Although Chester Bates was obviously surprised to see a dozen cows being driven into his door yard several weeks before he'd planned for them to arrive, Marie thought he masked it well when he greeted Rod Owen the next day.
"They look hale and hearty," Mr. Bates said, gesturing to the beeves.
"The pick of the lot," Rod answered.
"You're early," said Mr. Bates, holding the headpiece of Rod's horse as he looked up at him.
"I needed to see Ed Morgan right away. No sense makin' two trips when one will do."
Mr. Bates nodded slowly. "You may as well 'light, then. Rest your bones. Let your boys drive the beeves into the pen." He counted the crew members with a glance, his eyes widening when he saw Marie. "You brought the girl?"
"I have business that concerns her." Rod dismounted.
Mr. Bates's brow creased. "Are you brokering another marriage?"
Marie thought she would die as her father nodded. She hoped he would not begin to talk about her while she was still in earshot. She slipped off Bess and led her toward a tie post.
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