Near three hours before he needed, the Colonel got up and splashed his way through a toilet at the tin basin. The Boy made breakfast without waiting for the usual hour. They had nearly finished when it occurred to the Colonel that neither had spoken since they went to bed. He glanced across at the absorbed face of his friend.
“You’ll come down to the sluice to-night, won’t you?”
“Why shouldn’t I?”
“No reason on earth, only I was afraid you were broodin’ over what you said to Austin.”
“Austin? Oh, I’m not thinkin’ about Austin.”
“What, then? What makes you so quiet?”
“Well, I’m thinkin’ I’d be better satisfied to stay here a little longer if——”
“If there was truth between us two.”
“I thought there was.”
“No. What’s the reason you want me to stay here?”
“Reason? Why”—he laughed in his old way—“I don’t defend my taste, but I kind o’ like to have you round.”
His companion’s grave face showed no lightening. “Why do you want me round more than someone else?”
“Haven’t got anyone else.”
“Oh, yes, you have! Every man on Bonanza’s a friend o’ yours, or would be.”
“It isn’t just that; we understand each other.”
“No, we don’t.”
No answer. The Boy looked through the door across Bonanza to the hills.
“I thought we understood each other if two men ever did. Haven’t we travelled the Long Trail together and seen the ice go out?”
“That’s just it, Colonel. We know such a lot more than men do who haven’t travelled the Trail, and some of the knowledge isn’t oversweet.”
A shadow crossed the kind face opposite.
“You’re thinkin’ about the times I pegged out—didn’t do my share.”
“Lord, no!” The tears sprang up in the young eyes. “I’m thinkin’ o’ the times—I—” He laid his head down on the rude table, and sat so for an instant with hidden face; then he straightened up. “Seems as if it’s only lately there’s been time to think it out. And before, as long as I could work I could get on with myself.... Seemed as if I stood a chance to ... a little to make up.”
“But it’s always just as it was that day on the Oklahoma, when the captain swore he wouldn’t take on another pound. I was awfully happy thinkin’ if I made him bring you it might kind o’ make up, but it didn’t.”
“Made a big difference to me,” the Colonel said, still not able to see the drift, but patiently brushing now and then at the dazzling mist and waiting for enlightenment.
“It’s always the same,” the other went on. “Whenever I’ve come up against something I’d hoped was goin’ to make up, it’s turned out to be a thing I’d have to do anyway, and there was no make up about it. For all that, I shouldn’t mind stayin’ on awhile since you want me to——”