The Girl from Montana (Chapter 3, page 1 of 9)


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Chapter 3

Straight across the prairie she galloped, not daring to stop for an
instant, with the voice pursuing her. For hours it seemed to ring in her
ears, and even after she was far beyond any possibility of hearing it she
could not be sure but there was now and then a faint echo of it ringing
yet, "Hello!"--ringing like some strange bird amid the silence of the
world.

There were cattle and sheep grazing on the bench, and the horse would fain
have stopped to dine with them; but the girl urged him on, seeming to make
him understand the danger that might be pursuing them.

It was hours before she dared stop for the much-needed rest. Her brain had
grown confused with the fright and weariness. She felt that she could not
much longer stay in the saddle. She might fall asleep. The afternoon sun
would soon be slipping down behind the mountains. When and where dared she
rest? Not in the night, for that would be almost certain death, with wild
beasts about.

A little group of greasewood offered a scanty shelter. As if the beast
understood her thoughts he stopped with a neigh, and looked around at her.
She scanned the surroundings. There were cattle all about. They had looked
up curiously from their grazing as the horse flew by, but were now going
quietly on about their business. They would serve as a screen if any
should be still pursuing her. One horse among the other animals in a
landscape would not be so noticeable as one alone against the sky. The
greasewood was not far from sloping ground where she might easily flee for
hiding if danger approached.

The horse had already begun to crop the tender grass at his feet as if his
life depended upon a good meal. The girl took some more beans from the
pack she carried, and mechanically ate them, though she felt no appetite,
and her dry throat almost refused to swallow. She found her eyes shutting
even against her will; and in desperation she folded the old coat into a
pillow, and with the horse's bridle fastened in her belt she lay down.

The sun went away; the horse ate his supper; and the girl slept. By and by
the horse drowsed off too, and the bleating sheep in the distance, the
lowing of the cattle, the sound of night-birds, came now and again from
the distance; but still the girl slept on. The moon rose full and round,
shining with flickering light through the cottonwoods; and the girl
stirred in a dream and thought some one was pursuing her, but slept on
again. Then out through the night rang a vivid human voice, "Hello!
Hello!" The horse roused from his sleep, and stamped his feet nervously,
twitching at his bridle; but the relaxed hand that lay across the leather
strap did not quicken, and the girl slept on. The horse listened, and
thought he heard a sound good to his ear. He neighed, and neighed again;
but the girl slept on.

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