Had she confessed everything, then, in the hysteria? Had she confirmed what Lew Hervey said? Yes, for the voice of Red Jim was unquestioning, cherishing as men will the thing which they love and own.
“You’re better now?” he asked at length.
“Yes,” she answered, “I’m weak—and ashamed—and—what have I said to you?”
“Something that’s made me happier than a king. And I’ll make it a thing you’ll never have to regret, so help me God!”
He raised her to her feet.
“Now you have to go home—at once.”
“Hervey will come hunting me again tomorrow, and he’ll have his men with him. He doesn’t know I’ve forgotten him. He thinks it’s his life or mine, and he’ll try to run me down.”
“The sheriff—” she cried fiercely.
“That’s where I’m going. To Glosterville to hide like a coward where the sheriff can look out for me. I can’t take chances now. I don’t belong to myself. When your father comes back and takes charge of the ranch, and Hervey, I’ll come when you send for me. I’ll get my things together to-night, ride down the valley so they can’t trap me again here, camp out for an hour or so in the morning, and then cut out across the Eagles. But you’re strong enough to ride home?”
She nodded, and they walked side by side out across the clearing and down towards the place where she had left the bay. And it seemed to Marianne, leaning a little on the arm of Red Jim, that she had shifted the whole burden of her worries onto the shoulders of her lover. Her troubles disappeared. The very sound of his voice assured her of happiness forever.
They found the bay. The tough little mustang was already much recuperated, and Perris swept Marianne into the saddle. She leaned to kiss him. In the dark her lips touched the bandage around his head.
“It’s where Hervey struck you down!” she exclaimed. “Jim, you can’t ride across the mountains so terribly hurt—”
“It’s only a scratch,” he assured her. “I met Alcatraz to-day, and he won again! But the third time—”
“Don’t speak of him! He haunts me, Jim. The very mention of him takes all the happiness out of me. I feel—almost as if there were a bad fate in him. But you promise, that you won’t stay to take one final chance? You won’t linger in the Valley to hunt Alcatraz again? You’ll ride straight across the mountains when the morning comes?”
“I promise,” answered Perris.
But afterwards, as he watched her drift away through the darkness calling back to him from time to time until her voice dwindled to a bird-note and then faded away, Red Jim prayed in his heart of hearts that he would not chance upon sight of the stallion in the morning, for if he did, he knew that the first solemn promise of his life would be broken.