“Yes, the whistle!” yelled Leddy. “No man can whistle to me like that and live!”
Jack laughed as if he appreciated all the possibilities of humor inherent in the picture of the bloodthirsty Leddy, the waiting seconds and the gallery. He turned to Mary with a gesture of his outstretched hands:
“There, you see! I brought it on myself.”
“You are brutal! You are without feeling—you are ridiculous—you—” she stormed, chokingly.
And in face of this he became reasoning, philosophical.
“Yes, I admit that it is all ridiculous, even to farce, this little comedie humaine. But we must remember that beside the age of the desert none of us last long. Ridiculous, yes; but if I will whistle, why, then, I must play out the game I’ve started.”
He was looking straight into her eyes, and there was that in his gaze which came as a surprise and with something of the effect of a blade out of a scabbard. It chilled her. It fastened her inactive to the earth with a helplessness that was uncanny. It mixed the element of fear for him with the element of fear of him.
“Remember I am of age—and I don’t mind,” he added, with the faintest glint of satire in his reassurance.
He was walking away, with a wave of his hand to Leddy; he was going over the precipice’s edge after thanking the danger sign. He did not hasten, nor did he loiter. The precipice resolved itself into an incident of a journey of the same order as an ankle-deep stream trickling across a highway.
THE DEVIL IS OUT
She had done her best and she had failed. What reason was there for her to remain? Should she endure witnessing in reality the horror which she had pictured so vividly in imagination? A flash of fire! The fall of a careening figure to the earth! Leddy’s grin of satisfaction! The rejoicing of his clan of spectators over the exploit, while youth which sang airs to the beat of a pony’s hoofs and knew the worship of the Eternal Painter lay dead!
What reason to remain except to punish herself! She would go. But something banished reason. She was held in the leash of suspense, staring with clearness of vision in one second; staring into a mist the next; while the coming and going of Ignacio’s breaths between his teeth was the only sound in her ears.
“Senor Don’t Care of the Big Spurs will win!” he whispered.
“He will?” she repeated, like one marvelling, in the tautness of every nerve and muscle, that she had the power of speech.
She peered into Ignacio’s face. Its Indian impassivity was gone. His lips were twitching; his eyes were burning points between half-closed lids.
“Why?” she asked. “How?”
“I know. I watch him. I have seen a mountain lion asleep in a tree. His paw is like velvet. He smiles. There seems no fight in him. I know. There is a devil, a big devil, in Senor Don’t Care. It sleeps so much it very terrible when it awakes. And Pete Leddy—he is all the time awake; all the time too ready. Something in him will make his arm shake when the moment to shoot comes and something in Senor Don’t Care—his devil—will make his arm steady.”