“Not at all,” maintained Conniston. “I’m going to do it. Are you with me?”
Hapgood sat bolt upright.
“Are you crazy, man!” he cried, sharply.
Conniston shrugged. “Why not? You’ve never seen anything but city life and the summer-resort sort of thing any more than I have. It would be a lark.”
“Excuse me! I guess I’m something of a fool for having chased clean across the continent, but I’m not the kind of fool that’s going to pick a place like this sand-pile to drop off in!”
“All right, old man. Nobody’s asking you to if you feel that way.”
Hapgood waited as long as he could for Conniston to go on, and when there came no further information he asked, incredulously:
“You don’t mean that, do you, Greek? You don’t intend to stop off all alone out here in this rotten wilderness?”
“Yes, I do. If you won’t stop with me.”
“But how about me? What am I to do? Here I am—busted! What do you think I’m going to do?”
“You can go on to San Francisco if you like. You can have half of what I’ve got left—or you can drop off with me.”
Hapgood argued and exploded and sulked by turns. In the end, seeing the futility of trying to reason with a man who only laughed, and seeing further the disadvantage of being cut off from his source of easy money, Roger gave in, growling. So when the train drew into Indian Creek that afternoon there were three people who got down from it.
Indian Creek stood lonely and isolated in the flat, treeless, sun-smitten desert. Only in the south was the unbroken flatness relieved by a low-lying ridge of barren brown hills, their sides cut as by erosion into steep, stratified cliffs. Even these bleak hills looked to be twenty miles away, and were in reality fifty. Beyond them, softened and blurred by the distance, was a blue-gray line where the mountains were.
“Of all the wretched holes in the world!” fumed Hapgood.
But Conniston didn’t hear him. The girl had stepped down from the train, and, without casting a glance behind her, walked swiftly across the wriggling thing which stood for a street in Indian Creek. There was a saloon with a long hitching-pole in front of it, to which a couple of saddle-horses were tied, and a buckboard with two fretting two-year-olds in dust-covered harness. A man, a swarthy half-breed, with hair and eyes and long, pointed mustaches of inky blackness, was on the seat, handling the jerking reins. He called a soft “Adios, compadre” to the man lounging in the doorway, and swung his colts out into the road, making a sweeping half-circle, bringing them to a restless halt, pawing and fighting their bits, at the girl’s side. While with one brown hand he held them back, with the other he swept off his wide, black hat.
“How do, Mess!” he cried, softly, his teeth flashing a white greeting.