Unsteadily he bent over and taking her hands in his pressed his lips to them.
“Yes, luck!” he repeated, and half staggering turned toward the defile.
“Luck!” she called after him when he was out of sight. “Luck!” she called to the silence of the pass.
Three days with the trail and the Eternal Painter mocking him, when the singing of Spanish verses that go click with the beat of horse-hoofs in the sand sounded hollow as the refrain of vain memories, and from the steps of a Pullman he had a final glimpse of Firio’s mournful face, with its dark eyes shining in the light of the station lamp. Firio had in his hand a paper, a sort of will and testament given him at the last minute, which made him master in fee simple of the ranch where he had been servant, with the provision that the Doge of Little Rivers might store his overflow of books there forever.
HE FINDS HIMSELF
LABELLED AND SHIPPED
Behold Jack clad in the habiliments of conventional civilization taken from the stock of ready-made suitings in an El Paso store! They were of the Moscowitz and Guggenheim type, the very latest and nattiest, as advertised in popular prints. The dealer said that no gentleman could be well dressed without them. He wanted to complete the transformation with a cream-colored Fedora or a brown derby.
“I’ll wait on the thirty-third degree a little longer,” said Jack, fondling the flat-brimmed cowpuncher model of affectionate predilection. Swinging on a hook on the sleeper with the sway of the train, its company was soothing to him all the way across the continent.
The time was March, that season of the northern year when winter growing stale has a gritty, sticky taste and the relief of spring seems yet far away. After the desert air the steam heat was stifling and nauseating. Jack’s head was a barrel about to burst its hoops; his skin drying like a mummy’s; his muscles in a starchy misery from lack of exercise. He felt boxed up, an express package labelled and shipped. When he crawled into his berth at night it was with a sense of giving himself up to asphyxiation at the whim of strange gods.
If you have ever come back to town after six months in the woods, six months far from the hysteria of tittering electric bells, the brassy honk-honk of automobiles, the clang of surface cars and the screech of their wheels on the rails, multiply your period of absence by ten, add a certain amount of desert temperament, and you will vaguely understand how the red corpuscles were raising rebellion in Jack’s artery walls on the morning of his journey’s end. From the ferryboat on the dull-green bosom of the river he first renewed his memory of the spectral and forbidding abysses and pinnacles of New York. Here time is everything; here man has done his mightiest in contriving masses to imitate the architectural chaos of genesis. A mantle of chill, smoky mist formed the dome of heaven, in which a pale, suffused, yellowish spot alone bespoke the existence of a sun in the universe.