Slone uncoiled the lassoes from the pommel and slacked them a little. Wildfire stood up, striking at the air, snorting fiercely. Slone tried to wheel Nagger in close behind the stallion. Both horse and man narrowly escaped the vicious hoofs. But Slone had closed in. He took a desperate chance and spurred Nagger in a single leap as Wildfire reared again. The horses collided. Slone hauled the lassoes tight. The impact threw Wildfire off his balance, just as Slone had calculated, and as the stallion plunged down on four feet Slone spurred Nagger close against him. Wildfire was a little in the lead. He could only half rear now, for the heaving, moving Nagger, always against him, jostled him down, and Slone’s iron arm hauled on the short ropes. When Wildfire turned to bite, Slone knocked the vicious nose back with a long swing of his fist.
Up the pass the horses plunged. With a rider’s wild joy Slone saw the long green-and-gray valley, and the isolated monuments in the distance. There, on that wide stretch, he would break Wildfire. How marvelously luck had favored him at the last!
“Run, you red devil!” Slone called. “Drag us around now till you’re done!”
They left the pass and swept out upon the waste of sage. Slone realized, from the stinging of the sweet wind in his face, that Nagger was being pulled along at a tremendous pace. The faithful black could never have made the wind cut so. Lower the wild stallion stretched and swifter he ran, till it seemed to Slone that death must end that thunderbolt race.
Lucy Bostil had called twice to her father and he had not answered. He was out at the hitching-rail, with Holley, the rider, and two other men. If he heard Lucy he gave no sign of it. She had on her chaps and did not care to go any farther than the door where she stood.
“Somers has gone to Durango an’ Shugrue is out huntin’ hosses,” Lucy heard Bostil say, gruffly.
“Wal now, I reckon I could handle the boat an’ fetch Creech’s hosses over,” said Holley.
Bostil raised an impatient hand, as if to wave aside Holley’s assumption.
Then one of the other two men spoke up. Lucy had seen him before, but did not know his name.
“Sure there ain’t any need to rustle the job. The river hain’t showed any signs of risin’ yet. But Creech is worryin’. He allus is worryin’ over them hosses. No wonder! Thet Blue Roan is sure a hoss. Yesterday at two miles he showed Creech he was a sight faster than last year. The grass is gone over there. Creech is grainin’ his stock these last few days. An’ thet’s expensive.”
“How about the flat up the canyon?” queried Bostil. “Ain’t there any grass there?”
“Reckon not. It’s the dryest spell Creech ever had,” replied the other. “An’ if there was grass it wouldn’t do him no good. A landslide blocked the only trail up.”