A Daughter of the Dons
A Daughter of the Dons
CHAPTER II: THE TWO GRANTS
THE CLOCK IN THE DEPOT tower registered just twelve, and the noon whistles were blowing when Pesquiera knocked at apartment 14, of the Gold Nugget Rooming-House.
In answer to an invitation to "Come in," he entered an apartment which seemed to be a combination office and living-room. A door opened into what the New Mexican assumed to be a sleeping chamber, adjoining which was evidently a bath, judging from the sound of splashing water.
"With you in a minute," a voice from within assured the guest.
The splashing ceased. There was the sound of a towel in vigorous motion. This was followed by the rustling of garments as the bather dressed. In an astonishingly short time the owner of the rooms appeared in the doorway.
He was a well-set-up youth, broad of shoulder and compact of muscle. The ruddy bloom that beat through the tanned cheeks and the elasticity of his tread hinted at an age not great, but there was no suggestion of immaturity in the cool steadiness of the gaze or in the quiet poise of the attitude.
He indicated a chair, after relieving his visitor of hat and cane. Pesquiera glanced at the bandage round the head.
"I trust, señor, your experience of yesterday has not given you a wakeful night?"
"Slept like a top. Fact is, I'm just getting up. You heard this morning yet how Tom is?"
"The morning newspaper says he is doing very well indeed."
"That's good hearing. He's a first-rate boy, and I'd hate to hear worse of him. But I mustn't take your time over our affairs. I think you mentioned business, sir?"
The Castilian leaned forward and fixed his black, piercing eyes on the other. Straight into his business he plunged.
"Señor Gordon, have you ever heard of the Valdés grant?"
"Not to remember it. What kind of a grant is it?"
"It is a land grant, made by Governor Facundo Megares, of New Mexico, which territory was then a province of Spain, to Don Fernando Valdés, in consideration of services rendered the Spanish crown against the Indians."
Dick shook his head. "You've got me, sir. If I ever heard of it the thing has plumb slipped my mind. Ought I to know about it?"
"Have you ever heard of the Moreño grant?"
Somewhere in the back of the young man's mind a faint memory stirred. He seemed to see an old man seated at a table in a big room with a carved fireplace. The table was littered with papers, and the old gentleman was explaining them to a woman. She was his daughter, Dick's mother. A slip of a youngster was playing about the room with two puppies. That little five-year-old was the young mine operator.
"I have," he answered calmly.
"You know, then, that a later governor of the territory, Manuel Armijo, illegally carved half a million acres out of the former grant and gave it to José Moreño, from whom your grandfather bought it."
The miner's face froze to impassivity. He was learning news. The very existence of such a grant was a surprise to him. His grandfather and his mother had been dead fifteen years. Somewhere in an old trunk back in Kentucky there was a tin box full of papers that might tell a story. But for the present he preferred to assume that he knew what information they contained.
"I object to the word illegal, Don Manuel," he answered curtly, not at all sure his objection had any foundation of law.
Pesquiera shrugged. "Very well, señor. The courts, I feel sure, will sustain my words."
"Perhaps, and perhaps not."
"The law is an expensive arbiter, Señor Gordon. Your claim is slight. The title has never been perfected by you. In fifteen years you have paid no taxes. Still your claim, though worthless in itself, operates as a cloud upon the title of my client, the Valdés heir."
Dick looked at him steadily and nodded. He began to see the purpose of this visit. He