Then after taking away my arms I awakened her.
THE GROVE OF DESTINY DOES ITS WORK
Virginia opened her eyes and smiled at me. I think this was the first time that she had given me more than just a trace of a smile; but now she smiled, a very sweet winning smile; and getting spryly out of the wagon she said that she had been a lazy and useless passenger all the time she had been with me, and that from then on she was going to do the cooking. I told her that I wasn’t going to let her do it, that I was strong and liked to cook; and I stammered and blundered when I tried to hint that I liked cooking for her. She looked very dense at this and insisted that I should build the fire, and show her where the things were; and when I had done so she pinned back her skirts and went about the work in a way that threw me into a high fever.
“You may bring the new milk,” said she, “and by that time I’ll have a fine breakfast for you.”
When the milk was brought, breakfast was still a little behindhand, but she would not let me help. Anyhow, I felt in spite of my talk that I wanted to do some other sort of service for her: I wanted to show off, to prove myself a protector, to fight for her, to knock down or drive off her foes and mine; and as I saw the light smoke curling up through the tree-tops I asked myself where those men were who had made their way past us in such a dark and secret sort of way and with so much bad talk back there in the middle of the night. I wondered if they had camped where they could see the smoke of our fire, or hear our voices or the other sounds we made.
I almost wished that they might. I had now in a dim, determined, stubborn way claimed this girl in my heart for my own; and I felt without really thinking of it, that I could best foreclose my lien by defeating all comers before I dragged her yielding to my cave. It is the way of all male animals—except spiders, perhaps, and bees—and a male animal was all that I was that morning. I picked up my gun and told her that I must find out where those men were before breakfast.
“No, no!” said she anxiously, “don’t leave me! They might shoot you—and—then—”
I smiled disdainfully.
“If there’s any shooting to be done, I’ll shoot first. I won’t let them see me, though; but I must find out what they are up to. Wait and keep quiet. I’ll soon be back.”
I knew that I should find their horses’ hoof-marks at whatever place they had left the stream; and I followed the brook silently, craftily and slowly, like a hunter trailing a wild beast, examining the bank of soft black rooty earth for their tracks. Once or twice I passed across open spaces in the grove. Here I crept on my belly through the brush and weeds shoving my gun along ahead of my body.