“So?” said Pat. “Well, you go ahead and feed the stock. We’ll be over to the house poco tiempo.”
Waring and the collector entered the cantina. For a long time they sat in silence, gazing at the peculiar half-lights as the sun drew down. Finally the collector turned to Waring.
“Has the game gone stale, Jim?”
Waring nodded. “I’m through. I am going to settle down. I’ve had my share of trouble.”
“Here, too,” said the collector. “I’ve put by enough to get a little place up north—cattle—and take it easy. That’s why I stuck it out down here. Had any word from your folks recent?”
“Not for ten years.”
“And that boy trailing with you?”
“Oh, he’s just a kid I picked up in Sonora. No, my own boy is straight American, if he’s living now.”
“You might stop by at Stacey, on the Santa Fe,” said the collector casually. “There’s some folks running a hotel up there that you used to know.”
Waring thanked him with a glance. “We don’t need a drink and the sun is down. Where do you eat?”
“We’ll get Jack to rustle some grub. You and the boy can bunk in the office. I’ll take care of your horse.”
“Thanks, Pat. But you spoke of going north. I wouldn’t if I were you. They’ll get you.”
“I had thought of that. But I’m going to take that same chance. I’m plumb sick of the border.”
“If they do—” And Waring rose.
The collector’s hard-lined face softened for an instant. He thrust out his bony hand. “I’ll leave that to you, Jim.”
And that night, because each was a gunman unsurpassed in his grim profession, they laughed and talked about things trivial, leaving the deeper currents undisturbed. And the assistant collector, eating with them in the adobe back of the office, wondered that two such men found nothing more serious to talk about than the breeding of horses and the growing of garden truck.
Late that night the assistant awoke to find that the collector was not in bed. He rose and stalked to the window. Across from the adobe he saw the grim face of the collector framed in the office window. He was smoking a cigar and gazing toward the south, his long arm resting on the sill and his chin in his hand.
“Ole fool!” muttered the assistant affectionately. “That there Jim Waring must sure be some hombre to make Pat lose any sleep.”
The Return of Waring
The interior of the little desert hotel at Stacey, Arizona, atoned for its bleached and weather-worn exterior by a refreshing neatness that was almost startling in contrast to the warped board front with its painted sign scaled by the sun.
The proprietress, Mrs. Adams, a rosy, dark-haired woman, had heard the Overland arrive and depart. Through habit she listened until the distant rumble of the train diminished to a faint purr. No guests had arrived on the Overland. Stacey was not much of a town, and tourists seldom stopped there. Mrs. Adams stepped from the small office to the dining-room and arranged some flowers in the center of the long table. She happened to be the only woman in the desert town who grew flowers.