Cabot was not an unmerciful man, but if he had had his sabre just then, he would have dug and turned it in the useless carcass. He was beside himself with fear; fear of the death which had come to the cow and the calf whose chalk-white skeletons were at his feet, of the flat desert and the low bare hills, miles upon miles away, rising a little above the level, tawny and dry, giving no hope of shelter or streams or shade. He had foreseen it all when the horse had stumbled in a snake hole, had limped and struggled a few yards farther, and then, as he slipped to the ground, had stood quite still, swaying from side to side, with its legs wide apart, until it fell. He gritted his teeth so that the veins[Pg 2] stood out on his temples, and, going closer, jerked at the bridle and kicked at its belly with the toe of his heavy boot, until the glassy eye lighted with keener pain. "It brought back too much that was unpleasant for me. I did not want to talk about it. He saw that I did not, too, and I can't understand why he should have spoken of it. I should have told you after he had gone." She was not disconcerted in the slightest, only a little vindictive toward Forbes, and he thought it would hardly be worth his while to point out the curious position her silence put him in.
She might have seen two dots of light fixed on her from the shadow, if she had looked that way. But she did not, and came unconcernedly down. She was sure-footed and agile, and she was daring, too. He himself had felt a qualm at coming here. But she did not appear to hesitate once. She came on, close by where he sat, and going to the dark passage peered in. Then she turned away and caught sight of him. She herself was up before dawn, riding over the hills with her husband, watching the sun rise above the blue mountains on the far-away horizon, and strike with lights of gold and rose the sands and the clumps of sage, visiting the herd where it struggled to graze, under well-armed guard, and gathering the pitiful wild flowers from the baked, lifeless soil. She shot quail and owls, and dressed their skins. She could endure[Pg 64] any amount of fatigue, and she could endure quite as well long stretches of idleness.
"Oh!" said Taylor, and sat looking into the fire. Already he felt more respectable at the mere prospect of contact with his kind again. He was glad that the unkempt beard was gone, and he was allowing himself to hope, no, he was deliberately hoping, that he would see Felipa.