“Why should I interfere? He is only a gringo. Let him die. I tell you he means harm to all of us.”
“I do not know my Pablo when he talks like this. My Pablo was always kind and good and of a soft heart. I do not love him when he is cruel.”
“It is then that you love the American,” he cried. “Did I not know it? Did I not say so?”
“You say much that is foolish, muchacho. The American is a stranger to me ... and you are Pablo. But how can I love you when your heart is full of cruelty and jealousy and revenge? Go to the Blessed Virgin and confess before the good priest your sins, amigo.”
“Amigo! Since when have I been friend to you and not lover, Juanita? I know well for how long—since this gringo with the white face crossed your trail.”
Suddenly she flung away from him. “Muy bien! You shall think as you please. Adios, my friend with the head of a donkey! Adios, icabron!”
She was gone, light as the wind, flying with swift feet down the trail to the house. Sulkily he waited for her to come out again, but the girl did not appear. He gave her a full half hour before he swung to the saddle and turned the head of his pony toward the Valdes’ hacienda. A new and poignant bitterness surged in his heart. Had this stranger, who was bringing trouble to the whole valley, come between him and little Juanita, whom he had loved since they had been children? Had he stolen her heart with his devilish wiles? The hard glitter in the black eyes of the Mexican told that he would punish him if this were true.
His younger brother Pedro took the horse from him as he rode into the ranch plaza an hour later.
“You are to go to the senorita at once and tell her how the gringo is, Pablo.” After a moment he added sullenly: “Maldito, how is the son of a thief?”
“Sick, Pedro, sick unto death. The devil, as you say, may take him yet without any aid from us,” answered Pablo Menendez brusquely.
“Why does the senorita send you every day to find out how he is? Can she not telephone? And why should she care what becomes of the traitor?” demanded Pedro angrily.
His brother shrugged. “How should I know?” He had troubles enough with the fancies of another woman without bothering about those of the senorita.
Valencia Valdes was on the porch waiting for her messenger.
“How is he, Pablo? Did you see the doctor and talk with him? What does he say?”
“Si, senorita. I saw Doctor Watson and he send you this letter. They say the American is a sick man—oh, very, very sick!”
The young woman dismissed him with a nod and hurried to her room. She read the letter from the doctor and looked out of one of the deep adobe windows into the starry night. It happened to be the same window from which she had last seen him go hobbling down the road. She rose and put out the light so that she could weep the more freely. It was hard for her to say why her heart was so heavy. To herself she denied that she cared for this jaunty debonair scoundrel. He was no doubt all she had told him on that day when she had driven him away.