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The Big-Town Round-Up by William MacLeod Raine

They flutter around like butterflies

"Tha's the ol' horn-toad winnin' the ropin' championship at Tucson. He sure stepped some that day," the Runt boasted.

The delicate fragrance of the girl's personality went to Clay's head like wine as he stepped forward and shook hands. To see her engaged in this intimate household task at his own table quickened his pulse and sent a glow through him.

"You didn't know you had invited me to dinner, did you?" she said, little flags a-flutter in her cheeks.

They had a gay dinner, and afterward a pleasant hour before Clay took her home.

Neither of them was in a hurry. They walked through Central Park in the kindly darkness, each acutely sensitive to the other's presence.

Her gayety and piquancy had given place to a gentle shyness. Clay let the burden of conversation fall upon her. He knew that he had come to his hour of hours and his soul was wrapped in gravity.

She had never before known a man like him, a personality so pungent, so dynamic. He was master of himself. He ran a clean race. None of his energy was wasted in futile dissipation. One could not escape from his strength, and she had already discovered that she did not want to escape it. If she gave herself to him, it might be for her happiness or it might not. She must take her chance of that. But it had come to her that a woman's joy is to follow her heart--and her heart answered "Here" when he called.

She too sensed what was coming, and the sex instinct in her was on tiptoe in flight. She was throbbing with excitement. Her whole being longed to hear what he had to tell her. Yet she dodged for a way of escape. Silences were too significant, too full-pulsed. She made herself talk. It did not much matter about what.

"Why didn't you tell us that it was Mr. Bromfield who struck down that man Collins? Why did you let us think you did it?" she queried.

"Well, folks in New York don't know me. What was the use of gettin' him in bad?"

"You know that wasn't the reason. You did it because--" She stopped in the midst of the sentence. It had occurred to her that this subject was more dangerous even than silence.

"I did it because he was the man you were goin' to marry," he said.

They moved side by side through the shadows. In the faint light he could make out the fine line of her exquisite throat. After a moment she spoke. "You're a good friend, Clay. It was a big thing to do. I don't know anybody else except Dad that would have done it for me."

"You don't know anybody else that loves you as much as I do."

It was out at last, quietly and without any dramatics. A flash of soft eyes darted at him, then veiled the shining tenderness beneath long lashes. She paced a little faster, chin up, nerves taut.

"I've had an attack of common sense," he went on, and in his voice was a strength both audacious and patient. "I thought at first I couldn't hope to win you because of your fortune and what it had done for you. Even when I knew you liked me I felt it wouldn't be fair for me to ask you. I couldn't offer you the advantages you'd had. But I've changed my mind. I've been watching what money does to yore friends. It makes them soft. They flutter around like butterflies. They're paupers--a good many of them--because they don't pay their way. A man's a tramp if he doesn't saw wood for his breakfast. I don't want you to get like that, and if you stay here long enough you sure will. It's in my heart that if you'll come with me we'll live."

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