Then, unexpectedly, the cry came perfectly clear, over to the right scarcely a hundred yards. A little arroyo of quaking aspens lay between him and the one who called. He dismounted, tied his horse to a sapling, and pushed through the growth of young trees. Emerging from these, he climbed the brow of the hill and looked around. Nobody was in sight.
“Where are you?” he shouted.
“Here—in the prospect hole.”
His pulses crashed. That voice—he would have known it out of a million.
A small dirt dump on the hillside caught his eye. He ran forward to the edge of a pit and looked down.
The haggard eyes of Beulah Rutherford were lifted to meet his.
Miss Rutherford Speaks her Mind
For the first time in over a year an itinerant preacher was to hold services in the Huerfano Park schoolhouse. He would speak, Beulah Rutherford knew, to a mere handful of people, and it was to mitigate his disappointment that she rode out into the hills on the morning of her disappearance to find an armful of columbines for decorating the desk-pulpit. The man had written Miss Rutherford and asked her to notify the community. She had seen that the news was carried to the remotest ranch, but she expected for a congregation only a scatter of patient women and restless children with three or four coffee-brown youths in high-heeled boots on the back row to represent the sinners.
It was a brave, clean world into which she rode this summer morning. The breeze brought to her nostrils the sweet aroma of the sage. Before her lifted the saw-toothed range into a sky of blue sprinkled here and there with light mackerel clouds. Blacky pranced with fire and intelligence, eager to reach out and leave behind him the sunny miles.
Near the upper end of the park she swung up an arroyo that led to Big Flat Top. A drawling voice stopped her.
“Oh, you, Beulah Rutherford! Where away this glad mo’ning?”
A loose-seated rider was lounging in the saddle on a little bluff fifty yards away. His smile reminded her of a new copper kettle shining in the sun.
“To find columbines for church decorations,” she said with an answering smile.
“Have you been building a church since I last met up with you?”
“There will be services in the schoolhouse tomorrow at three P.M., conducted by the Reverend Melancthon Smith. Mr. Charlton is especially invited to attend.”
“Maybe I’ll be there. You can’t sometimes ’most always tell. I’m going to prove I’ve got nothing against religion by going with you to help gather the pulpit decorations.”
“That’s very self-sacrificing of you.” She flashed a look of gay derision at him as he joined her. “Sure you can afford to waste so much time?”
“I don’t call it wasted. But since you’ve invited me so hearty to your picnic, I’d like to be sure you’ve got grub enough in the chuck wagon for two,” he said with a glance at her saddle-bags.