There was no embarrassment now or humility in his eyes as he looked steadily at Carolyn June. His expression was as cold as if the one to whom he spoke was an utter stranger.
“I—” Carolyn June hesitated, “oh, I thank you! It was kind of you to think about it and ride back—back—there,” she involuntarily shuddered when she thought of the upper crossing, “and get it!”
The simple, unexpected thoughtfulness of the deed touched her. It was the natural, instinctive act of a gentleman. She had forgotten the hat. He had not. As she looked at him she felt that, someway, she might have known such a thing was exactly what he would do.
“You’re welcome,” he said quietly, starting to turn away.
A spirit of mischief suddenly flared up in her heart. She thought of the pink elastic she had lost and which she believed he was carrying now in his pocket.
“Is the hat all—didn’t you—” she intended to say “find something else?” but quickly stopped. The Ramblin’ Kid paused and turned again toward Carolyn June. She hesitated in confusion. It had flashed to her mind that if he had the garter he would not lie about it. He would say as much and offer to return it to her. Someway, she did not wish that—she wanted him to keep it, but she did not want him to know that she wanted her garter to be carried by him!
His black eyes looked keenly at her, as if they would force from her lips the thing she evidently dared not say.
“I—I was just getting acquainted with the Gold Dust maverick!” Carolyn June finished lamely with a nervous laugh.
“You want to be careful,” the Ramblin’ Kid said with the slightest curl of his lips at her obvious shifting of meanings, “she ain’t exactly a ‘lady’s animal’ yet. She’ll fight. Skinny started to go in th’ corral this morning an’ had to back up. Th’ maverick went at him to kill. She’s goin’ to be a ‘one-man’ horse th’ same as Captain Jack.”
“Perhaps it was because she was afraid of him,” Carolyn June suggested.
“Maybe it was because Skinny was afraid of her,” the Ramblin’ Kid chuckled.
“Aren’t you going to ride the filly in that race at Eagle Butte?” she asked suddenly with a hint of coquetry in her eyes and voice.
“Why?” he shot back at her, observing the changed inflection and look.
“I—I—would like you to,” Carolyn June murmured demurely as she followed up the feminine method of mastering a man, “it would be fun to see her run!”
“Is that all?” the Ramblin’ Kid asked gently and with a peculiar emphasis.
“Isn’t that enough?” the girl countered in a tone bordering close to the tender.
The answer was slow in coming.
“Th’ Gold Dust maverick will be in th’ sweepstakes,” the Ramblin’ Kid finally said, a note of contempt in his voice. “I’ll ride her”—as he jerked the saddle from Captain Jack, turned the stallion into the corral, then started toward the bunk-house, while Carolyn June moved away in the direction of the back-yard gate—“I’ll ride her,” he repeated, emphasizing strongly the last ten words, “to beat that Thunderbolt horse from over on th’ Vermejo”.