Weary got up, yawned ostentatiously, and sauntered away in the wake of Pink. “What’s the matter, Cadwolloper?” he asked, when he was close enough. “Seen a garter snake?” Pink was notoriously afraid of snakes.
“You come with me, and I’ll show yuh the wild man,” he grinned.
“Mama!” ejaculated Weary, and followed stealthily where Pink led.
Some distance up the creek Pink signalled caution, and they crept like Indians on hands and knees through the grass. On the edge of the high bank they stopped, and Pink motioned. Weary looked over and came near whooping at the sight below. He gazed a minute, drew back and put his face close to the face of Pink.
“Cadwolloper, go get the bunch!” he commanded in a whisper, and Pink, again signalling needlessly for silence, slipped hastily away from the spot.
Happy Jack, secure in the seclusion offered by the high bank of the creek, ran his finger regretfully around the inside of the carbolic salve box, eyed the result dissatisfiedly, and applied the finger carefully to a deep cut on his knee. He had got that cut while going up the bluff, just after leaving the tent where had been the shrieking females. He wished there was more salve, and he picked up the cover of the box and painstakingly wiped out the inside; the result was disheartening.
He examined his knee dolefully. It was beginning to look inflamed, and it was going to make him limp. He wondered if the boys would notice anything queer about his walk. If they did, there was the conventional excuse that his horse had fallen down with him—Happy Jack hoped that it would be convincing. He took up the box again and looked at the shining emptiness of it. It had been half full—not enough, by a long way—and maybe some one would wonder what had become of it. Darn a bunch that always had to know everything, anyway!
Happy Jack, warned at last by that unnamed instinct which tells of a presence unseen, turned around and looked up apprehensively. The Happy Family, sitting in a row upon their heels on the bank, looked down at him gravely and appreciatively.
“There’s a can uh wagon dope, up at camp,” Cal Emmett informed him sympathetically.
“Aw—” Happy Jack began, and choked upon his humiliation.
“I used to know a piece uh poetry about a fellow like Happy,” Weary remarked sweetly. “It said
’He raised his veil,
the maid turned slowly round
Looked at him, shrieked, and fell upon the ground.’
Only, in this case,” Weary smiled blandly down upon him, “Happy didn’t have no veil.”
“Aw, gwan!” adjured Happy Jack helplessly, and reached for his clothes, while the Happy Family chorused a demand for explanations.
* * * * *
When the days grow crisp at each end and languorous in the middle; when a haze ripples the skyline like a waving ribbon of faded blue; when the winds and the grasses stop and listen for the first on-rush of winter, then it is that the rangeland takes on a certain intoxicating unreality, and range-wild blood leaps with desire to do something—anything, so it is different and irresponsible and not measured by precedent or prudence.