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.” 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.”
“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?”