“Is there any reason why it must be caught?” dad wanted to know, in his worst tone, which is almost diabolically calm.
“Yes,” I rapped out, growing a bit riled, “there is. I can’t stand this do-nothing existence any longer. You brought me up to it, and never let me know anything about your business, or how to help you run it—”
“It never occurred to me,” drawled dad, “that I needed help to run my business.”
“And last spring you rose up, all of a sudden, and started in to cure me of being a drone. The medicine you used was strong; it did the business pretty thoroughly. You’ve no kick coming at the result. I’m going to start to-morrow.”
Dad looked at me till I began to feel squirmy. I’ve thought since that he wasn’t as surprised as I imagined, and that, on the whole, he was pleased. But, if he was, he was mighty careful not to show it.
“You would better give me a list of your debts, then,” he said laconically. “I shall see that your allowance goes on just the same; you may want to invest in—er—cattle.”
“Thank you, dad,” I said, and turned to go.
“And I wish to Heaven,” he called after me, “that you’d take Rankin along and turn him loose out there. He might do to herd sheep. I’m sick of that hark-from-the-tombs face of his. I made a footman of him while you were gone before, rather than turn him off; but I’m damned if I do it again.”
I stopped just short of the door and grinned back at him. “Rankin,” I said, “is one of the horrors I’m trying to leave behind, dad.”
But dad had gone back to his correspondence. “In regard to that Clark, Marsden, and Clark affair, I think, Crawford, it would be well—”
I closed the door quietly and left them. It was dad’s way, and I laughed a little to myself as I was going back to my room to round up Rankin and set him to packing. I meant to stand over him with a club this time, if necessary, and see that I got what I wanted packed.
The next evening I started again for Montana—and I didn’t go in dad’s private car, either. Save for the fact that I had no grievance with him, and that we ate dinner alone together and drank a bottle of extra dry to the success of my pilgrimage, I went much as I had gone before: humbly and unheralded except for a telegram for some one to meet me at Osage.
Rankin, I may say, did not go with me, though I did as dad had suggested and offered to take him along and get him a job herding sheep. The memory of Rankin’s pained countenance lingers with me yet, and cheers me in many a dark hour when there’s nothing else to laugh over.
I Shake Hands with Old Man King.
For the second time in my irresponsible career I stood on the station platform at Osage and watched the train slide off to the East. It’s a blamed fool who never learns anything by experience, and I never have accused myself of being a fool—except at odd times—so I didn’t land broke. I had money to pay for several meals, and I looked around for somebody I knew; Frosty, I hoped.