"That mattress in the little bedroom looks all right," he said. "I'll pack it outside before I go, so it will have all day to-morrow out in the sun. I'll have Hepsy bring her own bedding. Well--so long."
Jean would have sworn in perfect good faith that Lite led his horse out of the stable, mounted it, and rode away to the Bar Nothing. He did mount and ride away as far as the mouth of the coulee. But that night he spent in the loft over the shop, and he did not sleep five minutes during the night. Most of the time he spent leaning against his rolled bedding, smoking and gazing at the silent house where Jean slept. You may interpret that as you will.
Jean did not see or hear anything more of him, until about four o'clock the next afternoon, when he drove calmly up to the house and deposited Hepsibah Atwood upon the kitchen steps. He did not wait for Jean to order them away. He hurried the unloading, released the wagon brake, and drove off. So Jean, coming from the spring behind the house, really got her first sight of him as he went rattling down to the gate.
Jean stood and looked after him, twitched her shoulders in a mental yielding of the point for the time being, and said "How-da-do" to the old lady.
She was not so old, as years go; fifty-five or thereabouts. And she could have whispered into Lite's ear without standing on her toes or asking him to bend his head. Lite was a tall man, at that. She had gray hair that was frizzy around her brows and at the back of her neck, and she had an Irish disposition without the brogue to go with it.
The first thing she did was to find an axe and chop a lot of fence-posts into firewood, as easily as Lite himself could have done it, and in other ways proceeded to make herself very much at home. The next day she dipped the spring almost dry, and used up all the soap in the house; and for three days went around with her skirts tucked up and her arms bare and the soles of her shoes soggy from wet floors. Jean kept out of her way, but she owned to herself that, after all, it was not unpleasant to come home tired and not have to cook a solitary supper and eat it in silent meditation.
The third night after Hepsy's arrival, Jean awoke to hear a man's furtive footsteps in her father's room. This was the fifth time that the prowler had come in the night, and custom had dulled her fear a little. She had not reached the point yet of getting up to see who it was and what he wanted. It was much easier to lie perfectly still with her six-shooter gripped in her hand and wait for him to go. Beyond stealthily trying her door and finding it fastened on the inside, he had never shown any disposition to invade her room
To-night was as all other nights when he came and made that mysterious search, until he went into the little bedroom where slept Hepsibah Atwood. Jean listened to the faint creaking of old boards which told her that he was approaching Hepsy's room, and she wondered if Hepsy would hear him. Hepsy did hear him. There was a squeak of the old bedstead that told how a hundred and seventy-two pounds of indignant womanhood was rising to do battle.