I had the rock to myself, but I made a discovery that set the nerves of me jumping like a man just getting over a—well, a season of dissipation. In the sandy soil next the rock were many confused footprints—the prints of little riding-boots; and they looked quite fresh. She had been there, all right, and I had missed her! I swore, and wondered what she must think of me. Then I had an inspiration. I rolled and half-smoked eight cigarettes, and scattered the stubs with careful carelessness in the immediate vicinity of the rock. I put my boots down in a clear spot of sand where they left marks that fairly shouted of my presence. Then I walked off a few steps and studied the effect with much satisfaction. When she came again, she couldn’t fail to see that I had been there; that I had waited a long time—she could count the cigarette stubs and so form some estimate of the time—and had gone away, presumably in deep disappointment. Maybe it would make her feel a little less sure of herself, to know that I was camping thus earnestly on her trail. I rode home, feeling a good deal better in my mind.
That night it rained barrelsful. I laid and listened to it, and gritted my teeth. Where was all my cunning now? Where were those blatant footprints of mine that were to give their own eloquent message? I could imagine just how the water was running in yellow streams off the peak of that butte. Then it came to me that, at all events, some of the cigarette-stubs would be left; so I turned over and went to sleep.
I wish to say, before I forget it, that I don’t think I am deceitful by nature. You see, it changes a fellow a lot to get all tangled up in his feelings over a girl that doesn’t seem to care a rap for you. He does things that are positively idiotic At any rate, I did. And I could sympathize some with Barney MacTague; only, his girl had a crooked nose and no eyebrows to speak of, so he hadn’t the excuse that I had. Take a girl with eyes like Beryl—
A couple of days after that—days when I hadn’t the nerve to go near the little butte—Frosty drew six months’ wages and disappeared without a word to anybody. He didn’t come back that night, and the next day Perry Potter, who knows well the strange freaks cowboys will sometimes take when they have been working steadily for a long time, suggested that I ride over to Kenmore and see if Frosty was there, and try my powers of persuasion on him—unless he was already broke; in which case, according to Perry Potter, he would come back without any persuading. Perry Potter added dryly that it wouldn’t be out of my way any, and would only be a little longer ride. I must say I looked at him with suspicion. The way that little dried-up sinner found out everything was positively uncanny.