Men who knew good riding when they saw it went silly and yelled and yelled. Those who did not know anything about it caught the infection and roared. The judges galloped about, backing away from the living whirlwind and yelling with the rest. Came a lull when the roan stood still because he lacked breath to continue, and the judges shouted an uneven chorus.
“Get down—the belt’s yours”—or words to that effect. It was unofficial, that verdict, but it was unanimous and voiced with enthusiasm.
Andy turned his head and smiled acknowledgment. “All right—but wait till I tame this hoss proper! Him and I’ve got a point to settle!” He dug in his spurs and again the battle raged, and again the crowd, not having heard the unofficial decision, howled and yelled approval of the spectacle.
Not till the roan gave up completely and owned obedience to rein and voiced command, did Andy take further thought of the reward. He satisfied himself beyond doubt that he was master and that the Weaver recognized him as such. He wheeled and turned, “cutting out” an imaginary animal from an imaginary herd; he loped and he walked, stopped dead still in two jumps and started in one. He leaned and ran his gloved hand forgivingly along the slatey blue neck, reached farther and pulled facetiously the roan’s ears, and the roan meekly permitted the liberties. He half turned in the saddle and slapped the plump hips, and the Weaver never moved. “Why, you’re an all-right little hoss!” praised Andy, slapping again and again.
The decision was being bellowed from the megaphone and Andy, hearing it thus officially, trotted over to where a man was holding out the belt that proclaimed him champion of the state. Andy reached out a hand for the belt, buckled it around his middle and saluted the grand stand as he used to do from the circus ring when one Andre de Greno had performed his most difficult feat.
The Happy Family crowded up, shamefaced and manfully willing to own themselves wrong.
“We’re down and ready to be walked on by the Champion,” Weary announced quizzically. “Mama mine! but yuh sure can ride.”
Andy looked at them, grinned and did an exceedingly foolish thing, just to humiliate Happy Jack, who, he afterwards said, still looked unconvinced. He coolly got upon his feet in the saddle, stood so while he saluted the Happy Family mockingly, lighted the cigarette he had just rolled, then, with another derisive salute, turned a double somersault in the air and lighted upon his feet—and the roan did nothing more belligerent than to turn his head and eye Andy suspiciously.