The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 217

to a
young lady."

"But it does, though," she replied; "at least to me. There's a swing to
it and a freedom that 'gets me in the eye.'"

Again she laughed, and when this girl laughed, harder-headed and much
older men than Mr. L. Bridge felt strange emotions move within their
breasts.

For a week Barbara had seen a great deal of the new bookkeeper. Aside
from her father he was the only man of culture and refinement of which
the rancho could boast, or, as the rancho would have put it, be ashamed
of.

She had often sought the veranda of the little office and lured the new
bookkeeper from his work, and on several occasions had had him at the
ranchhouse. Not only was he an interesting talker; but there was an
element of mystery about him which appealed to the girl's sense of
romance.

She knew that he was a gentleman born and reared, and she often found
herself wondering what tragic train of circumstances had set him adrift
among the flotsam of humanity's wreckage. Too, the same persistent
conviction that she had known him somewhere in the past that possessed
her father clung to her mind; but she could not place him.

"I overheard your dissertation on HERE AND THERE," said the girl. "I
could not very well help it--it would have been rude to interrupt a
conversation." Her eyes sparkled mischievously and her cheeks dimpled.

"You wouldn't have been interrupting a conversation," objected Bridge,
smiling; "you would have been turning a monologue into a conversation."

"But it was a conversation," insisted the girl. "The wanderer was
conversing with the bookkeeper. You are a victim of wanderlust, Mr. L.
Bridge--don't deny it. You hate bookkeeping, or any other such prosaic
vocation as requires permanent residence in one place."

"Come now," expostulated the man. "That is hardly fair. Haven't I been
here a whole week?"

They both laughed.

"What in the world can have induced you to remain so long?" cried
Barbara. "How very much like an old timer you must feel--one of the
oldest inhabitants."

"I am a regular aborigine," declared Bridge; but his heart would have
chosen another reply. It would have been glad to tell the girl that
there was a very real and a very growing inducement to remain at El
Orobo Rancho. The man was too self-controlled, however, to give way to
the impulses of his heart.

At first he had just liked the girl, and been immensely glad of her
companionship because there was so much that was common to them both--a
love for good music, good pictures, and good literature--things Bridge
hadn't had an

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