But what of me that night? When I had taken my own house and bed beyond a little thicket, that she might be alone, that night I found myself breathing hard in terror and dread, gazing up at the stars in agony, beating my hands on the ground at the thought of the ruin I had wrought, the crime that I had done in gaining this I had sought.
I had written covenants before! I have said that I would tell simply the truth in these pages, and this is the truth, the only extenuation I may claim. The strength and sweetness of all this strange new life with her had utterly wiped out my past, had put away, as though forever, the world I once had known. Until the moment Ellen Meriwether began the signing of her name, I swear I had forgotten that ever in the world was another by name of Grace Sheraton! I may not be believed—I ought not to be believed; but this is the truth and the truth by what measure my love for Ellen Meriwether was bright and fixed, as much as my promise to the other had been ill-advised and wrong.
A forsworn man, I lay there, thinking of her, sweet, simple, serious and trusting, who had promised to love me, an utterly unworthy man, until we two should go back into the flowers.
Far rather had I been beneath the sod that moment; for I knew, since I loved Ellen Meriwether, she must not complete the signing of her name upon the scroll of our covenant!
THE FLAMING SWORD
The question of food ever arose for settlement, and early the next morning I set out upon a short exploring expedition through our new country, to learn what I might of its resources. There were trout in our little mountain stream, and although we had no hooks or lines I managed to take a few of these in my hands, chasing them under the stones. Also I found many berries now beginning to ripen, and as the forest growth offered us new supplies, I gathered certain barks, thinking that we might make some sort of drink, medicinal if not pleasant. Tracks of deer were abundant; I saw a few antelope, and supposed that possibly these bolder slopes might hold mountain sheep. None of these smaller animals was so useful to us as the buffalo, for each would cost as much expenditure of precious ammunition, and yield less return in bulk. I shook the bullet pouch at my belt, and found it light. We had barely two dozen bullets left; and few hunters would promise themselves over a dozen head of big game for twice as many shots.
I cast about me in search of red cedar that I might make a bow. I searched the willow thicket for arrow shafts, and prowled among little flints and pointed stones on the shores of our stream, seeking arrow points. It finally appeared to me that we might rest here for a time and be fairly safe to make a living in some way. Then, as I was obliged to admit, we would need to hurry on to the southward.