“Odd, isn’t it, that he never shoots,” mused Duane, lifting out a superb weapon from the rack behind the glass doors. “This seems to be one of those murderous, low trajectory pieces that fires a sort of brassy shot which is still rising when it’s a mile beyond the bunker. Now, sweetheart, if you’ve a heavy suit of ancient armour which I can crawl into, I’ll defy any boar that roots for mast on Cloudy Mountain.”
It was great fun for Geraldine to lay out their equipment in two neat piles; a rifle apiece with cases and bandoliers; cartridges, two hunting-knives with leather sheaths, shooting hoods and coats; and timberjack’s boots for her lover, moccasins for her; a pair of heavy sweaters for each, and woollen mitts, fashioned to leave the trigger finger free.
Beside these she laid two fur-lined overcoats, and backed away in naive admiration at her industry.
“Wonderful, wonderful,” he said. “We’ll only require saucepans and boiler lids to look exactly like Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee arrayed for battle. I say, Geraldine, how am I going to flee up a tree with all that on—and snow-shoes to boot-s,” he added shamelessly, grinning over his degraded wit.
She ignored it, advised him with motherly directness concerning the proper underwear he must don, looked at her rifle, examined his and, bidding him assume it, led him out to the range in the orchard and made him target his weapon at a hundred yards.
There was a terrific fusillade for half an hour or so; his work was respectable, and, satisfied, she led him proudly back to the house and, curling up on the leather divan in the library, invited him to sit beside her.
“Do you love me?” she inquired with such impersonal curiosity that he revenged himself fully then and there; and she rose and, instinctively repairing the disorder of her hair, seated herself reproachfully at a distance.
“Can’t a girl ask a simple question?” she said, aggrieved.
“Sure. Ask it again, dearest.”
She disdained to reply, and sat coaxing the tendrils of her dark hair to obey the dainty discipline of her slender fingers.
“I thought you weren’t going to,” she observed irrelevantly. But he seemed to know what she meant.
“Don’t you want me to even touch you for a year?”
“It isn’t a year. Months of it are over.”
“But in the months before us——”
She picked up a book. When he reached for a magazine she looked over the top of her book at him, then read a little, glanced up, read a little more, and looked at him again.
“This is a fool of a book. Do you want to read it?”
“Over my shoulder, I mean?”
He got up, seated himself on the arm of her chair, and looked at the printed page over her shoulder.
For a full minute neither moved; then she turned her head, very slowly, and, looking into his eyes, she rested her lips on his.