“I don’t know their scoundrelly language.”
“Manga Colorada speaks Spanish. I dare say you’ll easily come to an understanding with him. As for ransom, anything that we have, of course, excepting food, arms, and ammunition. I can furnish a hundred dollars or so. Go, my dear Lieutenant; go on your noble mission. God be with you.”
“You will see that I am covered, if I have to run for it.”
“I’ll see to everything. I’ll line the wall with sharpshooters.”
“Post your men. Good-by.”
“Good-by, my dear Lieutenant.”
Coronado did post his men, and among them was Texas Smith. Into the ear of this brute, whom he placed quite apart from the other watchers, he whispered a few significant words.
“I told ye, to begin with, I didn’t want to shute at brass buttons,” growled Texas. “The army’s a big thing. I never wanted to draw a bead on that man, and I don’t want to now more ’n ever. Them army fellers hunt together. You hit one, an’ you’ve got the rest after ye; an’ four to one’s a mighty slim chance.”
“Five hundred dollars down,” was Coronado’s only reply.
After a moment of sullen reflection the desperado said, “Five hundred dollars! Wal, stranger, I’ll take yer bet.”
Coronado turned away trembling and walked to another part of the wall. His emotions were disordered and disagreeable; his heart throbbed, his head was a little light, and he felt that he was pale; he could not well bear any more excitement, and he did not want to see the deed done. Rifle in hand, he was pretending to keep watch through a fissure, when he observed Clara following the line of the wall with the obvious purpose of finding a spot whence she could see the plain. It seemed to him that he ought to stop her, and then it seemed to him that he had better not. With such a horrible drumming in his ears how could he think clearly and decide wisely?
Clara disappeared; he did not notice where she went; did not think of looking. Once he thrust his head through his crevice to watch the course of Thurstane, but drew it back again on discovering that the brave lad had not yet reached the Apaches, and after that looked no more. His whole strength seemed to be absorbed in merely listening and waiting. We must remember that, although Coronado had almost no conscience, he had nerves.
Let us see what happened on the plain through the anxious eyes of Clara.
In the time-eaten wall Clara had found a fissure through which she could watch the parley between Thurstane and the Apaches. She climbed into it from a mound of disintegrated adobes, and stood there, pale, tremulous, and breathless, her whole soul in her eyes.
Thurstane, walking his horse and making signs of amity with his cap, had by this time reached the low bank of the rivulet, and halted within four hundred yards of the savages. There had been a stir immediately on his appearance: first one warrior and then another had mounted his pony; a score of them were now prancing hither and thither. They had left their lances stuck in the earth, but they still carried their bows and quivers.