The Girl from Montana (Chapter 9, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 9

Elizabeth rode straight out to the east, crossing the town as rapidly as
possible, going full gallop where the streets were empty. On the edge of
the town she crossed another trail running back the way that they had
come; but without swerving she turned out toward the world, and soon
passed into a thick growth of trees, around a hill.

Not three minutes elapsed after she had passed the crossing of the trails
before the four men rode across from the other direction, and, pausing,
called to one another, looking this way and that: "What d'ye think, Bill? Shall we risk the right hand 'r the left?"

"Take the left hand fer luck," answered Bill. "Let's go over to the ranch
and ask. Ef she's been hereabouts, she's likely there. The old woman'll
know. Come on, boys!"

And who shall say that the angel of the Lord did not stand within the
crossing of the ways and turn aside the evil men?

Elizabeth did not stop her fierce ride until about noon. The frenzy of her
fear of pursuit had come upon her with renewed force. Now that she was
alone and desolate she dared not look behind her. She had been strong
enough as she smiled her farewell; but, when the train had dwindled into a
mere speck in the distance, her eyes were dropping tears thick and fast
upon the horse's mane. So in the first heaviness of her loneliness she
rode as if pursued by enemies close at hand.

But the horse must rest if she did not, for he was her only dependence
now. So she sat her down in the shade of a tree, and tried to eat some
dinner. The tears came again as she opened the pack which the man's strong
hands had bound together for her. How little she had thought at
breakfast-time that she would eat the next meal alone!

It was all well enough to tell him he must go, and say she was nothing to
him; but it was different now to face the world without a single friend
when one had learned to know how good a friend could be. Almost it would
have been better if he had never found her, never saved her from the
serpent, never ridden beside her and talked of wonderful new things to
her; for now that he was gone the emptiness and loneliness were so much
harder to bear; and now she was filled with a longing for things that
could not be hers.

It was well he had gone so soon, well she had no longer to grow into the
charm of his society; for he belonged to the lady, and was not hers. Thus
she ate her dinner with the indifference of sorrow.

Then she took out the envelope, and counted over the money. Forty dollars
he had given her. She knew he had kept but five for himself. How wonderful
that he should have done all that for her! It seemed a very great wealth
in her possession. Well, she would use it as sparingly as possible, and
thus be able the sooner to return it all to him. Some she must use, she
supposed, to buy food; but she would do with as little as she could. She
might sometimes shoot a bird, or catch a fish; or there might be berries
fit for food by the way. Nights she must stop by the way at a respectable
house. That she had promised. He had told her of awful things that might
happen to her if she lay down in the wilderness alone. Her lodging would
sometimes cost her something. Yet often they would take her in for
nothing. She would be careful of the money.

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