“I’ll bring the letters to-morrow and you can look them over. Any time you like I’ll show you over the house. It’s really rather interesting—much more so than their new one, which is so modern that it looks like a thousand others. Valencia was born in the old house. What will you give me to let you into the room?”
He brushed aside her impudence with a laugh. “Your boss is looking this way. I think he’s getting ready to fire you.”
“He’s more likely to be fired himself. I’m under civil service and he isn’t. Will you take your shoes off when you go into the holy of holies?”
“What happens to little girls when they ask too many questions? Go ’way. I’m busy.”
On her return from luncheon that same afternoon Miss Underwood brought Dick a bundle of letters tied with a ribbon. She tossed them down upon the desk in front of him.
“I haven’t read them myself. Of course they’re in Spanish. I did try to get through one of them, but it was too much like work and I gave it up. But since they’re written by her grandfather they’ll interest you more than they did me,” Miss Kate told him, with the saucy tilt to her chin that usually accompanied her impudence.
He had lived in Chihuahua three years as a mining engineer, so that he spoke and read Spanish readily. The old Don wrote a stiff angular hand, but as soon as he became accustomed to it Dick found little difficulty. Some of the letters were written from the ranch, but most of them carried the Santa Fe date line at the time the old gentleman was governor of the royal province. They were addressed to his son Alvaro, at that time a schoolboy in Mexico City. Clearly Don Bartolome intended his son to be informed as to the affairs of the province, for the letters were a mine of information in regard to political and social conditions. They discussed at length, too, the business interests of the family and the welfare of the peons dependent upon it.
All afternoon Gordon pored over these fascinating pages torn from a dead and buried past. They were more interesting than any novel he had ever read, for they gave him a photograph, as it were projected by his imagination upon a moving picture canvas, of the old regime that had been swept into the ash heap by modern civilization. The letters revealed the old Don frankly. He was proud, imperious, heady, and intrepid. To his inferiors he was curt but kind. They flocked to him with their troubles and their quarrels. The judgment of their overlord was final with his tenants. Clearly he had a strong sense of his responsibilities to them and to the state. A quaint flavor of old-world courtesy ran through the letters like a thread of gold.
It was a paragraph from one of the last letters that riveted Dick’s attention. Translated into English, it ran as follows: