Just a Day-dream.
Charming Billy rode humped over the saddle-horn, as rides one whose mind feels the weight of unpleasant thoughts. Twice he had glanced uncertainly at his companion, opening his lips for speech; twice he had closed them silently and turned again to the uneven trail.
Mr. Dill also was humped forward in the saddle, but if one might judge from his face it was because he was cold. The wind blew chill from out the north and they were facing it; the trail they followed was frozen hard and the gray clouds above promised snow. The cheek-bones of Dill were purple and the point of his long nose was very red. Tears stood in his eyes, whipped there by the biting wind.
“How far are we now from town?” he asked dispiritedly.
“Only about five miles,” Billy cheered. Then, as if trivial speech had made easier what he had in mind to say, he turned resolutely toward the other. “Yuh expect to meet old man Robinson there, don’t yuh?”
“That was the arrangement, as I understood it”
“And you’re thinking strong of buying him out?”
“His place appeals to me more than any of the others, and—yes, it seems to me that I can’t do better.” Mr. Dill turned the collar of his coat up a bit farther—or fancied he did so—and looked questioningly at Billy.
“Yuh gave me leave to advise yuh where yuh needed it,” Billy said almost challengingly, “and I’m going to call yuh, right here and now. If yuh take my advice yuh won’t go making medicine with old Robinson any more. He’ll do yuh, sure. He’s asking yuh double what the outfit’s worth. They all are. It looks to me like they think you’re just out here to get rid of your pile and the bigger chunk they can pry loose from yuh the better. I was going to put yuh next before this, only yuh didn’t seem to take to any uh the places real serious, so it wasn’t necessary.”
“I realize that one cannot buy land and cattle for nothing,” Dill chuckled. “It seemed to me that, compared with the prices others have asked, Mr. Robinson’s offer was very reasonable.”
“It may be lower than Jacobs and Wilter, but that don’t make it right.”
“Well, there were the Two Sevens”—he meant the Seventy-Seven, but that was a mere detail—“I didn’t get to see the owner, you know. I have written East, however, and should hear from him in a few days.”
“Yuh ain’t likely to do business with that layout, because I don’t believe they’d sell at any price. Old Robinson is the washout yuh want to ride around at present; I ain’t worrying about the rest, right now. He’s a smooth old devil, and he’ll do yuh sure.”
To this Mr. Dill made no reply whatever. He fumbled the fastenings on his coon-skin coat, tried to pull his cap lower and looked altogether unhappy. And Charming Billy, not at ail sure that his advice would be taken or his warning heeded, stuck the spurs into his horse and set a faster pace reflecting gloomily upon the trials of being confidential adviser to one who, in a perfectly mild and good-mannered fashion, goes right along doing pretty much as he pleases.