The horse hurried forward at a shuffling trot and thrust his hot muzzle into the delicious coolness. Happy Jack slipped off and, lying flat on his stomach, up-stream from the horse, drank deep and long, then stood up, wiped his face and considered the necessity of crossing. Just at this point the river was not so wide as in others, and for that reason the current flowed swiftly past. Not too swiftly, however, if one took certain precautions. Happy Jack measured mentally the strength of the current and the proper amount of caution which it would be expedient to use, and began his preparations; for the sun was sliding down hill toward the western skyline, and he wished very much to reach the wagons in time for supper, if he could.
Standing in the shade of the coulee wall, he undressed deliberately, folding each garment methodically as he took it off. When the pile was complete to socks and boots, he rolled it into a compact bundle and tied it firmly upon his saddle. Stranger, his horse, was a good swimmer, and always swam high out of water. He hoped the things would not get very wet; still, the current was strong, and his characteristic pessimism suggested that they would be soaked to the last thread. So, naked as our first ancestor, he urged his horse into the stream, and when it was too deep for kicking—Stranger was ever uncertain and not to be trusted too far—he caught him firmly by the tail and felt the current grip them both. The feel of the water was glorious after so long a ride in the hot sun, and Happy Jack reveled in the cool swash of it up his shoulders to the back of his neck, as Stranger swam out and across to the sloping, green bank on the home side. When his feet struck bottom, Happy Jack should have waded also—but the water was so deliciously cool, slapping high up on his shoulders like that; he still floated luxuriously, towed by Stranger—until Stranger, his footing secure, glanced back at Happy sliding behind like a big, red fish, snorted and plunged up and on to dry land.
Happy Jack struck his feet down to bottom, stumbled and let go his hold of the tail, and Stranger, feeling the weight loosen suddenly, gave another plunge and went careering up the bank, snorting back at Happy Jack. Happy swore, waded out and made threats, but Stranger, seeing himself pursued by a strange figure whose only resemblance to his master lay in voice and profanity, fled in terror before him.
Happy Jack, crippling painfully on the stones, fled fruitlessly after, still shouting threats. Then, as Stranger, galloping wildly, disappeared over a ridge, he stood and stared stupidly at the place where the horse had last been seen. For the moment his mind refused to grasp all the horror of his position; he stepped gingerly over the hot sand and rocks, sought the shelter of a bit of overhanging bank, and sat dazedly down upon a rock too warm for comfort. He shifted uneasily to the sand beside, found that still hotter, and returned to the rock.