While the foreman was looking up accounts and making out the time of each, Baugh asked him, “When is the wagon going in after the winter’s supplies?”
“In a day or two,” answered the foreman. “Why?”
“Why, Stubby, Arab, and myself want to leave our saddles and private horses here with you until spring. We’re going up in the State for the winter, and will wait and go in with the wagon.”
“That will be all right,” said the foreman. “You’ll find things right side up when you come after them, and a job if I can give it to you.”
“Don’t you think it’s poor policy,” asked Stubb of the foreman, as the latter handed him his time, “to refuse the men a roof and the bite they eat in winter?”
“You may ask that question at headquarters, when you get your time cheque cashed. I’ve learned not to think contrary to my employers; not in the mouth of winter, anyhow.”
“Oh, we don’t care,” said Baugh; “we’re going to take in the State for a change of scenery. We’ll have a good time and plenty of fun on the side.”
The first snow-squall of the season came that night, and the wagon could not go in for several days. When the weather moderated the three bade the foreman a hearty good-by and boarded the wagon for town, forty miles away. This little village was a supply point for the range country to the south, and lacked that diversity of entertainment that the trio desired. So to a larger town westward, a county seat, they hastened by rail. This hamlet they took in by sections. There were the games running to suit their tastes, the variety theatre with its painted girls, and handbills announced that on the 24th of December and Christmas Day there would be horse races. To do justice to all this melted their money fast.
Their gay round of pleasure had no check until the last day of the races. Heretofore they had held their own in the games, and the first day of the races they had even picked several winners. But grief was in store for Baugh the leader, Baugh the brains of the trio. He had named the winners so easily the day before, that now his confidence knew no bounds. His opinion was supreme on a running horse, though he cautioned the others not to risk their judgment—in fact, they had better follow him. “I’m going to back that sorrel gelding, that won yesterday in the free-for-all to-day,” said he to Stubb and Arab, “and if you boys go in with me, we’ll make a killing.”
“You can lose your money on a horse race too quick to suit me,” replied Stubb. “I prefer to stick to poker; but you go ahead and win all you can, for spring is a long ways off yet.”
“My observation of you as a poker player, my dear Stubby, is that you generally play the first hand to win and all the rest to get even.”
They used up considerable time scoring for the free-for-all running race Christmas Day, during which delay Baugh not only got all his money bet, but his watch and a new overcoat. The race went off with the usual dash, when there were no more bets in sight; and when it ended Baugh buttoned up the top button of his coat, pulled his hat down over his eyes, and walked back from the race track in a meditative state of mind, to meet Stubb and Arab Ab.