“Where does this man live?” asked Red, with a kindling eye.
“He lives about three miles out on the Peterville road, but he’s in town to-night visitin’ Miss Alders—Johnny!” to a small boy who had been following the conversation, his wide-open eyes bent on Red, and his mouth and wiggling bare toes expressing their delight in vigorous contortions, “Johnny, you run tell Mr. Upton there’s a gentleman in here wants to see him about buying a horse.”
“Don’t disturb him if he’s visiting,” remonstrated Red.
“He won’t call that disturbing him,” replied the post-mistress, with a shrill laugh. “He’ll be here in no time.”
She was a true prophet. It seemed as if the boy had barely left the store when he returned with a stoop-shouldered, solemn-faced man, who had a brush-heap of chin-whisker decorating the lower part of his face. After greetings and the explanation of the errand, Mr. Upton stroked his chin-whisker regretfully. “Young man,” said he, “I’m in a pecooliar and onpleasant position; there’s mighty feyew things I wouldn’t do in a hawse trade, but I draw the line on murder. That there hawse’ll kill you, just’s sure as you’re fool enough to put yerself on his back. I’ll sell you a real hawse mighty reasonable—”
“I’ll risk him,” cut in Red. “Could you lead him down here in the morning?”
“Yes, indeedy—he’s a perfect lady of a horse to lead—–you can pick up airy foot—climb all over him in fac’, s’long’s you don’t try to ride him or hitch him up. If you do that—well, young man, you’ll get a pretty fair idee of what is meant by one of the demons of hell.”
“What kind of saddle have you got?”
“One of them outlandish Western affairs that the scamp threw in with the animal—you see, I thought I’d take up horse-back riding for my health; I was in bed three weeks after my fust try.”
“I’ll go you seventy-five dollars for the outfit, just as you got it—chaps, taps, and latigo straps, if you’ll have it in front of my house at nine o’clock to-morrow.”
“All right, young man—all right sir—now don’t blame me if you air took home shoes fust.”
“Nary,” said Red. “Come and see the fun.”
“I shorely will,” replied the old gentleman.
At nine the next morning there was a crowd in front of the house.
“What have you been doing now, Will?” asked Miss Mattie with prescience.
“Only buying a horse, Mattie,” returned Red soberly. “Seems to be quite an event here.”
“Is that all?”
“That’s all, so help me Bob!” Red had a suspicion that there would be objections if she knew what kind of a horse it was.
Lettis, who had roomed with Red overnight, was in the secret.
The horse arrived, leading very quietly, as Mr. Upton had said. It was a buckskin, fat and hearty from long resting. Nothing could be more docile than the pensive lower lip, and the meek curve of the neck; nothing could be more contradictory than the light of its eye; a brooding, baleful fire, quietly biding its time.