The strong brown hand had closed over the small white one instantly.
“It must be!” he said hoarsely. “I put my whole life on it! It must be!”
Rhoda pulled her hand away gently.
“It never, never can be!”
“It shall be! Love like this comes but seldom to a human. It is the most potent thing in the world. It shall—”
“Kut-le!” Alchise rode forward, pointing to the right.
Rhoda followed his look. It was nearly dawn. At the right was the sheer wall of a mesa as smooth and impregnable to her eyes as a wall of glass. Moving toward them, silent as ghosts in the veil-like dawn, and cutting them from the mesa, was a group of horsemen.
TOUCH AND GO
The John DeWitt who helped break camp after finding Rhoda’s scarf was a different man from the half-crazed person of the three days previous. He had begun to hope. Somehow that white scarf with Rhoda’s perfume clinging to it was a living thing to him, a living, pulsing promise that Rhoda was helping him to find her. Now, while Jack and Billy were feverishly eager, he was cool and clear-headed, leaving the leadership to Billy still, yet doing more than his share of the work in preparing for the hard night ahead of them. The horses were well watered, their own canteens were filled and saturated and food so prepared that it could be eaten from the saddle.
“For,” said Porter, “when we do hit the little girl’s trail, starvation or thirst or high hell ain’t goin’ to stop us!”
It was mid-afternoon when they started down the mountainside. There was no trail and going was painful but the men moved with the care of desperation. Once in the canon they moved slowly along the wall and some two miles from where the scarf had been found, they discovered a fault where climbing was possible. It was nearing sundown when they reached a wide ledge where the way was easy. Porter led the way back over this to the spot below which fluttered a white paper to mark the place where the scarf had been found. The ledge deepened here to make room for a tiny, bubbling spring. Giant boulders were scattered across the rocky floor.
The three men dismounted. The ledge gave no trace of human occupancy and yet Porter and Jack nodded at each other.
“Here was his camp, all right. Water, and no one could come within a mile of him without his being seen.”
“He’s still covering his traces carefully,” said Jack.
“Not so very,” answered Porter. “He’s banking a whole lot on our stupidity, but Miss Tuttle beat him to it with her scarf.”
The three men treated the ledge to a microscopic examination but they found no trace of previous occupation until Billy knelt and put his nose against a black outcropping of stone in the wall. Then he gave a satisfied grunt.