“Here’s some chuck the cook put up for yuh,” he remarked, handing me a bundle tied up in a flour-sack. “You’ll need it ’fore yuh get through to camp; you’ll likely be longer going than yuh was comin’.”
“Think so?” I smiled knowingly to myself and left him staring disapprovingly after me. I could easily give a straight guess at what he was thinking.
I jogged along as leisurely as I could without fretting Shylock, and, once clear of the home field, headed straight for King’s Highway. It wasn’t the wisest course I could take, perhaps, but it was like to prove the most exciting, and I never was remarkable for my wisdom. It seemed to me that it was necessary to my self-respect to return the way I came—and I may as well confess that I hoped Miss King was an early riser. As it was, I killed what time I could, and so spent a couple of hours where one would have sufficed.
Half a mile out from the mouth of the pass, I observed a human form crowning the peak of a sharp-pointed little butte that rose up out of the prairie; since the form seemed to be in skirts, I made for the spot. Shylock puffed up the steep slope, and at last stopped still and looked back at me in utter disgust; so I took the hint and got off, and led him up the rest of the way.
“Good morning. We meet on neutral ground,” I greeted when I was close behind her. “I propose a truce.”
She jumped a bit, and looked very much astonished to see me there so close. If it had been some other girl—say Ethel Mapleton—I’d have suspected the genuineness of that surprise; as it was, I could only think she had been very much absorbed not to hear me scrambling up there.
“You’re an early bird,” she said dryly, “to be so far from home.” She glanced toward the pass, as though she would like to cut and run, but hated to give me the satisfaction.
“Well,” I told her with inane complacency, “you will remember that ’it’s the early bird that catches the worm.’”
“What a pretty speech!” she commented, and I saw what I’d done, and felt myself turn a beautiful purple. Compare her to a worm!
But she laughed when she saw how uncomfortable I was, and after that I was almost glad I’d said it; she did have dimples—two of them—and—
The laugh, however, was no sign of incipient amiability, as I very soon discovered. She turned her back on me and went imperturbably on with her sketching; she was trying to put on paper the lights and shades of White Divide—and even a desire to be chivalrous will not permit me to lie and say that she was making any great success of it. I don’t believe the Lord ever intended her for an artist.
“Aren’t you giving King’s Highway a much wider mouth than it’s entitled to?” I asked mildly, after watching her for a minute.
“I should not be surprised,” she told me haughtily, “if you some day wished it still wider.”
“There wouldn’t be the chance for fighting, if it was; and I take great pleasure in keeping the feud going.”