Cheyenne knew enough about Sneed, by reputation, to make him cautious. He decided to play ace for ace—and, if possible, steal the stolen horses from Sneed. The difficulty was to locate them without being seen. Little Jim had said the horses were in Sneed’s corral, somewhere up in the mountain meadows. And because Cheyenne knew little about that particular section of the mountains, he rolled a blanket and packed some provisions to see him through. Bartley and he had returned to their camp after their visit to the ranch, and next morning, as Cheyenne made preparation to ride, Bartley offered to go with him.
Cheyenne dissuaded Bartley from accompanying him, arguing that he could travel faster and more cautiously alone. “One man ridin’ in to Sneed’s camp wouldn’t look as suspicious as two,” said Cheyenne. “And if I thought you could help any, I’d say to come along. That’s on the square. Me and my little old carbine will make out, I guess.”
So Bartley, somewhat against his inclination, stayed in camp, with the understanding that, if Cheyenne did not return in two days, he was to report the circumstance to the authorities in San Andreas, the principal town of the valley.
Meanwhile, the regular routine prevailed at the Lawrence ranch. Uncle Frank had the irrigation plant to look after; and Aunt Jane was immersed in the endless occupation of housekeeping. Little Jim had his regular light tasks to attend to, and that morning he made short work of them. It was not until noon that Aunt Jane missed him. He had disappeared completely, as had his saddle-pony.
At first, Jimmy had thought of riding over to his father’s camp, but he was afraid his father would guess his intent and send him back home. So he tied his pony to a clump of junipers some distance from the camp, and, crawling to a rise, he lay and watched Cheyenne saddle up and take the trail that led into the high country. A half-hour later, Jimmy mounted his pony and, riding wide of the camp, he cut into the hill trail and followed it on up through the brush to the hillside timber. He planned to ride until he got so far into the mountains that when he did overtake his father and offer his assistance in locating the stolen horses, it would hardly seem worth while to send him back. Jimmy expected to be ordered back, but he had his own argument ready in that event.
Little Jim’s pony carried him swiftly up the grade. Meanwhile, Cheyenne had traveled rather slowly, saving his horse. At a bend in the trail he drew rein to breathe the animal. On the lookout for any moving thing, he glanced back and down—and saw an old black hat bobbing along through the brush below. He leaned forward and peered down. “The little cuss!” he exclaimed, grinning. Then his expression changed. “Won’t do, a-tall! His aunt will be havin’ fits—and Miss Dorry’ll be helpin’ her to have ’em, if she hears of it. Dog-gone that boy!”