“You’ve about earned the right to dictate,” Robinson said gruffly.
“For everybody’s sake!” Bobby echoed. “You’re right, Carlos. Maria must be considered now. She shall have what was taken from her father, with interest. I know Katherine will agree.”
“I doubt if Maria will want it or take it,” Paredes said simply. “She has plenty of her own. It isn’t fair to think it was greed that urged her. You must understand that it was a bigger impulse than greed. It was a thing of which we of Spanish blood are rather proud—a desire for justice, for something that has no softer name than revenge.”
Suddenly Rawlins stooped and took the Panamanian’s hand.
“Say! We’ve been giving you the raw end of a lot of snap judgments. We’ve never got acquainted until to-night.”
“Glad to meet you, too,” Robinson grinned.
Rawlins patted the Panamanian’s shoulder.
“At that, you’d make a first-class detective.”
“I disagree with you thoroughly. I have no equipment beyond my eyes and my common sense.”
He yawned again. He arranged the card table in front of the fire. He got the cards and piled them in neat packs on the green cloth. He placed a box of cigarettes convenient to his right hand. He smoked.
“I’m very sleepy, but I’ve been so stupid over this solitaire since I’ve been at the Cedars that I must solve it in the interest of my self-respect before I go to bed.”
Bobby went to him impulsively.
“I’m ashamed, Carlos. I don’t know what to say. How can I say anything? How can I begin to thank you?”
“If you ever tell me I saved your life,” Paredes yawned, “I shall have to disappear because then you’d have a claim on me.”
Katherine touched his hand. There were tears in her eyes. It wasn’t necessary for her to speak. Paredes indicated two chairs.
“If you aren’t too tired, sit here and help me for a while. Perhaps between us we’ll get somewhere. I wonder why I have been so stupid with the thing.”
After a time, as he manipulated the cards, he laughed lightly.
“The same thing—the thing I’ve been scolding you all for. With a perfectly simple play staring me in the face I nearly made the mistake of choosing a difficult one. That would have got me in trouble while the simple one gives me the game. Why are people like that?”