As he lay staring up through the thorny mesquite branches that roofed him inadequately from the dew he marveled mightily. A bright, steady-burning star peeped through the leaves at him, and as he watched it he remembered that this red-haired woman with the still, white face was known far and wide through the lower valley as “The Lone Star.” Well, he mused, the name fitted her; she was, if reports were true, quite as mysterious, quite as cold and fixed and unapproachable, as the title implied. Knowledge of her identity had come as a shock, for Law knew something of her history, and to find her suing for his protection was quite thrilling. Tales of her pale beauty were common and not tame, but she was all and more than she had been described. And yet why had no one told him she was so young? This woman’s youth and attractiveness amazed him; he felt that he had made a startling discovery. Was she so cold, after all, or was she merely reserved? Red hair above a pure white face; a woman’s form wrapped in his blanket; ripe red lips caressing the rim of his mean drinking-cup! Those were things to think about. Those were pictures for a lonely man.
She had not been too proud and cold to let him help her. In her fatigue she had allowed him to lift her and to make her more comfortable. Hot against his palms—palms unaccustomed to the touch of woman’s flesh—he felt the contact of her naked feet, as at the moment when he had placed them in the cooling water. Her feeble resistance had only called attention to her sex—to the slim whiteness of her ankles beneath her short riding-skirt.
Following his first amazement at beholding her had come a fantastic explanation of her presence—for a moment or two it had seemed as if the fates had taken heed of his yearnings and had sent her to him out of the dusk—wild fancies, like these, bother men who are much alone. Of course he had not dreamed that she was the mistress of Las Palmas. That altered matters, and yet—they were to spend a long idle day together. If the Mexican did not come, another night like this would follow, and she was virtually his prisoner. Perhaps, after all—
Dave Law stirred nervously and sighed.
“Don’t this beat hell?” he murmured.
Alaire Austin slept badly. The day’s hardships had left their traces. The toxins of fatigue not only poisoned her muscles with aches and pains, but drugged her brain and rendered the night a long succession of tortures during which she experienced for a second time the agonies of thirst and fatigue and despair. Extreme physical ordeals, like profound emotional upheavals, leave imprints upon the brain, and while the body may recover quickly, it often requires considerable time to rest exhausted nerves. The finer the nervous organism, the slower is the process of recuperation. Like most normal women, Alaire