It was easy for him to see that Senorita Maria Yuste was still considered by her dependents as a superior being, one far removed from them by the divinity of caste that hedged her in. They gave her service; and she, on her part, looked out for their needs, and was the patron saint to whom they brought all their troubles.
It was an indolent, happy life the peons on the estate led, patriarchal in its nature, and far removed from the throb of the money-mad world. They had enough to eat and to wear. There was a roof over their heads. There were girls to be loved, dances to be danced, and guitars to be strummed. Wherefore, then, should the young men feel the spur of an ambition to take the world by the throat and wring success from it?
It had been more years than he could remember since this young American had taken a real holiday except for an occasional fishing trip on the Gunnison or into Wyoming. He had lived a life of activity. Now for the first time he learned how to be lazy. To dawdle indolently on one of the broad porches, while Miss Yuste sat beside him and busied herself over some needlework, was a sensuous delight that filled him with content. He felt that he would like to bask there in the warm sunshine forever. After all, why should he pursue wealth and success when love and laughter waited for him in this peaceful valley chosen of the gods?
The fourth morning of his arrival he hobbled out to the south porch after breakfast, to find his hostess in corduroy skirt, high laced boots, and pinched-in sombrero. She was drawing on a pair of driving gauntlets. One of the stable boys was standing beside a rig he had just driven to the house.
The young woman flung a flashing smile at her guest.
“Good day, Senor Muir. I hope you had a good night’s rest, and that your knee did not greatly pain you?”
“I feel like a colt in the pasture—fit for anything. But the doctor won’t have it that way. He says I’m an invalid,” returned the young man whimsically.
“The doctor ought to know,” she laughed.
“I expect it won’t do me any harm to lie still for a day or two. We Americans all have the git-up-and-dust habit. We got to keep going, though Heaven knows what we’re going for sometimes.”
Though he did not know it, her interest in him was considerable, though certainly critical. He was a type outside of her experience, and, by the law of opposites, attracted her. Every line of him showed tremendous driving power, force, energy. He was not without some touch of Western swagger; but it went well with the air of youth to which his boyish laugh and wavy, sun-reddened hair contributed.
The men of her station that she knew were of one pattern, indolent, well-bred aristocrats, despisers of trade and of those who indulged in it more than was necessary to live. But her mother had been an American girl, and there was in her blood a strong impulse toward the great nation of which her father’s people were not yet in spirit entirely a part.