“I mean a—what you call—a joker,” she corrected.
“But ain’t I your enemy, my little good Samaritan? Isn’t that what all your people are saying?”
“I not care what they say.”
“If I’m not your enemy, what am I?”
She made a great pretense of filling the ewer with water and gathering up the soiled towels.
“How about that, nina?” he persisted, turning toward her on the pillow with his unshaven face in his hand, a gentle quizzical smile in his eyes.
“I’m your ... servant, senor,” she flamed, after the embarrassment of silence had grown too great.
“No, no! Nothing like that. What do you say? Will you take me for a friend, even though I’m an enemy to the whole valley?”
Her soft, dark eyes flashed to meet his, timidly and yet with an effect of fine spirit.
“Good. Shake hands on it, little partner.”
She came forward reluctantly, as if she were pushed toward him by some inner compulsion. Her shy embarrassment, together with the sweetness of the glad emotion that trembled in her filmy eyes, lent her a rare charm.
For just an instant her brown fingers touched his, then she turned and fled from the room.
Mrs. Corbett presently bustled in, fat, fifty, and friendly.
“I can’t hardly look you in the face,” he apologized, with his most winning smile. “I reckon I’ve been a nuisance a-plenty, getting sick on your hands like a kid.”
Mrs. Corbett answered his smile as she arranged the coverlets.
“You’ll just have to be good for a spell to make up for it. No more ten-mile walks, Mr. Muir, till the knee is all right.”
“I reckon you better call me Gordon, ma’am.” His mind passed to what she had said about his walk. “Ce’tainly that was a fool pasear for a man to take. Comes of being pig-headed, Mrs. Corbett. And Doc Watson had told me not to use that game leg much. But, of course, I knew best,” he sighed ruefully.
“Well, you’ve had your lesson. And you’ve worried all of us. Miss Valdes has called up two or three times a day on the phone and sent a messenger over every evening to find out how you were.”
Dick felt the blood flush his face. “She has?” Then, after a little: “That’s very kind of Miss Valdes.”
“Yes. Everybody has been kind. Mr. Pesquiera has called up every day to inquire about you. He has been very anxious for you to recover.”
A faint sardonic smile touched the white lips. “A fellow never knows how many friends he has till he needs them. So Don Manuel is in a hurry to have me get on my feet. That’s surely right kind of him.”
He thought he could guess why that proud and passionate son of Spain fretted to see him ill. The humiliation to which he had been subjected was rankling in his heart and would oppress him till he could wipe it out in action.