“Boys, the mustangs will be up from the range this morning. Which of you want to go down to the corral with me?”
“I do! I do!” exclaimed both in the same breath.
“I spoke first,” cried Hal.
“No, you didn’t; I spoke first myself,” retorted Ned.
“I say you didn’t,” rejoined Hal.
Seeing that the dispute was likely to become a serious one, I interrupted it by saying,—
“Well, boys, I’ll settle the matter at once by taking you both with me. In this way there’ll be no chance for a quarrel.”
“Hurrah! hurrah!” exclaimed Ned. “We can both go; ain’t that nice?”
“But I spoke first, though,” declared Hal. “Never mind which spoke first. If either of you want to go with me, you must come now.”
We immediately started towards the corral; but, before reaching it, I saw the herd coming over the plain towards us, their heads high in air, as though sniffing the morning breeze, their necks proudly arched, and long manes and tails gracefully flowing to the wind, as they pranced and gambolled along the high swell of land that marked the gentle descent to the valley where we stood.
As soon as the boys discovered them, they went into raptures, exclaiming,—
“Oh, what a big drove of horses! Whose are they? Are they all yours? Can’t I have one to ride? What are you going to do with them?” and a hundred other questions, asked more rapidly than I could possibly find opportunity to answer.
As the mustangs came nearer, and the boys began to distinguish more clearly their elegant forms and beautiful color, they became greatly excited, declaring loudly, that, if they could only have one of them to ride, they should be perfectly happy.
I found great difficulty in so far repressing them, that they would not frighten the herd which was now close to the enclosure; but finally succeeded in keeping them quiet, by promising that each should have one for his own.
When the last of the gang had passed into the corral and the gate was shut, the boys mounted the wall, eager to select their ponies. This was soon done: Hal choosing a beautiful black, and Ned deciding upon a spirited blood-bay mare.
[Illustration: In Camp.]
Calling Manuel, the Mexican herder, I gave the requisite order, and he entered the corral, lasso in hand. He stood for a moment, waiting his opportunity, and then, swinging the rope gracefully over his head, the noose dropped upon the neck of the black.
The instant she felt it touch, she lowered her head, in an endeavor to throw it off; but Manuel anticipated the movement, and gently tightened it; when, with a snort of defiance, she settled back on her haunches, as though inviting him to a trial of strength.
After many and repeated failures, by the exercise of great patience and skill, Manuel succeeded in separating her from the remainder of the herd, and leading her into another and smaller enclosure.