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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 133 pages of information about The Range Dwellers.

The others had finished long ago and were sitting around next the wall watching us while they smoked.  About that time King put his head in at the door, and looked at us.

“Just a minute,” I cheered him.  Frosty began cracking his prune-pits and eating the meats, and I went at it, too.  I don’t like prune-pits a little bit.

The pits finished, Frosty looked anxiously around the table.  There was nothing more except some butter that we hadn’t the nerve to tackle single-handed, and some salt and a bottle of ketchup and the toothpicks.  We went at the toothpicks again; until Frosty got a splinter stuck between his teeth, and had a deuce of a time getting it out.

“I’ve heard,” he sighed, when the splinter lay in his palm, “that some state dinners last three or four hours; blamed if I see how they work it.  I’m through.  I lay down my hand right here—­unless you’re willing to tackle the ketchup.  If you are, I stay with you, and I’ll eat half.”  He sighed again when he promised.

For answer I pushed back my chair.  Frosty smiled and followed me out.  For the satisfaction of the righteous I will say that we both suffered from indigestion that night, which I suppose was just and right.

CHAPTER XI.

A Cable Snaps.

Our lazy land smiling and dreaming to itself had disappeared; in its stead, the wind howled down the river from the west and lashed the water into what would have looked respectable waves to one who had not been on the ocean and seen the real thing.  The new grass lay flat upon the prairies, and chunks of dirt rattled down from the roof of Pochette’s primitive abiding-place.  It is true the sun shone, but I really wouldn’t have been at all surprised if the wind had blown it out, ’most any time.

Pochette himself looked worried when we trooped in to breakfast. (By the way, old King never showed up till we were through; then he limped in and sat down to the table without a glance our way.) While we were smoking, over by the fireplace, Pochette came sidling up to us.  He was a little skimpy man with crooked legs, a real French cut of beard, and an apologetic manner.  I think he rather prided himself upon his familiarity with the English language—­especially that part which is censored so severely by editors that only a half-dozen words are permitted to appear in cold type, and sometimes even they must hide their faces behind such flimsy veils as this:  d——­n.  So if I never quote Mr. Pochette verbatim, you’ll know why.

“I theenk you will not wish for cross on the reever, no?” he began ingratiatingly.  “The weend she blow lak ——­ ——­ ——­, and my boat, she zat small, she ——­ ——.”

I caught King looking at us from under his eyebrows, so I was airily indifferent to wind or water.  “Sure, we want to cross,” I said.  “Just as soon as we finish our smoke, Pochette.”

“But, mon Dieu!” (Ever hear tell of a Frenchman that didn’t begin his sentences that way?  In this case, however, Pochette really said just that.) “The weend, she blow lak ——­”

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