Suddenly the black horse wheeled and presented its heels, and Ted rode around it, lashing it well, everywhere the whip could reach.
Although the horse continued to lash out with his heels he struck nothing, and always his enemy was at his side or in front.
At last Ted resolved to bring the unequal combat to an end, as Sultan was tiring of the exercise, so instead of riding around the enraged horse, he pivoted with it, keeping in front of it all the time and whipping it on the nose.
The “insurgent” stopped kicking at last and stood with drooping head, trying to shield its face from that cruel, relentless, stinging thing which the man creature wielded. He was cowed, but not conquered.
Taking advantage of the moment, Ted drove him backward and clear of his companions. Seeing their leader retreat, the other horses broke their close formation, and allowed themselves to be driven down the valley, not without an occasional rebellious kick, however.
Stella goes to the “Rent rag.”
“Oh, joy, an’ pickled pelicans!” said Bud Morgan, skipping onto the veranda one evening, when all the boys were sitting around Stella and Mrs. Graham.
Bud had just returned from Soldier Butte, where he had been spending the afternoon.
“What’s devouring you now?” asked Ben Tremont. “Or is it just one of your weekly sillies?”
“Who are yer alludin’ at?” asked Bud loftily.
“As you were going to say—” suggested Kit, looking at Bud.
“Boys, thar’s goin’ ter be a ‘rent rag’ in the Butte ter-morrer night, an’ we all have an urgent bid ter be present.”
“A what?” asked Stella.
“A ‘rent rag.’”
“Who tore it?” asked Stella innocently.
At this the boys laughed loud and long, then apologized when they saw Stella’s embarrassment.
“It ain’t tore yet,” said Bud, “but it’s lierble ter be before ther rosy dawn.”
“What are you talking about?” said Stella impatiently. “I never saw such provoking boys. You say such strange things, then cackle over it as though there was a joke in it, which nobody seems to see except yourself.”
“A ‘rent rag’ is a—’rent rag,’” said Kit, trying to explain.
“That sounds as sensible as the conundrum, ‘Why is a hen?’” said Stella. “Must I ask the question and get caught? All right, here goes. What is a ‘rent rag’? Now, don’t tell me, some one, that it is a rag that has been torn, for I exploded that one myself.”
“A ‘rent rag,’” said Bud slowly and carefully, “is a rag for rent. A—a—er—well, it’s a—”
“Tell me, Ted,” said the girl, turning to the leader of the outfit, who was leaning back in his chair smiling at the ridiculous conversation.
“Well, as near as I can make out it is a bit of slang that means this: The word ‘rag’ is the slang for a public dance. When a man in town who is popular enough falls behind in paying his rent, through some misfortune or other, and owes so much he cannot hope to pay it, he hands out a flag that he wants help. In other words, it is an invitation to his friends to organize a public ball for his benefit. It depends upon his honesty and popularity whether or not they do so.”