Kut-le had been watching the little scene with tender eyes. Now he stooped and lifted Rhoda to her feet, then he raised one of the delicate hands and touched it softly with his lips.
“Leave such work to the squaws, dear! You aren’t built for it. Cesca, you old lobster, you make me tired! Go fix the turkeys!”
Cesca rose with dignity, flipped away her cigarette and walked with a sniff over to the cooking-pot. Rhoda drew her hands from the young Indian’s clasp and walked to the edge of the camp. The hot pulse that the touch of Kut-le’s lips sent through her body startled her.
“I hate him!” she said to herself. “I hate him! I hate him!”
The trail that night was unusually difficult and Rhoda had to be rested frequently. At each stop, Kut-le tried to talk to her but she maintained her silence. They paused at dawn in a pocket formed by the meeting of three divergent canons. Far, far above the desert as they were, still farther above them stretched the wonderful barren ridges, snow-capped and silent. As Rhoda stood waiting for the squaws to spread her blankets the peaks were lighted suddenly by the rays of the still unseen sun. For one unspeakable instant their snow crowns flashed a translucent scarlet that trembled, shimmered, then melted to a pink, then to a white so pure, so piercing that Rhoda trembled with sudden awe. Then as she looked, the sun rolled into view, blinding her eyes, and she turned to her waiting blankets.
She had slept for several hours when she was wakened by a soft tap on her shoulder. She opened her eyes and would have risen but a voice whispered:
“Hush! Don’t move!”
A BROADENING HORIZON
Rhoda lay stiffly, her heart beating wildly. Kut-le and the squaws, each a muffled, blanketed figure, lay sleeping some distance away. Old Alchise stood on solitary guard at the edge of the camp with his back to her.
“Make as if you wanted to shift your blankets toward the cat’s-claw bush behind you!” went on the whispered voice.
Obediently, Rhoda sat erect. Alchise turned slowly to light a cigarette out of the wind. Rhoda yawned, rose sleepily, looked under her blanket and shook her, head irritably, then dragged her blankets toward the neighboring cat’s-claw. Again she settled herself to sleep. Alchise turned back to his view of the desert.
“I’m behind the bush here,” whispered the voice. “I’m a prospector. Saw you make camp. I don’t know where any of the search parties are but if you can crawl round to me I’ll guarantee to get you to ’em somehow. Slip out of your blankets and leave ’em, rounded up as if you was still under ’em. Quick now and careful!”
Rhoda, her eyes never leaving Alchise’s impassive back, drew herself silently and swiftly from her blankets and with a clever touch or two rounded them. Then she crept around the cat’s-claw, where a man squatted, his eyes blazing with excitement. He put up a sinewy, hand to pull her from sight when, without warning, Rhoda sneezed.