“Then you didn’t hit him with your gun?”
“No. I wish I had. I’ve got a fist like a boiled ham. I can feel it swell, right now.”
“That there mescal is sure pow’ful stuff.”
“Thanks!” said Bartley succinctly.
“Got a kick like white lightin’,” said Cheyenne.
“And I paid our hotel bill,” continued Bartley.
“Well, that was mighty thoughtful. I plumb forgot it.”
Just before daybreak Cheyenne turned from the road and picked his way through the scattered brush to a gulch in the western foothills. Cheyenne’s horses seemed to know the place, when they stopped at a narrow, pole gate across the upper end of the gulch, for on beyond the gate the horses again stopped of their own accord. Bartley could barely discern the outlines of a cabin. Cheyenne hallooed.
A muffled answer from the cabin, then a twinkle of light, then the open doorway framing a gigantic figure.
“That you, Shy?” queried the figure.
“Me and a friend.”
“You’re kind of early,” rumbled the figure as the riders dismounted.
“Shucks! You’d be gettin’ up, anyway, right soon. We come early so as not to delay your breakfast.”
In the cabin, Cheyenne and the big man shook hands. Bartley was introduced. The man was a miner, named Joe Scott.
“Joe, here, is a minin’ man—when he ain’t runnin’ a all-night lunch-stand,” explained Cheyenne. “He can’t work his placer when it’s dark, but he sure can work a skillet and a coffee-mill.”
“What you been up to?” queried the giant slowly, as he made a fire in the stove, and set about getting breakfast.
“Up to Clubfoot Sneed’s place, to get a couple of hosses that belonged to me. He was kind of hostile. Followed us down to San Andreas and done spoiled our night’s rest. But I got the hosses.”
“Hosses seems to be his failin’,” said the big man.
“So some folks say. I’m one of ’em.”
“How are the folks up Antelope way?”
“Kinda permanent, as usual. I hear Panhandle’s drifted south again. Wishful, he shoots craps, reg’lar.”
Scott nodded, shifted the coffee-pot and sat down on the edge of his bunk. “Got any smokin’?” he queried presently.
Bartley offered the miner a cigar. “I’m afraid it’s broken,” apologized Bartley.
“That’s all right. I was goin’ to town this mornin’, to get some tobacco and grub. But this will help.” And doubling the cigar Scott thrust it in his mouth and chewed it with evident satisfaction.
The gray edge of dawn crept into the room. Scott blew out the light and opened the door.