“I expect to meet her, and I want to use your judgment to base mine on.”
“Oh, you expect to meet her?”
She said it lightly, yet with a certain emphasis that he noted.
“Don’t you think she will let me? Do I have to show blue blood before I can be presented? One of my ancestors came over on the Mayflower. Will that do?”
Her raillery met his.
“That ought to do, I should think. I suppose you have brought genealogical proofs with you?”
“I clean forgot. Won’t you please get on and ride now? I feel like a false alarm, playing the invalid on you, ma’am.”
“No; I’ll walk. We’re almost at the ranch. It’s just under this hill. But there’s one thing I want to ask of you as a favor.”
“It’s yours,” he replied briefly.
She seemed to struggle with some emotion before she spoke:
“Please don’t mention Valencia Valdes while you are at the ranch. I—I have reasons, sir.”
“Certainly; I’ll do as you prefer.”
To himself he thought that there was probably a feud of some kind between the two families that might make a mention of the name unpleasant. “And that reminds me that I don’t know what your name is. Mine is Muir—Richard Muir.”
“And mine is Maria Yuste.”
He offered her his brown hand. “I’m right happy to meet you, Senorita Maria.”
“Welcome to the Yuste hacienda, senor. What is ours is yours, so long as you are our guest. I pray you make yourself at home,” she said as they rode into the courtyard.
Two Mexican lads came running forward; and one whom she called Pedro took the horse, while the other went into the house to attend to a quick command she gave in Spanish.
The man who had named himself Richard Muir followed his hostess through a hall, across an open court, and into a living-room carpeted with Navajo rugs, at the end of which was a great open fireplace bearing a Spanish motto across it.
Large windows, set three feet deep in the thick adobe walls, were filled with flowers or padded with sofa pillows for seats. One of these his hostess indicated to the limping man.
“If you will be seated here for the present, sir, your room will be ready very soon.”
A few minutes later the fisherman found himself in a large bedroom. He was seated in an easy-chair before a crackling fire of pinon knots.
A messenger had been dispatched for a doctor, Senorita Yuste had told him, and in the meantime he was to make himself quite at home.
AT THE YUSTE HACIENDA
The wrench to the fisherman’s knee proved more serious than he had anticipated. The doctor pronounced it out of the question that he should be moved for some days at least.
The victim was more than content, because he was very much interested in the young woman who had been his rescuer, and because it gave him a chance to observe at first hand the remains of the semifeudal system that had once obtained in New Mexico and California.