to Kentucky to agitate the question of slavery, unless
"Why the doubt? Are you in the habit of walking into a man's house, for instance, and using his kitchen to make pictures without permission? Has it been your custom to lead a man's horses out of his stable whenever you chose, and use them for race pictures?"
"No, no--nothing like that. Sorry to have infringed upon your property-rights, I am sure." Mr. Burns did not sound so chuckly now; but that may have been because the three picture-rustlers were quite openly pleased at the predicament of their director. "It never occurred to me that--"
"That the cattle were not as free as the hills?" The quiet voice of Jean searched out the tenderest places in the self-esteem of Robert Grant Burns. She tossed the blank-loaded gun back upon the ground and turned to her horse. "It does seem hard to impress it upon city people that we savages do have a few rights in this country. We should have policemen stationed on every hilltop, I suppose, and `No Trespassing' signs planted along every cow-trail. Even then I doubt whether we could convince some people that we are perfectly human and that we actually do own property here."
While she drawled the last biting sentences, she stuck her toe in the stirrup and went up into the saddle as easily as any cowpuncher in the country could have done. Robert Grant Burns stood with his hands at his hips and watched her with the critical eye of the expert who sees in every gesture a picture, effective or ineffective, good, bad, or merely so--so. Robert Grant Burns had never, in all his experience in directing Western pictures, seen a girl mount a horse with such unconscious ease of every movement.
Jean twitched the reins and turned towards him, looking down at the little group with unfriendly eyes. "I don't want to seem inhospitable or unaccommodating, Mr. Burns," she told him, "but I fear that I must take these cattle back home with me. You probably will not want to use them any longer."
Mr. Burns did not say whether she was right or wrong in her conjecture. As a matter of fact, he did want to use them for several more scenes; but he stood silent while Jean, with a chilly bow to the four of them, sent Pard up the rough bank of the little gulley. Rather, he made no reply to Jean, but he waved his three rustlers back, retreating himself to where the bank stopped them. And he turned toward the bushes that had at first hidden him from Jean, waved his hand in an imperative gesture, and called guardedly through cupped palms. "Take that! All you can get of it!" Which goes far to show why he was considered one of the best directors the Great Western Film Company had in its employ.
So Jean unconsciously made a picture which caused the eyes of Robert Grant Burns to glisten while he watched. She ignored the men who had so fooled her, and took down her rope that she might swing the loop of it toward the cattle and drive them back across the gulley and up the coulee toward home. Cattle are stubborn things at best, and this little bunch seemed determined to seek the higher slopes. Put upon her mettle because of that little audience down below,-- a mildly jeering audience at that, she imagined,--Jean had need of her skill and her fifteen years or so of experience in handling stock.
She swung her rope and shouted, weaving back and forth across the gulley, with little lunging rushes now and then to head off an animal that tried to bolt past her up the hill. She would not have glanced toward Robert Grant Burns to save her life, and she did not hear him saying: