"Shall I be hurried and worried--and shall I sob?" she asked, with the little smile at the corners of her eyes and just easing the line of her lips.
Robert Grant Burns seemed to make a quick decision. "Sure," he said. "You saw the action as Miss Gay went through it. Do as she did; only we'll let you have your own ideas of saddling the horse." He turned his head toward Pete and made a very slight gesture, and Pete grinned. "All ready? Start the action!" After that he did not help her by a single suggestion. He tapped Pete upon the shoulder, and stood with his feet far apart and his hands on his hips, watching her very intently.
Jean was plainly startled, just at first, by the business-like tone in which he gave the signal. Then she laughed a little. "Oh, I forgot. I must be hurried and worried--and I must sob," she corrected herself.
So she hurried, and every movement she made counted for something accomplished. She picked up the bridle and shortened her hold upon the lead rope, and discovered that the sorrel had a trick of throwing up his head and backing away from the bit. She knew how to deal with that habit, however; but in her haste she forgot to look as worried as Muriel had looked, and so appeared to her audience as being merely determined. She got the bridle on, and then she saddled the sorrel. And for good measure she picked up the reins, caught the stirrup and went up, pivoting the horse upon his hind feet as though she meant to dash madly off into the distance. But she only went a couple of rods before she pulled him up sharply and dismounted.
"That didn't take me long, did it?" she asked. "I could have hurried a lot more if I had known the horse." Then she stopped dead still and looked at Robert Grant Burns.
"Oh, my goodness, I forgot to sob!" she gasped. And she caught her hat brim and pulling her Stetson more firmly down upon her head, turned and ran up the path to the house, and shut herself into her room.
While she breakfasted unsatisfactorily upon soda crackers and a bottle of olives which happened to have been left over from a previous luncheon, Jean meditated deeply upon the proper beginning of a book. The memory of last night came to her vividly, and she smiled while she fished with a pair of scissors for an olive. She would start the book off weirdly with mysterious sounds in an empty room. That, she argued, should fix firmly the interest of the reader right at the start.
By the time she had fished the olive from the bottle, however, her thoughts swung from the artistic to the material aspect of those mysterious footsteps. What had the man wanted or expected to find? She set down the olive bottle impulsively and went out and around to the kitchen door and opened it. In spite of herself, she shuddered as she went in, and she walked close to the wall until she was well past the brown stain on the floor. She went to the old-fashioned cupboard and examined the contents of the drawers and looked into a cigar-box which stood open upon the top. She went into her father's bedroom and looked through everything, which did not take long, since the room had little left in it. She went into the living-room, also depressingly dusty and forlorn, but try as she would to think of some article that might have been left there and was now wanted by some one, she could imagine no reason whatever for that nocturnal visit. At the same time, there must have been a reason. Men of that country did not ride abroad during the still hours of the night just for the love of riding. Most of them went to bed at dark and slept until dawn.