Happy Day, Every Day

A contented mind is the greatest blessing a man can enjoy in this world.

The horse stopped suddenly and her rider came to his senses with a jerk, his hand streaking to a six-gun, while he muttered a profane inquiry at he swiftly scrutinized his surroundings. Had it been any horse but Pepper he would have directed his suspicions at it, but he knew the animal too well to do it that injustice. The valley before and below him was heavily grassed, and throughout its entire length wandered a small stream. Grazing cattle were scattered along it, and riding up the farther slope were three men, who appeared to be peaceful and innocent of wrong intent. These his eyes swept past, and they passed a small cluster of bowlders down on the slope below him, but instantly returned to them, a puzzled look appearing upon his face. In that nest of rocks a woman lay prone, peering at the distant horsemen, and she slowly brought a rifle to her shoulder, cuddling its stock against her cheek. What he did not see, and could not, at that angle, was the menacing head of a rattlesnake not twenty feet from her, the instinctive fear of which put a chill in her heart and urged her to shoot it, even at the risk of being heard by the men she was watching. Johnny Nelson unconsciously esti[2]mated the range and shook his head. He could do it with his Sharp’s single-shot, a rifle of great power; but he had yet to see any repeater that could. Knowing the futility of a shot, he coughed loudly, and had the satisfaction of seeing a flurry below him, and a rifle muzzle at the same instant. Slowly he raised his hands level with his shoulders, spoke to the horse and, mustering all the dignity possible under the circumstances, rode slowly down the slope.

“That’s far enough,” said a crisp voice, pleasant in timbre even though business-like and angry. “Haven’t I told you punchers to keep off this ranch?”

“As to that, not meanin’ no offense, I ain’t none interested. An’, Ma’am, neither are you. I might say, as a general proposition, that no stranger has any business askin’ me personal questions; an’, also, that in such cases I reserve th’ right to lie as much as I please, ‘though I ain’t admittin’ that I’m doin’ it here. Pepper warned me that somethin’ was wrong, which it was by several hundred yards—an’, Ma’am, shootin’ across a valley is shore deceivin’. Also I saw that one young lady was goin’ to mix up serious with three growed-up men—pretty craggy individuals, from what I know of punchers. That was not th’ right thing for[4] a lady to do—but I’m allus with th’ under dog, I’m sorry to say, so I horned in an’ offered you a gun that would fill them fellers with righteous indignation, homicidal yearnin’s, an’ a belief in miracles. I knowed they wouldn’t get hurt at that distance—you see, there’s little things like windage, trigger pull, an’ others. But, Ma’am, th’ sound of that lead an’ th’ noise of that gun shore would pester ’em. They’d get most amazin’ curious, for men, an’ look into it. An’ when they found me with a gun on ’em they’d get more indignant than ever. Now, Ma’am, I’ve busted up yore party, which I had no right to do. If you wants them fellers right up close so you can look ’em over good an’ ask ’em questions, say so, an’ I’ll go get ’em for you. I owe you that much. But I don’t aim to be no party to a murder,” he finished, smiling, and slowly and deliberately lowered his hands and rested them on his belt.

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