“The devil is out of Senor Don’t Care!” It was the voice of Ignacio, who had come around the house in time to witness the scene.
“What fearful strength! You will kill him!” It was the voice of the Doge, from the porch.
“Yes, please stop!” Mary pleaded.
Suddenly, at the sound of her cry, Jack released his hold. The strong column of his neck became apparently too weak to hold the weight of his head. Inert, he fell against the hedge for support, his hands hanging limp at his side, while he stared dazedly into space. It seemed then that Pedro might have picked up the knife and carried out his plan of murder without defence by the victim.
“Yes, yes, yes!” Jack repeated.
Pedro had not moved from the hollow in the hedge which the impress of his body had made. He was trembling, his lips had fallen away from his teeth, and he watched Jack in stricken horror, a beaten creature waiting on some judgment from which there was no appeal.
“We’ll tell fairy stories”—Jack’s soft tones of persuasion repeated themselves in Mary’s ears in contrast to the effect of what she had just witnessed. Her hand slipped along the crest of the hedge, as if to steady herself.
“I’ll change my mind about going to the pass, Jack,” she said.
“Yes, Mary,” he answered in a faint tone.
He looked around to see her back as she turned away from him; then, with an effort, he stepped free of the hedge.
“Come, we will go to the doctor!” he said to the Mexican.
He touched Pedro’s shoulder softly and softly ran his hand down the sleeve in which the arm hung limp. Pedro had not moved; he still leaned against the hedge inanimate as a mannikin.
“Come! Your legs are not broken! You can walk!” said Jim Galway, who had come up in a hurry when he saw what was happening.
“Pedro, you will learn not to play with the devil in Senor Don’t Care!” whispered Ignacio, while Mary had disappeared in the house and the Doge stood watching.
Jack had stroked Pedro’s head while the bone was being set. He had arranged for Pedro’s care. And now he was in his own yard with Jag Ear and the ponies, rubbing their muzzles alternately in silent impartiality, his head bowed reflectively as Firio came around the corner of the house. At first he half stared at Firio, then he surveyed the steeds of his long journeyings in questioning uncertainty, and then looked back at Firio, smiling wanly.
“Firio,” he said, “I feel that I am a pretty big coward. Firio, I am full up—full to overflowing. My mind is stuffed with cobwebs. I—I must think things out. I must have the solitudes.”
“The trail!” prescribed Doctor Firio.
After Jack had given his ranch in charge to Galway, he rode away in the dusk, not by the main street, but straight across the levels toward the pass.