“Do you ride her?”
“Not very often now. I’m getting too heavy for her, so Dad’s bought me a horse that weighs nine hundred pounds. Midget only weighs five hundred.” He considered her a moment while she gazed in awe upon this man with two horses. “Can you ride a pony?” he asked, for no reason that he was aware of.
She sighed, shaking her head resignedly. “We haven’t any room to keep a pony at our house in Detroit,” she explained, and added hopefully: “But I’d love to ride on Midget. I suppose I could learn to ride if somebody taught me how.”
He looked at her again. At that period of his existence he was inclined to regard girls as a necessary evil. For some immutable reason they existed, and perforce must be borne with, and it was his hope that he would get through life and see as little as possible of the exasperating sex. Nevertheless, as Bryce surveyed this winsome miss through the palings, he was sensible of a sneaking desire to find favour in her eyes—also equally sensible of the fact that the path to that desirable end lay between himself and Midget. He swelled with the importance of one who knows he controls a delicate situation. “Well, I suppose if you want a ride I’ll have to give it to you,” he grumbled, “although I’m mighty busy this morning.”
“Oh, I think you’re so nice,” she declared.
A thrill shot through him that was akin to pain; with difficulty did he restrain an impulse to dash wildly into the stable and saddle Midget in furious haste. Instead he walked to the barn slowly and with extreme dignity. When he reappeared, he was leading Midget, a little silverpoint runt of a Klamath Indian pony, and Moses, a sturdy pinto cayuse from the cattle ranges over in Trinity County. “I’ll have to ride with you,” he announced. “Can’t let a tenderfoot like you go out alone on Midget.”
All aflutter with delightful anticipation, the young lady climbed up on the gate and scrambled into the saddle when Bryce swung the pony broadside to the gate. Then he adjusted the stirrups to fit her, passed a hair rope from Midget’s little hackamore to the pommel of Moses’ saddle, mounted the pinto, and proceeded with his first adventure as a riding-master. Two hours of his valuable time did he give that morning before the call of duty brought him back to the house and his neglected crop of carrots. When he suggested tactfully, however, that it was now necessary that his guest and Midget separate, a difficulty arose. Shirley Sumner refused point blank to leave the premises. She liked Bryce for his hair and because he had been so kind to her; she was a stranger in Sequoia, and now that she had found an agreeable companion, it was far from her intention to desert him.