“Was that the reason you throwed your horse down and got hurt, that morning?” questioned Pink, and Andy grinned again by way of reply.
“They’ll be gone a week, best they can do,” he estimated aloud. “We ought to be able to make our getaway by then, easy.”
Pink assured him that a week would see them headed for the Flying U.
It was the evening of the sixth day, and the two were packed and ready to leave in the morning, when Andy broke off humming and gave a snort of dismay. “By gracious, there they come. My mother lives in Buffalo, Pink, in a little drab house with white trimmings. Write and tell her how her son—Oh, beloved! but they’re hitting her up lively. If they made the whole trip in that there frame uh mind, they could uh gone clean to Miles City and back. How pretty the birds sing! Pink, you’ll hear words, directly.”
Directly Pink did.
“You’re the biggest liar on earth,” Sherwood Branciforte contributed to the recriminating wave that near engulfed Andy Green. “You sent us down there on a wild-goose chase, you brute. You—”
“I never sent nobody,” Andy defended. “You was all crazy to go.”
“And nothing but an old stone hut some trapper had built!” came an indignant, female tone. “There never was any castle, nor—”
“A man’s home is his castle,” argued Andy, standing unabashed before them. “Putting it that way, it was a castle, all right.”
There was babel, out of which—
“And the skeleton! Oh, you—it was a dead cow!” This from the young old lady, who was looking very draggled and not at all young.
“I don’t call to mind ever saying it was human,” put in Andy, looking at her with surprised, gray eyes.
“And the battlements!” groaned the-girl-who-does-things.
“You wanted battlements,” Andy flung mildly into the uproar. “I always aim to please.” With that he edged away from them and made his escape to where the cook was profanely mixing biscuits for supper. All-day moves put an edge to his temper. The cook growled an epithet, and Andy passed on. Down near the stable he met one of the chosen half, and the fellow greeted him with a grin. Andy stopped abruptly.
“Say, they don’t seem none too agreeable,” he began tentatively, jerking his thumb toward the buzzing group. “How about it, Sandy? Was they that petulant all the way?”
Sandy, the map-bearer, chuckled. “It’s lucky you got hurt at the last minute! And yet it was worth the trip. Uh course we got stalled with the wagons, the second day out, but them women was sure ambitious, and made us go on with a packadero layout. I will say that, going down, they stood the hardships remarkable. It was coming back that frazzled the party.
“And when we found the place—say, but it was lucky you wasn’t along! They sure went hog-wild when they seen the ruins. The old party with the pompadoor displayed temper, and shed tears uh rage. When she looked into the cabin and seen the remains uh that cow-critter, there was language it wasn’t polite to overhear. She said a lot uh things about you, Andy. One thing they couldn’t seem to get over, and that was the smallness uh the blamed shack. Them fourteen or fifteen rooms laid heavy on their minds.”