“Forty bucks,” returned Bart, reaching for the whisky-bottle. “Which same forty was all I had. Here’s how.”
“How,” repeated his companion.
“I’m laying you a bet,” said Conniston, quietly, coming toward them from the table.
Jimmie put down his glass, stared reminiscently at it for a moment, and then, lifting his eyebrows, turned to Conniston. “Evenin’, stranger. You might have made a remark?”
“If your luck has been working for other people for six months it’s my bet that it’s on the way home to you right now! I don’t mean any offense, and I am not sure of your customs out here. But I’ll stake you to five dollars and take half what you win.”
Jimmie grinned and put out his hand. “Which I call darn good custom, East or West!”
For a few minutes it looked as though Conniston’s money were going to retrieve the cowboy’s losses. Jimmie had already twenty dollars in front of him. And then a gambler’s “hunch,” a staking of everything on one play, and Jimmie sat back with nothing to do but roll a cigarette.
“I might have giv’ back your fiver a minute ago, but now—”
He ended by licking his brown cigarette-paper together. But his credit was good with the bartender, and Conniston and Bart joined him in having a drink.
“It looks like my luck had started back toward the home corrals all right,” said Jimmie, with a meditative smile. “Only she wasn’t strong enough to make it all the way. She got weak in the knees an’ went to sleep on the road. Now, if I had a fist full of money—” He sighed the rest into his glass.
“If the stranger,” put in Bart, studying his own brown paper and tobacco-sack, “has got any more money he wants to—”
Conniston laughed. “Much obliged. I think I’ll quit with five to-night.”
Suddenly Jimmie got another of his “hunches.” He cast a swift, apprising glance at Conniston, and then, tugging Bart’s sleeve, drew him to the door. Conniston could hear their voices outside, and, although he could not catch their words, he knew from the tone that Jimmie was urging, while Bart demurred. They came back and had another drink at the bartender’s invitation, after which they stepped to the table and watched the play for five minutes.
“I’d ‘a’ won twice runnin’,” grunted Jimmie. “We ought to make a try.”
Bart hesitated, watched another play, and said, shortly: “Go to it. If you can put it across I’m with you.”
Whereupon Jimmie returned to Conniston and made him a proposition. And ten minutes later, when Conniston went smiling back to the hotel, Jimmie and Bart were playing again, each with a hundred dollars in front of him.
Roger Hapgood lifted his pale, heavy-lidded eyes from the pages of his magazine and regarded Conniston with a look from which not all reproach had yet gone.