“There’s things doing in Kenmore,” he remarked to a lot of us. “Old King has a party of aristocrats out from New York, visiting—Terence Weaver, half-owner in the mines, and some women; they’re fixing to celebrate the Fourth with a dance. The women, it seems, are crazy to see a real Montana dance, and watch the cowboys chasse around the room in their chaps and spurs and big hats, and with two or three six-guns festooned around their middles, the way you see them in pictures. They think, as near as I could find out, that cowboys always go to dances in full war-paint like that—and they’ll be disappointed if said cowboys don’t punctuate the performance by shooting out the lights, every so often.” He looked across at me, and then is when I observed the mischief brewing in his eyes.
“We’ll have to take it in,” I said promptly. “I’m anxious to see a Montana dance, myself.”
“We aren’t in their set,” gloomed Frosty, with diplomatic caution. “I won’t swear they’re sending out engraved invitations, but, all the same, we won’t be expected.”
“We’ll go, anyhow,” I answered boldly. “If they want to see cow-punchers, it seems to me the Ragged H can enter a bunch that will take first prize.”
Frosty looked at me, and permitted himself to smile. “Uh course, if you’re bound to go, Ellis, I guess there’s no stopping yuh—and some of us will naturally have to go along to see yuh through. King’s minions would sure do things to yuh if yuh went without a body-guard.” He shook his head, and cupped his hands around a match-blaze and a cigarette, so that no one could tell much about his expression.
“I’m bound to go,” I declared, taking the cue. “And I think I do need some of you to back me up. I think,” I added judicially, “I shall need the whole bunch.”
The “bunch” looked at one another gravely and sighed. “We’ll have t’ go, I reckon,” they said, just as though they weren’t dying to play the unexpected guest. So that was decided, and there was much whispering among groups when they thought the wagon-boss was near, and much unobtrusive preparation.
It happened that the wagons pulled in close to the ranch the day before the Fourth, intending to lay over for a day or so. We were mighty glad of it, and hurried through our work. I don’t know why the rest were so anxious to attend that dance, but for me, I’m willing to own that I wanted to see Beryl King. I knew she’d be there—and if I didn’t manage, by fair means or foul, to make her dance with me, I should be very much surprised and disappointed. I couldn’t remember ever giving so much thought to a girl; but I suppose it was because she was so frankly antagonistic that there was nothing tame about our intercourse. I can’t like girls who invariably say just what you expect them to say.