“Nary a rock,” laughingly reassured the host, picking up Hopalong’s saddle and leading the way to a small room off the “office,” his guest stumbling after him and growling about the rocks that lived in Winchester. When Stevenson had dropped the saddle by the window and departed, Hopalong sat on the edge of the bed to close his eyes for just a moment before tackling the labor of removing his clothes. A crash and a jar awakened him and he found himself on the floor with his back to the bed. He was hot and his head ached, and his back was skinned a little—and how hot and stuffy and choking the room had become! He thought he had blown out the light, but it still burned, and three-quarters of the chimney was thickly covered with soot. He was stifling and could not endure it any longer. After three attempts he put out the light, stumbled against his saddle and, opening the window, leaned out to breathe the pure air. As his lungs filled he chuckled wisely and, picking up the saddle, managed to get it and himself through the window and on the ground without serious mishap. He would ride for an hour, give the room time to freshen and cool off, and come back feeling much better. Not a star could be seen as he groped his way unsteadily towards the rear of the building, where he vaguely remembered having seen the corral as he rode up.
“Huh! Said he lived in Winchester an’ his name was Bill—no, Ben Ferris,” he muttered, stumbling towards a noise he knew was made by a horse rubbing against the corral fence. Then his feet got tangled up in the cinch of his saddle, which he had kicked before him, and after great labor he arose, muttering savagely, and continued on his wobbly way. “Goo’ Lord, it’s darker’n cats in—oof!” he grunted, recoiling from forcible contact with the fence he sought. Growling words unholy he felt his way along it and finally his arm slipped through an opening and he bumped his head solidly against the top bar of the gate. As he righted himself his hand struck the nose of a horse and closed mechanically over it. Cow-ponies look alike in the dark and he grinned jubilantly as he complimented himself upon finding his own so unerringly.
“Anything is easy, when you know how. Can’t fool me, ol’ cayuse,” he beamed, fumbling at the bars with his free hand and getting them down with a fool’s luck. “You can’t do it—I got you firs’, las’, an’ always; an’ I got you good. Yessir, I got you good. Quit that rearing, you ol’ fool! Stan’ still, can’t you?” The pony sidled as the saddle hit its back and evoked profane abuse from the indignant puncher as he risked his balance in picking it up to try again, this time successfully. He began to fasten the girth, and then paused in wonder and thought deeply, for the pin in the buckle would slide to no hole but the first. “Huh! Getting fat, ain’t you, piebald?” he demanded with withering sarcasm. “You blow yoreself up any more’n I’ll bust you wide open!” heaving up with all his might on