At the first turn he stopped and looked back. “Send the bell-hop up to wake me at seven,” he called down to the clerk. “I’m going to take a much-needed nap—and it’ll be all your life’s worth to let me miss that train!”
* * * * *
The camp of the Flying U, snuggled just within the wide-flung arms of an unnamed coulee with a pebbly-bottomed creek running across its front, looked picturesque and peaceful—from a distance. Disenchantment lay in wait for him who strayed close enough to hear the wrangling in the cook-tent, however, or who followed Slim to where he slumped bulkily down into the shade of a willow fifty yards or so from camp—a willow where Pink, Weary, Andy Green and Irish were lying sprawled and smoking comfortably.
Slim grunted and moved away from a grass-hidden rock that was gouging him in the back. “By golly, things is getting pretty raw around this camp,” he growled, by way of lifting the safety-valve of his anger. “I’d like to know when that darned grub-spoiler bought into the outfit, anyhow. He’s been trying to run it to suit himself all spring—and if he keeps on, by golly, he’ll be firing the wagon-boss and giving all the orders himself!”
It would seem that sympathy should be offered him; as if the pause he made plainly hinted that it was expected. Andy Green rolled over and sent him a friendly glance just to hearten him a bit.
“We were listening to the noise of battle,” he observed, “and we were going over, in a minute, to carry off the dead. You had a kinda animated discussion over something, didn’t yuh?” Andy was on his good behavior, as he had been for a month. His treatment of his fellows lately was little short of angelic. His tone soothed Slim to the point where he could voice his woe.
“Well, by golly, I guess he knows what I think of him, or pretty near. I’ve stood a lot from Patsy, off and on, and I’ve took just about all I’m going to. It’s got so yuh can’t get nothing to eat, hardly, when yuh ride in late, unless yuh fight for it. Why, by golly, I caught him just as he was going to empty out the coffee-boiler—and he knew blamed well I hadn’t eat. He’d left everything go cold, and he was packing away the grub like he was late breaking camp and had a forty mile drive before dinner, by golly! I just did save myself some coffee, and that was all—but it was cold as that creek, and—” Habit impelled him to stop there long enough to run his tongue along the edge of a half-rolled cigarette, and accident caused his eyes to catch the amused quirk on the lips of Pink and Irish, and the laughing glance they exchanged. Possibly if he could have looked in all directions at the same time he would have been able to detect signs of mirth on the faces of the others as well; for Slim’s grievances never seemed to be taken seriously by his companions—which is the price which one must pay for having a body shaped like Santa Claus and a face copied after our old friend in the moon.