“Now, Smith was the fella that had the ruckus, and I’d been tellin’ how that sheep outfit had run him out of the country. He was a young, long, spindlin’ hombre from Texas—a reg’lar Whicker-bill, with that drawlin’ kind of a voice that hosses and folks listen to. I knowed he was from Texas the minute I seen him, but I sure didn’t know he was the man I was talkin’ about.
“Everybody laughed but him and his wife. I reckon she was feelin’ her oats, visitin’ at the Senator’s house. I don’t know what she said to her husband, but, anyhow, afore I left for the bunk-house that evenin’, he says, slow and easy, that if I was around there next mornin’, he would explain all about that ruckus to me, when the ladies weren’t present, so I wouldn’t get it wrong, next time. I seen I had made a mistake for myself, and I didn’t aim to make another, so I just kind of eased off and faded away, bushin’ down that night a far piece from Senator Steve’s ranch. I know them Whicker-bills and I didn’t want to tangle with any of ’em.”
“Afraid you’d get shot?” queried Bartley, laughing.
“Shot? Me? No, pardner. I was afraid that Texas gent would get shot. You see, he was married—and I—ain’t.”
Bartley lay back on his saddle and gazed up at the stars. The little fire had died down to a dot of red. A coyote yelped in the far dusk. Another coyote replied. Cheyenne rose and threw some wood on the fire. Then he stepped down to the water-hole and washed the plates and cups. Bartley could hear the peculiar thumping sound of hobbled horses moving about on the mesa. Cheyenne returned to the fire, picked up his bed-roll, and marched off into the bushes. Bartley wondered why he should take the trouble to move his bed-roll such a distance from the water-hole.
“Pack your saddle and blanket over, when you feel like turnin’ in,” said Cheyenne. “And you might throw some dirt on that fire. I ain’t lookin’ for visitors down this way, but you can’t tell.”
Bartley carried his saddle out to the distant clump of junipers.
“Just shed your coat and boots and turn in,” invited Cheyenne.
Bartley was not sleepy, and for a long time he lay gazing up at the stars. Presently he heard Cheyenne snore. The Big Dipper grew dim. Then a coyote yelped—a shrill cadence of mocking laughter. “I wonder what the joke is?” Bartley thought drowsily.
Sometime during the night he was awakened by the tramping of horses, a sound that ran along the ground and diminished in the distance.
Cheyenne was sitting up. He touched Bartley. “Five or six of ’em,” whispered Cheyenne.
“Too many. Mebby some strays.”
“Or cowboys,” suggested Bartley.
“Night-ridin’ ain’t so popular out here.”
Bartley turned over and fell asleep. It seemed but a moment later that he was wide awake and Cheyenne was standing over him. It was daylight.