“No, no, no!” she said, half aloud.
She saw him start back with his sure steps, his shoulders swinging with the lithe, adaptable movement of his body; and every step was drawing him nearer to a meeting which would be like no other between them. Soon he would be crunching the glass of the house under that confident tread; in the ecstasy of a new part he would be before the opening he had broken in the barrier with the jauntiness of one who expected admission. His pulse-beat under the touch of her fingers at the precipice edge, his artery-beat in the arroyo, was hammering in her temples, hammering out a decision which, when it came, brought her to her feet.
Now the shadows were deep; all the glory of the sunset in the Eternal Painter’s chaotic last moments of his day’s work overspread the western sky, and from the furnace in which he dipped his brush came a blade of rich, blazing gold through the pass and lay across the trail. It enveloped her as, half running, mindless of her footing, slipping as she went, she hurried toward the other side of Galeria.
When Jack Wingfield came up over the ledge, a pine tassel in his hand, his languor of other days transformed into high-strung, triumphant intensity, the sparkle of a splendid hope in his eyes, only Firio was there to welcome him.
“Senorita Ewold said she no could wait,” Firio explained. “It was very late, she said.”
Jack stopped as if struck and his features became a lifeless mask, as lifeless as the walls of the canyon. He looked down at the trophy of his climb and ran his fingers over the needles slowly, again and again, in abstraction.
“I understand!” he said, half to himself; and then aloud: “Firio, we will not go into town to-night. We will camp on the other side by the river.”
“Si! I shot enough quail this afternoon for dinner.”
But Jack did not have much appetite, and after dinner he did not amuse Firio with inventions of his fancy. He lay long awake, his head on his clasped hands, looking at the stars.
A PUZZLED AMBASSADOR
A faint aureole of light crept up back of the pass.
“Dawn at last!” Jack breathed, in relief. “Firio! Firio! Up with you!”
“Oh-yuh!” yawned Firio. “Si, si!” he said, rising numbly to his feet and rubbing his eyes with his fists, while he tried to comprehend an astonishing reversal of custom. Usually he awakened his camp-mate; but this morning his camp-mate had awakened him. A half shadow in the semi-darkness, Jack was already throwing the saddle over P.D.’s back.
“We will get away at once,” he said.
Firio knew that something strange had come over Senor Jack after he had met Senorita Ewold on the pass, and now he was convinced that this thing had been working in Senor Jack’s mind all night.
“Coffee before we start?” he inquired ingratiatingly.