If Ward had said that Cynthia was ugly, a trim, splendid figure, brown hair, and a manner irresistible would not have saved Cynthia from being eternally ugly so far as we were concerned; and although Cynthia had lands and Polled-Angus cattle and spent her winters in France, she must have remained eternally ugly.
Ump shouted to swing with the current as far as I could without getting into the eddy, and I forced El Mahdi gradually down-stream, holding his bit with both hands to make him swim as slow as he could. We seemed to creep to the middle of the river. A Polled-Angus bullock with an irregular white streak running across his nose led the drove, following close at the horse's tail.
I have seen at this tavern a great mix of a dozen herds, that looked as like as a potful of peas, separated by an idle loafer sitting on a fence, calling out, "That one's Woodford's, an' that one's Alkire's an' that one's Maxwell's, an' the Polled-Angus muley belongs to Flave Davisson, an' the old-fashioned one is Westfield's. He must have got him in Roane or Nicholas.
A Polled-Angus heifer, fed and watered and cared for like a child, should be killed suddenly without fright, and butchered properly; let the choice pieces hang from a rafter by green withes and be smoked with hickory logs until the fibres begin to dry in them, then cut down and broil. I arose and went out of doors to wash the night off.
I have heard the profane Ump singing Old Hundred and riding the Bay Eagle up and down in a bunch of frightened cattle, and it was a piece of comedy for the gods. I have heard Jud, with no more tune than a tom-tom, bellowing the doxology to a great audience of Polled-Angus muleys on the verge of a stampede. And I have sung myself, many a time, like a circuit rider with a crowded mourner's bench.
The strong current swung their bodies around until their tails were down-stream, and the little waves danced in fantastic eddies around their puffing muzzles. But they clung to the crupper of El Mahdi with dogged tenacity, and when he climbed the north bank of the Valley River, the blazed face of the Polled-Angus leader came up out of the water at his heels.
"Yes," I said, "but one time it was a dog-fall, and Lem Marks says that Malan slipped the other time." "But he didn't slip," put in Jud. "He tried to lift me, an' I knee-locked him. Then I could a throwed him if he'd been as big as a Polled-Angus heifer." "Was you wrastling back-holts or breeches-holts?" asked old Simon, getting up from his chair. "Back-holts," replied Jud.
I went back up the road, threw down the bars to the pasture, and counted the cattle as they went strolling in. The Polled-Angus muleys seemed none the worse for their long swim, and they began to crop the brown grass the moment they were out in the field. Jud and the Cardinal came up after the first hundred, and took a place by El Mahdi.