Such were the ethics of this strange locality that neither the man who made the offer nor the girl to whom it was made was struck by anything that seemed illogical or indelicate, or at all inconsistent with justice or the horse-thief’s real conversion. Salomy Jane nevertheless dissented, from another and weaker reason.
“I don’t want your hoss, though I reckon dad might; but you’re just starvin’. I’ll get suthin’.” She turned towards the house.
“Say you’ll take the hoss first,” he said, grasping her hand. At the touch she felt herself coloring and struggled, expecting perhaps another kiss. But he dropped her hand. She turned again with a saucy gesture, said, “Hol’ on; I’ll come right back,” and slipped away, the mere shadow of a coy and flying nymph in the moonlight, until she reached the house.
Here she not only procured food and whiskey, but added a long dust-coat and hat of her father’s to her burden. They would serve as a disguise for him and hide that heroic figure, which she thought everybody must now know as she did. Then she rejoined him breathlessly. But he put the food and whiskey aside.
“Listen,” he said; “I’ve turned the hoss into your corral. You’ll find him there in the morning, and no one will know but that he got lost and joined the other hosses.”
Then she burst out. “But you—you—what will become of you? You’ll be ketched!”
“I’ll manage to get away,” he said in a low voice, “ef—ef”—
“Ef what?” she said tremblingly.
“Ef you’ll put the heart in me again,—as you did!” he gasped.
She tried to laugh—to move away. She could do neither. Suddenly he caught her in his arms, with a long kiss, which she returned again and again. Then they stood embraced as they had embraced two days before, but no longer the same. For the cool, lazy Salomy Jane had been transformed into another woman—a passionate, clinging savage. Perhaps something of her father’s blood had surged within her at that supreme moment. The man stood erect and determined.
“Wot’s your name?” she whispered quickly. It was a woman’s quickest way of defining her feelings.
“Yer first name?”
“Let me go now, Jack. Lie low in the woods till to-morrow sunup. I’ll come again.”
He released her. Yet she lingered a moment. “Put on those things,” she said, with a sudden happy flash of eyes and teeth, “and lie close till I come.” And then she sped away home.
But midway up the distance she felt her feet going slower, and something at her heartstrings seemed to be pulling her back. She stopped, turned, and glanced to where he had been standing. Had she seen him then, she might have returned. But he had disappeared. She gave her first sigh, and then ran quickly again. It must be nearly ten o’clock! It was not very long to morning!
She was within a few steps of her own door, when the sleeping woods and silent air appeared to suddenly awake with a sharp “crack!”