A look of triumph came into Uncle Henry’s eyes. “There’s your big chance!” he shouted to Lopez. “Shoot him quick!”
But Pell said calmly: “I paid twenty thousand dollars for an option on the place.”
“Yes, but you didn’t give me the money!” Uncle Henry insisted.
“I was going to,” the other replied, not even casting a glance over his shoulder.
Old man Smith turned to Lopez. “Oh! You didn’t shoot quick enough! I got it now! Ask him why he wants the place! Maybe he’ll tell another one!” And he tittered with glee.
Lopez put the question to Pell.
“I—I—” the latter stammered; but could get no farther.
Uncle Henry was gleeful now. “Get ready!” he yelled to Lopez. “He’s going to do it! Keep your hand on your gun!”
“I thought,” Pell brought out reluctantly, “I thought there might be—oil on it.”
Lopez was dumbfounded. This was far more interesting than even he had calculated.
“Oil?” he said.
Pell looked down. “But I think, under the circumstances, I shall not take up my option.” The paper was in his hand, and Lopez, seeing it, reached as if to take it, when Pell handed the document to him. “In which case,” Pell informed the bandit, “the place would belong to him,” shrugging a shoulder toward Uncle Henry.
“What’s that?” the latter asked.
“—making him a very rich man indeed,” Pell added, significantly.
Aghast at the turn affairs had taken, Uncle Henry could scarcely speak. “Well, for the love o’ Mike!” he managed to say.
The bandit now turned full upon Uncle Henry, who was still concealed in the shadow of the alcove. “Ah! so you would have all ze money!”
“No, I wouldn’t!” Uncle Henry protested. “I—” He quickly put his hand to his mouth, stopping it like a child caught in a lie. “I mean—yes, I wouldn’t! Only we ain’t found the oil yet. And personally, I don’t believe there’s any here in the first place!” Realizing what he had said, he caught himself again. “I mean, it may be here, but—Don’t shoot yet! I’ll get it in a minute!” he begged. He was agitated to the breaking point.
Hardy stepped forward, “Wait. I’ve a suggestion to offer,” he said.
“Yes?” Lopez uttered the word as though he had grave doubts.
“You’re after money,” the tall, lank neighbor said. “I’ll tell you how we can make some—make a lot.”
“Well?” said Lopez, still far from convinced, and taking things easily.
Hardy spoke more rapidly. “If the mortgage I hold on this property isn’t paid by eight o’clock to-night, it becomes mine. Keep that paper here until eight o’clock, and I’ll give you ten thousand dollars!” He watched the effect of his words on the Mexican.
Pell spoke before the bandit. “Why, damn you—” he began, to Hardy.
But the latter paid no attention to his insult. He faced Lopez, as though he were the only person in the room. “What do you say, is it a go?”