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Title: Miss Fairfax of Virginia - A Romance of Love and Adventure Under the Palmettos
Author: Rathborne, St. George
Language: English
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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.

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Miss Fairfax of Virginia

A ROMANCE OF LOVE AND ADVENTURE UNDER THE PALMETTOS

BY ST. GEORGE RATHBORNE

AUTHOR OF

"Doctor Jack," "A Fair Revolutionist," "A Sailor's Sweetheart,"
"A Chase for a Bride," etc.

[Illustration: Publisher's stamp]

  NEW YORK
  STREET & SMITH, PUBLISHERS
  238 WILLIAM STREET



  COPYRIGHT. 1899,
  BY STREET & SMITH.



TABLE OF CONTENTS


  CHAPTER I.      PERHAPS LOVERS ONCE, STRANGERS NOW.
  CHAPTER II.     ALAS! FOR THE GAME THAT FAILED TO WORK.
  CHAPTER III.    AT DAGGERS' POINTS.
  CHAPTER IV.     MILLIONS MAY NOT PURCHASE LOVE.
  CHAPTER V.      RODERIC'S REPENTANCE.
  CHAPTER VI.     ON THE BORDERS OF PARADISE.
  CHAPTER VII.    THE SWORD DUEL IN THE EAST INDIAN BUNGALOW.
  CHAPTER VIII.   "ADIOS, BELOVED!"
  CHAPTER IX.     DOWN THE IRISH COAST.
  CHAPTER X.      FOR ONE NIGHT AT THE AZORES.
  CHAPTER XI.     THE LADY ON THE QUARTER DECK.
  CHAPTER XII.    THE MAN WHO MADE SIGNS.
  CHAPTER XIII.   ADONIS ON A NEW TACK.
  CHAPTER XIV.    A CHASE TO THE YACHT.
  CHAPTER XV.     CAPTAIN BOB GUESSES NOT.
  CHAPTER XVI.    THE INVASION OF SAN JUAN.
  CHAPTER XVII.   THE BOLERO DANCER WITH THE GYPSY BLOOD.
  CHAPTER XVIII.  JULIO DECLARES FOR WAR.
  CHAPTER XIX.    BY WAY OF THE BALCONY.
  CHAPTER XX.     A RENDEZVOUS AT THE TOBACCONIST'S.
  CHAPTER XXI.    THE MONSTER COMES AGAIN.
  CHAPTER XXII.   TO THE OLD FORTRESS.
  CHAPTER XXIII.  HOW THEY WENT IN.
  CHAPTER XXIV.   THE STRANGE MEETING IN THE DUNGEON.
  CHAPTER XXV.    WHEN THE OFFICER OF THE GUARD CAME.
  CHAPTER XXVI.   A RACE TO THE BOAT.
  CHAPTER XXVII.  WHEN THE SPANISH FLAG LEFT PORTO RICO FOREVER.



Miss Fairfax of Virginia



CHAPTER I.

PERHAPS LOVERS ONCE, STRANGERS NOW.


The genial summer sun had long since dropped behind the Irish hills,
and the glowing lights of old Dublin were set like rare jewels upon the
dark bosom of mother earth when Roderic Owen, with a fragrant cigar
between his teeth, walked to and fro under the shadow of Nelson's
column in historic Sackville street, now better known among loyal
citizens under the name of O'Connell.

Owen only arrived from Liverpool on the Holyhead steamer that very
day and had passed some hours upon various tramcars, surveying those
portions of the famous city they traversed.

It may have given him a thrill of satisfaction to realize that he once
more stood on his native heath, which land the exile had not seen
since, a child of tender years, he left it in company with his heart
broken parents; but two decades in the atmosphere of free America had
made a full-fledged Yankee out of him, and his heart was wholly pledged
to the interests of America.

Business had more to do with his flying visit across the Irish sea
than a desire to look upon the scenes of childhood--these tender
recollections might be all very good in their way, but when his country
was at war with one of the old world powers, young Owen's heart and
soul were wrapped up in the interests he represented, and the state
mission that had taken him over the Atlantic.

The public will never learn more than a small portion of the unwritten
history of the Hispano-American war, since these memoirs are snugly
reposing in the archives at Washington, where they will rest until
dusty with age.

Secret agents were employed in many European capitals in the endeavor
to discover the true sentiments of the powers most interested, so
that in case unhappy Spain seemed in a way to secure an ally, prompt
measures might be taken to head off the threatened blow by a sudden
_coup d'etat_, in which our good friend Great Britain stood ready to do
her part.

Roderic Owen, being peculiarly gifted by nature with rare abilities
in the line of diplomacy, had been remarkably useful in Berlin, Paris
and Vienna, and was now suddenly transferred to another famous capital
because it appeared as though Dublin might be the theatre of a little
gathering where matters of intense moment were to be discussed.

It was evident from his manner that he had made the Nelson column a
rendezvous. His eyes followed each tramcar that passed, and never a
jaunting-car jogged by that he did not survey with growing interest.
A hot blooded Spanish lover awaiting the coming of the black-eyed
senorita with whom he had made a tryst could hardly have appeared more
anxious.

He had just tossed away the remnant of his weed and was feeling for his
cigar case to draw out another when the expected happened.

"At last!" he muttered, with a sigh of relief.

Still he made no abrupt forward movement--caution had been one of
the fruits of long diplomatic service. "Everything comes to him who
waits--and works," is the leading maxim of their craft.

A woman dismounted from a Rathmines car that had just arrived at the
terminus of its journey. She was garbed in the sombre black habiliments
of a religious recluse belonging to one of the many orders in Dublin.
These nuns, serving often in the capacity of Sisters of Charity, come
and go with the utmost freedom, respected by the humble classes to whom
they are often angelic messengers in times of distress or sickness.

Just as he expected the sombre robed passenger came slowly toward him
as though endeavoring to make sure of his identity ere accosting him.

Owen could _feel_ a pair of eager eyes fastened upon his face, for
there is such a sensation, and it surprised him to experience it.

Then came a low voice breathing his name, and somehow it had never
before sounded just the same to him, nor had he known there was music
in its bare utterance.

"I have waited about half an hour for you," remarked the American,
complacently.

"Ah! senor, I am sorry. It was not my fault I assure you," she
exclaimed, eagerly.

"I am certain of that, lady. Besides, I have no right to complain when
one whom I do not even know goes to this great trouble in order to do
me a service."

She moved uneasily at his words, and as if fearful lest his ardent gaze
might penetrate beneath the veil she wore, one little white hand crept
out from the folds of her sable robe to rearrange the crepe.

Owen smiled, for this act of caution had revealed much to him--upon
those plump fingers shone rings set with flashing gems, such as no
member of a holy order would dare wear.

Thus, without asking a question, he knew his _vis-à-vis_ to be in
disguise.

More than this, the unconscious desire to make sure that her face was
concealed gave him the impression that they must have met before. As
yet her voice had only sounded in low, whispered cadence, but it was
rich and musical, and somehow seemed to arouse dim, uncertain memories
which in good time after much groping, he would doubtless be able to
place.

She looked around with some concern, for the locality being central was
never quiet, upon which he said:

"Let us walk toward O'Connell bridge, and you can explain more fully
the meaning of your note, as you promised. I assure you the interest
taken in my welfare is appreciated, and if I can return the favor you
have only to speak."

"You mistake, senor--I do not seek a reward. Chancing to know that you
were the object of a base plot, I thought it only my duty to warn you."

"Because your vows constrained you?"

She appeared somewhat annoyed.

"Because heaven inspires every honest heart to desire the confusion of
evil schemes."

"Pardon--I was foolish for an instant to believe my personality could
have anything to do with it. Undoubtedly your love of fair play must
have impelled you to do the same for any poor devil."

"Senor, you have no right to question my motives."

"I am a brute--you are an angel come to my assistance. Let us then
proceed to business. From whence does this threatening danger come--in
which quarter am I to guard against secret foes?"

"You do not seem to be alarmed?"

"Does that surprise you, lady? Surely then you are not well acquainted
with Anglo-Saxon blood. We who sup with danger, learn to despise it. I
say this deliberately and without boasting."

"Ah! yes, I had forgotten your mission abroad. Your government would
never have sent any but a brave cavalier to take such desperate
chances. _Hola!_ it is a pleasure to meet a man who does not shrink
from a hazard."

"Pardon the curiosity--but are you not Spanish?" he asked, steadily--it
was of considerable importance that he should know this fact, for the
most able diplomat may well look to his laurels when pitted against a
female Richelieu.

She answered frankly, almost eagerly.

"My people are of Spanish blood, but I have only once seen Spain. I am
_hija de Puerto Rico_."

How proudly she declared it.

"A daughter of Porto Rico--I am pleased to know it, for that lovely
island will soon rest beneath the starry banner. A grand future awaits
her under the new dispensation. I have been in San Juan myself, and
shall never cease to remember that quaint city."

Perhaps the evening breeze brought with it a breath of chilly fog from
off old Dublin bay--at any rate the wearer of the sombre nun's garb
shivered a little and seemed to shrink back from the American.

"Now," continued Owen, cheerily, as though his quick eye had not noted
with considerable surprise this peculiar action on her part, "we have
reached the bridge. Tell me whence comes this danger?"

"There is one whom you have believed a friend, Senor Owen. Trust him
not, for he has sworn to work your downfall."

"Which is very interesting, to say the least. Am I to be arrested as
a Fenian suspect, come over the big pond to duplicate the Burke and
Cavendish tragedy of Phœnix park? Or is this sly schemer a Spanish
sympathizer in the pay of Sagasta?"

"You have said it, senor--the last is the truth. But there is
more--another reason why he hates you."

"Perhaps you wouldn't mind mentioning it?"

"His name first--it is Jerome Wellington."

Owen seemed startled.

"Confusion--I never suspected that _he_ was in Sagasta's pay. Luckily
I have made it a rule to be as close mouthed as an oyster with regard
to all state secrets. So friend Jerome has a private grudge against me.
When have I trod upon his toes? Kindly enlighten me, good angel?"

"It is on her account--the dashing Senorita Cleo," came the muffled
answer, and again Owen knew the eyes back of the veil were fastened
intently upon him as though to read his secret.

Thereupon he pursed up his mustached lip and emitted a low, incredulous
whistle.

"Cleo Fairfax, my independent cousin, the daughter of ten millions,
what has she to do with the case? Is Jerome jealous--does he seek her
hand--well, let him sail in and win. I shall not stand in the way, for
it has never occurred to me to fall in love with my cousin."

"Ah! senor, that is very well, but this man who is as handsome as an
Adonis hates you because he knows the American senorita loves you."

"What! Cleo loves me--incredible--impossible."

"More, she adores you."

"Senorita, you surely jest or dream."

"I speak what I know, and the fact is patent to everyone that you have
but to declare a word to bring this lovely girl and her millions to
your arms."

"God forbid that I should ever speak that word, unless I truly loved
her as a man should the girl he means to make his wife. It is, I say
again, impossible that such a thing can be."

"Few things are impossible, senor."

"But--there are impediments in the way."

"Perhaps none that might not be swept aside."

"Above all, I do not love her--it is ridiculous, and never entered
into my mind. And so Jerome has conjured up a delightful hatred for
me because, by Jove, he chooses to _imagine_--you see I lay especial
emphasis on that word, for I can't believe it possible--that this
favored daughter of fortune gives me more than cousinly regard. Well,
if it pleases Jerome to indulge in such capers, I'm not the one to
cry quits. My duty as well as my privilege is to meet him half way. I
imagine you may be in a position to tell me how he means to strike. It
is awful kind of you to take such trouble."

The thought had suddenly occurred to him that perhaps she might have
come from Cleo, and he winced at the verbatim report of his declaration
she must necessarily take back; but it was the truth, and Roderic Owen
had always made a point to stick to his guns in action.

She was growing uneasy, as though fearful lest he might allow his
curiosity respecting her identity get the better of his gentlemanly
instincts. So when she spoke again it was hurriedly, her manner
betraying a desire to end the interview.

"I have gone so far that it only remains for me to tell you the nature
of the plot whereby this jealous fortune seeker hopes not only to ruin
you in the eyes of the Senorita Cleo, but before your government as
well.

"You are staying at the Shelbourne hotel. Your room overlooks the
cascade in St. Stevens green. You have arranged to meet one at the park
gate at twelve to-night, expecting to receive information respecting
the clique of Spanish sympathizers at present sojourning in Dublin as
a city least suspected of harboring America's foes. They have come
here in the hope of arousing the slumbering Fenian spirit should Great
Britain join the states against France or Germany.

"Your expected informant is in their pay--he intends to suddenly pounce
upon you and, aided by allies in hiding carry you off. It will be made
to appear that you have abandoned your patriotic mission, and fled with
a well known adventuress to the gaming tables of Monte Carlo."

"The duse! This is a nice kettle of fish. And only for you I might have
fallen a victim of the plot. But forewarned is forearmed. Some one
shall take my place, since it would be a pity they should have their
labor for nothing. It shall be diamond cut diamond from this hour. And
now, believe me, I am duly sensible of the great service you had done
me, lady. God knows it would give me pleasure to reciprocate should the
occasion ever arise."

"I believe it--I know it, Senor Owen," she said, with some confusion.

"I do not ask your name--that you wish it to remain a secret is enough
for me. But at least you will shake hands before we part. It is a part
of an American's code, you know--add one more obligation to those you
have heaped upon me. Do not refuse, I beg."

She had shrunk back as though alarmed at the prospect, but his
_debonair_ manner, together with the absurdity of the fear that almost
overwhelmed her seemed to force her to meet his friendly advances, and
a little hand crept shyly out from among the dusky robes, advancing
half way.

Roderic Owen clasped it in his own, and was conscious of a most
remarkable sensation that seemed to flash along his arm until it
finally brought up in the region of his heart.

It may have been electricity, or some kindred element, but all the same
he considered it exceeding queer.

Perhaps in his warmth he pressed her hand so that the setting of her
rings inflicted pain. At any rate she gave a little exclamation.

"Forgive me; I forgot your rings, idiot that I am," and with a
gallantry he must have inherited from ancestors who once ruled in this
ever green isle he hastily raised the bruised digits to his lips.

This caused her to snatch away her hand and with a hasty "_buenos
noches_" hurry to meet a tramcar coming from the monument.

Before Owen could fully recover from his surprise she had entered the
double decked vehicle of transportation, and was lost to his sight.

He stood there, leaning against the stone railing of O'Connell bridge
and looking after the car, a very much puzzled man.

"Ah!" he ejaculated, as snatching out his handkerchief he waved it
vigorously in response to the one that fluttered from the open window
of the humble tramcar.

Then the man from over the sea mechanically drew out his cigar case,
selected a weed, struck a match on the stone coping of the bridge, and
began to puff away as though he might in this manner free his brain of
the mental cobwebs that seemed to clog his clear reasoning.

At the same time he started in the direction of Trinity College,
swinging a stout cane, and musing upon the singular events that had on
this night opened a new chapter in his experience.

And somehow it seemed to the adventurous Owen that they bore a definite
connection with his past--again he heard that voice sounding as with
the music of sweet birds--its dim echo, so familiar and yet eluding
his grasp like a fluttering will-o'-the-wisp, how exasperating it was.
Where had he met this seeming nun in the sable robe, and who was she?

Then suddenly he saw a great light--the confused memories drifted into
one clear vision. Again he stood on the brilliantly lighted Grand
Plaza of the Porto Rican capital with surging crowds of officers and
civilians around him, while a really excellent military band played
the beautiful, voluptuous airs of sunny Spain--again he heard a voice,
sweet as that of a lark, floating upon the night air from an open
window, and singing a serenade--Roderic was carried back two years in
his life to scenes that had been marked by stormy passion, and the
realization gave him a tremendous shock.

He had reached the vicinity of Trinity's bold Campanile when this bolt
went home, and the effect was so great as to actually bring him to a
full stop, with held breath.

"By Jove! to think I never suspected the amazing truth when talking
with her. Now I know it, I can swear to it--the same voice, which I
have never heard equaled. And she has done this thing for _me_, Roderic
Owen, whom possibly she has reason to hate. Heavens! there is some
fatality back of it all, and we are but puppets on life's great stage,
playing our little parts automatically. God alone sees the end. Yes,
that was Georgia de Brabant, the charming maid of San Juan, over whom
half the Spanish officers raved, about whom more than a few duels were
fought, and with whose fate my own life thread became entangled in
a way that has forever prevented my loving cousin Cleo or any other
woman. The past then is _not_ dead--again she enters my life--she comes
like an angel of light to save me from being made the victim of a
foul plot. That would indicate anything but hate. What lies before me
mortal cannot guess, but my duty is clear, and come weal come woe, I am
bound to serve my country first, last and always, no matter what the
sacrifice. And ye gods, I kissed the hand whereon perhaps dazzled _his_
rings."



CHAPTER II.

ALAS! FOR THE GAME THAT FAILED TO WORK.


Evidently Roderic Owen was disturbed by this meeting more than he
would have cared to confess. When ghosts that are supposed to have
been laid for all time come back to haunt us, memory plays havoc with
the strongest resolutions. Owen lived again in the past--his ears
seemed to drink in the music and merriment of the gay Spanish-American
capital--he saw once more a face that had been enshrined in his heart
as queen of the realm, and somehow the memory was not so unpleasant.
Instead of groaning over the disasters of the past he found himself
unconsciously building new _chateaux d'Espagne_. Hope ever abides in
the human breast--though daily overthrown it rises again and again,
Phœnix like from the ashes, and builds anew.

From the shadow of Trinity College and the Bank of Ireland, formerly
the Irish House of Parliament, it was but a short distance to his
hotel, the luxurious Shelbourne.

Having once entered the caravansary he cast his eyes around as though
seeking some one. A number of gentlemen lounged near the booking
offices, while on the first landing of the wide stairs among palms and
flowers ladies could be seen.

It was a bright picture, entirely foreign to the usual run of
transatlantic hotels to which Owen was accustomed.

A pair of bright eyes detected his arrival and a fair hand beckoned
him upward.

Time was of value to him, but when beauty demands attendance other
things may wait, and he believed he could spare a few minutes at any
rate.

She was a remarkable young woman, this Cleopatra Fairfax, and few men
could have resisted her charms of person and fortune. True, in features
she could not be called beautiful, but her eyes were glorious blue
ones, her hair abundant and of a golden hue, while her skin was browned
by exposure to sun and wind, since M'lle Cleo was a confirmed golf
player, a bicyclist, and a voyager over many seas. Her form at least
was enough like that of Venus to set many a famous painter anxious
because his last models lacked those qualities which a lavish Nature
had showered so abundantly on this child of fortune.

This then was Cousin Cleo, an impulsive, warm-hearted girl, with the
better qualities of both Irish and American ancestors in her veins.

Her mother had been an Owen, while on her father's side she came from a
long line of the famous Virginia Fairfax family. A better combination
it would be hard to imagine; and in this coming together of old and new
world blood lies the wonderful strength and marvelous ingenuity of the
American people.

Miss Fairfax traveled withersoever her sweet will prompted, always
accompanied by a spinster chaperone. Perhaps it was an accident that
brought her to Dublin and the Shelbourne at the same time the English
Ambassador's private agent took up his quarters there--these accidents,
how often they happen, and how opportunely at times.

Besides the motherly chaperone, there was another in the party, a
gentleman who in physique and handsome features far outshone Roderic.

Of course this was Jerome Wellington, a man of the world, belonging
to a good family and now of a mind to settle down after having sown a
magnificent crop of wild oats.

Naturally when such a dasher thus resolves to give up his freedom, he
looks around for a girl whose income will forever preclude any and all
possibility of his ever being compelled to live upon his wits again.

With ten millions more or less at her beck and nod, Miss Fairfax of
Virginia offered grand opportunities in this line, and accordingly the
Adonis who had seldom known what it was to fail had sworn a mighty oath
that ere twelve moons had waxed and waned M'lle Cleo would have changed
her name to the equally aristocratic one of Wellington.

Then he struck a snag.

He discovered that Cleo had since childhood cherished a deep and
romantic fancy for Roderic Owen.

They had romped together, and as years fled the stalwart young man
became her hero. She blindly adored him, and being so frank and open by
nature, her secret was easily read by such an acute observer as Jerome,
though the object of this affection had somehow never dreamed that he
was regarded in any other than a cousinly way.

If Jerome had a strong point of which he was particularly proud it was
his connection with divers deep and dark plots. He regarded himself in
the light of a modern Machiavelli, and was never really happy unless
dabbling in mysterious affairs.

In his day he had been Carlist, Anarchist, Socialist, Nihilist and
heaven knows what not.

Hence, it was to him a very insignificant matter to figure out how he
should wipe this interloper from his path. Bah! it was almost too easy
a task for one of his magnificent intellect, brightened by contact with
the greatest schemers of the world. However, the stake was a glorious
one, and even trifles must be carefully looked after if success is
desired.

So Jerome had set the machinery in motion which he expected would
speedily eliminate his rival from the field.

Unfortunately for himself he did not consider that he was now up
against a man whom Nature had abundantly endowed with common sense and
shrewdness, and who as a secret service officer in charge of matters of
state had gained considerable praise from the Honorable Secretary at
Washington under whose direction he labored.

Besides, Jerome's objections had undoubtedly been hitherto conducted
against European wits, and he might find wide awake Yankee minds
constructed on a somewhat different order.

Roderic chatted and laughed pleasantly for a little time, as though on
the best of terms with himself and every one else in the world.

Then, pleading business he tore himself away.

Now that his attention had been forcibly brought to bear upon the
subject he could not but note the blushes that mantled his cousin's
face upon his addressing any remark directly to her, and the look of
reproach she bestowed upon him when he left the gay party.

All of which gave him pain instead of pleasure.

The happiness of this cousin was of much moment in his eyes.

She had always laughingly declared her intention never to marry
whenever he broached the subject of the right cavalier coming along,
and up to the present Roderic had been dense enough not to suspect the
truth.

It was just like a man at any rate.

But at the same time it reflected on his extreme modesty.

Jerome called out a joking farewell after him, which appeared harmless
enough, but with his knowledge of the man's evil intentions Roderic was
able to read between the lines and see the malevolence exposed.

"He laughs loudest who laughs last, my dear Jerome," he muttered as
he walked away from the hotel, "and it remains to be seen how your
game comes out. Heretofore I have considered the man a mere every day
adventurer, attracted by the glitter of Cleo's gold, and believing
she knew how to handle such fellows without gloves, did not think it
my duty to interfere. Now that it begins to look more serious I find
I shall be compelled to throw my castor into the ring, and take up
cudgels in her defense. God bless her, a man could not well have a
stronger inspiration to do his level best. How the duse I have failed
to fall head over heels in love with Cleo all these years I am at a
loss to understand, yet somehow I have had an affection for the dear
girl such as one entertains for a sister. Now my eyes are opened, and
it is I fear quite too late. Destiny has already wrought out my future
for good or evil."

He was thinking again of San Juan with its park, its glittering lights,
its military music and the flash of many dark Spanish eyes.

Yes, Roderic was quite right.

It was too late!

He could never offer Cleo or any other woman the first passion of
his heart, since that had gone out under the palms and flower scented
bowers of the Antilles to a daughter of Porto Rico.

He sighed as he relegated these things, both pleasant and painful, once
more to oblivion, and again rallied his forces to grapple with the game
on hand.

Just around the corner he came across a man advancing toward the hotel,
and whom he hailed.

"Well met, Darby--I was on the way to hunt you up, while you seem
headed for my quarters."

"Just so, sir," replied the other, who appeared a man of few words, and
evidently one in whom Owen placed much confidence.

"You complained recently of rusting--that everything seemed so dull and
dead. As fortune has it I am now in a position to offer you a little
excitement, and at the same time you may be of great service to me."

Darby nodded his head--he was a man of ice, whom nothing could excite,
and yet to whom action was as the air he breathed.

Knowing the nature of the man so well, Owen struck directly into his
story, and ere many minutes had flown the other was as well acquainted
with the facts as himself.

One feature alone he repressed.

This was the attachment on Cleo's part for so unworthy an individual as
himself--that was too sacred to be given over as common property.

Darby would have to guess a reason for the hatred of
Wellington--perhaps he might lay it to the Spanish sympathies of the
other, which induced him to seek Dublin in order to have a hand in the
mysterious conference with pronounced Fenian leaders; or it might be
his sagacity would suggest the only plausible explanation.

Thus the story was told.

"Quite a neat little affair," commented Darby.

"Will you take my place?" asked Owen.

The other's face showed no sign of emotion.

"Just so, sir."

"You may bring up in Monte Carlo or Hong Kong, with a fascinating
adventuress professing to be madly infatuated with you."

This time the faintest flicker of a smile appeared.

"A dreadful fate, truly, sir."

"Still you do not shrink from it, Darby?"

The Sphinx shrugged his shoulders.

"Duty is duty, sir. I shall play the cards to win."

"You are to represent me--for the time you will look and act and think
as Roderic Owen."

"I leave it to you whether I am able."

"My dear fellow there is nothing you could not accomplish, if you set
your mind to it. I warrant that even Jerome will be deceived should he
personally take a hand in the game of abduction."

"He will know the truth to-morrow when he meets you here?"

"True--and will be stunned, unable to comprehend the facts. Thus, you
will be at liberty to do as you please after once reaching French
territory. You know how to find me again."

"Just so, sir. Is that all?"

"Only that I wish you the best of success," taking the cold hand of the
Sphinx and squeezing it.

There was actually a faint response.

And yet strange to say, this naturally reserved and passionless man was
so great an actor that when duty compelled he could imitate even the
most hot-blooded Spanish wooer, and sue with song and story for a dusky
senorita's love.

That was genius rising above nature, a carefully trained gift such as
few men possess.

"The hour grows late, and you will need some time to make your
preparations, so there is no need of my detaining you longer. As to
money--"

"I have more than enough, sir."

"Good. Besides, if you turn up at Monte Carlo you may have a chance to
apply some of the tactics you once used in breaking a faro bank in New
Orleans. It would perhaps be rare sport to you for a change."

Again Darby showed the limit of his emotion, this time it being a
chuckle that escaped him.

"Then good-bye and good luck. Beware lest you fall in love with the
charmer, my boy. Such a Lurline may storm the ramparts of your flinty
old heart, and once lodged therein, heaven help you."

"Just so, sir. I am too old a bird to be caught with chaff. I have been
through the mill. Don't waste any sympathy on Joel Darby, sir. But,
there is an old acquaintance of yours here."

"Ah! who may that be--male or female?" for his mind instantly reverted
to the girl from Porto Rico, and he wondered if Darby could have run
across her by chance.

"You once showed me a group picture of a very delightful scene in a
West Indian flower court, with the fountain and bird cages. Besides
yourself and a young Spanish captain there were a charming girl and an
old hidalgo with a fierce beard and a mass of iron gray hair--a man
once seen never forgotten."

"Ah! Yes, General Porfidio de Brabant, the noblest Roman of them all,
whose voice is like the thunder burst of his tropical home, and yet who
obeys _her_ slightest wish as meekly as a lamb."

"Just so--sweet Porfidio is in Dublin."

"I am not surprised, since I have reason to believe she is here. In
fact the woman disguised as a Sister of the Holy Grail was Georgia, his
niece, and the girl in the picture."

Darby's thin lips gathered as though prepared to emit a whistle, for
like a flash he comprehended a very important matter in connection with
his employer; but his will got the better of his inclination and not
the faintest sound followed.

"More than this, sir, I am afraid he has some connection with these
reckless schemers you have come here to watch."

"It would not surprise me--the senor general is of Spanish descent and
doubtless loves the institutions of Spain, so that with his generous
and ardent nature he is ready to risk all he has in order to help the
wretched mother country in her great hour of need. It does not matter,
since they will accomplish nothing here. These Irish plotters are
master masons in the art of promising much and having some one else
pull their chestnuts from the fire. Still, it is our duty to know the
many strings perfidious Spain has to her bow."

"Just so, sir. I am going now."

"My blessing go with you, Darby. I shall anticipate a rich and racy
story when we twain meet again. Meanwhile, again farewell."

When he stood alone Roderic heard a clock in a not distant belfry chime
the hour.

"Eleven--plenty of time for a man of his superior intelligence to
accomplish it all. By Jove! I would like to see the result. I would
wager he does it to the queen's taste, and that with two Richmonds in
the field Warwick or Jerome or any other man would find it hard to
tell the genuine from the artificial. Reminds me of Shakespeare's two
Dromios. Well, there's nothing for me to do but take it quietly until
morning, when I'll give my noble duke a run for his money. Ye gods, I
can imagine his amazement. But he is not the man to let one failure
daunt him. I rather imagine we two may yet face each other with sword
or pistol in hand. That, gives me little concern just now, however much
it may later on. All seems quiet around the hotel, so I presume the
coast is clear."

He found no difficulty in gaining his apartment unobserved, and there
proceeded to woo the gentle goddess of sleep.

A methodical man, he was able to awaken at just the hour he desired.

Perhaps a somewhat superficial knowledge of Wellington's usual habits
guided him in this matter quite as much as his own desires.

An observation convinced him that the day had broken fair and
singularly cool, so that all nature appeared to rejoice.

He dressed with perhaps a little more care than ordinary and stood
before the glass arranging the ends of his four-in-hand.

"I wonder if her eyes still glow with their old intoxicating light?" he
muttered.

From which one might readily imagine the dreams that had accompanied
his slumber must have dealt more or less with the owner of those
heavenly orbs.

"And I kissed her hand again as of yore. Jove! how it thrilled me.
Did that kiss wipe out the past--is it possible for us both to forgive
and again be more than friends? The very thought gives my heart hope.
And yet what a fool I am to forget--those magnificent rings--perhaps
one or more of them came from the bolero dancer, the dashing Julio who
took San Juan hearts by storm. Heaven only knows--in my mad jealousy
I accused her of encouraging his attentions. Perhaps I was wrong, and
again I may have been right, for I never heard more of either after I
shook the red dust of San Juan from my feet. She may have wedded him,
and now be wife or widow. Ugh! to the devil with such thoughts. Now to
give dear old Jerome a shake up he will never forget."

The idea afforded him some pleasure--at least it banished that other
hideous nightmare.

Wife or widow were the words he did not care to hear used in connection
with the owner of those magnificent midnight orbs.

Jerome breakfasted at eight o'clock.

He was clockwork itself in regularity, no matter where or under what
conditions he spent the night, and when Roderic glanced into the
breakfast room there was his victim busily engaged, his back to the
door.

Jerome was something of a gourmand, and had a really remarkable
fondness for all the good things that tickle the palate and appeal to
a cultivated taste. He knew the value of every wine on the list, and
could distinguish various brands of champagne with his eyes closed,
for, tell it not in Gath, Jerome had once upon a time been reduced to
making an honest livelihood as an expert wine taster.

Owen sauntered into the almost deserted room, and came up behind the
dashing Adonis.

"Good morning, Wellington," he said briskly, as he dropped into a chair
just across from Jerome.

The latter started to make a civil reply, but when his eyes fastened
upon Roderic's face he turned as red as a boiled lobster and spluttered
out:

"Owen still here in Dublin by all the saints!"



CHAPTER III.

AT DAGGERS' POINTS.


It was Roderic's intention to lead the other a jolly little dance
before jumping upon him with both feet, so to speak.

In other words he pleased to play with the conceited beau pretty much
as a cat might with a mouse that had fallen into her clutches.

Hence he observed Jerome's amazed expression with the air of a man who
was puzzled.

"Still in Dublin--why not, my boy? This is about as comfortable a berth
as one could find, and I shall only desert it when stern duty calls me
across the big pond. Whatever possessed you with the idea that I had
departed hence--why it was only late last night when I last saw you?"

Wellington was making heroic efforts to resume his ordinary cool
appearance, but he had evidently been hard hit, and fluttered like a
wounded pigeon, which was a rare thing with a man usually calm and
sarcastic.

"By Jove! it must have been a bad dream, but, d'ye know my dear
fellow, I could swear you came and told me you were off for Hamburg,
Constantinople or----"

"Monte Carlo perhaps, since one place is about as likely as the other."

"Well, er, perhaps it was. Wretched dream at any rate. Must have been
the Welsh rarebit I had about midnight--awful fond of toast and cheese,
you know, especially good Roquefort. Glad to know it was only a dream,
dused glad, my boy. Would have missed you very much--good men are too
scarce, as it is."

Thus Jerome babbled on, his object being simply delay, in order to
collect himself and grasp the situation.

At the same time possibly he hoped to pull the wool over the eyes of
the man he addressed.

It was useless.

When Roderic mentioned Monte Carlo the schemer knew his game had been
exposed through some blunder, and all he could hope to fight for was
advantage of position when the assault came.

He therefore hurried up his reserves and proceeded to call all hands to
repel boarders.

Owen had folded his arms and was coolly surveying him across the
table--there was a curl to his mustached lip that told of fine scorn.

Some men can stand almost anything rather than to be made a mark for
irony or disdain, and it was this more than anything else that brought
Wellington furiously to the front.

"See here, Owen, all chicanery aside, how the devil do you happen to
be here at the Shelbourne instead of on a yacht bound for Havre, and
eventually to the gamester's Paradise?" he blurted out.

"A plain question and deserving an equally candid answer. To tell you
the truth then, my dear fellow, I had decided objections to making such
a hasty trip across to the Continent. Your preparations for my comfort
were overwhelming, and while I appreciated all you did I was obliged to
respectfully decline."

"Well, my own eyes tell me you are here, but I'll take my oath I saw
one who looked enough like you to be your shadow sail out of Kingstown
harbor at three this morning on board the steam yacht _Galatea_. And
that was no hasheesh dream either, superinduced by Welsh rarebit or
opium. Now, who the devil went to Havre?"

"A gentleman whose health needed the ocean voyage, and who believed he
could enjoy the society of the gay set on board. I have no doubt he
will be exceedingly grateful for all your trouble."

Jerome looked at first as though he could bite a nail with
pleasure--Owen expected him to swear, but the other seldom gave way to
such vulgar exhibitions of temper.

On the contrary he smiled, and his white teeth showing through his
carefully adjusted mustache gave Roderic the impression of a grinning
hyena.

Still, the application hardly fitted such a case, for Jerome was
considered an extremely handsome and fascinating man, however much of a
human wolf he might be back of the scenes.

"Owen, you have called the hand for the first round. It is on me, and
devilish hard. I could ill afford the cold cash I spent to hire that
boat. I sincerely trust your counterpart will choke upon the good
victuals I put aboard or else make himself so beastly drunk upon the
liquor that he will fall overboard in the bay of Biscay or somewhere
along the French coast."

"Don't reproach me for doing just what you would have done had you been
in my shoes, and the plot been revealed to you, Wellington."

The other brightened up a trifle.

"You may be sure I would--but evidently you received a pretty strong
tip--who betrayed me?"

He spoke carelessly, but there was a devilish gleam in his blazing
eyes that told the state of his feelings toward the unknown.

Owen would sooner have cut his right hand off than betray the source of
his knowledge.

"I have means of acquiring information that are unequalled outside of
Scotland Yard. For some time, Wellington, I had looked upon you as an
agreeable acquaintance. That time has gone by. You have stripped the
mask from your face, and I know you as a wolf preying upon society."

"Sir!"

"Oh! you needn't flare up and look ferocious. I say this to your teeth.
If you desire the satisfaction one gentleman demands from another I am
always at your service, whether it be with bare knuckles, a revolver or
the sword. I believe I am equally at home with all, and will take great
pleasure in puncturing your precious skin."

"Well, you are devilish frank, to say the least," declared Jerome,
mastering his ugly mood, since he knew full well the disadvantage
falling to the man who gave way to passion.

"I expect to be, since it is the only policy to use when dealing with
such men as you. I might warn my cousin against your attentions, but it
would be useless, since she has undoubtedly sized you up as an ordinary
adventurer long before I dreamed of it. However, my dear fellow, one
last word of warning before I quit your society. If you take it upon
yourself to _annoy_ Cleo--if she appeals to me for assistance I shall
camp on your trail until I finally '_get_' you, as they put it over in
my country."

There was no boastful spirit in his manner, only a grim determination
that carried weight.

Wellington, looking squarely into those calm orbs that held his own in
a species of thralldom knew he had the fight of his life before him.

Perhaps he saw with prophetic vision, some dim inkling of his own
downfall--it is a long road that has no turn--success had visited him
many times in the past, but there was for him as for all adventurers, a
_dies irae_ and it might come through Roderic Owen.

"I'll consider myself warned, Owen, and if trouble comes my blood be
upon my own head. The only remark I shall venture to make is, that as
yet I have never failed in any serious undertaking which engaged my
attention," he said, sneeringly.

"Indeed. Then let us hope you are not very serious about this affair."

"I have made a vow. By that I mean to win, or fall. Have you
breakfasted, Owen?"

"Not yet. I shall order a chop and a cup of chocolate."

"You won't join me then?"

"Well, under the circumstances, as we are to be mortal enemies, I
hardly think it would be wise. I have some of the Arab's feeling about
breaking bread or eating salt with an enemy."

"I would give something to know who betrayed my little game."

"Don't worry about it--my means are such that in order to learn what I
wish I am not compelled to make traitors of those you trust."

"And the man on the yacht?"

"Oh! Darby is all right--you can depend upon it he will enjoy himself
to the limit. If you read of a man breaking the bank at Monte Carlo
presently, make up your mind it was Darby, and that your noble
generosity is mainly responsible for his presence in that notable
place."

Jerome scowled and muttered something.

"Perhaps it is as well you have decided to have your breakfast in
another quarter. Somehow you have the knack of bruising me most
savagely, and no doubt we should be at each other's throat like a
couple of dogs, ere we finished. I wish to tell you distinctly that if
you imagine you can frighten me off by such heroics you are chasing a
mirage, a _fata morgana_ as the deep sea sailors term it. I am not that
kind of a man, and you will find that I sink or swim by my record."

Roderic did not care to bandy further words with the Adonis.

Deeds must tell the story as to which of them should win in the long
run, and Owen preferred such a course.

It chanced that M'lle Cleo and her companion entered the room about
this time, and joining them Roderic had his chop in merry company.

The daughter of ten millions looked fresh and full of life. As he
chatted with her across the table Owen was wondering why she had never
mated.

"It's the confounded dazzle of her money," he decided finally; "she has
educated herself to believe no one can ever love _her_, but that the
fortune draws them. By Jove! She should hide herself under an _incog._
and thus discover a lover who will worship her for her own dear self.
I warrant there are many good fellows who would gladly go through fire
and flood for her sake, if they knew her only as a stenographer or
schoolmam."

Which line of reasoning did Roderic credit.

That same fortune had something to do with his own feelings in the
matter, as it must with every honorable man.

"When do you leave Dublin?" asked his cousin, endeavoring to appear
careless.

"I shall cross to Liverpool to-morrow and take the White Star steamer
for New York--unless something occurs to change my plans."

"Then you are compelled to go to New York?"

"Only as a means of reaching my ultimate destination."

"Which is----"

He lowered his voice.

"Porto Rico."

"But, the danger--that is a Spanish stronghold, and we are at war with
Spain."

"Already troops are ordered to land there--perhaps General Miles is on
the way. With the fall of Santiago our efforts are to be concentrated
about San Juan. A portion of the work falls upon my shoulders--that is
all. Besides, I naturally want to be in at the death, as do all ardent
fox hunters in the chase."

"I wish, cousin, you would give up so dangerous a calling. Surely you
are as well fitted for other pursuits in which your life would not be
at stake."

There was real concern in her voice, and Roderic found his heart
touched.

"I have been seriously considering that same matter myself, and
concluded to make a change after the war is over."

"Why wait until then?"

"For many reasons. In the first place Western men have a saying that
it is bad policy to change horses while crossing a stream. It is also
a poor piece of business to desert your country while she has need of
your services."

"Enough. I know that your motives are honorable. But about this trip
across to the Antilles--I could tell you of a quicker way of reaching
the shore of Porto Rico, that is, should you consider it worth your
while to accept," with a tinge of color in her cheeks, and a sparkle to
her blue eyes.

"Indeed, I should like to hear of it. Time may be a factor in my game."

"I made a purchase in England--you know I am something of a yachtsman
in my way, and the temptation was great."

"You purchased a yacht?"

"A steam yacht."

"Lucky mortal to be able to do such a thing with as little concern as I
would buy a cravat."

"She is a beauty, Roderic."

"Don't doubt it in the least, else you would never have fancied her."

"She is called the Dreadnaught."

"Phew! a genuine English name. Of course you will change it to the
Mayflower or Pilgrim or some strictly Yankee cognomen?"

"At present I must decline to do so, as she sails with an English crew
and under the flag of Great Britain."

Owen looked puzzled, and then smiled.

"Oh! I see, a _ruse de guerre_. Very good, indeed. The Dreadnaught she
shall remain as long as our war with Spain continues. Well, are you off
for a delightful voyage along the Mediterranean, or perhaps, seeing it
is summer, to the North Cape, the Land of the Midnight Sun. Jove! at
another time I might be tempted to join you--that is providing I were
invited."

"I extend a most pressing invitation and expect you to accept and be
our _compagnon de voyage_."

"Alas! my duty lies amid sterner scenes."

"In ten days you can be landed on the shore of Porto Rico."

He eyed her in surprise.

"Is your voyage a westerly one?"

"We are intending to see something of the war, that is all."

Perhaps uncertain but nevertheless alarming visions were conjured up in
his mind.

"I am sorry to hear you say so. The conditions existing on those
unhappy islands are terrible. Besides, an attractive woman would run
risks among the lawless elements at large that I should grieve to see
you exposed to."

She laughed, but at the same time his solicitude did not appear
unwelcome in the least.

"Foolish boy, you don't suppose, I hope, that I have any Quixotic
notion of parading across the island carrying the star spangled banner
wrapped around me. My object is of a different character. For once in
my life I am to play the Lady Bountiful. Cuba has been looked after
as well as the conditions allow. I am informed there is also much
suffering in Porto Rico. I have had my yacht stocked with provisions
and medical stores, and shall relieve honest distress wherever I find
it, no matter under what flag."

"God bless you, Cousin Cleo. You will find plenty of it there. The
Spaniards have tightened the mailed hand of late, and Porto Rico groans
under the scourge. Soon freedom's blessings will be their heritage.
Every man whose smallest act brings such a consummation to pass, should
feel proud of the fact. Where is this boat of yours, cousin?"

"Entering Dublin bay this morning."

"And when will you leave old Erin?"

"When you give the word."

It confused him a little to realize how much she deferred to his
judgment.

"Pardon me--will there be other passengers?"

"None."

"Then I will accept"--he had desired to make sure Jerome's hateful
presence might not bring about a duel during the voyage.

"We will call it settled. An hour's notice will find us aboard, bag and
baggage. Govern your own actions as your duty demands."

"This is awfully kind of you Cousin Cleo."

"The obligation is on your part, to put up with our dull society for
ten days."

"You hurt me when you speak that way. It will surely be one of the most
pleasant episodes of my life. I am smiling to think that after most
positively declining one yacht voyage last night I have so readily
accepted another."

"Some one else asked you to go to Porto Rico?"

"Well, no, I rather imagine the intention was for me to bring up in a
hotter country than the Antilles. The trip contemplated a voyage to
Havre and then across country to the later Monaco, the gambling palace
of Monte Carlo."

"Oh! I am glad you refused to go."

"So am I. But the invitation was very pressing. However, rather than
disappoint the gentleman I sent my representative to receive the
honors."

"It was a _gentleman_ who asked you then?"

His eyes opened with surprise.

"Certainly--that is he did not really ask me, you see, but arranged a
neat little affair whereby I was to be a guest of honor."

"How stupid of me, to be sure, I begin to see now that you are
speaking of a business engagement, not a social matter. And will your
substitute serve as well as if you had gone?"

"Just as well, until they learn that it is not Roderic Owen they are
entertaining with so lavish a hand, but plain Joel Darby. Then I
imagine there will be an explosion of some sort and her ladyship will
show temper."

"Her ladyship--then there is a woman involved?"

"It is true. I see, cousin, that having put my foot in it thus far I
would do well to tell you the whole story."

"I should be pleased to act as Father Confessor," was the quick
response.

They were alone at the table, Miss Becky having gone across the room to
chat with a congenial spirit whose acquaintance she had made.

So Roderic told his little story as tersely as he could, and in his
cousin he found an interested auditor.

"Well, what do you think of it?" he asked when the finis had been
reached.

"It is very dreadful."

"Surely I came out all right, cousin."

"But--suppose you had not--you would have been hypnotized by the
adventuress, and that must have been the end of you. Oh! I know the
species and all their wiles, having made a study of them."

"Does that sweeping deduction include the male bipeds of the adventurer
order also?"

"Why not?"

"Because I might offend if I told you the name of the man who planned
my exodus."

"Oh! I have already guessed it was the Adonis."

"Yes, Jerome Wellington. I am glad you know him in his true light. He
has made a vow."

"I'll wager it concerns my wretched millions."

"Just so--he longs to handle them."

"He will be a smarter man than he is now when that happens. But one
thing puzzles me?"

"Now it is coming," thought Roderic, though aloud he said cheerily,
"What might that be?"

"You received your warning from a nun."

"I was a fool to mention the fact," thought Owen, with one of these
wonderful after inspirations that closes the door when the horse is
stolen.

"Yes, from one who was dressed in the somber garb of a cloister," he
replied.

"You evidently do not believe she was what she outwardly appeared?"

"You are a modern Portia, cousin," he laughed.

"Of course, a prisoner at the bar is not pledged to commit himself. If
I am over bold forgive me and make no reply. But, you know, a woman's
curiosity is proverbial."

"I shall answer frankly--she was no member of the Order of the Holy
Grail--the garb was assumed to conceal her identity."

"From Jerome--from you?"

"Both, I presume."

"You recognized her face?"

"I did not see that--it was her voice. Even then I was in a maze until
she had gone."

"Was it a _very_ melodious voice, Roderic."

"The sweetest--well, yes, a voice full of melody," he replied, with
evident confusion that did not escape Cleo's quick gaze.

"Ah! you have heard her sing?"

"Dozens of times--like a nightingale," he felt forced to confess.

"This was--where?"

"In San Juan, Porto Rico, two years back. I have not looked on her face
since I fled those shores."

"Ah!" and that one word expressed keen disappointment, for Cleo read
the story of his lost love in his face.



CHAPTER IV.

MILLIONS MAY NOT PURCHASE LOVE.


"Would it be presumptuous if I asked to know her name, Roderic--this
girl of San Juan who risked so much to save your reputation if not your
life? I feel under obligations to her, for your name is very dear to
those who know you--those bound to you by ties of consanguinity."

"She comes of Spanish descent, but her heart is now only wrapped up in
the future of the lovely gem of the Antilles. Her name is Georgia Inez
de Brabant."

Perhaps his manner gave evidence that she was treading on dangerous
ground.

"Thank you. Perhaps some day fortune may bring us together. I shall try
to love her, Roderic, because you call her your _friend_!"

Then she branched off upon the subject of the cruise, to which she
seemed to look forward with almost childish delight.

It is not every one to whom is given the proud fortune to own a modern
steam yacht, and this daughter of Eve could be forgiven a fair amount
of exhilaration under the circumstances.

Perhaps, truth to tell, the prospect of ten days basking in the company
of her athletic cousin had something to do with her light spirits.

Owen's time was not wholly his own, so that he was soon forced to sally
forth upon the streets of the Irish metropolis.

When Cleo was alone she hastened to her luxurious apartments and
searching the inmost recesses of an inlaid traveling writing desk which
had been taken from a capacious trunk, she soon pounced upon a small
photograph.

It was wretchedly done by a tyro in Ponce, but even boorish work could
not entirely conceal the fact that the face was that of a most lovely
dark-eyed houri.

Cleo looked eagerly at it.

"I have had this now two years. Roderic dropped it in the garden, and
I hid it away for a joke and then forgot to speak of it. This is the
picture of a daughter of Porto Rico--is it the same who is now in
Dublin, who last night at the peril of her name warned him of evil? I
have reason to believe such to be the truth, for unless I am greatly
mistaken I saw this same beauty coming out of St. Patrick's cathedral
yesterday morning, when a gust of wind blew her veil aside. In this
land where Irish gray or blue eyes abound I was immediately attracted
by such a beautiful pair of melting dusky orbs.

"Heigho! this is Roderic's fate no doubt. Heaven grant that he may
be happy whate'er betide, for he deserves it. I would give all my
miserable millions for his heart's love, but it can not be. There is a
startling story of the past connected with this girl, I am sure. Why
did they separate--does she love him still? Well, perhaps the future
may tell."

She put the photograph slowly back in the lodging place where it had so
long rested securely. Even great riches had not the power to bring this
young woman unalloyed happiness, for the one treasure she would have
valued above all other earthly possessions seemed denied her by a cruel
fate.

It were hardly fair that all the joys of earth were handed over to the
disposal of one mortal.

While she rolled in wealth beyond Aladdin's dreams and sighed for
true love, many who were blessed in this regard struggled for a daily
pittance and groaned because their heart's devotion could not come
between the object of their worship and cruel Want.

Truly, this is a queer old world, and at times it seems unequally
divided; but occasionally there is a shaking up all around that evens
things up somewhat.

Possessed of a sudden notion Cleo dressed for the street.

When she went out it was with a laughing remark to Miss Becky, whom she
intercepted upon the broad carpeted main stairway, to the effect that a
number of little shopping duties had to be looked after.

However, M'lle Cleo's ideas of the shopping district must have become
a little mixed, for she sauntered in the direction of that quaint mass
of stone and glass with its spire and numerous minarets known as St.
Patrick's Cathedral.

She looked through the iron fence at the flat slabs and few monuments
commemorating illustrious Irish dead, she studied the architecture of
the historic building, and cast many a curious glance at those who
passed in to late mass or came out from the interior.

Her object seemed doomed to disappointment, for the face she sought was
not seen.

Once she eyed a lady closely veiled, who came out in company with a
military looking gentleman sporting a shaggy head of gray hair _à la_
Mark Twain, also a ferocious mustache waxed at the ends and giving the
wearer the fierce appearance of King Humbert.

As the couple passed Cleo she chanced to hear the lady make a casual
remark, and two things struck the listener as singular.

First it was pure Spanish she heard.

Second, her voice was so very melodious it seemed to conjure up visions
of rippling water, warbling birds and all those things of which poets
love to rave.

Cleo remembered--could she ever forget the pain that shot through her
heart at the time--how Roderic had grown suddenly enthusiastic when he
declared the voice of Senorita de Brabant as musical as the notes of a
nightingale--she had doubtless sung for him many times those passionate
serenades and love songs for which dark eyed daughters of old Spain
have ever been famous.

Cleo could imagine how those wonderful black orbs glowed with love's
sacred fire when _he_ sat near, upon a soft divan, or bent over the
gurgling fountain's basin.

She felt sick at heart, but such a nature never reveals the pain that
rankles within.

Though suffering tortures such girls will laugh and seem as merry as
the lightest hearted among their comrades.

After that came the shopping, and yet Cleo was annoyed to find herself
listening to every voice upon the street and in the stores.

Surely there could not be another in all Dublin that so fully filled
the brief but graphic description Roderic had given of a woman's tones
sounding like the soft gurgling of water over the mossy stones in the
primeval forest.

"I wonder under what conditions we will meet, for something tells me
this is bound to occur. And shall I too be drawn to her because he has
given his heart? Will she love him--love my old play fellow Roderic
as--as I could do, have done these many years? Perhaps, but I doubt
it, doubt whether these hot blooded girls of the tropic isles can love
so truly that they will sacrifice even their own happiness in order
that _his_ life may be filled with sunshine. Still, God forgive me for
judging her harshly. I have other things--his love may be all in all
to her. Come what will I shall do what is right and loyal and true as
becomes a daughter of Virginia. But oh! it is hard to give him up, my
hope, my boy lover, my Roderic. Now I am done!"

Having thus grimly dismissed the matter from her mind for the present
the young lady proceeded to carry out her designs.

Numerous things were on her list to be added to the abundant stores
aboard the yacht, and it would probably puzzle the honest steward, she
imagined, to know what to do with the last arrivals.

"If I remained in Dublin three days more I am sure we would be swamped
in the bay made celebrated by song and story, or else be compelled to
charter a companion boat to share our cargo--there are so many things I
see that could be made useful among the wretched people just escaping
from Spanish rule, and these Irish storekeepers one and all, must have
had an intimate acquaintance with the Blarney stone, they have such
engaging ways and a burning desire to accumulate Uncle Sam's coin. This
is an era of good feeling--of hands across the sea--Brother John and
Brother Jonathan, and they all want to be in it as deep as possible.
However, I think I am actually done. It would be impossible to accept
all they offer."

So the purchasing agency went reluctantly out of commission.

Even the owner of millions must draw the line somewhere.

Roderic was not to be seen at luncheon, although Cleo purposely
lingered over the meal, hoping he would turn up.

Jerome was there, handsome as ever, and apparently much sought after by
a designing lady mother from Chicago who possessed two plain girls of a
marriageable age.

No doubt they believed him a marquis, or at the very least connected
with some noble family anxious to make a "connection" with pork.

These things happen frequently, and there really seems no remedy--the
market is there and the goods offered for sale. Occasionally a genuine
love match occurs which redounds to the credit of Old England and Young
America; but for the most part they are cut and dried affairs entered
into for position on one side and gold on the other. Such unions are
beneath contempt.

Jerome bowed and smiled in his usual affable manner, and Cleo answered
him just as though she had not been informed of his dark schemes.

This matter of fact young woman had traveled far and wide--she had
rubbed up against all manner of people, and long since ceased to be
excessively surprised at anything.

Wellington was simply carrying out the business for which nature had
endowed him.

There were many people gifted with more money than brains--the reverse
was true in his case, and he amused himself by endeavoring to bring
about a more evenly balanced condition of affairs, to his pecuniary
advantage, of course.

Cleo could even find something to admire about his bold piratical way
of living by his wits--at least he had more of the man about him than
most of the petted darlings of society on both sides of the Atlantic
who fawned upon her in a sickly sentimental way from precisely the same
sinister motives that influenced Wellington's bold attacks.

Let these parvenu mammas with daughters to sell pay the penalty for
their sin.

As the day wore on and she saw nothing of Roderic she began to feel a
little worried.

Could harm have befallen him?

She knew the unscrupulous character of those elements which he usually
pitted his powers against.

Perhaps Wellington, that suave deluder, not one whit discouraged by his
first failure, had promptly opened his secondary batteries.

Still, it seemed almost ridiculous to believe harm could have befallen
a sensible man like Roderic in the open streets of Dublin while the sun
was shining.

Had it been Algiers, Constantinople, Pekin or some city of mysterious
India, the case would have appeared far more serious, for uncanny
things are liable to occur in such Oriental marts at any hour of the
day or night.

As evening drew on apace she found herself watching the doorway beyond
which lay the calm square known as St. Stephens' Green.

Her captain had come ashore for a comparison of ideas, and was still
with her, since Cleo desired him to meet her cousin.

They would see much of each other during the voyage, and she
particularly desired to bring about the meeting of two congenial souls.

Dinner passed.

Still no Roderic.

She confided her fears in part to the captain.

The worthy seadog was able to wrestle with any perplexing problem that
might assail them afloat, but when it came to mastering the wiles apt
to beset a man's path ashore he confessed his ignorance.

Nothing could be done--they must wait till a sign of some kind was
given.

That was the exasperating part, for Cleo was naturally a girl of
decided action.

An hour crept by since dinner--two of them, and it was now drawing near
ten o'clock.

No one entered the door but that Cleo's eyes were instantly upon them,
and disappointment had as yet been the only result.

She endeavored to be her own lively self but it required a great effort.

Roderic might be in danger, but somehow she was possessed of the
idea that it was more from a pair of midnight eyes than a murderous
stiletto, for Cleo could not forget the face she had seen, the lovely
original of her photograph, who was even now in Dublin.

Was her power of enchantment over Roderic still unbroken--could she
draw him to her even after an absence of two years--had the bar that
separated them been cast aside?

How these questions flashed before her eyes and seemed burned upon her
brain like coals of fire. She suffered intensely, but the bluff old sea
dog never knew it--indeed he believed her to be unusually brilliant,
her wit was so keen and her suggestions as to their coming voyage so
remarkably clever.

She dreaded the thought of having to retire in this state of
uncertainty.

The hour drew on--it neared eleven, and the ladies had wholly
disappeared.

Then Cleo suddenly gave a sigh of relief, for her eager eyes had
discovered his well known figure entering the front door of the hotel.

She noted instantly that he looked disturbed, and that his usually
natty appearance was lacking--and practical Cleo knew Roderic had been
through an adventure. Half rising as she beckoned to him, she awaited
his coming with breathless impatience.



CHAPTER V.

RODERIC'S REPENTANCE.


Roderic had indeed been up against it good and hard since leaving his
cousin at the breakfast table.

He had entered upon his duties of the day with a vim, desirous of
closing his accounts so that he might get away on the next morning, if
Cleo and her captain were willing.

During the morning he was haunted by certain facts which bore heavily
upon the relations existing between present conditions and those that
prevailed two years back.

The girl from Porto Rico occupied a prime place in all these
reflections.

Every word that had been spoken by her on the preceding night came
again before his mental vision, and underwent a revised scrutiny.

New solutions sprang up, for he was able to better understand certain
things that were uttered.

Still there was much to puzzle him.

How came she to know of Cleo, his cousin--true, in times past, when
paradise seemed opening to his feet--ah, what a fool's dream he had
indulged in--he must have frequently spoken of his cousin, for she was
often in his mind; but that would not account for her pertinent remarks
concerning Cleo's attachment for him.

Was it jealousy prompted this?

Roderic flushed with pleasure at the very thought of such a thing,
since the green-eyed monster can never lodge in a human heart unless
there still remains love to stir the depths.

Then, somehow, he felt a strange shudder pass through his whole frame.

Would it bring trouble of any kind to this loyal cousin, whose welfare
was certainly as dear to him as that of a sister?

He knew much of these southern women--their virtues and frailties--and
realized what a serious thing it meant to be passionately loved by one
of them, and how ill they brooked rivalry.

The love Georgia had given him was so entirely different from the pure,
unselfish devotion of which Cleo was capable--he knew this as well
as any one, and yet with his eyes open he had chosen the rush of the
hurricane to the calm, steady current of never changing regard.

Love is a little god who will have his way despite reason and
philosophy.

Once poor mortal falls under his sway and farewell to discernment--from
that time on Cupid sits in the balance, and weighs things to suit his
own capricious nature.

Thus our good Roderic found himself worried with a variety of new
questions, such as it had not occurred to him before could ever come up
in connection with his affairs.

They cropped up before him in his business and he found it utterly
impossible to get rid of them. What was on the heart must have a place
in the mind in spite of stern endeavors to banish his own private
affairs from the front.

Thus the day wore on.

Things worked fairly well.

He sent some letters, and toward the close of the afternoon some
telegrams in cipher intended for those connected with the government at
Washington in whose special line he was working.

Finally he pronounced his work done.

Unless some late orders, which he did not look for, turned up to
intercept him, he was free to shake the dust of old Erin from his shoes
on the morrow.

He anticipated the voyage to the West Indies with considerable
pleasure, for, as the veil of the future can not be raised by mortal
hands, how was he to know what strange happenings might occur before
the anchor was lifted, to change his relations to the owner of the
yacht?

About sundown he visited a store on Lower Sackville street where he had
been receiving his mail.

There was a message awaiting him.

It came from Darby.

How that remarkable man had managed to mail the letter was a puzzle to
Roderic, but no doubt he had prepared the envelope with a stamp and
found some means of getting it posted by bribing a sailor.

Darby could accomplish anything under heaven when he made up his mind.

The note was brief and epigrammatic, just as Darby's speech had always
been. Time was worth money to him, and he used very few words.

"They got me as per agreement. We are on the way to Havre. Will touch
at coast of Cornwall for private reasons of captain. Mail this there if
possible. The French m'amselle aboard. Charming young woman. Think I
shall be pleasantly entertained, as she has a voice like a bird. Do not
pity me, comrade. I may go all the way to Monte Carlo. Who could refuse
such good fortune? More anon."

That was all.

Roderic laughed when he read it.

"What a sly dog that Darby is--outwardly an iceberg, a glacier, he yet
possesses the capacity for adoring lovely woman. Perhaps he may yet be
wrecked upon the same reefs that have been the destruction of so many.
Alas! poor Yorick. But I am willing to wager that at least he extracts
some fun out of this game before he gives up the ghost."

And now, dinner!

The thought was delightful, since his appetite had become clamorous,
and besides there was great pleasure in the anticipation of some hours
in the society of his cousin. Cleo could chat so entertainingly of many
things he had seen, for both were great travelers.

She had visited the frequented thoroughfares of ordinary travel.
Besides, she had gone from Europe to India via the overland Afghanistan
and Khyber Pass route, had looked upon the celebrated Vale of Cashmere,
wandered in Cathay, and was at home in Japan.

It can be readily understood how much satisfaction Roderic found in
chatting with her on these subjects, for the fever of exploration
was growing upon him all the while--he yearned to delve amid the
wild places of earth seldom or never gazed upon by the eyes of
civilization--he had already ridden on elephants in Siam, mounted the
Peruvian Andes on a llama, explored the Himalayas with adventurous
officers, their only vehicle being drawn by yaks; and once Roderic had
scoured the desolate Kirghiz steppes on a tarantas drawn by shuffling
camels.

Secretly he aspired to some day make his way to the Forbidden City of
Tibet, where the foot of a white man has never yet trodden, and whose
gorgeous wonders yet remain sealed books to the world--a city which the
bold traveler Harry Savage Landor recently endeavored to reach but was
forced to abandon the task as impossible.

At present of course these things were hung up in abeyance, since his
beloved country was at war with Spain, and called upon her patriotic
sons to overwhelm the enemy, both in the field and under the guise of
diplomacy.

The pursuit of his business had taken him far out from the central part
of the city and the river Liffey.

From Donnybrook he had crossed to the region of Rathmines, where in an
interview with one whose word carried great weight among the Fenian
brotherhood, he learned that the mission of the Spanish schemers had
failed.

This was a matter of great importance to those faithful statesmen at
Washington who labored to prevent any combination of European Powers
against Young America--it meant that the great coalition would pull
through and that poor Spain must take her drubbing.

He had mounted to the upper deck of a tramcar and was on the way back
to the city, surveying with considerable interest the names of the many
villas, places and terraces, for every householder apparently desired
to mark his residence by some appropriate designation.

From this state of beatitude, superinduced by the clear consciousness
of a day's work well done and the soothing effect of a good pipe,
Roderic was without the least warning precipitated into a condition of
tremendous excitement.

He had just noted the old name on a rough stone gate post "Lucknow
Bungalow," and was wondering if some gallant retired officer who had
seen exciting days with Havelock, or later with gallant Roberts, might
live in cozy retirement here, surrounded by objects brought from the
far distant realm of Her Majesty the Empress of India, when some
magnetism seemed to draw his gaze toward the romantic house set back a
little from the road.

Just at the same instant some one leaned out of an open window as if
to close a shutter, some one whose personality acted upon Roderic very
much as might a shock of electricity.

Of course it was the girl from Porto Rico.

That she saw him and recognized him Roderic realized instantly.

It was another freak of Fate.

When the three sisters who weave our destinies with distaff and loom,
conspire against a poor mortal, there is little use trying to dodge the
snare, since the loop falls over one's shoulders on the most unexpected
occasions, and usually without warning.

Roderic yielded, rescue or no rescue, at once.

He immediately arose from his place and made down the winding stairs
at the end of the car. The vehicle had been progressing meanwhile as
rapidly as two sturdy Irish horses could draw it along the rails, and
by the time the gentleman from across the Atlantic reached _terra
firma_ they were half a block away from the bungalow and its stone
posts.

Roderic had not developed any plan of action--what he did was from
sheer impulse.

The sight of her face had spurred him on--nor might this be set
down as the only instance where a woman's lovely countenance caused
unpremeditated action on the part of a usually conservative and well
balanced man.

When he reached the distinguishing stone pillars upon which he read the
name of the villa, Roderic boldly turned in.

Prudence might have dictated another course, for there was reason to
believe, as both Darby and himself had discovered, that the old Porto
Rican general, Georgia's uncle in fact, was allied with those who had
endeavored to work the grand scheme.

Therefore, he would not be apt to look upon any Yankee, and
particularly Roderic Owen, with favor.

General Porfidio to the contrary, the American strode past the sentinel
posts, up the box bordered walk and directly to the front door.

This was his nature, bold to a fault, ready to walk directly up to the
cannon's mouth if duty but half demanded it.

It was the Irish element in his blood, for where that strain goes
throughout the peoples of the wide world, it carries with it devotion
and gallantry.

Before he could lay a hand upon the knocker, that represented a bronze
Hindoo god, the door softly opened.

A young girl stood there.

As he looked at her, framed in the opening, with the light of the
setting sun falling upon her wondrous face, Roderic held his very
breath, for he was again under the spell of her dusky eyes, that ever
wove a web of enchantment about him.

Thus they stood, these two who had parted some years before--stood and
stared and said not a single word for more than a full minute.

What they lived over in those sixty seconds of time God only knows.

Perhaps there came up before them a vision of Paradise Lost--of sweet
scented flowers, flashing fountains, caroling birds--of a West Indian
garden where the God of Love reigned, where the soft tinkle of magic
mandolin accompanied songs of hottest devotion, where eyes looked into
eyes and drank to the fill of heaven's nectar, where vows of constancy
were fervently breathed and returned. Alas! how many times these same
maddening memories arise to haunt broken hearts, for human nature is
weak, and prone to wander afar after strange idols.

Roderic recovered his voice, and while he still kept his eyes on her
glowing face he said, quietly:

"You expected me--you knew I would come?"

"I believed you would when I saw you look this way," she admitted; and
then added: "but I do not know why you are here, Senor Roderic."

"Perhaps to thank you."

"For what?" confused.

"Your garb deceived me last night, but I knew the voice which you could
not wholly disguise. I wish to tell you how--"

"Stop. I do not desire to hear your gratitude. It was a duty with me.
By chance I learned of the miserable plot. I could not bear to even see
an enemy so badly used, much less one whom I once delighted to call--my
friend."

"Once--are we then no longer such?"

"Senor, your welfare will always be regarded with interest by me,"
coldly.

"You have condemned me unheard," with a gesture of despair.

"Not I, senor, but yourself. The choice lay before you, and you decided
to flee from San Juan--from Elysium. You were unjust--for once in your
life. You alone, senor, condemned, not I."

"But--was there no reason--I beg of you, I implore, an answer?"

"Senor, this is a house where danger lurks for you--a house where
plots are nightly considered against your people. It would be better
for you to go away lest some of these hot headed Spanish sympathizers
set eyes on you."

"Let them go to the devil--what care I for all the Spaniards in
Christendom. I shall stay here just as long as I like--as long as you
allow me."

"Ah! senor, but you did not always exhibit that same spirit--there was
_one_ Spaniard you feared worse than Satan does holy water."

The spirit of coquetry ever lives in woman, and this girl could not
resist giving poor Owen a little thrust even while her heart was
wonderfully stirred by his presence.

"Yes, Julio, the handsome bolero dancer, who had once been a famous
toreador in Spain. As I hope for salvation I believe you favored his
advances--you laughed at me when a denial was what I asked. Words
followed, for my part in which may Heaven forgive me, and we parted in
hot anger, we two who had been all in all to each other. Georgia, will
you answer that question _now_?" he asked, holding her eyes enthralled
by his eager gaze.

She did not speak, only put out her hand and plucked him by the sleeve.

It was only a gentle pull, but to Roderic Owen the power of a giant
steam engine could not exert greater force.

She meant that he should enter that East Indian bower--she would answer
his passionate question--the doubts and fears that had haunted him lo,
these many moons were on the eve of being forever put to rest.

Thus he followed her through the doorway and presently found
himself in a little parlor where walls and mantles were almost
covered with hundreds of strange mementoes of the land of Buddha and
Vishnu--grinning idols, miniature elephants, tiger skins, queer swords
and knives, and wonderful pieces of colored work fashioned by the
cunning handicraft of those natives of Bengal and Ceylon.

Upon the floor were strewn very costly rugs from Dagestan and Persia.

There was an air of romance hovering about the apartment--even the
peculiar Oriental odor that was so pronounced, seemed to be associated
with tender scenes.

Roderic felt it, and a strange eagerness took possession of his heart.

Was such happiness as he had never allowed himself to dream could dawn
upon him again about to become his guest?

Having led him into this apartment, the girl drew back the Bagdad
curtains in order that more light from the westerly sun might enter,
after which she advanced slowly toward him.

Her head was lowered, so that he knew not whether those wonderful orbs
were filled with love or contempt, and the uncertainty alarmed him.

"You have surely not brought me in here to upbraid, Georgia--I cannot
believe that. It would have been enough had you desired me to go, to
have told me so outside, and while ready to ask forgiveness on my
knees, if you assured me I was quite in the wrong, I would have turned
away without one reproach, deserving all. I asked you the question
that has burned itself upon my brain ever since that hour when I flung
myself out of your presence so madly, and vowed never again to believe
in a woman's love. Was dashing Julio anything to you _then_--is he
_now_?"

Then she threw back her proud head and looked him in the face--he was
answered even before she spoke a word.

"One finger of your hand, Roderic Owen, yes, even its tip was of more
value to me in those days than a dozen bolero dancers with their
graceful movements and threadbare love phrases. Julio sued in vain--I
laughed him to scorn--I have not seen him from the hour you fled."

Then a glad cry burst from his lips--he opened his arms and would
have seized upon her, believing that she had forgiven--that the old
conditions could be thus easily revived, since the barrier that had
separated them was swept aside.

He had lowered his pride--he had humbly cried "_peccavi_--I have
sinned," and it was reasonable to believe that if she still cherished
the love she once bore him, this girl of the Antilles would fall into
his embrace to forgive and be forgiven.

But instead she stepped back, eluding his grasp, and while panting with
emotion, said resolutely:

"Stand back, Senor Roderic--touch me not I command you!"



CHAPTER VI.

ON THE BORDERS OF PARADISE.


While Owen had doubtless encountered many rude shocks during his
adventurous life he never had such a staggering blow dealt him as when
this beauty from the Antilles so peremptorily ordered him to approach
no nearer.

Unconsciously he obeyed, and yet seemed amazed at himself for not
crushing her form in his embrace as he had done in times gone by when
the whole realm of earth had been centered in her beloved presence.

Had she then ceased to love him--true, he had been cruel in his
judgment, but since on his part time had effected no apparent cure,
could it be possible that she despised where once she adored?

He searched for an answer, nor did he have to look long.

Under his troubled gaze burning blushes swept over her face and
neck--she trembled with the intensity of her emotions, her breath came
in quick, spasmodic gasps, and she looked like a beautiful fluttering
bird facing its fate.

Love still reigned in her heart where he had once been king.

Then why this strange action--while yet loving did she mean to
sacrifice this man who to her had been a god, however gross his
material may have appeared to other eyes?

Was resentment, the desire to avenge her wrongs paramount to love?

While the ways of womankind were not wholly a sealed book to Owen, he
had always frankly confessed himself unable to understand them. Yes, he
had even drilled himself into the habit of being surprised at nothing
the sex might do, either noble or otherwise--they were full of the
unexpected to him.

"You say stand back--see, I obey you. Tell me to go, and I leave your
presence forever. And yet I am wretchedly sorry and would do all in my
power to wipe out the past, to make you believe in me as once you did.
Is there any such way--shall I have a chance, Georgia?"

He knew the power of his voice over her--he could see her bosom heave
with the intensity of her feelings.

Still she did not yield--this daughter of the Antilles was made of
sterner stuff than to be swept along by every passing breeze like the
fallen leaves of autumn.

"Perhaps," she replied, slowly.

"You would impose conditions--well, it is only right and fair. Let them
be what they will I am ready to undertake them. The harder the better,
since by that means I can prove the strength of my love, the bitterness
with which I regard my conduct of the past."

"I said perhaps. Have you forgotten what I declared last night?" and
her eyes dropped in confusion.

"You warned me--you saved me from a complication that was intended to
injure me with my employers, with those whose respect I held dear. You
risked much to warn me, and it was the thought of this that renewed my
courage, my hope."

"It was something else--something of a more personal nature."

Then her meaning flashed upon him.

"You refer to Cousin Cleo--ah! what you said cannot be true--her
regard for me is warm and cousinly, as mine is for her, but that is
all."

"And if it were true--if she did love you--devotedly with all her heart
and soul, Senor Roderic?"

"It would make no difference. I should deplore such an unfortunate
occurrence deeply, on her account, for she is a noble woman in a
million. But it would be utterly impossible for me to love another as I
have you, Georgia."

And he believed what he said, showing that he was sincere, at any rate.

His words made her eyes glisten with delight, for who does not yearn to
hear such phrases falling from the lips of an adored one.

"You solemnly swear that is true?" she asked, willing to believe, yet
filled with womanly doubts.

"By everything sacred, by the memory of that happy past which my
wretched jealousy slaughtered, by the grave of my revered mother I
swear that I love and have loved no woman on earth but one, and she is
before me."

"Then you shall hear the condition upon which you may wipe out the
past--upon which I shall again believe in you with all my heart and
soul, and forget the cruel wrong you did me."

"Name it, for Heaven's sake, Georgia. You shall see that I am in deadly
earnest--that I abhor myself for the miserable way in which I fled from
happiness and you. Yes, though it take me to the ends of the world,
I shall go, proud to convince you that as once before I am above all
others your _preux chevalier_. What would you have me do--all I ask is
that it may not be to the prejudice of my beloved country for which I
have sworn to stand to the death against all her foreign foes."

"Find Leon for me!"

It was a marvelously strange request and quite enough to stagger the
man of whom the imperious demand was made.

"Find Leon"--the lover must set out on a quest for another man--who
was Leon, what relation did he bear the belle of San Juan, and where
had he become lost since he needed a voyage of discovery made in his
behalf--Jason, starting with his bold Argonauts in search of the Golden
Fleece might not have had half the trouble that would come of looking
for a lost man in the world wilderness of to-day, since traveling
facilities were limited in those times, whereas one may now readily
fling thousands of leagues behind him in a fortnight.

"Find Leon--for me!"

Evidently Leon was of considerable importance to the speaker--her voice
seemed to dwell upon the sound with much tenderness.

But Roderic did not appear to be amazed on account of the name--it was
something else that gave him cause for astonishment.

"Senorita, I declared my readiness to go to the ends of the earth to
serve you, but now you ask me to seek the shades beyond, the world of
spirits. How then could I claim the reward even if success attended my
endeavor?"

"No, no, not that--you do not understand--it is Leon, my brother you
are to find," breathlessly.

"Exactly, and as he is dead it would necessitate my becoming a
disembodied spirit--"

"Ah! yes, but he is not dead."

"Pardon, you told me so many times, and I mourned with you on account
of your loss."

"It was all a terrible mistake."

"And Leon is not dead?"

"At least he was alive three months ago. Oh! you do not know, you
cannot understand the great joy with which I but recently learned how
we had all been deceived."

Her face glowed with enthusiasm.

Every atom of his old mad idolatry seemed resurrected, and Roderic was
almost ready to bend down in order to kiss the hem of her garment, he
felt so abased on account of the wrong his hasty action had brought
upon her.

"Where am I to search?" he asked, eagerly, as though ready to start on
the jump.

"He is in Porto Rico."

"Good. That is where I am going to-morrow."

"And whither we also expect to bring up as soon as steam can take us."

"Tell me what you know of him, this brother who was dead, yet lives.
How shall I know him?"

"Ah! you would recognize him, Senor Roderic, did you but meet on the
ocean as castaways, or in the midst of the Great Sahara."

"Then he looks like you?"

"They have always said it."

"That is enough--I shall remember always."

"And you undertake the mission?" eagerly.

His eyes met her glowing orbs.

"You have yourself named the condition, Georgia. If I find this brother
you will forgive me the cruel past--you promise to love me again?"

"Ah, senor, I have never been able to crush that love from my
heart--it is as strong there to-day as when we pledged our lives to
happiness. Stay, do not misunderstand me," as he made a movement toward
her, "until you have done something to atone for your desertion, Senor
Roderic, we may not resume those relations."

"And should fate baffle my search--should Leon be actually dead, do I
lose all, sweetheart--will you throw my love away like an old glove?"

"I could not, for your love is life to me. I have hoped through these
gloomy years, hoped you might learn how cruel, how unjust you had been,
and return to me. If you search with all your heart, that will answer
my demands."

"How eagerly I shall try let Heaven be my witness. During the long
and dreary months since last I saw you, dear girl, I have lived ages.
Many times rebellion arose within my heart, fermented by the love that
lingered there, and could only be put down with an iron hand. Now I
shall hope to make such poor amends as lie in my power for the wretched
mistakes of that dreadful past. But tell what you know of Leon--why has
he been dead to you so long, and what reason have you to believe he
still lives and is in Porto Rico?"

"You think it strange--it is right to look at it in that way. I myself
sometimes doubt whether I am awake, it all seems so marvelous, so
startling.

"Leon was my only brother--I have told you before how we once loved
each other, and even described how he was drawn to join the brave
Cubans under Gomez when they rebelled against the mother country.

"In one of the first fights that occurred Leon was taken prisoner, and
carried to Havana where he was secretly confined in Morro Castle.

"Suddenly we heard that he had been taken out under the castle walls
with seven other wretched patriots and shot to death.

"That was about the time I met you, senor, and my aching heart found
solace in your devoted love. Then came the period of our happiness and
the shock of your desertion.

"Days, months, yes years have since passed. Then, as though the dark
clouds would roll away together, I again saw your blessed face, and at
the same time heard a wonderful story that Leon was alive--that he had
been saved by the daughter of the officer in command of Morro Castle,
who had fallen in love with his handsome face."

"That is not so wonderful, senorita, since you tell me he resembles
_you_."

"Ah! flatterer; but you shall hear all, though the time is not
appropriate. Strange things happen in Havana--in all Spanish speaking
countries--romance has a home there, and plays a part you colder
Anglo-Saxons hardly understand."

"You forget I have lived there myself--that I speak Spanish, and by
direct association discovered the good qualities of these people who
are almost enigmas to the common run of Americans. I believe in giving
the devil his due. Yes, you cannot surprise me very much. I too have
seen many remarkable dramas played under the crimson and gold banner of
Spain."

"This daughter of the governor saved Leon. She bribed the prison doctor
who pronounced my brother dead while in reality he only lay in a stupor
caused by a subtle drug.

"He was carried from the prison in a coffin and buried just as the sun
went down.

"Then darkness came as the grave diggers turned back to the fort.

"Hardly were they out of sight than from a chaparral where she had
remained hidden sprang the governor's daughter, may the saints protect
her as an angel of mercy.

"At her side was a faithful negro, and while the fire-flies spangled
the darkness around, this man flung back the newly set earth.

"When Leon had been snatched from the rude pine box intended for his
coffin this was again buried in the ground.

"They carried the boy to the negro's cabin and there he was tenderly
nursed through a long and weary sickness.

"There he lay while I mourned as only a loving, stricken sister could;
for we believed the published account of his death before the guns of
the avenging Spanish executioners.

"It was six months before he was well, and during that time he had
become so mixed up in the great game of independence that he dared not
let me know even of his existence--besides, he feared lest a breath of
suspicion should be cast upon the girl who had risked all this for his
sake, and whom he loved with heart and soul.

"Thus time passed on and under another name he fought with Gomez and
Garcia--wherever the flag of Cuba waved in battle he was there, ready
to lead the charge and die if need be for the cause in which he had
enlisted.

"When your troops were first put ashore near Santiago and attacked by
the Spaniards, it was Leon, now a captain in the Cuban army, who saved
them from annihilation.

"The time had apparently come when he felt at liberty to send me a
message, and this he did through one of the Americans. It is too long a
story to tell how he accomplished it, nor does it matter.

"He also sent word, believing me to be still in Porto Rico, still in
dear old San Juan, that he expected to be there sometime in the latter
part of July or early in August and I must keep on the lookout for him.

"Between us, Senor Roderic, we must find Leon! If he comes to me I
shall count it the same as though you had won your case, since the
desire to do this service for me is there."

"Ah! you are forgiving--you are an angel, dearest girl. No matter, I
shall never excuse myself for my unfounded suspicions."

"You no longer believe in them?"

"I have not this long time back. Reason was fast driving me to again
visit San Juan and discover how deeply I had wronged you."

"Would you have done that?"

"I swear that such a thought, amounting almost to a resolution, was in
my mind, when I learned fortune was again sending me to San Juan."

She showed the pleasure that was rioting in her heart--the
reconciliation seemed drawing very near.

"And you leave--to-morrow, senor?"

"Yes, the sooner I get away from Dublin the better for all purposes.
I have discovered that the mission of those who sought aid here has
been balked. Just now the sentiment of the Irish toward England seems
softened, and it looks as though by means of kindness and justice, the
wrongs of the past may be washed out. We who love the best interests of
this green isle hope for great things."

"You go to New York, that great city of which you so often spoke, but
which I have never yet seen?"

"No, direct to Porto Rico."

"Indeed. I did not know there were any regular vessels going to Spanish
ports in the West Indies."

"This is a special trip."

"Ah! I begin to see. We too, leave to-morrow. Can it be possible you
have taken passage on the same boat, the Sterling Castle, a fleet
blockade runner?"

Eagerness was written on her lovely face.

Roderic could almost wish he had been lucky enough to have done so,
believing that it must have proven a happy voyage for them.

He failed to take into account the elements that would naturally be
in charge of such a vessel, and the strong probability that his form
must grace a yard arm as an American spy, ere the voyage had been half
completed.

"I am sorry to say that opportunity is denied me. My cousin owns a
steam yacht, which she has loaded with stores and medicines to be taken
to Porto Rico, which island she believes has been quite forgotten by
Miss Barton and her Red Cross movement. I shall be a passenger on
board, and be secretly put ashore to fulfill my work."

A sudden change came over the girl's face--there was a drop of fifty
degrees in temperature. A smiling summer sky had been blotted out by
a rude wintry blizzard--the smile gave way to a look of pain, almost
a frown. These passion flowers of the south know little of the art
that consists in concealing the emotions--honest love or hate flashes
quickly upon the countenance, for they brook no rivals.

"Your cousin--Miss Fairfax of Virginia, the daughter of a fortune, who
is ready to cast all she owns at your feet--and you are to sail with
her--you will be in her company ten days, two weeks perhaps. Santa
Maria! then you will forget me, forget everything but her blue eyes
that look like the Porto Rico skies at sunset."

It was almost a piteous wail to which she gave vent, and Roderic, his
heart touched, realizing that the chance for which he yearned had come,
sprang forward and threw an arm around the girl.

She had repulsed him before, but with a fierce jealousy raging in her
heart she was no longer capable of such heroics.

So she yielded herself a willing captive to his embraces--her heart had
ever been true, why should she not enjoy a fleeting spell of bliss?

Looking down into her confused face upon which his kisses were yet
warm, he said, with a quiet assurance that did much to convince her:

"Sweetheart, I have known Cleo all my life. I love her as a sister, for
she is a noble woman; but I never have given and never could give her
an iota of the idolatrous passion that has filled my heart for you.
You have believed me before--trust me now. I live only in the hope of
wiping out my shameful action of the past, and of winning you for my
own. Are you satisfied?"

"But she cares for you, Roderic; your fair cousin!"

"You declare so--I can hardly believe it."

"But I know it--she would make a far better wife for you than might a
poor daughter of Porto Rico," weakly, almost piteously.

"I am the judge of that, and I would snatch you to my heart against all
the world."

"She has great wealth," watching him yearningly.

"I love only _you_, my darling."

"She is cultivated, refined, as you say a noble woman, while I am poor,
with only my face and a worshiping heart to bring you."

"But I adore _you_--life without you would be a dreary waste," he
steadfastly declared.

His simple argument convinced even the little skeptic.

"Then God's will be done--I am yours again when you have fulfilled
your penance, Senor Roderic."

Just as he was about to ratify the treaty with a lover's kiss there
was a tremendous bellow, as if some mad bull had broken loose from
confinement, and into the half darkened apartment came the tall figure
of General Porfidio, her guardian.



CHAPTER VII.

THE SWORD DUEL IN THE EAST INDIAN BUNGALOW.


Surrounded by a thousand mementoes of India as he was, in this quaint
bungalow on the Rathmines road, Roderic Owen might well have been
pardoned had he allowed imagination to have full sway, and looked for
some offended satellite of great Buddha to appear with the advent of
that bull-like roar.

But it chanced that he knew the sound of old, since the general and
himself had many times enjoyed each other's society in San Juan when
Cupid ruled the camp.

He was not particularly anxious to meet the Porto Rican officer just
yet, but being a man who never showed the white feather when face to
face with trouble, he wheeled to confront the hurricane just entering.

General Porfidio was a big man, and having a bushy head of white hair
his appearance was unusually ferocious, nor did his fierce military
mustache and his shaggy eyebrows serve to temper the naturally
bellicose looks which a provident Nature had bestowed upon him.

The roar with which he usually spoke accorded well with his whole
disposition.

And yet Roderic had seen this terrible man of war become as meek as a
little lamb under the thumb of a pretty girl's hand--Georgia knew how
to pull his heart strings and bring him to his knees.

He evidently entered the room in a tremendous whirl of excitement.

"_Por Dios!_ so, I have discovered the villain. Roblado swore he saw
him enter here, and ran to inform me three blocks away. I have galloped
every foot of the distance, and with each yard I swore a fearful oath
to have his life, that of the spy who seeks to ruin me in my own house.
You hear, sir--I have come to rid the world of a viper. And yet, I
would not have it said that Porfidio de Brabant, with the blood of
cavaliers in his veins, descended so low as to strike an unarmed man.
Turn about, Yankee, and you will see many swords upon the wall behind
you. The light still remains good enough to allow us a few minutes
grace. It is all I want--I have not learned my lesson for nothing.
What! do you then refuse to defend yourself--then by Our Lady I shall
be obliged to spur you on with the flat of my good blade, until I can
beat some little courage into your shrinking soul."

He made an aggressive movement, as if about to instantly carry his plan
into action.

This was more than Roderic could stand.

He was a fighter by nature, and no man ever had to shake a red flag in
front of his eyes in order to arouse his ambition.

Even in the present instance, though he had no desire to meet the
general in an affair of honor, the awful threat made by the Porto Rican
was too much for his Irish blood.

Consequently he turned to the wall, remembering that his eye had
been involuntarily attracted toward a particularly inviting looking
slender Hindoo sword made of the finest steel in the world, tempered
in Damascus, where the art has been guarded as a secret, lo, these
hundreds of years, since the turbulent time of Saracens and Crusaders
in fact.

Quickly Roderic snatched this blade from the wall.

It felt like a reliable weapon, and he no sooner clasped his eager
fingers about the hilt than he knew he could depend upon it to the
death.

Having thus armed himself he whirled about, for the dire threat of the
old soldier still stung his ears, and he was mortally afraid the other
might in his anger carry it out.

To a proud man like Owen, such an indignity would be worse than the
danger of meeting an attack--and especially in _her_ presence.

Thus, when able to flash the jewel hilted East Indian blade around so
as to cover any possible attack from the old martinet, Roderic gave
vent to an exclamation of satisfaction.

At home with a sword, he felt able to render a good account of his
stewardship, since he had long taken a peculiar pride in learning the
ways in which various nations handle the weapon--a grizzled old Turk
had given him points in Constantinople--from an Algerian desert rover
he had learned how they fought with the steel when robbers attacked the
caravans--an expert Hindoo juggler who could place an apple on a man's
cranium and with a fierce downward stroke sever it completely without
harming a hair of the other's head had taken pleasure in teaching him
a few tricks, while American cavalrymen had made him an adept with
the sabre, and a French fencing master exhausted his _repertoire_ in
endeavoring to beat down his defense.

Taken in all, young Owen had no reason to fear any harm when thus given
a blade with which to defend himself.

Nor did he mean to demolish the old veteran, with whom he had many
times smoked the pipe of peace and good fellowship, exchanging stories
of world wide experiences.

All he desired was a chance to defend himself against furious attacks.

Evidently Don Porfidio had not as yet recognized the man in the parlor
of his bungalow.

For this, the growing shadows of coming dusk, together with the fury
that made his eyes dance in their sockets might be held accountable,
rather than any infirmities of coming age.

When the old fire-eater comprehended what the other's action really
meant he gave utterance to a snort of satisfaction.

Nothing could please him better than a chance to air his masterly
ability with the trenchant blade he had so proudly carried at his
side--opportunities for so doing had of late been too few and far
between to fully satisfy the vainglorious ambition of the soldier.

He had actually seen much stirring work in the military service of
Spain, and was seasoned by a long and hazardous career.

"_Carramba!_" he cried, "have we then at last one fellow who shirks not
the fray? Here's to your lung and an easier way of taking breath."

But somewhat to his surprise the unknown parried his quivering stroke
with the utmost ease, and still stood there on guard.

Then the old soldier waxed wroth.

He had been stunned at first, when his blade was so contemptuously
turned aside, for this action was not according to the usual way Dame
Fortune served such a son of Mars.

Of course he gave utterance to a Spanish execration, such as falls so
readily from the lips of these excitable people.

Then he hastily examined his sword, which was found to be in quite as
good condition as before, proving that the fault did not lie in that
quarter at least.

Having awakened to the knowledge that he had a job cut out before him
that would require his utmost endeavors, Don Porfidio braced his bulky
frame for a prodigious effort.

As the two antagonists stood there facing one another, like a pair of
Roman gladiators about to do battle royal the girl suddenly darted
between.

"You must not, shall not fight!" she exclaimed.

The general let out a roar.

"Stand back, on your life, rash girl. This is a business in which I
will brook no interference."

"But uncle, dear uncle, you do not know----"

"I know all I desire, and I shall make it my solemn duty to teach this
rascal a lesson he will never forget. Therefore I command you, Georgia,
to leave the room!"

"No, no, it would be a crime," she continued, endeavoring to cling to
his sword arm.

But the testy old don's fighting blood was up, and in such a condition
he would stand no interference even from one whom he loved so dearly.

So with his left arm he swept the frail figure of the San Juan belle
aside, and at the same time thrust out with his sword.

The weapon met that of Roderic eagerly advanced to receive the thrust,
and immediately there followed a clashing and rasping as steel
continued to smite its like.

Georgia, finding her efforts to keep the two men apart futile, fell
back in dismay from the flash of the writhing swords.

The spectacle appeared to fascinate her for a brief time, so that with
clasped hands she stood and gazed, her breath coming in gasps, and with
each breath a fervent prayer that the Holy Virgin would intervene to
prevent these two men, each of whom was so dear to her, from shedding
one another's blood.

Then of a sudden she uttered a bubbling cry--it was not because one or
the other had gained the least advantage, for they were still at it,
hammer and tongs, the giant man of war trying all his tricks and clever
thrusts with disheartening results--a bright thought had flashed into
the girl's bewildered brain.

Since Don Porfidio refused to hearken when she attempted to explain
matters, perhaps the same hoped-for cessation of active hostilities
might be attained through another means.

"A light--let me find a lamp--please Heaven it may not be too late, and
these hot heads slaughter each other while I am gone," was what she
cried.

No one noticed her disappearance through the door where hung the Bagdad
curtains, for both of the gentlemen had their attention fully occupied
in another quarter.

When a ferocious old military hero with all his long pent-up love for
bloody scenes bursting forth is diligently thrusting right and left
with a keen pointed sword, his eagerness increasing with each and every
defeat of his plans, there is little chance to observe what may be
passing even in the confines of the same apartment.

That was Roderic's condition.

True, he considered himself in no actual danger, unless from an
accidental thrust, but all the same the valorous old don was sending
them in at white heat, and as the gloaming made it difficult to see
with exactness, there was need of great caution.

The sparks flew whenever the hostile blades struck violently together,
and taken altogether it was about as pretty and interesting a picture
as one would wish to see.

When he found his favorite blows turned aside with so masterly a hand,
the general's rage began to partially give way to admiration, for he
was an ardent lover of fine sword play no matter where found, in Arab,
Moor or Cossack.

He still continued to bellow, for it was a part of his nature to do
so, but mingled with his furious phrases were cries that betokened
amazement, delight, suspicion.

Perhaps he recognized something familiar about the method employed by
his antagonist in defending himself.

Swordsmen have their peculiar tactics or individualities, that crop
out strongly, and doubtless in the good old days when Senor Owen was
a welcome visitor at the hacienda of Don Porfidio the two may have
crossed blades occasionally, if only to illustrate some point in a
story.

In due time the Porto Rican must have puzzled out the solution of the
mystery.

He was not given time just now.

Roderic, finding that the other was making a most wicked series of
lunges at his heart, and fearful lest some accident might occur that
would place him at the mercy of Don Porfidio, concluded to wind up the
matter in a manner that was more to his liking.

So he let loose a few cards which he had, figuratively speaking, been
holding up his sleeve--in other words he let out an extra supply of
ability and forced the fighting.

It was all up with the general.

He knew full well he was in the hands of a master, and that while
the duel was fated to be cut as short as he wished, the outcome might
hardly be to his liking.

The old don had been over confident, and he now fell into something
like a panic.

True, he battled on with just as much vim as before, but desperation
nerved his arm rather than the old time enthusiasm.

When Roderic discovered his chance he whipped the other's supple blade
out of his nerveless hand with consummate ease.

Don Porfidio uttered a cry of rage and stupefaction.

"_Carramba!_ you have done it--now take your revenge, Senor Spy!" he
ejaculated, despairingly.

He folded his arms across his quivering chest and faced what he
supposed would be immediate death without flinching.

Roderic drew back his sword, but the old warrior made no appeal for
mercy.

A Spaniard may appear cruel according to Anglo-Saxon ways of looking at
things, but no race of men has shown more splendid courage in battle or
upon the terrible unknown seas of the fifteenth century.

Roderic turning hung his East Indian blade once more upon the wall,
doubtless to the sore amazement of the soldier.

It was at this juncture Georgia came hastily into the room bearing an
antique lamp which her trembling fingers had succeeded in lighting.

Upon her face was an anxious, almost terrified expression, as though
she half expected to find one or both of the men lying there in their
blood.

To see them standing there unarmed was a joyous revelation.

As for the old soldier, the truth flashed upon him with a shock, when
his eyes beheld a face he long had known.

"Holy Father, is it _you_ Senor Owen? Dolt, idiot that I was not to
recognize the familiar swing of your cunning sword arm. I am pleased to
meet you again--as, I am furiously angry because all these months you
have neglected this sweet flower, and caused her much suffering."

Thus he rambled on, halting between his natural affection for the young
American, yet holding back on account of race enmity, since Spanish and
American arms now clashed.

Roderic knew he had a difficult piece of work cut out for him.

It had been child's play to disarm the old gentleman, but to avoid an
open rupture must tax his ingenuity.

Perhaps, with the help of the girl it might be made possible.

At any rate he was bound to try for the sake of peace in the family.

"General, that I have lost the sweet friendship, and society of your
niece and ward during all these months is my misfortune. She has, like
an angel of light, forgiven me. It was all a terrible mistake, caused
by jealousy on my part.

"You as a man who has seen the world in all its phases can understand
my position. I am humiliated in her presence. We expect to forget all
that is bitter in the past, and start afresh, for no other has held
the cords to my heart save Georgia--though I believed her lost to me
forever, I have been always faithful to our love.

"General, our countries are at war, but that does not make us enemies.
I would esteem it an honor to shake your hand again and hear you say
you do not bear me malice where she has forgiven."

The veteran was touched.

He was human, and it flattered him to think that this young American,
who had just disarmed him with such ease, should still yearn for his
friendly interest.

Don Porfidio was genial despite his exceeding gruff ways.

"_Cospita, hombre_, you speak fairly. If the chit of a girl has
forgiven what right have I to hold out, though truth to tell I have
made many a vow to the Virgin to flay your back when next we met, on
account of your wretched flight. Since you ask it so sincerely, and
there was always a warm corner of my tough old heart for you Senor
Roderic, I see no reason why we should not shake hands and resume our
former friendship."

This pleased Owen, who was just in the act of putting out his hand when
a rough voice outside was heard calling:

"Senor de Brabant, have you slain the pig of a Yankee spy--is it safe
to enter?"

At which Don Porfidio uttered a choking exclamation and letting his
hand drop to his side stared at the face of the young American as
though the truth had flashed through his brain like an electric bolt.



CHAPTER VIII.

"ADIOS, BELOVED!"


The old Porto Rican dignitary quickly recovered his speech--indeed,
it was seldom he could be found in a position where his vocal organs
suffered a relapse, since it was almost as natural for Don Porfidio to
fume and roar as it was to draw breath.

Suspicion, which had lain dormant in his breast during the last few
minutes, on account of his surprise at discovering the identity of his
opponent in the sword duel, now once more leaped into a fierce flame.

He remembered why he had rushed to his bungalow quarters with such hot
speed.

"The spy, yes, the Yankee spy. _Por Dios!_ I had almost forgotten him.
He entered here--Roblado swore it on his honor. I have never as yet
seen the rascal and I jumped to the conclusion that you were he. Was
it all a mistake, Senor Owen--will you tell me you are not the party
Roblado saw--the party he has sworn to tear limb from limb? I await
your answer, senor, and give you my word of honor I shall believe what
you say," he said, anxiously, eagerly.

Roderic smiled.

It was not because he lacked in respect for the doughty general, who
had backed up his hot words with his sword as a brave man should.

The reference to Roblado amused Owen.

He pictured that fire-eater who was yearning to spill his blood,
waiting outside the door of the house, where the click of the swords
came as sweet music to his ear, waiting until these sounds were heard
no longer, when in a mixture of hope and fear he called out:

"Senor de Brabant, have you slain the pig of a Yankee spy--is it safe
to enter?"

Of a truth Roblado's heart was as stout as that of the timid lamb
gamboling on the green, and when he roared it was as fiercely as a
sucking dove.

Roderic was ever frank--it is a policy that pays best in the end.

"I do not claim the name of a spy, senor, but it would be foolish of me
to deny that I am in the secret diplomatic service of my country--that
my presence here has been to discover why Spanish agents congregate in
Dublin. As to why I am under your roof, it is a purely personal matter
that drew me. I chanced to be passing and saw your niece at the window.
Resolved to make my peace with her I boldly demanded admittance, and
she has been angel enough to forgive. Senor, that is all--you believe
me?"

Roderic was a man whose very face was a passport among his fellows.

What he said usually carried weight.

Of old he had exerted great influence over the don, who had almost
loved him as his own at the time jealousy broke up the combination.

This feeling was once more sweeping over the general--there is a
fascination about some men that is very hard to resist.

Possibly he might have again thrust out his hand despite Roblado and
his hatred for Yankees in general.

Other voices were heard outside--Roblado was endeavoring to explain to
the new arrivals who had just appeared upon the scene.

Perhaps, not having received any answer to his frenzied calls to the
general, he jumped to the conclusion that the boot was on the other
leg, and the veteran had received his quietus at the hands of the
miserable American "pig."

In numbers there is courage and strength.

Even Roblado could be valorous when backed up by half a dozen comrades.

The cramp in his abdomen, which had necessarily prevented him from
rushing in and annihilating the Yankee, now left him as if by magic,
and when the group of conspirators crushed through the doorway Roblado
led the van.

Such valor! no wonder Spain has in ages past swept like a whirlwind
over the known world--it was certainly worthy of the Dark Ages.

Roderic was taken at a disadvantage, for he had not expected such
hostile measures.

He thought to again snatch the sword that had already served him so
well, but ere this could be done one of the new comers had hurled his
weight upon him.

Had these two been let alone, Owen would surely have done the other
injury in short order, for his trained muscles were aching for active
service, and the Spaniard was really no match for him.

This style of carrying on the affair did not seem to suit the others,
however.

What was the use of having an advantage if it were not enforced?

Such logic carried the day, and when Roderic found the half dozen
hanging upon him from all quarters he ceased struggling, knowing the
folly of such a useless endeavor to win out.

It was a great victory.

His captors surrounded him, every man holding on to some part of his
apparel.

Their swarthy faces beamed with pleasure, as though this might be taken
as a forerunner of the great triumph reserved for their nation when the
somnolence of many years had been thrown aside.

Roblado was in his element.

He had a military or naval cut about his appearance, and no doubt could
swell with importance when on the deck of his ship or at the head of
his brigade.

"Tis well, comrades, we have secured the beast. What can prevail
against Spanish valor? Those who are foolish enough to get in our way
must pay the penalty, poor fools. Now that we have caught the great
American eagle what shall we do with him?" he asked, still maintaining
a consequential grip upon Roderic's coat tails.

"Clip his wings!" said one in Castilian.

Various other suggestions were offered, some amusing, others diabolical
in their cruelty.

Roderic laughed good naturedly.

"Ah! gentlemen all," he remarked in that calm and pleasant way that
indicates perfect control over the emotions, "you seem to forget you
are not in Spain or Cuba, where such delightful little picnic parties
as you mention are of daily occurrence. You are in the dominion of Her
Majesty Queen Victoria--her officers are watching every move you make,
and at this moment the shadow of Portland prison hangs over you, every
man.

"Don't imagine for a moment my presence is not known to these men from
Scotland Yard, for we are working hand in glove. I am in your power,
and you may do as you please, but mark me, if a hair of my head is
injured every man here will be in irons before two hours have passed.
That is all!"

It was enough.

The Jack Spaniards were shaky at the knees.

Their respect for grim English laws and customs was bred in the
bone--since the days when the Great Armada was destroyed by Providence
and British valor, these people of the Iberian peninsula have seldom
desired to pick a quarrel with Albion.

So, upon hearing what Owen had to say, they looked at each other
fearfully and then eyed the doors and windows as though half expecting
to see the officers representing good old English law bursting upon the
scene.

Naturally a cock fights best upon his own ground, and this is
particularly true of Spaniards as a people.

Handicapped by their presence under a flag that was known to be more
friendly toward the Americans than any other among the Powers, they
found their claws cut.

A hasty council of war was entered into.

Self preservation is the first law of nature, and they were clamorous
as to the means to be employed that would best insure his safety.

No matter how wretched the cur, he has the same inherent love of life
that nature gives to the finest created creature.

Several times Don Porfidio attempted to take the reins and drive, but
a spirit of communism was rampant, and the others would yield to no
dictation.

At other times perhaps they would give ready heed to all he had to
say, since he occupied a high position in the councils of Spain; but
just now all were on a common level and it was a case of life and death
they had to settle.

At length it was decided.

Senor Owen should not be put to death, but held a prisoner until they
could hastily leave Dublin bay on board the blockade runner as per
their previous arrangement.

It was only hastening plans that had already been well arranged.

The young girl stood there an anxious spectator, while her lover's fate
was being decided, and when the final ultimatum had been rendered she
gave him a pleased smile of encouragement.

Roderic, wise man, had made up his mind not to resist the decree of
fate, especially since it appeared that he would only be put to a
little inconvenience and encounter small danger.

He had no desire to provoke the anger of these men further than was
necessary--there would come a time when he might meet them face to face
on equal terms, with weapons in his hands, and until that hour it was
policy for him to laugh and let them have their sweet way.

A long lane it is that has no turning.

His time would come sooner or later.

Then the blustering Roblado might be made to sing more softly, and
those who handled him so roughly be compelled to take a turn themselves.

Surrounded by the voluble and excited group, the American was led down
into the cellar of the unique bungalow on the Rathmines road.

Here they left him, with fervent hopes, openly expressed that the rats
would feed upon his wretched porcine carcass, and never allow him to
again see the light of day.

Owen was not in despair.

On the contrary it is doubtful whether in all fair Dublin that night a
lighter heart could have been found than his.

There was reason for it too.

As to the danger menacing him, he laughed that to scorn--it was only a
little adventure after all, one of many that marked his life.

He had won back the treasure that was almost beyond his reach, and the
man who found himself secure in the love of that divine girl had cause
for deep and heart-felt satisfaction.

Roderic could never tell how it ever came these fellows neglected to
take what portable property he chanced to carry.

It was really a remarkable omission and might be laid to the fact of
their being gentlemen though he himself was rather inclined to believe
the truth rested in another quarter--that they had been ashamed in the
presence of Georgia, and likewise confused by his positive statement
about the Scotland Yard officers on their trail.

Having a deep seated aversion to English prisons, quite excusable, they
had found their nerves unstrung.

Hence Roderic profited by their confusion.

He hunted up a cigar and a match.

That was comfort enough for half an hour.

The future could take care of itself.

Such is the philosophy of a dare devil who, from long familiarity has
conceived a species of contempt for danger.

He could hear some one moving about above, and understood that the
general must be preparing to leave the odd little furnished cottage
which he had hired.

More time passed.

Owen was only waiting until they left the house, when he would
undertake to get free from his prison.

No ordinary cellar was constructed that could restrain a man of his
ability for any great length of time.

An occasional flash from a match kept him informed as to the flight of
time.

These brief periods of illumination also gave him some conception as to
his surroundings, and he was thus enabled to figure as to what shape
his action should take in order to bring the most speedy results.

At length all seemed to become quiet above.

He had heard several doors slam.

Doubtless the doughty general and his lovely ward had sallied forth to
board the blockade runner that was to take them across the ocean.

Roderic sighed to think he would not see her again for, Heaven alone
knew how long.

Never mind, he had experienced a foretaste of Paradise on this evening
which he would have considered cheaply purchased had he been compelled
to meet ten times as many difficulties in order to win it.

It had brightened his life and given him something blessed for which to
live.

Filled with zeal, as though inspired to prove himself worthy of the
dear girl who had so readily forgiven his cruel desertion because of
the great love she bore him, Owen arose.

First of all he stretched himself, as though feeling of his strength.

He had resolved to bend his energies upon the door of the subterranean
prison, as offering the best possible opportunity for escape.

So he groped his way to the stone steps and made his way upward.

At length he touched the door.

Of course it was fast.

Those vindictive Spaniards had meant what they said, and really hoped
he might be kept down below until so weakened by hunger that he could
put up but a feeble defense against the great gaunt Dublin sewer rats.

Which shows how little they knew a progressive Yankee, and his
inventive abilities that stop at nothing when the occasion makes
demands.

Roderic knew how to assail such a door.

He smiled disdainfully when he found they had actually left the key in
the lock.

What a snap it was.

Why these fellows were hardly out of their swaddling clothes when it
came to outwitting a twentieth century Yankee.

He thought he would start operations upon that door immediately.

Then his mind changed for a sound reached his ears--some one was
approaching--he could even see a gleam of light from under the door.

Now they stood without with only the door between.

He heard a key turned in the lock.

Roderic braced himself for a struggle, not knowing but what one of the
most vindictive Spaniards, Roblado perhaps, had crept back, resolved to
have a dark revenge.

Thus, half crouching on the steps, he awaited the opening of the door.

Now it moved.

He had a glimpse of a flaring candle held in a small hand, and then
came sudden darkness, for a draught from the cellar had snuffed out the
flame.

But Roderic had in that one glance seen enough to arouse the most
delightful sensations within his heart.

A voice, low and soft but sweeter than a breath from Cathay reached his
ears and set the music throbbing in his heart.

"Senor Roderic--_hola_, it is I!"

"God bless you--I am here within reach. Hold steady and let me touch
you, lest I believe I am only dreaming, my darling."

And he immediately held her little loyal form within the shelter of his
arms, though when he rained burning kisses on her lips she struggled to
be free.

"This is no time for that. Holy mother, what a rude man you are, Senor
Roderic. Release me, I beg, I command. Remember he must win who wears.
You have a duty to perform."

"Which shall be accomplished with Heaven's help. But I thought you were
gone, sweetheart?"

"We are just starting--the cart is at the door, and uncle is waiting."

"Then he knows why you return?"

"Yes. He made only one stipulation."

"What is it?"

"Your promise not to move a hand until dawn, to prevent our sailing on
the Sterling Castle."

Roderic breathed easier.

"Tell the dear old governor I give that most willingly. You know I
leave here myself in a comparatively few hours."

"Then I must go."

"You leave me--we may never meet again."

"The Virgin watch over you," she faltered.

"Will you go without one parting embrace--ah! the world is wide and
danger lurks everywhere when people are at war. One kiss sweetheart, of
your own free will--it may be a talisman to guard me against evil."

He pleaded not in vain.

A pair of soft arms were thrown around his neck, and not one but a
dozen kisses rained upon his lips--then when he would have sought to
detain her she eluded his grasp and flitted away in the dark, her
gentle "adios, beloved," sounding like a benediction to his ravished
ears.

A few minutes later he heard the roll of wheels, as the jaunting car
took them to the distant quay.

"She is gone, Heaven bless her," he muttered--"lucky man that I am,
thrice blessed to be beloved by two such charming creatures; to me
there is only one who can fill the longing of my heart and she has just
left me."

And this was the reason Roderic turned up at the Shelbourne late that
night looking like a man who had supped with adventure.



CHAPTER IX.

DOWN THE IRISH COAST.


When Roderic Owen saw the look of deep concern on his cousin's face
give way to a radiant expression as he entered the door of the hotel,
his heart reproached him.

Here he had been actually reveling in the realms of bliss for the last
three hours or more, while Cleo, judging from her appearance, had been
"plunged in a gulf of dark despair," or at least considerably worried
over the fact of his singular disappearance.

It was really too bad.

Her faithful heart had yearned after him, just as a loving sister's
might for the absent one--the two girls were so entirely unlike in
looks and temperament that it never occurred to him to compare Cleo's
affection with that of Georgia--and yet it was of the kind that lasts
through life.

Feeling that somehow he had caused Cleo considerable anxiety, and being
conscience stricken on account of his own present happiness, Roderic
advanced hastily to ascend the broad stairs and meet her on the landing
above.

"You were worried about me, dear cousin?"

"Naturally so--all day you have been away--and to-morrow we
sail--unless something important has happened, to alter your plans,"
she replied, her face flushing at the eager manner in which he caught
her hand.

"Something important _has_ happened, but it will not delay our leaving
Dublin to-morrow," he replied, mentally deciding that the time had come
for him to confide his secret to this tender heart.

If it brought pain, God forgive him, since he was unwittingly the
cause, but sooner or later Cleo must learn the truth, and the occasion
seemed to demand that he speak now.

They were alone, but it was very public--perhaps a quiet nook in one of
the small parlors would suit better for a confessional.

"Come with me, dear cousin--I have much to tell you--much that concerns
my past and promises to control my future," he said, earnestly.

"Ah," thought Cleo, as she followed his eager steps, "it is coming--he
has seen her again, this Georgia whom he knew and loved in San Juan. I
must crush down my own feelings in the matter and appear just what he
believes me--an affectionate comrade, a loving sister."

That was a heroine for you--it is not given of all women to be Joan of
Arcs, but occasion may arise in any life calling for as much determined
spirit and heroism as the noble Maid of Orleans ever boasted.

The bijou parlor was entirely deserted, though still lighted, and over
in a cozy corner where a pile of cushions invited Oriental comfort they
settled down for a little private talk.

Some men would have opened up in an evasive manner and told as little
as necessity demanded.

Not so Roderic Owen.

When a task was set before him, no matter how unpleasant or
embarrassing, his method was to plunge squarely into it, neither
sparing himself nor seeking glory from the recital.

So he told how he had met the lovely belle of the Porto Rico
capital--the strange and romantic manner in which Providence seemed
to delight in throwing them together, and how he was enabled to save
her great inconvenience, if not her life--of the mutual attachment
that naturally sprang up between them that rapidly ripened into a
passion--of their engagement and the glorious weeks succeeding, when
they lived in Paradise.

Then came the serpent in Eden--coquetry on the girl's part, rank
jealousy on his, without just cause it had proved.

After that, hot words, violent separation--the old, old story of
wounded hearts, so many times repeated in the history of the world--of
two souls intended for each other, wandering about the earth estranged,
because of hasty temper.

To all of this Cleo listened with deepest sympathy marked upon her face.

What pain her heart experienced would never be known to the world, for
she crushed this down with a resolute hand.

Woman was created to withstand most of the suffering in this
world--Providence endowed her with a larger capacity for such endurance
than man; just as the lord of creation was given the spirit of the
chase, of battle, and as the bread-winner in life's strife.

Finally Roderic brought the story to Dublin and told how Georgia
disguised as a Sister of the Holy Grail, warned him, though so well had
she concealed her identity that he had not guessed it until after she
had gone.

This brought him down to the time he was passing on the Rathmine car,
and had a glimpse of the girl he loved in the window of the quaint East
India bungalow.

He was a good story teller, and the subject one in which his whole
heart was engaged, so that he quickly held the girl spell-bound as he
described how the reconciliation was brought about.

When he finally told how Georgia allowed him to take her in his arms,
Cleo smiled to hide the aching heart she carried, and which she feared
might betray its pain upon her face.

Of course she thought that was the end.

"You love her with a deathless devotion, cousin--she has become a _sine
qua non_ to your existence?" she remarked, to hide her little tremor,
her pallor and any confusion that might appear.

"She is the life of my life--I had gone to the point of being an old
bachelor, cousin, without ever falling in love--indeed, I had begun to
doubt seriously whether my nature was capable of any passion, for my
devotion to your cousinly self had been the only affection I had ever
known--when she crossed my path like a brilliant meteor and from that
day to this I have not known the old peace. Yes, I love her with heart
and soul--as you say it truly seems as though this dark-eyed girl had
become an indispensable condition to my existence. I tell you this
knowing how much you care for my happiness--how you sympathize with my
griefs and rejoice when prosperity finds me."

Perhaps it was cruel to say this, but remember that Owen found it
almost impossible to believe Cleo entertained a passion for him beyond
that calm, cousinly affection.

Besides, it was a part of his religion that heroic treatment was always
best.

If he had an unpleasant duty to perform the sooner it was done the
better for his peace of mind.

"You say this happened at about dusk?" she asked.

"Yes, I was hurrying to the hotel to dress so that I might eat dinner
with you."

"Possibly at seven," with an arch glance in the direction of a little
ormolu clock upon the mantel, that was merrily ticking away the minutes.

Roderic laughed in some confusion.

"Pray, do not imagine I forgot the lapse of time, since it is now after
eleven. Truth to tell I have been a prisoner all this time--not a
captive held by Love's silken strands as you suspect."

"A prisoner--oh! Roderic, then that reconciliation was not the end?"
she exclaimed, remembering that his appearance was hardly that of a
gentleman who exhibited as a usual thing some fastidiousness in his
dress.

"Rather it was but the beginning, for at that very moment the gruff old
general, her uncle, rushed like a whirlwind into the house, bellowing
for a chance to annihilate the Yankee spy whom one of his bold
colleagues had seen enter."

"That was exciting enough--I am quite anxious to see that odd old
soldier of whom you have spoken so much. But go on--he recognized you?"

"Not at all--the dim light and his passion blinded eyes prevented that.
At once he demanded that I take my choice of the various swords on the
wall and give him an opportunity to wipe out the insult my presence put
upon his dwelling."

"What a ferocious old firebrand he must be. And did she not
explain--you said she had usually such power over this uncle?"

"He would not let her say anything, but, wild with anger brushed
Georgia aside and swore as only a furious Spaniard could, that unless
I at once accepted his benevolent offer of a fair chance to defend
myself, he would lay the flat of his sword on me, and use his boot in
ejecting me from the premises."

"The old brute--and of course after that, Cousin Roderic, you had to
fight?"

"There was no other way of escaping the dilemma. So I snatched a sword
from the wall and met his attack. Well, we had quite a lively passage
at arms for some minutes. As I had fenced with the old governor often
before I knew he was behind the times. Georgia had fled from the room
to hunt a lamp. Just as she returned fortune allowed me to disarm the
general."

"Ah! yes, it is always fortune and good luck when you manage to
succeed, cousin mine," she exclaimed with some heat, "but I know what
skill you possess with a sword--I have my own opinion on that score.
But go on--Georgia returned with a light at this most interesting
juncture?"

"And the general recognized me--he was almost paralyzed, and was ready
to forgive my miserable treatment of his niece when he learned that she
had done so. Unfortunately his friends rushed in at this juncture, and
taking me unawares made me a prisoner."

"Not before one or more had suffered at your hands, I warrant," she
asserted, stoutly, for since Roderic would not sound his own trumpet it
was necessary that some one else blow it for him.

Ah! the man who has such a faithful heart looking after his interests
is blest indeed.

"Well, I must confess I did not inflict much punishment upon them
because they hung on like so many leeches, quite overpowering me.
Besides, I knew they would hardly dare do me any bodily harm."

Then he told what followed, and how they put him in the cellar to clip
his wings, as they said.

Finally came the last scene in the drama where the door opened and he
had Georgia in his arms again.

Roderic made little of this, for the conviction was now forcing itself
upon even his dull masculine mind that such tender scenes might not be
in the best taste possible, considering the circumstances.

"And thus you see me on deck once more, a little the worse for wear
perhaps, but ready to sail with you to-morrow, if you say the word," he
ended.

"You are happy, Roderic?"

"Yes, God has been very, very good to me. I don't deserve it, cousin."

"You look forward to meeting Georgia in the island beyond the sea?"

"She has already started there, and it would be strange if we did not
meet, either before or after San Juan falls into American hands."

"Is she--_very_ beautiful, Roderic?"

"You shall say for yourself when you see her, for it is my fondest hope
that you may be the dearest of friends. You will promise me that, Cleo?"

Again she resolutely thrust self aside.

"Whom you love must be a sister to me, cousin. Yes, I give you such a
promise willingly."

The rebellion in her heart was kept down with a firm hand--what was
human might struggle and cry out, but it could not overcome the divine
element that came from Calvary--the desire to sacrifice self for the
good of one beloved.

Then they fell to talking of the contemplated ocean voyage and what
pleasures it promised to souls that delighted in travel, and for which
the ever changing boundless deep had charms that were invisible to the
eye of the ordinary tourist.

Finally Roderic realized the lateness of the hour, and declared
he ought to be ashamed to keep his cousin from her beauty sleep,
especially as it was all on account of his own personal business.

Possibly Roderic slept but little that night.

He had much upon his mind.

And yet he was far happier than the girl from Virginia, since there was
a bright future to which he could look forward.

With her that future was a blank.

Many there are fated in this world to love without hope of a reciprocal
affection, but few can bear their cross with the gentle happy spirit
shown by Cleo.

When they met again at an early breakfast, while old Dublin was waking
up, no one would suspect from her smiling face and dancing blue eyes
that Cleo had ever known a serious sorrow, or that a canker lodged
close to her gentle heart.

She took the deepest interest in all the contemplated movements of her
cousin, and entered into the enthusiasm of his plans as though she had
a reason to share in his future happiness.

Matters had been so carefully adjusted on the preceding day that little
remained to be done save have their portable luggage taken down to the
landing stage, and go through with a few forms necessary ere the steam
yacht could depart.

Though Roderic was not sorry to leave Dublin, under the circumstances,
he must always cherish a pleasant recollection for the bright Irish
capital.

It was here the incubus that had pressed upon his shoulders for well
nigh two years had been cast aside, and the sun of hope burst from
behind the clouds of despair.

Yes, the name of Dublin would ever be associated with pleasant
memories, for the little encounter with Don Porfidio was but a romance;
while his capture and imprisonment by the Spanish clique had only been
the means of bringing his beloved sweetheart again to his arms, and he
could not harbor ill feelings against any cause that had brought about
such an effect.

By ten o'clock they were on board the yacht.

Roderic could not help casting many eager glances around at the various
vessels lying at anchor in Kingstown harbor.

He was thinking of the Sterling Castle.

Already he had made inquiries concerning the steamer, and knew her
build.

There were several marked peculiarities about her style, the painting
of her funnel and other things that would stamp her individuality,
so that he was able to declare after searching the harbor, that the
impudent little blockade runner was not present.

Then she had about twelve hours the start and was doubtless far down
the Irish coast.

The anchor was weighed with the usual cheery English chorus, and as
the steam yacht headed into Dublin bay, Roderic, looking back to the
beautiful city thus left behind, could not but be impressed.

It was a glorious summer day and the sight an inspiring one, for
Kingstown harbor at this season of the year is usually thronged with
pleasure craft as well as those of business.

Going out they passed the Holyhead steamer just entering.

Roderic could not but reflect with deep satisfaction what a great
change had taken place in his own life since he trod the hurricane deck
of that same steamer a short time before.

Truly events follow each other in rapid succession in some lives.

Providence seemed to be in an especially favoring mood with regard to
his fortunes just at present.

If it would only continue.

He knew not what the future held--perhaps, could he have lifted the
veil and obtained a glimpse of what adventures and perils lay in his
path, the prospect might have appalled even his stout heart.

How mercifully the future is screened from our inquisitive eyes--could
we but _know_, how idle would our struggles seem, and despair must
often cause us to cease the hopeless contest.

It is this element of uncertainty that keeps hope alive in our hearts,
and many times wrings victory from seeming defeat.

As they passed down the far famed Irish sea the tops of the green hills
could always be seen above the haze that sometimes hid their base and
the fishing villages nestling there from view.

Roderic spent much time in leaning over the rail and watching this
everchanging panorama, while smoking his pipe--for Cleo had made it
distinctly understood that she was very fond of tobacco smoke in the
open air, and that he was at liberty to indulge when and where he
chose; a privilege that caused Miss Becky to lift her eyes in horror,
for she had a special aversion to this self same odor.

However, she never found Roderic other than a gentleman, and he would
always move his seat in order that the fragrant smoke might not blow
across her sacred person, so that in this way he made a firm friend of
the old maid.

When nightfall came they took their last look at old Ireland's green
hills, for unless all calculations failed they would be out on the
broad Atlantic by daylight, headed for the West Indies.

Roderic had by this time thrown off the reserve that weighed down his
spirits at first and become his own sociable self, ready to enter into
any game that promised relaxation and sport.

The shore line faded as the glow left the western sky, and presently
only lights upon the hills told how near they were to the Irish coast.

Thus the voyage was begun, that would bring much of success or grief
to his fortunes--before him like a will-o'-the-wisp flitted the
blockade runner, having on board the beautiful maid of San Juan--and
the game was transferred from the Old to the New World.



CHAPTER X.

FOR ONE NIGHT AT THE AZORES.


In heading for the Antilles there were several routes which they could
take.

It was possible to make a bee line almost due south-west, stopping at
the Azores on the way; or they could follow the plan adopted by Spain
in sending her ships of war across, heading almost due south to the
Canary islands, then on nearly the same course until the Cape Verdes
were reached, after which a run to the west would bring them to the
Porto Rico coast.

Roderic was much interested in this matter and held many consultations
with the old captain as to what line he had marked out.

Perhaps--for somehow our purely selfish personal ends will crop
up despite us--he was speculating as to what chances they had of
overtaking the blockade runner, should they have decided upon the same
course.

There are always so many possibilities governing these things.

Though the ocean appears limitless, there are times when people come
together in a most remarkable manner.

Fate takes a hand in many a game and this seemingly boundless sea
becomes as a veritable mill pond, where boys float their rafts and have
collisions.

Roderic learned that their course was to be laid by way of the Azores,
those sentinels of the vasty deep that lie far out in midocean between
the two warring countries, the United States and Spain.

He spent a portion of the first morning afloat in examining the vessel
from keel to truck so to speak, and was loud in his praise of her
stanch abilities.

She had been built on the Clyde, and was of course put together
to stay--those canny Scots have a faculty for making timbers hold
together through hurricane blows and all manner of extreme usage, that
is unexcelled in any other part of the world, so that the very name
carries weight; as does the Belfast engine, some of which on old White
Star liners have done noble duty a score and a half of years.

Roderic's praise was so unstinted that the old captain, who loved his
craft as only a seaman may, was quite tickled.

He had taken a great liking for Owen, which was not at all strange,
for they were both men built very much upon the same model, possessing
sterling characteristics.

Perhaps it was apt to become something of a mutual admiration society,
for Roderic recognized a kindred spirit--what he admired in a man and
sought to exemplify in his own person was present in the composition of
this rough and ready British sailorman.

It also pleased him to know Cleo had been fortunate enough to secure
such a reliable mariner, and yet he realized this was as much the
result of good judgment on her part as any luck.

At least he would never suspect that the Virginia maid had immediately
fancied the grim old mariner because she discovered many of his
sterling characteristics to be the same as those she had admired in
Roderic from boyhood.

That was her secret which she would hardly have acknowledged even to
her own heart.

The weather too was propitious.

A splendid breeze blew, and as they were provided with sails, these
were utilized in order to further increase their speed.

Roderic gloried in the fact that he had never been sea sick a minute
in his life, and he had also seen some pretty rough times afloat, from
being caught in a dreadful typhoon in the China sea to being wrecked by
a West India hurricane.

He had provided himself with Clarke Russell's latest ocean yarn,
and as his own condition was fully equal to that so aptly described
by this wizard of sea stories, he could doubly appreciate the vivid
descriptions of storm and calm, hot chase and wreck, and all the
manifold phases of life on the boundless deep, given in a manner that
has never been rivaled.

They also played shuffle board, tossed deck quoits and amused
themselves as pilgrims on the briny ocean learn to do when time hangs
heavy.

Roderic read aloud some of the most remarkable passages which bore the
witchery of pen genius, and glancing up at the swelling white sails or
around at the watery horizon only marked by a wave crest circle, they
were in a position to feel the vigor of the description such as no
landsman, lounging in a hammock, far from the sea, which mayhap he had
never gazed upon, could ever experience.

Numerous vessels were sighted during the first day, steamers and
sailing craft.

There is always keen pleasure watching these pilgrims of the deep
through the glasses and surmising what they are, the nature of their
cargo, whence they come and whither bound.

After this day such sights would become more rare, for their course was
out of the usual transatlantic run.

Doubtless in the good old days when galleons laden with silver and
other treasures from the Spanish Main and Mexican mines were on this
route to Spain, many a piratical craft bore along this self same course
with men alow and aloft on the keen lookout for rich prizes which could
be looted, and scuttled with their wretched crews, their fate ever to
remain one of the mysteries of the mighty deep.

Such romantic thoughts crept into Roderic's mind--the situation was
conducive to their inception.

Besides, his own fortunes were really as much tinged with the spicy
flavor of adventure and romance as any he could imagine in connection
with those olden days.

Another day and they apparently owned the earth--at least from sunrise
to sunset not a vessel was sighted going in any direction.

The spouting of whales, the gyrations of sharks indicated by the
sword-like dorsal fin sticking out of the water, and such aquatic
features were all that broke the monotony of the livelong day.

Roderic many times scanned the horizon ahead, and the sight of a
distant steamer was enough to arouse his eager interest, for he could
not get it out of his mind that the girl he so passionately loved was
somewhere on that vast deep, and there was always a possibility of the
speedy steam yacht overtaking the slower blockade runner.

Some people hang their faith on small things, lovers especially.

It is possible to find a needle in a haystack, and yet it would hardly
pay one to devote a great length of time in the search.

However, lusty hope buoys the heart up, and often leads to wonderful
accomplishments.

A change came in the weather.

One can not always expect favoring winds and clear skies on the fretful
Atlantic--the storms will blow in summer as well as during the cold
season.

Cleo had assured Roderic of her faith in the Dreadnaught as a stanch
boat in case of rough weather.

He found the yacht more seaworthy than he had believed possible.

She rode the mighty rollers like a duck, and at no time was there
danger aboard.

Still, this was only a sample of what the old Atlantic could kick up on
occasion, and no matter how good the boat, one who has experienced the
horrors of a genuine hurricane while afloat, never feels a hankering
after its repetition--there is a majesty about the mighty deep when
aroused to fury that awes the stoutest human heart; and those who have
sailed over its trackless wastes the longest have the greatest respect
for its sovereignty.

Of course the storm drove them out of their expected direct route
to the Portuguese Azores, and delayed their arrival at the sentinel
islands.

Although these islands be along the short route from Spain to her West
India possessions,--to be hers no longer--as a usual thing ships from
the mother country prefer the longer passage, partly because the runs
are more broken, the wind more apt to be favorable, and possibly for
the reason that some of her fortified possessions, the Canaries lie off
the coast of northern Africa.

Thus, not a great business has been done at the Azores under the best
of conditions, and this was interfered with while the war lasted, as
Spanish craft feared to sail so far away from fortified ports, lest
some of the fast auxiliary cruisers of Uncle Sam, on the eager lookout
for prizes, gobble them up.

As they sighted land, Roderic could hardly conceal his impatience.

Was the Sterling Castle in port?

That would be a strange coincidence truly, and yet this sanguine lover
had the nerve to believe it might be true.

Upon some men fortune showers favors so readily that they become
rank optimists, and expect astonishing results from the most scanty
scattering of seed.

Indeed, chance plays quite a part in their calculations.

The day was almost at its close when they drew near the islands.

With the rosy bloom of the setting sun shining upon their green slopes,
the picture was one calculated to strike the eye as remarkably fine.

Especially would this be the case with an ocean traveler who for some
days had looked upon nothing but a watery waste--the green trees and
grass appeal to his heart. This is always the case after a voyage--land
looks doubly inviting when necessity or desire for a change has taken
us away from friendly shores.

The night fell before they drew close enough to port to give Roderic
the opportunity of finding out whether the steamer he sought was among
those anchored in the little bay.

Which was a keen disappointment to him.

As an ardent lover much allowance can be given so good a fellow.

Cleo was almost as eager--she felt a warm desire to look upon her
successful rival face to face. There was no mean design in this, no
hope of being able to find fault, or discover that Roderic had made a
wretched choice.

She realized how furiously in love with the girl from Porto Rico this
cousin of hers was, and since she had been unable to arouse such a
passion within his breast, naturally she experienced a genuine desire
to look upon the lovely being who had awakened the sacred fire in his
bachelor heart.

Then again, Cleo was honest in her expressed desire to be friendly with
one whom fortune seemed destined to make her cousin.

Glasses were of little avail, since night's shadows had begun to fall.

It would not be dark, since a young July moon still held forth after a
fashion, to show them the way into port.

A peculiar uneasiness had possessed Roderic.

It dated from the conclusion of the blow.

Somehow, when looking upon the last most violent efforts of the
miniature hurricane, the thought had occurred to him, what of the
Sterling Castle?

Was she also exposed to this storm?

The chances seemed to favor such a conclusion.

He began to make new inquiries concerning her sea worthiness.

Was her crew English or Spanish?

If the latter he had grave doubts.

Captain Beven was able to give him some information that eased his mind.

The steamer while mature in years was not an old hulk, by any
means--Beven had himself once served on her as second officer during
a voyage to Singapore, and he had reason to commend her seaworthy
qualities.

As to her present outfit he believed it was mostly English and Swedes,
though there might be a few Spanish among them.

The captain was an ancient tar, a dare devil who had seen service all
over the earth, been engaged in South American naval wars, was with
China in her conflict against Japan, and bore the scars of a dozen
wounds.

Such a man, afraid of nothing on earth, made an ideal blockade runner.

The bold Yankees would find that they did not quite monopolize all the
valor on earth with their Hobsons and Deweys.

There were others, of the same strain and speech, whom no danger could
daunt.

This was Captain Beven's tribute to the commander of the blockade
runner.

Roderic was not sorry to hear it, since _she_ would be safer in the
charge of such a wonderful seaman.

He went down to dinner in this state of anxiety, but under the lively
sallies of his cousin soon recovered his usual good spirits. Cleo could
arouse him more quickly than any one else he knew--she seemed to appeal
to some chord in his composition which responded just as the harp
does to the touch of the musician. When they came on deck again after
dinner, the little steam yacht was just entering the harbor.

Captain Beven, knowing how fond the Portuguese are of ceremony
and display, fired his little cannon in salute as they passed the
picturesque old fort and castle guarding the bay, and after a little
delay, quite excusable with the Portuguese gunners, an answering salvo
came from the frowning battlements that, seen in daylight were probably
not one quarter as dangerous looking as they appeared under the tender
light of the young moon.

They found an anchorage among other shipping, where they could swing at
anchor.

At the most only a short stop was intended here.

They would take on board fresh water, some fruits and vegetables,
together with chickens and eggs.

During the few hours in the morning while this was being done, Roderic
and his cousin expected to go ashore and see what the place of which
they had frequently heard yet never seen, looked like.

They could easily give a guess.

There is a striking similarity among all ports under Spanish and
Portuguese flags.

The picturesque struggles with disorder--from a little distance the
view is entrancing, but familiarity breeds contempt.

Especially is this true with the rank odors that usually predominate.

With twinkling lights on shore, a balmy breeze fanning their cheeks,
and the odor of flowers wafted over the water, it was very romantic
to stand upon the deck of the yacht, anchored in still waters, after
having passed so many days upon the heaving deep.

Nor was there any lack of sound.

Men's voices floated over the water, laughter was heard from parties
of pleasure seekers in small boats, and from various quarters came the
sound of music.

Sweet indeed do the notes of mandolin or guitar sound when mellowed by
the water--there is a peculiar richness and sympathy to the strumming
of the taut strings that cannot be produced under other conditions.

Besides, the poetry of the thing appeals to what is romantic in the
heart.

Lovers delight to glide upon the moonlit water.

No wonder then that Venice with her canals and gondolas should be
classed as a veritable Paradise for such devoted people.

Roderic smoked his last cigar strong in the hope of replenishing his
stock on the morrow.

A band situated upon some open plaza discoursed military music, and at
that distance even carping critics found little fault.

The evening was gliding away.

It passed with leaden wings to Roderic, whose ardent spirit longed for
the first streak of dawn, in the anticipation of being able to discover
whether or not the vessel that bore Georgia was in the harbor.

There was something almost unendurable in the suspense, and it required
considerable determination to crush down the spirit that demanded some
immediate action on his part.

He had been compelled to go back to the comforts of his more plebeian
pipe, nor did its solace fail to soothe his troubled spirit.

Thus time slipped away.

Four bells had struck.

Ere long they would be thinking of seeking their berths, and for one
Roderic confessed that the summons would not come amiss.

He yawned several times as though he had not yet been able to make up
the sleep lost while they were in the grasp of the storm, when all
hands found it impossible to remain in their bunks.

Truth to tell he was thinking that sleep would bridge over the time
until dawn, and cause him to forget his anxieties.

The lights still glimmered, nor had the sounds of music and revelry
abated one particle.

Night to the average Spanish mind means a period for chasing dull care
away in music, the dance and carousal.

While Roderic sat thus, his thoughts flitting from one subject to
another, since no one had spoken for quite some time, a figure
approached which he recognized upon glancing up as belonging to Captain
Beven.

As the mariner stooped over him he electrified Owen with the few words
he softly uttered.

"Sir, I have reason to believe the steamer Sterling Castle lies at
anchor just off our port quarter!"



CHAPTER XI.

THE LADY ON THE QUARTER DECK.


The news which Captain Beven communicated almost in a whisper to
Roderic had as startling an effect upon that gentleman as though the
guns of the battery that frowned upon their anchorage had suddenly and
without the least warning opened full upon their jaunty craft.

He sprang to his feet as though urged by a shock from a concealed
galvanic battery.

Instantly he remembered that Cleo had been close by a short time
before, and his first act was to turn his head and look for her.

The ladies had however quietly withdrawn, doubtless finding Roderic
very unsociable, and leaving him to the solace of his old pipe.

Which was a very sensible thing for them to do, considering his
rudeness, he concluded.

At any rate it left the coast clear, and all minor things had to give
way when this major passion that filled his heart, was concerned.

"That is what I have been waiting to hear, Captain. Show me the boat
you mean?" he said, as quietly as the bounding of blood through his
veins would allow.

"Step this way, sir."

Captain Beven knew _why_ Roderic was so deeply interested in the
Sterling Castle, and as a man who had a family at home in some quiet
little English cathedral town he could respect these feelings of the
ardent lover.

All the world feels an interest in the course of true love, and every
decent man stands ready to lend a hand if by so doing he may assist in
the anticipated happy outcome.

In another minute they were leaning over the port quarter.

"Yonder she lies, riding at anchor. The light is very dim, for the moon
you see sir, is just about going down, and presently we will be in the
dark," said the man of navigation.

Roderic glued his eyes on the indistinct form of what appeared to be a
steamer, but beyond this fact he was unable to hazard a guess.

"I see her plainly enough, but what makes you imagine or believe she
may be the vessel I am so anxious about?" he asked.

Captain Beven was not at all offended.

He knew Roderic had no idea of questioning his ability to determine
such matters, but was only curious to hear the clinching of the
argument by such means as he might advance.

Hence, he made answer in the way Roderic most desired, laying down the
logic of events in quick succession.

Beven, if he had any peculiarity, was rather inclined to speaking
rapidly, and without any useless flow of language.

Like Grant and other great men of like calibre, of whom history is
full, he believed in getting at the kernel of matters in the least
possible stretch of time.

"Something familiar about her appearance, even seen under such
disadvantages. Never forget the cut of a boat on which I have
sailed. Then I heard her bell sound--do you know, there are bells
and bells--some have a peculiar ring that you would recognize if you
heard it on a camel in Egypt. The Sterling Castle had such a bell--I
never heard one just like it until a short bit ago when it sounded
four strokes. I tell you sir, it made me jump and rub my eyes, half
believing I was officer of the deck again on board the stanch old
Sterling Castle. And last but not least, there came a man from the
shore rowing past and heading for some German ship over yonder. I
hailed him, and as he came alongside asked him the question. As near as
I could make out he said he believed she was called the Sherwin Castle,
and had just arrived two hours before sundown. That settled it, sir."

"I should think it did, captain. And so that is the boat. So near and
yet so far. It is very aggravating, captain."

"Very, sir," solemnly.

"I have half a notion--" reflectively.

"Thought you'd say that, sir," rubbing his hands gleefully, as though
anticipating something.

"To make a little run across to her."

"Yes, sir, with what object in view?"

"Oh! merely to ease my mind with respect to her identity, you might
say," carelessly.

"Of course--quite natural--young blood--always impetuous," commented
the Benedict.

"And incidentally to see whether I could find some golden opportunity
to have a few words with one who is a passenger on board."

"Ah! yes."

The captain placed one finger alongside his nose.

It was a habit he had when engaged in serious consideration, and
Roderic, who had studied the old sea dog to advantage, felt sure there
would be some result to this incubation.

Nor was he wrong in his surmise.

"Well, it could be done, sir," he said.

"I knew I could trust you to help me out, Heaven bless you, old chap,"
said Owen, at once diving for the captain's hand and wringing it with
impetuous ardor quite unlike his usual self possessed manner; but Cupid
has wrought more marvelous changes than this in men.

"It would not do to go prowling around the craft at this hour of the
night--we might be suspected of being Yankee spies and fired upon."

"That is true," assented Owen, knowing full well the captain would not
stop there.

"Now, I know Captain Shackelford well, and it wouldn't be strange for
me to run over to shake hands with the old war dog. Besides, a sailor
has respect for another man's affection regarding a craft he has made
several voyages on, and he'd understand why I want to tread the deck of
the Castle once again. It revives recollections, you know, and throws a
man back years."

"Just so," commented Roderic, encouragingly.

"Well, so far, good. Now, if so be you could change your looks a little
bit----"

Roderic laughed exultantly.

"I might row you over and go aboard."

"Consider it done, Captain, and many thanks to you."

"Don't forget they owe you no good will."

"And would be only too glad to hang me up to the yardarm if discovered.
Don't worry, my dear fellow. It has been my business to hide my
identity from all sorts of inquisitive people. This comes right in my
line. When will you go?"

"I can be ready in five minutes, sir, but----"

"In five minutes I shall be here."

Then he vanished.

The captain chuckled so hard he shook like a pyramid of calves foot
jelly.

"A boy after my own heart, God bless him, and all them that loves the
ladies, are my sentiments. My little woman at home came without any
such hardships, but I honors them as think no danger too great, no
price too dear, when true affection calls. Only I _am_ surprised at his
not falling in love with Miss Fairfax, for unless my old eyes deceive
me she worships the ground he walks on. Well, this is a queer world
anyhow, and remarkable things happen in it," with which sage remark the
old sailor hurried away to fix up a little for his late visit on board
the neighboring craft.

When he returned to the spot the five minutes had expired.

Roderic awaited him.

The captain would never have suspected his identity only that he spoke.

In that brief space of time Roderic had completely altered his
appearance--instead of a gentleman, well dressed and desirous of only
killing time, he had the look of an ordinary everyday sailor.

Even his face was altered--Captain Beven never could tell how it was
done, and marveled greatly at the tricks of the trade--but in the semi
darkness it did not look at all like Owen who addressed him laughingly
asking if he would do.

"Most excellently. By the way I believe in being prepared for
emergencies, even while not in the least expecting a display of force,"
significantly.

"Oh, that's all right," returned Owen, touching his pocket in a
convincing manner.

The captain laughed.

"Very good. Now, I'll take a couple of men with us to do the rowing.
They shall remain in the boat while we go aboard. You can act like my
boatswain, if you choose. I know the men to select, smart fellows who
will understand what we're up to, and I'll guarantee they'll not give
the game away. Wait a minute."

The preliminaries were quickly adjusted.

A boat being lowered they dropped in.

The two men knew who their stranger sailor companion was, the captain
having given them a few pointers, deeming it the part of wisdom that
they should not be kept in ignorance, and as Roderic had quickly made
firm friends of all the yacht's crew, by his cheery and hearty ways,
they were genuinely interested in the successful outcome of his venture.

Poor the sailor who has not sweetheart or wife in port--indeed, they
have been often accused, doubtless falsely, of a predilection for
having a girl in every port.

The silvery crescent moon just hung trembling above the horizon,
preparatory to taking the plunge that would hide her from view until
another night rolled around.

Roderic was duly impressed with the witchery of his surroundings, nor
did the romantic nature of his own errand fail to stamp itself upon his
mind.

Thus they quitted the side of the yacht and headed directly for the
steamer whose vague outlines could just be dimly seen through the haze
and darkness.

Hardly had they proceeded five boatlengths than Captain Beven who sat
beside him in the stern-sheets, turning his head to take a last loving
glance at his own little craft, uttered an exclamation.

This of course caused Roderic to follow suit.

He saw instantly what had caught the old sailor's eye.

A woman's white duck dress stirred by the night breeze drew his
attention to the quarter deck.

It was Cleo, who had come on deck again, possibly to discover whether
he had aroused from his state of dreamy forgetfulness.

Did she know where they were going--was she aware of his presence in
the boat?

Impossible.

He might have called out, but that would hardly have been politic--she
should hear the results of the adventure when they returned.

His attention was now entirely occupied with the craft which their
boat, urged on by the strokes of the two men, was rapidly approaching.

As she loomed out of the water, even Roderic could see she was fairly
well laden.

He could imagine the cargo would be one that might prove of great value
to the forces of General Blanco, could it be landed at Havana in spite
of the Yankee fleet lying off that city.

When they came close up Roderic saw the British flag floating from the
stern.

Then his eyes sought the smoke stack, and as near as he could judge
in the uncertain light it appeared to answer the description he had
received of the Sterling Castle--the funnel was dark below and light
above, probably buff, with the trade-mark of its line in relief.

It mattered little, since Captain Beven was about to settle this matter
once and for all.

Their approach had been noisy enough to attract attention, and as they
came up, a deep voice hailed them.

It was a decidedly English voice, and the salutation lacked the
extreme courtesy that might have been expected had the vessel floated
the colors of Spain, France or Italy.

"Hello! the boat--what d'ye want?"

That was to the point, at least.

Captain Beven made immediate answer to the effect that it was his
desire to come aboard and pay his respects to his old friend the
skipper, upon hearing which the man who had hailed from the deck sang
out his readiness to receive them.

It may be readily understood that Roderic found himself alongside the
blockade runner with singular emotions stirring within his mind.

The remarkable had happened again, for it was quite out of the common
that the two vessels thus came together in the Azores.

She was aboard this craft, the girl for whom his soul yearned.

Perhaps he would even see her ere the lapse of many minutes.

What bliss in the very thought--how could he help it if his traitor
heart bounded tumultuously within its narrow confines?

Still, he could not count upon it, since "there is many a slip twixt
cup and lip."

Perhaps she may have already retired for the night, since the hour was
wearing late.

This hardly struck him as possible, for after the storm, and the
necessity of being confined to the cabin, doubtless the senorita would
be only too glad to pass hours on deck, especially when the night was
so warm below.

Other things might also influence her.

The sounds coming over the water, how vividly they must remind her
of dear San Juan, and after an enforced exile from her native city
it would be a pleasure to once more sit and drink in the music and
laughter and song that can always be heard in a Spanish or Portuguese
town after the heat of day has given place to the cool of evening.

Captain Beven clambered aboard and as though he had already received
his orders to do likewise, Roderic followed suit.

A number of English sailors stood around as if in curiosity.

The captain had followed the second officer in the direction of the
cabin, and Roderic moved in the same quarter, as though possessed of
some curiosity regarding the vessel upon which his feet now pressed for
the first time.

By degrees he thus shook off the inquisitive sailormen who had first
kept an eye on him.

All the while he was getting closer to the quarter deck, knowing that
here if anywhere, he would be apt to find the object of his search.

Beven had arranged for at least an hour's stay on board, so there would
be plenty of time to accomplish what he wished.

When he heard the voice of Georgia near by it sent a thrill through his
heart.

She was here within a dozen yards of him, this beautiful maid of San
Juan whose presence affected him so strangely, and under whose potent
spell his heart delighted to remain a prisoner, rescue or no rescue.

How was he to find an opportunity to address her with others near by?

That must depend upon the good fortune that awaits upon Cupid's
devotees--and Captain Beven, who might be trusted to put in a few good
strokes in order to favor his protege.

As Roderic slipped closer up to the little ladder that led to the
quarter deck he could plainly discover that besides General Porfidio
there were two gentlemen present on the ground, and these he presently
made out to be the redoubtable Jerome Wellington and a Spanish agent,
possibly the same Senor Roblado, who had shown such a valiant spirit at
the bungalow on the Rathmines road, Dublin.

Roderic was so eager to approach the girl that he could with a clear
conscience have tossed both of these loquacious worthies overboard into
the waters of the harbor, had he been allowed the chance, and could
this bold move have secured the desired private interview.

He knew it would not--that he must possess his soul in patience and
await the logic of events.

Don Porfidio was holding forth upon some favorite topic, and his gruff
voice sounded like the distant boom of breakers on a lee shore.

Roderic bore no animosity toward the veteran--indeed, he had rather
grown fond of him in times past, and the fact that he was of kin to
Georgia added something to this feeling.

At the same time he wished the big senor anywhere else than here just
at present.

There is such a thing as being in the way--at times even three can make
a crowd.

You see, Roderic was no different from the same old general run
of lovers--every man must be a law unto himself when he finds
circumstances surrounding him with a network of this kind.

He bided his time and counted the minutes as though they were
freighted with lead, hoping that the gentlemen might suddenly be
assailed by a most amazing thirst that would demand their presence
below decks.

Such a thing was apt to happen at any time where Don Porfidio was
concerned, as Roderic knew full well from previous experience.

Ah! some one approached.

With his heart beating like a trip hammer from mingled eagerness and
anticipation, he slunk back out of sight and waited, hoping that this
might be the earnestly hoped for deliverance.

It was.

Captain Beven had done his part well.

The second officer of the blockade runner appeared on the quarter deck
with his usual bluff announcement.

"Gentlemen all, the captain has a visitor who desires to make your
acquaintance in the cabin. He has brought over a basket of champagne
with which to drink in memory of old days when he trod this deck in
the duties that I now perform. Gentlemen all, will you be pleased to
accompany me?"

Would they--Roderic could not but chuckle at the eager haste with
which they bounded from their chairs, and apologizing to the lady for
this necessity that tore them from her charming company, came down the
ladder one after the other, to solemnly march toward the cabin.

The game had worked.

Roderic now had the coast clear and it would be his own fault if he
failed to improve the golden opportunity a happy fortune had placed
before him.



CHAPTER XII.

THE MAN WHO MADE SIGNS.


It was no time for delay.

Enough precious minutes had been already wasted while he listened to
the remarks of the trio upon the upper deck.

Georgia had made some laughing remark at the haste shown in their
departure--she knew the weakness of Don Porfidio, and rallied them
on their readiness to seek the confines of the stuffy cabin because
forsooth a gentleman had come on board with a basket of champagne.

Perhaps, woman like, she was a little piqued because they beat such a
hasty retreat.

Well, there was one ascending the ladder at this very moment whom a
thousand baskets, each loaded to the brim with the finest of Mumms'
Extra Dry could not tempt from the locality which she graced with her
charming presence.

Roderic mounted eagerly.

Yes, the coast was clear.

The young girl sat quite alone, apparently lost in deep thought.

Around her were several steamer chairs, just as the gallant trio had
left them when they made their hasty escape.

Roderic's eyes were glued on the girl.

She had one hand up to her head--her rounded cheek was poised upon the
forefinger, and in the ravished eyes of this enthusiastic adorer she
made the most charming spectacle on earth.

He drew near, endeavoring to calm the tumultuous throbbing of his heart.

Heaven was kind to allow him such an opportunity, so much more than he
had expected or even hoped for in his wildest fancies.

Now he stood behind her--not more than three feet separated them.

It was a moment of intense suspense, since Roderic hardly knew how he
should make his presence known without alarming the girl, and besides,
wished to become entirely calm ere trusting himself to speak.

She evidently heard the slight movement he made--at least she seemed
to be aware of his presence, for while she did not move she presently
spoke.

"Well, you have returned?"

No answer.

"I said you had evidently come back, sir."

"Yes," replied Roderic, weakly.

"I don't understand why you should," she said, a little scornfully.

Roderic hardly knew himself, save that somehow for the life of him he
could not help it--there was an attraction in her presence that it was
utterly useless to resist.

"Nor I," he muttered in reply.

"Indeed, that is singular. I am sure I can spare your presence when
there is a far greater attraction in the captain's chart room. Pray, do
not deprive yourself of such enchanting society because I shall be left
alone. I have quite consoling company in my thoughts of those far away.
Leave me, therefore, I beg."

Then it dawned upon the benighted man that this little witch had
been addressing him under the positive belief that it was one of the
gentlemen who had made such a mad bolt for the cabin.

Her words too gave him a delicious satisfaction--could she refer to him
especially when she thus spoke of those to whom her mind wandered with
pleasure--those who were supposed to be separated by many leagues of
water?

At any rate he hugged the sweet delusion to his heart--these lovers are
voraciously selfish.

"Why don't you say something--have you lost your tongue, _amigo_?" she
demanded.

He still hesitated, and overcome by the temptation of her dear presence
put out a trembling hand and touched her raven hair.

At this the girl suddenly roused herself and as she turned her head
quickly Roderic found himself looking into those wonderful orbs that
long ago had so riddled his wretched heart that it might have done duty
as a housewife's sieve.

They were filled with astonishment at first, then indignation and
gathering anger, for this girl of the South had a temper.

"How _dare_ you touch me?"

Roderic made a mute appeal, this time with both hands--while she was
talking with gathering emphasis, and really allowing him no opportunity
to open with an explanation, he was thus going through a series of
remarkable gesticulations that would have certainly amused an outside
spectator could he have seen them.

Even Georgia became conscious that the strange sailor man was
endeavoring to prove his devotion--he clasped his hands and wrung them,
he held out his arms, entreatingly, he pressed one hand over his heart
as he sank on his knee, holding the other as might a princely beggar
soliciting alms.

All of which at length aroused her feminine curiosity, and she ceased
scolding him for his apparent impudence, to demand wonderingly:

"Are you mute--have you lost your tongue--why don't you answer and tell
me who are you and what in the name of the Virgin do you mean by such
operatic gestures?"

His chance had come at last.

"I want--_you_!" he managed to say, nor was he able to recognize his
own voice.

"Indeed, you are modesty personified; but I must tell you, Master
Impudence, that you cannot have _me_, and that unless you return
instantly to the quarter where you belong I shall signal to the cabin
and summon assistance. Instantly, do you understand, sirrah?" and she
emphasized the command with an imperious little stamp of her foot upon
the deck, that would have done credit, Roderic thought, to a queen.

"Yes, I understand," he said, his voice growing bolder as he began to
use it.

"Then why do you not obey me?" she asked, as if surprised at the
density of his intellect.

"Because I am bound in chains--because I live only in your
presence--because it would require more resolution than I possess to
voluntarily quit your presence," he declared, warmly.

Roderic was himself again, evidently--at least he had whipped his
demoralized faculties into line and found his tongue, so that he might
give expression to what was in his heart.

The effect upon the young woman was plainly perceptible--she seemed
overwhelmed either by the warmth of the sentiments he expressed or some
familiar tone in his ardent voice, possibly both.

At any rate she no longer threatened to summon assistance from the
cabin of the steamer.

On the contrary she advanced a step nearer the supposed sailor, and
slowly, wonderingly stretched out an eager hand toward his arm, her
eyes all the while fastened upon his dimly seen face as though she
would there discover his secret.

"Who--who are you--what right have you to express such sentiments
toward me?" she asked, in a trembling voice.

Roderic had now grown quite bold.

"By the right you gave me--by the love that has sent me aboard this
hostile craft just to get one glimpse of your sweet face, to hear your
dearly loved voice, perhaps if Heaven were very very kind, to even
touch your hand reverently with mine. Do you longer question my right?"

"Sancta Maria! it is he, my Roderic!"

She held out both hands eagerly and he crushed them within his own.

What would he not have given for the privilege of taking her wholly
within the shelter of his arms, and pressing her to his loving heart.

But such action might be seen--they were in a position where their
figures would be outlined in silhouette against the sky, should any of
those upon the lower deck chance to look that way.

Hence, the lover was forced to be content to press the two hands thus
confided to his trust, though he did manage to bend his head and press
a burning kiss upon each in turn.

"What wonderful mystery is this--why are you here in this deep
disguise? They told me the Azores were islands of enchantment and
surely I am beginning to believe it," she said, her voice thrilling
with excitement.

"It is very simple, and I shall quickly explain. But, dearest senorita,
do not forget that I am in the enemy's stronghold. If caught death
might be the price of my daring."

Then he proceeded to elucidate.

It was very natural, after all.

She blushed and thrilled with pleasure to know that she still held this
man's heart in the hollow of her hand--that he had dared all in the mad
desire to once again see her face to face.

That was a keen satisfaction to one who loved with every fibre of her
being.

Besides, there was a strong touch of the romantic in his strange
appearance, that was not without its effect upon Georgia--native of
Porto Rico, with some of Spain's most aristocratic blood in her veins,
it was not at all singular that such a deed, savoring of the days of
chivalry when Knights sought peril for the sake of Love, should appeal
irresistibly to her heart.

She had cherished the memory of how he rushed into danger in Dublin,
impelled by this same magical motive power, and the thought of his
daring had been very sweet to her when seated alone upon the deck of
the steamer watching the rolling billows, or resting in her bijou berth
below.

No longer could she doubt the ardor of his love, when he showed such a
willingness to risk life in order to prove it.

So Roderic related the little run of adventure that had befallen him
since last they parted in the dark at the time he emerged from the
cellar of the queer bungalow dwelling.

It was not much, but as she had experienced the same storm there was at
least a bond of sympathy between them.

All the while she maintained a nervous watch in the direction of the
steep stair leading up from the lower deck.

He knew why she exhibited this zeal, and felt flattered.

It puffs a man up to realize that he is an indispensable condition to
one woman on earth--that she is deeply concerned about his well being;
and when Roderic knew the peril hanging over him caused Georgia such
constant uneasiness he gloried in the fact, simply because it spoke
eloquently of her abiding affection.

"I fancy Captain Beven will keep the gallant gentlemen enjoying
themselves for some little time yet. He is a capital hand at a yarn,
and with a box of prime Havanas which he says he secured from a trader
who came out to our boat, to back up the basket of champagne Cleo sent
aboard, I imagine he will hold them spellbound until the last cork is
popped and the balance of the weeds sacrificed to the god, Moloch."

He knew from the uneasy movement of the girl that he had said something
to arouse a new train of thought in her mind.

"Cleo--she is on yonder boat which I can see through the darkness--your
cousin Cleo. And after having passed days in her society, how do you
find your heart, Senor Roderic--has she still failed to creep in?" she
asked, with a peculiar quivering spasm of pain in her voice.

"My God, Georgia, how can I make you believe I love, can love no woman
on earth while you live? Is not my presence here at this moment proof
sufficient? You fill my heart to absolute completion, so there in no
room for another. Will you believe that I live and breathe and have my
very being centered on _you_, heart of my heart and soul of my soul?"

These words, spoken in a low but tense tone, seemed to persuade
her--the magnetism of his presence, the beloved tones of his voice, the
very fervor of his impassioned gaze all served to convince the senorita
that this man whose love had once been sufficient to kindle the fires
of jealousy in his breast, was incapable of deception.

"I _do_ believe--yes, I trust all my hopes of future happiness in your
hands, for oh! Roderic if your love ever fails me, if it fades away
like a dream, I shall surely die," she made response.

Of course he felt it his privilege and duty to swear by everything
he held sacred, by the graves of his ancestors, after the Japanese
fashion, that so long as earth held them both, he could neither change
nor his passion grow cold.

And she believed him from that hour; implicit confidence dwelt within
her trusting heart, and if this man ever did aught to destroy the faith
she placed in his affection let him be accused from that day.

This was what Roderic was telling himself as he stood there holding her
hand, the magnetic spark flowing from soul to soul.

He was ordinarily quite a matter of fact man, but even the most prosaic
can be counted on to give way to unheard of romantic tendencies under
the spur of such conditions.

Time flies with extraordinary swiftness when the moments are freighted
with ecstatic bliss.

Roderic endeavored to keep his wits about him even while exchanging
these sentiments with the girl of his heart.

He knew he had enemies near--he had not forgotten the bitterness with
which Jerome hated him and the ardor with which the Spanish plotters
would have sacrificed him when he was held a prisoner in the Dublin
villa.

It would be a decidedly unpleasant episode in his checkered career
should they capture him on board the Sterling Castle--he was a marked
man in the minds of those whose sympathies were enlisted for Spain, and
they could imagine nothing finer than an opportunity to lay him by the
heels.

Georgia too was on the watch for danger, since any injury to her lover
must cause suffering in her own devoted heart.

She imagined the three brave gentlemen when they returned after
finishing the wine and cigars would come as they went, in a bunch.

If this were the case she would receive ample warning of their
approach--when the voice of the siren was heard rumbling afar it would
be time for Roderic to say good bye, and to get down from that quarter
deck with all due alacrity.

A chance was given them to speak of the future in the land where fate
was taking them as fast as steam could drive, and Roderic improved the
opportunity to arrange it so that he might be sure of meeting Georgia
should fortune allow him to enter San Juan ere it was surrendered to
General Miles or those under him.

It looked rosy enough just then while her loved presence beamed upon
him--perhaps later on, with lowering clouds of misfortune shrouding his
future, Roderic might have cause for doubts and fears that it would
require all his personal valor to scatter.

The warning she counted on failed them, for Don Porfidio knew better
than most men when he had discovered a good thing, and could not be
prevailed upon to leave it short of an earthquake or a simoon.

Thus it chanced that Jerome returned alone, returned smoking a prime
weed, and possibly filled with the thought of a quiet little flirtation
with the general's charming niece, whose cold treatment of his Beau
Brummel advances had rather piqued his spirit of romantic interest,
and aroused his manly desire for conquest--returned so quietly that
his approach was quite unobserved by the two lovers among the steamer
chairs on the quarter deck until his head and shoulders loomed dimly
into view above the top of the short ladder.



CHAPTER XIII.

ADONIS ON A NEW TACK.


Ordinarily it took considerable to surprise Jerome Wellington--he
had such good control over his nervous system that he could take in
a philosophical manner much that might have rattled a less collected
customer.

In plainer words he had studied the art of appearing cool under all
conditions.

As an adventurer with an enviable record for successful achievements
behind him he had many times found this accomplishment very useful in
carrying out the bold designs necessary to the fulfillment of his game.

For once at least Jerome was obliged to confess to weakening--for once
his confidence appeared to have overshot its mark, and he even doubted
the positive evidence of his senses.

He could have sworn that, as his head arose above the level of the
quarter deck he positively saw a common fellow in the dress of a
sailor, standing very very close to the beautiful niece of General
Porfidio--more than this, that he actually had the audacity to raise
her hand to his lips and kiss it--Jerome knew full well what a kiss was
like, and could not be deceived in the sound of one, even when simply
pressed upon a lady's hand.

Indignation filled his noble breast.

Since Don Porfidio, gallant son of Porto Rico, was absent from his
post of duty, the pleasant task of defending his ward must fall to
others.

Undoubtedly this fellow must have used some ignoble means of gaining
the mastery over the young and innocent girl's mind--Jerome had
exhausted his own matchless resources for the last few days in the
endeavor to arouse a responsive feeling in her heart, and possibly felt
considerably piqued just now to discover that what he had failed to
accomplish this son of Neptune had apparently brought about with ease.

Of course he possessed some wonderful power that aided him in this
revolutionary work--Jerome had read and heard considerable on the
subject of personal magnetism, of hypnotism, the astonishing control
one mind may have over another that nature has so constructed as to
make it subject or tributary to the first.

What was needed, therefore, was the sudden introduction of a third
resolute body in order to break the magic spell.

Jerome would be this public benefactor--he was always ready to
sacrifice his own comfort in order to restore natural harmony.

Having thus quickly decided that it was not only his privilege but a
duty as well, to step between this necromancer and his intended victim,
Jerome set the ball rolling by continuing his upward movement.

By this time his presence seemed to have become known to those in whose
mutual affairs he was taking such a remarkable interest.

Strangely enough it was the girl who first detected the fire of his
cigar appearing above the line marking the quarter deck--the girl who
uttered a choking little Spanish exclamation of mingled alarm and
consternation--the girl who even sprang back a step as though to make
it appear that she and the sailor were but engaged in an ordinary
conversation.

All of which was noted by the newcomer with no little surprise.

It did not alter his determination to inject his personality into the
game.

As has been said before Jerome was not a coward, whatever else he may
have been.

True, it did not require the dashing soldierly qualities of a
D'Artagnan to advance upon a solitary sailorman who had broken the
rules of the ship and pushed his inferior person upon the deck space
reserved for superior beings.

Jerome solemnly walked toward the fellow.

He noticed that the chap had not stirred an inch all this while, but
seemed to be awaiting his masterly approach.

Had the tables been turned, and he been made the subject of the girl's
mesmeric power he could not have stood there more rigid.

Perhaps he meant to exercise his hypnotic powers upon the new arrival.

Unconsciously Jerome braced himself against such a dreadful influence.

Again, it might be fear that paralyzed the fellow--surely, the
spectacle of Jerome striding angrily forward was enough to strike alarm
at the heart of the most valiant--so the said Jerome himself thought.

Such a thing as even the glimmer of the truth had not as yet even
dawned upon his benighted mind--how was it possible, when he believed
Roderic to be a thousand miles away?

The situation was exceedingly dramatic when these two men faced each
other, with Georgia hovering near by, ready to invoke the god of peace
if matters grew too stormy, although her last effort in that line, when
Don Porfidio and Roderic crossed swords in the bungalow had not been
much of a success.

"Well, sir, what do you mean by breaking the rules and thrusting your
unwelcome company upon the quarter deck? If Captain Shackelford was
made aware of this he would use the cat over your stupid shoulders, do
you hear?"

The sailorman answered not.

This increased the other's kindling passion, for he foolishly believed
his ferocious appearance had awed the man, and that possibly he could
not reply because his teeth were rattling together like Spanish
castanets.

He raised his voice higher.

"Don't imagine I didn't see what was going on. I understand the power
you have exercised over this young lady--the miserable hypnotic
influence you have exerted to control her actions.

"And let me tell you, fellow, that power ends from this moment. Acting
in the place of her natural guardian, who is unavoidably detained below
just at present--serving in his stead I, Jerome Wellington snap the
chain you have dared to throw about her sacred person. She is free from
this hour, free from your miserable, devilish power. And as for you,
fellow----"

He stopped as though not yet quite certain as to the extreme course
of punishment that by rights should be meted out for such a condign
offense.

"Well?" muttered the other, anxious of course to have the agony over
with and the worst known.

"I am inclined to amuse myself in kicking you off the
quarterdeck--perhaps it may have the effect of also scattering some of
your wonderful magnetic charms, since I have heard that the hypnotic
power is shattered by a shock to the seat of the nervous system."

These were brave words, truly, but if the man who gave utterance to
them expected the other to show any symptom of fear, he certainly
counted without his host.

Perhaps he imagined the alarmed sailor would put up a plea for mercy,
would even drop on his knees in suing for pardon.

Such a melo-dramatic action would be a rare spectacle for the gods--in
order to appear the more heroic in the sight of this fair girl Jerome
might even have magnanimously declined to carry on warfare when the
enemy sued for peace--he was a man who never neglected an opportunity
to pose as a magnificent figure before feminine eyes.

Contrary to his expectation, however, the affair did not take on this
guise.

Instead of showing the white feather the enemy at once hoisted signals
of defiance.

He began to coolly and deliberately roll back the sleeves of his
flannel shirt.

The act was intended for supreme scorn--it meant that he snapped his
fingers contemptuously in the face of the Adonis--it meant that he
prepared himself in nautical language, to "resist boarders."

There was trouble in prospect.

Jerome had gone too far to back down--he must either put his words into
execution or give evidence of cowardice.

The girl, seeing how matters stood, now endeavored to prevent a rupture.

"Senor, this is a friend of mine, one I have known a long time. If I
choose to receive him on the quarterdeck that is surely an affair to
be settled with my uncle and the captain. I will relieve you of any
anxiety and responsibility, senor," she said, with pointed emphasis.

"Pardon, senorita, but it has already gone too deep to be dropped.
There is an issue between this a--humble friend of yours and myself,
which can only be settled by an appeal to arms, not to Caesar.
Therefore, my fine fellow, look you out, for I intend to toss you
down where you belong, since you have positively refused to go there
voluntarily when I gave you the chance."

He took a step toward Roderic, who calmly awaited for hostilities to
begin.

There was good reason too why the latter should have become nervous
over the matter.

It was at this juncture that several violent sneezes were heard
ringing over the vessel, and in this signal Roderic recognized a part
of Captain Beven's design to warn him that he should only be able
to detain the gentlemen a few minutes longer, so that it might be
essential for the lover to make his farewells without further loss of
time, if so be he had been fortunate enough to find an opportunity to
see his charmer.

Roderic however, was hardly in a position to carry out this programme.

Jerome showed fight, and it was really too much to expect a man of
Roderic's character to withdraw in ignominious fashion under the very
eyes he adored.

Plainly he was in for a miserable struggle.

He deplored this on several accounts, since it might jeopardise his
mission, and moreover place him in a poor light before Georgia, for
what man desires to engage in an ordinary brawl in the presence of the
being he adores.

There are times however when "needs must when the devil drives," so
that it was not a question of choice but necessity with Roderic.

About this time the first faint suspicion broke in upon Jerome's mind
to the effect that things might be other than they seemed.

He had no opportunity to gather up the fragments and link them together
in a chain that might reveal the entire truth--some invisible power
flashed a little thought into his brain--it may have been the attitude
assumed by the sailor as though awaiting his attack, for there was that
about it suggesting the trained athlete and not an ordinary Jack Tar,
clumsy with his fists.

At any rate what did Jerome do as he came close up but bend his head
forward and fix his steadfast gaze upon the other's face.

Roderic had deemed his disguise secure, and so it was under all
ordinary pressure.

It had resisted curious glances from the crew of the blockade runner,
and even Love's eyes had failed to penetrate beneath the surface.

There is no sight one half so keen as that of burning Hate, which seems
capable of piercing all obstacles set in the way.

So it came home to Jerome with the rapidity of the lightning's flash,
with whom he had to deal.

No wonder the man's attitude seemed familiar--no wonder he dared defy
attack--no wonder the lovely Porto Rican belle called him her _friend_!

And the sudden knowledge galled Jerome.

Under it he waxed wroth.

Baffled in his endeavor to secure Miss Fairfax and her millions
because forsooth she chose to fall in love with this traveling agent,
he was now to be beaten in his other little game of occupying Georgia's
heart because Roderic had centered his affection there.

Ye gods, it was enough to anger the coolest and most diplomatic of men,
and Jerome could not be blamed for letting passion run away with his
better judgment.

"So, it's _you_?" he grunted, sneeringly.

Roderic knew his identity was no longer a secret, and that he might as
well throw off the mask he had assumed.

All he desired now was to so conduct himself in _her_ presence that she
might find no occasion for reproach.

"Yes, it's no other, Wellington. How is your health these days?" he
said, carelessly, hoping the other might cool down and thus avoid
friction, for if given his own way Roderic would have wished to leave
the steamer peaceably, though ready to do his share in any action that
might be unwisely precipitated by a hot headed antagonist.

"Better than yours will be presently," was the stinging reply from
Jerome, who accompanied his words with a grin as though in anticipation
he could already see the object of his dislike receiving punishment at
the hands of stern old Captain Shackelford, whose greatest _bete noire_
was a traitor or a spy.

"What may that remark mean?" asked Roderic.

"That you shall be denounced as a spy--that you have crept aboard
this vessel under false colors to learn her cargo and destination
in order that she could be seized by your accursed cruisers on the
blockade--that you have spent these days to advantage in prying out
these secrets and should therefore suffer the usual fate of any common
low spy."

Roderic still preserved his temper--perhaps the occasion would
presently come when he could repay these insults with interest--it
might be even closer than Jerome suspected, but for the present his
policy was to keep the peace just so long as it could be done with
honor.

"You seem to imagine I have been on board during the whole voyage?" he
remarked.

"How could it be otherwise?" demanded Jerome, looking for some secret
trap.

"Because as you happen to know, I was left behind in Dublin when the
Sterling Castle left the harbor at Kingstown--because I have come on
board to-night with Captain Beven, who so royally entertained you in
the cabin just now, at the expense of myself and my Cousin Cleo, the
owner of the steam yacht Beven commands. As to my motive in boarding
your boat, I am not ashamed to admit it to you, sir--it was to see and
converse with this lady, who holds the first place in my heart, and
whom God willing, I expect some day to claim as my wife. That is all,
sir."

It should have been enough.

Had Jerome been as sensible in this game as he had proven himself
in various others he must have realized that this determined act of
Roderic took him once and for all out of the chase for the Fairfax
millions and virtually left the field to him.

But something had occurred to make a change in the schemer's plan of
campaign--he was not as hot after those millions just now as he had
been in the past.

Truth to tell a face had bewitched him and even the elegant Don Juan
found his Waterloo in the daughter of Porto Rico--yes, he had to admit
the stinging fact that after playing at love all these years he was now
actually smitten.

"You are mistaken, Owen, that is not all. I have serious doubts
concerning the truth of your story--I rather imagine you are bent on
killing two birds with one stone, and intended learning all about this
boat--that your seeking an audience with the senorita"--bowing in her
direction--"was but an afterthought. However, it does not matter. I
have an unpleasant duty to perform."

"Indeed! What might that be?"

"Arresting you, and taking you before the captain charged with being a
spy."

"You wouldn't try that, Wellington?"

"Oh! I wouldn't--perhaps you doubt my ability?"

"I simply warn you against it. I should hate to offer violence in the
presence of a lady--"

"Don't mind me, Senor Roderic--you have my permission to defend
yourself even if by so doing you are compelled to spoil the gentleman
beau's classic features!" cried the little senorita, ready to display
her colors.

"That settles it--will you come with me peaceably or forcibly?"
demanded the enraged Jerome, stretching out a powerful arm.

"Neither, thanks," replied Roderic, stepping back.

"Then here's at you for keeps," and Wellington plunged forward with
impetuous zeal.

Senorita Georgia had great faith in the individual prowess of her
betrothed, whom she had seen come out victor in other affairs, yet
Jerome was no stripling, and besides, assistance for him might arrive
at any moment--so she stood behind the barricade of steamer chairs and
fervently besought the Virgin to favor the cause of the brave man she
loved.



CHAPTER XIV.

A CHASE TO THE YACHT.


Possibly Jerome Wellington had made a study of the tactics employed so
successfully by the great and famous general whose name he bore with so
little lustre.

At any rate he believed in a quick and masterly attack, whereby the
enemy might be demoralized, providing said enemy chanced to be inferior
to him in power or endurance.

Roderic did not deceive himself with any false hope that the game was
not worth the candle, nor that his opponent intended only a gigantic
bluff. He had prepared for business, and meant to be in the game from
start to finish.

Besides, deep down in his heart he realized that the handsome Adonis
had been playing his cards with the idea of centering the affections of
the charming Georgia upon himself, and this alone was a positive crime
in the eyes of the man who lived only to win her for his own.

That rampant spark of jealousy has much to account for in this
world--kingdoms have fallen, principalities been sacked, and countless
homes been broken up because of it; while on the other hand it has
urged men to great and noble deeds in order to win in the game of
hearts.

Roderic, therefore, rather enjoyed the prospect of a little bout with
this dashing cavalier whom he had once called his friend--he believed
it would do him a world of good to embrace Jerome--he had more than
once suspected that the modern Beau Brummel was guilty of the awful
crime--in a gentleman--of wearing stays inside his coat, so that he
might appear more military in his figure; and the opportunity was at
hand to ascertain the truth.

Thus he stretched out his arms and took the man who leaped forward, to
his heart.

Such an embrace as he gave the Adonis--Georgia thought she heard his
ribs crack under the anaconda-like strain, and his tongue certainly did
protrude from between his teeth.

Again Captain Beven's accommodating sneeze sounded like a trumpet
through the vessel.

It was the last call--the little party was in the act of leaving the
cabin--he had exhausted all his resources in the endeavor to hold them
back a while longer.

Roderic was hardly in a condition to carry out his part of the
programme, nor did he care very much, now that his secret had been
juggled with, and the truth must be made known to all.

First Jerome should be attended to.

His ardor had really run away with his usual discretion--it must be
cooled off, and Roderic for one knew a means of accomplishing the same.

Time was a factor in his calculations also, since at any moment General
Porfidio and the others were apt to appear on the scene.

The little De Brabant had ceased uttering confused prayers to the
Virgin for her lover's safety, since he had thus speedily reduced the
blustering hero to a state of "innocuous desuetude"--she was now more
deeply concerned in the manner whereby the said Senor Roderic was to
free himself from the incubus that held on with such a tenacious grip.

"Drop him over the rail, _amigo_--a bath, give the handsome Adonis
a bath--it will surely be good for his complexion. The rail Senor
Roderic--it is close at your hand and _so_ convenient. Besides, better
such a soft fall than broken bones on the lower deck!"

Thus she cried in her excitement, modulating her voice until it was
hardly more than a tense whisper.

And Owen knew it was not so much resentment against Jerome for his
persistent attentions as the eager desire to serve the man she adored,
that actuated her course.

The voices of the gentlemen could be plainly heard as they emerged from
the chart room and sauntered toward the side of the steamer where Beven
had left his yawl--no doubt the visitor was still cracking some of
his old chestnut jokes, for the laughter of Don Porfidio bubbled over
almost continually--besides; that champagne had been very extra dry.

At any rate the suggestion advanced by Georgia coincided with Roderic's
own views on the subject.

Perhaps Jerome, had he been given a voice in the matter, as the party
most interested, might have strenuously objected--baths he liked,
indeed, was very partial to, in their proper season, but to be thus
unceremoniously tumbled from the deck of a steamer into the briny deep,
with his most elaborate evening garments on his person was really too
much of a good thing, and he must have protested earnestly could he but
have found wind with which to clothe his argument.

That luxury was in a great measure denied him, and the best he could do
was to make a feeble kick against the decision of the fair court being
carried into execution.

It counted for nought.

The American having started could hardly be restrained--once the match
is applied to a train of powder it is difficult to prevent the fire
from running its entire length.

So Jerome was dragged ignobly over the deck to the rail, past the
beauty who had ordered his ducking--he endeavored to so wind himself
about the affections and also the limbs of his intended executioner
that the latter would have to change his desperate plans or else take
the plunge in his delectable company; but Roderic knew a trick or two
that might be used with profit under such conditions, and he readily
broke the hold of the desperate and vanquished beau.

Then came the finish.

Wellington took a tumble.

He exhausted what breath he chanced to have in his lungs with one awful
whoop as he went plunging down, arms and legs outspread after the
manner of a gigantic frog.

Perhaps he found some satisfaction in the fact that he made the
greatest splash ever known in that lovely harbor, a splash that would
go down in the annals of the Azores as beyond all precedent, and which
suddenly quelled the merry laughter, together with sounds of music that
had floated across the bay.

It is worth considerable to excel in _something_, even if it is only a
ducking.

Roderic had crossed the Rubicon.

He knew his summary treatment of the Adonis would create tremendous
excitement on board the blockade runner.

There were English sailors in charge and these men could not be
treated with the same measure of scorn that he might have bestowed had
they one and all been Spaniards.

Nevertheless Roderic was far from being panic-stricken in any sense.

He had no sooner dropped Jerome over the rail than he turned to
Georgia, and as the noise of the splash still sounded, said grimly:

"He has been disposed of as you suggested, sweetheart. Let us hope the
temperature of the water will be sufficient to cool his ardor."

"But you must fly--_sanctissima!_ they will harm, perhaps murder you,
and I should never forgive myself for having been the cause. Go, Senor
Roderic, go with all haste!" she exclaimed, her hands on his arm, her
lustrous midnight orbs glowing as they filled with intense excitement.

The man either had a contempt for the peril that threatened or else
hardly grasped its serious nature--at least he showed a recklessness
in dealing with the situation that might possibly have been expected
when the fact of his having Irish blood in his veins was taken into
consideration, for seldom have Ireland's sons been in battle without
leading some forlorn hope in the van.

"Not until you tell me again that you love me," he declared, eagerly.

Some men would have called him a fool, but evidently they could never
have adored a woman--to the man who loves, all else gives way before
his passion.

So nature has constituted him.

"You already know it," she said, quickly, endeavoring to push him
towards the ladder, and even her eagerness to insure his safety was a
source of deep satisfaction to the lover.

"But I must hear you say it--consider, weeks may elapse before I see
you again and I shall be exposed to all manner of danger. Tell me," he
insisted with a determination nothing could move but acquiescence.

Perhaps there was one particular danger in her mind that would hover
over him constantly, and against which she in her innocent, loving
heart prayed that he might be delivered--Cleo.

However, she realized that he would accept no half way compromise.

The sailors on board were shouting and running to the rail to ascertain
what species of porpoise or shark kicked up such a fiendish racket
alongside their vessel, for the wretched Jerome, unable to shout, and
actually half strangled, was threshing the water like a young steam
engine in the endeavor to keep himself afloat and frighten away the
voracious monsters of the deep.

"_Carramba!_ foolish man to risk so much for a woman's word. Know then
that I do love you with all my heart and soul--the good Father above
preserve you, for me!"

It was all he asked.

He snatched one burning kiss and then with a hasty "adieu, beloved,"
sprang to the ladder.

It was time.

The ship was heaving with commotion.

Had the startling cry of "fire," always dreaded above all else at sea,
been sounded aboard the blockade runner, loaded as she was with much
ammunition, it could hardly have created greater excitement than now
reigned.

Roderic remained quite cool, which was an advantage to the success of
his venture.

Garbed as he was as a sailor any one might have taken him for one of
the crew hastening to his station, since the boatswain's shrill whistle
had called the sailormen to man one of the boats.

It was easy enough work dropping down the ladder, but as some one
chanced to be ascending it at the same time an unavoidable collision
ensued.

Consequently Roderic and the unknown came to the lower deck in a bunch,
and being above, the American found a comfortable lodging place on the
body of his confrere.

He did not linger.

One ejaculatory Spanish swear word from the ascending figure as he
swooped down upon him gave Roderic a pretty good idea as to his
identity.

Wretched Roblado, fated to again endure all the flings of outrageous
fortune at the hands of the man from over the sea!

Roderic halted not neither to assist the damaged Spaniard to arise nor
to offer apologies for such unceremonious conduct.

At such times men cannot be particular as to their _modus operandi_ in
conducting their retreat--the end justifies the means.

Happily he had not been at all injured by the fall.

He heard an anxious exclamation skyward and had a glimpse of Georgia
looking over the edge of the upper deck.

It was just like the man to wave his hand and even kiss his fingers
to the girl ere resuming his course toward the spot where in all
probability Captain Beven anxiously awaited his coming.

A splash announced the launching of a boat.

It was fortunately on the other side of the steamer, since Jerome had
gone over to port.

Even such a small matter might count in the end, should pursuit be
inaugurated when Wellington was rescued and managed to regain enough
breath to splutter out the facts.

At any rate Roderic made a note of this point which was all the more
singular because he had other fish to fry just then.

Fortunately no one attempted to stay his flight--fortunately for them
perhaps, as well as his own success, for Roderic was just in the humor
to handle any interference roughly.

What he had just passed through had the effect of arousing the lion
that lay beneath the surface in his nature, and he was in a condition
to do more than his share of battle.

Passing the groups of sailors hurrying to the rail, he crossed the deck
to where he believed Beven awaited him, for a glimpse of one or more
figures in this quarter announced that it was not deserted.

To his surprise he saw two men.

Captain Beven had company, and Roderic at first glance guessed the
identity of that tall figure.

It was Don Porfidio.

He had walked with the captain to where his yawl awaited, instead of
proceeding to the quarter deck; and now he was also able to resist the
temptation to rush across to the other rail in order to gratify his
natural curiosity.

It meant something.

Don Porfidio had somehow guessed the truth, or been let in on the
ground floor by Beven.

Was it war, or peace?

Roderic should have disliked the job exceedingly had he been compelled
to administer any sort of drubbing to his excellency the good and gruff
don, but nevertheless had the fates demanded it he must have obeyed the
call to duty.

On the whole, therefore, he was well pleased when the big Porto Rican
soldier suddenly thrust out his hand, saying:

"_Por Dios!_ I honor a brave man who risks much to see one he loves.
Senor Owen, success to you!"

Roderic took the hand that was offered--he had much respect for this
patriot and veteran.

"Thank you, senor," he replied.

"All is well?"

"Delightfully so."

"_Cospita!_ good. And pray, what is the cause of all that wonderful
splashing yonder?" asked the don, as if suspecting that the Yankee knew.

Roderic, already in the act of following Captain Beven down the rope
ladder that stretched to the yawl below paused long enough to look up
at the general, and laughing say:

"Ask Jerome!"

"Aha! it is as I thought--ask Jerome--undoubtedly Senor Wellington has
met his Waterloo."

But Owen had already dropped down the side of the blockade runner and
into the boat.

Hardly had he gained the yawl than Beven, who was in the stern sheets
said huskily:

"Push off, and away. Pull like tigers, my hearties, for unless all
signs fail we may have a chase before we reach the yacht."

The men needed no urging.

Once clear of the steamer and they began to ply their ashen blades with
an energy that sent the little boat flying through the water.

It was a period of suspense.

Roderic kept his eyes fastened upon the stern of the steamer, for in
this quarter would the pursuit be inaugurated, should one follow.

The shouts had ceased.

An ominous silence seemed to rest upon the scene.

All depended upon whether the wretched Jerome, upon being rescued from
the bay, was in a state to disclose what he knew, and the readiness
that bold Captain Shackelford would show in following up the clue thus
given.

And as he looked, too soon he saw the boat shoot into view propelled by
sturdy arms.

"Faster!" cried Beven at the same moment.

There were six pair of English arms against two, but the little yawl
was light and trimly built, so the chances seemed pretty evenly divided.

Roderic surveyed the chase as calmly and critically as though it were
a college regatta, with an ordinary loving cup as the stake instead of
his own liberty, perhaps his life.

"Captain, we shall make it," he said, quietly.

"Undoubtedly," replied laconic Beven, whose practiced eye had also
measured the distance yet to be traversed, and the slow if steady gain
made by their pursuers.

"Steady, boys, do your level best," he added, and the sturdy tars
grunted as they strained at the oars until the veins stood out like
whip cords on their brows.

Meanwhile from the pursuing craft came a variety of oaths and
exclamations characteristic of the bold adventurer Shackelford, and by
means of which he doubtless expected to secure better work from his
toiling men; while Jerome, having recovered his tongue, and boiling
over with rage, joined his shrill voice to that of the captain,
promising fabulous rewards--which he would doubtless pay in notes
if called upon--should they overhaul the will-o'-the-wisp boat that
tauntingly kept just so far ahead.

It was quite exciting while it lasted.

This romantic harbor in the peaceful Azores had seldom known a more
remarkable scene.

Pity it was the darkness robbed those who might have enjoyed the
spectacle, of such a rare sight.

The steam yacht was now close at hand and while those who pursued still
kept up their mad pace it must have been painfully evident to them that
the chase was hopeless.

Perhaps the daring spirit who led them on had desperate designs of
boarding the yacht and dragging away the object of their vindictive
spleen.

Captain Beven was holding the tiller ropes and under his skillful
guidance the yawl turned the yacht's stern, coming up alongside.

Instantly a hand clutched the painter.

"Aboard with you!" called the skipper.

Roderic was the first to spring on deck, but the others were at his
heels.

To sight the oncoming boat was now their design, and accordingly they
leaped across the deck, believing Shackelford would head direct for
that nearer quarter.

Nor were they mistaken in this surmise, for as they reached the
rail the boat from the blockade runner shot under them and hauled up
alongside.



CHAPTER XV.

CAPTAIN BOB GUESSES NOT.


Shackelford was a daring spirit, one of those Britons who have carried
the flag into remote passes of the Indian border, and whom the
desperate fortunes of war never daunt.

He had doubtless led charges into the jaws of death, and passed through
adventures enough to fill volumes.

In this case however, it was Tartar against Tartar--British bulldog
_vs._ British mastiff. When he rubbed up against such men as Beven and
Roderic Owen, he met those who were of his own calibre, and should the
affair come to blows it promised to be a pretty sight.

When our friends reached the side of the yacht, the sailors were
already there, at least those on deck; and some signal must have
been given below as the boats approached, for the watch off duty was
tumbling out quite ignorant as to what might be required of them, but
ready, like all seamen of their nationality to do their duty with vigor.

"Hold off--our orders are not to receive visitors after ten o'clock!"
cried Beven, as he saw Shackelford rise to his feet.

"We mean to come aboard," said that worthy.

"Then you go back quicker than you come."

"Beven, I am surprised."

"At what?"

"Your deceiving us."

"Nonsense, my visit was in good faith."

"You came with a secret object in view--you kept us engaged below while
your confederate examined our vessel."

"It was prime champagne, Shack."

"Granted, but"--and here he relieved himself by a tremendous expletive,
"why did you put that spy aboard of us?"

"In the first place Mr. Owen is no spy. He cares little or nothing what
cargo you carry, but he is deeply interested in petticoats--your young
lady is his betrothed, and he vowed he would go with me on board just
to see her. Shackelford, that's a man after your own heart."

And Shackelford, realizing the truth of this point blank assertion
could only growl.

"Interrupted in his _tete a tete_ with the young lady by your gentleman
there, they had words, being rivals, and it resulted in Mr. Owen
tossing the elegant Adonis overboard. Shack, that is just what you
would have done, confound you."

Shackelford could not deny it.

Really Captain Beven should have been a lawyer, since he knew so well
how to draw the fire of his adversary, and leave him not a foot upon
which to stand.

"For you to force your way to the deck of my craft under these
conditions I should consider a high act of piracy and I assure you my
men stand here ready to back me up in all I do. Is it so, men?"

A hearty "ay, ay sir" came ringing from the crew.

"Now Captain Shackelford, if you choose to board me you do so at your
own risk. There be English arms and hearts here just as stanch as your
own. Come by daylight and by Heavens I will receive you as an honored
guest--yes, and open another basket of champagne for the occasion; but
I beg of you let discretion play the part of valor now."

Shackelford knew he held a weak hand--that any attempt to board this
craft flying the British jack and drag from her deck a subject of the
United States foreign diplomatic service would not only embroil him in
present difficulties and probably result in a broken head, but future
results promised to make things exceedingly lively for him.

Great Britain was going out of her way to bring about an era of good
feeling between America and the mother country--she had shown in many
matters how sincere her sympathies were and that blood was thicker than
water.

Hence, he might expect severe handling from the legal and military
authorities of both countries.

Although Bob Shackelford had always been accounted pretty much of a
dare devil he really drew the line at throwing his gauntlet into the
ring and sending a defiance to two nations--that would probably be a
little too strong for his blood.

Here was a chance to draw out with honor.

Shackelford accepted the olive branch.

"Well, Beven, you put the matter pretty strongly, and I am inclined to
yield. Give me your solemn pledge that this gentleman boarded us as a
lover and not as a spy, and," here he expressed himself very forcibly
in the genuine Shackelford style--"I'll draw off and spare you the gore
of battle that must come when Greek meets Greek."

"I give you that pledge," replied Beven, readily.

"Why did he go in disguise then?" was the final query from the other,
who had not as yet grasped the full significance of affairs.

"Because he had enemies on board yonder boat--you carry Spaniards, and
his country is at war with Spain. They want him badly, and he is no
fool. Captain, I am under obligations for your courtesy. Come and see
me to-morrow and I'll keep my promise."

Shackelford smacked his lips.

"By Jove! I'll try and oblige you, my boy," he declared,
enthusiastically, as he dropped down upon the thwart.

The incident was closed.

There would be no broken heads, no old time boarding of the craft, no
hot time in the harbor _that_ night.

Reason had resumed her sway, pushing valor and blind passion into the
background.

One there was whom disappointment cut to the quick.

A figure arose in the boat, a bedraggled figure, with one arm of his
evening coat almost divorced from its moorings on account of the vigor
shown by the British tars in dragging the owner aboard--a figure that
was just the opposite of the usually dandified Jerome, the pink of
neatness, the epitome of current style.

"What," he ejaculated, "you decline to go aboard and drag the fellow
away? I am astonished beyond measure--I did not expect this of you,
Captain Bob."

"Well, I'm satisfied with the explanation given. If you still object,
sir, we'll hold the boat here and let you go aboard and get him. Of
course you'd have to shoulder the whole responsibility--"

"Pull away," muttered Jerome, suddenly dropping back to his seat and
endeavoring to look as small as possible.

Roderic guessed the reason.

The Adonis had discovered that he was the cynosure of bright eyes from
the cabin--all this excitement had not passed without arousing Cleo and
Miss Becky--the former had not really retired at all, but awaited her
cousin's return from his mission of love--perhaps her earnest prayers
had followed him, even to the arms of her successful rival.

The blockade runner's boat shot quickly over the darkened water toward
the lights that indicated the spot where the steamer was anchored.

Thus the coast was again clear.

Captain Beven turned and shook Roderic's hand.

He was bubbling over with suppressed laughter.

"Congratulations, sir, over your success. A miss is as good as a mile,
they say," he declared.

"Ah!" remarked the satisfied lover, "in this case it is a senorita, and
she is worth many miles. My thanks are due to you, captain, for the
able assistance given. May all our future plans be founded on as firm a
basis."

"Amen," said Beven, solemnly.

He was thinking of that basket of very Extra Dry, and the taste still
lingered as though its memory would haunt him for many a day.

For once he stood ready to immolate his comfort on the altar of
friendship every night, providing the emolument came in such pleasant
fashion.

They chatted a short time, and generally upon the subject mostly in
evidence.

Beven was naturally curious to hear how the Adonis, who was no milk and
water warrior himself, came to take such a fearful plunge into the bay.

He could give a shrewd guess that the act had not been a voluntary one
on his part, and desired to hear what share Roderic had in it.

This was soon told in the most matter of fact fashion by the modest
young man--indeed, one might almost imagine from his manner of putting
it that Jerome had fallen overboard instead of being tossed there.

Beven knew how to put his own construction on the incident, and could
guess just what his principal had done.

Roderic was really unfitted for sleep after such an hour of intense
excitement, and thought he would walk the quarterdeck for a time until
his pipe had soothed the excited nerves and brought him to a condition
where slumber might be possible.

He had not been back and forth a dozen times ere a girlish figure
joined him.

Of course it was Cousin Cleo, who desired to share his walk and mayhap
his confidence, even though what he might relate would cut keenly.

The moth will persist in fluttering about the bright flame of the
candle even after its wings are slightly singed.

Silly moth--wicked candle!

And yet the world goes on, new moths come and the same old story with
variations, is repeated.

Roderic professed to be displeased at the idea of Cleo coming up to
join him in this midnight tramp.

Secretly the man was delighted, for he felt the human desire to
confide his hopes and fears in a sympathetic ear, and though he would
rather it had been some one else than Cleo, still, she knew much of
his love affairs, and had promised to be a sister to him--he would be
egotistical and foolish to ever believe that she cared for him other
than a dear sister might.

"My dear cousin, why do you come on deck--don't you know that at this
hour in this semi-tropical climate the dew is falling, and it is very
unhealthy for one to be exposed to the night air?"

She laughed in his face.

"Well, you are to blame. I should have been in my little bunk and
probably far away in the Land of Nod had you been content to remain
aboard and not start out on a very Quixotic errand. But I am only
joking, Roderic. You have met with adventures, of that I am sure from
what I saw and heard. Poor Jerome has once more crossed your path and
found it one of thorns. Now, you must tell me all that happened, do you
hear, Sir Galahad?"

A little hand slipped through his arm, and Roderic found himself
obliged to surrender.

So, as they walked up and down he told the story of what had occurred;
several times they paused at the rail to look at the riding lights that
marked the position of the blockade runner, and while one sighed in
rapturous satisfaction at the thought of the beauty aboard the Sterling
Castle, the other experienced quite a different emotion.

Cleo asked questions, and seemed bound to know all, so he felt
compelled to tell her.

Her interest in Georgia grew with each passing day, and strange to say
the yearning to meet and know this daughter of the tropics became an
absorbing dream--she felt as though destiny drew their life lines in
the same channel, these two who both loved Roderic Owen.

Perhaps he was wise enough to refrain from entering into minute
particulars when describing the interview with Georgia--even men
head over heels in love are given a small amount of common sense on
occasions of this kind.

Finally Roderic persuaded her to retire.

The hour was late and he himself now confessed to drowsiness.

By this time the town had given up its mad merriment--gone were many
of the lights and the music of the band had long since ceased to be a
factor in the mighty drama.

Even in the romantic Azores men must take a portion of the night for
sleep--it cannot be given wholly over to song and amusement.

Captain Beven was a wary old sea dog.

He believed an ounce of prevention to be much better than a pound of
cure.

There was no danger in sight, and probably it would be an act of
madness on Shackelford's part to attempt to board the steam yacht under
cover of darkness and secure the person of the man who had been aboard
the blockade runner in disguise.

All the same, chances or not, Beven did not intend to neglect any
precaution, for he was a man who did not believe in being caught
napping.

To shut the door after the horse was stolen might be good policy with
some men, but his idea lay in securing it ere this event happened.

Before retiring Roderic had an interview with the captain, and learned
that worthy's views.

Then he sought his little stateroom.

As fortune would have it he was situated on that side of the boat
nearer the steamer, and from either one of the bulls-eye openings he
could see the uncertain dark mass that told just where the blockade
runner lay, as well as her twinkling riding lights which must be kept
burning the livelong night in order to prevent accident should arriving
vessels enter the snug harbor.

And Roderic stood there a long time, his eyes fixed upon the inchoate
outlines of the Sterling Castle, as one might gaze upon a vessel that
bore his fate.

Many thoughts occupied his mind--he lived over again the past with its
joys and sorrows, and even attempted to raise the veil of the future
to see whether it held a gleam of Paradise; but this must all remain
surmise and uncertainty, since it is not given to mortal vision to see
beyond the present.

The night passed without an alarm.

Evidently Shackelford was a man of discretion as well as astonishing
boldness, for there is such a thing as uniting the two qualities.

Roderic aroused early enough.

The morning had just broken and the glowing eye of old Phœbus was
glancing above the horizon when he proceeded to dress.

This operation had been about completed when, by chance of course, he
looked out of the port hole to see just how far they were from the
steamer, since darkness had been upon land and water during the little
drama of the preceding night.

To his surprise he failed to behold the object of his solicitude.

He rubbed his eyes and looked again--surely he must be dreaming, or
else with a change of tide the steam yacht had headed another way,
cutting him off from the view he had before obtained.

And yet, so far as he could tell his lookout still faced the town and
port, and he could swear the blockade runner should lie between.

Mayhap Shackelford had taken his craft in to a dock for some purpose.

Roderic snatched up his marine glasses and scanned the shore line.

There was only disappointment awaiting him.

The yellow and black funnel of the Sterling Castle was conspicuous only
by its absence.

One chance remained--that the steamer had changed her anchorage.

He hurriedly completed his toilet and rushed on deck.

A sweeping glance around told the story, for the blockade runner was no
longer in the harbor.

Captain Beven saluted from a point forward and beckoned him to approach.

"Looking for the steamer--left port an hour or more before crack of
dawn--yonder she goes, headed straight for the Antilles."

Following the captain's extended finger Roderic saw the smoke of a
steamer hanging on the horizon. Somehow his heart gave a leap after it,
for the girl he adored was aboard the vanishing craft.

"When do we follow, captain?" he asked, composedly.

"Within six hours at the latest," was the reply and when that time had
expired they too were moving over the trackless Atlantic headed due
south west.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE INVASION OF SAN JUAN.


Upon a stormy night, when the moon was utterly concealed by dark ragged
masses of clouds that rolled up from the south in serried columns like
an army advancing to battle, Roderic viewed the prospect from the deck
of the Dreadnaught with the philosophical coolness that seemed a part
of his nature; and yet he knew what one of these summer storms in the
tropics meant as well as any man.

It came in an unfortunate time, just when they prayed for fair weather,
since it was Roderic's design to be put ashore on the coast of Porto
Rico not many miles from San Juan, before the little steam yacht
entered the fortified harbor.

The situation had been carefully studied by Owen, and his plans altered
to conform to the new arrangement of affairs.

There was a pretty good chance that the Sterling Castle would put into
San Juan ere attempting to run the Havana blockade.

In fact this was almost a certainty, since she carried as passengers
those who were desirous of landing on Porto Rico soil.

This being the case it was reasonable to suppose that Jerome and his
Spanish allies would take advantage of the first opportunity to warn
the officials at the capital regarding the presence of a Yankee secret
agent on board Cleo's yacht; and that the entry of the Dreadnaught into
the fortified harbor where Admiral Sampson's guns had played havoc
earlier in the game would open a system of annoying espionage, even if
it did not result in a bold search for the spy.

There was one way to avoid this.

He must go ashore secretly and enter San Juan by the backdoor.

His acquaintance with the city and its surroundings would serve him in
good stead, as must also his knowledge of the Spanish character and
language.

Roderic had his bold plans all arranged and was therefore a little
annoyed when fickle Nature threatened to interfere with their smooth
sailing. If the tropical storm had only held off another hour all would
have been serene.

They had had glimpses of Porto Rico's fair shores during the last few
hours, and Roderic might have landed in comfort.

Two things restrained him--the lack of suitable transportation
facilities to the capital, and the presence of Spanish soldiers
scattered along the shore, and revealed through the glasses.

Night was absolutely necessary for the successful carrying out of his
plans, and even then there had been danger from discovery on account of
the moon.

The storm obviated this, while it bred new perils of its own.

Roderic decided to risk it.

Delay meant more danger for Cleo, since every hour spent upon that
coast in a gale of wind, during the hurricane season of the year was
tempting Providence.

Once he was off their hands he could run away from the coast or else
make for the shelter of San Juan harbor, which would surely not be
refused any friendly craft on such a wretched night.

So Roderic made all his preparations and transformed himself into a
dark visaged Spaniard.

Cleo looked him over carefully, and tried her best to appear satisfied,
though there was a haunting gleam of dread in her blue eyes, and her
lips trembled, despite all attempts to show a resolute front.

She knew what risks he was taking for his country.

The same bold spirit that influenced Hobson and Blue and Wainwright
in their desperate ventures grew rampant in Roderic Owen's breast--a
strong desire to strike a blow for his beloved flag, to cripple the
power of the proud Spaniard and hasten the day of his final departure
from the Western Hemisphere.

Captain Beven had anchored his craft and now came to announce the boat
in readiness that was to take him ashore.

Roderic took his cousin's hand in both his own.

"Your pure heart will pray for me I know. It is a greater satisfaction
to me than words can tell. Remember what I promised of San Juan. We
will, God willing, soon meet again. As your cousin, your brother, dear
Cleo, allow me a brother's loving privilege."

He kissed her farewell.

Nor as he turned hastily to follow Beven to the waiting boat, did he
see the glowing flush that instantly suffused her face, to as rapidly
vanish, leaving her deathly pale and trembling like an aspen leaf.

The ride ashore was exhilarating to say the least.

Great waves rolled on the beach, and none but practical, experienced
seamen could have managed so light a yawl without disaster.

But Roderic had no fear--he knew what these trained muscles could do.

Several times they seemed threatened with dire disaster, but on each
occasion the second officer's judgment in manipulating the boat averted
destruction.

Thus the cockle shell craft entered the white crested breakers, where
they surged upon the shore with a roar like unto that of thunder.

This was the most interesting moment of all, as riding one of the
rollers they rushed in like a race horse on the home stretch.

Then Roderic saw the palm trees against the sky line almost overhead,
and he knew they were almost ashore.

A grating sound under their keel announced the receding of the billow.

Instantly every sailor leaped overboard, up to his knees in salt water,
and the boat thus lightened was run ashore.

And in this manner Roderic Owen once again found himself on Spanish
soil--two years had passed since in anger he had kicked the dust of
Porto Rico from his shoes, and registered a solemn vow never to tread
its shores again while his good sense remained.

This occurred to him now as a very grim joke, for here he was once more
landed on that same fated soil; and what was even more singular as
fully bent as ever upon his chase after beauty.

Time alters many cases, resolutions fade with age, and circumstances
govern our actions to a remarkable degree.

Of course it was absolutely necessary that the second officer and his
men should return to the yacht without delay.

Roderic squeezed the bold fellows by the hand and watched them launch
their boat through the surf.

Twice they were driven back.

It was a ticklish job.

Such men could not be daunted by difficulties, even when out of the
common, so they made a still more resolute attempt.

The third trial was a grand success--sturdy British muscle had
conquered over the forces of Nature, and Roderic knew they were off.

He waited and watched until he saw a light flash up three times far out
on the stormy waters, which was the signal agreed upon to announce the
safe return of the yawl.

Then with a sigh he turned away.

His business was now to enter San Juan.

It must prove one that would necessitate great caution and considerable
endurance on his part, for since the bombardment of the ports by
the American fleet as a bluff intended to disclose the presence of
Cervera's squadron in West India waters the Spanish authorities had
taken extraordinary precautions to guard every avenue of approach to
the capital.

Roderic did not doubt his ability to enter without discovery--he had
not frequented the cafes, the Spanish Club, and taken many horseback
rides through the suburbs of San Juan in company with Georgia without
gaining a thorough knowledge of the ground that promised to be of great
advantage to him now.

Putting his best foot forward he soon struck a military road over which
he had spun many times behind a good horse.

He could in an hour's time catch glimpses of the many lights that
marked the city.

The sight caused him considerable satisfaction, for he knew destiny
had in store for him events of considerable importance connected with
San Juan.

And doubtless _she_ was there--that simple fact had in it the elements
calculated to thrill his very heart to its core.

About this time there arose features connected with the case that
temporarily drove these sweet reflections out of his head.

They were of a most disagreeable nature.

It began to rain.

This might signify a drizzle in a more northern clime, but such a thing
is almost unknown in Porto Rico.

When the clouds open there it means a deluge.

The boys in blue who were in the trenches at Santiago could tell some
pretty tall stories of tropical downpours, and how in the rainy season
a cloud appearing no larger than one's hat can spread over all the sky
and fairly soak the earth.

Roderic had anticipated this--indeed, his preparations had been made
with just such a ducking in prospect.

He took his medicine in a philosophical spirit such as only a traveler
in many strange lands learns to cultivate.

Every step brought him nearer the city, and once he was soaked through
it was impossible to become any wetter, so why complain?

Besides, this deluge might serve to his advantage, since in all
probability the guards stationed along the military road would
naturally seek refuge in their shelter huts, and leave the way clear.

This was what actually occurred.

Spanish system lacks many sterling elements that make the German and
British armies so thorough in their duties.

Roderic after a miserable tramp through mud and water finally brought
up at the city gates an hour before midnight.

There he met with an apparent obstacle, since in Moorish fashion no
one was allowed to find ingress or egress during the period between
sunset and sunrise.

This he had been aware of ere landing, and all his plans were shaped
with an utter disregard for the edict of the governor-general.

Avoiding the gates discreetly he made his way along the dilapidated
wall that marked what had once been the land defense of the city.

It was now in decay, like many other antiquated battlements connected
with Spain's possessions throughout the world--relics of bygone days
when muzzle loading guns marked the highest epoch in the art of war.

Of course this guarding of the gates was more or less of a big sham,
since the people of San Juan could go and come in scores of other
places.

And Roderic remembered this fact.

When by turning this way and that he finally surmounted the difficulty,
and found himself among the houses near the barracks of the troops
in the eastern end of the city, he felt as though he deserved
congratulations on account of his good generalship.

Still this was but a beginning, one step in the long and difficult
ladder he had laid out to climb. It could only be ascended a single
round at a time, but he had really made a good start.

He found himself in a portion of San Juan which he had really never
looked upon under similar conditions, the quarter where the poorer
element herded, where houses were thronged with black and white,
Spaniards, and reconcentradoes of Porto Rico who endeavored to remain
neutral, negroes from Jamaica and Hayti and a mongrel population.

Seldom even in the rainy season does such a downpour come at
night--they look for it in the afternoon, when it cools the sultry
atmosphere and with the sea breeze renders the evening delightfully
refreshing.

Just then the streets were swimming in water, and almost practically
deserted--even the dolorous cry of the "dulce" vendors had ceased to
echo along the narrow thoroughfares.

But the cafes and concert halls and shops appeared to be doing a land
office business to judge from the crowds that had collected.

Roderic's one desire now was to reach a little den just off the
breathing place for the poor, known as the Plaza Cristobal Colon in
honor of Columbus.

Here he believed he would find the opportunity he craved for rest,
and a chance to dry his reeking garments, under the humble roof of a
devoted friend.

Two years had passed since last he had seen this party, and two years
is a long time--much may occur during such a period--people change
their residence mayhap their country, and sometimes even die.

Still he was ready to take the chances.

No one halted him as he pushed on, and yet these narrow, illy lighted
streets could not be reckoned the safest places in the city for
respectable people to walk after a certain hour.

One thing he noticed--San Juan was full of Spanish soldiers. He could
see them prowling everywhere, and each crowd within the cafes and halls
had its quota of these small sized swarthy faced, boyish looking exiles
from sunny Spain.

"They evidently mean to give the Yankees a warm reception when the
time comes," was what he concluded upon noting this important fact.

The point was well taken--it was one that would prove of considerable
importance to General Miles, who had already landed on the southern
coast with his army of Americans, and was beginning to advance upon
Ponce and the neighboring towns.

After being compelled to retrace his steps several times, on account of
getting off the track, confused by the narrow _calles_ that seemed to
have no beginning and ended nowhere, Roderic at length broke out upon
an open place where the rain beat upon stone flagging, and trees moaned
dolefully in the fierce gusts of wind.

Despite its funereal aspect now he recognized this as the Plaza
Cristobal Colon, and was able to take his bearings afresh.

"Thank Heaven, I am near the end of my night's pilgrimage," he
muttered in Spanish, for he had determined to even do his thinking in
that language while within the enemy's lines, so that the danger of
discovery might be reduced to a minimum, for if Jerome, Roblado _et
al._ were in San Juan he was well aware of the fact that hundreds of
keen eyes belonging to the Guardia Civil would be on the lookout for
one Roderic Owen, and that discovery would be a serious matter for him.

It was really time his wanderings ceased for this night at least--he
had covered miles of ground, he had faced a raging storm that at times
almost brought him to his knees, he was soaked through and through, and
beginning to feel weak in his limbs.

But relief was close at hand.

The hardest part of his mission he believed had already been passed
over.

At least, in all probability he would be able to conduct the remainder
of his work with a dry skin--he might not see another deluge in the
early night during his whole stay in San Juan.

He fervently hoped so, at least.

Crossing the public square he dodged into a certain dingy and crooked
lane that took him to the most desolate and God forsaken locality
within the city walls.

There are such places in Paris, London, New York--why not in San Juan?

All cities, whether of ancient Babylonian days or of the present
enlightened age have had their plague spots as well as their palatial
quarters, and so it must be while rich and poor go hand in hand, down
to the end of time.

Only in San Juan the squalor seemed to be a little more pronounced than
anything Roderic could imagine outside of Havana, where the wretched
reconcentradoes were dying of hunger by thousands.

The war was partly to blame, he knew--that and the natural savage
instinct which prevails so strongly among Spanish speaking people, and
induces them to always go to extremes, whether in love or conflict.

Picking his way along in this delectable neighborhood Roderic finally
gave utterance to an eager exclamation--his eyes had fallen upon the
little whitewashed cabin for which he had been on the _qui vive_.

Another moment and his fist was beating a tattoo upon the door, a
summons that was loud enough to arouse the dead--from within a movement
was heard, and then the door opened cautiously a few inches. Roderic
uttered some talismanic words in Spanish that brought a delighted
exclamation from the hut's occupant--a brown hand reached out and when
the door closed it shut out the awful clamor of the storm, for the
Yankee had found a warm reception within the walls of old San Juan.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE BOLERO DANCER WITH THE GYPSY BLOOD.


Porto Rico as a territory of the progressive American republic will
soon be transformed--while advancing with giant strides along the
material road that may lead to statehood, the island must gradually
lose those picturesque and distinctly national features that have
marked Spanish rule for centuries.

Never again will San Juan be the same gay, careless, pleasure seeking
capital of the past--the business loving, bustling Yankee shopkeeper
banishes such folly, or at best makes it play second fiddle to his
trading.

San Juan will be swept and garnished, her streets paved, her narrowest
_calles_ lighted, and within a few years she may vie even with Boston
in regard to the conditions that make life worth living to the average
American.

But the halo of romance and the worship of military heroes that has
been her portion during these long centuries--alas! they have fled, to
return no more.

Many will sigh as they raise the curtain of the past, and take one more
peep at the gay bright scene stamped upon memory's tablets.

There is a peculiar fascination about Spanish and Oriental cities, a
barbaric splendor that attracts the eye, even while our common sense
tells us of its tawdry nature.

Many have described the San Juan of the past, and as a picture that
has been turned to the wall, let us for the last time see the Porto
Rican capital through the glasses of a clever newspaperman, whose
pen paints its colors just as might the faithful camera. This was as
Roderic saw it the day after his safe entry into the town:

San Juan wakes early.

By seven o'clock the shops are open, and a stirring of wide shutters in
the upper stories of the houses shows that even the women are about.
Hundreds of men are having their coffee in the _cafés_. Probably a band
is playing somewhere, which means a detachment of troops returning from
early mass in the Cathedral.

By ten o'clock this early activity has worn itself out. The sun has got
well up into the sky, white and hot. It falls in the narrow, unshaded
streets, and the cobblestones begin to scorch through thin shoe soles.
It is a time to seek the shade and quaff cooling drinks. Business
languishes. About eleven shop shutters begin to go up, and soon the
streets are as deserted as at midnight.

This is breakfast hour, and until well after noon not a shop or public
building will be found open. About one or two, whether the _siesta_ is
long or short, people begin to reappear and the shops reopen. Gradually
traffic revives. By four o'clock, when the Palais de Justice has cast
its cooling shadow over half the blazing plaza, loungers begin to
appear to occupy the numerous benches and blink idly at the guards
about the gloomy Palais entrance. With each passing hour the city
presents a livelier appearance, until at six o'clock it is fully awake
and ready for dinner, the principal meal of the day.

In the evening is when the inhabitants of San Juan really live. These
are the pleasant hours of the day. From the sea comes a breeze, cool
and fresh, to whisper to the few shade trees in the plazas and revive
enervated humanity. Twice a week one of the military bands plays in the
principal plaza. Then it is worth while to go, hire a comfortable arm
chair from a _muchacho_ for ten _centavos_ in Puerto Rican silver and
sit and observe and listen.

These military bands--there are three stationed in San Juan--are
equal to Sousa or Herbert on a considerably smaller scale. They play
beautifully voluptuous airs of sunny Spain, the strains swelling
and quickening until they entice an answer in the livened step and
unconsciously swaying bodies of hundreds of promenaders; then slowly
dying to a sweet, soft breath, borne to the ear from distant guitars
and mandolins. Italian, French and German composers are not neglected,
while occasionally there will come a spirited bit from some modern
light opera, or even a snatch from a topical song of the day.

On band nights San Juan may be seen at her best. The concerts begin at
eight o'clock. Prior to that hour the private soldiers are permitted
the liberty of the plaza, and hundreds avail themselves of the
opportunity for an airing. At eight they must retire to their barracks,
leaving the plaza to the officers.

The music racks are set at one end of the plaza, and the musicians
stand during the two hours of the concert. By the time the second
number on the programme is reached the plaza is thronged with the
wealth, beauty and fashion of the Puerto Rican capital. A row of gas
street lamps, thickly set, encircles the Plaza, while at each end rise
iron towers, upon which are supported electric arc lights.

All the houses surrounding the plaza are illuminated, their bright
coloring and Eastern architecture giving an Oriental effect. The
balconies--every house has a balcony--are filled with gaily dressed
women and officers, and through open windows glimpses of richly
furnished interiors can be obtained. On the street level, the Grand
Central and other _cafés_, the Spanish Club and a dozen brilliantly
lighted drug stores and shops help flood the plaza with light and lend
life and gayety to the scene.

The throng is characteristic of San Juan of to-day--of the San Juan
which will soon cease to exist. There are Spanish officers, hundreds
of them, clad in an immense variety of uniform--to use a perfectly
truthful paradox.

There are officers of the Guardia Civil, in dark blue suits and caps,
their cuffs red and gold, the rank indicated by eight pointed stars,
and with small spurs sticking out from under the long trousers.

There are officers of the line, usually in light or indigo blue,
sometimes with broad stripes along the trousers and with cuffs and
facings of green, red, blue or black, according to the branch of the
service, their rank indicated by gold and silver stars on the sleeve
above the cuff. These wear tall white caps, with gilt bands. There are
naval officers, in dark blue uniforms of distinctly seafaring cut and
without colored facings.

All the officers wear some kind of sword invariably, usually during the
day the regulation sabre, and at night substituting a slender rapier
with a cross hilt. They also carry walking sticks with silver and gold
heads, according to rank.

As they mingle with the crowd, walking together in groups, now bowing
to some passing female acquaintance or turning to promenade with her,
they unconsciously dominate the entire assemblage and give to it an
indelible imprint of Spain. Plainly they are favorites with the women,
who receive their polite attentions graciously.

And the women. They are out in force, dressed in the latest fashions
of Madrid and Paris. Here and there some gentleman walks with his wife
and family, but usually the women promenade alone until joined by male
acquaintances. A group of girls will be accompanied by a duenna, who
keeps discreetly in the background if any men approach. Often, however,
two or more senoritas will promenade entirely alone, with a freedom
which would be considered unbecoming in the United States.

This is one of the occasions when rigorous Spanish etiquette is
somewhat relaxed and the unmarried women enjoy a fleeting glimpse of
social freedom. So the crowd, constantly swelling, until progress is
almost impossible, moves in a circle back and forth along the length
of the plaza. Mingling with it are scores of police, in their bright
uniforms, who seem to have no business there except to accentuate the
crush, and hundreds of civilians in their best dress. And so it goes,
until the concert ends. The band, preceded by an escort of cavalry,
marches away to a wonderfully quick quickstep, the lights fade and
slowly the crowd disperses through the shadowy streets.

Not all San Juan, however, is to be seen in the grand plaza. Only
fashionable and official life centralizes there. In other sections
of the city the evenings pass differently. Take a stroll from the
brilliantly lighted plaza into the eastern part of the town, near the
barracks.

There the whole lower strata will be found in the narrow, badly lighted
streets, or in the plaza Cristobal Colon and the smaller breathing
places of the densely populated city.

Here hand organs and dirty wandering minstrels, who perform
semi-barbaric music upon cracked guitars and raspy mandolins,
accompanied by the "guero"--a native instrument made of a
gourd--furnish the music.

Venders of _dulce_ squat beside their trays of sweetmeat, dolorously
crying their wares. Non-commissioned officers and privates mingle with
the people and chat with the women. Everybody smokes cigarettes, even
children hardly able to toddle. The shops and meaner _cafés_ are open
and crowded.

Further no one can wander through streets more narrow and darker than
alleys to where the massive gray battlements of the ancient city walls
lift their sombre, jagged towers to greet the moon.

Inquisitive sentinels, Mauser rifle in hand, walk here to turn
intruders back, but by exercising discretion glimpses may be obtained
of tiny balconies ensconced in nooks and crannies high up in the wall
and overlooking the sea and the twinkling city. Perhaps a peep may be
had into the odd habitations within, with dusky senoritas gazing out
through a curtain of flowers and vines. This is a different San Juan
from that which promenades in the plaza: but not less interesting.

All this Roderic Owen saw, nor was it the first time he had wandered
through the streets and byways of the strange old city.

How vividly these scenes brought back to his mind the days and nights
of the past, when he had lived in a glow of love's young dream--still,
why need he sigh--the experience through which he had passed, bitter
though it had been, must have taught him a lesson, and since Love had
again taken up an abode in his heart, he could profit by it to forever
debar the little demon Jealousy from entering this holiest of holies.

He wandered over the whole city.

He even found means to enter some of the forts that frowned so
ferociously, and yet were but hollow mockeries, mounting few modern
guns.

Here were evidences still of the damage inflicted by Sampson's fleet
many weeks before--Spanish dilatory tactics had allowed dismounted guns
to lie where they had fallen, and Roderic was of the opinion that it
must have been rather warm around those regions at the time.

There was something of a bustle of preparation in the city, since it
had become known that General Miles and an American army had landed on
the south shore of the island.

Still the Spaniards did not expect to make a desperate resistance like
Blanco had declared Havana would show.

When the Yankee army reached San Juan and the terrible battle ships
appeared again in the offing doubtless they would gracefully submit to
the inevitable and yield up their arms.

Meanwhile there was the usual bluster and braggadocio as to what they
meant to do with the Yankee pigs once they were induced to enter the
trap which the Spanish commander had so cunningly spread.

They would be extravagantly comical, these bold soldiers of Spain, if
they were not so very serious in what they declared.

Roderic laughed in his sleeve at the awful threats so openly made
in street and cafe, wherever two or more soldiers came together--in
imagination he pictured the overwhelming rush of regulars and
volunteers in blue, just as they had gone into the Spaniards at Caney
and San Juan hill--one such mad swoop and he was ready to swear to it
that the Porto Rican capital would be carried.

Brag is a good dog, but Holdfast a better.

Roderic did not use his whole time in tramping about the city.

He made several visits to people who had been in communication with
the Washington authorities, influential English residents or even
native Porto Ricans who knew what was written by Destiny upon the wall,
and longed for the blessed day to dawn when Liberty would descend upon
the sons and daughters of the Antilles.

His object was not to get information concerning the resources of the
garrison.

All those points he was able to pick up for himself in his round of the
city and forts.

As a government official he had come to San Juan, and it was in this
capacity he conferred with these influential citizens.

When he had finally accomplished all that was expected of him in this
direction, Roderic threw off the burden of responsibility.

He was now free to think once more of his own personal affairs, to let
the vision of Georgia's lovely face occupy his mind as it had his heart.

How he longed to see her.

How fitting it seemed that the romance of his life, that had obtained
its first lease in San Juan, should complete the circuit there, amid
these well remembered scenes.

It was concert night.

Even with a hostile army marching against the capital these Spanish
soldiers, who, as old campaigners laughed at fate, did not mean to be
cheated out of their usual pleasure.

Among the throngs on the plaza Roderic sauntered, looking eagerly for
the face his heart yearned to see.

Some few discreet people had left the capital and gone away, pending
the anticipated bombardment; but the grand rush of panic stricken
fugitives would not begin until the first shell from the Yankee fleet
came screaming into town.

It had been so on the previous occasion, and those who for five hours
that morning saw the steady, jostling, excited, almost demoralized
stream of humanity that poured along the one road leading out of San
Juan, many carrying their most cherished household possessions upon
their backs, would never forget the remarkable spectacle.

Roderic's search was however, not without some result, for he had
several glimpses of his cousin Cleo in the crowd.

She hung upon the arm of Captain Beven, and Miss Becky was of course
along.

Having heard so much of the gaiety to be found in Porto Rico's capital
the ladies had had curiosity enough to come ashore.

Who could blame them, when listening to the delightful strains of
melody, and amid such enchanting and romantic surroundings as the many
tinted houses fronting the grand plaza afforded!

Not Roderic, surely.

He thought it wise not to make his presence known, as it might
seriously compromise his safety in this hostile city.

Nevertheless his eyes were frequently drawn toward the trio, and
somehow rested upon the face of his Virginia cousin with a peculiar
satisfaction.

If Cleo was not divinely handsome like Georgia she had a fine figure
and carried her head like an American queen, so that any man might feel
proud to claim kinship with her.

Roderic noticed how eagerly she looked around.

At first he had the assurance to wonder whether she could be seeking
him in the crowd, and man-like was beginning to even feel flattered at
the idea when he noticed that those whom she scrutinized so eagerly
were of the gentler sex, wives and daughters of San Juan's better class
of citizens.

Then it flashed upon him that she hoped to discover Georgia in the
midst of the throng.

He dared not follow out this thought to its legitimate conclusion, lest
it make him appear egotistical even in his own eyes.

That Georgia must have reached the city he knew full well, for with his
own eyes he had seen the Sterling Castle in the harbor.

If that were not evidence quite sufficient here was Jerome as big as
life, sauntering about the plaza, the object of adoration on the part
of the whole female population, and of malice, envy and black hatred
on the part of the military beaux who saw in this Adonis a rival to be
feared.

Roderic mentally pictured the inevitable outcome and in anticipation
enjoyed Jerome's downfall.

"He will discover it a different matter flirting with the daughters of
Porto Rico. I am ready to swear my dandy Lord High Admiral will ere
long find himself ducked in some fragrant frog pond, if no greater evil
befalls him," was what Owen concluded.

Nor was he a particle sorry, since Jerome had long played the heartless
role of an adventurer, and many had suffered because of his belief that
the world owed him a living.

The evening wore on, and Roderic began to imagine he was doomed to
disappointment.

Lovely faces he had seen, but not the one for which his heart yearned.

Some of the ladies wore veils, their exceeding modesty preventing them
from showing their faces in such a mixed assemblage, a custom that
undoubtedly descended from royal blood desirous of being distinguished
from the plebeian.

Still Roderic had full assurance that his eyes could discover
the girl he loved, even though she stood among a score of veiled
companions--there is an individuality in the carriage, little
peculiarities about the movement of hands and head that appeal to the
keen eye of Love, and cannot be mistaken.

So Roderic, wise man, reasoned, as with a single glance he decided that
this one or that was not Georgia.

So others of his sex have decided in times past, and mayhap paid the
penalty of their folly.

As the secret agent was cruising around that side of the plaza where
the band had taken up its quarters, while making a last selection, he
received a shock without the least warning by suddenly coming face to
face with a dashing looking Spaniard whose gay dress proclaimed him
some public performer.

Roderic gritted his teeth at sight of his yellow skinned adversary of
the past, for this was no other than Julio, the handsome dancer of the
_bolero_, a man whose life had been one long succession of conquests in
the arena of Love, and over whom half the town had at times gone wild.

He had _gitano_ or gypsy blood in his veins, through his mother, which
doubtless accounted in a measure for the _diablerie_ of his appearance,
and his success among the fair sex, for there is to many women a
fascination in anything bordering upon the tempestuous, the wild and
eerie.

It was only natural that Roderic, coming thus upon the man he had
hated so bitterly in the past, should grind his teeth and feel a mad
desire to plant his fist square between those black dare devil eyes
that had wrought such accursed mischief for years back.

Then he remembered that it was all a mistake--that he had no valid
reason for assaulting the idol of San Juan save in the capacity of a
general defender of the weaker sex, a modern Don Quixote, and that
would hardly be politic.

Drawn by an attraction he could never explain, he sauntered after the
_bolero_ dancer, who had evidently come out of some casino near by,
after his performance was done, in order to enjoy the music of the
military band--come out without changing his garments, which gave him
the picturesque swagger so admired among those of his blood; and the
red silk sash that was knotted at his left hip, the ends trailing
almost to the knee, did not Roderic remember it well, and had he not
once vowed to some day use the same in strangling the gipsy dancer with
the devilish handsome face?

Pshaw! that was long ago, when he was a poor fool, whom love had made
insane.

Now he had learned his lesson well, and never again would he allow such
miserable suspicions to find lodgment in his breast.

Georgia was as faithful as the stars, and the only reason he felt a
little bitterness toward this fellow was in sympathy with the past.

As to jealousy, thank Heaven that evil weed had been forever plucked
out by the roots from the garden of his heart, and--

But there was Julio, up to his old tricks, flirting with one of Eve's
daughters.

Roderic, still remembering the past, found himself indulging in a wild
hope that some indignant lover would set upon the gypsy dancer and give
him a taste of Spanish vengeance.

Such however, did not happen.

The girl who had answered his signal with a wave of her snowy kerchief
soon joined him, and together they pushed through the crowd as though
heading for a street that broke away from the plaza.

Roderic had been close at hand, and his eyes were not closed--indeed,
just about this time they seemed to be unusually wide open, as though a
sudden avalanche of jealousy had swept over him.

It was not because the companion of Julio was veiled that he watched
her so eagerly, so breathlessly--other women wore mantillas, and chose
to conceal their patrician faces from the common herd when walking the
plaza.

What then?

Love is not blind--Roderic had just now been declaring to himself that
he would easily be able to pick Georgia out from among a score of girls
whose features were hidden from view--and it was on this very account
that he shook from head to foot as though with the palsy.

Dead--that old demon Jealousy once planted in the human breast is hard
indeed to slay.

And Roderic again ground his teeth in fury, and followed in the wake
of Julio the _bolero_ dancer of San Juan because this veiled senorita
who took his arm and clung so confidingly there as they dodged through
the crowd had apparently the familiar figure and actions of the girl he
loved, the girl he had once jilted on account of this self same Spanish
heart smasher--Georgia de Brabant, maid of San Juan!



CHAPTER XVIII.

JULIO DECLARES FOR WAR.


In this fair city of the Conquistadors, where Ponce de Leon laid a
foundation for the future Spanish colony, there may have been men
who for various causes felt the heat of anger surging through their
souls on this August night in the year of our Lord 1898; but it is
exceedingly problematical whether one among them experienced such a
terrible volcano raging in their heart as did Roderic Owen when the
first suspicion burst upon him that Julio's companion was the beautiful
girl who had after estrangement again promised to be his honored wife.

The shock almost took his breath away, it was so keen, so cruel, and
found him so unprepared.

Then came a revulsion of feeling--it could not be so--Georgia
was true, she was loving and faithful--this was only a wretched
coincidence--surely there were women in San Juan who possessed figures
on the same order as hers, and who even made those familiar little
gestures--women were pretty much alike with regard to such things, just
as a dozen cats may all make the same graceful leaps, together with the
peculiar little motions so characteristic the world over.

Still he followed Julio--for the life of him he could not help that,
no matter how thoroughly convinced he might be that it was no affair of
his--there was a terrible fascination in the game, as though he were
playing with dynamite.

And so the pendulum swung again, his eyes being still glued upon the
girl, once more he found himself the prey to suspicions.

In vain he endeavored to throttle them, as his better nature arose
in arms--like Banquo's ghost they would not down--every movement the
girl made that reminded him of Georgia was like a wicked stab in the
region of his heart, and when he saw the daring Julio pick up her
kerchief which had fallen from her hand, and press it to his lips very
cavalierly ere returning it, Roderic had a great desire to rush upon
the _bolero_ dancer and knock him down--indeed, just at that minute he
thought he had good cause for hammering him in lusty Anglo Saxon style.

But Roderic was not jealous--oh! no, he had cast that monster out of
his heart for good, and meant to have no more of him--only he had a
very queer sensation seize upon him, and felt as though it was only
just and right, both to Georgia and himself, that he should settle this
matter then and there.

This could only be done in one way, by looking upon the girl's face.

He was firmly resolved to do this, come what might--Julio would
doubtless resent the impertinence, for Julio was a fighter, having once
been a _toreador_ in the bull ring--what of that, if only he could
discover the truth one way or the other?

A fellow in his frame of mind thinks little of danger, the careless
snap of his fingers perhaps.

What fools Cupid does make of men--even those who would appear to be
the best balanced go quite off the handle when the little god finds
lodgment in their bosoms.

At any rate Owen had now thrown away all other fancies and was
studiously following this couple as might an Indian his intended prey.

Given a little time and he recovered, at least in a fair measure, the
coolness that usually characterized his actions.

He even lighted a cheroot, realizing that a Spaniard such as he
represented would appear singular without a weed of some sort dangling
from his lip.

Apparently Julio had lost all interest in the military strains that
throbbed and pulsated upon the night air--when lovely women entered the
game the _bolero_ dancer threw other thoughts to the four winds--he
might be a lover of music but above all else he was a beau.

The couple evidently intended quitting the plaza, and plunging down
into one of the streets that would lead them to that other section of
town, where fashion never troubled, and where the poorer element had
their quarters--a section that would especially appeal to the eye of
the artist and the newspaperman seeking quaint scenes for the portrayal
of Spanish characteristics.

Roderic was quite ready to follow--indeed, in his present frame of mind
it would not matter whither he went so long as that lithesome figure
tantalized him like a will-o'-the-wisp.

All he wanted was an opportunity to see her face, to satisfy himself
one way or the other, to quell this devilish spirit raging in his
breast, or failing that to let the fury find an outlet.

One way or the other, however fortune might decide it, he felt that a
result must be reached.

Having taken the reins in his hands again and curbed the unruly team
that would have carried him headlong to a speedy rupture of the peace,
Roderic became outwardly cool.

He aroused his old professional instincts to action, and endeavored to
forget that the case was more to him than the usual run.

Thus he noticed that while Julio could never be anything but a
gallant and a beau, he did not attempt any familiarities with his
companion--that there seemed to be a certain amount of respect on his
part such as he seldom showed toward those who had succumbed to the
charm of his fascinating presence.

Score one point in favor of Julio.

It might be of advantage when the curtain was rung up for the final
act, for should this desperate, jealousy-racked lover who followed at
his heels be given an opportunity to get at that long throat of his,
the Maccarena dancer would have ample need of every prayer his guardian
angel could bring forth.

When the plaza with its gay crowds and its dashing music had been left
behind, Roderic knew his task had assumed new risks.

The Spaniard is a suspicious mortal at his best, and Julio had been
embroiled in so many affairs with lovers, perhaps husbands also, that
he had to be constantly on the _qui vive_ lest one of these jealous
minded gentry lie in wait around a lonely corner, or creep up from
behind, dagger in hand.

When one plays such a game as that of this fascinating beau, one must
accept the consequences, no matter what they entail--it is the price of
popularity among the fair sex.

Hence, it might be expected that after they had been traversing these
narrow thoroughfares for some little time, Julio from frequent glances
thrown over his shoulder, would begin to notice how the shadow kept
upon his trail.

This would arouse suspicion, and he might either vanish suddenly from
sight or else employ his popularity among a certain class of men to
bring Roderic into hot water.

So far as this latter contingency was concerned, Roderic cared little
whether he were thrown up against a dozen of the unwashed of San Juan,
if he could only previously have the blessed knowledge that his fears
regarding Julio's veiled companion were groundless.

In other words, such an assurance was of so great a value in his eyes
that he stood ready to accept the gravest of danger with a smile on his
face if only Georgia were true.

He employed his usual tactics to prevent the other from suspecting
him, and being an adept at the business was able to be out of sight on
nearly every occasion when Julio twisted that long neck of his for a
glance toward the rear.

This was all very well, but so far he had not advanced a single step
toward the elucidation of the mystery.

Well, patience--everything comes to him who waits.

Under ordinary conditions he could have applied this time-worn but
nevertheless true axiom to his own case, just as he had done on many
a previous occasion; but it was a different matter when his eyes were
eagerly watching each movement of the girl, and in his heart he prayed
that the bitter cup might pass from him.

But something must be done.

At any moment Julio and his modest companion might pass into one of the
houses in this quarter, and the door of which would consequently be
shut and barred in his face.

It would serve of little avail then for him to suddenly be electrified
into action--he could pound upon the panels of the sturdy door and
demand admittance in the most lusty of tones, but the only answer
he might expect would be in a shower of dirty water from the upper
windows, a favorite method in vogue among the lower classes of Spain
when the tax gatherers or some other unwelcome visitor is knocking for
admission.

Desperation often hurries a man to action--the need of results one way
or another spurs even a laggard in the chase.

Having now determined to assume all the risks with the expectation of
placing them upon a single die, Roderic changed his tactics.

It was his desire to overtake the dancer and by a bold movement snatch
the veil from the head of his companion.

Of course this would be the signal for war, since Julio always had
a chip upon his shoulder; but Roderic was willing to accept the
consequences, so long as the terrible suspense was ended.

He began to slip up on the Spaniard, and with all his faculties aroused
Roderic was able to carry this part of his programme out to perfection.

The streets were far from deserted--in places even crowds could be
seen, doubtless eagerly discussing the great events overhanging San
Juan, with an American army landed on Porto Rico soil--for by this time
the dreadful news had come of Santiago's fall and the total destruction
of Cervera's fleet, so that Spanish respect for Yankee valor was rising
fast--first Dewey, then Sampson and last of all Shafter, to be followed
by Miles.

Owen was now but three paces behind the couple, and could almost hear
what they said, though their voices were exceedingly low.

His former diagnosis of the case was strengthened by a closer
survey--in height, and figure Julio's companion was exactly a
counterpart of Georgia--add to this the peculiar little individualities
such as usually mark a woman's personality and the fact that this man
had once before come between them, what fault could be found with
Roderic for suspecting?

Well, the time had come for action.

That miserable gauze had baffled him long enough, and he was determined
to know the worst, Julio to the contrary.

Before the Spaniard could guess what was in the wind Roderic had darted
to the side of the girl, while his eager hand reached out and seized
upon her veil in a ruthless grasp.

He heard her give a little scream as though terrorized at his boorish
act.

For this Owen, being chivalrous by nature of the blood that had
descended from Irish kings, hated himself most earnestly--nevertheless
this feeling did not prevent him from following out the design that
actuated his movements, even as it had become a very part of his
existence.

Though the fate of nations hung in the balance, yes, even should his
own life pay the penalty for his rashness--and this is by all odds the
highest stake a man can play--he was resolved to settle this question
once for all.

So he snatched away the veil.

He no longer breathed--in that dread moment when his hopes of a whole
future hung in the balance he seemed actually to have been changed into
stone.

So Lot's wife must have been petrified as she turned to look back at
the burning city.

When Roderic's eyes fell upon the face that had been concealed by
the veil they discovered rare beauty that was now stamped with alarm,
although some show of spirit flashed from the great midnight eyes as
indignation struggled with maidenly fear.

But, praise be to Heaven, the girl though so beautiful as to vie with
his Georgia, was a stranger!

His demon was laid!

For that at least, thanks.

And now the consequences of his daring act must be boldly met.

Apologies, however profuse, do not count for much with hot blooded
Spaniards, with whom an insult demands a blow.

Knowing this Roderic fully counted on prompt action on the part of the
ex _toreador_.

Julio had met the rush of many a maddened bull in the arena, and could
himself do a little of that same when the occasion arose.

He was naturally a trifle confused by the unexpected move on Roderic's
part, and this delay, short though it was, gave the other a chance to
pull himself together, to put the girl out of his mind altogether and
face Julio.

The latter was trembling with fury, and thus far weakened his cause
just when he needed all coolness and a clear vision.

He rattled out a shower of expletives, each one of which was as hot as
a live coal; but even this did not appear to annihilate his enemy.

Julio had not been entirely idle while thus giving vent to his
spleen--the glint of steel in his hand told Owen that he had snatched
out a ready dagger, possibly concealed in his voluminous scarlet sash,
and was ready to sheathe it in the bosom of the unknown who had thrown
down the gauntlet.

Roderic saw the point, and had already gone him one better, since he
held a blade more than a match for Julio's dagger, and moreover, knew
how to handle it like a juggler of India.

"Senor, it was a mistake--I am ready to make ample apologies or
fight--just as you decide," he said in Spanish.

The wolf would not be appeased by this sop.

He demanded blood.

It had been too grievous an insult to be forgiven, and besides, what
business has any self-respecting Spaniard to forgive anyhow?

So Julio set out for war.

When any man on earth seeks a disturbance, and selects an American
citizen for the object of his assault, he usually gets all he desires,
and very frequently good measure, pressed down and running over.

So Julio, the pet dancer and one time idol of the San Juan bull ring,
brushing his female companion aside almost rudely, flung himself upon
the stranger with the ferocity of a panther, doubtless resolved to make
him pay for his audacity with his life.



CHAPTER XIX.

BY WAY OF THE BALCONY.


Julio had doubtless made other calculations during his life, only to
find them turn out Dead Sea fruit.

In this case his confidence was on a par with the natural ferocity of
his disposition, but as frequently happens, he overshot the mark.

Roderic met his assault and went him one better--he turned the
Spaniard's eager blade aside with the quick movement of one to the
manner born.

No doubt Julio was surprised, but he never let anything interfere with
business.

A second rush, another rebuff.

This was growing monotonous--really, it began to look as though the
unknown cavalier might be playing with him.

Nothing could arouse the devil in a Spanish heart quicker than this
suspicion.

Humiliation is to the proud don worse than any other ill save
death--relieve him from this indignity and you can have all else.

So Julio, instead of taking warning from the ease with which his
assaults were turned aside, instead of calling upon his patron saint
for protection should this master of the steel turn the tables and
begin to assail him, only swore the harder and went recklessly into the
push.

Their little imbroglio had by this time attracted considerable
attention.

Men called out to one another and came hurrying pell mell to the
scene--fond of cock fights and the meeting of bull and _toreadors_
in the arena, these fellows hailed a street brawl as a special
dispensation of Providence on their behalf.

Already a ring was forming, a ring composed of dark visaged men, some
Spanish soldiers, others natives of the noble city of San Juan, but all
desirous of observing the exciting drama that was being played as if
especially for their particular benefit.

All of which was bad for Roderic.

No matter what measure of success followed his engagement with Julio,
he was apt to find it a serious matter to escape an encounter with
these hangers on, whose sympathies seemed to be with the dancer,
judging from the way in which his name was coupled with cries of direct
encouragement.

These same bravos urged Julio to make a third vicious attack where
prudence might have suggested that he cover his weakness by falling
back on the defense.

Roderic thought the farce had gone far enough--he was desirous
of leaving the locality ere it became too hot for a man of his
description; and besides, there was at least a small chance that this
impassioned athlete who struck out so blindly, regardless of his own
uncovered condition, might inflict an accidental wound.

So he locked horns with the Spaniard and tripped him up.

Julio never knew how it was done, for he was a pigmy in the hands of a
master.

He felt some tremendous power seize upon his person so that he was
borne irresistibly backward; at the same time a sudden acute thrill of
agony in his right wrist caused him to drop his knife as though it had
been scorching his fingers.

"Senor Julio," said the voice in his ear, "again I say it was all a
mistake--again I apologize for my hasty action. You have defended your
honor as became a true son of Spain! There is no need of our seeking
each other's life. I am satisfied that I have met a brave man. Let us
separate in peace."

This was said with such fervor as became a loyal subject of young
Alphonso--it carried such a subtle vein of flattery in the adroit words
that even the fiery son of Mars Julio was proving himself to be might
have been mollified, only that a discovery flashed upon him at this
critical juncture.

It was singular enough that he should set his eyes upon an odd looking
seal ring worn by his late antagonist, and at this particular moment
too of all times.

Julio had never forgotten that ring--indeed, he had carried a rough
impression of it upon his cuticle for a week or more, as a gentle
reminder of Roderic's ability as a boxer, for it seems that the two
rivals had indeed once come to blows in those days of old, though
separated quickly by mutual friends.

However, such an impression is apt to be lasting--Julio had seen the
queer device of that signet ring many times in his dreams, so that its
unexpected appearance just now and here was a rude shock.

Roderic saw the stare and while at first he could not comprehend its
import, when he too cast his eyes upon his hand he remembered.

This was worse than he had expected--his identity known to Julio what
would prevent the hasty tempered Spaniard, who still owed him a grudge
for the blow received long ago, from publicly announcing his name to
the soldiers, who would pounce upon him like mad dogs.

He had expected at the worst to be treated as a Spaniard--now the
bubble had burst.

Was it to be flight?

Involuntarily he looked around him--the circle had doubled, aye, even
trebled, and to break through such a compact mass would require the
battering powers of a giant.

What then?

Must he draw his revolver and simply sell his life as dearly as
possible?

It may be sweet to die for one's country, but most men much prefer to
live, especially when health and wealth and honor are their inheritance
by right of birth.

Roderic never felt less like giving up the ghost in all his life than
he did just then.

He had been far down below zero up to the moment when he discovered
that it was not Georgia who accompanied Julio, and then of a sudden his
spirits took a bound that sent them away above fever heat; life assumed
a rosy hue, and happiness came again within his grasp.

A man of remarkable resources in emergencies, Roderic felt no dismay
paralyze his limbs when he discovered how next to impossible it was
that he make his escape through the crowd.

There were other methods.

He had made it a rule in life never to depend wholly upon one source of
income--to avoid the mistake of putting all his eggs in one basket.

Julio's scattered wits came back.

He even smiled, but there was a devil in that smirk; a gleam in his
eyes that told of gloating triumph.

He had been easily beaten in the little game of the knife, but there
were still trump cards up his sleeve--he laughed loudest who laughed
last, and the time had come for him to settle that long standing
debt--the scar of that wound had burned like wild fire every time he
looked at it, but it would cease to cry out for satisfaction after this
August night.

"Aha! Senor Owen, 'tis thus we meet again. You thought this lady was
your sweet Georgia--you took your life in your hands when you set out
to discover the truth. Again you have crossed my path--this time it
is your last. I shall turn to these brave soldiers of Spain and tell
them who you are. They will be very affectionate Senor Owen, they will
love you so well that every mother's son will want a portion of your
precious body to remember this night by. Have you anything to say
before I give the word?"

Roderic remembered how the judge when about to pass sentence of death
used words like this.

He was mute--it would avail nothing after all, and he did not intend
the Spaniard should have the satisfaction of hearing him plead.

This trouble had come upon him through his own stupidity--the burning
in his chest, the unjust suspicions that found lodgment in his mind
urged him to take drastic measures in order to learn the truth; and now
that he had found out just what it all meant he should not complain if
it came hard.

"Ho! he has lost his tongue--or his knowledge of the noble Spanish
language fails him. _Por Dios!_ we shall see how he can be made to
lift up his voice, to cry like a dog, to squeal like the pig he is, to
beg for mercy. Now Senor Hero of the Knife, take notice that it is I,
Julio, the Maccarena dancer and bull fighter who contemptuously tosses
you to the tender mercies of these gentlemen as I would a yellow cur."

He turned to bawl his intelligence to the gaping crowd, to proclaim
the seeming dark faced stranger a wolf in sheep's clothing, one of the
hated Yengees who were coming to destroy everything.

Before he could burst out with his startling tale however, the girl who
had accompanied him took a sudden part in the drama, springing forward
and catching hold of his arm as she cried:

"You speak of Senor Owen, of Georgia--and a light breaks in upon my
mind. Julio, you _must_ not go further--this man should be safe from
your malice. He has not injured me--see, because of Leon I forgive
him--I even extend him my hand. Why not, when he loves the sister and
my heart belongs to the brother?"

Then Roderic's turn came to be amazed, for these words informed him of
a strange fact--he remembered the story Georgia had told him of her
brother, and how Leon had been saved by the daughter of the Spanish
governor in charge of Morro Castle--fate had brought him face to face
with that devoted girl, and through her might he not learn where Leon
could be found?

Julio was the only obstacle, and Julio, having been several times
thwarted in his designs for a personal vengeance upon this man who was
so closely associated with his past could not be easily placated.

A pretty woman might have considerable influence over him under
ordinary conditions, but just now he wanted blood and was bound to have
his desires fulfilled.

Accordingly he brushed the girl aside in an ugly manner that betrayed
his nasty temper--brushed her away as carelessly as one might dispose
of a fly that persisted in annoying the early morning nap of a sybarite.

Then he gave tongue, denouncing the other in unmeasured terms as
a Yankee spy come to wreck their forts, to betray the city, to do
anything and everything that was dreadful in the eyes of good loyal
Spaniards.

It made quite a striking scene, with the picturesque Julio in his
dashing garb thus violently shouting his private opinion of Yankees
in general and the one before them in particular, while the beautiful
daughter of Morro's governor was clinging to his gesticulating arm and
endeavoring to overcome his mad language, the crowd meanwhile beginning
to shout answering cries that announced their quick grasp of the
situation.

Roderic would not soon forget that picture, if he lived through the
adventure.

Again he owed much to that love of fair play predominating in the
breast of gentle woman.

It had however, gone beyond any power on her part to prevent an
explosion.

If he escaped with a whole skin it must be through his own exertions.

Fortunately he was able to grasp the situation and bring order out of
seeming chaos.

The one sweeping glance which he had taken around had told him of an
avenue where a desperate man could find a chance.

As in many parts of San Juan the houses in this narrow _calle_ were
rich in the possession of balconies--Spaniards would be lost without
some such addition to their homes, for the women live half of the time
upon these overhanging galleries.

The sound of angry voices in the street had brought a number of people
out, and they were curious spectators of what followed.

Chance, or Providence, as you will, had taken Roderic directly
underneath one of these balconies.

By raising his hands above his head he could just touch it.

To an agile man it was a small matter to give an upward leap and secure
a firm grasp above; nor did he consider it any extraordinary feat to
draw himself over the railing after the manner of an athlete.

Cries of astonishment announced that his intention had become known to
the crowd, and almost paralyzed them.

Mingled with these exclamations were shouts of rage from those more
disposed to action.

Julio, being the nearest was the first to make a spring for the swaying
body of the Yankee, but miscalculating the pendulum movement of his
body he was just in time to receive the full impetus of his forward
swing.

As a consequence he took a sudden tumble, bringing up in the arms of
the nearest soldiers.

Roderic had good intentions, and was not to be thwarted by such minor
disturbances.

This must be looked upon only as an incident, one of those petty
affairs which, when grasped in the general run of events are to be
throttled and cast aside.

He continued his movement as unconcernedly as though it were a private
instead of a public exhibition, which feature was one of the strongest
points in Owen's general make up.

Several of the soldiers seemed to have some common sense about them,
or at least found inspiration in the action led by Julio, for they too
made a forward movement, intending to clutch hold of Roderic's swaying
body ere he could snatch it out of their reach.

That they were unsuccessful in this endeavor was not so much
their fault as their misfortune, since no one could doubt the
hearty enthusiasm with which they meant to pull the Yankee's leg,
an undertaking in general at which Spanish regulars are usually
proficient, especially those who have attained officer's rank.

The girl came between them and their intended victim--she had saved one
Yankee from barbarous treatment at the hands of her people, and having
thus entered the field as a champion of the oppressed, considered that
she might as well continue her labors.

Of course she could not effectually bar the enthusiastic rush of the
military forces, but for a few seconds she served as an obstacle to
their forward movement, and even that brief time was enough for Roderic.

He completed his deal.

There was at least some satisfaction in the knowledge that he stood
temporarily out of the reach of those who would destroy him.

A partial success brings with it new difficulties, new problems to be
solved, and one must be always ready to grapple with the forces that
are thrown to the front.

Owen did not consider that he had taken more than the first step toward
safety.

The wolves were just below, clamoring for his blood, for his sudden
flight had crystalized the various shouts into one mad outburst of rage.

So far as he knew there was nothing to prevent some of them from
copying his example; he judged there must be athletes enough in the
throng for this business.

It was not his purpose to remain there upon the balcony, and meet all
comers in a Greco-Roman wrestle for the mastery.

He had started to escape, and it were useless lingering longer in view
of the rapidly growing throng.

One way was open to him, through the house to which the balcony was
attached.



CHAPTER XX.

A RENDEZVOUS AT THE TOBACCONIST'S.


Some men have a passion for the uncertainties of chance--they delight
in wagering all they possess in the shape of filthy lucre on the turn
of a die.

Doubtless such inveterate gamesters might have found some satisfaction
in Roderic's position when, upon turning from the friendly balcony he
pitched himself and his fortunes through the open window of the house.

All was uncertainty before him, and the seventh daughter of a seventh
daughter would have found it extremely difficult to declare just what
turn fortune's wheel was about to take for him.

Roderic himself experienced no pleasure in this groping in the dark,
and would have been much better satisfied could he have known just what
lay before him.

However, there be times when one must accept philosophically whatever
favors the Fates choose to toss us as they go swinging past--times when
action is the only resource left, and even at that one needs be wide
awake in order to take advantage of the opportunity.

When he burst into the apartment Roderic heard a feminine shriek, but
his only thought was a door of some sort that would give him egress.

Fortunately he found this, more through good luck than anything else.

It brought him to a hall.

Few though the seconds had been since his departure from the balcony,
he could already hear the lusty blows that were being delivered upon
the door of the house, which, unless of far better material than the
average doors in San Juan must speedily succumb before the vigorous
assault.

This meant that should he descend to the lower strata in search of an
outlet by way of court or garden or rear exit of some sort he might be
just in time to be overwhelmed by the inflowing tide of eager hustling
citizens and soldiers.

At the same time it would never do to stand still and lose what little
advantage he had gained.

Perhaps even now some of his enemies were clambering up to the balcony,
since he had shown them the way.

Roderic had at least retarded pursuit from that quarter by closing
the door after quitting the apartment from whence the dismal shrieks
sounded in a high pitched female voice, and the others might not prove
so successful in finding the opening as he had been.

He knew the peculiarities of Spanish houses.

In all probability there was some means of reaching the roof, though
he hardly expected to find an _azotea_ with its flowers and place for
lounging, as in the better class of more isolated dwellings.

Thus it came to pass that Roderic found himself crawling through an
opening at the top of a ladder, and thus reaching the outer air.

His enemies were giving tongue with all the eagerness of a pack of
hounds, and the quick and thrilling pulsation of blows announced that
as yet the stubborn door had failed to yield before their vigorous
assault.

Just then, however, a crash followed by a chorus of whoops and much
laughter declared that success had finally rewarded their efforts.

Immediately the house would be swarming with the seekers after Yankee
blood--like rats they would dart hither and thither, leaving no stone
unturned in their eagerness to find that which was lost.

Roderic gave them his blessing.

He had surveyed the situation and laid out his plan of action like a
wise general.

It was necessary that he crawl over a number of roofs before he could
think of endeavoring to touch ground again.

This he managed to accomplish without discovery from the street, and
on the whole he had reason to be thankful that no curious eyes had
fastened upon him from neighboring buildings.

Meanwhile the searchers were having a merry time of it in the house
that had been made the object of their assault--it sounded as if Bedlam
had broken loose in that quarter, and the shrieks of the terrorized
maiden lady formed but a small proportion of the chorus that arose.

Roderic had found his opportunity to leave the roof and reach a
friendly deserted balcony.

From this to the ground was but a small undertaking, and he managed to
accomplish it with the utmost ease.

Thus triumph had followed his line of action.

He was now free to return to the plaza or seek the humble abode of his
friend, under the roof of which he could rest in peace.

This should apparently have been his first thought, but his action
indicated that it was far removed from his mind.

Not that he was in such a reckless mood as to invite a fresh attack
from these desperadoes of the San Juan streets--Roderic had simply
become impressed with a bright idea and was bent upon carrying it out.

He had not forgotten that a wonderful fortune placed him in
communication with the very girl whom he desired to meet--the only one
who could tell him where to find Leon de Brabant, because she had fled
with him and was in all probability his wife.

Such a golden opportunity should not be neglected.

Fortune had been kind but the same chance might not occur again.

To have a few words with her, to appoint a place of future meeting, was
the magnet that held Owen to the spot even when ordinary discretion
should have demanded that he leave the dangerous neighborhood post
haste.

It would not be the first time on record that a charming woman's
presence has nailed a man to danger's cross, and so long as the world
lasts will the story be repeated.

He did not believe there was much chance of his identity being
discovered, especially if he could avoid the keen eye of that same
Julio who had penetrated his disguise before.

In appearance he did not differ to any material extent from the
majority of those to be seen in the streets of San Juan.

Besides, all attention was at present centred on the luckless dwelling
that was being overhauled by a miscellaneous assortment of soldiers and
civilians. Some of these enthusiasts had even clambered out upon the
roof and were eagerly searching for the fugitive in that quarter.

Wise men have before this time been known to lock the stable door after
the horse was stolen.

Roderic was now among those who stood in the calle and chattering like
a collection of magpies, kept their regards fastened upon the wretched
house whose balcony had tempted the Yankee and thus precipitated
trouble.

His one thought of course, was the girl--had she flitted from the spot
because the clamor had alarmed her soul?

Perhaps she was not so unfamiliar with scenes of confusion, since her
father had been the governor of famous old Morro Castle, under the
walls of which many a remarkable event has occurred since the days of
the Virginius affair, when American filibusters were shot down by order
of the Spanish authorities.

At any rate she was still there, watching the house where so much
clamor arose, twisting and untwisting her little hands in nervous
anxiety.

Thanks to Roderic's vandal hand her pretty face was no longer screened
by a veil, and more than one rough soldier drank in the outlines of her
charming features with avidity.

She was evidently deeply concerned in the outcome of the search.

Roderic should feel flattered at this evidence of approval from so
sincere a source.

It was no time, however, to indulge in any foolish speculations, or
allow his masculine vanity a chance to arise.

Julio was still on deck, and since his eyesight was apparently as
sound as ever, despite his rough treatment at the hands of the Yankee,
it would be a wretched mistake to again come under his withering
observation, for on this occasion no friendly balcony might offer him
an asylum from the outstretched hands of the bolero dancer's excited
allies.

So Roderic approached the spot where stood the girl--he must exchange
words with her, no matter what the risk or the consequences--at least
it was necessary that some rendezvous be appointed where he could
engage her more fully in conversation.

With this set object in view he drew near, and watching his opportunity
whispered:

"Senorita--Leon's sister--turn this way!"

She must have heard him, for she immediately forgot to watch the house
that was being searched, and fastened her eyes on him.

Roderic, fearing lest she might by means of some unwise exclamation
draw Julio's attention to him, had a finger on his lips, indicating
caution.

He saw her start and knew she immediately suspected his identity.

Time was most valuable, and it was utterly out of the question for
him to learn what he desired while laboring under such serious
disadvantages.

Besides, it was folly to run any more risk than was absolutely
necessary, and with such a good hater as the dashing _bolero_ dancer
only three yards away, every second he remained there increased his
danger.

At any rate he could not blame Leon for falling in love with such
a charming creature as the governor's daughter--Roderic considered
himself a fair judge of beauty, even if he were not a connoisseur,
and he saw a vision of loveliness before him that might easily have
disturbed the sternest old anchorite.

Another thing--he discovered traces of distinct resemblance between
this girl and the handsome Julio, so that a suspicion as to their
possible relationship flashed into his mind.

"Never mind how I escaped--I am here to speak to you. My object in
entering this city is to find Leon--you must take me to him--it is
the price of my happiness with Georgia--when and where can I see you
again--appoint a _rendezvous_, I pray you."

This is what he said hastily almost in her pretty ear--she was quick of
comprehension, and by the look upon her face he knew she had grasped
the situation.

One glance she shot toward Julio, who just at the moment seemed deeply
engrossed with the antics of the men who were running over the roofs
like a lot of monkeys.

Roderic pressed even closer, eager to hear what she might say, since it
concerned his future state as connected with Georgia.

"At Senor Pedro Sanchez the tobacconist, on the Grand Plaza--at eight
o'clock--to-morrow--_Madre de Dios_ protect you, senor! Do not longer
delay!"

It was enough.

He knew he could find the place and keep the appointment. Her warning
was well timed too, for just as he turned away Julio came to her side.

It was a rare piece of good fortune that had kept him away thus long.

Julio seemed uneasy and suspicious--he even glanced sharply at every
one near by as though some inward monitor warned him he was being
outgeneraled.

The bystanders were to all appearances quite innocent of wrong
intentions, and he could not run after the man who walked away so
composedly, demanding that he then and there give an account of
himself--those in whose veins bounds the hot blood of Spain stand no
such peremptory challenges as that, and the answer just as likely as
not would be the drawn arm, the glint of polished steel, the thud of a
_cuchillo_ striking home--ugh! he wanted not of that sort.

Oh! yes, Julio knew all about this, for his education while neglected
in some other particulars was quite up to date when it came to the stir
and danger of war--he had been through many a little engagement himself
during his checkered career, and knew just what he would do under
similar conditions.

Wherefore his exceeding caution.

It was the development of this trait that had given Julio so long a
lease on life in spite of his many entanglements.

Roderic now made it his business to quit the stirring locality.

Little he cared to what lengths the mob went in their vigorous
search--they could tear the old town wide open; but he had good reason
to doubt whether they would receive any reward, since it was himself
they sought, and he had high hopes of continuing to avoid their
clutches.

The morning would find him on the plaza, with his eyes fastened
upon the tobacconist's jaunty little shop--did he not know it well,
for had he not many a time in the past loitered in that same queer
establishment, selecting prime weeds from Senor Pedro's carefully
arranged stock, and discussing the affairs of the universe with the
white bearded philosopher who guided the destinies of the rendezvous
where men met and formed plans and sought advice.

Ah! that was in the good days of long ago, before San Juan had heard
the deep growl of hostile Yankee guns, before it was a capital offense
to be known as an American in Porto Rico--halcyon days when Love's
brush painted all around him a rosy hue, when life's horizon knew no
cloud.

Since then he had suffered much, but thank heaven it seemed as though
the old state was about to once more come upon him, and gold is doubly
precious when refined by fire.

The clamor and confusion was left behind as he passed along various
narrow streets, heading once again toward the Plaza Cristobal Colon.

Minor things attracted him as in the happy past when he knew no
care--he even stopped where the sound of guitars announced some
entertainment under a canvas shelter, and found his old acquaintances
the gypsies in their weird dance, dark skinned sons and daughters of
the warm Sierra Morena valleys.

Other scenes, common enough in this section of the capital, drew his
attention, and he found a peculiar joy in watching two humble lovers,
he with his sturdy arm about the maiden's waist, strolling along just
beyond.

Well satisfied with what had come to pass on this particular night
Roderic reached the cottage home of his Cuban friend, and giving the
signal knock was admitted.

Wearied in body yet with a mind relieved from all care he sought and
found rest in sleep.

With the coming of morning he was astir.

Every one rises early in San Juan, for there is life and vigor in the
bracing air, a tonic that becomes a necessity to these people who live
in a semi-tropical region that has never known frost, and where midday
is stifling.

Roderic had more than ordinary reasons for rising early on this
morning--one can look with considerable pleasure upon that day whose
dawn promises to usher in the greatest blessing on earth for him, and
this was the extent of his hopes in connection with the governor's
daughter who had saved Leon.

When he issued forth he found that an unusual stir pervaded the town.

Some military movement was on the _tapis_, and he presumed that it
could only be one of considerable importance, judging from the bustle
that pervaded even this portion of the town.

Maneuvers were usually confined to those sections where the streets
were wider and a better class of citizens could enjoy the brilliant
spectacle; for no soldiers like appreciation more than those of Spain.

Curiosity might have led Roderic to look into this matter a little more
deeply, but just at present he had his time well occupied, and besides,
it mattered very little to General Miles what the soldier garrison of
San Juan did, since they were doomed to capture at no distant day,
squirm and struggle as they pleased.

Breakfast first, and this he secured at a cafe where many men had
gathered to drink their coffee and talk over the exciting events about
to transpire in the Antilles. They had no hesitation in expressing
sympathy with the American arms for this was not Cuba--even the Spanish
soldiers in Porto Rico had a leaning toward the Yankees--there was
far less bitterness shown than in Havana, for the people were more
independent. The sensation of liberty was in the air, and men seemed
to feel the new strength that was soon to make them a section of the
Western giant--they had known for some time what Destiny had in store
for Porto Rico, and patiently awaited the glorious dawn of that blessed
day, instead of the useless struggles of years, that would sap their
powers, and blight their beloved land, even as Cuba had been, with the
incendiary's torch and the bushwhacker's rifle.

The day for their reward was coming, and once the stars and stripes
had been planted on Spain's colony's sacred soil, it was there to stay,
whether that land be Cuba, Porto Rico, the Ladrones or the far away
Philippines.

It was now near the hour when he had agreed to meet the girl, so
Roderic made his way toward the plaza. While this place lacked much
of the charm that is always associated with myriads of lights, moving
gayly dressed throngs and stirring open air concerts, it was full of
people about this hour of the day since the summer sun would chase
people indoors long before noon.

He came down in the quarter where the quaint little shop of the
tobacconist was to be found, and kept his eyes eagerly on the alert for
a figure that would, as he remembered, remind him of Georgia's.



CHAPTER XXI.

THE MONSTER COMES AGAIN.


At first Roderic only met with disappointment, for while people were
continually passing, and some even went in and out of Senor Pedro's
little shop, none upon whom his observation fell seemed to bear any
resemblance to the one for whom he sought.

This suspense only increased his eagerness.

No doubt it would have been stronger had he expected to meet Georgia;
but his business on this August morning was closely connected with her
after all, since in the governor's daughter he saw, not a beautiful
girl who had fascinated him but a messenger bringing hopes of a bright
future.

For once Roderic was unconscious of the fact that he seemed to be an
object of deep interest to some member of the fair sex seated on a
balcony not far away.

She had her face partially concealed by the filmy lace so thoroughly a
part of a Spanish woman's toilet, and this she manipulated in such a
way that even a dear friend passing by might never have suspected her
identity.

Something about Roderic appeared to have attracted her
attention--perhaps it was the fact of his haunting that immediate
vicinity, perhaps his manly showing that appealed to her heart, it
might even be possible that she believed she knew him.

Many opportunities were given for a careful examination of his walk
and carriage, and the more this unknown senorita looked the deeper grew
her interest until at last she exclaimed softly, yet with no little
rapture:

"_Madre de Dios!_ it is no other than he--there cannot be two men so
fashioned by Heaven, so perfect in figure, so brave in movement, so
altogether charming; but what does he seek--what the object of his
tramp back and forward?"

Evidently milady of the balcony entertained the warmest affection for
the party whose identity she thought she had discovered under Roderic's
disguise.

Her curiosity being aroused she began to cast about for some object
that would explain this sentinel tramp of the man on the plaza.

It was not long before she decided that his interest was wholly taken
up with the little shop of the plaza tobacconist.

Now doubtless the quaint establishment of Senor Pedro was a gem in its
way, and worthy of considerable notice--she chanced to know it well and
that many lovers were wont to designate it as a point near which they
appointed a rendezvous--indeed, certain tender memories even made her
gentle bosom heave, and a sigh escaped her lips as she looked again at
the shop.

But there must be some other reason why this man of the striking
figure, and walk so energetic, so different from the usual run of
Spaniard or native Porto Rican should haunt the vicinity.

"Ah! he expects some one--he has friends in San Juan he said--it is
a rendezvous for business. How little does he dream that eyes filled
with tender love are on him. I do not think I can much longer refrain
from letting him know--our old signal, ah! how he would hasten thither
did I but dare to give it. The temptation is irresistible. _Carramba!_
I love him so, why should I resist since he is mine. How he will turn
and look around, and when I make one beckoning movement, ah, me, with
the speed of love he will fly to me. All else is forgotten--my hungry
heart clamors for the sound of his voice, which is life and light to
me. Yes, I will cast prudence to the winds--the spell of his presence
is over me--to feel the warm clasp of his hand, to hear his voice that
has haunted my dreams tell me again how he loves only me--ah, that
will be Heaven on earth. And to think I can enter Paradise just by one
little bird whistle--ah! what delightful suspense while I linger and
anticipate; but it is cruelty to him I love. So then, the signal that
has often in the past called him to my side."

It chanced, however, that whatever this signal may have been she did
not make it just then.

On the contrary, bending forward she watched the man on the plaza with
new interest, a different feeling having crept like an icy hand into
her heart.

There was reason.

Roderic's slow saunter had become a quick walk, and in his whole
attitude could be seen an eagerness that animated his frame--in a word
he had become electrified.

No signal had been given, but his eyes had fallen upon a veiled female
figure that came along the plaza.

They would meet in front of Senor Pedro's establishment, just as scores
of couples had met time without mind.

This fact appeared to stamp itself upon the mind of the looker on--it
was apparently one of the first things she thought of.

"The same place that was so sacred to me, and he goes to greet another
there. Am I awake or is this some terrible dream. See, they meet, he
holds out his hand--how eagerly he takes hers and raises it to his
lips. And she--I cannot see her face, but what is this--so like in
figure in her walk--surely my soul remains here on the balcony while my
human form has gone to meet its king. And yet--and yet, how can it be
so? Would to Heaven she might but remove her veil if but for one moment
that I might see whether I dream or really see him with another. Could
she have heard my wish--she raises her hand, she brushes aside the veil
as though he but had to ask the favor. Be still, treacherous, sorely
wounded heart. What beauty, what ravishing charms be in that face. And
how I could hate it if, perdition take the thought, it has come between
_us_!"

All desire to give the signal had now fled.

She simply crouched there in the balcony with a bruised heart,
smothering her groans, and watched the couple sauntering about the
plaza.

Roderic, poor fellow, utterly unconscious of the fact that he was
giving pain to a heart that yearned for him, continued to promenade
with the governor's daughter.

There were others on the plaza, and the couple attracted no particular
attention save from this one interested quarter.

Of course he was deeply interested in what his companion was saying.

It had a very intimate association with the happy and glorious future
he had mapped out for himself and the girl he loved.

Perhaps his manner appeared devoted according to the film that jealousy
cast upon the eyes of she who watched from above.

But surely Roderic did not mean it to be so.

The governor's daughter came to him as a messenger, an angel bearing
good news, and as a gentleman how could he be other than attentive--who
could be a boor when his companion was a pretty woman?

Alas! he little suspected how in the eager effort to further the cause
of his happiness he was heaping up coals of fire with which to inflict
torture upon himself and she whom he loved.

When all had been told and arrangements made for a future meeting, the
girl left him.

Roderic had imbibed some of the courtly ways of these people, and it
was not at all strange that he should again raise the hand she gave him
to his lips.

The action however, might be misconstrued.

He had heard much that interested him, and besides found desperate work
cut out ahead, if he hoped to save Leon, who was in deadly danger.

Hence, when once more alone he thought to indulge in a cigar so that he
might consider the whole case, and form plans for the immediate future.
To those who are accustomed to the solace of a weed the necessity of
this step can be understood and needs no apology.

Roderic, having a glorious destiny opening before him, and being in the
possession of unbounded health and strength, enjoyed the first part of
that cigar immensely.

He never knew what the balance was like.

For a shock came upon him, a shock that was entirely unexpected, and
which left him so stunned that a Wheeling stogie would have appeared as
a prime Havana in his estimation.

What more could be said?

As he turned in his walk he suddenly discovered a veiled figure
approaching--walk and figure declared that it could be no other than
the governor's daughter--she had forgotten something and had returned
to tell him.

Roderic's step quickened as he hastened to meet her now faltering
advance.

Naturally enough he smiled pleasantly--why not, under such conditions?

Alas! that one's motives may be misconstrued--that a fever raging in
the heart may distort even the most common-place action.

"Ah! you have relented--you will not tear yourself away so soon--you
have thought of something else that may have an importance bearing upon
our plans--plans that if properly carried out mean happiness for both
of us. Yes, I rejoice to see you return, as I was in something of a
dilemma and perhaps you can help me out."

He had extended his hand impulsively but she refused to see it.

"You are not angry, senorita--I have not offended you in any way, I
trust: I should never forgive myself if it were so," he said.

Perhaps the anxiety in his tone was strong--at any rate she seemed to
tremble with half suppressed emotion and shrank back.

Roderic became more impressed and concerned.

"You do not speak--you _are_ offended, clown that I am to have said or
done something unwittingly that has hurt your feelings. Senorita, pray
pardon me--restore me to your favor, I beg."

While he was thus apologizing, for what he himself did not have the
least idea, Roderic could not refrain from thoughts of an altogether
different nature, and which must have run something in this vein:

"Now bless my soul if I know what to do in such a case. Ten minutes
ago she left me full of spirits and as warmly disposed as one could
wish--now she returns and deigns not to even accept my hand. Duse
take it, women are all alike, mysteries to me. What have I done in
the interim--lighted a cigar and wrapped myself up in thought. It's a
good enough cigar, too," casting a dubious glance at the weed as if
some vague and monstrous suspicion had arisen in his mind that the
inoffensive weed might have something to do with the matter.

Then light broke in upon him--it came from her.

"I do not speak, you say--it is because I am overcome with surprise,
mortification, despair--because I have learned that you have deceived
me, that you are a traitor!" came from under the veil.

Roderic was almost paralyzed at first.

The figure, the walk might be that of the governor's daughter, but the
voice was no other than Georgia's.

Over his face flashed a look of joy, for his heart leaped to meet its
mistress.

"Georgia--is it you--I thought, I believed--"

She stopped his stammering exclamations of mingled delight and
explanation.

"I do not care to hear what you would say, Senor Owen. After this
day, this hour, we must meet as strangers," she said, with difficulty
controlling her emotion.

"This is cruel--you cannot mean it, when I am risking my life here in
your cause. You say that but to prove me, Georgia."

"I mean every word of it. Think not I have no eyes, Senor Owen--I have
seen all. Doubtless your risk has been considerably ameliorated by the
pleasant company you are forced to seek."

Then he knew what she meant.

The shoe was on the other foot--it had come her turn to show jealousy.

"Georgia, I can explain everything----"

"I refuse to listen, knowing how weak I should be under the sound of
your voice."

"I swear you wrong me."

"Senor, I saw everything--you might tell me a wonderful tale, but I
could never forget."

"Georgia, for the last time I implore you to give me a hearing--that
girl----"

"Stop, do not dare to mention her to me, sir. I refuse to hear even her
name."

She had thrown back her veil, showing her indignant face, her blazing
midnight eyes and Roderic, who had never yet seen her in this mood was
appalled.

"Since you command it I shall say no more. Once I condemned you unheard
and God knows I paid dearly for the error. Now, with even less reason
you have accused me, and refuse to let me explain. Very good, senorita,
I too can be proud--it must be you who bridges over this abyss if it is
ever accomplished. Meanwhile I shall go my way and find Leon, thanks to
the lady you have so bitterly condemned."

He turned with a bow and left her there.

Roderic was cut to the quick to think that she could suspect him of
being unfaithful after all he had given up for her sake.

It might seem as though he would have great patience with one whom he
loved and who was passing through the same bitter error that had once
engulfed him.

Alas! human nature is not so constituted.

His pride was touched and he believed he had gone far enough to
explain.

Ten words, had she allowed him to say them, would have removed the
cause for doubt and suspicion; but as imperiously as a young queen, she
had forbidden him to speak, and therefore like a lamb led to the altar
he would not open his mouth again to plead his cause.

The hour would come, when Leon was restored to her, and she saw in his
devoted wife the lovely woman whose association with Roderic had so
aroused her jealousy--that hour would witness his triumph--it would
balance the account and thus they could start afresh.

So Roderic indulged in philosophical reflections to bolster up his
courage.

But he smoked no more that morning.

Georgia had stood there where he had left her as though incapable of
action--once she stretched out a hand after his retreating form, and
a low cry bubbled from her lips, now hidden by the veil; but by no
movement or outcry did she attempt to recall him.

"It is better that I should die than live to be deceived. He would
explain, but how could my eyes deceive me? And she was so beautiful,
when he kissed her hand. Oh! it was cruel, and he, my Roderic is like
all men, a perfidious monster. I may not forget him but I shall try to
learn to _hate_ him."

Evidently she believed she had a big contract on hand. Then her better
nature, urged by the love that nestled in her heart, had an inning.

"He kissed her hand--true, yet since when has that become a crime
that men should be condemned because of it? Last night did not General
Parrado raise my hand to his lips respectfully. I wonder whether he was
pilloried for it this morning by the Lady who Must be Obeyed. What did
he say--"find Leon, thanks to the lady you have so bitterly condemned."
Have I done wrong--is he still true? Oh! weak heart, how you cling to
your idol--oh! yearning soul, with what power may I tear your clinging
tendrils away from the oak around which they have grown? It will be
death to the vine--death to poor wretched me."

She returned slowly to the house, hoping that Roderic would repent his
rash resolve and return to give her another chance.

But alas, he came not, for the wound was too fresh, and the salt that
had been rubbed into it smarted too fiercely.

Upon the balcony Georgia spent all of the day save the hours for
_siesta_--she watched eagerly those who went up and down the plaza, yet
no sign came from the one beloved.

By degrees the full realization of her desolation came upon her.

"I have chased him from me--with scorn and bitterness have I sent my
Roderic away, and he will come no more. Woe is me, wretched Georgia.
He swore by the stars, by everything he held sacred, yes, even by the
grave of his sainted mother that he loved only me. And I have refused
to hear him. He will never seek me again. Night's shades are falling
and without his assistance I must venture into the jaws of danger--for
Leon's sake. Heaven forgive me and crush my haughty heart because it
has made him suffer. Heaven give me a chance to atone for my pride, for
the insult put upon him."

And thus lamenting the prettiest girl in all San Juan saw the lights
begin to gleam in the island capital.



CHAPTER XXII.

TO THE OLD FORTRESS.


There was one remarkably good trait about Owen--he had a powerful will,
and when he chose could concentrate all his abilities upon a certain
subject, to the exclusion of everything else.

It pleased him to nurse his grievances for a time--what badly used
biped would not be addicted to the same luxury.

Then, with a mighty upheaval he cast the whole load from him.

The public weal demanded his full attention and private woes must take
a back seat.

For the present, therefore, he effaced cruel Georgia from his mind, and
resolutely set his shoulder to the wheel.

Roderic was himself again, calm, shrewd and with a contempt for danger
that might take him to the border land of reckless endeavor, though he
usually knew how to check this in good time to make it a servant rather
than a master.

The day had gone.

Alas! he had thought to mark it down with a white cross as one that
would take him a long step nearer Elysium; but instead it was to be
distinguished by a red mark.

Was there a fatality in his love for Georgia?

Were they doomed never to know happiness?

That was the last uneasy thought that came to him ere he shut the whole
scene out of his mind, as a rain squall envelopes the landscape.

It was no ordinary affair which Roderic now took up; at least it
promised to afford considerable danger, and would call for a display of
energy on his part, of no mean calibre.

He went into it with a grim feeling such as he could not remember
experiencing on any previous occasion.

Perhaps this was caused in part by the dead weight upon his mind, for
it was singular that he should be placing his life in jeopardy in order
to please a girl who had jilted him, cast him aside like a worn-out
glove.

It added to the piquancy of the thing, but Roderic could not say he
hoped for a repetition.

The governor's daughter had given him strange information about Leon.

This brother of Georgia seemed fated to see the inside of more than one
Spanish prison. His experience in Morro Castle, from whence he escaped
through the assistance of the girl who had fallen in love with him,
one would think must have been quite enough in that line; but he had
somehow or other again fallen into the hands of his foes.

Thus it happened that he had been in the San Juan prison, condemned
to exile, on the morning of the memorable twelfth of May, when about
daybreak Sampson's powerful fleet opened on the forts and were in turn
barked at by the bold Spanish gunners, who showed their bravery if they
did no damage.

It happened that the prison was probably the most exposed building
in the city, lying as it did between the fleet and the pulverine, the
gallery of it fronting on the harbor.

Without warning a shell exploded in the wall, and that side of the
building became a wreck.

Bricks and _debris_ flew in every direction, and all who were in the
apartment with Leon found themselves on their backs.

Such a chorus of frightened shouts went up--demoralization reigned
supreme.

But Leon, who had not been seriously injured, was quick to see that
once again the Providence that seemed to watch over his fortunes had
interposed in a miraculous manner to save him--the Yankee shell in its
inquisitive search for the most available Spanish property to destroy
had torn out almost one side of the prison, and through the gaping
aperture freedom beckoned.

So he had crawled out, covered with dust and bearing several wounds
where the flying bricks had come in contact with his person.

Two days later he had been again seized, being betrayed by a negro in
whom he and his lovely wife had unwisely placed confidence.

From that day on he had been kept in close confinement, and finally
again brought to trial. This time conviction was followed with a still
more severe penalty--he was doomed to be shot.

Roderic learned the whole story--it would not pay to take time to give
the details--one who had sought the governor's daughter's hand and been
coldly received had been elevated to a high military position in Porto
Rico, and found himself in a way to visit his miserable displeasure
upon the man who succeeded where he failed.

Perhaps he hoped to win the widow--Heaven only knows, for some knaves
have assurance enough to offer a hand red with a husband's blood to the
heart-broken beauty who mourns his loss.

At any rate this was the situation that demanded Roderic's attention.

It was serious enough to call for determined effort on his part.

True, he had never as yet met Leon, but somehow a deep interest in the
young Porto Rican's fate had taken possession of him--when a man has
supped many times with adventure, he experiences a sympathetic feeling
for one who had also rubbed up against the hard side of life.

Besides, Leon was _her_ brother, and anything that was in the remotest
degree connected with Georgia appealed to his chivalrous nature.

Last of all he had promised, aye, taken a solemn vow, that he would
find Leon, and this being interpreted meant that should the young
man be in a predicament of any sort it would be his business and his
pleasure to succor him if such a thing lay in the bounds of human
possibility.

Roderic had means of communication abroad.

A cablegram sent from Europe to a certain correspondent in New York
would be immediately transmitted to another point in the West Indies,
possibly San Domingo, where the message would be put in the form of a
letter and sent to an imaginary Spaniard at San Juan.

Thus it happened that when he returned to the humble roof that
sheltered him, when evening drew on apace, he found there a well
thumbed missive which upon being hastily opened contained this sanguine
message:

"Have broken the bank at Monte Carlo. Will sail to join you to-morrow."

Roderic laughed--he could not help it.

Darby had longed for a chance to try some peculiar combination he had
hatched up upon the great gambling centre, and this opportunity had
appeared a wonderful favor.

The chance was one in a million, yet it had actually come to pass.

"I've heard the song about the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo,
but never dreamed I would in any way be instrumental in sending a
representative there who would do that same thing. Good for Darby,
lucky fellow. By the way, I wonder does that charming adventuress sail
with him--if so the chances are ten to one the fortune he has won will
not be in his possession long. Well, it must be some time before he can
join me, unless he manages to board some Spanish steamer, taking the
guise of a don; and such vessels are exceedingly scarce on the high
seas now."

With that he lighted the paper and destroyed every trace of Spanish
chirography.

Once again he turned his full attention toward the rescue of Leon.

Other elements were working toward that same end, yet of this fact
Roderic was of course profoundly ignorant, and he labored on as though
only through his endeavors could the man condemned to be shot find a
chance for safety.

He had laid out his plans after the manner of a general who goes to war.

Every little detail had to be looked into, and arrangements made
whereby a secondary battery could be brought to bear, should the first
fail to prove effective.

It was perhaps unfortunate that he would have to work single handed,
because he knew of no one in all San Juan whom he could thoroughly
trust in this matter of life and death.

How he missed Darby--what a tower of strength the man would have been
to him just now.

Roderic however, never sighed for the moon; when he could not have what
he wanted he was philosophical enough to drop the subject and content
himself with what he had.

The man with whom he had taken up his temporary abode in San Juan was a
faithful fellow, but lacked the ability to serve him in this emergency
when so much depended on the move of a hand or the exact carrying out
of prearranged plans.

Roderic had indeed asked numerous questions, and the information
received, added to what he already knew from personal experience,
placed him in a position to "carry the war into Africa."

Leon was confined in an old fortress that presented a most picturesque
appearance by moonlight, and would have made an excellent subject for
amateur photographers, yet possessed few elements of modern strength.

Like St. John's church, it had received a few compliments from
Sampson's fleet, which gaping apertures, together with accumulated
_debris_, only served to add to the picturesque confusion.

Roderic had prowled about this neighborhood considerably during the
day, careful not to attract attention, yet with the desire to learn the
actual lay of the land, so that even under cover of darkness he would
be able to move with at least a fair degree of certainty.

It presented a good view of the bay and harbor, the governor general's
palace on the point and the few vessels in the harbor, chief of which
was the Spanish torpedo boat destroyer Terror.

Roderic had cast longing looks toward the trim steam yacht anchored
there, from the stern of which whipped the Union Jack of England--he
would have given much for an opportunity to interest Cleo in his
daring scheme, and in Captain Beven he knew he could have had an able
coadjutor, for the sailor liked nothing better than adventure.

Still, Roderic had believed it was best not to seek an audience with
his cousin--he did not wish to drag her into the risky game if he could
help it.

Perhaps--who can tell--some peculiar sense of honor held him
back--perhaps he reasoned that as this desperate move on his part,
this contemplated rescue of Leon from a Spanish dungeon and death
at sunrise, was but a link in the chain of his suit for the love of
Georgia, it would be adding insult to injury did he endeavor to enlist
Cleo's services in behalf of the venture.

One thing he had determined to do--it was really forced upon him as a
_dernier ressort_, since there was no other means of getting Leon out
of the country after his escape from prison had been effected, if he
were so fortunate as to accomplish this.

He had a note written to Cleo in his pocket and this he meant that Leon
and his wife should deliver in person aboard the yacht.

That Cleo would find means of hiding them on board until the
Dreadnaught sailed for Jamaica he never once doubted.

With some anxiety he studied the heavens and the conditions of the
weather, for what this August night brought in its train was a matter
of considerable importance to him.

There would be a moon, very near the full, but clouds promised to shut
it from view, at least the major portion of the time.

Roderic counted this as an especial favor in his direction.

He meant to take advantage of it.

All minor matters had been positively arranged, even to the boat in
which they were to be carried to the English yacht, and this was in
itself a very important factor in the game, one that by any neglect in
making up the programme might have proved a fatal error.

He killed time in the early evening by loitering around the coffee
houses and hearing the various opinions expressed by Spanish soldiers
and San Juan citizens regarding the immediate future of the city, for
it was generally known that Ponce had fallen into the hands of the
aggressive Yankees, and that the "thin blue line" was advancing across
the country in the direction of the north coast, capturing everything
_en route_, even to the hearts of the people, who hailed the Americans
as their deliverers.

It was a distinct pleasure to Roderic to know that the army of
occupation had landed on the soil of Spain's finest colony, for he
realized that the glorious flag of liberty once planted would never be
taken down again.

San Juan did not worry.

Indeed, the city probably never looked more gay than on this August
night, when, after an unusually torrid day the cool ocean breeze,
following the rain, invited every one to loiter out of doors, and join
in the characteristic Spanish holiday season.

To Roderic these light hearted people were the greatest of all
mysteries.

If New York city were threatened by a hostile army, and its speedy
capture as good as insured, he could imagine the fearful panic that
must take place, how white faced women, and men too, would throng the
streets laden with precious household goods, seeking some avenue of
escape.

Yet here was a city that had already experienced some of the horrors of
a bombardment and with another in prospect, probably of a more drastic
nature, giving itself up to pleasure as wholly as though peace ruled
the camp, the fleet and the grove.

It was astonishing, marvelous!

Roderic of course knew the reason--he had made a close study of Spanish
character, and found that like the Southern plantation negro these
sons and daughters of Iberia never worry save over the troubles of the
immediate present.

Let the future take care of itself--on with the dance--what if trouble
does come, that will be "_manana_," to-morrow, and why should they
worry until the time arrives?

Bah! when the first shell from the monitors and battle ships goes
shrieking over the forts to explode perhaps among the houses of the
town--that will be time enough to show anxiety, and once started they
can make up for wasted opportunities.

Such is the settled policy of these people, no matter where found, and
it is the main reason why they are outstripped in the race by such
energetic, wide awake, ever ready to seize an open opportunity nations
as the Anglo Saxons and Teutons.

Spain has accomplished her work on the earth, a savage and cruel
one in many respects, yet fraught with much daring--she it was who
centuries back sent her bold navigators to the ends of the little known
world to plant the yellow and crimson banner there--her barbarous
methods of government led each of her numerous colonies in turn to
revolt and declare the shackles broken from their limbs, but Spain
never changed her policy as did Great Britain after losing the United
States.

With the end of her late war Spain found herself virtually stripped of
colonial possessions, and from this time forward she must live within
herself--her cruel but in one sense necessary work in opening the world
to light has been finished and she will never again know the glory that
has been hers in the past.

Roderic often thought over these things, for they were very pertinent
to the subject, and every true blue Yankee must at times consider the
future of these glorious islands thus coming into possession of the
great republic.

Thus he killed time while waiting for the night to move on.

It was best that he delay his desperate work until San Juan had at
least in a measure quieted down, since there was more chance of the
sentries being careless, and less fear of running against citizens in
the street after the rescue should have been effected.

The minutes dragged, for he was eager to get to work--like a war horse
that paws the ground and tugs at his halter when the distant booming of
guns and the pungent scent of burnt powder announce the battle to have
begun.

At length his patience gave out.

By stretching a point the time had come for him to advance on the
outer works, for which he was extremely grateful; with a sigh of
genuine relief he threw off the incubus that had borne so heavily upon
him during this delay, and set his face toward the ancient fortress
that had seen almost every event of interest happening in San Juan from
the days of that gallant adventurer and seeker after the Fountain of
Youth, Ponce de Leon.



CHAPTER XXIII.

HOW THEY WENT IN.


The battlements and towers of the old fortification stood up grimly
against the clouded heavens when Roderic drew near--just as they had
reared themselves for centuries, and looked down upon many of the
strangest scenes marking the history of new America.

Roderic had considerable respect for antiquity, and yielded the palm
to none when it came to holding in reverence such wonderful mementoes
of the past; but common sense triumphed over such feelings, and
when necessity demanded that he should push the sanctity of age and
tradition into the background, he never hesitated.

Should the success of his avowed undertaking be in peril he would feel
it incumbent upon himself to walk roughshod over the range and even
destroy if necessary the finest and most venerated relic of olden days.

Such is the price of American progress--a musty disease breeding old
palace must be transformed into a modern hive of industry or be leveled
to the ground in order to make way for some edifice of more value
to humanity; for these Americans are a practical people of to-day,
seeking not to perpetuate the evils of the dead past, but to raise up
the masses to a higher plane where they may enjoy the fruits of their
labor, reap the benefits of free education and worship God in their own
way, irrespective of church and state.

It was well known to Owen that Spanish sentries, Mauser in hand,
patroled the walls and corridors of the old building.

He had even marked as minutely as possible where each soldier's beat
began and ended, for it is such little things as this that count in the
long run, often most unexpectedly.

It appeared to be a formidable task for one American to
undertake--seldom had a heavier load been placed upon a single pair of
shoulders; but fortunately this man was singularly well equipped for
the task, since his previous work for years had always been in this
same line.

He therefore viewed the great ragged pile of ancient masonry, over
which the banner of Castile and Aragon flapped in the night breeze,
with something of the gladiator's spirit when he was wont to face a
tiger in the arena--the immensity of the task aroused every atom of
determination, quickened his blood and caused him to feel an eagerness
to open hostilities.

All seemed quiet.

Not far away lay the great barracks of the Spanish soldiers, and he
could even hear them call out at times.

This lent additional piquancy to the game--when it became necessary to
snatch a condemned prisoner from the very heart of the Spanish camp,
the glory attending success would be all the greater.

Not that Roderic sought additional sources of danger--he would have
been satisfied with much less, since his one purpose was to save Leon
and win his sister.

A clock in the city boomed the hour.

"I am on time--now to see if my fellow laborer has reached the
rendezvous," Roderic muttered.

At one point the shadow of the corner tower fell athwart the white
road and here he turned.

A little birdlike trill greeted his ears--it might have proceeded from
some feathered songster ensconced among the leafy vines that covered
the rugged wall, and which had been disturbed by his stealthy advance.

The American seemed to believe otherwise, for he quickly imitated the
sound.

Whereupon there appeared a figure from behind a buttressed base of the
tower wall, a figure that approached him at first eagerly, then coyly.

Roderic took several steps forward to meet the half unwilling advance
of the other.

"Senora, is it you?" he whispered, eagerly.

"Si, senor," came the low reply from the figure dressed in masculine
garments.

"Good. We are both on time. The night favors us as much as we could
hope for. Let us then go to work without delay."

"Heaven bless you, senor--"

"Not a word in that line--it is useless, and dangerous as well, since
sentries are on the ramparts and they have keen ears. I feared you
might not come, for the danger would appall many."

"Ah! senor, what is danger to me--what would I not risk if by so doing
I could save _his_ life, my beloved Leon? Fire and blood could not hold
me in check if _he_ called. My life is his alone, for without him all
else would be dead. That is the love a Spanish woman gives, senor. Do
not forget it when you think of Georgia."

Roderic was thrilled by her words, so intense so full of
devotion--yes, few nationalities can love with the fire and enthusiasm
shown by Spain's sons and daughters, and if their affection does not
always stand the test of time, lay it to the burning zeal that eats up
the heart.

He remembered that he too was beloved by just such an impulsive,
beautiful girl, who at this hour was doubtless wrestling with the deep
wounds wrought by jealousy's fingers; and the recollection gave him
both ecstasy and keen pain.

At least he said no more to her of the danger she ran--in the service
of love what matters it where peril lies; the sacred nature of the duty
renders every obligation a privilege.

"Follow me, please, and keep close to the wall. When I stop do likewise
and crouch down. Should one of the fellows on the walls call out, make
no move, utter no sound, but wait until I direct you."

Such were his brief instructions.

She gave him to understand that she comprehended all he wished.

Then they moved away, keeping close to the rough walls, where the
shadows lay thickest.

It was a slow and laborious task.

Here and there lay heaps of broken bricks, just where they had fallen
Heaven alone knew how many years back, since it is a settled Spanish
rule never to spoil the picturesque and _bizarre_ by miserable modern
attempts at thrift and cleanliness--vines had grown over the _debris_
and moon flowers whitened the face of the rough wall.

It may have been very pretty, but it made the task Roderic had marked
out more tiresome than it would otherwise have been.

He did not grumble however, and Inez would never have complained
even though compelled to creep through an acre of prickly pear or
cactus--her holy fervor of love sanctified the means, and she blessed
the Virgin for allowing her such a privilege to prove her devotion.

She was a woman in ten thousand--happy Leon, to possess such a loyal
heart.

Besides, while temporarily suffering from these accumulation of years,
Roderic knew they were soon to profit through something in the same
line.

Leon had escaped from his former prison by means of a gaping aperture
made by an inquisitive Yankee shell--the story of his thrilling
adventure had made a deep impression on the mind of Owen, and
discovering just such a grand opening in the wall of the old medieval
structure against which he had now pitted his forces he resolved to
improve upon the experience of Georgia's brother.

They could, if given half a show, both enter and make their final exit
by this means.

He had the location of the opening pretty well in mind, and was heading
for it now.

They had fully embarked upon their perilous mission, and please Heaven,
would sooner or later meet with the anticipated reward.

The sentinels paced their beats above on the broad walls, and their
"_quien vive_" as they approached each other, together with the answer,
came plainly to the ears of those crowded below.

Roderic breathed easier when he discovered that they had reached the
vicinity of this ragged aperture, for at least one portion of their
dangerous journey was over.

He exercised double care at this point, for while the coast had
appeared clear during the day, that was no sign that it might not be
policed after nightfall.

These Spanish sentries have little scruples about opening fire upon
any suspicious person seen in the act of endeavoring to enter one of
their fortifications under the protecting shades of night--scores of
wretched reconcentradoes in Cuba thus paid the penalty of rashness or
curiosity with their lives.

A little close observation told him that in all likelihood the opening
had not been made an especial object of surveillance--two slow moving
automatons, _yclept_ sentries, in the process of following their beats
to a conclusion approached this scene of wreck about once in five
minutes, exchanged salutation according to the discipline of the army,
indulged in a little good natured chaff, perhaps spoke of the chance
of soon beholding the beloved hills of their native land again when
the inevitable end came to the dramatic farce old Spain was playing
for the benefit of those Frenchmen and others holding five hundred
million dollars worth of Cuban bonds--and then wheeling left the spot
to darkness and the bats for another spell.

It was easy enough to pick out the proper time to begin the climb,
but after once starting they found it a trifle more difficult to make
progress, for the material under their feet threatened to trip them up,
and several times one of them started some of the broken bricks moving
in a way that opened the possibility of an avalanche.

Thus they had gone but little more than half way when Roderic,
believing the time between the meeting of the sentries must have
elapsed, whispered to his companion to crouch down and move no more.

At this instant a dislodged brick fell with some little clatter down
the declivity, and the sound appeared magnified in his ears because of
its possible serious results.

A Spanish voice called out above, being answered from the opposite
side, and Roderic looking up could see the two sentinels plainly
outlined, as they stood peering into the gloom below, and indulging
in various speculations as to the cause of the sound that had reached
their ears.

It was a minute of intense suspense, for he had grave fears lest they
bombard the spot with broken bricks, in order to satisfy their minds
that no secret enemy lurked there.

Fortunately just at this moment a zigzag flying bat, creature of the
tropics, came whirring out of the gloom below, and actually knocked off
one of the sentries' hat, which unexpected incident caused considerable
hard words from the man who received the scare, and was greeted with an
equal amount of half suppressed laughter from the other quarter.

At least, since the hat was saved the incident might be set down as
closed--no bricks were fired into the chasm, for which Roderic was
devoutly thankful, not merely on his own account, but because he had
one under his charge for whose safety he held himself responsible.

When the two Dromios above had withdrawn and with shouldered Mausers
again sauntered down their several beats he whispered words of
encouragement to the shrinking form so close at hand, and bade her once
more follow his lead.

The venture proved a success, so far as their _entree_ was concerned,
for by the time Spanish eyes and ears again approached the broken spot
in the ramparts the two intruders had gained the corridor and were safe
within the walls.

This was only a beginning--the first step.

Around them stretched the massive walls of the ancient landmark, and
somewhere within their confines Leon was to be found.

Roderic never groped in the dark when there was a chance for light,
and he had used his utmost endeavors during the day in trying to locate
the prisoner.

One portion of the old fortification was literally a picturesque ruin.

It did not seem possible that even the easy going Spaniards would
confine a prisoner, condemned to be shot, to this antiquated wreck, for
there would be too much chance of his escaping, especially one who had
already proven so hard to hold as Leon.

This was of course mere speculation on the part of the Yankee, but
he had taken note of several facts that seemed to corroborate his
suspicion.

At any rate so strongly impressed was he with this idea that once
within the fortress he had no hesitation in turning to the left.

Possibly Roderic never had a more difficult task than the one now
confronting him.

The interior of the great pile of masonry was almost a sealed book to
him, the best he could do during the afternoon having given him but a
shadowy idea as to how it was constructed.

Of course most of it was inhabited only by bats and owls, a sombre
relic of past glories, which fact added to the confusion.

Sentries patroled sections of the place, just as had been marked
out for them--indeed, it was almost impossible to know when one of
these jack-in-the-box guardians might bob up serenely directly in the
intruder's path.

This fact kept Roderic's nerves on a tension; but the sensation was no
new one to him--he felt pretty much as does the hound held in leash,
and scenting the game near by.

Inez followed him closely.

She was "dead game" as Roderic more than once muttered to himself when
he noticed how she copied his movements.

Never did man have a more faithful and devoted spouse, ready to
undertake all risks for his sake--never did woman have a motive more
sacred to urge her forward to the rescue of one beloved.

Roderic knew he was enlisted in a good cause, and in his mind this
counted for much.

Their progress while laborious, seemed to be in the right direction.

Evidences multiplied to the effect that this wing of the fortress was
under surveillance, as though it contained that over which it was
necessary a guard should be placed.

Roderic had been in Russia--he had visited the historic pile of masonry
at St. Petersburg on the Volga known as the Fortress of Peter and Paul,
and had seen its numerous dungeons, its impregnable gates and the
wonderful methods in vogue among the troops guarding its walls.

Something about this structure in San Juan recalled the prison and
fort of Holy Russia--perhaps it was the gloom, the dark dungeons and
general funereal aspect of the place, for surely there could be little
comparison otherwise.

Occasionally the moon appeared and gave them some means of seeing what
lay ahead; but on these occasions they were compelled to lie quiet so
that their presence might not be discovered.

All the while they were progressing.

A labyrinth of masonry surrounded them, and Roderic had to bring to
bear many shrewd tactics in order to keep from getting lost.

His usual manner of doing this was simple and yet wonderfully effective.

When they came to a place where the passage forked, and it appeared
puzzling to judge which way they should turn, he did not decide hastily
but spent a little time in ascertaining whether one of the routes did
not show more signs of usage than the other, and in every case he found
a very distinct difference.

By following the passage in general use it stood to reason that he
would sooner or later reach the closed dungeon.

Through such tactics, employed with success by those Nimrods of the
forests in their search after game, Roderic had always been able to
accomplish tasks that were deemed next to impossible by others of his
craft, who governed their actions by antiquated rules lacking in common
sense.

It was evident that they had crossed the Rubicon--that their bridges
had been burned behind them.

Once discovered in the depths of this place and the chances seemed
twenty to one that they would never leave it alive.

Roderic scouted such a thought--he never allowed it to interfere with
his work--chances of failure were not to be taken as a factor in the
matter whatever--success must be the beacon held up to lure them on,
glorious success.

Such confidence brings wonderful results in all things, and would
account for some of the success attending his past.

A brilliant diplomat is compelled to be bold as well as sagacious.

To find Leon and bring about his release--to cheat the Spanish army of
a victim whom they expected to execute at sunrise--this was the mission
he had undertaken, and with the kind assistance of good fortune, added
to his tact, he meant that the harvest should be bountiful.



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE STRANGE MEETING IN THE DUNGEON.


A gentle tug at his coat made Roderic turn.

It was Inez, who desired to speak, and yet who knew she should not
utter a word above the lowest whisper.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Tell me--are we not nearing there--I am so anxious--my heart almost
suffocates me, for it beats like wildfire," she gasped.

He pitied her, for he could easily understand why she should thus feel
distressed.

"Courage--we cannot be far away from his cell now. Bear up, and all
will be well. To fail at this time would mean his death."

Roderic did not add that their own fate would probably be also
sealed--he knew that fact only too well, but it was useless to mention
it.

At any rate all Inez thought of was Leon's welfare.

She seemed to call upon some reserve force, and her companion knew the
crisis had been safely passed, for which he was deeply thankful.

When he said he believed they were near the spot where they would find
Leon, he spoke truly.

There were strong evidences of dungeons all around them, some with the
doors entirely gone, while others had a stout barrier hanging from one
great rusty hinge.

It might be supposed that ere long they would run across those still
remaining in a good state of preservation, and in which prisoners were
confined.

Perhaps an especial guard had been stationed in the passage.

If so it would be Roderic's duty to take care of him, and to this end
he had previously made ample preparation.

Desperate measures are only carried to a successful issue by heroic
treatment, and no man was better equipped for this purpose than the
American who dared enter San Juan while the Spanish flag still waved
over the walls.

The darkness was now against them, and it would have been almost
impossible to advance but for a streak of luck that separated clouds
and moon, and allowed the latter to sift her silvery radiance down
through various breaches in the overhanging walls, thus dissipating to
some extent the appalling gloom.

Thanks then to this feeble illumination Roderic with his keen vision
was enabled to discover a figure ahead.

Spanish soldiers doing duty in the tropics are generally in the habit
of wearing white uniforms made of some coarse drilling or canvas.

It was this fact that betrayed the presence of the guard, and Roderic
mentally thanked his lucky stars for the favor.

He watched the man.

The Spaniard seemed nervous, and would walk up and down with jerky
steps, stopping now and then to try the doors of several cells.

Roderic was unable to decide what the man was up to, since Spanish
soldiers as a rule are not given to exert themselves overly much.

Now and then the fellow would stop, and at such times his attitude
strongly reminded the watcher of one who was straining his hearing in
the hope of catching some eagerly anticipated signal.

After a little reflection Roderic felt compelled to decide that the
fellow was anxiously waiting for a relief guard to appear, although
this hardly satisfied him.

His duty in the premises was clear enough.

That guard was in the way.

He threatened to block their game just when, after surmounting so many
difficulties, it promised to bring them success.

Such a thing could not be allowed.

The guard would have to succumb, like all Spaniards, to superior Yankee
dominion.

First he must give Inez warning as to his intentions, so that she might
not be alarmed when he quitted her side.

He found her very sensible, for she realized that some such move must
be adopted to get rid of the miserable sentry.

"Spare him not, senor--he has doubtless taken delight in torturing
my Leon--have no pity on the wretch," she whispered in his ear, with
considerable warmth.

Roderic had his own notion about the eternal fitness of things, and
being a cool, sensible American instead of a hot blooded Spaniard, he
was decidedly averse to shedding blood when such a thing might possibly
be avoided.

There were other ways of accomplishing the same end, this Yankee brain
decided.

With a few last words of caution to Inez, who was trembling all over
with excitement, he left her and started upon his advance.

An old Indian fighter might have been proud of the progress Roderic
made.

He imitated a cat creeping upon a bird, his eyes being glued upon the
white garbed figure of the guard, and every movement governed by that
of the man who carried the Mauser.

Foot by foot he went forward.

The guard was muttering to himself as he still moved restlessly from
one heavy door to another.

Something undoubtedly disturbed him, but it was a mystery to Roderic,
who could not quite catch the words he let fall, and which might have
simplified matters had he heard them.

The closer he drew the more cautious he became.

Everything depended on the successful issue of his plans; even his own
future happiness was at stake in the matter.

It may be taken for granted, therefore, that he exercised his utmost
care, for after all there is no motive so positive of good results in
a general way, as self interest--it makes a success of co-operative
factories wherever tried.

Roderic was finally in a position to lay his plans for a finish.

He waited until the man's back was turned and then slipped forward to a
certain dark doorway previously selected.

Then he awaited the return of the sentry--awaited him as the tiger lies
in cover for his advancing prey, with muscles tense and drawn, and
every small nerve on the alert for the desperate charge.

Ah! the fellow in pursuing his eccentric tactics had reached what
appeared to be the terminus of his beat, and wheeling had started back,
utterly unconscious of what lay in store for him and that each nervous
step took him closer to his fate.

Roderic was perfectly cool and collected--he was not in the habit of
giving way to excitement and losing his advantage.

As he thus lay in wait and watched the advance of the dusky figure
which he had set out to overcome, he even selected the very portion of
the sentry's person upon which he should throw his full force.

Closer still.

The man's fate hung like the sword of Damocles, as by a single hair.

Roderic timed his leap with such precision that he struck the sentry
totally unawares.

A dark figure launched forward like a gigantic bat--the man only had
time to give a gurgle of surprise when a firm hand closed on his
throat, and the sound died there.

Such was the impetus of Roderic's advance that the two of them went to
the stone floor.

Immediately the American felt his antagonist cease to struggle, and he
knew the other must have been knocked senseless through the blow on the
head received when he came in contact with the flagging.

The percussion had sounded loud enough at least, to account for his
having lost all interest in affairs mundane.

Roderic hoped he was not killed, nor did he have any reason to believe
such a fate had overtaken the wretched guard.

At least everything seemed to be working beautifully in his favor, and
he certainly could find no cause for complaint.

What was to be done with this pretty thing, now that he had secured the
prize?

The man might prove to be something of a white elephant on his hands.

However, his first move was to drag out some stout cord, with which he
made the fellow's hands and feet secure.

In doing so he could not but notice,--through touch more than sight,
since the darkness was only partially dissipated by the moon's
inquisitive beams that forced an entrance--that the luckless guard had
delicate hands such as he had seldom noticed among the common Spanish
soldiers.

At another time he might have endeavored to assign some logical reason
for this thing, but just at the present crisis it mattered little.

The end and not the means engrossed his fullest attention.

When he took hold of the senseless guard and began dragging him across
the corridor to the shade that lay more densely in that quarter, it was
only with the intention of getting him out of the way, so that in case
any one came along he would not stumble over the fellow and thus have
the peculiar status of affairs rudely thrust upon his attention.

Perhaps Roderic was not as careful as he might and should have been--at
any rate he tripped and fell over some object lying in his way.

Even as he went down he was strongly impressed with the suspicion that
what he had taken his cropper over was a human being, and possibly a
second guard enjoying a quiet nap.

Hence, Roderic scrambled up in all haste with the intention of throwing
himself upon the fellow, and if possible preventing him from giving the
alarm, for that was what his wretched mistake might end in.

To his surprise as well as gratification there was not the least sign
of an aroused sentry endeavoring to gather his scattered senses and
shout for help.

All was silent.

He put out his hand, groping for the object which had been the cause
of his tumble.

When finally he touched it a peculiar sensation flashed over him from
head to foot, for in truth it was a human being.

Could the man be dead?

Had there been some drunken dispute between the guards resulting in a
tragedy?

He remembered the peculiar actions of the man who now lay bound near by.

Bending over the second fellow he speedily made a discovery of some
moment.

A strong scent of liquor greeted him and his hand came upon the flask
still clutched in the miserable guard's hand.

Where he got it, and why the second man did not take his share were
puzzling questions which Roderic only shook his head over.

For him it was quite sufficient that the two sentries had in different
ways been rendered _hors de combat_, and would so far as he could see,
give him no further trouble.

So he left them there, the second chap with his head resting lovingly
upon the body of the toper, two of a kind and well matched, he
considered.

Perhaps there would be a reckoning when the officer of the guard came
around later, though if the flask still contained a portion of its
original contents he might forgive the erring one.

Roderic sincerely hoped he had seen the last of the two guards--he
expressed a low but earnest desire that their slumbers might be sweet,
and indefinitely prolonged--at least until his desperate work had been
accomplished.

He uttered a low signal, the same bird call that, trilling forth at the
tower corner of the fortress had brought Inez to his side.

She heard and gladly tripped forward.

It was a supreme moment for her--the girl was tremendously excited,
and cast several quick glances toward the spot where the demoralized
section of the invincible Spanish army lay.

Roderic noticed how her eager hand crept toward her bosom as she looked
toward the dimly seen figures, and he quickly said:

"Come, we must find the door of his cell."

"You leave foes upon the trail you must tread on your return," was the
significant way in which she put it.

"They are helpless--God forbid I should do murder," he returned,
knowing at the same time that the Spanish way was the safer way.

The first cell door was beside them.

Roderic, bending over discovered that it was secured by a heavy iron
bar--so far as he could see there was no other obstacle to an entrance.

He seized upon this and exerting his strength threw it over.

It made something of a clanking sound, possibly subdued, but to
Roderic's mind very like the gong of a railway station dining room.

Inez uttered a low cry of alarm and he could hear her whisper the name
of her patron saint, as if invoking heavenly aid.

"It's all right--don't be alarmed," he said, encouragingly.

Roderic waited to draw out a little pocket lantern which when lighted
would throw some illumination upon their path.

This done he tried the door, and finding it fast put his shoulder to it.

Under such pressure further resistance was utterly out of the
question, and the heavy barrier quickly gave way.

Inez would have rushed headlong in but Roderic's sturdy arm
prevented--he believed it was his duty to still lead the van so long
as the future was unknown--it would be time enough to yield that place
of vantage to his frail companion in the venture when success had been
assured.

So they passed into the gloomy dungeon, the history of which would
doubtless prove interesting reading as shedding a strong light upon
Spain's methods of colonizing, for in the years gone no doubt many
a political prisoner had been tortured here with all the despotic
barbarism that marked the infernal Inquisition of old.

Looking eagerly around the cell Roderic almost immediately discovered
the object of his search.

Some one was standing beside a chair at the further end--some one who
had evidently risen hastily at the sound of the clanking iron bar--some
one who uttered a cry at their rough entrance.

Roderic saw and was at once struck with the astonishing likeness to
Georgia in the smooth faced young man standing there; but he had been
prepared for that fact since she herself had impressed it on his mind
when he demanded how he might know Leon should he meet him.

Yes, brother and sister were very much alike and the sight of him just
then gave Roderic something of a shock, since it seemed as though he
were gazing upon Georgia.

There was no longer any need of restraining Inez--at sight of the
prisoner she had uttered a cry bubbling over with limitless delight and
unable to longer keep back the eager desire to reach him, to convince
her ravished eyes that they did not deceive her soul, she sped forward.

Not straighter does the arrow fly from the warrior's bow than this
devoted Spanish girl went to the object of her devotion.

Surely eyes of love could easily recognize in the seeming youth the
beautiful daughter of Morro's governor.

Her hat had fallen off in the struggle with Roderic, and her luxuriant
hair dropped almost to her waist, rendering further deception utterly
out of the question.

Roderic fully expected to see the amazed prisoner open his arms and
eagerly take her close to his heart in a transport of joy.

It was only natural that he should look for just such an ending to the
devoted wife's adventurous search.

To the astonishment of the American nothing of the kind
occurred--indeed, a result about as contrary as one could well
conceive, came to pass.

As Inez was about to throw her arms about the figure of the handsome
young fellow, he put out his hand and gave her a vigorous push aside, a
push that caused the poor girl to stagger back against the wall.

And with his great black eyes flashing with indignation the prisoner
cried out:

"Do not dare to touch me--go back to yonder double faced traitor, and
leave me to my fate. I would sooner be left here to moulder than be
rescued by you, _creature_!"

Roderic was panic stricken--he could scarcely believe the evidence of
his senses--the prisoner of the dungeon was to all appearances Leon,
yet the voice was that of Georgia--the words evidently spoken by one
racked with jealousy, who saw in Inez a hated rival!



CHAPTER XXV.

WHEN THE OFFICER OF THE GUARD CAME.


It was a remarkable tableau.

The dark dungeon with its mouldy stone walls was a fitting background.

Roderic's little lantern did not cast a superabundance of light, but
there was enough to show the three figures in the scene.

Inez, poor girl, had staggered back and seemed almost paralyzed--half
crouching she leaned one hand against the wall for support, and with
eyes distended by amazement and horror, stared at the prisoner as
though appalled by the thought that her Leon had gone mad--that the
cruel Spaniards had driven him out of his mind, else why should he
treat her so roughly, she who would give her life for him if need be?

Roderic grasped the truth, and yet it was so astounding that he could
not believe the positive evidence of his senses.

It seemed as though the hand of a magician had been extended to bring
about such an amazing transformation.

He came to rescue Leon, and found in the young man's dungeon--Georgia!

Was ever surprise more complete?

Who could the wizard be--had brother and sister the power of changing
their personality at will?

Strange fancies rioted through his excited mind as he stood there
and stared--the situation was remarkable enough to arouse the most
extravagant and marvelous thoughts.

At the same time Roderic was conscious of a powerful desire to take
this bold maid of San Juan to his heart, for his love was still strong
within him.

And as he thus stood and looked at her, perhaps with reproach upon
his face, the anger seemed to gradually die away from her eyes, the
color returned to her cheeks, her upraised hand that had flung Inez
so violently back fell to her side and she trembled with a mixture of
emotions.

Strange place indeed for an explanation and yet Roderic knew it was
bound to come.

He wished to know many things, and on her part a revolution of feeling
must take part in her heart toward the devoted being whom she had so
scornfully thrust aside.

Of the three then, Inez was the first to find her tongue, to give
utterance to the anguish that racked her soul.

"Holy Mother," she wailed, "he knows me not--they have robbed him
of reason--they have broken my heart. Oh! Leon, unsay those cruel
words--tell me that you still love me, or I too must go mad!"

The prisoner of the fortress doubtless heard, but never once were those
luminous midnight orbs removed from Roderic's face.

His disguise might have baffled some but it was of no avail where those
eyes were concerned.

One look and the mask had been torn away--she had known him from the
instant he rushed through the arched doorway.

By this time Roderic had succeeded in mastering his emotions--at least
he was in a fair way to gradually assume control.

The situation, too, was becoming unbearable, for Georgia, if the
prisoner could be the girl he loved, seemed gradually being overwhelmed
by confusion, perhaps because thus seen in male attire by the man whose
respect she desired above all others, or it might be from some other
equally potent reason.

"Georgia!"

Just one word, but what an effect it had upon the other--the prisoner
of the dungeon burst into tears, all the while protesting and accusing
Roderic of duplicity, declaring that her love had turned to hate, and
yet giving this assertion the lie by the very emphasis with which she
spoke.

It was a tirade of almost meaningless phrases, just such as one might
expect from an impulsive whole hearted daughter of the tropics, who
loved and suffered, and whose brave front, artificially sustained, had
given way under this sudden shock.

Roderic did not wince--Roderic knew he held the magic power in his
grasp whereby he could change this mourning into rejoicing--he knew she
loved him in spite of what she might say, yes loved him with an undying
affection such as only a woman of her stamp could experience.

He waited a minute or so until she had exhausted the violence of her
emotions.

When finally she had hidden her face in her hands, as if she dared no
longer let him gaze upon her weakness, Roderic took a step toward her
and spoke gently.

At the sound of his beloved voice she trembled like an aspen leaf,
and as she heard the astounding intelligence imparted by his calm
words, first she looked from between her fingers, then both hands
fell from her face, and finally with bated breath she hung upon his
closing sentences, utterly transformed, radiant with a sudden return of
happiness such as she had believed could never again be her portion on
earth.

What he said was but a hurried review of this meeting with Inez under
such strange conditions, the appointment he had made for a rendezvous
in the plaza, and last of all their desperate undertaking in company on
this night, resolved to save Leon if it be in mortal power to do so.

She looked toward Inez, into whose brain something of the wonderful
truth was beginning to enter.

That look no longer spoke of contempt and hatred--there was a new light
in her eye as though her soul had awakened to a glorious realization of
the possibilities opening before.

In Inez the devoted daughter of Morro's stern governor, the girl who
had saved Leon from a prison cell in Cuba, the woman whose love had
made her that same Leon's wife and who was therefore her own sister,
she saw a different being from the dark-eyed houri whom she once
believed had stolen Roderic's heart--circumstances alter cases, and
the same scene we have looked upon in the deceptive moonlight becomes
transformed in the garish light of day.

"His wife--my brother's wife--oh! what is this strange thing you tell
me--that would be too much happiness--I must be dreaming."

The girl had met with such a revulsion of feeling that she threatened
to become incoherent again; but Roderic, advancing another step laid a
hand upon her arm, his touch acting like magic, for he seemed to infuse
some of his own calmness into her.

"Go closer to Inez--see, the poor girl is bewildered, overwhelmed
at finding you here when she expected Leon, just as I too am deeply
puzzled. Speak to her--ask her who she is, and what she seeks at the
risk of her life. Ah! you cannot hate her, sweetheart, she who loves
your brother so dearly--your sister. Take her to your heart, you two
whom Heaven has brought together so strangely."

His words stirred both of those who heard--the girls looked at each
other yearningly, for a new emotion had leaped into their souls.

Unable to longer restrain their feminine feelings they were speedily
clasped in each other's arms, while Roderic stood by, holding his
little lantern, complacently watching the demonstration, meanwhile
congratulating himself that his skies had cleared and that the future
promised glorious possibilities.

He was still greatly puzzled and for the life of him unable to
comprehend how Georgia could take the place of Leon in this dungeon of
the old fortress, difficult of access and vigilantly guarded by not
only one but two sentries.

At the same time he knew an explanation would speedily be forthcoming,
and hence exercised what patience he possessed.

It is not so difficult to do this when all things seem to be coming
one's way.

Presently Georgia remembered.

As she turned from Inez and faced her lover, face and neck were
suffused with scarlet.

In his eyes it was a beautiful sight, and he could not remember ever
having seen her look so charming.

"Oh! Roderic, can you, will you forgive my cruel, unjust suspicions, my
insane jealousy that caused me to treat you so bitterly, that refused
to hear your explanations? I do not deserve your love, but God knows I
could not live without it. Tell me you forgive such a wretch, and make
me happy again."

He opened wide his arms, and forgetting her confusion, forgetting
everything but that she loved him and had again found Paradise, her
head was quickly pillowed on his shoulder, and she looked up into his
face, smiling through her tears.

"You do forgive?"

"As I hope to be forgiven. Let it be forgotten, even as you said of my
transgression. We love--we have been true to each other--the future
lies before us, why should we burden ourselves with foolish doubts and
fears? From this hour then we begin anew, nor may all Satan's power
prevail against us, nor shall I have reason to fear a Jerome or a
Julio, the latter of whom turns out to be the erring black sheep in the
family of Inez--her step-brother. As to Leon----"

"_Carramba!_ yes, what of Leon?" cried Inez, with suddenly renewed
interest.

What indeed.

Roderic himself was conscious of a keen interest in the young
man--where had he gone and what brought Georgia to his dungeon?

Plainly the time had arrived for explanations, nor did Georgia show a
disposition to withhold them.

"You wonder to find me here?" she said, releasing herself from his arms.

"Naturally so."

"And disguised as--as, a man," with confusion.

"Under the conditions if you came here at all it would have to be under
false colors."

"The case was desperate--it admitted of no false modesty. Leon was to
be shot in the morning. I laid my plans and sought help of the only one
I believed I could trust in all San Juan. Heaven bless her kind spirit,
and forgive me for ever having believed she could have stooped so low
as to take the heart that belonged to me."

"What! you went to Cleo?" he exclaimed.

"Nothing more nor less, since I dared not ask the active assistance
of my guardian Don Porfidio, who endeavored in vain to have Leon's
sentence dismissed or changed. Yes, the Senorita Cleo not only received
me warmly but gave me aid and promised that if we succeeded Leon should
sail away on her yacht to safety."

"God bless her!" muttered Roderic.

"And he will, beloved, depend on it. But time will not permit me to
tell all. Her Captain Beven came ashore with me, and waits near by for
us to join him. Unfortunately we met Jerome on the street, showing
Captain Shackelford the sights of San Juan. I know he recognized me
in spite of my disguise for they hung upon our track until we drew
near the fortress. I fear he may discover the truth and in some way
overwhelm us with trouble. He is my evil genius--something within tells
me that through Senor Wellington the most bitter trial of my life
must come. But at last we seemed to shake them off, and I found an
opportunity to enter this awful place."

Roderic shuddered to think of this valiant girl undertaking such a
gigantic task alone--it seemed almost incredible, and he would not have
believed it had not the fact come under his own observation.

"But--how did you gain entrance to this cell, and--where has Leon gone?"

"Yes, tell us of him, I implore," echoed Inez, who had hung upon every
word.

"You shall hear. I already knew where my poor brother was
confined,--how I learned the facts I shall not say just now; and after
infinite trouble I came to where a guard walked up and down before a
barred door behind which I was positive Leon might be found.

"All had been prepared, Captain Beven having so doctored a flask of
liquor that the wretch drinking half of it would be overwhelmed by
sleep.

"While the guard walked away from me I placed this bait where he would
be apt to kick it with his foot on his return.

"Everything worked smoothly, Senor Owen--the fellow gulped down some of
the stuff and presently slept as sweetly as a cherub."

"Is sleeping still, and good for ten hours," declared Roderic, and then
resumed his attitude of listener, believing that something of deep
importance was coming next.

"When this result had been secured I opened the door and found Leon
alive and well."

Inez uttered a fervent prayer of thanks.

"I had brought him some garments to put on, such as the Spanish
soldiers wear, but knowing the hour was near when the officer of the
guard would come along to see that each sentry was in his place it was
decided that until that critical time passed I was to remain in the
cell, while with the door barred Leon would take the sentry's gun and
mount guard----"

Inez uttered a startled cry that seemed to come from her very soul,
and turning from them darted toward the door of the dungeon.

Roderic knew what it meant.

He suddenly remembered how he had placed the nervous guard _hors de
combat_--at the time he considered this a remarkably clever piece of
business--now he was ready to call himself a fool for his action.

Good Heavens! what if he had gone a little further than he
intended--what if the breath had refused to return to the seeming guard
after his fall--it was Leon whom he had assailed, Leon, the very man
for whose sake, considering the fact that he was _her_ brother, he had
taken all this deadly risk.

No wonder then he hurried after the impulsive wife, whom love sent
flying through the cell door.

And Georgia, as yet failing to grasp the true sense of the situation,
and unwilling to remain behind, also followed.

As Roderic issued from the dungeon he discovered Inez bending over the
form of the bound guard, and the American held his breath with suspense
as he hurried toward them.

Ere he arrived however he was reassured.

"He lives, senor, thanks be to the Virgin--it is I, my Leon, your Inez
who has sworn to save you nor share your fate. A knife Senor Owen, so
that we may cut loose his arms. Oh! blessed moment that I behold you
alive!"

Thus alternately addressing Roderic and anon her husband, Inez pillowed
the head of the bound man, who seemed too amazed to speak.

When however Roderic had opened his pocket knife and severed the bonds
with which he had so carefully bound his victim, he was rejoiced to see
him immediately sit up.

All seemed to be going well.

Perhaps fortune had other favors in store for them--at least the clouds
were rolling away, leaving a clear sky above.

Inez had by this time managed to get her arms around the neck of her
husband, and was uttering happy expressions of endearment.

Roderic himself would not have minded copying this example, with the
being he loved so close by, but just at this juncture the happy scene
was rudely and suddenly disturbed by a gruff voice uttering in vigorous
Spanish some astonishment at what was occurring in the grim passage of
the old fortress.

Of course it was the miserable officer making his rounds, and who had
arrived just at this interesting moment.



CHAPTER XXVI.

A RACE TO THE BOAT.


It was dreadfully unfortunate that such a miserable _contretemps_
seemed bound to occur as that the officer of the guard must arrive upon
the scene just at this moment.

Roderic, upon hearing the first Spanish word in that thick voice knew
discovery was at hand, and the little cherub of good fortune had
suddenly taken a back seat.

If anything were done to prevent a general alarm from going forth, it
would have to come from him, since Leon was hardly in a position to
attempt any aggressive act, having a woman's arms about his neck.

Roderic unfortunately had his back turned in the quarter from whence
the men advanced, else he might have detected the glow of light even
before they turned the corner of the passage.

There was little use in crying over spilt milk.

What was done could not be undone.

The best he could do was to make some show of holding the enemy,
perhaps incarcerating him in the dungeon so lately Leon's abode.

Unfortunately it happened that the rules and regulations of the Spanish
army do not allow a captain of the guard to make his rounds alone and
unattended.

A non commissioned officer, perhaps a sergeant, stood at his side
holding the lantern and presenting a most astonished appearance at
witnessing so remarkable a scene.

Roderic, without losing time, made a dive at the two soldiers, having
whipped out his revolver.

"Surrender!" he exclaimed, not forgetting to put the emphatic word in
Spanish as became the character he represented.

To his disgust the fellow who held the lantern was so overwhelmed by
his alarm that his fingers lost their grip, consequently the article
of illumination fell from his grasp and as Roderic's little affair had
taken a notion to go out, owing to the abrupt movement he made, they
found themselves enveloped in darkness that was not excelled by that of
Egypt when the plague came.

It was very very unfortunate.

Just when the Yankee had begun to feel confident he could grasp the
game, and manipulate it to his liking, it was snatched out of his hands.

He knew the two men were beating a hasty retreat, for they made plenty
of noise as they stumbled along the dark passage.

"We must lose no time--Leon, look to your wife--this way
Georgia--please Heaven we will yet find safety on Cleo's yacht."

He had thrown a stout arm around her, and together they pushed forward,
while the others came close behind.

At last the moon had pity for their misfortunes, for presently the fair
mistress of the night shone forth and dissipated some of the shadows
that had hung so heavily around them.

If it had been of moment that Roderic should use caution in making his
advance toward the dungeon, surely there was now double reason for such
exactness, since their case was desperate enough without any further
accidents, such as wandering from the beaten track.

Fortunately they were two, and where his knowledge of the right passage
was in doubt Georgia came to the rescue with her woman's wit.

Thus they went on without a mistake.

It was useless to hope they could escape from the whole result of this
unfortunate discovery, for the captain of the guard and his attendant
had kept up a constant bawling as they stumbled and threshed along, so
if under the impression that an enemy chased hard upon their heels with
naked swords, ready to impale them thereon.

Of course this must ere now have placed every guard along the ramparts
on the alert, and the chances of the fugitives getting out of the
fortress in safety were scant indeed.

"Faint heart ne'er won fair lady," as Roderic well knew, and he was one
of those men who, having sallied forth to accomplish a given object,
allow no obstacle to prevent them from attaining that end, so long as a
sturdy arm can prevail.

He never magnified evils that cast their ugly shadows before, while at
the same time it was not his principle to under estimate a foe.

At length they drew near the breach in the wall, which had offered
Roderic such friendly assistance when entering the fortress of San Juan.

He had not forgotten the two sentries to whose interesting remarks he
had listened as he crouched there in the dark aperture under their feet.

He could see them plainly standing there in an expectant attitude, as
though under the belief that an attack of some sort was coming, for in
no other way could they account for the loud shouts borne to their ears.

It was a case necessitating heroic treatment.

Roderic knew that nothing could be gained by delay and that the
demoralization of the guards was what would be to their best advantage.

He crawled in advance of the others and deliberately opened fire upon
the two men.

It was his intention to wound rather than slay, but he had life and
liberty at stake, and could not be blamed if he sent in the shots thick
and fast. The way must be cleared and those fellows above held it in
their power to prevent an escape, since they controlled the only exit
with which he was acquainted.

Nor was the bombardment all one sided.

The first sentry was struck in the leg, and dropping his Mauser rifle
he went hobbling away, bellowing as lustily as a calf; but his comrade
was made of better stuff, and at once opened fire in the quarter from
whence the shots came.

This was serious enough, for one of the steel clad bullets, even while
missing Roderic might glance from some stone and do damage beyond.

So the American forgot that he had intended to simply wound, and began
firing point blank, in the hope of downing the Spaniard before he could
do any damage.

He was rejoiced then to see the man suddenly stagger back, raise his
weapon half way to his shoulder, fire a last shot; and then gun and
sentry fell on the rampart together.

The way was open!

It had been cleared at heavy cost--just how heavy Roderic did not even
suspect at the time.

"Come," he said, huskily, "over the wall and down to safety--it is our
only hope!"

And while the roll of the drum called the Spanish garrison to quarters
and soldiers hurried to doubly guard the walls, the fugitives scrambled
over the debris that half blocked the breach in the old fortress made
by the guns of Sampson's war ships.

Over these impediments Roderic assisted Georgia, nor could he fail to
notice how strangely she seemed to hesitate, trusting almost entirely
in his strong arm, which was so unlike the Georgia he had known of old.

Perhaps the realization of her dream, and the rescue of Leon from his
dungeon had brought about this singular result.

At any rate there was no time given in which to consider it.

Prompt action alone could take them through with flying colors.

The martial sounds increased--one could almost imagine the garrison
prepared to receive an attack from the whole of General Miles' invading
army.

If noise could accomplish it such an assault would be beaten back
readily enough, for the tumult already extended beyond the fortress and
was penetrating the town.

Roderic would have felt inclined to laugh but for the seriousness of
the occasion--it was like a child and a stack of cards pitched on
end--a touch of the first sends the whole pack falling; or a spark
of fire coming in contact with a train of gunpowder--so the shouting
passed from street to street and San Juan was racked with the commotion.

It was a big send off, at any rate, and those responsible for it could
possibly find some future satisfaction in knowing that San Juan had not
received such a shock since that early May morning when Sampson stirred
things up with his war terrors of the sea.

By rare good luck the fugitives managed to get down from the break in
the massive wall without any serious accident.

Several times one would stumble as a portion of the _debris_ slipped
under foot, or the tangle of the moon-flower vines tripped them up; but
these little accidents bore no result.

Once upon _terra firma_ Roderic knew what he had arranged was all very
well, but if Cleo had sent Captain Beven to the rescue, his boat might
after all be more advantageously located than the one Owen had in mind.

"To the left!" said Georgia, breathing heavily, for the task just
finished had been a severe one.

Of course that meant that Beven was waiting near by, and Roderic was
fully content to let events drift him from now on.

Hardly had they gone a dozen paces than the bluff English sailor showed
up.

Perhaps he was surprised at discovering the presence of Roderic, who
made his identity known immediately, but if so no one knew it, for
Beven was a matter of fact old fellow, who took things as they came.

The flight was hastily resumed--indeed, it would have been madness to
have halted any length of time with such signs of an aroused military
power all around them.

Beven had assumed the lead, and as he was supposed to have his
bearings, so that the shortest route to the boat could be taken Roderic
was only too glad to resign the whole affair into his hands.

It was at this critical juncture, when hope began to rise strongly in
their hearts, that a new element was injected into the game.

Jerome and Captain Shackelford had indeed made a strong guess as to
the mission of Beven and the disguised Georgia.

When they finally lost them in the neighborhood of the old fortress,
Shackelford had suggested that they visit the Spanish barracks not far
away, and talk the matter over with the colonel in charge, who was an
old friend of the sea captain.

Thus, when the alarm broke out, they surmised that Beven had something
to do with it, and accompanied by a file of soldiers, posted in hot
haste toward the spot.

It was our friends' misfortune to meet them on the way.

There were no means of hiding--indeed, the hostile squads discovered
each other at about the same moment.

What made it the more aggravating was the fact that the soldiers were
directly between them and the bay--just a little beyond could be seen
the dimpled water, flashing in the glorious light of the moon.

What was to be done?

Retreat had been rendered impossible, for Roderic was so confused by
the several turns taken that he would not have known how to reach his
boat.

To surrender meant ignominious death.

An Anglo-Saxon could not dream of submitting to such disgrace while one
door yet remained open.

That door was a gallant charge.

Beven knew his nation was not at war with Spain, but his sympathies
were wholly with those who spoke the same tongue--blood is thicker than
water, and with prophetic wisdom he like many of his race, saw signs in
the air to indicate that the time was coming when Great Britain and her
colonies would stand fast with the great Republic against the rest of
the world--_for peace_!

Therefore he was ready to step in, this gallant son of Neptune who had
seen many a hot engagement under the flag of St. George.

"We must cut through or all is lost!" cried Roderic, clinching his
teeth in anticipation of the hot time that was coming.

"Good. I'm with you!" snapped the sailor, grimly.

Leon had been armed and was eager for the fray--eager to strike a blow
because of the suffering and indignities put upon him by these Spanish
tories who loved not Porto Rico.

"Forward, then, and God defend the right!"

Roderic had hardly spoken before they were once again in motion, having
involuntarily halted at first sight of the foe.

As the Spaniards had also started forward, the two hostile bodies were
advancing toward each other with a rapidity that promised to speedily
bring them into contact.

Roderic's martial spirit was fully awakened.

He only feared for the devoted girl who clung so closely to him--on her
account he was like a lion aroused, and all thought of pity for those
against whom they must come in battle array vanished from his heart.

Beven knew the advantage that must accrue from a hot fire delivered
before the others thought of opening the engagement.

"Altogether--make it warm for the dagoes!" he said, swinging his right
arm on a level.

Then flashes of fire leaped out, and the rattle of revolvers sounded
like giant hail stones beating on an enormous kettle.

It was a perfect cyclone of lead that whipped along that narrow street
leading to the bay.

Hardly a shot was wasted.

Confusion and consternation seemed to overwhelm the Spaniards.

Brave men they may have been, but there is a limit to endurance, a time
when panic sweeps irresistibly through the mind, and each individual
feels that he is the only one remaining alive of many.

So it was no doubt here.

The hurricane of missiles had done considerable damage, but the
abruptness and violence with which the storm burst upon them was of
even more value in completing the utter demoralization of the Spaniards.

Jerome and Shackelford were the only ones left standing in the street
when the fusillade ceased, and the captain had but one leg left upon
which he could rely.

Wellington had thrown both arms into the air as a token that his teeth
were drawn and that he surrendered.

"To the boat!" said Captain Beven, knowing that a thousand Spanish
soldiers would be on the spot ere ten minutes had passed.

Although this round had been so gloriously won he knew they still had a
hard row to hoe ere success could be assured.

Still, when were brave hearts of the Saxon race dismayed by even
overwhelming odds--the record of many a fierce battle fought on
European, Asian, African and American fields bears testimony of their
dauntless grit.

Jerome's attitude would have been ludicrous at any other time--he
seemed desirous of raising his arms to their highest possible level.

"You have won--you deserve success--I have had enough--count me out,
and good luck go with the whole of you!" was what he bawled as they
passed him by.

The tiger's claws had been trimmed.

Shackelford was not so magnanimous--he had a game leg that would
trouble him no doubt for the rest of his life, and his benediction was
in the shape of some hot blasphemy that doubtless eased his soul more
or less.

It was a strange parting from the villain of the play--but then Jerome
was after all only an adventurer whose maxim it was to sip honey from
the beautiful flowers, and leave dangerous briars alone.



CHAPTER XXVII.

WHEN THE SPANISH FLAG LEFT PORTO RICO FOREVER.


Another short run would take them to the water's edge where a boat
awaited, and sturdy English muscles were eager to row them to safety.

Captain Beven had taken the precaution to make Spaniards out of his men
and himself, in the expectation that such a conceit might avail to save
Cleo future trouble; for such an event as this could easily be made the
foundation of an international dispute, and the Spanish government find
just cause to demand damages from John Bull.

Down the _calle_ they went, in the midst of shouts and execrations from
a myriad of heads that protruded from the windows on either side.

That the owners neither knew what was in the wind nor cared a _peseta_
was a foregone conclusion; but they could not resist giving tongue
after the manner of their kind and according to the stripe of their
belief.

It was a hot finish.

Roderic did not breathe easily until they reached the boat.

Then he began to believe there was a strong chance for boarding the
yacht.

It would not be a walk over, for pursuit had been inaugurated, and the
shouts of the angry soldiery rang down the narrow street.

The embarkation was speedily accomplished--indeed, almost like magic
they found themselves in the boat, the sailors sprang after, oars were
unshipped and the shore left behind.

What a pæan of thanksgiving seemed to arise in Owen's heart when he saw
the long prayed for consummation of their hopes accomplished--as the
shore receded, each stroke of the oars appeared like a measure in the
glad anthem that swelled upward from his very soul.

For success meant to him more than life--he had fought _for love_, and
Paradise opened wide her doors.

Then he cast an anxious look above--oh, pale moon, sailing so serenely
athwart the heavens, show yet again your sympathy and gentle mercy by
veiling that bright face behind some friendly cloud--it were worth a
king's ransom to have this occur, but it was vouchsafed them without
money and without price.

The moon dipped out of sight behind a black, ragged mass of clouds, and
the bay of San Juan was for the time being wrapped in semi-gloom. Even
Providence seemed on their side.

When the Spanish soldiers reached the water's edge they fired at
random, but none of the missiles came anywhere near them in the boat.

Faster rowed the British tars, knowing full well that boats must
already have put out in pursuit, and delay meant trouble.

Roderic cast many an anxious glance up toward that section of the
heavens where moon and cloud were having a royal warfare, and he was
delighted to discover that the former would evidently be discounted in
the battle--at least the reign of the cloud would last until they had
reached the Dreadnaught and were sheltered by her bulk from searching
eyes.

So it happened.

One and all had gained her deck and the boat was hauled up to the
davits ere the face of fair Luna peeped inquisitively forth.

Looking toward the shore they saw a dozen boats, all occupied by
Spanish soldiers in pursuit of a little sailboat or sloop that, taking
advantage of the night wind was endeavoring to slip out of the harbor,
being possibly a smuggler engaged in defying the severe duties placed
upon all imports by Spanish laws.

Fortune seemed never to tire of aiding their cause--it was one chance
in a thousand that this smuggler should start just at such a moment,
and divert the attention of the enraged Spaniards.

Perhaps, however, a guilty conscience had something to do with the
matter, for those on board the _contrabandista_ boat must have believed
the tremendous row ashore had to do with their presence in the bay, and
spreading their white wings they had flown seaward.

Several volleys were fired after them by the soldiers, and there came a
deep boom or two later announcing that the fort commanding the entrance
to the bay had taken a few chances at the escaping boat; but the moon
had again plunged behind the clouds, and besides, those on board the
sloop knew every foot of the offing so that the way to escape was open.

But Roderic, even though the yacht was in motion, and there was more or
less danger of a bombardment from the forts, had lost all interest in
the result.

He was hovering over the berth where they had laid Georgia, for upon
reaching the deck the girl had fainted in his arms--she had been
wounded, perhaps by the glancing bullet that came from the guard's
Mauser when he took his last shot.

All were dismayed to discover it, and Roderic felt a dumb anguish
creeping over his heart as he awaited the doctor's report.

It was a serious wound, with the chances against her surviving in such
a warm climate.

The truth almost paralyzed poor Roderic--for this had he labored, that
Leon should be saved and his sister yield up her bright young life?

Heaven alone knows what he suffered during the weary hours of suspense.

When the dread summons came and he knew he had lost her, the awful
nature of the blow almost crushed him.

For once in his life he felt like cursing the Providence that rules
over all.

Georgia passed away with her arm about his neck, her head pillowed on
his breast, and her last whispered words were:

"How I love you, my Roderic--do not quite forget the poor daughter of
Porto Rico!"

As if he could forget--so long as life remained her image must always
be enshrined in his heart.

Perhaps it was just as well for his future happiness--love like
Georgia's, so hot and inflammable, does not always bring that peace and
content of mind which most men who speak the English tongue desire as
their portion--it would mean an iceberg, a volcano--cold one hour and
scorching the next.

Yes, perhaps Providence ordered it for the best.

And Georgia who seemed gifted with unusually clear vision, Georgia
must have realized this, for had she not placed Cleo's hand in his, and
solemnly declared that it was her dying wish he should in due time take
this fair blue-eyed cousin for his own.

At first in the keen anguish of his grief Roderic scarcely gave this a
second thought, but later on it loomed up before his vision as he saw
how Cleo avoided him and how she blushed furiously whenever he glanced
at her.

Thus he knew an explanation was absolutely necessary, and not being the
man to avoid duty he had a long interview with his cousin.

It was arranged that Roderic should go away, after poor Georgia had
been buried near Ponce, (where Leon decided should be the final resting
place of his devoted sister,) and not see Cleo again for six months--if
at the end of that time he could come to her and honestly confess a
positive growth of the love he had always entertained for her, she
would consent to become his wife.

That was all.

They had not been interfered with in leaving San Juan harbor, and a
safe landing was made on the southern shore of Porto Rico where the
stars and stripes already floated over the land that fate intended
should be one of the fairest gems upon Columbia's diadem.

After the simple ceremony that marked the funeral of the beautiful
girl, Roderic thought life was a blank to him.

He joined one of the armies of occupation and saw some hot service as
the boys in blue advanced across the island toward San Juan, always
driving the Spaniards before, yet each day finding the task more
difficult.

Utterly reckless in his present state of mind, Roderic rushed into the
jaws of death once too often--if his mad desire was to follow his poor
Georgia across the borders of eternity he came very near accomplishing
it one day when, with a few chosen spirits he cleared a rocky eminence
of Spanish bushwhackers lying in wait for the Yankee advance guard.

The field doctor actually gave him up for lost, but he was carried
back to the town of Ponce in an old _volante_ found at a farmer's,
relic of days long gone by, and not the most comfortable vehicle of
transportation in the world for a pain-racked hero, but infinitely
better than nothing.

Here, in the hospital they found that he had one chance in a dozen if
carefully nursed, and behold, who should appear at the side of his cot
but Cleo, the girl he had believed a thousand miles away on pleasure
bent; yes Cleo, who, finding there was need of nurses to look after the
sick and wounded heroes among the Regulars and Volunteers, "her own
boys" as she called them, had quickly chosen to let the voyage wait and
devote herself to the ministration of angelic duties.

How they worshiped her, those wounded and fever stricken fellows to
whom her presence brought such comfort as she wrote letters, read
cheering words and waited upon them.

Many a heart asked Heaven's choicest blessings to follow her.

And Cleo had her reward when she found Roderic on a cot of pain.

Hers was the blessed hand that sustained him, hers the cheery face that
bending above gave him new desire to live.

Of course he survived, else had this over true tale never been written;
but it was a hard struggle, and the good army surgeon solemnly assured
Roderic he had positively been a dead man only for the unremitting and
gentle care of his sweet nurse.

It was so ordered by Divine Providence.

Roderic found out the truth--found that he did really and sincerely
love this brave girl from Virginia, not with the tempestuous affection
such as he had felt for Georgia,--no woman on earth could ever again
arouse such a passion within his heart, but with a steadfast zeal that
must grow with the passage of time until it became the sum and total of
his existence.

By the time Roderic was well enough to be moved San Juan had come into
the hands of the Americans, a protocol having been signed anticipating
peace between the two nations, now at war for the first time in their
history.

Porto Rico was a part of the United States--the days of Spain's
dominion had passed and would return no more.

It was necessary that Roderic be moved north, for recovery would be
more rapid in a cooler, bracing atmosphere.

Cleo's beautiful steam yacht still lay in the harbor awaiting her
pleasure.

No one may ever know who suggested the thing, but that mattered little,
since such a union was a foregone conclusion; but one day a little
ceremony was performed in Roderic's room at the hotel, and Cleo changed
her name--Miss Fairfax of Virginia was no more--enter Mrs. Roderic Owen.

Thus Roderic brushed all scruples aside--as the husband of the owner of
the yacht he could sail in her forever without arousing comment.

Weak as he was he and Cleo drove to the grave of his lost love and
mingled their tears with the beautiful flowers they spread upon it.

No, Roderic could never forget her--he would be less than a man to
dream of trying, and no doubt once in a while a yearning would arise in
his heart that could not be kept down, for in imagination he could feel
her arms about his neck, her passionate kisses upon his lips.

But that will come and go as a vague dream.

His wife is the sweetest and noblest woman in all the wide world, her
devotion to him is the envy of all his bachelor friends and Roderic
declares himself the happiest benedict in existence.

To Cleo the memory of Georgia is sacred, and she often brings up the
subject herself, being singularly free from jealousy.

Roderic met Julio in Ponce at the time he was saying good-bye to Leon
and his wife; the ex-_toreador_ and beau of San Juan was thinking of
migrating to Spain, since he could not hope to win many fresh laurels
in a land where the stars and stripes waved, and where men had a stern
code of morals for such sad flirts as he.

Of General Porfidio, Roderic had seen quite considerable while in
the hospital, and the old warrior will always have a warm place in
Roderic's heart; nor can he ever forget that awful duel with swords in
the East India bungalow of Rathmines road, Dublin.

As for Jerome, doubtless he is working the European capitals--perhaps
should he meet one Joel Darby on his rounds, the latter might kindly
give him points concerning the combination with which he broke the bank
at Monte Carlo.


THE END.


       *       *       *       *       *


TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES


Punctuation has been standardized.

Some alternate spellings have been retained.

A Table of Contents has been added.

Character "Roderic" name had variant spelling "Roderick" on 10 pages.
Corrected to "Roderic" for consistency with other 450 occurrences.

Character "Beven" name had variant spelling "Bevens" on 8 pages.
Corrected to "Beven" for consistency with other 53 occurrences.

p. 15: "debonnair" changed to "debonair" (his debonair manner)

p. 33: "wont" changed to "won't" (You won't join me then?)

p. 68: "chapparal" changed to "chaparral" (than from a chaparral)

p. 92: "openations" changed to "operations" (start operations upon)

p. 93: "glimse" changed to "glimpse" (a glimpse of a flaring candle)

p. 122: "predeliction" changed to "predilection" (predilection for
having)

p. 145: "bete noir" changed to "bete noire" (greatest bete noire was)

p. 155: "tempation" changed to "temptation" (resist the temptation)

p. 171: "lesat" changed to "least" (to say the least)

p. 175: "byegone" changed to "bygone" (relics of bygone days)

p. 184: "byeways" changed to "byways" (the streets and byways)

p. 185: "in" changed to "to" (induced to enter the trap)

p. 189: "diableric" changed to "diablerie" (diablerie of his appearance)

p. 195: "succumed" changed to "succumbed" (succumbed to the charm)

p. 217: "semed" changed to "seemed" (at the moment seemed deeply
engrossed)

p. 235: "posibility" changed to "possibility" (bounds of human
possibility)

p. 245: "ecstacy" changed to "ecstasy" (ecstasy and keen pain)

p. 246: "apperture" changed to "aperture" (a gaping aperture)

p. 251: Finished incomplete word "dungeon" (reach the closed dungeon)

p. 261: "resuced" changed to "rescued" (than be rescued by you)

p. 280: "irrisistibly" changed to "irresistibly" (sweeps irresistibly)

p. 280: "fusilade" changed to "fusillade" (when the fusillade ceased)

p. 287: "Her's" changed to "Hers" (Hers was the blessed hand)

p. 287: "her's" changed to "hers" (hers the cheery face)





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