“Oh, I don’t know,” said Bud quietly, as Sol Flatbush made this announcement of the ability of Magpie, or Idlewild, as he was known elsewhere.
“But I do,” urged Sol. “I see that hoss run at Ponca City on ther Fo’th o’ July a year ago, an’ he jest run away from ther best Indian racers what ther Osages could bring over, an’ yer knows they kin go some.”
“Sol, my son, don’t git excited. Yer Uncle Bud knows what he’s doin’ when he’s going inter this yere race. He ain’t tellin’ ther ole man, nor none o’ you fellers, what thar is in thet Hatrack hoss.”
“Got somethin’ up yer sleeve?”
“I reckon I hev. If I was a bettin’ man, I’d wager my share o’ Moon Valley that Hatrack would win this yere race.”
“Sho; yer don’t say!”
“Ted seen him run. Ask him. Now, don’t you worry none about me. I know a hoss when I see one standin’ on its four legs. That magpie hoss is a good one, whether his name is Magpie or Idlewild. Ther name don’t make him run no better. But Hatrack is some, too, an’ I want that magpie pony for Stella. She ain’t got no hoss of her own down yere, an’ that spotted pony is jest ther sort o’ showy hoss what a gal likes.”
“Well, I ain’t wantin’ ter be buttin’ in none,” said Sol, in a crestfallen way.
“Yer ain’t butted in none, Sol. I’m obliged ter yer fer givin’ me ther tip erbout ther old sharp. When he fust braced me I sized him up fer a sharp, an’ when he told me he was a hoss trader from Missouri I had a straight line on him.”
They returned to camp, where the old man was still regaling the boys with anecdotes, having proved himself a most entertaining story-teller.
The boy sat close beside him listening, but never saying a word, except when he was addressed. He was small and slender, and evidently weighed much less than a hundred pounds.
His face was small and thin, and apparently youthful, but his eyes were old and shrewd, and there was a crafty look about his face at times when the old man brought out a point in a story. Evidently he had heard these stories many times before. When he smiled it was in a sly and furtive way.
Ted Strong had come in from riding around the herd, having inspected it before it was bedded down for the night. He had heard all about the proposed race, and smiled quietly as Ben joshed Bud about the loss of his pony Hatrack on the morrow.
He had looked the boy over carefully, and his impression was not pleasant.
“I tell yer what, boys,” said the old man, when conversation began to lag. “S’posin’ we put this race off until to-morrow afternoon, an’ run it over at Snyder, across the line in Oklahomy?”
“What’s ther occasion?” asked Bud.
“Jest ter give ther people over thar a chance ter see a real live race. Besides, I’m out o’ money, an’ I reckon we could have a reg’lar race, an’ charge admission. That would enable me an’ my grandson ter git back ter ole Missou’ again. We ain’t much use out here. What d’yer say?”