Of a certainty it was but this very morning that Montoya's boy had spoken to him! Or was it yesterday morning? Montoya's boy had said it was yesterday morning. It must be so. The youth rose and gazed about him. Pete stood aggressively potent, frowning down on the other's hesitation. "I go," said the Mexican. Pete heaved a sigh of relief.
Pete had said, although he believed the storekeeper. Pete wanted to hear more. "Most Mexicans ain't," replied Roth, for Pete's statement was half a challenge, half a question. "But José Montoya never backed down from a fight and he's had plenty." Pete was interested. He determined to visit Montoya's camp that evening. He said nothing to Roth, as he intended to return.
Andy had ridden down to Largo on some errand or other and had tied his pony in front of the store when Montoya's sheep billowed down the street and frightened the pony. Young Pete, hazing the burros, saw the pony pull back and break the reins, whirl and dash out into the open and circle the mesa with head and tail up. It was a young horse, not actually wild, but decidedly frisky.
The fact was that he did not know just why he had taken the gun or what he intended to do with it. After all, it was none of Montoya's business, yet Pete did not wish to offend the old man. He wanted to hear more about gun-fights with the cattlemen. "Well, seein' it's you, señor," Pete adopted the grand air as most befitting the occasion, "I'm packin' this here gun to fight cow-punchers with.
"I would not like to have you go," said Montoya. "You are a good boy." Pete had nothing to say. He wished Montoya had not called him "a good boy." That hurt. If Montoya had only scolded him for stampeding the sheep. . . . But Montoya had spoken in a kindly way. Several nights later a horseman rode into Montoya's camp.
Montoya's kindliness at parting and his gift had touched Pete deeply, but he had fought his emotion then, too proud to show it. Now he felt a hot something spatter on his hand. His mouth quivered. "Doggone the dog!" he exclaimed. "Doggone the whole doggone outfit!" And to cheat his emotion he began to sing, in a ludicrous, choked way, that sprightly and inimitable range ballad;
The value of this opinion is somewhat diminished by the fact that Montoya had a personal grudge against Luis de Leon who, some four or five years previously, had prevented Montoya's election as Provincial of the Augustinians in Spain.
All sorts of stories were afloat, stories which Montoya discounted liberally, because he knew Pete. The owner of the dog claimed damages. Montoya, smiling inwardly, referred that gentleman to Pete, who stood close to his employer, hoping that he would start a real row, but pretty certain that he would not. That was Montoya's way.
With the crash of the shot the dog doubled up and dropped in his tracks. The boys scattered and ran. Pete cut loose in their general direction. They ran faster. The older folk, chattering and scolding, backed into the store. "Montoya's boy was loco. He would kill somebody!" Some of the women crossed themselves. The storekeeper, who knew Pete slightly, ventured out.
Andy, as he was about to give Pete his hat, suddenly changed it for his own. "For luck!" he cried, as Pete slackened rein and Blue Smoke shot down the dim forest trail. Pete, perhaps influenced by Montoya's example, always wore a high-crowned black sombrero. Andy's hat was the usual gray.