His companion was not a man of culture, nor were his tastes elevated, but there was a rough honesty about him, and a good humor, which made him an agreeable companion. Besides, he knew the country, and Ben felt secure in leaving the conduct of the trip to him.
“I am glad I came out here,” thought Ben, as, with his head pillowed on his knapsack, he looked up through the branches of the tall trees to the blue sky beyond. “It’s better than staying at home and working for Deacon Pitkin, or blacking boots for Sam Sturgis. Here I am my own man, free and don’t need to run at anybody’s bidding.”
Probably most boys of Ben’s age share his love of independence, but it is neither practicable nor desirable that at sixteen a boy should be his own master, much as he may desire it. In the case of our hero, circumstances had thrown him upon his own resources, and it may be added that he could better be trusted with the management of himself than most boys.
Ben’s reverie was broken in upon by the return of his companion.
“What are you dreamin’ about, Ben?” queried Jake.
“I was thinking about home, Jake.”
“This don’t look much like it, eh, Ben?”
“Well, my lad, I’ve found something,” continued Bradley.
“Found something? What! a nugget?” exclaimed Ben, in excitement.
“Not much. This ain’t the place for such a find as that.”
“What, then, Jake?”
“I’ve found a hotel.”
“Where?” asked Ben eagerly.
“Get up and stand by me. There! look yonder. What do you see?”
“It looks like smoke.”
“It is smoke. There’s a cabin yonder. I’ve reconnoitered, and I seed the door open, and a woman inside. Now, I’m going to ask her to give us some supper and a bed. Won’t that be fine?”
“Then unhitch that animal of yours, and we’ll put our best foot forrards, and maybe we’ll get a hot supper and a Christian bed to sleep in.”
A polite hostess.
The cabin was a rough one, built of logs, with an adobe chimney. It contained two rooms and a loft. The inducements to live in such a lonely spot must have been small enough, but so many undesirable localities are inhabited, that it is hardly worth while to feel or express surprise at men’s taste in such matters.
The approach of Ben and his companion was not observed by the inmate or inmates of the cabin. It was only when Bradley, dismounting from his mustang, struck the door-post with the handle of his whip-for it is needless to say that bells were not to be found in that neighborhood—that their presence became known.
A woman, tall, spare, and with harsh features, came to the door. She eyed Bradley askance.
“Well, what’s wanted, and who are you?” she demanded.