A peasant husband and wife, Machado and Sabina, are on the road. Machado tends to the animals and Sabina is checking her hair in a mirror. He says that wishes Sabina hadn't burned the cabin, and Sabina says that she's tired of him complaining. She tells him that in the city he can create something worth his labor. Machado tells her that she will see.
Paladin is riding across the countryside as bandidos shoot at him. He dismounts, takes cover, and returns fire. After he kills several of them, the remainder rides off. Paladin's horse has run off, and Paladin wavers briefly and then starts walking. He continues on, growing steadily more ill, and sees smoke ahead. Continuing on, Paladin finds the smoking ruins of a cabin. There's a trough with water, and Paladin refreshes himself but continues coughing.
Two days later, Paladin arrives at a spring near where Sabina and Machado are camped. He lies down to drink from the water, and the couple comes over to investigate. Paladin has passed out, and Sabina demands to know who he is. Machado wants to take him to their wagon, pointing out that they have nothing to steal even if Paladin is a thief. Sabina takes offense at the unintended insult, but Machado takes Paladin anyway. He makes Paladin comfortable, and has Sabina make some food.
Paladin wakes up and points out that they're a distance from civilization. Machado explains that they're going to the city, and explains that Sabina fired the cabin. He says that when the bandidos found the cabin burned, they would believe anything of value was destroyed so they wouldn't harm them. Sabina asks if Paladin was running from the Federales or the bandidos, saying that it would only be worth hiding Paladin if the risk was worth the reward. She tells him that she wants the reward to live like a real woman in the city and stares beseechingly at Paladin. Machado explains that he's a poor man, and Paladin offers them a thousand pesos to shelter him. Sabina agrees and asks for the money, and Paladin says that he has it safe. She insists that Paladin sleep in the wagon, and Machado reluctantly agrees. Sabina secretly watches as Paladin hides his money pouch beneath his pillow.
That night, Machado and Sabina set up for the night nearby and Machado complains that he's is shamed taking a thousand pesos. Sabina figures that once Paladin believes he is out of danger, he will give them nothing. She plans to take what is "rightfully" theirs and assures Machado that Paladin will be dead by morning.
Sabina goes back to the wagon with a rifle and checks beneath the pillow. Paladin wakes up and asks if Machado is sleeping, and then kisses her. She points out that he has not yet earned his reward, and Paladin says the same of hers. He removes the pouch from her hand and shows her the gem inside. Paladin explains that a man in Durango hired him to sell it for him, but the man's partner thought it would be more profitable to give the bandidos a hint. Now the partner is dead. Sabina tells Paladin that Machado is sleeping and offers Paladin the rifle. Paladin refuses and Sabina calls him a fool. Ignoring her, Paladin goes back to sleep and Sabina kisses him and goes.
The next morning, Paladin wakes up and Sabina brings him coffee. She says that Machado has left and claims that he is going to the bandidos to get revenge on the man who dishonored his wife. Sabina admits that she told Machado that she was going away with Paladin, and he took the rifle with him. She asks why Paladin is afraid, and Paladin says that they may have to run for it. Sabina says that she planned that they would run off together, and warns Paladin that he doesn't have much time to decide.
Paladin and Sabina head off, and Machado steps out to confront them. He aims the rifle at them, and says that the bandidos are camped over the hill. When he saw them, he couldn't do what he came to do and ran. Sabina calls Machado a child, and Paladin points out that they would have killed Machado. Machado figures that he's to blame for Sabina's actions. She asks about her honor, and Paladin tells her that if she has none then she has none to lose.
Sabina runs back to the wagon, and Paladin warns Machado that it won't take long for the bandidos to track Machado there. They go back to the wagon and Paladin takes the rifle from Machado. He tells Machado to take Sabina and run, and Sabina agrees. Machado figures that it's too late and wonders why they want Paladin, and he shows him the gem. Sabina runs off the approaching bandidos, and Paladin explains that Sabina stole the gem from him the night before. Machado figures that Sabina has gone to bargain for their lives, but Paladin asks if he has another weapon and Machado confirms that he has a pistol.
The bandidos ride up, and Paladin and Machado open fire. Paladin runs out of ammo and leaps on one bandido, knocking him out. The two surviving bandidos ride off, and Paladin finds Sabina's bracelet on the bandido's wrist. He also has the gem, and he and Machado realize that Sabina is dead. Machado ask Paladin to forgive Sabina because the temptation was great. He says that he always thought of himself as a rich man when he had Sabina as a wife. Paladin tells him that a man can be rich through knowledge and understanding,. Machado says that he will find her again when he is worthy of such a woman. Paladin hopes that time will bring Machado understanding, and figures that sometimes a dream is better than reality. Bidding him adios, Paladin leaves.
Written by Gadfly on Sep 10, 2017