And so July third was to be engraved inside the wedding ring. Upon the other ring the Virginian had spent much delicious meditation, all in his secret mind. He had even got the right measure of her finger without her suspecting the reason. But this step was the final one in his plan.

During the time that his thoughts had begun to be busy over the other ring, by a chance he had learned from Mrs. Henry a number of old fancies regarding precious stones. Mrs. Henry often accompanied the Judge in venturesome mountain climbs, and sometimes the steepness of the rocks required her to use her hands for safety. One day when the Virginian went with them to help mark out certain boundary corners, she removed her rings lest they should get scratched; and he, being just behind her, took them during the climb.

“I see you’re looking at my topaz,” she had said, as he returned them. “If I could have chosen, it would have been a ruby. But I was born in November.”

He did not understand her in the least, but her words awakened exceeding interest in him; and they had descended some five miles of mountain before he spoke again. Then he became ingenious, for he had half worked out what Mrs. Henry’s meaning must be; but he must make quite sure. Therefore, according to his wild, shy nature, he became ingenious.

“Men wear rings,” he began. “Some of the men on the ranch do. I don’t see any harm in a man’s wearin’ a ring. But I never have.”

“Well,” said the lady, not yet suspecting that he was undertaking to circumvent her, “probably those men have sweethearts.”

“No, ma’am. Not sweethearts worth wearin’ rings for--in two cases, anyway. They won ’em at cyards. And they like to see ’em shine. I never saw a man wear a topaz.”

Mrs. Henry did not have any further remark to make.

“I was born in January myself,” pursued the Virginian, very thoughtfully.

Then the lady gave him one look, and without further process of mind perceived exactly what he was driving at.

“That’s very extravagant for rings,” said she. “January is diamonds.”

“Diamonds,” murmured the Virginian, more and more thoughtfully. “Well, it don’t matter, for I’d not wear a ring. And November is--what did yu’ say, ma’am?”


“Yes. Well, jewels are cert’nly pretty things. In the Spanish Missions yu’ll see large ones now and again. And they’re not glass, I think. And so they have got some jewel that kind of belongs to each month right around the twelve?”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Henry, smiling. “One for each month. But the opal is what you want.”

He looked at her, and began to blush.

“October is the opal,” she added, and she laughed outright, for Miss Wood’s birthday was on the fifteenth of that month.

The Virginian smiled guiltily at her through his crimson.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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