As he spoke the west wind softly blew in his face. It seemed to soothe his passion. That west wind was fresh, cool, fragrant, and it carried a sweet, strange burden of far-off things--tidings of life in other climes, of sunshine asleep on other walls--of other places where reigned peace. It carried, too, sad truth of human hearts and mystery--of promise and hope unquenchable. Surprise Valley was only a little niche in the wide world whence blew that burdened wind. Bess was only one of millions at the mercy of unknown motive in nature and life. Content had come to Venters in the valley; happiness had breathed in the slow, warm air; love as bright as light had hovered over the walls and descended to him; and now on the west wind came a whisper of the eternal triumph of faith over doubt.

"How much better I am for what has come to me!" he exclaimed.

"I'll let the future take care of itself. Whatever falls, I'll be ready."

Venters retraced his steps along the terrace back to camp, and found Bess in the old familiar seat, waiting and watching for his return.

"I went off by myself to think a little," he explained.

"You never looked that way before. What--what is it? Won't you tell me?"

"Well, Bess, the fact is I've been dreaming a lot. This valley makes a fellow dream. So I forced myself to think. We can't live this way much longer. Soon I'll simply have to go to Cottonwoods.

We need a whole pack train of supplies. I can get--"

"Can you go safely?" she interrupted.

"Why, I'm sure of it. I'll ride through the Pass at night. I haven't any fear that Wrangle isn't where I left him. And once on him--Bess, just wait till you see that horse!"


"Oh, I want to see him--to ride him. But--but, Bern, this is what troubles me," she said. "Will--will you come back?"

"Give me four days. If I'm not back in four days you'll know I'm dead. For that only shall keep me."


"Bess, I'll come back. There's danger--I wouldn't lie to you--but I can take care of myself."

"Bern, I'm sure--oh, I'm sure of it! All my life I've watched hunted men. I can tell what's in them. And I believe you can ride and shoot and see with any rider of the sage. It's not--not that I--fear."

"Well, what is it, then?"

"Why--why--why should you come back at all?"

"I couldn't leave you here alone."

"You might change your mind when you get to the village--among old friends--"

"I won't change my mind. As for old friends--" He uttered a short, expressive laugh.