While the dusk folded them close and the nighthawks swooped from afar, the Happy Family gathered round and watched them fight. Chip and Weary thoughtfully went into the bed-tent and got the guns which were stowed away in the beds of the combatants, so that when their anger reached the killing point they must let it bubble harmlessly until the fires which fed it went cold. Which was exceeding wise of the two, for Big Medicine and Irish did get to that very point and raged all over the camp because they could not shoot each other.
The hottest battle must perforce end sometime, and so the camp of the Flying U did at last settle into some semblance of calm. Irish rolled his bed, saddled a horse and rode off toward town, quite as if he were going for good and all. Big Medicine went down to the creek for the second time that evening to wash away the marks of strife, and when he returned he went straight to bed without a word to anyone. Patsy was gone, no man knew whither, and the cook-tent was as nearly wrecked as might be.
“Makes me think uh that time we had the ringtailed tiger in camp,” sighed Andy Green, shaking sand out of the teakettle so that it could be refilled.
“By golly, I’d ruther have a whole band uh tagers than this fighting bunch,” Slim affirmed earnestly. Slim was laboring sootily with the stove-pipe which Patsy had struck askew with a stick of wood.
Outside, Happy Jack was protesting in what he believed to be an undertone against being installed in Patsy’s place. “Aw, that’s always the way! Anything comes up, it’s ’Happy, you git in and rustle some chuck.’ I ain’t no cook—or if I be they might pay me cook’s wages. I betche there ain’t another man in camp would stand for it. Somebody’s got to take that bacon down to the creek and wash it off, if yuh want any meat for supper. There ain’t no time to boil beef. If I’d a been boss uh this outfit, I betche no blame cook on earth would uh made rough-house like Patsy done.” But no one paid the slightest attention to Happy Jack, having plenty to think of and to do before they slept.
Not even the sun, when it shone again, could warm their hearts to a joy in living. Happy Jack cooked the breakfast, but his coffee was weak and his biscuits “soggy,” and Patsy had managed to make the butter absolutely uneatable with sand; also they were late and Chip was surly over the double loss of cook and cowboy. Happy Jack packed food and dishes in much the same spirit which Patsy had shown the night before, climbed sullenly to the high seat, gathered up the reins of the four restive horses, released the brake and let out a yell surcharged with all the bitterness bottled within his soul. He had not done anything to precipitate the trouble. Beyond eating half a pie he had been an innocent spectator, not even taking part in the rough-riding. Yet here he was, condemned to the mess-wagon quite as if he were to blame for Patsy’s leaving. The eyes of Happy Jack gazed gloomily upon the world, and his driving seemed a reckless invitation to disaster. “I betche I’ll make ’em good and sick uh my cooking!” he plotted while he went rattling and bumping over the untrailed prairie.