Chuck sighed dolefully.
“Why so sad?” Carolyn June asked gently, looking with melting sympathy at the pensive cowboy.
“I—I—was just thinking of a—a—funeral I saw once!” he answered, gazing steadily and with pretended awe at Skinny’s white shirt. “Some colors always remind me of funerals or—or—weddings!” he explained.
A suppressed snicker circled the table.
“Don’t be down-hearted,” Carolyn June laughed, “it may not go that far.
“Uncle Josiah,” she added suddenly, “Ophelia and I have a wonderful surprise for you and the boys.”
Old Heck looked at her without replying while he awaited an explanation.
“We are going to give a dance!” Carolyn June went on.
“A dance?” he repeated incredulously, “when—”
“To-night—in the front room,” she hastened to explain, “not a big dance—just a little one for you and the boys. The graphophone will furnish music, there are some good one-step and waltz records—Skinny and I were playing them this afternoon—and every blessed cowboy on the Quarter Circle KT must be there!”
A short silence followed her words, then a chorus of “Well be there!” greeted her.
“In an hour,” Carolyn June said, smiling sweetly at the cowboys, as they left the kitchen, “everybody be back at the house. We’ll fix the room and have it ready—don’t any one bother to ‘dress up,’” she added as an afterthought.
“Old Heck’s niece acts kind of stampedish, don’t she?” Bert remarked as Parker and the cowboys filed out of the back-yard gate toward the bunk-house.
“Yes,” Charley answered. “I’m going to shave.”
“So am I,” said Chuck, as they hurried in the direction of their sleeping quarters.
“Me, too,” laughed Bert. “Gee, didn’t Skinny shine in that shirt?” as they disappeared inside the building and there was a rush to hunt out razors, brushes and other toilet necessities or clean handkerchiefs and ties.
The Ramblin’ Kid alone seemed uninterested. He dropped down on his bed and idly watched the others prepare for the evening’s diversion.
“Ain’t you going?” Chuck asked him, noticing his indifference.
A short, half-cynical laugh with “Oh, maybe I’ll go set on the porch an’ listen to th’ music!” was the answer.
When Parker and the cowboys reappeared at the house it was plain that all had disobeyed Carolyn June’s injunction not to “dress up.” Each had paid tribute in some way, by a smooth-scraped face, a dean shirt, a tie or something, to the vanity of his own heart and the desire for the good opinion of either Carolyn June or the widow.
Both women noticed it. They exchanged glances while Carolyn June softly whispered to Ophelia: “Stir them up—it’s coming to them!”
The widow smiled understandingly.
Old Heck fidgeted uncomfortably. The situation was entirely beyond his control. By right he and Ophelia ought to be sitting there quietly making love, while Skinny and Carolyn June, in another corner of the room or out on the porch, were doing the same thing. He would just have to await developments.