Yes, but she had sent him to pain and illness ... perhaps to death. The tears fell fast upon the white cheeks. Surely it was not her fault that he had been so obstinate. Yet—down in the depth of her heart she knew she loved the courage that had carried him with such sardonic derision out upon the road for the long tramp that had so injured him. And there was an inner citadel within her that refused to believe him the sneaking pup she had accused him of being. No man with such honest eyes, who stood so erect and graceful in the image of God, could be so contemptible a cur. There was something fine about the spirit of the man. She had sensed the kinship of it without being able to put a finger exactly upon the quality she meant. He might be a sinner, but it was hard to believe him a small and mean one. The dynamic spark of self-respect burned too brightly in his soul for that.
The fifth day marked the crisis of Gordon’s illness. After that he began slowly to mend.
One morning he awoke to a realization that he had been very ill. His body was still weak, but his mind was coherent again. A slender young woman moved about the room setting things in order.
“Aren’t you Juanita?” he asked.
Her heart gave a leap. This was the first time he had recognized her. Sometimes in his delirium he had caught at her hand ind tried to kiss it, but always under the impression that she was Miss Valdes.
“Si, senor,” she answered quietly.
“I thought so.” He added after a moment, with the childlike innocence a sick person has upon first coming back to sanity: “There couldn’t be two girls as pretty as you in this end of the valley, could there?”
Under her soft brown skin the color flooded Juanita’s face. “I—I don’t know.” She spoke in a flame of embarrassment, so abrupt had been his compliment and so sincere.
“I’ve been very sick, haven’t I?”
She nodded. “Oh, senor, we have been—what you call—worried.”
“Good of you, Juanita. Who has been taking care of me?”
“Ah! That’s good of you, too, amiga.”
She recalled a phrase she had often heard an American rancher’s daughter say. “I loved to do it, senor.”
“But why? I’m your enemy, you know. You ought to hate me. Do you?”
Once again the swift color poured into the dark cheeks, even to the round birdlike throat.
He considered this an instant before he accused her whimsically. “Then you’re not a good girl. You should hate the devil, and I’m his agent. Any of your friends will tell you that.”
“Senor Gordon is a joke.”
He laughed weakly. “Am I? I’ll bet I am, the fool way I acted.”