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Chapter 18

  • In the calendar of love days count as weeks, months as years; but, though th_ollowing week conformed to this universal law, Seyd managed to extract fro_ts laggard hours his modicum of joy. Following the mules on two trips betwee_he mine and station he lived in a glow of feeling, the natural reaction o_is late despair. By turns relief, joy, hope governed his reflections, finall_niting in optimism that drowned his customary caution. Whereas only a wee_go he had begun to plan for a trip home to California to raise money to mee_heir first note he now determined to put it off until he should have seen Do_uis, and then, if necessary, send Billy.
  • “I’ll call on him immediately after the funeral,” he said, talking it ove_ith Billy. “If he demands his pound of flesh there’ll still be time for yo_o go north.”
  • This settled, he had gone about his business in happier mood than he had know_or many a year. It seemed to him as if the tangled run of his life wa_eginning to unfold straight and plain. But while he worked, the evil fate_hich had made such a ravel in his personal skein were equally busy inventin_resh tangles. On the day that saw at once the delivery of the last piece o_achinery and the arrival of the first seasonal rain Sebastien and Francesc_oined battle at the El Quiss hacienda.
  • Until, the morning after the funeral, Sebastien called her aside to thank he_or her care of his mother she had shown him only the sympathy due his sorrow.
  • But under it resentment still smoldered, and it was fanned to a flame by hi_ccidental expression.
  • “It was the kinder because I had forced you away. If I can make any return—”
  • “You can.” She filled his pause. “During the last six months I had time fo_eflection, and the more I thought of it the more I wondered at myself for m_asy yielding to your will. It is not that I was unwilling to do that or mor_or your mother. But to be sent away like a naughty school girl under a solem_ow against correspondence—”
  • “The price of your consent, you remember, was the gringo’s life?” His eye li_ith the old saturnine sparkle. “As you see, he still cumbers good Mexica_arth.”
  • “You dared not have harmed him in any case.”
  • “No?”
  • “No.” She met without flinching his look of sarcastic interrogation. “Porfiri_iaz will not stand for the killing of _Americanos_. As you well know,
  • Sebastien, he would surely have hunted you down.”
  • “If there had been any to tell? Even your folly would hardly have arisen t_hat.”
  • “’Twould not have been necessary. If I had warned him, placed your threat o_ecord with his friends, ’twere sufficient. If not, there is still anothe_rgument that would have held you.”
  • “And that?”
  • “The sure knowledge that I would hate you forever.”
  • “Good reasons, both of them.” He shrugged. “But you overlook the fact, m_ousin, that a whisper in the ear of the good uncle would have taken th_atter out of my hands.”
  • “That would not have cleared you—with me. Now listen, Sebastien. I yielde_ecause at the time it seemed the only way, and after I realized my folly _till lived up to my promise. But now I give you warning. Henceforth I shal_ot permit your interference in my affairs.”
  • “Your love affairs?”
  • “ _Bueno!_ ” Looking him straight in the eye, she accepted the correction. “M_love_ affairs.”
  • “It will not be necessary.”
  • Instead of the violent outburst she expected he stood looking at her, in hi_yes a peculiar light half of pity, half vindictive. A trifle nonplussed, sh_eturned his gaze. Perhaps, with feminine inconsistency, she was no_ltogether pleased by his tame acceptance, for her color rose and one smal_oot tapped the polished floor tiles. “I am glad you take it so reasonably.”
  • Again he failed with the expected outburst, and her uneasiness grew i_orrespondence with the pity in his glance. “You mistake me. I said it woul_e unnecessary. Read!”
  • He turned and went out, a mercy she appreciated when, after a puzzled glanc_t the paper he had stolen from Peters, her eye was guided by the heavy in_corings to the article that set forth Seyd’s divorce. At first she hardl_ealized its import. But when she did—surely the hand that guided the pen ha_chieved revenge far beyond its owner’s blackest hope! Going out, Sebastie_eard the paper crackle. Looking back, he saw her standing frozen, eyes wid_nd black in her mute white face; and, stricken with sudden pity, he softl_losed the door.
  • But he did not go away. He knew her too well. Given her wild Irish blood plu_er Spanish pride there could come but one result, and while she struggle_oward it within he paced the _corredor_ without. When at last she opened th_oor and came on him there he knew that he had won by the scorn that set he_oft mouth in straight red lines. In the dusk of the _corredor_ her fac_oomed, pale and drawn, the eyes red and swollen. But when she saw the dee_ity in his stern eyes her own lost something of their hardness.
  • “You were always kind—and wise.” Her mouth quivering, she gave him both hands.
  • “’Twould have made for my good had I listened to you more.”
  • For him it was a perilous moment. The touch of her hands aroused an intens_esire to seize and comfort her with kisses. Had he given way to it she woul_ave surely been shocked out of the resolution that had been born of her ange_nd shame. But the habit of years enabled him to keep the impulse unde_estraint. She went quietly to the end.
  • “I am very grateful—I would like to make some return. If we had not grown u_ogether I should no doubt have loved you from the beginning in the way yo_ished, for you are closer to the man of my girlish dreams than any other _ave ever known.” She smiled wanly. “He does not exist, my dream man, or, i_e did, what use could he have for such a wild, naughty girl as I? So, if yo_till want me—”
  • “Want you!” He would have drawn her to him, but she pulled back.
  • “Not yet! I like you, have always loved you—in a sisterly way. I must hav_ime to change my viewpoint. Give me a month?”
  • “And then—”
  • “If you still wish it I will be your wife.”
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