Riders of the Purple Sage
When the storm abated Venters sought his own cave, and late in the night, as his
blood cooled and the stir and throb and thrill subsided, he fell asleep.
With the breaking of dawn his eyes unclosed. The valley lay drenched and
bathed, a burnished oval of glittering green. The rain-washed walls glistened in
the morning light. Waterfalls of many forms poured over the rims. One, a broad,
lacy sheet, thin as smoke, slid over the western notch and struck a ledge in its
downward fall, to bound into broader leap, to burst far below into white and gold
and rosy mist.
Venters prepared for the day, knowing himself a different man.
"It's a glorious morning," said Bess, in greeting.
"Yes. After the storm the west wind," he replied.
"Last night was I--very much of a baby?" she asked, watching him.
"Oh, I couldn't help it!"
"I'm glad you were afraid."
"Why?" she asked, in slow surprise.
"I'll tell you some day," he answered, soberly. Then around the camp-fire and
through the morning meal he was silent; afterward he strolled thoughtfully off
alone along the terrace. He climbed a great yellow rock raising its crest among
the spruces, and there he sat down to face the valley and the west.
"I love her!"
Aloud he spoke--unburdened his heart--confessed his secret. For an instant the
golden valley swam before his eyes, and the walls waved, and all about him
whirled with tumult within.
"I love her!...I understand now."
Reviving memory of Jane Withersteen and thought of the complications of the
present amazed him with proof of how far he had drifted from his old life. He
discovered that he hated to take up the broken threads, to delve into dark
problems and difficulties. In this beautiful valley he had been living a beautiful
dream. Tranquillity had come to him, and the joy of solitude, and interest in all the
wild creatures and crannies of this incomparable valley--and love. Under the
shadow of the great stone bridge God had revealed Himself to Venters.
"The world seems very far away," he muttered, "but it's there--and I'm not yet
done with it. Perhaps I never shall be....Only--how glorious it would be to live
here always and never think again!"
Whereupon the resurging reality of the present, as if in irony of his wish, steeped
him instantly in contending thought. Out of it all he presently evolved these
things: he must go to Cottonwoods; he must bring supplies back to Surprise
Valley; he must cultivate the soil and raise corn and stock, and, most imperative
of all, he must decide the future of the girl who loved him and whom he loved.
The first of these things required tremendous effort, the last one, concerning
Bess, seemed simply and naturally easy of accomplishment. He would marry
her. Suddenly, as from roots of poisonous fire, flamed up the forgotten truth