THE BULLDOG BARKS
Joyce fainted for the first time in her life.
When she recovered consciousness Doble was splashing water in her face. She was lying on the bunk from which she had fled a few minutes earlier. The girl made a motion to rise and he put a heavy hand on her shoulder.
“Keep your hand off me!” she cried.
“Don’t be a fool,” he told her irritably. “I ain’t gonna hurt you none—if you behave reasonable:”
“Let me go,” she demanded, and struggled to a sitting position on the couch. “You let me go or my father—”
“What’ll he do?” demanded the man brutally. “I’ve stood a heap from that father of yore’s. I reckon this would even the score even if I hadn’t—” He pulled up, just in time to keep from telling her that he had fired the chaparral. He was quite sober enough to distrust his tongue. It was likely, he knew, to let out some things that had better not be told.
She tried to slip by him and he thrust her back.
“Let me go!” she demanded. “At once!”
“You’re not gonna go,” he told her flatly. “You’ll stay here—with me. For keeps. Un’erstand?”
“Have you gone crazy?” she asked wildly, her heart fluttering like a frightened bird in a cage. “Don’t you know my father will search the whole country for me?”
“Too late. We travel south soon as it’s dark.” He leaned forward and put a hand on her knee, regardless of the fact that she shrank back quivering from his touch. “Listen, girl. You been a high-stepper. Yore heels click mighty loud when they hit the sidewalk. Good enough. Go far as you like. I never did fancy the kind o’ women that lick a man’s hand. But you made one mistake. I’m no doormat, an’ nobody alive can wipe their feet on me. You turned me down cold. You had the ol’ man kick me outa my job as foreman of the ranch. I told him an’ you both I’d git even. But I don’t aim to rub it in. I’m gonna give you a chance to be Mrs. Doble. An’ when you marry me you git a man for a husband.”
“I’ll never marry you! Never! I’d rather be dead in my grave!” she broke out passionately.
He went to the table, poured himself a drink, and gulped it down. His laugh was sinister and mirthless.
“Please yorese’f, sweetheart,” he jeered. “Only you won’t be dead in yore grave. You’ll be keepin’ house for Dug Doble. I’m not insistin’ on weddin’ bells none. But women have their fancies an’ I aim to be kind. Take ’em or leave ’em.”
She broke down and wept, her face in her hands. In her sheltered life she had known only decent, clean-minded people. She did not know how to cope with a man like this. The fear of him rose in her throat and choked her. This dreadful thing he threatened could not be, she told herself. God would not permit it. He would send her father or Dave Sanders or Bob Hart to rescue her. And yet—when she looked at the man, big, gross, dominant, flushed with drink and his triumph—the faith in her became a weak and fluid stay for her soul. She collapsed like a child and sobbed.