“Then, Swift and two or three others held up a boy from the mines to-day, and I happened to see it. I interfered; fact is, I killed a couple of them. So they arrested both of us, went through a farce trial, and were trying to hurry me into Kingdom Come before Bill Wilson got a rescue party together, when you come along. That’s all. They let the kid go—which was a good thing. I don’t think they’ll be down here after me. In fact, I’ve been thinking maybe I’d go back, in a day or so, and have it out with them.”
“Yes, that’s about what you’d be thinking, all right,” retorted Dade unemotionally. “Sounds perfectly natural.” The tone of him, being unsympathetic, precipitated an argument which flung crisp English sentences back and forth across the cabin. Manuel, when the words grew strange and took on a harsh tang which to his ear meant anger, diplomatically sought his blankets and merged into the shadow of the corner farthest from the fire and nearest the door. The senors were pleased to disagree; if they fought, he had but to dodge out into the night and neutrality. The duties of hospitality weighed hard upon Manuel during that half-hour or so.
Dade’s cigarette stub, flung violently into the heart of the fire glow, seemed to Manuel a crucial point in the quarrel; he slipped back the blankets, ready to retreat at the first lunge of open warfare. He breathed relief, however, when Dade got up and stretched his arms to the dried tules overhead, and laughed a lazy surrender of the argument, if not of his opinion upon the subject.
“You’re surely the most ambitious trouble-hunter I ever saw,” he said, returning to his habitual humorous drawl, with the twinkle in his eyes that went with it. “Just the same, we’ll not go back to the mine just yet. Till the dust settles, we’re both better off down here with Don Andres Picardo. I don’t want to be hung for the company I keep. Besides—”
“I’ll bet ten ounces there’s a senorita,” hazarded. Jack maliciously. “You’re like Bill Wilson; but you can preach caution till your jaws ache; you can’t fool me into believing you’re afraid to go back to the mine. Is there a senorita?”
“You shut up and go to sleep,” snapped Dade, and afterward would not speak at all.
Manuel, in the shadow, frowned over the only words he understood—Don Andres Picardo and senorita. The senors were agreeable companions, and they were his guests. But they were gringos, after all. And if they should presume to lift desireful eyes to the little Senorita Teresa—Teresita, they called her fondly who knew her—Manuel’s mustache lifted suddenly at one side at the bare possibility.