“I guess we can hit the trail now without losing ourselves,” he remarked briskly. “Pilgrim, come on out and help me saddle up; we’ll see if that old skate of yours is able to travel.”
The Pilgrim got up sullenly and went out, and Billy followed him silently. His own horse had stood with the saddle on all night, and the Pilgrim snorted when he saw it. But Billy only waited till the Pilgrim had put his saddle on the gentlest mount they had, then took the reins from him and led both horses to the door.
“All right,” he called to the girl; helped her into the saddle and started off, with not a word of farewell from Miss Bridger to the Pilgrim.
The storm had passed and the air was still and biting cold. The eastern sky was stained red and purple with the rising sun, and beneath the feet of their horses the snow creaked frostily. So they rode down the coulee and then up a long slope to the top, struck the trail and headed straight north with a low line of hills for their goal. And in the hour and a half of riding, neither spoke a dozen words.
At the door of her own home Billy left her, and gathered up the reins of the Pilgrim’s horse. “Well, good-by. Oh, that’s all right—it wasn’t any trouble at all,” he said huskily when she tried to thank him, and galloped away.
Charming Billy Has a Fight.
If Billy Boyle had any ideals he did not recognize them as such, and he would not have known just how to answer you if you had asked him what was his philosophy of life. He was range-bred—as purely Western as were the cattle he tended—but he was not altogether ignorant of the ways of the world, past or present. He had that smattering of education which country schools and those of “the county seat” may give a boy who loves a horse better than books, and who, sitting hunched behind his geography, dreams of riding afar, of shooting wild things and of sleeping under the stars.
From the time he was sixteen he had lived chiefly in tents and line-camp cabins, his world the land of far horizons, of big sins, and virtues bigger. One creed he owned: to live “square,” fight square, and to be loyal to his friends and his “outfit.” Little things did not count much with him, and for that reason he was the more enraged against the Pilgrim, because he did not quite know what it was all about. So far as he had heard or seen, the Pilgrim had offered no insult to Miss Bridger—“the girl,” as he called her simply in his mind. Still, he had felt all along that the mere presence of the Pilgrim was an offense to her, no less real because it was intangible and not to be put into words; and for that offense the Pilgrim must pay.
But for the presence of the Pilgrim, he told himself ill-temperedly, they might have waited for breakfast; but he had been so anxious to get her away from under the man’s leering gaze that he had not thought of eating. And if the Pilgrim had been a man, he might have sent him over to Bridger’s for her father and a horse. But the Pilgrim would have lost himself, or have refused to go, and the latter possibility would have caused a scene unfit for the eyes of a young woman.