“Bah!” he cried.
But all the young ranchman said was, “I’m sorry. You don’t understand our ways.”
“Shut up!” Lopez was genuinely infuriated now. “Ees no use for talk wiz such fools. You make me seek! Such ideas! Not fit for ze child to ’ave! No blood, no courage! Only ze liver what are white and ze soul what are yellow.” Gilbert winced at the word. “Americans! Bah! Fishes! Zat is all! Fishes what ees poor! Bah! For you I am finish!” And he snapped his fingers again. His face was purple with rage.
He heard Gilbert murmuring only, “I’m sorry!”
“Sorry! Ees all you can say—sorry! Ze coward! Ze fool! Ze fish what are poor! Ze damn doormat for everybody to walk from!” His arms were flying in the air. “All day I ’ave try to make ze man from you! It are no use. Ees no man in you. Only ze damn fool what are sorry! Bah! All right. You will not let me make you ’appy? Bueno! Zen I shall go back and make you on’appy and serve you damn good right!” He pointed to Lucia. “You will not take ’er?”
Gilbert had stood still during this tirade. “I’ve tried to explain—” he began once more.
“Bah!” cried Lopez. “Zen I take her!”
At last the American was roused. “You take her!” he cried.
“Sure! All day I ’ave want ’er. Ees ze first time in my life when I want woman all day and not—as favor I give ’er to you. Now, since you too big damn fool not to take ’er yourself, I take ’er myself. And what you know about ’im?” He paused, and called out, “Pedro!”
Fearful at what might happen, Gilbert said, “Wait a minute.” He thought swiftly. “You mean this?”
Lopez did not even answer him, so deep and abiding was his disgust. Instead, he said to his man, “Pedro, we go.”
Gilbert watched his every motion. “You mean it?” he repeated.
Lopez laughed. “Everybody sink I am joker to-day. Pedro, take ’er,” and nodded toward the terrified Lucia.
Pedro started to obey.
“I’m damned if you do!” cried Gilbert. “All day you’ve been trying to make me do things your way. I’ve had enough. This Mexican stuff may be all right in your country, but it won’t go here!”
He threw a protecting arm around Lucia, who was panting and pale. He pulled his gun, and aimed it at Pedro’s head. “Drop it!” he cried. Pedro obeyed like lightning. The gun fell to the floor with a vibrating crash.
Then Gilbert covered Lopez. “If this is a trick—” he cried.
“Trick for what?” the bandit wanted to know. He nodded to Pedro. “Get ze men. ’E will not shoot!”
Enraged beyond control, young Jones cried out: “For the last time! You mean it? I know what you’ve tried to do, and I’m grateful; but there’s one thing that I must do!” Still the gun was leveled at the bandit’s head.
“What’s that?” nonchalantly.
“Protect her!” Gilbert said, drawing Lucia closer to his heart.