“Yet it is sweet,” she said.
“But for you, I see that you have changed again.”
She spread her leather skirt down with her hands, as though to make it longer, and looked contemplatively at the fringed leggins below.
“You were four different women,” I mused, “and now you are another, quite another.”
At this she frowned a bit, and rose. “You are not to talk,” she said, “nor to think that you are well; because you are not. I must go and see the others.”
I lay back against the wagon bed, wondering in which garb she had been most beautiful—the filmy ball dress and the mocking mask, the gray gown and veil of the day after, the thin drapery of her hasty flight in the night, her half conventional costume of the day before—or this, the garb of some primeval woman. I knew I could never forget her again. The thought gave me pain, and perhaps this showed on my face, for my eyes followed her so that presently she turned and came back to me.
“Does the wound hurt you?” she asked. “Are you in pain?”
“Yes, Ellen Meriwether,” I said, “I am in pain. I am in very great pain.”
“Oh,” she cried, “I am sorry! What can we do? What do you wish? But perhaps it will not be so bad after a while—it will be over soon.”
“No, Ellen Meriwether,” I said, “it will not be over soon. It will not go away at all.”
GORDON ORME, MAGICIAN
We lay in our hot camp on the sandy valley for some days, and buried two more of our men who finally succumbed to their wounds. Gloom sat on us all, for fever now raged among our wounded. Pests of flies by day and mosquitoes by night became almost unbearable. The sun blistered us, the night froze us. Still not a sign of any white-topped wagon from the east, nor any dust-cloud of troopers from the west served to break the monotony of the shimmering waste that lay about us on every hand. We were growing gaunt now and haggard; but still we lay, waiting for our men to grow strong enough to travel, or to lose all strength and so be laid away.
We had no touch with the civilization of the outer world. At that time the first threads of the white man’s occupancy were just beginning to cross the midway deserts. Near by our camp ran the recently erected line of telegraph, its shining cedar poles, stripped of their bark, offering wonder for savage and civilized man alike, for hundreds of miles across an uninhabited country. We could see the poles rubbed smooth at their base by the shoulders of the buffalo. Here and there a little tuft of hair clung to some untrimmed knot. High up in some of the naked poles we could see still sticking, the iron shod arrows of contemptuous tribesmen, who had thus sought to assail the “great medicine” of the white man. We heard the wires above us humming mysteriously in the wind, but if they bore messages east or west, we might not read them, nor might we send any message of our own.