He resumed his journey. By this time his knee was sending telegrams of pain to headquarters. He cut an aspen by the roadside and trimmed it to a walking-stick and, as he went forward, leaned more and more heavily upon it.
“I’m going to have a game leg for fair if I don’t look out,” he told himself ruefully. “This right pin surely ain’t good for a twelve-mile tramp.”
It was during one of his frequent stops to rest that a buggy appeared round the turn from the same direction he had come. It drew to a halt in front of him, and the lad who was driving got out.
“Senorita Maria sends a carriage for Senor Gordon to take him to Corbett’s,” he said.
Dick was on hand with a sardonic smile.
“Tell the senorita that Mr. Gordon regrets having put her to so much trouble, but that he needs the exercise and prefers to walk.”
“The senorita said I was to insist, senor.”
“Tell your mistress that I’m very much obliged to her, but have made other arrangements. Explain to her I appreciate the offer just the same.”
The lad hesitated, and Dick pushed him into decision.
“That’s all right, Juan—Jose—Pedro—Francisco—whatever your name is. You’ve done your levelest. Now, hike back to the ranch. Vamos! Sabe.”
Dick heard the wheels disappear in the distance, and laughed aloud.
“That young woman’s conscience is hurting her. I reckon this tramp to Corbett’s is going to worry her tender heart about as much as it does me, and I’ve got to sweat blood before I get through with it. Here goes again, Dicky.”
Every step sent a pain shooting through him, but he was the last man to give up on that account what he had undertaken.
“She let me go without any lunch,” he chuckled. “I’ll bet that troubles her some, too, when she remembers. She’s got me out of the house, but I’ll bet the last strike in the Nancy K. against a dollar Mex that she ain’t got me out of her mind by a heap.”
A buggy appeared in sight driven by a stout, red-faced old man. Evidently he was on his way to the ranch.
“Who, hello, Doctor! I’m plumb glad to see you; couldn’t wait till you came, and had just to start out to meet you,” cried Dick.
He stood laughing at the amazement in the face of the doctor, who was in two minds whether to get angry or not.
“Doggone your hide, what are you doing here? Didn’t I tell you not to walk more than a few steps?” that gentleman protested.
“But you didn’t leave me a motor-car and, my visit being at an end, I ce’tainly had to get back to Corbett’s.” As he spoke he climbed slowly into the rig. “That leg of mine is acting like sixty, Doctor. When you happened along I was wondering how in time I was ever going to make it.”
“You may have lamed yourself for life. It’s the most idiotic thing I ever heard of. I don’t see why Miss Valdes let you come. Dad blame it, have I got to watch my patients like a hen does its chicks? Ain’t any of you got a lick of sense? Why didn’t she send a rig if you had to come?” the doctor demanded.