“Well,” I sighed, “I will go my way. I’m a lover of peace, myself; but since you proclaim war, war it must be. I’m not so ungallant as to oppose a lady’s wishes. Is that gate down there locked?”
“Figuratively, it’s always locked against the Carletons,” she said.
“But I want to go through it literally,” I retorted. And she just looked at me from under those lashes, and never answered.
“Well, the air grows chill in King’s Highway,” I shivered mockingly. “If ever I find you on Bay State soil, Miss King, I shall take much pleasure in teaching you the proper way to treat an enemy.”
“I shall be greatly diverted, no doubt,” was the scornful reply of her—and just then an old lady came to the door, and I lifted my hand grandly in a precise military salute and rode away, wondering which of us had had the best of it.
The gate wasn’t locked, and as for taking a drink at the creek, I forgot that I was thirsty. I jogged along toward home, and wondered why Frosty had not told me that King had a daughter. Also, I wondered at her animosity. It never occurred to me that her father, unlike my dad, had probably harped on the Carletons until she had come to think we were in league with the Old Boy himself. Her dad’s game leg would no doubt argue strongly against us, and keep the feud green in her heart—supposing she had one.
On the whole, I was glad I had traveled King’s Highway. I had discovered a brand-new enemy—and so far in my life enemies had been so scarce as to be a positive diversion. And it was novel and interesting to be so thoroughly hated by a girl. No reason to dodge her net. I rather congratulated myself on knowing one girl who positively refused to smile on demand. She hadn’t, once. I got to wondering, that night, if she had dimples. I meant to find out.
Into the Lion’s Mouth.
Perry Potter, when he had read the foreman’s note, asked how long since I left camp; when I told him that I was there at daylight, he looked at me queerly and walked off without a word. I didn’t say anything, either.
I stayed at the ranch overnight, intending to start back the next morning. The round-up would be west of where I had left them, according to the foreman—or wagon-boss, as he is called. Logically, then, I should take the trail that led through Kenmore, the mining-camp owned by King, and which lay in the heart of White Divide ten miles west of King’s Highway. That, I say, was the logical route—but I wasn’t going to take it. I wasn’t a bit stuck on that huddle of corrals and sheds, with the trail winding blindly between, and I wasn’t in love with the girl or with old King; but, all the same, I meant to go back the way I came, just for my own private satisfaction.
While I was saddling Shylock, in the opal-tinted sunrise, Potter came down and gave me the letter to the wagon-boss, an answer to the one I had brought.