“That is where I live,” she told him.
He thought it a lovely spot, almost worthy of her, but obviously he could not tell her so. Instead, he voiced an alien thought that happened to intrude:
“Do you know Senorita Valdes? But of course you must.”
She flung a quick glance at him, questioning.
“Yes, I know her.”
“She lives somewhere round here, too, does she not?”
Her arm swept round in a comprehensive gesture. “Over that way, too.”
“Do you know her well?”
An odd smile dimpled her face.
“Sometimes I think I do, and then again I wonder.”
“I have been told she is beautiful.”
“Beauty is in the beholder’s eyes, senor. Valencia Valdes is as Heaven made her.”
“I have no doubt; but Heaven took more pains with some of us than others—it appears.”
Again the dark eyes under the long lashes swept him from the curly head to the lean, muscular hands, and approved silently the truth of his observation. The clean lithe build of the man, muscles packed so that they rippled smoothly like those of a panther, appealed to her trained eyes. So, too, did the quiet, steady eyes in the bronzed face, holding as they did the look of competent alertness that had come from years of frontier life.
“You are interested in Miss Valdes?” she asked politely.
“In a way of speaking, I am. She is one of the reasons why I came here.”
“Indeed! She would no doubt be charmed to know of your interest,” still with polite detachment.
“My interest ain’t exactly personal; then again it is,” he contributed.
“A sort of an impersonal personal interest?”
“Yes; though I don’t quite know what that means.”
“Then I can’t be expected to,” she laughed.
His laughter joined hers; but presently he recurred to his question:
“You haven’t told me yet about Miss Valdes. Is she as lovely as they say she is?”
“I don’t know just how lovely they say she is. Sometimes I have thought her very passable; then again—” She broke off with a defiant little laugh. “Don’t you know, sir, that you mustn’t ask one lady to praise the beauty of another?”
“I suppose I may ask questions?” he said, much amused.
“It depends a little on the questions.”
“Is she tall?”
“Rather. About as tall as I am.”
“And dark, of course, since she is a Spanish senorita”
“Yes, she is dark.”
“Slim and graceful, I expect?”
“She is slender.”
“I reckon she banks a heap on that blue blood of hers?”
“Yes; she is prouder of it than there is really any need of, though I think probably her pride is unconscious and a matter of habit.”
“I haven’t been able to make out yet whether you like her,” he laughed.
“I don’t see what my liking has to do with it.”