But the gringo seemed incurious, merely gazing at the pictures on the walls; a flaming print of the Madonna, one of the Christ, a cheap photograph of Juan and his senora taken on their wedding day, an abalone shell on which was painted something resembling a horse and rider—
“The gold is hidden in the house of Pedro Salazar, of Sonora. It is buried in the earth beneath his bed.”
Jose Vaca had spoken, but Waring was watching Ramon’s eyes.
“All right, hombre. Muchas gracias.”
“And now you will let me go?” queried Vaca.
“I haven’t said so.” Waring’s tone was pleasant, almost indifferent.
Ramon’s face was troubled. Of what use was it to try and deceive the gringo? But Waring was smiling. Did he, then, believe such an obvious lie?
“Bueno!” Waring exclaimed. “That lets you out. Now, what about you, Ramon?”
“My uncle has spoken,” said Ramon. “I have nothing to say.”
“Then you will ride with me to Sonora.”
“As you say, senor.”
“All right. Don’t sit up all night praying. That won’t do any good. Get some sleep. And you, too, Juan.” And Waring turned quickly to Armigo. “Sleep all you can. You’ll feel better in the morning.”
Waring turned and strode out. In the corral he spread his blankets. With his head on the saddle, he lay gazing up at the stars.
The horses, with the exception of Waring’s buckskin Dex, huddled in one corner of the corral. That strange shape stretched quietly on the ground was new to them.
For a long time the horse Dex stood with head lowered and one hip sagged as he rested. Just before Waring slept he felt a gentle nosing of his blankets. The big horse sniffed curiously.
“Strange blankets, eh?” queried Waring drowsily. “But it’s the same old partner, Dex.”
The horse walked slowly away, nosing along the fence. Waring knew that he was well sentineled. The big buckskin would resent the approach of a stranger by snorting. Waring turned on his side and slept. His day’s work was done.
Waring was up with the first faint streak of dawn. He threw hay to the horses and strode briskly to the adobe. Juan Armigo was bending over the kitchen stove. Waring nodded to him and stepped to the next room. The Mexicans were asleep; young Ramon lying face down beneath the crucifix on the wall, where he had knelt in prayer most of the night.
Waring drew back quietly.
“Let them sleep,” he told Juan in the kitchen.
After frijoles and coffee, the gunman rose and gestured to Juan to follow him.
Out near the corral, Waring turned suddenly. “You say that young Ramon is straight?”
“Si, senor. He is a good boy.”
“Well, he’s in dam’ bad company. How about Vaca?”