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I want you, I want you. Understand that? An' what I want I take. There's about all there is to it."
“That's no way to talk either,” she said, bent on keeping her voice steady and her mind unafraid. She was never a hunter for trouble, but she knew it when she met it, and it was here now, in this silent, lonely hour, in this silent, lonely place, where no human scream could hope to be distinguished from the constant screech of the night owl, and where a shot would be set down as an attack on the flying squirrel that raids in the dark and has to be punished in the dark. She let her useless revolver lie idle in her pocket, and cleared her wits for action. “Calhoun Tandy, if you are asking me to marry you I thank you for the intended honor --for I suppose you mean it to be an honor, though you don't know the words for it-I thank you, but emphatically decline. Now let that settle it.”
He gave an angry laugh. The feathered infant in splints slid from his boot, and, after a few frightened, disconcerted cheeps, humped itself in a corner.
“Talk don't settle nothing like facts does,” announced Tandy, truly enough. “An' the facts is I'm a-holdin' you an' will keep a-holdin'."
In proof of this materialized theory he drew her closer to him.
“Let facts settle it my way then,” she entreated. “Stop to think seriously a moment. You and I are not suited.”
“Oh, I allow I don't talk you-uns talk,” he said, lapsing into one of his swift furies. “But what's talk in the long run? 'Thout talk I kin keep a roof over yore pretty head an' food in yore mouth, an' I kin keep my heart clean for you. I'm goin' to take you back with me to Georgy, an' learn you to be con
tented in the mountains where life is lived free, an' trouble don't come no nearer than a rifle lets it, an'a girl belongs to the man who kin take her, an' folks kin lie down to sleep at night 'thout havin' to be feared o' any tomorrow. When I first see you I swore I'd have you. I liked yore hair and yore skin. Then I liked yore voice an' yore sass an' yore spunk an' yore fight. Then I swore if you didn't give yo’self I'd take you an’ make yo' glad of it by lovin' yo' truly. No, I can't talk you-uns talk, but I kin love the same as any man, an' love's what counts. I didn't have to go to skule to learn to kiss."
The bending closer of his big head, with its heavy thatch of black hair and drooping forehead-lock, her terrified hatred of the kiss he intended to give, endowed her with unexpected swift strength. She flung herself free from him, jumped to her feet, ran up the steps and tried to open the door.
“Don't you know I kin come in as easy as stay out?” he asked, rising tumultuously.
“And I am going to ask you in, really I am," she stammered truthfully. She nervously wanted to laugh at the prodigiousness of disbelief that stared from his dark face, but the idea had come to her that she was suffering from his attentions largely because she had never been seen by him except in her present country garb of short skirt, thick boots, and meek braids, representing the unmilitant type that aches to be thoroughly "bossed” by its hardy males who, in courteous return, treat them to plenty of drama in courtship. They consider drama necessary to all professions. A minister is paid according to the ability he has to “take on grand" in a funeral sermon. Laurie determined to show Cal Tandy that she was rather of the
type of woman who requires a certain amount of elegant comedy to spice her life. She was going to confront him in the armor of correct dress. “Truly, I’m going to invite you in,” she concluded, daring again to smile. “Tricks is no good,” warned Cal. “Shut the door if you like an’ bolt it same as you did afore, but toreckly I choose I’ll smash my way in to you.” “You won’t have to smash!” she exclaimed, indignant at having her word doubted even when doubt was natural on his part. “Give me fifteen minutes, please, and then I’ll invite you in.” “And I’ll come,” he swore, doing it loudly that his voice should follow her well, for she had disappeared inside the house. In not fifteen minutes but ten—surely the quickest change on record—she was in an ancient but still lovely ruin of a modest “party dress,” a flounced affair of pale blue and silver. Her hair, which had been literally thrown into a coiffure, looked unusually beautiful. “Couldn’t have produced anything as satisfactory if I had combed and coiled for an hour,” she told her reflection in the mirror. Then she shattered the evening peace of The McAllister by appearing beside him with his creased but gorgeously satin-faced Tuxedo coat, and literally hustling him into it. “The good Lord bless me and save me!” he spluttered, too much taken by storm to resist. “Will you explain, my love, why it is your pleasure to transform me into a mountebank?” “You look like the duke—iest duke in the three kingdoms,” she said admiringly, pinning a flower to his lapel, “and please talk up to it, Grandpa, for we are going to have company.” She opened the parlor door on the porch and observed musically to the starry darkness, “Won’t you kindly step around to this door, Mr. Tandy, and come in?”
y | NHE clumping rapidity with which the Georgian obeyed the request to step around, and the swift lunge with which he thrust himself inside the placid parlor, proved that his previous doubts concerning the invitation had gathered strength during the wait. The plunging entrance, moreover, put him at a terrific disadvantage immediately, it nearly resulting in landing him upon all fours, for he skidded several feet upon a rug, sliding over the oiled floor as over wet ice, and righting himself only after a series of undignified jerks. None of this conduced to his ease of manner or comfort of mind. “Won't you sit down?” asked Laurie rather gravely, carrying a pained suggestion that Cal had skidded and skated from unseemly choice. Her grandfather, with his aristocratic white head still reared haughtily as the result of his encounter with his enforced coat and ridiculous buttonhole bouquet, greeted the visitor with a majestic “How do you do, sir!” using exactly the tone of voice with which he would have uttered “Get out of my sight, sir!” Against his high-backed chair of cathedral solemnity his thin old face glowered very impressively. An ascetic bishop sitting on the inefficiencies of a flighty curate would have worn just such a look. Laurie precipitately and purposely sat herself in the