I know I’m no good at analysis, and that’s as close as I can come to accounting for my welching, the third week out. You see, we were working south and west, and getting farther and farther away from—well, from the part of country that I knew and liked best. It’s kind of lonesome, leaving old landmarks behind you; so when White Divide dropped down behind another range of hills and I couldn’t turn in my saddle almost any time and see the jagged, blue sky-line of her, I stood it for about two days. Then I rolled my bed one morning, caught out two horses from my string instead of one, told the wagon-boss I was going back to the ranch, and lit out—with the whole bunch grinning after me. As they would have said, they were all “dead next,” but were good enough not to say so. Or, perhaps, they remembered the boxing-lessons I had given them in the bunk-house a year or more ago.
I did feel kind of sneaking, quitting them like that; but it’s like playing higher than your logical limit: you know you’re doing a fool thing, and you want to plant your foot violently upon your own person somewhere, but you go right ahead in the face of it all. They didn’t have to tell me I was acting like a calf that has lost his mother in the herd. (You know he is prone to go mooning back to the last place he was with her, if it’s ten miles.) I knew it, all right. And when I topped a hill and saw the high ridges and peaks of White Divide stand up against the horizon to the north, I was so glad I felt ashamed of myself and called one Ellis Carleton worse names than I’d stand to hear from anybody else.
Still, to go back to the metaphor, I kept on shoving in chips, just as if I had a chance to win out and wasn’t the biggest, softest-headed idiot the Lord ever made. Why, even Perry Potter almost grinned when I came riding up to the corral; and I caught the fellow that was kept on at the ranch, lowering his left lid knowingly at the cook, when I went in to supper that first night. But I was too far gone then to care much what anybody thought; so long as they kept their mouths shut and left me alone, that was all I asked of them. Oh, I was a heroic figure, all right, those days.
On a day in June I rode dispiritedly over to the little butte just out from the mouth of the pass. Not that I expected to see her; I went because I had gotten into the habit of going, and every nice morning just simply pulled me over that way, no matter how much I might want to keep away. That argues great strength of character for me, I know, but it’s unfortunately the truth.
I knew she was back—or that she should be back, if nothing had happened to upset their plans. Edith had written me that they were all coming, and that they would have two cars, this summer, instead of just one, and that they expected to stay a month. She and her mother, and Beryl and Aunt Lodema, Terence Weaver—deuce take him!—and two other fellows, and a Gertrude—somebody—I forget just who. Edith hoped that I would make my peace with Uncle Homer, so they could see something of me. (If I had told her how easy it was to make peace with “Uncle Homer,” and how he had turned me down, she might not have been quite so sure that it was all my bull-headedness.) She complained that Gertrude was engaged to one of the fellows, and so was awfully stupid; and Beryl might as well be—