“Old Heck’s going to buy some finger-bowls for you to wash your hands in,” Bert said scornfully, “him and Parker—”
“Shut up, I told you, you darned idiots,” Parker snapped. “They’re out on the front porch and can hear you!”
“Be careful about your cussin’—” Bert mimicked with a snicker.
Notwithstanding their raillery every man in the group, including Pedro, gave unusual care to scrubbing his face and smoothing his hair preparatory to entering the kitchen for supper and where they would meet, for the first time, Ophelia and Carolyn June.
Sing Pete glided out of the kitchen door and hammered the triangle announcing the evening meal.
At the instant Parker and the cowboys filed into the kitchen from the rear, Ophelia and Carolyn June, followed by Old Heck and Skinny Rawlins, both looking sheepish and somewhat ashamed, stepped into the room from the front.
All stood waiting and Old Heck, ill at ease and in a voice that trembled, gave the party formal introduction:
“Missus Ophelia Cobb and Miss Carolyn June Dixon,” motioning first at the widow and then the girl, “Mister Parker, Mister Bert Lilly, Mister Charley Saunders, Mister Chuck Slithers, Mister Pedro Valencia—” indicating each in turn with his hand as he called the names, “—I reckon you’re already acquainted with Skinny!”
The cowboys mumbled greetings which Carolyn June and Ophelia graciously acknowledged.
Sing Pete had laid two extra covers.
“You boys can take your regular places—all except you, Parker,” Old Heck said, “—you set at that side on this end,” pointing to the seat at the left next to the head of the table. “Carolyn June, you can set at that end and Ophelia at this end—I’ll set here,” taking the seat at the widow’s right and directly across from Parker.
This placed Old Heck, Bert Lilly, Pedro and Skinny Rawlins on the right of the table in the order named, Skinny sitting at the end on Carolyn’s left. On the opposite side sat Parker, Chuck Slithers and Charley. Next to Charley, at the right of Carolyn June, and opposite Skinny, was a vacant chair.
“Who is this for?” Carolyn June inquired, indicating the unoccupied seat.
“That’s th’ Ramblin’ Kid’s place,” Old Heck replied; “he may come in and again he mayn’t—”
“It was him you saw to-day,” Skinny added, “riding down toward the Narrows when we was coming from Eagle Butte.”
“Do you know; where he went, Parker?” Old Heck asked.
“No. When we started over to the Springs he was here. Said he reckoned we could get along without him and he wouldn’t go—”
“He’s just got one of them lonesome spells,” Bert said, “and wanted to get off by himself somewhere.”
“He knowed we was going to have company, too,” Chuck observed.
“More than likely that’s why he went,” Skinny suggested.
“Is he afraid of women?” Carolyn June laughed.