Ranch at the Wolverine (Chapter 9, page 3 of 8)

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Chapter 9

Billy Louise reached up her hands to his shoulders and tried to give him a shake. "Is that why you've stuck yourself in these hills for three whole months and never come near? You fibber!"

"That's why, lady-girl. I've been sticking here, working like one son-of-a-gun--for you. So I could have you sooner." He lifted his bent head and looked around the little cabin like a man who has just wakened to his surroundings. "I knocked off work a little while ago, and I was going to see you. I couldn't stand it any longer. And--here you iss!" he went on, giving her shoulders a little squeeze. "A straight case of 'two souls with but a single thought,' don't you reckon?"

Billy Louise, by a visible effort, brought the situation down to earth. She twisted herself free and went over to the stove and saved a frying-pan of potatoes from burning to a crisp.

"I don't know about your soul," she said, glancing back at him. "I happen to have two or three thoughts in mine. One is that I'm half starved. The second is that you're not acting a bit nice, under the circumstances; no perfectly polite young man makes love to a girl when she is supposedly helpless and under his protection." She stopped there to wrinkle her nose at him and twist her mouth humorously. "The third thought is that if you don't behave, I shall go straight home and never be nice to you again. And," she added, getting back of the coffee-pot--which looked new--"the rest of my soul is one great big blob of question-marks. If you can eat and talk at the same time, you may tell me what this frantic industry is all about. If you can't, I'll have to wait till after dinner; not even my curiosity is going to punish my poor tummy any longer." She pulled a pan of biscuits from the oven, lifted them out one at a time with dainty little nabs because they were hot, and stole a glance now and then at Ward from under her eyebrows.

Ward stood and looked at her until the food was all on the table. He was breathing unnaturally, and his jaws were set hard together. When she pushed a box up to the table and sat down upon it, and rested her elbows on the oilcloth and looked straight at him with her chin nested in her two palms, he drew a long breath, hunched his shoulders with some mental surrender, and grinned wryly.

"So be it," he yielded, throwing his hat upon the bunk. "I kinda overplayed my hand, anyway. I most humbly ask your pardon!" He bowed farcically and took up the wash-basin from its bench just outside the door.

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