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Under the Tonto Rim

Country of origin: USA USA
Available texts by the same author here Dokument

Chapter 6

   At the corral gate Edd Denmeade swung his long length off his horse and held the gate open for Lucy to ride through.
   "Wal, want to go fast or slow?" he asked as he mounted again.
   "Prisoners have no choice," retorted Lucy.
   Evidently that remark effectually nipped in the bud any further desire for conversation. His grey eyes seemed to be piercing her, untroubled yet questioning. He put his horse to a trot. Lucy's mount, without urging, fell in behind. His easy gait proved to be most agreeable to her. He was a pacer, and Lucy recognised at once that he was the kind of a horse it was a great pleasure to ride. He appeared to be eager, spirited, yet required no constant watching and holding.
   The trail led into the forest, a wide, dusty, winding path full of all kinds of tracks, one of which Lucy thought she recognised as Dick's. She had noticed his enormous feet. Patches of manzanita, clamps of live oak, thickets of pine, bordered the trail. Above these towered the stately rugged-barked monarchs of the forest. The last of the afterglow of sunset flowed rosily on the clouds; through the green lace-work of trees gleamed the gold of the wandering wall above her. Shadows were lying low in the ravines headed away from the trail. Presently this level of woodland ended and there was a sharp descent, down which the trail zigzagged by easy stages. Then again the forest appeared level. Lucy heard the dreamy hum of a waterfall. Here Edd took to a swinging lope, and Lucy's horse, as before, fell into the faster stride.
   The forest grew darker and cooler. The trail wound in and out, always hiding what was beyond. Sometimes Edd's horse was out of sight. Lucy found herself in a strange contention of mind. Despite her anger and the absurdity of her being dragged virtually a prisoner to this dance, the novelty of the situation and the growing sensations of the ride seemed to be combining to make her enjoy them, whether she wanted to or not. That would be a humiliation she must not suffer. Yet no doubt the horse Baldy was the finest she had ever ridden. She had to fight herself to keep from loving him. Nor could she help but revel in this lonely, fragrant trail through the wild dales and glades. They rode out of levels and down steps, and crossed rushing brooks; and it appeared that Edd kept going a little faster all the time. Yet he never looked back to see how she fared. No doubt he heard her horse.
   Twilight turned the greens and browns to grey. In the denser parts of the forest Lucy could scarcely see the dim pale trail ahead. Suddenly she caught a glimpse of a fire. It disappeared as she loped along, and then reappeared. Then, all too soon, she thought, they rode into a clearing dominated by a large low building, half logs and half rough boards. A fire burned brightly under a huge pine near the edge of the clearing, and it was surrounded by noisy boys and girls. Horses were haltered to saplings all around. Wagons and queer-looking vehicles attested to the fact that a road led to this forest school-house.
   Edd halted at the rear of the building, and, dismounting, he set Lucy's grip on the ground and turned to help her off. But Lucy ignored him and slipped quickly down. She was warm, throbbing from the brisk exertion of riding, and in spite of herself not wholly unresponsive to the adventure.
   "Wal, we're shore here," drawled Edd happily, no doubt keenly alive to the shouts of the young people round the fire. "You can dress in there."
   He led her to a door at the back of the school-house. Lucy mounted the high log steps to enter. The room was bare, a small addition built against the building. There was no one in it, a fact that relieved Lucy. A lighted lamp stood on a table. On one side was a built-in couch covered with dried pine boughs. Besides these articles of furniture there wag a box to serve as a chair.
   Lucy closed the door and hurriedly set about the business of dressing. She was not in any hurry to go out to meet Edd and the people at this dance; but she found it expedient to do so, owing to the cold. The bare room was like a barn. Once dressed, Lucy rather regretted bringing her best and most attractive gown. She had selected it hastily and in a moment of stress. Excitement and exertion had left her pale, with eyes darker than usual. She could not spare time on her hair, but it looked the better for that.
   "If this mirror doesn't lie I never looked half so well," she murmured. "Now, Mr. Edd Denmeade, wild-bee hunter and wild kidnapper, we'll see!"
   Lucy's mood did not tolerate the maxims and restraints she had set for herself. On the moment she was ready to abandon her cherished ambition to succeed in welfare work. Gorillas and outlaws and bee hunters were a little beyond her ken. Edd Denmeade had laid hold of her in a savage manner, to which the dark-blue marks on her white arms could attest. Lucy did not stop to analyse her anger and the limits to which it might drive her. One thing at least was clear to her, and it was that she would use all a woman's guile and charm to make Edd Denmeade rue this night. At first she had intended to go straight to his father and mother and tell of the indignity that had been done her. But she had changed her mind during the ride, and now that she was dressed in her best her mood underwent further change. She had brought a light-blue silk scarf to go with her white gown, and throwing this round her bare shoulders she sallied forth. As she stepped down to the ground the bright blaze from the fire blinded her, yet she saw a tall dark form detach itself from the circle there and approach her.
   "You shore dressed pronto," drawled Edd.
   Lucy put her hand on his arm and walked beside him, perfectly aware of his long stare. He led her round the school-house to a front entrance, where another crowd of boys and girls whispered and gaped.
   "Our old fiddler's late," said her escort, "an' I reckon the gang is rarin' to dance."
   Edd had to push himself through a crowd just inside the door, and he did it in a rather imperative way. Once through this line, Lucy saw a large bare board floor, then a large room lighted by many lamps, and many people sitting and standing around the walls. Edd was leading her across the room toward a corner where there were a stove and a table. Here was congregated another group, including women and children. Mrs. Denmeade and Allie came to meet them; and if Lucy had wanted any evidence of creating a sensation, she had it now.
   "Wal, ma, here we are," drawled Edd as coolly as if there were no strained situation. Perhaps for him there was none.
   "For goodness' sake!" exclaimed his mother, in delight. "Lucy, I'm shore awful glad to see you here. You fooled us bad. That boy of mine is a fox."
   Lucy's murmured reply did not include any of the epithets she might have laid upon Edd Denmeade. Allie appeared even more delighted to see her.
   "Oh, it was good of you to come!" she whispered, taking Lucy's arm and squeezing it. "You look perfectly lovely. An' all the boys will die."
   "I hope it'll not be so bad as that," laughed Lucy, softening unexpectedly. The warmth of her welcome and the extravagant praise of her appearance were too much for her. Whatever she felt toward Edd Denmeade, she could not extend to these simple, impulsive people. This was their social life, the one place they gathered to have pleasure, and here they seemed very different. Lucy was at once the cynosure of all eyes, and was surrounded by old and young alike. The twins, Liz and Lize, after their first blank bewilderment as at an apparition in white, clung to her with the might of conscious pride of possession. Denmeade and Uncle Bill greeted her with wrinkled faces wreathed in smiles. Lucy met Claypools, Millers, Johnsons, and numberless others whose names she could not remember. Edd brought young men, all lean, rangy giants, whom she could not have distinguished one from another. It dawned on Lucy that he wanted most of the boys there to meet her and dance with her. Indeed, he showed no selfish interest. But Lucy did not really look at Edd until Mrs. Denmeade, during an opportune moment, whispered to her:
   "Lucy, I reckon Edd's the proudest boy in the whole world. Pa said the same. We never seen him this way before. He was never happy at our dances. But you've done him good by comin', an' I'm thankin' you."
   Whereupon Lucy forced herself to gaze upon the escort who had gone to such an extreme to bring her to this dance. And she was to discern that, whatever his misconduct toward her, he was now wearing his laurels with becoming modesty. For Lucy could not blind herself to the fact that she was the star attraction of this dance, and that Edd had brought his rivals to a state of envy. Both circumstances pleased her. Seldom had she ever been the belle of a dance. Every young man who met her begged the privilege of dancing with her. And as introductions were quick and many she could not remember names. How she enjoyed seeing Sam Johnson beg Edd for a dance with her! And Edd showed no rancour, no remembrance of insults, but with a courtesy that would not have ill become one in higher walks of life he gratified Sam. Lucy found the situation different from what she had anticipated. To revenge herself upon Edd Denmeade she had determined to be frigid to him and as sweet as she could make herself to every other boy there, particularly Sam Johnson. Not yet did she repudiate that unworthy resolve, though something was working on her--the warmth of her welcome--the pleasure she was giving--the honour she had unwittingly conferred upon this crude woodsman, the simplicity with which he took his triumph.
   It dawned upon Lucy that there was only one reason why she could not thoroughly enjoy this dance, and it was because of what she called the brutal circumstances of her coming. Why had she not been willing and glad to come? Too late! The indignity had been perpetrated and she could not forget it. Nevertheless, she felt stir in her something besides the desire to shine and attract for the sole purpose of making Edd Denmeade miserably jealous. It was an honest realisation that she could like these people and enjoy herself.
   Commotion and stamping of feet and merry voices rose from the front of the school-house. Lucy was informed that the music had arrived. She saw an old man proudly waving a violin and forging his way to the tiny platform. The children screeched and ran for him. Edd joined the group with whom Lucy was standing. Then a loud twang from the fiddler set everyone to expectancy. When he began to play the couples moved out upon the floor. Edd said no word, but he reached for Lucy.
   "Wait. Let me watch a moment," she said. "I want to see how you dance."
   "Wal, shore we're no great shucks at it, but we have fun."
   Soon the floor was half full of wheeling, gliding couples, with more falling in line every moment. Their dancing had only one feature in common with what she understood about dancing, and that was they caught the rhythm of the old fiddler's several chords.
   "Very well, Mr. Denmeade, I think I can catch the step," said Lucy.
   As he took hold of her it was not possible to keep from stiffening somewhat and to hold back. Still, she was to ascertain that Edd showed no thought of holding her closely. How serious he was about this dancing! He was surprisingly easy on his feet. At first Lucy could not fall in with his way of dancing; gradually, however, she caught it, and after several rounds of the room she was keeping time with him. It required a great deal of effort and concentration for Lucy to live up to her repute as a dancer. Manifestly Edd Denmeade did not talk while he danced. In fact, none of the dancers talked. They were deadly serious about it, and the expressions on different faces highly amused Lucy. She could not see that dancing held any sentimental opportunities for these young people. It seemed to Lucy a bobbing, gyrating performance, solemnly enjoyed by boy and girl in markedly loose contact. Really they danced wholly with their own intent and energy. Lucy found Edd's arm as rugged and unyielding as the branch of an oak. At last the dance ended, to Lucy's relief.
   "Shore you can dance!" exclaimed Edd heartily. "Like a feather! If you hadn't leaned on my arm I'd not have known you was there. New kind of dancin' for me!"
   Lucy did not deign to reply. He led her back to the corner, where he found her a seat beside his mother. "Shore I hope you dance them all down," he whispered. "Reckon I wouldn't be in Sam Johnson's boots for a lot."
   "What did he mean?" inquired Lucy of his mother, after he had left them.
   "Dancin' anyone down is to make him give up--tire him out," she replied. "An' that about Sam Johnson is funny. Sam is reckoned to be the best dancer in these parts. An' so is Sadie. Wal, as everybody seen right off, Sadie can't hold a candle to you. An' Sam is goin' to find it out."
   "Someone will surely dance me down," replied Lucy, with a laugh. "I am out of practice."
   It developed that the time between dances was long, and given over to much hilarity and promenading around. The children took advantage of this opportunity to romp over the floor. Lucy soon was surrounded again, so that she could not see very much of what was going on. Sam Johnson claimed her for the next dance. He struck Lucy as being something of a rural beau, quite taken with himself, and not above intimating that she would surely like dancing with him better than with a big-footed bee hunter.
   As a matter of fact, when the fiddler started up again Lucy found Sam's boast to be true. He was a surprisingly good dancer and she enjoyed dancing with him. But it was not this that prompted her to be prodigal of her smiles, and to approach audacity, if not actual flirtation, to captivate Sam. She did not stop to question her motive. He and his girl Sadie had been largely responsible for Edd Denmeade's affront to her. Yet Lucy did not dream that she was championing Edd. She had been deeply roused. The primitive instincts of these young people were calling to the unknown in her.
   Once in the whirling maze of flushed faces Lucy found herself looking right into Sadie Purdue's eyes. Lucy nodded smilingly. Her greeting was returned, but Sadie failed to hide her jealousy and resentment.
   When that dance ended Lucy was besieged by the young men, and gradually she gave herself up to the novelty of the occasion. Now and then she saw Edd dancing or attending someone, but he did not approach her. Mrs. Denmeade apparently took great pride in Lucy's popularity. The children gradually drooped and were put to sleep in the corner at the back of the stove. Lucy had to take a peep at them, some dozen or more of curly-headed little boys and girls, and several babies, all worn out with excitement and now fast asleep.
   Dance after dance followed, stealing the hours away. By midnight, when the intermission and supper were announced by Mr. Denmeade, it seemed to Lucy that she had allowed her impulsiveness and resentment to carry her away. Sam Johnson had more than lived up to the reputation Edd had given him. Only Lucy's tact saved him from utterly neglecting Sadie; and as it was he made a fool of himself. Mr. Jenks, the teacher, did not dance, and devoted himself to the older people. He had not found opportunity for more than a few words with Lucy, but several times she had caught him intently watching her, especially while she was with Sam. This, more than any other thing, made her reflect that perhaps she had already forgotten the ideal she had propounded to him. She suffered a moment of regret; then, when at the intermission Edd presented himself before her, cool and nonchalant, she could not help being rebellious.
   "Wal, reckon I'll have to lick somebody before this night's over," he drawled as he led her across the room.
   "Indeed! How interesting!" replied Lucy icily.
   "Shore will, unless somebody backs down on what he said...Ma wants you to set with her at supper. Teacher Jenks has somethin' to say to you. Shore tickles me...Why, Lucy Watson, you've made this night the wonderfulest of my life! I've had enough dancin' an' gettin' even an' crawlin' of these here corn-huskers to last for ever."
   Lucy was afraid that for her, too, something wonderful lurked under the commonplaces of this experience, but she could not confess that Edd Denmeade had created it. She felt how little she was to regret that he had surprised her by not living up to the status of boor and ruffian. Instead of this he had turned out to be something approaching a gentleman. He became an enigma to her. It must be that he had no conception of his rude seizure of her person, his utter disregard of her feelings. Yet here at the dance he had eliminated himself, content to see her whirled about by his cousins and friends, simply radiating with the pride of being her cavalier.
   "Reckon I'll help feed this outfit," he said, leaving her in a seat between his mother and Mr. Jenks.
   "Well, I'd hardly have known you," said the school teacher with a smile and cordial greeting.
   "Wal, I said the same," averred Mrs. Denmeade. "Shore she just looks lovely."
   Lucy had the grace to blush her pleasure. "I declare this night will ruin my promise as a welfare worker. Too many compliments!"
   "Not your promise, but your possibility," whispered Mr. Jenks significantly. "Young lady, I intend to talk to you like a Dutch uncle."
   "Indeed, I hope you do," replied Lucy soberly. "Then I'll have something to tell you."
   A corps of young men, among whom was Edd, passed round the room, distributing sandwiches and coffee, cake and ice cream. Soon the large hall-like place hummed with voices. Every seat along the walls was occupied. Around the entrance clustered a group of youths who had come without partners, and it was plain they felt their misfortune. Nevertheless, they had established some kind of rapport between themselves and other boys' partners. Lucy's keen susceptibilities grasped the fact that many of the girls welcomed this state of affairs.
   Presently Mr. Jenks found opportunity to say, "You have created a havoc, Miss Lucy."
   "Have I? Well, Mr. Jenks, I'm surely afraid that I wanted to," she confessed.
   "I am not joking," he continued more earnestly. "Indeed, I make all allowance for a girl's natural vanity and pleasure in being admired. You are 'shore good fer sore eyes,' as I heard one old codger say. You have stormed this schoolhouse crowd. If looks could kill, Sadie Purdue would have had you dead hours ago. They all say, 'Sam is gone!'...It would be funny--if it were anything else but up in this backwoods."
   "Oh, have I forgotten myself?" exclaimed Lucy aghast.
   "Pray don't misunderstand," said Mr. Jenks hastily. "I think you very modest and nice, considering the unusual situation. But you have forgotten your welfare work. Of course I don't see how you can avoid these dances. And that's the rub. Your popularity will make enemies among the girls and fights among the boys."
   In self-defence Lucy related briefly and vividly how Edd Denmeade had seized her and held her powerless, threatening to tie her, until in her shame and fear she had consented to come to the dance.
   "I'm not surprised," said Mr. Jenks gravely. "These fellows are built that way, and Edd is really what they call him, a wild-bee hunter. I believe that implies almost an Indian's relationship to the woods. But you must not mistake Edd and do him injustice. It never dawned on him that violence would be a profanation to a girl such as you...Could you honestly accuse him of the least boldness--you know what I mean?"
   "No, I'm bound to confess that he handled me as if I were a boy or an old sack," replied Lucy honestly.
   "Well, then, try to understand him. It will not be easy. He's a savage. But savages are closer to nature than other men, and somehow the better for it...What surprises me is that Edd has not made any fuss yet over Bud Sprall's attentions to you."
   "Bud Sprall!" exclaimed Lucy with a start of amaze. "Have I met him?"
   "Wal, I reckon," as Edd would say, rejoined the teacher, amused at Lucy's consternation. "You have danced twice with Bud, and showed that you liked it."
   "Oh, but I didn't know," wailed Lucy. "I didn't catch half the names...Show him to me."
   The school teacher managed presently, in an unobtrusive manner, to indicate which one of Lucy's partners had been the disreputable Bud Sprall.
   "That handsome young fellow!" she burst out incredulously.
   "Handsome, yes; Bud's good-looking enough and he can dance. But he is not just the fellow you can have dangling after you."
   "I took him for one of the relations. There're so many. And I didn't see anything wrong with him except, come to think of it, he might have been drinking a little. But he was not the only one upon whom I detected drink."
   "White mule! These boys will fetch a bottle to the dances. It's the one objectionable feature about their social family affairs. Naturally white mule kicks up fights."
   "Oh, how unfortunate! How thoughtless of me not to know what I was doing!" cried Lucy.
   "Don't be distressed," he returned kindly. "No harm yet. But I advise you to avoid Bud hereafter."
   "I'm sure I promised him another dance," said Lucy in perplexity.
   "Get out of it, then. And that's the worst of it. Bud will be sore and make trouble, unless you are very clever."
   "Oh dear! How can I get out of a dance I've promised?...And that Sam Johnson I was nice to him, deliberately. He's such a conceited fellow. I'm afraid I let him think he'd made a wonderful impression on me."
   "Miss Watson, I have an inspiration," rejoined Mr. Jenks animatedly. "Confide in Edd. Get him to help you out of your dilemma."
   "Edd! How could I? Impossible!" replied Lucy heatedly.
   "Of course that's for you to say. But if you don't, and cannot extricate yourself, I imagine you will only get in deeper."
   Lucy, seeing Mrs. Denmeade approaching with friends, was unable to continue discussing the situation with Mr. Jenks. The parents of the children present were eager to talk to Lucy, and they asked innumerable questions. Before she realised the fleeting by of the supper hour the fiddler started one of his several tunes, and there followed a rush of dancers to the floor.
   Edd did not exhibit any considerable alacrity in approaching her for this first number after the intermission.
   "Want to dance this with me?" he queried coolly.
   "Isn't it customary?" replied Lucy as she glanced over the dancers to select some she knew.
   "Shore. But if you don't want to dance with me I'd as lief not have you."
   "Oh, really!...Would you expect me to be dying to dance with you?" retorted Lucy with sarcasm.
   "Nope. I'm not thinkin' about myself. But you think I am. My folks all reckon you're havin' the wonderfulest time. Wal, I hope so, but I've a hunch you're not. For I've been watchin' you. I saw you with Mr. Jenks."
   "Really, it'd only be honest to confess that--that I'm enjoying myself--when I forget how I happened to come," said Lucy.
   "So I reckoned. An' you can have this dance with anyone you want."
   "But--you brought me here. Won't it look strange if you don't dance with me?" she queried with concern.
   "Wal, the strangest thing that ever happened in this school-house was for a Denmeade's girl to dance with a Sprall," he returned bitterly.
   "Oh! I am not your girl...And I had not the remotest idea I was dancing with Bud Sprall. I only just found out. Mr. Jenks told me."
   "Say, you didn't know it was Bud Sprall you danced with twice?" he demanded, with piercing eyes of doubt.
   "Absolutely no. I never caught his name," confessed Lucy.
   "Wal, I'll be dog-goned! I wish everybody knew that. Shore I can tell my folks," he said ponderingly.
   "Edd, I'm afraid I promised him another dance--after supper," went on Lucy nervously. She realised there was an undercurrent here, a force of antagonism quite beyond her. When his face turned white she was nearer the truth. Abruptly he wheeled to leave her, but Lucy was quick to catch his sleeve and draw him back. The dancers crowded them to the wall.
   "Do not leave me alone," she said swiftly. "Remember that I am a stranger here. You brought me against my will. I can hardly be blamed for dancing with Bud Sprall when I did not know who he was."
   "Reckon that's all right," he replied, gazing down on her. "But you was sweet on Bud, an' you've shore turned Sam Johnson's head."
   Lucy strove valiantly to keep her temper and find her wits. She began to have an inkling why Mr. Jenks was so concerned over her predicament.
   "Suppose I was? Didn't you deserve to be punished?" she queried.
   "Reckon I don't savvy you," he rejoined doubtfully. "Shore you strike me a little like Sadie Purdue."
   "We are all women. Nevertheless, I don't consider that a compliment. brought me here. I've made a mess of it. I was--well, never mind now. Only, it's your duty to help me not make, it worse."
   "Who's sayin' I wouldn't help you?" he queried.
   "You started to leave me."
   "Wal, you said you'd another dance with Bud."
   "But I didn't know who he was. Now I do know, I won't dance with him. I don't want to. I'm very sorry I blundered. But he seemed nice and--and---"
   "Bud has a way with girls," said Edd simply, "Shore he's slicker than Sam."
   "Will you take me home?" she asked urgently.
   "Shore. But I reckon that'd make worse talk. You'd better stay an' let me take care of you."
   "I--I'll do what you want me to," replied Lucy faintly.
   "Wal, dance this with me. Then I'll hang around an' keep an eye on you. Keep out of that ring-around dance where they change partners all the time. When Bud or Sam comes up, you give me a look, an' I'll be there pronto. Shore all your dances are mine, an' I don't have to give any more to Bud or Sam."
   "Thank you. I--I hope it turns out all right," replied Lucy.
   While she danced her mind was active. She regretted her rash determination to make this crude backwoods youth jealous. He had certainly disappointed her in that regard. After awakening to the situation, first through her conversation with Mr. Jenks and later with Edd, she realised she had jeopardised her welfare work. No matter what affront she had suffered; she should not have been so silly, so reckless, so undeserving of the trust placed in her. Yet what provocation! Her nerves tingled at the thought.
   When the dance ended Edd relinquished her to one of his cousins, and gradually Lucy lost her worry for the time being. The next dance was the ring-around, which Lucy refused to enter, remaining beside Mrs. Denmeade. Here she had opportunity to watch, and enjoyed it immensely. The dancing grew fast and furious. When the dancers formed in a ring and wheeled madly round the room, shrieking and laughing, they shook the school-house till it rattled.
   It developed that Edd Denmeade was more than a match for Bud Sprall when he presented himself for the dance Lucy had promised. But the interchange of cool speech struck Lucy keenly with its note of menace. Sprall's dark handsome face expressed a raw, sinister hate. Denmeade wore a laconic mask, transparent to any observer. The advantage was his. Finally Sprall turned to Lucy.
   "I ain't blamin' you, for I know you want to dance with me," he said. "Reckon I'll not forget. Good night."
   Sam Johnson was not so easy to dispose of. Manifestly he and Edd were friends, which fact made the clash devoid of rancour.
   "Wal, Sam, see here," drawled Edd finally. "You go an' fetch Sadie up. Reckon I'd like a dance with her. You've only had five dances with Miss Lucy. This here one will be six, if Sadie is willin' to trade off. So fetch her up."
   "Edd, I haven't got Sadie for this dance," fumed Sam. "Then you're out of luck. For I shore won't give up my partner."
   Sam tramped away in high dudgeon. Lucy danced once round the room with Edd, and then joined the group outside eating ice cream beside the fire. Dawn was grey in the east. How dark the forest and mournful the wind! Lucy edged nearer the fire. She had become conscious of extreme fatigue, and longed for this unforgettable night to end.
   Nevertheless, she danced until daylight. Her slippers were worn through. Her feet were dead. Never before in her life had Lucy expended such physical energy. She marvelled at those girls who were reluctant to let the old fiddler off.
   Lucy changed the white dress and slippers for her riding clothes. Though the morning was frosty, she did not feel the cold. How she could ever ride up to the Denmeade cabin she had no idea.
   "Better get me on your horse before I drop," she told Edd.
   He wanted her to remain there at the school-house with the children and girls, who were not to go home until evening. Mrs. Denmeade and Mrs. Claypool were getting breakfast for those who stayed. Lucy, refusing, was persuaded to drink a cup of coffee. Then Edd put her up on Baldy. All around the clearing boys and girls were mounting horses, and some of the older folk were driving off in wagons. Gay good-byes were exchanged. Lucy rode into the woods with the Denmeades.
   At first the saddle and motion seemed a relief after such incessant dancing. But Lucy soon discovered that her strength was almost spent. Only vaguely did she see the beauty of the forest in the clear, crisp, fragrant morning. She had no sense of the stirrups and she could not catch the swing of the horse. The Denmeades trotted and loped on the levels, and walked up the slopes. Lucy could not have endured any one kind of riding for very long. She barely managed to hang on until they reached home.
   The sun was rising in rosy splendour over the eastern wall. Wild turkeys were gobbling from the ridge behind the cabin. The hounds rang out a chorus of bays and barks in welcome.
   Lucy almost fell out of the saddle. Edd was there beside her, quick to lend a hand.
   "Wal, I reckon it was a night for both of us," he said. "But shore I don't want another like it, unless what I pretended was really true."
   Murmuring something in reply, Lucy limped to her room, and barring the door she struggled to remove her boots. They might as well have been full of thorns, considering the pangs they gave her.
   "Oh--oh--what a--terrible night!" she gasped, falling on the bed, fully dressed. "Yet--I know I wouldn't have missed it--for worlds...Oh, I'm dead! I'll never wake up!"

Chapter 7 >