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Guardian Devil



FROM the comer of his eye, Dan O'Dowd caught sight of the mysterious shadow, saw it flit through the bright moonlight and drift along the adobe wall. All other shadows in the vicinity were stationary. A moving shadow in their midst meant something alive, something furtive and skulking trying to pass unseen.

Dan came to an abrupt stop. He drew back into a streak of darkness against the wall. Except for that shadow, everything seemed normal. Moonlight filtered through the treetops. The aroma of blossoms permeated the air. Somewhere a guitar strummed in serenade.

Dan's alert eyes saw the shadow drift slowly along the wall and straight toward him. Suddenly other shadows appeared at the mouth of the narrow street, half a dozen of them. They darted from side to side, plainly searching.

"Sombreros!" thought Dan. "Heathen sombreros, 'stead of honest coonskin caps! Mexicans! And no help for me this side of the pack train yard." He drew his knife half out of its leather sheath. Perhaps this was none of his affair, but he would be ready.

IT PAID to be ready for trouble always in this town of Santa Fé, with the Mexicans and Yanquis always at one another's throats, and renegades eager to get at the throats of either.

Since the country had been explored and named New Spain, and the town of Santa Fé founded in the shadows of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, long pack trains had traveled up to it from Mexico, from Chihuahua and Guadalajara, bringing their wares and taking generous profits.

Then the Americans had come to dispute the monopoly of trade, following the long trail from Independence, over plains and mountains, past Bent's Fort, to old Taos and Santa Fé.

Hard fighting men who would be denied nothing they desired, they came with their long trains of Conestoga wagons and pack animals loaded with trade goods, and brought with them a canny skill in bargaining. In buckskin clothes and coonskin caps, they traded and fought, drank white whisky and gambled, holding life cheaply. They howled their song about a certain Yankee Doodle, and so became known as "Yanquis."

There was serious trouble from the start. Competition in trade caused hard feeling and continual political intrigue, with a new man likely to sit in the Governor's chair any morning.

With Mexico in constant turmoil inwardly, and also having trouble with the rebellious Texans, nobody could say just what was the political complexion of Santa Fé, so the Yanquis often thrust the Mexicans aside, saying this was any man's land, though at the moment Don Marcos Vega ruled it as alcalde and took what bribe money he could.

There was trouble because of women—women with soft brown skins, flat calves, broad hips, full bosoms, luring black eyes, and no morals at all. They paraded in bright skirts, their arms loaded with silver bracelets, rings in their ears and flashing ornaments in their black hair. A horde of them appeared at every baile, where the usual bars of convention were lowered, and they liked the boisterous, generous Yanquis.

But no wise Yanqui traveled around the narrow streets of Santa Fé alone after sundown in the early 1830s. Knives had been sharpened for him and intrigues woven for his downfall....

DAN O'DOWD saw the first shadow he had noticed leave the patch of darkness and glide toward him. The other shadows came swiftly after. The leading one tripped, fell, sprawled. From the pursuit came exclamations of victory, but the quarry was up again and running. A scream of fear rang through the night.

"By the eternal! It's a woman!" Dan growled.

He sprang out into the moonlight with a bellow of rage. Six men trying to run down a woman like dogs a deer was something Dan O'Dowd could not stomach.

Past him darted a girl whose labored breathing he could hear, whose frightened wide eyes gleamed fearfully an instant in the moonlight. Just beyond him, she tripped and fell again, and crouched exhausted against the wall. Dan with a roar of challenge rushed to meet the enemy with ready fists that thudded sickeningly into human faces. Back against the wall, he fought like a wild man, knowing he could expect a knife between bis ribs if he fell.

His coonskin cap knocked off, his shock of flaming red hair seemed to bristle in the moonlight. He charged madly and smote again. He skinned his knuckles on a chin-then felt a streak of fire along his left forearm and caught the gleam of a blade.

More knives flashed as his foes crowded in for the kill. Dan O'Dowd grasped a brown wrist and snapped it across his knee, smashed his fist into another leering face. Two men had been knocked down and were trying to get to their feet. The one with the broken wrist was sneaking away. The other three decided they had enough and fled, howling for help against the murderous Yanqui. Dan had been fortunate that his antagonists were not good fighting men. Peon scum and tavern loungers, he thought.

HE PICKED up his coonskin cap and put it on. The cut on his forearm amounted to nothing, he found. A whimper sounded at his side. The girl had left the darkness by the wall to approach him timidly.

"You saved me, señor," she whimpered, and covered his hand with tears and kisses.

"None of that's necessary," Dan told her, drawing his hand away. "You're safe now. Better run along."

He noticed her unusually pleasant voice, low and rich and throaty. She lifted a pretty face in the moonlight. A gracefully slender form was draped with a single inadequate garment. Her wrists were without ornaments, and her feet and legs bare. A halfbreed, Dan judged.

"I am Anita, and my father's name is Juan," she said. "We will be your slaves for what you have done tonight."

"Who were those men, and why were they after you?" O'Dowd asked.

"I think they were sent by another to steal me, Yanqui. I escaped them once, but they ran after me again. I heard one mention señor Carlos Martinez."

"You mean the rich trader?"

"Si, señor! Several times I have noticed him watching me in the market place where I work, and have tried to avoid him. I've heard he is an evil man, though handsome and rich."

O'Dowd looked at her skeptically. Most girls of her sort were eager to attract the attention of a man rich and handsome. But this girl seemed sincere in what she said.

"Carlos Martinez is scum, and you'll do well to keep out of his sight," he told the girl.

Here was a mess. Martinez, noted for his hatred of all Yanquis because they had cut into his monopoly of trade, probably would desire a terrible revenge on the man who had prevented his hirelings from stealing the girl.

"Get along to your hut," O'Dowd told her. "Don't be runnin' around the streets nights and makin' honest men fight your battles. Get to your home before there's more trouble."

But at that instant more trouble came,—from both ends of the street, and Dan found himself in a trap.

On either side was a high wall with a house behind it, neither to be scaled readily. Into the upper end of the street rushed men howling threats against all Yanquis. Into the lower end came one of his recent antagonists making loud complaint, and with him some of the alcalde's civil guards.

The girl began whimpering again. O'Dowd bade her be still. He seized and tossed her to the top of the wall, where she could stretch out in the darkness and not be seen.

Then he turned to the fray. He decided it would be wisest to attack the alcalde's guards and try to win through. Keeping to the darkness as much as possible, he charged at them. A blow from a hickory club missed his head by scant inches, but struck his left shoulder and numbed it. He whipped out his knife and slashed. He knew' defeat meant either a violent death in the street, or incarceration in the carcel, and punishment after a mockery of a trial, but in no case justice.

The eyes of the guards glittered in the moonlight, their dark forms danced around in front of him as they prepared for another rush.

"Come on, scum!" O'Dowd howled.

They came, to crash against and overwhelm him. His knife was torn from his grasp. A club cracked against the back of his head. He reeled as a cascade of red flashes darted before his eyes. He sank into oblivion so swiftly that he scarcely felt the second blow, which stretched him senseless on the ground.


WHEN O'Dowd opened his eyes, it was to darkness relieved only by a faint streak of yellowish light which came from a distance. Pains shot through his head and down into his neck. His shoulder ached and he was tortured by thirst.

He sat up with difficulty, his senses swimming. He realized he had been sprawled on cold, damp stone. Pressing against the wall, he got on his feet, reeled and almost fell, had a moment of nausea, then gathered strength and managed to stand erect.

Leaning against the slimy masonry, he focused his eyes on the distant gleam of yellowish light. Between he could see bars.

So he was in the carcel. The alcalde's guards had not knifed a Yanqui when they had a chance. O'Dowd did not like the situation, perhaps he had been spared for something worse. Perhaps against a wall at sunrise....

The yellowish light outside the door grew stronger, and he heard voices and the thump of boots on the hard floor. A ragged peon appeared in the corridor, holding aloft a reeking torch.

"Fetch water, you!" O'Dowd barked at him. "Decent water to drink. Some white whisky, if you can get it. I'll pay well."

At the peon's sarcastic grin, he realized he could pay nothing. His clothing was torn and disarranged from more than fighting, the tail of his buckskin shirt flapped outside his pants. His money belt was gone.

"Come closer," he said to the peon.

But the peon remained where he stood, and spat at him. O'Dowd frowned alike at the indignity and the significance of the act. The peon evidently had no fear that this Yanqui prisoner ever could punish him for the insult.

"When I get my hands on you—!" O'Dowd threatened.

"But you'll never get hands on me. señor," the peon said.

"You expect to have the fun of watchin' the firin' squad do their work at sunrise?"

"Not so, Yanqui. I have heard Don Marcos Vega, the alcalde, whose servant I am, say it accomplishes nothing to shoot Yanquis. They grin when they face the squad, and take their silly pride with them to hell, and that makes them heroes to other men. But no man is a hero when he is whipped."

"Whipped?" Dan roared.

"The lash breaks the spirit of the strongest. The guards could have slain you, but had orders to take Yanquis alive. There will be a special fiesta, and you will be tied to a post in the market place, with your back bared for the lash. Peons are to whip you while the people watch, and no man can be a hero when that happens to him."

O'DOWD, close to the barred door, saw a robed Franciscan approaching down the corridor, the arrogant Don Marcos Vega beside him and two armed guards behind.

Don Marcos glared through the bars. "Accursed Yanqui—"

O'Dowd promptly interrupted. He had learned long before that a sloop can be slowed by taking the wind out of its sails.

"What's the meanin' of this outrage?" he demanded. "You rule here in Santa Fé, I understand, Don Marcos Vega, so I'm holdin' you responsible."

Don Marcos was taken aback. He never could understand these Yanquis, who seemed to have no awe of those in high places.

"Outrage? You hold me responsible—you?" Don Marcos blustered. "The effrontery!"

"I was attacked in the street and had to fight for my life," O'Dowd said. "Your guards smashed me and tossed me in here. Now, I suppose you've come to tell me that I've robbed and murdered somebody and am goin' to be shot for it. If that's it, Don Marcos Vega, make your speech short and rid me of your presence. There's stench enough here already."

"Silence!" Don Marcos thundered. His face was aflame, and his voice echoed down the corridor and frightened the rats. But he fought back his rage and stepped nearer the door, his manner judicial. "You were incarcerated for brawling in the street—"

"Self defense," O'Dowd interrupted.

"—and, in the fighting, some of my guards were knifed. Before that, I understand, you were in another brawl—"

"Six men were tryin' to run down a girl—"

"That the brawl was about a wench only makes your offense more reprehensible. Are wenches so scarce in Santa Fé that men must fight over one? I have decreed that all Yanqui brawlers be flogged publicly. Just now you may escape the flogging you deserve and have pardon and freedom—-in return for a service."

"It's probably somethin' too dirty for your own guards to handle," O'Dowd said.

"Will you be silent?" Don Marcos bellowed. "It is a waste of time for me to talk to you. Possibly you'll be courteous enough to listen to the fray here."

He glared, then turned and stalked away haughtily. The guards remained, bodies stiff and faces inscrutable.

THE fray raised his head, took the torch from the peon's hand to hold it himself, and motioned him to retire out of earshot.

"Now, my son, we can talk," he said. "I happen to know your name and reputation, and can guess at the sad state of your soul. I am Fray Sebastiano."

Leaning against the bars, O'Dowd looked with genuine interest at the tall and lanky form. The worn, clinging robe could not conceal that his body was terribly emaciated. His face was grayish and cadaverous, with hollow cheeks and deep-set burning eyes. In age he was more than sixty, but retained surprising strength and agility.

Fray Sebastiano stepped closer and spoke in low tones.

"Fear nothing, my son. Your defense of that poor girl was witnessed, also the fighting which followed. A certain man of influence has sent a request to the alcalde that you be spared punishment and given freedom for a certain purpose."

"What purpose?" O'Dowd asked.

"That is not for me to tell you. I am here to take you to another, who'll explain. The service is of the proper sort, else I'd not be concerned in it. You will do well to agree immediately without asking questions."

"I agree," Dan said.

Fray Sebastiano beckoned one of the guards, and the door of the cell was opened. O'Dowd stepped into the corridor. Beside the fray, he walked along the corridor and up a flight of steps, to the private quarters of the alcalde.

"Go into the room adjoining," Don Marcos said. "Clean the blood from your hands and face and doctor your bruises. Try to make yourself presentable for decent company."

Dan bathed his head in cool water and drank deeply, doctoring his bruises and removing the stains of battle as well as he could. Back in the other room again, he was startled when Don Marcos returned his money belt with the contents intact, and also his knife.

"Now, señor, you are free to leave with Fray Sebastiano," Don Marcos said. "You may consider yourself fortunate. If you become my official guest again—!" He concluded the speech with an eloquent wave of his hand.

THEN Dan found himself out in the fresh air with Fray Sebastiano. They plodded along in the moonlight. Loud talk and roaring laughter came down wind from the pack train yard, where O'Dowd's comrades drank and sang wild songs. There was a din in the distant plaza, thronged now with a motley collection of Yanquis and Mexicans, Indians and breeds, where almost every glance was an invitation to trouble.

Men were bawling down by the big public corral, over which hung a pall of dust day and night, churned up by countless hoofs of horses and mules, and where horse traders were always busy.

Fray Sebastiano said nothing of their destination or purpose, and O'Dowd began to wonder. Some powerful influence must have worked on Don Marcos Vega, he knew, to compel him to release a Yanqui prisoner and return what had been taken from him.

"Where are we headin' for?" he asked, as they turned into a narrow street and carefully walked as far as possible from the shadows along the walls.

"We go to the casa of Don Pedro Estrada."

"What?" Dan was surprised. Don Pedro Estrada was a wealthy and aristocratic hidalgo, the cream of the cream.

"Your fight occurred outside the wall of his house, and with me Don Pedro witnessed it," Fray Sebastiano explained. "We expected to see you killed. The girl got away safely."

"What does Don Pedro want with me?" O'Dowd asked.

"He will explain that himself. You will do well to accept whatever commission he offers you, for it will occupy your time in good work—of which you probably do little—and also be profitable."

They walked on in silence for a time. "We're bein' followed," Dan suddenly said, in a low voice. "There's been a shadow dodgin' around behind us for some time."

"That's to be expected, my son. Some persons have a huge amount of curiosity," Fray Sebastiano replied.


AT THE patio gate of Don Pedro Estrada's casa, Fray Sebastiano signaled with the heavy knocker. A small aperture opened, an eye gleamed at them, and they were admitted.

They entered a moon-drenched patio where flowers bloomed and water trickled from a fountain. Here was a different world, one of wealth and station. Dan had heard that the rich furnishings of the Estrada house had been brought from Old Spain and up through Mexico at enormous expense.

Santa Fé, the raw frontier community, seemed a strange place for a wealthy hidalgo like Don Pedro Estrada, among few of his own kind. He had come there years before with a young wife and infant daughter. A widower now, he still had his daughter, Glorietta, a gorgeous beauty seldom seen in public.

Fray Sebastiano led the way along a curving walk and across the patio, to a side door of the house. Don Pedro Estrada greeted them—a tall, dignified man with silvery hair reaching almost to his shoulders. His erect body and flashing eyes conveyed a consciousness of authority, and his voice was startling in its resonance.

Don Pedro motioned for them to be seated, summoned a servant to fetch wine, and waited until they were sipping it before he broached the business on his mind.

"I witnessed the street brawl," he said, finally. "Allow me to commend you, señor, on your gallant protection of womanhood. I wish to engage you to continue in that protection."

Dan glanced at him with interest but not understanding.

"The task I have in mind may prove simple, or may be fraught with danger, Don Pedro continued. "If there is danger, it may come from the direction of señor Carlos Martinez, the trader. You know the man?"

By sight," O'Dowd replied. He has amassed a fortune in trade, though I fear by means not always scrupulous. I have heard it said that Carlos Martinez is a combination of coyote and buzzard."

"What's the work you want of we Don Pedro?" Dan asked.

"I want you to guard and protecl the girl you saved from annoyance tonight ; see that no harm comes to her I want you to do it without the girl 01 anybody else knowing I'm concernec in the affair. Find her, watch ovei her."

"You want me to be a guardiai angel," Dan said, grinning. "Mayb» guardian devil would be a better nanv for me."

Don Pedro smiled. "As you like, as long as you're a true guardian." Dan was puzzled and suspicious. "I'd think a word to the alcalde should be enough. He could have the girl protected."

"I do not wish the alcalde concerned in this. It is a personal matter, and one does not tell a man like Don Marcos Vega everything. I merely informed him that I want you to do some special work for me, and that his guards are not to molest you while you're doing it."

"That'll be a blessin'."

"But neither will the guards assist you if you get into difficulties. You stand on your own feet, señor. I cannot explain further than this—certain things regarding the girl have not been decided, and until they are I feel it my responsibility to see she is protected."

"That's enough for me, Don Pedro." "And do you engage to do this for me?"

Dan nodded assent.

"Thank you, señor. Your pay will be liberal, in addition to my thanks. If you ever wish to confer with me, come to the patio gate either by day or night, make the signal which Fray Sebastiano will explain to you, and you'll be admitted. Now, food is spread for you in the patio. Fray Sebastiano will conduct you there. Pardon me if I leave you now, for it is long past my time for retiring. Buenas noches, señores!"

DON PEDRO bowed and retired. Fray Sebastiano, his manner eager, beckoned Dan to follow him to the patio, where a table had been placed beneath one of the torches fastened to the wall, a table heaped with food.

They ate, Fray Sebastiano greedily, tearing a roast fowl apart with his fingers and gulping chunks of the choice meat, washing them down with Don Pedro's excellent wine.

"I don't understand this business," O'Dowd said.

"You understand enough, my son. You have your instructions, and they are clear—guard the girl."

"I don't know anything about her except she said her name is Anita and her father's Juan, and that she works in the market place. There are thousands of Anitas—"

"Your interest must be in only one," Fray Sebastiano interrupted. "Search and find her. You were saved from carcel and punishment, and given this employment, because you are supposed to be a man of resource and daring."

"Women and trouble!" O'Dowd growled. "They always travel together. But that's no worry of mine. I'd never let any woman get my interest stirred up."

There was an immediate answer to that—a burst of silvery laughter came ringing across the patio. Startled, the two at the table turned their heads, eyes bulging and mouths agape.

She had come down the steps from the balcony and along the walk past the fountain—a vision of loveliness with her proud head uplifted, eyes sparkling, dark hair dressed becomingly with a high comb studded with gems, over which was draped a mantilla of priceless lace.

A few steps behind her an elderly duena, clucking in futile protest like an angry old hen, waddled along looking like a tormented soul.

Fray Sebastiano, his eyes aglitter with interest, was upon his feet instantly, and Dan stood beside him. She stopped a short distance from them, so that the light of the torch fell directly on her.

Fray Sebastiano bowed, and his face softened as he spoke:

"So we have the unusual privilege of beholding the radiance of the sun at night," he said. He turned to Dan. "señorita Glorietta Estrada."

"And the señor—?" she asked.

"señor Dan O'Dowd," the fray replied.

"I greet you, señor, and make you welcome in my father's house. So you are a Yanqui? But surely there is some mistake. I've heard Yanquis have horns, but I see none on your head, and that they drink blood, but wine seems to suffice you."

"I've heard some yarns too, señorita, regardin' the beauty of some women of your race," Dan replied. "But they weren't exaggerated."

"That is a pretty speech, for a Yanqui."

FRAY SEBASTIANO cleared his throat, thinking it time to interrupt this sort of thing. The dueña was frowning.

"We were about to depart," the fray said. He crossed his fingers behind his back because he lied, for he had intended remaining as long as food and drink were on the table.

"Am I so hideous that I frighten you away?" she asked. "I wish to speak to the Yanqui with the flaming hair. I would ask him about his journey here and the lands he has crossed, for it is said we should acquire knowledge when we have the opportunity."

"Señorita!" the dueña exclaimed.

"And I would speak with him alone though within your sight," the girl continued, tossing her head in a show of temper and scolding the dueña with a glance. "Walk with me to the fountain and back, señor O'Dowd."

Dan had been looking straight at her, watching her in the flickering light from the torch and listening to her intently. He was startled, though he refrained from showing it. As the others stood back, he bowed and went forward to walk at her side. He got a still better look at her in the light from the torch, and felt his first suspicion confirmed.

"Let us walk in this direction, señor," she said, taking the path which ran beside the rose bed. "Isn't the fountain beautiful as the water dances in the moonlight?"

That rich, throaty voice! And this was señorita Glorietta Estrada, the beauty of Santa Fé and proud daughter of a Don!

But she was also, Dan felt sure, the girl he had rescued that night from the ruffians out in the street.


SO THAT was the mystery. That was why Don Pedro Estrada had engaged a Yanqui to act as protector. Perhaps this wild girl had the bad habit of outwitting her dueiia, escaping the house and going out to seek adventure, and Don Pedro was afraid ill might befall her.

But this girl who walked beside him across the patio was like a queen conscious of her proper station, not the ragged girl who had crouched in the dust and covered his hand with kisses and tears.

"You're mighty pretty, señorita, the way you're dressed now," Dan complimented. He wanted to drop a hint that he understood the situation, give her a chance to say something about her masquerade earlier in the evening, thinking that was why she had asked him to walk aside with her.

"As I am dressed now? Have you perhaps seen me in dress less becoming, señor?" she asked.

She put her hand down to pick a rose, and O'Dowd made a quick movement to pluck it for her. Their hands touched, and she drew in her breath sharply and pulled hers away.

"You weren't afraid to have your hand touch mine earlier in the night," he whispered.

"I do not understand, señor." "Don't you remember clutchin' my hand and coverin' it with kisses, and sayin' you'd be my slave forever?"

She looked at him swiftly. "I've heard all Yanquis are insane, and now I can know it for truth."

"If there's anything you want forgotten, señorita, it's forgotten." "That sounds like a pretty speech, señor, but I fail to understand you. Your manner and words are peculiar. I'm not quite sure that I like you, señor. I had hoped for an interesting talk about your adventures, but I am not interested in riddles."

Dan saw she was angry. He believed it was because she did not want him to recognize, except in his mind, that she had been the girl of the night's escapade.

"I'm beggin' your pardon, señorita," he said. "I'd like to ask, though, if you know a girl named Anita whose father is named Juan. And do you know of any interest Carlos Martinez might have in her?

That ordinary question had an astounding effect. She tossed her head angrily, and her eyes flamed at him in the moonlight. Her hands clenched.

"Mention of that man's name is an affront to me, señor, though you may not know it," she said. "I care not in what girl he is interested, so that I am not the girl. Why did you mention the beast? You have displeased me very much. Let us say ‘buenas noches' here and now."

Dan would have spoken again, asking in what manner he had offended, but she called her dueña and turned from him. He stood there dumfounded as she swept toward the stairs which led to the balcony. The dueña lumbered after her.

LEFT alone, O'Dowd rejoined Fray Sebastiano. They finished eating, then walked to the patio gate.

"The señorita always amuses me," Fray Sebastiano said. "She rules everybody, her proud father included."

"A madcap señorita?" Dan hinted.

"High spirits which bubble over at times. It gives her an added charm. She's a rare flower to grow in such a desert. She meets few in her own station in life, and no doubt is lonesome."

"I can understand that, a girl full of high spirits and lonesome—she might kick over the traces."

"We are discussing a lady, not a mule," Fray Sebastiano rebuked.

"Oh, she'll get married some day and settle down."

Fray Sebastiano chuckled. "Carlos Martinez, the poor fool, once asked Don Pedro for permission to pay his devotions, and his ears probably burn yet because of what Don Pedro replied to him. His interest was an affront. Carlos Martinez — part Indian and wholly a thief!"

So that was why the señorita had flared up at mere mention of Carlos Martinez!

They came to the gate, and the peon servant on watch let them into the street after Fray Sebastiano had explained the knocker signal.

At some distance from the plaza, the fray left Dan to go in a different direction. Dan walked on, tired and sore from the fighting, eager to get to the pack train yard and crawl into his buffalo robes.

Probably, he thought, the señorita was a madcap who liked to kick over the traces at times like an ornery mule. She slipped out of the house and mixed with all sorts of people for a lark. But she was likely to run into danger, and her father worried.

He understood Don Pedro's reticence. Naturally, he would not want to mention his daughter, so he had directed him to find and watch the girl in whose defense he had fought that night.

O'DOWD'S head jerked up and his hand dropped to the hilt of his knife as he sensed danger. A short distance ahead, a man had appeared in the narrow street, out in the bright moonlight where he could be seen plainly.

"A sombrero!" Dan grunted. He walked on, alert and on guard. The man ahead took a step forward and bowed.

"Pardon me, but are you not señor O'Dowd?" he asked.

"I am. Why?"

"I have been searching for you, señor, hence this is a fortunate meeting for me. I have a word for you."

"From whom and about what?"

"From señor Carlos Martinez."

Dan was surprised. He had not expected to hear from Martinez so soon. The rogue must have learned how some of his men had been battered and the girl rescued.

"What's the word?" he asked.

"Carlos Martinez does you the honor to desire to see you immediately at his house. I'll conduct you to him."

"I'm on my way to bed, and dont intend to go anywhere else. Martinez hasn't any business with me tonign or at any other time."

"You do not seem to understand, señor. Carlos Martinez orders you to come to him at once."

"Orders me?" Dan barked. "I dont take orders from Martinez, and you can go back and tell him so."

"I have instructions not to return without you, señor."

"Here's once you don't obey orders, then."

The man sprang backward and lifted an arm in signal. From the deep shadows along the walls on either side men swarmed upon them.

Before Dan could whip out his knife, ropes were cast, loops fell true and were jerked taut, and he was yanked to the ground. His legs were bound and his arms lashed to his sides despite his struggle.

"Now, señor," said the man who had stopped him in the street, "we'll go to the casa of Carlos Martinez."


DAN was gagged with a strip of dirty cloth, then carried like a log along the deserted street. He seethed with rage at being taken so easily* There was peril ahead, no doubt. He supposed Martinez would seek revenge because of the affair earlier in the night.

His captors carried him swiftly to Martinez' casa, into a patio and across it, up the broad stairs to a spacious chamber where candles burned in heavy candelabra of silver gleaming with semi-precious stones.

He was dumped on the floor and his captors stood round waiting. He could not see Martinez, but he heard the rogue.

Unbind him!" Martinez thundered. "Is a Yanqui so terrible that you must tie him?"

The gag was removed, the ropes taken off and O'Dowd put upon his feet. He marveled that his knife had not been taken away, and that he had not been robbed of his money a second time.

Martinez sat in a huge carved chair, wearing an embroidered robe of fine silk, sandals on his feet, and holding a lace handkerchief to his nostrils in pretense of gentility.

About forty, he was tall and broad-shouldered for a man of his race. He bent forward and his eyes glittered as he looked at O'Dowd.

"I regret in señor, if you were roughly handled," he said. "But it is necessary for to me to have a talk with you, and you would not come willingly."

"Now that I am here, what do you want with me?" Dan growled.

Martinez gestured, and all but one man withdrew. The bodyguard leaned against the door with gun held ready. Martinez motioned again for Dan to seat himself.

"I know everything that has happened to you tonight, señor," Martinez said. "I know how you battered men in a brawl, Some were friends of mine."

"You mean the alcalde's guards?" Dan asked.

Martinez grinned. "Scarcely, señor. If you know the gossip of Santa Fé, you know the alcalde and I are not love birds together. I refer to your first brawl."

"Oh! I saw some men tryin' to run down a girl—"

"And why not, señor, if it amused them? Are you a robed Franciscan that you preach morals and protect the weak? To be frank with you, señor, I sent those men to find the girl and bring her to me, and you ruined some of my plans."

"I guessed that much."

"Possibly I'm not attracted to the girl in the way you imagine. The fact remains that you battered some friends of mine. But I am willing to overlook that—if the scum can't care for themselves, they deserve to be battered. I m attracted to you, señor, because you are a fighting man. I'm not a bad man to have for a friend.

O'Dowd bowed mockingly.

I know you were arrested and that Don Marcos Vega was compelled to release you at the order of Don Pedro Estrada. I know Fray Sebastiano took you to the Estrada house, and that you remained there for some time."

"YOU seem to know everything."

"I have excellent spies, but I don't know everything. I don't know, for instance, what business Don Pedro had with you. That is what you are going to tell me."

"What makes you think I'll tell you?"

You look like a sensible man, señor. I pay well for information, and Yanquis love money."

"Maybe Don Pedro only wanted to meet a good fightin' man."

"Don't play at words with me, Yanqui! If I give a signal, you are a dead man. But it is your friendship I want. I can find a place in my organization for a man like you."

"I've already got a job," O'Dowd said.

"Whatever it is, I'll give you more pleasant work and double the pay."

"I've already hired out to Don Pedro."

"Don Pedro!" Martinez' eyes blazed. "Am I always to encounter the man? I hate his name! I have as much money as he, perhaps more. And what if my ancestors were not of blood and rank? Am I any less the man? Don Pedro Estrada! Before I'm done—"

Martinez seemed about to choke. He fought to regain control of himself, and became crafty again.

"Why not be sensible, señor," he asked. "Join with me, and work with much profit to yourself."

"I've already hired to work for Don Pedro and take his gold."

Martinez grinned. "Take Don Pedro's gold, señor, but take mine also." He tossed a small pouch of soft leather on the table. "Let Don Pedro believe you are working for him, but in reality work for me."

"Maybe you can't understand, Martinez, but some men are loyal to their employers and don't take pay from both sides."

Martinez' face grew dark. "You speak boldly when you are in my house and in my power."

"In your house, but maybe not in your power. I've got plenty of friends. If I'm not back at the pack train yard soon, they'll start lookin' for me."

"They'll not know where to look, señor. They don't know what became of you. If they learn you were arrested, released, and taken to see Don Pedro, they'll think you are safe in his house."

"Fray Francisco—"

"Separated from you in the street and doesn't know what became of you afterward. I am well informed, sehor. Why not take my gold and work for me?"

"If I broke faith with Don Pedro tonight, wouldn't you be afraid I'd break faith with you tomorrow?"

"I have ways of having men watched, and unpleasant ways of punishing those who betray me," Martinez said. "You've told me Don Pedro engaged you. To do what?"

"Afraid I can't tell you that."

Martinez straightened in his chair. "Perhaps, señor, we can pry the secret out of you," he said.

HERE was a hint of possible torture. O'Dowd knew he was at the mercy of this man, known for his brutality. He had his knife, and Martinez was within striking distance, but the man at the door held a gun and would shoot at the first hostile move. Even if he could reach Martinez with the knife, he would pay for the attack with his life.

And he had more than the man at the door to cope with. Plenty of Martinez' ruffians were within call. And Martinez himself had to be considered. He wore a silk robe and toyed with a handkerchief, but he had fought from boyhood, and wealth had not made a weakling of him.

"So you think you could pry the secret out of me? Maybe what I know isn't worth the trouble. Suppose it's somethin' that's nothin' of your concern?"

"Anything which concerns Don Pedro concerns me. He is my enemy, personally and politically."

"Politically?" Dan showed surprise.

"Who rules in Santa Fé at present? Don Marcos Vega. But he is only a figurehead. Who is the real jefe politico? Who pulls the strings and makes Don Marcos jump? Don Pedro Estrada!"

"I don't know anything about politics here, and don't care a cuss about 'em."

"Do you know what is coming? Revolution! They have some sort of republic in Mexico now. But those in power down there have forgotten New Spain and Santa Fé. We are too far away, and they have troubles enough at home. They let us run ourselves up here. This is a land in itself. It could be made a great empire."

"With you for emperor?"

"Why not, señor? I am a fighter, have wealth, and know how to handle men. Why should I not seek power? I have been making plans, gathering good men. That is what I mean, señor, when I say you will do well to have me for a friend."

"I'm a Yanqui. No place for me in your empire."

"Why not? Yanquis are strong in many things. This country needs trade with them. I can start an empire. Mexico has all she can do with her internal troubles and Texas. Now is the time to strike. A swift move, a bold stroke, Don Marcos and his friends deposed—! And you dare stand in my way ? I want a direct answer from you. Don Pedro engaged you to work as a spy, did he not ?"

O'Dowd's eyes widened. "He did not. So that's what you've been thinkin' and got so worked up about."

"What did he engage you to do, then?"

"I promised not to tell. It has nothin' to do with politics."

Martinez took a gulp of wine from a mug on the table and got up.

"I must show you my house," he said. "You are too sensible, I'm sure, to drive your knife into my back if I turn it on you."

Deliberately, he turned and stalked toward the door, and Dan followed, wondering what this sudden change in manner meant.


THEY went along a corridor and down the stairs to the lower floor. Martinez stopped before a heavy door at which one of his men was standing. From beyond came the voices and laughter of women.

"I'll give you a glimpse of paradise, señor," Martinez said.

Within the air was drenched with perfume. Thick rugs covered the floor, and tapestries hung on the walls. O'Dowd saw a score of women— young, shapely, pretty, dressed in gauzy gowns through which their bodies could be seen, their arms loaded with bracelets, and jewels gleaming in their hair.

"My pets, señor," Martinez said.

He lifted his hand, and the women crowded forward, laughing and chattering, inspecting O'Dowd. Some were Indians, some breeds, and a few appeared to have even better blood in their veins.

"I like women around me," Martinez said. "They fill my lighter moments. I like to hear them laugh—"

A queer cackle interrupted him.

"Who is that?" he demanded.

"It is señora Fate," one of the women answered.

She came from the shadows, a bent old hag with thin hair stringing down her face, walking with the aid of a crooked cane and looking like an old witch. As she hobbled toward Martinez, she cackled her heathenish laughter again.

"Carlos Martinez, would you look into the future?" she asked.

"I make my own future."

"Perhaps you are afraid."

"I'm afraid of nothing, crone. What can you tell me that isn't a lie?"

"I speak truth, Carlos Martinez. The man who seeks to climb must beware a slippery path. If he does not climb alone, he must be careful who climbs with him. Beware your interest in a woman."

Martinez laughed. "You'll get yourself hated by talking like that here."

"I mean none of these women, Carlos Martinez. There are other things, also, of which you must beware. To hesitate means ruin, and to strike too quickly means ruin also. I see failure and disgrace ahead for you if you do not use care."

"Enough! I'll have you whipped—"

"You fear to touch me, Carlos Martinez. Your heart quakes when I am near. You want me for a friend."

O'Dowd saw Martinez shudder, and remembered hearing that he was rankly superstitious. Then he noticed that señora Fate had turned to him.

"I see many things ahead for you, young señor," she said. "If you wish, you can be a king. A beautiful woman—"

"Same old story!" Dan interrupted, laughing.

Martinez had turned aside with the women. señora Fate lurched close to O'Dowd and pretended to examine his palm.

"Use care señor, when you leave the house," she whispered. "Men are watching for you in every street. If you do not do as Martinez wishes, you are to die. You will not be slain in the house—but in the street so no blame will be his."

"Thanks for the fortune, señora," Dan said aloud. In a whisper, he added: "Why do you warn me?"

She had no chance to reply. Martinez turned back and waved her away.

"You have seen my paradise, señor; come now, and I'll show you my hell."

THEY returned to the corridor and down a flight of steps into a narrow passage, cold and damp, and lit only by reeking torches.

Ahead of them, a man waited beside a door, from beyond which came the groans and curses of men in pain.

"How is it, Miguel?" Martinez asked.

"The same, jefe."

"None have died?"

"They linger on, jefe." The man grinned.

The door was opened, and the bodyguard followed them inside. This was a room of torture, damp and filthy. Torches gave a fitful light.

The wreck of a once powerful man, his cheeks hollow, eyes deep-set and burning, cursed from his shackles against the wall.

"The man stole from me," Martinez laughed. "He howls curses every time I visit, hoping I'll become angry and put him out of his misery."

Three other men were chained to the wall. One was unconscious and the others moaned continually.

"Two are thieves, and the third spat at me," Martinez said. "Over here is something interesting."

"A woman!" O'Dowd exclaimed.

"A woman—si. She was in my paradise. A pretty little thing when I found her in rags and gave her fine dresses, good food, jewels. And she tried to poison me for it."

Dan saw that she, too, was chained to the wall. Her face was thin and haggard now, but it had been lovely once. She was little more than a girl.

"Help me, Yanqui," she begged, as she lifted her head.

Dan could only turn away as Martinez laughed again.

"What happens to these?" he asked him.

"They are fed and watered. At their appointed time, they die, naturally. I cannot help it. And they have their amusements—watching what happens to the others brought to this room."

"If the alcalde knew this—"

"Ha! Don Marcos Vega would do nothing, unless I happened to have one of his friends here. You see, señor, he has such a room of his own. Let us go, señor."

DAN drew a thankful breath when they were again in the wide corridor above. Martinez took him to a room off the patio and motioned him to a seat.

"You have seen part of my house, señor," Martinez said. "Some of it is pleasant, and some is not. But a man of my position must take care of his enemies as well as his friends."

"Why do you show me?" O'Dowd asked.

"So you will understand the two extremes—of which you must select one. If you please me—paradise. If you do not— But let us return, señor, to the original question. What is it Don Pedro engaged you to do?"

"I'm not sayin'."

"Is it not possible for you to attend to the matter for Don Pedro and also work for me?"

"You want me to be a spy?"

"I want you to make the other Yanquis see it would benefit them to be friendly toward me and my plans. If there is trouble, they are to keep out of it, unless they fight for me. When it is over, I'll make them generous concessions in trade."

"I'm not a blind fool," O'Dowd said, "You've told me a lot, and I've seen a lot. If you don't turn me loose, I can't work for you, but I know too much to be turned loose, so what's your game?"

Martinez smiled. "You mistake me, señor. I expect you to go your way. It could not be otherwise, as you remark. But tell me a thing first—what did Don Pedro engage you to do?"


HE reached for a wine mug. "Has it occurred to you, señor, that Don Pedro may be playing a double game on you? Perhaps having you pull his chestnuts out of the fire, as the old legend has it? The girl for whom you fought tonight—perhaps you do not know everything concerning her."

"I never saw her until the fightin'. We're just wastin' time talkin', Martinez, and I want to get back to the pack train yard and to bed. Are you goin' to let me go, or keep me here and slaughter me ?"

"You are to leave my house freely, señor."

Martinez arose and gestured to his bodyguard, and O'Dowd got up and followed him out across the patio toward the gate in the outer wall.

"Whatever happens, it has been a pleasure to have you here, señor," Martinez said. "I regret we cannot be associates. You are a splendid fighting man, and loyal. I am a man who admires loyalty, though sometimes I buy it."

Old Señora Fate came from the shadows and plucked at Dan's sleeve.

"Give me a coin for luck, Yanqui," she begged.

He laughed and fumbled beneath his buckskin shirt for a coin. The old woman bent toward him as Martinez walked on.

"The girl you saw in the torture room is my granddaughter. Save her if you can," she whispered.

"Here's your coin," O'Dowd said aloud, as he gave her a look of understanding, and she hobbled away muttering her thanks.

"For the last time, señor—what is it to be?" Martinez asked.

"It's the same answer, Martinez."

"I regret you'll not join with me, but it is for every man to make his own decisions. Allow me to escort you personally to the gate."

Dan understood how Martinez was protecting himself. He would stand at the gate and bid him a cordial goodnight, and the men lounging about the gate would testify later that he had done so, that the Yanqui had left the house unharmed.

He would send him away with every street watched by his cutthroats and every avenue of escape blocked. And when he was some distance from the house, Death would strike.

He would be found by somebody when daylight came, with his knife still on him or on the ground beside him as if he had died fighting. And it would appear that another Yanqui had engaged in a brawl and had received the worst of it, and no blame would be attached to Carlos Martinez.

THE heavy gate swung open, and Martinez stood in it beneath a flaming torch, the wind whipping his silk robe about him. Two men were talking out in the street, the planted witnesses. The bodyguard leaned against the wall, his vigilance relaxed. He did not expect the Yanqui to attack Martinez now, when he was being allowed to depart.

"Buenos noches, señor?" Martinez said loudly. "I hope to have the pleasure of talking with you again."

Dan made a swift move. Before the bodyguard realized what was happening, Martinez had been thrust back against the wall, and a knife was at his breast, pressing into his silk robe so he could feel the point pricking his skin.

"If your man shoots, you die," Dan said. "You'll walk along with me, Martinez. If any of your men attack me, it means the end for you."

Martinez gasped, and his eyes blazed at the effrontery of it. He had a score of his ruffians within call, yet this was happening to him. He knew he was in deadly peril, that the knife could take his life instantly.

Miguel!" he snapped at the bodyguard. "You understand? Make no move, or I die. Walk a short distance ahead and explain. An attempt at rescue would imperil me. I can have revenge for this later."

The bodyguard went ahead. Dan grasped Martinez' arm and made him go forward, keeping the point of the knife against the rogue's back, as they walked through the bright moonlight in full view.

"I compliment you on your cleverness, señor," Martinez said, "and at the same time promise to make you pay for this. Swift death would be too kind and merciful."

"I only want to get home safe," Dan replied. "I'm not runnin' the risk of havin' your men murder me along the way."

They strode on. Martinez' men, trailing and watching, dared make no move. The bodyguard glanced back frequentIy, then resumed his marching, unable to aid his master.

The pack train yard was off to one side of the congested section of the town. There the wagons had been set in a double row. A trading post, and a huge adobe warehouse—now empty— where bailes were held, flanked the adobe huts and larger buildings in which the Yanquis made their homes.

There were open fires for cooking, ovens, heaps of fuel, and a well. Though the stern discipline of the trail had been relaxed, there were always guards. Peons, often light-fingered, loitered around the yard, looking for scraps of food or fees for minor services. Native women swarmed, tending the cooking pots and mending torn clothes.

Martinez began asking for his release as they neared the yard. But there remained spots ahead where ambush was possible, so O'Dowd made him walk on.

One big fire in the yard still burned, and round it Yanquis sprawled, talking and drinking. A guard recognized Dan and gave a shout. Into the circle of firelight, O'Dowd marched his prisoner.

"THIS here is Carlos Martinez," he said. "He had his cutthroats take me prisoner, and was goin' to have me ambushed and killed on the way home. I grabbed him and brought him along with my knife at his back, to make sure I'd be safe."

The men at the fire crowded forward.

"The señor has made a mistake," Martinez said. "I would have been friendly with him, but he thrust my offer of friendship aside. I would be friends with all Yanquis."

"That's a good one!" somebody howled. "What are you goin' to do with him, O'Dowd?"

"Let him go, now that I'm safe home."

"Maybe we'd better line up and give him our boots first," somebody else shouted. "Might as well have some fun."

But Carlos Martinez had no desire to be booted out of the pack train yard. That ignominy would be something he never could live down. Towns and trails would ring with the story, and men would grin behind his back.

He whirled, bent low, started running, a grotesque figure fleeing through the moonlight with his silk robe flying out behind him. The bodyguard sent one wild shot toward the fire to cover his master's retreat, then darted into a patch of darkness before retaliation could come. Stones, clods and sticks were sent flying after Martinez, but missed the target. He disappeared in the shadows.


WHEN he awoke next morning, Dan O'Dowd remembered the girl and the promise he had given Don Pedro Estrada concerning her. He doctored his bruises, dressed, went out to the well to perform his ablutions, then hurried to get food at the nearest fire.

Dodging questions, he got away and strolled to the market place, where the girl had said she worked. But he laughed at the idea now of finding señorita Glorietta Estrada there.

He searched the market place well, but did not see her. He was continually alert, knowing he was in danger because of the way he had handled Martinez, but did not expect an open attack in daylight.

He strolled back to the pack train yard, to be greeted with shouts and laughter.

"Your slave girl's been here, O'Dowd!" somebody called. "Anyhow that's what she said she was. A beauty, and mighty useful. She cleaned out your hut and cooked you a pot of grub, mended your torn shirts and cleaned your boots, then hurried away. But she said to tell you she'd be at the baile tonight."

Dan hurried to his hut. The place was scrupulously clean, which meant she had swept with a twig broom, then carried water from the well and scrubbed. And his extra boots had been cleaned and greased and his torn clothing mended.

For a high-born señorita who didn't have to touch her dainty hands to anything at home, the girl was a right good worker, O'Dowd thought. He ought to swell out his chest about it. Not every man had the daughter of a Don mending his shirts and cleaning his boots. She was playing a game, he decided— trying to make him believe she and Anita were not the same girl.

And she had said she would be at the baile that night! There was to be a big baile, and almost everybody would be there, including the alcalde, and no doubt a number of Martinez' men.

It was rumored around town that one of his pack trains from Guadalajara would be in before sundown. Perhaps this was the moment for which he had been waiting. They would be at the baile carrying on in a high manner, right off the long, adventurous trail and hungry to mix with humans. It would be a fine time for trouble to start.

Martinez undoubtedly would give orders concerning one Dan O'Dowd. And the girl would be in danger if she went to the baile. Dan decided it would be wise to go to Don Pedro's house and tell him to keep the girl at home tonight.

HE WAS admitted promptly when -LA he gave the signal at the patio gate. But before he could start along the walk past the fountain, a quiet voice hailed him:

"Ah! My Yanqui friend?"

Fray Sebastiano, his hands clasped behind his back, walked slowly toward him.

"I came to see Don Pedro about somethin' important," Dan said.

"At an inopportune time, young señor. Don Pedro is taking his siesta. What is troubling you, my son?"

Fray Sebastiano indicated a bench beside the fountain, and they sat. Speaking in low tones, for servants were continually passing, Dan told swiftly what had happened the night before after he had separated from the fray.

The smile left Fray Sebastiano's face. "Martinez goes too far, he said. "He grows outside his own skin. He is a bigger man in his own mind than he is in the minds of others. So he would add treason to his other crimes!"

"Maybe it was only big talk," Dan said. "I'm goin' to have all I can do to take care of myself tonight, with Martinez wantin' my scalp, and I don't want the señorita cornin' to the baile."

"Have you told her so?"

"Haven't seen her. She went to my hut while I was away, and fussed around some, and told the women she'd be at the baile. But she's got to be kept here."

"Here?" Fray Sebastiano questioned.

"Oh, I know! I'm supposed to understand but pretend I don't. But, just this one time and between ourselves, let me say I know that the Anita girl and señorita Glorietta are the same."

"Oh, I see!" Fray Sebastiano smiled.

"I'm not sayin' that anywhere else, so don't worry. But if she goes to the baile tonight—"

"I may attend the baile myself," Fray Sebastiano said. "I always like to see people enjoying themselves. And at such times they are off guard, and much may be learned. A mixed baile with both Yanquis and Mexicans as guests —there is always a possibility cf trouble."

"It's the señorita I'm worryin' about," Dan pointed out.

"I'll inform Don Pedro of everything you have told me, my son. I assure you we'll do everything to see that señorita Glorietta does not attend the baile."

"That takes a weight of worry off me."

"Guard yourself against Martinez and his thugs. Something must be done about the man. The torture chamber you described, with a girl chained to the wall—I I'll have speech with Don Pedro as soon as he awakes."

Fray Sebastiano bowed his head, thrust his hands into the sleeves of his worn robe, rose and crossed the patio toward the house. Dan got up and stretched, yawned, adjusted his coonskin cap on his head.

"BUENAS dias, señor," a soft voice called.

He turned quickly, and saw a small window in the wall of the house, and señorita Glorietta smiling down at him. Dan removed his cap and bowed.

"You do not rejoice at seeing me again, señor?" she pouted. "Perhaps you are angry because I treated you so harshly last evening. I wish to make up for my bad behavior, but you mentioned a man I despise, and made me terribly angry."

"That man, señorita, is one you'd better keep away from. A sensible girl wouldn't put herself in a position where he could see her."

"I feel sure you are right," she said. "For instance, there's a baile tonight. A sensible girl wouldn't go, if she wanted to avoid that certain man."

"I'd like to go. I might even like to dance with you, señor. But I promise I'll not attend this evening. It is so much quieter and nicer here in my father's house."

"Glad to hear you say that," Dan told her. "A funny thing happened today. While I was away from my hut, some girl cleaned it, mended my clothes and greased my boots."

"Indeed, señor? You must have an ardent admirer."

"Scrubbin' and greasin' boots and attendin' to a cookin' pot—that ought to be hard on dainty hands."

"I should imagine so, señor."

"Would it be too bold if I asked to look at your dainty hands again?

"Oh, much too bold, señor! You are attempting to grow too intimate," she replied, laughing at him. "And I should not be talking to you like this, señor. My dueña is asleep here in this room. She would be furious if she awoke and found me talking to you, and might scold me dreadfully. Would you want me scolded, señor?"

She laughed again and disappeared from the window.


THE sun was sinking as O'Dowd walked rapidly back toward the pack train yard. As he neared the plaza, he heard an unusual tumult. Men were shouting, and the shrill voices and laughter of women were in excited clamor.

Martinez' pack train was arriving from Guadalajara. There were more pack animals than usual, and they were heavily laden and showed signs of hard travel. The men with the train shouted and laughed as they waved at the women along the street.

wide door, and beside each door would be a barrel of white whisky, with gourds

Dan saw that the animals were about worn out, and the men looked tired also. Some went toward Martinez' warehouse and trading post, but others veered off toward his house. The hardest looking men accompanied the mules toward the house. They were heavily armed, and the packs on the animals were of a shape to contain guns.

Dan went on to the yard. It was near sunset. The Vanquis were feeding and watering their stock, part of which was kept in a corral while some wandered around hobbled. He made certain an his big black horse had been cared for properly, not entirely trusting the peon paid to tend him.

Men were eating around the fires, native women attending them, and O'Dowd went to a fire and ate also, then returned to his hut. Everybody began putting on finery for the baile— his best boots, colored shirt and neckcloth, his newest suit of buckskin.

When darkness came, torches and candles were lit in the empty warehouse where the baile was to be held, and where peons had been at work under the whip of an overseer greasing the floor with melted tallow.

On a raised platform at one end the fiddlers would play, and there were benches along the walls, where the women would sit and make eyes and wait for a man to claim them for a dance.

The ordinary rules of convention would be set aside during the baile, and no man needed a proper introduction. If a woman liked his looks, she would smile at him and dance, and if she did not she would frown, and perhaps claw his face if he persisted in forcing attentions on her.

At either end of the building was a wide door, and beside each door would be a barrel of white whisky, with gourds for drinking, and the liquor would be free for all. There would be wine also, for those who liked something less potent.

Dan left his hut and strolled to the fire where men were gathering. A bright moon was up and they could see people hurrying toward the warehouse. The women were always the earliest, young and old seeking the best seats along the walls and nearest the doors, where men would stand and ogle.

They were dressed in bright skirts and blouses, some wearing shoes and some sandals, some barelegged and others with stockings of silk. All wore jewelry, whether expensive or gaudy. Rings were in their ears, gleaming ornaments in their hair, necklaces around their throats and bracelets rattling on their arms.

"Let's get goin'!" somebody howled "The whisky barrels are open and the women are waitin'. The fiddlers are ready and my feet are itchin'."

They left the fire and strolled toward the warehouse in small groups, but not far part. They wore their finery, but their shaprest knives also. As they neared the warehouse, they hear cheering.

The alcalde has arrived!" somebody shouted.

BEING a politician, Don Marcos Vega did not fail to honor the affair with his presence. He entered the building with a few dignitaries and guards, and he held court at one end of the raised platform, where a special bench had been put for him. The women approached, bowed and passed the bench and returned to their seats against the wall. Dancing began.

O'Dowd entered the building with other Yanquis. Some got partners and others hurried toward the liquor barrels. The Mexicans, in flaring trousers and braided jackets, glared at the Yanquis in buckskin and homespun.

Dan danced with a girl he knew, then with another, continually alert. He saw men he knew worked for Carlos Martinez. The alcalde's guards, seeing Don Marcos busy with the prettiest girls, wandered through the crowd and visited the liquor barrels.

As Dan whirled the girl with whom he danced he looked across the room toward the benches. A muttered imprecation escaped him. Sitting on the bench nearest the door, as if she had just slipped in out of the night, was the girl he most of all disliked to see in the place.

"After she promised me!" he growled.

He glanced that way again as he whirled in the dance, and saw Fray Sebastiano, who had come into the building and was standing against the wall, his hands in the sleeves of his robe.

The fiddles ceased squeaking. Men led the girls to the benches and sought new partners. O'Dowd, his face set and grim, got rid of his girl and strode along the wall toward the fray.

Fray Sebastiano smiled as Dan approached, but the latter had no answering smile. His manner was accusing.

"You told me you'd speak to Don Pedro and keep the girl from comin' here," he said. "Yet there she is, and the place swarmin' with Martinez' men."

Fray Sebastiano turned to look. The girl sat with her back against the wall, her eyes glistening. She met their gaze, flushed and smiled.

"Well, Fray Sebastiano?"

"That is the girl you are supposed to guard, my son. It would have been better had she not come here, but here she is. Perhaps you can persuade her to leave."

"You come with me and tell the señorita she must go home at once."

"It is your business to guard her, my son. No doubt you will do so admirably."

BEFORE Dan could reply, Fray Sebastiano moved away toward the comer where the alcalde was holding his reception. Angrily, O'Dowd crossed over to the girl.

"So you came!" he said.

"Si, señor! It is a splendid baile, is it not?"

"Why did you come here?"

"Why not, señor?" She seemed puzzled. "It seems everybody else is here. I was hoping to see you. I never thanked you enough for what you did."

"There's danger."

"I am not afraid when you are near me. I did not go to work in the market place today, because I feared they would look for me there. But I went to the pack train yard."

"Thanks for what you did there," he said.

He glanced down at her hands, but they were covered with the thin gloves most of the women were wearing.

"I have not danced with anybody yet," she hinted. "The music stirs the blood, señor."

"We'll dance," Dan said, and held out his arms. He swept her out on the floor, and she clung to him and laughed in his ear.

"Do you not want me to be your slave, señor?" she whispered. "I'll keep your hut clean, and I am a good cook, I am anxious to serve you because you rescued me."

"I'll probably have to do it again, he growled. "You shouldn't have come here. Martinez' men are scatters through the crowd. If there's trouble —and there generally is before a baile ends-they may try again to steal you."

"But you are here to defend me, señor."

When the music ceased, he led her to the bench and remained until the next dance had started and all ment had partners. Then he hurried along the wall and took his first drink of the night at the whisky barrel.

The alcade's guards had been plied with drink and lured away by Martinez' men. The latter, heavily armored, had crept to the warehouse a few at a time, and now controlled both doors and windows, while others were scattered through the crowd.

As the fiddlers ceased again and escorts took the women back to the benches, armed men suddenly appeared in both doorways to prevent any leaving. A body of men marched into the room with guns held ready.

Their manner warned of something unusual. They moved swiftly to take up commanding positions and Don Marco Vega, Alcade of Santa Fé, found them surrounding him and got to his feet.

"What is this?" he demanded, alarmed.

Nobody answered. The group at the door parted, and more men strode in with Carlos Martinez at their head. Martinez was imperious in manner. He strode over to the alcade.

"DON MARCOS VEGA," he cried in a voice which rang through the big building, "I arrest you for treason!"

"You what?" Don Marcos cried. "What right have you—"

"My men are in charge here. Your guards have been cared for. I arrest you for treason, theft in office, for showing partiality, and order you confined in carcel until you can be punished properly."

Bewildered, Don Marcos looked around for help, and found none.

"I hereby declare New Spain free and independent of Mexico, a country in itself, which I take it upon myself to rule until things can be arranged. I declare a fiesta for two days, with free wine and food for all at my casa."

That last would get the mob with him, Martinez knew.

"Renegade and traitor!" Don Marcos howled.

"Use care in your words, señor," Martinez warned. "It is not necessary to wait for sunrise."

"You would murder me !" Don Marcos cried. "You would seize power. All loyal men will immediately take up arms against this traitor Martinez and those who stand beside him in this!"

"Enough!" Martinez said. He signaled his men, and they seized Don Marcos and swiftly lashed his wrists behind his back.

Martinez felt a touch on his shoulder and turned to find Fray Sebastiano beside him.

"So you would be a king?" Fray Sebastiano asked. "You would add treason to your other crimes?"

"How dare you speak so to me?"

"Because you dare not touch me or any fray, lest a curse fall on you. Things political must be settled, but not by murder. You will not harm Don Marcos Vega. Is that understood?"

Their eyes clashed, and their wills. The superstitious Martinez was quaking, though he did not show it in his face.

"I wish to please all who are loyal to me," Martinez said. "I seek to rule this land well. I cannot allow Don Marcos to go free, arouse his men against me and cause bloody fighting."

"Let him be confined and treated as a prisoner of war."

The fray was working for time. His object was to save Don Marcos now and work out his ultimate salvation later.

But Martinez was not without cleverness. "So be it!" he said. "Don Marcos Vega shall be confined in the carcel. And so you may be sure, Fray Sebastiano, that this is not a trick, and that I will not have men enter his cell and slay him, you shall go with him and see he meets no harm."

Before Fray Sebastiano could speak again, Martinez gestured, and his men hustled Don Marcos Vega and the fray through the door and out into the night.

"Attention!" Martinez barked to his men. "In this place are a man and a girl I want seized and taken to my house. You will attend to it immediately."

He turned slowly as he spoke and pointed to the corner of the room.


AS MARTINEZ' men started toward them, O'Dowd whipped out his knife and stood in front of the bench, shielding the girl.

"Hi, Yanquis!" he howled.

It was a rallying cry which brought immediate response. From every part of the big room, Yanquis started rushing toward the corner, hurling men out of their way. They charged with fists thudding and knives flashing, and the women screamed and pressed back against the walls.

Martinez' men at the doors were hurled aside as more Yanquis charged in from the night. The warehouse became a maelstrom of maddened fighting men. Torches were torn from the walls and flung to the floor, and boots crushed out their light. Candelebra were knocked over and candles extinguished.

There was no shooting now, for friend could not be told from foe a few feet away. Fists thudded and men screamed with rage and pain. Benches along the walls were demolished, and parts of them used as weapons to crack heads.

All were fighting now to get into the open, where the moonlight would make it possible to tell friends from enemies. O'Dowd got the girl between him and the wall and began fighting to get through the press. Men charged at them, the Yanquis to help and Martinez' men to make the capture he had ordered.

Guns were being fired outside, and sounds of fighting came from the plaza and other parts of the town. Martinez' men were having an easy time of it, for the opposition had not been ready for trouble. They seized the Governor's palace, the carcel, supplies of arms and ammunition.

Some of the Yanquis were howling for a retreat to the pack train yard, where they could make a better defense. They started that way with Martinez' men pressing after them. O'Dowd got out of the warehouse and stood against an adobe shed with the girl at his feet. Yanquis crowded around them to meet the attack with knives, clubs and fists.

Martinez' men made a desperate charge. Dan dodged a knife thrust and cracked his fist into a face. He reeled from a blow, staggered to his knees as a club crashed on his head. Another blow came, and oblivion. Retreating to the pack train yard, the Yanquis carried him along. Martinez' men had seized the girl and rushed her from the scene with a serape wrapped around her head to stifle her cries.

At the yard, the walls were manned, gates closed and heavy bars put into place. But Martinez' men did not attack. They rushed away to other parts of town.

His head drenched with cold water, Dan regained consciousness to find the girl had been taken.

"Say the word, and we'll go to Martinez' casa and tear it to pieces!" some man near him howled.

Wait!" O'Dowd said. "No sense in all of us gettin' mixed up in this. If you leave the yard and get out into the open, they 11 have a better chance at you. And some of that mob may get in here while you re gone, and loot the place."

WHILE others watched the walls and gates and the frightened native women huddled around the fires, he went to his hut with a couple of men, stripped and put on ragged garments belonging to a peon. With charred sticks brought from the nearest fire, he smeared legs and feet and soiled his face. He rubbed the charred wood on his hands, ran his hands through his red hair until it was dark, and put on a tattered sombrero which came down almost to his ears.

"You look so much like a sneakin', thievin' varmint that the first fine señor who meets you is likely to kick you out of his path," one of the men said.

Dan slipped a knife beneath his tattered shirt, went to a dark spot on the wall and got over. Moving carefully and keeping in the shadows, he got away from the yard. At a safe distance, he shuffled along, careful to avoid others, and got to the plaza where excited men jabbered.

Martinez' war had been rather bloodless, he learned. Only three were dead and a score hurt badly. Don Marcos was a prisoner in carcel, and Fray Sebastiano was with him, determined to prevent the alcalde's execution. Martinez was in the Governor's house with his men guarding him.

O'Dowd went toward Martinez' casa, hoping he could hear something about the girl. As he neared the house, a whisper reached him from a clump of brush:


He whirled quickly, hand going to knife.

"I know you, señor Yanqui." señora Fate hobbled up to him. "I was looking for you. The señorita is in Martinez' house. I saw his men take her there. I heard them say Martinez issued orders that the señorita be not harmed. His women are to care for her tenderly. Many guns came for Martinez on the pack train, and they are stored next to the torture room—"

"You know the house well," Dan interrupted. "How can I get in?"

"I know a way the peon workmen left, so they could get in and steal. If you will remember to help my granddaughter, I'll show you the way."

They went cautiously through the shadows to the rear of the house. Outside the wall, fires were burning and a score of armed men sprawled around them, hobbled mules everywhere.

"It is useless tonight, señor," señora Fate said. "See the bushes against the wall? Behind them are large adobe bricks which can be removed. That is the way in, señor."

GETTING into the house safely now was impossible, O'Dowd saw. He would need help to rescue the girl. And certainly he could get it! Don Pedro Estrada must be told what had happened to his daughter, if he did not know already. Don Pedro had men of his own, and powerful friends. Perhaps they would combine with the Yanquis in an attack on the Martinez casa.

He whispered to señora Fate that he would see her later, dodged through the shadows, and hurried to Don Pedro's house. He signalled at the gate and the aperture was opened.

"Look closely! I'm O'Dowd, the Yanqui. I've smeared my face—" He spoke quickly, fearing the aperture would be closed after the servant got a look at him.

But the man recognized him, the gate opened, and he slipped inside Though it was late, a dozen armed loitered in the patio. One ran ahead while the others watched O'Dowd. The first returned.

"You are to enter immediately, señor, he said.

Tattered sombrero in hand, Dan strode through the door. He expected to find Don Pedro surrounded by anxious friends, but Don Pedro was alone, standing in front of the fireplace with his hands clasped behind his back.

"So you failed, señor!" Don Pedro said. "I thought you were a man of daring and resource who could be trusted with a delicate matter." "I did what I could," Dan replied. "The girl shouldn't have been at the baile. I told Fray Francisco to tell you to keep her at home. And she promised me with her own lips that she wouldn't go.

"She promised you?"

"Spoke to me from her window as I was in the patio. Oh, we understand each other! Without me cornin' right out and sayin' it, she knows I know she's playin' at bein' this girl Anita. I hinted there would be danger at the baile, and she promised she wouldn't go."

Don Pedro's eyes widened, then grew narrow with thought.

"She hasn't been harmed," O'Dowd continued. "An old woman told me orders had been given to take good care of her."

"Carlos Martinez plays a deep game," Don Pedro said.

"We'll save her. I know a secret way into Martinez' house. I'll get the Yanquis to help, and we'll rescue the señorita."

"You do not understand everything, and I cannot explain now," Don Pedro said. "I am expecting a messenger from Mexico City, and everything may be settled when he comes. But he is traveling with only one companion through dangerous country."

"About the señorita—?" Dan persisted.

THERE came an interruption. The door was opened and one of the servants rushed in, eyes wide and manner excited.

"Don Pedro!" he cried. "Carlos Martinez is at the outer gate and demands to see you. He says he comes in peace for a talk and will enter alone, but men came with him and are in the street."

"Martinez here?" Don Pedro Estrada seemed to grow an inch taller. "Admit the fellow. Have a peon servant bring him to me. And watch those in the street."

The man rushed out.

"If Martinez comes here alone, you've got him," Dan said. "You can hold him for the safety of the señorita, make him send men to bring her here safely. He must be a fool to come here like this."

"Carlos Martinez is a scoundrel, but no fool," Don Pedro replied. "Step into that adjoining room, señor, and keep behind the door."

"You'll meet him here alone?"

"I do not fear scum like Martinez. He has a feeling of inferiority in my presence. Get behind the door and remain there. Whatever happens, hold your hand. You may yet be useful, though you have failed me once."


DAN went into the other room and got behind the door, leaving it open a crack so he could hear and see.

The patio door was opened again, a servant stepped inside and bowed, and Martinez strode into the room.

Well, señor, what do you wish of me?" Don Pedro asked.

A little talk, Don Pedro. This is the time to have it. I am making plans for tomorrow."

"I cannot think on what topic I'd hold conversation with a traitor."

Martinez glared. Don Pedro sat in the nearest chair and looked up at the man. He did not ask Martinez to be seated.

"Some time ago," Martinez said, "I told you I admired señorita Glorietta—"

"señor!" Don Pedro thundered. "My daughter's name is not to be heard from your lips."

"You'll hear it, Don Pedro. I rule Santa Fé now. I intend to found an empire with Santa Fé as its center. I will be a man of power, and desire to link myself with all classes of people."

"You are linked to several already, I understand—part peon and part Indian."

"Don Pedro!" Martinez shouted. "I came here alone, leaving my guards in the street. You had better realize your position. I do not expect to receive insults."

"Is the truth ever an insult, señor? Have your say!"

"I know in what high estimation the people hold you and your kind, Don Pedro. A word, a nod from you, and they will follow where I lead. Let them know you are back of me in this, and my position is secure. You'll not regret it. Whatever you wish, you may have."

"You seek to bribe me, señor?" Don Pedro asked, in a tone which seemed to pity the man's lack of understanding.

Martinez made another attempt to appear haughty. "I ask your daughter for my wife," he said. Let word be spread in the morning that we are affianced. Then the people will know you sanction what I have done. If you do not agree, I have other plans——"

"Certainly I do not agree, señor. Did not your absurd pomposity amuse me so much, I'd have my peons kick you from the house. But one makes allowances for a clown."

"señor!" Martinez cried, enraged. "I have given you a chance, Don Pedro. The people must be made to believe what I wish them to believe. If they see señorita Glorietta riding beside me in the morning from my casa to the palace of the Governor, without her father or dueña along—"

"You would dare?" Don Pedro cried.

"How the people will cheer! They will think Martinez a great man indeed, when he can induce a lady of the blood of the Estradas to break the conventions because she thinks so dearly of him."

"I can not understand why I do not kill you, señor, except that I dislike soiling my hands."

"Is your answer the same, Don Pedro?"

"Now and forever!" He clapped his hands, and a servant darted in from the patio. "See that señor Martinez departs at once by the rear patio gate," he directed. "That is for the use of peons and Indians. Then burn incense here, to kill the stench."

WATCHING behind the door, O'Dowd thought surely Martinez would make an attack. But the man seemed unable to take a step forward with Don Pedro's eyes burning into his. He took refuge in further talk.

"Very well, Don Pedro. My men will keep your place surrounded until too late for you to summon friends and ruin my plans."

Martinez turned and stalked into the patio with the servant at his heels. Dan rushed into the other room.

"Keep him!" he advised Don Pedro. "Hold him as hostage—"

Don Pedro shook his head. "You do not understand, señor. Let him go. The presence of such a man here would ruin my house for me forever. And now, señor O'Dowd, you cannot leave. He has the house surrounded. I know his plans, insofar as they concern me and mine. But the best of plans may be wrecked."

"You could have exchanged him for the señorita."

"I fear not, señor. A wolf pack follows Martinez, and wolves turn on wounded of their own kind. Let them learn Martinez was held prisoner here, and his own men would ransack his casa and flee to the hills with their loot. And prisoners would not be safe from the looters."

"I understand," Dan said. "I've got to get out of here. Anyhow, I'm goin' to try."

"May good fortune attend you, señor. I'll pass word to those in the patio that you are to do as you please."

Dan went to the dark kitchen and looked through a small barred window. Along the rear wall of the house was a wide dark streak. There was a narrow passageway between building and wall, and at either end of it Martinez' men on guard.

He asked whispered questions of the servants, got on the sloping roof over the arches, and went along it noiselessly until he came to another sloping roof which ran down to the alley. He flattened himself on the tiles, fearing he would be seen in silhouette against the moon. For a time he listened and watched, then took the drop, doubling his body as he let go the edge and striking with a shock which drove his bare feet deep in the dust.

THERE was a slight movement beside him, and before he could turn he felt the muzzle of a gun pressed against his side.

"Do not move, señor," a whisper warned.

"Who are you?" Dan asked, whispering also, and his right hand inching upward so he would be in position to make a quick attempt to get his knife from beneath his shirt.

"I am a man who sees in the dark, señor. Do not move your hands, or I fire. Your manner of exit from the casa indicates you are not one of the unmentionables who surround it. If you are a friend of Don Pedro's—"

"I am."

"Ha! It appears you are in disguise. I had a glimpse of your features as you dropped—"

"I'm a Yanqui workin' for Don Pedro."

"I also am working for Don Pedro. I am a messenger just arrived from Mexico City."

"He told me he was expectin' one."

"I have important information for Don Pedro and must get to him immediately. Both ends of this passage are blocked by enemies—"

Do you know the signal for the patio gate?"

I do, but how may I reach the gate?"

"We'll work together," O'Dowd said. Let's take care of the man at the end of the passage. Then you keep in darkness and watch for a chance, and I'll do the rest. You do a little howlin' at the right time. Yell ‘There goes the red-headed Yanqui! There's a reward for him!'"

I understand, sehor. They chase you and I get to the gate. But suppose they catch you?"

"That's a chance I'm runnin'."

THEY went cautiously to the end of the passage. The man on guard was pacing back and forth, watching down the street. As he made a turn, O'Dowd sprang and grasped him from behind.

One yell escaped him before he could be throttled. Dan darted into the street and ran, howling defiance in English. Don Pedro's messenger played his part well, fired his gun into the air and howled also, that the red-headed Yanqui for whose capture Martinez offered reward was running down the street.

Other guns barked, and men gave chase. Not being disciplined soldiers, they deserted their posts when there was a chance of profit. The street was clear of them for a moment, and the messenger ran to the patio gate, gave the signal and was admitted.

O'Dowd fled on down the street. Guns cracked behind him and slugs whistled past him, but none struck. At the end of the street he bowled over a man running toward him, and sped on. He dashed through a dark archway, ran across a deserted patio and scaled a wall. The pursuit went past.

He went on toward the pack train yard, heard a tumult in that direction and quickened stride. As he approached the yard, he saw more of Martinez' men surrounding it. Feeling sure of his disguise, he joined a crowd of curious men and women in the shadows.

Martinez was there, sitting his horse like a general. The wall of the pack train yard was lined with men.

"I want my Yanqui friends to understand I have no quarrel with them," Martinez shouted. "I want your friendship. If you will not help me, do not help my enemies. If 3r°u take mY side, I'll make good trade deals with you. In return for this, I ask only one thing —hand over to me the man O'Dowd. He has been acting as a spy for my enemies."

"That's a lie!" somebody shouted. "O'Dowd ain't takin' sides in this political row. You want to torture him 'cause he made a fool of you the other night. We wouldn't give anybody up to you."

"I intend to have him," Martinez declared. "Until I do, you Yanquis will be kept where you are, prisoners. But remember it is your friendship I want. We could deal profitably together. I will cancel the tax on beaver, so your mountain men will prosper. Think it over, señores, and I'll communicate with you later."

He shouted orders to his men, turne and spurred away with others close behind him, going in the direction o his house.

Dan got away from the group o peons in the darkness. He did not know which way to turn. He could not try to get back into the pack train yard without risk of almost certain capture. Martinez' men surrounded the Estrada casa, so he could not return there.

He drifted along a street, listening to men talk. He learned Don Marcos Vega was still in carcel, and that some of his guards had been found and confined there also, the remainder having tossed aside their uniforms to join Martinez.

He drifted on, always alert. It was only a couple of hours until dawn. He found a safe, sheltered spot beside a wall, and curled up to sleep.


DON PEDRO ESTRADA welcomed the messenger from Mexico City cordially, but with something of dread also.

"I am glad you got in safely, and that señor O'Dowd got out," Don Pedro said. "You have news for me?"

"I bring the proofs you wished, Don Pedro. It is as you suspected. I have the necessary documents."

The messenger reached beneath his jacket and brought out a small package. Don Pedro excused himself, sat at a table, undid the package and read the papers it contained.

"It is enough!" he said, when he had finished. "Now I know my duty and the manner of performing it."

"I have further intelligence, on another matter. This document will explain, Your Excellency."

"Excellency? You exalt me through courtesy, I fear."

"Not so, Don Pedro. The information was given me by word of mouth also, in case anything happened to the document. In Mexico, they know how things have been in turmoil here, how there have been a dozen spasmodic rulers, with almost every man trying to rule as a means of acquiring ill profits."

"That is true," Don Pedro said.

"Mexico has other troubles, but wishes New Spain to be ruled properly until she can give it more attention. That document is your appointment as Governor of New Spain."

"It is an honor I have not sought." Don Pedro said. He looked up and smiled. "You hand me the post of Governor when another has seized it. Carlos Martinez has announced himself the ruler here. I am the Governor, but only we two know it, and I am a prisoner in my own house."

"That must be remedied."

"Si señor! It must be remedied," Don Pedro said....

O'DOWD awoke shivering in the cold dawn and inspected himself. He could not pass as easily in daylight as at night. His huge size betrayed him, his white skin showed through streaks of dirt. His tattered sombrero, pulled low down, would hide his red hair, but nothing could hide his blue eyes.

He went toward the pack train yard, and as he neared it saw Martinez' men had not been withdrawn. It was impossible for him to get inside. He went back toward the plaza and listened to the talk. What he heard startled him.

Don Pedro Estrada, people were saying, was standing beside Martinez. He had given his daughter into Martinez' keeping, and they would soon wed. As proof of this, señorita Glorietta Estrada would that morning ride with Martinez from his casa to the palace, and all could see her.

So that was Martinez' game! He could carry it out, O'Dowd knew. Don Pedro, prisoner in his own house, could not prevent it or voice a denunciation. The people would believe Don Pedro was with Martinez, and before they discovered the deception Martinez would be in safe command.

Women and children were gathering around the plaza. The din increased as the crowd grew. From the direction of Martinez' casa came some of his men, shouting as they marched, warning people aside and clearing the way. Then came two of Martinez' best horses with rich trappings. He bestrode one, and on the other sat the señorita with a man leading the mount.

Behind them rode a dozen others, and behind those were more armed men afoot. Martinez was smiling and waving at the groups he passed, but his men were not relaxing vigilance, and kept close watch on the people along the way.

Dan crowded forward with the others. The girl's head was high, her eyes half closed, her face a blank. The rags she had worn at the baile were gone. She wore silks and satins now.

As they came abreast of O'Dowd, the señorita glanced down, and her eyes met his. Her lips parted as she recognized him despite his disguise.

"Señor—!" she cried.

Martinez turned as she spoke, and let out a bellow:

"Seize that man! He is a Yanqui spy!"

His men charged as Dan turned to run. But the words "Yanqui" and "spy" had been enough to turn people against him. They grasped him and half tore the rags from his body. His knife came out, and he slashed at those nearest.

"Take him alive!" Martinez howled.

They got him down, pounded and kicked him. Martinez urged the señorita's horse on, and the other riders crowded around them. Dan had his arms lashed to his sides, his legs bound together. They picked him up, carried him to a horse, put him face downward across the saddle and held him there. So was he forced to join Martinez' march of triumph.

THEY crossed the plaza and went to the Governor's palace, where Martinez dismounted and compelled the señorita to ascend the steps. He lifted his hand, and the cheers ceased.

"Today and tomorrow shall be fiesta, he called. "The Yanqui spy will be whipped in the plaza in a few hours, and punishment will be given others also. I decree free wine for all. My men will roll out the barrels. Later, there will be food."

They cheered again. Martinez issued orders, and the señorita was taken inside. O'Dowd was lifted off the horse and carried to the carcel. They removed the ropes and tossed him into a cell, laughed and hurried away.

Dan got up, stretched his bruised limbs and went to the door.

"My son!" somebody called.

Standing behind a barred door across the corridor he saw Fray Sebastiano and Don Marcos Vega.

"So they have you, too," the fray said. "What happens in the town?"

O'Dowd told him all.

"If I can get out, I can do somethin', he added. "The Yanquis will take sides quick enough."

He said no more, for boots pounded down the corridor and two peons appeared carrying torches. Martinez came, three men with him. He strutted like a peacock, and his voice roared:

"So I have you, Yanqui with the red hair! You made a spectacle of me the other night, did you not? Now, señor, I'll make a spectacle of you."

"You're makin' one of yourself," Dan retorted.

"Miguel!" Martinez called the man forward. "I give you charge of this affair. At the appointed time, come for this man. He will be ready for the whipping, the leather bag over his head and tied around the throat after the usual manner."

"Si, señor!" Miguel grinned.

"Take him out, tie him to the post in the plaza, and have him whipped soundly. Let the old women throw filth on him. Then remove the bag, that all may see his face lined with pain. Revive him, if he is unconscious, and return him to this cell. Later, he will be shot."

"Martinez—" Fray Sebastiano began.

"Silence, fray! I command here, and desire none of your interference. Don Marcos Vega, you will be executed at sunset. Fray Sebastiano, you will be released immediately to go about your business."

"Leave me in the corridor, that I may give consolation to the condemned. That is my business," the fray said.

"That is permitted. Miguel, let the fray out when you come for this Yanqui. Hold the whipping as scheduled, and do not wait for me to appear. If I am not too busy, I may watch from a window. But I'll be present when this man is shot."

HE TURNED away, but Dan called to him:

"Martinez! I've got enough of this. You'll be a fool if you have me whipped. I may not talk if you do that. A messenger came from Mexico City last night to Don Pedro Estrada. He got into the Estrada house as I escaped from it—"

"You were in the Estrada house?"

"I was behind the door when you were there and Don Pedro almost had you kicked out."

"What did the messenger report Martinez asked.

Dan pressed his face close to the bars and whispered: "Do you want me to tell you where others can hear?"

"Ha!" Martinez' eyes glittered. "Tell me what I wish to know, Yanqui, and I allow you to escape the whipping. Miguel, take the others and retire. Come back at the time appointed. If this man is here and ready, take him to the whipping post. If he is not, say nothing."

The others retired, and Martinez stepped nearer the door.

"Now, Yanqui, talk," he said.

A roar of rage came from Fray Sebastiano across the corridor: "Señor O'Dowd! Have you no decency, no courage? Would you betray Don Pedro? Would you help this rogue Martinez?"

"It's time I was commencin' to think of myself," Dan replied. He put his face close to the bars again, and once more spoke in a whisper to Martinez: "Promise me freedom. It'll please the Yanquis if you let me go. You want them with you. After you let me go, I'll hurry to the pack train yard and talk to them."

"You'll turn them toward me?" Martinez asked. "Promise them good trade deals. Now, what did the messenger tell Don Pedro?"

"I can't talk here. Take me to that fine room which used to be Don Marcos Vega's private quarters, and give me somethin' to eat and drink, and decent clothes."

"Talk here and now!"

"I told you where I'd talk. If you're wise, you won't lose any time."

"Very well, señor."


AS HE fumbled for the keys he had brought along and prepared to open the door, Martinez was thinking he would use this poor fool of a Yanqui as long as he was valuable, and the other Yanquis also, then do as he pleased with them.

Martinez unlocked the door and stepped back to let O'Dowd out. He was on guard. He had a pistol in his belt, and gripped it and held it ready.

Dan stepped from the cell and shuffled forward, so Martinez could walk in a safe position behind him.

"Coward! Renegade!" Fray Sebastiano denounced him.

"That's enough abuse from you!"

He stopped, half turned, faced the cell in which the fray and Don Marcos were imprisoned. His fists were clenched.

"Be quiet!" he roared. "I'll tear that door down and get at you!"

He sprang to the door, gripped the bars and tried to shake them. Fray Sebastiano and Don Marcos retreated a few feet in the face of his wrath. But they noticed a peculiar expression on his face.

Martinez laughed. "Come on, Yanqui. I promise you'll have revenge on the pair of them."

Dan whirled and sprang, his fists lashing out. He took a chance of finding Martinez ready for him, but Martinez was only half ready. His arm jerked up as he ripped out an oath, and the pistol came up with it. O'Dowd struck up the arm as the weapon exploded, and the slug thudded into the ceiling.

He rained blows upon Martinez, keeping him from getting out a knife. Martinez fought back as they tripped and rolled on the floor. Dan was fighting like a madman. He got his hands on Martinez' throat and used all his strength. Martinez' grip relaxed and his body went limp.

"You have killed the renegate," Fray Sebastiano said, as Dan lurched to his feet. "Forgive me, my son, for doubting you a moment."

"I did some good foolin', maybe."

Dan examined his victim and knew he would soon regain consciousness. He race'' to the end of the corridor and returned with ropes. Kneeling beside Martinez, he stripped the clothes from his body. He tore off the rags he was wearing and dressed Martinez in them. He streaked his body with dirt from his own. He bound the renegade's arms behind his back and tied his ankles together.

Martinez moaned, opened his eyes, began cursing as he writhed on the floor. Dan gagged him with a strip of cloth, then carried him into the cell and propped him against the wall.

Leaving Martinez there, he went back into the corridor and dressed swiftly m his clothes. He wiped the dirt from his face as well as he could, pulled Martinez' gorgeous sombrero down low on his head, wrapped the man's serape around his shoulders so he could half hide his face by thrusting down his chin.

He seized the keys, opened the other cell and let Fray Sebastiano and Don Marcos out.

"MARTINEZ, I'm leavin' you here," he said, then, "but I'm puttin' the bag over your head. You're gagged and can't do more than gurgle. Our bodies are of a size, and your men are too full of wine to be careful. When they come to get the man for the whippin', Martinez, they'll get you."

He put the leather bag over his head and tied it around the throat, locked him in the cell, and hung the keys on the wall.

"Come!" he told the other two. "If we meet anybody, I'm Martinez. We'll go to the alcalde's office room. I'll pretend I'm lettin' you two go. Fray Sebastiano, you get to the Governor's house and find the señorita and take care of her."

"At once, my son."

"Let Fray Sebastiano go, but I prefer to remain in hiding until this affair is settled," Don Marcos said. "Martinez* men would kill me at sight. I know where to hide."

They went along the corridor and up the steps, and O'Dowd opened the door. It was only a few steps to the door of the alcalde's room, and nobody was near. Martinez' lieutenant, Miguel, was at the other end of the hall.

"Miguel!" Dan called, imitating Martinez' voice.


The light in the hall was poor, and Miguel saw Martinez' clothes with a man Martinez' size in them, and had no suspicions, for the serape almost covered O'Dowd's face.

"Send word for our men at the Yanqui pack train yard to withdraw at once and mingle with the crowd in the plaza. Send word to the casa for all except a few to do the same. In about half an hour, have the men leave Don Pedro Estrada's house and come to the plaza also. Carry out the whipping as ordered, and do not wait for me to appear."

Then he opened the door and let Fray Sebastiano and Don Marcos into the office. He turned and barked at Miguel again:

"Fray Sebastiano is to be allowed to go to the palace and attend the señorita presently." Then he stepped inside and barred the door.

"A close thing," Don Marcos said. "I desire now to go in hiding until I can get the ear of trusted men and make plans to overcome this uprising. If you wish to leave, Sefior O'Dowd—"

"I want to get out of here quick, but not in these clothes."

"I have others for you."

"I'll let Fray Sebastiano out now, so he can go to the señorita," Dan said.

He unbarred the door as the fray departed, then barred it again. Don Marcos pressed against a spot on the wall, and a panel swung open. They went out of the room and into darkness, and Don Marcos closed the panel again.

Fumbling along the wall, they came to another door. Opening that, they went into a small underground room. Don Marcos lit a candle. The room held arms and ammunition, clothing, wine, preserved meat. O'Dowd stripped off Martinez' clothes and got into some ragged garments and put on an old sombrero.

"THE way out—?" he asked.

Don Marcos opened another door and disclosed a tunnel.

"Through that, señor, and you emerge behind a hut in some brush. It is but a short distance. I remain here for the present. Let me thank you for rescuing me. I'll reward you later."

Bending almost double, Dan fumbled along the tunnel. The door had been closed behind him, and he was in darkness. Dust filled his nostrils, rats scampered ahead of him. It was stifling, and the air was foul.

He saw a glimmer of light ahead. The air became better. He came to a pile of rocks through which light filtered, and saw brush in front of them. Pulling away some of the rocks, he crawled out, and put the rocks back in place. He was behind an adobe hut and screened by brush. A few feet away was the end of a narrow street.

Nobody was in the street. O'Dowd hurried along bent half double, head down. Everybody seemed to be going toward the plaza, where there was a constant din. He hurried toward the pack train yard.

As he approached, he heard the Yanquis howling taunts at Martinez' men, and saw the latter withdrawing. He waited until it was safe, and hurried to the gate. They let him in and gathered round, as he told what had happened, and of plans he had made. It was time for the Yanquis to play in the game.

They shouted agreement, accepted his leadership, ran to saddle horses and get weapons. Dan hurried to his own hut, stripped off his clothes and got into buckskin and boots, and put his coonskin cap on his head.

His horse was ready when he left the hut. Men were selected to remain at the yard on guard. Others slipped out a few at a time, and started circling through the town to a rendezvous.

Gradually, they gathered at the rear of Martinez' casa, to find his men had taken the mules away and left the secret entrance clear. Most of Martinez' men had withdrawn to the plaza in obedience to the order Miguel had sent. The Yanquis dismounted, some remaining to guard the horses, and the others followed O'Dowd through the brush to the rear wall.

They pulled away the loose adobe bricks and got inside. A flight of steps led downward. An avalanche of men suddenly fell upon the guard who sat before the door of the torture room. His first scream rang through the house, but the second was choked in his throat.

Some of the men rushed up the steps to carry out O'Dowd's orders, and others went with him to the torture room. They worked swiftly unfastening irons. señora Fate's granddaughter was released first, then the others, and all were sent out to freedom.

Then Dan charged up the stairs with his men. Women were screeching in the paradise room. The few Martinez men fled when the Yanquis appeared. The frightened peon servants were fleeing. The women were told they could go if they wished.

"No loot!" O'Dowd called to his men. "No time for it now."

They hurried below again, to the room where Martinez had stored the munitions his pack train had brought. They selected weapons they desired and rushed out through the secret entrance.

Getting into their saddles, they rode swiftly to the Estrada casa, where the Martinez men had withdrawn to go to the plaza. The Yanquis took command of the street. Dan went to the patio gate and gave the signal. The gate was opened, and he hurried inside.


DON PEDRO ESTRADA received him, but this time Don Pedro was not alone. Beside him, her head held high, stood señorita Glorietta Estrada. Dan's eyes bulged.

"I'm mighty glad she's home safe," he said to Don Pedro. "Fray Sebastiano got her here from the palace, did he? If she hadn't broken her word to me and gone to the baile—"

The señorita giggled.

"It might not have been so funny," Dan told her, some anger in his manner.

"Let us speak of other things now, sehor," Don Pedro said. "Tell me what has happened."

O'Dowd explained swiftly.

"You have indeed done well, señor." Don Pedro said. "You and your men can do still more. I have news for you, brought by the messenger. I hold here my appointment as Governor of New Spain."

O'Dowd grinned. "That makes everything about perfect," he said. "I was figurin' it would be a chore to kick Martinez out 'less there was a good man to take his place. Was commencin' to think I'd have to be king of New Spain and let the Yanquis run it."

"What have you to suggest?" Don Pedro asked.

"The people are for you, Don Pedro. All you have to do is go to the plaza and announce your appointment. But the people may be puzzled. When the señorita took her ride this mornin* at the side of Martinez, naturally they got the idea you were backin' him."

"That was his object," Don Pedro said.

He went into the patio to issue orders. Dan turned to the señorita, and found her dueña had come into the room and was standing behind her. señorita Glorietta smiled at him, however.

"I feel sure you do not approve of me, señor," she said.

"I approve of you, all right, but not of some of the things you've done," Dan replied. "You'll be gettin' into serious trouble some day, if you don't behave yourself."

"Perhaps, señor, I need a husband. No doubt one would beat me if I misbehaved. Are you to remain in Santa Fe, señor? It will become a great place as trade increases and more people come here to make their homes."

"I'd planned to go to Taos, and I'll maybe start when this fuss is over. Got some business there. But I'm goin' back with the wagon train when it leaves. But I reckon I'll be cornin' back to Santa Fé with the next train."

DON PEDRO came hurrying back into the room.

"señor O'Dowd, I have arranged to go to the plaza," he said. "I must make my appointment public. Trouble and bloodshed must be prevented if possible. My daughter, you will accompany me."

"You mean to take her along?" O'Dowd asked in surprise.

"I find it necessary, señor. You and your Yanqui friends can do much to help me now. Let us make plans."

They sat at the table and planned in whispers, while the señorita, with a slight show of displeasure, got up and walked the length of the room and stood looking out into the patio, the duena at her side.

Then they all went out into the courtyard, where Don Pedro's carriage was waiting, and he got into it with the señorita on one side of him and the duena on the other.

Dan hurried to the street to hold a quick conference with the Yanquis. They got into their saddles. The gate was opened, the carriage driven out into the narrow street.

Some of the Yanquis rode ahead and more behind. O'Dowd was in the van. They could hear men yelling and women screeching in the distant plaza.


MARTINEZ' lieutenant, Miguel, had come with the pack train from Guadalajara, a long and tiresome journey, and had reached Santa Fé in time to play an important part in Martinez' plans. He had been so busy there had been no time for pleasure.

Waiting around the front of the carcel, he experimented in mixing wines and white whisky as a prelude to greater delights when Martinez was firmly established. His sturdy body had strength and he kept his feet, but his brain was befuddled and his eyes did not see so keenly as usual.

At the appointed hour, he carried out orders. Calling four men to help, he went below to the cells, took the key from the wall and tossed it to one of the others.

"Get the Yanqui out," he ordered, "and we'll have sport."

Martinez, the bag over his head, the gag keeping him from disclosing his identity, dressed in ragged peon's clothes, his feet bare and dirty, felt them seize him. He twisted and squirmed. "Boot him !" Miguel ordered. "Take no nonsense from the Yanqui pig!"

The other men were befuddled by liquor also, and none was well acquainted with either Martinez or O'Dowd. So they gave the prisoner a few kicks and jerked him out of the cell, and forced him to hobble along the corridor and up the steps.

As they emerged from the building, the waiting mob gave howls of delight. Martinez was gurgling behind his gag, but nobody heard him. If he pulled back, he got a kick or cuff. His own men cleared a path through the crowd so they could lead him to the whipping post. His arms were untied, then stretched over his head and tied to the post, his legs tied also.

"Lay on!" Miguel ordered his men.

They had brought two whips. One sang, struck Martinez' back and made a streak of red. A second blow fell, and blood spurted through the skin. The crowd howled. Miguel seized one of the whips and gave his chief a terrific blow which brought more blood.

"He's fainted already!" somebody shouted.

Martinez' body had sagged. A man stepped forward and rubbed salt into the wounds. The men whipped again. Martinez' body jerked, and he squirmed and twisted, showing he was not unconscious. His head, encased in the leather bag, wobbled from side to side.

"Enough for the present!" Miguel ordered.

He stepped back and raised a hand, and the deluge began. Gobs of mud and filth, clods and stones and sticks were hurled at the man tied to the post. Old women and squaws cackled in enjoyment as they tormented him. Children ran in and whipped his legs until blood streamed from them.

Martinez kept a hold on consciousness. The greater torture was in his mind. He knew he would not be respected after this. The people would not accept a ruler who had been whipped and scorned. His native pride was crushed, he never could hold up his head again. If he boasted or aped his betters, displayed his wealth and tried to act in a pompous manner, people would grin at him.

Now the lash was biting into his back again at regular intervals. He felt strength leaving his body. The pain was not so sharp. Flashes came before his eyes, and he knew unconsciousness was approaching.

The whipping ceased, and again the deluge of mud and filth began. But a cry came from the fringe of the crowd, was echoed by others, gained in volume and ran around the plaza. The deluge stopped.

INTO the plaza from one of the streets mounted Yanquis were riding, surrounding a carriage, and others afoot were running beside the horses. They had come in force to rescue their comrade, the crowd thought, and would exact a terrible vengeance.

Women screamed and fled, pulling their children with them. Men scattered. Martinez' followers fumbled for weapons, not knowing whether to start trouble, since they had no commander to give them word.

The horsemen separated, and the carriage was driven straight toward the whipping post. The crowd recognized Don Pedro Estrada and his daughter. The carriage stopped, and Don Pedro stood in it and gestured for silence.

"Take that man from the post!" Don Pedro ordered. "He has been whipped sufficiently."

Miguel lurched forward. "Don Pedro, señor Martinez ordered this whipping. If I unbind him, it is your responsibility."

Don Pedro drew himself up. "Everything here is my responsibility. I am the Governor of New Spain." He picked up a document. "This came by special messenger—my appointment to serve as Governor. Listen as I read."

They gave him close attention as he read the wordy document in an impressive manner. When be had finished, he looked them over again.

"If any here dares defy my authority, let him speak now!" Don Pedro cried.

"How about Martinez?" somebody called.

"He is not fit to be your ruler. He would serve his own interests. He would make himself a king, and only his favorites would be treated well."

"Where is Martinez? Let's hear from him!" somebody shouted.

Don Pedro pointed to the man at the whipping post.

"Take the bag off his head and revive him," he ordered.


MIGUEL sprang forward to ob He was eager to cause as me delay as possible, hoping Martir would hurry to the scene and ts charge.

The other men waved the crowd bz and made room. The ropes were taken off the victim, and Miguel fumbled with the cord which bound the leather bag around his neck. The cord loose, he lifted the bag and turned to toss it aside.

He had been working behind the victim, and did not see his face when one of the men lifted his head by thrusting it backward by the chin. But others saw.

This was not the red-headed Yanqui —and now they saw that Yanqui on a black horse beside Don Pedro's carriage. Here before them, victim of the whipping, the man at whom they had thrown filth, who had been scorned and derided, was Carlos Martinez.

There was a moment of stunned silence, then a roar of laughter. That laughter settled Martinez. His eyes flamed, and he tried to lift his head.

"Miguel—!" he cried.

The horrified Miguel took a step forward and stopped. Pie remembered that he had commanded this affair, that he had put the lash across Martinez' back himself. It was better he did not show friendship for Martinez now.

"Well, senõr?" Miguel asked.

"Call the men together!"

"Call them yourself, señor," Miguel suggested.

"To me!" Martinez howled. "Attack those Yanquis! Put Don Pedro under arrest!"

No man obeyed. They looked at the Yanquis on their horses, weapons held ready, at the others afoot and ready to charge. They glanced at the carriage, where Don Pedro Estrada stood with his arms folded across his breast.

"I am the Governor of New Spain and give orders here," Don Pedro said. "Be glad, Carlos Martinez, that you worked your treason before I was appointed. If you transgress again, you go before a firing squad."

"'Tis you who are the traitor, Don Pedro!" Martinez cried. "You urged me to rebellion. I and my men deposed Don Marcos Vega for you. You promised me your daughter for wife, and let her ride beside me this morning—"

"That is a lie, señor!" Don Pedro broke in. "All here know I despise you. Had I wished a partner in treason, you'd not have been the man. And my daughter did not ride beside you this morning!"

"Ha!" Martinez cried. "Do you hear that, people? How many of you saw her?"

"My daughter did not ride with you," Don Pedro repeated. "It was my niece."

A murmur of surprise ran through the crowd. Here was news! Nobody there ever had heard Don Pedro had a niece.

"YEARS ago in Mexico City, I had a brother," Don Pedro explained. "He became enamored of a native girl, and we of the family could do nothing. He married her, to the family's disgrace, and later killed himself. That is why I left Mexico City years ago and came here. There was a daughter born, but no trace of mother and child could be found when we searched.

"Recently, a girl came to Santa Fé with an old man she believed to be her father, but who was in reality her mother's brother. For her mother had died also. Martinez saw her, and had his thugs try to run her down. He asked for my daughter for his wife, and when I scorned him said he would seize my niece, make it appear she was my daughter and that I favored him in his treason.

"Finally he seized her, and it was my niece who rode beside him this morning, not knowing why. For she does not know, unless Fray Sebastiano has told her within the last hour, the truth of this affair."

"Lies—" Martinez began, and stopped.

The crowd was parting. Down the lane it made came Fray Sebastiano with a frightened girl clinging to his arm. Sehorita Glorietta stood beside her father and looked at the girl.

Murmurs came from the crowd when they saw how much the two girls resembled each other. They were enough alike to be sisters. The Estrada blood was strong in both.

Anita, badly frightened, was clinging to Fray Sebastiano, and he was patting her hand and telling her to have courage. At the side of the carriage, they stopped.

Don Pedro looked down at the girl. "I am your uncle, señorita," he said. "Have you been told?"

"Si, señor," she murmured.

"And I am your cousin," Glorietta Estrada said, bravely, bending down and offering her hand. "Come into the carriage and sit beside me. You have the right—my cousin."

Don Pedro beckoned, and O'Dowd rode up beside the carriage. "Do you understand now, Seiior O'Dowd?" Don Pedro asked. "There were two girls, and perhaps that is why their comings and goings puzzled you."

"And I, señor," Glorietta said, "did not understand you that first night in the patio, and went to my father about it, and he explained. If I had a small amount of fun with you about it afterward, pray forgive me, señor."

"I reckon you're forgiven," Dan replied.

"What about Martinez?" somebody was shouting again.

"I leave Fray Sebastiano to deal with him," Don Pedro replied.

He motioned, and the carriage was driven on to the Governor's house. The crowd was silent, watching the fray, Sebastiano walked near and spoke sternly.

"Carlos Martinez, guilty of almost every known crime, I could order you shot, but death would be too merciful," the fray said. "It is my sentence that all your goods be taken from you and divided among the poor. Dressed in the rags of a peon, and without weapon or extra clothing, food or drink, you will be taken southward to the edge of the Indian country and released."

"You would dare?" Martinez cried.

"Dare? Why not, señor? You are a nobody, a nothing from this moment. You have no power, and soon you will have no pride. II you ever return to the vicinity of Santa Fé, you will go before a firing squad." Fray Sebastiano beckoned, and four men approached. "Take him and do as I have ordered."

The four seized Martinez and led him away. The crowd began to scatter. Dan O'Dowd rode over to the Governor's house. Don Pedro received him warmly. The two señoritas and the dueiia were with him.

"You have come for your reward, señor?" Don Pedro asked.

"I'm not lookin' for any reward. I failed in spots, I reckon, and I don't want money for what I did. Doin' it was a pleasure. I've just come to wish you luck and say 'goodby'."

"Goodby?" señorita Glorietta asked.

"Goodby?" her cousin whimpered.

O'Dowd faced them as they stood side by side with the severe dueña behind them. He felt strangely disturbed when he looked at señorita Glorietta and saw her soft smile, disturbed also at the expression in the face of her cousin.

"I ride to Taos," Dan said. "Got some business there. But maybe I'll be cornin' back."

Glorietta Estrada smiled again, and extended her hand to him despite the dueña's warning cough.

"I feel sure you'll come back, señor," she said. "We'll always be waiting to welcome you. señor, á Dios!"