“It was that scalawag Durand, y’betcha. I ain’t still wearin’ my pinfeathers none. Tha’s who it was. I’m not liable to forget him. He knocked me hell-west and silly whilst I wasn’t lookin’. He was sore because Clay had fixed his clock proper.”
“So you’ve fought on account of me too. I’m sorry.” There was a little break in her voice. “I s’pose you hate me for—for bein’ the way I am. I know I hate myself.” She choked on the food she was eating.
Johnnie, much distressed, put down the coffee-pot and fluttered near. “Don’t you take on, ma’am. I wisht I could tell you how pleased we-all are to he’p you. I hope you’ll stay with us right along. I sure do. You’d be right welcome,” he concluded bashfully.
“I’ve got no place to go, except back home—and I’ve got no folks there but a second cousin. She doesn’t want me. I don’t know what to do. If I had a woman friend—some one to tell me what was best—”
Johnnie slapped his hand on his knee, struck by a sudden inspiration. “Say! Y’betcha, by jollies, I’ve got ’er—the very one! You’re damn—you’re sure whistlin’. We got a lady friend, Clay and me, the finest little pilgrim in New York. She’s sure there when the gong strikes. You’d love her. I’ll fix it for you—right away. I got to go to her house this afternoon an’ do some chores. I’ll bet she comes right over to see you.”
Kitty was doubtful. She did not want to take any strange young women into her confidence until she had seen them. More than one good Pharisee had burned her face with a look of scornful contempt in the past weeks.
“Maybe we better wait and speak to Mr. Lindsay about it,” she said.
“No, ma’am, you don’t know Miss Beatrice. She’s the best friend.” He passed her the eggs and a confidence at the same time. “Why, I shouldn’t wonder but what she and Clay might get married one o’ these days. He thinks a lot of her.”
“Oh.” Kitty knew just a little more of human nature than the puncher. “Then I wouldn’t tell her about me if I was you. She wouldn’t like my bein’ here.”
“Sho! You don’t know Miss Beatrice. She grades ’way up. I’ll bet she likes you fine.”
When Johnnie left to go to work that afternoon he took with him a resolution to lay the whole case before Beatrice Whitford. She would fix things all right. No need for anybody to worry after she took a hand and began to run things. If there was one person on earth Johnnie could bank on without fail it was his little boss.
BEATRICE GIVES AN OPTION
It was not until Johnnie had laid the case before Miss Whitford and restated it under the impression that she could not have understood that his confidence ebbed. Even then he felt that he must have bungled it in the telling and began to marshal his facts a third time. He had expected an eager interest, a quick enthusiasm. Instead, he found in his young mistress a spirit beyond his understanding. Her manner had a touch of cool disdain, almost of contempt, while she listened to his tale. This was not at all in the picture he had planned.