“Here?” said Rafaela. “Why, our door has been locked, as you see.”
Before Don Fernandez could retort, the report of distant rifle fire came to the ears of all in the room, followed by a growing fusillade as the sentries on the northern rim of the valley fell back before attack.
The Don whirled around.
“Hark,” said he, and added with conviction: “The government troops are attacking. And they sent an assassin ahead of them. Well, he has been foiled. And they will be foiled, too.”
And without more ado he darted from the room, Pancho and Pedro obediently following at his heels.
THE FAIR TRAITRESS
Rafaela leaped up and lifted her chair, permitting Jack to emerge from his unique hiding place. He was overcome with gratitude at the thought of what she had done for him, and hesitated to speak.
“Speak,” she said, frowning, and stamped her foot. “Tell me, is this true?”
“What do you mean?” asked Jack in surprise.
“That you are an assassin sent by that horrible President Obregon?”
Jack was hurt, and showed his feelings.
“I told you the truth,” he said.
“Oh, I want to believe you,” cried the girl, twisting her hands. “But father was so positive.”
Donna Ana sidled close and whispered:
“Shall I call your father? It is not too late.”
That decided Rafaela.
“Nonsense,” she declared, sharply, glaring at her duenna. “Cannot you see this young man is telling the truth? I,” she declared proudly, “can tell a truthful person from a liar at once. And I declare to you this young man is truthful.”
Jack smothered a smile. The girl was as changeable as a weathercock. And calling him “young man” in that lofty tone, too. Why, she was little more than a youngster herself—couldn’t be as old as he.
“Come now,” said the girl suddenly, seizing him by the hand. “We have no time to lose. Now is your opportunity.”
“Yes, yes”—impatiently. “While the government troops attack, you must release your father and escape.”
Jack was amazed. Would this surprising girl never cease astonishing him?
“Do you mean you will help me—actually?”
“Have I not said so?” asked Rafaela impatiently. “And it seems to me I have already been of some trifling aid—actually?”
The sarcasm was not lost on Jack. But he ignored it. Finding he still held the hand she had extended when urging him to follow her, he squeezed it.
“You’re—you’re fine,” he said, enthusiastically.
Rafaela tossed her head, smiling in superior fashion.
“You are not a very accomplished courtier, Mr. Jack Hampton,” she said, withdrawing her hand.
Jack would have protested. He was rapidly falling under the spell of her charm. But she halted him with an imperious gesture.