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Riders of the Purple Sage

21.
Black Star And Night
The time had come for Venters and Bess to leave their retreat. They were at
great pains to choose the few things they would be able to carry with them on the
journey out of Utah.
"Bern, whatever kind of a pack's this, anyhow?" questioned Bess, rising from her
work with reddened face.
Venters, absorbed in his own task, did not look up at all, and in reply said he had
brought so much from Cottonwoods that he did not recollect the half of it.
"A woman packed this!" Bess exclaimed.
He scarcely caught her meaning, but the peculiar tone of her voice caused him
instantly to rise, and he saw Bess on her knees before an open pack which he
recognized as the one given him by Jane.
"By George!" he ejaculated, guiltily, and then at sight of Bess's face he laughed
outright.
"A woman packed this," she repeated, fixing woeful, tragic eyes on him.
"Well, is that a crime?'
"There--there is a woman, after all!"
"Now Bess--"
"You've lied to me!"
Then and there Venters found it imperative to postpone work for the present. All
her life Bess had been isolated, but she had inherited certain elements of the
eternal feminine.
"But there was a woman and you did lie to me," she kept repeating, after he had
explained.
"What of that? Bess, I'll get angry at you in a moment. Remember you've been
pent up all your life. I venture to say that if you'd been out in the world you d have
had a dozen sweethearts and have told many a lie before this."
"I wouldn't anything of the kind," declared Bess, indignantly.
"Well--perhaps not lie. But you'd have had the sweethearts--You couldn't have
helped that--being so pretty."
This remark appeared to be a very clever and fortunate one; and the work of
selecting and then of stowing all the packs in the cave went on without further
interruption.
Venters closed up the opening of the cave with a thatch of willows and aspens,
so that not even a bird or a rat could get in to the sacks of grain. And this work
was in order with the precaution habitually observed by him. He might not be
able to get out of Utah, and have to return to the valley. But he owed it to Bess to
make the attempt, and in case they were compelled to turn back he wanted to
find that fine store of food and grain intact. The outfit of implements and utensils
he packed away in another cave.
"Bess, we have enough to live here all our lives," he said once, dreamily.
"Shall I go roll Balancing Rock?" she asked, in light speech, but with deep-blue
fire in her eyes.
"No--no."
 
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