“That doesn’t mean anything. It’s almost silly,” replied the downright Miss Underwood, not without a tinge of spite.
“It means something to me. I’m trying to give you a picture of her. But you’d have to see her to understand. When she’s around mean and little things crawl out of your mind. She’s on the level and square and fine—a thoroughbred if there ever was one.”
“I believe you’re in love with her, too.”
The young man found himself blushing. “Now don’t get to imagining foolishness. Miss Valdes hates the ground I walk on. She thinks I’m the limit, and she hasn’t forgotten to tell me so.”
“Which, of course, makes you fonder of her,” scoffed Miss Underwood. “Does she hate the ground that Don Manuel walks on?”
“Now you’ve got me. I go to the foot of the class, because I don’t know.”
“But you wish you did,” she flung at him, with a swift side glance.
“Guessing again, Miss Kate. I’ll sure report you if you waste the State’s time on such foolishness,” he threatened gaily.
“Since you’re in love with her, why don’t you marry Miss Valdes and consolidate the two claims?” demanded the girl.
Her chin was tilted impudently toward him, but Gordon guessed that there was an undercurrent of meaning in her audacity.
“What commission do you charge for running your matrimonial bureau?” he asked innocently.
“The service comes free to infants,” she retorted sweetly.
She was called away to attend to other business. An hour later she passed the desk where he was working.
“So you think I’m an infant at that game, do you?”
“I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” was her saucy answer.
“You haven’t—not a mite. What about Don Manuel? Is he an infant at it, too?”
A sudden flame of color swept her face. The words she flung at Gordon seemed irrelevant, but he did not think them so. “I hate him.”
And with that she was gone.
Dick’s eyes twinkled. He had discovered another reason for her interest in his fortunes.
Later in the day, when the pressure of work had relaxed, the clerk drifted his way again while searching for some papers.
“Your lawyers are paid to look up all this, aren’t they? Why do you do it, then?” she asked.
“The case interests me. I want to know all about it.”
“Would you like to see the old Valdes house here in Santa Fe? My father bought it when Alvaro Valdes built his new town house. One day I found in the garret a bundle of old Spanish letters. They were written by old Bartolome to his son. I saved them. Would you care to see them?”
“Very much. The old chap was a great character. I suppose he was really the last of the great feudal barons. The French Revolution put an end to them in Europe—that and the industrial revolution. It’s rather amazing that out here in the desert of this new land dedicated to democracy the idea was transplanted and survived so long.”