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Chapter 4 IN THE ADOBE OF PEDRO VIJIL

  • “There ain’t no such animal,” decided Kit Rhodes seated on the edge of the be_n Pedro Vigil’s adobe. His head was bandaged, his face a trifle pale and th_dor of medicaments in the shadowy room of the one deep-barred window. “No,
  • Captain, no man, free, white and twenty-one _could_ be such a fool. Can’_ingleton see that if Conrad’s story was true he’d have the constable after m_or assault with intent to kill? He’s that sort!”
  • “Well, Singleton thinks Conrad would be justified in having you prosecuted,
  • and jailed, and fined, and a few other things, but for the reputation o_ranados they let you down easy. You know it’s _the_ dovery for the Pass-up-
  • the-fists of this section, and what the Arizona papers would do would be comi_f they ever got hold of the fact that Singleton picked a new bird for th_ove cage, and the dratted thing changed before their eyes to a fractious gam_ooster swinging a right like the hind leg of a mule! No, Bub, we’re orderly,
  • peaceable folks around here, so for the sake of our reputation Singleton ha_revailed on his manager to be merciful to you, and Conrad has in tru_acifist spirit let himself be prevailed upon.”
  • “Which means,” grinned Kit, “that I’m to be put off my guard, and done fo_icely and quietly some moonless night when I take the trail! And he report_e either drunk or temporarily insane, does he? Well, when the next time come_’ll change that gentleman’s mind.”
  • “Shucks, Bub! Thank a fool’s luck that your skull was only scratched, an_on’t go planning future wars. I tell you we are peace doves around here, an_ou are a stray broncho kicking up an undesirable dust in our front yard. Her_s your coin. Singleton turned it over to me and I receipted for it, and w_ave enough between us to hit the Sonora trail, and there’s not a bit of us_n your hanging around here. You have no evidence. You are a stranger wh_mbled in, heard a sensational newspaper report of anti-ally criminal intent,
  • and on the spot accused the highly respectable Granados rancho of indulging i_hat same variety of hellishness! Now there is your case in a nutshell, Bub,
  • and you wouldn’t get the authorities to believe you in a thousand years!”
  • “What about you?”
  • “Oh, I have just little enough sense to believe your hunch is right, but tha_on’t get you anywhere. They think I’m loco too! I’ve an idea there is a lo_ore and rottener activities down south of the line with which our Teutoni_eace arbitrator is mixed up. But he’s been on this job five years, all th_rails are his, and an outsider can’t get a look-in! Now Miguel Herrara ha_een doing gun-running across the border for someone, and Miguel was not onl_rrested by the customs officer, but Miguel was killed two nights ago––sho_ith his own gun so that it looks like suicide. Suicide nothing! His chief,
  • whoever he is, was afraid Miguel would blunder or weaken under governmen_ersuasion, so Miguel was let out of the game. That case is closed, and n_vidence against anyone. I reckon everyone knows that the guns and ammunitio_neaked over is headed for Rancho Soledad. The owner of Soledad, José Perez,
  • is the valued friend of our nice little Conrad, and it happens that Conra_eft Granados this morning for that direction, ostensibly to negotiate wit_he political powers of Sonora concerning a military guard for La Partida i_ase revolutionary stragglers should ride north for fresh saddle-horses. Al_ppeals to the neutral chair warmers at Washington wins us no protection fro_hat source;––they only have guns and men enough to guard some cherished spot_n Texas.”
  • “Well, if the Teuton is able for a trail I reckon he got nothing worse in th_crap than I, even if he did look like a job for the undertaker. That fello_ravels on the strength of his belly and not the strength of his heart.”
  • “So you say,” observed Pike, grinning, “but then again there are others of u_ho travel on nerve and gall and never get any further! Just put this in you_ipe, Bub, and don’t forget it: Conrad is _organised_ for whatever deviltry h_s up to! There is no ‘happen so’ in his schemes. He is a cog in som_olitical wheel, and it’s a fifty-fifty gamble as to whether the wheel i_erman or Mexican, but it is no little thing, and is not to be despised.”
  • “But I can’t see how Singleton, if Singleton is square even–––”
  • “Singleton is a narrow gauge disciple of Universal Peace by decree––which,
  • translated, means plain damn fool. Lord, boy, if a pack of prairie wolves ha_ man surrounded, would he fold his hands with the hope that his peacefu_ttitude would appeal to their better instincts or would he reach for a gu_nd give them protective pills? The man of sense never goes without his gun i_olf land, but Singleton––well, in peace times he could have lived a lon_ifetime, and no one ever guessed what a weak sister he was, but he’s sure ou_f place on the border.”
  • “I’m tired wearing this halo,” observed Rhodes, referring to the whit_andkerchief around his head. “Also some of the dope you gave me seems to b_vaporating from my system, and I feel like hitting the Piman breeze. Can w_trike trail tomorrow?”
  • “We cannot. Doña Luz has been dosing out the dope for you––Mexican women ar_atural doctors with their own sort of herbs––and she says three days befor_ou go in the sun. I’ve a notion she sort of let the Mexicans think that yo_ere likely to cash in, and you bled so like a stuck pig that it was eas_nough to believe the worst.”
  • “Perhaps that’s why Conrad felt safe in leaving me outside of jail. With Doñ_uz as doctor, and a non-professional like you as assistant, I reckon h_hought my chance of surviving that monkey wrench assault was slim, might_lim!”
  • “Y––yes,” agreed Pike, “under ordinary conditions he might have been justifie_n such surmise, but that would be figuring on the normal thickness of th_ormal civilized skull, but yours––why, Bub, all I’m puzzling over now is ho_t happens that the monkey wrench was only twisted a mite, not broke at all!”
  • “You scandalous old varmint!” grinned Kit. “Go on with your weak-minde_musements, taking advantage of a poor lone cripple,––refused by the army, an_ victim of the latest German atrocity! I suppose––I suppose,”––he continue_arkly, “everyone on and around Granados agrees that I was the villain in th_ssault?”
  • “I couldn’t say as to that,” returned Pike judicially. “Doña Luz would dos_ou, and plaster you, just the same if you had killed a half dozen instead o_nocking the wind out of one. She’s pretty fine and all woman, but naturall_ince they regard you as my _companero_ they are shy about expressin_hemselves when I’m around––all except Singleton––and you heard him.”
  • “Good and plenty,” agreed Kit. “Say, I’m going to catch up on sleep while I’v_ chance, and you rustle along and get any tag ends of things needed for th_rail. I’m going to strike for Mesa Blanca, as that will take us up into th_ountry of that Alisal mine. If we go broke there is Mesa Blanca ranch work t_all back on for a grub stake, but from what I hear we can dry wash enough t_uy corn and flour, and the hills are full of burro meat. We’ll browse aroun_ntil we either strike it rich, or get fed up with trying. Anyway, _Companero_
  • , we will be in a quiet, peaceful pastoral land, close to nature, and out o_each of Teuton guile and monkey wrenches. _Buenas noches_ , señor. I’_sleep!”
  • Pike closed the door, and went from the semi-dark of the adobe out into th_rilliant sunshine where Billie, with a basket, was waiting under the _ramada_ith Merced, and Merced looked gloomy lest Pedro should be blamed by Seño_ingleton for practically turning his family out of the adobe that it might b_iven over to the loco Americano.
  • “Tomorrow, can he go?” she asked hopefully. “Me, I have a fear. Not before i_he adobe here watched by hidden men at night, and that is very bad! Becaus_hat he is friend to you I say to everybody that I think the Americano i_ying in our house, but today he talks, also he is laughing. No more sick?”
  • “No more sick, sure not, but it will be one more day. A man does not blee_ike a gored bull and ride the next day under a sky hot enough to fry eggs.
  • The tea of Doña Luz drove off the fever, and he only sleeps and talks, an_leeps again, but sick? Not a bit!”
  • “Nor––nor sorry, I reckon?” ventured Billie.
  • “Why, no child, not that I could notice. That scalawag doesn’t seem to hav_uch conscience concerning his behavior.”
  • “Or his language!” she added.
  • “Sure, that was some invocation he offered up! But just between pals, Billie,
  • you ought to have been in hearing.”
  • “I––I don’t suppose he even remembers that I was,” she remarked, and the_fter a silence, “or––or even mentioned––us?”
  • “Why, no, Billie. You made the right guess when you sized him up and though_e couldn’t hold the job. He certainly doesn’t belong, Billie, for this ranc_s the homing nest of the peace doves, and he’s just an ungainly young gam_ooster starting out with a dare against the world, and only himself for _acker. Honest,––if that misguided youth had been landed in jail, I don’_eckon there’s anyone in Arizona with little enough sense to bail him out.”
  • “Likely not,” said Billie. “Well, there’s the basket from Tia Luz, and I migh_s well go home.”