Ophelia went directly to bed after Skinny and Parker left.
Carolyn June sat for a while in the Morris chair in the large room. She seemed abstracted and in a mood for meditation. The vague history Skinny had given her of the life of the Ramblin’ Kid interested her. She thought it explained a good many of his elemental impulses and idiosyncrasies. He was a creature of the plains. In his life among the Indians and Mexicans he had absorbed their stoical ways and almost brutal directness, yet, sometimes he showed a sensitiveness that was utterly impossible for Carolyn June to understand. Her thoughts turned to the Gold Dust maverick. To-morrow Ramblin’ Kid would take the filly away for the round-up. She truly loved the beautiful mare. She would slip out, while the others slept, and have one more visit with the splendid creature. Rising, Carolyn June passed out through the kitchen, stopped for a handful of sugar—she had learned where Sing Pete kept the can—and bareheaded and without a wrap walked swiftly out to the circular corral.
The Ramblin’ Kid heard Carolyn June step up to the gate of the corral and from the heavy shadow in which he lay saw the light dress and instinctively recognized this late visitor to Captain Jack and the Gold Dust maverick His first impulse was to call out and warn her to keep away from the horses—that both were dangerous for men to fool with, much less was it safe for a woman to undertake familiarities with them. His next thought was that his sudden appearance would only startle the girl and—well, cause a lot of useless talk. He remained quiet.
A low trill came from the throat of Carolyn June. The two horses stopped feeding and looked around toward the gate. The bird-like call was repeated. The Ramblin’ Kid was astonished to see Captain Jack and the outlaw mare move eagerly in the direction from whence the sound had come. He heard Carolyn June talking to the bronchos in soft endearing tones. After a moment she opened the gate and stepped inside the corral.
“Well, I’ll be—!” he breathed inaudibly.
For half an hour Carolyn June petted the little stallion and the Gold Dust maverick. Both animals seemed hungry for her caresses.
“Oh, your darling—you wonder!” the Ramblin’ Kid Heard Carolyn June say, as she gave the maverick’s head a tight squeeze just before running lightly back to the house. “I hope you beat that old Y-Bar horse so bad he’ll never want to run again! Even if that Ramblin’ Kid lover of yours,” she added softly, “does think I’m nothing but a silly woman-thing and hates me with all his queer, lonesome heart!”
“Well, I’ll be damned!” the Ramblin’ Kid exclaimed when she was gone.
He raised himself on one elbow and lay thus for a long time silently thinking.
At last he got up, went to the corral gate, and he himself stepped inside with the horses. He gave Captain Jack’s ear a loving twitch, then turned to the Gold Dust maverick. She permitted him, without protest, to fondle her head and neck. His hand lingered long on the silky mane in which, a little while before, Carolyn June had twined her fingers.