shocked and grieved, the doctor made a movement to withdraw.

"I am deeply sorry," he murmured.

General Rojas raised his head. With an effort he drew over his face
its customary, deathlike mask.

"It is nothing!" he exclaimed. "What is one more insult, what is one
more degradation, when I know that my end is near!" He raised his
voice; it was strangely vigorous, youthful, jubilant; it carried
through the open bars to the far end of the corridor. "What does
anything matter," he cried, "when I know--that the end is near!" His
head sunk upon the table. To hide his tears, the General buried his
face in his hands.

Outside, in the darkness, Peter clutched Roddy by the hand, and for an
instant crushed it in his own.

"Do you hear?" he whispered. "He is answering you."

"Yes," stammered Roddy. The excitement or the dampness of the prison
had set him shivering, and with the back of his hand he wiped the cold
moisture from his forehead. He laughed mirthlessly. "Yes," he
answered, "he understood me. And now, we've _got_ to make good!"

That afternoon when the carriages of the aristocracy of Porto Cabello
were solemnly circling the Plaza, Roddy came upon McKildrick, seated
on one of the stone benches, observing the parade of local wealth and
fashion with eyes that missed nothing and told nothing. McKildrick was
a fine type of the self-taught American. He possessed a thorough
knowledge of his profession, executive skill, the gift of handling
men, and the added glory of having "worked his way up." He was tall,
lean, thin-lipped, between thirty and forty years of age. During
business hours he spoke only to give an order or to put a question.
Out of working hours, in his manner to his assistants and workmen, he
was genially democratic. He had, apparently, a dread of being alone,
and was seldom seen without one of the younger engineers at his elbow.
With them he was considered a cynic, the reason given for his cynicism
being that "the Chief" had tried to "take a fall out of matrimony,"
and had come out of it a woman-hater. Officially he was Roddy's
superior, but it never was possible for any one in the pay of the F.
C. C. to forget that Roddy was the son of his father. Even McKildrick,
in certain ways, acknowledged it. One way was, in their leisure
moments, not to seek out Roddy, but to wait for the younger man
to make advances. On this occasion, after for a brief moment
contemplating McKildrick severely, Roddy, with an impatient
exclamation, as though dismissing doubts and misgivings, sat down
beside him.

"McKildrick," he began impetuously, "I want to ask you an impertinent
question. It concerns your moral character."

McKildrick grinned appreciatively.

"We court investigation," he said.

"Under what pressure to the square inch," demanded Roddy, "would a
secret confided to you be liable to burst its boiler?"

"I've never," returned the engineer, "had an accident of that kind."

"Good!" exclaimed Roddy. "Then suppose I said to you, 'McKildrick, I
know where there's buried treasure, but I don't know how to get it
out.' You _would_ know. Now, if I led you to the buried treasure,
would you, as an expert engineer, tell me how to dig it out, and then
could you forget you'd given that advice and that you'd ever heard of
the treasure?"

For a moment McKildrick considered this hypothetical case. Then he
asked: "Which bank are you thinking of opening?"

Roddy rose abruptly.

"I'll show you," he exclaimed.

That Roddy was acting, in spite of secret misgivings, was so evident,
that McKildrick good-naturedly demurred.

"Better not tell me anything," he protested, "that you'll be sorry for
when you're sober."

Roddy shook his head, and, not until they had left the suburbs and the
last fisherman's hut behind them and were on the open coast, did he
again refer to the subject of their walk. Then he exclaimed suddenly;
"And I forgot to mention that if Father finds out you advised me you
will probably lose your job."

McKildrick halted in his tracks.

"It's a pity," he agreed, "that you forgot to mention that. As a rule,
when I give expert advice I get a fat check for it."

"And what's more," continued Roddy, "if Alvarez finds it out you'll go
to jail."

"Your piquant narrative interests me strangely," said McKildrick.
"What else happens to me?"

"But, of course," explained Roddy reassuringly, "you'll tell them you
didn't know what you were doing."

"How about _your_ telling me what we are doing?" suggested the
engineer.

"From this point," was Roddy's only reply, "you crawl on your hands
and knees, or some one may see you."

The engineer bent his tall figure and, following in Roddy's trail,
disappeared into the laurel bushes.

"Why shouldn't they see me?" he called.

"One looks so silly on his hands and knees," Roddy suggested.

For ten minutes, except for the rustle of the bushes, they pushed
their way in silence, and then Roddy scrambled over the fallen wall of
the fort, and pointed down at the entrance to the tunnel.

"The problem is," he said, "to remove these slabs from that
staircase, and leave it in such shape that no one who is foolish
enough to climb up here could see that they had been disturbed."

"Do you really think," demanded McKildrick, smiling sceptically, "that
there _is_ buried treasure under these stones?"

"Yes," answered Roddy anxiously, "a _kind_ of buried treasure."

Cautiously McKildrick raised his head, and, as though to establish his
bearings, surveyed the landscape. To the north he saw the city; to the
east, a quarter of a mile away, the fortress, separated from the
mainland by a stretch of water; and to the south, the wild mesquite
bushes and laurel through which they had just come, stretching to the
coast.

"Is this a serious proposition?" he asked.

"It's a matter of life and death," Roddy answered.

McKildrick seated himself on the flight of stone steps, and for some
time, in silence, studied them critically. He drove the heel of his
boot against the cement, and, with his eyes, tested the resistance of
the rusty bars of iron.

"With a couple of men and crowbars, and a pinch of dynamite that
wouldn't make a noise," he said at last, "I could open that in an
hour."

"Could you put it back again?" asked Roddy.

There was a long pause.

"I guess," said McKildrick, "you'll have to let me in on the ground
floor."

The sun had set and the air had turned cold and damp. Roddy seated
himself beside his chief and pointed at the great slabs at their feet.
His voice dropped to a whisper.

"It's like this," he began.

When, two hours later, they separated at the outskirts of the city,
McKildrick had been initiated into the Brotherhood of the White Mice.

They had separated, agreeing that in the future the less they were
seen together the better. But, in wishing to be alone, Roddy had
another and more sentimental reason.

Each evening since his return from Curaçao he had made a pilgrimage to
the deserted home of the Rojas family, and, as the garden of Miramar
ran down to meet the shore of the harbor, as did the garden of his own
house, he was able to make the nocturnal visits by rowboat, and
without being observed. Sometimes he was satisfied simply to lie on
his oars opposite the empty mansion, and think of the young girl who,
so soon, was to waken it to life; and again he tied his boat to a
public wharf a hundred yards down the shore, and with the aid of the
hanging vines pulled himself to the top of the seawall, and dropped
into the garden. To a young man very much interested in a young woman,
of whom he knew so little that it was possible to endow her with every
grace of mind and character, and whose personal charm was never to be
forgotten, these melancholy visits afforded much satisfaction. Even to
pass the house was a pleasing exercise; and, separating from
McKildrick, he turned his steps to the Alameda, the broad avenue
shaded by a double line of trees that followed the curve of the
harbor, and upon which the gates of Miramar opened. As he approached
the house he saw, with surprise and pleasure, that in the future his
midnight prowlings were at an end. Miramar was occupied. Every window
blazed with light. In this light servants were moving hurriedly, and
in front of the gates the Alameda was blocked with carts loaded with
trunks and boxes.

Excited by the sight, Roddy hid himself in the shadows of the trees,
and, unobserved, stood impatiently waiting for a chance to learn if
the exiles had indeed returned to their own. He had not long to wait.
In a little figure bustling among the carts, and giving many orders,
he recognized his friend and ally, Pedro. Roddy instantly stepped into
the glare of the electric globes until he was sure Pedro had seen
him, and then again retreated into the shadow. In a moment the old
servant was at his side.

"Is she here?" demanded Roddy.

Appreciating that in the world there could be only one "she," the
little man nodded violently.

"Tell her," whispered Roddy, "I have seen her father, that he knows
what we are trying to do. I must talk with the _señorita_ at once. Ask
her if she will come to the steps leading from the gardens to the
wharf at any hour this evening. From my own house I can row there
without being seen."

Again Pedro nodded happily.

"I will ask the _señorita_ to be there at nine o'clock," he answered,
"or, I will come myself."

The alternative did not strongly appeal to Roddy, but the mere fact
that Inez was now in the same city with him, that even at that moment
she was not a hundred yards from him, was in itself a reward.

He continued on down the Alameda, his head in the air, his feet
treading on springs.

"Three hours!" his mind protested. "How can I wait three hours?"

In some fashion the hours passed, and at nine, just as over all the
city the bugles were recalling the soldiers to the barracks, Roddy was
waiting on the narrow stretch of beach that ran between the harbor and
the gardens of Miramar.



VI


At the last moment Roddy had decided against taking the water route,
and, leaving his rowboat at his own wharf, had, on foot, skirted the
edge of the harbor. It was high tide, and the narrow strip of shore
front on which he now stood, and which ran between the garden and the
Rojas' private wharf, was only a few feet in width. Overhead the moon
was shining brilliantly, but a procession of black clouds caused the
stone steps and the tiny summer-house at the end of the wharf to
appear and disappear like slides in a magic lantern.

In one of the moments of light the figures of a man and a woman loomed
suddenly in the gateway of the garden. Pedro came anxiously forward,
and Roddy leaped past him up the steps. He recognized Inez with
difficulty. In the fashion of the peasant women she had drawn around
her head and face a fringed, silk shawl, which left only her eyes
visible, and which hung from her shoulders in lines that hid her
figure. Roddy eagerly stretched out his hand, but the girl raised her
own in warning and, motioning him to follow, passed quickly from the
steps to the wharf. At its farther end was a shelter of thatched palm
leaves. The sides were open, and half of the wharf was filled with
moonlight, but over the other half the roof cast a black shadow, and
into this Inez passed quickly. Roddy as quickly followed. His heart
was leaping in a delightful tumult. His love of adventure, of the
picturesque, was deeply gratified. As he saw it, the scene was set for
romance; he was once more in the presence of the girl who, though he
had but twice met her, and, in spite of the fact that she had promised
herself to another man, attracted him more strongly than had any woman
he had ever known. And the tiny wharf, the lapping of the waves
against the stone sides, the moonlight, the purpose of their meeting,
all seemed combined for sentiment, for a display of the more tender
emotions.

But he was quickly disillusionized. The voice that issued from the
shadows was brisk and incisive.

"You know," Inez began abruptly, in sharp disapprobation, "this won't
do at all!"

Had she pushed him into the cold waters of the harbor and left him to
the colder charity of the harbor sharks, Roddy could not have been
more completely surprised. He stared at the cloaked figure blankly.

"I _beg_ your pardon!" he stammered.

"You must not expect me to meet you like this," protested the girl;
"it is impossible. You risk everything."

Bewildered by the nature and the unexpectedness of the attack, Roddy
murmured incoherently:

"I'm _so_ sorry," he stammered. "I thought you would wish to know."

"What else is there I could so much wish!" protested the girl with
spirit. "But not in this way."

Roddy hung his head humbly.

"I see," he murmured. "I forgot etiquette. I should have considered
you."

"I was not thinking of myself!" exclaimed the girl. "A week ago I
_was_ frightened. Tradition, training, was strong with me, and I _did_
think too much of how my meeting you would appear to others. But now I
see it as you see it. I'll risk their displeasure, gossip, scandal,
all of that, if I can only help my father. But _this_ will not help
him. This will lead to discovery. You must not come near me, nor visit
this house. My mother"--the girl hesitated--"it is hard to say," she
went on quickly, "but my mother more than dislikes you--she regards
you as our evil genius. She thinks you are doing all in your power to
spoil the plans of your own father and of Vega. She--we have all heard
of your striking Vega in defense of Alvarez. Vega is the one man she
thinks can save my father. She believes you are his enemy. Therefore,
you are her enemy. And she has been told, also, of the words you used
to my father when your friend was permitted to visit him." With an
effort the girl tried to eliminate from her voice the note of obvious
impatience. "Of course," she added quickly, "the story came to us
distorted. I could not see your object, but I was sure you had a
motive. I was sure it was well meant!"

"Well meant!" exclaimed Roddy, but interrupted himself quickly. "All
right," he said, "go on."

The girl recognized the restraint in his tone.

"You think I am unjust, ungrateful," she protested earnestly, "but,
believe me, I am not. I want only to impress upon you to be careful
and to show you where you stand."

"With whom?" asked Roddy.

"With my mother and Vega and with their party."

"I am more interested," said Roddy, "in knowing how I stand with you."

The girl answered quietly: "Oh, we are friends. And you know that I am
deeply grateful to you because _I_ know what you are trying to do, the
others do not."

"Suppose we tell them?" said Roddy.

The girl gave a quick exclamation of protest, and Roddy could hear
rather than see her move from him. They were now quite alone. Lest any
one coming from the house should discover Roddy, Pedro had been on
guard at the gate. But he had seen, both above and below the wharf,
mysterious, moonlit figures loitering at the edge of the water, and in
order to investigate them he left his post. There was a moment of
silence. On three sides the moonlight turned the tiny waves into
thousands of silver mirrors, and from farther up the curving
coast-line the fires in the wickerwork huts of the fishermen burned
red. At their feet the water was thick with the phosphorescence,
shining more brilliantly than the moonlight. And, as schools of
minnows fled, darting and doubling on their course before some larger
fish that leaped and splashed in pursuit, the black depths of the
harbor were lit with vivid streaks, and the drops of water cast into
the air flashed like sparks from an anvil.

A harbor shark, nosing up stealthily to the wharf, thought himself
invisible, but the phosphorescence showed his great length and cruel
head as clearly as though he wore a suit of flame.

"Suppose you tell them?" repeated Roddy.

The girl spoke with evident reluctance.

"I cannot," she said, "and the reason why I cannot is quite foolish,
absurd. But their minds are full of it. In some way Vega learned of
our meeting. He believes it was by accident, but, nevertheless, he
also believes--why I can't imagine--that you are interested in me."

As though fearful Roddy would speak, she continued quickly. She spoke
in impersonal, matter-of-fact tones that suggested that in the subject
at hand she herself was in no way involved.

"My mother was already prejudiced against you because she thought
that, for the sake of adventure, you were risking the life of my
father. And this last suggestion of Vega's has added to her
prejudice."

As though waiting for Roddy to make some comment or ask some question,
the girl hesitated.

"I see," said Roddy.

"No, I am afraid you cannot see," said Inez, "unless you know the
facts. I am sorry to weary you with family secrets, but, if you know
them, my mother's prejudice is more easy to understand. Colonel Vega
wishes to marry me. My mother also desires it. That is why they are
hostile to you."

The young girl gave an exclamation of impatience.

"It is ridiculous," she protested, "that such an absurd complication
should be brought into a matter of life and death. But there it is.
And for that reason it would be folly to tell them of your purpose.
They would accept nothing from your hands. You must continue to work
alone, and you must not come near me nor try to speak to me. If it is
absolutely necessary to communicate with me, write what you have to
tell me; or, better still, give a verbal message to Pedro." She made
an abrupt movement. "I must go!" she exclaimed. "I told them I would
walk in the garden, and they may follow."

At the thought she gave a little gasp of alarm.

"Surely it is not as serious as that?" Roddy objected.

"Quite," returned the girl. "To them, what I am doing now is
unpardonable. But I was afraid to write you. A letter may sound so
harsh, it can be so easily misread. I did not wish to offend you, so I
risked seeing you this way--for the last time."

"For the last time," repeated Roddy.

Inez made a movement to go.

"Wait!" he commanded. "Do you come often to this place?"

"Yes," said the girl, and then, answering the possible thought back of
the question, she added: "My mother and sister come here with me every
evening--for the sake of the harbor breeze--at least we used to do so.
Why?" she demanded.

In her voice was a note of warning.

"I was thinking," said Roddy, "I could row past here in my boat, far
out, where no one could see me. But I could see you."

Inez gave a quick sigh of exasperation.

"You will _not_ understand!" she exclaimed. "Why," she demanded,
"after all I have told you, after my taking this risk to make it plain
to you that you must _not_ see me, do you still persist?"

"As you wish," answered Roddy quietly, but his tone showed that his
purpose to see her was unchanged. Inez heard him laugh happily. He
moved suddenly toward her. "Why do I persist?" he asked. His voice,
sunken to a whisper, was eager, mocking. In it she discerned a new
note. It vibrated with feeling. "Why do I persist?" he whispered.
"Because you are the most wonderful person I have ever met. Because if
I did not persist I'd despise myself. Since I last saw you I have
thought of nothing but _you_, I have been miserable for the sight of
_you_. You can forbid me seeing you, but you can't take away from me
what you have given me--the things you never knew you gave me."

The girl interrupted him sharply.

"Mr. Forrester!" she cried.

Roddy went on, as though she had not spoken.

"I had to tell you," he exclaimed. "Until I told you I couldn't sleep.
It has been in my head, in my heart, every moment since I saw you. You
_had_ to know. And this night!" he exclaimed. As though calling upon
them to justify him he flung out his arms toward the magic moonlight,
the flashing waves, the great fronds of the palms rising above the
wall of the garden. "You have given me," he cried, "the most beautiful
thing that has come into my life, and on a night like this I _had_ to
speak. I had to thank you. On such a night as this," Roddy cried
breathlessly, "Jessica stole from Shylock's house to meet her lover.
On such a night as this Leander swam the Hellespont. And on this night
I had to tell you that to me you are the most wonderful and beautiful
woman in the world."

How Inez Rojas, bewildered, indignant, silent only through
astonishment, would have met this attack, Roddy never knew, for Pedro,
leaping suddenly from the shore, gave her no time to answer.
Trembling with excitement, the Venezuelan spoke rapidly.

"You must go!" he commanded. He seized Roddy by the arm and tried to
drag him toward the garden. "The police! They surround the house."

With his free hand he pointed at two figures, each carrying a lantern,
who approached rapidly along the shore from either direction.

"They are spying upon all who enter. If they find _you_!" In an agony
of alarm the old man tossed up his hands.

Under his breath Roddy cursed himself impotently for a fool. He saw
that again he would compromise the girl he had just told he held in
high regard, that he would put in jeopardy the cause for which he had
boasted to her he would give his life. Furious, and considering only
in what way he could protect Inez, he stood for a moment at a loss.
From either side the swinging lanterns drew nearer. In his rear his
retreat was cut off by the harbor. Only the dark shadows of Miramar
offered a refuge.

"Quick!" commanded Inez. "You must hide in the garden." Her voice was
cold with displeasure. "When they have gone Pedro will tell you and
you will leave. And," she added, "you will see that you do not
return."

The words sobered Roddy. They left him smarting, and they left him
quite cool. After her speech he could not accept the hospitality of
the garden. And his hiding there might even further compromise her. He
saw only one way out; to rush the nearest policeman and in the
uncertain light, hope, unrecognized, to escape. But even that chance
left the police free to explain, in their own way, why the Señorita
Rojas was in the company of a man who fled before them.

"Do you hear?" whispered Inez. "Hide yourself!"

With a cry of dismay Pedro forced Roddy into the shadow.

"It is too late!" he exclaimed.

Standing in the gateway of the garden, clearly illuminated by the
moonlight, stood Señora Rojas, with her arm in that of Pino Vega.

In spite of himself, Roddy emitted an excited chuckle. In the presence
of such odds his self-reproaches fell from him. He felt only a
pleasing thrill of danger. This was no time for regrets or
upbraidings. The situation demanded of him only quick action and that
he should keep his head. As Roddy now saw it, he was again the
base-runner, beset in front and rear. He missed only the shouts and
cheers of thousands of partisans. The players of the other side were
closing in and shortening the distance in which he could turn and run.
They had him in a trap, and, in another instant, the ball would touch
him. It was quite time, Roddy decided, to "slide!" Still hidden by the
shadow of the thatched roof, he dropped at the feet of Inez, and,
before she could understand his purpose, had turned quickly on his
face and lowered himself into the harbor. There was a faint splash and
a shower of phosphorescence. Roddy's fingers still clung to the edge
of the wharf, and Inez, sinking to her knees, brought her face close
to his.

"Come back!" she commanded. "Come back! You will drown!" She gave a
sudden gasp of horror. "The sharks!" she whispered. "You could not
live a moment." With both hands she dragged at his sleeve.

Roddy cast a quick glance at the moon. A friendly cloud was hastening
to his aid. He saw that if, for a moment longer, he could remain
concealed, he would under cover of the brief eclipse, be able to swim
to safety. He drew free of Inez, and, treading water, fearful even to
breathe, watched the lanterns of the police halt at the wharf.

The voice of Señora Rojas rose in anxious inquiry.

"Is that you, Inez?" she called.

There was no reply. Concerned as to what struggle of conscience might
not be going on in the mind of the girl, Roddy threw his arm across
the edge of the wharf and drew his shoulders clear of the water. In
the shadow Inez was still kneeling, her face was still close to his.

"Answer her!" commanded Roddy. "I'm all right." He laughed softly,
mockingly. He raised his head nearer. "'On such a night,'" he
whispered, "'Leander swam the Hellespont.' Why? Because he loved her!"

With an exclamation, partly of exasperation, partly of relief at
finding the man did not consider himself in danger, Inez rose to her
feet and stepped into the moonlight.

"Yes, I am here," she called. "I am with Pedro."

At the same moment the black cloud swept across the moon, and, with
the stealth and silence of a water rat, Roddy slipped from the wharf
and struck out toward the open harbor.

At the gate the two policemen raised their lanterns and swung them in
the face of Señora Rojas.

Vega turned upon them fiercely.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded. "Do you wish to know who I am?
Well, I am Colonel Vega. Report that to your chief. Go!"

With a gesture he waved the men to one side, and, saluting sulkily,
they moved away.

When they had gone Señora Rojas sighed with relief, but the hand that
rested upon the arm of Vega trembled.

"My dear lady!" he protested. "When I am here no harm can come."

Vega hoped that Inez had heard him. He trusted, also, that she had
observed the manner in which he had addressed the police, and how,
awed by his authority, they had slunk away. But Inez had not observed
him.

With her hands pressed against her breast, her eyes filled with fear,
she was watching in fascinated horror a thin ripple of phosphorescence
that moved leisurely and steadily out to sea.

[Illustration: On such a night, Leander swam the Hellespont.]

       *       *       *       *       *

In the _patio_ of Roddy's house Peter was reclining in a
steamer-chair. At his elbow was a long drink, and between his fingers
a long cigar. Opposite him, in another chair, was stretched young
Vicenti. At midnight, on his way home from visiting a patient, the
doctor, seeing a light in the court-yard of Roddy's house, had
clamored for admittance. To Peter the visit was most ill-timed. Roddy
had now been absent for four hours, and the imagination of his friend
was greatly disturbed. He knew for what purpose Roddy had set forth,
and he pictured him pierced with a bullet as he climbed the garden
wall, or a prisoner behind the bars of the _cartel_. He was in no mood
to entertain visitors, but the servants were in bed, and when Vicenti
knocked, Peter himself had opened the door. On any other night the
doctor would have been most welcome. He was an observing young man,
and his residence in the States enabled him to take the point of view
of Peter and Roddy, and his comments upon their country and his own
were amusing. For his attack upon General Rojas he had been greatly
offended with Roddy, but the American had written him an apology, and
by this late and informal visit Vicenti intended to show that they
were again friends.

But, for Peter, it was a severe test of self-control. Each moment his
fears for Roddy's safety increased, and of his uneasiness, in the
presence of the visitor, he dared give no sign. It was with a feeling
of genuine delight that he heard from the garden a mysterious whistle.

"Who's there?" he challenged.

"Is anybody with you?" The voice was strangely feeble, but it was the
voice of Roddy.

"Our friend Vicenti," Peter cried, warningly.

At the same moment, Roddy, clad simply in his stockings, and dripping
with water, stood swaying in the doorway.

"For Heaven's sake!" protested Peter.

Roddy grinned foolishly, and unclasping his hands from the sides of
the door, made an unsteady start toward the table on which stood the
bottles and glasses.

"I want a drink," he murmured.

"You want quinine!" cried Vicenti indignantly. "How dared you go
swimming at night! It was madness! If the fever----"

He flew into the hall where he had left his medicine-case, and Peter
ran for a bathrobe. As they returned with them there was a crash of
broken glass, and when they reached the _patio_ they found Roddy
stretched at length upon the stones.

At the same moment a little, old man sprang from the garden and knelt
beside him. It was Pedro.

"He is dead!" he cried, "he is dead!"

His grief was so real that neither Peter nor Vicenti could suppose he
was other than a friend, and without concerning himself as to how he
had been so suddenly precipitated into the scene, Vicenti, as he
poured brandy between Roddy's teeth, commanded Pedro to rub and beat
his body. Coughing and choking, Roddy signalized his return to
consciousness by kicking the little man in the stomach.

"Ah, he lives!" cried Pedro. He again dropped upon his knees and,
crossing himself, prayed his thanks.

Roddy fell into the bathrobe and into the steamer chair. Sighing
luxuriously, he closed his eyes.

"Such a fool, to faint," he murmured. "So ashamed. Made a bet--with
harbor sharks. Bet them, could not get me. I win." He opened his eyes
and stared dully at Pedro. "Hello!" he said, "there's good old Pedro.
What you doing here, Pedro?"

The old man, now recovered from his fear on Roddy's account, was in
fresh alarm as to his own, and, glancing at Vicenti, made a movement
to escape into the garden.

Roddy waved Vicenti and Peter into the hall.

"Go away," he commanded. "He wants to talk to me."

"But I must not leave you," protested the doctor. "Now I am here as
your physician, not as your guest."

"A moment," begged Roddy, "a moment." His eyes closed and his head
fell back. Pedro bent over him.

"She sent me," he whispered eagerly. "She could not sleep. She must
know to-night if you live. I hid myself in your garden, and I wait and
I wait. But you do not come, and I despair. And then," cried the old
man joyfully, "the miracle! Now my mistress can sleep in peace."

Roddy lay so still that had it not been for his sharp breathing Pedro
would have thought he had again fainted. With a sudden, sharp cry
Roddy opened his eyes. His clenched fists beat feebly on the arms of
the chair.

"It's a lie!" he shouted fiercely, "it's a lie!" His eyes were wide
and staring. Vicenti, returning hastily, looked into them and, with an
exclamation, drew back.

"The fever!" he said.

Roddy was shouting wildly.

"It's a lie!" he cried. "She did _not_ send you. She does not care
whether I drown or live. She loves Pino Vega. She will marry----"

Peter, with his arm around Roddy's neck, choked him, and held his hand
over his mouth.

"Be still," he entreated, "for God's sake, be still!" He looked
fearfully at Vicenti, but the young doctor, though his eyes were wide
with astonishment, made an impatient gesture.

"Help me get him to bed," Vicenti commanded briskly. "Take his other
arm."

With the strength the fever lent him, Roddy hurled the two men from
him.

"She and Vega--they stood on the wharf," he shouted, "you understand?
They laughed at me. And then the sharks smelt me out and followed; and
I couldn't hide because the harbor was on fire. I struck at them and
screamed, but I couldn't shake them off; they dived and turned; they
crept up on me stealthily, in great circles. They were waiting for me
to drown. Whichever way I swam I saw them, under me, on every side!
They lit the water with great streaks of flame. And she and Vega
pointed me out and laughed."

"Stop him!" shrieked Peter. "You _must not_ listen! Give him morphine!
Dope him! Stop him!"

Roddy wrenched his wrists free and ran to Pedro, clutching him by the
shoulders.

"But _we'll_ save him!" he cried. "_We'll_ set him free! Because he is
an old man. Because he is a great man. Because he is her father. We'll
make him President!" His voice soared exultantly. "To hell with Vega!"
he shouted. "To hell with Alvarez!" He flung up his arms into the
air. "Viva Rojas!" he cried.

Peter turned on Vicenti and shook his fist savagely in his face.

"What you've heard," he threatened, "you've heard under the seal of
your profession."

But the eyes that looked into his were as wild as those of the man
driven with fever. The face of the Venezuelan was jubilant, exalted,
like that of a worshipping fanatic.

"The truth!" he whispered breathlessly, "the truth!"

"The boy is raving mad," protested Peter. "He doesn't mean it. You
have heard nothing!"

From the servants' quarters there came the sound of hurrying
footsteps.

In alarm, Vicenti glanced in that direction, and then came close to
Peter, seizing him by the arm.

"If he's mad," he whispered fiercely, "then _I_ am mad, and I know ten
thousand more as mad as he."

When the sun rose dripping out of the harbor, Vicenti and Peter walked
into the garden.

"I can leave him now," said the doctor. He looked at Peter's white
face and the black rings around his eyes, and laughed. "When he
wakes," he said, "he will be in much better health than you or I."

"He certainly gave us a jolly night," sighed Peter, "and I shall never
thank you enough for staying by me and Pedro. When a man I've roomed
with for two years can't make up his mind whether I am I or a shark,
it gets on my nerves."

A few hours later, in another garden half a mile distant, Pedro was
telling his young mistress of the night just past. The tears stood in
his eyes and his hands trembled in eloquent pantomime.

"He is so like my young master, your brother," he pleaded, "so brave,
so strong, so young, and, like him, loves so deeply."

"I am very grateful," said the girl gently. "For my father and for me
he risked his life. I am grateful to him--and to God, who spared him."

Pedro lowered his eyes as he repeated: "And he loves so deeply."

The girl regarded him steadily.

"What is it you wish to say?" she demanded.

"All through the night I sat beside him," answered the old man
eagerly, "and in his fever he spoke only one name."

The girl turned from him and for a moment stood looking out into the
harbor.

"Then the others heard?" she said.

Pedro, with a deprecatory gesture, bowed. With sudden vehemence, with
a gesture of relief, the girl flung out her arms.

"I'm glad," she cried. "I am _tired_ of secrets, tired of deceit. I am
glad they know. It makes me proud! It makes me happy!"

During the long night, while Roddy had tossed and muttered, Vicenti
talked to Peter frankly and freely. He held back nothing. His
appointment as prison doctor he had received from Alvarez, but it was
impossible for any one to be long in close contact with General Rojas
and not learn to admire and love him. And for the past year Vicenti
had done all in his power to keep life in the older man and to work
for his release. But General Rojas, embittered by past experience, did
not confide in him, did not trust him. In spite of this, the doctor
had continued working in his interests. He assured Peter that the
adherents of Rojas were many, that they were well organized, that they
waited only for the proper moment to revolt against Alvarez, release
Rojas, and place him in power. On their programme Vega had no place.
They suspected his loyalty to his former patron and chief, they feared
his ambition; and they believed, were he to succeed in making himself
President, he would be the servant of Forrester, and of the other
foreigners who desired concessions, rather than of the people of
Venezuela. The amnesty, Vicenti believed, had been declared only that
Alvarez might entice Vega to Venezuela, where, when he wished, he
could lay his hands on him. When he had obtained evidence that Vega
was plotting against him he would submit this evidence to the people
and throw Vega into prison.

"Vega knows his danger," added Vicenti, "and, knowing it, he must mean
to strike soon--to-day--to-morrow. We of the Rojas faction are as
ignorant of his plans as we hope he is of ours. But in every camp
there are traitors. No one can tell at what hour all our secrets may
not be made known. Of only one thing you can be certain: matters
cannot continue as they are. Within a week you will see this country
torn by civil war, or those who oppose Alvarez, either of our party or
of Vega's, will be in prison."

When Roddy, rested and refreshed and with normal pulse and mind, came
to luncheon, Peter confided to him all that Vicenti had told him.

"If all that is going to happen," was Roddy's comment, "the sooner we
get Rojas free the better. We will begin work on the tunnel to-night."

The attacking party consisted of McKildrick, Roddy, and Peter. When
the day's task on the light-house was finished and the other workmen
had returned to the city, these three men remained behind and,
placing crowbars, picks, and sticks of dynamite in Roddy's launch,
proceeded to a little inlet a half-mile below El Morro. By seven
o'clock they had made their way through the laurel to the fortress,
and while Roddy and Peter acted as lookouts McKildrick attacked the
entrance to the tunnel. He did not, as he had boasted, open it in an
hour, but by ten o'clock the iron bars that held the slabs together
had been cut and the cement loosened. Fearful of the consequences if
they returned to the city at too late an hour, the tools and dynamite
were hidden, rubbish and vines were so scattered as to conceal the
evidence of their work, and the launch landed the conspirators at
Roddy's wharf.

"We shall say," explained Roddy, "that we have been out spearing eels,
and I suggest that we now go to the _Dos Hermanos_ and say it."

They found the café, as usual, crowded. Men of all political opinions,
officers of the army and the custom-house, from the tiny warship in
the harbor, Vegaistas, and those who secretly were adherents of Rojas,
were all gathered amicably together. The Americans, saluting
impartially their acquaintances, made their way to a table that
remained empty in the middle of the room. They had hardly seated
themselves when from a distant corner an alert young man, waving his
hand in greeting, pushed his way toward them. They recognized the
third vice-president of the Forrester Construction Company, Mr. Sam
Caldwell.

Mr. Caldwell had arrived that afternoon. He was delighted at being
free of the ship. At the house of Colonel Vega he had dined well, and
at sight of familiar faces he was inclined to unbend. He approached
the employees of the company as one conferring a favor and assured of
a welcome. He appreciated that since his arrival he was the man of the
moment. In the crowded restaurant every one knew him as the
representative of that great corporation that had dared to lock horns
with the government. As he passed the tables the officers of that
government followed him with a scowl or a sneer; those of the
Vegaistas, who looked upon him as the man who dealt out money,
ammunition and offices, with awe. How the secret supporters of Rojas
considered him was soon to appear.

"This," Roddy whispered in a quick aside, "is where I renounce the F.
C. C. and all its works."

"Don't be an ass!" entreated Peter.

Roddy rose and, with his hands sunk in his pockets, awaited the
approach of the third vice-president.

"Well, boys, here I am!" called that young man heartily. He seemed to
feel that his own surprise at finding himself outside the limits of
Greater New York must be shared by all. But, as though to see to whom
this greeting was extended, Roddy turned and glanced at his
companions.

McKildrick rose and stood uncomfortably.

"Well, Roddy," exclaimed Sam Caldwell genially, "how's business?"

Roddy's eyebrows rose.

"'Roddy?'" he repeated, as though he had not heard aright. "Are you
speaking to me?"

Sam Caldwell was conscious that over all the room there had come a
sudden hush. A waiter, hurrying with a tray of jingling glasses, by
some unseen hand was jerked by the apron and brought to abrupt
silence. In the sudden quiet Roddy's voice seemed to Caldwell to have
come through a megaphone. The pink, smooth-shaven cheeks of the
newcomer, that were in such contrast to the dark and sun-tanned faces
around him, turned slowly red.

"What's the idea?" he asked.

"You sent me a cable to Curaçao," Roddy replied, "telling me to mind
my own business."

It had never been said of Sam Caldwell that he was an unwilling or
unworthy antagonist. He accepted Roddy's challenge promptly. His
little, piglike eyes regarded Roddy contemptuously.

"I did," he retaliated, "at your father's dictation."

"Well, my business hours," continued Roddy undisturbed, "are between
eight and five. If you come out to the light-house to-morrow you will
see me minding my own business and bossing a gang of niggers, at
twenty dollars a week. Outside of business hours I choose my own
company."

Caldwell came closer to him and dropped his voice.

"Are you sober?" he demanded.

"Perfectly," said Roddy.

Caldwell surveyed him grimly.

"You are more out of hand than we thought," he commented. "I have
heard some pretty strange tales about you this afternoon. Are they
true?"

"You have your own methods of finding out," returned Roddy. He waved
his hand toward the table. "If you wish to join these gentlemen I am
delighted to withdraw."

Caldwell retreated a few steps and then turned back angrily.

"I'll have a talk with you to-morrow," he said, "and to-night I'll
cable your father what you are doing here."

Roddy bowed and slightly raised his voice, so that it reached to every
part of the room.

"If you can interest my father," he said, "in anything that concerns
his son I shall be grateful."

As Caldwell made his way to the door, and Roddy, frowning gravely,
sank back into his chair, the long silence was broken by a babble of
whispered questions and rapid answers. Even to those who understood
no English the pantomime had been sufficiently enlightening.
Unobtrusively the secret agents of Alvarez rose from the tables and
stole into the night. A half-hour later it was known in Caracas that
the son of Mr. Forrester had publicly insulted the representative of
his father, the arch-enemy of the government, and had apparently
ranged himself on the side of Alvarez. Hitherto the _Dos Hermanos_ had
been free from politics, but as Roddy made his exit from the café, the
officers of the army chose the moment for a demonstration. Revolution
was in the air, and they desired to declare their loyalty. Rising to
their feet and raising their glasses to Roddy they cried, "Bravo,
bravo! Viva Alvarez!"

Bowing and nodding to them and wishing them good-night, Roddy hurried
to the street.

Under the lamps of the Alameda McKildrick regarded him quizzically.

"And what do you gain by that?" he asked.

"Well, I force Sam into the open," declared Roddy, "and I'm no longer
on the suspect list. Look at my record! I've insulted everybody. I
have insulted Rojas, insulted Vega, insulted Caldwell, all enemies of
Alvarez. So now the Alvarez crowd will love me. Now they trust me! If
they caught me digging the tunnel and I told them I was building a
light-house, they'd believe me. If I insult a few more people they'll
give me the Order of Bolivar."

The next morning Roddy attended Mass. But he was not entirely
engrossed in his devotions. Starting from the front entrance of the
church he moved slowly nearer and nearer to the altar, and, slipping
from the shelter of one pillar to another, anxiously scanned the rows
of kneeling women. He found the mantilla a baffling disguise, and as
each woman present in the church wore one, and as the hair of each was
black, and as the back of the head of one woman is very much like that
of another, it was not until the worshippers had turned to leave that
he discovered the Señorita Inez Rojas. In her black satin dress, with
her face wreathed by the black lace mantilla, Roddy thought he had
never seen her look more beautiful.

After her explicit commands that he should not attempt to see her
again he was most anxious she should not learn how soon he had
disobeyed her; and that she was walking with her sister and mother
made it still more necessary that he should remain unnoticed.

But in his eagerness and delight in the sight of her he leaned far
forward. Inez, at that instant raising her eyes, saw him. Of the two
Roddy was the more concerned. The girl made no sign of recognition,
but the next moment, with an exclamation, she suddenly unclasped her
hands, and, as though to show they were empty, held them toward her
mother and sister. Leaving them, she returned hurriedly toward the
altar. Señora Rojas and the sister continued on their way toward the
door, exchanging greetings with the women of their acquaintance, whom,
after an absence of two years, they now met for the first time. Seeing
them thus engaged Inez paused and, turning, looked directly at Roddy.
Her glance was not forbidding, and Roddy, who needed but little
encouragement, hastened to follow. The church was very dark. The
sunlight came only through the lifted curtains at the farthest
entrance, and the acolytes were already extinguishing the candles
that had illuminated the altar. As Inez, in the centre of the church,
picked her way among the scattered praying-chairs, Roddy, in the side
aisle and hidden by the pillars, kept pace with her.

Directly in front of the altar Inez stooped, and, after picking up a
fan and a prayer-book, stood irresolutely looking about her. Roddy
cautiously emerged from the side aisle and from behind the last of the
long row of pillars. Inez came quickly toward him. The last of the
acolytes to leave the altar, in their haste to depart, stumbled and
tripped past them, leaving them quite alone. Concealed by the great
pillar from all of those in the far front of the church, Inez gave
Roddy her hand. The eyes that looked into his were serious, penitent.

"I am so sorry," she begged; "can you forgive me?"

"Forgive you!" whispered Roddy. His voice was filled with such delight
that it was apparently a sufficient answer. Inez, smiling slightly,
withdrew her hand, and taking from inside her glove a folded piece of
paper, thrust it toward him.

"I brought this for you," she said.

Roddy seized it greedily.

"For me!" he exclaimed in surprise. As though in apology for the
question he raised his eyes appealingly. "How did you know," he
begged, "that I would be here?"

For an instant, with a frown, the girl regarded him steadily. Then her
cheeks flushed slightly and her eyes grew radiant. She flashed upon
him the same mocking, dazzling smile that twice before had left him in
complete subjection.

"How did you know," she returned, "_I_ would be here?"

She moved instantly from him, but Roddy started recklessly in pursuit.

"Wait!" he demanded. "Just what does that mean?"

With an imperative gesture the girl motioned him back, and then, as
though to soften the harshness of the gesture, reassured him in a
voice full of consideration.

"The note will tell you," she whispered, and, turning her back on him,
hurried to the door.

Roddy allowed her sufficient time in which to leave the neighborhood
of the church, and while he waited, as the most obvious method of
expressing his feelings, stuffed all the coins in his pockets into the
poor-box. From the church he hastened to an empty bench in the
Alameda, and opened the note. He was surprised to find that it came
from Mrs. Broughton, the wife of the English Consul at Porto Cabello.
She was an American girl who, against the advice of her family, had
married an Englishman, and one much older than herself. Since their
marriage he had indulged and spoiled her as recklessly as any American
might have done, and at the same time, in his choice of a wife, had
continued to consider himself a most fortunate individual. Since his
arrival at Porto Cabello Roddy had been a friend of each. For hours he
would play in the garden with their children, without considering it
necessary to inform either the father or mother that he was on the
premises; and on many evenings the Broughtons and himself sat in his
_patio_ reading the American periodicals, without a word being spoken
by any one of them until they said good-night. But since his return
from Curaçao, Roddy had been too occupied with coming events to
remember old friends.

The note read:

     "DEAR MR. FORRESTER: My husband and I have not seen you for
     ages, and the children cry for 'Uncle Roddy.' Will you and
     Mr. De Peyster take tea with us day after to-morrow? The
     only other friend who is coming _will give you this note_."

The Broughtons had been stationed at Porto Cabello for five years,
and, as Roddy now saw, it was most natural that in the limited social
life of Porto Cabello the two American girls should be friends. That
he had not already thought of the possibility of this filled him with
rage, and, at the same time, the promise held forth by the note
thrilled him with pleasure. He leaped to his feet and danced
jubilantly upon the gravel walk. Tearing the note into scraps he
hurled them into the air.

"Mary Broughton!" he exclaimed ecstatically, "you're a brick!"

Such was his feeling of gratitude to the lady, that he at once sought
out a confectioner's and sent her many pounds of the candied fruits
that have made Venezuela famous, and that, on this occasion, for
several days made the Broughton children extremely ill.

That night the attack on the barricade to the tunnel was made with a
vigor no cement nor rusty iron could resist. Inspired by the thought
that on the morrow he would see Inez, and that she herself wished to
see him, and anxious to give her a good report of the work of rescue,
Roddy toiled like a coal-passer. His energy moved McKildrick and Peter
to endeavors equally strenuous, and by nine o'clock the great stone
slabs were wedged apart, and on the warm-scented night air and upon
the sweating bodies of the men there struck a cold, foul breath that
told them one end of the tunnel lay open.



VII


Roddy was for at once dashing down the stone steps and exploring the
tunnel, but McKildrick held him back.

"You couldn't live for a moment," he protested, "and it may be days
before we can enter." In proof of what he said, he lit one wax match
after another, and as he passed each over the mouth of the tunnel
Roddy saw the flame sicken and die.

"That has been a tomb for half a century," McKildrick reminded him.
"Even if a strong, young idiot like you could breathe that air, Rojas
couldn't."

"All the same, I am going down," said Roddy.

"And I tell you, you are not!" returned McKildrick.

Roddy, jubilant and grandly excited, laughed mockingly.

"'Am _I_ the Governor of these Isles, or is it an Emilio Aguinaldo?'"
he demanded. "This is _my_ expedition, and I speak to lead the forlorn
hope."

Exclaiming with impatience, McKildrick brought a rope and, making a
noose, slipped it under Roddy's arms.

"All we ask," he said grimly, "is that when you faint you'll fall with
your head toward us. Otherwise we will bump it into a jelly."

Roddy switched on the light in his electric torch and, like a diver
descending a sea-ladder, moved cautiously down the stone steps.
Holding the rope taut, Peter leaned over the opening.

"When the snakes and bats and vampires get you," he warned, "you'll
wish you were back among the sharks!"

But Roddy did not hear him. As though warding off a blow he threw his
hands across his face and dropped heavily.

"Heave!" cried Peter.

The two men sank their heels in the broken rubbish and dragged on the
rope until they could lay violent hands on Roddy's shoulders. With
unnecessary roughness they pulled him out of the opening and let him
fall.

When Roddy came to he rose sheepishly.

"We'll have to postpone that expedition," he said, "until we can count
on better ventilation. Meanwhile, if any gentleman wants to say 'I
told you so,' I'll listen to him."

They replaced the slabs over the mouth of the tunnel, but left wide
openings through which the air and sunlight could circulate, and,
after concealing these openings with vines, returned to Roddy's house.
There they found Vicenti awaiting them. He was the bearer of important
news. The adherents of Colonel Vega, he told them, were assembling in
force near Porto Cabello, and it was well understood by the government
that at any moment Vega might join them and proclaim his revolution.
That he was not already under arrest was due to the fact that the
government wished to seize not only the leader, but all of those who
were planning to leave the city with him. The home of Vega was
surrounded, and he himself, in his walks abroad, closely guarded. That
he would be able to escape seemed all but impossible.

"At the same time," continued Vicenti, "our own party is in readiness.
If Vega reaches his followers and starts on his march to the capital
we will start an uprising here in favor of Rojas. If we could free
Rojas and show him to the people, nothing could save Alvarez. Alvarez
knows that as well as ourselves. But without artillery it is
impossible to subdue the fortress of San Carlos. We can take this
city; we can seize the barracks, the custom-house, but not San Carlos.
There also is this danger; that Alvarez, knowing without Rojas our
party would fall to pieces, may at the first outbreak order him to be
shot."

Roddy asked Vicenti, as the physician of Rojas, if he thought Rojas
were strong enough to lead a campaign.

"He is not," declared Vicenti, "but we would not ask it of him. Let
him only show himself and there will be no campaign. Even the
government troops would desert to him. But," he added with a sigh,
"why talk of the impossible! The troops that hold San Carlos are bound
to Alvarez. He has placed there only those from his own plantation; he
has paid them royally. And they have other reasons for fighting to the
death. Since they have been stationed at Porto Cabello their conduct
has been unspeakable. And the men of this town hate them as much as
the women fear them. Their cruelty to the political prisoners is well
known, and they understand that if an uprising started here where
Rojas has lived, where he is dearly loved, they need expect no mercy.
They will fight, not to protect San Carlos, but for their lives."

Vicenti spoke with such genuine feeling that had Roddy felt free to do
so he would have told him of the plan to rescue Rojas. But both Peter
and McKildrick had warned him that until the last moment no one, save
themselves, must learn the secret of the tunnel.

So, while they thanked Vicenti for his confidences, they separated for
the night without having made him any return in kind.

The next morning, Sam Caldwell, under the guidance of McKildrick, paid
an official visit to the light-house on which the men of the F. C. C.
were then at work. When his tour of inspection was finished he
returned to the wheel-house of the tug that had brought him across the
harbor, and sent for Roddy. Roddy appeared before him in his
working-clothes. They consisted of very few garments, and those were
entirely concealed by the harbor mud. Caldwell, in cool, clean duck
and a flamboyant Panama hat, signified with a grin that he enjoyed the
contrast. He did not like Roddy, and Roddy treated him with open
insolence. They were nearly of the same age and for years had known
each other, but they had always been at war. As son of the president
of the company, every chance had been given Roddy to advance his own
interests. And it was not so much that he had failed to be of service
to the company, as that he had failed to push himself forward, that
caused Caldwell to regard him with easy contempt.

On his side, Roddy considered Caldwell the bribe-giver and keeper of
the corruption fund for the company, and, as such, beneath his royal
notice. It therefore followed that in his present position of brief
authority over Roddy, Caldwell found a certain enjoyment. This he
concealed beneath the busy air of a man of affairs.

"I have a cable here from your father, Roddy," he began briskly.
"Translated, the part that refers to you reads, 'Tell Forrester take
orders from you or leave service company. If refuses, furnish return
passage, month's wages.'"

After a pause, Roddy said: "I take it that is in answer to a cable
from you."

"Exactly," assented Caldwell. "I informed your father you were
insubordinate to my authority, and that I had been reliably informed
you were hostile to our interests. What you do as an individual
doesn't count for much, but as the son of your father, apparently down
here at least, it does. Why you made that play at me last night I
don't know, and I haven't time to find out. I am not here to teach you
manners. But when you butt in and interfere with the business of the
company I must take notice. You've either got to stop working against
us, or go home. Which do you want to do? And before you answer,"
Caldwell added, "you ought to know that, as it is, you don't stand
very high at headquarters. When your father got word you'd been
fighting Vega, our friend, in defense of Alvarez, the man that's
robbing us, that's giving us all this trouble, he was naturally pretty
hot. He said to me: 'Roddy isn't down there to mix up in politics, but
if he does, he must mix up on our side. I can't take money from the
company to support my son, or any one else, who is against it.' That's
what your father said to me. Now, as I understand it, although it is
none of my business, you are dependent on him, and I advise----"

"As you say," interrupted Roddy, "it's none of your business. The
other proposition," he went on, "that I can't take money from the
company and work _against_ it, is fair enough. What you call my work
against it was begun before I knew it was in any way opposed to the
company's interests. Now that I do know, I quite agree that either I
must give up my outside job or quit working for you." Roddy reached to
the shoulder of his flannel shirt, and meditatively began to unroll
his damp and mud-soaked sleeve. "I guess I'll quit now!" he said.

The answer was not the one Caldwell expected or desired. As an
employee of the company Roddy was not important, but what he was doing
as an individual, which had so greatly excited Vega, was apparently
of much importance. And what it might be Sam Caldwell was anxious to
discover. He had enjoyed his moment of triumph and now adopted a tone
more conciliatory.

"There's no use getting hot about it," he urged. "Better think it
over."

Roddy nodded, and started to leave the wheel-house.

"Have thought it over," he said.

As Caldwell saw it, Roddy was acting from pique and in the belief that
his father would continue to supply him with funds. This Caldwell knew
was not the intention of Mr. Forrester. He had directed Caldwell to
inform Roddy that if he deliberately opposed him he must not only seek
work elsewhere, but that he did not think he should continue to ask
his father for support. Caldwell proceeded to make this quite plain to
Roddy, but, except that the color in his face deepened and that his
jaw set more firmly, Roddy made no sign.

"Very well, then," concluded Caldwell, "you leave me no other course
than to carry out your father's direction. I'll give you a month's
wages and pay your passage-money home."

"I'm not going home," returned Roddy, "and I don't want any money I
haven't worked for. The company isn't discharging me," he added with
a grin, "as it would a cook. I am discharging the company."

"I warn you your father won't stand for it," protested Caldwell.

Roddy turned back, and in a serious tone, and emphasizing his words
with a pointed forefinger, spoke earnestly.

"Sam," he said, "I give you my word, father is in wrong. _You_ are in
wrong. You're both backing the wrong stable. When this row starts your
man Vega won't run one, two, three."

"You mean Rojas?" said Caldwell.

"I mean Rojas," replied Roddy. "And if you and father had trusted me I
could have told you so three months ago. It would have saved you a lot
of money. It isn't too late even now. You'd better listen to me."

Caldwell laughed comfortably.

"Rojas is a back number," he said. "He's an old man, and a dead one.
And besides--" He hesitated and glanced away.

"Well?" demanded Roddy.

"And, besides," continued Caldwell slowly, picking his words, "Vega is
going to marry his daughter, and so we win both ways. And Vega is
amenable to reason. _He_ will help us." As though in a sudden burst
of confidence he added ingratiatingly, "And you could help your
father, too, if you liked. If you'll tell me what the Rojas party mean
to do I'll set you right with your father. What do you say?"

"What do I say, you poor, little--thing!" Roddy roared. Then he
laughed shortly and shrugged his shoulders. "I'll say this much," he
added. "If I were sure you couldn't swim I'd throw you into the
harbor."

"So you could pull me out," laughed Caldwell. "Why don't you? You know
you were always a grand-stand actor, Roddy. Think how heroic it would
be," he taunted, "to rescue the hated enemy, to save my life!"

Roddy, unmoved, regarded him thoughtfully.

"It would be an awful thing to have on one's conscience," he said, and
left the wheel-house.

When, at five o'clock that same afternoon, Roddy found himself sitting
opposite Inez Rojas in a properly appointed drawing-room, guarded by a
properly appointed chaperon and with a cup of tea on his knee, the
situation struck him not only as delightful, but comic. With inward
amusement he thought of their other meetings: those before sunrise,
and the one by moonlight when Inez had told him he was seeing her for
the last time, and when policemen threatened his advance and sharks
cut off his retreat. From a smile in the eyes of the girl herself
Roddy guessed that she also found the meeting not without its humorous
side. Roddy soon discovered he could not adjust his feelings to the
exigencies of an afternoon call. After doing his duty as an adopted
uncle to the Broughton children and to his hostess and her tea and to
Peter, in permitting him ten minutes' talk with Inez, he brought that
interview to an abrupt end.

"Miss Rojas," he exclaimed, "you haven't seen Mrs. Broughton's garden
in two years, have you? Such a lot of things grow up in two years. Let
me introduce them to you."

Giving her no chance to demur, Roddy strode out of the French windows
into the garden, and, as Inez with an apologetic bow to the others
followed, Peter moved to a chair beside Mrs. Broughton and held out
his empty cup.

"There's a certain subtlety about Roddy's methods," he remarked, "that
would easily deceive the deaf, dumb and blind."

The garden was full of rare trees, plants and flowers brought from
every island of the Caribbean Sea, but Roddy did not pause to observe
them. He led the way to a bench under a cluster of young bamboo trees
and motioned to the girl to sit down. When she had done so he seated
himself sideways on the bench and gazed at her. His eyes were filled
with happiness.

"It's quite too wonderful to be true," he said contentedly.

Inez Rojas turned to the tropical splendor of the garden.

"Yes," she answered. "Everything grows so fast here. The change is
quite wonderful."

Roddy shook his head at her disappointedly.

"You mustn't do that," he reproved her gravely; "when you know what I
mean you mustn't pretend to think I mean something else. It's not
honest. And time is too short. To me--these moments are too
tremendously valuable. Every other time I have seen you I've had to
keep looking over my shoulder for spies. Even now," he exclaimed in
alarm, "those infernal Broughton children may find me and want to play
ride-a-cock-horse! So you see," he went on eagerly, "you must not
waste time misunderstanding me."

"Will you tell me about the tunnel?" asked the girl.

"The tunnel!" repeated Roddy blankly.

But he saw that her mind was occupied only with thoughts of her
father, and at once, briskly and clearly, he explained to her all that
had been accomplished, and all the plots and counter-plots that were
in the air.

"And how soon," asked the girl, "do you think it will be safe to enter
the tunnel?"

Roddy answered that McKildrick thought in two or three days it would
be clean of poisonous gases, but that that night they would again
attempt to explore it.

"If I could only help!" exclaimed Inez. "It is not fair that strangers
to my father should be taking a risk that should fall to one of his
children. It would mean so much, it would make me so happy, if I could
feel I had done any little thing for him. You cannot know how grateful
I am to you all, to your friends, and to you!" Her eyes opened wide in
sympathy. "And you were so ill," she exclaimed, "and the fever is so
likely to return. I do not see how it is possible for you to work at
night at El Morro and by day on the light-house and not break down. We
have no right to permit it."

"My health," explained Roddy dryly, "is in no danger from overwork. I
am not employed by the company any longer. If I like I can sleep all
day. I've discharged myself. I've lost my job."

"You have quarrelled with your father," said the girl quickly, "on
account of my father? You must not!" she exclaimed. "Indeed, we
cannot accept such a sacrifice."

"The misunderstanding with my father," Roddy assured her, "is one of
long standing. I've never made a success of what he's given me to do,
and this is only the last of a series of failures. You mustn't try to
make me out an unselfish person. I am sacrificing nothing. Rather, in
a way, I have gained my independence. At least, if I get a position
now, people can't say I obtained it through my father's influence. Of
course, it's awkward to be poor," added Roddy dispassionately,
"because I had meant to ask you to marry me."

With an exclamation the girl partly rose and then sank back,
retreating to the farthest limit of the bench.

"Mr. Forrester!" she began with spirit.

"I know what you're going to say," interrupted Roddy confidently. "But
I ought to tell you that that doesn't weigh with me at all. I never
could see," he exclaimed impatiently, "why, if you love a girl, the
fact that she is engaged should make any difference--do _you_? It is,
of course, an obstacle, but if you are the right man, and the other
man is not, it certainly is best for everybody that you should make
that plain to her before she marries the wrong man. In your case it
certainly has made no difference to me, and I mean to fight for you
until you turn back from the altar. Of course, when Vega told me you
were engaged to him it was a shock; but you must admit I didn't let it
worry me much. I told you as soon as I saw you that I loved you----"

The girl was looking at him so strangely that Roddy was forced to
pause.

"I beg your pardon!" he said.

The eyes of Inez were searching his closely. When she spoke her voice
was cold and even.

"Then it was Colonel Vega," she said, "who told you I was engaged to
him."

"Of course," said Roddy. "He told me the night we crossed from
Curaçao."

Deep back in the serious, searching eyes Roddy thought that for an
instant he detected a smile, mischievous and mocking; but as he leaned
forward the eyes again grew grave and critical. With her head slightly
on one side and with her hands clasped on her knee, Inez regarded him
with curiosity.

"And that made no difference to you?" she asked.

"Why should it?" demanded Roddy. "A cat can look at a king; why may
not I look at the most wonderful and lovely----"

In the same even tones of one asking an abstract question the girl
interrupted him.

"But you must have known," she said, "that I would not engage myself
to any man unless I loved him. Or do you think that, like the women
here, I would marry as I was told?"

Roddy, not at all certain into what difficulties her questions were
leading him, answered with caution.

"No," he replied doubtfully, "I didn't exactly think that, either."

"Then," declared the girl, "you must have thought, no matter how much
I loved the man to whom I was engaged, that you could make me turn
from him."

Roddy held out his hands appealingly.

"Don't put it that way!" he begged. "I've never thought I was better
than any other man. I certainly never thought I was good enough for
you. All I'm sure of is that no man on earth can care for you more.
It's the best thing, the only big thing, that ever came into my life.
And now it's the only thing left. Yesterday I thought I was rich, and
I was glad because I had so much to offer you. But now that I've no
money at all, now that I'm the Disinherited One, it doesn't seem to
make any difference. At least, it would not to me. Because if I could
make you care as I care for you, it wouldn't make any difference to
you, either. No one on earth could love you more," pleaded Roddy. "I
know it. I feel it. There is nothing else so true! Other men may bring
other gifts, but 'Mine is the heart at your feet! He that hath more,'"
he challenged, "'let him give!' All I know," he whispered fiercely,
"is, that I _love_ you, I _love_ you, I _love_ you!"

He was so moved, he felt what he said so truly, it was for him such
happiness to speak, that his voice shook and, unknown to him, the
tears stood in his eyes. In answer, he saw the eyes of the girl
soften, her lips drew into a distracting and lovely line. Swiftly,
with an ineffable and gracious gesture, she stooped, and catching up
one of his hands held it for an instant against her cheek, and then,
springing to her feet, ran from him up the garden path to the house.

Astounded, jubilant, in utter disbelief of his own senses, Roddy sat
motionless. In dumb gratitude he gazed about him at the beautiful
sunlit garden, drinking in deep draughts of happiness.

So sure was he that in his present state of mind he could not again,
before the others, face Inez, that, like one in a dream, he stumbled
through the garden to the gate that opened on the street and so
returned home.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night McKildrick gave him permission to enter the tunnel. The
gases had evaporated, and into the entrance the salt air of the sea
and the tropical sun had fought their way. The party consisted of
McKildrick, Peter and Roddy and, as the personal representative of
Inez, Pedro, who arrived on foot from the direction of the town.

"She, herself," he confided secretly to Roddy, "wished to come."

"She did!" exclaimed Roddy joyfully. "Why didn't she?"

"I told her your mind would be filled with more important matters,"
returned Pedro, seeking approval. "Was I not right?"

Roddy, whose mind was filled only with Inez and who still felt the
touch of her hand upon his, assented without enthusiasm.

McKildrick was for deciding by lot who should explore the underground
passage, but Roddy protested that that duty belonged to him alone.
With a rope around his waist, upon which he was to pull if he needed
aid, an electric torch and a revolver he entered the tunnel. It led
down and straight before him. The air was damp and chilly, but in
breathing he now found no difficulty. Nor, at first, was his path in
any way impeded. His torch showed him solid walls, white and
discolored, and in places dripping with water. But of the bats, ghosts
and vampires, for which Peter had cheerfully prepared him, there was
no sign. Instead, the only sounds that greeted his ears were the
reverberating echoes of his own footsteps. He could not tell how far
he had come, but the rope he dragged behind him was each moment
growing more irksome, and from this he judged he must be far advanced.

The tunnel now began to twist and turn sharply, and at one place he
found a shaft for light and ventilation that had once opened to the
sky. This had been closed with a gridiron of bars, upon which rested
loose stones roughly held together by cement. Some of these had fallen
through the bars and blocked his progress, and to advance it was
necessary to remove them. He stuck his torch in a crevice and untied
the rope. When he had cleared his way he left the rope where he had
dropped it. Freed of this impediment he was able to proceed more
quickly, and he soon found himself in that part of the tunnel that had
been cut through the solid rock and which he knew lay under the waters
of the harbor. The air here was less pure. His eyes began to smart
and his ears to suffer from the pressure. He knew he should turn back,
but until he had found the other end of the tunnel he was loth to do
so. Against his better judgment he hastened his footsteps; stumbling,
slipping, at times splashing in pools of water, he now ran forward. He
knew that he was losing strength, and that to regain the mouth of the
tunnel he would need all that was left to him. But he still pushed
forward. The air had now turned foul; his head and chest ached, as
when he had been long under water, and his legs were like lead. He was
just upon the point of abandoning his purpose when there rose before
him a solid wall. He staggered to it, and, leaning against it,
joyfully beat upon it with his fists. He knew that at last only a few
feet separated him from the man he had set out to save. So great was
his delight and so anxious was he that Rojas should share in it, that
without considering that no slight sound could penetrate the barrier,
he struck three times upon it with the butt of his revolver, and then,
choking and gasping like a drowning man, staggered back toward the
opening. Half-way he was met by McKildrick and Peter, who, finding no
pressure on the end of the rope, had drawn it to them and, fearing for
Roddy's safety, had come to his rescue. They gave him an arm each,
and the fresh air soon revived him. He told McKildrick what he had
seen, and from his description of the second wall the engineer
described how it should be opened.

"But without a confederate on the other side," he said, "we can do
nothing."

"Then," declared Roddy, "the time has come to enroll Vicenti in the
Honorable Order of the White Mice."

On their return to Roddy's house they sent for Vicenti, and Roddy,
having first forced him to subscribe to terrifying oaths, told the
secret of the tunnel.

Tears of genuine happiness came to the eyes of the amazed and
delighted Venezuelan. In his excitement he embraced Roddy and
protested that with such companions and in such a cause he would
gladly give his life. McKildrick assured him that when he learned of
the part he was to play in the rescue he would see that they had
already taken the liberty of accepting that sacrifice. It was
necessary, he explained, that the wall between the tunnel and the cell
should fall at the first blow. An attempt to slowly undermine it, or
to pick it to pieces, would be overheard and lead to discovery. He
therefore intended to rend the barrier apart by a single shock of
dynamite. But in this also there was danger; not to those in the
tunnel, who, knowing at what moment the mine was timed to explode,
could retreat to a safe distance, but to the man they wished to set
free. The problem, as McKildrick pointed it out, was to make the
charges of dynamite sufficiently strong to force a breach in the wall
through which Rojas could escape into the tunnel, and yet not so
strong as to throw the wall upon Rojas and any one who might be with
him.

"And I," cried Vicenti, "will be the one who will be with him!"

"Good!" said Roddy. "That's what we hoped. It will be your part, then,
to prepare General Rojas, to keep him away from the wall when we blow
it open, and to pass him through the breach to us. Everything will
have to be arranged beforehand. We can't signal through the wall or
they would hear it. We can only agree in advance as to the exact
moment it is to fall, and then trust that nothing will hang fire,
either on your side of the barrier or on ours."

"And after we get him into the tunnel!" warned Vicenti, as excited as
though the fact were already accomplished, "we must still fight for
his life. The explosion will bring every soldier in the fortress to
the cell, and they will follow us."

"There's several sharp turns in the tunnel," said McKildrick "and
behind one of them a man with a revolver could hold back the lot!"

"I speak to do that!" cried Roddy jealously. "I speak to be Horatius!"

"'And I will stand on thy right hand,'" declared Peter; "'and hold the
bridge with thee.' But you know, Roddy," he added earnestly, "you're
an awful bad shot. If you go shooting up that subway in the dark
you'll kill both of us. You'd better take a base-ball bat and swat
them as they come round the turn."

"And then," cried Roddy, springing to his feet, "we'll rush Rojas down
to the launch! And in twelve hours we'll land him safe in Curaçao.
Heavens!" he exclaimed, "what a reception they'll give him!"

The cold and acid tones of McKildrick cast a sudden chill upon the
enthusiasm.

"Before we design the triumphal arches," he said, "suppose we first
get him out of prison."

When at last the conference came to an end and Vicenti rose to go,
Roddy declared himself too excited to sleep and volunteered to
accompany the doctor to his door. But the cause of his insomnia was
not General Rojas but the daughter of General Rojas, and what called
him forth into the moonlit Alameda was his need to think undisturbed
of Inez, and, before he slept, to wish "good-night" to the house that
sheltered her. In this vigil Roddy found a deep and melancholy
satisfaction. From where he sat on a stone bench in the black shadows
of the trees that arched the Alameda, Miramar, on the opposite side of
the street, rose before him. Its yellow walls now were white and
ghostlike. In the moonlight it glistened like a palace of frosted
silver. The palace was asleep, and in the garden not a leaf stirred.
The harbor breeze had died, and the great fronds of the palms, like
rigid and glittering sword-blades, were clear-cut against the stars.
The boulevard in which he sat stretched its great length, empty and
silent. And Miramar seemed a dream palace set in a dream world, a
world filled with strange, intangible people, intent on strange,
fantastic plots. To Roddy the father, who the day before had cast him
off, seemed unreal; the old man buried in a living sepulchre, and for
whom in a few hours he might lose his life, was unreal; as unreal as
the idea that he might lose his life. In all the little world about
him there was nothing real, nothing that counted, nothing living and
actual, save the girl asleep in the palace of frosted silver and his
love for her.

His love for her made the fact that he was without money, and with no
profession, talent or bread-and-butter knowledge that would serve to
keep even himself alive, a matter of no consequence. It made the
thought that Inez was promised to another man equally unimportant. The
only fact was his love for her, and of that he could not doubt the
outcome. He could not believe God had brought into his life such
happiness only to take it from him.

When he woke the next morning the necessity of seeing Inez again and
at once was imperative. Since she had left him the afternoon before,
in the garden of Mrs. Broughton, she had entirely occupied his
thoughts. Until he saw her he could enjoy no peace. Against the
circumstances that kept them apart he chafed and rebelled. He
considered it would be some comfort, at least, to revisit the spot
where he last had spoken with her, and where from pity or a desire to
spare him she had let him tell her he loved her.

The unusual moment at which he made his call did not seem to surprise
Mrs. Broughton. It was almost as though she were expecting him.

"My reason for coming at this absurd hour," began Roddy in some
embarrassment, "is to apologize for running away yesterday without
wishing you 'good-by.' I suddenly remembered----"

The young matron stopped him with a frown.

"I am disappointed, Roddy," she interrupted, "and hurt. If you
distrust me, if you won't confide in an old friend no matter how much
she may wish to help you, she can only----"

"Oh!" cried Roddy abjectly, casting aside all subterfuge, "_will_ you
help me? Please, Mrs. Broughton!" he begged. "_Dear_ Mrs. Broughton!
Fix it so I can see her. I am _so_ miserable," he pleaded, "and I am
so happy."

With the joyful light of the match-maker who sees her plans proceeding
to success Mrs. Broughton beamed upon him.

"By a strange coincidence," she began, in tones tantalizingly slow, "a
usually proud and haughty young person condescended to come to me this
morning for advice. _She_ doesn't distrust me. She believes----"

"And what did you advise?" begged Roddy.

"I advised her to wait in the garden until I sent a note telling
you----"

Already Roddy was at the door.

"What part of the garden?" he shouted. "Never mind!" he cried in
alarm, lest Mrs. Broughton should volunteer to guide him. "Don't
bother to show me; I can find her."

Mrs. Broughton went into the Consulate and complained to her husband.

"It makes Roddy so selfish," she protested.

"What did you think he'd do?" demanded Broughton--"ask you to go with
him? You forget Roddy comes from your own happy country where no
chaperon is expected to do her duty."

Inez was standing by the bench at which they had parted. Above her and
around her the feathery leaves of the bamboo trees whispered and
shivered, shading her in a canopy of delicate sun-streaked green.

Like a man who gains the solid earth after a strenuous struggle in the
waves, Roddy gave a deep sigh of content.

"It has been so hard," he said simply. "It's been so long! I have been
parched, starved for a sight of you!"

At other times when they had been together the eyes of the girl always
looked into his steadily or curiously. Now they were elusive, shy,
glowing with a new radiance. They avoided him and smiled upon the
beautiful sun-steeped garden as though sharing some hidden and happy
secret.

"I sent for you," she began, "to tell you----"

Roddy shook his head emphatically.

"You didn't send for me," he said. "I came of my own accord. Last
night you didn't send for me either, but all through the night I sat
outside your house. This morning I am here because this is where I
last saw you. And I find _you_. It's a sign! I thought my heart led me
here, but I think now it was the gods! They are on my side. They fight
for me. Why do you try to fight against the gods?"

His voice was very low, very tender. He bent forward, and the girl,
still avoiding his eyes, sank back upon the bench, and Roddy, seating
himself, leaned over her.

"Remember!" he whispered, "though the mills of the gods grind slow,
they grind exceeding fine. The day is coming when you will never have
to send for me again. You cannot escape it, or me. I am sorry--but I
have come into your life--to stay!"

The girl breathed quickly, and, as though casting off the spell of his
voice and the feeling it carried with it, suddenly threw out her hands
and, turning quickly, faced him.

"I must tell you what makes it so hard," she said, "why I must not
listen to you. It is this. I must not think of myself. I must not
think of you, except--" She paused, and then added, slowly and
defiantly--"as the one person who can save my father! Do you
understand? Do I make it plain? I am _making use_ of you. I have led
you on. I have kept you near me, for his sake. I am sacrificing
you--for him!" Her voice was trembling, miserable. With her clenched
fist she beat upon her knee. "I had to tell you," she murmured, "I had
to tell you! I had to remember," she protested fiercely, "that I am
nothing, that I have no life of my own. Until he is free I do not
exist. I am not a girl to love, or to listen to love. I can be only
the daughter of the dear, great soul who, without you, may die. And
all you can be to me is the man who can save him!" She raised her
eyes, unhappily, appealingly. "Even if you despised me," she
whispered, "I had to tell you."

Roddy's eyes were as miserable as her own. He reached out his arms to
her, as though he would shelter her from herself and from the whole
world.

"But, my dear one, my wonderful one," he cried, "can't you see that's
only morbid, only wicked? _You_ led _me_ on?" he cried. He laughed
jubilantly, happily. "Did I _need_ leading? Didn't I love you from the
first moment you rode toward me out of the sunrise, bringing the day
with you? How could I help but love you? You've done nothing to make
me love you; you've only been the most glorious, the most beautiful
woman----"

At a sign from the girl he stopped obediently.

"Can't I love you," he demanded, "and work for your father the more,
because I love you?"

The girl sat suddenly erect and clasped her hands. Her shoulders moved
slightly, as though with sudden cold.

"It frightens me!" she whispered. "Before you came I thought of him
always, and nothing else, only of him. I dreamed of him; terrible,
haunting dreams. Each day I prayed and worked for him. And then--" she
paused, and, as though seeking help to continue, looked appealingly
into Roddy's eyes. Her own were uncertain, troubled, filled with
distress. "And then you came," she said. "And now I find I think of
you. It is disloyal, wicked! I forget how much he suffers. I forget
even how much I love him. I want only to listen to you. All the
sorrow, all the misery of these last two years seems to slip from me.
I find it doesn't matter, that nothing matters. I am only happy,
foolishly, without reason, happy!"

In his gratitude, in his own happiness, Roddy reached out his hand.
But Inez drew her own away, and with her chin resting upon it, and
with her elbow on her knee, sat staring ahead of her.

"And I find this!" she whispered guiltily, like one at confession. "I
find I hate to spare you for this work. Three weeks ago, when you left
Curaçao, I thought a man could not risk his life in a nobler cause
than the one for which you were risking yours. It seemed to me a
duty--a splendid duty. But now, I am afraid--for you. I knew it first
the night you swam from me across the harbor, and I followed you with
my eyes, watching and waiting for you to sink and die. And I prayed
for you then; and suddenly, as I prayed, I found it was not you for
whom I was praying, but for myself, for my own happiness. That I
wanted you to live--for me!"

The girl sprang to her feet, and Roddy rose with her, and they stood
facing each other.

"Now you know," she whispered. "I had to tell you. I had to confess to
you that I tried to make you care for me, hoping you would do what I
wished. I did not mean to tell you that, instead, I learned to care
for you. If you despise me I will understand; if you can still love
me----"

"_If_ I love you?" cried Roddy. "I love you _so_----"

For an instant, as though to shut out the look in his face, the eyes
of the girl closed. She threw out her hands quickly to stop him.

"Then," she begged, "help me not to think of you. Not to think of
myself. We are young. We are children. He is old: every moment counts
for him. If this is the big thing in our lives we hope it is, it will
last always! But with him each moment may mean the end; a horrible
end, alone, among enemies, in a prison. You must give me your
word--you must promise me not to tempt me to think of you. You are
very generous, very strong. Help me to do this. Promise me until he is
free you will not tell me you care for me, never again, until he is
free. Or else"--her tone was firm, though her voice had sunk to a
whisper. She drew back, and regarded him unhappily, shaking her
head--"or else, I must not see you again."

There was a moment's silence, and then Roddy gave an exclamation of
impatience, of protest.

"If you ask it!" he said, "I promise. How _soon_ am I to see you
again?"

Inez moved from him toward the house. At a little distance she stopped
and regarded him in silence. Her eyes were wistful, reproachful.

"It was so hard to ask," she murmured, "and you've promised so
easily!"

"How dare you!" cried Roddy. "How dare you! Easy!" He rushed on
wildly, "When I want to cry out to the whole world that I love you,
when I feel that every stranger sees it, when my heart beats, 'Inez,
Inez, Inez,' so that I know the people in the street can hear it too.
If I hadn't promised you to keep silent," he cried indignantly,
"because you asked it, I'd tell you now that no other woman in all the
world is loved as I love you! Easy to be silent!" he demanded, "when
every drop of blood calls to you, when I breathe only when you
breathe----"

"Stop!" cried the girl. For an instant she covered her face with her
hands. When she lowered them her eyes were shining, radiant, laughing
with happiness.

"I am so sorry!" she whispered penitently. "It was wicked. But," she
pleaded, "I did so want to hear you say it just once more!"

She was very near to him. Her eyes were looking into his. What she saw
in them caused her to close her own quickly. Feeling blindly with
outstretched hands, she let herself sway toward him, and in an instant
she was wrapped in his arms with his breathless kisses covering her
lips and cheeks.

For Roddy the earth ceased revolving, he was lifted above it and heard
the music of the stars. He was crowned, exalted, deified. Then the
girl who had done this tore herself away and ran from him through the
garden.

Neither Inez nor Roddy was in a mood to exchange polite phrases in the
presence of Mrs. Broughton, and they at once separated, each in a
different direction, Roddy returning to his home. There he found Sam
Caldwell. He was in no better frame of mind to receive him, but
Caldwell had been two hours waiting and was angry and insistent.

"At last!" he exclaimed. "I have been here since eleven. Don't tell
me," he snapped, "that you've been spearing eels, because I won't
believe it."

"What can I tell you," asked Roddy pleasantly, "that you will
believe?"

That Caldwell had sought him out and had thought it worth his while to
wait two hours for an interview seemed to Roddy to show that in the
camp of his enemies matters were not moving smoothly, and that, in
their opinion, he was of more interest than they cared to admit.

Caldwell began with an uneasy assumption of good-fellowship.

"I have come under a flag of truce," he said grinning. "We want to
have a talk and see if we can't get together."

"Who are 'we'?" asked Roddy.

"Vega, myself, and Señora Rojas."

"Señora Rojas!" exclaimed Roddy gravely. "Are you not mistaken?"

"She sent me here," replied Caldwell. "These are my credentials." With
a flourish and a bow of marked ceremony, he handed Roddy a letter.

It came from Miramar, and briefly requested that Mr. Forrester would
do the Señora Rojas the honor to immediately call upon her.

Roddy caught up his hat. The prospect of a visit to the home of Inez
enchanted him, and he was as greatly puzzled as to what such a visit
might bring forth.

"We will go at once!" he said.

But Caldwell hung back.

"I'd rather explain it first," he said.

Already Roddy resented the fact that Caldwell was serving as the
ambassador of Madame Rojas, and there was, besides, in his manner
something which showed that in that service he was neither zealous nor
loyal.

"Possibly Señora Rojas can do that herself," said Roddy.

"No, she can't!" returned Caldwell sharply, "because she doesn't know,
and we don't mean to tell her. But I am going to tell _you_."

"Better not!" warned Roddy.

"I'll take the chance," said Caldwell. His manner was conciliating,
propitiatory. "I'll take the chance," he protested, "that when you
learn the truth you won't round on your own father. It isn't natural,
it isn't human!"

"Caldwell on the Human Emotions!" exclaimed Roddy, grinning.

But Caldwell was too truly in earnest to be interrupted.

"Your father's spending two millions to make Vega President," he went
on rapidly. "We've got to have him. We need him in our business. _You_
think Rojas would make a better President. Maybe he would. But not for
us. He's too old-fashioned. He's----"

"Too honest?" suggested Roddy.

"Too honest," assented Caldwell promptly. "And there's another slight
objection to him. He's in jail. And you," Caldwell cried, raising his
finger and shaking it in Roddy's face, "can't get him out. We can't
take San Carlos, and neither can you. They have guns there that in
twenty minutes could smash this town into a dust-heap. So you see,
what you hope to do is impossible, absurd! Now," he urged eagerly,
"why don't you give up butting your head into a stone wall, and help
your father and me?"

He stopped, and in evident anxiety waited for the other to speak, but
Roddy only regarded him steadily. After a pause Roddy said: "_I'm_ not
talking. You're the one that's talking. And," he added, "you're
talking too much, too!"

"I'll risk it!" cried Caldwell stoutly. "I've never gone after a man
of sense yet that I couldn't make him see things my way. Now, Señora
Rojas," he went on, "only wants one thing. She wants to get her
husband out of prison. She thinks Vega can do that, that he means to
do it, that I mean to do it. Well--we _don't_."

Roddy's eyes half closed, the lines around his mouth grew taut, and
when he spoke his voice was harsh and had sunk to a whisper.

"I tell you," he said, "you're talking too much!"

But neither in Roddy's face nor voice did Caldwell read the danger
signals.

"It doesn't suit our book," he swept on, "to get him out. Until Vega
is President he must stay where he is. But his wife must not know
that. She believes in _us_. She thinks the Rojas crowd only interferes
with us, and she is sending for you to ask you to urge the Rojas
faction to give us a free hand."

"I see," said Roddy; "and while Vega is trying to be President, Rojas
may die. Have you thought of that?"

"Can we help it?" protested Caldwell. "Did _we_ put him in prison?
We'll have trouble enough keeping ourselves out of San Carlos. Well,"
he demanded, "what are you going to do?"

"At present," said Roddy, "I'm going to call on Madame Rojas."

On their walk to Miramar, Caldwell found it impossible to break down
Roddy's barrier of good nature. He threatened, he bullied, he held
forth open bribes; but Roddy either remained silent or laughed.
Caldwell began to fear that in trying to come to terms with the enemy
he had made a mistake. But still he hoped that in his obstinacy Roddy
was merely stupid; he believed that in treating him as a factor in
affairs they had made him vainglorious, arrogant. He was sure that if
he could convince him of the utter impossibility of taking San Carlos
by assault he would abandon the Rojas crowd and come over to Vega. So
he enlarged upon the difficulty of that enterprise, using it as his
argument in chief. Roddy, in his turn, pretended he believed San
Carlos would fall at the first shot, and, as he intended, persuaded
Caldwell that an attack upon the prison was the fixed purpose of the
Rojas faction.

Roddy, who as a sentimental burglar had so often forced his way into
the grounds of Miramar, found a certain satisfaction in at last
entering it by the front door, and by invitation. His coming was
obviously expected, and his arrival threw the many servants into a
state of considerable excitement. Escorted by the major-domo, he was
led to the drawing-room where Madame Rojas was waiting to receive him.
As he entered, Inez and her sister, with Vega and General Pulido and
Colonel Ramon, came in from the terrace, and Caldwell followed from
the hall.

With the manner of one who considered himself already a member of the
household, Vega welcomed Roddy, but without cordiality, and with
condescension. To Inez, although the sight of her caused him great
embarrassment, Roddy made a formal bow, to which she replied with one
as formal. Señora Rojas, having ordered the servants to close the
doors and the windows to the terrace, asked Roddy to be seated, and
then placed herself in a chair that faced his. The others grouped
themselves behind her. Roddy felt as though the odds were hardly fair.
With the exception of Inez, who understood that any sign she might
make in his favor would do him harm, all those present were opposed to
him. This fact caused Roddy to gaze about him in pleasurable
excitement and smile expectantly. He failed to see how the interview
could lead to any definite result. Already he had learned from
Caldwell more than he had suspected, and all that he needed to know,
and, as he was determined on account of her blind faith in Vega to
confide nothing to Señora Rojas, he saw no outcome to the visit as
important as that it had so soon brought him again into the presence
of Inez.

"Mr. Forrester," began Señora Rojas, "I have asked you to call on me
to-day at the suggestion of these gentlemen. They believe that where
they might fail, an appeal from me would be effective. I am going to
speak to you quite frankly and openly; but when you remember I am
pleading for the life of my husband you will not take offense. With no
doubt the best of motives, you have allied yourself with what is known
as the Rojas faction. Its object is to overthrow the President and to
place my husband at Miraflores. To me, the wife of General Rojas, such
an undertaking is intolerable. All I desire, all I am sure he desires,
is his freedom. There are those, powerful and well equipped, who can
secure it. They do not belong to the so-called Rojas faction. You, we
understand, have much influence in its counsels. We know that to carry
out its plans you have quarrelled with your father, resigned from his
company. If I venture to refer to your private affairs, it is only
because I understand you yourself have spoken of them publicly, and
because they show me that in your allegiance, in your mistaken
allegiance to my husband, you are in earnest. But, in spite of your
wish to serve him, I have asked you here to-day to beg you and your
friends to relinquish your purpose. His wife and his children feel
that the safety of General Rojas is in other hands, in the hands of
those who have his fullest confidence and mine." In her distress,
Señora Rojas leaned forward. "I beg of you," she exclaimed, "do as I
ask. Leave my husband to me and to his friends. What you would do can
only interfere with them. And it may lead directly to his death."

She paused, and, with her eyes fixed eagerly on Roddy's face, waited
for his answer. The men standing in a group behind her nodded
approvingly. Then they also turned to Roddy and regarded him sternly,
as though challenging him to resist such an appeal. Roddy found his
position one of extreme embarrassment. He now saw why Señora Rojas had
received him in the presence of so large an audience. It was to render
a refusal to grant her request the more difficult. In the group drawn
up before him he saw that each represented a certain interest, each
held a distinctive value. The two daughters were intended to remind
him that it was against a united family he was acting; Caldwell was to
recall to him that he was opposing the wishes of his father, and Vega
and the two officers naturally suggested to whom Señora Rojas referred
when she said her interests were in the hands of powerful and
well-equipped friends. Should he tell the truth and say that of the
plans of the Rojas faction he knew little or nothing, Roddy was sure
he would not be believed. He was equally certain that if, in private,
he confided his own plan to Señora Rojas and told her that within the
next forty-eight hours she might hope to see her husband, she would at
once acquaint Vega and Caldwell with that fact. And, after the
confidence made him by Caldwell, what he and Vega might not do to keep
Rojas off the boards, he did not care to think. He certainly did not
deem it safe to test their loyalty. He, therefore, determined that as
it was impossible to tell his opponents the truth, he had better let
them continue to believe he was a leader in the Rojas party, and that,
with it, his only purpose was an open attack upon the fortress.

"I need not say," protested Roddy gravely, "that I am greatly
flattered by your confidence. It makes me very sorry that I cannot be
equally frank. But I am only a very unimportant member of the great
organization that has for its leader General Rojas----"

"And I," interrupted Señora Rojas, "am the wife of that leader. Are my
wishes of no weight?"

"I fear, madame," begged Roddy, in deprecatory tones, "that to
millions of Venezuelans General Rojas is considered less as the
husband than as the only man who can free this country from the hands
of a tyrant."

At this further sign of what seemed fatuous obstinacy, Señora Rojas
lost patience.

"A tyrant!" she exclaimed quickly. "I must protest, Mr. Forrester,
that the word comes strangely from one who has denounced my husband as
a traitor."

The attack confused Roddy, and to add to his discomfort it was greeted
by the men in the rear of Señora Rojas with a chorus of approving
exclamations. Roddy raised his eyes and regarded them gravely. In a
tone of stern rebuke Señora Rojas continued:

"We have been frank and honest," she said, "but when we cannot tell
whether the one with whom we treat runs with the hare or the hounds,
it is difficult."

Again from the men came the murmur of approval, and Roddy, still
regarding them, to prevent himself from speaking pressed his lips
tightly together.

Knowing how near Señora Rojas might be to attaining the one thing she
most desired, his regret at her distress was genuine, and that, in her
ignorance, she should find him a most objectionable young man he could
well understand. The fact aroused in him no resentment. But to his
secret amusement he found that the thought uppermost in his mind was
one of congratulation that Inez Rojas was more the child of her
Venezuelan father than of her American mother. Even while he deeply
sympathized with Señora Rojas, viewed as a future mother-in-law, she
filled him with trepidation. But from any point he could see no health
in continuing the scene, and he rose and bowed.

"I am sorry," he said, "but I cannot find that any good can come of
this. I assure you, you are mistaken in thinking I am of any
importance, or that I carry any weight with the Rojas party. Believe
me, I do not. I am doing nothing," he protested gently, "that can
bring harm to your husband. No one outside of your own family can wish
more sincerely for his safety."

The chorus of men interrupted him with an incredulous laugh and
murmurs of disbelief.

Roddy turned upon them sharply.

"We can dispense with the claque," he said. "My interview is with
Madame Rojas. If you gentlemen have anything to discuss with me later
you will come out of it much better if that lady is not present. If
you don't know what I mean," he added significantly, "Caldwell can
tell you."

Señora Rojas had no interest in any annoyance Roddy might feel toward
her guests. She recognized only that he was leaving her. She made a
final appeal. Rising to her feet, she exclaimed indignantly:

"I refuse to believe that against the wishes of myself and my family
you will persist in this. It is incredible! I can no longer be content
only to ask you not to interfere--I forbid it."

She advanced toward him, her eyes flashing with angry tears. Roddy, in
his sympathy with her distress, would have been glad, with a word, to
end it, but he felt he could not trust to her discretion. Her next
speech showed him that his instinct was correct. Accepting his silence
as a refusal, she turned with an exclamation to Pino Vega.

"If you will not listen to a woman," she protested, "you may listen
to a man." With a gesture she signified Vega. He stepped eagerly
forward.

"I am at your service," he said.

"Speak to him," Señora Rojas commanded. "Tell him! Forbid him to
continue."

Roddy received the introduction of Vega into the scene with mixed
feelings. To the best of his ability he was trying to avoid a quarrel,
and in his fuller knowledge of the situation he knew that for Señora
Rojas it would be best if she had followed his wishes, and had brought
the interview to an end. That Vega, who was planning treachery to
Rojas, should confront him as the champion of Rojas, stirred all the
combativeness in Roddy that he was endeavoring to subdue. When Vega
turned to him he welcomed that gentleman with a frown.

"As the son of this house," Vega began dramatically, "as the
representative, in his absence, of General Rojas, I forbid you to
meddle further in this affair."

The demand was unfortunately worded. A smile came to Roddy's eyes, and
the color in his cheeks deepened. He turned inquiringly to Señora
Rojas.

"The son of this house," he repeated. "The gentleman expresses himself
awkwardly. What does he mean?"

Since Inez had entered the room Roddy had not once permitted himself
to look toward her. Now he heard from where she stood a quick movement
and an exclamation.

For an instant, a chill of doubt held him silent. Within the very
hour, she had told him that to keep him loyal to her father she had
traded on his interest in her. Had she, for the same purpose and in
the same way, encouraged Vega? To Roddy, she had confessed what she
had done, and that she loved him. With that he was grandly content.
But was she still hoping by her promise of marriage to Vega to hold
him in allegiance, not to herself, but to her father? Was her
exclamation one of warning? Had he, by his question, precipitated some
explanation that Inez wished to avoid? He cast toward her a glance of
anxious inquiry. To his relief, Inez reassured him with a nod, and a
smile of trust and understanding.

The exchange of glances was lost neither upon Vega nor upon Señora
Rojas. In turn, they looked at each other, their eyes filled with
angry suspicion.

What she had witnessed caused Señora Rojas to speak with added
asperity.

"Colonel Vega has my authority for what he says," she exclaimed. "He
_is_ the son of this house. He is the future husband of my daughter
Inez."

The exclamation that now came from Inez was one of such surprise and
protest that every one turned toward her.

The girl pushed from her the chair on which she had been leaning and
walked toward her mother. Her eyes were flashing, but her manner was
courteous and contained.

"Why do you say that?" she asked quietly. "Has Colonel Vega told you
that, as he has told others? Because it is not true!"

Señora Rojas, amazed and indignant, stared at her daughter as though
she doubted she had heard her.

"Inez!" she exclaimed.

"It must be set right," said the girl. "Colonel Vega presumes too far
on the services he has shown my father. I am not going to marry him. I
have told him so repeatedly. He is deceiving you in this, as he is
deceiving you in matters more important. He is neither the son of this
house nor the friend of this house. And it is time that he understood
that we know it!"

In her distress, Señora Rojas turned instinctively to Vega.

"Pino!" she exclaimed. "You _told_ me! You told me it was her secret,
that she wished to keep it even from her mother, but that you thought
it your duty to tell me. Why?" she demanded. "Why?"

Vega, his eyes flaming, in a rage of mortification and wounded vanity
threw out his arms.

"My dear lady!" he cried, "it was because I hoped! I still hope," he
protested. "Inez has been poisoned by this man!" He pointed with a
shaking finger at Roddy. "He has filled her mind with tales against
me." He turned to Inez. "Is it not true?" he challenged.

Inez regarded him coldly, disdainfully.

"No, it is not true," she said. "It is the last thing he would do.
Because, until this moment, Mr. Forrester thought that what you told
him was a fact." She raised her voice. "And he is incapable of
speaking ill of a man--" she hesitated, and then, smiling slightly as
though in enjoyment of the mischief she were making, added, "he knew
was his unsuccessful rival."

Furious, with a triumphant exclamation, Vega turned to Señora Rojas.

"You hear!" he cried. "My rival!"

Inez moved quickly toward Roddy. Placing herself at his side, she
faced the others.

Her eyes were wide with excitement, with fear at what she was about
to do. As though begging permission, she raised them to Roddy and,
timidly stretching out her hand, touched his arm. "Mother," she said,
"I am going to marry Mr. Forrester!"



VIII


The silence that greeted the announcement of Inez, was broken in a
startling fashion. Before her mother could recover from her amazement
one of the windows to the garden was thrown open, and a man burst
through it and sprang toward Vega. He was disheveled, breathless; from
a wound in his forehead a line of blood ran down his cheek. His
appearance was so alarming that all of those who, the instant before,
had been staring in astonishment at Inez now turned to the intruder.
They recognized him as the personal servant of Vega. Without
considering the presence of the others, the valet spoke as he crossed
the room.

"The police are in your house," he panted. "They have searched it;
taken the papers. They tried to stop me." He drew his hand across his
face and showed it streaked with blood. "But I escaped by the harbor.
The boat is at the wharf. You have not a moment!" His eyes wandered
toward Pulido and Ramon, and he exclaimed delightedly, "You also!" he
cried; "there is still time!"

General Pulido ran to the window.

"There is still time!" he echoed. "By the boat we can reach Quinta
Tortola at the appointed hour. Colonel Ramon," he commanded, "remain
with Señor Caldwell. You, Pino, come with me!"

But Vega strode furiously toward Roddy.

"No!" he shouted. "This man first! My honor first!"

At this crisis of his fortunes, Sam Caldwell, much to the surprise of
Roddy, showed himself capable of abrupt action. He threw his arm
around the waist of Vega, and ran him to the window.

"Damn your honor!" he shrieked. "You take your orders from _me_! Go to
the meeting-place!"

Struggling, not only in the arms of Caldwell but in those of Pulido
and the valet, Vega was borne to the terrace. As he was pushed from
the window he stretched out his arm toward Roddy.

"When we meet again," he cried, "I kill you!"

Roddy looked after him with regret. More alarming to him than the
prospect of a duel was the prospect of facing Señora Rojas. For the
moment Vega and his personal danger had averted the wrath that Roddy
knew was still to come, but with the departure of Vega he saw it could
no longer be postponed. He turned humbly to Señora Rojas. The scene
through which that lady had just passed had left her trembling; but
the sight of Roddy confronting her seemed at once to restore her
self-possession. Anxiously, but in a tone of deep respect, Roddy
addressed her:

"I have the great honor," he said, "to inform----"

After one indignant glance Señora Rojas turned from him to her
daughter. Her words sounded like the dripping of icicles.

"You will leave the room," she said. She again glanced at Roddy. "You
will leave the house."

Not since when, as a child, he had been sent to stand in a corner had
Roddy felt so guilty. And to his horror he found he was torn with a
hysterical desire to laugh.

"But, Madame Rojas," he protested hastily, "it is impossible for me to
leave until I make clear to you----"

In the fashion of the country, Señora Rojas clapped her hands.

"Surely," she exclaimed, "you will not subject me to a scene before
the servants."

In answer to her summons the doors flew open, and the frightened
servants, who had heard of the blood-stained messenger, pushed into
the room. With the air of a great lady dismissing an honored guest
Señora Rojas bowed to Roddy, and Roddy, accepting the inevitable,
bowed deeply in return.

As he walked to the door he cast toward Inez an unhappy look of
apology and appeal. But the smile with which she answered seemed to
show that, to her, their discomfiture was in no way tragic. Roddy at
once took heart and beamed with gratitude. In the look he gave her he
endeavored to convey his assurance of the devotion of a lifetime.

"Good-by," said Inez pleasantly.

"Good-by," said Roddy.

       *       *       *       *       *

On coming to Porto Cabello Sam Caldwell had made his headquarters at
the home of the United States Consul, who owed his appointment to the
influence of Mr. Forrester, and who, in behalf of that gentleman, was
very justly suspected by Alvarez of "pernicious activity." On taking
his leave of Señora Rojas, which he did as soon as Roddy had been
shown the door, Caldwell hastened to the Consulate, and, as there
might be domiciliary visits to the houses of all the Vegaistas,
Colonel Ramon, seeking protection as a political refugee, accompanied
him.

The police had precipitated the departure of Vega from the city by
only a few hours. He had planned to leave it and to join his adherents
in the mountains that same afternoon, and it was only to learn the
result of the final appeal to Roddy that he had waited. As they
hastened through the back streets to the Consulate, Ramon said:

"It was not worth waiting for. Young Forrester told nothing. And why?
Because he knows nothing!"

"To me," growled Caldwell, "he makes a noise like a joker in the pack.
I don't mind telling you he's got me listening. He wouldn't have
thrown up his job and quarrelled with his father and Señora Rojas if
he wasn't pretty sure he was in right. Vega tells me, three weeks ago
Roddy went to Curaçao to ask Madame Rojas to help him get her husband
out of prison. Instead, she turned him down _hard_. But did that phase
him? No! I believe he's still working--working at this moment on some
plan of his own to get Rojas free. Every night he goes out in his
launch with young De Peyster. Where do they go? They _say_ they go
fishing. Well, maybe! We can't follow them, for they douse the lights
and their motor is too fast for us. But, to me, it looks like a
rescue, for the only way they could rescue Rojas would be from the
harbor. If they have slipped him tools and he is cutting his way to
the water, some dark night they'll carry him off in that damned
launch. And then," he exclaimed angrily, "where would I be? That old
Rip Van Winkle has only got to show his face, and it would be all over
but the shouting. He'd lose us what we've staked on Vega, and he'd
make us carry out some of the terms of our concession that would cost
us a million more."

Ramon exclaimed with contempt.

"Forrester!" he cried. "He is only a boy!"

"Any boy," snapped Caldwell impatiently "who is clever enough to get
himself engaged to the richest girl in Venezuela, under the guns of
her mother and Pino Vega, is old enough to vote. I take my hat off to
him."

The Venezuelan turned his head and looked meaningly at Caldwell; his
eyes were hard and cruel.

"I regret," he said, "but he must be stopped."

"No, you don't!" growled Caldwell; "that's not the answer. We won't
stop _him_. We'll let _him_ go! It's the other man we'll stop--Rojas!"

"Yes, yes!" returned Ramon eagerly. "That is the only way left. Rojas
must die!"

"Die!" laughed Caldwell comfortably. "Not a bit like it! I'm rather
planning to improve his health." He stopped and glanced up and down
the narrow street. It was empty. He laid his hand impressively on the
arm of the Venezuelan.

"To-day," he whispered, "some one will send a letter--an anonymous
letter--to San Carlos, telling the Commandante why General Rojas would
be more comfortable in another cell."

       *       *       *       *       *

From Miramar, Roddy returned directly to his house. On the way he
found the city in a ferment; all shops had closed, the plazas and
cafés were crowded, and the Alameda was lined with soldiers. Wherever
a few men gathered together the police ordered them to separate; and
in the driveways, troopers of Alvarez, alert and watchful, each with
his carbine on his hip, rode slowly at a walk, glancing from left to
right. At his house, Roddy found gathered there all of the White Mice:
Peter, McKildrick, Vicenti and Pedro. They had assembled, he supposed,
to learn the result of his visit to Miramar, but they were concerned
with news more important. Vicenti had called them together to tell
them that, at any moment, the Rojas faction might rise and attempt to
seize the city and San Carlos. The escape of Vega, and the fact, which
was now made public, that he had proclaimed himself in revolt, had
given the Rojas faction the opportunity for which it had been waiting.
The city was denuded of Government troops. For hours they had been
pouring out of it in pursuit of Vega and his little band of
revolutionists; and until reënforcements should arrive from Caracas,
which might not be in twenty-four hours, the city was defenseless. The
moment for the Rojas party had come.

But Vicenti feared that the assault on San Carlos would result, not
only in the death of many of those who attacked it, but also would be
the signal on the inside for the instant assassination of Rojas. It
therefore was imperative, before the attack was made, to get Rojas out
of prison. He dared not inform even the leaders of the Rojas party of
the proposed rescue. It must be attempted only by those who could be
absolutely trusted, those already in the secret. And it was for that
purpose he had called the White Mice together. When Roddy arrived they
had, subject to his approval, arranged their plan. From what Vicenti
had learned, the assault on the fortress would be made at midnight. It
was accordingly agreed that at nine o'clock, when it would be quite
dark, they would blow open the wall. Roddy, McKildrick and Peter would
dine together at Roddy's house, and at eight, in the launch, would
leave his wharf. Pedro, whose presence would assure General Rojas of
the good intentions of the others, was directed to so arrange his
departure from Miramar as to arrive by the shore route at the wharf in
time to accompany them. And Vicenti, who had set his watch with
McKildrick's, was at once to inform General Rojas of what was expected
to happen, and at nine o'clock, when the wall fell, to rush with him
through the breach.

In the _patio_ the men, standing and in silence, drank to the success
of their undertaking, and then, after each had shaken hands with the
others, separated. By Roddy's orders Pedro was to inform Inez of their
plan and to tell her that, if the Rojas party, in its attack upon the
city, was successful, her father might that night sleep at Miramar.
If, after his release, the issue were still in doubt, the launch would
carry him to Curaçao.

Vicenti left for San Carlos. In case it should be necessary to make
the dash to Willemstad, Peter remained at the house to collect for the
voyage provisions, medicine, stimulants, casks of water, and
McKildrick and Roddy departed in the launch to lay the mine which was
to destroy the barrier. On their way they stopped at the light-house,
where McKildrick collected what he wanted for that purpose. It was now
four o'clock in the afternoon, and by five they had entered the tunnel
and reached the wall. McKildrick dug a hole in the cement a few feet
above the base, and in this shoved a stick of dynamite of sixty per
cent. nitro, and attached a number six cap and a fuse a foot long.
This would burn for one minute and allow whoever lighted it that
length of time to get under cover. In case of a miss-fire, he had
brought with him extra sticks, fuses and caps. These, with drills and
a sledge-hammer, they hid in a corner of the wall.

In the damp darkness of the tunnel it was difficult to believe that
outside the sun was still shining.

"If it were only night!" said Roddy. "I hate to leave it. I'd only
have to touch a match to that, and he'd be free."

"Free of the cell," assented McKildrick, "but we could never get him
away. The noise will bring the whole garrison. It will be like heaving
a brick into a hornets' nest. We must wait for darkness. This is no
matinée performance."

On the return trip to the city they sat in silence, the mind of each
occupied by his own thoughts. How serious these thoughts were neither
cared to confess in words, but as they passed under the guns of the
fortress they glanced at each other and smiled.

"You mustn't think, Mac," said Roddy gratefully, "I don't appreciate
what you're doing. You stand to lose a lot!"

"I can always get another job," returned McKildrick.

"You can't if one of these fellows puts a bullet in you," said Roddy.
"You know you are making a big sacrifice, and I thank you for it."

McKildrick looked at him in some embarrassment.

"You stand to lose more than any of us," he said. "I'm told you are to
be congratulated." His eyes were so full of sympathy and good feeling
that Roddy held out his hand.

"You're the first one to do it," he said happily; "and it's good to
hear. Mac!" he exclaimed, in awe-struck tones, "I'm the happiest,
luckiest, and the least deserving beggar in all the world!"

McKildrick smiled dryly.

"I seem to have heard something like that before," he said.

"Never!" cried Roddy stoutly. "Other poor devils may have thought so,
but I _know_. It never happened to any one but me!"

McKildrick turned his eyes seaward and frowned,

"I even used the same lines myself once," he said; "but I found I'd
got hold of some other fellow's part. So if anything _should_ come my
way to-night it wouldn't make such a lot of difference."

Roddy took one hand from the wheel and, leaning forward, touched
McKildrick on the knee.

"I'm sorry," he said; "I didn't know."

McKildrick nodded, and as though glad of an interruption, held up his
hand.

"Listen!" he cried. "Stop the engine!"

Roddy let the launch slip forward on her own headway. In the silence
that followed they heard from the city the confused murmur of a mob
and the sharp bark of pistols. They looked at each other
significantly.

"The surface indications seem to show," said McKildrick, "that things
are loosening up. I guess it's going to be one of those nights!"

As they rounded the point and the whole of the harbor front came into
view, they saw that the doors of the bonded warehouses had been broken
open, and that the boxes and bales they contained had been tumbled out
upon the wharf and piled into barricades. From behind these, and from
the windows of the custom-house, men not in uniform, and evidently of
the Rojas faction, were firing upon the tiny gun-boat in the harbor,
and from it their rifle-fire was being answered by an automatic gun.
With full speed ahead, Roddy ran the gauntlet of this cross-fire, and
in safety tied up to his own wharf.

"Go inside," he commanded, "and find out what has happened. And tell
Peter we'll take his cargo on board now. Until we're ready to start
I'll stay by the launch and see no one tries to borrow her."

Peter and McKildrick returned at once, and with gasoline, tins of
biscuit and meat, and a cask of drinking water, stocked the boat for
her possible run to Curaçao. The Rojas party, so Peter informed them,
had taken the barracks in the suburbs and, preliminary to an attack on
the fortress, had seized the custom-house which faced it; but the
artillery barracks, which were inside the city, were still in the
hands of the government troops. Until they were taken, with the guns
in them, the Rojas faction were without artillery, and against the
fortress could do nothing. It was already dusk, and, in half an hour,
would be night. It was for this the Rojas crowd were waiting. As yet,
of Vega and his followers no news had reached the city. But the
government troops were pursuing him closely, and it was probable that
an engagement had already taken place.

"By this time," said Roddy, "Vicenti has told Rojas, and in an hour
Pedro will arrive, and then we start. Go get something to eat, and
send my dinner out here. I've some tinkering to do on the engine."

Before separating, McKildrick suggested that Peter and Roddy should
set their watches by his, which was already set to agree with
Vicenti's.

"For, should anything happen to me," he explained, "you boys must blow
up the wall, and you must know just when you are to do it. Roddy knows
_how_ to do it, and," he added to Peter, "I'll explain it to you while
we're at dinner."

They left Roddy on his knees, busily plying his oil-can, and crossed
the garden. In the _patio_ they found the table ready for dinner, and
two lamps casting a cheerful light upon the white cloth and flashing
from the bottle of red Rioja.

As they seated themselves, one of the stray bullets that were singing
above the housetops dislodged a tile, and the pieces of red clay fell
clattering into the court-yard. Peter reached for the claret and, with
ostentatious slowness, filled McKildrick's glass.

"Dynasties may come," he said, "and dynasties may go; but I find one
always dines."

"Why not?" replied McKildrick. "Napoleon said an army is a collection
of stomachs. Why should you and I pretend to be better soldiers than
Napoleon's?"

As a signal to the kitchen he clapped his hands; but the servant who
answered came not from the kitchen, but from the street. His yellow
skin was pale with fright. He gasped and pointed into the shadow at a
soldier who followed him. The man wore the uniform of a hospital
steward and on his arm the badge of the Red Cross. He stepped forward
and, glancing with concern from Peter to McKildrick, saluted
mechanically.

"Doctor Vicenti!" he exclaimed; "he wishes to see you. He is outside
on a stretcher. We are taking him to the hospital, but he made us
bring him here first." The man shook his head sharply. "He is dying!"
he said.

In this sudden threat of disaster to their plan the thought of both
the conspirators was first for Rojas.

"My God!" cried Peter, and stared helplessly at the older man.

"Dying?" protested McKildrick. "I saw him an hour ago; he was----"

"He was caring for the wounded in the streets. He was shot," answered
the man gravely, laying his finger on his heart, "here!"

"Caring for the wounded!" cried McKildrick. "Why in hell wasn't
he----"

"Be quiet!" warned Peter.

McKildrick checked himself and, followed by Peter, ran to the street.
In the light from the open door he saw an army stretcher, and on it a
figure of a man covered with a blanket. An officer and the soldiers
who had borne the stretcher stood in the shadow. With an exclamation
of remorse and sympathy, McKildrick advanced quickly and leaned
forward. But the man on the stretcher was not Vicenti. To make sure,
McKildrick bent lower, and in an instant the stranger threw out his
arms and, clasping him around the neck, dragged him down. At the same
moment the stretcher bearers fell upon him from the rear, and,
wrenching back his arms, held them together until the officer clasped
his wrists with handcuffs. From Peter he heard a muffled roar and,
twisting his head, saw him rolling on the sidewalk. On top of him were
a half-dozen soldiers; when they lifted him to his feet his wrists
also were in manacles.

McKildrick's outbursts were silenced by the officer.

"You need not tell me you are Americans," he said, "and if you go
quietly no harm will come. We wish only to keep you out of mischief."

"Go?" demanded Peter. "Go where?"

"To the _cartel_," said the officer, smiling. "You will be safer
there."

He stepped into the light and waved his sword, and from across the
street came running many more soldiers. A squad of these the officer
detailed to surround his prisoners. To the others he said: "Search the
house. Find the third one, Señor Forrester. Do not harm him, but," he
added meaningly, "bring him with you!"

At the word, Peter swung his arms free from the man who held them.
With a yell of warning, which he hoped would reach Roddy, and pulling
impotently at his handcuffs, he dashed into the house, the soldiers
racing at his heels.

Roddy had finished his inspection of his engine, but was still
guarding the launch, waiting with impatience for some one to bring him
his dinner. He was relieved to note that from the direction of Miramar
there was no sound of fighting. In the lower part of the city he could
hear a brisk fusillade, but, except from the custom-house, the firing
had more the sound of street fighting than of an organized attack.
From this, he judged the assault on the artillery barracks had not yet
begun. He flashed his electric torch on his watch, and it showed half
past seven. There was still a half-hour to wait. He rose and, for the
hundredth time, spun the wheel of his engine, examined his revolver,
and yawned nervously. It was now quite dark. Through the trees and
shrubs in the garden he could see the lights on the dinner-table and
the spectacle made him the more hungry. To remind the others that he
was starving, he gave a long whistle. It was at once cautiously
answered, to his surprise, not from the house but from a spot a
hundred feet from him, on the shore of the harbor. He decided, as it
was in the direction one would take in walking from Miramar, that
Pedro had arrived, and he sighed with relief. He was about to repeat
his signal of distress when, from the _patio_, there arose a sudden
tumult. In an instant, with a crash of broken glass and china, the
lights were extinguished, and he heard the voice of Peter shrieking
his name. He sprang from the launch and started toward the garden. At
that moment a heavy body crashed upon the gravel walk, and there was
the rush of many feet.

"Roddy!" shrieked the voice of Peter, "they're taking us to jail.
They're coming after _you_. Run! Run like hell!"

In the darkness Roddy could see nothing. He heard what sounded like an
army of men trampling and beating the bushes. His first thought was
that he must attempt a rescue. He jerked out his gun and raced down
the wharf. Under his flying feet the boards rattled and Peter heard
him coming.

"Go back!" he shrieked furiously. "You can't help us! You've got work
to do! Do it!"

The profanity with which these orders were issued convinced Roddy that
Peter was very much in earnest and in no personal danger.

The next moment he was left no time for further hesitation. His flying
footsteps had been heard by the soldiers as well as by Peter, and from
the garden they rushed shouting to the beach. Against such odds Roddy
saw that to rescue Peter was impossible, while at the same time, even
alone, he still might hope to rescue Rojas.

He cast loose the painter of the launch, and with all his strength
shoved it clear. He had apparently acted not a moment too soon, for a
figure clad in white leaped upon the wharf and raced toward him. Roddy
sprang to the wheel and the launch moved slowly in a circle. At the
first sound of the revolving screw there came from the white figure a
cry of dismay. It was strangely weak, strangely familiar, strangely
feminine.

"Roddy!" cried the voice. "It is I, Inez!"

With a shout of amazement, joy, and consternation, Roddy swung the
boat back toward the shore, and by the breadth of an oar-blade cleared
the wharf. There was a cry of relief, of delight, a flutter of skirts,
and Inez sprang into it. In an agony of fear for her safety, Roddy
pushed her to the bottom of the launch.

"Get down!" he commanded. "They can see your dress. They'll fire on
you."

From the shore an excited voice cried in Spanish "Do I shoot,
sergeant?"

"No!" answered another. "Remember your orders!"

"But he escapes!" returned the first voice, and on the word there was
a flash, a report, and a bullet whined above them. Another and others
followed, but the busy chug-chug of the engine continued undismayed
and, as the noise of its progress died away, the firing ceased. Roddy
left the wheel, and, stooping, took Inez in his arms. Behind them the
city was a blaze of light, and the sky above it was painted crimson.
From the fortress, rockets, hissing and roaring, signalled to the
barracks; from the gun-boat, the quick-firing guns were stabbing the
darkness with swift, vindictive flashes. In different parts of the
city incendiary fires had started and were burning sullenly, sending
up into the still night air great, twisting columns of sparks. The
rattle of musketry was incessant.

With his arm about her and her face pressed to his, Inez watched the
spectacle unseeingly. For the moment it possessed no significance.
And for Roddy, as he held her close, it seemed that she must feel his
heart beating with happiness. He had never dared to hope that such a
time would come, when they would be alone together, when it would be
his right to protect and guard her, when, again and again, he might
try to tell her how he loved her. Like one coming from a dream, Inez
stirred and drew away.

"Where are we going?" she whispered.

"We're going to the tunnel to save your father," answered Roddy.

The girl gave a little sigh of content and again sank back into the
shelter of his arm.

They passed the fortress, giving it a wide berth, and turned in toward
the shore. The city now lay far to the right, and the clamor of the
conflict came to them but faintly.

"Tell me," said Roddy, "why did you come to the wharf?" He seemed to
be speaking of something that had happened far back in the past, of a
matter which he remembered as having once been of vivid importance,
but which now was of consequence only in that it concerned her.

Reluctantly Inez broke the silence that had enveloped them.

"They came to the house and arrested Pedro," she said. To her also
the subject seemed to be of but little interest. She spoke as though
it were only with an effort she could recall the details. "I knew you
needed him to convince father you were friends. So, as he could not
come, I came. Did I do right?"

"Whatever you do is right," answered Roddy. "We might as well start
life with that proposition as a fixed fact."

"And do you want me with you now?" whispered the girl.

"Do I want you with me!" Roddy exclaimed, in mock exasperation. "Don't
provoke me!" he cried. "I am trying," he protested, "to do my duty,
while what I would like to do is to point this boat the other way, and
elope with you to Curaçao. So, if you love your father, don't make
yourself any more distractingly attractive than you are at this
moment. If you don't help me to be strong I will run away with you."

Inez laughed, softly and happily, and, leaning toward him, kissed him.

"That's not helping me!" protested Roddy.

"It is for the last time," said Inez, "until my father is free."

"That may not be for months!" cried Roddy.

"It is for the last time," repeated Inez.

Roddy concealed the launch in the cove below El Morro and, taking from
the locker a flask of brandy and an extra torch, led the way up the
hill. When they drew near to the fortress, fearing a possible ambush,
he left Inez and proceeded alone to reconnoitre. But El Morro was
undisturbed, and as he and McKildrick had left it. He returned for
Inez, and at the mouth of the tunnel halted and pointed to a place
well suited for concealment.

"You will wait there," he commanded.

"No," returned the girl quietly, "I will go with you. You forget I am
your sponsor, and," she added gently, "I am more than that. After
this, where you go, I go."

As she spoke there came from the wharf of the custom-house, lying a
mile below them, a flash of flame. It was followed by others, and
instantly, like an echo, the guns of the fort replied.

"Shrapnel!" cried Roddy. "They've captured the artillery barracks, and
we haven't a moment to lose!"

He threw himself on the levers that moved the slabs of stone and
forced them apart. Giving Inez his hand, he ran with her down the
steps of the tunnel.

"But why," cried Inez, "is there more need for haste now than before?"

Roddy could not tell her the assault of the Rojas party on the
fortress might lead to a reprisal in the assassination of her father.

"The sound of the cannon," he answered evasively, "will drown out what
we do."

Roddy was now more familiar with the various windings of the tunnel,
and they advanced quickly. Following the circles of light cast by
their torches, they moved so rapidly that when they reached the wall
both were panting. Roddy held his watch in front of the light and
cried out with impatience.

"Ten minutes!" he exclaimed, "and every minute--" He checked himself
and turned to the wall. The dynamite, with the cap and fuse attached,
was as McKildrick had placed it. For a tamp he scooped up from the
surface of the tunnel a handful of clay, and this he packed tightly
over the cap, leaving the fuse free. He led Inez back to a safe
distance from the wall, and there, with eyes fastened on Roddy's
watch, they waited. The seconds dragged interminably. Neither spoke,
and the silence of the tunnel weighed upon them like the silence of a
grave. But even buried as they were many feet beneath the ramparts,
they could hear above them the reverberations of the cannon.

"They are firing in half-minute intervals," whispered Roddy. "I will
try to set off the dynamite when they fire, so that in the casements,
at least, no one will hear me. When the explosion comes," he directed,
"wait until I call you, and if I shout to you to run, for God's sake,"
he entreated, "don't delay an instant, but make for the mouth of the
tunnel."

Inez answered him in a tone of deep reproach. "You are speaking," she
said, "to a daughter of General Rojas." Her voice trembled, but, as
Roddy knew, it trembled from excitement. "You must not think of _me_,"
commanded the girl. "I am here to help, not to be a burden. And," she
added gently, her love speaking to him in her voice, "we leave this
place together, or not at all."

Her presence had already shaken Roddy, and now her words made the
necessity of leaving her seem a sacrifice too great to be required of
him. Almost brusquely, he started from her.

"I must go," he whispered. "Wish me good luck for your father."

"May God preserve you both!" answered the girl.

As he walked away Roddy turned and shifted his light for what he knew
might be his last look at her. He saw her, standing erect as a lance,
her eyes flashing. Her lips were moving and upon her breast her
fingers traced the sign of the cross.

[Illustration: Her fingers traced the sign of the cross.]

Roddy waited until his watch showed a minute to nine o'clock. To meet
the report of the next gun, he delayed a half-minute longer, and then
lit the fuse, and, running back, flattened himself against the side of
the tunnel. There was at last a dull, rumbling roar and a great crash
of falling rock. Roddy raced to the sound and saw in the wall a
gaping, black hole. Through it, from the other side, lights showed
dimly. In the tunnel he was choked with a cloud of powdered cement. He
leaped through this and, stumbling over a mass of broken stone, found
himself in the cell. Except for the breach in the wall the explosion
had in no way disturbed it. The furniture was in place, a book lay
untouched upon the table; in the draft from the tunnel the candles
flickered drunkenly. But of the man for whom he sought, for whom he
was risking his life, there was no sign. With a cry of amazement and
alarm Roddy ran to the iron door of the cell. It was locked and
bolted. Now that the wall no longer deadened the sound his ears were
assailed by all the fierce clamor of the battle. Rolling toward him
down the stone corridor came the splitting roar of the siege guns, the
rattle of rifle fire, the shouts of men. Against these sounds, he
recognized that the noise of the explosion had carried no farther than
the limits of the cell, or had been confused with the tumult
overhead. He knew, therefore, that from that source he need not fear
discovery. But in the light of the greater fact that his attempt at
rescue had failed, his own immediate safety became of little
consequence. He turned and peered more closely into each corner of the
cell. The clouds of cement thrown up by the dynamite had settled; and,
hidden by the table, Roddy now saw, huddled on the stone floor, with
his back against the wall, the figure of a man. With a cry of relief
and concern, Roddy ran toward him and flashed his torch. It was
Vicenti. The face of the young doctor was bloodless, his eyes wild and
staring. He raised them imploringly.

"Go!" he whispered. His voice was weak and racked with pain. "Some one
has betrayed us. They know everything!"

Roddy exclaimed furiously, and, for an instant, his mind was torn with
doubts.

"And you!" he demanded. "Why are you here?"

Vicenti, reading the suspicion in his eyes, raised his hands; the
pantomime was sufficiently eloquent. In deep circles around his wrists
were new, raw wounds.

"They tried to make me tell," he whispered. "They think you're coming
in the launch. You, with the others. When I wouldn't answer, they put
me here. It was their jest. You were to find me instead of the other.
They are waiting now on the ramparts above us, waiting for you to come
in the launch. They know nothing of the tunnel."

Roddy's eyes were fixed in horror on the bleeding wrists.

"They tortured you!" he cried.

"I fainted. When I came to," whispered the doctor, "I found myself
locked in here. For God's sake," he pleaded, "save yourself!"

"And Rojas?" demanded Roddy.

"That is impossible!" returned Vicenti, answering Roddy's thought. "He
is in another cell, far removed, the last one, in this corridor."

"In _this_ corridor!" demanded Roddy.

Vicenti feebly reached out his hand and seized Roddy's arm.

"It is impossible!" he pleaded. "You can't get out of this cell."

"I will get out of it the same way I got in," answered Roddy. "Can you
walk?"

With his eyes, Vicenti measured the distance to the breach in the
wall.

"Help me!" he begged.

Roddy lifted him to his feet and, with his arm around him, supported
him into the tunnel. From his flask he gave him brandy, and Vicenti
nodded gratefully.

"Further on," directed Roddy, "you will find Señorita Rojas. Tell her
she must go at once. Don't let her know that I am going after her
father."

"It is madness!" cried Vicenti. "The turnkey is in the corridor, and
at any moment they may come to assassinate Rojas."

"Then I've no time to waste," exclaimed Roddy. "Get the Señorita and
yourself out of the tunnel, and get out _quick_!"

"But you?" pleaded Vicenti. "You can do nothing."

"If I must," answered Roddy, "I can blow the whole damn fort to
pieces!"

He ran to the spot where McKildrick had placed the extra explosives.
With these and the hand-drill, the sledge, and carrying his hat filled
with clay, he again climbed through the breach into the cell. The
fierceness of the attack upon the fort had redoubled, and to repulse
it the entire strength of the garrison had been summoned to the
ramparts, leaving, so far as Roddy could see through the bars, the
corridor unguarded. The door of the cell hung on three trunnions, and
around the lowest hinge the weight of the iron door had loosened the
lead and cement in which, many years before, it had been imbedded.
With his drill, Roddy increased the opening to one large enough to
receive the fingers of his hand and into it welded a stick of
dynamite. To this he affixed a cap and fuse, and clapping on his tamp
of clay, lit the fuse, and ran into the tunnel. He had cut the fuse to
half-length, and he had not long to wait. With a roar that shook the
cell and echoed down the corridor, that portion of the wall on which
the bars hung was torn apart, and the cell door, like a giant
gridiron, fell sprawling across the corridor. Roddy could not restrain
a lonely cheer. So long as the battle drowned out the noise of the
explosions and called from that part of the prison all those who might
oppose him, the rescue of Rojas again seemed feasible. With another
charge of dynamite the last cell in the corridor could be blown open,
and Rojas would be free. But Roddy was no longer allowed, undisturbed,
to blast his way to success. Almost before the iron door had struck
the floor of the corridor there leaped into the opening the burly
figure of the turnkey. In one hand he held a revolver, in the other a
lantern. Lifting the lantern above his head, he stood balancing
himself upon the fallen grating. Hanging to his belt, Roddy saw a
bunch of keys. The sight of the keys went to his head like swift
poison. For them he suddenly felt himself capable of murder. The dust
hung in a cloud between the two men, and before the turnkey could
prepare for the attack Roddy had flung himself on him and, twisting
the bones of his wrist, had taken the revolver. With one hand on the
throat of the turnkey he shoved the revolver up under his chin until
the circle of steel sank into the flesh.

"Don't cry out!" whispered Roddy. "Do as I tell you, or I'll blow your
head off. Take me to the cell of General Rojas!"

Brave as the man had been the moment before, the kiss of the
cold muzzle turned his purpose to ice. The desire to live was
all-compelling. Choking, gasping, his eyes rolling appealingly, he
nodded assent. With the revolver at his back he ran down the corridor,
and, as he ran, without further direction, fumbled frantically at his
keys. At the end of the corridor he separated one from the others, and
with a trembling hand unlocked and pushed open a cell door.

The cell was steeped in darkness. Roddy threw the turnkey sprawling
into it, and with his free hand closed his fingers over the key in the
lock.

"General Rojas!" he called. "Come out! You are free!"

A shadowy figure suddenly confronted him; out of the darkness a voice,
fearless and unshaken, answered.

"What do you wish with me?" demanded the voice steadily. "Is this
assassination? Are you my executioner?"

"Good God, no!" cried Roddy. "Fifty-four, four! I'm the man that gave
you the warning. The tunnel!" he cried. "The tunnel is open." He
shoved the butt of the revolver toward the shadow. "Take this!" he
commanded; "if I've lied to you, shoot me. But come!"

General Rojas stepped from the cell, and with a cry of relief Roddy
swung to the iron door upon the turnkey and locked it. The act seemed
to reassure the older man, and as the glare of the lanterns in the
corridor fell upon Roddy's face the eyes of the General lit with hope
and excitement. With a cry of remorse he held out the revolver.

"I was waiting to die," he said. "Can you forgive me?"

"Can you run?" was Roddy's answer.

With the joyful laugh of a boy, the General turned and, refusing
Roddy's arm, ran with him down the corridor. When he saw the fallen
grating he gave a cry of pleasure, and at the sight of the breach in
the wall he exclaimed in delight.

"It is good!" he cried. "It is well done."

Roddy had picked up the turnkey's lantern and had given it to General
Rojas. Lowering it before him, the old soldier nimbly scaled the mass
of fallen masonry, and with an excited, breathless sigh plunged into
the tunnel.

As he did so, in his eyes there flashed a circle of light; in his ears
there sounded a cry, in its joy savage, exultant, ringing high above
the tumult of the battle. The light that had blinded him fell
clattering to the stones; in the darkness he felt himself held
helpless, in strong, young arms.

"Father!" sobbed the voice of a girl. "Father!"

Like a coach on the side-lines, like a slave-driver plying his whip,
Roddy, with words of scorn, of entreaty, of encouragement, lashed them
on toward the mouth of the tunnel and, through the laurel, to the
launch. Acting as rear-guard, with a gun in his hand he ran back to
see they were not pursued, or to forestall an ambush skirmished in
advance. Sometimes he gave an arm to Vicenti, sometimes to the
General; at all times he turned upon them an incessant torrent of
abuse and appeal.

"Only a minute longer," he begged, "only a few yards further. Don't
let them catch us in the last inning! Don't let them take it from you
in the stretch! Only a few strokes more, boys," he cried frantically,
"and I'll let you break training. Now then, all of you! Run! Run!"

Not until they were safely seated in the launch, and her head was
pointed to the open sea, did he relax his vigilance, or share in their
rejoicing.

But when the boat sped forward and the shore sank into darkness he
heaved a happy, grateful sigh.

"If you've left anything in that flask, Vicenti," he said, "I would
like to drink to the family of Rojas."

The duel between the city and the fort had ceased. On the man-of-war
and on the ramparts of the fortress the guns were silent. From the
city came a confusion of shouts and cheers. In his excitement, Roddy
stood upright.

"It sounds as though you had won, sir!" he cried.

"Or that they have exhausted their ammunition!" answered the General.
The answer was not long in coming.

From the deck of the gun-boat there sprang into the darkness the
pointing finger of a search-light. It swept the wharves, showing them
black with people; it moved between the custom-house and the fort, and
disclosed the waters of the harbor alive with boats, loaded to the
gunwale with armed men. Along the ramparts of the fort the shaft of
light crept slowly, feeling its way, until it reached the flag-staff.
There it remained, stationary, pointing. From the halyards there
drooped a long, white cloth.

With a cheer, Roddy spun the wheel, and swung the bow of the launch
toward Miramar.

"You needn't go to Curaçao to-night, General!" he cried. "This city
votes solid for Rojas!"

From the wharves to the farthest limits of the town the cheers of
victory swept in a tidal wave of sound. With one accord the people,
leaping, shouting, dancing, and cheering, raced into the Alameda.

"To Miramar," they shrieked, "to Miramar! _Viva Rojas!_"

To those in the launch the cheers of triumph carried clearly. The
intoxication of the multitude was contagious.

"What do you wish?" demanded Roddy breathlessly--"to show yourself to
the people, or----"

"No!" cried the General, "to my home, to my home!"

When San Carlos surrendered, those in charge of the _cartel_, making a
virtue of what they knew would soon be a necessity, threw open the
cells of the political prisoners, and Peter, McKildrick, and Pedro
found themselves in the street, once more free men. There they learned
that Vega and his band had been routed, and that Vega, driven back to
the harbor, had taken refuge on a sailing boat, and was on his way to
Curaçao.

From Caracas the news was of more momentous interest. The rising of
the Rojas party in Porto Cabello had led the same faction at the
capital to proclaim itself in revolt. They found themselves unopposed.
By regiments the government troops had deserted to the standard of
Rojas, and Alvarez, in open flight, had reached his yacht, at La
Guayra, and was steaming toward Trinidad. Already a deputation had
started for Porto Cabello to conduct Rojas to the capital. But as to
whether in freeing Rojas Roddy had succeeded or failed, or whether
Rojas had been assassinated, or had been set at liberty by his
victorious followers, they could learn nothing.

Only at the home of Señora Rojas could they hear the truth.
Accordingly, with the rest of the city, they ran to Miramar. The house
was ablaze with lights, and the Alameda in front of it, the gardens,
even the long portico were packed with a mad mob of people. Climbing
to the railings and to the steps of the house itself, men prominent in
the life of the city called for "_Vivas_" for the new President, for
Señora Rojas, for the Rojas revolution. Below them, those who had been
wounded in the fight just over were lifted high on the shoulders of
the mob, and in it, struggling for a foothold, were many women, their
cheeks wet with tears, their cries of rejoicing more frantic even than
those of the men.

For a mad quarter of an hour the crowd increased in numbers, the
shouting in vehemence; and then, suddenly, there fell a shocked and
uneasy silence. Men whispered together fearfully. In the eyes of all
were looks of doubt and dismay. From man to man swept the awful rumor
that at San Carlos, Rojas had not been found.

It was whispered that, from the fortress, messengers had brought the
evil tidings. The worst had come to pass. At the last moment the
defenders of San Carlos had cheated them of their victory. Rojas had
been assassinated, and his body thrown to the harbor sharks.

From the mob rose a great, moaning cry, to be instantly drowned in
yells of rage and execration. A leader of the Rojas party leaped to
the steps of the portico. "Their lives for his!" he shrieked. "Death
to his murderers! To the fortress!"

Calling for vengeance, those in the garden surged toward the gates;
but an uncertain yell from the mob in the street halted them. They
turned and saw upon the balcony above the portico the figure of Señora
Rojas. With one arm raised, she commanded silence; with the other, she
pointed to the long window through which she had just appeared.
Advancing toward the edge of the balcony, the mob saw two young girls
leading between them, erect and soldierly, a little, gray-haired man.

Amazed, almost in terror, as though it looked on one returning from
the grave, for an instant there was silence. And then men shrieked and
sobbed, and the night was rent with their exultant yell of welcome.

With their backs pressed against the railings of the garden, Peter and
McKildrick looked up at the figures on the balcony with eyes that saw
but dimly.

"So Roddy got away with it," said Peter. "Pino Vega, please write!
_Viva_ the White Mice!"

With a voice that shook suspiciously, McKildrick protested.

"Let's get out of this," he said, "or I shall start singing the
doxology."

An hour later, alone on the flat roof of Miramar, leaning on the
parapet, were two young people. Above them were the blue-black sky and
white stars of the tropics; from below rose the happy cheers of the
mob and the jubilant strains of a triumphant march.

"To-morrow," said Roddy, "I am going to ask your father a favor. I am
going to ask him for the use for two hours of the cell he last
occupied."

"And why?" protested Inez.

"I want it for a friend," said Roddy. "Pedro tells me my friend is the
man who sent word to San Carlos to have the White Mice locked up and
your father moved into another cell. I want the new Commandante to
lock my friend in that cell, and to tell him he is to remain there the
rest of his natural life. Two hours later, the White Mice will visit
him, and will smile on him through the bars. Then I'll unlock the
door, and give him his 'passage-money home and a month's wages.' His
name is Caldwell."

"I had no idea you were so vindictive," said Inez.

"It is rather," said Roddy, "a sense of humor. It makes the punishment
fit the crime."

He turned, and drawing closer, looked at her wistfully, appealingly.

"Your father," he whispered, "is free."

The girl drew a long breath of happiness.

"Yes," she sighed.

"I repeat," whispered Roddy, "your father is free."

"I don't understand," answered the girl softly.

"Have you forgotten!" cried Roddy, "You forbade me to tell you that I
loved you until he was free."

Inez looked up at him, and the light of the stars fell in her eyes.

"What will you tell me?" she whispered.

"I will tell you," said Roddy, "the name of a girl who is going to be
kissed in one second."

                              THE END



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE:

Minor changes have been made to correct obvious typesetters' errors;
otherwise, every effort has been made to remain true to the author's
words and intent.





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