I murmured my acknowledgments. My last impression as I left the room was of the baleful, dead, challenging stare of the man’s wildcat eyes.
The Mexican glided before me. We emerged into the court, walked along the verandah, and entered a bedroom. My guide slipped by me and disappeared before I had the chance of a word with him. He may have been dumb for all I know. I sat down and tried to take stock.
The room was small, but it was papered, it was rugged, its floor was painted and waxed, its window—opening into the court, by the way—was hung with chintz and net curtains, its bed was garnished with sheets and counterpane, its chairs were upholstered and in perfect repair and polish. It was not Arizona, emphatically not, but rather the sweet and garnished and lavendered respectability of a Connecticut village. My dirty old cantinas lay stacked against the washstand. At sight of them I had to grin. Of course I travelled cowboy fashion. They contained a toothbrush, a comb, and a change of underwear. The latter item was sheer, rank pride of caste.
It was all most incongruous and strange. But the strangest part, of course, was the fact that I found myself where I was at that moment. Why was I thus received? Why was I, an ordinary and rather dirty cowpuncher, not sent as usual to the men’s bunk house? It could not be possible that Old Man Hooper extended this sort of hospitality to every chance wayfarer. Arizona is a democratic country, Lord knows: none more so! But owners are not likely to invite in strange cowboys unless they themselves mess with their own men. I gave it up, and tried unsuccessfully to shrug it off my mind, and sought distraction in looking about me. There was not much to see. The one door and one window opened into the court. The other side was blank except that near the ceiling ran a curious, long, narrow opening closed by a transom-like sash. I had never seen anything quite like it, but concluded that it must be a sort of loop hole for musketry in the old days. Probably they had some kind of scaffold to stand on.
I pulled off my shirt and took a good wash: shook the dust out of my clothes as well as I could; removed my spurs and chaps; knotted my silk handkerchief necktie fashion; slicked down my wet hair, and tried to imagine myself decently turned out for company. I took off my gun belt also; but after some hesitation thrust the revolver inside the waistband of my drawers. Had no reason; simply the border instinct to stick to one’s weapon.
Then I sat down to wait. The friendly little noises of my own movements left me. I give you my word, never before nor since have I experienced such stillness. In vain I told myself that with adobe walls two feet thick, a windless evening, and an hour after sunset, stillness was to be expected. That did not satisfy. Silence is made up of a thousand little noises so accustomed that they pass over the consciousness. Somehow these little noises seemed to lack. I sat in an aural vacuum. This analysis has come to me since. At that time I only knew that most uneasily I missed something, and that my ears ached from vain listening.