"But that is sport," she answered carelessly.
Cairness leaned far over and made a grab, but the first time he missed. The second he caught the neckerchief and held it, dragging the man, who resisted with all his giant strength, digging his toes into the ground as they tore along. And he was heavy. [Pg 212]Cairness had no stirrup or pommel to trust to. He saw that it was a case of falling or of leaving go, and he decided to fall. The man would go underneath anyway.
"There will be trouble with Geronimo's people soon." At six o'clock Kirby knocked the ashes from his pipe, the other two men, who had buried themselves in the last Cornhill and Punch with entire disregard of the rest of the room, put down the magazines, and all of them rose. "We dine at seven," Mrs. Kirby said to Taylor and Cairness as she passed through the door, followed by her husband. He stood quite still and erect, looking after them, a dead light of renunciation of life and hope in his eyes. They came in search of him two days later and scoured the valley and the hills. But the last they ever saw of him was then, following them, a tiny speck upon the desert, making southwest in the direction of the water hole. The big wolf had stopped again, and turned about, coming slowly after him, and two buzzards circled above him, casting down on his path the flitting shadows of their wings.
Slowly, with no undue haste whatever, the Reverend Taylor produced from beneath the skirts of his clerical garb another revolver. There was a derisive and hilarious howl. When it had subsided, he turned to the barkeeper. "Got my lemon pop ready?" he asked. The[Pg 44] man pushed it over to him, and he took it up in his left hand.
A stable man passed the window. Felipa called to him. "Bring me my horse, quick, and mount four men! Don't take five minutes and be well armed," she ordered in a low voice. Hers was the twofold decision of character and of training that may not be disregarded. The man started on a run. Cairness clasped his hands about one knee and bent back, looking up at the stars,—and far beyond them into the infinity of that Cause of which they and he and all the perplexing problems were but the mere effects. "You mustn't think I haven't thought it over, time and again," he said, after a while. "It's more vital to me than to you; but my way isn't clear. I loved Mrs. Cairness for more than ten years before I could marry her. I should lose her in less than that, I am absolutely certain, if I did as you suggest. She is not so strong a woman as you might suppose. This dry air, this climate, are necessary to her." He hesitated a[Pg 321] little, rather loath to speak of his sentiments, and yet glad of the chance to put his arguments in words, for his own greater satisfaction. "You call it picturesque and poetical and all that," he said, "but you only half mean it after all. It is picturesque. It has been absolutely satisfactory. I'm not given to talking about this kind of thing, you know; but most men who have been married two years couldn't say truthfully that they have nothing to regret; that if they had had to buy that time with eternity of damnation and the lake of fire, it would not have come too dear. And I have had no price to pay—" he stopped short, the ring of conviction cut off, as the sound of a bell is when a hand is laid upon it. The hand was that of a fact, of the fact that had confronted him in the Ca?on de los Embudos, and that very day by the cottonwoods of the spring-house.