Clay smiled. He had an opinion of his own on that point.
Johnnie Green gave an upward jerk to the frying-pan and caught the flapjack deftly as it descended.
“Fust and last call for breakfast in the dining-cyar. Come and get it, old-timer,” he sang out to Clay.
That young man emerged from his bedroom glowing. He was one or two shades of tan lighter than when he had reached the city, but the paint of Arizona’s untempered sun still distinguished him from the native-born, if there are any such among the inhabitants of upper New York.
“You’re one sure-enough cook,” he drawled to his satellite. “Some girl will ce’tainly have a good wife when she gets you. I expect I’d better set one of these suffragette ladies on yore trail.”
“Don’t you, Clay,” blushed Johnnie. “I ain’t no ladies’ man. They make me take to the tall timber when I see ’em comin’.”
“That ain’t hardly fair to them, and you the best flapjack artist in Graham County.”
“Sho! I don’t make no claims, old sock. Mebbe I’m handy with a fry-pan, mebbe I ain’t. Likely you’re jest partial to my flapjacks,” the little man said in order to have his modest suggestion refuted.
“They suit me, Johnnie.” And Clay reached for the maple syrup. “Best flapjacks ever made in this town.”
The Runt beamed all over. If he had really been a puppy he would have wagged his tail. Since he couldn’t do that he took it out in grinning. Any word of praise from Clay made the world a sunshiny one for him.
“This here place ain’t Arizona, but o’ course we got to make the best of it. You know I can cook when I got the fixin’s,” he agreed.
The two men were batching it. They had a little apartment in the Bronx and Johnnie looked after it for his friend. One of Johnnie’s vices—according to the standard of the B-in-a-Box boys—was that he was as neat as an old maid. He liked to hang around a mess-wagon and cook doughnuts and pies. His talent came in handy now, for Clay was no housekeeper.
After the breakfast things were cleared away Johnnie fared forth to a certain house adjoining Riverside Drive, where he earned ten dollars a week as outdoors man. His business was to do odd jobs about the place. He cut and watered the lawn. He made small repairs. Beatrice had a rose garden, and under her direction he dug, watered, and fertilized.
Incidentally, the snub-nosed little puncher with the unfinished features adored his young mistress in the dumb, uncritical fashion a schoolboy does a Ty Cobb or an Eddie Collins. For him the queen could do no wrong. He spent hours mornings and evenings at their rooms telling Clay about her. She was certainly the finest little lady he ever had seen. In his heart he had hopes that Clay would fall in love with and marry her. She was the only girl in the world that deserved his paragon. But her actions worried him. Sometimes he wondered if she really understood what a catch Clay was.