Mist filled the valley below the fall. A purple bank of vapour blocked the end of it. But the rolling outline was edged already with gold, and already ray upon ray of gold shivered across the upper sky and touched the pinewoods at the head of the pass.
Clad in cloak and night-rail, shod in loose slippers of Indian leather-work, she moved across to the fire she had banked overnight. Beside it a bold robin had perched on the rim of the cooking-pot. He fluttered up to a bough, and thence watched her warily. She remade the fire, building a cone of twigs; fetched water, scoured the cauldron, and hung it again on its bar. As she lifted it the sunlight glinted on the ring her lover had brought for the wedding and had slipped on her finger in the cabin, binding her by this only rite.
The fire revived and crackled cheerfully. She caught up the bundle again and climbed beside the stream, following its right bank until she came to the pool of her choice. There, casting all garments aside, she went down to it, and the alders hid her.
Half an hour later she returned and paused on the threshold of the hut, the sunlight behind her. In her arms she carried a cluster—a bundle almost—of ferns and autumnal branches—cedar and black-alder, the one berried with blue the other with coral, maple and aromatic spruce, with trails of the grape vine. He was awake and lay facing the door, half-raised on his left elbow.
“This for good-morning!” She held out the armful to show him, but so that it hid her blushes. Then, dropping the cluster on the floor, she ran and knelt, bowing her face upon the couch beside him. But laying a palm against either temple he forced her to lift it and gaze at him, mastering the lovely shame.
He looked long into her eyes. “You are very beautiful,” he said slowly.
She sprang to her feet. “See the dew on my shoes! I have bathed, and—” with a gesture of the hand towards the scattered boughs— “afterwards I pulled these for you. But I was in haste and late because—because—” She explained that while bathing she had let the ring, which was loose and heavy, slip from her finger into the pool. It had lodged endwise between two pebbles, and she had taken some minutes to find it. “As for these,” she said, “the flowers are all done, but I like the leaves better. In summer our housekeeping might have been make-believe; now, with the frosts upon us, we shall have hard work, and a fire to give thanks for.”
He slid from the couch and, standing erect, threw a bath-gown over his shoulders. “I must build a chimney,” he said, looking around; “a chimney and a stone hearth.”
“Then our house will be perfect.”
“I will start this very day. . . . Show me the way to your pool.”
They ate their breakfast on the stone above the fall, in the warm sunshine, planning and talking together like children. He would build the chimney; but first he must climb down to the lower valley and find Bayard, deserted at the foot of the falls, and left to wander all night at will.