BALAAM AND PEDRO
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
"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 Canyon?"
The Virginian smiled. "I reckon it can't, seh, and stay
resembling a wagon."
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 Land.
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
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 leader.
"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
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
"Mr. Balaam," said the Virginian, "I'll buy that hawss off yu'
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
"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
"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 journey.
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
"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 till 12:30."
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," he said.
"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
"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
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 still visible.
"I'll have to take your horse," he said, "mine's played out on
"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 piteously round.
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
go 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 no
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
"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 old tracks."
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 Creek.
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 hoof-prints.
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
"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 other's company.
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 sixshooter. 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 disappeared.
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
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
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,
One way and another, the lost dog had been able to gather some
ready money. He was cheerful because of this momentary purseful
"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.