It was from them that he had received the greatest kindnesses he could remember. They were cheerful optimists; indomitable grapplers with forest and flood, who did almost incredible things with ax and saw and giant-powder. They lived in lonely ranch houses, tents and rudely flung-up shacks; driving the new roads along the rangeside or risking life and limb in wild-cat adits.
Even in this delicate matter, in which he had had keen wits against him, Vane had held his own; but there was one side of life with which he was practically unacquainted. There are no social amenities on the rangeside or in the bush, where women are scarce. Vane had lived in Spartan simplicity, practising the ascetic virtues, as a matter of course.
After all, the rush on a rebel stockade was soon over, while it seemed to her that the march through the black pine forest, half-fed, with provisions running out, the sleeping in dripping fern or slushy snow, and the staggering along the rangeside under a crushing load for days together, with galled feet and shoulders that bled beneath the pack-straps, was a much more difficult matter.
So far as he could remember, it was a year or two since he had breakfasted in a woman's company; it was certain that no woman had waited on him so prettily. Then as he remembered many a lonely camp in the dark pine forest or high on the bare rangeside, it occurred to him for the first time that he had missed a good deal of what life had to offer.