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The Snow Man
by [?]

But twenty minutes later I saw Etienne reading her palm and felt that perhaps I might have to recast her horoscope, and try for a dark man coming with a bundle.

Toward sunset, Etienne left the house for a few moments and Ross, who had been sitting taciturn and morose, having unlocked Mark Twain, made another dash. It was typical Ross talk.

He stood in front of her and looked down majestically at that cool and perfect spot where Miss Adams’ forehead met the neat part in her fragrant hair. First, however, he cast a desperate glance at me. I was in a profound slumber.

“Little woman,” he began, “it’s certainly tough for a man like me to see you bothered this way. You”–gulp–“you have been alone in this world too long. You need a protector. I might say that at a time like this you need a protector the worst kind–a protector who would take a three-ring delight in smashing the saffron-colored kisser off of any yeller-skinned skunk that made himself obnoxious to you. Hem. Hem. I am a lonely man, Miss Adams. I have so far had to carry on my life without the”–gulp–“sweet radiance”–gulp–“of a woman around the house. I feel especially doggoned lonely at a time like this, when I am pretty near locoed from havin’ to stall indoors, and hence it was with delight I welcomed your first appearance in this here shack. Since then I have been packed jam full of more different kinds of feelings, ornery, mean, dizzy, and superb, than has fallen my way in years.”

Miss Adams made a useless movement toward escape. The Ross chin stuck firm. “I don’t want to annoy you, Miss Adams, but, by heck, if it comes to that you’ll have to be annoyed. And I’ll have to have my say. This palm-ticklin’ slob of a Frenchman ought to be kicked off the place and if you’ll say the word, off he goes. But I don’t want to do the wrong thing. You’ve got to show a preference. I’m gettin’ around to the point, Miss–Miss Willie, in my own brick fashion. I’ve stood about all I can stand these last two days and somethin’s got to happen. The suspense hereabouts is enough to hang a sheepherder. Miss Willie”–he lassooed her hand by main force–“just say the word. You need somebody to take your part all your life long. Will you mar–“

“Supper,” remarked George, tersely, from the kitchen door.

Miss Adams hurried away.

Ross turned angrily. “You–“

“I have been revolving it in my head,” said George.

He brought the coffee pot forward heavily. Then bravely the big platter of pork and beans. Then somberly the potatoes. Then profoundly the biscuits. “I have been revolving it in my mind. There ain’t no use waitin’ any longer for Swengalley. Might as well eat now.”

>From my excellent vantage-point on the couch I watched the progress of that meal. Ross, muddled, glowering, disappointed; Etienne, eternally blandishing, attentive, ogling; Miss Adams, nervous, picking at her food, hesitant about answering questions, almost hysterical; now and then the solid, flitting shadow of the cook, passing behind their backs like a Dreadnaught in a fog.

I used to own a clock which gurgled in its throat three minutes before it struck the hour. I know, therefore, the slow freight of Anticipation. For I have awakened at three in the morning, heard the clock gurgle, and waited those three minutes for the three strokes I knew were to come. ~Alors~. In Ross’s ranch house that night the slow freight of Climax whistled in the distance.

Etienne began it after supper. Miss Aclams had suddenly displayed a lively interest in the kitchen layout and I could see her in there, chatting brightly at George–not with him–the while he ducked his head and rattled his pans.