Pink As Chappyrone





Rowdy was sprawled ungracefully upon somebody's bunk--he neither knew

nor cared whose--and he was snoring unmelodiously, and not dreaming a

thing; for when a cow-puncher has nothing in particular to do, he

sleeps to atone for the weary hours when he must be very wide-awake. An

avalanche descended upon his unwarned middle, and checked the rhythmic

ebb and flow of sound. He squawked and came to life clawing viciously.



"I'd like t' know where the devil yuh come from," a voice remarked

plaintively in a soft treble.



Rowdy opened his eyes with a snap. "Pink! by all that's good and bad!

Get up off my diaphragm, you little fiend."



Pink absent-mindedly kneaded Rowdy's stomach with his knuckles, and

immediately found himself in a far corner. He came back, dimpling

mischievously. He looked much more an angel than a fiend, for all his

Angora chaps and flame-colored scarf.



"Your bed and war-bag's on my bunk; you're on Smoky's; and Dixie's

makin' himself to home in the corral. By all them signs and tokens,

I give a reckless guess you're here t' stay a while. That right?" He

prodded again at Rowdy's ribs.



"It sure is, Pink. And if I'd known you was holding out here, I'd 'a'

come sooner, maybe. You sure look good to me, you darned little cuss!"

Rowdy sat up and took a lightning inventory of the four or five other

fellows lounging about. He must have slept pretty sound, he thought, not

to hear them come in.



Pink read the look, and bethought him of the necessary introductions.

"This is my side-kicker over the line that--you've heard about till

you're plumb weary, boys," he announced musically. "His name is Rowdy

Vaughan--bronco-peeler, crap fiend, and all-round bad man. He ain't a

safe companion, and yuh want t' sleep with your six-guns cuddled under

your right ear, and never, on no account, show him your backs. He's a

real wolf, he is, and the only reason I live t' tell the tale is because

he respects m' size. Boys, I'm afraid for yuh--but I wish yuh well."



"Pink, you need killing, and I'm tempted to live up to my rep," grinned

Rowdy indulgently. "Read me the pedigree of your friends."



"Oh, they ain't no worse--when yuh git used to 'em. That long-legged

jasper with the far-away look in his eyes is the Silent One--if he takes

a notion t' you, he'll maybe tell yuh the name his mother calls him. He

may have seen better days; but here's hoping he won't see no worse! He

once was a tenderfoot; but he's convalescing."



The Silent One nodded carelessly, but with a quick, measuring glance

that Rowdy liked.



"This unshaved savage is Smoky. He's harmless, if yuh don't

mention socialism in his presence; and if yuh do, he'll

down-with-the-trust-and-long-live-the-sons-uh-toil, all hours uh the

night, and keep folks awake. Then him and the fellow that started him

off 'll likely get chapped good and plenty. Over there's Jim Ellis

and Bob Nevin; they've both turned a cow or two, and I've seen worse

specimens running around loose--plenty of 'em. That man hidin' behind

the grin--you can see him if yuh look close--is Sunny Sam. Yuh needn't

take no notice of him, unless you're a mind to. He won't care--he's dead

gentle.



"Say," he broke off, "how'd you happen t' stray onto this range, anyhow?

Yuh used t' belong t the Horseshoe Bar so solid the assessor always t'

yuh down on the personal-property list."



"They won't pay taxes on me no more, son." Rowdy's eyes dwelt fondly

upon Pink's cupid-bow mouth and dimples. He had never dreamed of finding

Pink here; though, when he came to think of it there was no reason why

he shouldn't.



Pink was not like any one else. He was slight and girlish to look at.

But you mustn't trust appearances; for Pink was all muscle strung on

steel wire, according to the belief of those who tried to handle him.

He had little white hands, and feet that looked quite comfortable in

a number four boot, and his hair was a tawny gold and curled in

distracting, damp rings on his forehead. His eyes were blue and

long-lashed and beautiful, and they looked at the world with baby

innocence--whereas a more sophisticated little devil never jangled spurs

at his heels. He was everything but insipid, and men liked him--unless

he chose to dislike them, when they thought of him with grating teeth.

To find him bullying the Cross L boys brought a warmth to Rowdy's heart.



Pink made a cigarette, and then offered Rowdy his tobacco-sack, and

asked questions about the Cypress Hills country. How was this girl?--and

was that one married yet?--and did the other still grieve for him? As a

matter of fact, he had yet to see the girl who could quicken his pulse

a single beat, and for that reason it sometimes pleased him to affect

susceptibility beyond that of other men.



It was after dinner when he and Rowdy went humming down to the stables,

gossiping like a couple of old women over a back fence.



"I see you've got Conroy's Chub yet," Pink observed carelessly.



"Oh, for Heaven's sake let up on that cayuse!" Rowdy cried petulantly.

"I wish I'd never got sight of the little buzzard-head; I've had him

crammed down my throat the last day or two till it's getting plumb

monotonous. Pink, that cayuse never saw Oregon. He was raised right on

this flat, and he belongs to old Rodway. I've got to lead him back there

and turn him over to-day."



Pink took three puffs at his cigarette, and lifted his long lashes to

Rowdy's gloom-filled face. "Stole?" he asked briefly.



"Stole," Rowdy repeated disgustedly. "So was the whole blame' bunch, as

near as I can make out."



"We might 'a' knowed it. We might 'a' guessed Harry Conroy wouldn't have

a straight title to anything if he could make it crooked. I bet he never

finished paying back that money yuh lent him--out uh the kindness uh

your heart. Did he?" Pink leaned against the corral fence and kicked

meditatively at a snow-covered rock.



"He did not, m' son. Chub's all I ever got out uh the deal--and

I haven't even got him. I borrowed him from Rodway to pack my bed

over--borrowed the blame' little runty cayuse that cost me sixty-four

hard-earned dollars; that's what Harry borrowed of me. And every blame'

gazabo on the flat wanted to know what I was doing with him!"



"I can tell yuh where t' find Conroy, Rowdy. He's working for an

outfit down on the river. I'd sure fix him for this! Yuh got plenty of

evidence; you can send him up like a charm. It was different when he cut

your latigo strap in that rough-riding contest; yuh couldn't prove it on

him. But this--why, man, it's a cinch!"



"I haven't lost Harry Conroy, so I ain't looking for him just now,"

growled Rowdy. "So long as he keeps out uh reach, I won't ask no more of

him. And, Pink, I wish you'd keep this quiet--about him having Chub. I

told Rodway I couldn't put him next to the fellow that brought that

bunch across the line. I told him the fellow went north and got killed.

He did go north--fifty miles or so; and he'd ought to been killed, if he

wasn't. Let it go that way, Pink."



Pink looked like a cherub-faced child when he has been told there's

no Santa Claus. "Sure, if yuh say so," he stammered dubiously. He eyed

Rowdy reproachfully, and then looked away to the horizon. He kicked

the rock out of place, and then poked it painstakingly back with his

toe--and from the look of him, he did not know there was a rock there at

all.



"How'd yuh happen to run across Rodway?" he asked guilelessly.



"I stopped there last night. I got to milling around in that storm, and

ran across the schoolma'am that boards at Rodway's, She was plumb lost,

too, so we dubbed around together for a while, and finally got inside

Rodway's field. Then Chub come alive and piloted us to the house. This

morning Rodway claimed him--says the brand has been worked from a Roman

four. Oh, it's all straight goods," he added hastily. "Old Eagle Creek

here knew him, too."



But Pink was not thinking of Chub. He hunched his chap-belt higher

and spat viciously into the snow. "I knowed it," he declared, with

melancholy triumph. "It's school-ma'amitis that's gave yuh softening uh

the vitals, and not no Christian charity play. How comes it you're took

that way, all unbeknown t' your friends? Yuh never used t' bother about

no female girls. It's a cinch you're wise that she's Harry's sister; and

I admit she's a swell looker. But so's he; and I should think, Rowdy,

you'd had about enough uh that brand uh snake."



"There's nothing so snaky about her that I could see," defended Rowdy.

He did not particularly relish having his own mental argument against

Miss Conroy thrown back at him from another. "She seemed to be all

right; and if you'd seen how plucky she was in that blizzard--"



"Well, I never heard anybody stand up and call Harry white-livered, when

yuh come t' that," Pink cut in tartly. "Anyway, you're a blame fool. If

she was a little white-winged angel, yuh wouldn't stand no kind uh show;

and I tell yuh why. She's got a little tin god that she says prayers to

regular."



"That's Harry. And wouldn't he be the fine brother-in-law? He could

borrow all your wages off'n yuh, and when yuh went t' make a pretty

ride, he'd up and cut your latigo, and give yuh a fall. And he could

work stolen horses off onto yuh--and yuh wouldn't give a damn, 'cause

Jessie wears a number two shoe--"



"You must have done some rimrock riding after her yourself!" jeered

Rowdy.



"And has got shiny brown eyes, just like Harry's--"



"They're not!" laughed Rowdy, half-angrily. "If you say that again,

Pink, I'll stick your head in a snow-bank. Her eyes are all right. They

sure look good to me."



"You've sure got 'em," mourned Pink. "Yuh need t' be close-herded by

your friends, and that's no dream. You wait till toward evening before

yuh take that horse back. I'm going along t' chappyrone yuh, Rowdy. Yuh

ain't safe running loose any more."



Rowdy cursed him companionably and told him to go along, if he wanted

to, and to look out he didn't throw up his own hands; and Pink grumbled

and swore and did go along. But when they got there, Miss Conroy greeted

him like a very good friend; which sent Rowdy sulky, and kept him so all

the evening. It seemed to him that Pink was playing a double game, and

when they started home he told him so.



But Pink turned in his saddle and smiled so that his dimples showed

plainly in the moonlight. "Chappyrones that set in a corner and look

wise are the rankest kind uh fakes," he explained. "When she was talking

to me, she was letting you alone--see?"



Rowdy accepted the explanation silently, and stored it away in his

memory. After that, by riding craftily, and by threats, and by much

vituperation, he managed to reach Rodway's unchapperoned at least three

times out of five--which was doing remarkably well, when one considers

Pink.





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