“Rhoda,” she asked, “do you feel like dressing for dinner? Hello, Kut-le, it’s time you moved toward soap and water, seems to me!”
“Yessum!” replied Cartwell meekly. He rose and helped Rhoda from the hammock, then held the door open for her. DeWitt and Newman emerged from the orchard as he crossed to Katherine’s chair.
“Is she very sick, Mrs. Jack?” he asked.
Katherine nodded soberly.
“Desperately sick. Her father and mother were killed in a railroad wreck a year ago. Rhoda wasn’t seriously hurt but she has never gotten over the shock. She has been failing ever since. The doctor feared consumption and sent her down here. But she’s just dying by inches. Oh, it’s too awful! I can’t believe it! I can’t realize it!”
Cartwell stood in silence for a moment, his lips compressed, his eyes inscrutable.
Then, “I’ve met her at last,” he said. “It makes me believe in Fate.”
Katherine’s pretty lips parted in amazement.
“Goodness! Are you often taken this way!” she gasped.
“Never before!” replied Cartwell serenely. “Jack said she’d broken her engagement to DeWitt because of her illness, so it’s a fair war!”
“Kut-le!” exclaimed Katherine. “Don’t talk like a yellow-backed novel! It’s not a life or death affair.”
“You can’t tell as to that,” answered Cartwell with a curious little smile. “You mustn’t forget that I’m an Indian.”
And he turned to greet the two men who were mounting the steps.
THE CAUCASIAN WAY
When Rhoda entered the dining-room some of her pallor seemed to have left her. She was dressed in a gown of an elusive pink that gave a rose flush to the marble fineness of her face.
Katherine was chatting with a wiry, middle-aged man whom she introduced to Rhoda as Mr. Porter, an Arizona mining man. Porter stood as if stunned for a moment by Rhoda’s delicate loveliness. Then, as was the custom of every man who met Rhoda, he looked vaguely about for something to do for her. Jack Newman forestalled him by taking Rhoda’s hand and leading her to the table. Jack’s curly blond hair looked almost white in contrast with his tanned face. He was not as tall as either Cartwell or DeWitt but he was strong and clean-cut and had a boyish look despite the heavy responsibilities of his five-thousand-acre ranch.
“There,” he said, placing Rhoda beside Porter; “just attach Porter’s scalp to your belt with the rest of your collection. It’ll be a new experience to him. Don’t be afraid, Porter.”
Billy Porter was not in the least embarrassed.
“I’ve come too near to losing my scalp to the Apaches to be scared by Miss Tuttle. Anyhow I gave her my scalp without a yelp the minute I laid eyes on her.”
“Here! That’s not fair!” cried John DeWitt. “The rest of us had to work to get her to take ours!”