“All right!” said Ben cheerfully.
In a short time a fresh supply of trout was drawn from the brook, and they were roughly cooked at the fire, Bradley officiating as cook.
“Now, my friends, set up,” said he. “I’m sorry I can’t give you any potatoes, but the barrel’s out, and it’s too late to get any at the store. Likewise, you must excuse the puddin’, as it’s too late to make any.”
The two visitors appeared to think no apologies were needful, for they made short work with the trout. From the manner in which they devoured their supper, it was quite evident that it was some time since they had eaten. Ben and Bradley did not join them, having already eaten heartily.
“I hope you relished your supper, gentlemen,” said Bradley politely.
“I should say we did,” responded Tom Hadley.
“I say, them trout beat the world.”
“I’ll shoot the man that says they don’t!” said Bill Mosely, relapsing into his old tone.
“So will I!” exclaimed Bradley, springing to his feet and brandishing his revolver.
Ben began to see that he was playing a part, and, with assumed gravity, he looked to see what effect it would have on their new friend.
“I say, stranger, don’t handle that weapon of yours so careless,” said Mosely uneasily.
“I guess you’re right,” said Bradley, appearing to calm down. “Once I was swingin’ my gun kinder careless, and it went off and hit my friend, Jim Saunders, in his shoulder. Might have been worse. He had a narrer escape. But Jim couldn’t complain. I jest took care of him, night and day, till he got well. I couldn’t do any more’n that, now, could I?”
“I reckon he’d rather you hadn’t shot him,” said Mosely dryly.
“I reckon you’re right,” said Bradley, with equanimity. “Such little accidents will happen sometimes, Mosely. Somehow, you can’t always help it.”
“It’s best to be keerful,” observed Mosely uneasily.
“I should say so,” echoed his friend, Tom Hadley.
“Right you both are!” said Bradley affably. “I say, Mosely, I like you. You’re jest such a sort of man as I am. You’d jest as lieve shoot a man as to eat your dinner; now, wouldn’t you?”
“If he’d insulted me,” said Mosely hesitatingly.
“Of course. Come, now, how many men have you killed, first and last?”
“About twenty, I should think,” answered the bully, who seemed to grow meeker and more peaceable as Bradley’s apparent reckless ferocity increased.
“Only twenty!” exclaimed Bradley contemptuously. “Why, that’s nothing at all!”
“How many have you killed?” asked Mosely uneasily.
“Seventy or eighty, I should say,” answered Bradley carelessly. “Of course, a man can’t keep an account of all these little affairs. I did once think I’d keep a list, but I got tired of it after a short time, and gave it up after I’d got up to forty-seven.”