“So I understood. He was giving fair warning.”
“But Manuel won’t be warned.”
“When he hears of it he’ll be more anxious than ever to fight.”
Valencia nodded. “A spur to a willing horse.”
“If he knew he would be killed it would make no difference to him. He is quite fearless.”
“But he is a very good shot, too. You do not need to be alarmed for him.”
“Oh, no! Not at all,” the girl answered scornfully. “He is only my distant cousin, anyhow—and my lover.”
“It is hard, Val. Perhaps I might pick a quarrel with this American and——”
She caught him up sharply, but he forgave it when he saw her white misery.
“Don’t you dare think of it, Ramon Ainsa. One would think nobody in the valley had any business except fighting with this man. What has he done to you? Or to these others? You are very brave, all of you, when you know you are a hundred to one. I suppose you, too, will want to shoot him from ambush?”
This bit of feminine injustice hurt the young man, but he only said quietly:
“No; I don’t think I would do that.”
Impulsively she put out her hand.
“Forgive me, Ramon. I don’t mean that, of course, but I’m nearly beside myself. Why must all this bad will and bloodshed come into our happy little valley? If we must have trouble why can’t we let the law settle it? I thought you were my friends—you and Manuel and my people—but between you I am going to be made unhappy for life.”
She broke down suddenly and began to sob. The lad slipped to the ground and went quickly to her, putting an arm around her waist across the saddle.
“Don’t cry, Val. We all love you—of course we do. How can we help it? It will all come right yet. Don’t cry, nina”
“How can it come right, with all of you working to make things wrong?” she sobbed.
“Perhaps the stranger will go away.”
“He won’t. He is a man, and he won’t let you drive him out.”
“We’ll find some way, Val, to save Manuel for you.”
“But it isn’t only Manuel. I don’t want any of you hurt—you or anybody—not even this Mr. Gordon. Oh, Ramon, help me to stop this wicked business.”
“If you can tell me how.”
She dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief, as a sign that her weakness was past.
“We must find a way. Do you know, my own people are in a dangerous mood? They think this man’s some kind of a demon. I shall talk to them to-night. And you must send Manuel to me. Perhaps he may listen to me.”
Ainsa agreed, though he felt sure that even she could not induce his friend to withdraw from a position which he felt his honor called him to take.
Nor did the mistress of the valley find it easy to lead her tenants to her way of thinking. They were respectful, outwardly acquiescent, but the girl saw, with a sinking heart, that they remained of their own opinion. Whether he were man or devil, they were determined to make an end of Gordon’s intrusion.