“Don’t talk nonsense, Juan. I want to know how he came to tell Pedro that he would whip him.”
“He came up to the piazza when he had broken the heart of that other devil, the man-killer, and Pedro was sitting there. Then Pedro told him that he was the one who had shot at him, but he only laughed. He always laughs, this fiend. He knew it already, just as he knows everything. Then it was he said he had saved the boy to whip him.”
“And that is all?”
“Por Dios—all” shrugged the lad.
“Are there others beside you that believe this nonsense about the American being in league with evil?”
“It is not nonsense, senorita, begging your pardon,” protested Juan earnestly. “And Ferdinand and Pablo and Sebastian, they all believe it.”
Valencia knew this complicated the situation. These simple peons would do, under the impulsion of blind bigotry, what they would hesitate to do otherwise. Let them think him a devil, and they would stick at nothing to remove him.
Her first thought was that she must keep informed of the movements of her people. Otherwise she would not be able to frustrate them.
“Juan, if this man is really what you think, he will work magic to destroy those who oppose him. It will not be safe for any of my people to set themselves against him. I know a better way to attack him. I want to talk with Pablo and Sebastian. You must work with me. If they try to do anything, let me know at once; otherwise they will be in great danger. Do you understand?”
“And will you let me know, quietly, without telling them?”
“That is good. Now, I know my Juan trusts and loves his mistress. You have done well. Go, now.”
From the point of view of her people the girl knew it was all settled. If the stranger whipped Pedro, the boy would kill him unless he used magic to prevent it. If he did use it, they must contrive to nullify his magic. There was, too, Don Manuel, who would surely strike soon, and however the encounter might terminate, it was a thing to dread miserably.
But, though her misery was acute, she was of a temperament too hopeful and impulsive to give up to despair so long as action was possible. While she did not yet know what she could do, she was not one to sit idle while events hurried to a crisis.
Meantime she had her majordomo order a horse saddled for her to ride over to Corbett’s for the mail.
MR. AINSA DELIVERS A MESSAGE
Back to Davis, who had stopped to tighten his saddle-girth, came Dick Gordon’s rather uncertain tenor in rollicking song:
“Bloomin’ idol made o’
Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd—
Plucky lot she cared for idols when I
Kissed ’er where she stud!”