“Dear Marianne,” scrawled the pencil, “this is to let you know that I have to go on business to—”
“Better not tell her where,” suggested Hervey. “She might send after and ask a lot of bothersome questions. You know the way a woman is.”
“You sure got a fine head for business, Lew,” nodded Jordan, and continued his note: “to a town across the mountains and it may be a few days before I get back. I met Lew on the road, so I’m letting him take this note back to you Another thing: I’ve told Lew about several things I want done while I’m gone. Easier than explaining them all to you, honey, he can do them himself and tell you later.
As he scrawled the signature Hervey suggested softly: “Suppose you put down at the bottom: ’This will serve as authority to Lew Hervey to act in my name while I’m away.’”
“Sure,” nodded Jordan, as he scribbled the dictated words. “Marianne is a stickler for form. She’ll want something like that to convince her.”
He shoved the paper into the trembling hand of Lew Hervey, and sighed with weariness.
“Chief,” muttered Hervey, finding that even in the darkness he could not look into the tired, pain-worn face of the rancher, “I sure hope you never have no call to be sorry for this.”
“Sorry? I ain’t bothering about that. So long, Lew.”
But Lew Hervey had suddenly lost his voice. He could only wave his adieu.
Never had Red Perris passed a night of such pleasant dreams. For never, indeed, had he been so exquisitely flattered as during the preceding evening when Marianne Jordan kept him after dinner in the ranchhouse while the other hired men, as was their custom, loitered to smoke their after-dinner cigarettes in the moist coolness of the patio. For the building was on the Spanish-Mexican style. The walls were heavy enough to defy the most biting cold of winter and the most searching sun in summer. And they marched in a wide circle around an interior court which was bordered with a clumsy arcade of ’dobe pillars. By daylight the defects in construction were rather too apparent. But at night the effect was imposing, almost grand.
But while the cowhands smoked in the patio, the noise of their laughter and their heavy voices penetrated no louder than the dim humming of bees to the ear of Red Jim Perris, sitting tete-a-tete with Marianne in an inner room. And he did not envy the sprawling freedom of those outside.