The moon had sailed across the vault and grown chill and faint with dawn before she gave up, completely exhausted, and when her eyes opened again it was upon a young day fresh and sweet. She knew by this time hunger and an acute thirst. As the day increased, this last she knew must be a torment of swollen tongue and lime-kiln throat. Yesterday she had cried for help till her voice had failed. A dumb despair had now driven away her terror.
And then into the awful silence leaped a sound like a messenger of hope. It was a shot, so close that she could see the smoke rise from an arroyo near. She ran forward till she could look down into it and caught sight of a man with a dead bird in his hand. He had his back toward her and was stooping over a fire. Slithering down over the short dry grass, she was upon him almost before she could stop.
“I’ve been lost all night and all yesterday,” she sobbed.
He snatched at the revolver lying beside him and whirled like a flash as if to meet an attack. The girl’s pumping heart seemed to stand still. The man snarling at her was the convict Struve.
Larry Neill to the Rescue
The snarl gave way slowly to a grim more malign than his open hostility.
“So you’ve been lost! And now you’re found— come safe back to your loving brother. Ain’t that luck for you? Hunted all over Texas till you found him, eh? And it’s a powerful big State, too.”
She caught sight of something that made her forget all else.
“Have you got water in that canteen?” she asked, her parched eyes staring at it.
“Give it me.”
He squatted tailor-fashion on the ground, put the canteen between his knees, and shoved his teeth in a crooked grin.
“I’m dying for a drink”
“You look like a right lively corpse.”
“Give it to me.”
“Will you take it now or wait till you get it?”
“My throat’s baked. I want water,” she said hoarsely.
“Most folks want a lot they never get.”
She walked toward him with her hand outstretched.
“I tell you I’ve got to have it.”
He laughed evilly. “Water’s at a premium right now. Likely there ain’t enough here to get us both out of this infernal hole alive. Yes, it’s sure at a premium.”
He let his eye drift insolently over her and take stock of his prey, in the same feline way of a cat with a mouse, gloating over her distress and the details of her young good looks. His tainted gaze got the faint pure touch of color in her face, the reddish tinge of her wavy brown hair, the desirable sweetness of her rounded maidenhood. If her step dragged, if dusky hollows shadowed her lids, if the native courage had been washed from the hopeless eyes, there was no spring of manliness hid deep within him that rose to refresh her exhaustion. No pity or compunction stirred at her sweet helplessness.