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The Big-Town Round-Up by William MacLeod Raine

Don't you all want yo' berth made up


"The hard-faced guy with the little girl?" he asked casually after the proffer of a cigar. "The one with the muscles bulging out all over him--who is he?"

"He comes by that tough mug honestly. That's Jerry Durand."

"The prize-fighter?"

"Yep. Used to be. He's a gang leader in New York now. On his way back from the big fight in 'Frisco."

"He was some scrapper," admitted the range-rider. "Almost won the championship once, didn't he?"

"Lost on a foul. He always was a dirty fighter. I saw him the time he knocked out Reddy Moran."

"What do you mean gang leader?"

"He's boss of his district, they say. Runs a gambling-house of his own, I've heard. You can't prove it by me."

When Lindsay returned to his place he settled himself with a magazine in a seat where he could see Kitty and her new friend. The very vitality of the girl's young life was no doubt a temptation to this man. The soft, rounded throat line, the oval cheek's rich coloring so easily moved to ebb and flow, the carmine of the full red lips: every detail helped to confirm the impression of a sensuous young creature, innocent as a wild thing of the forests and as yet almost as unspiritual. She was a child of the senses, and the man sitting beside her was weighing and appraising her with a keen and hungry avidity.

Durand took the girl in to dinner with him and they sat not far from Lindsay. Kitty was lost to any memory of those about her. She was flirting joyously with a sense of newly awakened powers. The man from Graham County, Arizona, felt uneasy in his mind. The girl was flushed with fife. In a way she was celebrating her escape from the narrow horizon in which she had lived. It was in the horoscope of her temperament to run forward gayly to meet adventure, but when the man opposite her ordered wine and she sipped it reluctantly with a little grimace, the cowpuncher was of opinion that she was likely to get more of this adventure than was good for her. In her unsophistication danger lay. For she was plainly easily influenced, and in the beat of her healthy young blood probably there was latent passion.

They left the diner before Clay. He passed them later in the vestibule of the sleeper. They were looking out together on the moonlit plain through which the train was rushing. The arm of the man was stretched behind her to the railing and with the motion of the car the girl swayed back slightly against him.

Again Clay sought the smoking compartment and was led into talk by the officer. It was well past eleven when he rose, yawned, and announced, "I'm goin' to hit the hay."

Most of the berths were made up and it was with a little shock of surprise that his eyes fell on Kitty Mason and her new friend, the sleek black head of the man close to her fair curls, his steady eyes holding her like a charmed bird while his caressing voice wove the fairy tale of New York to which she yielded herself in strange delight.

"Don't you-all want yo' berth made up, lady?"

It was the impatient porter who interrupted them. The girl sprang up tremulously to accept.

"Oh, please. Is it late?" Her glance swept down the car and took in the fact that her section alone was not made up. "I didn't know--why, what time is it?"


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