Things are looking up: Billy has finally made it to the depot station. Unfortunately, he can't work up the nerve to go in.
Eventually, the stationmaster comes out to chat up Billy. He mentions off-hand that they have some puppies for a young boy who lives upriver. Hint hint, wink wink.
Billy is so excited that he can't even squeak out that the puppies are for him. After two years and many more weeks of waiting, can you blame him?
The stationmaster was totally just teasing him. When he's done getting his kicks, he sends Billy around to the freight entrance for his puppies.
When they're let out of the box, the puppies crawl adorably all over Billy's feet. And he totally loses it. He kneels down, buries his face between them, and starts to cry. Hey, it's been a long day—not to mention a long two years.
Billy walks out of the depot with his chest all puffed up and proud. Now that he's got two good hounds, no one's going to dare to stare at or laugh at him. Right? Totally.
Uh, or not. Apparently, a shoeless boy walking down the street with two puppies sticking out of his gunnysack will attract some attention.
Two old women glare at him as he walks by, and say (in their best snooty accent) "Well, I never" (5.42). Billy responds by saying the fancy feathers in their hats ain't nothing by "goose feathers painted with iodine" (5.43). It's not the best come back, but it does the trick. The women turn and walk away sufficiently offended.
Suddenly people (mostly young boys) are swarming Billy. They laugh and ask him all sorts of questions about the puppies.
Poor Billy is so overwhelmed that he starts crying in the street.
Not such a great day after all, and it gets worse. The leader of a boys' gang walks up to Billy and stomps right on his bare foot. Seriously, who does that?
Also, so much for the idea that everything was better back in the day, because obviously it wasn't.
So the foot-stomping was bad enough—but then a boy pulls the ears of one of his dogs. And that is it for Billy. He very maturely sets his bag down, and then punches the kid in the face.
Well, this starts an all out brawl between the gang and Billy. Unfortunately Billy is losing, badly. That tends to happen when a gang goes after one scared little kid.
The beating only stops because the marshal intervenes. Turns out, the big scary marshal is actually a super sweet guy. He's so moved by Billy's story about saving for the puppies that he buys Billy a soda pop.
This is seriously the first time Billy has ever even tried a soda. Weirdly, he doesn't seem too jazzed about it, just says that it felt good on his "hot dry throat."
The marshal walks him to the edge of town and Billy starts on his long journey home.
Night falls. He finds a cave, builds a fire, and makes a bed of leaves. Seriously, who is this kid? We don't even like going in the backyard at night, much less camping in the middle of the woods all by ourselves.
Billy takes advantage of this relaxing little vacation to examine and play with his puppies for the first time.
The boy dog is really brave, especially for his puppy size, but he's not the smartest of dogs. The girl pup is much smaller, but she is also much smarter. We would say something about gender stereotypes, but we'll restrain ourselves.
Billy falls asleep with his puppies, but soon wakes up to the sound of screaming. Oh, hey! It's a mountain lion.
You know what mountain lions are scared of? No? We didn't either. Luckily, Billy does. They're not too fond of fire, so he builds up the embers and gets a good blaze going.
Seeing his brave little puppies standing guard at the mouth of the cave gives Billy courage. He hollers back at the lion and throws rocks for hours, until the lion finally heads off to find easier, less stubborn prey.