Whereupon Kitty gently reproved him, as was her wifely duty.
“I ain’t no society fellow,” the distressed puncher explained to his hostess, tiny beads of perspiration on his forehead.
Beatrice had already guessed as much, but she did not admit it to Johnnie. She and Kitty smiled at each other in that common superiority which their sex gives them to any mere man upon such an occasion. For Mrs. John Green, though afternoon tea was to her too an alien custom, took to it as a duck does to water.
Miss Whitford handed Johnnie an envelope. “Would it be too much trouble for you to take a letter to Mr. Lindsay?” she asked very casually as they rose to go.
The bridegroom said he was much obliged and he would be plumb tickled to take a message to Clay.
When Clay read the note his blood glowed. It was a characteristic two-line apology:
A LOCKED GATE
Colin Whitford had been telling Clay the story of how a young cowpuncher had snatched Beatrice from under the hoofs of a charging steer. His daughter and the Arizonan listened without comment.
“I’ve always thought I’d like to explain to that young man I didn’t mean to insult him by offering money for saving Bee. But you see he didn’t give me any chance. I never did learn his name,” concluded the mining man.
“And of course we’d like him to know that we appreciate what he did for me,” Beatrice added. She looked at Clay, and a pulse beat in her soft throat.
“I reckon he knows that,” Lindsay suggested. “You must ‘a’ thought him mighty rude for to break away like you say he did.”
“We couldn’t understand it till afterwards. Mr. Bromfield had slipped him a fifty-dollar bill and naturally he resented it.” Miss Whitford’s face bubbled with reminiscent mirth. She looked a question at Clay. “What do you suppose that impudent young scalawag did with the fifty?”
“Got drunk on it most likely.”
“He fed it to his horse. Clary was furious.”
“He would be,” said the cattleman dryly, in spite of the best intentions to be generous to his successful rival. “But I reckon I know why yore grand-stand friend in chaps pulled such a play. In Arizona you can’t square such things with money. So far as I can make out the puncher didn’t do anything to write home about, but he didn’t want pay for it anyhow.”
“Of course, Bromfield doesn’t understand the West,” said Whitford. “I wouldn’t like that young puncher half so well if he’d taken the money.”
“He didn’t need to spoil a perfectly good fifty-dollar bill, though,” admitted Clay.
“Yes, he did,” denied Beatrice. “That was his protest against Clarendon’s misjudgment of him. I’ve always thought it perfectly splendid in its insolence. Some day I’m going to tell him so.”