Silence in the camp had continued for some time when a strange young Indian strode up the slope, nodded to the group in the camp, and deliberately rolled himself in a blanket and dropped to sleep. Rhoda stared at him questioningly.
“Alchise’s and Cesca’s son,” said Kut-le. “His job is to follow us at a distance and remove all trace of our trail. Not an overturned pebble misses his eye. I’ll need him only for a day or two.”
“Kut-le,” said Rhoda suddenly, “when are you going to end the farce and let me go?”
The young man smiled.
“You know the way the farce usually ends! The man always gets the girl and they live happily forever after!”
“What do you suppose Jack and Katherine think of you? They have loved and trusted you so!”
For the first time the Indian’s face showed pain.
“My hope is,” he said, “that after they see how happy I am going to make you they will forgive me.”
Rhoda controlled her voice with difficulty.
“Can’t you see what you have done? No matter what the outcome, can you believe that I or any one that loves me can forgive the outrage to me?”
“After we have married and lived abroad for a year or two people will remember only the romance of it!”.
“Heavens!” ejaculated Rhoda. She returned to her angry walking.
Molly was preparing supper. She worked always with one eye on Rhoda, as if she could not see enough of the girl’s fragile loveliness. With her attention thus divided, she stumbled constantly, dropping the pots and spilling the food. She herself was not at all disturbed by her mishaps but, with a grimace and a chuckle, picked up the food. But Cesca was annoyed. She was tending the fire which by a marvel of skill she kept always clear and all but smokeless. At each of Molly’s mishaps, Cesca hurled a stone at her friend’s back with a savage “Me-yah!” that disturbed Molly not at all.
Mercifully night was on the camp by the time the rabbits were cooked and Rhoda ate unconscious of the dirt the food had acquired in the cooking. When the silent meal was finished, Kut-le pointed to Rhoda’s blankets.
“We will start in half an hour. You must rest during that time.”
Too weary to resent the peremptory tone, Rhoda obeyed. The fire long since had been extinguished and the camp was dark. The Indians were to be located only by faint whispers under the trees. The opportunity seemed providential! Rhoda slipped from her blankets and crept through the darkness away from the camp.
THE FIRST LESSON
After crawling on her hands and knees for several yards, Rhoda rose and started on a run down the long slope to the open desert. But after a few steps she found running impossible, for the slope was a wilderness of rock, thickly grown with cholla and yucca with here and there a thicker growth of cat’s-claw.