He succeeded so well that two days later Chip gave a curt order or two and headed his wagons, horses and his lean-stomached bunch of riders for Dry Lake, passing by even the Flying U coulee in his haste. Just outside the town, upon the creek which saves the inhabitants from dying of thirst or delirium tremens, he left the wagons with Happy Jack, Slim and one alien to set up camp and rode dust-dogged to the little, red depot.
The telegram which went speeding to Great Falls and to a friend there was brief, but it was eloquent and not quite flattering to Happy Jack. It read like this:
“JOHN G. SCOTT,
“The Palace, Great Falls.
“For God’s sake send me a
cook by return train; must deliver goods
or die hard.
“BENNETT, Flying U.”
Whether the cook must die hard, or whether he meant the friend, Chip did not trouble to make plain. Telegrams are bound by such rigid limitations, and he had gone over the ten-word rate as it was. But he told Weary to receive the cook, be he white or black, have him restock the mess-wagon to his liking and then bring the outfit to the ranch, when Chip would again take it in hand. He said that he was going home to get a square meal, and he mentioned Happy Jack along with several profane words. “Johnny Scott will send a cook, and a good one,”; he added hopefully. “Johnny never threw down a friend in his life and he never will. And say, Weary, if he wires, you collect the message and act accordingly. I’m going to have a decent supper, to-night!” He was riding a good horse and there was no reason why he should be late in arriving, especially if he kept the gait at which he left town.
In two hours Weary, Pink and Andy Green were touching hat-brims over a telegram from Johnny Scott—a telegram which was brief as Chip’s, and more illuminating:
“Kidnaped Park hotel
chef best cook in town will be on next train.
“Sounds good,” mused Andy, reading it for the fourth time. “But there’s thirteen words in that telegram, if yuh notice.”
“I wish yuh wouldn’t try to butt in on Happy Jack’s specialty,” Weary remonstrated, folding the message and slipping it inside the yellow envelope. “If this is the same jasper that cooked there a month ago, we’re going to eat ourselves plumb to death; a better meal I never laid away inside me than the one I got at the Park Hotel when I was up there last time. Come on over to the hotel and eat; their chuck isn’t the best in the world, but it could be a lot worse and still beat Happy Jack to a jelly.”
The whole Happy Family—barring Happy Jack, who was sulking in camp because of certain things which had been said of his cooking and which he had overheard—clanked spurs impatiently upon the platform and waited for the arrival of the train from the West. When at last it snorted into town and nosed its way up to the platform they bunched instinctively and gazed eagerly at the steps which led down from the smoker.