“Got a headache?” queried Lorry.
Her voice had been so unnaturally low, almost sad.
“No. I just wanted to be alone.”
Lorry fumbled in his pockets. “I got the mail,” he stated.
“I’ll give it to Mr. Bronson.”
Lorry leaned down and gave her the packet of letters and papers.
“Good-bye. I won’t see you in the mornin’”
“We’ll miss you.”
“Of course!” And she gave him her hand.
He drew his foot from the stirrup. “Put your foot in there,” he said, still holding her hand.
“‘Cause I’m goin’ to ride off with you, like in books.” He laughed, but his laughter was tense and unnatural.
It was dark. The stars shone faintly. The air was soft with a subtle fragrance; the fragrance of sun-warmed pine that the night had stolen from the slumbering woodlands. She slipped her foot in the wide stirrup. Half laughing, she allowed him to draw her up. She felt the hard strength of his arm, and was thrilled. She had not meant to do anything like this.
“You been playin’ with me,” he told her, whispering, “and I take my pay.”
She turned her face away, but he found her lips and crushed her to him.
“Oh!” she whispered as he kissed her again and again.
Slowly his arm relaxed. White-faced and trembling, she slid to the ground and stood looking up at him.
“I hate you!” she said.
“No, you don’t,” said Lorry quite cheerfully.
And he reached out his hand as though to take her hand again.
She stood still, making no effort to avoid him. Then—“No, please!” she begged.
Lorry sat for a moment looking down at her. There had been no make-believe on her part when he held her in his arms. He knew that. And now? She had said that she hated him. Perhaps she did for having made her do that which she had never dreamed of doing. But he told himself that he could stand a whole lot of that kind of hate. And did he really care for her? Could a girl give what she had given and forget on the morrow? He would never forget.
She had told herself that he should have reason to remember her.
After he had gone she stood gazing across the starlit mesa. She heard Lorry whistling cheerily as he unsaddled his pony. A falling star flamed and faded across the night.
In the Pines
Alice Weston pleaded headache next morning. She did not get up until noon. Meanwhile Dorothy came, bringing hot coffee and toast.
“Does it really hurt?” queried Dorothy. “Or is it one of those headaches that is always going to hurt, but never does?”
Alice smiled and sipped her coffee. “Oh, it’s not bad. I want to rest. Perhaps it’s the altitude.”
“Perhaps,” said Dorothy. “I’m sorry, Alice.”