“We are bound for the mines, ma’am,” said Bradley. “We expected to camp out to-night, but we happened to see the smoke rising from your chimbly, and we made bold to ride up and ask you for supper and a night’s lodging.”
“We don’t take in tramps,” said the woman roughly.
“We’re on a tramp,” said Bradley, resolved not to be rebuffed, “but we’ve got money to pay for our accommodations.”
“This ain’t a hotel,” said the woman, but less roughly.
“Of course not,” said Bradley, in a conciliatory manner; “but I guess you won’t object to get us some supper and give us a bed. We’ll pay for all the trouble we make. That’s fair, ain’t it?”
“I don’t know what my husband will say,” returned the woman, in an undecided manner.
“Won’t you ask him, ma’am?”
“He’s gone out just now. He won’t be back for an hour.”
“While you’re waitin’ for him, can’t you get us some supper? Then you can send us off if he ain’t willin’ to keep us.”
“I’ll do that,” said the woman. “You’d better stay outside till I get supper ready. There ain’t much room here, and you’ll be in the way.”
“Jest as you say, ma’am. I s’pose it would be too much to ask if you kin give us a hot cup of coffee. We haven’t tasted any since we left ’Frisco.”
“I can give you coffee,” answered the woman. “My husband likes it, and we always keep it on hand.”
“Good!” said Bradley, his face lighting up with satisfaction. “We’ve rid far to-day, and a cup of coffee will go to the right spot.”
Bradley and Ben threw themselves on the ground near-by, and awaited with complacence the call to supper.
“We’re in luck, Ben,” said his companion. “Who’d have expected a hot supper out here in this lonely place?”
“I don’t much like the looks of our landlady, Jake,” said Ben.
“She ain’t handsome, I allow, Ben; but if she gives us a good supper, that don’t matter. We must make the most of this, for it’s uncertain when we get another.”
“W’on’t she give us breakfast in the morning?”
“I didn’t think of that. Maybe she will, and that’ll be a good start on our to-morrow’s journey.”
In about three-quarters of an hour the woman came to the door, and called the travelers in to supper.
An unpainted wooden table was set in the middle of the floor, on which was spread a simple but appetizing meal. There was a plate of meat, which appeared to have been fried; a loaf of bread, and a pot of coffee; but there was neither milk nor butter. This naturally detracted from the attractiveness of the bread and coffee, but our travelers were not disposed to be fastidious.
Ben tasted the meat, and it evidently puzzled him. In taste it differed from anything he had eaten before.
Bradley smiled at his perplexity.
“Don’t you know what it is, Ben?” he asked.