Mrs. Adams put her arm about her son’s shoulders. “Your father is a hard man,” she told him.
“Was he mean to you, mother?”
“Well, I don’t understand it. He looks like a real man to me. Why did he come back?”
“He said he came back to see you.”
“Well, he’s my father, anyway,” said Lorry.
In the low hills west of Stacey, Lorry was looking for strays. He worked alone, whistling as he rode, swinging his glasses on this and that arroyo and singling out the infrequent clumps of greasewood for a touch of brighter color in their shadows. He urged his pony from crest to crest, carelessly easy in the saddle, alive to his work, and quietly happy in the lone freedom of thought and action.
He felt a bit proud of himself that morning. Only last night he had learned that he was the son of Waring of Sonora; a name to live up to, if Western standards meant anything, and he thought they did.
The fact that he was the son of James Waring overcame for the time being the vague disquietude of mind attending his knowledge that his mother and father had become estranged. He thought he understood now why his mother had made him promise to go unarmed upon the range. His companions, to the last man, “packed a gun.”
Heretofore their joshing had not bothered him. In fact, he had rather enjoyed the distinction of going unarmed, and he had added to this distinction by acquiring a skill with the rope that occasioned much natural jealousy among his fellows. To be top-hand with a rope among such men as Blaze Andrews, Slim Trivet, Red Bender, and High-Chin Bob, the foreman, was worth all the patient hours he had given to persistent practice with the reata.
But to-day he questioned himself. His mother had made him promise to go unarmed because she feared he would become like his father. Why hadn’t she told him more about it all? He felt that she had taken a kind of mean advantage of his unwavering affection for her. He was a man, so far as earning his wage was concerned. And she was the best woman in the world—but then women didn’t understand the unwritten customs of the range.
On a sandy ridge he reined up and gazed at the desert below. The bleak flats wavered in the white light of noon. The farthest hills to the south seemed but a few miles away.
For some time he focused his gaze at the Notch, from which the road sprang and flowed in slow undulations to a vanishing point in the blank spaces of the west. His pony, Gray Leg, head up and nostrils working, twitched back one ear as Lorry spoke: “You see it, too?”