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at hand, Pearl turned quickly to see her father standing almost at her
elbow. Lean, gnarled, grizzled and thorny as ever, he was gazing
searchingly at her from under his overhanging, bushy brows.

So unexpected was the sight of him that Pearl showed plainly her
uncontrollable surprise, which, courageous as she was, was not without a
faint touch of fear. Her upper lip drew back from her teeth at the
corners of the mouth and the frown so like his own darkened her brow.
Rising, she had sprung to the doorway, stretching her arms from post to
post as if to prevent him from entering, and he, noting that unconscious
attitude of protection for the one within, smiled sourly.

"What are you doing here?" Her voice was harsh and so low that it was
barely audible.

"No harm to you or him, either, so don't be scared. I got more important
business in hand. I didn't come to quarrel with you, Pearl. I came to
talk to you like you were a sensible girl." He had been rolling a
cigarette between his fingers, and now he lighted it, and for a moment
watched the smoke wreaths drift upward.

"Patience takes most of the tricks in life, I've learned, so I waited
until I heard that he was all right again" - he jerked his thumb toward
the cabin - "and then I waited until you had time to think, and that's
all I'm here to ask you to do, my girl, think."

Again he gazed deeply at her, nodding his head as if to emphasize his
words. Gallito could be impressive, even magnetic when he chose, and he
chose now.

"I can think a-plenty," returned Pearl curtly, "but what is it you want
me to study about now? If it's about signing up with Sweeney, I can tell
you once and forever that it's no use. You're just wasting your breath."

His face darkened a little, his eyes gave one quick, wicked flash, but
he controlled his temper. "Maybe, maybe," he said placatingly, "but that
ain't all I came to talk about. I guess I've lived long enough to know
that it's no use to talk to a woman about her interests when she's lost
her head about some man." He showed his teeth in a wolfish and
contemptuous smile. "No, I ain't such a fool as to waste my breath that
way. You are an awful headstrong and wilful girl. Carraja! I do not know
where you get such qualities. But somewhere back in your head you have
inherited from me, your father, a grain of sense and reason, and because
of that I come here to-day, not to try and coax you, no, I know better
than that, but to talk to you as man to man." He paused here as if to
let some underlying meaning in his words impress her, and she, conscious
of this, felt a sudden shiver of apprehension run over her, a momentary
despair, as if she were being entangled in some yet invisible net whose
meshes were being drawn tight about her. A quick glance at Gallito
failed to restore her confidence. There was a look upon his face which
did not betoken any expectation of defeat. Again she shivered; he had
spoken truly, he was not one to plead, and he would not be here unless
he felt that he was in possession of certain arguments which must
inevitably coerce her to yield.

"Now, Pearl," his tone was still placating, "for your own sake and for
the sake of your future, I am not willing that you should miss this
great offer which Sweeney has made you. You have already treated him
badly once. He knows he cannot depend on you. How many times do you
think he will stand that? You can't afford to do it. I have been holding
him off and holding him off until I can't do it any more, and we must
now come to a final agreement. And one thing more," he stopped a second
to light another cigarette, "what about Hughie? You and he have worked
out a lot of dances together. He's got his heart set on traveling with
you and playing for you. I don't see how you got the heart to spoil all
his plans." For the first time there was a touch of real emotion in his
voice; it was Hughie, not Pearl, who held the first place in his heart.

A quiver passed over Pearl's face. "Oh, I am sorry about Hughie," she
cried, "but what can I do? I can't leave Harry. It's no use asking me to
do that." She looked up at Gallito and, in spite of her tears, there was
an immovable resolve on her face and, seeing this, a slow, dark flush
crept up her father's cheeks.

"Listen, Pearl," he said, and although he still held the manner of
reasoning amicably with her, there was a touch of iron in his grating
voice, "I'm here to make terms with you and to keep the relations which
should be between father and daughter, but there are many things to
consider when a girl is as obstinate as a pig. Then it is her father's
duty to decide for her and to see that she does what an obedient and
well-brought up girl should do, and he must use what means are in his
power to make her see the right way."

"There are no means in your power to make me see things differently,"
she said, "yours or anybody else's."

"So!" he said slowly, and flicked the ashes from his cigarette with a
hand which trembled slightly. "But all my cards are not played yet. You
think that everything shall go your way, but that is not life; no, that
is not life. Since you have none of the feelings of respect and
obedience which a child should have for a parent, it shall be a game
between us. Now, at once, I will play my trump card." There was a grim
and saturnine triumph in his voice. "José!"

She started and looked at him askance, puzzled and yet fearful. "José!"
she repeated uncertainly.

"Yes, José. José has been useful to you, and José has spent all his time
with you and him." He nodded his head in the direction of the inner
room. "I have warned him." There was a quiver of passion and resentment
in his voice. "I have pointed out to him again and again the risks that
he was running not only for himself, but me. Yet for me - me who has
befriended him at the risk of my own life, who has kept him in my cabin
for many months, he has no thought, no gratitude. That all goes to
Seagreave, Seagreave who stole you and who now lies strapped in his bed
unable to help you or José or any one else. Well, let Seagreave save him
now. And how?" his harsh, mirthless laughter rang out. "Yes, how? Does
Seagreave know the secret trails over the mountains? Not he. Then how is
our dear José to escape? Will you engage to get him safely out of Colina
on a railroad train? I think not. Remember there is a big price on his
head."

Pearl had shrunk back from him while he was speaking, both horror and
fright on her face. "But you can't do that for your own sake," she
cried. "It will then be known that you have kept José all these months,
and that it was he who escaped the night I danced. Do you think the
sheriff will forgive you that you lied to him and fooled him? I guess
not. And then you sheltered José and hid him after that. On your own
account you can't let him be taken."

Gallito smiled in unpleasant triumph. "If I should turn state's evidence
for so notorious a criminal as Crop-eared José I should certainly get
immunity myself. I was weak, yes, in my unfortunate desire to reform a
fellow countryman, but finding all my efforts hopeless, I at last saw my
duty and gave him up."

For the moment fear almost overcame Pearl, and then her high spirit
flared. "And you would give poor José up," she said. "I would never have
believed it, and yet I see you really would do it, just to have me obey
your will. But you can't do it, and you won't do it. I tell you now, if
you even dare threaten such a thing, I will send for the sheriff and I
will tell him the whole story. I will let him know what you are. And
more, too" - she made quick steps toward him - "I will have you arrested
for assaulting Harry."

"Ho, ho!" he laughed loudly. "Self-defense, my girl, self-defense. Who
could prove anything else? Who would take your word under the
circumstances?"

"But I will tell more, much more," she cried, all aflame now. "I will
tell of all the cut-throats and thieves you have sheltered in your cabin
from time to time. I know their names and I will prove what I say. I
will show them the chamber in the mine where José is hiding. What will
they think of that? You have a high standing in Colina and in other
places. You are respected. Are you willing to give all that up just so
you can force me to sign with Sweeney? I don't believe it, I won't
believe it. But as sure as you don't help José to escape, so sure will I
do what I say. Oh," she stopped suddenly, a sob in her voice, "oh, here
comes Bob, Bob and Hughie!" For the first time she left the doorway in
which she had remained protectingly, and ran forward to meet the two who
were rapidly mounting the hill.

"Oh, Bob!" she cried. "Oh, Hughie! I knew you two wouldn't go back on
me. I knew you'd come sooner or later, both of you."

Hughie clung to her, one arm around her, and Flick's hard and impassive
face softened a little as he gazed at her. "Why, Pearl, what's the
matter?" he asked. "You look pale, and tears! Why, that ain't a mite
like you! Has he been cutting up rough," he glanced toward her father,
"and worrying you?"

"Why didn't you come before?" She lifted her shadowed eyes to his.

He winced a little, his mouth twisting slightly. "Ain't it enough that
I've come now?" Something in his voice conveyed even to her who had so
long taken his unwearying devotion without question and as a matter of
course what it had cost him to seek her again.

They had drawn near the cabin by this time and Flick looked at Gallito's
frowning face a moment. "Are you needing me, Pearl?" His drawling voice
was as lazily indifferent as ever, but his glance held an intimation of
danger for Gallito which the old man did not fail to understand.

"Maybe," Pearl replied in a low voice. "You 'most always come when I
need you, Bob."

"I guess your interference ain't needed now, Flick," began Gallito. "I
can - "

Hughie ran his hand caressingly down the old Spaniard's sleeve. "No need
to tell old Bob that we're a united family, Pop," he cried. "Why I'm
already composing a wedding march." He caught his adopted father's hand
in his.

At this mute expression of affection from the being who was nearest his
heart Gallito's face softened a little, although he gazed back at Bob
Flick with a baffled and still scornful smile.

"Well," he said reluctantly, "it ain't often I confess I'm beat, but I
guess I'm too old to stand both Hughie and the girl taking sides against
me, not to speak of you, Flick, and I know if it came to a choice
between me and those two where you'd stand."

"There ain't going to be any sides taken," said Flick. "We are going to
give in and take what's coming to us, Gallito, like sensible men,
whether we like it or not. When's the wedding, Pearl?"

A great, beautiful wave of crimson swept over her face.

"Harry wants it right away," she said.

"The sooner the better," remarked Bob Flick dryly. "And, by the way" - he
put his hand in his pocket and drew out the little black leather bag she
had given José - "José sent you back this for a wedding present. Honest,
he didn't keep out more than three stones. Why," a flash of alarm on his
face, "what's the matter, Hughie?"

The blind boy was standing a little apart from the rest. His head was
thrown up and his face was pale. He was nervously clinching and
unclinching his hands, but with that exception his attitude was one of
tenseness and singular stillness, as if every faculty were concentrated.

"There's something about," he gasped, "something bad. I can't tell what
it is yet, but I'll know in a minute. Ah-hh!" He rushed across the open
space before the cabin and into the trees that grew thickly at the side.

It took Flick but a second to follow him, and the next moment Pearl and
her father heard him call. "Come out. I got you covered, but I'll thank
you first for your gun."

Gallito also started forward now, but before he had taken more than a
step or two Hugh emerged first from the underbrush, followed by Hanson
and then by Flick.

Seeing who it was, Pearl had shrunk back into the shadow of the room,
but then, as if forcing herself to an unpleasant task, she came forward
again and leaned against the door post, nonchalant and disdainful in
spite of her pallor and the faint trembling of her lower lip.

Hanson swept off his hat and bowed low with exaggerated courtesy and
much of his old swagger. The heavy dissipation of the last few months
was evident in a marked and shocking way. His figure was gross and
bloated, and his bold, ruddy good looks had vanished; his swollen face
was purple and the features seemed curiously thickened. The hand which
held his hat trembled constantly.

"Again we meet," he cried. "Well, under the circumstances, I've no
objection. You pleasant little band of thieves have got ahead of the
honest man once or twice, but not for keeps. This is my day, thank you.
I'm not giving away information ahead of time again, but, just between
friends, I'll mention that the sheriff is overdue at Nitschkan's cabin,
where José happens to be. They'll be up after the rest of you
presently."

"Carraja!" Gallito ground his teeth, "and I left him at the mine." Then
quickly to Pearl, "Suppose he should get away from them. Are both
horses in the stable?"

"Both," she said. "Hurry, you get on one and I will have the other ready
for him. Come, I will help you. Hugh, get down to Nitschkan's and warn
them if you can."

Gallito ran through the cabin after her. This commotion roused Seagreave
and after calling once or twice to Pearl and receiving no answer, he
made his way to the doorway, appearing there, thin and white, still upon
crutches.

"Hello, Seagreave," called Hanson, still with his air of bravado.
"You've been a long time coming to that door. I been sitting back in the
bushes watching for you as patient as a cat watches a mouse-hole, with
my gun all cocked and my finger on the trigger, ready to pick you off
the minute you showed up. Nothing against you personally, but the Black
Pearl didn't spare me, so why should I - oh, you needn't reach for your
gun. Good old Bob, ain't that what the Pearl calls him, has got me
covered."

"So have I for that matter," said Seagreave.

"All right, if it amuses you." Hanson shrugged his shoulders
indifferently and leaned up against a tree which, growing before the
cabin, had escaped the sweep of the avalanche. "Lord! Don't I know what
you two cut-throats stand ready to do to me? And no one any the wiser.
Well, what the hell do I care? But say, Seagreave, since we're all
having this nice little afternoon tea talk together, sociable as a
Sunday school, it might do you good to take some account of the
has-beens. Here's Bob, he had her before I did, but that ain't taking
away the fact that I had her once, by God! I guess everybody understands
that there's more behind those emeralds than the pretty story we've all
heard so often. The Black Pearl certainly ain't cheap."

"Let him alone, Harry." Bob Flick's voice arresting Seagreave in his
swift rush toward Hanson had never been more liquid, more languid. All
through Hanson's speech his face had not shown even a flicker of
expression. "This is mine. It always has been mine, and I've known it
ever since you and me, Mr. - - , I never can recall your name, but, then,
yellow dogs ain't entitled to 'em, anyway - met in the desert."

"I guess that's straight. You always had it in for me from the first
night I saw her. Well, you'll only be finishing what she begun. She
broke me; she drove me straight to hell. Maybe it was a mis-spent life I
offered her, but when I met her I had money and success, I wasn't a
soak. I still had the don't-give-a-damn snap in me, and, even if you're
middle-aged, that's youth. But she's like a fever that you can't shake
off. And she don't play fair. But she's the only one. You know that, Bob
Flick, and she didn't have the right - "

"I ain't ever questioned her right, Hanson" - Flick used his name for the
first time - "and I'm standing here to prove it now. For the sake of Miss
Gallito, because she once took notice of you, I'm going to treat you
like you was a gentleman. Here's your gun. Take your twenty paces. And,
remember, this ain't to wound, it's to kill."

Hanson took the pistol and measured off the paces. Then he turned and
looked from one man to another with a smile of triumph on his evil face.
"Broke by the Black Pearl and then shot by her dog! That's a nice
finish. I can shoot some myself, but I ain't in your class, Flick, and
you know it. I guess not. I prefer my own route." He looked toward the
cabin, where it seemed to him that Pearl or her shadow wavered a moment
in the doorway. "Here's dying to you, honey," and before either man
could stop him he lifted his pistol and shot himself through the heart.

* * * * *

In the meantime certain events of more importance than the passing of
Hanson, to those involved, were taking place in Mrs. Nitschkan's cabin.
As soon as Gallito had left the mine and taken his way up to Seagreave's
José also had departed from his cell by way of the ravine and had
hastened to the abode of Mrs. Nitschkan, where he and Mrs. Thomas were
soon absorbed in the composition of various appetizing dishes, for with
the connivance of the two women José hoped that evening again to
subjugate Gallito with the spell of his cookery, and win back the
indulgence he had been steadily losing.

The afternoon, then, was passing most pleasantly for both Mrs. Thomas
and himself when suddenly the door was flung open and Mrs. Nitschkan,
who had been fishing in a creek further down the hill, came dashing in.

"José," she cried, "the Sheriff and his boys is all out after you again.
There's nobody else they'd want up this way. They couldn't keep under
cover all the way, for they had to cross the bridge, and I happened to
see 'em then. Get out quick through the trees for Harry's cabin."

"But I don't know the secret trail."

"Gallito does. Anyway, cut for it an' maybe I can throw them off the
scent. Gosh a'mighty! Cut for it. They're here."

With one last, hasty kiss on Mrs. Thomas' cheek, José was out of the
door like a flash.

"Now quick, Marthy." Mrs. Nitschkan had seized a pair of scissors and
cut the pocket from her skirt, tucking the roll of bills which it
contained into her man's boot. "Cry, Marthy, cry like you never cried
before. Go on, I say. Yelpin's your strong suit. Now yelp."

With that she fell to swearing lustily herself and throwing the
furniture about, even turning the stove over and sending a great shower
of soot about the room.

At the height of all this noise and confusion, dominated, it must be
said, by Mrs. Thomas's loud and, to do her justice, sincere weeping,
there came a thunderous knocking on the door, and without waiting to
have it answered the sheriff threw it open and stepped in.

"Holy smoke!" he cried. "What you knockin' down the cook-stove for?"

"'Cause I'm fightin' mad, that's why," returned Mrs. Nitschkan tartly,
"and I sure am glad to see you. I been robbed, that's what. Ain't that
so, Marthy?"

Mrs. Thomas lifted her tear-stained face and corroborated this with
mournful nods.

"Whilst I was takin' a little nap," went on Mrs. Nitschkan excitedly, "a
rascal brother of Gallito's who shouldn't never have been let out of
jail cut the pocket clean out of my skirt and stole my roll. Look here!"
exhibiting the jagged hole, and also the empty pocket which lay upon the
floor, "I just waked up to find him gone. He can't have got far, though.
I guess he thinks I ain't on to that rock chamber Gallito blasted out
for him in the Mont d'Or, but he showed it to Marthy here, and she
showed it to me. Come on, and we'll get down there quick."

"Some of us will." The sheriff was inclined to believe her, and yet he
was still suspicious. A rock chamber in the Mont d'Or! That certainly
accounted for the miraculous escape of last winter.

"Pedro?" he asked. "Are you sure it ain't José?"

"I ain't heard of any José, have you Marthy?" asked Mrs. Nitschkan
innocently. "Pedro was his name. But come on quick."

"Two of you boys search this cabin and the woods around," ordered the
sheriff, "and two of you go up to Seagreave's cabin. The rest come along
with me."

Led by Mrs. Nitschkan, still volubly lamenting her loss, they started
down the hill toward the ravine, when the sheriff suddenly looked up to
see upon the crest of the hill just before it dipped into a descending
slope two horsemen at full gallop, both horses and riders outlined
against the sky.

"Our men are up there, boys," he cried. "Quick. I've got the fastest
horse in the county, and we'll get them before they get to three rocks."

He was back to his horse again and on it and up the hill before his men
were fairly in the saddle. It was a race after that, and so rapidly did
he gain on Gallito and José that it looked as if his prediction of
getting them before they reached three rocks was about to be verified.
"I must do it, I must do it," he kept muttering to himself, "for it's
bad going after that, and it'll take us all some time to find him."

He was lessening the distance between them with every long, powerful
stride of his horse, but already the three rocks, gaunt and high, loomed
before him as if forming an impassable barrier across the road.
Suddenly, just as José and Gallito had almost reached them and the
sheriff was gaining upon the fugitives in great leaps, he saw them
swerve their horses aside and dash into a clump of trees to the right of
the rocks.

"Oh, the fools! the fools! I got 'em now. Instead of going for the
rocks, they've made for the trees."

A few minutes later he and his men found the horses ridden by Gallito
and José blown and hard-breathing among the trees, but no trace could
they discover of the men they sought. Beyond the three rocks the
character of the hills changed strikingly. Instead of the wide,
undulating, wooded plateau, over which riding was so easy, the mountains
suddenly seemed split by mighty gashes, a great pocket of crevasses and
towering cliffs.

The sheriff and his men beat about aimlessly and conscientiously for
several hours, but in vain. José and Gallito had long before "hit" the
secret trail. So finally the sheriff, who was inclined to put less faith
than ever in Hanson's representations, and convinced in his own mind
that Gallito was merely conniving at the escape of an unregenerate
brother, and that Mrs. Nitschkan's tale was true, called off his men and
rode home. "The cuss ain't important," he remarked, "and I guess
Gallito'll be glad enough to make up Nitschkan's loss to her and keep
her mouth shut."

* * * * *

It was evening. Pearl and Seagreave sat in the door of the cabin. Her
head drooped, her hands lay listlessly in her lap, and her brooding gaze
was fixed on the soft, dark night. "Oh," she cried at last, "how can I
do anything but leave you? Look at the mischief I've done in the world.
Look at it!"

Seagreave clasped his arms about her and laid his cheek on hers. "Let's
forget it all, Pearl, forget that you've been a firebrand and I've been
a quitter, and begin life all over again. There's only one thing in it,
anyway, and that's love."

"Just love," she answered softly. "Well, love's enough."



* * * * *



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