Shefford and Fay were walking in the aisles of moonlight and the patches of shade, and Nas Ta Bega, more than ever a shadow of his white brother, followed them silently.
“Fay, it’s growing late. Feel the dew?” said Shefford. “Come, I must take you back.”
“But the time’s so short. I have said nothing that I wanted to say,” she replied.
“Say it quickly, then, as we go.”
“After all, it’s only—will you take me away soon?”
“Yes, very soon. The Indian and I have talked. But we’ve made no plan yet. There are only three ways to get out of this country. By Stonebridge, by Kayenta and Durango, and by Red Lake. We must choose one. All are dangerous. We must lose time finding Surprise Valley. I hoped the Indian could find it. Then we’d bring Lassiter and Jane here and hide them near till dark, then take you and go. That would give us a night’s start. But you must help us to Surprise Valley.”
“I can go right to it, blindfolded, or in the dark. . . . Oh, John, hurry! I dread the wait. He might come again.”
“Joe says—they won’t come very soon.”
“Is it far—where we’re going—out of the country?”
“Ten days’ hard riding.”
“Oh! That night ride to and from Stonebridge nearly killed me. But I could walk very far, and climb for ever.”
“Fay, we’ll get out of the country if I have to carry you.”
When they arrived at the cabin Fay turned on the porch step and, with her face nearer a level with his, white and sweet in the moonlight, with her eyes shining and unfathomable, she was more than beautiful.
“You’ve never been inside my house,” she said. “Come in. I’ve something for you.”
“But it’s late,” he remonstrated. “I suppose you’ve got me a cake or pie—something to eat. You women all think Joe and I have to be fed.”
“No. You’d never guess. Come in,” she said, and the rare smile on her face was something Shefford would have gone far to see.
“Well, then, for a minute.”
He crossed the porch, the threshold, and entered her home. Her dim, white shape moved in the darkness. And he followed into a room where the moon shone through the open window, giving soft, mellow, shadowy light. He discerned objects, but not clearly, for his senses seemed absorbed in the strange warmth and intimacy of being for the first time with her in her home.
“No, it’s not good to eat,” she said, and her laugh was happy. “Here—”
Suddenly she abruptly ceased speaking. Shefford saw her plainly, and the slender form had stiffened, alert and strained. She was listening.
“What was that?” she whispered.
“I didn’t hear anything,” he whispered back.
He stepped softly nearer the open window and listened.
Clip-clop! clip-clop! clip-clop! Hard hoofs on the hard path outside!