“But—I don’t understand what this means—unless——”
She looked up quickly at Gordon, an eager question in her face.
“It means what it says, though it’s all wrapped up in dictionary words the way all law papers are.”
Valencia passed the document to Pesquiera. “Read that, and tell me what you think it means, Manuel.” Her face was flushed with excitement, and in her voice there was a suggestion of tremulousness.
The Spaniard read, and as he read his eyes, too, glowed.
“It means, my cousin, that you have to do with a very knightly foe. By this paper he relinquishes all claim, title and interest in the Moreno grant to Valencia Valdes, who he states to be in equity the rightful owner of same. Valencia, I congratulate you. But most of all I congratulate Mr. Gordon. Few men have the courage to make a gift of a half million acres of land merely because they have no moral title to it.”
“Sho! I never did want the land, anyhow. I got interested in the scrap. That’s all.” The miner looked as embarrassed as if he had been caught stealing a box of cigars.
The young woman had gone from pink to white. The voice in which she spoke was low and unsteady.
“It’s a splendid thing to do—the gift of a king. I don’t know—that I can accept it—even for the sake of my people. I know now you would be fair to them. You wouldn’t throw them out. You would give new deeds to those who have bought land, wouldn’t you?”
“How are you going to keep from accepting it, Miss Valdes? That paper is a perfectly legal document.”
She smiled faintly. “I could light a cigarette, Mr. Gordon, as you once did.”
“Not a bit of use. I wired to Santa Fe by Steve to have that paper—the original of it—put on record this afternoon. By this time I expect you’re the princess of the Rio Chama all right.”
She still hesitated, the tide of feeling running full in her heart. It was all very well for this casual youth to make her a present of a half million acres of land in this debonair way, but she could not persuade herself to accept so munificent a gift.
“I don’t know—I’ll have to think—if you are the legal owner——”
“You’re welching,” he told her amiably. “I make a legal deed of conveyance because we are all agreed that my title isn’t morally good. We’re not a bunch of pettifoggers. All of us are aiming to get at what’s right in settling this thing. You know what is right. So do I. So does Mr. Pesquiera. Enough said. All we have to do then is to act according to the best we know. Looks simple to me.”
“Maybe it wouldn’t look so simple if you were at the other end of the bargain, Mr. Gordon. To give is more blessed than to receive, you know.”
“Sure. I understand that. I get the glory and do all the grand-standing. But you’ll have to stand for it, I reckon.”
“I’m going to think it over. Then I’ll let you know what I can do.” She looked at him sharply, a new angle of the situation coming home to her. “You meant to do this from the first, Mr. Gordon.”