"Not on your life!" Ladd's voice cut in with scorn. "Gentlemen, you can gamble Yaqui 'll kill the Papago. That traitor Indian knows these sheep haunts. He's tellin' Rojas--"
"Laddy's right," called Gale. "The Papago's hit--his arm falls--There, he tumbles!"
More shots rang out. Yaqui was seen standing erect firing rapidly at the darting Mexicans. For all Gale could make out no second bullet took effect. Rojas and his men vanished behind the bulge of lava. Then Yaqui deliberately backed away from his postion. He made no effort to run or hide. Evidently he watched cautiously for signs of pursuers in the ruts and behind the choyas. Presently he turned and came straight toward the position of the rangers, sheered off perhaps a hundred paces below it, and disappeared in a crevice. Plainly his intention was to draw pursuers within rifle shot.
"Shore, Jim, you had your wish. Somethin' come off," said Ladd. "An' I'm sayin' thank God for the Yaqui! That Papago 'd have ruined us. Even so, mebbe he's told Rojas more'n enough to make us sweat blood."
"He had a chance to kill Rojas," cried out the drawn-faced, passionate Thorne. "He didn't take it!...He didn't take it!"
Only Ladd appeared to be able to answer the cavalryman's poignant cry.
"Listen, son," he said, and his voice rang. "We-all know how you feel. An' if I'd had that one shot never in the world could I have picked the Papago guide. I'd have had to kill Rojas. That's the white man of it. But Yaqui was right. Only an Indian could have done it. You can gamble the Papago alive meant slim chance for us. Because he'd led straight to where Mercedes is hidden, an' then we'd have left cover to fight it out...When you come to think of the Yaqui's hate for Greasers, when you just seen him pass up a shot at one--well, I don't know how to say what I mean, but damn me, my som-brer-ro is off to the Indian!"
"I reckon so, an' I reckon the ball's opened," rejoined Lash, and now that former nervous impatience so unnatural to him was as if it had never been. He was smilingly cool, and his voice had almost a caressing note. He tapped the breech of his Winchester with a sinewy brown hand, and he did not appear to be addressing any one in particular. "Yaqui's opened the ball. Look up your pardners there, gents, an' get ready to dance."