A flood of spreading color swept back into her face.
“No, I didn’t. I thought perhaps you were an agent of the claimant; but I didn’t know you were passing under a false name, that you were aware in whose house you were staying. I thought you an honest man, on the wrong side—nothing so contemptible as a spy.”
“That idea’s fixed in your mind, is it?” he asked quietly.
“Beyond any power of yours to remove it,” she flashed back.
“The facts, Senor Gordon, speak loud,” put in Pesquiera derisively.
Dick Gordon paid not the least attention to him. His gaze was fastened on the girl whose contempt was lashing him.
“Very well, Miss Valdes. Well let it go at that just now. All I’ve got to say is that some day you’ll hate yourself for what you have just said.”
Neither of them had raised their voices from first to last. Hers had been low and intense, pulsing with the passion that would out. His had held its even way.
“I hate myself now, that I have had you here so long, that I have been the dupe of a common cheat.”
“All right. ’Nough said, ma’am. More would certainly be surplusage. I’ll not trouble you any longer now. But I want you to remember that there’s a day coming when you’ll travel a long way to take back all of what you’ve just been saying. I want to thank you for all your kindness to me. I’m always at your service for what you did for me. Good-bye, Miss Valdes, for the present.”
“I am of impression, sir, that you go not too soon,” said Pesquiera suavely.
Miss Valdes turned on her heel and swept up the steps of the porch; but she stopped an instant before she entered the house to say over her shoulder:
“A buggy will be at your disposal to take you to Corbett’s. If it is convenient, I should like to have you go to-night.”
He smiled ironically.
“I’ll not trouble you for the buggy, senorita. If I’m all you say I am, likely I’m a horse thief, too. Anyhow, we won’t risk it. Walking’s good enough for me.”
“Just as you please,” she choked, and forthwith disappeared into the house.
Gordon turned from gazing after her to find the little Spaniard bowing before him.
“Consider me at your service, Mr. Gordon——”
“Can’t use you,” cut in Dick curtly.
“I was remarking that, as her kinsman, I, Don Manuel Pesquiera, stand prepared to make good her words. What the Senorita Valdes says, I say, too.”
“Then don’t say it aloud, you little monkey, or I’ll throw you over the house,” Dick promised immediately.
Don Manuel clicked his heels together and twirled his black mustache.
“I offer you, sir, the remedy of a gentleman. You, sir, shall choose the weapons.”
The Anglo-Saxon laughed in his face.
“Good. Let it be toasting-forks, at twenty paces.”
The challenger drew himself up to his full five feet six.