Lopez smiled again. “You will not shoot.”
“I will—if I must!”
“Oh, ze wolf in ze sheep’s overcoat!” the bandit smirked.
“I will! I warn you!”
“Gil!” cried Lucia, in mortal terror.
“It’s your life or his, and I’m damned if it’s yours! I’ll give you just three seconds to get out of here! Now,” and there was a fire in his eyes that could deceive no one, “you hear me? One—two ...”
“Don’t shoot!” cried the bandit. And he laughed outright, almost doubling up with mirth.
“It was a trick?” Gilbert asked, beginning to see light.
“Si. Ah, my frand, I ’ave make ze man from you at last! Fine man what would kill for ’is woman!” He patted him on the shoulder.
Gilbert looked at him seriously, and the terrible realization came to him. “I would have killed you! Yes, I would have killed you—and you are my friend!”
Lopez saw how earnest he was. “I know. And it makes me very ’appy. For at last you ’ave became ze man of intelligence—like me. You could not leave ’er go now, could you?”
Gilbert looked at the relieved Lucia. “No!” he cried.
“You not question ze what you call Destiny, do you?” Lopez said.
“Zen for you I am Destiny, to beat ’ell!” He walked toward the door.
There was a whistle outside. Pedro had drifted into the night. The stars poured their miracle of beauty into the room as Pancho Lopez flung the door wide.
“Well, no more of zat!” he said. “I must go—to leave you to live and love! No, you shall not zank me,” as Gilbert started to speak. “Ees I shall zank you, for ’ere in your quiet ’ome you ’ave give me ze most peaceful day I ’ave spend in years.” He smiled his captivating smile, and for the first time took his sombrero from his head. He made a grand gesture. “Ees ’appy day for you. Ees ’appy day for ’er. Ees ’appy day for me!”
He made a very low bow. Then he stepped forward and touched Lucia on the arm, and led her to Gilbert. One hand was on the shoulder of each.
“You will name ze baby for me sometime—Pancho, or per’aps Panchita?” There was a wistful note in his deep voice, and a look of eagerness in his eyes. “Not ze first one, per’aps—but mebbe, like you say, by and bye—later? Eh?”
There was another whistle down the starlit road.
“Adios, my frands! And may you always be so ’appy like what I ’ave make you!”
He was gone. They heard the horses trotting away; and even in that moment of blinding and almost unendurable happiness, they were conscious of a tinge of sorrow.
For when would they ever see Pancho Lopez again?
WHEREIN AN OLD FRIEND RETURNS, AND THERE IS A JOYFUL REUNION