The Happy Family turned coldly upon the speaker. It was Slim who answered for them all. “I dunno as this outfit has got any peeler in that contest. By golly, it don’t look like it since las’ night!”
Weary was gentle, as always, but he was firm. “We kinda thought you’d want to withdraw,” he added.
Andy Green, tamer of wild ones, turned and eyed Weary curiously. One might guess, from telltale eyes and mouth, that his calmness did not go very deep. “I don’t recollect mentioning that I was busy penning any letter uh withdrawal,” he said. “I got my sights raised to that purse and that belt. I don’t recollect saying anything about lowering ’em.”
“Aw, gwan. I guess I’ll try for that purse, too! I betche I got as good a show as—”
“Sure. Help yourself, it don’t cost nothing. I don’t doubt but what you’d make a real pretty ride, Happy.” Andy’s tone was deceitfully hearty. He did not sound in the least as if he would like to choke Happy Jack, though that was his secret longing.
“Aw, gwan. I betche I could make as purty a ride as we’ve saw—lately.” Happy Jack did not quite like to make the thing too personal, for fear of what might happen after.
“Yuh mean last night, don’t yuh?” purred Andy.
“Well, by golly, I wish you’d tell us what yuh done it for!” Slim cut in disgustedly. “It was nacherlay supposed you could ride; we got money up on yuh! And then, by golly, to go and make a fluke like that before them Diamond G men—to go and let that blue roan pile yuh up b’fore he’d got rightly started t’ pitch—If yuh’d stayed with him till he got t’ swappin’ ends there, it wouldn’t uh looked quite so bad. But t’ go and git throwed down right in the start—By golly!” Slim faced Andy accusingly. “B’fore them Diamond G men—and I’ve got money up, by golly!”
“Yuh ain’t lost any money yet, have yuh?” Andy inquired patiently. What Andy felt like doing was to “wade into the bunch”; reason, however, told him that he had it coming from them, and to take his medicine, since he could not well explain just how it had happened. He could not in reason wonder that the faith of the Happy Family was shattered and that they mourned as lost the money they had already rashly wagered on the outcome of the contest. The very completeness of their faith in him, their very loyalty, seemed to them their undoing, for to them the case was plain enough. If Andy could not ride the blue roan in their own corral, how was he to ride that same blue roan in Great Falls? Or, if he could ride him, how could any sane man hope that he could win the purse and the belt under the stringent rules of the contest, where “riding on the spurs,” “pulling leather” and a dozen other things were barred? So Andy, under the sting of their innuendoes and blunt reproaches, was so patient as to seem to them cowed.
“No, I ain’t lost any yet, but by golly, I can see it fixin’ to fly,” Slim retorted heavily.