“I-I have no t-t-time,” he stuttered, totally confused. “Y-you see, I ’m in a h-hell of a h-h-hurry.”
“Pah; eet vill not take five minute, an’ I be here ven you come back. Si, senor, I vait for you for de dance, sure.” She turned eagerly to Miss Norvell. “You go vis him, senorita; he ver’ good man, I, Mercedes, know.”
The American looked at them both, her eyes slightly smiling in understanding.
“Yes,” she assented quietly, “I believe he is.”
Whatever Stutter Brown may secretly have thought concerning this new arrangement of his affairs, he indulged in no outward manifestations. Not greatly gifted in speech, he was nevertheless sufficiently prompt in action. The swift, nervous orders of the impulsive Mexican dancer had sufficiently impressed him with one controlling idea, that something decidedly serious was in the air; and, as she flitted across the room, looking not unlike a red bird, he watched her make directly toward a man who was leaning negligently back in a chair against the farther wall. For a moment he continued to gaze through the obscuring haze of tobacco smoke, uncertain as to the other’s identity, his eyes growing angry, his square jaw set firm.
“W-who is the f-f-feller?” he questioned gruffly. “Wh-what ’s she m-mean l-leavin’ me to go over th-thar ter h-him?”
Beth Norvell glanced up frankly into his puzzled face.
“She has gone to keep him away from me,” she explained quietly. “His name is Farnham.”
Brown’s right hand swung back to his belt, his teeth gripped like those of a fighting dog.
“Hell!” he ejaculated, forgetting to stutter. “Is that him? Biff Farnham? An’ he ’s after you is he, the damned Mormon?”
She nodded, her cheeks growing rosy from embarrassment. Brown cast a quick, comprehensive glance from the face of the woman to where the man was now leaning lazily against the wall.
“All r-right, little g-girl,” he said slowly, and with grave deliberation. “I-I reckon I n-never went b-back on any p-pard yet. B-blamed if y-y-you hate thet c-cuss any worse th-than I do. Y-you bet, I ‘ll take you out o’ h-h-here safe ’nough.”
He drew her more closely against his side, completely shielding her slender figure from observation by the intervention of his giant body, and thus they passed out together into the gloomy but still riotous street. A block or more down, under the glaring light of a noisy saloon, the girl looked up questioningly into his boyish face.
“Are you Stutter Brown, of the ’Little Yankee’?” she asked doubtfully.
“I-I reckon you’ve c-c-called the t-turn, Miss.”
She hesitated a moment, but there was something about this big, awkward fellow, with his sober eyes and good-natured face, which gave her confidence.