“I seed his big mouth right clus to my face, an’ his jaws wide open; so I rammed my left arm right in a ’tween ’em, so that he couldn’t git no purchase onto me to chaw, and he hadn’t really hed no chance ter bite, when the judge fired. He didn’t do it a mite too soon, though, you bet. Ef it hadn’t a bin for you boys—well, boys hain’t got no bizness on the plains, no how. I’m all right now, and good for a dozen painters yet; but this is the biggest one I ever seed. Thunder! but I must hev thet skin; ain’t it putty?”
I laid and listened for a short time to the exclamations of wonder and admiration uttered by the boys while examining the carcass, with no little amusement.
“I tell you, I should like to have been there,” said Hal. “I could have shot him with my rifle as easily as any one.”
“Yes, but you wouldn’t have dared to,” replied Ned.
“Wouldn’t I?” rejoined Hal. “You just wait and see. I wasn’t frightened a bit the night the Indians got into camp; and if it hadn’t been for old Jerry, I’d a shown ’em—”
“Pshaw! Why didn’t you show me, instead of crying, when we were up that tree, yesterday? You wasn’t very brave then,” said Ned.
“Umph! I didn’t know anything about hogs,” explained Hal.
“And I reckon you don’t know much ’bout painters, either, youngster. Brag’s a good dog, but Holdfast’s a better one,” broke in old Jerry.
“Isn’t it time for a start, Jerry?” called I; “and how’s your shoulder this morning?”
“It’s past time fur a start, and nigh upon noon. My shoulder’s putty sore, but I kin git along all right with it.”
I sprang to my seat, and found it nearly noon; indeed, so late that Jerry advised remaining encamped until the following morning, although Magoffin’s train had been gone some hours.
After dinner, Hal, Ned, and myself saddled up for a ride over the plain in search of antelope, and had gone some three or four miles from camp, when Ned called my attention to a horseman in the distance, leisurely riding along, almost diagonally to our own course.
We hastened forward so as to intercept him; but, seeing us approach, he turned and rode towards us.
He was a Mexican, tall and gaunt, mounted upon a superb black mustang stallion. His dress consisted of a short spencer jacket of dark blue cloth, with loose sleeves; gaudily embroidered and laced along the seams; pants, confined by a scarlet silk sash at the waist, and open at the sides, through which the wide Mexican drawers were plainly visible; a broad, brimmed, low-crowned hat, of Spanish manufacture, with a band of silver bullion, covered his head, and boots of alligator hide, heavily spurred, were upon his feet.
He rode a deep-treed Mexican saddle, with housings of leather, grotesquely stamped: upon the pommel hung, neatly coiled, a lasso of beautifully braided rawhide.
He also carried a long rifle. His powder-horn and bullet-pouch, being suspended from his left shoulder.