Chapter XX. The Round-Up
 

Bert and Nan were really too frightened to know what to do. If they had been more used to the ways of the West, and had known more about cattle and ranches, they would have at once run for their ponies and have got on the backs of the little animals. Cattle in the West are so used to seeing men on horse back that sometimes if they see them on foot on the wide prairie, the cattle chase the men, thinking they are a strange enemy.

Perhaps it was this way with the wild steer. At any rate, seeing Bert and Nan gathering flowers down in the hollow of the hills, the steer, with loud bellows, started down toward them. The two ponies were eating grass near by, and Bert and Nan could easily have reached their pets if they had thought of it.

But they were so frightened that they could not think. As for the ponies, those little horses merely looked up. They saw the steer, but, as they saw such animals every day, the ponies were not at all interested.

"Oh, Bert," cried Nan, "what shall we do?"

She had dropped her flowers and was running toward her brother.

"You get behind me!" cried Bert. "Maybe I can throw a stone at this steer!"

He, too, had dropped the red blossoms he had gathered, and was looking about for a stone. But he could not see any, and the wild steer was coming on down the slope. I do not mean that the steer was wild, like a wild lion or tiger, but that he was just excited by seeing two children off their ponies. If Bert and Nan had been in the saddles perhaps the steer never would have chased them.

But now with tail flapping in the air, and with angry shakes of his head, he was running toward them. Nan got behind her brother, and Bert stood ready to do what he could. The children did not realize how much danger they were in and they might have been hurt but for something that happened.

At first neither Bert nor Nan knew what this happening was. One moment they saw the wild steer racing toward them, and the next minute they saw the big animal, larger than a cow, tumbling down the hill head over heels. The steer seemed to have fallen, and a look toward the crest of the hill showed what had made him. For up at the top of the slope, sitting on his big horse, was the new foreman, Charley Dayton, and from his saddle horn a rope stretched out. The other end of the rope was around the steer's neck, and it was a pull on this rope that had caused the big beast to turn a somersault.

"Oh, he lassoed the steer! He lassoed him!" cried Bert, as he saw what had happened.

And that is just what the foreman had done. He had been out riding over the ranch, and had seen the lone steer on top of the hill which he knew led down into a hollow filled with red flowers.

"At first," said Mr. Dayton to Nan and Bert, telling them the story afterward, "I couldn't imagine why the steer was acting so queerly. I thought may be he didn't like the red flowers, so I rode up to see what the matter was. Then I saw you children down in the hollow and saw the steer rushing at you.

"There was only one thing I could do, and I did it. I didn't even stop to shout to you Bobbsey twins!" said the foreman. "I just swung my lasso and caught the steer before he caught you."

"You made him turn a somersault, didn't you?" said Nan, as she and Bert looked at the big beast which was now lying on the ground.

"Well, he sort of made himself do it," answered the foreman, with a laugh. "He was going so fast, and the lasso rope on his neck made him stop so quickly that he went head over heels. But you had better get into your saddles now, and I'll let this fellow up."

Mr. Dayton had twisted some coils of his rope around the steer's legs so the animal could not get up until the foreman was ready to let him. But as soon as Bert and Nan had gathered the flowers they had dropped, and had seated themselves in their saddles, and when the foreman had mounted his horse, he shook loose the coils of the rope, or lasso, and the steer scrambled to his feet.

"Will he chase us again?" asked Nan.

"No, I guess I taught him a lesson," answered Mr. Dayton.

The steer shook himself and looked at the three figures on the horse and ponies. He did not seem to want to chase anybody now, and after a shake or two of his head the steer walked away, up over the hill and across the prairie, to join the rest of the herd from which he had strayed.

"You want to be careful about getting off your ponies when you see a lone steer," the foreman told Bert and Nan. "Some animals think a person on foot is a new kind of creature and want to give chase right away. On a cattle ranch keep in the saddle as much as you can when you are among the steers."

Bert and his sister said they would do this, and then they rode home with the red flowers. Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey thanked the foreman for again saving the children from harm.

Mr. Charles Dayton seemed to fit in well at Three Star ranch. He was as good a ranchman as his brother Bill was a lumberman. And, true to the promise he had given Mrs. Bobbsey, the ranch foreman wrote to Bill, giving the address of Three Star.

"I had a letter from Bill to-day, Mrs. Bobbsey," said the ranch foreman to the children's mother one afternoon.

"Did you? That's good!" she answered.

"And he says he'd like to see me," went on Mr. Charles Dayton. "He says he has something to tell me."

"Did he say what it was about?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, while Bert and Nan stood near by. They were waiting for the foreman to saddle the ponies for them, as he always wanted to be sure the girths were made tight enough before the twins set out for a ride.

"No, Bill didn't say what it was he wanted to tell me," went on Charley. "And he writes rather queerly."

"Your brother seemed to me to be a bit odd," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "As if he had some sort of a secret."

"Oh, well, I guess he has had his troubles, the same as I have," said the ranch foreman.

"We were boys together, and we didn't have a very good time. I suppose it was as much our fault as any one's. But you don't think of that at the time. Well, I'll be glad to see Bill again, but I don't know when we'll get together. Are you waiting for me, Bobbsey twins?" he asked.

"Yes, if you please," answered Nan.

"We'd like our ponies," added Bert, "and you promised to show me some more how to lasso."

"And so I will!" promised the foreman. He had already given Bert a few lessons in casting the rope. Of course Bert could not use a lasso of the regulation size, so one of the cowboys had made him a little one. With this Bert did very well. Freddie also had to have one, but his was only a toy. Freddie wanted his father to call him "little cowboy" now, instead of "little fireman," and, to please Freddie, Mr. Bobbsey did so once in a while.

After Bert had been given a few more lessons in casting the lasso, the two older Bobbsey twins went for a ride on their ponies, while Mrs. Bobbsey took Flossie and Freddie for a ride in the pony cart.

It was about a week after this that the Bobbsey twins were awakened one morning by a loud shouting outside the ranch house where they slept.

"What's the matter? Have the Indians come?" asked Bert, for some of the cowboys had said a few Indians from a neighboring reservation usually dropped in for a visit about this time of year.

"No, I don't see any Indians," answered Nan, who had looked out of a window, after hurriedly getting dressed. "But I see a lot of the cowboys."

"Oh, maybe they're going after the Indians!" exclaimed Bert. I'm going to ask mother if I can go along!"

"I want to go, too, and get an Indian doll!" exclaimed Nan.

But when they went out into the main room, where their father and mother were eating breakfast, and when the two Bobbsey twins had begged to be allowed to go with the cowboys to see the Indians, Mr. Bobbsey said: "This hasn't anything to do with Indians, Bert."

"What's it all about then?" asked the boy.

"It's the round-up," answered his father. "The cowboys are getting ready for the half-yearly round-up, and that's what they're so excited about."

"Oh, may I see the round-up?" begged Bert,

"What is it?" asked Nan. "What's a round-up?"

Before Mr. Bobbsey could answer Mr. Dayton, the foreman, came hurrying into the room. He seemed quite excited.

"Excuse me for disturbing your breakfast," he said to Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey. "But I have some news for you. Some Indians have run off part of your cattle!"