Presently she told him, not in words, without knowing what he was suffering for her. A ghost of a smile touched her eyes.
“I knew you would come. It’s all right now.”
His heart leaped. “Yes, it’s all right, Joyce.”
She recurred to her fears for him. “You’re not ... hiding any wounds from me? I saw you fall and lie there while he shot at you.”
“He never touched me.”
She disengaged herself from his arms and looked at him, wan, haggard, unshaven, eyes sunken, a tattered wretch scarred with burns.
“What have you done to yourself?” she asked, astonished at his appearance.
“Souvenirs of the fire,” he told her. “They’ll wash and wear off. Don’t suppose I look exactly pretty.”
He had never looked so handsome in her eyes.
JOYCE MAKES PIES
Juan Otero carried the news back to Malapi. He had been waiting on the crest of the hill to see the issue of the adventure and had come forward when Dave gave him a signal.
Shorty brought Keith in from where he had left the boy in the brush. The youngster flew into his sister’s arms. They wept over each other and she petted him with caresses and little kisses.
Afterward she made some supper from the supplies Doble had laid in for his journey south. The men went down to the creek, where they bathed and washed their wounds. Darkness had not yet fallen when they went to sleep, all of them exhausted by the strain through which they had passed.
Not until the cold crystal dawn did they awaken. Joyce was the first up. She had breakfast well under way before she had Keith call the still sleeping men. With the power of quick recuperation which an outdoor life had given them, both Shorty and Dave were fit for any exertion again, though Sanders was still suffering from his burns.
After they had eaten they saddled. Shorty gave them a casual nod of farewell.
“Tell Applegate to look me up in Mexico if he wants me,” he said.
Joyce would not let it go at that. She made him shake hands. He was in the saddle, and her eyes lifted to his and showered gratitude on him.
“We’ll never forget you—never,” she promised. “And we do so hope you’ll be prosperous and happy.”
He grinned down at her sheepishly. “Same to you, Miss,” he said; and added, with a flash of audacity, “To you and Dave both.”
He headed south, the others north.
From the hilltop Dave looked back at the squat figure steadily diminishing with distance. Shorty was moving toward Mexico, unhasting and with a certain sureness of purpose characteristic of him.
Joyce smiled. It was the first signal of unquenchable youth she had flashed since she had been trapped into this terrible adventure. “I believe you admire him, Dave,” she mocked. “You’re just as grateful to him as I am, but you won’t admit it. He’s not a bad man at all, really.”