"I say, Merrill," said one of them, "hold on; the squaw says her husband only jest killed it to-day. It might be theirs."
Ramona turned on him like lightning. "Are you liars, you all," she cried, "that you think I lie? I tell you the meat is ours; and there is not an Indian in this village would steal cattle!"
A derisive shout of laughter from all the men greeted this speech; and at that second, the leader, seeing the mark of blood where the Indian woman had dragged the meat across the ground, sprang to the bed, and lifting the deerskin, pointed with a sneer to the beef hidden there. "Perhaps, when you know Injun's well's I do," he said, "you won't be for believin' all they say! What's she got it hid under the bed for, if it was their own cow?" and he stooped to drag the meat out. "Give us a hand here, Jake!"
"If you touch it, I will kill you!" cried Ramona, beside herself with rage; and she sprang between the men, her uplifted knife gleaming.
"Hoity-toity!" cried Jake, stepping back; "that's a handsome squaw when she's mad! Say, boys, let's leave her some of the meat. She wasn't to blame; of course, she believes what her husband told her."
"You go to grass for a soft-head, you Jake!" muttered Merrill, as he dragged the meat out from beneath the bed.
"What is all this?" said a deep voice in the door; and Ramona, turning, with a glad cry, saw Alessandro standing there, looking on, with an expression which, even in her own terror and indignation, gave her a sense of dread, it was so icily defiant. He had his hand on his gun. "What is all this?" he repeated. He knew very well.
"It's that Temecula man," said one of the men, in a low tone, to Merrill. "If I'd known 't was his house, I wouldn't have let you come here. You're up the wrong tree, sure!"