Swiftly she came down the steps to meet him.
“Manuel, we are too late. Mr. Gordon has gone.”
“Gone where?” he asked, his mind dazed as it moved from one puzzle to another.
“We don’t know. He was attacked night before last and carried away, whether dead or alive we have no proof.”
“One thing at a time, Valencia. How did you get here?”
“I drove across the mountains—started when I got the news from Mr. Davis that his friend had disappeared.”
“Do you mean that you drove all night—along mountain roads?” he asked, amazed.
“Of course. I had to get here.” She dismissed this as a trifle with a little gesture of her hand. “Manuel, we must find him. I believe he is alive. This is some of Pablo’s work. Down in old-town some one must know where he is. Bring him to me and I’ll make him tell what he has done with Mr. Gordon.”
Pesquiera was healthily hungry. He would have liked to sit down to a good breakfast, but he saw that his cousin was laboring under a heavy nervous tension. Cheerfully he gave up his breakfast for the present.
But when, three hours later, he returned from the old adobe Mexican quarter Manuel had nothing to report but failure. Pablo had been seen by several people, but not within the past twenty-four hours. Nor had anything been seen of Sebastian. The two men had disappeared from sight as completely as had Gordon.
Valencia, in the privacy of one of the hotel parlors, broke down and wept for the first time. Manuel tried to comfort her by taking the girl in his arms and petting her. She submitted to his embrace, burying her face in his shoulder.
“Oh, Manuel, I’m a—a murderess,” she sobbed.
“You’re a goose,” he corrected. “Haven’t you from the first tried to save this man from his own rashness? You’re not to blame in any way, Val.”
“Yes ... Yes,” she sobbed. “Pablo and Sebastian would never have dared touch him if they hadn’t known that I’d quarreled with him. It all comes back to that.”
“That’s pure nonsense. For that matter, I don’t believe he’s dead at all. We’ll find him, as gay and insolent as ever, I promise you.”
Hope was buoyant in the young man’s heart. For the first time he held his sweetheart in his arms. She clung to him, as a woman ought to her lover, palpitant, warm, and helpless. Of course they would find this pestiferous American who had caused her so much worry. And then he—Manuel—would claim his reward.
“Do you think so ... really? You’re not just saying so because ...?” Her olive cheek turned the least in the world toward him.
Manuel trod on air. He felt that he could have flown across the range on the wings of his joy.
“I feel sure of it, nina.” Daring much, his hand caressed gently the waves of heavy black hair that brushed his cheek.
Almost in a murmur she answered him. “Manuel, find him and save him. Afterward ...”