“Let Sing Pete make love to the widow,” Bert suggested.
“No, no! Me busy cookee,” Sing Pete, who had been listening from the open doorway, jabbered and darted, frightened, back into the house.
“Anyhow I’d kill him if he did,” the Ramblin’ Kid said softly; “no darned Chink can make love to a white woman, old, young or indifferent, in my presence an’ live!”
“Well, Old Heck’ll have to do it, then,” Skinny said; “hanged if I’m going to be the only he-love-maker on this ranch!”
“Let Parker and Old Heck divide up on Ophelia,” Chuck advised, “one of them can love her one day and the other the next—”
“That’s reasonable,” Bert declared, “she’d probably enjoy a change herself.”
“I tell you I ain’t got time,” Parker protested.
“Neither have I,” Old Heck added.
“All right then, I ain’t either!” Skinny declared. “If you two ain’t willing to take turn about with the widow and love her off and on between you I’ll be everlastingly hell-tooted if I’m going to stand for a whole one by myself all of the time! I’ll go on strike first and start right now!”
“We’ll stay with you, Skinny,” the Ramblin’ Kid exclaimed with a laugh, “th’ whole bunch will quit till Parker an’ Old Heck grants our demands.”
“We’ll all quit!” the cowboys chorused.
“Oh, well, Parker,” Old Heck grumbled, “I reckon we’ll have to do it!”
“It won’t be hard work,” the Ramblin’ Kid said consolingly, “all you got to do is set still an’ leave it to Ophelia. Widows are expert love-makers themselves an’ know how to keep things goin’!”
It was settled. Skinny Rawlins, at an increase of ten dollars a month on his wage, protestingly, was elected official love-maker to Carolyn June Dixon, Old Heck’s niece, speeding unsuspectingly toward the Quarter Circle KT, and Old Heck and Parker between them were to divide the affections of Ophelia Cobb, widow and chaperon.
In the mind of every cowboy on the ranch there was one thought unexpressed but very insistent that night, “Wonder what She looks like?” thinking, of course, of Carolyn June.
Old Heck and Parker also were disturbed by a common worry. As each sank into fitful sleep, thinking of Ophelia Cobb, the widow, and his own predestinated affinity he murmured:
“What if she insists on getting married?”
WHICH ONE’S WHICH
Eagle Butte sprawled hot and thirsty under the melting sunshine of mid-forenoon. It was not a prepossessing town. All told, no more than two hundred buildings were within its corporate limits. A giant mound, capped by a crown of crumbling, weather-tinted rock, rose abruptly at the northern edge of the village and gave the place its name. Cimarron River, sluggish and yellow, bounded the town on the south. The dominant note of Eagle Butte was a pathetic mixture of regret for glories of other days and clumsy ambition to assume the ways of a city. Striving hard to be modern it succeeded only in being grotesque.