"But then, ghosts can be made very creepy, with tantalizing glimpses of them now and then in about every other chapter, and mysterious hints here and there, and characters coming down to breakfast with white, drawn faces and haggard eyes. And the wicked one would look over his shoulder and then utter a sardonic laugh. Sardonic is such an effective word; I don't believe Indians would give him any excuse for sardonic laughter."
She swung down from the saddle and led Pard into his stall, that was very black next the manger and very light where the moon shone in at the door. "I must have lots of moonlight and several stormy sunsets, and the wind soughing in the branches. I shall have to buy a new dictionary,--a big, fat, heavy one with the flags of all nations and how to measure the contents of an empty hogshead, and the deaf and dumb alphabet, and everything but the word you want to know the meaning of and whether it begins with ph or an f."
She took the saddle off Pard and hung it up by a stirrup on the rusty spike where she kept it, with the bridle hung over the stirrup, and the saddle blanket folded over the horn. She groped in the manger and decided that there was hay enough to last him till morning, and went out and closed the door. Her shadow fell clean cut upon the rough planks, and she stood for a minute looking at it as if it were a person. Her Stetson hat tilted a little to one side, her hair fluffed loosely at the sides, leaving her neck daintily slender where it showed above the turned-back collar of her gray sweater; her shoulders square and capable and yet not too heavy, and the slim contour of her figure reaching down to the ground. She studied it abstractedly, as she would study herself in her mirror, conscious of the individuality, its likeness to herself.
"I don't know what kind of a mess you'll make of it," she said to her shadow, "but you're going to tackle it, just the same. You can't do a thing till you get some money."
She turned then and went thoughtfully up to the house and into her room, which had as yet been left undisturbed behind the bars she had placed against idle invasion.
The moon shone full into the window that faced the coulee, and she sat down in the old, black wooden rocker and gazed out upon the familiar, open stretch of sand and scant grass-growth that lay between the house and the corrals. She turned her eyes to the familiar bold outline of the bluff that swung round in a crude oval to the point where the trail turned into the coulee from the southwest. Half-way between the base and the ragged skyline, the boulder that looked like an
elephant's head stood out, white of profile, hooded with black shade. Beyond was the fat shelf of ledge that had a small cave beneath, where she had once found a nest full of little, hungry birds and upon the slope beneath the telltale, scattered wing-feathers, to show what fate had fallen upon the mother. Those birds had died also, and she had wept and given them Christian burial, and had afterwards spent hours every day with her little rifle hunting the destroyer of that small home. She remembered the incident now as a small thread in the memory-pattern she was weaving.
While the shadows shortened as the moon swung high, she sat and looked out upon the coulee and the bluff that sheltered it, and she saw the things that were blended cunningly with the things that were not. After a long while her hands unclasped themselves from behind her head and dropped numbly to her lap. She sighed and moved stiffly, and knew that she was tired and that she must get some sleep, because she could not sit down in one spot and think her way through the problems she had taken it upon herself to solve. So she got up and crept under the Navajo blanket upon the couch, tucked it close about her shoulders, and shut her eyes deliberately. Presently she fell asleep.