Jack listened to the hoof-beats on the soft earth dying away and then crept up beside Firio on the bank and gazed into the black wall in the direction of the cotton-woods. A slight glow in the basin, which must be Leddy’s camp-fire, was the only sign of life in the neighborhood. The silence was profound. He had not spoken a word to Firio. With one problem forever solved, he was absorbed in another.
“Leddy drinks, eats, waits!” whispered Firio. “If we try to go they hunt us down!”
“Yes,” said Jack.
“And we not go, eh? We stay? We fight?”
“For water, Firio, yes! Two against seven!”
“Si!” Firio had no illusions about the situation. “Si!” he repeated stoically.
“And, Firio—” Jack’s hand slipped with a quick, gripping caress onto Firio’s shoulder. An inspiration had come to the mind of action, just as a line comes to a poet in a flash; as one must have come to the ancestor many times after he had gone into a tight place trusting to his wits and his blade to bring him out. “And, Firio, we are going to change our base, as the army men say—and change it before the moon rises. Jag Ear, we shall have to leave you behind,” he added, when they had dropped back to the burro’s side. “Just make yourself comfortable. Leddy surely wouldn’t think of killing so valuable a member of the non-combatant class. We will come for you, by and by. It will be all right!”
He gave the sliver of ear an affectionate corkscrew twist before he and Firio, taking all their ammunition, crawled along the bottom of the arroyo and up the ridge where they settled down comfortably behind a ledge commanding the water-hole at easy range.
“It’s lucky we learned to shoot in the moonlight!” Jack whispered.
“Si"! Firio answered, in perfect understanding.
THE END OF THE WEAVING
For over a week a private car had stood on a siding at Little Rivers. Every morning a porter polished the brasswork of the platform in heraldry of the luxury within. Occasionally a young man with a plaster over a wound on his cheek would walk up and down the road-bed on the far side of the car. Indeed, he had worn a path there. He never went into town, and any glances that he may have cast in that direction spoke his desire to be forever free of its sight. Not a train passed that he did not wish himself aboard and away. But as heir-apparent he had no thought of endangering his new kingdom by going before his father went. He meant to keep very close to the throne. He had become clingingly, determinedly filial. At times the gleam of the brasswork would exercise the same hypnosis over his senses as the scintillation of the jewelry counters of the store, and he would rub his hands crisply together.
John Wingfield, Sr. spent little time in the car. Morning and afternoon and evening he would go over to Dr. Patterson’s with the question: “How is he?” which all Little Rivers was asking. The rules of longevity were in oblivion and the routine channels of a mind, so used to teeming detail, had become abysses as dark and void as the canyons of the range.