“Where was you raised, stranger?” asked Mosely.
“In Kentucky-glorious old Kentuck! and if there’s a man dares to say a word against my State, I’ll take his life!” and Bradley sprang to his feet.
“Lay down again, stranger,” interposed Bill Mosely hastily. “There’s no one here wants to say a word agin’ Kentuck. It’s a glorious old State, as you say. Isn’t it, Tom?”
“I should say so,” responded Tom Hadley, using his customary formula.
“Are you in search of gold, Mosely?” asked Bradley, in a more quiet manner.
“We’re kinder prospectin’ among the hills,” answered Mosely.
“You haven’t come across anything yet, have you?”
“Not yet. Have you?”
“We’re looking for a friend that’s gone ahead. Maybe he’s struck it rich. When we find him we’ll turn in and help him.”
“You’ve got one advantage of us, stranger. You’ve got hosses, and we’ve had to walk.”
“Why didn’t you buy animals?”
“We did, but they were stolen from us a little way back.”
“If our hosses should be stolen,” said Bradley, “the thieves would die within a week.”
Mosely and his friend looked at each other in silence, and the conversation languished.
“Ben,” said Bradley, after the two visitors were fast asleep, “shall I tell you what I think of these two men?”
“They are thieves, and they meant to steal our hosses.”
“Won’t they do it now?”
“They’ll be afraid to,” he answered. “I’ve beaten them at their own game, and they think I’m as desperate a bully as they pretend to be. No; they won’t think it safe to interfere with our property.”
“How many men did you say you had killed, Jake?” asked Ben, with a smile.
“That was all talk. Thank Heaven, I haven’t the blood of any fellow creature on my hands!”
All four slept soundly, but the visitors awoke first.
“Are you awake, Tom?” inquired Mosely.
“I should say so,” answered his friend.
Bill Mosely raised himself on his elbow and surveyed Ben and Bradley. Their deep, tranquil breathing showed that they were sound asleep.
Mosely next glanced at the mustangs which were tethered near-by.
“Tom,” said he, “I wish we had them mustangs. It’s a deal easier ridin’ than walkin’.”
“I should say so.”
“When I struck this party last night I meant to have ’em; but this man is such a bloody ruffian that I don’t know as it would be safe.”
Hadley said nothing. His customary phrase would not apply, and he was a man of few words, besides.
“What did he say he would do if a fellow stole his horses, Tom?”
“Said he’d die within a week,” answered Had-ley, with unfailing memory.