Billy flushed a little, and for answer took down his gun and belt from where they hung upon the wall, buckled the belt around his slim middle and picked up his hat. “If they’re there yet, I’ll get some, sure,” he promised. “You just keep the fire going till I come back, and I’ll wash the dishes. Here, I’ll shut the dawg in the house; he’s always plumb crazy with ambition to do just what yuh don’t want him to do, and I don’t want him following.” He smiled upon her again (he was finding that rather easy to do) and closed the door lingeringly behind him. Having never tried to analyze his feelings, he did not wonder why he stepped so softly along the frozen path that led to the stable, or why he felt that glow of elation which comes to a man only when he has found something precious in his sight.
“I wish I hadn’t eat the last uh the flour this morning,” he regretted anxiously. “I coulda made some bread; there’s a little yeast powder left in the can. Darn the Pilgrim!”
Prune Pie and Coon-can.
Of a truth, Charming Billy Boyle, living his life in the wide land that is too big and too far removed from the man-made world for any but the strong of heart, knew little indeed of women—her kind of women. When he returned with two chickens and found that the floor had been swept so thoroughly as to look strange to him, and that all his scattered belongings were laid in a neat pile upon the foot of the bunk which was unfamiliar under straightened blankets and pitifully plumped pillows, he was filled with astonishment. Miss Bridger smiled a little and went on washing the dishes.
“It’s beginning to storm, isn’t it?” she remarked. “But we’ll eat chicken stew before we—before I start home. If you have a horse that I can borrow till morning, father will bring it back.”
Billy scattered a handful of feathers on the floor and gained a little time by stooping to pick them up one by one. “I’ve been wondering about that,” he said reluctantly. “It’s just my luck not to have a gentle hoss in camp. I’ve got two, but they ain’t safe for women. The Pilgrim’s got one hoss that might uh done if it was here, which it ain’t.”
She looked disturbed, though she tried to hide it. “I can ride pretty well,” she ventured.
Without glancing at her, Charming Billy shook his head. “You’re all right here”—he stopped to pick up more feathers—“and it wouldn’t be safe for yuh to try it. One hoss is mean about mounting; yuh couldn’t get within a rod of him. The other one is a holy terror to pitch when anything strange gets near him. I wouldn’t let yuh try it.” Charming Billy was sorry—that showed in his voice—but he was also firm.
Miss Bridger thoughtfully wiped a tin spoon. Billy gave her a furtive look and dropped his head at the way the brightness had gone out of her face. “They’ll be worried, at home,” she said quietly.