“Men,” said the man on the mule, addressing the crowd, “you’ve been stung. This old bag o’ bones is Chiquita, the best race horse ever produced in Mexico, an’ I brought him over here, where I traded him for a plain cayuse an’ gave something ter boot. If any o’ you men know anything about hosses ye’ll recognize ther great Chiquita, what made an’ lost more money fer ther people o’ Mexico than any one other thing. Pap didn’t know it until he see me, then he suddenly remembered a little deal me an’ him was in. I know this Magpie hoss well, an’ it couldn’t stand no more show of winnin’ a race from Chiquita than a snail would. Take it from me that ye’ve been caught at yer own game, an’ have been done.”
At the name of Chiquita a groan went up from the gamblers.
“And who are you?” asked Bud.
“Come nearer, an’ I’ll tell you in your ear,” was the reply.
Bud went close to him, and the man stooped in his saddle and whispered a word in his ear, at which the old cow-puncher looked startled, then burst into a fit of laughter.
Ted’s great victory.
“I tell you I’ll never stand for it.”
The voice of big Ben Tremont could be heard roaring above the noise made by the crowd around the judges’ stand.
“It’s a go. The race goes to Magpie on a foul.”
The big man in the stand made this announcement in a voice of thunder.
“Bully for you, Shan Rhue!” yelled the gamblers, crowding to the stand in a body.
At the same moment Bud caught Hatrack by the bridle and led him out of the crowd, for he knew what was impending.
“I say it don’t go,” shouted Ben. “This man, who is in league with that old crook, Norris, declares a foul. I say there was no foul.”
“How does the other judge go?” called a voice.
“He declines to give a voice in the matter,” answered Ben.
“Throw the coyote down here, and we’ll help him make up his mind,” called the foreman of the Running Water. “If he’s too much of a coward to decide for the right, we’ll help him. Throw him over.”
The foreman of the Running Water was a formidable-looking man.
He was tall and sinewy, with a seamed and scarred face, a map of many battles with the elements, the wild animals of mountain and plain, and with his fellow men.
He was heavily armed, and the town gamblers knew him for a bad fighter when he was aroused.
“Stick fer ther big show,” he said to Ted, who was standing beside him. “I’ve got the boys bunched back there on the edge of the crowd. When it comes to a show-down we’ll all be here. But it’s no place fer wimmin an’ children.”
“I don’t want to get into a fight if we can help it,” said Ted.
“Yer ain’t afraid o’ these cattle, aire ye?” asked the foreman, looking at Ted curiously, but with a shade of disappointment in his eyes.