Friday, May 21, 2010

WHEN AMBER CRIED ENOUGH; by Marguerite Mohler Hanson; part 2; 1932

Though she recalled it, she didn't go on to tell him that Amber had pointed to him and his tractor in their retreating cloud of dust and asked, "Is that man with the dirty face one of my hired hands, by any chance?

"In a way," incorrigible Dolly had answered. "He's my oldest brother and he's awfully curious about you."

To ease the poor girl's embarrassment Mrs. Flemming had explained that this was Flemming land down here. The Chapelle ranch extended in the opposite direction.

"I want you to make a good impression tonight, Drag," Mrs. Flemming told him. "Amber's determined to run the ranch herself. That foreman, Jason, is no good. She should have the help of a husband,"

"Preferably one named Drag Flemming," he said grinning.

"It ought to be you. You're the oldest!" Mrs. Flemming had a medieval feeling for primogeniture. "But I suppose it will be Henry. You're always so wishy-washy with girls. You never try--"

"Watch my style this time," he bantered, running a hand over his dusty orange hair.

She watched until he disappeared through the back door. Fortunately she was unable to see what he did next. It probably saved her from a heart attack. She stood there for a while thinking, wondering how any girl could fail to be attracted by this elder son of hers. Henry was small and dark and good looking. Drag was the opposite; but there was a queer kind of mystery and glamour about him, in his slanting eyes, so oddly oriental when lidded, so piercingly blue when open. He had a way of handling his long graceful body, a stance, a stride, a sway that must be the envy of the gods themselves. She'd piously christened him George after the saint, though he looked, and at times acted, more like a dragon. Hence the nickname, "Drag" Flemming.

Drag found his razor gone from its usual place in the wash room. He suspected Dolly at once. He could hear Henry strumming the piano in the front part of the house. He guessed that the little visitor was beside Henry on the bench. Henry had a way with girls; but somehow, this girl had looked different.

His cap still on his head, Drag glanced into the kitchen. Dolly was not there. He stepped to the back stairs and cautiously called her name.

"What do you want?" she answered from her room, and not at all cautiously.

"I want my razor!" he informed her in a subdued rage. "Haven't I told you to leave my razor alone? Bring it down here at once!"

He could hear her giggle. "Say please, wild man."

"Will you return my razor?"

"Say please!"

He took the stairs three steps at a time. Dolly's door was open. His razor lay on her dressing table, and there on the stool before it sat the young hyena herself.

Drag lunged for her, not dreaming that Amber might be in the room, too. This was old stuff to Dolly. She gave the visor of his cap a powerful jerk down over his long nose, and broke away. Though blindfolded, he kept her from escaping through the door. She seemed to be dancing around him as if she were two or three people. By the time he had used both hands to wrench the cap from over his eyes she had disappeared.

He thought he saw the lid of the cedar chest quiver, then a dress in the closet dropped off its hanger as if someone had fanned past it. Dolly couldn't be in two places at once. Drag invaded the long, old-fashioned closet and found what he was looking for in its farthest and darkest corner.

It was a lively tussle. Dolly usually put up a good fight; but he had never known her to be so silent about it before. He finally got her where he could rub his stubbly chin against her cheek and throat.

"Use my razor again, will you?" he taunted, and then gave her a forgiving smack on lips unexpectedly open. She closed them hastily in a wet, baby kiss. This was not like Dolly, but before he had time to unlock his hold on her someone grabbed his elbows from the rear. Instead of loosening his grip the attack tightened it with a sudden force that brought a groan from the form in his arms.

"Watch out, you big bum; that's Amber!" cried Dolly from behind him.

"My Heavens!" whispered Drag and dropped the girl as if she'd been a hornet's nest. She pressed past him and he heard both young women scurry down the stairs and bang the door behind them. He staggered out of the closet.