“Yes, sir, I have. But neither on that nor any other subject do I desire any conversation with you.”
“Of course not, me being a spy and all those other things you mentioned,” he said quietly.
“I stopped to tell you only one thing. You must leave this country. Prosecute your suit from a distance. My people are wrought up. You see for yourself now.” Her gauntlet indicated the hat.
“They do seem to be enthusiastic about hating me,” he agreed pleasantly. “I suppose I’m not what you would call popular here.”
She gave a gesture of annoyance.
“Can’t you understand that this is no time for flippancy? Can’t you make him see it, sir?” she called to Davis.
That gentleman shook his head.
“He’ll go his own way, I expect. He always was that bull-headed.”
“Firm—I call it,” smiled Gordon.
“I ask you to remember that he has had his warning,” the girl called to Steve.
“I’ve had several,” acknowledged Dick, his eyes again on the hat. “There won’t be anybody to blame but myself.”
“You know who shot at you. I saw it in your face. Tell me, and I will see that he is punished,” she urged.
Dick shook his head imperturbably.
“No; I reckon that wouldn’t do. I’m playing a lone hand. You’re on the other side. How can I come and ask you to fight my battles for me? That wouldn’t be playing the game. I’ll attend to the young man that mistook me for a rabbit.”
“Very well. As you like. But you are quite mistaken if you think I asked on your account. He had disobeyed my orders, and he deserved to pay for it. I have no further interest in the matter.”
“Certainly. I understand that. What interest could Miss Valdes have in a spy and a cheat?” he drawled negligently.
The young woman flushed, made as if to speak, then turned away abruptly.
She touched her pony with the spur, and as it took the outside of the slanting, narrow trail, its hoof slipped on loose gravel and went over the edge. Dick’s arm went out like a streak of lightning and caught the rein.
For an instant the issue hung in doubt whether he could hold the bronco and save her a nasty fall. The taut muscles of his lean arm and body grew rigid with the strain before the animal found its feet and the path.
“Thank you,” the young woman said quietly, and at once disengaged the rein from his fingers by a turn of the pony’s head.
Yet a moment, and she had disappeared round a bend in the trail. Gordon had observed with satisfaction that there had been no sign of fear in her eyes at the danger she faced, no screaming or wild clutching at his arm for help. Her word of thanks to him had been as cool and low as the rest of her talk.
“She’s that game. Ain’t she a thoroughbred, Steve?” demanded Dick, with deep delight in his fair foe.
“You bet she is. It’s a shame for you to be annoying her this way. Why don’t you come to an agreement with her?”