And Burns twitted her ironically because she could not simper and lose her head over the attentions these people were loading upon her! Save for the fact that in this way she could earn a good deal of money, and could pay that lawyer Rossman, and trace Art Osgood, she would not have stayed; she could not have endured the staying. For the easier they made life for her, the greater contrast did they make between her and her dad.
Gil brought her a great bunch of roses, unbelievably beautiful and fragrant, and laughed and told her they didn't look much like those snowdrifts she waded through the last day they worked on the Lazy A serial. For just a minute he thought Jean was going to throw them at him, and he worried himself into sleeplessness, poor boy, wondering how he had offended her, and how he could make amends. Could he have looked into Jean's soul, he would have seen that it was seared with the fresh memory of iron bars and high walls and her dad who never saw any roses; and that the contrast between their beauty and the terrible barrenness that surrounded him was like a blow in her face.
Dewitt himself sensed that something was wrong with her. She was not her natural self, and he knew it, though his acquaintance with her was a matter of hours only. Part of his business it was to study people, to read them; he read Jean now, in a general way. Not being a clairvoyant, he of course had no inkling of the very real troubles that filled her mind, though the effect of those troubles he saw quite plainly. He watched her quietly for a day, and then he applied the best remedy he knew.
"You've just finished a long, hard piece of work," he said in his crisp, matter-of-fact way, on the second morning after her arrival. "There is going to be a delay here while we shape things up for the winter, and it is my custom to keep my people in the very best condition to work right up to the standard. So you are all going to have a two-weeks vacation, Jean-of-the-Lazy- A. At full salary, of course; and to put you yourself into the true holiday spirit, I'm going to raise your salary to a hundred and seventy-five a week. I consider you worth it," he added, with a quieting gesture of uplifted hand, "or you may be sure I wouldn't pay it.
"Get some nice old lady to chaperone you, and go and play. The ocean is good; get somewhere on the beach. Or go to Catalina and play there. Or stay here, and go to the movies. Go and see `Jean, of the Lazy A,' and watch how the audience lives with her on the screen. Go up and talk to the wife. She told me to bring you up for dinner. You go climb into my machine, and tell Bob to take you to the house now. Run along, Jean of the Lazy A! This is an order from your chief."
Jean wanted to cry. She held the roses, that she almost hated for their very beauty and fragrance, close pressed in her arms, while she went away toward the machine. Dewitt looked after her, thought she meant to obey him, and turned to greet a great man of the town who had been waiting for five minutes to speak to him.
Jean did not climb into the purple car and tell Bob to drive her to "the house." She walked past it without even noticing that it stood there, an aristocrat among the other machines parked behind the great studio that looked like a long, low warehouse. She knew the straightest, shortest trail to the corrals, you may be sure of that. She took that trail.
Pard was standing in a far corner under a shed, switching his tail methodically at the October crop of flies. His head lay over the neck of a scrawny little buckskin, for which he had formed a sudden and violent attachment, and his eyes were half closed while he drowsed in lazy content. Pard was not worrying about anything. He looked so luxuriously happy that Jean had not the heart to disturb him, even with her comfort- seeking caresses. She leaned her elbows on the corral gate and watched him awhile. She asked a bashful, gum-chewing youth if he could tell her where to find Lite Avery. But the youth seemed never to have heard of Lite Avery, and Jean was too miserable to explain and describe Lite, and insist upon seeing him. She walked over to the nearest car-line and caught the next street car for the city. Part of her chief's orders at least she would obey. She would go down to the Victoria and see "Jean, of the Lazy A," but she was not going because of any impulse of vanity, or to soothe her soul with the applause of strangers. She wanted to see the ranch again. She wanted to see the dear, familiar line of the old bluff that framed the coulee, and ride again with Lite through those wild places they had chosen for the pictures. She wanted to lose herself for a little while among the hills that were home.