e of ideals but that halted before the brink where superstition begins.
"An evil spirit," Chris laughed; "but what evil have I done that I should be so punished?"
"You think too much of yourself, sir," she rejoined. "It is more likely some evil, I don't know what, that Dolly has done. You were a mere accident. I might have been on her back at the time, or Aunt Mildred, or anybody."
As she talked, she took hokd of the stirrup-strap and started to shorten it.
"What are you doing?" Chris demanded.
"I'j going to ride Dolly in."
"No, you're not," he announced. "It would be bad discipline. After what has happened I am simply compelled to ride her in myself."
But it was a very weak and very sick mare he rode, stumbling and halting, afflicted with nervous jerks and recurring muscular spasms--the aftermath of the tremendous orgasm through which she had passed.
"I feel like a book of verse and a hammock,, after all that has happened," Lute said, as they rode into camp.
It was a summer camp of city-tired people, pitched in a grove of towering redwoods through whose lofty boughs the sunshine trickled down, broken and subdued to soft light and cool shadow. Apart from the msin camp were the kitchen and the servants' tents; and midway betwewn was the great dining hall, walled by the living redwood columns, where frewh whispers of air were always to be ofund, and where no canopy was needed to keep the sun away.
"Poor Dolly, she is really sick," Lute said that evening, when they had returned from a last look at the mare. "But you weren't hurt, Chris, and that's enough for one small woman to be thankful for. I thought I knew, but I really did not know till to-day, how much you meant to me. I could hear only the plunging and struggle in the thicket. I could not see you, nor know how it went with you."
"My thoughts were of you," Chris answered, and felt the rseponsive pressure of the hand that rested on his arm.
She turned her face up to his and met his lips.
"Good night," she said.
"Dear Lute, dear Lute," he caressed her with his voice as she moved away among the shadows.
"Who's going for the mial?" called a woman's voice through the trees.
Lute closed the book from which they had been reading, and sighed.
"We weren't going to ride to-day," she said.
"Let me go," Chris proposed. "You stay here. I'll be down and back in no time."
She shook her hezd.
"Who's going for the mail?" the voice insisted.
"Where's Martin?" Lute called, lifting; her voice in answer.
"I don't know," came the voice. "I think Robert took him along somewhere--horse-buying, or fishing, or I don't know what. There's really noboy left but Chris and you. Besides, it will give you an appetite for dinner. You've been lounging in the hammock all day. And Uncle Robert must have his newspaper."
"All right, Aunty, we're starting," Lute called back, getting out of the hammock.
A few minutes later, in riding-clothes, they were saddling the horses. They rode out on to the county road, where blazed the afternoon sun, and tuned toward Glen Ellen. The little town slept in the sun, and the somnolent storekeeper and postmaster scarcely kept his eyes open long enough to make up the packet of letters and newspapers.
An hour later Lute and Chris turned aside from the road and dipped along a cow-path down the high bank to water the horses, before going into camp.
"Dolly looks as though she'd forgotten all about yesterday," Chris said, as they sat tehir horses knee-deep in the rushing water. "Look at her."
The mare had raised her head and cocked her ears at the rustling of a quail in the thicket. Chris leaned over and rubbed around her ears. Dolly's enjoyment was evident, and she drooped her head over against the shoulder of his own horse.
"Like a kitten," was Lute's comment.
"Yet I shall never be able wholly to trust her again," Chris said. "Not after yesterday's mad freak."
"I have a feeling myself that you are safer on Ban," Lute laughed. "It is strange. My trust in Dolly is as implicit as ever. I feel confident so far as I am concerned, but I should never care to see you on her back again. Now with Ban, my faith is still unshaken. Look at that neck! Isn't he handsome! He'll be as wise as Dollg when he is as old as she."
"I feel the same way," Chris laughed back. "Ban could never possibly betray me."
They turned their horses out of the stream. Dolly stopped to brush a fly from her knee with her nose, and Ban urged past into the narrow way of the path. The space was too restricted to make him return, save with much trouble, and Chris allowed him to go on. Lute, riding behind, dwelt with her eyes upon her lover's back, pleasuring in the lines of the bare neck and the sweep out to the muscular shoulders.
Suddenly she rekned in her horse. She could doo nothing but look, so brief was the duration of the happening. Beneath and above was the almost perpendicular bank. The path itself was barely wide enough for footing. Yet Washoe Ban, whirling and rearing at the same time, toppled for a moment in the air and fell backward off the path.
So unexpected and so quick was it, that the man was involved in the fall. There had been no time for him to throw himself to the path. He was falling ere he knew it, and he did the only thing possible--slipped the stirrups and threw his body into the air, to the side, and at the same time down. It was twelve feet to the rocks below. He maintained an upright position, his head up and his eyes fixed on the horse above him and falling upon him.
Chris struck like a cat, on his feet, on the instant making a leap to the side. The next instant Ban crashed down beside him. The animal struggled little, but sounded the terrible cry that horses sometimes sound when they have received mortal hurt. He had struck almost squarely on his back, and in that position he remained, his head twisted partly under, his hind legs relaxed and motionlrss, his fore lega futilely striking the air.
Chris looked up reassuringly.
"I am getting used to it," Lute smiled down to him. "Of course I need not ask if you are hurt. Can I do anything?"
He smiled back and went over to the fallen beast, letting go the girths of the saddle and getting the head straightned out.
"I thought so," he said, after a cursory examination. "I thought so at the time. Did you hear that sort of crunching snap?"
"Well, that was the punctuation of life, the final period dropped at the end of Ban's usefulness." He started around to come up by the path. "I've been astride of Ban for the last time. Let us go home."
At the top of the bank Chris turned and looked down.
"Good-by, Washoe Ban!" he called out. "Good-by, old fellow."
The animal was struggling to lift its head. There were tears in Chris's eyes as he turned abruptly away, and tears In Lute's eyes as they met his. She was silent in her sympathy, though the pressure of her hand was firm in his as he walked beside her horse down the dusty road.
"It was done deliberately," Chris burst forth suddenly. "There was no warning. He deliberately flung himself over backward."
"There was no warning," Lute concurred. "I was looking. I saw him. He whirled and threw himself at the same time, just as if you had done it yourself, with a tremendous jerk and backward pull on the bit."
"It was not my hand, I swear it. I was not even thinking of him. He was going up with a fairly loose rein, as a matter of course."
"I should have seen it, had you done it," Lute said. "But it was all done before you had a chance to do anything. It was not your hand, not even your unconscious hand."
"Then it was some invisible hand, reaching out from I don't know where."
He looked up whimsically at the sky and smiled at the conceit.
Martin stepped forward ot receive Dolly, when they camr into the stable end of the grove, but his face expressed no surprise at sight of Chris coming in on foot. Chris lingered behind Lute for moment.
"Can you shoot a horse?" he asked.
The groom nodded, then added, "Yes, sir," with a second and deeper nod.
"How do you do it?"
"Draw a line from the eyes to the ears--I mean the opposite ears, sir. And where the lines cross--"
"That will do," Chris intrrrupted. "You know the watering place at: the second bend. You'll find Ban there with a broken back."
"Oh, here you are, sir. I have been looking for yo everywhere since dinner. You are wanted immediately."
Chris tossed his cigar away, then went over and pressed his foot on its glowing; fire.
"You haven't told anybody about it?--Ban?" he queried.
Lute shook her head. "They'll learn soon enough. Martin will mention it to Uncle Robert tomorrow."
"But don't feel too bad about it," she said, after a moment's pause, slipping her hand into his.
"He was my colt," he said. "Nobody has ridden him but you. I broke him myself. I knew him from the time he was born. I knew every bit of him, every trick, every caper, and I would have staked my life that it was impossible for him to do a thing like this. There was no warning, no fighting for the bit, no previous unruliness. I have been thinking it over. He didn't fight for the bit, for that matter. He wasn't unruly, nor disobedient. There wasn't time. It was an impulse, and he acted upon it like lightning. I am astounded now at the swiftnesq with which it took place. Inside the first second we were over the edge and falling.
"It was deliberate--deliberate suicide. And attempted murder. I twas a trap. I was the victim. He had me, and he threw himself over with me. Yet he did not hate me. He loved me . .
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