“It will be all right!” he called back.
P.D. in the freshness of his long holiday, feeling a familiar pressure of a leg, hastened to overtake his companions; and the group of Little Riversites watched a chubby horseman and a tall, gaunt horseman, bathed in gold, riding away on a hazy sea of gold, with Jag Ear’s bells growing fainter and fainter, until the moving specks were lost in the darkness.
AROUND THE WATER-HOLE
Easy traveller had turned speedy traveller, on a schedule. Never had he and Firio ridden so fast as in pursuit of John Prather, who had eight hours’ start of them on a two-days’ journey. Jag Ear had to trot all the time to keep up. Ounce by ounce he was drawing on his sinking fund of fat in a constitutional crisis.
“I keep his hoofs good. I keep his wind good. All right!” said Firio.
It was after midnight before the steady jingle of Jag Ear’s orchestra had any intermission. An hour for food and rest and the little party was off again in the delicious cool of the night, toward a curtain pricked with stars which seemed to be drawn down over the edge of the world.
“What sort of horses had Prather and Nogales?” Jack asked. He must reach the water-hole as soon as Prather; for it was not unlikely that Prather might have fresh mounts waiting there to take him on to the nearest railroad station in Mexico.
“Look good, but bad. Nogales no know horses!” Firio answered.
“And they rode in the heat of the day!” said Jack, confidently.
“Si! And we ride P.D. and Wrath of God!”
There were no sign-posts on this highway of desert space except the many-armed giant cacti, in their furrowed armor set with clusters of needles, like tawny auroras gleaming faintly; no trail on the hard earth under foot, mottled with bunches of sagebrush and sprays of low-lying cacti, all as still as the figures of an inlaid flooring in the violet sheen, with an occasional quick, irregular, shadowy movement when a frightened lizard or a gopher beat a precipitate retreat from the invading thud of hoofs in this sanctuary of dust-dry life. And the course of the hoofs was set midway between the looming masses of the mountain walls of the valley.
Firio listened for songs from Senor Jack; he waited for stories from Senor Jack; but none came. He, the untalkative one of the pair, the living embodiment of a silent and happy companionship back and forth from Colorado to Chihuahua, liked to hear talk. Without it he was lonesome. If, by the criterion of a school examination, he never understood more than half of what Jack said, yet, in the measure of spirit, he understood everything.