But sing of it he did with a swelling throat and a melodic quiver of nerve and sinew, and a curious dialogue followed.
“A hay-camp is a very foolish thing, to be sure!” sang the bird with a dulcet shower of plaintive notes.
“To be sure,” said the voice of the girl’s conscience, “to be sure it is. But how very like him!”
“But—but there was the bullet—”
“I have often thought of it,” owned the Voice.
“A gallant gentleman must see that his lady comes to no harm. ’Tis the way of gallant gentlemen—”
“And he never once spoke of his discomfort on the long hot road, though a hay-camp is subject to most singular mishaps.”
“I—I have often marveled.”
“He is brave and sturdy and of charming humor—”
“A superlative grain of humor perhaps, and he’s very lazy—”
“And fine and frank and honorable. One may not forget Arcadia and the rake of twigs.”
“One may not forget, that is very true. But he seeks to make himself out such a very great fool—–”
“He cloaks each generous instinct with a laughing drollery. Why did you hum when you cooked his supper and called to him through the trees?”
“I—I do not know.”
“’Twas the world-old instinct of primitive woman!”
“No! No! No! It was only because I was living the life I love the best. I was very happy.”
“Why were you happier after the storm?”
“I—I do not know.”
“You have scolded with flashing eyes about the hay-camp—”
“But—I—I did not mind. I tried to mind and could not—”
“That is a very singular thing.”
“Why have you not told him of the tall sentinel you have furtively watched of moonlit nights among the trees, a sentinel who slept by day upon a ridiculous bed of hay that he might smoke and watch over the camp of his lady until peep o’ day?”
“I—do not know.”
“You are sighing even now for the van and a camp fire—for the hay-camp through the trees—”
“No!” with a very definite flash of perversity.
“Where is this persistent young nomad of the hay-camp anyway?”
“I—I have wondered myself.”
But with a quiver of impatience the horse had pawed the ground and the tiny bird flew off to a distant clump of palmetto.
Diane rode hurriedly off into the flat-woods.
THE NOMAD OF THE FIRE-WHEEL
It had been an unforgettable day, this day in the pine woods. Diane had forded shallow streams and followed bright-winged birds, lunched by a silver lake set coolly in the darkling shade of cypress and found a curious nest in the stump of a tree. Now with a mass of creeping blackberry and violets strapped to her saddle she was riding slowly back through the pine woods.