“If you will happen round to the palace about noon to-morrow, Senor Pesquiera, you will be admitted to the presence by the court flunkies. When you’re inquiring for the whereabouts of the palace, better call it room 14, Gold Nugget Rooming-House.”
He excused himself and stepped lightly across to his companion in the adventure, who had by this time recovered consciousness.
“How goes it, Tom? Feel as if you’d been run through a sausage-grinder?” he asked cheerily.
The man smiled faintly. “I’m all right, boss. The boys tell me you went back and saved me.”
“Sho! I just grabbed you and slung you in the cage. No trick at all, Tom. Now, don’t you worry, boy. Just lie there in the hospital and rest easy. We’re settling the bill, and there’s a hundred plunks waiting you when you get well.”
Tom’s hand pressed his feebly.
“I always knew you were white, boss.”
The doctor laughed as he came forward with a basin of water and bandages.
“I’m afraid he’ll be whiter than he need be if I don’t stop that bleeding. I think we’re ready for it now, Mr. Gordon.”
“All right. It’s only a scratch,” answered Gordon indifferently.
Pesquiera, feeling that he was out of the picture, departed in search of a hotel for the night. He was conscious of a strong admiration for this fair brown-faced Anglo-Saxon who faced death so lightly for one of his men. Whatever else he might prove to be, Richard Gordon was a man.
The New Mexican had an uneasy prescience that his mission was foredoomed to failure and that it might start currents destined to affect potently the lives of many in the Rio Chama Valley.
THE TWO GRANTS
The clock in the depot tower registered just twelve, and the noon whistles were blowing when Pesquiera knocked at apartment 14, of the Gold Nugget Rooming-House.
In answer to an invitation to “Come in,” he entered an apartment which seemed to be a combination office and living-room. A door opened into what the New Mexican assumed to be a sleeping chamber, adjoining which was evidently a bath, judging from the sound of splashing water.
“With you in a minute,” a voice from within assured the guest.
The splashing ceased. There was the sound of a towel in vigorous motion. This was followed by the rustling of garments as the bather dressed. In an astonishingly short time the owner of the rooms appeared in the doorway.
He was a well-set-up youth, broad of shoulder and compact of muscle. The ruddy bloom that beat through the tanned cheeks and the elasticity of his tread hinted at an age not great, but there was no suggestion of immaturity in the cool steadiness of the gaze or in the quiet poise of the attitude.
He indicated a chair, after relieving his visitor of hat and cane. Pesquiera glanced at the bandage round the head.