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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 209 pages of information about Cattle Brands.

“I’ve got to have these horses, sir,” answered Ninde.

“Do you realize what it will take to get them?” asked Gray, as he brought his gun, both barrels at full cock, to his shoulder.  “Bat an eye, or crook your little finger if you dare, and I’ll send your soul glimmering into eternity, if my own goes to hell for it.”  There was something in the old man’s voice that conveyed the impression that these were not idle words.  To heed them was the better way, if human life had any value.

“Well, Mr. Gray,” said the sheriff, “put down your gun and take your horses.  This has been a bad piece of business for us—­take your horses and go, sir.  My bondsmen can pay that judgment, if they have to.”

Gray’s son rode around during the conversation, opened the gate, and turned out the horses.  One or two men helped him, and the herd was soon on its way to the pasture.

As the men of his party turned to follow Gray, who had remounted, he presented a pitiful sight.  His still determined features, relaxed from the high tension to which he had been nerved, were blanched to the color of his hair and beard.  It was like a drowning man—­with the strength of two—­when rescued and brought safely to land, fainting through sheer weakness.  A reprieve from death itself or the blood of his fellow man upon his hands had been met and passed.  It was some little time before he spoke, then he said:  “I reckon it was best, the way things turned out, for I would hate to kill any man, but I would gladly die rather than suffer an injustice or quietly submit to what I felt was a wrong against me.”

It was some moments before the party became communicative, as they all had a respect for the old man’s feelings.  Ninde was on the uneasy seat, for he would not return to the State, though his posse returned somewhat crestfallen.  It may be added that the sheriff’s bondsmen, upon an examination into the facts in the case, concluded to stand a suit on the developments of some facts which their examination had uncovered in the original proceedings, and the matter was dropped, rather than fight it through in open court.

XIV

THE STORY OF A POKER STEER

He was born in a chaparral thicket, south of the Nueces River in Texas.  It was a warm night in April, with a waning moon hanging like a hunter’s horn high overhead, when the subject of this sketch drew his first breath.  Ushered into a strange world in the fulfillment of natural laws, he lay trembling on a bed of young grass, listening to the low mooings of his mother as she stood over him in the joy and pride of the first born.  But other voices of the night reached his ears; a whippoorwill and his mate were making much ado over the selection of their nesting-place on the border of the thicket.  The tantalizing cry of a coyote on the nearest hill caused his mother to turn from him, lifting her head in alarm, and uneasily scenting the night air.

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