There was a swift scatter backward of the onlookers as Pedro swung to the saddle. Before his right foot was in the stirrup, the bronco bucked.
The young Mexican, light and graceful, settled to the saddle with a delighted laugh, and drove the spurs home. The animal humped like a camel, head and tail down, went into the air and back to earth, with four feet set like pile-drivers. It was a shock to drive a man’s spine together like a concertina; but Pedro took it limply, giving to the jar of the impact as the pony came down again and again.
Teddy tasted the quirt along his quarters, and the pain made him frantic. He went screaming straight into the air, hung there a long instant, and fell over backward. The lad was out of the saddle in time and no more, and back in his seat before the outlaw had scrambled to his feet.
The spur starred him to renewed life. Like a flash of lightning, the brute’s head swung round and snapped at the boy’s leg. Pedro wrenched the head back in time to save himself; and Teddy went to sun-fishing, and presently to fence-rowing.
The dust flew in clouds. It wrapped them in so that the boy saw nothing but the wicked ears in front of him. His throat became a lime-kiln, his eyes stared like those of a man weary from long wakefulness. The hot sun baked his bare neck and head, the while Teddy rocketed into the sky and pounded into the earth.
Neither rider nor mount had mercy. The quirt went back and forth like a piston-rod, and the outlaw, in screaming fury, leaped and tossed like a small boat in a tremendous sea of cross-currents.
“It’s sure hell-for-leather. That hawss can tie himself in more knots than any that was ever foaled,” commented a tobacco-chewing puncher in a scarlet kerchief.
“Pedro is a straight-up rider, but he ain’t got it in him to master Teddy—no; nor no man ain’t,” contributed Yeager again proudly. “Hawsses is like men. Some of ’em can’t be broke; you can only kill them. Teddy’s one of them kind.”
Dick differed, but did not say so.
“Look at him now. There he goes weaving. That hawss is a devil, I tell you. He’s got every hawss-trick there is, and all of ’em worked up to a combination of his own. Look out there, Ped.”
The warning came too late. Teddy had jammed into the corral fence, and ground his rider’s knee till the torture of the pain had distracted his attention. Once more then swept round the ugly stub nose, and the yellow teeth fastened in the leather chaps with a vicious snap that did not entirely miss the flesh of the leg.
The boy, with a cry of pain and terror, slipped to the ground, his nerve completely shaken. The sorrel lashed out with his hind feet, and missed his head by a hairbreadth. Pedro turned to run, stumbled, and went down.
The outlaw was upon him like a streak, striking with sharp chiseled forefeet at the prostrate man. Along the line of spectators ran a groan, a kind of sobbing murmur of despair. A young Mexican who had just ridden up flung himself from his horse and ran forward, though he knew he was too late.