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woman, rushing to the front apartment, to meet him, and clasping the battle-scarred wanderer in her arms.
Her cry of joy, and the name “brother," "Christopher," had reached other ears. A heart, beating more fondly than a mother's, leaped with joy at the glad news, “Christopher has returned.” There was a joyous cry, and a moment later the portières of another apartment were thrown aside, and a young and beautiful woman sprang forward to entwine her arms about his neck, and, in a voice brimming over with love, to exclaim:
“Christopher! Husband! The Holy Virgin be praised that you are once more restored to me."
Amazed at this wholly unexpected reception, the cavalier was for a moment dazed; but after an effort he gasped:
She gently drew his bearded face down to her and pressed kiss after kiss upon it.
“I–I only stopped here to learn of you from mother. I was to stay but a moment and then hasten to Panama. I—I little dreamed I would find you here!” he stammered.
“Then it is indeed a glad surprise for you,” said his mother, who stood smiling at the happy bewilderment of her son.
“A glorious surprise, indeed, mother. This is the greatest hour of my life. But how did it all come about? I can scarce believe that it is not a dream from which I will awake to find myself back in the wilderness of Florida. Come, explain, for I am all eagerness.”
The wife and mother vied with each other in ministering to his wants. They made him take the most comfortable seat, and with one on either side he listened to the explanation he had so eagerly demanded. The mother, on receiving his letter informing her of his secret marriage, made a visit to Panama to this new daughter and assured her of her love and sympathy. The old don was terribly enraged at first on learning of the secret marriage; but in a few months he became reconciled to it. A year and a half later the father died and Inez was easily persuaded to take up her residence with her husband's mother at Cuba until her husband returned. Here she had lived ever since, as happy as she well could be while his fate was unknown. At times they had given him up for dead; but when they began to mourn him as no more, a rumor reached them from that mysterious, far-off land that he still lived and would return. With an abiding trust in a kind and all-wise Providence they waited and lived in hope, reconciled to the inevitable.
When the story was finished and they had listened in part to his wild adventures, the mother, seeking an opportunity to speak with her son alone, asked:
“Where is Christoval?”
“Alas, mother, she is no more. The sea has claimed her, and I pray you to never again mention the name of that noble but unhappy girl.”
His mother understood him better than any other could, and kept his secret. Never afterward was the name of Christoval mentioned. Her life and mysterious fate was the only secret which Estevan never shared with his beloved wife. Through the long, happy years that followed, he was at times haunted by that sweet face, and often sighed in silence, or brushed a tell-tale moisture from his eye as memory recalled that last sad night at sea.
When the mother had been informed of the fate of Christoval, the wife once more came to claim her husband, and, with her arm lovingly about his neck, she whispered in his ear:
“I have still another surprise for you.”
“What greater surprise can you have than I have already enjoyed.”
“Come with me and you shall see that this one is the most happy of all.”
She led him softly through the cool, darkened
rooms, where tapestried curtains, gently rustled by the breeze, seemed to hint at sweetest slumber. At last they paused in a dainty chamber, where stood a bed hung about by the finest of curtains. With a happy smile on her face Inez advanced and parted the curtains.
“Behold your son!” ..
Before Estevan's vision there appeared the daintiest, downiest bed he had ever seen, on which was a sleeping child, three and a half years of age. For a moment Estevan, who had never before dreamed that he was a father, gazed like one entranced upon that sweet young face, and asked himself if it was reality or some pleasant dream; while the happy wife and mother smiled in her joy upon his confusion.
In the noble features and brown, curly hair, clustering about the chubby face, Estevan saw the reproduction of his own image. It was several minutes before he had recovered from the surprise sufficiently to speak or move. But soon he regained himself and clasped his wife in his arms, tears raining down his weather-beaten cheeks.
“Inez, why did you not tell me of this before?”
“The surprise was too pleasant to be revealed by others. I wanted you to make the discovery."
“This joy is too great; my cup of happiness is full to the brim.”