“Trying to bust the furniture?” it was the voice of the Old Man at the door.
“By gracious, it seems I can’t bust bronks no more,” Andy made rueful reply. “I reckon I’ll just about have to bust the furniture or nothing.”
The Old Man chuckled and came inside, sought the box Andy had kicked, and sat down upon it. Through the open door came the jumble of many voices upraised in fruitless argument, and with it the chill of frost. The Old Man fumbled for his pipe, filled it and scratched a match sharply on the box. In the flare of it Andy watched his kind old face with its fringe of grayish hair and its deep-graven lines of whimsical humor.
“Doggone them boys, they ain’t got the stayin’ qualities I give ’em credit for having,” he remarked, holding up the match and looking across at Andy, humped disconsolately in the shadows. “Them Diamond G men has just about got ’em on the run, right now. Yuh couldn’t get a hundred-t’-one bet, down there.”
Andy merely grunted.
“Say,” asked the Old Man suddenly. “Didn’t yuh kinda mistake that blue roan for his twin brother, Pardner? This here cayuse is called Weaver. I tried t’ get hold of t’other one, but doggone ’em, they wouldn’t loosen up. Pardner wasn’t for sale at no price, but they talked me into buying the Weaver; they claimed he’s just about as good a horse, once he’s tamed down some—and I thought, seein’ I’ve got some real tamers on my pay-roll, I’d take a chance on him. I thought yuh knew the horse—the way yuh read up his pedigree—till I seen yuh mount him. Why, doggone it, yuh straddled him like yuh was just climbing a fence! Maybe yuh know your own business best—but didn’t yuh kinda mistake him for Pardner? They’re as near alike as two bullets run in the same mold—as far as looks go.”
Andy got up and went to the door, and stood looking down the dusk-muffled hill to the white blotch which was the camp; listened to the jumble of voices still upraised in fruitless argument, and turned to the Old Man.
“By gracious, that accounts for a whole lot,” he said ambiguously.
“I don’t see,” said Cal Emmett crossly, “what’s the use uh this whole outfit trailing up to that contest. If I was Chip, I’d call the deal off and start gathering calves. It ain’t as if we had a man to ride for that belt and purse. Ain’t your leg well enough to tackle it, Pink?”
“No,” Pink answered shortly, “it ain’t.”
“Riding the rough bunch they’ve rounded up for that contest ain’t going to be any picnic,” Weary defended his chum. “Cadwolloper would need two good legs to go up against that deal.”
“I wish Irish was here,” Pink gloomed. “I’d be willing to back him; all right. But it’s too late now; he couldn’t enter if he was here.”
A voice behind them spoke challengingly. “I don’t believe it would be etiquette for one outfit to enter two peelers. One’s enough, ain’t it?”