Pesquiera declined the proffered cigar with an impatient gesture. He rose, reclaimed his hat and cane, and clicked his heels together in a stiff bow.
He was a slight, dark, graceful man, with small, neat hands and feet, trimly gloved and shod. He had a small black mustache pointing upward in parallels to his smooth, olive cheeks. The effect was almost foppish, but the fire in the snapping eyes contradicted any suggestion of effeminacy. His gaze yielded nothing even to the searching one of Gordon.
“It is, then, war between us, Senor Gordon?” he asked haughtily.
“Sho! It’s just business. Maybe I’ll take your offer. Maybe I won’t. I might want to run down and look at the no-’count land,” he said with a laugh.
“I think it fair to inform you, sir, that the feeling of the country down there is in favor of the Valdes grant. The peons are hot-tempered, and are likely to resent any attempt to change the existing conditions. Your presence, senor, would be a danger.”
“Much obliged, Don Manuel. Tell ’em from me that I got a bad habit of wearing a six-gun, and that if they get to resenting too arduous it’s likely to ventilate their enthusiasm.”
Once more the New Mexican bowed stiffly before he retired.
Pesquiera had overplayed his hand. He had stirred in the miner an interest born of curiosity and a sense of romantic possibilities. Dick wanted to see this daughter of Castile who was still to the simple-hearted shepherds of the valley a princess of the blood royal. Don Manuel was very evidently her lover. Perhaps it was his imagination that had mixed the magic potion that lent an atmosphere of old-world pastoral charm to the story of the Valdes grant. Likely enough the girl would prove commonplace in a proud half-educated fashion that would be intolerable for a stranger.
But even without the help of the New Mexican the situation was one which called for a thorough personal investigation. Gordon was a hard-headed American business man, though he held within him the generous and hare-brained potentialities of a soldier of fortune. He meant to find out just what the Moreno grant was worth. After he had investigated his legal standing he would look over the valley of the Chama himself. He took no stock in Don Manuel’s assurance that the land was worthless, any more than he gave weight to his warning that a personal visit to the scene would be dangerous if the settlers believed he came to interfere with their rights. For many turbulent years Dick Gordon had held his own in a frontier community where untamed enemies had passed him daily with hate in their hearts. He was not going to let the sulky resentment of a few shepherds interfere with his course now.
A message flashed back to a little town in Kentucky that afternoon. It was of the regulation ten-words length, and this was the body of it: