"But you're not alone with all these little codgers?" cried Henderson, in dismay.
The woman turned toward him with a sort of defiance. "Yes, I am," she said; "and I'm as strong as a horse, and I mean to get through all right. Here were the three children in my arms, you may say, and no way to get in a cent. I wasn't going to stand it just to please other folk. I said, let them talk if they want to, but I'm going to hold down a claim, and be accumulating something while the children are getting up a bit. Oh, I'm not afraid!"
In spite of this bold assertion of bravery, there was a sort of break in her voice. She was putting dishes on the table as she talked, and turned some ham in the skillet, and got the children up before the fire, and dropped some eggs in water, -- all with a rapidity that bewildered Henderson.
"How long have you been alone?" he asked, softly.
"Three months before baby was born, and he's five months old now. I -- I -- you think I can get on here, don't you? There was nothing else to do."
She was folding another blanket over the sleeping baby now, and the action brought to her guest the recollection of a thousand tender moments of his dimly remembered youth.
"You'll get on if we have anything to do with it," he cried, suppressing an oath with difficulty, just from pure emotion.
And he told her about the three Johns' ranch, and found it was only three miles distant, and that both were on the same road; only her cabin, having been put up during the past week, had of course been unknown to him. So it ended in a sort of compact that they were to help each other in such ways as they could. Meanwhile the fire got genial, and the coffee filled the cabin with its comfortable scent, and all of them ate together quite merrily, Henderson cut- ting up the ham for the youngsters; and he told how he chanced to come out; and she entertained him with stories of what she thought at first when she was brought a bride to Hamilton, the adjacent village, and convulsed him with stories of the people, whom she saw with humorous eyes.