Again she fell into a silence for a time, looking out at the tremendous prospect spread before them, quite unseeing.
“Oh,” she went on, at length, her face again darkened by a frown, her small hands clenched, every muscle of her lithe young body drawn as taut as a wild animal’s before a spring. “I sometimes feel as if I’d like to do as other mountain women have been known to do when killin’ of that sort has blackened all their lives—I sometimes feel as if I’d like to take a rifle in my elbow an’ go lookin’ for that man—go lookin’ for him in th’ mountings, in th’ lowlands, anywhere—even if I had to cross th’ oceans that they tell about, in order to come up with him!”
Her voice had been intensely vibrant with strong passion as she said this, and her quivering form told even plainer how deep-seated was the hate that gave birth to her words. But soon she put all this excitement from her and dropped her hands in a loose gesture of hopeless relaxation.
“But I know such thoughts are foolish,” she said drearily. “He got away. A girl can’t carry on a feud alone, nohow. There’s nothin’ I can do.”
Again, now, with a passing thought, her features lighted as another maiden’s, whose young life had been cast by fate in gentler places might have lighted at the thought of some great pleasure pending in the future.
“There is a chance, though,” she said, with a fierce joy, “that Lem Lindsay, if he is alive, ‘ll git th’ bullet that he earned that day. Joe Lorey’s livin’—that’s Ben’s son—an’ he—well, maybe, some time—ah, he can shoot as straight as anybody in these mountings!”
The look of a young tigress was on her face.
It made the young man who was listening to her shudder—the look upon her face, the voice with which she said “And he can shoot as straight as anybody in these mountings!” For a second it revolted him. Then, getting a fairer point of view, he smiled at her with a deep sympathy, and waited.
He had not to wait long before a gentler mood held dominance. It came, indeed, almost at once.
“No,” she said slowly, “a girl can’t carry on a feud alone, nohow.... And, somehow, when I think of it most times, I really don’t want to. It’s only now an’ then I get stirred up, like this. Most times I’d rather learn than—go on fightin’ like we-all always have.... I’d rather learn, somehow.... An’—an’—an’ that’s been mighty hard—is mighty hard”
“You—haven’t had much chance,” said he, looking at her pityingly.
She gave him a quick glance. Had she really thought he pitied her she would have bitterly resented it.
“Had th’ same chance other mounting girls have,” she said quickly, defending, not herself, but her country and her people.
She stood, now, at a distance from the fire, for it was blazing merrily, but her face was flushed by its radiant heat, its lurid blaze made a fine background for the supple, swaying beauty of her slim young body. She raised her arms high, high above her head, with that same genuineness of gesture, graceful and appealing, which he had seen in all her movements from the first and then clasped them at her breast.