Under his steady, half-smiling gaze, her eyes fell. Two weeks ago she had been a splendid young creature, as untaught of life as one of the wild forest animals and as unconsciously eager for it. But there had come a change over her, a birth of womanhood from that night when she had stood between Stephen Fraser and death. No doubt she would often regret it, but she had begun to live more deeply. She could never go back to the care-free days when she could look all men in the face with candid, girlish eyes. The time had come to her, as it must to all sensitive of life, when she must drink of it, whether she would or no.
“Because I’d rather you would know it in your heart than in your mind,” he said.
Something sweet and terrifying, with the tingle and warmth of rare wine in it, began to glow in her veins. Eyes shy, eager, frightened, met his for an instant. Then she remembered the other girl. Something hard as steel ran through her. She turned on her heel and left the room.
The Texan pays A visit
From that day Fraser had a new nurse. Arlie disappeared, and her aunt replaced her a few hours later and took charge of the patient. Steve took her desertion as an irritable convalescent does, but he did not let his disappointment make him unpleasant to Miss Ruth Dillon.
“I’m a chump,” he told himself, with deep disgust. “Hadn’t any more sense than to go scaring off the little girl by handing out a line of talk she ain’t used to. I reckon now she’s done with me proper.”
He continued to improve so rapidly that within the prescribed two weeks he was on horseback again, though still a little weak and washed out. His first ride of any length was to the Dillon ranch. Siegfried accompanied him, and across the Norwegian’s saddle lay a very business-like rifle.
As they were passing the mouth of a cañon, the ranger put a casual question: “This Jack Rabbit Run, Sig?”
“Yah. More men wanted bane lost in that gulch than any place Ay knows of.”
“That so? I’m going in there to-morrow to find that man Struve,” his friend announced carelessly.
The big blonde giant looked at him. “Yuh bain’t, Steve? Why, yuh bain’t fit to tackle a den uh wild cats.” An admiring grin lit the Norwegian’s face. “Durn my hide, yuh’ve got ’em all skinned for grit, Steve. Uh course, Ay bane goin’ with yuh.”
“If it won’t get you in bad with your friends I’ll be glad to have you, Sig.”
“They bain’t my friends. Ay bane shook them, an’ served notice to that effect.”
“Glad of it.”
“Yuh bane goin’ in after Struve only?”
“Yes. He’s the only man I want.”
“Then Ay bane go in, and bring heem out to yuh.”
Fraser shook his head. “No, old man, I’ve got to play my own hand.”
“Ay t’ink it be a lot safer f’r me to happen in an’ get heem,” remonstrated Siegfried.