He took up his paper again. "He ain't told me the whole thing yet," he said. Presently she returned with two bottles. In one was the tarantula, an especially large and hideous specimen, hairy and black, with dull red tinges. In the other the vinagrone, yet more hideous. She went down to the side of the house and emptied both into the wide-mouthed bottle.
"But it is doing Mrs. Cairness an injustice, if you don't mind my saying so."
It is a valley of death now, parched and desolate, a waste of white sand—the dry bone dust of the cycles. But then, when the lava came surging and boiling and flaming across the plain, not a thin stream, but a wide, irresistible current, there was life; there was a city—one city at least. It is there now, under the mass of sharp, gray, porous rock; how much of it no one knows. But it is there, and it has given up its unavailing hints of a life which may have been older than that of Herculaneum and Pompeii, and is as much more safely hidden from the research of the inquiring day as its walls are more hopelessly buried beneath the ironlike stone than are those of the cisalpine cities beneath their ashen drift. "It smells horribly," she exclaimed, dropping it on the floor, "it smells of hospitals—disinfectants." But she stooped and picked it up again.
"Alone?" The little Reverend understood only Spanish, and his few words, pronounced with a precision altogether in keeping with his appearance, were Spanish ones. The old nurse murmured softly, as she took him up, "Quieres leche hombrecito, quieres cenar? El chuchu tiene hambre tambien. Vamos á ver mamá."
He naturally did not foresee anything serious, and he only said, "Well?" and began to fill his pipe from a[Pg 83] buckskin pouch, cleverly sketched in inks with Indian scenes. "By the way," he interrupted as she started to speak, "what do you think of this?" He held it out to her. "That fellow Cairness, who wouldn't stay to luncheon that day, did it for me. We camped near his place a couple of days. And he sent you a needle-case, or some such concern. It's in my kit." She looked at the pouch carefully before she gave it back; then she clasped her hands under her head again and gazed up at the manta of the ceiling, which sagged and was stained where the last cloud-burst had leaked through the roof. "I am not wasting any sympathy on the Apaches, nor on the Indians as a whole. They have got to perish. It is in the law of advancement that they should. But where is the use in making the process painful? Leave them alone, and they'll die out. It isn't three hundred years since one of the biggest continents of the globe was peopled with them, and now there is the merest handful left, less as a result of war and slaughter than of natural causes. Nature would see to it that they died, if we didn't."
An eminent student of the sex has somewhere said that women are like monkeys, in that they are imitative. The comparison goes further. There is a certain inability in a monkey to follow out a train of thought, or of action, to its conclusion, which is shared by the major part of womankind. It is a feminine characteristic to spend life and much energy on side issues. The lady forgot almost all about her original premise. She wished especially to know that which no power upon earth would induce her lord to tell.
The stableman came on a run, leading her horse, and she fairly leaped down the steps, and slipping the pistol into the holster mounted with a spring. "All of you follow me," she said; "they are going to hold up Mr. Cairness."
He rose to his feet, shaking off an impatience with her and with himself. "Come," he said peremptorily; and they went out and mounted and rode away in the face of a whipping wind up the gradual slope to the mountains, black and weird beneath the heavy, low-hanging rain clouds.