“You had better tell George. I can only remember the things that interest me.”
Flora gave them clear instructions, and when she rode away George turned to Edgar.
“You’ll have to come, and we’ll start at once. Grierson can go on plowing with the Clydesdales, which is more than you could do.”
“I’m afraid I must admit it,” said Edgar, glancing at his ragged furrow. “But I’m going to have my supper and put up some provisions before I leave the place.”
They set out an hour later, and safely reached their destination, where George purchased a dozen cattle. They were big, red and white, long-horned animals, accustomed to freedom, for fences are still scarce on tracts of the prairie, and they ranged about the corral in a restless manner. Edgar, leaning on the rails, watched them dubiously.
“They look unusually active,” he remarked. “I’m not an expert at cattle-driving, but I suppose two of us ought to take them home.”
The rancher laughed.
“Two’s quite a good allowance for that small bunch, but if you keep north among the scrub poplar, you won’t be bothered by many fences. It’s pretty dry in summer, but you’ll get good water in Baxter’s well, if you head for the big bluff you’ll see tomorrow afternoon. We’ll let them out when you’re ready.”
As soon as the rails were flung down, the cattle rushed out tumultuously, as if rejoicing in their restored freedom. Then, while George and his companion mounted, they started off across the prairie at a steady trot.
“A mettlesome lot; seem to be in good training,” Edgar commented. “Have you any idea where they’re going?”
“Guess they’re heading for a creek two miles back; water’s scarce,” explained the rancher. “As it’s near the trail, you had better let them go. You’ll round them up quite easy when they’ve had a drink.”
George and Edgar rode after the cattle. The sun was getting low, but the temperature showed no signs of falling, and the men were soon soaked in perspiration. The herd went on at a good pace, making for a wavy line of timber, and on reaching it, plunged down the side of a declivity among little scattered trees. A stream trickled through willow bushes and tall grass in the bottom of the hollow, and the men. had trouble in forcing the cattle to leave the water. Before they accomplished it, Edgar had got very wet and had scratched himself badly in scrambling through the brush.
“Driving stock is by no means so easy as it looks,” he grumbled, when they had climbed the opposite ascent, leading their horses. “The way these beasts jump about among the bushes confuses you; I’d have sworn there were forty of them in the ravine.”
“I see only nine now,” George said pointedly.
Edgar looked back into the hollow.
“There are three of the brutes slipping away upstream as fast as they can go! You’re smarter at the thing than I am—hadn’t you better go after them?”