They found the lawyer at the Athletic Club. West stated the case.
“Your remedy is to replevin. If they fight, you’ll have to bring witnesses to prove ownership.”
“Bring witnesses from Malapi! Why, I can’t do that,” said Dave, staggered. “I ain’t got the money. Why can’t I just take the hawss? It’s mine.”
“The law doesn’t know it’s yours.”
Dave left much depressed. Of course the thieves would go to a lawyer, and of course he would tell them to fight. The law was a darned queer thing. It made the recovery of his property so costly that the crooks who stole it could laugh at him.
“Looks like the law’s made to protect scalawags instead of honest folks,” Dave told West.
“I don’t reckon it is, but it acts that way sometimes,” admitted the cattleman. “You can see yoreself it wouldn’t do for the law to say a fellow could get property from another man by just sayin’ it was his. Sorry, Sanders. After all, a bronc’s only a bronc. I’ll give you yore pick of two hundred if you come back with me to the ranch.”
“Much obliged, seh. Maybe I will later.”
The cowpuncher walked the streets while he thought it over. He had no intention whatever of giving up Chiquito if he could find the horse. So far as the law went he was in a blind alley. He was tied hand and foot. That possession was nine points before the courts he had heard before.
The way to recover flashed to his brain like a wave of light. He must get possession. All he had to do was to steal his own horse and make for the hills. If the thieves found him later—and the chances were that they would not even attempt pursuit if he let them know who he was—he would force them to the expense of going to law for Chiquito. What was sauce for the goose must be for the gander too.
Dave’s tramp had carried him across the Platte into North Denver. On his way back he passed a corral close to the railroad tracks. He turned in to look over the horses.
The first one his eyes fell on was Chiquito.
Dave whistled. The pony pricked up its ears, looked round, and came straight to him. The young man laid his face against the soft, silky nose, fondled it, whispered endearments to his pet. He put the bronco through its tricks for the benefit of the corral attendant.
“Well, I’ll be doggoned,” that youth commented. “The little pinto sure is a wonder. Acts like he knows you mighty well.”
“Ought to. I trained him. Had him before Miller got him.”
“Bet you hated to sell him.”
“You know it.” Dave moved forward to his end, the intention to get possession of the horse. He spoke in a voice easy and casual. “Saw Miller a while ago. They’re talkin’ about sellin’ the paint hawss, him and his pardner Doble. I’m to saddle up and show what Chiquito can do.”