“A hundred and fifty-one!” the cautious Hardy added.
The face of Lopez was a study; but they were so excited that they did not look at him. Angela rushed to her father and clasped his arm when she heard his last raise. “That’s right, father. Don’t let him get it!”
“Don’t worry,” he reassured her, and patted her little hand, so warm on his arm. He turned to Pell. “You city fellers needn’t think you can come down here and put it all over us.”
“Nevertheless,” said Morgan Pell, “I’ll just bid a hundred and seventy-five thousand.”
“Then I’ll make it a hundred and eighty!” his antagonist stated.
Quick as a flash, “A hundred and ninety,” Pell said.
“Two hundred, by darn!” yelled Hardy, furious now.
“Two hundred and—” Pell began; when Lopez, to their amazement, rapped on the table with his gun, as though he were an auctioneer and this his gavel, “Senors!” he shouted. “It is enough!”
Everyone was dumbfounded, “Enough?” Hardy inquired, unbelieving.
“Too much!” Lopez explained.
“What’s the idea?” Pell, shrewder than before, wanted to know. His brow contracted. So there was a fly in the ointment, after all!
“Ze idea, my friend, is zis,” Lopez calmly stated. “I am not interest in pieces of paper. I do not accep’ checks. Also I am no damn fool! You sink I sink you bring back two ’ondred sousand dollar? Two ’ondred sousand soldier, mebbe! But two ’ondred sousand dollar! Pah!” and he made a gesture of disgust, and crushed the paper in his hand and let it fall on the floor under the table.
“Then what’s the idea of this auction in the first place?” Pell asked, mad through and through that they had been tricked by this Mexican fool.
Lopez leaned back on the table. “To find out if you gentlemen was rich enough to make it worth my w’ile to take you wiz me and ’old you for ransom.” His eyes half closed. He was enjoying their discomfiture. There was nothing he liked more than to spring a surprise like this.
Pell and Hardy looked at each other, real terror in their faces now.
“Ransom!” the former cried.
“It is quite to be seen zat you are,” the bandit grinned. “Zis, if I may speak so, ’as been a lucky day for me!”
Pell turned to both Hardy and Lopez, and addressed them: “Bluffing, were you?”
Lopez was quick to retort: “And was you bluffing when you bidded ze two ’ondred sousand dollars?”
Hardy was agitated. “I’m afraid we were a bit hasty,” he tried to explain things away.
This tickled Uncle Henry’s bump of humor. He chuckled, and cried, “Ho, ho! Serves you both gol darn good and right!” He seemed to go into a spasm of laughter.
Pell’s chief concern now was to get out of the mess—to get away; to have everything settled. Lopez could probably be dealt with, man to man.
“Look here,” he suggested, in a direct attack, “can’t we settle things some way?”