“My name is Bill Mosely,” said the other. “My friend’s Tom Hadley. We’re both from Missouri, and, though I say it, we’re about as wide-awake as they make ’em. We don’t stand no back talk, Tom and me. When a man insults me, I drop him,” and the speaker rolled his eyes in what was meant to stimulate ferocity.
Bradley eyed him shrewdly, and was not quite so much impressed as Mosely intended him to be. He had observed that the greatest boasters did not always possess the largest share of courage.
“Isn’t that so, Tom?” asked Bill Mosely, appealing to his friend.
“I should say so,” answered Tom, nodding emphatically.
“You’ve seen me in a scrimmage more than once?”
“I should say I have.”
“Did you ever see me shoot a man that riled me?”
“Dozens of times,” returned Hadley, who appeared to play second fiddle to his terrible companion.
“That’s the kind of man I am,” said Bill Mosely, in a tone of complacency.
Still, Bradley did not seem particularly nervous or frightened. He was fast making up his mind that Mosely was a cheap bully, whose words were more terrible than his deeds. Ben had less experience of men, and he regarded the speaker as a reckless desperado, ready to use his knife or pistol on the least provocation. He began to think he would have preferred solitude to such society. He was rather surprised to hear Bradley say quietly:
“Mosely, you’re a man after my own heart. That’s the kind of man I be. If a man don’t treat me right, I shoot him in his tracks. One day I was drinkin’ in a saloon among the foothills, when I saw a man winkin’ at me. I waited to see if he would do it again. When he did, I hauled out my revolver and shot him dead.”
“You did?” exclaimed Mosely uneasily.
“Of course I did; but I was rather sorry afterward when I heard that his eyelids were weak and he couldn’t help it.”
“Did you get into any trouble about it, stranger?” asked Mosely, with a shade of anxiety.
“No; none of the party dared touch me. Besides, I did the handsome thing. I had the man buried, and put a stone over him. I couldn’t do any more, could I?”
“No,” said Mosely dubiously, and he drew a little farther away from Bradley.
“What do you find to eat?” he inquired, after a pause. “Tom and I are as hungry as if we hadn’t eaten anything for a week. You haven’t got any provisions left over?”
“No; but you can have as good a supper as we had, and we had a good one. What do you say to trout, now?”
Bill Mosely smacked his lips.
“Jest show me where I’ll find some,” he said.
Bradley pointed to the brook from which he had drawn his supply.
“I don’t mind helping you,” he said. “Ben, are you tired?”
“Then come along, and we’ll try to get some supper for our friends.”