The American Baptist, of Utica, New York, publishes letters
"Well, don't doubt me, unless you want a scrap on your hands," Lite warned. "I'm sure ashamed of you. We'll stop here at the stable and get the horses. You can ride sideways as far as the Allens', and get your riding-skirt and come on. The sooner you are on top of a horse, the quicker you're going to come outa that state of mind."
It was pitifully amusing to see Lite Avery attempt to bully any one,--especially Jean,--who might almost be called Lite's religion. The idea of that long, lank cowpuncher whose shyness was so ingrained that it had every outward appearance of being a phlegmatic coldness, assuming the duties of Jean's dad and undertaking to see that she grew up according to directions, would have been funny, if he had not been so absolutely in earnest.
His method of comforting her and easing her through the first stage of black despair was unorthodox, but it was effective. Because she was too absorbed in her own misery to combat him openly, he got her started toward the Bar Nothing and away from the friends whose enervating pity was at that time the worst influence possible. He set the pace, and he set it for speed. The first mile they went at a sharp gallop that was not far from a run, and the horses were breathing heavily when he pulled up, well out of sight of the town, and turned to the girl.
There was color in her cheeks, and the dullness was gone from her eyes when she returned his glance inquiringly. The droop of her lips was no longer the droop of a weak yielding to sorrow, but rather the beginning of a brave facing of the future. Lite managed a grin that did not look forced.
"I'll make a real range hand outa you yet," he announced confidently. "You remember the roping and shooting science I taught you before you went off to school? You're going to start right in where you left off and learn all I know and some besides. I'll make a lady of you yet,--darned if I don't."
At that Jean laughed unexpectedly. Lite drew a long breath of relief.
The still loneliness of desertion held fast the clutter of sheds and old stables roofed with dirt and rotting hay. The melancholy of emptiness hung like an invisible curtain before the sprawling house with warped, weather-blackened shingles, and sagging window-frames. You felt the silence when first you sighted the ranch buildings from the broad mouth of the Lazy A coulee,--the broad mouth that yawned always at the narrow valley and the undulations of the open range, and the purple line of mountains beyond. You felt it more strongly when you rode up to the gate of barbed-wire, spliced here and there, and having an unexpected stubbornness to harry the patience of men who would pass through it in haste. You grew unaccountably depressed if you rode on past the stables and corrals to the house, where the door was closed but never locked, and opened with a squeal of rusty hinges, if you turned the brown earthenware knob and at the same instant pressed sharply with your knee against the paintless panel.
You might notice the brown spot on the kitchen door where a man had died; you might notice the brown spot, but unless you had been told the grim story of the Lazy A, you would never guess the spot was a bloodstain. Even though you guessed and shuddered, you would forget it presently in the amazement with which you opened the door beyond and looked in upon a room where the chill atmosphere of the whole place could find no lodgment.