In spite of the unremitting work, of the daily cannonade, of illness and hardship, life on the Rock had not been unpleasant to the O'Hallorans.
From its position in the hollow, it was sheltered from the fire of all the shore batteries whose long distance shots searched all the lower parts of the Rock while the resources of the establishment enabled the O'Hallorans to afford an open-handed hospitality that would have been wholly beyond the means of others.
Everything goes on just the same only, I suppose, in peace time we should make excursions, sometimes, into Spain. The only difference I can make out is that I am able to be more useful to you, now, with the garden and poultry, than I could have been if there had been no siege." There was indeed no lack of society. The O'Hallorans' was perhaps the most popular house on the Rock.
Great activity was manifested, by the Spaniards, on the day following the failure of their bombardment; and large numbers of men were employed in bringing up fresh ammunition to their batteries. Many of the men-of-war also got under way. Major Harcourt, Doctor Burke, and two or three other officers stood watching the movements from the O'Hallorans' terrace.
Amy Harcourt was the daughter of one of the O'Hallorans' most intimate friends: and the girl, who was about fifteen years old, was often at their house with her mother. She had suffered much from the heat, early in June; and her parents had, at a time when the Spanish cruisers had somewhat relaxed their vigilance, sent her across to Tangiers in one of the traders. She was in the charge of Mrs.
Although many of the officers' wives had, at one time or another, taken advantage of ships sailing from the port to return home or rather, to endeavour to do so, for a considerable number of the vessels that left were captured by the Spaniards, before getting through the Straits there still remained sufficient for agreeable society; and the O'Hallorans' was, more than any other house, the general meeting place.
Two of them had, like the O'Hallorans, quarters in the town itself; and the husbands of these ladies, accompanied by Captain O'Halloran and Bob, at once set out to bring the children up to the house, which was perfectly sheltered. The scene in the town was a pitiful one.
On the whole, though sorry that his mother and the O'Hallorans should have been alarmed, he was rather pleased to find that he had been right in his belief that from time to time he could hear the roaring. Maleo bird roasted the repast being made off those that were first shot was excellent; so was the acid fruit squeezed over it fruit picked by Mrs O'Halloran while the others cooked.
An hour later Mark was standing alone on the deck of the cutter, fancying he could still hear the O'Hallorans' words as he watched the hull of the steamer growing more distant, and her dense smoke trailing behind for miles. "Life is made up of meetings and partings, Mark, my lad," said the captain. "That has been a pleasant friendship, and some day we shall meet again."
Sick people were being carried out, on doors or planks; and most of the inhabitants were laden with what few articles of value they could snatch up, at the first alarm. The children were soon brought up to the O'Hallorans' and then, for a time, there was nothing to do but to listen to the roar of artillery.