“What was his name?” Dave managed to inquire.
“Urbina. He had a sorrel under him, but there are thousands of sorrel horses.”
“What time did you meet him?”
“I met him at noon and—I’ve been with him ever since. So you see you’re wrong. I presume your man doubled back and is laughing at you.”
Law’s first bewilderment had given place to a black rage; for the moment he was in danger of disregarding the reason for “Young Ed’s” incivility and giving free rein to his passion, but he checked himself in time.
“Would you mind telling me what you and this Urbina were doing?” he inquired, harshly.
Austin laughed mockingly. “That’s my business.” said he.
Dave moistened his lips. He hitched his shoulders nervously. He was astonished at his own self-control, though the certainty that Austin was drunk helped him to steady himself. Nevertheless, he dared not trust himself to speak.
Construing this silence as an acknowledgment of defeat, Ed turned to go. Some tardy sense of duty, however, prompted him to fling back, carelessly:
“I suppose you’ve come a good ways. If you’re hungry, Benito will show you the way to the kitchen.” Then he walked away into the darkness, followed by the shocked gaze of his range boss.
Benito roused himself from his amazement to say, warmly: “Si, compadre. You will enjoy a cup of hot coffee.”
But Law ground out fiercely: “I’m not used to kitchen hand-outs. I reckon I can chew my bridle-reins if I get too hungry.” Walking to his horse, he vaulted into the saddle.
Benito laid a hand upon his thigh and apologized. “Senor Ed is a strange man. He is often like this, lately. You understand me? Will you come to my house for supper?”
“Thank you, but I think I’ll ride on to Tad Lewis’s and see Urbina.”
At this the Mexican shook his head as if apprehensive of the result, but he said nothing more.
Law hesitated as he was about to spur out of the yard. “By the way,” he ventured, “you needn’t mention this to Mrs. Austin.”
“She is not here,” Gonzalez told him. “She has gone to La Feria to see about her affairs. She would not permit of this occurrence if she were at home. She is a very fine lady.”
“Yes. Good night, Benito.”
“Good night, senor.”
When the Ranger had gone, Gonzalez walked slowly toward his house with his head bowed thoughtfully.
“It is very strange,” he muttered. “How could Don Eduardo have met this Garza at noon when, with my own eyes, I saw him ride away from Las Palmas at three o’clock in the afternoon? It is very strange.”
JUDGE ELLSWORTH EXACTS A PROMISE