But her horse wasn't the problem. It was her temper upsetting the horse. He wouldn't have been acting fidgety if it weren't for her testy grip on the reins. So any trouble Sally had was all her own doing. She needs me. They rode around the curve of a steep mountain trail and in the distance caught their first glimpse of a river lined with high banks of stunning red rock. It's beautiful. It was worth riding out here. McGarritt knew full well how impatient Sally was, but Mrs. McGarritt, sweet and friendly as she was, didn't let anyone push her around.
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The colonel's wife sat her horse sidesaddle in a proper riding dress. She had made her opinion known early and often about Sally's manly riding clothes and her habit of riding astride. They were here now, staring at the rocks. As if none of this group had ever seen a rock before. They all lived in west Texas or New Mexico. Their whole world was pretty much made of rocks. Sally relaxed her grip on the reins to spare her restless horse. They'd be at Mandy's in a few days. Less because they'd abandoned the trail and gone cross country. But Colonel McGarritt had agreed to the shortcut because he had a hankering to get out of the train and see some wild country.
When Pa had asked if they'd see Sally safely to Mandy's house, the colonel had studied the area and decided he'd like to see several places along the trail—this canyon among them. He'd have just stayed on the train, though, if it wasn't for Mandy living in the middle of nowhere with her no-account husband. So, Sally took the detours that interested the colonel and his wife in the best spirit she could manage. Griping didn't help and it made everyone else miserable. Which wasn't to say she hadn't done plenty of it. But still— the group had voted. She'd lost. This was America.
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McGarritt grinned at Sally, not one bit fooled by her forced politeness. The older lady reached out her hand and Sally clasped it. Sally tore her eyes from the view to intercept Mrs. McGarritt's smug look. Paula was too polite to say, "I told you so. The crimson bluffs were magnificent.
But was it worth the time they'd wasted abandoning the most direct path? When Mandy might be in trouble? She was at least suffering from terrible homesickness. Her last letter had been a poorly concealed cry of loneliness. But with a third baby on the way and no womenfolk within fifty miles, she really needed the help as soon as possible. Only by sheer force of will did Sally keep her hands loose on her reins and a smile on her face.
They had plenty of time to get to Mandy's before the baby came.
And Sally knew, from the map Mandy had sent, that the site of her new home was going to take this party a long way out of their way, and the group had all gone along with it; and they'd been a sight more mannerly about it than she was being. Mandy would soon have her third baby in three years of marriage. She needed help. A woman's help. Luther and Buff did what they could, but they had no place at the birth of Mandy's baby.
Sally offered to go. Ma and Pa had a dim view of Mandy's husband and they'd relented, though they'd made a fuss over losing another daughter to Montana. But Sally had promised not to let Montana keep her. She'd promised it wouldn't be forever. A year at most. Sally would help with the babies. Probably end up spending the winter with Mandy and no-account Sidney, then head home. And now, instead of making the best time possible, here she sat staring at the admittedly beautiful canyon and river God painted with a blazing crimson brush.
She and Paula McGarritt rode with six men. All but Sally were making their way to Seattle. The group had been forming before Sally had gotten the idea to travel to see Mandy. Pa would have never allowed Sally to travel so far alone. But once Pa had heard of this group of sturdy men, and the stalwart Mrs. McGarritt who would act as chaperone, he'd relented. Now the travelers were slowing Sally down. She was well aware she should be ashamed of herself. Then she noticed she'd tightened her hands on the reins again and her horse was tossing its head. Sally relaxed and sat with the most patience possible beside Paula, who wore a prim riding skirt, her gray hair neatly hidden beneath her bonnet, her spine ramrod straight.
Sally knew about tough and considered herself as tough as they came.