“Argyl!” he cried, loudly, dropping to his knees beside her, leaving his horse to stand staring at them. “Argyl!”
She lay as she had fallen, her right arm stretched straight out in front of her, her left arm lying close to her side, her face hidden from him in the sand. She did not move. Had he called to her an hour ago she would have turned her wide eyes upon him wonderingly. Now, if he had shouted with the voice of thunder she would not have heard. She was dead, or death was very close to her. For a moment, a moment lengthened into an eternity of hell, he did not know whether the shadowy wings of the stern angel were now rustling over her head or if already the wings had swept over her and had borne away from him the soul of the woman he loved.
“Argyl, Argyl dear!” he whispered. “I have come to save you, Argyl. To take you home. Oh! don’t you hear me, Argyl?”
He put his arms about her, and as he knelt lifted her and put his face to hers. She was not cold; thank Heaven, she was not cold! But she did not move, she was heavy in his arms, the warmth of her body might have been from the ebbing tide of life or from the sun’s fire. He could not feel her breathe, could not feel the beating of her heart.
He held her so that he could look into her face, and the cry upon his lips was frozen into a grief-stricken horror. Her hair unbound, hanging loose, tangled about her face, dull and soiled with the gray sand-dust, her lips dry, cracked, unnaturally big, her cheeks pinched and stamped at the corners of her mouth with the misery through which she had lived—was this Argyl?
He laid her back upon the sand, his body bent over her to shut out the sun, and unslung his canteen. He washed her mouth, let the water trickle over her brow and cheeks, forced a little of the lukewarm stuff between her teeth. He bathed her head, bathed her throat, and again forced a few drops into her mouth. And then, when she did not move, he would not believe that she was dead. She could not be dead. It was impossible. She would open her eyes in a minute, those great, frank, fearless, glorious gray eyes, and she would come back to him—back from the shadow of the stern angel’s wing, back to herself and to him.
He unstoppered his flask of whisky and, holding her to him, thrust it to her lips. And the thing which had been a curse to Bat Truxton, which had hurled him downward from his leadership of men, which had threatened to wreck the hopes of the Great Work, brought Argyl back from the last boundaries of the thing called Life, back from the misty frontiers of the thing called Death to which she was journeying.
Her eyes opened, she stared at him, her eyes closed again.
Again he forced her reluctant throat to swallow the whisky, a few drops only. And again he bathed her with water—brow and throat and quiet wrists. Her eyes did not open now, but he saw that she was breathing. Presently he made her take a little water. He washed her dusty nostrils that she might breathe better. And that breath might come into her tired lungs more easily he gently, reverently loosened the clothing about her breasts.