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It was eleven o'clock when the car rolled down the main street of El Toro. From the sidewalk, sundry citizens, of diverse shades of color and conditions of servitude, observing Minuet Farrel, halted abruptly and stared as if seeing a ghost. Don Mike wanted to shout to them glad words of greeting, of affectionate badinage, after the fashion of that easy-going and democratic community, but he feared to make the girl at his side conspicuous; so he contented himself by uncovering gravely to the women and waving debonairly to the men. This constituting ocular evidence that he was not a ghost or a man who bore a striking physical resemblance to one they mourned as dead, the men so saluted returned his greeting.
The few who had recognized him as he entered the town, quickly, by their cries of greeting, roused the loungers and idle conversationalists along the sidewalks further down the street. There was a rush to shop doors, a craning of necks, excited inquiries in Spanish and English; more shouts of greeting. A gaunt, hawk-faced elderly man, with Castilian features, rode up on a bay horse, showed a sheriff's badge to William, the chauffeur, and informed him he was arrested for speeding. Then he pressed his horse close enough to extend a hand to Farrel.
"Miguel, my boy," he said in English, out of deference to the girl in the car, "this is a very great--a very unexpected joy. We have grieved for you, my friend."
His faint clipped accent, the tears in his eyes, told Kay that this man was one of Don Miguel's own people. Farrel clasped the proffered hand and replied to him in Spanish; then, remembering his manners, he presented the horseman as Don Nicolás Sandoval, sheriff of the county. Don Nicolás bent low over his horse's neck, his wide gray hat clasped to his gallant heart.
"You will forgive the emotion of a foolish old man, Miss Parker," he said, "but we of San Marcos County love this boy."
Other friends now came running; in a few minutes perhaps a hundred men, boys, and women had surrounded the car, struggling to get closer, vying with each other to greet the hero of the San Gregorio. They babbled compliments and jocularities at him; they cheered him lustily; with homely bucolic wit they jeered his army record because they were so proud of it, and finally they began a concerted cry of; "Speech! Speech! Speech!"
Don Mike stood up in the tonneau and removed his hat. Instantly silence settled over the crowd, and Kay thought that she had never seen a more perfect tribute of respect paid anyone. He spoke to them briefly, with a depth of sentiment only possible in a descendant of two of the most sentimental races on earth; but he was not maudlin. When he had concluded his remarks, he repeated them in Spanish for the benefit of those who had never learned English very well or at all.
And now, although Kay did not understand a word of what he said, she realized that in his mother tongue he was infinitely more tender, more touching, more dramatic than he could possibly be in English, for his audience wagged approving' heads now and paid him the tribute of many a furtive tear.
Don Nicolás Sandoval rode his horse through the crowd presently and opened a path for the car.
"I'm afraid this has been a trifle embarrassing for you, Miss Parker," Farrel remarked, as they proceeded down the street. "I shall not recognize any more of them. I've greeted them all in general, and some day next week I'll come to town and greet them in detail. They were all glad I came back, though, weren't they?" he added, with a boy's eagerness. "Lord, but I was glad to see them!"
"I can hardly believe you are the same man I saw manhandling your enemy an hour ago," she declared.
"Oh," he replied, with a careless shrug, "fighting and loving are the only two worth-while things in life. Park in front of the court-house, William, please."
He excused himself to Kay and ran lightly up the steps. Fifteen minutes later, he returned.
"I have a writ of execution," he declared. "Now to find the sheriff and have him serve it."
They located Don Nicolás Sandoval at the post-office, one leg cocked over the pommel of his saddle, and the El Toro Sentinel spread on his knee.
"Father's old business with the Basque, Don Nicolás," Farrel informed him. "He has money deposited in his own name in the First National Bank of El Toro."
"I have grown old hunting that fellow's assets, Miguel, my boy," quoth Don Nicolás. "If I can levy on a healthy bank-account, I shall feel that my life has not been lived in vain."
He folded his newspaper, uncoiled his leg from the pommel, and started up the street at the dignified fast walk he had taught his mount. Farrel returned to the car and, with Kay, arrived before the portals of the bank a few minutes in advance of the sheriff, just in time to see Andre Loustalot leap from his automobile, dash up the broad stone steps, and fairly hurl himself into the bank.
"I don't know whether I ought to permit him to withdraw his money and have Don Nicolás attach it on his person or not. Perhaps that would be dangerous," Miguel remarked. He stepped calmly out of the car, assisted Kay to alight, and, with equal deliberation, entered the bank with the girl.
"Now for some fun," he whispered. "Behold the meanest man in America--myself!"
Loustalot was at the customers' desk writing a check to cash for his entire balance in bank. Farrel permitted him to complete the drawing of the check, watched the Basque almost trot toward the paying-teller's window, and as swiftly trotted after him.
"All--everything!" Loustalot panted, and reached over the shoulders of two customers in line ahead of him. But Don Miguel Farrel's arm was stretched forth also; his long brown fingers closed over the check and snatched it from the Basque's hand as he murmured soothingly:
"You will have to await your turn, Loustalot. For your bad manners, I shall destroy this check." And he tore the signature off and crumpled the little slip of paper into a ball, which he flipped into Loustalot's brutal face.
The Basque stood staring at him, inarticulate with fury; Don Mike faced his enemy with a bantering, prescient little smile. Then, with a great sigh that was in reality a sob, Loustalot abandoned his primal impulse to hurl himself upon Farrel and attempt to throttle; instead, he ran back to the customers' desk and started scribbling another check. Thereupon, the impish Farrel removed the ink, and when Loustalot moved to another ink-well, Farrel's hand closed over that. Helpless and desperate, Loustalot suddenly began to weep; uttering peculiar mewing cries, he clutched at Farrel with the fury of a gorilla. Don Mike merely dodged round the desk, and continued to dodge until out of the tail of his eye, he saw the sheriff enter the bank and stop at the cashier's desk. Loustalot, blinded with tears of rage, failed to see Don Nicolás; he had vision only for Don Mike, whom he was still pursuing round the customers' desk.
The instant Don Nicolás served his writ of attachment, the cashier left his desk, walked round in back of the various tellers' cages, and handed the writ to the paying teller; whereupon Farrel, pretending to be frightened, ran out of the bank. Instantly, Loustalot wrote his check and rushed again to the paying-tellers window.
"Too late, Mr. Loustalot. Your account has been attached," that functionary informed him.
Meanwhile, Don Nicolás had joined his friend on the sidewalk.
"Here is his automobile, Don Nicolás," Farrel said. "I think we had better take it away from him."
Don Nicolás climbed calmly into the driver's seat, filled out a blank notice of attachment under that certain duly authorized writ which his old friend's son had handed him, and waited until Loustalot came dejectedly down the bank steps to the side of the car; whereupon Don Nicolás served him with the fatal document, stepped on the starter, and departed for the county garage, where the car would be stored until sold at auction.
"Who let you out of my calaboose, Loustalot?" Don Mike queried amiably.
"That high-toned Jap friend of Parker's," the Basque replied, with malicious enjoyment.
"I'm glad it wasn't Mr. Parker. Well, you stayed there long enough to serve my purpose. By the way, your sheep are trespassing again."
"They aren't my sheep."
"Well, if you'll read that document, you'll see that all the sheep on the Rancho Palomar at this date are attached, whether they belong to you or not. Now, a word of warning to you, Loustalot: Do not come on the Rancho Palomar for any purpose whatsoever. Understand ?"
Loustalot's glance met his unflinchingly for fully ten seconds, and, in that glance, Kay thought she detected something tigerish.
"Home, William," she ordered the driver, and they departed from El Toro, leaving Andre Loustalot standing on the sidewalk staring balefully after them.
They were half-way home before Don Mike came out of the reverie into which that glance of Loustalot's had, apparently, plunged him.
"Some day very soon," he said, "I shall have to kill that man or be killed. And I'm sorry my guest, Mr. Okada, felt it incumbent upon himself to interfere. If, between them, they have hurt Pablo, I shall certainly reduce the extremely erroneous Japanese census records in California by one."
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