I looked about me, almost disposed to rub my eyes, as were, perhaps, the others of our party. The same great plains were there, the same wide shimmering stream, rippling in the sunlight, the same groups of animals grazing on the bluff, the same sentinels outlined against the sky. Over all shone the blinding light of the Western mid-day sun. Yet, as Orme straightened out this blanket, it was white as it had been before! Auberry looked at his knife blade as though he would have preferred to throw it away, but he sheathed it and it fitted the sheath as before.
Orme smiled at us all pleasantly. “Do you believe in the Indian telegraph now?” he inquired.
I have told you many things of this strange man, Gordon Orme, and I shall need to tell yet others. Sometimes my friends smile at me even yet over these things. But since that day, I have not doubted the tales old Auberry told me of our own Indians. Since then, too, I have better understood Gordon Orme and his strange personality, the like of which I never knew in any land.
TWO IN THE DESERT
How long it was I hardly knew, for I had slink into a sort of dull apathy in which one day was much like another; but at last we gathered our crippled party together and broke camp, our wounded men in the wagons, and so slowly passed on westward, up the trail. We supposed, what later proved to be true, that the Sioux had raided in the valley on both sides of us, and that the scattered portions of the army had all they could do, while the freight trains were held back until the road was clear.
I wearied of the monotony of wagon travel, and without council with any, finally, weak as I was, called for my horse and rode on slowly with the walking teams. I had gone for some distance before I heard hoofs on the sand behind me.
“Guess who it is,” called a voice. “Don’t turn your head.”
“I can’t turn,” I answered; “but I know who it is.”
She rode up alongside, where I could see her; and fair enough she was to look upon, and glad enough I was to look. She was thinner now with this prairie life, and browner, and the ends of her hair were still yellowing, like that of outdoors men. She still was booted and gloved after the fashion of civilization, and still elsewise garbed in the aboriginal costume, which she filled and honored graciously. The metal cylinders on her leggins rattled as she rode.
“You ought not to ride,” she said. “You are pale.”
“You are beautiful,” said I; “and I ride because you are beautiful.”
Her eyes were busy with her gloves, but I saw a sidelong glance. “I do not understand you,” she said, demurely.
“I could not sit back there in the wagon and think,” said I. “I knew that you would be riding before long, and I guessed I might, perhaps, talk with you.”
She bit her lip and half pulled up her horse as if to fall back. “That will depend,” was her comment. But we rode on, side by side, knee to knee.