“Who elected you czar of Huerfano Park?” demanded Meldrum, furious with anger.
He glared at the ranchman impotently, turned away with a mumbled oath, and went back with jingling spurs to his horse.
Beaudry Blows a Smoke Wreath
Royal Beaudry carried about with him in his work on the Lazy Double D persistent memories of the sloe-eyed gypsy who had recently played so large a part in his life. Men of imagination fall in love, not with a woman, but with the mystery they make of her. The young cattleman was not yet a lover, but a rumor of the future began to murmur in his ears. Beulah Rutherford was on the surface very simple and direct, but his thoughts were occupied with the soul of her. What was the girl like whose actions functioned in courage and independence and harsh hostility?
Life had imposed on her a hard finish. But it was impossible for Roy to believe that this slender, tawny child of the wind and the sun could at heart be bitter and suspicious. He had seen the sweet look of her dark-lashed eyes turned in troubled appeal upon her father. There had been one hour when he had looked into her face and found it radiant, all light and response and ecstasy. The emotion that had pulsed through her then had given the lie to the sullen silence upon which she fell back as a defense. If the gods were good to her some day, the red flower of passion would bloom on her cheeks and the mists that dulled her spirit would melt in the warm sunshine of love.
So the dreamer wove the web of his fancy about her, and the mystery that was Beulah Rutherford lay near his thoughts when he walked or rode or ate or talked.
Nor did it lessen his interest in her that he felt she despised him. The flash of her scornful eyes still stung him. He was beyond caring whether she thought him a spy. He knew that the facts justified him in his attempt to save Dingwell. But he writhed that she should believe him a coward. It came too close home. And since the affray in the arcade, no doubt she set him down, too, as a drunken rowdy.
He made the usual vain valorous resolutions of youth to show her his heroic quality. These served at least one good purpose. If he could not control his fears, he could govern his actions. Roy forced himself by sheer will power to ride alone into Battle Butte once a week. Without hurry he went about his business up and down Mission Street.
The town watched him and commented. “Got sand in his craw, young Beaudry has,” was the common verdict. Men wondered what would happen when he met Charlton and Meldrum. Most of them would have backed John Beaudry’s son both in their hopes and in their opinion of the result.
Into saloons and gambling-houses word was carried, and from there to the hillmen of the park by industrious peddlers of trouble, that the young cattleman from the Lazy Double D could be found by his enemies heeled for business whenever they wanted him.