“Mebbe not, but you—you’re through with Annie.” Clay caught him by the shoulder and swung him round. His eyes bored chilly into the other man. “Don’t you forget to remember not to forget that. Let her alone. Don’t go near her or play any tricks to hurt her. Lay off for good. If you don’t—well, you’ll pay heavy. I’ll be on the job personal to collect.”
Clay swung away and strode down the street, light-heeled and lithe, the sap of vital youth in every rippling muscle.
“Slim” Jim watched him, snarling hatred. If ever he got a good chance at him it would be curtains for the guy from Arizona, he swore savagely.
JOHNNIE SAYS HE IS MUCH OBLIGED
Beatrice, just back from riding with Bromfield, stood on the steps in front of the grilled door and stripped the gloves from her hands.
“I’m on fire with impatience, Bee,” he told her. “I can hardly wait for that three weeks to pass. The days drag when I’m not with you.”
He was standing a step or two below her, a graceful, well-groomed figure of ease, an altogether desirable catch in the matrimonial market. His dark hair, parted in the middle, was beginning to thin, and tiny crow’s-feet radiated from the eyes, but he retained the light, slim figure of youth. It ought not to be hard to love Clarendon Bromfield, his fiancee reflected. Yet he disappointingly failed to stir her pulses.
She smiled with friendly derision. “Poor Clary! You don’t look like a Vesuvius ready to erupt. You have such remarkable self-control.”
His smile met hers. “I can’t go up and down the street ringing a bell like a town crier and shouting it out to everybody I meet.”
Round the corner of the house a voice was lifted in tuneless song.
“Oh, I’m goin’ home
Bull-whackin’ for to spurn;
I ain’t got a nickel,
And I don’t give a dern.
’T is when I meet a pretty girl,
You bet I will or try,
I’ll make her my little wife,
Root hog or die.”
“You see Johnnie isn’t ashamed to shout out his good intentions,” she said.
“Johnnie isn’t engaged to the loveliest creature under heaven. He doesn’t have to lie awake nights for fear the skies will fall and blot him out before his day of bliss.”
Beatrice dropped a little curtsy. She held out her hand in dismissal. “Till to-morrow, Clary.”
As Bromfield turned away, Johnnie came round a corner of the house dragging a garden hose. He was attacking another stanza of the song:
“There’s hard times on old
That never can be beat.
It was root hog or die
Under every wagon sheet.
We cleared up all the Indians,
Drank . . .”
The puncher stopped abruptly at sight of his mistress.
“What did you drink that has made you so happy this morning, Johnnie?” she asked lightly.