The two radiant knights walked together toward the road, neither uttering a word. McNeil whistled carelessly, and Moffat gazed intently at the distant hills. Just beyond the gate, and without so much as glancing toward his companion, the latter turned and strode up one of the numerous diverging trails. McNeil halted and stared after him in surprise.
“Ain’t you—eh—goin’ on down town?”
“I reckon not. Take a look at my mine first.”
McNeil chuckled. “You—eh—better be careful goin’ up that—eh—gully,” he volunteered, soberly, “the—eh—ghosts of them four—eh—Injuns might—eh—haunt ye!”
Moffat wheeled about as if he had been shot in the back. “You blathering, mutton-headed cowherd!” he yelled, savagely.
But McNeil was already nearly out of hearing.
Once within the cool shadows of the livingroom, Mrs. Herndon again bethought herself to kiss her niece in a fresh glow of welcome, while the latter sank into a convenient rocker and began enthusiastically expressing her unbounded enjoyment of the West, and of the impressions gathered during her journey. Suddenly the elder woman glanced about and exclaimed, laughingly, “Why, I had completely forgotten. You have not yet met your room-mate. Come out here, Naida; this is my niece, Phoebe Spencer.”
The girl thus addressed advanced, a slender, graceful figure dressed in white, and extended her hand shyly. Miss Spencer clasped it warmly, her eyes upon the flushed, winsome face.
“And is this Naida Gillis!” she cried. “I am so delighted that you are still here, and that we are to be together. Aunt Lydia has written so much about you that I feel as If we must have known each other for years. Why, how pretty you are!”
Naida’s cheeks were burning, and her eyes fell, but she had never yet succeeded in conquering the blunt independence of her speech. “Nobody else ever says so,” she said, uneasily. “Perhaps it’s the light.”
Miss Spencer turned her about so as to face the window. “Well, you are,” she announced, decisively. “I guess I know; you ’ve got magnificent hair, and your eyes are perfectly wonderful. You just don’t fix yourself up right; Aunt Lydia never did have any taste in such things, but I ’ll make a new girl out of you. Let’s go upstairs; I ’m simply dying to see our room, and get some of my dresses unpacked. They must look perfect frights by this time.”
They came down perhaps an hour later, hand in hand, and chattering like old friends. The shades of early evening were already falling across the valley. Herndon had returned home from his day’s work, and had brought with him the Rev. Howard Wynkoop for supper. Miss Spencer viewed the young man with approval, and immediately became more than usually vivacious in recounting the incidents of her long journey, together with her early impressions of the Western country. Mr. Wynkoop responded with an interest far from being assumed.