Carolyn June glanced at them.
“Heavens,” she said as her eyes rested an instant on the burly, low-browed, Greek proprietor of the place, “what a big brute of a looking fellow that is!”
The two men stared insolently at the occupants of the car and as it passed Sabota made some remark, evidently vulgar, that caused Dorsey to burst into another round of coarse laughter.
Old Heck was moody during the drive home.
For nearly two years Dorsey had been crowing because of the defeat of Quicksilver by the black racer from the Vermejo. It was becoming more than idle jesting. It looked as if, for some reason, he was trying to torment Old Heck until something serious was started. Old Heck was a good loser but he was growing tired of the persistent nagging. He had not whimpered at the loss of the twenty-five hundred dollars Dorsey won from him on the race. Even the humiliation of seeing his best horse put in second place by the Y-Bar animal had been endured philosophically and without malice because he believed the thing had been run square and the faster horse had won. But Dorsey on every occasion since had, drunk or sober, boasted of Thunderbolt’s victory and taken a devilish delight in rubbing it in on the owner of the Quarter Circle KT.
To-day the Vermejo cattleman had been worse than usual, due, no doubt, to the rotten boot-leg whisky the brute-like proprietor of Eagle Butte’s rather disreputable Amusement Parlor was supposed secretly to dispense to those who had the price and the “honor” to keep sacred the source of supply.
Old Heck was sore and he was ready to go the limit in backing the Gold Dust maverick. Both he and Skinny had purposely refrained from mentioning the horse the Ramblin’ Kid would enter. The fame of the outlaw filly extended throughout all of southwestern Texas and if the Vermejo crowd had learned that the Ramblin’ Kid had finally caught her and was intending to put her against Thunderbolt it was doubtful if the black horse would be entered at all in the sweepstakes. Even if he was, Dorsey and his crowd would be shy of the betting.
This was one reason Old Heck had so played the conversation that Dorsey definitely threw down the challenge and which was so coldly accepted.
The Vermejo cow-man would have to come in heavy on the betting or be placed in the role of a bluffer.
By the time they reached the ranch Old Heck’s good humor was restored. He thoroughly enjoyed the supper Skinny and Carolyn June prepared and joked the girl about her coffee-jelly.
“She’s learning how to make French toast, now,” Skinny said proudly; “it won’t be long till she’s a darned good cook!”
“Why not?” Carolyn June laughed. “See who I have to teach me!” and Skinny flushed while his heart hammered joyously.
“Well, I reckon anybody could live on fried bread and coffee-jelly in a pinch,” Old Heck joked back, “but for my part I’d be a good deal happier to mix a biscuit or two like Ophelia makes once in a while in with it”—giving the widow a worshipful look.