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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 247 pages of information about Beth Norvell.

“I understand some of it at least,” and he smiled back into her pleading eyes, “enough to trust you.  If Hicks and Brown consent, your going will be all right with me.”

Bueno!” and she dropped him a deep Spanish courtesy, executing a quick dancing step toward the door.  “Den eet vill be so.  I no ’fraid.  I go see dem both. Adios.”

The door opened, and she flashed forth into the fading sunlight; it closed behind her, and left the two alone among the shadows.

CHAPTER XXIV

AN AVOWAL OF LOVE

Winston sat gazing at the delicate contour of her face, partially turned away from him, the long, silken lashes shading eyes lowered upon the floor.  A single gleam of the westering sun rested in golden beauty across her dark hair, stirred by the slight breeze blowing through the open window.  In the silence he could hear his heart beat, and distinguish the faint sound of her breathing.  She was the first to speak, yet without moving her head.

“Is it true that you are now under arrest?” she questioned, her voice scarcely audible.

“Technically yes, although, as you may perceive, the sheriff is powerless to prevent an escape if I desired to attempt one.”

“Is it because of that—­that charge he made?”

He arose to his feet in brave attempt at self-control.

“Oh, no, certainly not!  I think that was merely a threat, a cowardly threat, utterly without provocation, without purpose, unless he sought in that way to work you a serious injury.  The real charge against me is murder.  It appears that the man I fought with in the mine later died from his injuries.”

She turned both face and body toward him, her eyes filled with agony.

“The man died?  Will it be possible for you to prove yourself innocent?”

“It may be possible, but it does not appear easy.  I hope to show that all I did was in self-defence.  I did not strike the man a deadly blow; in the struggle he fell and was injured on the sharp rocks.  In every sense his death was unintentional, yet there is nothing to sustain me but my own testimony.  But I shall not flee from the issue.  If I have taken human life I will abide the judgment.  God knows I never dreamed of killing the man; never once supposed him seriously injured.  You, at least, believe this?”

“I believe all you tell me.”

The man’s grasp on the casing of the window tightened, his eyes upon the mass of black hair.

“Strangely enough,” he continued, “this whole affair has gone wrong from the start; nothing has turned out in the natural way.  Criminals have been made into officers of the law, and honest men changed into outlaws.  Now it seems impossible to conjecture how the adventure will terminate.”

She sat looking up at him, scarcely seeing his face, her hands clasped in her lap.

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