Suddenly she lifted her hands to his face and pushed back his head, looking squarely into his eyes.
“If I tell you,” she said softly, “and in telling you I betray those whom I love, will you promise to bring harm to none of them, but go—go back into the South?”
“And leave you?”
“Yes—and leave me.”
There was the faintest tremor of a sob in the voice which she was trying so hard to control. His arms tightened about her.
“I will swear to do what is best for you—and for me,” he replied. “I will swear to bring harm to none whom you care to shield. But I will not promise to leave you!”
A soft glow came into the girl’s eyes as she unclasped his arms and stood back from him.
“I will think—think—” she whispered quickly. “Perhaps I will tell you to-morrow night—here—if you will keep your oath and do what is best for you—and for me.”
“I swear it!”
“Then I will meet you here—at this time—when the others are asleep. But—to-morrow—you will be careful—careful—” Unconsciously she half reached her arms out to him as she turned toward the path. “You will be careful—to-morrow—promise me that.”
Like a shadow she was gone. He heard her quick steps running up the path, saw her form as it disappeared in the forest gloom. For a few moments longer he stood, hardly breathing, until he knew that she had gone beyond his hearing. Then he walked swiftly along the footpath that led to the cabin.
THE BLOWING OF THE COYOTE
In the new excitement that pulsated with every fiber of his being, Howland forgot his own danger, forgot his old caution and the fears that gave birth to it, forgot everything in these moments but Meleese and his own great happiness. For he was happy, happier than he had ever been in his life, happier than he had ever expected to be. He was conscious of no madness in this strange, new joy that swept through his being like a fire; he did not stop to weigh with himself the unreasoning impulses that filled him. He had held Meleese in his arms, he had told her of his love, and though she had accepted it with gentle unresponsiveness he was thrilled by the memory of that last look in her eyes, which had spoken faith, confidence, and perhaps even more. And his faith in her had become as limitless as the blue space above him. He had known her for but a few hours and yet in that time it seemed to him that he had lived longer than in all of the years that had gone before. She had lied to him, had divulged only a part of her identity—and yet he knew that there were reasons for these things.
To-morrow night he would see her again, and then—
What would she tell him? Whatever it was, it was to be a reward for his own love. He knew that, by the half-fearing tremble of her voice, the sobbing catch of her breath, the soft glow in her eyes. Impelled by that love, would she confide in him? And then—would he go back into the South?