"I--I--oh yes!" she whispered, and returned his kiss.
Belding was in the room speaking softly.
"Nell, darling, I must go," said Dick.
"I'm a selfish little coward," cried Nell. "It's so splendid of you all. I ought to glory in it, but I can't. ...Fight if you must, Dick. Fight for that lovely persecuted girl. I'll love you--the more....Oh! Good-by! Good-by!"
With a wrench that shook him Gale let her go. He heard Belding's soft voice.
"Yaqui says the early hour's best. Trust him, Laddy. Remember what I say--Yaqui's a godsend."
Then they were all outside in the pale gloom under the trees. Yaqui mounted Blanco Diablo; Mercedes was lifted upon White Woman; Thorne climbed astride Queen; Jim Lash was already upon his horse, which was as white as the others but bore no name; Ladd mounted the stallion Blanco Torres, and gathered up the long halters of the two pack horses; Gale came last with Blanco Sol.
As he toed the stirrup, hand on mane and pommel, Gale took one more look in at the door. Nell stood in the gleam of light, her hair shining, face like ashes, her eyes dark, her lips parted, her arms outstretched. That sweet and tragic picture etched its cruel outlines into Gale's heart. He waved his hand and then fiercely leaped into the saddle.