The Girl from Montana (Chapter 5, page 1 of 6)

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Chapter 5

It was a wonderful night that the two spent wading the sea of moonlight
together on the plain. The almost unearthly beauty of the scene grew upon
them. They had none of the loneliness that had possessed each the night
before, and might now discover all the wonders of the way.

Early in the way they came upon a prairie-dogs' village, and the man would
have lingered watching with curiosity, had not the girl urged him on. It
was the time of night when she had started to run away, and the same
apprehension that filled her then came upon her with the evening. She
longed to be out of the land which held the man she feared. She would
rather bury herself in the earth and smother to death than be caught by
him. But, as they rode on, she told her companion much of the habits of
the curious little creatures they had seen; and then, as the night settled
down upon them, she pointed out the dark, stealing creatures that slipped
from their way now and then, or gleamed with a fearsome green eye from
some temporary refuge.

At first the cold shivers kept running up and down the young man as he
realized that here before him in the sage-brush was a real live animal
about which he had read so much, and which he had come out bravely to
hunt. He kept his hand upon his revolver, and was constantly on the alert,
nervously looking behind lest a troop of coyotes or wolves should be
quietly stealing upon him. But, as the girl talked fearlessly of them in
much the same way as we talk of a neighbor's fierce dog, he grew gradually
calmer, and was able to watch a dark, velvet-footed moving object ahead
without starting.

By and by he pointed to the heavens, and talked of the stars. Did she know
that constellation? No? Then he explained. Such and such stars were so
many miles from the earth. He told their names, and a bit of mythology
connected with the name, and then went on to speak of the moon, and the
possibility of its once having been inhabited.

The girl listened amazed. She knew certain stars as landmarks, telling
east from west and north from south; and she had often watched them one by
one coming out, and counted them her friends; but that they were worlds,
and that the inhabitants of this earth knew anything whatever about the
heavenly bodies, she had never heard. Question after question she plied
him with, some of them showing extraordinary intelligence and thought, and
others showing deeper ignorance than a little child in our kindergartens
would show.

He wondered more and more as their talk went on. He grew deeply interested
in unfolding the wonders of the heavens to her; and, as he studied her
pure profile in the moonlight with eager, searching, wistful gaze, her
beauty impressed him more and more. In the East the man had a friend, an
artist. He thought how wonderful a theme for a painting this scene would
make. The girl in picturesque hat of soft felt, riding with careless ease
and grace; horse, maiden, plain, bathed in a sea of silver.

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