Two warm sunny days in early May inclined Mr. Hutter to the opinion that pleasant spring weather was at hand and that it would be a propitious time to climb up on the desert to look after his sheep interests. Glenn, of course, would accompany him.
“Carley and I will go too,” asserted Flo.
“Reckon that’ll be good,” said Hutter, with approving nod.
His wife also agreed that it would be fine for Carley to see the beautiful desert country round Sunset Peak. But Glenn looked dubious.
“Carley, it’ll be rather hard,” he said. “You’re soft, and riding and lying out will stove you up. You ought to break in gradually.”
“I rode ten miles today,” rejoined Carley. “And didn’t mind it—much.” This was a little deviation from stern veracity.
“Shore Carley’s well and strong,” protested Flo. “She’ll get sore, but that won’t kill her.”
Glenn eyed Flo with rather penetrating glance. “I might drive Carley round about in the car,” he said.
“But you can’t drive over those lava flats, or go round, either. We’d have to send horses in some cases miles to meet you. It’s horseback if you go at all.”
“Shore we’ll go horseback,” spoke up Flo. “Carley has got it all over that Spencer girl who was here last summer.”
“I think so, too. I am sure I hope so. Because you remember what the ride to Long Valley did to Miss Spencer,” rejoined Glenn.
“What?” inquired Carley.
“Bad cold, peeled nose, skinned shin, saddle sores. She was in bed two days. She didn’t show much pep the rest of her stay here, and she never got on another horse.”
“Oh, is that all, Glenn?” returned Carley, in feigned surprise. “Why, I imagined from your tone that Miss Spencer’s ride must have occasioned her discomfort. . . . See here, Glenn. I may be a tenderfoot, but I’m no mollycoddle.”
“My dear, I surrender,” replied Glenn, with a laugh. “Really, I’m delighted. But if anything happens—don’t you blame me. I’m quite sure that a long horseback ride, in spring, on the desert, will show you a good many things about yourself.”
That was how Carley came to find herself, the afternoon of the next day, astride a self-willed and unmanageable little mustang, riding in the rear of her friends, on the way through a cedar forest toward a place called Deep Lake.
Carley had not been able yet, during the several hours of their journey, to take any pleasure in the scenery or in her mount. For in the first place there was nothing to see but scrubby little gnarled cedars and drab-looking rocks; and in the second this Indian pony she rode had discovered she was not an adept horsewoman and had proceeded to take advantage of the fact. It did not help Carley’s predicament to remember that Glenn had decidedly advised her against riding this particular mustang. To be sure, Flo had approved of Carley’s choice, and Mr. Hutter, with a hearty laugh, had fallen in line: “Shore. Let her ride one of the broncs, if she wants.” So this animal she bestrode must have been a bronc, for it did not take him long to elicit from Carley a muttered, “I don’t know what bronc means, but it sounds like this pony acts.”