The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 218

opportunity to discuss with another for a long, long time.

And slowly he had found delight in just sitting and looking at her. He
was experienced enough to realize that this was a dangerous symptom, and
so from the moment he had been forced to acknowledge it to himself he
had been very careful to guard his speech and his manner in the girl's
presence.

He found pleasure in dreaming of what might have been as he sat watching
the girl's changing expression as different moods possessed her; but as
for permitting a hope, even, of realization of his dreams--ah, he was
far too practical for that, dreamer though he was.

As the two talked Grayson passed. His rather stern face clouded as he
saw the girl and the new bookkeeper laughing there together.

"Ain't you got nothin' to do?" he asked Bridge.

"Yes, indeed," replied the latter.

"Then why don't you do it?" snapped Grayson.

"I am," said Bridge.

"Mr. Bridge is entertaining me," interrupted the girl, before Grayson
could make any rejoinder. "It is my fault--I took him from his work. You
don't mind, do you, Mr. Grayson?"

Grayson mumbled an inarticulate reply and went his way.

"Mr. Grayson does not seem particularly enthusiastic about me," laughed
Bridge.

"No," replied the girl, candidly; "but I think it's just because you
can't ride."

"Can't ride!" ejaculated Bridge. "Why, haven't I been riding ever since
I came here?"

"Mr. Grayson doesn't consider anything in the way of equestrianism
riding unless the ridden is perpetually seeking the life of the rider,"
explained Barbara. "Just at present he is terribly put out because you
lost Brazos. He says Brazos never stumbled in his life, and even if you
had fallen from his back he would have stood beside you waiting for
you to remount him. You see he was the kindest horse on the
ranch--especially picked for me to ride. However in the world DID you
lose him, Mr. Bridge?"

The girl was looking full at the man as she propounded her query. Bridge
was silent. A faint flush overspread his face. He had not before known
that the horse was hers. He couldn't very well tell her the truth, and
he wouldn't lie to her, so he made no reply.

Barbara saw the flush and noted the man's silence. For the first time
her suspicions were aroused, yet she would not believe that this gentle,
amiable drifter could be guilty of any crime greater than negligence
or carelessness. But why his evident embarrassment now? The girl was
mystified. For a moment or two they sat in silence, then Barbara rose.

"I must run along

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