“Yes, an overwhelming one!” exclaimed Jack in a voice that was high-pitched and determined, while his eyes burned and no trace of humor remained on lips that were as firm as the outline of his chin. “Yes, one that thrills me from head to foot with the steady ardor of the soldier who makes a siege!”
“I—I—you are beyond me! Then you will stay? You are not coming home?”
“Yes,” Jack answered, in another mood, but one equally rigid. “I am coming at once. That was all settled last night under the stars. I have found the courage!”
“The courage to go to twenty millions!” gasped the doctor. “But—good! You will go! That is enough! Why shouldn’t we take the same train back?” he went on enthusiastically. “I shall be coming through here in less than a week. You see, I am so near California that I simply had to steal a few days with my sister, who can’t come East on account of her health. I have been so tied down to practice that I have not seen her for fifteen years. That will give you time to arrange your affairs. How about it?”
“It would be delightful, but—” Jack was hesitating. “No, I will refuse. You see, I rode horseback when I entered this valley for the first time and I should like to ride out in the way I came. Just sentiment!”
“Jack!” exclaimed the doctor.
He was casting about how to express his suspicion when something electric checked him—a current that began in Jack’s measured glance. Jack was not mentioning that his word was being questioned, but something still and effective that came from far away out on the untrod desert was in the room. It fell on the nerves of the ambassador from the court of complex civilization like a sudden hush on a city’s traffic. Jack broke the silence by asking, in a tone of lively hospitality:
“You will join me at luncheon?”
“I should like to,” answered the doctor, “but I can catch a train on the other trunk line that will give me a few more hours with my sister. And what shall I wire your father? Have you any suggestion?”
“Why, that he will be able to judge for himself in a few days how near cured I am.”
“You will wire him the date of your arrival?”
“Jack,” said the doctor at the door, “that remark of yours about the analysis of brain tissue and of thought put a truth very happily. Come and see me and let me know how you get on. Good-by!”
He took his departure thoughtfully, rather than with a sense of triumph over the success of a two-thousand-mile mission in the name of twenty millions.
“GOOD-BY, LITTLE RIVERS!”
It was the thing thrilling him with the ardor of a soldier preparing for a siege that sent Jack to the Ewolds’ later in the morning. He had come determined to finish the speech that he had called up to Mary from the canyon. As he crossed the cement bridge, Ignacio appeared on the path and took his position there obdurately, instead of standing to one side with a nod, as usual, to let the caller pass.