“That’s what I’m telling you,” she triumphed. “You came out here from a soft life in town. But you’ve grown tough because you set your teeth to go through no matter what the cost. I wish I could show you how much I . . . admire you. Dad feels that way, too. So does Ned.”
“But I don’t deserve it. That’s what humiliates me.”
“Don’t you?” She poured out her passionate protest. “Do you think I don’t know what happened back there at the prospect hole? Do you think I don’t know that you put Dan Meldrum down in the pit—and him with a gun in his hand? Was it a coward that did that?”
“So you knew that all the time,” he cried.
“I heard him calling you—and I went close. Yes, I knew it. But you would never have told me because it might seem like bragging.”
“It was easy enough. I wasn’t thinking of myself, but of you. He saw I meant business and he wilted.”
“You were thinking about me—and you forgot to be afraid,” the girl exulted.
“Yes, that was it.” A wave of happiness broke over his heart as the sunlight does across a valley at dawn. “I’m always thinking of you. Day and night you fill my thoughts, hillgirl. When I’m riding the range—whatever I do—you’re with me all the time.”
Her lips were slightly parted, eyes eager and hungry. The heart of the girl drank in his words as the thirsty roots of a rosebush do water. She took a long deep breath and began to tremble.
“I think of you as the daughter of the sun and the wind. Some day you will be the mother of heroes, the wife of a man—”
“Yes,” she prompted again, and the face lifted to his was flushed with innocent passion.
The shy invitation of her dark-lashed eyes was not to be denied. He flung away discretion and snatched her into his arms. An inarticulate little sound welled up from her throat, and with a gesture wholly savage and feminine her firm arms crept about his neck and fastened there.
The Sins of the Fathers
They spoke at first only in that lovers’ Esperanto which is made up of fond kisses and low murmurs and soft caresses. From these Beulah was the first to emerge.
“Would you marry a girl off the range?” she whispered. “Would you dare take her home to your people?”
“I haven’t any people. There are none of them left but me.”
“To your friends, then?”
“My friends will be proud as punch. They’ll wonder how I ever hypnotized you into caring for me.”
“But I’m only a hillgirl,” she protested. “Are you sure you won’t be ashamed of me, dear?”
“Certain sure. I’m a very sensible chap at bottom, and I know when I have the best there is.”
“Ah, you think that now because—”
“Because of my golden luck in winning the most wonderful girl I ever met.” In the fling of the fire glow he made a discovery and kissed it. “I didn’t know before that you had dimples.”