Then he flung up his head, with its shock of heavy hair, in a start of surprise, and his florid face lost its lazy indolence to become wreathed in a huge smile.
“Haven’t seen a white person in six months!” was his extraordinary greeting.
An hour later Shefford, clean-shaven, comfortably clothed once more, found himself a different man; and when he saw Fay in white again, with a new and indefinable light shining through that old, haunting shadow in her eyes, then the world changed and he embraced perfect happiness.
There was a dinner such as Shefford had not seen for many a day, and such as Fay had never seen, and that brought to Jane Withersteen’s eyes the dreamy memory of the bountiful feasts which, long years ago, had been her pride. And there was a story told to the curious trader and his kind wife—a story with its beginning back in those past years, of riders of the purple sage, of Fay Larkin as a child and then as a wild girl in Surprise Valley, of the flight down Nonnezoshe Boco an the canyon, of a great Mormon and a noble Indian.
Presbrey stared with his deep-set eyes and wagged his tousled head and stared again; then with the quick perception of the practical desert man he said:
“I’m sending teamsters in to Flagstaff to-morrow. Wife and I will go along with you. We’ve light wagons. Three days, maybe—or four—and we’ll be there. . . . Shefford, I’m going to see you marry Fay Larkin!”
Fay and Jane and Lassiter showed strangely against this background of approaching civilization. And Shefford realized more than ever the loneliness and isolation and wildness of so many years for them.
When the women had retired Shefford and the men talked a while. Then Joe Lake rose to stretch his big frame.
“Friends, reckon I’m all in,” he said. “Good night.” In passing he laid a heavy hand on Shefford’s shoulder. “Well, you got out. I’ve only a queer notion how. But some one besides an Indian and a Mormon guided you out!. . . Be good to the girl. . . . Good-by, pard!”
Shefford grasped the big hand and in the emotion of the moment did not catch the significance of Joe’s last words.
Later Shefford stepped outside into the starlight for a few moments’ quiet walk and thought before he went to bed. It was a white night. The coyotes were yelping. The stars shone steadfast, bright, cold. Nas Ta Bega stalked out of the shadow of the house and joined Shefford. They walked in silence. Shefford’s heart was too full for utterance and the Indian seldom spoke at any time. When Shefford was ready to go in Nas Ta Bega extended his hand.
“Good-by—Bi Nai!” he said, strangely, using English and Navajo in what Shefford supposed to be merely good night. The starlight shone full upon the dark, inscrutable face of the Indian. Shefford bade him good night and then watched him stride away in the silver gloom.