As they were being served by Juanita the stage rolled up and disgorged its passengers. They poured into the dining-room—a mine-owner and his superintendent, a storekeeper from the village at the other end of the valley, a young woman school-teacher from the Indian reservation, a cattleman, and two Mexican sheepmen.
While the fresh horses were being hitched to the stage Pesquiera and his guest stood back a little apart from the others. Corbett brought out a sack containing mail and handed it to the driver. The passengers found again their places.
Pesquiera shook hands with Valencia. His gaze rested for a moment in her dark eyes.
“Adios, linda,” he said, in a low voice.
The color deepened in her cheeks. She understood that he was telling her how very much he was her lover now and always. “Good-bye, amigo,” she answered lightly.
Pesquiera took his place on the back seat. The whip of the driver cracked. In a cloud of white dust the stage disappeared around a bend in the road.
Valencia ordered her horse brought, and left for the ranch. Having dispatched Manuel to the scene of action, it might be supposed that she would have awaited the issue without farther activity. But on the way home she began to reflect that her cousin would not reach Santa Fe until next morning, and there was always a chance that this would be too late. As soon as she reached the ranch she called up the station where the stage connected with the train. To the operator she dictated a message to be wired to Richard Gordon. The body of it ran thus:
“Have heard that attack may be made
upon your life. Please do not
go out alone or at night at all. Answer.”
She gave urgent instructions that if necessary to reach Gordon her telegram be sent to every hotel in the city and to his lawyer, Thomas M. Fitt.
Now that she had done all she could the young woman tried to put the matter out of her mind by busying herself with the affairs of the ranch. She had a talk with a cattle buyer, after which she rode out to see the engineer who had charge of the building of the irrigation system she had installed. An answer would, she was sure, be awaiting her upon her return home.
Her anticipation was well founded. One of the housemaids told her that the operator at San Jacinto had twice tried to get her on the telephone. The mistress of the ranch stepped at once to the receiver.
“Give me San Jacinto,” she said to the operator.
As soon as she was on the wire with the operator he delivered the message he had for her. It was from Santa Fe and carried the signature of Stephen Davis:
“Gordon has been missing since last
night. I fear the worst. For
God’s sake, tell me what you know.”
Valencia leaned against the telephone receiver and steadied herself. She felt strangely faint. The wall opposite danced up and down and the floor swayed like the deck of a vessel in a heavy sea. She set her teeth hard to get a grip on herself. Presently the wave of light-headedness passed.