“What are we going to do with that filly?” Old Heck asked, looking at the beautiful creature with her head above the bars of the corral gate.
“I am going to ride her!” Carolyn June said softly. “Until the Ramblin’ Kid comes back and claims her she is mine! She loves me and I can handle her!”
“I’m afraid—” Old Heck started to protest.
“You need not be,” Carolyn June interrupted, “the Gold Dust maverick and I know each other—she understands me and I understand her—she will be perfectly gentle with me!”
The next day Carolyn June rode the wonderful outlaw mare. It was as she said. The filly was perfectly gentle with her. After that, every day, the girl saddled the Gold Dust maverick and, unafraid, took long rides alone.
* * * * *
The night the cattle were shipped Skinny had supper in Eagle Butte. He sat alone at a small table at one side of the dining-room in the Occidental Hotel. The cowboy was the picture of utter misery. Parker, Charley, Chuck, Bert were gone to Chicago with steers; the Ramblin’ Kid was gone—nobody knew where; Skinny’s dream about Carolyn June was gone—she didn’t love him, she just liked him; even his whisky was gone, he had given it to the hostler at the barn; he didn’t have any friends or anything.
“What’s the matter, Skinny?” Manilla Endora, the yellow-haired waitress, asked softly, as she stepped up to the table and looked down a moment at the dejected cowboy. There was something in her voice that made Skinny pity himself more than ever. It made him want to cry. “What’s wrong?’ Manilla repeated almost tenderly.
“Everything!” Skinny blurted out, dropping his head on his arms. “The whole blamed works is shot to pieces!”
A little smile stole over Manilla’s rosy lips.
“I know what it is,” she said gently, unreproachfully; “it’s that girl, Carolyn June. Yes, it is,” as Skinny started to interrupt. “Oh, I don’t blame you for falling for her!” she went on. “She is nice—but, well, Skinny-boy,” her voice was a caress, “Old Heck’s niece is not the sort for you. You and her wouldn’t fit at all—the way you wanted—and anyhow, there—there—are others,” coloring warmly.
Skinny looked up into the honest blue eyes.
“You ain’t sore at me or anything are you, Manilla?” he asked.
“Sore?” she answered. “Of course not!”
Hope sprung again into his heart. “I—I—thought maybe you would be,” he stammered.
“Forget it!” she laughed. “The old world still wobbles!”
“Manilla, you—you’re a peach!” he cried.
She chuckled. “Did you hear about that dance next Saturday night after the picture show?” she asked archly.
“No. Is there one?” with new interest in life.
“Yes,” she replied, her lashes drooping demurely; “they say the music is going to be swell.”
“If I come in will you—will we—go, Manilla?” he asked eagerly.