THE PRINCE CONSORT
Valencia returned to Don Manuel’s room carrying a gunny sack. She found Dick Gordon sitting beside his rival’s bed amiably discussing with him the respective values of the Silver Doctor and the Jock Scott for night fishing. Dick rose at her entrance to offer a chair.
She was all fire and animation. Her eyes sparkled, reflecting light as little wavelets of a sun-kissed lake.
“Supreme Court decision just come down in your favor?” asked the other claimant to the valley with genial irony.
“No, but—guess what I’ve got here.”
“A new hat,” hazarded Gordon, furrowing his brow in deep thought.
“Treason!” protested Manuel. “Does the lady live who would put her new hat in a gunny sack?”
“You may have three guesses, each of you,” replied Miss Valdes, dimpling.
The miner guessed two guinea pigs, a million dollars, and a pair of tango slippers. Pesquiera went straight to the mark.
“A tin box,” he said.
“Right, Manuel. Pablo brought it. He had just heard I was looking for the box—says he found it the night of the fire and took it home with him. His idea was that we might use the papers to help our fight.”
“Good idea,” agreed the Cripple Creek man, with twinkling eyes. “What are you going to do with the papers now you have them, Miss Valdes?”
“Going to give them to their owner,” she replied, and swung the sack into his lap.
He took out a bunch of keys from his pocket, fitted one to the lock of the box, and threw up the lid. Carefully he looked the papers over.
“They are all here—every last one. I’m still lord of the Rio Chama Valley—unless my lawyers are fooling me mighty bad.”
“It’s a difference of opinion that makes horse races, Senor,” retorted Manuel gaily from his pillows.
“I’ll bet one of Mrs. Corbett’s cookies there’s no difference of opinion between my lawyers and those of Miss Valdes. What do you honestly think yourself about the legal end, ma’am?”
“I think that law and justice were divorced a good many years ago,” she answered promptly.
“Which is another way of saying that you expect me to win out.”
“By advice of counsel we decline to make any admissions, sir.”
“You don’t have to say a word. The facts do all the talking that is necessary.” Gordon glanced in a business-like fashion over several papers. “This would be a fine time for friend Pablo to attack me again. Here are several of the original papers—deed of the grant, map of it with the first survey made, letters showing that old Moreno lived several years in the valley after your people were driven out at the time of the change in government. By the way, here’s a rather interesting document. Like to look at it, Miss Valdes?”
He handed to her a paper done up in a blue cover after the fashion of modern legal pleadings. Valencia glanced it over. Her eye caught at a phrase which interested her and ran rapidly down the page.