“I’m sorry. I’d like to, but I’ve got a lot of work to get over with Garton—”
Only three or four doors from the office was the little cottage which he had helped Argyl to prepare for her father. Even while he was making his excuses he saw the door open, and Argyl herself, lithe and trim in her gray riding-habit, step out upon the tiny porch.
“I beg pardon,” he broke off, suddenly. “I—Will you excuse me?”
And, jerking his horse’s reins so that the animal started up after him at a trot, he strode down the street, his hat off, his face lifted eagerly to Argyl’s. A moment later he was holding her hand in his, oblivious of Jocelyn, Pete, Valley City, everything in the world except the girl with the big gray eyes, the girl whom he had seen through his shifting day-dreams.
When the cowboy and the schoolmistress passed him Lonesome Pete was talking once more and she was being very gracious to him, but Conniston had no eye for such trifles. Jocelyn nodded a bit stiffly to Argyl, and, smiling at Conniston, cried gaily, “You won’t forget, Mr. Conniston!”
But he had already forgotten. He had not hoped to see Argyl for many days yet, perhaps many weeks, and the unexpected sight of her thrilled through him, driving all thoughts of Jocelyn out of his mind. And when in a few minutes he was forced to remember that he had business with Garton he left reluctantly and with a promise to have dinner at six o’clock with her and her father.
Tommy Garton he found as cheerful as a cricket and heartily glad to see him. Billy Jordan had looked out as Jocelyn and her two escorts came by, and now was back at his typewriter, pounding the keys for dear life, the ticking and clicking of his machine keeping time to “Yankee Doodle,” which he was whistling softly. He, too, shook hands, but his cheerfulness was of a grade noticeably inferior to Garton’s. And immediately he went back to his machine and his rhythmical pounding.
Conniston was of a mind to get the business of the day done with before six. The first part of his errand took up the greater part of an hour. Then Garton reported upon the other matter which Truxton had wanted ascertained. There was water enough to last four days. Provisions were holding out well, but soon there would be a need for fresh supplies of sugar, flour, and jerked beef. There was enough of canned goods at the general store to last for a month, a fresh shipment having been recently received—two big wagon-loads from Crawfordsville.
“I expect Mr. Crawford to drop in on us some time before dark,” Garton said, as he put away carefully into a drawer the papers he had taken from it during the consultation. “Miss Argyl is already here. Stopped in a minute to let us know that the Old Man is coming.”
“Yes, I know. I saw her a minute just before I came in.”
They chatted for a while longer, until Conniston saw by his watch that it was six o’clock. Then he got up and reached for his hat.