“Come on, Dell,” said Joel, leading the way; “these gentlemen want to make an early start. You’ll have to bring in the horses while I get breakfast. Come on.”
THE BOTTOM RUNG
An early start was delayed. Joel had figured without his guest, as the Texan stands in a class by himself. The peace and serenity of pastoral life affects its people, influencing their normal natures into calm and tranquil ways. Hence, instead of the expected start at sunrise, after breakfast the trail foreman languidly sauntered out to the corral, followed by the boys.
The old physician, even, grew impatient. “What on earth do you think is detaining that man?” he inquired of Forrest. “Here the sun is nearly an hour high, and not a wheel turning. And I can see him from the tent opening, sitting on a log, flicking the ground with his quirt and chatting with those boys. What do you suppose they are talking about?”
“Well, now, that’s a hard question,” answered Forrest. “I’ll chance the subject is of no importance. Just a little social powwow with the boys, most likely. Sit down, Doctor, and take life easy—the cows will calve in the spring.”
Patience had almost ceased to be a virtue when the trail boss put in an appearance at the tent. “You are in no particular hurry, are you, Doctor?” he inquired, with a friendly smile.
“Oh, no,” said the physician, with delightful irony; “I was just thinking of having the team unhooked, and lay over another day. Still, I am some little distance from home, and have a family that likes to see me occasionally.”
The buckboard rattled away. “Come in the tent,” called Forrest to the boys. “If old Paul sees you standing out there, he’s liable to think of something and come back. Honestly, when it comes to killing time, that old boy is the bell steer.”
Only three were now left at the homestead. The first concern was to intercept the next passing herd. Forrest had a wide acquaintance among trail foremen, had met many of them at Dodge only ten days before, while passing that supply point, and it was a matter of waiting until a herd should appear.
There was little delay. Joel was sent at ten o’clock to the nearest swell, and Dell an hour later. The magic was working overtime; the dust cloud was there! In his haste to deliver the message, the sentinel’s horse tore past the tent and was only halted at the corral. “It’s there!” he shouted, returning, peering through the tent-flaps. “They’re coming; another herd’s coming. It’s in the dip behind the first divide. Shall I go? I saw it first.”
“Dismount and rest your saddle,” said Forrest. “Come in and let’s make a little medicine. If this herd has one, here’s where we get a cow. Come in and we’ll plot against the Texans.”