Her laughter bubbled again. “You mean, I took the bath.”
“I expect you’ll have to listen to what I’ve got to say, ma’am.”
“Are you going to scold me? Was I precipitate? Perhaps you were attempting suicide. Forgive, I pray.”
He ignored her raillery, and told her what he thought of a courage so fine and ready. He permitted a smile to temper his praise, as he added: “You mustn’t go jumping in the river after strangers if you don’t want them to say, ‘Thank you kindly.’ You find four out of five of them want to, don’t you?”
“It is not yet a habit of mine. You’re the first”
“I hope I’ll be the last.”
She began to wring out the bottom of her skirt, and he was on his knees at once to do it for her.
“That will do very nicely,” she presently said, the color billowing her cheeks.
He gathered wood and lit a fire, being fortunate enough to find his match-case had been waterproof. He piled on dry branches till the fire roared and licked out for the moisture in their clothes.
“I’ve been wondering how you happened to see me in the water,” he said. “You were riding past, I expect?”
“No, I was sketching. I saw you when you came up to eat your lunch, and I watched you go back to the river.”
“Do you live near here, then?” he asked.
“About three miles away.”
“And you were watching me all the time?” He put his statement as a question.
“No, I wasn’t,” the young woman answered indignantly. “You happened to be in the landscape.”
“A blot in it,” he suggested. “A hop-toad splashing in the puddle.”
The every-ready dimples flashed out at this. “You did make quite a splash when you went in. The fish must have thought it was a whale.”
“And when I told you the water was fine, and you came in, too, they probably took you for a naiad.”
She thanked him with an informal little nod.
“I thought you Anglo-Saxons did not give compliments.”
“I don’t,” he immediately answered.
“Oh! If that isn’t another one, I’m mistaken, sir.” She turned indifferently away, apparently of the opinion that she had been quite friendly enough to this self-possessed young stranger.
Rewinding the lariat, she fastened it to the saddle, then swung to the seat before he could step forward to aid her.
“I hope you will suffer no bad effects from your bath,” he said.
“I shall not; but I’m afraid you will. You were in long enough to get thoroughly chilled. Adios, senor.”
He called to her before the pony had taken a dozen steps:
“Your handkerchief, senorita!”
She turned in the saddle and waited for him to bring it. He did so, and she noticed that he limped badly.
“You have hurt yourself,” she said quickly.
“I must have jammed my knee against a rock,” he explained. “Nothing serious.”