Four hours later, in a twilight so shadowy that no one saw her distress, Carley half slipped and half fell from her horse and managed somehow to mount the steps and enter the bright living room. A cheerful red fire blazed on the hearth; Glenn’s hound, Moze, trembled eagerly at sight of her and looked up with humble dark eyes; the white-clothed dinner table steamed with savory dishes. Flo stood before the blaze, warming her hands. Lee Stanton leaned against the mantel, with eyes on her, and every line of his lean, hard face expressed his devotion to her. Hutter was taking his seat at the head of the table. “Come an’ get it—you-all,” he called, heartily. Mrs. Hutter’s face beamed with the spirit of that home. And lastly, Carley saw Glenn waiting for her, watching her come, true in this very moment to his stern hope for her and pride in her, as she dragged her weary, spent body toward him and the bright fire.
By these signs, or the effect of them, Carley vaguely realized that she was incalculably changing, that this Carley Burch had become a vastly bigger person in the sight of her friends, and strangely in her own a lesser creature.
If spring came at all to Oak Creek Canyon it warmed into summer before Carley had time to languish with the fever characteristic of early June in the East.
As if by magic it seemed the green grass sprang up, the green buds opened into leaves, the bluebells and primroses bloomed, the apple and peach blossoms burst exquisitely white and pink against the blue sky. Oak Creek fell to a transparent, beautiful brook, leisurely eddying in the stone walled nooks, hurrying with murmur and babble over the little falls. The mornings broke clear and fragrantly cool, the noon hours seemed to lag under a hot sun, the nights fell like dark mantles from the melancholy star-sown sky.
Carley had stubbornly kept on riding and climbing until she killed her secret doubt that she was really a thoroughbred, until she satisfied her own insistent vanity that she could train to a point where this outdoor life was not too much for her strength. She lost flesh despite increase of appetite; she lost her pallor for a complexion of gold-brown she knew her Eastern friends would admire; she wore out the blisters and aches and pains; she found herself growing firmer of muscle, lither of line, deeper of chest. And in addition to these physical manifestations there were subtle intimations of a delight in a freedom of body she had never before known, of an exhilaration in action that made her hot and made her breathe, of a sloughing off of numberless petty and fussy and luxurious little superficialities which she had supposed were necessary to her happiness. What she had undertaken in vain conquest of Glenn’s pride and Flo Hutter’s Western tolerance she had found to be a boomerang. She had won Glenn’s admiration; she had won the Western girl’s recognition. But her passionate, stubborn desire had been ignoble, and was proved so by the rebound of her achievement, coming home to her with a sweetness she had not the courage to accept. She forced it from her. This West with its rawness, its ruggedness, she hated.