The sheriff and Shoop talked the matter over, with the result that Hardy dispatched a telegram from The Junction to all the Southern cities to keep a sharp watch for Waco.
Next morning Shoop left for Jason with Hardy and his deputy.
Several days later Waring was taken to The Junction by Mrs. Adams and Ramon, where Ramon left them waiting for the east-bound. The Mexican rode the big buckskin. He had instructions to return to the ranch.
Late that evening, Waring was assisted from the train to the hotel at Stacey. He was given Lorry’s old room. It would be many weeks before he would be strong enough to walk again.
For the first time in his life Waring relinquished the initiative. His wife planned for the future, and Waring only asserted himself when she took it for granted that the hotel would be his permanent home.
“There’s the ranch, Annie,” he told her. “I can’t give that up.”
“And you can’t go back there till I let you,” she asserted, smiling.
“I’ll get Lorry to talk to you about that. I’m thinking of making him an offer of partnership. He may want to set up for himself some day. I married young.”
“I’d like to see the girl that’s good enough for my Lorry.”
Waring smiled. “Or good enough to call you ‘mother.’”
“Jim, you’re trying to plague me.”
“But you will some day. There’s always some girl. And Lorry is a pretty live boy. He isn’t going to ride a lone trail forever.”
Mrs. Adams affected an indifference that she by no means felt.
“You’re a lot better to-day, Jim.”
“And that’s all your fault, Annie.”
She left the room, closing the door slowly. In her own room at the end of the hall, she glanced at herself in the glass. A rosy face and dark-brown eyes smiled back at her.
But there were many things to attend to downstairs. She had been away more than a week. And there was evidence of her absence in every room in the place.
The Little Fires
With the coming of winter the Blue Mesa reclaimed its primordial solitude. Mount Baldy’s smooth, glittering roundness topped a world that swept down in long waves of dark blue frosted with silver; the serried minarets of spruce and pine bulked close and sprinkled with snow. Blanketed in white, the upland mesas lay like great, tideless lakes, silent and desolate from green-edged shore to shore. The shadowy caverns of the timberlands, touched here and there with a ray of sunlight, thrilled to the creeping fingers of the cold. Tough fibers of the stiff-ranked pines parted with a crackling groan, as though unable to bear silently the reiterant stabbing of the frost needles. The frozen gum of the black spruce glowed like frosted topaz. The naked whips of the quaking asp were brittle traceries against the hard blue of the sky.