“Afterward, alma mia?”
She nodded. “I’ll ... do what you ask.”
“You will marry me?” he cried, afraid to believe that his happiness had come at last.
“Valencia, you love me?”
She trod down any doubts she might feel. Was he not the one suitable mate for her of all the men she knew?
“How can I help it. You are good. You are generous. You serve me truly.” Gently she disengaged herself and wiped her eyes with a lace kerchief. “But we must first find the American.”
“I’ll find him. Dead or alive I’ll bring him to you. Dear heart, you’ve given me the strength that moves mountains.”
A little smile fought for life upon her sad face. “You’ll not have strength unless you eat. Poor Manuel, I think you lost your breakfast. I ordered luncheon to be ready for us early. We’ll eat now.”
A remark of Manuel during luncheon gave his vis-a-vis an idea.
“Mr. Davis is most certainly thorough. I never saw a town so plastered with bills before,” he remarked.
Valencia laid down her knife and fork as she looked at him. “Let’s offer a reward for Pablo and Sebastian—say, a hundred dollars. That would bring us news of them.”
“You’re right,” he agreed. “I’ll get bills out this afternoon. Perhaps I’d better say no incriminating questions will be asked of those giving us information.”
Stirred to activity by the promise of such large rewards, not only the sheriff’s office and the police, but also private parties scoured the neighboring country for traces of the missing man or his captors. Every available horse in town was called into service for the man-hunt. Others became sleuths on foot and searched cellars and empty houses for the body of the man supposed to have been murdered. Never in its history had so much suspicion among neighbors developed in the old-town. Many who could not possibly be connected with the crime were watched jealously lest they snap up one of the rewards by stumbling upon evidence that had been overlooked.
False clews in abundance were brought to Davis and Pesquiera. Good citizens came in with theories that lacked entirely the backing of any evidence. One of these was that a flying machine had descended in the darkness and that Gordon had been carried away by a friend to avoid the payment of debts he was alleged to owe. The author of this explanation was a stout old lady of militant appearance who carried a cotton umbrella large enough to cover a family. She was extraordinarily persistent and left in great indignation to see a lawyer because Davis would not pay her the reward.
That day and the next passed with the mystery still unsolved. Valencia continued to stay at the hotel instead of opening the family town house, probably because she had brought no servants with her from the valley and did not know how long she would remain in the city. She and Manuel called upon the Underwoods to hear Kate’s story, but from it they gathered nothing new. Mrs. Underwood welcomed them with the gentle kindness that characterized her, but Kate was formal and distant.