“Kyle—ho there, Kyle!” The big boss came out of the “ram pasture,” wiping food fragments from his beard. “Get a rifle and shoot these dogs. Clean ’em out! Take two men and ride this Irish imp across the river where she belongs.”
Kyle balked. His face showed it.
Presson had never seen his old friend in such a fury. He menaced the girl with his fists as though about to forget that she was a woman. But she did not retreat. The picture was that of the kitten and the mastiff. Her sparkling eyes followed him. The scarlet of an anger as ready as his own leaped to the soft curves of her cheeks.
“You’ve got my orders, Kyle. I stand behind them.”
Without taking her eyes off Thornton, the girl reached behind her and jerked a revolver from its holster.
“You shoot my dogs, Kyle, and I’ll shoot you.” In her tones there was none of the hysteria that usually spices feminine threats. She was angry, but her voice was grimly level. She had the poise of one who had learned to depend on her own resolute spirit. But she displayed something more than that. It was recklessness that was bravado. In the eyes of the State chairman, friend of Thornton, and accustomed to a milder form of femininity, it was impudence. Yet her beauty made its appeal to him. The old man lunged toward her, but the politician seized his arm.
“Thelismer,” he protested, “you are going too far. I don’t know the girl, or what the main trouble is, but you’re acting like a ten-year-old.”
Thelismer Thornton knew it, and the knowledge added to his helpless rage. He pulled himself out of Presson’s grasp.
He began to revile the girl in language that made Presson set his little eyes open and purse his round mouth.
“Damn it, you don’t understand,” roared the Duke, whirling on his friend. Presson had faced him at last with protest that stung. “I know it’s no kind of talk to use to any one. I’m no ruffian. I’m ashamed to have to use it. But the other kind don’t work—not with her. Land-pirate Kavanagh is welcome to the ten thousand acres of timber-land that he stole from me; but when his red-head daughter proposes to steal my grandson, and laugh at me to my face while she’s doing it, she’ll take what I have to give her if she wants to stay and listen. Look at her, Presson! Look at her! Is that the kind of a girl for any young chap? A rattlebrained imp with a horse between her knees from daylight to dark, riding the country wild, insulting old age, and laughing at me and putting the devil into the head of my grandson! Kyle, get your men and run her across the river into her Canuck country! She isn’t even an American citizen, Luke. Do you hear me, Kyle?”
Presson saw that the girl was not looking at her enemy then. From the back of her horse she could see farther up the road than they. She had spied a horseman coming. She recognized him. She uttered a shrill call that he understood, for he forced his horse into a gallop, and came into the yard before Thornton had gathered himself to continue his tirade. The Duke had seen his grandson almost as soon as she, and the passion went out of his face. He looked suddenly old and tired and troubled.