It occurred to Dick that there was a certain aloofness in Miss Underwood’s attitude toward Valencia, a reticence that was not quite unfriendliness but retained the right of criticism. She held her judgment as it were in abeyance.
While Miss Underwood was preparing some simple refreshments Gordon learned from her mother that Manuel Pesquiera had been formerly a frequent caller.
“He has been so busy since he moved down to his place on the Rio Chama that we see nothing of him,” she explained placidly. “He is a fine type of the best of the old Spanish families. Thee would find him a good friend.”
“Or a good foe,” the young man added.
She conceded the point with a sigh. “Yes. He is testy. He has the old patrician pride.”
After they had eaten cake and ice cream, Kate showed Gordon over the house. It was built of adobe, and the window seats in the thick walls were made comfortable with cushions or filled with potted plants. Navajo rugs and Indian baskets lent the rooms the homey appearance such furnishings always give in the old Southwest. The house was built around a court in the center, fronting on which were long, shaded balconies both on the first and second floor. A profusion of flowering trailers rioted up the pillars and along the upper railing.
“The old families knew how to make themselves comfortable, anyhow,” commented the guest.
“Yes, that’s the word—comfort. It’s not modern or stylish or up to date, but I never saw a house really more comfortable to live in than this,” Miss Underwood agreed. She led the way through a French window from the veranda to a large room with a southern exposure. “How do you like this room?”
“Must catch the morning sunshine fine. I like even the old stone fireplace in the corner. Why don’t builders nowadays make such rooms?”
“You’ve saved yourself, Mr. Gordon. This is the sacred room. Here the Princess of the Rio Chama was born. This was her room when she was a girl until she went away to school. She slept in that very bed. Down on your knees, sir, and worship at the shrine.”
He met with a laugh the cool, light scorn of her banter. Yet something in him warmed to his environment. He had the feeling of having come into more intimate touch with her past than he had yet done. The sight of that plain little bed went to the source of his emotions. How many times had his love knelt beside it in her night-gown and offered up her pure prayers to the God she worshiped!
He made his good-byes soon after their return to Mrs. Underwood. Dick was a long way from a sentimentalist, but he wanted to be alone and adjust his mind to the new conception of his sweetheart brought by her childhood home. It was a night of little moonlight. As he walked toward the hotel he could see nothing of the escort that had been his during the past few days. He wondered if perhaps they had got tired of shadowing his movements.