“I heard her cry out,” replied the Indian, in his slow English. “I waited. When he came I killed him.”
A poignant why was wrenched from Shefford. Nas Ta Bega stood silent.
“Bi Nai!” And when that sonorous Indian name rolled in dignity from his lips he silently stalked away into the gloom. That was his answer to the white man.
Shefford bent over Fay, and as the strain on him broke he held her closer and closer and his tears streamed down and his voice broke in exclamations of tenderness and thanksgiving. It did not matter what she had thought, but she must never know what he had thought. He clasped her as something precious he had lost and regained. He was shaken with a passion of remorse. How could he have believed Fay Larkin guilty of murder? Women less wild and less justified than she had been driven to such a deed, yet how could he have believed it of her, when for two days he had been with her, had seen her face, and deep into her eyes? There was mystery in his very blindness. He cast the whole thought from him for ever. There was no shadow between Fay and him. He had found her. He had saved her. She was free. She was innocent. And suddenly, as he seemed delivered from contending tumults within, he became aware that it was no unresponsive creature he had folded to his breast.
He became suddenly alive to the warm, throbbing contact of her bosom, to her strong arms clinging round his neck, to her closed eyes, to the rapt whiteness of her face. And he bent to cold lips that seemed to receive his first kisses as new and strange; but tremulously changed, at last to meet his own, and then to burn with sweet and thrilling fire.
“My darling, my dream’s come true,” he said. “You are my treasure. I found you here at the foot of the rainbow! . . . What if it is a stone rainbow—if all is not as I had dreamed? I followed a gleam. And it’s led me to love and faith!”
. . . . . . . . . . .
Hours afterward Shefford walked alone to and fro under the bridge. His trouble had given place to serenity. But this night of nights he must live out wide-eyed to its end.
The moon had long since crossed the streak of star-fired blue above and the canyon was black in shadow. At times a current of wind, with all the strangeness of that strange country in its hollow moan, rushed through the great stone arch. At other times there was silence such as Shefford imagined dwelt deep under this rocky world. At still other times an owl hooted, and the sound was nameless. But it had a mocking echo that never ended. An echo of night, silence, gloom, melancholy death, age, eternity!
The Indian lay asleep with his dark face upturned, and the other sleepers lay calm and white in the starlight.
Shefford saw in them the meaning of life and the past—the illimitable train of faces that had shone the stars. There was a spirit in the canyon, and whether or not it was what the Navajo embodied in the great Nonnezoshe, or the life of this present, or the death of the ages, or the nature so magnificently manifested in those silent, dreaming waiting walls—the truth for Shefford was that this spirit was God.