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The Girl In Red
by [?]

“It isn’t that I object to,” protested the Easterner, leaning forward from the rough log wall to give emphasis to his words, “for I believe in everyone having his fun his own way. If you’re going in for orgies, why, have ’em good orgies, and be done with it. But my kick’s on letting these innocent young girls who are just out for the fun–it’s awful!”

“It’s hell!” assented the Westerner, cheerfully.

“Now, look at that pretty creature over there—-“

The young miner followed his companion’s gaze through the garishly lit crowd. Then, as though in doubt as to whether he had seen correctly, he tried it again.

“Which do you mean?” he asked, puzzled.

“The one in red. Now, she—-“

The Westerner snorted irrepressibly.

“What’s the matter with you?” inquired the Easterner, looking on him with suspicious eyes.

The other choked his laugh in the middle, and instantly assumed an expression of intense solemnity. It was as though a candle had blown out in the wind.

“Beg pardon. Nothing,” he asserted with brevity of enunciation. “Go on.”

The girl in red was standing tiptoe on a bench under one of the big lanterns. She was holding her little palm slantwise over the chimney, and by blowing against it was trying to put out the lamp. Her face was very serious and flushed. Occasionally the lamp would flare up a little, and she would snatch her hand away with a pretty gesture of dismay as the uprising flame would threaten to scorch it. A group of interested men surrounded and applauded her. Two on the outside stood off the proprietor of the dance-hall. The proprietor was objecting.

“Well, then, just look at that girl, I say,” the Easterner went on. “She’s as pretty and fresh and innocent as a mountain flower. She’s having the time of her young life, and she just thinks it means a good time and nothing else. Some day she’ll find out it means a lot else. I tell you, it’s awful!”

The Westerner surveyed his friend’s flushed face with silent amusement. The girl finally succeeded in blowing the light out, and everybody yelled.

“Same old fellow you were in college, aren’t you, Bert?” he said, affectionately; “succouring the distressed and borrowing other people’s troubles. What can you do?”

“Do, do! What can any man do? Take her out of this! appeal to her better nature!”

Bert started impulsively forward to where the girl–with assistance–was preparing to jump from the bench. The miner caught his sleeve in alarm.

“Hold on, don’t make a row! Wait a minute!” he begged; “she isn’t worth it! There, now listen,” as the other sank back expectantly to his former position. His bantering manner returned. “You and the windmills,” he breathed, in relief. “I’ll just shatter your ideals a few to pay for that scare. You shall now hear a fact or so concerning that pretty, innocent girl–I forget your other adjective. In the first place, she isn’t in the mountain-flower business a little bit. Her name is Anne Bingham, but she is more popularly known as Bismarck Anne, chiefly because of all the camps of our beloved territory Bismarck is the only one she hasn’t visited. Therefore, it is concluded she must have come from there.”

“Bismarck Anne!” repeated the Easterner, wonderingly. “She isn’t the one—-“

“The very same. She’s about as bad as they make ’em, and I don’t believe she misses a pay-day dance a year. She’s all right, now; but you want to come back a little later. Anne will be drunk–gloriously drunk–and very joyful. I will say that for her. She has all the fun there is in it while it lasts.”

“Whew!” whistled the Easterner, in dazed repulsion, looking with interest on the girl’s animated face.

“Oh, what do you care!” responded the miner, carelessly. “She has her fun.”

Bismarck Anne jumped into the nearest man’s arms, was kissed, bestowed a slap, and flitted away down the room. She deftly stole the accordion from beneath the tall look-out stool on which a musician sat and ran, evolving strange noises from the instrument, and scampering in and out among the benches, pursued by its owner. The men all laughed heartily, and tried to trip up the pursuer. The women laughed hollow laughs, to show they were not jealous of the sensation she was creating. Finally she ran into the proprietor, just turning from relighting the big lamp. The proprietor, being angry, rescued the accordion roughly; whereupon Anne pouted and cast appealing glances on her friends. The friends responded to a man. The proprietor set up the drinks.