They were sitting there still, the barest glimmer of twilight brightening the window above, their hands clasped, when Mercedes came back, overflowing with light-heartedness.
“Si, si, sure I did eet,” she announced happily, dancing forward into the centre of the darkened room, and seemingly blind to the two before her. “Eet ees I that am to ride. Bueno! eet vill be mooch fun! Senor Brown he not like let me go; he tink I do all eet for him. Oh, de conceit of de men, ven I care not for anyting but de fun, de good time! But I talk him long vile, an’ Beell he talk, an’ maybe he say si for to git us rid of. Tink you not eet vas so, senor?”
THE PROOF OF LOVE
The dreaded night settled down dark but clear, a myriad of stars gloriously bright in the vast vault overhead, the clinging shadows black and gloomy along the tree-fringed ridge. Nature, hushed into repose, appeared alone in possession, the solemn silence of peaceful night enveloping the vast canyon and its overhanging mountains. Amid the gathering gloom all animate life seemed to have sought rest, to have found covert. The last glimpse which the watchful guardians of the “Little Yankee” gained of the surroundings of the “Independence” revealed nothing to awaken immediate alarm. A few men idly came and went about the shaft-house and ore-dump, but otherwise the entire claim appeared deserted. No hostile demonstration of any kind had been attempted since Farnham’s retreat, and now no sign of contemplated attack was to be perceived. The large number of men visible earlier in the day had mysteriously disappeared; not even the searching field-glasses served to reveal their whereabouts. In the gathering darkness no lights bore witness to the slightest activity; everywhere it remained black and silent.
To those wearied men on guard this secrecy seemed ominous of approaching evil. They comprehended too clearly the vengeful nature of their enemy to be lulled thus into any false security. Such skulking could be accepted only as a symptom of treachery, of some deep-laid plan for surprise. But what? Would Farnham, in his desperation, his anxiety to cover up all evidences of crime, resort to strategy, or to force? Would he utilize the law, behind which he was now firmly entrenched, or would he rely entirely upon the numbers he controlled to achieve a surer, quicker victory? That he possessed men in plenty to work his will the defenders of the “Little Yankee” knew from observation. These were of the kind to whom fighting was a trade. They must be there yet, hiding somewhere in the chaparral, for none had retreated down the trail. Backed by the mandates of law, convinced that they had nothing to fear legally, that they were merely executing the decrees of court, they would hardly be likely to hesitate at the committal of any atrocity under such a leader. But where would they strike, and how? What could be the purpose of their delay? the object of their secrecy? That there must be both purpose and object could not be doubted; yet nothing remained but to watt for their revelation.