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   Chapter 18 No.18

The Mystery of The Barranca By Herman Whitaker Characters: 6172

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


In the calendar of love days count as weeks, months as years; but, though the following week conformed to this universal law, Seyd managed to extract from its laggard hours his modicum of joy. Following the mules on two trips between the mine and station he lived in a glow of feeling, the natural reaction of his late despair. By turns relief, joy, hope governed his reflections, finally uniting in optimism that drowned his customary caution. Whereas only a week ago he had begun to plan for a trip home to California to raise money to meet their first note he now determined to put it off until he should have seen Don Luis, and then, if necessary, send Billy.

"I'll call on him immediately after the funeral," he said, talking it over with Billy. "If he demands his pound of flesh there'll still be time for you to go north."

This settled, he had gone about his business in happier mood than he had known for many a year. It seemed to him as if the tangled run of his life was beginning to unfold straight and plain. But while he worked, the evil fates which had made such a ravel in his personal skein were equally busy inventing fresh tangles. On the day that saw at once the delivery of the last piece of machinery and the arrival of the first seasonal rain Sebastien and Francesca joined battle at the El Quiss hacienda.

Until, the morning after the funeral, Sebastien called her aside to thank her for 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 his accidental 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 for reflection, and the more I thought of it the more I wondered at myself for my easy yielding to your will. It is not that I was unwilling to do that or more for your mother. But to be sent away like a naughty school girl under a solemn vow against correspondence-"

"The price of your consent, you remember, was the gringo's life?" His eye lit with the old saturnine sparkle. "As you see, he still cumbers good Mexican earth."

"You dared not have harmed him in any case."

"No?"

"No." She met without flinching his look of sarcastic interrogation. "Porfirio Diaz 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 to that."

"'Twould not have been necessary. If I had warned him, placed your threat on record with his friends, 'twere sufficient. If not, there is still another argument 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, my cousin, that a whisper in the ear of the good uncle would have taken the matter out of my hands."

"That would not have cleared you-with me. Now listen, Sebastien. I yielded because at the time it seemed the only way, an

d after I realized my folly I still lived up to my promise. But now I give you warning. Henceforth I shall not permit your interference in my affairs."

"Your love affairs?"

"Bueno!" Looking him straight in the eye, she accepted the correction. "My love affairs."

"It will not be necessary."

Instead of the violent outburst she expected he stood looking at her, in his eyes a peculiar light half of pity, half vindictive. A trifle nonplussed, she returned his gaze. Perhaps, with feminine inconsistency, she was not altogether pleased by his tame acceptance, for her color rose and one small foot tapped the polished floor tiles. "I am glad you take it so reasonably."

Again he failed with the expected outburst, and her uneasiness grew in correspondence with the pity in his glance. "You mistake me. I said it would be unnecessary. Read!"

He turned and went out, a mercy she appreciated when, after a puzzled glance at the paper he had stolen from Peters, her eye was guided by the heavy ink scorings to the article that set forth Seyd's divorce. At first she hardly realized its import. But when she did-surely the hand that guided the pen had achieved revenge far beyond its owner's blackest hope! Going out, Sebastien heard the paper crackle. Looking back, he saw her standing frozen, eyes wide and black in her mute white face; and, stricken with sudden pity, he softly closed the door.

But he did not go away. He knew her too well. Given her wild Irish blood plus her Spanish pride there could come but one result, and while she struggled toward it within he paced the corredor without. When at last she opened the door and came on him there he knew that he had won by the scorn that set her soft mouth in straight red lines. In the dusk of the corredor her face loomed, pale and drawn, the eyes red and swollen. But when she saw the deep pity 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 intense desire to seize and comfort her with kisses. Had he given way to it she would have surely been shocked out of the resolution that had been born of her anger and shame. But the habit of years enabled him to keep the impulse under restraint. She went quietly to the end.

"I am very grateful-I would like to make some return. If we had not grown up together I should no doubt have loved you from the beginning in the way you wished, for you are closer to the man of my girlish dreams than any other I have ever known." She smiled wanly. "He does not exist, my dream man, or, if he did, what use could he have for such a wild, naughty girl as I? So, if you still 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 have time to change my viewpoint. Give me a month?"

"And then-"

"If you still wish it I will be your wife."

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