She looked through the window at the sunlit warmth of the land, and, after a long time, said:
“Must we talk of that, Manuel?”
“No, nina—not if I am once sure. I have guessed; but I must be certain beyond the possibility of mistake. Is my guess right? That it can never be.”
She turned dim eyes on him and nodded. A lump had risen to her throat that forbade speech.
“I can still say, dearest, that I am glad to have loved you,” he answered cheerfully, after an instant’s silence. “And I can promise that I shall trouble you no more. Shall we talk of something else?”
“There is one thing I should like to tell you first,” she said with pretty timidity. “How proud I am that such a man could have loved me. You are the finest man I know. I must be a foolish girl not to—care for you—that way.”
“No. A woman’s heart goes where it must. If a man loses, he loses.”
She choked over her words. “It doesn’t seem fair. I promised. I wore your ring. I said that if you saved ... him ... I would marry you. Manuel, I ... I’ll keep faith if you’ll take me and be content to wait for ... that kind of love to grow.”
“No, my cousin. I have wooed and lost. Why should you be bound by a pledge made at such a time? As your heart tells you to do, so you must do.” He added after a pause: “It is this American, is it not?”
Again she nodded twice, not looking at him lest she see the pain in his eyes.
“I wish you joy, Valencia—a world full of it, so long as life lasts.”
He took her fingers in his, and kissed them before he passed lightly to another subject:
“Have you heard anything yet of the tin box of Mr. Gordon’s?”
She accepted the transition gratefully, for she was so moved she was afraid lest she break down.
“Not yet. It is strange, too, where it has gone. I have had inquiries made every where.”
“For me, I hope it is never found. Why should you feel responsibility to search for these papers that will ruin you and your tenants?”
“If my men had not attacked and tried to murder him he would still have his evidence. I seek only to put him in the position he was in before we injured him.”
“You must judge for yourself, Valencia. But, if you don’t mind, I shall continue to wish you failure in your search,” he replied.
It was now that Jimmie Corbett came into the room to say that Mr. Gordon would like to call on Don Manuel, if the latter felt able to receive him.
Pesquiera did not glance at his cousin. He answered the boy at once.
“Tell Mr. Gordon I shall be very glad to see him,” he said quietly.
Nor did he look at her after the boy had left the room, lest his gaze embarrass her, but gave his attention wholly to propping himself up on his elbow.
Dick stood a moment filling the doorway before he came limping into the room. From that point he bowed to Miss Valdes, then moved forward to the bed.