“Pretty fast work,” remarked Bartley.
“Huh! I just throwed down on him to see if I was gettin’ slow.”
“It seems to me that if I could shoot like that, I wouldn’t let any man back me down,” said Bartley.
“Mebby so. But you’re wrong, old-timer. Bein’ fast with a gun is just like advertisin’ for the coroner. Me, I’m plumb peaceful.”
A few miles farther along they nooned in the shade of a pinion. When they started down the road again, Bartley noticed that Cheyenne limped slightly. But Cheyenne still refused to put on the moccasins. Bartley argued that his own feet were getting tender. He was unaccustomed to moccasins. Cheyenne turned this argument aside by singing a stanza of his trail song.
Also, incidentally, Cheyenne had been keeping his eye on the horse-tracks; and just before they left the main road taking a short cut, he pointed to them. “There’s Filaree’s tracks, and there’s Joshua’s. Your hoss has been travelin’ over here, on the edge. Them hoss-thieves figure to hit into the White Hills and cut down through the Apache forest, most like.”
“Will they sell the horses?”
“Yes. Or trade ’em for whiskey. Panhandle’s got friends up in them hills.”
“How far is it to the ranch?” queried Bartley.
“We done reached her. We’re on Steve’s ranch, right now. It’s about five miles from that first fence over there to his house, by trail. It’s fifteen by road.”
“Then here is where you take the moccasins.”
“Nope. My feet are so swelled you couldn’t start my boots with a fence stretcher. They’s no use both of us gettin’ cripped up.”
Bartley’s own feet ached from the constant bruising of pebbles.
Presently Cheyenne dropped back and asked Bartley to set the pace.
“I’ll just tie to your shadow,” said Cheyenne. “Keeps me interested. When I’m drillin’ along ahead I can’t think of nothin’ but my feet.”
Because there was now no road and scarcely a trail, Bartley began to choose his footing, dodging the rougher places. The muscles of his calves ached under the unaccustomed strain of walking without heels. Cheyenne dogged along behind, suffering keenly from blistered feet, but centering his attention on Bartley’s bobbing shadow. They had made about two miles across country when the faint trail ran round a butte and dipped into a shallow arroyo.
The arroyo deepened to a gulch, narrow and rocky. Up the gulch a few hundred yards they came suddenly upon a bunch of Hereford cattle headed by a magnificent bull. The trail ran in the bottom of the gulch. On either side the walls were steep and rocky. Angling junipers stuck out from the walls in occasional dots of green.
“That ole white-face sure looks hostile,” Cheyenne remarked. “Git along, you ole Mormon; curl your tail and drift.”
Cheyenne heaved a stone which took the bull fairly between the eyes. The bull shook his head and snapped his tail, but did not move. The cattle behind the bull stared blandly at the invaders of their domain. The bull, being an aristocrat, gave warning of his intent to charge by shaking his head and bellowing. Then he charged.