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Jessica Trent: Her Life on a Ranch   By: (1843-1910)

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First Page:


Her Life on a Ranch



Author of

"Jessica Trent's Inheritance," "Jessica, the Heiress"

Whitman Publishing Co.


Copyright, 1902, by Street & Smith

Jessica Trent

Printed in the

United States of America


Western Printing & Lithographing Co.

Racine, Wis.




"Hello, there! What in the name of reason is this?"

The horseman's excited cry was echoed by a startled neigh from his beast, which wheeled about so suddenly that he nearly precipitated both himself and rider into the gulch below.

"Oh! I'm sorry Hold on, Zu! Go! Do, please. Quick! It's so narrow just beyond and I can't "

The stranger obeyed, perforce, for his spirited animal having now headed up the slope, continued on his course at breakneck speed, pursued at equal pace by the unknown creature that had terrified him.

The race would not have been so even had the trail been wider, for King Zulu could easily have beaten his contestant, but, as it was, the fleeing bay bruised his master's leg against the canyon wall, now and then, while bits of the bird's plumage were torn on the same projecting rocks. There was no point of passage till more than a mile higher on the mountain, and Jess knew this if Mr. Hale did not. He knew nothing save that he was clinging and riding for his life, and that this "Western horseback tour" which his doctor had prescribed for him, seemed now more likely to prove his death than his cure.

But when a laugh rang out, close to his shoulder, he turned his head and glanced angrily backward.

"Oh, I beg your pardon, but it's so funny! I've often wanted to try King Zu against a strange horse and now I have. Only, if we were up there on the mesa, he'd show you!"

"Does this trail never end, nor turn?"

The laughter on the girl's face changed to anxiety.

"Not ill, exactly; only I'm not experienced at this business and it shakes me."

"You ride too hard and stiff. That's why. Let yourself go just be part of your horse. He's a beauty, isn't he? Even the boys couldn't stand that gait."

"And you. Who taught you to ride an ostrich? Where did you get it? It's almost the first one I ever saw and quite the first that Prince did. I was nearly as scared as he, meeting such a creature on a lonely mountain trail."

"I never learned it just happened. Zulu is 'patriarch' of the flock. The only imported bird left alive. We just grew up together, he and I. Didn't we, King?"

Speech was now easier, for the speed of both animals had slackened, that of Prince to a comfortable trot. While the sidewise lurching motion of the ostrich was enjoyable enough to Jessica, it turned Mr. Hale's head dizzy, watching. Or it may have been the blinding sunshine, beating against the canyon wall and deflected upon the riders in waves of heat.

"Whew! This is scorching. How far, yet?"

Jessica saw that what she minded not at all was turning the stranger sick, and answered swiftly:

"You wouldn't be able to get further than 'five times' before we reach the turn. There'll be a glorious breeze then. There always is."

"What do you mean by 'five times'?"

"Why, just the multiplication table. I always say it when I've something I want to get over quick. You begin at one times one, and see if it isn't so."

"What shall we find at the top; your home?"

"Oh, no, indeed. That is quite the other way. Down in the valley. Sobrante ranch. That's ours. Were you going there?"

"I was going anywhere. I had lost my way. 'Missed the trail,' as you say in this country."

"I thought, maybe, you were just a 'tourist.'"

Mr. Hale laughed, and the laugh helped him to forget his present discomfort.

"Perhaps I am, even if you do speak so disdainfully. Are all 'tourists' objectionable?"

Jessica's brown cheek flushed. She felt she had said something rude she, whose ambition it was to be always and everywhere "Our Lady Jess," that the dear "boys" called her. But she remembered how annoyed her mother was by the visits of strangers who seemed to regard Sobrante and its belongings as a "show" arranged for their special benefit... Continue reading book >>

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