The Virginian--A Horseman Of The Plainsr
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 a decision.
"See here," he said; "those horses are coming. What trail would you take over to the
"Shortest trail's right through the Bow Laig Mountains," said the foreman, in his gentle
"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 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