"Oh, Laddy, you've been hurt!" cried Nell, as with white cheeks and dilating eyes she ran to him and caught his arm.
"Nell, I only run a thorn in my ear."
"Oh, Laddy, don't lie! You've lied before. I know you're hurt. Come in to mother."
"Shore, Nell, it's only a scratch. My bronch throwed me."
"Laddy, no horse every threw you." The girl's words and accusing eyes only hurried the ranger on to further duplicity.
"Mebbe I got it when I was ridin' hard under a mesquite, an' a sharp snag--"
"You've been shot!...Mama, here's Laddy, and he's been shot!....Oh, these dreadful days we're having! I can't bear them! Forlorn River used to be so safe and quiet. Nothing happened. But now! Jim comes home with a bloody hole in him--then Dick--then Laddy!....Oh, I'm afraid some day they'll never come home."
The morning was bright, still, and clear as crystal. The heat waves had not yet begun to rise from the desert.