(Start with Part 1)
Ellie’s heart sank. She knew that man was not to be trusted, but she had hoped against hope that the fact of her being married might have carried some weight. Evidently the hope was false, so, here she was, in this lonely spot, with an undesirable man, and only a very remote chance of a caller, or Sam’s return.
Ellie hedged. “We’ll have the tea in two minutes. I think the kettle is boiling,” and she set about preparing the meal.
They talked over the tea cups, Ellie turning off every advance he made as best she could, and making every subject as long as possible. At last it could go on no longer, and she started to clear the cups away. He rose too, and coming over to her, said, “And now how about my kiss?”
“No, Claude,” she said with a bravery she was far from feeling, “whatever I might have been before, I’m married now, and trying to be decent, so please leave me alone.”
“What difference is a kiss going to make, Ellie? I’m hanged if you aren’t prettier than ever, and I’m going to have one, anyway.”
“No you aren’t,” and her voice was vibrant. “I won’t let you.”
“I don’t really see that you’ve got much chance of stopping me, Ellie, and you weren’t always so particular, you know.”
This was just the flick her courage needed, and she stiffened … The pistol … it was in a small drawer under the table. She backed slowly away from him till her hand rested on the knob of the drawer. As he reached forward to take her arm, she slid it open, and her fingers rested on the pistol. The feel of the cold steel sent a shiver through her, but he came another step nearer and put his arms round her. At the same instant the pistol spat fire. The bullet went harmlessly past his leg, but as he released his hold of her, her left hand came up end she gave him a stinging blow on the cheek.
“You little spitfire,” he said. “For God’s sake put that thing down and have some sense.”
“No. Claude Myers, it’s you that requires the sense. I’m not the helpless little fool you used to know. I’ve got a man who has taught me to look alter myself. I didn’t try to hit you just now, but I will next time, so I’d just remind you that your car is outside, and it’s time you were starting on if you want to get to a hotel for the night. My husband may be home any minute, and I’m sure you wouldn’t care to meet him.”
“Don’t be a fool, Ellie, you can’t bluff me with that talk,” and he advanced a step.
“Can’t I bluff you? Then that’s unfortunate, as I shall have to hurt you,” and again the pistol spat. This time the man felt it. It was only a flesh wound on the upper arm, but be waited for no more, and, hurling imprecations, fled in a most undignified manner to his car and away. The crisis over, Ellie stood petrified. As the sound of the car died away, the pistol dropped from her hand, and she jumped as though shot herself. Sam. She must find Sam … or she’d go mad there with that pistol and those spots of blood. She sped down the steps, and at the gate stood Bob, waiting for his feed. She hunted feverishly in the shed for a bridle, and, finding one, slipped it on him. Somehow she saddled him, and mounted. Distraught with terror, she started off in the direction in which Sam had gone in the morning. She rode for some time, and gradually the movement and the fresh air brought her back to her senses. By degrees, she realised what she was doing. What a little fool she was to try and go to Sam; he had started off that way, but might be in almost any direction now, so she turned Bob back towards home. The pistol … she must get home and put the pistol away before Sam got there. She made what haste she could, and, tying Bob up, she rushed frantically to the house, and across the veranda, to be met at the door by a distracted Sam with the pistol in his hand.
“Ellie! In God’s name, what has happened?”
“Why — nothing, Sam.” (Ellie didn’t want to tell him about Claude Myers). “Nothing—only I—l tried to shoot a – a snake.”
“You poor, brave little darling,” and he gathered her up in his arms. “Did you kill him?” “No, I wasn’t clever enough, Sam. The first shot missed altogether, but the second—the second one hit him.”
“Good on you, little girl. He’ll probably die, or be too scared to come back, anyway. But where have you been?”
“I—l caught Bob and went for a ride. I thought I’d be home before you came. You are early, aren’t you?”
“I thought you’d be frightened to death, sweetheart, so I hurried home. Don’t you see the storm coming?”
“Storm—so there is, Sam, and it’s going to rain inches and inches, and end all your worries.”
“Darling, didn’t I tell you you’d be a bushwoman yet? You can shoot, and ride, and you aren’t frightened of storms, and, what more could be expected if you had lived here all your life?”