“Christ! O Christ!” he screamed.
The sound of his blasphemies reached the little group of soldiers who had lingered curiously outside, and they listened open-mouthed. One by one they crossed themselves and stole away into the darkness, muttering.
A SPANISH WILL
With a singing heart Alaire rode through the night at her husband’s side. The strain of the last few hours had been so intense, the relief at her deliverance so keen, that now she felt curiously weak, and she kept close to Dave, comforted by his nearness and secure in the knowledge of his strength.
Although he was unusually taciturn and rode with his chin upon his breast, she attributed his silence to fatigue. Now and then, therefore, she spurred to his side and spoke softly, caressingly. At such times he reached for her hand and clung to it.
Dave was indeed weary; he was, in fact, in a sort of stupor, and not infrequently he dozed for a moment or two in his saddle. Yet it was not this which stilled his tongue, but a growing sense of guilt and dismay at what he had brought upon himself. In a moment of weakness he had done the very thing against which he had fought so bitterly, and now he faced the consequences. How, when, where could he find strength to undo his action? he asked himself. The weight of this question bent his shoulders, paralyzed his wits.
Some two hours out from La Feria the riders halted at a point where the road dipped into a rocky stream-bed; then, as the horses drank, Dolores voiced a thought that had troubled all of them.
“If that bandit really means to spare us, why did he send us away in the night, like this?” she asked. “I shall be surprised if we are not assassinated before morning.”
“He must have meant it.” Alaire spoke with a conviction she did not entirely feel. “Father O’Malley aroused the finer side of his nature.”
“Perhaps,” agreed the priest. “Somewhere in him there is a fear of God.”
But Dave was skeptical. “More likely a fear of the gringo Government,” said he. “Longorio is a four-flusher. When he realized he was licked he tried to save his face by a grandstand play. He didn’t want to let us go.”
“Then what is to prevent him from—well, from having us followed?” Alaire inquired.
“Nothing,” Dave told her.
As they climbed the bank and rode onward into the night she said: “No matter what happens, dear, I shall be happy, for at last one of my dreams has come true.” He reached out and patted her. “You’ve no idea what a coward I was until you came. But the moment I saw you all my fears vanished. I was like a lost child who suddenly sees her father; in your arms I felt perfectly safe, for the first time in all my life, I think. I—I couldn’t bear to go on without you, after this.”
Dave found nothing to say; they rode along side by side for a time in a great contentment that required no speech. Then Alaire asked: