“And what had you done, Nal, dear?”
“Hold on, Mandy, I’m tellin’ this. Ye see, he promised to sell ye to me for two thousand dollars cash. But when I tendered him the coin, he went back on me. He was the meanest, the ornariest——”
“Hush, Nal, he’s dead now.”
“You bet he is, or we wouldn’t be sittin’ here.”
They were comfortably installed upon the porch of the old adobe. A smell of paint tainted the air, and some shavings and odds and ends of lumber betrayed a recent visit from the carpenter. The house, in short, had been placed in thorough repair. A young woman with fifty thousand dollars in her own right can afford to spend a little money upon her home.
“He wouldn’t take the coin,” continued Nal, “he said I’d robbed him of it, an’ so I had.”
“It was this way, Mandy. Ye remember the trial, an’ how you give the snap away. Well I studied over it, an’ finally I concluded to jest dig up the half-mile post, an’ put it one hundred feet nearer home. I took considerable chances but not a soul suspicioned the change. The next night I put it back again. The old man timed the colt an’ so did I. Fifty-one seconds! I knew my filly could do the whole half-mile in that. Comet’s second dam was a bronco, an’ that will tell! But I wanted to make your grandfather bet his wad. He never could resist a sure-shot bet, never. That’s all.”
Amanda looked deep into his laughing eyes.
“He was willing to sell me, his own flesh and blood,” she murmured dreamily. “I think, Nal, you served him just about right, but I wish, don’t get mad, Nal, I wish that—er—someone else had pulled up the post!”
Mintie stood upon the porch of the old adobe, shading her brown eyes from the sun, now declining out of stainless skies into the brush-hills to the west of the ranch. The hand shading the eyes trembled; the red lips were pressed together; faint lines upon the brow and about the mouth indicated anxiety, and possibly fear. A trapper would have recognised in the expression of the face a watchful intensity or apprehension common to all animals who have reason to know themselves to be the prey of others.
Suddenly a shot rang out, repeating itself in echoes from the canon behind the house. Mintie turned pale, and then laughed derisively.
“Gee!” she exclaimed. “How easy scairt I am!”
She sank, gaspingly, upon a chair, and began to fan herself with the skirt of her gown. Then, as if angry on account of a weakness, physical rather than mental, she stood up and smiled defiantly, showing her small white teeth. She was still trembling; and remarking this, she stamped upon the floor of the porch, and became rigid. Her face charmed because of its irregularity. Her skin was a clear brown, matching the eyes and hair. She had the