Little Jim subsided, frowning, and making a face at Dorothy, who was smiling at him. It seemed mighty queer that, when he “horned in,” his Aunt Jane or his uncle always said “Jimmy!” in that particular tone. But when any of the grown-ups interrupted, no one said a word. However, Bartley was not blind to Little Jim’s attitude of forced silence, and presently Bartley mentioned the subject of guns, much to Little Jim’s joy. Little Jim worked round to the subject of twenty-two rifles, intimating that his own single-shot rifle was about worn out.
Uncle Frank heard and promptly changed the subject. Little Jim was disgusted. A boy just wouldn’t talk when other folks were talking, and he couldn’t talk when they were not. What was the use of living, anyhow, if you had to go around without talking at all, except when somebody asked you if you had forgotten to close the lane gate and had let the stock get into the alfalfa—and you had to say that you had?
However, Little Jim had his revenge. When Aunt Jane proffered apple pie, later in the evening, Jimmy prefixed his demand for a second piece with the statement that he knew there was another uncut pie in the kitchen, because Aunt Jane had said maybe his dad would eat half a one, and then ask for more.
This gentle insinuation brought forth a sharp reprimand from Uncle Frank. But Jimmy had looked before he leaped.
“Well, Aunt Jane said so. Didn’t you, Aunt Jane?”
Whereat every one laughed, including the gentle Aunt Jane. And Jimmy got his second piece of pie.
After the company had found itself, Uncle Frank, Cheyenne, and Bartley forgathered out on the veranda and talked about the missing horses. Little Jim sat silently on the steps, hoping that the talk would swing round to where he could have his say. If he had not discovered the missing horses, how would his father know where they were? It did not seem exactly fair to Little Jim that he should be ignored in the matter.
“I’d just ride over and talk with Sneed,” suggested Uncle Frank.
“Oh, I’ll do that, all right,” asserted Cheyenne.
“But I’d go slow. You might talk like your stock had strayed and you were looking for them. Sneed and Panhandle Sears are pretty thick. I’d start easy, if I was in your boots.”
This from the cautious Uncle Frank.
“But you’d go get ’em, if they happened to be your hosses,” said Cheyenne. “You’re always tellin’ me to step light and go slow. I reckon you expect me to sing and laugh and josh and take all the grief that’s comin’ and forget it.”
“No,” said Uncle Frank deliberately. “If they was my hosses, I’d ride over and get ’em. But I can’t step into your tangle. If I did, Sneed would just nacherally burn us out, some night. There’s only two ways to handle a man like Clubfoot Sneed: one is to kill him, and the other is to leave him alone. And it’s got to be one or the other when you live as close to the hills as we do. I aim to leave him alone, unless he tries to ride me.”