Of course I had the rotten luck to find most of the boys still at the water corral. When they saw who was the lone horseman approaching through the dusk of the spring twilight, and got a good fair look at the ensemble, they dropped everything and came over to see about it, headed naturally by those mournful blights, Windy Bill and Wooden. In solemn silence they examined my outfit, paying not the slightest attention to me. At the end of a full minute they looked at each other.
“What do you think, Sam?” asked Windy.
“My opinion is not quite formed, suh,” replied Wooden, who was a Texican. “But my first examination inclines me to the belief that it is a hoss.”
“Yo’re wrong, Sam,” denied Windy, sadly; “yo’re judgment is confused by the fact that the critter carries a saddle. Look at the animile itself.”
“I have done it,” continued Sam Wooden; “at first glance I should agree with you. Look carefully, Windy. Examine the details; never mind the toot enscramble. It’s got hoofs.”
“So’s a cow, a goat, a burro, a camel, a hippypottamus, and the devil,” pointed out Windy.
“Of course I may be wrong,” acknowledged Wooden. “On second examination I probably am wrong. But if it ain’t a hoss, then what is it? Do you know?”
“It’s a genuine royal gyasticutus,” esserted Windy Bill, positively. “I seen one once. It has one peculiarity that you can’t never fail to identify it by.”
“It invariably travels around with a congenital idiot.”
Wooden promptly conceded that, but claimed the identification not complete as he doubted whether, strictly speaking, I could be classified as a congenital idiot. Windy pointed out that evidently I had traded Tiger for the gyasticutus. Wooden admitted that this proved me an idiot, but not necessarily a congenital idiot.
This colloquy—and more like it—went on with entire gravity. The other men were hanging about relishing the situation, but without a symptom of mirth. I was unsaddling methodically, paying no attention to anybody, and apparently deaf to all that was being said. If the two old fools had succeeded in eliciting a word from me they would have been entirely happy; but I knew that fact, and shut my lips.
I hung my saddle on the rack and was just about to lead the old skate to water when we all heard the sound of a horse galloping on the road.
“It’s a light boss,” said somebody after a moment, meaning a horse without a burden.
We nodded and resumed our occupation. A stray horse coming in to water was nothing strange or unusual. But an instant later, stirrups swinging, reins flapping, up dashed my own horse, Tiger.