“What’s got inter you?” demanded Old John.
“Our broncs are gone! Our broncs are gone!” yelled Stevenson, shoving Old John roughly to one side as he dashed through the doorway and on into the room he had assigned to the sullen and bibulous stranger. “I knowed it! I knowed it!” he wailed, popping out again as if on springs. “He’s gone, an’ he’s took our broncs with him, the measly, low-down dog! I knowed he wasn’t no good! I could see it in his eye; an’ he wasn’t drunk, not by a darn sight. Go out an’ see for yoreself if they ain’t gone!” he snapped in reply to Old John’s look. “Go on out, while I throw some cold grub on the table—won’t have no time this morning to do no cooking. He’s got five hours’ start on us, an’ it’ll take some right smart riding to get him before dark; but we’ll do it, an’ hang him, too!”
“What’s all this here rumpus?” demanded a sleepy voice from upstairs. “Who’s hanged?” and Charley entered the room, very much interested. His interest increased remarkably when the calamity was made known and he lost no time in joining Old John in the corral to verify the news.
Old John waved his hands over the scene and carefully explained what he had read in the tracks, to his companion’s great irritation, for Charley’s keen eyes and good training had already told him all there was to learn; and his reading did not exactly agree with that of his companion.
“Charley, he’s gone and took our cayuses; an’ that’s the very way he came—’round the corner of the hotel. He got all tangled up an’ fell over there, an’ here he bumped inter the palisade, an’ dropped his saddle. When he opened the bars he took my roan gelding because it was the best an’ fastest, an’ then he let out the others to mix us up on the tracks. See how he went? Had to hop four times on one foot afore he could get inter the saddle. An’ that proves he was sober, for no drunk could hop four times like that without falling down an’ being drug to death. An’ he left his own critter behind because he knowed it wasn’t no good. It’s all as plain as the nose on your face, Charley,” and Old John proudly rubbed his ear. “Hee, hee, hee! You can’t fool Old John, even if he is getting old. No, sir, b’ gum.”
Charley had just returned from inside the corral, where he had looked at the brand on the far side of the one horse left, and he waited impatiently for his companion to cease talking. He took quick advantage of the first pause Old John made and spoke crisply.
“I don’t care what corner he came ‘round, or what he bumped inter; an’ any fool can see that. An’ if he left that cayuse behind because he thought it wasn’t no good, he was drunk. That’s a Bar-20 cayuse, an’ no hoss-thief ever worked for that ranch. He left it behind because he stole it; that’s why. An’ he didn’t let them others out because he wanted to mix us up, neither. How’d he know if we couldn’t tell the tracks of our own animals? He did that to make us lose time;