With dignity she turned on him.
“Do you think I want to beat you that way? Do you think I am a highwayman, or that I shall let my people be?”
“You make them draw the line between murder and robbery,” he suggested pleasantly.
“I couldn’t stop them from attacking you, but I can see they don’t keep your papers—all the more, that it is to their interest and mine to keep them.”
She said it with such fine girlish pride, her head thrown a little back, her eyes gleaming, scorn of his implied distrust in her very carriage. For long he joyfully carried the memory of it.
Surely, she was the rarest creature it had ever been his fortune to meet. Small wonder the gallant Spaniard Don Manuel loved her. Small wonder her people fed on her laughter, and were despondent at her frowns.
Dick Gordon was awake a good deal that night, for the pain and the fever were still with him; but the hours were short to him, full of joy and also of gloom. Shifting pictures of her filled the darkness. His imagination saw her in many moods, in many manners. And when from time to time he dropped into light sleep, it was to carry her into his dreams.
DICK GORDON APOLOGIZES
Don Manuel was at first too spent a man even to wish to get well. As his cousin’s nursing dragged him farther and farther back into this world from which he had so nearly slipped, he was content to lie still and take the goods the gods provided.
She was with him for the present. That sufficed. Whether he lived or died he did not care a hand’s turn; but the while Fate flipped a coin to determine whether it should be life or death for him, he had Valencia’s love as he feared he would never have it in case he recovered.
For these days she lived for him alone. Her every thought and desire had been for him. On this his soul fed, since he felt that, as they slipped back into the ordinary tide of life, she would withdraw herself gently but surely from him.
He had fought against the conviction that she loved his rival, the Colorado claimant to the valley. He had tried to persuade himself that her interest in the miner was natural under the circumstances and entirely independent of sentiment. But in the bottom of his heart such assurances did not convince.
“You will be able to sit up in a few days. It’s wonderful how you have improved,” she told him one day as she finished changing his pillow.
“Yes, I shall be well soon. You will be relieved of me,” he said with a kind of gentle sadness.
“As if I wanted to be,” she reproved softly, her hand smoothing down his hair.
“No. You’re very good to me. You don’t want to be rid of me. But it’s best you should be. I have had all of you that’s good for me, my cousin, unless I could have more than I dare hope.”