“For weapons I choose riatas”
There must have been a good deal of gossip amongst the vaqueros of the various ranches, as they rode on circle or lay upon their saddle blankets around the evening camp-fires. As is ever the case when a man is young, handsome, rich, and holds proudly the gold medal which proclaims him the champion of the whole State—the golden disk which many a young vaquero longed to wrest from him in a fair test of skill—there were those who would rather like to see Jose humbled. True, they would never choose an alien to do the humbling, and the possibility was discussed with various head-shakings amongst themselves.
But there were the Picardo vaqueros stanchly swearing by all the saints they knew that these two gringos were not as other gringos; that these two were worthy a place amongst true Californians. Could they not see that this Senor Hunter was as themselves? And he was not more Spanish in his speech and his ways than was the Senor Allen, albeit the Senor Allen’s eyes were blue as the lupines, and his hair the color of the madrona bark when it grows dark with age—or nearly the color. And he could shoot, that blue-eyed one!
Valencia, having an audience of a dozen or more one night, grew eloquent upon the prowess of the blue-eyed one. And the audience, listening, vowed that they would like to see him matched against Jose, who thought himself supreme in everything.
“Not in fighting,” amended Valencia, his teeth gleaming white in the fire-glow, as he leaned to pull a brand from the blaze that he might relight the cigarette which had gone out while he told the tale of that running fight, when the two Americanos had shamed a whole crowd of gringos—for so did Valencia make nice distinction of names.
“Not in fighting, amigos, nor yet in love! And because he knows that it is so, the cheeks of Don Jose hang slack, and he rides with chin upon his breast, when he thinks no one is looking. The medalla oro is his, yes. But he would gladly give it for that which the Senor Allen possesses. Me, I think that the Senor Allen could as easily win also the medalla oro as he has won the other prize.” There was a certain fineness in Valencia that would never permit his tongue to fling the name of the Senorita Teresa amongst these vaqueros; but he was sure that they caught his meaning.
“Dios! me, I should like to see him try,” cried a tall San Vincente rider, shifting his position to ease a cramp in his long leg; and his tone was neither contemptuous nor even doubtful, but merely eager for the excitement there would be in the spectacle.
Some one in the shadows turned and walked quickly away to another fire-glow with its ring of Rembrandt figures and faces, and none save Valencia knew that it was Manuel gone to tell his master what had been said. Valencia smiled while he smoked.