“Is he dead?” someone asked in Spanish.
“No. His eyes were open as we brought him in,” answered a second voice guardedly.
They stood beside the bed and looked down at their prisoner. His eyes were getting accustomed to the darkness. He saw that one of the men was Pablo Menendez. The other, an older Mexican with short whiskers, was unknown to him.
“He fought like a devil from hell. Roderigo’s arm is broken. Not one of us but is marked,” said the older man admiringly.
“My head is ringing yet, Sebastian,” agreed Pablo. “Dios, how he slammed poor Jose down. The blood poured from his nose and mouth. Never yet have I seen a man fight so fierce and so hard as this Americano. He may be the devil himself, but his claws are clipped now. And here he lies till he does as we want, or——” The young Mexican did not finish his sentence, but the gleam in his eyes was significant.
Pablo stooped till his eyes were close to those of the bound man. “Senor, shall I take the gag from your mouth? Will you swear not to cry out and not to make any noise?”
“So, but if you do the road to Paradise will be short and swift,” continued Menendez. “Before your shout has died away you will be dead. Sabe, Senor?”
He unknotted the towel at the back of his prisoner’s head and drew it from Dick’s mouth. Gordon expanded his lungs in a deep breath before he spoke coolly to his gaoler.
“Thank you, Menendez. You needn’t keep your fist on that gat. I’ve no intention of committing suicide until after I see you hanged.”
“Which will be never, Senor Gordon,” replied Pablo rapidly in Spanish. “You will never leave here alive except on terms laid down by us.”
“Interesting if true—but not true, I think,” commented Dick pleasantly. “You have made a mistake, my friends, and you will have to pay for it.”
“If we have made a mistake it can yet be remedied, Senor” retorted Pablo quietly. “We have but to make an end of you and behold! all is well again.”
“Afraid not, my enthusiastic young friend. Too many in the secret. Someone will squeal, and the rest of you—particularly you two ringleaders—will be hanged by the neck. It takes only ordinary intelligence to know that. Therefore I am quite safe, even though I have a confounded headache and a rising fever.” Gordon added with cheerful solicitude: “I do hope I’m not going to get sick on your hands. It’s rather a habit of mine, you know. But, really, you can’t blame me this time.”
A danger signal flared in the eyes of the young Mexican. “Better not, Senor. You will here have no young and charming nurse to wait upon you.”
“Meaning Mrs. Corbett?” asked the prisoner, smiling up impudently.
“Whose heart your soft words can steal away from him to whom it belongs,” continued Pablo furiously.