When within a mile of the Beaver, the herd was turned westward and given its freedom. While drifting down the slope, Rowdy gradually crept far to the lead, and as the brothers left the cattle and bore off homeward, the horse took up a gentle trot, maintaining his lead until the stable was reached.
“Look at the dear old rascal,” said Joel, beaming with pride. “That horse knows more than some folks.”
“Yes, and if Dog-toe could talk,” admitted Dell, stroking his horse’s neck, “he could tell a good joke on me. I may tell it myself some day—some time when I want to feel perfectly ashamed of myself.”
A WELCOME GUEST
The heralds of spring bespoke its early approach. April was ushered in to the songs of birds, the greening valley, and the pollen on the willow. The frost arose, the earth mellowed underfoot, and the creek purled and sang as it hastened along. The cattle played, calves were born, while the horses, in shedding their winter coats, matted the saddle blankets and threw off great tufts of hair where they rolled on the ground.
The marketing of the peltry fell to Joel. Dell met the wagon returning far out on the trail. “The fur market’s booming,” shouted Joel, on coming within speaking distance. “We’ll not know the price for a few weeks. The station agent was only willing to ship them. The storekeeper was anxious to do the same, and advanced me a hundred dollars on the shipment. Wolf skins, prime, are quoted from two to two dollars and a half. And I have a letter from Forrest. The long winter’s over! You can shout! G’long, mules!”
During the evening, Dell read Forrest’s letter again and again. “Keep busy until the herds arrive,” it read. “Enlarge your water supply and plan to acquire more cattle.”
“That’s our programme,” said Joel. “We’ll put in two dams between here and the trail. Mr. Quince has never advised us wrong, and he’ll explain things when he comes. Once a week will be often enough to ride around the cattle.”