So I jogged along at the little running walk possessed by even the most humble cattle horse, and enjoyed the evening. It was going on toward dusk and pools of twilight were in the bottomlands. For the moment the world had grown smaller, more intimate, as the skies expanded. The dust from Brower’s going did not so much recede as grow littler, more toy-like. I watched idly his progress.
At a point perhaps a mile this side the Box Springs ranch the road divides: the right-hand fork leading to the ranch house, the left on up the valley. After a moment I noticed that the dust was on the left-hand fork. I swore aloud.
“The damn fool has taken the wrong road!” and then after a moment, with dismay: “He’s headed straight for Hooper’s ranch!”
I envisaged the full joy and rapture of this thought for perhaps half a minute. It sure complicated matters, what with old Hooper gunning on my trail, and this partner’s daughter shut up behind bars. Me, I expected to last about two days unless I did something mighty sudden. Brower I expected might last approximately half that time, depending on how soon Ramon et al got busy. The girl I didn’t know anything about, nor did I want to at that moment. I was plenty worried about my own precious hide just then. And if you think you are going to get a love story out of this, I warn you again to quit right now; you are not.
Brower was going to walk into that gray old spider’s web like a nice fat fly. And he was going to land without even the aid and comfort of his own particular brand of Dutch courage. For safety’s sake, and because of Tiger’s playful tendencies when first mounted, we had tied the famous black bag—which now for convenience contained also the soothing syrup—behind the cantle of Meigs’s old nag. Which said nag I now possessed together with all appurtenances and attachments thereunto appertaining I tried to speculate on the reactions of Old Man Hooper, Ramon, Brower and no dope, but it was too much for me. My head was getting tired thinking about all these complicated things, anyhow. I was accustomed to nice, simple jobs with my head, like figuring on the shrinkage of beef cattle, or the inner running of a two-card draw. All this annoyed me. I began to get mad. When I got mad enough I cussed and came to a decision: which was to go after Old Man Hooper and all his works that very night. Next day wouldn’t do; I wanted action right off quick. Naturally I had no plans, nor even a glimmering of what I was going to do about it; but you bet you I was going to do something! As soon as it was dark I was going right on up there. Frontal attack, you understand. As to details, those would take care of themselves as the affair developed. Having come to which sapient decision I shoved the whole irritating mess over the edge of my mind and rode on quite happy. I told you at the start of this yarn that I was a kid.
My mind being now quite easy as to my future actions, I gave thought to the first step. That was supper. There seemed to me no adequate reason, with a fine, long night before me, why I shouldn’t use a little of the shank end of it to stoke up for the rest. So I turned at the right-hand fork and jogged slowly toward our own ranch.