“I—I—didn’t—” she started to say, but the Ramblin’ Kid had turned and, ignoring the cat, Skinny and herself, was leaning on the fence with his back to her, looking off across the valley, apparently lost in thought. She did not finish the sentence.
The cat bucked its way to the fence. As it went under the wire the can caught on a barb of the lower strand. Jerking furiously, the animal freed itself from the can, leaving splotches of hair and hide on the ragged edges of tin. Still spitting and clawing, with its tail standing out like an enormous yellow plume, it dashed toward the barn, eager to put distance between itself and the thing that had been torturing it.
“Gosh a’mighty,” Skinny said, sweating with the exertion and the excitement of trying to catch the cat, “it’ll be noon before we get started for that ride!”
“We’ll go now,” Carolyn June answered, “—before some other horrible thing occurs.”
“We’re going over to the river and maybe out on the sand-hills a ways,” Skinny casually remarked to the Ramblin’ Kid as Carolyn June and he passed through the gate. “Oh, yes,” he added, “Chuck said tell you he took your rope—there was a weak spot in his and he didn’t get it fixed yesterday!”
The Ramblin’ Kid did not answer.
Skinny had been wrong about the Ramblin’ Kid not caring what any one thought of him. He was supersensitive of his roughness, his lack of education and conscious crudeness, and the words of Carolyn June were still in his mind. When Skinny and the girl were going toward their horses the Ramblin’ Kid turned and entered the gate. Sing Pete was still at the kitchen door.
The Ramblin’ Kid stepped up to him.
“You damned yellow heathen,” he said in a level voice, “if you ever play that trick on that cat again th’ Quarter Circle KT will be shy a cook an’ your ghost’ll be headin’ pronto for China!”
Without waiting for a reply he went back to the gate and watched Skinny and Carolyn June ride down the lane. The deftness and skill with which the girl handled the horse she rode forced a smile of admiration to the lips of the Ramblin’ Kid. She sat close in the saddle and a glance showed she was a born master of horses. “She’s a wonder,” he said to himself, “a teetotal wonder—” A shade of melancholy passed over his face. “An ign’rant, savage, stupid brute!” he murmured bitterly, “well, I reckon she was right—Hell!” he exclaimed aloud, “I wonder if Skinny’ll remember about that upper crossin’ bein’ dang’rous with quicksand after the rain—Guess he did,” he finished as the two riders turned to the right toward the lower and more distant river ford and disappeared among the willows and cottonwood trees that fringed the Cimarron.
THE GREEDY SANDS