Blaze shook his head. “They know you are a red-hot Rebel. I wouldn’t trust them.”
“They know, also, that I am an American, like you gentlemen,” proudly asserted Guzman. “That makes a difference. I supported the Liberator—God rest his soul!—and I secretly assist those who fight his assassins, but so does everybody else. I am receiving a fine price for those horses, so it is worth a little risk. Now, senor,” he addressed himself to the Ranger, “I have brought you a little present. Day and night my boys and I have worked upon it, for we know the good heart you have. It was finished yesterday. See!” Ricardo unwrapped a bundle he had fetched, displaying a magnificent bridle of plaited horsehair. It was cunningly wrought, and lavishly decorated with silver fittings. “You recognize those hairs?” he queried. “They came from the mane and tail of your bonita.”
“Bessie Belle!” Law accepted the handsome token, then held out his hand to the Mexican. “That was mighty fine of you, Ricardo. I—You couldn’t have pleased me more.”
“You like it?” eagerly demanded the old man. “That is good. I am repaid a thousandfold. Your sentiment is like a woman’s. But see! I am famous for this work, and I have taught my boys to use their fingers, too. That mare will always guide you now, wherever you go. And we handled her gently, for your sake.”
Dave nodded. “You’re a good man, Ricardo. We’re going to be friends.”
Guzman’s delight was keen, his grizzled face beamed, and he showed his white teeth in a smile. “Say no more. What is mine is yours— my house, my cattle, my right hand. I and my sons will serve you, and you must come often to see us. Now I must go.” He shook hands heartily and rode away, waving his hat.
“There’s a good Greaser,” Blaze said, with conviction, and Dave agreed, feelingly:
“Yes! I’d about go to hell for him, after this.” Then he took the bridle in for Paloma to admire.
It was with a feeling of some reluctance that Dave drove up to Las Palmas shortly after the lunch hour, for he had no desire to meet “Young Ed.” However, to his relief, Austin did not appear, and inasmuch as Alaire did not refer to her husband in any way, Dave decided that he must be absent, perhaps on one of his notorious sprees.
The mistress of the big ranch was in her harness, having at once assumed her neglected duties. She came to welcome her caller in a short khaki riding-suit; her feet were encased in tan boots; she wore a mannish felt hat and gauntlet gloves, showing that she had spent the morning in the saddle. Dave thought she looked exceedingly capable and business-like, and not less beautiful in these clothes; he feasted his eyes covertly upon her.
“I expected you for luncheon,” she smiled; and Dave could have kicked himself. “I’m just going out now. If you’re not in too great a hurry to go home you may go with me.”