The idea of it pricks his conscience, if he has one. It certainly interests his wallet. He sinks back into the chair and pulls at a loose thread on the embroidery of the arm. He looks blankly across the room and away from the hopeful faces, shining in the lamplight. He is relaxed, unreadable. Inside he boils. A girl, the age his daughter was.
The darkness is building now, as the last dregs of Sun melt across the horizon. He sits high in the saddle, face still as it was yesterday evening, when he was warm and comfortable in the lounge room of the coach house. He doesn’t miss that, but on the other hand he wouldn’t object to a life filled with well-stuffed cushions and fancy antimacassars. The wind blows dust in graceful spirals that brush his face and he thinks of the last time a person caressed him so gently. Nothing would come to mind.
The dress she wears is silk, and the rain has streaked it, ruined it. It will never look the same, it was never meant to be worn in such a storm. It was never meant to leave the house, its wearer was never meant to leave the house. To sit, dry and still, on an embroidered stool by the fire, to listen to stories of the outside. To gaze out of the window at the world, never to be in it. And here she is, dazed and unseated, stumbling from the house that could barely be called a house in the middle of the emptiness he calls home. She will not talk to him, all the time he is with her is spent in silence.
The money isn’t enough. It never is. He takes it anyway, folds it and tucks it in a saddle bag. Rides away, waiting for the next sad story in the slow-clock back room, the next urgent plea muffled by padded furniture, the next dream of a room.