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The Snow Man
by [?]

Miss Adams thanked him a little wildly, some of the wintergreen berries creeping into the birch bark. She looked around hurriedly as if seeking escape. But there was none, save the kitchen and the room allotted her. She made an excuse and disappeared into her own room.

Later I, feigning sleep, heard the following:

“Mees Adams, I was almost to perislh-die-of monotony w’en your fair and beautiful face appear in thees mee-ser-rhable house.” I opened my starboard eye. The beard was being curled furiously around a finger, the Svengali eye was rolling, the chair was being hunched closer to the school-teacher’s. “I am French–you see–temperamental–nervous! I cannot endure thees dull hours in thees ranch house; but–a woman comes! Ah!” The shoulders gave nine ‘rahs and a tiger. “What a difference! All is light and gay; ever’ting smile w’en you smile. You have ‘eart, beauty, grace. My ‘eart comes back to me w’en I feel your ‘eart. So!” He laid his hand upon his vest pocket. From this vantage point he suddenly snatched at the school-teacher’s own hand, “Ah! Mees Adams, if I could only tell you how I ad–“

“Dinner,” remarked George. He was standing just behind the Frenchman’s ear. His eyes looked straight into the school-teacher’s eyes. After thirty seconds of survey, his lips moved, deep in the flinty, frozen maelstrom of his face: “Dinner,” he concluded, “will be ready in two minutes.”

Miss Adams jumped to her feet, relieved. “I must get ready for dinner,” she said brightly, and went into her room.

Ross came in fifteen minutes late. After the dishes had been cleaned away, I waited until a propitious time when the room was temporarily ours alone, and told him what had happened.

He became so excited that he lit a stogy without thinking. “Yeller- hided, unwashed, palm-readin’ skunk,” he said under his breath. “I’ll shoot him full o’ holes if he don’t watch out–talkin’ that way to my wife!”

I gave a jump that set my collarbone back another week. “Your wife!” I gasped.

“Well, I mean to make her that,” he announced.

The air in the ranch house the rest of that day was tense with pent-up emotions, oh, best buyers of best sellers.

Ross watched Miss Adams as a hawk does a hen; he watched Etienne as a hawk does a scarecrow, Etienne watched Miss Adams as a weasel does a henhouse. He paid no attention to Ross.

The condition of Miss Adams, in the role of sought-after, was feverish. Lately escaped from the agony and long torture of the white cold, where for hours Nature had kept the little school-teacher’s vision locked in and turned upon herself, nobody knows through what profound feminine introspections she had gone. Now, suddenly cast among men, instead of finding relief and security, she beheld herself plunged anew into other discomforts. Even in her own room she could hear the loud voices of her imposed suitors. “I’ll blow you full o’ holes!” shouted Ross. “Witnesses,” shrieked Etienne, waving his hand at the cook and me. She could not have known the previous harassed condition of the men, fretting under indoor conditions. All she knew was, that where she had expected the frank freemasonry of the West, she found the subtle tangle of two men’s minds, bent upon exacting whatever romance there might be in her situation.

She tried to dodge Ross and the Frenchman by spells of nursing me. They also came over to help nurse. This combination aroused such a natural state of invalid cussedness on my part that they were all forced to retire. Once she did manage to whisper: “I am so worried here. I don’t know what to do.”

To which I replied, gently, hitching up my shoulder, that I was a hunch-savant and that the Eighth House under this sign, the Moon being in Virgo, showed that everything would turn out all right.