The Winning of Barbara Worth by Harold Bell Wright
Chapter XXX. Manana! Manana! To-morrow! To-morrow!
The night when Abe Lee started on his ride from Republic to San Felipe passed quietly in the little desert town. Texas and Pat with a few faithful white men guarded the Worth property lest, in some way, the news that Worth would be unable to pay as his superintendent had promised should get out and precipitate a crisis. But the strikers continued to enjoy peacefully their holiday, looking forward to the morrow when they would be enriched with nearly two months' pay. When the morrow came the laborers, their dark faces beaming with childish happiness, gathered early in front of Jefferson Worth's office. Texas and Pat, with the men of the office force who had been up all night, were sleeping, for another night of guard duty was before them.
When it was ten o'clock and no one had arrived at the office, the crowd of laborers began to show signs of growing impatience. Then someone recalled seeing Abe riding on the buckskin horse toward the south and suspicion grew. At last a few of the more intelligent went in a body to the bank.
"We come to see you about money. You sabe about money?"
"What money is that?" asked the man behind the window shortly.
"Our money for work on railroad. Senor Worth was to pay. El Superintendente say pay to-day sure. He no come. You sabe?"
"I sabe that Worth won't pay."
"No. He has no money here."
The Mexicans exchanged glances. "No money? You are quite sure, Senor?"
"Gracias, Senor. Adios!"
It was a dangerous crowd that filled the streets of Republic that afternoon and evening, and all through the night that followed the friends of Jefferson Worth expected every hour the fulfillment of the strikers' threats. Soon after breakfast, which Pat and Tex shared with Barbara, the message came from Mr. Worth telling them that Abe was on his way home with the money.
Again the men were told that they would receive their pay on the morrow, but this time the announcement was received with black scowls and muttered curses of disbelief. "They make us damn fools, one time. How we know this time not the same?" asked one of the leaders, speaking for the crowd. "Mebbe, Senor Tex, you not know. Mebbe they fool you like us. We get money this day, we glad--go work. We no get money by this night--" an expressive shrug of the shoulders finished the sentence.
The attitude of the citizens of Republic was one of angry indifference. They were angry both with Jefferson Worth and the strikers because the trouble was unsettling and harmful to the best interests of all the business in the town and to some degree turned the inflowing stream of settlers and investors towards other points of the new country. They were indifferent because of that underlying conviction, brought about by mysteriously authoritative rumors and whispered statements from supposed inside sources, that the cause of the trouble was a fight between Jefferson Worth and the Company. Whether capitalists rise or capitalists fall is always a matter of indifference to all who are not themselves of the capitalist class. For capital continues its mastery of them just the same. No one doubted that the railroad would be finished whether Jefferson Worth failed or not. Horace P. Blanton was not backward in expressing the popular feeling, and the popular feeling often expressed grows ever more popular.
Toward the end of the afternoon Pablo, who had been mingling with his countrymen all day, came to "headquarters" to report. The strikers were planning to attack their employer's property that night. Pablo was certain that the mob would go first to the power plant and the adjoining buildings.
No help was to be had from the citizens and, save for the few white men in Mr. Worth's employ who had been made to understand the situation and the reason for the delay, Tex and Pat were alone. They knew that there was small chance of Abe's arrival until well toward midnight. For a little they considered the situation.
Then the old frontiersman spoke. "Hit stands to reason that Pablo here is right an' that the stampede will head toward the works first, an' they'll all go together. They ain't a-comin' here 'til later, after they've made their biggest play. Now Pablo, you listen. Get two horses--sabe, two--one for Ynez and one for yourself, and have them with El Capitan for La Senorita ready by the back door. You watch. If Senor Lee comes, tell him quick to go to the power house. If the men come, take the women on the horses and get out of the way. You understand?"
"Si, Senor. I will care for La Senorita."
Texas Joe turned to Barbara. "I don't reckon they'll get here at all, for I bank on Pat an' me fixin' somethin' to interest 'em until Abe gets here. But it's best to be fixed for what you ain't expectin'. You'll be a heap better off with Pablo anywhere away from here if they should come this way."
When the night fell, Texas and Pat went to the scene of the expected trouble and Barbara was left with Pablo. The Mexican prepared the horses as Texas had instructed and then took up his position by the front gate, proud and happy that they had so honored him--that they had trusted him to guard his employer's daughter. The darkness deepened. Watchful, alert--Pablo strove to see into the gloom and listened to catch the first sound of approaching friend or enemy. The white men should learn that he could protect La Senorita--La Senorita who, in Rubio City, had been to him an angel of mercy when he was lying injured--La Senorita, whom they all loved.
Behind him the door of the house opened, letting out a flood of light; then closed. In the darkness a voice called softly: "Pablo, are you there?"
"Si, Senorita. You want me?"
Barbara came quickly down the walk to his side. "It's so lonely and still in the house, Pablo; may I stay out here a little with you? We can both watch."
Surely La Senorita could stay. Why not? Pablo was to protect her, not to keep her a prisoner.
She laughed quietly. "I believe you would do anything for me, Pablo."
"I would protect La Senorita with my life," he answered simply.
"I believe you would, Pablo; and so would Tex and Pat and Abe. You are all so good to me and I--I feel so good for nothing--so useless."
In the darkness the musical voice of Pablo answered: "Our love for La Senorita is so great. It is like the desert in the gentle moonlight, so big and wide. It is like the soft night under the stars, so deep. Everybody so loves La Senorita, and anyone loved that way cannot be what you say--good for nothing. Sometime men love like the sun on the desert in day time--fierce and hot, and that is different; that makes sometimes trouble--sometime make men kill. It is not good, La Senorita, but it is so."
They heard a galloping horse coming nearer and nearer. Barbara touched her companion's arm and Pablo laid a hand on his revolver. Was it Abe? Was it someone to say that the mob was coming?
The horse and rider passed and the sound of their going died away in the stillness of the night.
"Pablo, what time will they go to the power house?"
"Any time now, Senorita."
Barbara spoke quickly--eagerly now. "Are there not a good many of your countrymen from Rubio City among them, Pablo?"
"And do they--do they remember me?"
"Surely no one who lived in Rubio City could forget La Senorita, who was so kind to the poor."
"Then, Pablo, I have a plan to help. I did not tell Texas and Pat, but Ynez is not in the house. I sent her away this evening to stay with a friend on the other side of town."
"Si, Senorita." The soft voice was perplexed and troubled.
"Pablo, I am going to the power house to help."
"No, no, Senorita; it cannot be."
"Yes, Pablo, I must."
"But, Senorita, that is not right."
"You will go with me, Pablo--and no one will harm me."
"But if Senor Lee comes?"
"When he finds no one here he will understand and go to us."
"No, no, Senorita; you must not! The father--Senor Texas, and Pat-- they will kill me. La Senorita does not want Pablo to be hurt."
"Why Pablo, no one can blame you, and don't you see that I must do what I can? Come; we are losing time. We must not be too late. You get the horses."
She went quickly into the house and when she came out again the Mexican, still protesting, held the horses ready.
At the power house Texas and Pat sat just inside the main entrance. In the big room beyond them the great dynamos that furnished electricity to all the towns for lights and supplied the ice plant, the shops and every enterprise needing it throughout the Basin with power, hummed and sang their monotonous song of industry. In front of the building a large arc light made the immediate vicinity as bright as day. On every side of all the buildings in the group where the little handful of white men stood guard, similar lights had been placed by Abe at the beginning of the trouble.
"Howly Mither, wud ye look at that?" came from Pat as Barbara, followed by Pablo, rode into the circle of light. With an oath from Texas Joe the two men ran forward, and as they came up to the riders the Irishman cried: "Fwhat the hell are ye doin' here? Fwhat's the matter? Did thim divils go to the house first, or are ye crazy?"
With a laugh Barbara dismounted and, telling Pablo to tie the horses to the hitch rack a short distance away, faced the astonished men. "There's nothing wrong at the house, but I knew you must be lonesome here so I came to see you. You don't seem a bit glad to see me!"
"Mither av Gawd!" groaned the Irishman.
Texas called to Pablo. "Bring those horses back here."
"Pablo," called Barbara, "do as I told you."
The Mexican leading the horses moved on toward the hitching place. Texas scratched his head in a puzzled way, while Pat grinned. "Will ye roll that in yer cigarette an' shmoke it, Uncle Tex?"
"I'll have to take a shot at that fool greaser for this," returned Texas.
"You'll do no such thing," declared the young woman. "You know he couldn't help himself."
"Be the Powers, ut's us that should know that same!"
"But honey, you can't stay here. There's goin' to be trouble--real trouble."
"I know it, Uncle Tex, that's why I came to help."
"To help!" The two men looked at her in amazement.
Before they could find words for a question Pablo came running back to them: "They're coming, Senorita! Senor Tex! They're coming!"
He was right. Texas Joe caught Barbara by the arm and with the three men she ran into the building just as the crowd of Mexican and Indian laborers reached the outer edge of the lighted space.
While still in the shadow of the night the crowd halted and the watchers in the buildings could see them across the broad belt of light--a stirring, restless mass of men, shadowy and indistinct. Now and then a single figure in the white canvas jumper, trousers and wide sombrero of the Mexicans, or wearing the blue overalls and black shirt decorated with many brightly colored ribbons and the green, yellow or orange head cloth of the Indians, would detach itself from the main company and--coming nearer--would stand out with sudden startling clearness, disappearing again as suddenly in the dark mass as it again moved farther away.
Here and there in the confusion of dusky moving forms a face would appear as someone, looking up at the electric light caught its rays full upon his swarthy features; or the watchers would catch the gleam and flash from a weapon, a belt buckle or an ornament as the mob of men moved uneasily about. Still farther away the restless, stirring mass was dissolved in the darkness of the night.
"They're palaverin' about the lights," said Texas to his companions. "Can't jest figure the deal under Abe's illumination. They're all plumb anxious, but they's nobody wishful to make himself conspicuous."
"Oh, why doesn't Abe come; why doesn't he come?" exclaimed Barbara.
"Av the saints will only kape thim cholos considerin', the lad may git here yet."
Even as the Irishman spoke the crowd, seemingly agreeing upon a plan, moved forward slowly in a body. When they were well within the lighted space Texas drawled: "Right here's where I feel moved to address the meetin'," and throwing open the door he stepped out upon the platform, which was built to the height of a wagon-bed above the level of the ground with steps at each end.
Standing thus in the bright light of the arc that sputtered over his head, he was seen instantly by every eye in the crowd. As if by command they halted, standing motionless, their dark faces turned toward the old plainsman.
Texas spoke in their own tongue. "Good evening, men. Why do you come here at this time of the night? What do you want?"
There was an angry shifting to and fro in the mass of men, and a Mexican standing well to the front answered: "What should we want, Senor Texas, but our pay? We have worked four--five--seven weeks without money. We must have money to buy food--clothes--tobacco."
"Do not the commissaries in the camps supply you with all that you need? Surely you can wait a few hours longer. To-morrow you will be paid every cent."
"Manana, manana; always to-morrow! The superintendent promised other time--'to-morrow.' The superintendent lied. Now we will not wait for to-morrow."
Cries of approval greeted the bold speech.
"But we cannot pay you to-night. We have not the money here."
"That is too bad for Senor Worth, then. If he cannot pay he should have told us so that we could work for the Company. The Company can pay!"
"But Mr. Worth will pay to-morrow morning."
A chorus of angry, jeering yells greeted this repeated promise, with cries of "Pronto!", "Esta dia!", and "No manana!"--"Now!", "To- day!", and "Not to-morrow!" The movement toward the building began again.
Instantly the arms of the man on the platform were extended and the mob saw in each hand the familiar Colt's forty-five of the old time West.
The forward movement was checked.
"Men!" cried Texas, in his deliberate way, "you cannot come any nearer these buildings. There are Americans here--friends of Mr. Worth, who are ready to shoot when I give the word. I can kill twelve of you myself before you can get to this platform. Go away quietly and in the morning you will get your money. Come one step nearer this building and many of you will die."
The moment was intense. A shot, a yell, a sudden movement would have precipitated a tragedy.
In the full glare of the light against the blackness of the night, the crowd of dusky-faced, picturesque laborers hesitated. Standing on the platform under the arc that sputtered and sizzled--his back to the building--the single figure of Texas Joe was ready with menacing weapons. Behind the brick walls the handful of armed white men were waiting--watching. Miles away in the desert, Abe Lee was lying wounded and alone under the still stars, and somewhere in the night Willard Holmes, desperately holding his seat in the saddle, was forcing his already exhausted horse toward the end of his mission.
As the muscles of a tiger work and twitch when the beast makes ready for its spring, a movement agitated the mob, and a low growling murmur came from the mass of men. Texas spoke sharply. "Ready, you fellows in there! If they start let them have it."
The murmur swelled in volume into an angry, inarticulate roar. The movement increased. An instant more and it would launch the mob in a mad rush.
Suddenly, as a beast checked in its spring, they were still and motionless.
By the side of the old frontiersman on the platform under the light stood Barbara.
"Let me speak to them, Tex."
Without pausing for the astonished man to reply she spoke to the mob in Spanish, her voice rising clearly and sweetly.
"Do you know me, friends?"
From different points in the crowd came the answers.
"Si, Senorita." "It is the daughter of Senor Worth." "Among the poor in Rubio City La Senorita was an angel of mercy."
"I remember many of you," Barbara continued. "Over there I see Jose Gallegos, whose wife and baby were ill. How is the little family now, Jose? Manuel Cortes, do you remember when you were hurt by a wicked horse and I would come to see the wife and children? And Pablo Sanchez, do you know how long you were without work until with father's help I found a place for you? Francisco Gonzales, I helped you bury your mother and gave money to the priest that masses might be said for her soul. And you, Juan Arguello, and Francisco Montez-- I remember you all, and I am glad to see you. But I am sorry that you come to destroy my father's buildings. Why do you wish to do that?"
The Mexicans whom she called by name stirred uneasily but did not answer. Those who had known Barbara in Rubio City were few among the whole number of laborers, and to these others she was only the daughter of the man who was robbing them of their pay.
The one who had so far acted as spokesman answered angrily. "Must we say again what we want? If you are, as they say, an angel of mercy, give us our money and we will go away."
Cries of "Si, si!", "Bueno!", "Muy pronto!", "El Dinero," and "Give us our money!" arose on all sides.
"You shall have your money to-morrow--every penny. Cannot you wait until to-morrow morning?"
The impatient cries were louder now. "La Senorita also say 'manana.' All the rich say all time to the poor 'manana,' and manana never come. Give us our money now." The cries were increasing in volume as man after man joined in the chorus of threatening protest.
White and trembling, Barbara realized that she could do nothing more. Texas said, in a low voice: "For God's sake, honey; get inside before they break loose! Go now! NOW!" His voice rose into a sharp command, and his steady hands again brought the deadly revolvers into position.
The young woman reluctantly drew a step backward in obedience, then suddenly, with wide eyes staring over the crowd into the darkness beyond and extended hand pointing, she sprang forward to the very edge of the platform.
"Texas! Texas! Look, he is coming! Abe is here!"
Overcome with emotion she swayed and would have fallen, but Texas caught and steadied her. Every man in the crowd turned quickly toward the rear. A horseman, shadowy and indistinct beyond the circle of light, was riding toward them. As the newcomer pushed his horse nearer and they saw that it was Willard Holmes, Barbara uttered a cry and turned away, but the quick eye of Texas Joe had seen that the engineer's horse was staggering with exhaustion and that the man could scarcely keep his seat in the saddle.
"Wait, honey," he said, delaying the young woman. "This may pan out yet."
Barbara paused but did not turn toward the approaching engineer. Slowly Holmes forced his horse, reeking with sweat and dust, into the crowd that opened for him to pass and closed in behind him with excited exclamations as the men saw that the rider reeled in his saddle--his face haggard and drawn with pain and his useless left arm tied to his side.
But Barbara still turned away her face.
Coming so close that his leg almost touched the edge of the platform, the engineer--as though he saw no one but her--held out the black leather bill-book.
"Miss Worth! Barbara!"
With a cry she turned as the rider sank and would have fallen had not Texas, reaching out, lifted him bodily from the saddle to the platform where Holmes sank unconscious.
Barbara, with wonder and horror in her face, stood as if turned to stone, while Pat and Pablo quickly carried the still form of the engineer into the building. Unable to move, the girl followed them with her eyes until Texas, who had caught up the leather bill-book, exclaimed with an oath: "Look, it's the money!"
She looked at him as though she did not comprehend and he held the bundle of bills toward her. "It's the money, the money! You tell them!"
Mechanically Barbara took the money and turned to the crowd that stood silently wondering what it all meant--waiting to learn whether the incident had anything to do with their pay.
Under the powerful light she held up her two hands filled with bills. "Look!" she cried. "Look! Here is the money for your pay. My father sent it. Now will you believe?"
Shouts and cheers of understanding burst from the crowd.
"It is for you that it is here," continued the young woman. "Will you go away now and come back in the morning--each man for what is his?"
"Si, si, Senorita! Gracias, Senorita!" Laughing, talking and gesticulating the crowd dissolved and moved away.
Before the dispersing laborers had passed beyond the circle of light Barbara was kneeling beside Willard Holmes.
And when they would have taken the engineer to the hotel Barbara said "No"; he must be taken to her home.
Texas had just finished dressing with rude surgery the wound in the engineer's shoulder, and Barbara--standing by the bedside--was looking down into the still face when Holmes slowly came back to consciousness. His opening eyes looked up full into the brown eyes that regarded him so kindly. For a moment neither spoke, but a slow flush of color crept into the girl's face.
By some strange freak of his half awakened intellectual faculties, Holmes was living over again the incident of his meeting Barbara on the desert the morning after her first arrival in Kingston. "Is it really you, or is it some new trick of this confounded desert?" he muttered. "I never saw a mirage like this before. I don't think the heat has affected my brain!"
To Barbara the words had the effect of suddenly blotting out all that had come between them and of putting them both back again to the day when they had "started square." So she answered as she had answered then: "I assure you that I am very substantial"--and added softly, "and I am here to stay, too."
"And you would never forgive one who was false to the work," muttered the engineer, and with the words his mind caught at the suggestion of the power that had enabled him to keep his seat in the saddle through the seemingly endless hours of torture, and he remembered everything up to the moment when he had handed the money to Barbara.
With an exclamation he tried to raise himself.
"Don't do that. You must lie still, Mr. Holmes," said the young woman.
Texas and Pat in an adjoining room heard and came quickly to Barbara's side.
"I must get up, men!" cried Holmes appealingly, making another effort to raise himself. "We must go for Abe Lee. He's hurt--alone-- out there in the desert. Why don't you move? Miss Worth, please--"
Texas Joe quietly forced him back on his pillow. "You've got to take it easy for a little while, Mr. Holmes. Get a grip on yourself and tell us plain what happened. We'll move fast enough when we know which way to go."
When Holmes had told them briefly the story of the fight in Devil's Canyon and how he had left Abe at Wolf Wells, Texas said: "Now Mr. Holmes, you just keep quiet right here. Barbara'll take care of you and we'll have Abe home before noon to-morrow. Also, we'll arrange for a little seance with them greasers what put you and Abe in this fix."
An hour later a light spring wagon with four horses, accompanied by a party of five mounted men, moved swiftly out of Republic toward the south.