“And two riders with him,” said Long Lon.
“Goin’ to trail him, Cheyenne?” came presently.
“Then let’s pass the hat,” suggested the first speaker.
“Wait!” said Cheyenne, drawing a pair of dice from his pocket. “Somehow, and sometime, I aim to shoot Panhandle a little game. Then you guys can pass the hat for the loser. Panhandle left them dice on the flat rock, by the water-hole. My pardner, Bartley, found them.”
“Kind of sign talk that Pan pulled one on you,” said Lon Pelly.
“He sure left his brains behind him when he left them dice,” asserted Cheyenne. “I suspicioned that it was him—but the dice told me, plain.”
“So you figure to walk up to Pan and invite him to shoot a little game, when you meet up with him?” queried a puncher.
“The tenderfoot”—he referred to Bartley—“is he goin’ along with you?”
“He ain’t so tender as you might think,” said Cheyenne. “He’s green, but not so dam’ tender.”
“Well, it’s right sad. He looks like a pretty decent hombre.”
“What’s sad?” queried Cheyenne belligerently.
“Why, gettin’ that tenderfoot all shot up, trailin’ a couple of twenty-dollar cayuses. They ain’t worth it.”
“They ain’t, eh?”
“Course, they make a right good audience, when you’re singin’. They do all the listenin’,” said another puncher.
“Huh! They ain’t one of you got a hoss that can listen to you, without blushin’. You fellas think you’re a hard-ridin’—”
“Ridin’ beats walkin’,” suggested Long Lon.
“Keep a-joshin’. I like it. Shows how much you don’t know. I—hello, Mr. Bartley! Shake hands with Lon Pelly—but I guess you met him, over to Antelope. You needn’t to mind the rest of these guys. They’re harmless.”
“I don’t want to interrupt—” began Bartley.
“Set right in!” they invited in chorus. “We’re just listenin’ to Cheyenne preachin’ his own funeral sermon.”
Bartley seated himself in the doorway of the bunk-house. The joshing ceased. Cheyenne, who could never keep his hands still, toyed with the dice. Presently one of the boys suggested that Cheyenne show them some fancy work with a six-gun—“just to keep your wrist limber,” he concluded.
Cheyenne shook his head. But, when Bartley intimated that he would like to see Cheyenne shoot, Cheyenne rose.
“All right. I’ll shoot any fella here for ten bucks—him to name the target.”
“No, you don’t,” said a puncher. “We ain’t givin’ our dough away, just to git rid of it.”
“And right recent they was talkin’ big,” said Cheyenne. “I’ll shoot the spot of a playin’-card, if you’ll hold it,” he asserted, indicating Bartley.
The boys glanced at Bartley and then lowered their eyes, wondering what the Easterner would do. Bartley felt that this was a test of his nerve, and, while he didn’t like the idea of engaging in a William Tell performance he realized that Cheyenne must have had a reason for choosing him, out of the men present, and that Cheyenne knew his business.