“There are currents off shore,” he explained. “That was what made the swimming so difficult. You are all right now.”
“Yes; at least I think so,” she sat up. “Why, it is almost dark already. I cannot see the old raft at all. I—I wish it would come ashore; it gave you to me, Matt.”
“And you are not sorry, even now, safe here on shore?”
“Sorry! Why I am the happiest girl in all the world this minute. I can hardly think about that money at all, or those scoundrels trying to rob me. I am here with you, and you love me—what more can I ask? Is that silly, dear?”
He laughed, and kissed her, neither giving a thought to their dripping garments, or a regret for the hardships they had passed through. They were there alone, safe, together—all else for the moment mattered not.
“Yes, I love you, Natalie, dear,” he answered. “So it is not silly at all. But we must seek shelter and food. Are you strong enough now to climb the bluff? See, there is a ravine leading up yonder, where the footing is easier.”
She nodded her readiness to try, too happy for words, and hand in hand they toiled their way upward through the gloom.
THE HOUSE IN THE BLUFFS
The cleft in the bluff was both narrow and steep, but it gave them passage. At the upper end Natalie’s reserve strength suddenly deserted her, and she sank down on the grass, labouring for breath, feeling unable to advance a step farther. The days and nights of excitement, coupled with lack of food and sleep, had left her physically weakened; now suddenly, even her will and courage both gave away.
“No, it is nothing,” she explained in a whisper. “I am just completely tired out, I guess. You go on, Matt, and find some place of shelter. Leave me to lie here; I’ll not move, and you can find me easily. All I want now is to rest a few moments. Afraid! no I’ll not be afraid. Why, what is there to fear? this is a civilized country, isn’t it? I’ll just sit where I am now until you come back—only—only don’t go very far away.”
She held out her hand, and endeavoured to smile.
“Desert me! Of course you are not, dear. I am bidding you go. I shall not mind being left here alone. I am so tired.”
They were at the summit of the bluff, looking out over the lake, now a mere darker blot. They could hear the dash of waves below them along the edge of sand. But in the opposite direction rose a somewhat higher ridge on which trees grew, completely excluding the view beyond. Between the branches the distant sky still retained a purple tinge from the sinking sun, leaving the impression that it was much lighter up there. West felt the importance of gaining a view inland before the closing down of night obscured everything, and therefore reluctantly left her alone there while he made his way to the top of the ridge.