“My gracious!” her lover repeated with indulgent irony. “I must be mighty careful of my eyes when you’re lookin’ at ’em.”

“I believe he did that murder,” said the girl.

“Whose mind are yu’ readin’ now?” he drawled affectionately.

But he could not joke her off the subject. She look his strong hand in hers, tremulously, so much of it as her little hand could hold. “I know something about that--that--last autumn,” she said, shrinking from words more definite. “And I know that you only did--”

“What I had to,” he finished, very sadly, but sternly, too.

“Yes,” she asserted, keeping hold of his hand. “I suppose that--lynching--” (she almost whispered the word) “is the only way. But when they had to die just for stealing horses, it seems so wicked that this murderer--”

“Who can prove it?” asked the Virginian.

“But don’t you know it?”

“I know a heap o’ things inside my heart. But that’s not proving. There was only the body, and the hoofprints-- and what folks guessed.”

“He was never even arrested!” the girl said.

“No. He helped elect the sheriff in that county.”

Then Molly ventured a step inside the border of her lover’s reticence. “I saw--” she hesitated, “just now, I saw what you did.”

He returned to his caressing irony. “You’ll have me plumb scared if you keep on seein’ things.”

“You had your pistol ready for him.”

“Why, I believe I did. It was mighty unnecessary.” And the Virginian took out the pistol again, and shook his head over it, like one who has been caught in a blunder.

She looked at him, and knew that she must step outside his reticence again. By love and her surrender to him their positions had been exchanged.

He was not now, as through his long courting he had been, her half-obeying, half-refractory worshipper. She was no longer his half-indulgent, half-scornful superior. Her better birth and schooling that had once been weapons to keep him at his distance, or bring her off victorious in their encounters, had given way before the onset of the natural man himself. She knew her cow-boy lover, with all that he lacked, to be more than ever she could be, with all that she had. He was her worshipper still, but her master, too. Therefore now, against the baffling smile he gave her, she felt powerless. And once again a pang of yearning for her mother to be near her to-day shot through the girl. She looked from her untamed man to the untamed desert of Wyoming, and the town where she was to take him as her wedded husband. But for his sake she would not let him guess her loneliness.

He sat on his horse Monte, considering the pistol. Then he showed her a rattlesnake coiled by the roots of some sage-brush. “Can I hit it?” he inquired.

“You don’t often miss them,” said she, striving to be cheerful.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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