Meanwhile Hopalong and Red quarrelled petulantly and damned the erring Johnny with enthusiastic abandon, while Dent smiled at them and joked; but his efforts at levity made little impression on the irate pair. Red, true to his word, had turned up at the time set, in fact, he was half an hour ahead of time, for which miracle he endeavored to take great and disproportionate credit. Dent was secretly glad about the delay, for he found his place lonesome. He thoroughly enjoyed the company of the two gentlemen from the Bar-20, whose actions seemed to be governed by whims and who appeared to lack all regard for consequences; and they squabbled so refreshingly, and spent their money cheerfully. Now, if they would only wind up the day by fighting! Such a finish would be joy indeed. And speaking of fights, Dent was certain that Mr. Cassidy had been in one recently, for his face bore marks that could only be acquired in that way.
After supper the two guests had relapsed into a silence which endured only as long as the pleasing fulness. Then the squabbling began again, growing worse until they fell silent from lack of adequate expression. Finally Red once again spoke of their absent friend.
“We oughtn’t get peevish, Hoppy—he’s only thirty-six hours late,” suggested Red. “An’ he might be a week,” he added thoughtfully, as his mind ran back over a long list of Johnny’s misdeeds.
“Yes, he might. An’ won’t he have a fine cock-an’-bull tale to explain it,” growled Hopalong, reminiscently. “His excuses are the worst part of it generally.”
“Eh, does he—make excuses?” asked Dent, mildly surprised.
“He does to us,” retorted Red savagely. “He’s worse than a woman; take him all in all an’ you’ve got the toughest proposition that ever wore pants. But he’s a good feller, at that.”
“Well, you’ve got a lot of nerve, you have!” retorted Hopalong. “You don’t want to say anything about the Kid—if there’s anybody that can beat him in being late an’ acting the fool generally, it’s you. An’ what’s more, you know it!”
Red wheeled to reply, but was interrupted by a sudden uproar outside, fluent swearing coming towards the house. The door opened with a bang, admitting a white-faced, big-eyed man with one leg jammed through the box he had landed on in dismounting.
“Gimme a drink, quick!” he shouted wildly, dragging the box over to the bar with a cheerful disregard for chairs and other temporary obstructions. “Gimme a drink!” he reiterated.