refused to give it, and they threw him in the water six
ONLY SNEAKS GO WHERE THEY ARE NOT WANTED. ARE YOU A SNEAK?
The hint was plain enough. She took the hammer back to the shop and led Pard out of the stable and down to the gate, her eyes watching suspiciously the trail for tracks of trespassers. She closed the gate so thoroughly with baling wire twisted about a stake that the next comer would have troubles of his own in getting it open again. She mounted and went away down the trail, sitting straight in the saddle, both feet in the stirrups, head up, and hat pulled firmly down to her very eyebrows, glances going here and there, alert, antagonistic. No whistling this time of rag-time tunes with queer little variations of her own; no twirling of the quirt; instead Pard got the feel of it in a tender part of the flank, and went clean over a narrow washout that could have been avoided quite easily. No groping for rhythmic phrasings to fit the beauty of the land she lived in; Jean was in the mood to combat anything that came in her way.
JEAN RIDES INTO A SMALL ADVENTURE
At the mouth of the coulee, she turned to the left instead of to the right, and so galloped directly away from the Bar Nothing ranch, down the narrow valley known locally as the Flat, and on to the hills that invited her with their untroubled lights and shadows and the deep scars she knew for canyons.
There were no ranches out this way. The land was too broken and too barren for anything but grazing, so that she felt fairly sure of having her solitude unspoiled by anything human. Solitude was what she wanted. Solitude was what she had counted upon having in that little room at the Lazy A; robbed of it there, she rode straight to the hills, where she was most certain of finding it.
And then she came up out of a hollow upon a little ridge and saw three horsemen down in the next coulee. They were not close enough so that she could distinguish their features, but by the horses they rode, by the swing of their bodies in the saddles, by all those little, indefinable marks by which we recognize acquaintances at a distance, Jean knew them for strangers. She pulled up and watched them, puzzled for a minute at their presence and behavior.
When first she discovered them, they were driving a small bunch of cattle, mostly cows and calves, down out of a little "draw" to the level bottom of the narrow coulee. While she watched, herself screened effectually by a clump of bushes, she saw one rider leave the cattle and gallop out into the open, stand there looking toward the mouth of the coulee, and wave his hand in a signal for the others to advance. This looked queer to Jean, accustomed all her life to seeing men go calmly about their business upon the range, careless of observation because they had nothing to conceal. She urged Pard a little nearer, keeping well behind the bushes still, and leaned forward over the saddle horn, watching the men closely.
Their next performance was enlightening, but incredibly bold for the business they were engaged in. One of the three got off his horse and started a little fire of dry sticks under a convenient ledge. Another untied the rope from his saddle, widened the loop, swung it twice over his head and flipped it neatly over the head of a calf.