Cheyenne stooped for another stone, but Bartley had no intention of playing ping-pong with a roaring red avalanche. Bartley made for the side of the gulch and, catching hold of the bole of a juniper, drew himself up. Cheyenne stood to his guns, shied a third stone, scored a bull’s-eye, and then decided to evacuate in favor of the enemy. His feet were sore, but he managed to keep a good three jumps ahead of the bull, up the precipitous bank of the gulch. There was no time to swing into the tree where Bartley had taken refuge, so Cheyenne backed into a shallow depression beneath the roots of the juniper.
The bull shook his head and butted at Cheyenne. Cheyenne slapped the bull’s nose with his hat. The bull backed part-way down the grade, snapped his tail, and bellowed. Up the grade he charged again. He could not quite reach Cheyenne, who slapped at the bull with his hat and spake eloquently.
Bartley, clinging to his precarious perch, gazed down upon the scene, wondering if he had not better take a shot at the bull. “Shall I let him have it?” he queried.
“Have what?” came the muffled voice of Cheyenne. “He’s ’most got what he’s after, right now.”
“Shall I shoot him?”
“Hell, no! No use beefin’ twelve hundred dollars’ worth of meat. We don’t need that much.”
“Look out! He’s coming again!” called Bartley.
Cheyenne had suddenly poked his head out of the shallow cave. The bull charged, backed down, and amused himself by tossing dirt over his shoulders and grumbling like distant thunder.
“Perhaps if you stay in that cave and don’t show yourself, he’ll leave,” suggested Bartley.
“Stay nothin’!” answered Cheyenne. “There’s a rattler in this here cave. I can hear him singin’. I’m comin’ out, right now!”
Bartley leaned forward and glanced down. The branch on which he was straddled snapped.
“Look out below!” he shouted as he felt himself going.
Bartley’s surprising evolution was too much for his majesty the bull, who whirled and galloped clumsily down the slope. Bartley rolled to the bottom, still holding to a broken branch of the tree. Cheyenne was also at the bottom of the gulch. The bull was trotting heavily toward his herd.
“Is there anything hooked to the back of my jeans?” queried Cheyenne.
“No. They’re torn; that’s all.”
“Huh! I thought mebby that ole snake had hooked on to my jeans. He sounded right mad, singin’ lively, back in there. My laigs feel kind of limp, right now.”
Cheyenne felt of his torn overalls, shook his head, and then a slow smile illumined his face. “How do you like this here country, anyhow?”
“Great!” said Bartley.
AT THE BOX-S
When they emerged from the western end of the gulch, they paused to rest. Not over a half-mile south stood the ranch-house, just back of a row of giant cottonwoods.