“Nothing like having good, anxious friends in a hurry to have you well, Steve,” he said, with a smile.
The old miner read the communication. “Well, what’s the matter with his hoping you’ll be all right soon?”
“No reason why he shouldn’t. It only shows what a Christian, forgiving disposition he’s got. You see, that day I most walked my leg off I soused Mr. Pesquiera in a ditch.”
“Just what I say. I picked him up and dropped the gentleman in the nearest ditch. That’s why he’s so anxious to get me well.”
“But—why for, boy?”
Dick laughed. “Can’t you see, you old moss-back? He wants me well enough to call out for a duel.”
“A duel.” Davis stared at him dubiously. He did not know whether or not his friend was making game of him.
“Yes, sir. Pistols and coffee for two, waiter. That sort of thing.”
“But folks don’t fight duels nowadays,” remonstrated the puzzled miner. “Anyhow, what’s he want to fight about? I reckon you didn’t duck him for nothing, did you? What was it all about?”
Dick told his tale of adventures, omitting only certain emotions that were his private property. He concluded with an account of the irrigating-ditch episode. “It ain’t the custom in this part of the country to duck the blue bloods. Shouldn’t wonder but what he’s some hot under the collar. Writes like he sees red, don’t you think, but aims to be polite and keep his shirt on.”
Davis refused to treat the matter as a joke.
“I told you to let your lawyers ’tend to this, Dick, and for you not to poke your nose into this neck of the woods. But you had to come, and right hot off the reel you hand one to this Pesky fellow, or whatever you call him. Didn’t I tell you that you can’t bat these greasers over the head the way you can the Poles in the mines?”
“Sure you told me. You’re always loaded with good advice, Steve. But what do you expect me to do when a fellow slaps my face?”
“They won’t stand fooling with, these greasers. This Pesky fellow is playing squarer than most would if he gives you warning to be ready with your six-gun. You take my advice, and you’ll burn the wind out of this country. If you git this fellow, the whole pack of them will be on top of you, and don’t you forget it, son.”
“So you advise me to cut and run, do you?” said Dick.
“That’s what you’d do, is it?”
“Sure thing. You can’t clean out the whole of New Mexico.”
“Quit your lying, Steve, you old war-horse. You’d see it out, just like I’m going to.”
Davis scratched his grizzled poll and grinned, but continued to dispense good advice.
“You ain’t aiming to mix with this whole blamed country, are you?”
The man in the chair sat up, his lean jaw set and his eyes gleaming.
“I’ve been called the scum o’ the earth. I’ve been kicked out of her house as a fellow not decent enough to mix with honest folks. Only yesterday I got a letter from some of her people warning me to leave the country while I was still alive. This Pesquiera is camping on my trail.”