The Claim Jumpers by Stewart Edward White
Chapter XV. The Girl on the Train
The next morning the young man had quite regained his good spirits. The girl, on the other hand, was rather quiet.
Dr. McPherson made no objections to furnishing a copy of the assays. The records, however, were at the School of Mines. He drove down to get them, and in the interim the two young people, at Mrs. McPherson's suggestion, went to see the train come in.
The platform of the station was filled to suffocation. Assuming that the crowd's intention was to view the unaccustomed locomotive, it was strange it did not occur to them that the opposite side of the track or the adjacent prairie would afford more elbow room. They huddled together on the boards of the platform as though the appearance of the spectacle depended on every last individual's keeping his feet from the naked earth. They pushed good-naturedly here and there, expostulating, calling to one another facetiously, looking anxiously down the straight, dwindling track for the first glimpse of the locomotive.
Mary and Bennington found themselves caught up at once into the vortex. After a few moments of desperate clinging together, they were forced into the front row, where they stood on the very edge, braced back against the pressure, half laughing, half vexed.
The train drew in with a grinding rush. From the step swung the conductor. Faces looked from the open windows.
On the platform of one of the last cars stood a young girl and three men. One of the men was elderly, with white hair and side whiskers. The other two were young and well dressed. The girl was of our best patrician type--the type that may know little, think little, say little, and generally amount to little, and yet carry its negative qualities with so used an air of polite society as to raise them by sheer force to the dignity of positive virtues. From head to foot she was faultlessly groomed. From eye to attitude she was languidly superior--the impolitic would say bored. Yet every feature of her appearance and bearing, even to the very tips of her enamelled and sensibly thick boots, implied that she was of a different class from the ordinary, and satisfied on "common people" that impulse which attracts her lesser sisters to the vulgar menagerie. She belonged to the proper street--at the proper time of day. Any one acquainted with the species would have known at once that this private-car trip to Deadwood was to please the prosperous-looking gentleman with the side whiskers, and that it was made bearable only by the two smooth-shaven individuals in the background.
She caught sight of the pair directly in front of her, and raised her lorgnette with a languid wrist.
Her stare was from the outside-the-menagerie standpoint. Bennington was not used to it. For the moment he had the Fifth Avenue feeling, and knew that he was not properly dressed. Therefore, naturally, he was confused. He lowered his head and blushed a little. Then he became conscious that Mary's clear eyes were examining him in a very troubled fashion.
Three hours and a half afterward it suddenly occurred to him that she might have thought he had blushed and lowered his head because he was ashamed to be seen by this other girl in her company; but it was then too late.
The train pulled out. The Westerners at once scattered in all directions. Half an hour later the choking cloud dusts rose like smoke from the different trails that led north or south or west to the heart of the Hills.
"The picnic is over," he suggested gently at their noon camping place.
"Yes, thank Heaven!"
"You remember your promise?"
"That you would explain your 'mystery.'"
"I've changed my mind."
A leaf floated slowly down the wind. A raven croaked. The breeze made the sunbeams waver.
"Mary, the picnic is over," he repeated again very gently.
"Yes, yes, yes!"
"I love you, Mary."
The raven spread his wings and flew away.
"Do you love me?" he insisted gently.
"I want you to come to dinner at our house to-morrow noon."
"That is a strange answer, Mary."
"It is all the answer you'll get to-day."
"Why are you so cross? Is anything the matter?"
"I love you, Mary. I love you, girl. At least I can say that now."
"Yes, you can say it--now."