It was late in the day when the lieutenant awoke to find Don Ramon, Jr., ready to welcome and join in furnishing any details unknown to his mother. The commercial instincts of the young man sided with the Rangers, but the mother—thank God!—knew no such impulses and thought of nothing save the return of her husband, the father of her brood. The officer considered only duty—being an unknown quantity to him. He assured his hostess that if she would confide in them, her husband would be returned to her with all dispatch. Concealing such things as he considered advisable from both mother and son, he outlined his plans. At the appointed time and place the money should be paid over and the compact adhered to to the letter. He reserved to himself and company, however, to furnish any red light necessary.
An hour after dark, a messenger, Don Ramon, Jr., and five Rangers set out to fulfill all contracts pending and understood. The abandoned ranchita in the monte—the meeting point—had been at one time a stone house of some pretensions, where had formerly lived its builder, a wealthy, eccentric recluse. It had in previous years, however, been burned, so that now only crumbling walls remained, a gloomy, isolated, though picturesque ruin, standing in an opening several acres in extent, while trails, once in use, led to and from it.
When the party arrived within two miles of the meeting point, an hour in advance of the appointed time, a halt was called. Under the direction of the lieutenant, the son and his companion were to proceed by an old trail, forsaking the regular pathway leading from Agua Dulce to the old ranch. The Ranger squad tied their horses and followed a respectful distance behind, near enough, however, to hear in case any guards might halt them. They were carefully cautioned not even to let Don Ramon, if he were present, know that rescue from another quarter was at hand. When the two sighted the ruin they noticed a dim light within the walls. Then, without a single challenge, they dashed up to the old house, amid a clatter of hoofs, and shouts of welcome from the bandits.
The messengers were unarmed, and once inside the house were made prisoners, ironed, and ordered into a corner, where crouched Don Ramon Mora, now enfeebled by mental racking and physical abuse. The meeting of father and son will be spared the reader, yet in the young man’s heart was a hope that he dared not communicate.
The night was warm. A fire flickered in the old fireplace, and around its circle gathered nine bandits to count and gloat over the blood money of their victim, as a miser might over his bags of gold. The bottle passed freely round the circle, and with toast and taunt and jeer the counting of the money was progressing. Suddenly, and with as little warning as if they had dropped down from among the stars, five Texas Rangers sprang through windows and doors, and without a word a flood of fire frothed from the mouths of ten six-shooters,