But a puff or two on his pipe soothed him, “Red’s” bark was always worse than his bite. He was the best-natured chap in the world, and he idolized Gilbert Jones. There was a big packing-case in the middle of the room, and he sat on it, tailor-fashion, as happy as a husky, normal young man can be.
He looked longingly at the unset table; but his thoughts were more of Angela Hardy than of the good meal to come.
“‘Red,’” said Gilbert after a brief silence, “I was hoping to be able to pay you off to-day.”
“Pay me off?” That would have been heaven! He could have taken Angela to the movies at Bisbee.
“Oh, forget it! You don’t owe me nothin’!”
“Only a mere trifle of six months’ wages,” Gilbert laughed.
“Red” had put his head in one hand, and leaned back on the case, at peace with the world. His left foot beat a little tattoo on the side of the box. Now he sat up straight and looked sharply at Jones.
“What’s the use of talking about this?” he wanted to know. “You ain’t got it, have you?”
Gilbert paused the fraction of a second. “No,” he had to admit, “But that doesn’t alter the fact that I owe you money.” He went over and stood close to his foreman.
“You’re wrong,” the younger man said. “It was my own proposition that I come here with you and work, an’ you know it. Now what you got to say?”
Gilbert put his arm around “Red’s” big shoulder, and playfully pushed him off the box. “You’re just a big kid, aren’t you, ’Red’?”
“I don’t know what I am. But I do know I was only too glad to take the gamble with you. An’ I’ll take another one right now if you’ve got one to suggest.”
Gilbert pushed the case over on its side. It was empty. There were some Navajo blankets on a little stand by the window. These he now fetched over to the case, first placing them carefully on the floor, spread out in all their rainbow beauty. Their bright patterns glorified the room, as if a lamp had been lighted. He said nothing. “Red” wondered what he was doing with these splendid blankets. He had never seen anything like them on the ranch, though there were others on the walls.
“I’d like to remark,” “Red” went on, “that if we ever gets into the cow business again, we ought to get us a nice ranch in Washington, D.C. It don’t pay American citizens to go too fur away from home, these days.”
Gilbert laughed. Then, “Oh!” he ejaculated, as though remembering something.
“What’s the matter?” “Red” asked.
“Haven’t you heard? Lopez has broken off the reservation again.”
“Lopez!” exclaimed “Red,” forgetting his pipe, his dinner, and even Angela for the moment. “The devil he has!”
“Uh—uh! Raided the Diamond Dot last night.”
“He won’t bother us,” “Red” smiled, settling back again. “Nothin’ to steal here except the mortgage.” He paused, as though in deep thought; but Gilbert, had he known it, was thinking even harder. Lopez, the Mexican bandit, was a dim uncertainty; the mortgage was a stern reality.