“Sandy, I wish you’d go hunt Rock up and tell him I want to see him.” Ford spoke with more of his natural spirit than he had shown since waking.
“Rock’s gone on out to Riley’s camp,” volunteered Bill. “Left this morning, before the rain started in.”
“What was her name—do you know?” Ford went back to the mystery.
“Ida—or was it Jenny? Some darned name—I heard it, when the preacher was marrying you.” Bill was floundering hopelessly in mental fog, but he persisted. “And I seen it wrote in the paper I signed my name to. I mind she rolled up the paper afterwards and put it—well, I dunno where, but she took it away with her, and says to you: ’That’s safe, now’—or ‘You’re safe,’ or ’I’m safe,’—anyway, some darned thing was safe. And I was goin’ to kiss the bride—mebbe I did kiss her—only I’d likely remember it if I had, drunk or sober! And—oh, now I got it!” Bill’s voice was full of elation. “You was goin’ to kiss the bride—that was it, it was you goin’ to kiss her, and she slap—no, by hokey, she didn’t slap you, she just—or was it Rock, now?” Doubt filled his eyes distressfully. “Darn my everlastin’ hide,” he finished lamely, “there was some kissin’ somew’ere in the deal, and I mind her cryin’ afterwards, but whether it was about that, or—Say, Sandy, what was it Ford was lickin’ the preacher for? Wasn’t it for kissin’ the bride?”
“It was for marrying him to her,” Sandy informed him sententiously.
Ford got up and went to the little window and looked out. Presently he came back to the stove and stood staring disgustedly down upon the effusively friendly Bill, leering up at him pacifically.
“If I didn’t feel so rotten,” he said glumly, “I’d give you another licking right now, Bill—you boozing old devil. I’d like to lick every darned galoot that stood back and let me in for this. You’d ought to have stopped me. You’d oughta pounded the face off me before you let me do such a fool thing. That,” he said bitterly, “shows how much a man can bank on his friends!”
“It shows,” snorted Bill indignantly, “how much he can bank on himself!”
“On whisky, to let him in for all kinds uh trouble,” revised Sandy virtuously. Sandy had a stomach which invariably rebelled at the second glass and therefore, remaining always sober perforce, he took to himself great credit for his morality.
“Married!—and I don’t so much as know her name!” gritted Ford, and went over and laid himself down upon the bed, and sulked for the rest of that day of rain and gloom.
Sulking never yet solved a mystery nor will it accomplish much toward bettering an unpleasant situation. After a day of unmitigated gloom and a night of uneasy dreams, Ford awoke to a white, shifting world of the season’s first blizzard, and to something like his normal outlook upon life.