Somehow the thing struck Belding as funny, and he laughed. He had not had a laugh for so long that it made him feel good. He stopped only at sight of Nell's surprise and pain. Then he put his arms round her.
"Never mind, dear. I'm an old bear. But it tickled me, I guess. I sure hope Mr. Radford Chase has got it bad...Nell, it's only the old story. The fellows fall in love with you. It's your good looks, Nell. What a price women like you and Mercedes have to pay for beauty! I'd a d-- a good deal rather be ugly as a mud fence."
"So would I, Dad, if--if Dick would still love me."
"He wouldn't, you can gamble on that, as Laddy says. ...Well, the first time I catch this locoed Romeo sneaking round here I'll--I'll--"
"Confound it, Nell, I promised not to pack a gun. That's all. I'll only shoo this fellow off the place, gently, mind you, gently. I'll leave the rest for Dick Gale!"
"Oh, Dad!" cried Nell; and she clung to him wistful, frightened, yet something more.
"Don't mistake me, Nell. You have your own way, generally. You pull the wool over mother's eyes, and you wind me round your little finger. But you can't do either with Dick Gale. You're tender-hearted; you overlook the doings of this hound, Chase. But when Dick comes back, you just make up your mind to a little hell in the Chase camp. Oh, he'll find it out. And I sure want to be round when Dick hands Mr. Radford the same as he handed Rojas!"
Belding kept a sharp lookout for young Chase, and then, a few days later, learned that both son and father had gone off upon one of their frequent trips to Casa Grandes, near where their mines were situated.