“Mr. Green: I have just been greatly entertained with the history of your very peculiar deeds and adventures, and I wish to say that I have discovered myself wholly lacking the sense of humor which is necessary to appreciate you.
“As I am going home to-morrow, this
is my only opportunity of
letting you know how thoroughly I detest falsehood in any form.
“MARY EDITH JOHNSON.”
“Ain’t yuh proud?” Andy inquired in a peculiar, tired voice. “Maybe I’m a horrible liar, all right—but I never done anybody a dirty trick like that.”
Irish might have said it was Jack Bates who did the mischief, but he did not. “We never knew it was anything serious,” he explained contritely. “On the dead, I’m sorry—”
“And that does a damned lot uh good—if she’s gone!” Andy cut in, miserably.
“Oh, she’s gone, all right. She went to-day,” murmured Irish, and went out and shut the door softly behind him.
* * * * *
Andy Green, unshaven as to face and haggard as to eyes, leaned upon his stout, willow stick and looked gloomily away to the west. He was a good deal given to looking to the west, these days when a leg new-healed kept him at the ranch, though habit and inclination would have sent him riding fast and far over prairies untamed. Inaction comes hard when a man has lived his life mostly in the open, doing those things which keep brain and muscle keyed alike to alertness and leave no time for brooding.
If Andy had not broken his leg but had gone with the others on roundup, he would never have spent the days glooming unavailingly because a girl with a blond pompadour and teasing eyes had gone away and taken with her a false impression of his morals, and left behind her the sting of a harsh judgment against which there seemed no appeal. As it was, he spent the time going carefully over his past in self-justification, and in remembering every moment that he had spent with Mary Johnson in those four weeks when she stayed with her father and petted the black lamb and the white.
In his prejudiced view, he had never done anything to make a girl hate him. He had not always told the truth—he would admit that with candid, gray eyes looking straight into your own—but he had never lied to harm a man, which, it seemed to him, makes all the difference in the world.
If he could once have told her how he felt about it, and showed her how the wide West breeds wider morals—he did not quite know how you would put these things, but he felt them very keenly. He wanted to make her feel the difference; to see that little things do not count in a man’s life, after all, except when they affect him as a man when big things are wanted of him. A little cowardice would count, for instance, because it would show that the man would