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Jose Sanchez Swears An Oath








From: Heart Of The Sunset

On this same evening a scene of no little significance was taking
place at Las Palmas. Ed Austin was entertaining callers, and these
were none other than Tad Lewis and Adolfo Urbina.

The progress of events during the last few days had shaped this
conference, for, as Dave had forecast during his conversation with
Judge Ellsworth, the local prosecuting attorney saw in the Guzman
cattle case an opportunity to distinguish himself, and was taking
action accordingly. He had gathered considerable evidence against
Urbina, and was exerting himself to the utmost for an indictment.
He had openly declared that the testimony of Ricardo Guzman and
his other witnesses would convict the suspect, and the fact that
his politics were opposed to Ed Austin's complicated matters still
further. It was the unwelcome news of all this which had brought
Tad Lewis and his Mexican helper to Las Palmas under cover of
darkness. Having gone over the circumstances in detail, Lewis
concluded:

"We're depending on you, Ed. You got to stand pat."

But Austin was lukewarm. He had experienced a change of heart, and
the cause appeared when he read aloud a letter that day received
from Judge Ellsworth, in which the judge told of his meeting with
Dave Law, and the Ranger's reasons for doubting Ed's word.

"I've got to take water," "Young Ed" told his visitors, "or I'll
get myself into trouble." Then querulously he demanded of Adolfo:
"Why in hell did you come here, anyhow? Why didn't you keep to the
chaparral?"

Adolfo shrugged. "I thought you were my friend."

"Sure!" Tad agreed. "Urbina's been a friend to you, now you got to
stick to him. We got to hang together, all of us. My evidence
wouldn't carry no weight; but there ain't a jury in South Texas
that would question yours. Adolfo done the right thing."

"I don't see it," Ed declared, petulantly. "What's the use of
getting me into trouble? There's the river; they can't follow you
across."

But Urbina shook his head.

"You know he can't cross," Tad explained. "His people would shoot
him if he ever went to Mexico."

"Well, he'll be caught if he stays here. You daren't send that
damned Ranger on another blind trail. If Adolfo can't go south
he'll have to go north."

"Not on your life," affirmed Lewis. "If he runs it'll prove his
guilt and look bad for me. I'm the one they're after, and I don't
stand any too good, as you know. You got to go through with this,
Ed."

"I won't do it," Austin asserted, stubbornly. "I won't be dragged
into the thing. You've no business rustling stock, anyhow. You
don't have to."

Urbina exhaled a lungful of cigarette smoke and inquired, "You
won't help me, eh?"

"No, I won't."

"Very well! If I go to prison you shall go, too. I shall tell all
I know and we shall be companions, you and I."

Austin's temper rose at the threat. "Bah!" he cried,
contemptuously. "There's nothing against me except running arms,
and the embargo is off now. It's a joke, anyhow. Nobody was ever
convicted, even when the embargo was in effect. Why, the
government winks at anybody who helps the Rebels."

"Oh, that is nothing!" Urbina agreed; "but you would not wish to
be called a cattle thief, eh?"

"What d'you mean?"

"You knew that the stealing went on."

"Huh! I should say I did. Haven't I lost a lot of horses?"

Lewis interposed, impatiently: "Say! Suppose Adolfo tells what he
knows about them horses? Suppose he tells how you framed it to
have your own stock run across, on shares, so's you could get more
money to go hifalutin' around San Antone without your wife knowing
it? I reckon you wouldn't care to have that get out."

"You can't prove it," growled "Young Ed."

"Oh! I reckon it can be proved all right," confidently asserted
Lewis.

"Nobody'd believe such a thing."

"Folks are ready to believe 'most anything about you. Your wife
would believe it. Ain't Las Palmas in her name, and don't she give
you so much a month to spend? If them ain't facts, you lied to
me."

"Yes!" Urbina supplemented. "I can swear to all that. And I can
swear also that you knew about those calves the other day."

"What!" Ed started.

"Why not? We were together; your own people saw us. Well, then, if
you would steal your wife's horses, why would you not steal your
neighbor's cattle? The relatives of poor Pino Garza--God rest his
soul!--will bear me out. I have arranged for that. Suppose I tell
the jury that there were three of us in that pasture of yours,
instead of two? What then? I would be lonely in prison without a
good compadre to bear me company." Urbina grinned in evil triumph.

"This is the damnedest outrage I ever heard of," gasped "Young
Ed." "It's a fairy story--"

"Prove it," chuckled Lewis. "The prosecuting attorney'd eat it up,
Ed. It sounds kind of crazy, but you can't ask Adolfo to take to
the brush and live like a javelin just for your sake, when you
could square him with a word."

There was a moment or two of silence, during which the visitors
watched the face of the man whose weakness they both knew. At last
Ed Austin ventured to say, apologetically:

"I'm willing to do almost anything to help Adolfo, but--they'll
make a liar of me if I take the stand. Isn't there some other way
out?"

"I don't know of any," said Lewis.

"Money'll square anything," Ed urged, hopefully, whereupon Urbina
waved his cigarette and nodded.

"This Ricardo Guzman is the cause of it all. He is a bad man."

"No doubt of that," Lewis agreed. "He's got more enemies than I
have. If he was out of the way there wouldn't be nothin' to this
case, and the country'd be a heap better off, too."

"What about that other witness?" Ed queried.

"If Ricardo were gone--if something should happen to him"--
Urbina's wicked face darkened--"there would be no other witness. I
would see to that."

The color receded from Ed Austin's purple cheeks, and he rose
abruptly. "This is getting too strong for me," he cried. "I won't
listen to this sort of talk. I won't be implicated in any such
doings."

"Nobody's goin' to implicate you," Tad told him. "Adolfo wants to
keep you out of trouble. There's plenty of people on both sides of
the river that don't like Guzman any better'n we do. Me an' Adolfo
was talkin' it over on the way up."

"Well, you can talk it over some more, but I'm going for a drink,"
Ed declared, and left the room, nervously mopping his face. He
knew only too well the character of his two visitors; he had
learned much about Tad Lewis during the past few months, and, as
for the Mexican, he thought the fellow capable of any crime. At
this moment Ed bitterly regretted his acquaintance with these
neighbors, for both men knew more about his affairs than he cared
to have made public. He was angry and resentful at Tad for taking
sides against him, and more than a little fearful of Adolfo's
enmity if he refused assistance. The owner of Las Palmas still
retained a shred of self-respect, a remnant of pride in his name;
he did not consider himself a bad man. He was determined now to
escape from this situation without loss of credit, no matter what
the price--if escape were possible--and he vowed earnestly to
himself that hereafter he would take ample pains never to become
similarly involved.

Austin remained out of the room for some time; when he returned
his visitors appeared to have reached some determination.

"I reckon we can fix things if you'll help," Lewis announced.

"And that's just what I won't do," Ed impatiently declared. "Do
you think I'm going to be tangled up in a--murder? I've got
nothing against Don Ricardo."

"Who said anything about murder? Things ain't like they was when
your father owned Las Palmas; he done his share of killin', but
nowadays there's too dam' much law layin' around loose. All you've
got to do is give me about a thousand dollars."

"What for?" Ed asked, suspiciously.

"So's we can handle ourselves. It's up to you to do something,
ain't it?"

Austin demurred. "I haven't that much that I can lay hands on," he
said, sullenly. "I'm broke. And, anyhow, I don't see what good
it'll do."

"You better dig it up, somehow, just for your own sake."

The two men eyed each other for a moment; then Austin mumbled
something about his willingness to try, and left the room for a
second time. The money which Alaire kept on hand for current
expenses was locked in her safe, but he knew the combination.

It was with an air of resignation, with a childish, half-hearted
protest, that he counted out the desired amount into Lewis's hand,
salving his conscience with the statement: "I'm doing this to help
Adolfo out of his trouble, understand? I hope it'll enable you to
square things."

"Maybe it will and maybe it won't," sneered Lewis. "Anyhow, I
ain't scared of tryin'. I got the guts to make a battle, even if
you haven't."

Ed Austin was greatly relieved when his unwelcome callers rode
away; as he composed himself for sleep, an hour later, he
refrained from analyzing too deeply the motives behind this forced
loan, and refused to speculate too long upon the purpose to which
it might be put. The whole occurrence was unfortunate. Ed Austin
sincerely hoped he had heard the last of it.

Jose Sanchez made use of the delay at Pueblo to institute further
inquiries regarding his missing cousin, but nowhere could he find
the slightest trace. Panfilo had set out to ride to this point and
thence to La Feria, but the last seen of him had been at the
water-hole, one day's ride from the home ranch. At that point the
earth had opened and swallowed him. If he were alive why had he
not written to his sweetheart, Rosa?

Jose swore an oath that he would learn the truth if it required
his whole lifetime, and, if it should turn out that his sainted
relative had indeed met with foul play--well! Jose told his
friends they could judge, by looking at him, the sort of man he
was. He proudly displayed Longorio's revolver, and called it his
cousin's little avenger. The weapon had slain many; it had a duty
still to perform, so he said.

Jose intended to confide his purpose to Mrs. Austin, but when it
came time to start for Las Palmas there was a fourth passenger in
the automobile, and he was obliged to hold his tongue for the
moment.

A motor trip along the lower Rio Grande would prove a novel and
not altogether agreeable experience to the average automobilist,
for there are few improved roads and the rest offer many
difficulties, not the least of which are frequent fords, some
deep, some shallow. So it was that Alaire considered it necessary
to make an early start.

In spite of the unhealthy fancies that Dave Law had taken to bed
with him, he arose this morning in fine spirits and with a
determination to put in a happy day. Alaire, too, was in good
humor and expressed her relief at escaping from everything
Mexican.

"I haven't seen a newspaper for ages, and I don't know what is
going on at Jonesville or anywhere else," she confided.

Dave told her of the latest developments in the Mexican situation,
the slow but certain increase of tension between the two
governments, and then of home happenings. When she asked him about
his own doings, he informed her of the affair which had brought
him to Pueblo.

Of course all three of his companions were breathlessly interested
in the story of Pino Garza's death; Dolores and Jose did not allow
a word to escape them.

"So they cut our fence and ran the calves into our pasture to
brand!" Alaire said. "It's time somebody like you came to
Jonesville, Mr. Law."

"Caramba! It required bravery to ride alone into that rincon,"
Jose declared. "I knew Pino Garza well, and he could shoot like
the devil."

"You said your horse saved your life," Mrs. Austin went on. "How
do you mean?" When Dave had explained, she cried, quickly, "You
weren't riding--Bessie Belle?"

"Yes. She's buried where she dropped."

"Oh-h!" Alaire's exclamation was eloquent of pity, and Law smiled
crookedly.

"I've been right lonesome since she went away. 'Most every day I
find myself stealing sugar for her, the way I used to do. See!" He
fumbled in the pocket of his coat and produced some broken lumps.
"Probably you don't understand how a man gets to love his horse.
Now we used to talk to each other, just like two people. Of
course, I did most of the talking, but she understood. Why, ma'am,
I've awakened in the night to find her standing over me and my
cheek wet where she'd kissed it. She'd leave the nicest grass just
to come and visit with me."

Alaire turned a quick glance upon the speaker to find his face set
and his eyes miserable. Impulsively she laid her hand upon his
arm, saying:

"I know how you must feel. Do you know what has always been my
dearest wish? To be able to talk with animals; and to have them
trust me. Just think what fun it would be to talk with the wild
things and make friends of them. Oh, when I was a little girl I
used to dream about it!"

Law nodded his vigorous appreciation of such a desire. "Dogs and
horses sabe more than we give them credit for. I've learned a few
bird words, too. You remember those quail at the water-hole?"

"Oh yes."

Dave smiled absent-mindedly. "There's a wonderful book about
birds--one of the keenest satires ever written, I reckon. It's
about a near-sighted old Frenchman who was cast away on a penguin
island. He saw the big birds walking around and thought they were
human beings."

"How did you happen to read Anatole France?" Alaire asked, with a
sharp stare of surprise.

The Ranger stirred, but he did not meet her eyes. "Well," said he,
"I read 'most anything I can get. A feller meets up with strange
books just like he meets up with strange people."

"Not books like--that." There was a brief silence. "Mr. Law, every
now and then you say something that makes me think you're a--rank
impostor."

"Pshaw!" said he. "I know cowboys that read twice as good as I
do."

"You went to school in the East, didn't you?"

"Yes'm."

"Where?" The man hesitated, at which she insisted, "Where?"

Dave reluctantly turned upon her a pair of eyes in the depths of
which there lurked the faintest twinkle. "Cornell," said he.

Alaire gasped. After a while she remarked, stiffly, "You have a
peculiar sense of humor."

"Now don't be offended," he begged of her. "I'm a good deal like a
chameleon; I unconsciously change my color to suit my
surroundings. When we first met I saw that you took me for one
thing, and since then I've tried not to show you your mistake."

"Why did you let me send you those silly books? Now that you have
begun to tell the truth, keep it up. How many of them had you
read?"

"We-ll, I hadn't read any of them--lately."

"How disagreeable of you to put it that way!" The car leaped
forward as if spurred by Alaire's mortification. "I wondered how
you knew about the French Revolution. 'That Bastilly was some
calaboose, wasn't it'?" She quoted his own words scornfully. "I
dare say you've had a fine laugh at my expense?"

"No!" gravely denied the man.

They had come to an arroyo containing a considerable stream of
muddy water, and Law was forced to get out to plug the carburetor
and stop the oil-intakes to the crankcase. This done, Alaire ran
the machine through on the self-starter. When Jose's "Carambas!"
and Dolores's shrieks had subsided, and they were again under way,
Mrs. Austin, it seemed, had regained her good humor.

"You will receive no more of my favorite authors," she told Dave,
spitefully. "I'll keep them to read myself."

"You like knights and--chivalry and such things, don't you?"

"Chivalry, yes. In the days when I believed in it I used to cry
over those romances."

"Don't you still believe in chivalry?"

Alaire turned her eyes upon the questioner, and there were no
girlish illusions in them. "Do you?" she queried, with a faint
curl of her lip.

"Why--yes."

She shook her head. "Men have changed. Nowadays they are all
selfish and sordid. But--I shouldn't generalize, for I'm a
notorious man-hater, you know."

"It seems to me that women are just as selfish as men--perhaps
more so--in all but little things."

"Our definitions of 'little things' may differ. What do you call a
big thing?"

"Love! That's the biggest thing in the world," Law responded,
promptly.

"It seems to be so considered. So you think women are selfish in
love?" He nodded, whereupon she eyed him speculatively. "Let us
see. You are a man--how far would you go for the woman you loved?"

"The limit!"

Mrs. Austin frowned at this light-seeming answer. "I suppose you
mean that you would make any sacrifice?"

"Yes; that's it."

"Would you give up the woman herself, if you considered it your
duty?"

"No. There couldn't be any duty higher than love--to my way of
thinking. But you shouldn't take me as a specimen. I'm not a good
representative of my sex."

"I think you are a very good one," Alaire said, quietly, and Dave
realized that no flattery was intended. Although he was willing to
talk further on this subject, Mrs. Austin gave him no opportunity
of airing his views. Love, it appeared, was a thing she did not
care to discuss with him on their footing of semi-intimacy.

Despite the rough roads, they made fair time, and the miles of
cactus and scrawny brush rolled swiftly past. Occasionally a lazy
jack-rabbit ambled out of his road-side covert and watched them
from a safe distance; now and then a spotted road-runner raced
along the dusty ruts ahead of them. The morning sun swung higher,
and by midday the metal of the automobile had become as hot as a
frying-pan. They stopped at various goat-ranches to inquire about
Adolfo Urbina, and at noon halted beside a watercourse for lunch.

Dave was refilling the radiator when he overheard Jose in
conversation with Mrs. Austin.

"Nowhere a trace!" the horse-breaker was saying. "No one has seen
him. Poor Rosa Morales will die of a broken heart."

Alaire explained to her guest: "Jose is worried about his cousin
Panfilo. It seems he has disappeared."

"So! You are Panfilo's cousin?" Dave eyed the Mexican with new
interest.

"Si!"

"You remember the man?" Alaire went on. "He was with that fellow
you arrested at the water-hole."

"Oh yes. I remember him." With steady fingers Dave shook some
tobacco into a cigarette-paper. He felt Alaire's eyes upon him,
and they were eloquent of inquiry, but he did not meet them.

Jose frowned. "No one at La Feria has seen him, and in Pueblo
there was not a word. It is strange."

"Panfilo was in bad company when I saw him." Law finished rolling
his cigarette and lit it, still conscious of Alaire's questioning
gaze. "He may have had trouble."

"He was a good man," the horse-breaker asserted. "If he is dead--"
The Mexican's frown deepened to a scowl.

"What then?"

Jose significantly patted the gift revolver at his hip. "This
little fellow will have something to say."

Dave looked him over idly, from head to heel, then murmured: "You
would do well to go slow, compadre. Panfilo made his own
quarrels."

"We were like brothers, and I do not know of any quarrels. But I
shall find out. It begins to look bad for somebody. After he left
that charco there is--nothing. Where did he go? Whom did he
encounter? Rosa will ask me those questions. I am not given to
boasting, senor, but I am a devilish bad man in my way."





Next: The Truth About Panfilo

Previous: Dave Law Becomes Jealous



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