But this exalted scheme of high thinking and plain living soon became irksome. One day, when his loneliness weighed most heavily upon him, he was sent with a message out to the switch-station. As he tramped back along the track he spied a familiar figure ahead of him. There was no mistaking that short, slouching body with the peddler’s pack strapped on its back. With a cry of joy, Sandy bounded after Ricks Wilson. He actually hugged him in his joy to be once more with some one he knew.
Ricks glanced uneasily at the scar above his eye.
Sandy clapped his hand over it and laughed. “It’s all right, Ricks; a miss is as good as a mile. I ain’t mad any more. It’s straight home with me you are goin’; and if we can get the two feet of you into me bit of a room, we’ll have a dinner that’s fit for a king.”
On the way they laid in a supply of provisions, Sandy even going to the expense of a bottle of beer for Ricks.
The yellow kitten arched her back and showed general signs of hostility when the stranger was introduced. But her unfriendly demonstrations were ignored. Ricks was the honored guest, and Sandy extended to him the full hospitality of the establishment.
“Put your pack on the floor and yerself in the chair, and I’ll get ye filled up in the blink of an eyelash. Don’t be mindin’ the cat, Ricks. She’s just lettin’ on she don’t take to you. She give me the wink on the sly.”
Ricks, expanding under the influence of food and drink, became eloquent. He recounted courageous adventures of the past, and outlined marvelous schemes for the future, by which he was going to make a short cut to fame and glory.
When it was time for him to go, Sandy heaved a sigh of regret. For two hours he had been beguiled by Ricks’s romances, and now he had to go back to the humdrum duties at the depot, and receive a sound rating for his belated appearance.
“Which way might you be goin’, Ricks?” he asked wistfully.
“Same place I started fer,” said Ricks. “Kentucky.”
The will-o’-the-wisp, which had been hiding his light, suddenly swung it full in the eyes of Sandy. Once more he saw the little maid of his dreams, and once more he threw discretion to the winds and followed the vision.
Hastily collecting his few possessions, he rolled them into a bundle, and slipping the surprised kitten into his pocket, he gladly followed Ricks once more out into the broad green meadows, along the white and shining roads that lead over the hills to Kentucky.
SANDY RETIRES FROM BUSINESS
“This here is too blame slow fer me,” said Ricks, one chilly night in late September, as he and Sandy huddled against a haystack and settled up their weekly accounts.
“Fifty-five cents! Now ain’t that a’ o’nery dab? Here’s a quarter fer you and thirty cents fer me; that’s as even as you kin split it.”