Hooper ejaculated something.
“And more, he is all day and all night with this Sanborn.”
Hooper swore fluently in English.
“Look, Ramon!” he ordered, vehemently. “It is necessary to finish this Sanborn at once, without delay.”
“It must not go over a single day.”
“Haste makes risk, senor.”
“The risk must be run.”
“Bueno, senor. And also this Artie?”
“No! no! no!” hastened Hooper. “Guard him as your life! But send a trusty man for him to-morrow with the buckboard. He comes to see me, in answer to my invitation.”
“And if he will not come, senor?” inquired Ramon’s quiet voice.
“Why should he not come?”
“He has been much with Sanborn.”
“It’s necessary that he come,” replied Hooper, emphasizing each word.
“Who is to be on guard?”
“I will send him at once. Do me the kindness to watch for a moment until I send him. Here is the key; give it to him. It shall be but a moment.”
“Bueno, senor,” replied Ramon.
He leaned against the corner of the house. I could see the half of his figure against the sky and the dim white of the walls.
The night was very still, as always at this ranch. There was not even a breeze to create a rustle in the leaves. I was obliged to hold rigidly motionless, almost to hush my breathing, while the figure bulked large against the whitewashed wall. But my eyes, wide to the dimness, took in every detail of my surroundings. Near me stood a water barrel. If I could get a spring from that water barrel I could catch one of the heavy projecting beams of the roof.
After an apparently interminable interval the sound of footsteps became audible, and a moment later Ramon moved to meet his relief. I seized the opportunity of their conversation and ascended to the roof. It proved to be easy, although the dried-out old beam to which for a moment I swung creaked outrageously. Probably it sounded louder to me than the actual fact. I took off my boots and moved cautiously to where I could look down into the court. Ramon and his companion were still talking under the verandah, so I could not see them; but I waited until I heard one of them move away. Then I went to seat myself on the low parapet and think things over.
The man below me had the key to the girl’s room. If I could get the key I could accomplish the first step of my plan—indeed the only step I had determined upon. The exact method of getting the key would have to develop. In the meantime, I gave passing wonder to the fact, as developed by the conversation between Hooper and Ramon, that Brower was not at the ranch and had not been heard of at the ranch. Where had Tiger dumped him, and where now was he lying? I keenly regretted the loss of a possible ally; and, much to my astonishment, I found within myself a little regret for the man himself.