“Good lord,” Carolyn June gasped, “that is—’pronto’—as these cowboys say! ‘Quick’ with a vengeance! There must be something in this western air that makes them do it!”
“It was all I could do this morning to keep Skinny from—” she started to say, then shifted again to the subject of Parker. “Did he know that you are—”
“National Organizer for the ‘Movement,’” Ophelia filled in. “Yes, I had already confessed. I told him as we were driving to town—and the other—the shock—came just after we crossed the bridge when we were returning home!”
“He is a bold, dangerous man!” Carolyn June exclaimed, in mock seriousness, “trying to get ahead of Uncle Josiah!”
“I inferred as much,” the widow explained; “he told me that to-morrow would be your uncle’s ’day’—whatever he meant by that; the next he, Mr. Parker himself, would be ‘around’ again. ’Unless Old Heck took some fool notion or other;’ before long he would be away on the beef hunt and one can never tell what might happen while one is gone and, well, that’s the way he felt about it, so he just said it—”
“Naturally was completely surprised, entirely non-committal, and made no definite agreement!” Ophelia laughed softly.
OLD HECK’S STRATEGY
It was late when Old Heck and the cowboys returned to the ranch. The runaway cattle had been overtaken on the sand-hills beyond the North Springs and it took the entire afternoon to bunch them and work the restless animals back to the Quarter Circle KT, into the big pasture, and repair the fence so it was safe to leave them for the night.
Ophelia, Carolyn June and Parker were in the front room when Old Heck and the hungry cowboys clattered, long after dark, into the kitchen for the supper Sing Pete had kept warm for them.
After the meal Skinny went into the room where Parker and the women were. Old Heck followed and talked for a few moments with Parker about the affairs of the ranch, then joined the cowboys at the bunk-house where they had gone directly after leaving the table. On Skinny’s bed Parker had tossed a bundle.
“What in thunder do you reckon Skinny’s been buying, now?” Chuck questioned as he picked up the package and examined it curiously. “Blamed if it don’t feel like a shirt.”
“I’ll bet that’s what it is,” Bert said with a laugh as Old Heck stepped inside the door, “the darn fool has gone and got him a white shirt—”
“Who has?” Old Heck asked, hearing only the latter part of Bert’s remark.
“Skinny,” Charley answered for Bert, “he’s fixing up to make love in style—”
“Aw, the blamed idiot,” Old Heck grunted, then glancing over toward Parker’s bed: “—Did you notice whether Parker got him one, too, or not?”
Before the question was answered Parker and Skinny appeared at the bunk-house door.