Webb had not been sorry to see his arrogant foreman brought up with a sharp turn, but in the interest of discipline he did not care to say so.
“Why can’t you boys get along peaceable with Joe, I’d like to know? This snortin’ an’ pawin’ up the ground don’t get you anything.”
“I reckon Joe does most of the snortin’ that’s done,” Wrayburn answered dryly. “I ain’t had any trouble with him, because he spends a heap of time lettin’ me alone. But there’s no manner of doubt that Joe rides the boys too hard.”
The drover dismissed the subject and turned to Thursday.
“Want a job?”
“I need another man. Since you sabe the ways of the ’Paches I can use you to scout ahead for us.”
“What you payin’?”
“Fifty a month.”
“You’ve hired a hand.”
“Good enough. Better pick one of the boys to ride with you while you are out scoutin’.”
“I’ll take Billie Prince,” decided the new rider at once.
“You know Billie?”
“Never saw him before to-day. But I like his looks. He’s a man to tie to.”
“You’re right he is.”
The drover looked at his new employee with a question in his shrewd eyes. The boy was either a man out of a thousand or he was a first-class bluffer. He claimed to have cut Indian sign and to know exactly what was written there. At a single glance he had sized up Prince and knew him for a reliable side partner. Without any bluster he had served notice on Yankie that it would be dangerous to pick on him as the butt of his ill-temper.
In those days, on the Pecos, law lay in a holster on a man’s thigh. The individual was a force only so far as his personality impressed itself upon his fellows. If he made claims he must be prepared to back them to a fighting finish.
Was this young Thursday a false alarm? Or was he a good man to let alone when one was looking for trouble? Webb could not be sure yet, though he made a shrewd guess. But he knew it would not he long before he found out.
Webb sent for Billie Prince.
“Seems there’s a bunch of bronco ’Paches camped ahead of us, Billie. Thursday here trailed with Sieber. I want you an’ him to scout in front of us an’ see we don’t run into any ambush. You’re under his orders, y’ understand.”
Prince was a man of few words. He nodded.
“You know the horses that the boys claim. Well, take Thursday to the remuda an’ help him pick a mount from the extras in place of that broomtail he’s ridin’,” continued the drover. “Look alive now. I don’t want my cattle stampeded because we haven’t got sense enough to protect ’em. No ’Paches can touch a hoof of my stock if I can help it.”
“If they attack at all it will probably be just before daybreak, but it is just as well to be ready for ’em,” suggested Thursday.