Balaam And Pedro
From: The Virginian
Resigned to wait for the Judge's horses, Balaam went into his office
this dry, bright morning and read nine accumulated newspapers; for
he was behindhand. Then he rode out on the ditches, and met his man
returning with the troublesome animals at last. He hastened home and
sent for the Virginian. He had made a decision.
"See here," he said; "those horses are coming. What trail would you take
over to the Judge's?"
"Shortest trail's right through the Bow Laig Mountains," said the
foreman, in his gentle voice.
"Guess you're right. It's dinner-time. We'll start right afterward.
We'll make Little Muddy Crossing by sundown, and Sunk Creek to-morrow,
and the next day'll see us through. Can a wagon get through Sunk Creek
The Virginian smiled. "I reckon it can't, seh, and stay resembling a
Balaam told them to saddle Pedro and one packhorse, and drive the bunch
of horses into a corral, roping the Judge's two, who proved extremely
wild. He had decided to take this journey himself on remembering certain
politics soon to be rife in Cheyenne. For Judge Henry was indeed a
greater man than Balaam. This personally conducted return of the horses
would temper its tardiness, and, moreover, the sight of some New York
visitors would be a good thing after seven months of no warmer touch
with that metropolis than the Sunday HERALD, always eight days old when
it reached the Butte Creek Ranch.
They forded Butte Creek, and, crossing the well-travelled trail which
follows down to Drybone, turned their faces toward the uninhabited
country that began immediately, as the ocean begins off a sandy shore.
And as a single mast on which no sail is shining stands at the horizon
and seems to add a loneliness to the surrounding sea, so the long gray
line of fence, almost a mile away, that ended Balaam's land on this side
the creek, stretched along the waste ground and added desolation to
the plain. No solitary watercourse with margin of cottonwoods or willow
thickets flowed here to stripe the dingy, yellow world with interrupting
green, nor were cattle to be seen dotting the distance, nor moving
objects at all, nor any bird in the soundless air. The last gate was
shut by the Virginian, who looked back at the pleasant trees of the
ranch, and then followed on in single file across the alkali of No Man's
No cloud was in the sky. The desert's grim noon shone sombrely on flat
and hill. The sagebrush was dull like zinc. Thick heat rose near at hand
from the caked alkali, and pale heat shrouded the distant peaks.
There were five horses. Balaam led on Pedro, his squat figure stiff in
the saddle, but solid as a rock, and tilted a little forward, as his
habit was. One of the Judge's horses came next, a sorrel, dragging back
continually on the rope by which he was led. After him ambled Balaam's
wise pack-animal, carrying the light burden of two days' food and
lodging. She was an old mare who could still go when she chose, but had
been schooled by the years, and kept the trail, giving no trouble to the
Virginian who came behind her. He also sat solid as a rock, yet subtly
bending to the struggles of the wild horse he led, as a steel spring
bends and balances and resumes its poise.
Thus they made but slow time, and when they topped the last dull rise of
ground and looked down on the long slant of ragged, caked earth to the
crossing of Little Muddy, with its single tree and few mean bushes, the
final distance where eyesight ends had deepened to violet from the thin,
steady blue they had stared at for so many hours, and all heat was
gone from the universal dryness. The horses drank a long time from the
sluggish yellow water, and its alkaline taste and warmth were equally
welcome to the men. They built a little fire, and when supper was ended,
smoked but a short while and in silence, before they got in the blankets
that were spread in a smooth place beside the water.
They had picketed the two horses of the Judge in the best grass they
could find, letting the rest go free to find pasture where they could.
When the first light came, the Virginian attended to breakfast, while
Balaam rode away on the sorrel to bring in the loose horses. They had
gone far out of sight, and when he returned with them, after some two
hours, he was on Pedro. Pedro was soaking with sweat, and red froth
creamed from his mouth. The Virginian saw the horses must have been hard
to drive in, especially after Balaam brought them the wild sorrel as a
"If you'd kep' ridin' him, 'stead of changin' off on your hawss, they'd
have behaved quieter," said the foreman.
"That's good seasonable advice," said Balaam, sarcastically. "I could
have told you that now."
"I could have told you when you started," said the Virginian, heating
the coffee for Balaam.
Balaam was eloquent on the outrageous conduct of the horses. He had come
up with them evidently striking back for Butte Creek, with the old mare
in the lead.
"But I soon showed her the road she was to go," he said, as he drove
them now to the water.
The Virginian noticed the slight limp of the mare, and how her pastern
was cut as if with a stone or the sharp heel of a boot.
"I guess she'll not be in a hurry to travel except when she's wanted
to," continued Balaam. He sat down, and sullenly poured himself some
coffee. "We'll be in luck if we make any Sunk Creek this night."
He went on with his breakfast, thinking aloud for the benefit of his
companion, who made no comments, preferring silence to the discomfort of
talking with a man whose vindictive humor was so thoroughly uppermost.
He did not even listen very attentively, but continued his preparations
for departure, washing the dishes, rolling the blankets, and moving
about in his usual way of easy and visible good nature.
"Six o'clock, already," said Balaam, saddling the horses. "And we'll
not get started for ten minutes more." Then he came to Pedro. "So you
haven't quit fooling yet, haven't you?" he exclaimed, for the pony
shrank as he lifted the bridle. "Take that for your sore mouth!" and he
rammed the bit in, at which Pedro flung back and reared.
"Well, I never saw Pedro act that way yet," said the Virginian.
"Ah, rubbish!" said Balaam. "They're all the same. Not a bastard one
but's laying for his chance to do for you. Some'll buck you off, and
some'll roll with you, and some'll fight you with their fore feet. They
may play good for a year, but the Western pony's man's enemy, and when
he judges he's got his chance, he's going to do his best. And if you
come out alive it won't be his fault." Balaam paused for a while,
packing. "You've got to keep them afraid of you," he said next; "that's
what you've got to do if you don't want trouble. That Pedro horse there
has been fed, hand-fed, and fooled with like a damn pet, and what's that
policy done? Why, he goes ugly when he thinks it's time, and decides
he'll not drive any horses into camp this morning. He knows better now."
"Mr. Balaam," said the Virginian, "I'll buy that hawss off yu' right
Balaam shook his head. "You'll not do that right now or any other time,"
said he. "I happen to want him."
The Virginian could do no more. He had heard cow-punchers say to
refractory ponies, "You keep still, or I'll Balaam you!" and he now
understood the aptness of the expression.
Meanwhile Balaam began to lead Pedro to the creek for a last drink
before starting across the torrid drought. The horse held back on the
rein a little, and Balaam turned and cut the whip across his forehead.
A delay of forcing and backing followed, while the Virginian, already
in the saddle, waited. The minutes passed, and no immediate prospect,
apparently, of getting nearer Sunk Creek.
"He ain' goin' to follow you while you're beatin' his haid," the
Southerner at length remarked.
"Do you think you can teach me anything about horses?" retorted Balaam.
"Well, it don't look like I could," said the Virginian, lazily.
"Then don't try it, so long as it's not your horse, my friend."
Again the Southerner levelled his eye on Balaam. "All right," he said,
in the same gentle voice. "And don't you call me your friend. You've
made that mistake twiced."
The road was shadeless, as it had been from the start, and they could
not travel fast. During the first few hours all coolness was driven out
of the glassy morning, and another day of illimitable sun invested the
world with its blaze. The pale Bow Leg Range was coming nearer, but its
hard hot slants and rifts suggested no sort of freshness, and even
the pines that spread for wide miles along near the summit counted for
nothing in the distance and the glare, but seemed mere patches of dull
dry discoloration. No talk was exchanged between the two travellers, for
the cow-puncher had nothing to say and Balaam was sulky, so they moved
along in silent endurance of each other's company and the tedium of the
But the slow succession of rise and fall in the plain changed and
shortened. The earth's surface became lumpy, rising into mounds and
knotted systems of steep small hills cut apart by staring gashes of
sand, where water poured in the spring from the melting snow. After a
time they ascended through the foot-hills till the plain below was for a
while concealed, but came again into view in its entirety, distant and a
thing of the past, while some magpies sailed down to meet them from
the new country they were entering. They passed up through a small
transparent forest of dead trees standing stark and white, and a little
higher came on a line of narrow moisture that crossed the way and formed
a stale pool among some willow thickets. They turned aside to water
their horses, and found near the pool a circular spot of ashes and some
poles lying, and beside these a cage-like edifice of willow wands built
in the ground.
"Indian camp," observed the Virginian.
There were the tracks of five or six horses on the farther side of the
pool, and they did not come into the trail, but led off among the rocks
on some system of their own.
"They're about a week old," said Balaam. "It's part of that outfit
that's been hunting."
"They've gone on to visit their friends," added the cow-puncher.
"Yes, on the Southern Reservation. How far do you call Sunk Creek now?"
"Well," said the Virginian, calculating, "it's mighty nigh fo'ty miles
from Muddy Crossin', an' I reckon we've come eighteen."
"Just about. It's noon." Balaam snapped his watch shut. "We'll rest here
When it was time to go, the Virginian looked musingly at the mountains.
"We'll need to travel right smart to get through the canyon to-night,"
"Tell you what," said Balaam; "we'll rope the Judge's horses together
and drive 'em in front of us. That'll make speed."
"Mightn't they get away on us?" objected the Virginian. "They're pow'ful
"They can't get away from me, I guess," said Balaam, and the arrangement
was adopted. "We're the first this season over this piece of the trail,"
he observed presently.
His companion had noticed the ground already, and assented. There were
no tracks anywhere to be seen over which winter had not come and gone
since they had been made. Presently the trail wound into a sultry gulch
that hemmed in the heat and seemed to draw down the sun's rays more
vertically. The sorrel horse chose this place to make a try for liberty.
He suddenly whirled from the trail, dragging with him his less inventive
fellow. Leaving the Virginian with the old mare, Balaam headed them off,
for Pedro was quick, and they came jumping down the bank together, but
swiftly crossed up on the other side, getting much higher before they
could be reached. It was no place for this sort of game, as the sides of
the ravine were ploughed with steep channels, broken with jutting knobs
of rock, and impeded by short twisted pines that swung out from their
roots horizontally over the pitch of the hill. The Virginian helped,
but used his horse with more judgment, keeping as much on the level as
possible, and endeavoring to anticipate the next turn of the runaways
before they made it, while Balaam attempted to follow them close,
wheeling short when they doubled, heavily beating up the face of the
slope, veering again to come down to the point he had left, and whenever
he felt Pedro begin to flag, driving his spurs into the horse and
forcing him to keep up the pace. He had set out to overtake and capture
on the side of the mountain these two animals who had been running
wild for many weeks, and now carried no weight but themselves, and
the futility of such work could not penetrate his obstinate and rising
temper. He had made up his mind not to give in. The Virginian soon
decided to move slowly along for the present, preventing the wild horses
from passing down the gulch again, but otherwise saving his own animal
from useless fatigue. He saw that Pedro was reeking wet, with mouth
open, and constantly stumbling, though he galloped on. The cow-puncher
kept the group in sight, driving the packhorse in front of him, and
watching the tactics of the sorrel, who had now undoubtedly become
the leader of the expedition, and was at the top of the gulch, in vain
trying to find an outlet through its rocky rim to the levels above. He
soon judged this to be no thoroughfare, and changing his plan, trotted
down to the bottom and up the other side, gaining more and more; for
in this new descent Pedro had fallen twice. Then the sorrel showed the
cleverness of a genuinely vicious horse. The Virginian saw him stop
and fall to kicking his companion with all the energy that a short rope
would permit. The rope slipped, and both, unencumbered, reached the top
and disappeared. Leaving the packhorse for Balaam, the Virginian started
after them and came into a high tableland, beyond which the mountains
began in earnest. The runaways were moving across toward these at an
easy rate. He followed for a moment, then looking back, and seeing no
sign of Balaam, waited, for the horses were sure not to go fast when
they reached good pasture or water.
He got out of the saddle and sat on the ground, watching, till the mare
came up slowly into sight, and Balaam behind her. When they were near,
Balaam dismounted and struck Pedro fearfully, until the stick broke, and
he raised the splintered half to continue.
Seeing the pony's condition, the Virginian spoke, and said, "I'd let
that hawss alone."
Balaam turned to him, but wholly possessed by passion did not seem to
hear, and the Southerner noticed how white and like that of a maniac his
face was. The stick slid to the ground.
"He played he was tired," said Balaam, looking at the Virginian with
glazed eyes. The violence of his rage affected him physically, like some
stroke of illness. "He played out on me on purpose." The man's voice
was dry and light. "He's perfectly fresh now," he continued, and turned
again to the coughing, swaying horse, whose eyes were closed. Not having
the stick, he seized the animal's unresisting head and shook it. The
Virginian watched him a moment, and rose to stop such a spectacle. Then,
as if conscious he was doing no real hurt, Balaam ceased, and turning
again in slow fashion looked across the level, where the runaways were
"I'll have to take your horse," he said, "mine's played out on me."
"You ain' goin' to touch my hawss."
Again the words seemed not entirely to reach Balaam's understanding, so
dulled by rage were his senses. He made no answer, but mounted Pedro;
and the failing pony walked mechanically forward, while the Virginian,
puzzled, stood looking after him. Balaam seemed without purpose of going
anywhere, and stopped in a moment. Suddenly he was at work at something.
This sight was odd and new to look at. For a few seconds it had no
meaning to the Virginian as he watched. Then his mind grasped the
horror, too late. Even with his cry of execration and the tiger spring
that he gave to stop Balaam, the monstrosity was wrought. Pedro sank
motionless, his head rolling flat on the earth. Balaam was jammed
beneath him. The man had struggled to his feet before the Virginian
reached the spot, and the horse then lifted his head and turned it
Then vengeance like a blast struck Balaam. The Virginian hurled him to
the ground, lifted and hurled him again, lifted him and beat his face
and struck his jaw. The man's strong ox-like fighting availed nothing.
He fended his eyes as best he could against these sledge-hammer blows
of justice. He felt blindly for his pistol. That arm was caught and
wrenched backward, and crushed and doubled. He seemed to hear his own
bones, and set up a hideous screaming of hate and pain. Then the
pistol at last came out, and together with the hand that grasped it was
instantly stamped into the dust. Once again the creature was lifted and
slung so that he lay across Pedro's saddle a blurred, dingy, wet pulp.
Vengeance had come and gone. The man and the horse were motionless.
Around them, silence seemed to gather like a witness.
"If you are dead," said the Virginian, "I am glad of it." He stood
looking down at Balaam and Pedro, prone in the middle of the open
tableland. Then he saw Balaam looking at him. It was the quiet stare of
sight without thought or feeling, the mere visual sense alone, almost
frightful in its separation from any self. But as he watched those
eyes, the self came back into them. "I have not killed you," said the
Virginian. "Well, I ain't goin' to do any more to yu'--if that's a
satisfaction to know."
Then he began to attend to Balaam with impersonal skill, like some one
hired for the purpose. "He ain't hurt bad," he asserted aloud, as if
the man were some nameless patient; and then to Balaam he remarked, "I
reckon it might have put a less tough man than you out of business for
quite a while. I'm goin' to get some water now." When he returned with
the water, Balsam was sitting up, looking about him. He had not yet
spoken, nor did he now speak. The sunlight flashed on the six-shooter
where it lay, and the Virginian secured it. "She ain't so pretty as she
was," he remarked, as he examined the weapon. "But she'll go right handy
Strength was in a measure returning to Pedro. He was a young horse,
and the exhaustion neither of anguish nor of over-riding was enough
to affect him long or seriously. He got himself on his feet and walked
waveringly over to the old mare, and stood by her for comfort. The
cow-puncher came up to him, and Pedro, after starting back slightly,
seemed to comprehend that he was in friendly hands. It was plain that he
would soon be able to travel slowly if no weight was on him, and that he
would be a very good horse again. Whether they abandoned the runaways or
not, there was no staying here for night to overtake them without food
or water. The day was still high, and what its next few hours had in
store the Virginian could not say, and he left them to take care of
themselves, determining meanwhile that he would take command of the
minutes and maintain the position he had assumed both as to Balaam and
Pedro. He took Pedro's saddle off, threw the mare's pack to the ground,
put Balaam's saddle on her, and on that stowed or tied her original
pack, which he could do, since it was so light. Then he went to Balaam,
who was sitting up.
"I reckon you can travel," said the Virginian. "And your hawss can. If
you're comin' with me, you'll ride your mare. I'm goin' to trail them
hawsses. If you're not comin' with me, your hawss comes with me, and
you'll take fifty dollars for him."
Balaam was indifferent to this good bargain. He did not look at the
other or speak, but rose and searched about him on the ground. The
Virginian was also indifferent as to whether Balaam chose to answer or
not. Seeing Balaam searching the ground, he finished what he had to say.
"I have your six-shooter, and you'll have it when I'm ready for you to.
Now, I'm goin'," he concluded.
Balaam's intellect was clear enough now, and he saw that though the rest
of this journey would be nearly intolerable, it must go on. He looked
at the impassive cow-puncher getting ready to go and tying a rope on
Pedro's neck to lead him, then he looked at the mountains where the
runaways had vanished, and it did not seem credible to him that he had
come into such straits. He was helped stiffly on the mare, and the three
horses in single file took up their journey once more, and came slowly
among the mountains The perpetual desert was ended, and they crossed a
small brook, where they missed the trail. The Virginian dismounted to
find where the horses had turned off, and discovered that they had gone
straight up the ridge by the watercourse.
"There's been a man camped in hyeh inside a month," he said, kicking up
a rag of red flannel. "White man and two hawsses. Ours have went up his
It was not easy for Balaam to speak yet, and he kept his silence. But he
remembered that Shorty had spoken of a trapper who had started for Sunk
For three hours they followed the runaways' course over softer ground,
and steadily ascending, passed one or two springs, at length, where
the mud was not yet settled in the hoofprints. Then they came through
a corner of pine forest and down a sudden bank among quaking-asps to a
green park. Here the runaways beside a stream were grazing at ease, but
saw them coming, and started on again, following down the stream.
For the present all to be done was to keep them in sight. This creek
received tributaries and widened, making a valley for itself. Above
the bottom, lining the first terrace of the ridge, began the pines, and
stretched back, unbroken over intervening summit and basin, to cease at
last where the higher peaks presided.
"This hyeh's the middle fork of Sunk Creek," said the Virginian. "We'll
get on to our right road again where they join."
Soon a game trail marked itself along the stream. If this would only
continue, the runaways would be nearly sure to follow it down into the
canyon. Then there would be no way for them but to go on and come out
into their own country, where they would make for the Judge's ranch of
their own accord. The great point was to reach the canyon before dark.
They passed into permanent shadow; for though the other side of
the creek shone in full day, the sun had departed behind the ridges
immediately above them. Coolness filled the air, and the silence, which
in this deep valley of invading shadow seemed too silent, was relieved
by the birds. Not birds of song, but a freakish band of gray talkative
observers, who came calling and croaking along through the pines, and
inspected the cavalcade, keeping it company for a while, and then flying
up into the woods again. The travellers came round a corner on a little
spread of marsh, and from somewhere in the middle of it rose a buzzard
and sailed on its black pinions into the air above them, wheeling
and wheeling, but did not grow distant. As it swept over the trail,
something fell from its claw, a rag of red flannel; and each man in turn
looked at it as his horse went by.
"I wonder if there's plenty elk and deer hyeh?" said the Virginian.
"I guess there is," Balaam replied, speaking at last. The travellers had
become strangely reconciled.
"There's game 'most all over these mountains," the Virginian continued;
"country not been settled long enough to scare them out." So they fell
into casual conversation, and for the first time were glad of each
The sound of a new bird came from the pines above--the hoot of an
owl--and was answered from some other part of the wood. This they did
not particularly notice at first, but soon they heard the same note,
unexpectedly distant, like an echo. The game trail, now quite a defined
path beside the river, showed no sign of changing its course or fading
out into blank ground, as these uncertain guides do so often. It led
consistently in the desired direction, and the two men were relieved to
see it continue. Not only were the runaways easier to keep track of,
but better speed was made along this valley. The pervading imminence of
night more and more dispelled the lingering afternoon, though there was
yet no twilight in the open, and the high peaks opposite shone yellow
in the invisible sun. But now the owls hooted again. Their music had
something in it that caused both the Virginian and Balaam to look up at
the pines and wish that this valley would end. Perhaps it was early for
night-birds to begin; or perhaps it was that the sound never seemed to
fall behind, but moved abreast of them among the trees above, as they
rode on without pause down below; some influence made the faces of the
travellers grave. The spell of evil which the sight of the wheeling
buzzard had begun, deepened as evening grew, while ever and again along
the creek the singular call and answer of the owls wandered among the
darkness of the trees not far away.
The sun was gone from the peaks when at length the other side of the
stream opened into a long wide meadow. The trail they followed, after
crossing a flat willow thicket by the water, ran into dense pines, that
here for the first time reached all the way down to the water's edge.
The two men came out of the willows, and saw ahead the capricious
runaways leave the bottom and go up the hill and enter the wood.
"We must hinder that," said the Virginian; and he dropped Pedro's rope.
"There's your six-shooter. You keep the trail, and camp down there"--he
pointed to where the trees came to the water--"till I head them hawsses
off. I may not get back right away." He galloped up the open hill
and went into the pine, choosing a place above where the vagrants had
Balaam dismounted, and picking up his six-shooter, took the rope off
Pedro's neck and drove him slowly down toward where the wood began.
Its interior was already dim, and Balaam saw that here must be their
stopping-place to-night, since there was no telling how wide this pine
strip might extend along the trail before they could come out of it and
reach another suitable camping-ground. Pedro had recovered his strength,
and he now showed signs of restlessness. He shied where there was not
even a stone in the trail, and finally turned sharply round. Balaam
expected he was going to rush back on the way they had come; but the
horse stood still, breathing excitedly. He was urged forward again,
though he turned more than once. But when they were a few paces from the
wood, and Balaam had got off preparatory to camping, the horse snorted
and dashed into the water, and stood still there. The astonished Balaam
followed to turn him; but Pedro seemed to lose control of himself,
and plunged to the middle of the river, and was evidently intending to
cross. Fearing that he would escape to the opposite meadow and add to
their difficulties, Balaam, with the idea of turning him round, drew his
six-shooter and fired in front of the horse, divining, even as the flash
cut the dusk, the secret of all this--the Indians; but too late. His
bruised hand had stiffened, marring his aim, and he saw Pedro fall over
in the water then rise and struggle up the bank on the farther shore,
where he now hurried also, to find that he had broken the pony's leg.
He needed no interpreter for the voices of the seeming owls that had
haunted the latter hour of their journey, and he knew that his beast's
keener instinct had perceived the destruction that lurked in the
interior of the wood. The history of the trapper whose horse had
returned without him might have been--might still be--his own; and he
thought of the rag that had fallen from the buzzard's talons when he had
been disturbed at his meal in the marsh. "Peaceable" Indians were still
in these mountains, and some few of them had for the past hour been
skirting his journey unseen, and now waited for him in the wood which
they expected him to enter. They had been too wary to use their rifles
or show themselves, lest these travellers should be only part of a
larger company following, who would hear the noise of a shot, and catch
them in the act of murder. So, safe under the cover of the pines, they
had planned to sling their silent noose, and drag the white man from his
horse as he passed through the trees.
Balaam looked over the river at the ominous wood, and then he looked
at Pedro, the horse that he had first maimed and now ruined, to whom he
probably owed his life. He was lying on the ground, quietly looking over
the green meadow, where dusk was gathering. Perhaps he was not suffering
from his wound yet, as he rested on the ground; and into his animal
intelligence there probably came no knowledge of this final stroke of
his fate. At any rate, no sound of pain came from Pedro, whose friendly
and gentle face remained turned toward the meadow. Once more Balaam
fired his pistol, and this time the aim was true, and the horse rolled
over, with a ball through his brain. It was the best reward that
remained for him.
Then Balaam rejoined the old mare, and turned from the middle fork of
Sunk Creek. He dashed across the wide field, and went over a ridge, and
found his way along in the night till he came to the old trail--the
road which they would never have left but for him and his obstinacy. He
unsaddled the weary mare by Sunk Creek, where the canyon begins, letting
her drag a rope and find pasture and water, while he, lighting no fire
to betray him, crouched close under a tree till the light came. He
thought of the Virginian in the wood. But what could either have done
for the other had he stayed to look for him among the pines? If the
cow-puncher came back to the corner, he would follow Balaam's tracks or
not. They would meet, at any rate, where the creeks joined.
But they did not meet. And then to Balaam the prospect of going onward
to the Sunk Creek Ranch became more than he could bear. To come without
the horses, to meet Judge Henry, to meet the guests of the Judge's,
looking as he did now after his punishment by the Virginian, to give the
news about the Judge's favorite man--no, how could he tell such a story
as this? Balaam went no farther than a certain cabin, where he slept,
and wrote a letter to the Judge. This the owner of the cabin delivered.
And so, having spread news which would at once cause a search for the
Virginian, and having constructed such sentences to the Judge as would
most smoothly explain how, being overtaken by illness, he had not wished
to be a burden at Sunk Creek, Balaam turned homeward by himself. By the
time he was once more at Butte Creek, his general appearance was a thing
less to be noticed. And there was Shorty, waiting!
One way and another, the lost dog had been able to gather some ready
money. He was cheerful because of this momentary purseful of prosperity.
"And so I come back, yu' see," he said. "For I figured on getting Pedro
back as soon as I could when I sold him to yu'."
"You're behind the times, Shorty," said Balaam.
Shorty looked blank. "You've sure not sold Pedro?" he exclaimed.
"Them Indians," said Balaam, "got after me on the Bow Leg trail. Got
after me and that Virginia man. But they didn't get me."
Balaam wagged his bullet head to imply that this escape was due to his
own superior intelligence. The Virginian had been stupid, and so the
Indians had got him. "And they shot your horse," Balaam finished. "Stop
and get some dinner with the boys."
Having eaten, Shorty rode away in mournful spirits. For he had made so
sure of once more riding and talking with Pedro, his friend whom he had
taught to shake hands.
Next: Grandmother Stark
Previous: Progress Of The Lost Dog