Desert Gold (Chapter 5, page 2 of 10)


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Chapter 5

On the next day he was very much improved.

"We've been afraid of blood poisoning," said Belding. "But my wife
thinks the danger's past. You'll have to rest that arm for a while."

Ladd and Jim came peeping in at the door.

"Come in, boys. He can have company--the more the better--if it'll
keep him content. He mustn't move, that's all."

The cowboys entered, slow, easy, cool, kind-voiced.

"Shore it's tough," said Ladd, after he had greeted Dick. "You look
used up."

Jim Lash wagged his half-bald, sunburned head, "Musta been more'n tough
for Rojas."

"Gale, Laddy tells me one of our neighbors, fellow named Carter, is
going to Casita," put in Belding. "Here's a chance to get word to your
friend the soldier."

"Oh, that will be fine!" exclaimed Dick. "I declare I'd forgotten
Thorne.... How is Miss Castaneda? I hope--"

"She's all right, Gale. Been up and around the patio for two days.
Like all the Spanish--the real thing--she's made of Damascus steel.
We've been getting acquainted. She and Nell made friends at once. I'll
call them in."

He closed the door leading out into the yard, explaining that he did
not want to take chances of Mercedes's presence becoming known to
neighbors. Then he went to the patio and called.

Both girls came in, Mercedes leading. Like Nell, she wore white, and
she had a red rose in her hand. Dick would scarcely have recognized
anything about her except her eyes and the way she carried her little
head, and her beauty burst upon him strange and anew. She was swift,
impulsive in her movements to reach his side.

"Senor, I am so sorry you were ill--so happy you are better."

Dick greeted her, offering his left hand, gravely apologizing for the
fact that, owing to a late infirmity, he could not offer the right.
Her smile exquisitely combined sympathy, gratitude, admiration. Then
Dick spoke to Nell, likewise offering his hand, which she took shyly.
Her reply was a murmured, unintelligible one; but her eyes were glad,
and the tint in her cheeks threatened to rival the hue of the rose she
carried.

Everybody chatted then, except Nell, who had apparently lost her voice.
Presently Dick remembered to speak of the matter of getting news to
Thorne.

"Senor, may I write to him? Will some one take a letter?... I shall
hear from him!" she said; and her white hands emphasized her words.

"Assuredly. I guess poor Thorne is almost crazy. I'll write to
him.... No, I can't with this crippled hand."

"That'll be all right, Gale," said Belding. "Nell will write for you.
She writes all my letters."

So Belding arranged it; and Mercedes flew away to her room to write,
while Nell fetched pen and paper and seated herself beside Gale's bed
to take his dictation.

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