“‘Now I lie here hurt to death,’ says the good knight Lancelot. ’This is the end. Now, at the time when truth must come from the soul, I say to you, my queen’—she’s always queen to him—’I say to you, I have loved you more than I have loved myself. But if you could come, if you could stand at my bedside before it is too late, before it is too late—too late—’” Willie’s voice broke into a wail. The ray of light was almost fading from his clouded brain.
“Go on,” whispered Tom Osby.
“‘My queen, my darling—’ says Lancelot.”
Willie’s hands, trembling, fell into his lap. “It’s always that-a-way,” he whimpered vaguely, coming now to himself.
“Willie,” said Tom Osby, gently, “I ain’t right sure I’ve got it all down straight, but I think I have. You read her over, and touch her up here and there where she needs it. Curly, look here. I don’t believe Dan Anderson would hesertate one minute to sign this if he saw it.”
“They sign it with their hearts,” said Willie, vaguely. “They always do.”
“He signs it with his heart,” said Tom Osby, “and it goes!” He folded the paper and handed it to Curly.
“Saddle up that Pinto horse, Curly, if you can,” said he, “and make the run to Sky Top as fast as God’ll let you. This letter’s all right, and it goes!”
So presently there rode down the long sunlit street of Heart’s Desire, mounted upon the mad horse Pinto, this courier to the queen, bearing a message from a mad brain and two simple hearts,—a courier bound upon a strange and kindly errand.
The blue mountains, beyond whose rim lived the sovereign, looked gently down, and the stern walls of the canon seemed to widen and make room for the messenger as he swept on, carrying the greetings of an absent knight to his distant queen.
“It’s like he said,” mused Curly to himself, feeling in his pocket for tobacco as he rode. “It’s that-a-way, and I reckon it always has been. I’ve felt like that myself sometimes. Ola, Pinto! Vamos!”
ROMANCE AT HEART’S DESIRE
The Pleasing Recountal of an Absent Knight, a Gentle Lady, and an Ananias with Spurs
Long and weary miles lay before Curly, messenger to the queen, but the bigness of his errand lightened the way, and his own courage and hopefulness communicated themselves to his steed. The mad horse, Pinto, indomitable, unapproachable, loped along with head down and ears back, surly at touch of rein or spur, yet steady in his gait as an antelope. The two swept down the long canon from Heart’s Desire, traversed for twenty-five miles the alkali plain below, and climbed then the Nogales and the Bonitos, over paths known only to cattle thieves and those who pursued them. At last they swung down into the beautiful valley of the Bonito, and thence in the night far to the southward, until at length they reached the defiles of the Sacramentos. They pulled up after more than a day and a night of travel, weary but not hopelessly the worse for wear, at the end of the steep trail up the mountains to the Sky Top hotel.