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

If I hadn’t made my chance any better, I knew I couldn’t very well make it worse; but there was mighty little comfort in that reflection.  And what a bluff I had put up!  Carry her off and marry her?  Lord knows I wanted to, badly enough!  But—­

CHAPTER XIV.

Frosty Disappears.

On the way back to the ranch I overtook Frosty mooning along at a walk, with his shoulders humped in the way a man has when he’s thinking pretty hard.  I had left Frosty with the round-up, and I was pretty much surprised to see him here.  I didn’t feel in the mood for conversation, even with him; but, to be decent, I spurred up alongside and said hello, and where had he come from?  There was nothing in that for a man to get uppish about, but he turned and actually glared at me.

“I might be an inquisitive son-of-a-gun and ask you the same thing,” he growled.

“Yes, you might,” I agreed.  “But, if you did, I’d be apt to tell you to depart immediately for a place called Gehenna—­which is polite for hell.”

“Well, same here,” he retorted laconically; and that ended our conversation, though we rode stirrup to stirrup for eight miles.

I can’t say that, after the first shock of surprise, I gave much time to wondering what brought Frosty home.  I took it he had had a row with the wagon-boss.  Frosty is an independent sort and won’t stand a word from anybody, and the wagon-boss is something of a bully.  The gait they were traveling, out there with the wagons, was fraying the nerves of the whole bunch before I left.  And that was all I thought about Frosty.

I had troubles of my own, about that time.  I had put up my bluff, and I kept wondering what I should do if Beryl King called me.  There wasn’t much chance that she would, of course; but, still, she wasn’t that kind of girl who always does the conventional thing and the expected thing, and I had seen a gleam in her eyes that, in a man’s, I should call deviltry, pure and simple.  If I should meet her out somewhere, and she even looked a dare—­I’ll confess one thing:  for a whole week I was mighty shy of riding out where I would be apt to meet her; and you can call me a coward if you like.

Still, I had schemes, plenty of them.  I wanted her—­Lord knows how I wanted her!—­and I got pretty desperate, sometimes.  Once I saddled up with the fixed determination of riding boldly—­and melodramatically—­into King’s Highway, facing old King, and saying:  “Sir, I love your daughter.  Let bygones be bygones.  Dad and I forgive you, and hope you will do the same.  Let us have peace, and let me have Beryl—­” or something to that effect.

He’d only have done one of two things; he’d have taken a shot at me, or he’d have told me to go to the same old place where we consign unpleasant people.  But I didn’t tempt him, though I did tempt fate.  I went over to the little butte, climbed it pensively, and sat on the flat rock and gazed forlornly at the mouth of the pass.

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