Shefford loved her then. Realizing it, he thought he might have loved her before, but that did not matter when he was certain of it now. He trembled a little, fearfully, though without regret. Everything pertaining to his desert experience had been strange— this the strangest of all.
The sun sank swiftly, and instantly there was a change in the golden light. Quickly it died out. The girl changed as swiftly. She seemed to remember herself, and sat down as if suddenly weary. Shefford went closer and seated himself beside her.
“The sun has set. We must go,” she said. But she made no movement.
“Whenever you are ready,” replied he.
Just as the blaze had died out of her eyes, so the flush faded out of her face. The whiteness stole back, and with it the sadness. He had to bite his tongue to keep from telling her what he felt, to keep from pouring out a thousand questions. But the privilege of having seen her, of having been with her when she had forgotten herself—that he believed was enough. It had been wonderful; it had made him love her But it need not add to the tragedy of her life, whatever that was. He tried to eliminate himself. And he watched her.
Her eyes were fixed upon the gold-rimmed ramparts of the distant wall in the west. Plain it was how she loved that wild upland. And there seemed to be some haunting memory of the past in her gaze—some happy part of life, agonizing to think of now.
“We must go,” she said, and rose.
Shefford rose to accompany her. She looked at him, and her haunting eyes seemed to want him to know that he had helped her to forget the present, to remember girlhood, and that somehow she would always associate a wonderful happy afternoon with him. He divined that her silence then was a Mormon seal on lips.
“Mary, this has been the happiest, the best, the most revealing day of my life,” he said, simply.
Swiftly, as if startled, she turned and faced down the slope. At the top of the wall above the village she put on the dark hood, and with it that somber something which was Mormon.
Twilight had descended into the valley, and shadows were so thick Shefford had difficulty in finding Mary’s bucket. He filled it at the spring, and made offer to carry it home for her, which she declined.
“You’ll come to-night—later?” she asked.
“Yes,” he replied, hurriedly promising. Then he watched her white form slowly glide down the path to disappear in the shadows.
Nas Ta Bega and Joe were busy at the camp-fire. Shefford joined them. This night he was uncommunicative. Joe peered curiously at him in the flare of the blaze. Later, after the meal, when Shefford appeared restless and strode to and fro, Joe spoke up gruffly:
“Better hang round camp to-night.”
Shefford heard, but did not heed. Nevertheless, the purport of the remark, which was either jealousy or admonition, haunted him with the possibility of its meaning.