When Mr. Travennes looked over the corral fence he was much chagrined to see a man and a Colt's .45, both paying strict attention to his nose.
"Mornin', Duke," said the man with the gun. "Lose anything?"
Mr. Travennes looked back at his friends and saw Mr. Connors sitting on a rock holding two guns. Mr. Travennes' right and left wings were the targets and they pitted their frowns against Mr. Connors' smile.
"Not that I knows of," replied Mr. Travennes, shifting his feet uneasily.
"Find anything?" came from Mr. Cassidy as he sidled out of the gate.
"Nope," replied the captain of the Terrors, eying the Colt.
"Are yu in the habit of payin' early mornin' calls to this here corral?" persisted Mr. Cassidy, playing with the gun.
"Ya-as. That's my business—I'm th' captain of the vigilantes."
"That's too bad," sympathized Mr. Cassidy, moving forward a step.
Mr. Travennes looked put out and backed off. "What yu mean, stickin' me up this-away?" he asked indignantly.
"Yu needn't go an' get mad," responded Mr. Cassidy. "Just business. Yore cayuse an' another shore climbed this corral fence last night an' ate up our bronchs, an' I just nachurlly want to know about it."
Mr. Travennes looked his surprise and incredulity and craned his neck to see for himself. When he saw his horse peacefully scratching itself he swore and looked angrily up the street. Mr. Connors, behind the shack, was hidden to the view of those on the street, and when two men ran up at a signal from Mr. Travennes, intending to insert themselves in the misunderstanding, they were promptly lined up with the first two by the man on the rock.
"Sit down," invited Mr. Connors, pushing a chunk of air out of the way with his guns. The last two felt a desire to talk and to argue the case on its merits, but refrained as the black holes in Mr. Connors' guns hinted at eruption. "Every time yu opens yore mouths yu gets closer to th' Great Divide," enlightened that person, and they were childlike in their belief.
Mr. Travennes acted as though he would like to scratch his thigh where his Colt's chafed him, but postponed the event and listened to Mr. Cassidy, who was asking questions.
"Where's our cayuses, General?"
Mr. Travennes replied that he didn't know. He was worried, for he feared that his captor didn't have a secure hold on the hammer of the ubiquitous Colt's.
"Where's my cayuse?" persisted Mr. Cassidy.
"I don't know, but I wants to ask yu how yu got mine," replied Mr. Travennes.
"Yu tell me how mine got out an' I'll tell yu how yourn got in," countered Mr. Cassidy.
Mr. Connors added another to his collection before the captain replied.
"Out in this country people get in trouble when they're found with other folks' cayuses," Mr. Travennes suggested.
Mr. Cassidy looked interested and replied: "Yu shore ought to borrow some experience, an' there's lots floating around. More than one man has smoked in a powder mill, an' th' number of them planted who looked in th' muzzle of a empty gun is scandalous. If my remarks don't perculate right smart I'll explain."
Mr. Travennes looked down the street again, saw number five added to the line-up, and coughed up chunks of broken profanity, grieving his host by his lack of courtesy.
"Time," announced Mr. Cassidy, interrupting the round. "I wants them cayuses an' I wants 'em right now. Yu an' me will amble off an' get 'em. I won't bore yu with tellin' yu what'll happen if yu gets skittish. Slope along an' don't be scared; I'm with yu," assured Mr. Cassidy as he looked over at Mr. Connors, whose ascetic soul pined for the flapjacks of which his olfactories caught intermittent whiffs.
"Well, Red, I reckons yu has got plenty of room out here for all yu may corral; anyhow there ain't a whole lot more. My friend Slim an' I are shore going to have a devil of a time if we can't find them cussed bronchs. Whew, them flapjacks smell like a plain trail to payday. Just think of th' nice maple juice we used to get up to Cheyenne on them frosty mornings."
"Get out of here an' lemme alone! What do yu allus want to go an' make a feller unhappy for? Can't yu keep still about grub when yu knows I ain't had my morning's feed yet?" asked Mr. Connors, much aggrieved.
"Well, I'll be back directly an' I'll have them cayuses or a scalp. Yu tend to business an' watch th' herd. That shorthorn yearling at th' end of th' line"—pointing to a young man who looked capable of taking risks—"he looks like he might take a chance an' gamble with yu," remarked Mr. Cassidy, placing Mr. Travennes in front of him and pushing back his own sombrero. "Don't put too much maple juice on them flapjacks, Red," he warned as he poked his captive in the back of the neck as a hint to get along. Fortunately Mr. Connors' closing remarks are lost to history.
Observing that Mr. Travennes headed south on the quest, Mr. Cassidy reasoned that the missing bronchos ought to be somewhere in the north, and he postponed the southern trip until such time when they would have more leisure at their disposal. Mr. Travennes showed a strong inclination to shy at this arrangement, but quieted down under persuasion, and they started off toward where Mr. Cassidy firmly believed the North Pole and the cayuses to be.
"Yu has got quite a metropolis here," pleasantly remarked Mr. Cassidy as under his direction they made for a distant corral. "I can see four different types of architecture, two of 'em on one residence," he continued as they passed a wood and adobe hut. "No doubt the railroad will put a branch down here some day an' then yu can hire their old cars for yore public buildings. Then when yu gets a postoffice yu will shore make Chicago hustle some to keep her end up. Let's assay that hollow for horse-hide; it looks promisin'."
The hollow was investigated but showed nothing other than cactus and baked alkali. The corral came next, and there too was emptiness. For an hour the search was unavailing, but at the end of that time Mr. Cassidy began to notice signs of nervousness on the part of his guest, which grew less as they proceeded. Then Mr. Cassidy retraced their steps to the place where the nervousness first developed and tried another way and once more returned to the starting point.
"Yu seems to hanker for this fool exercise," quoth Mr. Travennes with much sarcasm. "If yu reckons I'm fond of this locoed ramblin' yu shore needs enlightenment."
"Sometimes I do get these fits," confessed Mr. Cassidy, "an' when I do I'm dead sore on objections. Let's peek in that there hut," he suggested.
"Huh; yore ideas of cayuses are mighty peculiar. Why don't you look for 'em up on those cactuses or behind that mesquite? I wouldn't be a heap surprised if they was roostin' on th' roof. They are mighty knowing animals, cayuses. I once saw one that could figger like a schoolmarm," remarked Mr. Travennes, beginning sarcastically and toning it down as he proceeded, out of respect for his companion's gun.
"Well, they might be in th' shack," replied Mr. Cassidy. "Cayuses know so much that it takes a month to unlearn them. I wouldn't like to bet they ain't in that hut, though."
Mr. Travennes snickered in a manner decidedly uncomplimentary and began to whistle, softly at first. The gentleman from the Bar—20 noticed that his companion was a musician; that when he came to a strong part he increased the tones until they bid to be heard at several hundred yards. When Mr. Travennes had reached a most passionate part in "Juanita" and was expanding his lungs to do it justice he was rudely stopped by the insistent pressure of his guard's Colt's on the most ticklish part of his ear.
"I shore wish yu wouldn't strain yoreself thataway," said Mr. Cassidy, thinking that Mr. Travennes might be endeavoring to call assistance. "I went an' promised my mother on her deathbed that I wouldn't let nobody whistle out loud like that, an' th' opery is hereby stopped. Besides, somebody might hear them mournful tones an' think that something is th' matter, which it aint."
Mr. Travennes substituted heartfelt cursing, all of which was heavily accented.
As they approached the hut Mr. Cassidy again tickled his prisoner and insisted that he be very quiet, as his cayuse was very sensitive to noise and it might be there. Mr. Cassidy still thought Mr. Travennes might have friends in the hut and wouldn't for the world disturb them, as he would present a splendid target as he approached the building.