It had occurred to him that he could tell it to her so much better.
So when he came to Fort Canibas in the evening of the second day he mounted his horse and rode across the big bridge.
He went before he had read the letters piled on the table in the gloomy old mess-hall. And he brusquely told the waiting Ben Kyle to save his business talk until the morning.
A GIRL’S HEART
He walked his horse when he reached the farther shore. He was wondering just what he was to say to Dennis Kavanagh. They had not parted in a manner that invited further intimacy. From twin windows of the house on the hill lights glowed redly, as though they were Dennis Kavanagh’s baleful little eyes. Fear was not the cause of the young man’s hesitation. But he dreaded another scene in the presence of the girl. Kavanagh and his grandfather had brutally violated an innocent friendship. They had put into insulting words what neither he nor Clare had dreamed of—he hastily assured himself that they were not lovers. More than ever before he now felt infinite tenderness toward her—compassion, sympathy—an overpowering impulse to seek her. He had much to tell her. He could not think of any one in all the world who would listen as she would listen. The red eyes glowering out of the summer gloom did not daunt him; they suggested tyranny and insulting suspicion, and he pitied her the more. He rode on past the tall cross of the church-yard. A voice out of the silence startled him. A white figure stood in the shadow of the church porch.
“Come here, Big Boy,” she said. “I’m not a ghost. I’m only Clare. I’ve been waiting for you.”
He left his horse, and hurried to her.
“Waiting for me? I did not write. Have you second sight, little Clare?”
“No, only first news. This isn’t one of the big cities where the crowds rush by and do not notice each other. It’s only a lonesome little place, Harlan, and gossip travels fast. I heard you were home five minutes after the stage was in. So I came here and waited.”
He took both her hands between his broad palms, caressing them.
“And you knew I’d hurry to come across the long bridge? That makes me happy, Clare, for you must have been thinking about me.”
“I haven’t many things to do these days except think,” she returned, wistfully. “You’ll understand why I came down here. I’m not trying to hide away from my father, and I know you are not afraid of him. But lectures on the subject of not doing the things you don’t have any idea of doing are not to my taste, and I know they don’t suit you. So we’ll sit here in peace and quietness, and you shall tell me all about it.”
He turned his back on the two red eyes of the Kavanagh house, and sat down on the step below her, and began his story, eagerly, volubly.
Once in a while he looked up at her, and she gave wise little nods to show she understood. In relating the early episodes of his journey, he ventured to leave out details. But she insisted that he give them.