“That was fine of you. I’ll never forget it, Miss McRae,” the young soldier said quietly, his eyes for an instant full on hers. “I don’t think I’ve ever met another girl who would have had the good sense and the courage to do it.”
Her eyes fell from his. She felt a queer delightful thrill run through her blood. He still respected her, was even grateful to her for what she had done. No experience in the ways of men and maids warned her that there was another cause for the quickened pulse. Youth had looked into the eyes of youth and made the world-old call of sex to sex.
In a little pocket opening from the draw Morse arranged blankets for the girl’s bed. He left Beresford to explain to her that she could sleep there alone without fear, since a guard would keep watch against any possible surprise attack.
When the soldier did tell her this, Jessie smiled back her reassurance. “I’m not afraid—not the least littlest bit,” she said buoyantly. “I’ll sleep right away.”
But she did not. Jessie was awake to the finger-tips, her veins apulse with the flow of rushing rivers of life. Her chaotic thoughts centered about two men. One had followed crooked trails for his own profit. There was something in him hard and unyielding as flint. He would go to his chosen end, whatever that might be, over and through any obstacles that might rise. But to-night, on her behalf, he had thrown down the gauntlet to Bully West, the most dreaded desperado on the border. Why had he done it? Was he sorry because he had forced her father to horsewhip her? Or was his warning merely the snarl of one wolf at another?
The other man was of a different stamp. He had brought with him from the world whence he had come a debonair friendliness, an ease of manner, a smile very boyish and charming. In his jaunty forage cap and scarlet jacket he was one to catch and hold the eye by reason of his engaging personality. He too had fought her battle. She had heard him, in that casually careless way of his, try to take the blame of having wounded West. Her happy thoughts went running out to him gratefully.
Not the least cause of her gratitude was that there had not been the remotest hint in his manner that there was any difference between her and any white girl he might meet.
C.N. MORSE TURNS OVER A LEAF
The North-West Mounted Police had authority not only to arrest, but to try and to sentence prisoners. The soldierly inspector who sat in judgment on Morse at Fort Macleod heard the evidence and stroked an iron-gray mustache reflectively. As he understood it, his business was to stop whiskey-running rather than to send men to jail. Beresford’s report on this young man was in his favor. The inspector adventured into psychology.
“Studied the Indians any—the effect of alcohol on them?” he asked Morse.