Nothing of his thoughts showed in his manner when he went out to where they were. He found them just putting up a target made of a sheet of tablet paper marked with a lead pencil into rings and an uncertain centre, and he went straight into the game with a smile. He loaded the gun for Flora, showed her exactly how to “draw a fine bead,” and otherwise deported himself in a way not calculated to be pleasing to the Pilgrim. He called her Flora boldly whenever occasion offered, and he exulted inwardly at the proprietary way in which she said “Billy Boy” and ordered him around. Of course, he knew quite well that there was nothing but frank-eyed friendship back of it all; but the Pilgrim plainly did not know and was a good deal inclined to sulk over his interpretation.
So Billy, when came the time for sleeping, grinned in the dark of his room and dwelt with much satisfaction upon the manner of the Pilgrim’s departure. He prophesied optimistically that he guessed that would hold the Pilgrim for a while, and that he himself could go on round-up and not worry any over what was happening at the ranch.
For the Pilgrim had come into the kitchen, ostensibly for a drink of water, and had found Miss Flora fussily adjusting the Klondyke nugget pin in the tie of Charming Billy, as is the way of women when they know they may bully a man with impunity—and she was saying: “Now, Billy Boy, if you don’t learn to stick that pin in straight and not have the point standing out a foot, I’ll—” That is where the Pilgrim came in and interrupted. And he choked over the dipper of water even as Billy choked over his glee, and left the ranch within fifteen minutes and rode, as Billy observed to the girl, “with a haughty spine.”
“Oh, joy!” chuckled Billy when he lived those minutes over again, and punched the pillow facetiously. “Oh, joy, oh Johnathan! I guess maybe he didn’t get a jolt, huh? And the way—the very tone when I called her Flora—sounded like the day was set for the wedding and we’d gone and ordered the furniture!”
The mood of him was still triumphant three days after when he turned in his saddle and waved his hand to Flora, who waved wistfully back at him. “It ain’t any cinch right now—but I’ll have her yet,” he cheered himself when the twinge of parting was keenest.
The Shadow Falls Lightly.
Over the green uplands, into the coulees and the brushy creek-bottoms swept the sun-browned riders of the Double-Crank; jangling and rattling over untrailed prairie sod, the bed and mess wagons followed after with hasty camping at the places Billy appointed for brief sleeping and briefer eating, a hastier repacking and then the hurry over the prairies to the next stop. Here, a wide coulee lay yawning languorously in the sunshine with a gossipy trout stream for company; with meadowlarks rippling melodiously from bush and