Marianne stepped back from the window with the blood tingling in her face. She was terribly ashamed, for some reason, because she knew the words of that song.
“A cowpuncher—actually whistling at me!” she muttered, “I’ve never known a red-headed man who wasn’t insolent!”
The whistling died out, a clear-ringing baritone began a new air:
“Oh, father, father William, I’ve
seen your daughter dear.
Will you trade her for the brindled cow and the yellow steer?
And I’ll throw in my riding boots and....”
Marianne slammed down the window. A moment later she was horrified to find herself smiling.
The race-track had come into existence by grace of accident for it happened that a lane ran a ragged course about a big field taking the corners without pretense of making true curves, with almost an elbow-turn into the straightaway; but since the total distance around was over a mile it was called the “track.” The sprints were run on the straightaway which was more than the necessary quarter of a mile but occasionally there was a longer race and then the field had to take that dangerous circuit, sloppy and slippery with dust. The land enclosed was used for the bucking contest, for the two crowning events of the Glosterville fiesta, the race and the horse-breaking, had been saved for this last day. Marianne Jordan gladly would have missed the latter event. “Because it sickens me to see a man fight with a horse,” she often explained. But she forced herself to go.
She was in the Rocky Mountains, now, not on the Blue Grass. Here riding bucking horses was the order of the day. It might be rough, but this was a rough country.
It was a day of undue humidity—and the Eagle Mountains were pyramids of blue smoke. Closer at hand the roofs of Glosterville shone in the fierce sun and between the village and the mountains the open fields shimmered with rising heat waves. A hardy landscape meant only for a hardy people.
“One can’t adopt a country,” thought Marianne, “it’s the country that does the adopting. If I’m not pleased by what pleases other people in the West, I’d better leave the ranch to Lew Hervey and go back East.”
This was extraordinarily straight-from-the-shoulder thinking but all the way out to the scene of the festivities she pondered quietly. The episode of the mares was growing in importance. So far she had been able to do nothing of importance on the ranch; if this scheme fell through also it would be the proverbial last straw.
In spite of her intentions, she had delayed so long that the riding was very nearly ended before she arrived. Buckboards and automobiles lined the edges of the field in ragged lines, but these did not supply enough seats and many were standing. They weaved with a continual life; now and again the rider of one of the pitching horses bobbed above the crowd, and the rattle of voices sharpened, with piercing single calls. Always the dust of battle rose in shining wisps against the sun and Marianne approached with a sinking heart, for as she crossed the track and climbed through the fence she heard the snort and squeal of an angry, fear-tormented horse. The crying of a child could not have affected her so deeply.