Skip to main content

Full text of "The coming of Cassidy-and the others"

See other formats









Digitized by the Internet Arciiive 

in 2007 witii funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 


And the Others 













' % 

-«' ^ -^ 

Suddenly a rope . 

. yanked him from the saddle 
[ Page 342 ] 

Coming of Cassidy- 

And the Others 



Author of 
Hopalong Cassidy, Bar-20 Days, etc. 

Illustrations by 
Maynard Dixon 


A. C. McCLURG & CO. 



Copyright 1908 "by The Red Book Corporation 

Copyright 1911 by Field and Stream Publishing Co. 

Copyright 1912 by The Pearson Publishing Co. 

Copyright 1913 by The Pearson Publishing Co, 


A. C. McCLURG & CO. 

Published, October, 1913 

Copyrighted in Great Britain 

PBKSi or 
Thb VAii-BAtion Co. 



It was on one of my annual visits to the ranch 
that Red, whose welcome always seemed a little 
warmer than that of the others, finally took me 
back to the beginning. My friendship with the 
outfit did not begin until some years after the 
fight at Buckskin, and, while I was familiar with 
that aif air and with the history of the outfit from 
that time on, I had never seemed to make much 
headway back of that encounter. And I must 
confess that if I had depended upon the rest of 
the outfit for enlightenment I should have 
learned very httle of its earlier exploits. A 
more secretive and bashful crowd, when it came 
to their own achievements, would be hard to find. 
But Red, the big, smiling, under-foreman, at 
last completely thawed and during the last few 
weeks of my stay, told me story after story about 
the earlier days of the ranch and the parts played 
by each member of the outfit. Names that I had 




heard mentioned casually now meant something 
to me; the characters stepped out of the obscur- 
ity of the past to act their parts again. To my 
mind's eye came Jimmy Price, even more mis- 
chievous than Johnny Nelson; "Butch" Lynch 
and Charley James, who erred in judgment; the 
coming and going of Sammy Porter, and why 
"You-Bet" Somes never arrived; and others who 
did their best, or worst, and went their way. 
The tales will follow, as closely as possible, in 
chronological order. Between some of them the 
interval is short; between others, long; the less 
interesting stories that should fill those gaps may 
well be omitted. 

It was in the '70s, when the buffalo were fast 
disappearing from the state, and the hunters 
were beginning to turn to other ways of earning 
a living, that Buck Peters stopped his wagon on 
the banks of Snake Creek and built himself a 
sod dugout in the heart of a country forbidding 
and full of perils. It was said that he was only 
the agent for an eastern syndicate that, carried 
away by the prospects of the cattle industry, 



bought a "ranch," which later was found to be 
entirely strange to cattle. As a matter of fact 
there were no cows within three hundred miles 
of it, and there never had been. Somehow the 
syndicate got in touch with Buck and sent him 
out to look things over and make a report to 
them. This he did, and in his report he stated 
that the "ranch" was split in two parts by about 
forty square miles of public land, which he rec- 
ommended that he be allowed to buy according 
to his judgment. When everything was settled 
the syndicate found that they owned the west, 
and best, bank of an unfailing river and both 
banks of an unfailing creek for a distance of 
about thirty miles. The strip was not very wide 
then, but it did not need to be, for it cut off the 
back-lying range from water and rendered it 
useless to anyone but his employers. Westward 
there was no water to amount to anything for 
one hundred miles. When this had been di- 
gested thoroughly by the syndicate it caused 
Buck's next pay check to be twice the size of 
the first. 



He managed to live through the winter, and 
the following spring a herd of about two thou- 
sand or more poor cattle was delivered to him, 
and he noticed at once that fully half of them 
were unbranded; but mavericks were cows, and in 
those days it was not questionable to brand them. 
Persuading two members of the drive outfit to 
work for him he settled down to face the work 
and perils of ranching in a wild country. One 
of these two men, George Travis, did not work 
long; the other was the man who told me these 
tales. Red went back with the drive outfit, but 
in Buck's wagon, to return in four weeks with it 
heaped full of necessities, and to find that trou- 
bles already had begun. Buck's trust was not 
misplaced. It was during Red's absence that 
Bill Cassidy, later to be known by a more de- 
scriptive name, appeared upon the scene and 
played his cards. 

C. E. M. 




I The Coming of Cassidy ...»-.. 1 

II The Weasel . . • 22 

III Jimmy Price . ........ 65^ 

IV Jimmy Visits Sharpsville . . . . . . 91 

V The Luck of Fools . . . . , . .118 

VI Hopalong's Hop , « . 148 

VII " Dealing the Odd " . ^ . . . , .174 

VIII The Norther 198 

IX The Drive 223 

X The Hold-up 253 

XI Sammy Finds a Friend . . . ... . 288 

XII Sammy Knows the Game 320 

XIII His Code 352 

XIV Sammy Hunts a Job 382 

XV When Johnny Sloped ..*••.. 407 



Suddenly a rope . . , yanked him from the 

saddle Frontispiece 

There was a sharp report 39 

**It*s Injuns, close after us" 133 

Crawford's Colt tore loose from his fingers and dropped 

near the wheel of the wagon 249 

"Yo 're a liar I" rang out the vibrant voice of the cow- 
man 878 




THE trail boss shook his fist after the depart- 
ing puncher and swore softly. He hated 
to lose a man at this time and he had been a little 
reckless in threatening to "fire" him; but in a 
gun-fighting outfit there was no room for a hot- 
head. "Cimarron" was boss of the outfit that 
was driving a large herd of cattle to California, 
a feat that had been accomplished before, but 
that no man cared to attempt the second time. 
Had his soul been enriched by the gift of proph- 
ecy he would have turned back. As it was he 
returned to the work ahead of him. "Aw, let 
him go," he growled. "He 's wuss off 'n I am, 
an' he '11 find it out quick. I never did see no- 
body what got crazy mad so quick as him." 



"Bill" Cassidy, not yet of age, but a man in 
stature and strength, rode north because it prom- 
ised him civilization quicker than any other way 
except the back trail, and he was tired of the 
coast range. He had forgotten the trail-boss 
during the last tliree days of his solitary journey- 
ing and the fact that he was in the center of an 
uninhabited country nearly as large as a good- 
sized state gave him no concern ; he was equipped 
for two weeks, and fortified by youth's confi- 

All day long he rode, around mesas and 
through draws, detouring to avoid canyons and 
bearing steadily northward with a certainty that 
was a heritage. Gradually the great bulk of 
mesas swung off to the west, and to the east the 
range grew steadily more level as it swept to- 
ward the peaceful river lying in the distant 
valley like a carelessly flung rope of silver. The 
forest vegetation, so luxuriant along the rivers 
and draws a day or two before, was now rarely 
seen, while chaparrals and stunted mesquite be- 
came more common. 



He was more than twenty-five hundred feet 
above the ocean, on a great plateau broken by 
mesas that stretched away for miles in a vast sea 
of grass. There was just enough tang in the 
dry April air to make riding a pleasure and he 
did not mind the dryness of the season. Twice 
that day he detoured to ride around prairie-dog 
towns and the sight of buffalo skeletons lying in 
groups was not rare. Alert and contemptuous 
gray wolves gave him a passing glance, but the 
coyotes, slinking a little farther off, watched him 
with more interest. Occasionally he had a shot 
at antelope and once was successful. 

Warned by the gathering dusk he was casting 
about for the most favorable spot for his blan- 
ket and fire when a horseman swung into sight 
out of a draw and reined in quickly. Bill's hand 
fell carelessly to his side while he regarded the 
stranger, who spoke first, and with a restrained 
welcoming gladness in his voice. "Howd'y, 
Stranger! You plumb surprised me." 

Bill's examination told him that the other was 
stocky, compactly built, with a pleasing face and 



a ''good eye." His age was about thirty and the 
surface indications were very favorable. "Some 
surprised myself," he replied. **Ridin' my 

"Far 's th' house," smiled the other. "Better 
join us. Couple of buffalo hunters dropped in 
awhile back." 

"They '11 go a long way before they '11 find 
buffalo," Bill responded, suspiciously. Glancing 
around he readily picked out the rectangular 
blot in the valley, though it was no easy feat. 
"Huntin' or ranchin'?" he inquired in tones de- 
void of curiosity. 

"Ranchin'," smiled the other. "Hefty propo- 
sition, up here, I reckon. Th' wolves '11 walk in 
under yore nose. But I ain't seen no Injuns." 

"You will," was the calm reply. "You '11 see 
a couple, first; an' then th' whole cussed tribe. 
They ain't got no buffalo no more, neither." 

Buck glanced at him sharply and thought of 
the hunters, but he nodded. "Yes. But if that 
couple don't go back?" he asked, referring to the 



"Then you '11 save a little time." 

"Well, let 'em come. I 'm here to stay, one 
way or th' other. But, anyhow, I ain't got no 
border ruffians like they have over in th' Panhan- 
dle. They 're worse 'n Injuns." 

"Yes," agreed Bill. "Th' war ain't ended yet 
for some of them fellers. Ex-guerrillas, lots of 

When they reached the house the buffalo 
hunters were arguing about their next day's ride 
and the elder, looking up, appealed to Bill. 
"Howd'y, Stranger. Ain't come 'cross no buf- 
faler signs, hev ye?" 

Bill smiled. "Bones an' old chips. But th' 
gray wolves was headin' southwest." 

"What 'd I tell you?" triumphantly exclaimed 
the younger hunter. 

"Well, they ain't much difrence, is they?" 
growled his companion. 

Bill missed nothing the hunters said or did and 
during the silent meal had a good chance to study 
their faces. When the pipes were going and 
the supper wreck cleaned away. Buck leaned 



against the wall and looked across the room at 
the latest arrival. "Don't want a job, do you?" 
he asked. 

Bill shook his head slowly, wondering why the 
hunters had frowned at a job being offered on 
another man's ranch. "I 'm headed north. But 
I '11 give you a hand for a week if you need me," 
he offered. 

Buck smiled. *'Much obliged, friend; but 
it '11 leave me worse off than before. My other 
puncher '11 be back in a few weeks with th' sup- 
plies, but I need four men all year 'round. I 
got a thousand head to brand yet." 

The elder hunter looked up. "Drive 'em back 
to cow-country an' sell 'em, or locate there," he 

Buck's glance was as sharp as his reply, for he 
could n't believe that the hunter had so soon for- 
gotten w^hat he had been told regarding the own- 
ership of the cattle. "I don't own 'em. This 
range is bought an' paid for. I won't lay 

"I done forgot they ain't yourn," hastily re- 



plied the hunter, smiling to himself. Stolen cat- 
tle cannot go back. 

"If they was I 'd stay,'* crisply retorted Buck. 
**I ain't quittin' nothin' I starts." 

"How many '11 you have nex' spring?" 
grinned the younger hunter. He was surprised 
by the sharpness of the response. "More 'n I 've 
got now, in spite of h — !" 

Bill nodded approval. He felt a sudden, 
warm liking for this rugged man who would not 
quit in the face of such handicaps. He liked 
game men, better if they were square, and he 
believed this foreman was as square as he was 
game. "By th' Lord!" he ejaculated. "For a 
plugged peso I 'd stay with you!" 

Buck smiled warmly. "Would good money 
do? But don't you stay if you oughtn't, son." 

When the light was out Bill lay awake for a 
long time, his mind busy with his evening's ob- 
servations, and they pleased him so little that 
he did not close his eyes until assured by the 
breathing of the hunters that they were asleep. 
His Colt, which should have been hanging in its 



holster on the wall where he had left it, lay un- 
sheathed close to his thigh and he awakened fre- 
quently during the night so keyed was he for 
the slightest sound. Up first in the morning, he 
replaced the gun in its scabbard before the others 
opened their eyes, and it was not until the hunt- 
ers had ridden out of sight into the southwest 
that he entirely relaxed his vigilance. Saying 
good-by to the two cowmen was not without re- 
grets, but he shook hands heartily with them and 
swung decisively northward. 

He had been riding perhaps two hours, think- 
ing about the little ranch and the hunters, when 
he stopped suddenly on the very brink of a sheer 
drop of two hundred feet. In his abstraction 
he had ridden up the sloping southern face of 
the mesa without noticing it. *'Bet there ain't 
another like this for a hundred miles," he 
laughed, and then ceased abruptly and started 
with unbelieving eyes at the mouth of a draw not 
far away. A trotting line of gray wolves was 
emerging from it and swinging toward the south- 
west ten abreast. He had never heard of such 



a thing before and watched them in amazement. 
*'Well, I'm — !" he exclaimed, and his Colt 
flashed rapidly at the pack. Two or three 
dropped, but the trotting line only swerved a 
little without pause or a change of pace and soon 
was lost in another draw. "Why, they 're sin- 
gle hunters," he muttered. "Huh! I won't 
never tell this. I can't hardly believe it myself. 
How 'bout you, Ring-Bone?" he asked the 

Turning, he rode around a rugged pinnacle 
of rock and stopped again, gazing steadily 
along the back trail. Far away in a valley two 
black dots were crawling over a patch of sand 
and he knew them to be horsemen. His face 
slowly reddened with anger at the espionage, 
for he had not thought the cowmen could doubt 
his good will and honesty. Then suddenly he 
swore and spurred forward to cover those miles 
as speedily as possible. "Come on, ol' Ham- 
mer-Headl" he cried. "We're goin' backl" 

The hunters had finally decided they would 
ride into the southwest and had ridden off in that 



direction. But they had detoured and swung 
north to see him pass and be sure he was not in 
their way. Now, satisfied upon that point, they 
were going back to that herd of cattle, easily 
turned from skinning buffalo to cattle, and on 
a large scale. To do this they would have to 
kill two men and then, waiting for the absent 
puncher to return with the wagon, kill him and 
load down the vehicle with skins. "Like h — ^1 
they will!" he gritted. "Three or none, you 
piruts. Come on, White-Eye! Don't sleep all 
th' time; an' don't light often'r once every ten 
yards, you saddle-galled, barrel-beUied runt!" 

Into hollows, out again; shooting down steep- 
banked draws and avoiding cacti and chaparral 
with cat-like agility, the much-described little 
pony butted the wind in front and left a low- 
lying cloud of dust swirling behind as it whirred 
at top speed with choppy, tied-in stride in a 
winding circle for the humble sod hut on Snake 
Creek. The rider growled at the evident speed 
of the two men ahead, for he had not gained 
upon them despite his efforts. "If I 'm too late 



to stop it, I '11 clean th' slate, anyhow," he 
snapped. "Even if I has to ambush I Will you 
run?" he demanded, and the wild-eyed little bun- 
dle of whalebone and steel found a little more 
speed in its flashing legs. 

The rider now began to accept what cover he 
could find and when he neared the hut left the 
shelter of the last, low hill for that afforded by 
a draw leading to within a hundred yards of 
the dugout's rear wall. Dismounting, he ran 
lightly forward on foot, alert and with every 
sense strained for a warning. 

Reaching the wall he peered around the cor- 
ner and stifled an exclamation. Buck's puncher, 
a knife in his back, lay head down the sloping 
path. Placing his ear to the wall he listened 
intently for some moments and then suddenly 
caught sight of a shadow slowly creeping past 
his toes. Quickly as he sprang aside he barely 
missed the flashing knife and the bulk of the man 
behind it, whose hand, outflung to save his bal- 
ance, accidentally knocked the Colt from Bill's 
grasp and sent it spinning twenty feet away. 



Without a word they leaped together, fight- 
ing silently, both trying to gain the gun in the 
hunter's holster and trying to keep the other 
from it. Bill, forcing the fighting in hopes that 
his youth would stand a hot pace better than the 
other's years, pushed his enemy back against the 
low roof of the dugout; but as the hunter 
tripped over it and fell backward, he pulled Bill 
with him. Fighting desperately they rolled 
across the roof and dropped to the sloping earth 
at the doorway, so tightly locked in each other's 
arms that the jar did not separate them. The 
hunter, falling underneath, got the worst of the 
fall but kept on fighting. Crashing into 
the door head first, they sent it swinging back 
against the wall and followed it, bumping down 
the two steps still locked together. 

Bill possessed strength remarkable for his 
years and build and he was hard as iron; but he 
had met a man who had the sinewy strength of 
the plainsman, whose greater age was offset by 
greater weight and the youth was constantly so 
close to defeat that a single false move would 



have been fatal. But luck favored him, for as 
they surged around the room they crashed into 
the heavy table and fell with it on top of them. 
The hunter got its full weight and the gash in 
his forehead filled his eyes with blood. By a 
desperate effort he pinned Bill's arm under his 
knee and with his left hand secured a throat grip, 
but the under man wriggled furiously and 
bridged so suddenly as to throw the hunter off 
him and Bill's freed hand, crashing full into the 
other's stomach, flashed back to release the weak- 
ened throat grip and jam the tensed fingers be- 
tween his teeth, holding them there with all the 
power of his jaws. The dazed and gasping 
hunter, bending forward instinctively, felt his 
own throat seized and was dragged underneath 
his furious opponent. 

In his Berserker rage Bill had forgotten 
about the gun, his fury sweeping everything 
from him but the primal desire to kill with his 
hands, to rend and crush like an animal. He 
was brought to his senses very sharply by the 
jarring, crashing roar of the six-shooter, the 



powder blowing away part of his shirt and burn- 
ing his side. Twisting sideways he grasped the 
weapon with one hand, the wrist with the other 
and bent the gun slowly back, forcing its muz- 
zle farther and farther from him. The hunter, 
at last managing to free his left hand from the 
other's teeth, found it useless when he tried to 
release the younger man's grip of the gun; and 
the Colt, roaring again, dropped from its own- 
er's hand as he relaxed. 

The victor leaned against the wall, his breath 
coming in great, sobbing gulps, his knees sag- 
ging and his head near bursting. He reeled 
across the wrecked room, gulped down a drink 
of whisky from the bottle on the shelf and, 
stumbling, groped his way to the outer air where 
he jflung himself down on the ground, dazed and 
dizzy. When he opened his eyes the air seemed 
to be filled with flashes of fire and huge, black 
fantastic blots that changed form with great 
swiftness and the hut danced and shifted like a 
thing of life. Hot bands seemed to encircle his 
throat and the throbbing in his temples was like 



blows of a hammer. While he writhed and 
fought for breath a faint gunshot reached his 
ears and found him apathetic. But the second, 
following closely upon the first, seemed clearer 
and brought him to himself long enough to make 
him arise and stumble to his horse, and claw his 
way into the saddle. The animal, maddened by 
the steady thrust of the spurs, pitched viciously 
and bolted; but the rider had learned his art in 
the sternest school in the world, the "busting" 
corrals of the great Southwest, and he not only 
stuck to the saddle, but guided the fighting ani- 
mal through a barranca almost choked with ob- 

Stretched full length in a crevice near the top 
of a mesa lay the other hunter, his rifle trained 
on a small bowlder several hundred yards down 
and across the draw. His first shot had been an 
inexcusable blunder for a marksman like himself 
and now he had a desperate man and a very 
capable shot opposing him. If Buck could hold 
out until nightfall he could slip away in the dark- 
ness and do some stalking on his own account. 



For half an hour they had lain thus, neither 
daring to take sight. Buck could not leave the 
shelter of the bowlder because the high ground 
behind him offered no cover ; but the hunter, tir- 
ing of the fruitless wait, wriggled back into the 
crevice, arose and slipped away, intending to 
crawl to the edge of the mesa further down and 
get in a shot from a new angle before his enemy 
learned of the shift; and this shot would not be 
a blunder. He had just lowered himself down 
a steep wall when the noise of rolling pebbles 
caused him to look around, expecting to see his 
friend. Bill was just turning the corner of the 
wall and their eyes met at the same instant. 

'* 'Nds up!" snapped the youth, his Colt 
glinting as it swung up. The hunter, gripping 
the rifle firmly, looked into the angry eyes of 
the other, and slowly obeyed. Bill, watching the 
rifle intently, forthwith learned a lesson he never 
forgot: never to watch a gun, but the eyes of 
the man who has it. The left hand of the 
hunter seemed to melt into smoke, and Bill, fir- 
ing at the same instant, blundered into a hit 



when his surprise and carelessness should have 
cost him dearly. His bullet, missing its in- 
tended mark by inches, struck the still moving 
Colt of the other, knocking it into the air and 
numbing the hand that held it. A searing pain 
in his shoulder told him of the closeness of the 
call and set his lips into a thin, white line. The 
hunter, needing no words to interpret the look 
in the youth's eyes, swiftly raised his hands, 
holding the rifle high above his head, but neg- 
lected to take his finger from the trigger. 

Bill was not overlooking anything now and he 
noticed the crooked finger. "Stick th' muzzle 
up J an' pull that trigger," he commanded, 
sharply. "Now!" he grated. The report came 
crashing back from half a dozen points as he 
nodded. "Drop it, an' turn 'round." As the 
other obeyed he stepped cautiously forward, 
jammed his Colt into the hunter's back and took 
possession of a skinning knife. A few moments 
later the hunter, trussed securely by a forty-foot 
lariat, lay cursing at the foot of the rock wall. 

Bill, collecting the weapons, went off to cache 



them and then peered over the mesa's edge to 
look into the draw. A leaden splotch appeared 
on the rock almost under his nose and launched 
a crescendo scream into the sky to whine into 
silence. He ducked and leaped back, grinning 
foohshly as he realized Buck's error. Turning 
to approach the edge from another point he felt 
his sombrero jerk at his head as another bullet, 
screaming plaintively, followed the first. He 
dropped like a shot, and commented caustically 
upon his paucity of brains as he gravely exam- 
ined the hole in his head gear. "Huh!" he 
grunted. "I had a fool's luck three times in 
twenty minutes, — d — d if I 'm goin' to risk th' 
next turn. Three of 'em," he repeated. *'I 'm 
a' Injun from now on. An' that foreman shore 
can shoot!" 

He wriggled to the edge and called out, care- 
ful not to let any of his anatomy show above the 
sky-line. "Hey, Buck! I ain't no buffalo 
hunter! This is Cassidy, who you wanted to 
punch for you. Savvy?" He listened, and 
grinned at the eloquent silence. "You talk too 



rapid/' he laughed. Repeating his statements 
he listened again, with the same success. "Now 
I wonder is he stalkin' me? Hey, BucUr he 

"Stick yore hands up an' f oiler 'em with yore 
face," said Buck's voice from below. Bill raised 
his arms and slowly stood up. "Now what 'n 
blazes do yoio want?" demanded the foreman, 

"Nothin'. Just got them hunters, one of 'em 
alive. I reckoned mebby you 'd sorta like to 
know it." He paused, cogitating. "Reckon 
we better turn him loose when we gets back to 
th' hut," he suggested. "I '11 keep his guns," he 
added, grinning. 

The foreman stuck his head out in sight. 
**Well, I'm d — d!" he exclaimed, and sank 
weakly back against the bowlder. "Can you 
give me a hand?" he muttered. 

The words did not carry to the youth on the 
skyline, but he saw, understood, and, slipping 
and bumping down the steep wall with more 
speed than sense, dashed across the draw and up 



the other side. He nodded sagely as he exam- 
ined the wound and bound it carefully with the 
sleeve of his own shirt. " 'T ain't much — loss of 
blood, mostly. Yo 're better off than Travis." 

"Travis dead?" whispered Buck. "In th' 
back! Pore feller, pore feller; didn't have no 
show. Tell me about it." At the end of the 
story he nodded. "Yo 're all right, Cassidy; 
yo're a white man. He'd 'a' stood a good 
chance of gettin' me, 'cept for you." A frown 
clouded his face and he looked weakly about him 
as if for an answer to the question that bothered 
him. "Now what am I goin' to do up here with 
all these cows?" he muttered. 

Bill rolled the wounded man a cigarette and 
lit it for him, after which he fell to tossing peb- 
bles at a rock further down the hill. 

"I reckon it will be sorta tough," he replied, 
slowly. "But I sorta reckoned me an' you, an' 
that other feller, can make a big ranch out of 
yore little one. Anyhow, I '11 bet we can have 
a mighty big time tryin'. A mighty fine time. 
What you think?" 



Buck smiled weakly and shoved out his hand 
with a visible effort. **We can! Shake, Bill!*' 
he said, contentedly. 




THE winter that followed the coming of 
Bill Cassidy to the Bar-20 ranch was none 
too mild to suit the little outfit in the cabin on 
Snake Creek, but it was not severe enough to 
cause complaint and they weathered it without 
trouble to speak of. Down on the big ranges 
lying closer to the Gulf the winter was so mild 
as to seem but a brief interruption of summer. 
It was on this warm, southern range that Skinny 
Thompson, one bright day of early spring, loped 
along the trail to Scoria, where he hoped to find 
his friend. Lanky Smith, and where he deter- 
mined to put an end to certain rumors that had 
filtered down to him on the range and filled his 
days with anger. 

He was within sight of the little cow-town 
when he met Frank Lewis, but recently returned 
froni a cattle drive. Exchanging gossip of a 



harmless nature, Skinny mildly scored his miss- 
ing friend and complained about his flea-like 
ability to get scarce. Lewis, laughing, told him 
that Lanky had left town two days before bound 
north. Skinny gravely explained that he always 
had to look after his missing friend, who was 
childish, irresponsible and helpless when alone. 
Lewis laughed heartily as he pictured the absent 
puncher, and he laughed harder as he pictured 
the two together. Both lean as bean poles, 
Skinny stood six feet four, while Lanky was 
fortunate if he topped five feet by many inches. 
Also they were inseparable, which made Lewis 
ask a question, "But how does it come you ain't 
with him?" 

"Well, we was punchin' down south an' has a 
li'l run-in. When I rid in that night I found 
he had flitted. What I want to know is what 
business has he got, siftin' out Hke that an' 
makin' me chase after him?" 

"I dunno," replied Lewis, amused. "You 're 
sort of gardjean to him, hey?" 

"Well, he gets sort of homesick if I ain't with 



him, anyhow," replied Skinny, grinning broadly. 
"An' who 's goin' to look after him when I ain't 

"That puts me up a tree," replied Lewis. "I 
shore can't guess. But you two should ought to 
'a' been stuck together, like them other twins 
was. But if he 'd do a thing like that I 'd think 
you would n't waste no time on him." 

"Well, he is too ornery an' downright cussed 
for any human bein' to worry about very much, 
or 'sociate with steady an' reg'lar. Why, lookit 
him gettin' sore on me, an' for nothin'! But 
I 'm so used to bein' abused I get sort of lost 
when he ain't around." 

"Well," smiled Lewis, "he 's went up north to 
punch for Buck Peters on his li'l ranch on Snake 
Creek. If you want to go after him, this is th' 
way I told him to go," and he gave instructions 
hopelessly inadequate to anyone not a plains- 
man. ^ Skinny nodded, irritated by what he re- 
garded as the other's painful and unnecessary 
details and wheeled to ride on. He had started 
for town when Lewis stopped him with a word. 



"Hey," he called. Skinny drew rein and looked 

"Better ride in cautious like," Lewis re- 
marked, casually. "Somebody was in town 
when I left — he shore was thirsty. He ain't 
drinkin' a drop, which has riled him considerable. 

"Huh!" grunted Skinny. "Much obliged. 
That 's one of th' reasons I 'm goin' to town," 
and he started forward again, tight-lipped and 

He rode slowly into Scoria, alert, watching 
windows, doors and corners, and dismounted be- 
fore Quiggs' saloon, which was the really "high- 
toned" thirst parlor in the town. He noticed 
that the proprietor had put black shades to the 
windows and door and then, glancing quickly 
around, entered. He made straight for the par- 
tition in the rear of the building, but the pro- 
prietor's voice checked him. "You needn't 
bother. Skinny — there ain't nobody in there ; an' 
I locked th' back door an hour ago." He 
glanced around the room and added, with studied 



carelessness: "You don't want to get any reck- 
less today." He mopped the bar slowly and 
coughed apologetically. "Don't get careless." 

*'I won't — ^it 's me that 's doin' th' hunting 
today," Skinny replied, meaningly. "Him 
a-hunting for me yesterday, when he shore 
knowed I was n't in town, when he knowed he 
could n't find me ! I was getting good an' tired 
of him, an' so when Walt rode over to see me 
last night an' told me what th' coyote was doing 
yesterday, an' what he was yelling around, I 
just natchurly had to straddle leather an' come 
in. I can't let him put that onto me. Nobody 
can call me a card cheat an' a coward an' a few 
other choice things like he did without seeing me, 
an' seeing me quick. An' I shore hope he 's 
sober. Are both of 'em in town, Larry?" 

"No; only Dick. But he's making noise 
enough for two. He shore raised th' devil yes- 

"Well, I 'm goin' North trailin' Lanky, but 
before I leave I 'm shore goin' to sweeten things 
around here. If I go away without getting him 



he '11 say he scared me out, so I '11 have to do it 
when I come back, anyhow. You see, it might 
just as well be today. But th' next time I sit 
in a game with fellers that can't drop fifty dol- 
lars without saying they was cheated I '11 be a 
blamed sight bigger fool than I am right now. 
I should n't 'a' taken cards with 'em after what 
has passed. Why didn't they say they was 
cheated, then an' there, an' not wait till three 
days after I left town? All that 's bothering 
me is Sam: if I get his brother when he ain't 
around, an' then goes North, he '11 say I had to 
jump th' town to get away from him. But I '11 
stop that by giving him his chance at me when I 
get back." 

"Say, why don't you wait a day an' get 'em 
both before you go?" asked Quigg hopefully, 

**Can't : Lanky 's got two days' start on me 
an' I want to catch him soon as I can." 

"I can't get it through my head, nohow," 
Quigg remarked. "Everybody knows you play 
square. I reckon they're hard losers." 

Skinny laughed shortly: "Why, can't you 



see it? Last year I beat Dick Bradley out with 
a woman over in Ballard. Then his fool brother 
tried to cut in an' beat me out. Cards? 
•H — 1!" he snorted, walking towards the door. 
"You an' everybody else knows — " he stopped 
suddenly and jerked his gun loose as a shadow 
fell across the doorsill. Then he laughed and 
slapped the newcomer on the shoulder : "Hullo, 
Ace, my boy! You had a narrow squeak then. 
You want to make more noise when you turn cor- 
ners, unless somebody 's looking for you with a 
gun. How are you, anyhow? An' how's yore 
dad? I 've been going over to see him reg- 
ular, right along, but I 've been so busy I kept 
putting it off." 

"Dad 's better. Skinny ; an' I 'm feeling too 
good to be true. What '11 you have?" 

"Reckon it 's my treat ; you wet last th' other 
time. Ain't that right, Quigg? Shore, I 
knowed it was." 

*'A11 right, here 's luck," Ace smiled. 
"Quigg, that 's better stock ; an' would you look 
at th' style — real curtains!" 



Quigg grinned. "Got to have 'em. I 'm on 
th' sunny side of th' street." 

"I hear yo 're goin' North," Ace remarked. 

"Yes, I am; but how 'd you know about it?" 

"Why, it ain't no secret, is it?" asked Ace in 
surprise. "If it is, you must 'a' told a woman. 
I heard of it from th' crowd — everybody seems 
to know about it. Yo 're going up alone, too, 
ain't you?" 

"Well, no, it ain't no secret; an' I am going 
alone," slowly replied Skinny. "Here, have 

"All right — this is on me. Here 's more 

"Where is th' crowd?" 

"Keeping under cover for a while to give you 
plenty of elbow room," Ace replied. "He 's 
sober as a judge, Skinny, an' mad as a rattler. 
Swears he '11 kill you on sight. An' his brother 
ain't with him; if he does come in too soon I '11 
see he don't make it two to one. Good luck, an' 
so-long," he said quickly, shaking hands and 
walking towards the door. He put one hand out 



first and waved it, slowly stepping to the street 
and then walking rapidly out of sight. 

Skinny looked after him and smiled. "Larry, 
there 's a blamed fine youngster," he remarked, 
reflectively. "Well, he ought to be — he had th' 
best mother God ever put breath into," He 
thought for a moment and then went slowly 
towards the door. "I 've heard so much about 
Bradley's gun-play that I 'm some curious. 
Reckon 1 11 see if it 's all true — " and he 
had leaped through the doorway, gun in hand. 
There was no shot, no sign of his enemy. A 
group of men lounged in the door of the "hash 
house" farther down the street, all friends of his, 
and he nodded to them. One of them turned 
quickly and looked down the intersecting street, 
saying something that made his companions turn 
and look with him. The man who had been 
standing quietly by the corner saloon had dis- 
appeared. Skinny smiling knowingly, moved 
closer to Quigg's shack so as to be better able to 
see around the indicated corner, and half drew 



the Colt which he had just replaced in the hol- 
ster. As he drew even with the corner of the 
building he heard Quigg's warning shout and 
dropped instantly, a bullet singing over him and 
into a window of a near-by store. He rolled 
around the corner, scrambled to his feet and 
dashed around the rear of the saloon and the 
corral behind it, crossed the street in four bounds 
and began to work up behind the buildings on 
his enemy's side^of the street, cold with anger. 

"Pot shooting, hey I" he gritted, savagely. 

"Says I 'm a-scared to face him, an' then tries 
that. There, d — n you!" His Colt exploded 
and a piece of wood sprang from the corner 
board of Wright's store. "Missed!" he swore. 
"Anyhow, I Ve notified you, you coyote." 

He sprang forward, turned the corner of the 
store and followed it to the street. When he 
came to the street end cf the wall he leaped past 
it, his Colt preceding him. Finding no one to 
dispute with him he moved cautiously towards the 
other corner and stopped. Giving a quick 



glance around, he smiled suddenly, for the glass 
in Quigg's half -open door, with the black curtain 
behind it, made a fair mirror. He could see the 
reflection of Wright's corral and Ace leaning 
against it, ready to handle the brother if he 
should appear as a belligerent; and he could see 
along the other side of the store, where Dick 
Bradley, crouched, was half-way to the street 
and coming nearer at each slow step. 

Skinny, remembering the shot which he had 
so narrowly escaped, resolved that he wouldn't 
take chances with a man who would pot-shoot. 
He wheeled, slipped back along his side of the 
building, turned the rear corner and then, spurt- 
ing, sprang out beyond the other wall, crying: 

Bradley, startled, fired under his arm as he 
leaped aside. Turning while in the air, his half- 
raised Colt described a swift, short arc and 
roared as he alighted. As the bullet sang past 
his enemy's ear he staggered and fell, — and 
Skinny's smoking gun chocked into its holster. 



"There, you coyote!" muttered the victor. 
"Yore brother is next if he wants to take it up." 

As night fell Skinny rode into a small grove 
and prepared to camp there. Picketing his 
horse, he removed the saddle and dropped it 
where he would sleep, for a saddle makes a fair 
pillow. He threw his blanket after it and then 
started a quick, hot fire for his cofFee-making. 
While gathering fuel for it he came across a 
large log and determined to use it for his night 
fire, and for that purpose carried it back to camp 
with him. It was not long before he had re- 
duced the provisions in his saddle-bags and 
leaned back against a tree to enjoy a smoke. 
Suddenly he knocked the ashes from his pipe and 
grew thoughtful, finally slipping it into his 
pocket and getting up. 

"That coyote's brother will know I went North 
an' all about it," he muttered. "He knows I 've 
got to camp tonight an' he can foller a trail as 
good as th' next man. An' he knows I shot his 



brother. I reckon, mebby, he '11 be some sur^ 

An hour later a blanket-covered figure lay with 
its carefully covered feet to the fire, and its head, 
sheltered from the night air by a sombrero, lay 
on the saddle. A rifle barrel projected above 
the saddle, the dim flickering light of the green- 
wood fire and a stray beam or two from the moon 
glinted from its rustless surface. The fire was 
badly constructed, giving almost no light, while 
the leaves overhead shut out most of the moon- 

Thirty yards away, in another clearing, a 
horse moved about at the end of a lariat and con- 
tentedly cropped the rich grass, enjoying a good 
night's rest. An hour passed, another, and a 
third and fourth, and then the horse's ears flicked 
forward as it turned its head to see what ap- 

A crouched figure moved stealthily forward to 
the edge of the clearing, paused to read the brand 
on the animal's flank and then moved off towards 
the fitful light of the smoking fire. Closer and 



closer it drew until it made out the indistinct 
blanketed figure on the ground. A glint from 
the rifle barrel caused it to shrink back deeper 
into the shadows and raise the weapon it carried. 
For half a minute it stood thus and then, hold- 
ing back the trigger of the rifle so there would be 
no warning clicks, drew the hammer to a full 
cock and let the trigger fall into place, slowly 
moving forward all the while. A passing breeze 
fanned the fire for an instant and threw the gro- 
tesque shadow of a stump across the quiet figure 
in the clearing. 

The skulker raised his rifle and waited until he 
had figured out the exact mark and then a burst 
of fire and smoke leaped into the brush. He 
bent low to look under the smoke cloud and saw 
that the figure had not moved. Another flash 
split the night and then, assured beyond a doubt, 
he moved forward quickly. 

"First shot!" he exclaimed with satisfaction. 
"I reckons you won't do no boastin' 'bout killin' 
Dick, d — ^nyou!" 

As he was about to drop to his knees to search 



the body he started and sprang back, glancing 
fearfully around as he drew his Colt. 

"Han's up !'' came the command from the edge 
of the clearing as a man stepped into sight. "I 
reckon — " Skinny leaped aside as the other's 
gun roared out and fired from his hip ; and Sam 
Bradley plunged across the blanket-covered log 
and leaves. 

''There," Skinny soliloquized, moving for- 
ward. *'I knowed they was coyotes, both of 
'em. Knowed it all th' time." 

Two days north of Skinny on the bank of Lit- 
tle Wind River a fire was burning itself out, 
while four men lay on the sand or squatted on 
their heels and watched it contentedly. "Yes, 
I got plumb sick of that country," Lanky Smith 
was saying, **an' when Buck sent for me to go 
up an' help him out, I pulls up, an' here I am." 

"I never heard of th' Bar-20," replied a little, 
wizened man, whose eyes were so bright they 
seemed to be on fire. "Did n't know there was 
any ranches in that country." 



"Buck 's got th' only one," responded Lanky, 
packing his pipe. "He's located on Snake 
Creek, an' he 's got four thousand head. Reckon 
there ain't nobody within two hundred mile 
of him. Lewis said he 's got a fine range an' all 
th' water he can use ; but three men can't handle 
all them cows in that country, so I 'm goin' up." 

The little man's eyes seldom left Lanky's face, 
and he seemed to be studying the stranger very 
closely. When Lanky had ridden upon their 
noon-day camp the little man had not lost a 
movement that the stranger made and the other 
two, disappearing quietly, returned a little later 
and nodded reassuringly to their leader. 

The wizened leader glanced at one of his com- 
panions, but spoke to Lanky. "George, here, 
said as how they finally got Butch Lynch. You 
did n't hear nothin' about it, did you?" 

"They was a rumor down on Mesquite range 
that Butch was got. I heard his gang was wiped 
out. Well, it had to come sometime — he was 
carrpn' things with a purty high hand for a long 
time. But I 've done heard that before; more 'n 



once, too. I reckon Butch is a lil too slick to get 
hisself kUled." 

"Ever see him?" asked George carelessly. 

**Never; an' don't want to. If them fellers 
can't clean their own range an' pertect their own 
cows, I ain't got no call to edge in." 

"He 's only a couple of inches taller 'n Jim," 
observed the third man, glancing at his leader, 
"an' about th' same build. But he 's h — 1 on 
th' shoot. I saw him twice, but I was mindin' 
my own business." 

Lanky nodded at the leader. "That 'd make 
him about as tall as me. Size don't make no 
dif rence no more — King Colt makes 'em look 
all alike." 

Jim tossed away his cigarette and arose, 
stretching and grunting. "I shore ate too 
much," he complained. "Well, there 's one 
thing about yore friend's ranch: he ain't got no 
rustlers to fight, so he ain't as bad off as he might 
be. I reckon he done named that crick hisself, 
did n't he? I never heard tell of it." 

"Yes; so Lewis says. He says he 'd called it 


There was a sharp report 


Split Mesa Criqk, 'cause it empties into Mesa 
River plumb acrost from a big mesa what 's split 
in two as clean as a knife could 'a' done it." 

"The Bar-20 expectin' you?" casually asked 
Jim as he picked up his saddle. 

"Shore; they done sent for me. Me an' Buck 
is old friends. He was up in Montana ranchin' 
with a pardner, but Slippery Trendley kills his 
pardner's wife an' drove th' feller loco. Buck 
an' him hunted Slippery for two years an' finally 
drifted back south again. I dunno where 
Frenchy is. If it wasn't for me I reckon 
Buck 'd still be on th' warpath. You bet he 's 
expectin' me!" He turned and threw his saddle 
on the evil-tempered horse he rode and, cinch- 
ing deftly, slung himself up by the stirrup. As 
he struck the saddle there was a sharp report 
and he pitched off and sprawled grotesquely on 
the sand. The little man peered through the 
smoke and slid his gun back into the holster. 
He turned to his companions, who looked on idly 
and with but little interest. "Yo 're d — d 
right Butch Lynch is too slick to get killed. I 



ain't takin' no chances with nobody that rides 
over my trail these days. An', boys, I got a 
great scheme! It comes to me like a flash when 
he 's talkin'. Come on, pull out; an' don't open 
yore traps till I says so. I want to figger this 
thing out to th' last card. George, shoot his 
cayuse; an' not another sound." 

"But that's a good cayuse; worth easy — " 
"Shoot it!" shouted Jim, his eyes snapping. 
It was unnecessary to add the alternative, for 
George and his companion had great respect for 
the lightning-like, deadly-accurate gun hands. 
He started to draw, but was too late. The crash- 
ing report seemed to come from the leader's hol- 
ster, so quick had been the draw, and the horse 
sank slowly down, but unobserved. Two pairs 
of eyes asked a question of the little man and he 
sneered in reply as he lowered the gun. "It 
might 'a' been you. Hereafter do what I say. 
Now, go on ahead, an' keep quiet." 

After riding along in silence for a little while 
the leader looked at his companions and called 
one of them to him. "George, this job is too 



big for the three of us ; we can handle the ranch 
end, but not the drive. You know where Long- 
horn an' his bunch are holdin' out on th' Tortilla? 
All right ; I Ve got a proposition for 'em, an' 
you are goin' up with it. It won't take you so 
long if you wake up an' don't loaf like you have 
been. Now you hsten close, an' don't forget 
a word": and the little man shared the plan he 
had worked out, much to his companion's de- 
light. Having made the messenger repeat it, 
the little man waved him off: "Get a-goin'; 
you bust some records or I '11 bust you, savvy? 
Charley '11 wait for you at that Split Mesa that 
fool puncher was a-talkin' about. An' don't you 
ride nowheres near it goin' up — keep to th' east 
of it. So-long!" 

He watched the departing horseman swing in 
and pass Charley and saw the playful blow and 
counter. He smiled tolerantly as their words 
came back to him, George's growing fainter and 
fainter and Charley's louder and louder until 
they rang in his ears. The smile changed subtly 
and cynicism touched his face and lingered for 



a moment. 'Tine, big bodies — nothing else," 
he muttered. "Big children, with children's 
heads. A little courage, if steadied; but what a 
paucity of brains ! Good G — d, what a paucity 
of brains; what a lack of original thought!" 

Of some localities it is said their inhabitants 
do not die, but dry up and blow away; this, so 
far as appearances went, seemed true of the 
horseman who loped along the north bank of 
Snake Creek, only he had not arrived at the 
"blow away" period. No one would have 
guessed his age as forty, for his leathery, wrin- 
kled skin, thin, sun-bleached hair and wizened 
body justified a guess of sixty. A shrewd ob- 
server looking him over would find about the 
man a subtle air of potential destruction, which 
might have been caused by the way he wore his 
guns. A second look and the observer would 
turn away oppressed by a disquieting feeling that 
evaded analysis by lurking annoyingly just be- 
yond the horizon of thought. But a man strong 
in intuition would not have turned away; he 



would have backed off, alert and tense. Near- 
ing a corral which loomed up ahead, he pulled 
rein and went on at a walk, his brilliant eyes 
searching the surroundings with a thoroughness 
that missed nothing. 

Buck Peters was complaining as he loafed for 
a precious half hour in front of the corral, but 
Red Connors and Bill Cassidy, his "outfit," dis- 
cussed the low prices cattle were selling for, the 
over-stocked southern ranges and the crash that 
would come to the more heavily mortgaged 
ranches when the market broke. This was a 
golden opportunity to stock the Uttle ranch, and 
Buck was taking advantage of it. But their 
foreman persisted in telling his troubles and fi- 
nally, out of politeness, they listened. The 
burden of the foreman's plaint was the non-ap- 
pearance of one Lanky Smith, an old friend. 
When the second herd had been delivered sev- 
eral weeks before, Buck, failing to persuade one 
of the drive outfit to remain, had asked the trail 
boss to send up Lanky, and the trail boss had 



Red stretched and yawned. "Mebbjr he's 
lost th' way." 

The foreman snorted. "He can foUer a plain 
trail, can't he? An' if he can ride past Split 
Mesa, he 's a bigger fool than I ever heard of." 

*'Well, mebby he got drunk an — " 

"He don't get that drunk." Astonishment 
killed whatever else he might have said, for a 
stranger had ridden around the corral and sat 
smiling at the surprise depicted on the faces of 
the three. 

Buck and Red, too surprised to speak, smiled 
foolishly; Bill, also wordless, went upon his toes 
and tensed himself for that speed which had 
given to him hands never beaten on the draw. 
The stranger glanced at him, but saw nothing 
more than the level gaze that searched his squint- 
ing eyes for the soul back of them. The squint 
increased and he made a mental note concerning 
Bill Cassidy, which Bill Cassidy already had done 
regarding him. 

"I'm called Tom Jayne," drawled the 
stranger. "I 'm lookin' for Peters." 



*'Yes?" inquired Buck restlessly. "I 'm him." 

"Lewis sent me up to punch for you." 

"You plumb surprised us," replied Buck. 
"We don't see nobody up here." 

"Reckon not," agreed Jayne smiling. "I 
ain't been pestered a hull lot by th' inhabitants 
on my way up. I reckon there 's more buffalo 
than men in this country." 

Buck nodded. "An' blamed few buffalo, too. 
But Lewis didn't say nothin' about Lanky 
Smith, did he?" 

"Yes ; Smith, he goes up in th' Panhandle for 
to be a foreman. Lewis missed him. Th' Pan- 
handle must be purty nigh as crowded as this 
country, I reckon," he smiled. 

"Well," replied Buck, "anybody Lewis sends 
up is good enough for me. I 'm payin' forty a 
month. Some day I '11 pay more, if I 'm able 
to an' it 's earned." 

Jayne nodded. "I 'm aimin' to be here when 
th' pay is raised; an' I '11 earn it." 

"Then shake ban's with Red an' Bill, an' come 
with me," said Buck. He led the way to the 



dugout, Bill and Red looking after him and 
the little neweomjer. Red shook his head. "I 
dunno," he soliloquized, his eyes on the recruit's 
guns. They were worn low on the thighs, and 
the lower ends of the holsters were securely tied 
to the trousers. They were low enough to have 
the butts even with the swinging hands, so that 
no time would have to be wasted in reaching for 
them; and the sheaths were tied down, so they 
would not cling to the guns and come up with 
them on the draw. Bill wore his guns the same 
way for the same reasons. Red glanced at his 
friend. **He 's a queer li'l cuss. Bill," he sug- 
gested. Receiving no reply, he grinned and tried 
again. "I said as how he's a queer li'l cuss," 
Bill stirred. "Huh?" he muttered. Red 
snorted. "Why, I says he 's a drunk Injun 
mendin' socks. What in blazes you reckon I 'd 

"Oh, somethin' like that; but; you should 'a' 
said he's a — a weasel. A cold-blooded, fero- 
cious h'l rat that 'd kill for th' joy of it," and 
Bill moved leisurely to rope his horse. 



Red looked after him, cogitating deeply. 
"Cussed if I hadn't, tool An' so he's a two- 
gun man, like Bill. Wears 'em plumb low an' 
tied. Yessir, he 's a shore 'nuff weasel, all 
right." He turned and watched Bill riding 
away and he grinned as two pictures came to his 
mind. In the first he saw a youth enveloped in 
swirhng clouds of acrid smoke as two Colts 
flashed and roared with a speed incredible ; in the 
second there was no smoke, only the flashing of 
hands and the cold glitter of steel, so quick as to 
baffle the eye. And even now Bill practiced the 
draw, which pleased the foreman; cartridges were 
hard to get and cost money. Red roped his 
horse and threw on the saddle. As he swung off 
toward his section of the range he shook his head 
and scowled. 

The Weasel had the eastern section, the wild- 
est part of the ranch. It was cut and seared by 
arroyos, barrancas and draws; covered with mes- 
quite and chaparral and broken by hills and 
mesas. The cattle on it were lost in the chaotic 
roughness and heavy vegetation and only showed 



themselves when they straggled down to the river 
or the creek to drink. A thousand head were 
supposed to be under his charge, but ten times 
that number would have been but a little more 
noticeable. He quickly learned ways of riding 
from one end of the section to the other without 
showing himself to anyone who might be a hun- 
dred yards from any point of the ride ; he learned 
the best grazing portions and the safest trails 
from them to the ford opposite Split Mesa. 

He was veiy careful not to show any interest 
in Split Hill Canyon and hardly even looked at 
it for the first week ; then George returned from 
his journey and reported favorably. He also, 
with Longhorn's assistance, had picked out and 
learned a good drive route, and it was decided 
then and there to start things moving in earnest. 

There were two thousand unbranded cattle on 
the ranch, the entire second drive herd; most of 
these were on the south section under Bill Cas- 
sidy, and the remainder were along the river. 
The Weasel learned that most of Bill's cows pre- 
ferred the river to the creek and crossed his sec- 



tion to get there. That few returned was due, 
perhaps, to their preference for the eastern pas- 
ture. In a week the Weasel found the really 
good grazing portions of his section feeding 
more cows than they could keep on feeding; but 
suddenly the numbers fell to the pastures' capa- 
city, without adding a head to Bill's herd. 

Theu came a day when Red had been riding so 
near the Weasel's section that he decided to go 
on down and meet him as he rode in for dinner. 
When Red finally caught sight of him the Weasel 
was riding slowly toward the bunkhouse, buried 
in thought. When his two men had returned 
from their scouting trip and reported the best 
way to drive, his and their work had begun in 
earnest. One small herd had been driven north 
and turned over to friends not far away, who 
took charge of the herd for the rest of the drive 
while the Weasel's companions returned to Split 

Day after day he had noticed the diminishing 
number of cows on his sections, which was ideally 
created by nature to hide such a deficit, but from 



now on it would require all his cleverness and 
luck to hide the losses and he would be so busy 
shifting cattle that the rustling would have to 
ease up. One thing bothered him: Bill Cassidy 
was getting very suspicious, and he was not al- 
together satisfied that it was due to rivalry in 
gun-play. He was so deeply engrossed in this 
phase of the situation that he did not hear Red 
approaching over the soft sand and before Red 
could make his presence known something oc- 
curred that made him keep silent. 

The Weasel, jarred by his horse, which shied 
and reared with a vigor and suddenness its rider 
believed entirely unwarranted under the circum- 
stances, grabbed the reins in his left hand and 
jerked viciously, while his right, a blur of speed, 
drew and fired the heavy Colt with such deadly 
accuracy that the offending rattler's head 
dropped under its writhing, glistening coils, sev- 
ered clean. 

Red backed swiftly behind a chaparral and 

cogitated, shaking his head slowly. *Tunny how 

bashful these gun-artists are!" he muttered. 



"Now has he been layin* for big bets, or was 
he — ?" the words ceased, but the thoughts ran 
on and brought a scowl to Red*s face as he de- 
bated the question. 

• •••••• 

The following day, a little before noon, two 
men stopped with sighs of relief at the corral and 
looked around. The little man riding the horse 
smiled as he glanced at his tall companion. 
"You won't have to hoof it no more, Skinny," 
he said gladly. "It 's been a' awful experience 
for both of us, but you had th' worst end." 

"Why, you stubborn lil fool!" retorted 
Skinny. "I can walk back an' do it all over 
again!" He helped his companion down, 
stripped off the saddle and turned the animal 
loose with a resounding slap. "Huh!" he 
grunted as it kicked up its heels. "You oughta 
feel frisky, after loafin' for two weeks an' walkin' 
for another. Come on, Lanky," he said, turning. 
"There ain't nobody home, so we '11 get a fire 
goin' an' rustle chuck for all ban's." 

They entered the dugout and looked around, 



Lanky sitting down to rest. His companion 
glanced at the mussed bunks and started a fire 
to get dinner for six. "Mebby they don't ride in 
at noon," suggested the convalescent. *'Then 
we '11 eat it all," grinned the cook. "It 's comin' 
to us by this time." 

The Weasel, riding toward the rear wall of 
the dugout, increased the pace w^hen he saw the 
smoke pouring out of the chimney, but as he 
neared the hut he drew suddenly and listened, 
his expression of incredulity followed by one of 

A hearty laugh and some shouted words sent 
him spinning around and back to the chaparral. 
As soon as he dared he swung north to the creek 
and risked its quicksands to ride down its middle. 
Reaching the river he still kept to the water un- 
til he had crossed the ford and scrambled up the 
further bank to become lost in the windings of the 

Very soon after the Weasel's departure Buck 
dismounted at the corral and stopped to listen. 
'^Strangers," he muttered. "Glad they got th' 



fire goin', anyhow." Walking to the hut he en- 
tered and a yell met him at the instant recogni- 

"Hullo, Buck!" 

"Lanky!" he cried, leaping forward. 

"Easy!" cautioned the convalescent, evading 
the hand. "I 've been all shot up an' I ain't 
right yet." 

"That so! How 'd it happen?" 

"Shake han's with Skinny Thompson, my fool 
nurse," laughed Lanky. 

"I 'm a fool, all right, helpin' Aem/' grinned 
Skinny, gripping the hand. "But when I picks 
him up down in th' Li'l Wind River country I 
was a' angel. Looked after him for two weeks 
down there, an' put in another gettin' up here. 
Served him right, too, for runnin' away from 

"Little Wind River country!" exclaimed 
Buck. "Why, I thought you was a foreman in 
th' Panhandle." 

"Foreman nothin'," replied Lanky. "I was 
shot up by a li'l runt of a rustler an' left to die 



two hundred mile from nowhere. I was n't ex- 
pectin' no gun-play." 

"He 's ridin' up here," explained Skinny. 
"Meets three fellers an' gets friendly. They 
learns his business, an' drops him sudden when 
he 's mountin'. Butch Lynch did th' shootin', 
Butch got his name butcherin th' law. He 
could n't make a livin' at it. Then he got chased 
out of New Mexico for bein' mixed up in a free- 
love sect, an' pulls for Chicago. He reckoned 
he owned th' West, so he drifts down here again 
an' turns rustler. I dunno why he plugs Lanky, 
less 'n he thinks Lanky knows him an' might try 
to hand him over. I 'm honin' for to meet 

Buck looked from one to the other in amaze- 
ment, suspicion raging in his mind. *'Why, I 
heard you went to th' Panhandle!" he ejaculated. 

Skinny grinned: "A fine foreman he'd 
make, less 'n for a hawg ranch!" 

"Who told you that?" demanded Lanky, with 
sudden interest. 

"Th' feller Lewis sent up in yore place." 



"What?" shouted both in one voice, and Lanky 
gave a terse description of Butch Lynch. 
"That him?" 

"That 's him," answered Buck. "But he was 
alone. He '11 be in soon, 'long with Bill an' 
Red — which way did you come?" he demanded 
eagerly. "Why, that was through his section — 
bet he saw you an' pulled out!" 

Skinny reached for his rifle: "I'm goin' to 
see," he remarked. 

"I 'm with you," replied Buck. 

"Me, too," asserted Lanky, but he was pushed 

"You stay here," ordered Buck. "He might 
ride in. An' you 've got to send Bill an' Red 
after us." 

Lanky growled, but obeyed, and trained his 
rifle on the door. But the only man he saw was 
Red, whose exit was prompt when he had learned 
the facts. 

Down on the south section Bill, unaware of the 
trend of events, looked over the little pasture 
that nestled between the hills and wondered 



where the small herd was. Up to within the last 
few days he always had found it here, loath to 
leave the heavy grass and the trickling spring, 
and watched over by "Old Mosshead," a very 
pugnacious steer. He scowled as he looked east 
and shook his head. "Bet they 're crowdin' on 
th' Weasel's section, too. Reckon I '11 go over 
and look into it. He '11 be passin' remarks about 
th' way I ride sign." But he reached the river 
without being rewarded by the sight of many of 
the missing cows and he became pugnaciously 
inquisitive. He had searched in vain for awhile 
when he paused and glanced up the river, catch- 
ing sight of a horseman who was pushing across 
at the ford. "Now, what's th' Weasel do:n' 
over there ?" he growled. "An' what 's his hurry ? 
I never did put no trust in him an' I 'm going to 
see what 's up." 

Not far behind him a tall, lean man peered 
over the grass-fringed bank of a draw and 
watched him cross the river and disappear over 
the further bank. "Huh!" muttered Skinny, 
riding forward toward the river. ".That might 



be one of Peters' punchers; but 1 11 trail him to 
make shore." 

Down the river Red watched Bill cross the 
stream and then saw a stranger follow. "What 
th' h — ^1!" he growled, pushing on. "That's 
one of 'em trailin' Bill!" and he, in turn, forded 
the river, hot on the trail of the stranger. 

Bill finally dismounted near the mesa, pro- 
ceeded on foot to the top of the nearest rise, and 
looked down into the canyon at a point where it 
widened into a circular basin half a mile across. 
Dust was arising in thin clouds as the missing 
cows, rounded up by three men, constantly in- 
creased the rustlers' herd. To the northwest lay 
the mesa, where the canyon narrowed to wind its 
tortuous way through; to the southeast lay the 
narrow gateway, where the towering, perpendic- 
ular cliffs began to melt into the sloping sides of 
hills and changed the canyon into a swiftly 
widening valley. The sight sent the puncher 
running toward the pass, for the herd had begun 
to move toward that outlet, urged by the Weasel 
and his nervous companions. 



Back in the hills Skinny was disgusted and 
called himself names. To lose a man in less than 
a minute after trailing him for an hour was more 
than his sensitive soul could stand without pro- 
test. Bill had disappeared as completely as if 
he had taken wings and flown away. The dis- 
gusted trailer, dropping to all-fours because of 
his great height, went ahead, hoping to blunder 
upon the man he had lost. 

Back of him was Red, whose grin was not so 
much caused by Skinny's dilemna, which he had 
sensed instantly, as it was by the inartistic spec- 
tacle Skinny's mode of locomotion presented to 
the man behind. There was humor a-plenty in 
Red's make-up and the germ of mischief in his 
soul was always alert and willing; his finger 
itched to pull the trigger, and the grin spread as 
he pondered over the probable antics of the man 
ahead if he should be suddenly grazed by a bullet 
from the rear. "Bet he 'd go right up on his 
head an' kick," Red chuckled — and it took all his 
will power to keep from experimenting. Then, 
suddenly. Skinny disappeared, and Red's fretful 



nature clawed at his tropical vocabulary with 
great success. It was only too true — Skinny 
had become absolutely lost, and the angry Bar-20 
puncher crawled furiously this way and that 
without success, until Skinny gave him a hot 
clew that stung his face with grit and pebbles. 
He backed, sneezing, around a rock and wrestled 
with his dignity. Skinny, holed up not far from 
the canyon's rim, was throwing a mental fit and 
caUing himself outrageous names. *'An' he 's 
been trailin' me! H — ^1 of a fine fool I am; 
I 'm awful smart today, I am! I done gave up 
my teethin' ring too soon, I did." He paused 
and scratched his head reflectively. "Huh! 
This is some populous region, an' th' inhabitants 
have pe-culiar ways. Now I wonder who 's 
trailin' him? I 'm due to get cross-eyed if I try 
to stalk 'em both." 

A bullet, fired from an unexpected direction, 
removed the skin from the tip of Skinny's nose 
and sent a shock jarring clean through him. "Is 
that him, th' other feller, or somebody else?" he 
fretfully pondered, raising his hand to the crim- 



son spot in the center of his face. He did not 
rub it — ^he rubbed the air immediately in front of 
it, and was careful to make no mistake in dis- 
tance. The second bullet struck a rock just out- 
side the gully and caromed over his head with a 
scream of baffled rage. He shrunk, lengthwise 
and sidewise, wishing he were not so long; but he 
kept on wriggling, backward. "Not enough 
English," he muttered. "Thank th' Lord he 
can't masse!" 

The firing put a different aspect on things 
down in the basin. The Weasel crowded the 
herd into the gap too suddenly and caused a bad 
jam, while his companions, slipping away among 
the bowlders and thickets, worked swiftly but 
cautiously up the cliff by taking advantage of 
the crevices and seams that scored the wall. 
Climbing like goats, they slipped over the top 
and began a game of hide and seek over the 
bowlder-strewn, chaparral-covered plateau to 
cover the Weasel, who worked, without cover of 
any kind, in the basin. 

Red was deep in some fine calculations of an- 



gles when his sombrero slid off his head and dis- 
played a new hole, which ogled at him with 
Cyclopean ferocity. He ducked, and shattered 
all existing records for the crawl, stopping finally 
when he had covered twenty yards and collected 
many thorns and bruises. He had worked close 
to the edge of the cliff and as he turned to circle 
back of his enemy he chanced to glance over the 
rim, swore angrily and fired. The Weasel, sav- 
ing himself from being pinned under his stricken 
horse, leaped for the shelter of the cover near the 
foot of the basin's wall. Red was about to fire 
again when he swayed and slipped down behind 
a bowlder. The rustler, twenty yards away, be- 
gan to maneuver for another shot when Skinny's 
rifle cracked viciously and the cattle thief, stag- 
gering to the edge of the cliff, stumbled, fought 
for his balance, and plunged down into the basin. 
His companion, crawling swiftly toward Skin- 
ny's smoke, showed himself long enough for Red 
to swing his rifle and shoot offhand. At that mo- 
ment Skinny caught sight of him and believed he 
understood the situation. **You Conners or Cas- 



sidy?" he demanded over the sights. Red's an- 
swer made him leap forward and in a few 
moments the wounded man, bandaged and sup- 
ported by his new friend, hobbled to the rim of 
the basin in time to see the last act of the tragedy. 

The gateway, now free of cattle, lay open and 
the Weasel dashed for it in an attempt to gain 
the horses picketed on the other side. He had 
seen George plunge off the cliff and knew that 
the game was up. As he leaped from his cover 
Skinny 's head showed over the rim of the cliff 
and his bullet sang shrilly over the rustler's head. 
The second shot was closer, but before Skinny 
could try again Red's warning cry made him 
lower the rifle and stare at the gateway. 

The Weasel saw it at the same time, slowed to 
a rapid walk, but kept on for the pass, his eyes 
riveted malevolently on the youth who had sud- 
denly arisen from behind a bowlder and started to 
meet him. 

"It 's easy to get him now," growled Skinny, 
starting to raise the rifle, a picture of Lanky's 
narrow escape coming to his mind. 



'*Bill 's right in line," whispered Red, leaning 
forward tensely and robbing his other senses to 
strengthen sight. "They 're th' best in th' 
Southwest," he breathed. 

Below them Bill and the Weasel calmly ad- 
vanced, neither hurried nor touching a gun. 
Sixty yards separated them — fifty — forty — 
thirty — ''G — d A'mighty!" whispered Skinny, 
his nails cutting into his calloused palms. Red 
only quivered. Twenty-five — twenty. Then 
the Weasel slowed down, crouching a little, and 
his swinging hands kept closer to his thighs. 
Bill, though moving slowly, stood erect and did 
not change his pace. Perspiration beaded the 
faces of the watchers on the cliff and they almost 
stopped breathing. This was worse than they 
had expected — forty yards would have been close 
enough to start shooting. "It 's a pure case of 
speed now," whispered Red, suddenly under- 
standing. The promised lesson was due — the 
lesson the Weasel had promised to give Bill on 
the draw. Accuracy deliberately was being 
eliminated by that cold-blooded advance. Fif- 



teen yards — ten — eight — six— five — and a flurry 
of smoke. There had been no movement to the 
eyes of the watchers — ^just smoke, and the flat 
reports, that came to them like two beats of a 
snare drum's roll. Then they saw Bill step back 
as the Weasel pitched forward. He raised his 
eyes to meet them and nodded. "Come on, get 
th' cayuses. We gotta round up th' herd afore it 
scatters," he shouted. 

Red leaned against Skinny and laughed 
senselessly. "Ain't he a d — d fool?" 

Skinny stirred and nodded. "He shore is; 
but come on, I don't want no argument with 




ON a range far to the north, Jimmy Price, 
a youth as time measures age, followed 
the barranca's edge and whistled cheerfully. He 
had never heard of the Bar-20, and would have 
showed no interest if he had heard of it, so long 
as it lay so far away. He was abroad in search 
of adventure and work, and while his finances 
were almost at ebb tide he had youth, health, 
courage and that temperament that laughs at 
hard luck and believes in miracles. The tide was 
so low it must turn soon and work would be 
forthcoming when he needed it. Sitting in the 
saddle with characteristic erectness he loped down 
a hill and glanced at the faint trail that led into 
the hills to the west. Cogitating a moment he 
followed it and soon saw a cow, and soon after 

"I 'U round up th' ranch house, get a job for 



awhile an' then drift on south again," he thought, 
and the whistle rang out with renewed cheerful- 

He noticed that the trail kept to the low 
ground, skirting even little hills and showing 
marked preference for arroyos and draws with 
hut little regard, apparently, for direction or 
miles. He had just begun to cross a small pas- 
ture between two hills when a sharp voice asked 
a question: "Where you goin'?" 

He wheeled and saw a bewhiskered horseman 
sitting quietly behind a thicket. The stranger 
held a rifle at the ready and was examining him 
critically. "Where you goin'?" repeated the 
stranger, ominously. "An' what 's yore busi- 

Jimmy bridled at the other's impudent curi- 
osity and the tones in which it was voiced, and 
as he looked the stranger over a contemptuous 
smile flickered about his thin lips. "Why, I 'm 
goin' west, an' I 'm lookin' for th' sunset," he 
answered with an exasperating drawl, "Ain't 
seen it, have you?" 



The other's expression remained unchanged, 
as if he had not heard the flippant and pugna- 
cious answer. "Where you goin' an' what for?" 
he demanded again. 

Jimmy turned further around in the saddle 
and his eyes narrowed. "I 'm goin' to mind my 
own business, because it 's healthy," he retorted. 
"You th' President, or only a king?" he de- 
manded, sarcastically. 

"I 'm boss of Tortilla range," came the even 
reply. "You answer my question." 

"Then you can gimme a job an' save me a lot 
of fool ridin'," smiled Jimmy. "It 'U be some 
experience workin' for a sour dough as ornery 
as you are. Fifty per', an' all th' rest of it. 
Where do I eat an' sleep ?" 

The stranger gazed steadily at the cool, im- 
pudent youngster, who returned the look with an 
ironical smile. "Who sent you out here?" he 
demanded with blunt directness. 

"Nobody," smiled Jimmy. "Nobody sends 
me nowhere, never, 'less 'n I want to go. Purty 
near time to eat, ain't it?" 



"Come over here," commanded the Boss of 
Tortilla range. 

"It 's closer from you to me than from me 
to you." 

"Yo 're some sassy, now ain't you? I 've got 
a notion to drop you an' save somebody else th' 

*TIe '11 be lucky if you do, 'cause when that 
gent drifts along I 'm natchurally goin' to get 
there first. It 's been tried already." 

Anger glinted in the Boss's eyes, but slowly 
faded as a grim smile fought its way into view. 
"I 've a mind to give you a job just for th' great 
pleasure of bustin' yore spirit." 

"If yo 're bettin' on that card you wantr. to 
have a copper handy," bantered Jimmy. "It 's 
awful fatal when it 's played to win." 

"What 's yore name, you cub?" 

"Elijah — ain't I done prophesied? When do 
I start punchin' yore eight cows. Boss?" 

"Right now! I like yore infernal gall; an* 
there 's a pleasant time comin' when I starts 
again' that spirit." 



"Then my name 's Jimmy, which is enough for 
you to know. Which cow do I punch first?" 
he grinned. 

"You ride ahead along th' trail. I '11 show 
you where you eat," smiled the Boss, riding 
toward him. 

Jimmy's face took on an expression of inno- 
cence that was ludicrous. 

"I alius let age go first," he slowly responded. 
"I might get lost if I lead. I 'm plumb polite, 
I am." 

The Boss looked searchingly at him and the 
smile faded. "What you mean by that?" 

"Just what I said. I 'm plumb polite, an' 
hereby provin' it. I alius insist on bein' polite. 
Otherwise, gimme my month's pay an' I '11 
resign. But I 'm shore some puncher," he 

"I observed yore politeness. I 'm surprised 
you even know th' term. But are you shore you 
won't get lost if you f oiler me?" asked the Boss 
with great sarcasm. 

"Oh, that 's a chance I gotta take," Jimmy re- 



plied as his new employer drew up alongside. 
"Anyhow, yo 're better lookin' from behind." 

"Jimmy, my lad," observed the Boss, sorrow- 
fully shaking his head, "I shore sympaihize \^dth 
th' shortness of yore sweet, young life. Some- 
body 's natchurally goin' to spread you all over 
some dismal landscape one of these days." 

"An' he '11 be a whole lot lucky if I ain't around 
when he tries it," grinned Jimmy. "I got a' aw- 
ful temper when I 'm riled, an' I reckons that 
would rile me up quite a lot." 

The Boss laughed softly and pushed on ahead, 
Jimmy flushing a little from shame of his sus- 
picions. But a hundred yards behind him, rid- 
ing noiselessly on the sand and grass, was a man 
who had emerged from another thicket when he 
saw the Boss go ahead; and he did not for one 
instant remove his eyes from the new member of 
the outfit. Jimmy, due to an uncanny instinct, 
soon realized it, though he did not look around. 
"Huh! Reckon I 'm th' meat in this sandwich. 
Say, Boss, who's th' Injun ridin' behind me?" 

he asked. 



"That 's Longhorn. Look out or he '11 gore 
you," replied the Boss. 

" *That 'd be a bloody shame,' as th' English- 
man said. Are all his habits as pleasant an' so- 

"They 're mostly worse; he 's a two-gun man.'* 

"Now ain't that lovely! Wonder what he'd 
do if I scratch my laig sudden?" 

"Let me know ahead of time, so I can get out 
of th' way. If you do that it '11 save me fifty 
dollars an' a lot of worry." 

"Huh! I won't save it for you. But I wish 
I could get out my smokin' what 's in my hip 
pocket, without Longhorn gamblin' on th' move." 

The next day Jimmy rode the west section har- 
assed by many emotions. He was weaponless, 
much to his chagrin and rage. He rode a horse 
that was such a ludicrous excuse that it made es- 
cape out of the question, and they even locked it 
in the corral at night. He was always under the 
eyes of a man who believed him ignorant of the 
surveillance. He already knew that three dif- 
ferent brands of cattle "belonged" to the 



"ranch," and his meager experience was sufficient 
to acquaint him with a blotted brand when 
the work had been carelessly done. The Boss 
was the foreman and his outfit, so far as Jimmy 
knew, consisted of Brazo Charley and Longhorn, 
both of whom worked nights. The smiling ex- 
planation of the Boss, when Jimmy's guns had 
been locked up, he knew to be only part truth. 
"Yo 're so plumb fighty we dass n't let you have 
'em," the Boss had said. *'If we got to bust yore 
high-strung, unlovely spirit without killin' you, 
you can't have no guns. An' th' corral gate is 
shore padlocked, so keep th' cayuse I gave you." 
Jimmy, enraged, sprang forward to grab at 
his gun, but Longhorn, dexterously tripping 
him, leaned against the wall and grinned evilly 
as the angry youth scrambled to his feet. "Easy, 
Kid," remarked the gun-man, a Colt swinging 
carelessly in his hand. "You '11 get as you give," 
he grunted. "Mind yore own affairs an' work, 
an' we '11 treat you right. Otherwise — " the 
shrugging shoulders made further explanations 



Jimmy looked from one to the other and si- 
lently wheeled, gained the decrepit horse and 
rode out to his allotted range, where he saturated 
the air with impotent profanity. Chancing to 
look back he saw a steer wheel and face the south ; 
and at other times during the day he saw that re- 
peated by other cattle — nor was this the only 
signs of trailing. Having nothing to do but ride 
and observe the cattle, which showed no desire 
to stray beyond the range allotted to them, he 
observed very thoroughly; and when he rode 
back to the bunkhouse that night he had deci- 
phered the original brand on his cows and also 
the foundation for that worn by Brazo Charley's 
herd on the section next to him. "I dunno where 
mine come from, but Charley's uster belong to 
th' C I, over near Sagebinish basin. That 's a 
good hundred miles from here, too. Just wait 
till I get a gun! Trip me an' steal my guns, 
huh? If I had a good cayuse I 'd have that C 
I bunch over here right quick ! I reckon they 'd 
like to see this herd." 

When he reached the bunkhouse all traces of 



his anger had disappeared and he ate hungrily 
during the silent meal. 

When Longhorn and Brazo pushed away from 
the table Jimmy followed suit and talked pleas- 
antly of things common to cowmen, until the two 
picked up their saddles and rifles and departed 
in the direction of the corral, the Boss staying 
with Jimmy and effectually blocking the door. 
But he could not block Jimmy's hearing so easily 
and when the faint sound of hoofbeats rolled past 
the bunkhouse Jimmy knew that there were 
more than two men doing the riding. He con- 
cluded the number to be five, and perhaps six; 
but his face gave no indication of his mind's oc- 

"Play crib?" abruptly demanded the Boss, 
taking a well-worn deck of cards from a shelf. 
Jimmy nodded and the game was soon going on. 
** Seventeen," grunted the Boss, pegging slowly. 
"Pair of fools, they are," he growled. "Both 
plumb stuck on one gal an' they go courtin' to- 
gether. She reminds me of a slab of bacon, 
she 's that homely." 



Jimmy laughed at the obvious lie. "Well, a 
gal 's a gal out here," he replied. "Twenty for 
a pair," he remarked. He wondered, as he 
pegged, if it was necessary to take along an escort 
when one went courting on the Tortilla. The 
idea of Brazo and Longhorn tolerating any rival 
or any company when courting struck him as 
ludicrous. "An' which is goin' to win out, do 
you reckon?" 

"Longhorn — ^he 's bad ; an' a better gun-man. 
Twenty-three for six. Got th' other tray?" 
anxiously grinned the Boss. 

"Nothin' but an eight — that 's two for th' go. 
My crib?" 

The Boss nodded. "Ugly as blazes," he 
mused. "I would n't court her, not even in th' 
dark — huh! Fifteen two an' a pair. That's 
bad goin', very bad goin'," he sighed as he 

"But you can't tell nothin' 'bout wimmen 
from their looks," remarked Jimmy, with the 
grave assurance of a man whose experience in 
that line covered years instead of weeks. "Now 



I knowed a right purty gal once. She was 
plumb sweet an' tender an' clingin', she was. 
An' she had high ideas, she did. She went an' 
told me she w^ould n't have nothin' to do with no 
man what wasn't honest, an' all that. But 
when a feller I knowed rid in to her place one 
night she shore hid him under her bed for three 
days an' nights. He had got real popular with 
a certain posse because he was careless with a 
straight iron. Folks fairly yearned for to get 
a good look at him. They rid up to her place 
and she lied so sweet an' perfect they shore 
apologized for even botherin' her. Who 'd 'a' 
thought to look under her bed, anyhow? Some 
day he '11 go back an' natchurally run off with 
that li'l gal," He scanned his hand and reached 
for the pegs. "Got eight here," he grunted. 

The Boss regarded him closely. "She stood 
off a posse with her eyes an' mouth, eh?" 

"Didn't have to stand 'em off. They was 
plumb ashamed th' minute they saw her blushes. 
An' they was plumb sorry for her bein' even a 
li'l interested in a no-account brand-blotter like 



— him." He turned the crib over and spread 
it out with a sort of disgust. **Come purty near 
bein' somethin' in that crib," he growled. 

"An' did you know that feller?" the Boss 
asked carelessly. 

Jimmy started a little. "Why, yes; he was 
once a pal of mine. But he got so he could blot 
a brand plumb clever. Us cow-punchers shore 
like to gamble. We are plumb childish th' way 
we bust into trouble. I never seen one yet that 
was worth anythin' that would n't take 'most any 
kind of a fool chance just for th' devilment of 

The Boss ruffled his cards reflectively. "Yes; 
we are a careless breed. Sort of flighty an' 
reckless. Do you think that gal 's still in love 
with you? Wimmin' is fickle," he laughed. 

"She ain't," retorted Jimmy with spirit. 
"She 'U wait all right— for him." 

The Boss smiled cynically. "You can't hide 
it, Jimmy. Yo 're th' man what got so popular 
with th' sheriff. Ain't you?" 

Jimmy half arose, but the Boss waved him 



to be seated again. "Why, you ain't got nothin' 
to fear out here," he assured him. *'We sorta 
like fellers that '11 take a chance. I reckon we 
all have took th' short end one time or another. 
An' I got th' idea mebby yo 're worth more 'n 
fifty a month. Take any chances for a hun- 

Jimmy relaxed and grinned cheerfully. "I 
reckon I 'd do a whole lot for a hundred real dol- 
lars every month." 

*'Yo 're on, fur 's I 'm concerned. I '11 have 
to speak to th' boys about it, first. Well, I 'm 
goin' to turn in. You ride Brazo's an' yore own 
range for th' next couple of days. Gk)od night." 

Jimmy arose and sauntered carelessly to the 
door, watched the Boss enter his own house, and 
then sat down on the wash bench and gazed con- 
tentedly across the moonlit range. "Gosh," he 
laughed as he went over his story of the beauti- 
ful girl with the high ideals. "I 'm gettin' to 
be a sumptuous liar, I am. It comes so easy I 
gotta look out or I '11 get th' habit. I 'd do 
mor'n lie, too, to get my gun back, all right." 



He stretched ecstatically and then sat up 
straight. The Boss was coming toward him and 
something in his hand glittered in the soft moon- 
light as it swung back and forth. "Forget 
somethin'?" called Jimmy. 

"You better stop watchin' th' moonlight," 
laughed the Boss as he drew near, "That 's a 
bad sign — 'specially while that gal 's waitin' for 
you. Here's yore gun an' belt — I reckoned 
mebby you might need it." 

Jimmy chuckled as he took the weapon. "I 
ain't so shore 'bout needin' it, but I was plumb 
lost without it. Kept feelin' for it all th' time 
an' it was gettin' on my nerves." He weighed 
it critically and spun the cylinder, carelessly 
feeling for the lead in the chambers as the cyl- 
inder stopped. Every one was loaded and a 
thrill of fierce joy surged over him. But he was 
suspicious — the offer was too quick and trans- 
parent. Slipping on the belt he let the gun 
slide into the blackened holster and grinned up 
at the Boss. "Much obliged. It feels right, 
now." He drew the Colt again and emptied the 



cartridges into his hand. "Them 's th' only pills 
as will cure troubles a doctor can't touch," he ob- 
served, holding one up close to his face and shak- 
ing it at the smiling Boss in the way of emphasis. 
His quick ear caught the sound he strained to 
hear, the soft swish inside the shell. "Them 's 
Law in this country," he soliloquized as he slid 
the tested shell in one particular chamber and 
filled all the others. "Yessir," he remarked as 
the cylinder slowly revolved until he had counted 
the right number of clicks and knew that the 
tested shell was in the right place. "Yessir, 
them 's The Law." The soft moonlight sud- 
denly kissed the leveled barrel and showed the 
determination that marked the youthful face be- 
hind it. "An' it shore works both ways, Boss," 
he said harshly. "Put up yore paws!" 

As the Boss leaped forward the hammer fell 
and caused a faint, cap-like report. Then the 
stars streamed across Jimmy's vision and became 
blotted out by an inky-black curtain that sud- 
denly enveloped him. The Boss picked up the 
gun and, tossing it on the bench, waited 



for the prostrate youth to regain his senses. 

Jimmy stirred and looked around, his eyes 
losing their look of vacancy and slowly filling 
with murderous hatred as he saw the man above 
him and remembered what had occurred. **Sand 
sounds like powder, my youthful friend," the 
Boss was saying, "but it don't work like powder. 
I purty near swallowed yore gal story; but I 
sorta reckoned mebby I better make shore about 
you. Yo're clever, Jimmy; so clever that I 
dass n't take no chances with you. I '11 just tie 
you up till th' boys come back — we both know 
what they '11 say. I 'd 'a' done it then only I 
like you; an' I wish you had been in earnest about 
joinin' us. Now get up." 

Jimmy arose slowly and cautiously and then 
moved like a flash, only to look down the barrel 
of a Colt. His clenched hands fell to his side 
and he bowed his head ; but the Boss was too wary 
to be caught by any pretenses of a broken spirit. 
"Turn 'round an' hoi' up yore ban's," he ordered. 
"I '11 blow you apart if you even squirms." 

Jimmy obeyed, seething with impotent fury, 


but the steady pressure of the Colt on his back 
told him how useless it was to resist. Life was 
good, even a few hours of it, for in those few 
hours perhaps a chance would come to him. The 
rope that had hung on the wall passed over his 
wrists and in a few moments he was helpless. 
**Now sit down," came the order and the prisoner 
obeyed sullenly. The Boss went in the bunk- 
house and soon returned, picked up the captive 
and, carrying him to the bunk prepared for him, 
dumped him in it, tied a few more knots and, clos- 
ing the door, securely propped it shut and strode 
toward his own quarters, swearing savagely un- 
der his breath. 

An houJL^ later, while a string of horsemen rode 
along the crooked, low-lying trail across the Tor- 
tilla, plain in the moonlight, a figure at the bunk- 
house turned the corner, slipped to the door and 
carefully removed the props. 

Waiting a moment it opened the door slowly 
and slipped into die black interior, and chuckled 
at the sarcastic challenge from the bunk. 
*'Sneakin' back again, hey?" blazed Jimmy, try- 



ing in vain to bridge on his head and heels and 
turn over to face the intruder. "Turn me loose 
an' gimme a gun — I oughta have a chance !" 

''All right," said a quiet, strange voice. 
"That's what I'm here for; but don't talk so 

"Who 're you?" 

"My name 's Cassidy. I 'm from th' Bar-20, 
what owns them cows you been abusin'. Huhl 
he shore tied some knots! Wasn't takin' no 
more chances with you, all right!" 

"G'wan! He never did take none." 

"So I 've observed. Get th' blood circulatin' 
an' I '11 give you some war-medicine for that use- 
less gun of yourn what ain't sand." 

"Good for you! I'll sidle up agin' that 
shack an' fill him so full of lead he won't know 
what hit him!" 

"Well, every man does things in his own way; 
but I 've been thinkin' he oughta have a chance. 
He shore gave you some. Take it all in all, he 's 
been purty white to you, Kid. Longhorn 'd 'a' 
shot you quick tonight." 



"Yes; an' I 'm goin' to get him, too!" 

"Now you ain't got no gratitude," sighed Cas- 
sidy. "You want to hog it all. I was figgerin* 
to clean out this place by myself, but now you 
cut in an' want to freeze me out. But, Kid, 
mebby Longhorn won't come back no more. 
My outfit 's a-layin' for his li'l party. I sent 
'em down word to expect a call on our north sec- 
tion ; an' I reckon they got a purty good idea of 
th' way up here, in case they don't receive Long- 
horn an' his friends as per schedule." 

"How long you been up here?" asked Jimmy 
in surprise, pausing in his operation of starting 
his blood to circulating. 

"Long enough to know a lot about this layout. 
For instance, I know yo 're honest. That 's why 
I cut you loose tonight. You see, my friends 
might drop in here any minute an' if you was in 
bad company they might make a mistake. They 
acts some hasty, at times. I 'm also offerin' you 
a good job if you wants it. We need another 


1 'm yourn, all right. An' I reckon I will 



give th' Boss a chance. He'll be more sur- 
prised, that way." 

Cassidy nodded in the dark. "Yes, I reckon 
so; he '11 have time to wonder a h'l. Now you 
tell me how yo 're goin' at this game." 

But he didn't get a chance then, for his com- 
panion, listening intently, whistled softly and re- 
ceived an answer. In another moment the room 
was full of figures and the soft buzz of animated 
conversation held his interest. "All right," said 
a deep voice. "We '11 keep on an' get that herd 
started back at daylight. If Longhorn shows up 
you can handle him ; if you can't, there 's yore 
friend Jimmy," and the soft laugh warmed Jim- 
my's heart. "Why, Buck," rephed Jimmy's 
friend, "he 's spoke for that job already." The 
foreman turned and paused as he stood in the 
door. "Don't forget; you ain't to wait for us. 
Take Jimmy, if you wants, an' head for Ole- 
son's. I ain't shore that herd of hissn is good 
enough for us. We '11 handle this li'l drive- 
herd easy. So long." 

Red Connors stuck his head through a small 



window: "Hey, if Longhorn shows up, give 
him my compliments. I shore bungled that 

"'Tain't th' first," chuckled Cassidy. But 
Buck cut short the arguments and led the way to 
Jimmy's pasture. 

At daylight the Boss rolled out of his bunk, 
started a fire and put on a kettle of water to get 
hot. Buckling on his gun he opened the door 
and started toward the bunkhouse, where every- 
thing appeared to be as he had left it the night 

**It 's a cussed shame," he growled. "But I 
can't risk him bringin' a posse out here. What 
th' devil!" he shouted as he ducked. A bullet 
sang over his head, high above him, and he 
glanced at the bunkhouse with renewed interest. 

Having notified the Boss of his intentions and 
of the change in the situation, Jimmy walked 
around the corner of the house and sent one dan- 
gerously close to strengthen the idea that sand 
was no longer sand. But the Boss had sur- 
mised this instantly and was greatly shocked by 



such miraculous happenings on his range. He 
nodded cheerfully at the nearing youth and as 
cheerfully raised his gun. "An' he gave me a 
chance, tool He could 'a' got me easy if he 
didn't warn me! Well, here goes. Kid," he 
muttered, firing. 

Jimmy promptly replied and scored a hit. It 
was not much of a hit, but it carried reflection 
in its sting. The Boss's heart hardened as he 
flinched instinctively and he sent forth his shots 
with cool deliberation. Jimmy swayed and 
stopped, which sent the Boss forward on the 
jump. But the youth was only further proving 
his cleverness against a man whom he could not 
beat at so long a range. As the Boss stopped 
again to get the work over with, a flash of smoke 
spurted from Jimmy's hand and the rustler spun 
half way around, stumbled and fell. Jimmy 
paused in indecision, a little suspicious of the 
fall, but a noise behind him made him wheel 
around to look. 

A horseman, having topped the little hill just 
behind the bunkhouse, was racing down the slope 



as fast as his worn-out horse could carry liim, and 
in his upraised hand a Colt glittered as it swung 
down to become lost in a spurt of smoke. Long- 
horn, returning to warn his chief, felt savage 
elation at this opportunity to unload quite a 
cargo of accumulated grouches of various kinds 
and sizes, which collection he had picked up from 
the Bar-20 northward in a running fight of 
twenty miles. Only a lucky cross trail, that had 
led him off at a tangent and somehow escaped the 
eyes of his pursuers, had saved him from the fate 
of his companions. 

Jimmy swung his gun on the newcomer, but 
it only clicked, and the vexed youth darted and 
dodged and ducked with a speed and agility very 
creditable as he jammed cartridges into the 
empty chambers. Jimmy's interest in the new 
conditions made him forget that he had a gun 
and he stared in rapt and delighted anticipation 
at the cloud of dust that swirled suddenly from 
behind the corral and raced toward the dis- 
gruntled Mr. Longhorn, shouting Red's message 
as it came. 



Mr. Cassidy sat jauntily erect and guided his 
fresh, gingery mount by the pressure of cunning 
knees. The brim of his big sombrero, pinned 
back against the crown by the pressure of the 
wind, revealed the determination and optimism 
that struggled to show itself around his firmly 
set lips; his neckerchief flapped and cracked be- 
hind his head and the hairs of his snow-white goat- 
skin chaps rippled like a thing of life and caused 
Jimmy, even in his fascinated interest, to covet 

But Longhorn's soul held no reverence for 
goatskin and he cursed harder when Red's com- 
pliments struck his ear about the time one of 
Cassidy 's struck his shoulder. He was firing 
hastily against a man who shot as though the 
devil had been his teacher. The man from the 
Bar-20 used two guns and they roared like the 
roll of a drum and flashed through the heavy, 
low-lying cloud of swirling smoke like the dart- 
ing tongue of an angry snake. 

Longhorn, enveloped in the acrid smoke of 
his own gun, which wrapped him like a gaseous 



shroud, knew that his end had come. He was 
being shot to pieces by a two-gun man, the like 
of whose skill he had never before seen or heard 
of. As the last note of the short, five second, 
cracking tattoo died away Mr. Cassidy slipped 
his empty guns in their holsters and turned his 
pony's head toward the fascinated spectator, 
whose mouth offered easy entry to smoke and 
dust. As Cassidy glanced carelessly back at the 
late rustler Jimmy shut his mouth, gulped, 
opened it to speak, shut it again and cleared his 
dry throat. Looking from Cassidy to Longhorn 
and back again, he opened his mouth once more. 
"You — you^ — what'd'ju pay for them chaps?" 
he blurted, idiotically. 



BILL CAS SIDY rode slowly into Sharps- 
ville and dismounted in front of Carter's 
Emporium, nodding carelessly to the loungers 
hugging the shade of the store. "Howd'y," he 
said. "Seen anything of Jimmy Price — a kid, 
but about my height, with brown hair and a dev- 
ilish disposition?" 

Carter stretched and yawned, a signal for 
a salvo of yawns. "Nope, thank God. You 
need n't describe nothin' about that Price cub to 
none of us. We know him. He spent three 
days here about a year ago, an' th' town 's been 
sorta restin' up ever since. You don't mean for 
to tell us he 's comin' here again!" he exclaimed, 
sitting up with a jerk. 

Bill laughed at the expression. "As long as 
you yearn for him so powerful hard, why I gotta 
tell you he 's on his way, anyhow. I had to go 



east for a day's ride an' he headed this way. 
He 's to meet me here." 

Carter turned and looked at the others blankly. 
Old Dad Johnson nervously stroked his chin. 
"Well, then he '11 git here, all right," he prophe- 
sied pessimistically. "He usually gets where he 
starts for; an' I 'm plumb glad I 'm goin' on to- 

"Ha, ha!" laughed George Bruce. "So 'm I 
goin' on, by Scott!" 

Grunts and envious looks came from the group 
and Carter squirmed uneasily. "That 's just 
like you fellers, runnin' away an' leavin' me to 
face it. An' it was you fellers what played most 
of th' tricks on him last time he was here. Huh! 
now I gotta pay for 'em," he growled. 

Bill glanced over the gloomy circle and 
laughed heartily. Two faces out of seven were 
bright, Dad's particularly so. "Well, he seems 
to be quite a favorite around here," he grinned. 

Carter snorted. "Huh! Seems to be 

"He ain't exactly a favorite," muttered Daw- 



son. "He 's a — a — an event ; that 's what he is !" 

Carter nodded. "Yep; that's what he is, 
'though you just can't help likin' th' cub, he 's 
that cheerful in his devilment." 

Charley Logan stretched and yawned. 
"Didn't hear nothin' about no Injuns, did you? 
A feller rid through here yesterday an' said they 
was out again." 

Bill nodded. "Yes ; I did. An' there 's a lot 
of rumors goin' around. They 've been over in 
th' Crazy Butte country an' I heard they raided 
through th' Little Mountain Valley last week. 
Anyhow, th' Seventh is out after 'em, in four 

"Th' Seventh is a regiment," asserted George 
Bruce. "Leastawise it was when I was in it. 
It is th' best in th' Service." 

Dad snorted. "Listen to him! It was when 
he was in it! Lordy, Lordy, Lordy!" he chuck- 

"There hain't no cavalry slick enough to ketch 
Apaches," declared Hank, dogmatically. 
"Troops has too many fixin's an' sech. You 



gotta travel light an' live without eatin' an' 
drinkin' to ketch them Injuns; an' then you 
never hardly sometimes see 'em, at that." 

"Lemme tell you, Mosshead, th' Seventh can 
lick all th' Injuns ever spawned!" asserted Bruce 
with heat. *'It wiped out Black Kettle's camp, 
in th' dead of winter, too!" 

"That was Custer as did that," snorted Carter. 

"Well, he was leadin' th' Seventh, same as he 
is now!" 

Charley Logan shook his head. "We are 
talking about ketchin' 'em, not fightin' 'em. An' 
no cavalry in th' hull country can ketch 'Paches 
in this country — it 's too rough. 'Paches are 
only scarect of punchers." 

"Shore," asserted Carter. "Apaches laugh at 
troops, less 'n it 's a pitched battle, when they 
don't. Cavalry chases 'em so fur an' no farther; 
punchers chase 'em inter h — ^1, out of it an' back 

"They shore is 'lusive," cogitated Lefty Daw- 
son, carefully deluging a fly ten feet away and 
shifting his cud for another shot. "An' I, for 



one, admits I ain't hankerin' for to chase 'em 

"Wish we could get that cub Jinmiy to chase 
some," exclaimed Carter. "Afore he gits here," 
he explained, thoughtfully. 

"Oh, he 's all right. Carter," spoke up Lefty. 
"We was all of us young and playful onct." 

"But we all war n't he-devils workin' day an' 
night tryin' to make our betters miserable!" 

"Oh, he 's a good kid," remarked Dad. "I 
sorta hates to miss him. Anyhow, we got th' 
best of him, last time." 

Bill finished rolling a cigarette, lit it and 
slowly addressed them. "Well, all I got to say 
is that he suits me right plumb down to th' 
ground. Now, just lemme tell you somethin' 
about Jimmy," and he gave them the story of 
Jimmy's part in the happenings on Tortilla 
Range, to the great delight of his audience. 

"By Scott, it's just like him I" chuckled 
George Bruce. 

"That's shore Jimmy, all right," laughed 
Lefty. • 



"What did I tell you?" beamed Dad. "He 's 
a heller, he is. He 's all right!" 

"Then why don't you stay an' see him?" de- 
manded Carter. 

"I gotta go on, or I would. Yessir, I would!" 

"Reckon them Injuns won't git so fur north 
as here," suggested Carter hopefully, and hark- 
ing back to the subject which lay heaviest on his 
mind. "They 've only been here twict in ten 

"Which was twice too often," asserted Lefty. 

"Th' last time they was here," remarked Dad, 
reminiscently, "they didn't stop long; though 
where they went to I dunno. We gave 'em 
more 'n they could handle. That was th' time 
I just bought that new Sharps rifle, an' what I 
done with that gun was turrible." He paused to 
gather the facts in the right order before he told 
the story, and when he looked around again he 
flushed and swore. The audience had silently 
faded away to escape the moth-eaten story they 
knew by heart. The fact that Dad usually im- 
proved it and his part in it, each time he told it, 



did not lure them. "Cussed ingrates!" he swore, 
turning to Bill. "They 're plumb jealous 1" 

"They act like it, anyhow," agreed Bill sob- 
erly. "I 'd like to hear it, but I 'm too thirsty. 
Come in an' have one with me?" The story was 
indefinitely postponed. 

An accordion wheezed down the street and a 
mouth-organ tried desperately to join in from 
the saloon next door, but, owing to a great dif- 
ference in memory, did not harmonize. A roar 
of laughter from Dawson's, and the loud clink 
of glasses told where Dad's would-have-been 
audience then was. Carter walked around his 
counter and seated himself in his favorite place 
against the door jamb. Bill, having eluded 
Dad, sat on a keg of edibles and smoked in si- 
lence and content, occasionally slapping at the 
flies which buzzed persistently around his head. 
Knocking the ashes from the cigarette he leaned 
back lazily and looked at Carter. "Wonder 
where he is?" he muttered. 

"Huh?" grunted the proprietor, glancing 
around, "Oh, you worryin' about that yearlin'? 



Well, you need n't I Nothin* never sidetracks 

A fusillade of shots made Bill stand up, and 
Carter leaped to his feet and dashed toward the 
counter. But he paused and looked around 
foolishly. "That's his yell," he explained. 
**Didn't I tell you? He's arrove, same as us- 

The drumming of hoofs came rapidly nearer 
and heads popped out of windows and doors, 
each head flanked hy a rifle barrel. Above a 
swirling cloud of dust glinted a spurting Colt 
and thrust through the smudge was a hand wav- 
ing a strange collection of articles. 

"Hullo, Kid!" shouted Dawson. "What you 
got? See any Injuns?" 

"It 's a G-string an' a medicine-bag, by all 
that's holy!" cried Dad from the harness shop. 
"Where 'd you git 'em, Jimmy?" 

Jimmy drew rein and slid to a stand, pricking 
his nettlesome "Calico" until it pranced to suit 
him. Waving the Apache breech-cloth, the 
medicine-bag and a stocking-shaped moccasin in 



one hand, he proudly held up an old, dirty, bat- 
tered Winchester repeater in the other and 
Tvhooped a war-cry. 

"Blame my hide!" shouted Dad, running out 
into the street. "It is a Gr-string! He 's gone 
an' got one of 'em ! He 's gone an' got a 'Pache ! 
Good boy, Kid I An' how 'd you do it ?" 

Carter plodded through the dust with Bill 
close behind. ''Where 'd you do it?" demanded 
the proprietor eagerly. To Carter location 
meant more than method. He was plainiy nerv- 
ous. When he reached the crowd he, in turn, 
examined the trophies. They were genuine, and 
on the G-string was a splotch of crimson, muddy 
with dust. 

"What's in the war-bag, Kid?" demanded 
Lefty, preparing to see for himself. Jimmy 
snatched it from his hands. "You never mind 
what's in it, Freckle-face!" he snapped. 
"That 's my bag, now. Want to spoil my luck?" 

"How'd you do it?" demanded Dad breath- 

"Where 'A you do it?" snapped Carter. He 



glanced hurriedly around the horizon and re- 
peated the question with vehemence. *' Where 'd 
you get him?" 

"In th' groin, first. Then through th'— " 

"I don't mean where, I mean where — near 
here?" interrupted Carter. 

"Oh, fifteen mile east," answered Jimmy. 
"He was crawlin' down on a hunch of cattle. He 
saw me just as I saw him. But he missed an' I 
did n't," he gloated proudly. "I met a Pawnee 
scout just afterward an' he near got shot before 
he signaled. He says hell's a-poppin'. Th* 
'Paches are raidin' all over th' country, down — " 

"I knqwed it!" shouted Carter. "Yessir, I 
knowed it ! I felt it all along! Where you finds 
one you finds a bunch!" 

"We'll give 'em blazes, like th' last time!" 
cried Dad, hurrying away to the harness shop 
where he had left his rifle. 

"I 've been needin' some excitement for a long 
time," laughed Dawson. "I shore hope they 


Carter paused long enough to retort over his 



shoulder: **An' I hopes you drop dead! You 
never did have no sense! Not nohow!" 

Bill smiled at the sudden awakening and 
watched the scrambling for weapons. "Why, 
there 's enough men here to wipe out a tribe. I 
reckon we '11 stay an' see th' fun. Anyhow, it '11 
be a whole lot safer here than fightin' by ourselves 
out in th' open somewhere. What you say?" 

"You could n't drag me away from this town 
right now with a cayuse," Jimmy replied, gravely 
hanging the medicine-bag around his neck and 
then stuffing the gory G-string in the folds of the 
sUcker he carried strapped behind the cantle of 
the saddle. "We '11 see it out right here. But I 
do wish that 'Pache owned a better gun than this 
thing. It 's most f allin' apart an' ain't worth 

Bill took it and examined the rifling and the 
breech-block. He laughed as he handed it back. 
"You oughta be glad it was n't a better gun, Kid. 
I don't reckon he could put two in the same place 
at two hundred paces with this thing. I ain't 
even anxious to shoot it off on a bet." 



Jimmy gasped suddenly and grinned until the 
safety of his ears was threatened. * 'Would you 
look at Carter?" he chuckled, pointing. Bill 
turned and saw the proprietor of Carter's Em- 
porium carrying water into his store, and with a 
speed that would lead one to infer that he was 
doing it on a wager. Emerging again he saw the 
punchers looking at him and, dropping the 
buckets, he wiped his face on his sleeve and shook 
his head. *'I 'm fillin' everything," he called. 
"I reckon we better stand 'em off from my store 
• — ^th' walls are thicker." 

Bill smiled at the excuse and looked down the 
street at the adobe buildings. "What about th' 
'dobes. Carter?" he asked. The walls of some 
of them were more than two feet thick. 

Carter scowled, scratched his head and made a 
gesture of impatience. "They ain't big enough 
to hold us all," he rephed, with triumph. "This 
here store is th' best place. An', besides, it 's all 
stocked with water an' grub, an' everything." 

Jimmy nodded. "Yo 're right. Carter; it's 
th' best place." To Bill he said in an aside. 



"He 's plumb anxious to protect that shack, now 
ain't her 

Lefty Dawson came sauntering up. "Wonder 
if Carter '11 let us hold out in his store?" 

"He '11 pay you to," laughed Bill. 

"It 's loop-holed. Been so since th' last raid," 
explained Lefty. "An' it 's chock full of grub," 
he grinned. 

They heard Dad's voice around the corner. 
"Just like last time," he was saying. "We 
oughta put four men in Dick's 'dobe acrost th' 
street. Then we'd have a strategy position. 
You see — oh, hullo," he said as he rounded the 
corner ahead of George Bruce. "Who 's goin' 
on picket duty?" he demanded. 

Under the blazing sun a yeUow dog wan- 
dered aimlessly down the deserted street, his 
main interest in life centered on his skin, which he 
frequently sat down to chew. During the brief 
respites he lounged in the doors of deserted build- 
ings, frequently exploring the quiet interiors for 
food. Emerging from the "hotel" he looked 



across the street at the Emporium and barked 
tentatively at the man sitting on its flat roof. 
Wriggling apologetically, he slowly gained the 
middle of the street and then sat down to investi- 
gate a sharp attack. A can sailed out of the 
open door and a flurry of yellow streaked around 
the corner of the "hotel" and vanished. 

In the Emporium grave men played poker for 
nails, Bill Cassidy having corralled all the avail- 
able cash long before this, and conversed in low 
tones. The walls, reinforced breast high by 
boxes, barrels and bags, were divided into regular 
intervals by the open loopholes, each opening 
further indicated by a leaning rifle or two and 
generous piles of cartridges. Two tubs and half 
a dozen buckets filled with water stood in the 
center of the room, carefully covered over with 
boards and wrapping paper. Clouds of tobacco 
smoke lay in filmy stratums in the heated air and 
drifted up the resin-streaked sides of the building. 
The shimmering, gray sand stretched away in a 
glare of sunlight and seemed to writhe under the 
heated air, while droning flies flitted lazily 



through the windows and held caucuses on the 
sugar barrel. A shght, grating sound overhead 
caused several of the more irritable or energetic 
men to glance up lazily, grateful they were 
not in Hank's place. It was hot enough under 
the roof, and they stretched ecstatically as they 
thought of Hank. Three days' vigil and anxiety 
had become trying even to the most stolid. 

John Carter fretfully damned solitaire and 
pushed the cards away to pick up pencil and 
paper and figure thoughtfully. This seemed to 
furnish him with even less amusement, for he 
scowled and turned to watch the poker game. 
*'Huh," he sniffed, ''playin' poker for nails! An' 
you don't even own th' nails," he grinned face- 
tiously, and glanced around to see if his point was 
taken. He suddenly stiffened when he noticed 
the man who sat on his counter and labored 
patiently and zealously with a pocket knife. 
"Hey, you!" he exclaimed excitedly, his wrath 
quickly aroused. "Ain't you never had no bring- 
in' up ? If yo 're so plumb sot on whittlin', you 
tackle that sugar barrel!" 



Jimmy looked the barrel over critically and 
then regarded the peeved proprietor, shaking his 
head sorrowfully. "This here is a better medjum 
for the ex-position of my art," he replied gravely. 
"An' as for bringin' up, lemme observe to these 
gents here assembled that you ain't never had no 
artistic trainin'. Yore skimpy soul is dwarfed 
an' narrowed by false weights and dented 
measures. You can look a sunset in th' face an' 
not see it for countin' yore profits." Carter 
glanced instinctively at the figures as Jimmy con- 
tinued. "An' you can't see no beauty in a daisy's 
grace — ^which last is from a book. I 'm here 
carvin' th' very image of my cayuse an' givin' you 
a work of art, free an' gratis. I 'm timid an' 
sensitive, I am; an' I '11 feel hurt if — " 

"Stop that noise," snorted a man in the corner, 
turning over to try again. "Sensitive an' timid? 
Yes; as a mulel Shut up an' lemme get a little 

"A-men," sighed a poker-player. "An' let 
him sleep — ^he 's a cussed nuisance when he 's 



"Two mules," amended the dealer. "Which 
is worse than one," he added thoughtfully. 

"We oughta put four men in that 'dobe — " 
began Dad persistently. 

"An' will you shut up about that 'dobe an' yore 
four men ?" snapped Lefty. "Can't you say 
nothin' less 'n it 's about that mud hut?" 

Jimmy smiled maddeningly at the irritated 
crowd. "As I was sayin' before you all in- 
terrupted me, I '11 feel hurt — " 

"You will; an' quick !" snapped Carter. "You 
quit gougin' that counter I" 

Bill craned his neck to examine the carving, 
and forthwith held out a derisively pointing fore- 

"Cayuse?" he inquired sarcastically. "Looks 
more like th' map of th' United States, with some 
almost necessary parts missin'. Your geography 
musta been different from mine." 

The artist smiled brightly. "Here 's a man 
with imagination, th' emancipator of thought. 
It 's crude an' untrained, but it 's there. Imag- 
ination is a hopeful sign, for it is only given to 



human bein's. From this we surmise an' must 
conclude that Bill is human." 

"Will somebody be liar enough to say th' same 
of you?" politely inquired the dealer. 

*'Will you fools shut up?" demanded the man 
who would sleep. He had been on guard half 
the night. 

**But you oughta label it, Jimmy," said Bill. 
"You 've got California bulgin' too high up, an' 
Florida sticks out th' wrong way. Th' Great 
Lakes is all wrong — ^looks hke a kidney slippin' 
off of Canada. An' where 's Texas?" 

"Huh! It 'd have to be a cow to show Texas," 
grinned Dad Johnson, who, it appeared, also had 
an imagination and wanted people to know it. 

"You cuttin' in on this teet-a-teet?" demanded 
Jimmy, dodging the compliments of the sleepy 

"As a map it is no good," decided Bill de- 

"It is no map," retorted Jimmy. "I know 
where California bulges an' how Florida sticks 
out. What you call CaUfornia is th' south end 



of th' cayuse, above which I 'm goin' to put th' 

"Not if I'm man enough, you ain't!" inter- 
posed Carter, with no regard for politeness. 

*' — where I 'm goin' to put th' tail," repeated 
Jimmy. "Florida is one front laig raised off th' 
ground — " 

"Trick cayuse, by Scott!" grunted George 
Bruce. "No wonder it looks like a map." 

"Th' Great Lakes is th' saddle, an' Maine is 
where th' mane goes — Ouchr 

"Mangy pun," grinned Bill, 

"Kentucky ought to be under th' saddle," 
laughed Dad, smacking his lips. "Pass th' bot- 
tle, John." 

"You take too much an' we'll all be lU-o'- 
noise," said Charley Logan alertly. 

"Them Injuns can't come too soon to suit me/^ 
growled Fred Thomas. "Who started this, any- 

The sleepy man arose on one elbow, his eyes 
glinting. "After th' fight, you ask me th' same 
thing! Th' answer will be ME!" he snapped, 



"I 'm goin' to clean house in about two minutes, 
an' fire you all out in th' street!" 

Jimmy smiled down at him. **Well, you 
needn't be so sweepin' an' extensive in yore 
eleanin' operations," he retorted. "All you gotta 
do is go outside an' roll in th' dust like a chicken." 

The crowd roared its appreciation and the 
sleepy individual turned over again, growling 
sweeping opinions. 

"But if them Injuns are comin' I shore wish 
they 'd hurry up an' do it," asserted Dad. "I 
ought to 'a' been home three days ago." 

"Wish to G — d you was !'' came from the floor. 

Bill tossed away his half -smoked cigarette, 
Carter promptly plunging into the sugar bar- 
rel after it. "They ain't comin'," Bill as- 
serted. "Every time some drunk Injun gets in 
a fight or beats his squaw th' rumor starts. An' 
by th' time it gets to us it says that all th' Apaches 
are out follerin' old Geronimo on th' war trail. 
He can be more places at once than anybody I 
ever heard of. I 'm ridin' on tomorrow morn- 
ing, 'Paches or no 'Paches." 



"Good!" exclaimed Jimmy, glancing at Car- 
ter. "I '11 have this here carving all done by- 

There was a sudden scrambling and thumping 
overhead and hot exclamations zephyred down 
to them. Carter dashed to the door, while the 
others reached for rifles and began to take up 

"See 'em, Hank?" cried Carter anxiously. 

"See what?" came a growl from above. 

"Injuns, of course, you d — d fool!" 

"Naw," snorted Hank. "There ain't no In- 
juns out at all, not after Jimmy got that one." 

"Then what 's th' matter?" 

"My dawg's lickin' yore dawg. Sic him, 
Pete I Hi, there ! Don't you run !" 

"My dawg still gettin' licked?" grinned Car- 

"I '11 swap you," offered Hank promptly. 
"Mine can lick yourn, anyhow." 

"In a race, mebby." 

"H — ^11" growled Hank, cautiously separating 
himself from a patch of hot resin that had exuded 



generously from a pine knot. "I 'm purty nigh 
cooked an' I 'm comin' down, Injuns or no In- 
juns. If they was comin' this way they'd 'a' 
been here long afore this." 

**But that Pawnee told Price they was out," 
objected Carter. "Cassidy heard th' same thing, 
too. An' didn't Jimmy get one!" he finished 

"Th' Pawnee was drunk!" retorted Hank, col- 
lecting splinters as he slipped a little down the 
roof. "Great Mavericks! This here is awful!" 
He grabbed a protruding nail and checked him« 
self. "Price might 'a' shot a 'Pache, or he might 
not. I don't take him serious no more. An' 
that feller Cassidy can't help what scared folks 
tells him. Sufferin' toads, what a roof!" 

Carter turned and looked back in the store, 
"Jimmy, you shore they are out? An' will you 
quit cuttin' that counter !" 

Jimmy slid off the counter and closed the 
knife. "That's what th' Pawnee said. When 
I told you fellers about it, you was so plumb 
anxious to fight, an' eager to interrupt an' ask 



fool questions that I shore hated to spoil it all. 
What that scout says was that th' 'Paches was 
out raidin' down Colby way, an' was headin' 
south when last re — " 

, ''Colby r yelled Lefty Dawson, as the others 
stared foolishly. ''Colby! Why, that 's three 
hundred miles south of here! An' you let us 
make fools of ourselves for three days ! I '11 bust 
you open!" and he arose to carry out his threat. 
"Where 'd you git them trophies?" shouted Dad 
angrily. **Them was genuine !" Jimmy slipped 
through the door as Dawson leaped and he fled 
at top speed to the corral, mounted in one bound 
and dashed off a short distance. "Why, I got 
them trophies in a poker game from that same 
Pawnee scout, you Mosshead ! He could n't play 
th' game no better 'n you fellers. An' th' blood 
is snake's blood, fresh put on. You will drive 
me out of town, hey?" he jeered, and, wheeling, 
forthwith rode for his life. Back in the store 
Bill knocked aside the rifle barrel that Carter 
shoved through a loop hole. "A joke 's a joke. 
Carter," he said sternly. "You don't aim to 



hit him, but you might," and Carter, surprised at 
the strength of the twist, grinned, muttered some- 
thing and went to the door without his rifle, which 
Bill suddenly recognized. It was the weapon 
that had made up Jimmy's ^'trophies"! 

"Blame his hide!" spluttered Lefty, not know- 
ing whether to shoot or laugh. A queer noise 
behind him made him turn, a movement imitated 
by the rest. They saw Bill rolling over and over 
on the floor in an agony of mirth. One by one 
the enraged garrison caught the infection and one 
by one lay down on the floor and wept. Lefty, 
propping himself against the sugar barrel, 
swayed to and fro, senselessly gasping. "They 
alius are raidin' down Colby way! Blame my 
hide, ohj blame my hide! Ha-ha-ha! Ha-ha- 
ha! They alius are raidin' down Colby way!" 

"Three days, an' Hank on th' roof!" gurgled 
George Bruce. "Three days, by Scott!" 

"Hank on th' roof," sobbed Carter, "settin' 
on splinters an hot rosim! Whee-hee-hee ! 
Three-hee-hee days hatchin' pine knots an' 



"Gimme a drink! Gimme a drink!" whis- 
pered Dad, doubled up in a corner. "Gimme a 
ho-ho-ho!" he roared in a fresh paroxysm of 
mirth. "Lefty an' George settin' up nights 
watchin' th* shadders! Ho-ho-ho!" 

' "An' Carter boardin' us free!" yelled Baldy; 
Martin. "Oh, my G — d! He'll never get over 

"Yessir!" squeaked Dad. ''Free; an' scared 
we 'd let 'em burn his store. 'Better stand 'em 
off in my place,' he says. 'It 's full of grub,' he 
says. He-he-he !" 

"An' did you see Hank squattin' on th' roof 
like a horned toad waitin' for his dinner?" 
shouted Dickinson. "I'm goin' to die! I'm 
goin' to die!" he sobbed. 

"No sich luck!" snorted Hank belligerently. 
"I '11 skin him alive! Yessir; diver 

Carter paused in his calculations of his loss in 
food and tobacco. "Better let him alone. Hank," 
he warned earnestly. "Anyhow, we pestered 
him nigh to death las' time, an' he 's shore come 
back at us. Better let him alone!" 



Up the street Jimmy stood beside his horse 
and thumped and scratched the yellow dog until 
its rolling eyes bespoke a bliss unutterable and 
its tail could not wag because of sheer ecstasy. 

*'Purp," he said gravely, "never play jokes on 
a pore unfortunate an' git careless. Don't never 
forget it. Last time I was here they abused me 
shameful. Now that th' storm has busted an' 
this is gettin' calm-like, you an' me '11 go back 
an' get a good look at th' asylum," he suggested, 
vaulting into the saddle and starting toward the 
store. No invitation was needed because the 
dog had adopted him on the spot. And the next 
morning, when Jimmy and Bill, loaded with 
poker-gained wealth, rode out of town and 
headed south, the dog trotted along in the shadow 
made by Jimmy's horse and glanced up from 
time to time in hopeful expectancy and great 

A distant, flat pistol shot made them turn 
around in the saddle and look back. A group 
of the leading citizens of Sharpsville stood in 
front of the Emporium and waved hats in one 



last, and glad farewell. Now that Jimmy had 
left town, they altered their sudden plans and 
decided to continue to populate the town of 




' 'ip^ID you ever see a dog like Asylum?" de- 
1 3 manded Jimmy, looking fondly at the 
mongrel as they rode slowly the second day 
after leaving Sharpsville. 

Bill shook his head emphatically. "Never, 

Jimmy turned reproachfully. "Lookit how 
he 's foUered us." 

*Tollered you!' hastily corrected Bill. "He 
ought to. You feed an' scratch him, an' he '11 
go anywhere for that. But he 's big," he con- 

"Mostly wolf-hound," guessed Jimmy, 

"He looks like a wolf — God help it — at th' 
end of a hard winter." 

"Well, he ain't yourn!" 

"An' won't be, not if I can help it." 



"He ain't no good, is he?" sneered Jimmy. 

"I wouldn't say that, Kid," grunted Bill. 
"You know there 's good Injuns; but he looks 
purty healthy right now. Why did n't you call 
him Hank? They look— Good G— d!" he ex- 
claimed as he glanced through an opening in the 
hills. The ring of ashes that had been a corral 
still smoldered, and smoke arose fitfully from the 
caved-in roof of the adobe bunkhouse, whose 
beams, weakened by fire, had fallen under their 
heavy load. 

"Injuns!" whispered Jimmy. "Not gone 
long, neither. Mebby they ain't all — ain't all — " 
he faltered, thinking of what might lie under the 
roof. Bill, nodding, rode hurriedly to the ruins, 
wheeled sharply and returned, shaking his head 
slowly. There was no need to explain Apache 
methods to his companion, and he spoke of the 
Indians instead. "They split. About a dozen 
in th' big party an' about eight in th' other. It 
looks sorta serious. Kid." 

Jimmy nodded. "I reckon so. An' they 're 
usually where nobody wants 'em, anyhow, 



Would n't Sharpsville be disgusted if they went 
north? But let 's get out of here, 'less you got 
some plan to bag a couple." 

"I like you more all th' time," Bill smiled. 
*'But I ain't got no plan, except to move." 

"Now, if they ain't funny," muttered Jimmy. 
''If they only knowed what they was runnin' 

Bill turned in surprise. "I reckon I 'm easy, 
but I '11 bite: what are they runnin' into?" 

"I don't mean th' Injuns; I mean that wagon," 
replied Jimmy, nodding to a canvas-covered 
"schooner" on the opposite hill. "Come here, 
'Sylum!" he thundered. Bill wheeled, and 
smothered a curse when he saw the woman. 
"Fools!" he snarled. "Don't let her know," and 
he was galloping toward the newcomers. 

"They shore is innercent," soUloquized Jimmy, 
following. "Just like a baby chasin' a rattler 
for to play with it." 

Bill drew rein at the wagon and removed his 
sombrero. "Howd'y," he said. "Where you 
headin' for?" he asked pleasantly. 



Tom French shifted the reins. "Sharpsville. 
And where in — thunder — ^is it?" 

His brother stuck his head out through the 
opening in the canvas. "Yes; where?" 

"You see, we are lost," explained the woman, 
glancing from Bill to Jimmy, whose spectacular 
sliding stop was purely for her benefit, though 
she knew it not. "We left Logan four days ago 
and have been wandering about ever since." 

"Well, you ain't a-goin' to wander no more, 
ma'am," smiled Bill. "We 're goin' to Logan 
an' we '11 take you as far as th' Logan-Sharps- 
ville trail," he said, wondering where it was. 
"You must 'a' crossed it without knowin' it." 

"Then, thank goodness, everything is all right. 
We are very fortunate in having met you gentle- 
men and we will be very grateful to you," she 

"You bet!" exclaimed Tom. "But where is 
Sharpsville?" he persisted. 

"Sixty miles north," replied Jinmiy, making 
a great effort to stop with the reins what he was 
causing with his shielded spur. His horse could 



cavort beautifully under persuasion. * 'Logan, 
ma'am," he said, indifferent to the antics of his 
horse, "is about thirty miles east. You must 'a' 
sashayed some to get only this far in four days," 
he grinned. 

*'And we would be 'sashaying* yet, if I had n't 
found this trail," grunted Tom. There was a 
sudden disturbance behind his shoulder and the 
canvas was opened wider. ^'You found it!" 
snorted George. "You mean, I found it. 
Leave it to MoUie if I did n't! And I told you 
that you were going wrong. Didn't I?" he de- 

"Hush, George," chided his sister. 

"But did n't I? Did n't I say we should have 
followed that moth-eaten road running — er — 

"Did you?" shouted Tom, turning savagely. 
"You told me so many fool things I couldn't 
pick out those having a flicker of intelligence 
hovering around their outer edges. You drove 
two days out of the four, did n't you?" 

"Tom!" pleaded MoUie, earnestly. 



**0h, let him rave, Sis," rejoined George, and 
he turned to the punchers. "Friends, I beg thee 
to take charge of this itinerant asylum and its 
charming nurse, for the good of our being and 
the salvation of our souls. Amen." 

Tom found a weak grin. **Yes, so be it. We 
place ourselves and guide under your orders, 
though I reserve the right to beat him to a pleas- 
ing pulp when he gets sober enough to feel it. 
At present he reclines ungracefully within." 

**You mean you got a drunk guide, in there?" 
demanded Bill angrily. 

"He feels the yearning right away," observed 
George. "We '11 have to take turns thrashing 
Bacchus, I fear." 

"How long's he been that way?" demanded 

"I have n't known him long enough to answer 
that," responded Tom. "I doubt if he were ever 
really sober. He is a peripatetic distillery and 
I believe he lived on blotters even as a child. 
The first day—" 

" — ^hour," inserted George. 



" — he became anxious about the condition of 
the rear axle and examined it so frequently that 
by night he had slipped back into the Stone Age 
—he was ossified and petrified. He could 
neither see, eat nor talk. Strange creatures peo- 
pled his imagination. He shot at one before we 
could get his gun away from him, and it was our 
best skillet. How the devil he could hit it is more 
than I know. At this moment he may be flee- 
ing from green tigers." 

"Beg pardon," murmured George. "At this 
moment I have my foot on his large, unwashed 

"Why, George! You'll hurt him!" gasped 

"No such luck. He 's beyond feeling." 

"But you will! It isn't right to—" 

"Don't bother your head about him. Sis," in- 
terrupted Tom, savagely. 

"Sure," grinned George. "Save your sym- 
pathy until he gets sober. He'll need some 

"Now, George, there is no use of having an 



argument," she retorted, turning to face him. 
And as she turned Bill took quick advantage. 
One finger slipped around his scalp and ended in 
a jerky, lifting motion that was horribly sugges- 
tive. His other hand and arm swept back and 
around, the gesture taking in the hills ; and at the 
same time he nodded emphatically toward the 
rear of the wagon, where Jimmy was slowly go- 
ing. Across the faces of the brothers there 
flashed in quick succession mystification, appre- 
hensive doubt, fear and again doubt. But a sud- 
den backward jerk of Bill's head made them 
glance at the ruined 'dobe and the doubt melted 
into fear, and remained. George was the first to 
reply and he spoke to his sister. "As long as 
you fear for his facial beauty, Sis, I '11 look for 
a better place for my foot," and he disappeared 
behind the drooping canvas. Jimmy's words 
were powerful, if terse, and George returned to 
the seat a very thoughtful man. He took in- 
stant advantage of his sister's conversation with 
Bill and whispered hurriedly into his brother's 
ear. A faint furrow showed momentarily on 



Tom's forehead, but swiftly disappeared, and he 
eahnly filled his pipe as he replied. *'0h, he '11 
sober up," he said. *'We poured the last of it 
out. And I have a great deal of confidence in 
these two gentlemen." 

Bill smiled as he answered MoUie's question. 
"Yes, we did have a bad fire," he said. "It 
plumb burned us out, ma'am." 

"But how did it happen?" she insisted. 

"Yes, yes; how did it happen — I mean it hap- 
pened like this, ma'am," he floundered. "You 
see, I — ^that is, we — we had some trouble, 

"So I surmised," she pleasantly replied. "I 
presume it was a fire, was it not ?" 

Bill squirmed at the sarcasm and hesitated, but 
he was saved by Jimmy, who turned the comer 
of the wagon and swung into the breach ^vith 
promptness and assurance. "We fired a Greaser 
yesterday," he explained. "An' last night th' 
Greaser slipped back an' fired us. He got away, 
this time, ma'am; but we're shore comin' back 
for him, all right." 



"But is n't he far away by this time?" she asked 
in surprise. 

"Greasers, ma'am, is funny animals. I could 
tell you lots of funny things about 'em, if I had 
time. This particular coyote is nervy an' 
graspin', I reckon he was a heap disappointed 
when he found we got out alive, an' I reckon 
he 's in these hills waitin' for us to go to Logan 
for supplies. When we do he '11 round up th' 
cows an' run 'em off. Savvy? I means, under- 
stand?" he hurriedly explained. 

"But why don't you hunt him now?" 

Jimmy shook his head hopelessly. "You just 
don't understand Greasers, ma'am," he asserted, 
and looked around. "Does she?" he demanded. 

There was a chorus of negatives, and he con- 
tinued. "You see, he 's plannin' to steal our 


"That 's what he 's doin'," cheerfully assented 

"I believe you said that before," smiled Mol- 

"Ha, ha !" laughed Bill. "He shore did I" 



"Yes, I did!" snapped Jimmy, glaring at him. 

"Then, for goodness' sake, are you going away 
and let him do it?" demanded Mollie. 

Jimmy grinned easily, and drawled effectively. 
"We 're aimin' to stop him, ma'am. You see," 
he half whispered, whereat Bill leaned forward 
eagerly to learn the facts. "He won't show his- 
self an' we can't track him in th' hills without 
gettin' picked off at long range. It would be 
us that 'd have to do th' movin', an' that ain't 
healthy in rough country. So we starts to Lo- 
gan, but circles back an' gets him when he 's 
plumb wrapped up in them cows he 's honin' for." 

"That 's it," asserted Bill, promptly and 
proudly, Jimmy was the smoothest liar he had 
ever listened to. "An' th' plan is all Jimmy's, 
too," he enthused, truthfully. 

"Doubtless it is quite brilliant," she responded, 
"but I certainly wish I were that 'Greaser' I" 

"Sis!" exploded George, "I'm surprised!" 

"Very well; you may remain so, if you wish. 
But will someone tell me this: How can these 
gentlemen take us to Logan if they are going 



only part way and then returning after that 
dense, but lucky, 'Greaser'?" 

"I should 'a' told you, ma'am," replied Jimmy, 
*'that th' Logan-Sharpsville trail is about half 
way. We '11 put you on it an' turn back." 

The strain was telling on Bill and he raised 
his arm. "Sorry to cut off this inter estin' con- 
versation, but I reckon we better move. Jimmy, 
tie that wolf-hound to th' axle — it won't make 
him drunk — an' then go ahead an' pick a new 
trail to Logan. Keep north of th' other, an' 
stay down from sky-lines. I '11 foller back 
a ways. Get a-goin'," and he was obeyed. 

Jimmy rode a quarter of a mile in advance, 
unjustly escaping the remarks that Mollie 
was directing at him, her brothers. Bill, the dog 
and the situation in general. A backward glance 
as he left the wagon apprised him that the dan- 
gers of scouting were to be taken thankfully. 
He rode carelessly up the side of a hill and 
glanced over the top, ducked quickly and backed 
down with undignified haste. He fervently en- 
dorsed Bill's wisdom in taking a different route 



to Logan, for the Apaches certainly would strike 
the other trail and follow hard; and to have run 
into them would have been disastrous. He ap- 
proached the wagon leisurely, swept off his som- 
brero and grinned. * 'Reckon you could hit any 
game?" he inquired. The brothers nodded 
glumly. "Well, get yore guns handy." There 
was really no need for the order. "There 's lots 
of it, an' fresh meat '11 come in good. Don't 
shoot till I says so," he warned, earnestly, 

"O. K., Hawkeye," replied Tom coolly. 

"We '11 wait for the whites of their eyes, a la 
Bunker Hillf' replied George, uneasily, "before 
we wipe out the game of this large section of 
God's accusing and forgotten wilderness. Any 
hig game loose?" 

Jimmy nodded emphatically. "You bet! I 
just saw a bunch of copperhead snakes that 'd 
give you chills." The tones were very suggestive 
and George stroked his rifle nervously and felt 
little drops of cold water trickle from his arm- 
pits. Mollie instinctively drew her skirts tighter 
around her and placed her feet on the edge of 



the wagon box under the seat. **They can't 
climb into the wagon, can they?" she asked ap- 

**0h, no, ma'am," reassured Jimmy. "Any- 
how, th' dog will keep them away." He turned 
to the brothers. "I ain't shore about th' way, so 
I 'm goin' to see Bill. Wait till I come back," 
ahd he was gone. Tom gripped the reins more 
firmly and waited. Nothing short of an earth- 
quake would move that wagon until he had been 
told to drive on. George searched the surround- 
ing country with anxious eyes while his sister 
gazed fascinatedly at the ground close to the 
wagon. She suddenly had remembered that the 
dog was tied. 

Bill drummed past, waving his arm, and swept 
out of sight around a bend, the wagon lurching 
and rocking after him. Out of the little valley 
and across a rocky plateau, down into an arroyo 
and up its steep, further bank went the wagon 
at an angle that forced a scream from MoUie. 
The dog, having broken loose, ran with it, eyeing 
it suspiciously from time to time. Jeff Purdy, 



the oblivious guide, slid swiftly from the front of 
the wagon box and stopped suddenly with a 
thump against the tailboard. George, playing 
rear guard, managed to hold on and then with a 
sigh of relief sat upon the guide and jammed his 
feet against the corners of the box. 

"So he — went back for — ^his friend to — find 
the way!" gasped MoUie in jerks. "What a pity 
— he did — it. I could — do better myself. I 'm 
being jolted — into a thousand — pieces!" Her 
hair, loosening more with each jolt, uncoiled and 
streamed behind her in a glorious flame of gold. 
Suddenly the wagon stopped so quickly that she 
gasped in dismay and almost left the seat. Then 
she screamed and jumped for the dashboard. 
But it was only Mr. Purdy sliding back again. 

Before them was the perpendicular wall of a 
mesa and another lay several hundred yards 
away. Bill, careful of where he walked, led the 
horses past a bowlder until the seat was even with 
it. "Step on nothing but rock," he quietly 
ordered, and had lifted MoUie in his arms before 
she knew it. Despite her protests he swiftly 


'It's Injuns, close after us" 


carried her to the wall and then slowly up its 
scored face to a ledge that lay half way to the 
top. Back of the ledge was a horizontal fissure 
that was almost screened from the sight of any- 
one below. Gaining the cave, he lowered 
her gently to the floor and stood up. *'Do not 
move," he ordered. 

Her face was crimson, streaked with white 
lahes of anger and her eyes snapped. "What 
does this mean?" she demanded. 

He looked at her a moment, considering. 
"Ma'am, I was n't goin' to tell you till I had to. 
But it don't make no difference now. It's 
Injuns, close after us. Don't show yoreself." 

She regarded him calmly. "I beg your pardon 
— if I had only known — is there great danger?" 

He nodded. "If you show yoreself. There 's 
alius danger with Injuns, ma'am." 

She pushed the hair back from her face. "My 
brothers ? Are they coming up ?" 

Her courage set him afire with rage for the 
Apaches, but he replied calmly. "Yes. Mebby 
th' Injuns won't know yo 're here, Ma'am. Me 



an' Jimmy '11 try to lead 'em past. Just lay low 
an' don't make no noise." 

Her eyes glowed suddenly as she realized what 
he would try to do. **But yourself, and Jimmy? 
Would n't it be better to stay up here?" 

"Yo 're a thoroughbred, ma'am," he replied in 
a low voice. "Me an' Jimmy has staked our lives 
more 'n onct out of pure devilment, with nothin' 
to gain. I reckon we got a reason this time, th' 
best we ever had. I 'm most proud, ma'am, to 
play my cards as I get them." He bent swiftly 
and touched her head, and was gone. 

Meeting the brothers as they toiled up with 
supplies, he gave them a few terse orders and 
went on. Taking a handful of sand from behind 
a bowlder and scattering it with judicious care, 
he climbed to the wagon seat and waited, glancing 
back at the faint line that marked the arroyo's 
rim. In a few minutes a figure popped over it 
and whirled toward him in a high-flung, swirling 
cloud of dust. Overtaking the lurching wagon, 
Jimmy shouted a query and kept on, his pony 
picking its way with the agility and certainty of 



a mountain cat. The wagon, lurching this way 
and that, first on the wheels of one side and then 
on those of the other, bouncing and jumping at 
such speed that it was a miracle it was not 
smashed to splinters, careened after the hard-rid- 
ing horseman. A rifle bounced over the tail- 
board, followed swiftly by a box of cartridges and 
an ebony-backed mirror, which settled on its back 
and glared into the sky like an angry Cyclops. 

Mr. Purdy, bruised from head to foot and 
rapidly getting sober, emitted language in jerks 
and grabbed at the tailboard as the wagon box 
dropped two feet, leaving him in the air. But it 
met him half way and jolted him almost to the 
canvas top. He slid against the side and then 
jammed against the tailboard again and reached 
for it in desperation. Another drop in the trail 
made him miss it, and as the wagon arose again 
like a steel spring Mr. Purdy, wondering what 
caused all the earthquakes, arose on his hands and 
knees in the dust and spat angrily after the ca- 
reening vehicle. He scrambled unsteadily to his 
feet and shook eager fists after the four-wheeled 



jumping- jack, and gave the Recording Angel 
great anguish of mind and writer's cramp. 
Pausing as he caught sight of the objects on the 
ground, he stared at them thoughtfully. He had 
seen many things during the past few days and 
was not to be fooled again. He looked at the 
sky, and back to the rifle. Then he examined 
the mesa wall, and quickly looked back at the 
weapon. It was still there and had not moved. 
He closed his eyes and opened them suddenly and 
grunted. "Huh, bet a ten spot it 's real." He 
approached it cautiously, ready to pounce on it 
if it moved, but it did not and he picked it up. 
Seeing the cartridges, he secured them and then 
gasped with fear at the glaring mirror. After a 
moment's thought he grabbed at it and put it in 
his pocket just before a sudden, swirling cloud 
of dust drove him, choking and gasping, to seek 
the shelter of the bowlders close to the wall. 
When he raised his head again and looked out 
he caught sight of a sudden movement in 
the open, and promptly ducked, and swore. 
Apaches! Twelve of them! 



He had seen strange things during the last few 
days, and just because the rifle and other objects 
had turned out to be real was no reason that he 
should absolutely trust his eyes in this particular 
instance. There was a limit, which in this case 
was Apaches in full war dress ; so he arose swag- 
geringly and fired at the last, and saw the third 
from the last slide limply from his horse. As 
the rest paused and half of them wheeled and 
started back he rubbed his eyes in amazement, 
damned himself for a fool and sprinted for 
the mesa wall, up which he climbed with the 
frantic speed of fear. He was favored by 
the proverbial luck of fools and squirmed over 
a wide ledge without being hit. There was but 
one way to get him and he knew he could pick 
them off as fast as they showed above the rim. 
He rolled over and a look of mystification crept 
across his face. Digging into his pockets to see 
what the bumps were, he produced the mirror and 
a flask. The former he placed carelessly against 
the wall and the latter he raised hastily to his lips. 
The mirror glared out over the plain, its rays 



constantly interrupted by Mr. Purdy's cautious 
movements as he settled himself more comfortably 
for defense. 

A bullet screamed up the face of the wall and 
he flattened, intently watching the rim. Chanc- 
ing to glance over the plain, he noticed that the 
wagon was still moving, but slowly, while far to 
the south two horsemen galloped back toward the 
mesa on a wide circle, six Apaches tearing to 
intercept them before they could gain cover. "I 
was shore wise to leave th' schooner," he grinned. 
"I alius know when to jump," he said, and then 
swung the rifle toward the rim as a faint sound 
reached his ears. Its smoke blotted out the 
piercing black eyes that looked for an instant 
over the edge and found eternity, and Mr. Purdy 
grinned when the sound of impact floated up 
from below. **They won't try that no more," he 
grunted, and forthwith dozed in a drunken 
stupor. A sober man might have been tempted 
to try a shot over the rim, and would have been 
dead before he could have pulled the trigger. 
Mr. Purdy was again favored by luck, 



Leaving two braves to watch him, the other 
two searched for a better way up the wall. 

The race over the plain was interesting but not 
deadly or very dangerous for Bill and Jimmy. 
Armed with Winchesters and wornout Spencer 
carbines and not able to get close to the two 
punchers, the Apaches did no harm, and suffered 
because of Mr. Cassidy's use of a new, long-range 
Sharps. "You alius want to keep Injuns on 
long range, Kid," Bill remarked as another fell 
from its horse. The shot was a lucky one, but 

just as effective. "They ain't worth a d ^n 

figurin' windage an' th' drift of a fast-movin' 
target, 'specially when it 's goin' over ground like 
this. It 's a white man's weapon, Jimmy. 
Them repeaters ain't no good for over five hun- 
dred; they don't use enough powder. An' I 
reckon them Spencers was wore out long ago. 
They ain't even shootin' close." He whirled past 
the projecting spur of the mesa and leaped from 
his horse, Jimmy following quickly. Three hun- 
dred yards down the canyon two Apaches 
showed themselves for a moment as they squirmed 



around a projection high up on the wall and not 
more than ten feet below the ledge. The expres- 
sions which they carried into eternity were those 
of great surprise. The two who kept Mr. Purdy 
treed on his ledge saw their friends fall, and 
squirmed swiftly toward their horses. It could 
only be cowpunchers entering the canyon at the 
other end and they preferred the company of 
their friends until they could determine numbers. 
When half way to the animals they changed their 
minds and crept toward the scene of action. Mr. 
Purdy, feeling for his flask, knocked it over the 
ledge and looked over after it in angry dismay. 
Then he shouted and pointed down. Bill and 
Jimmy stared for a moment, nodded emphat- 
ically, and separated hastily. Mr. Purdy ducked 
and hugged the ledge with renewed affec- 
tion. Glancing around, he was almost blinded 
by the mirror and threw it angrily into the can- 
yon, and then rubbed his eyes again. Far away 
on the plain was a moving blot which he believed 
to be horsemen. He fired his rifle into the air 
on a chance and turned again to the events taking 



place close at hand. **Other way, Hombrel" he 
warned, and Jimmy, obeying, came upon the 
Apache from the rear, and saved Bill's life. At 
hide and seek among rocks the Apache has no 
equal, but here they did not have a chance with 
Mr. Purdy calUng the moves in a language they 
did not well understand. A bird's-eye view is a 
distinct asset and Mr. Purdy was playing his 
novel game with delighted interest and a plains- 
man's instinct. Consumed with rage, the re- 
maining Indian whirled around and sent the 
guide reeling against the wall and then down in a 
limp heap. But Bill paid the debt and continued 
to worm among the rocks. 

There was a sudden report to the westward and 
Jimmy staggered and dived behind a bowlder. 
The other four, having discovered the trick that 
had been played upon them on the other side of 
the mesa, were anxious to pay for it. Bill 
hurriedly crawled to Jimmy's side as the youth 
brushed the blood out of his eyes and picked up 
his rifle. "It 's th' others, Kid," said Bill. "An' 
they 're gettin' close. Don't move an inch, for 



this is their game." A roar above him made 
him glance upward and swear angrily. "Now 
they Ve gone an' done it ! After all we 've done 
to hide 'em!" Another shot from the ledge and 
a hot, answering fire broke out from below. *'My 
G — d!" said a voice, weakly. Bill shook his 
head. ''That was Tom," he muttered. "Come 
on. Kid," he growled. "We got to drive 'em out, 
d — n it!" They were too interested in picking 
their way in the direction of the Apaches to 
glance at Mr. Purdy's elevated perch or they 
would have seen him on his knees at the very 
edge making frantic motions with his one good 
arm. He was facing the east and the plain. 
Beaming with joy, he waved his arm toward Bill 
and Jimmy, shouted instructions in a weak voice, 
that barely carried to the canyon floor, and col- 
lapsed, his duty done. 

Bill was surprised fifteen minutes later to hear 
strange voices calling to him from the rear and 
he turned like a flash, his Colt swinging first. 
"Well, I 'm d — d!" he ejaculated. Four punch- 



ers were crawling toward him. *'Glad to see 
you," he said, foolishly. 

"I reckon so," came the smiling reply. "That 
lookin' glass of yourn shore bothered us. We 
could n't read it, but we did n't have to. Where 
are they?" 

"Plumb ahead, som'ers. Four of 'em," Bill 
replied. "There 's two tenderfeet up on that 
ledge, with their sister. We was gettin' plumb 
\i^orried for 'em." 

"Not them as hired Whiskey Jeff for to guide 
'em?" asked Dickinson, the leader. 

"Th' same. But how 'n h — 1 did Logan ever 
come to let 'em start?" demanded Bill, angrily. 

"We did n't pay no attention to th' rumors that 
has been flyin' around for th' last two months. 
Nobody had seen no signs of 'em," answered the 
Logan man. "We didn't reckon there was no 
danger till last night, when we learned they 
had n't showed up in Sharpsville, nor been seen 
anywheres near th' trail. Then we remembers 
Jeff's habits, an', while we debates it, we gets 



wora that th' Injuns was seen north of Cook's 
ranch yesterday. We moves sudden. Here 
comes th' boys back — I reckon th' job 's done. 
They 're a fine crowd, a'right. You should 'a' 
seen 'em cut loose an' raise th' dust when we saw 
that lookin' glass a-winkin'. We could n't read 
it none, but we did n't have to. We just cut 

**Lookin' glass!" exclaimed Bill, staring. 
*'That 's twice you 've mentioned it. What 
glass? We didn't have no lookin' glass, no- 

"Well, Whiskey Jeff had one, a'right. An' 
he shore keeps her a-talkin', too. Ain't it a 
cussed funny thing that a feller that 's got a hard- 
boiled face like his'n would go an' tote a lookin' 
glass around with him? We never done reck- 
oned he was that vain." 

Bill shook his head and gave it up. He 
glanced above him at the ledge and started for it 
as Jimmy pushed up to him through the little 
crowd. "Hello, Kid," Bill smiled. "Come on up 
an' help me get her down," he invited. Jimmy 



shook his head and refused. "Ah, what 's th' use? 
She 'II only gimme h — I for handin' her that 
blamed Greaser lie," he snapped. "An' you can 
do it alone — didn't you tote her up th' cussed 
wall?" It had been a long-range view, but 
Jimmy had seen it, just the same, and resented it. 

Bill turned and looked at him. "Well, I 'm 
cussed!" he muttered, and forthwith climbed the 
wall. A few minutes later he stuck his head over 
the rim of the ledge and looked down upon a 
good-natured crowd that lounged in the shadow 
of the wall and told each other all about it. 
Jimmy was the important center of interest and 
he was flushed with pride. It would take a great 
deal to make him cut short his hour of triumph 
and take him away from the admiring circle that 
hedged him in and listened intently to his words. 
"Yessir, by G — d," he was saying, "just then 
I looks over th' top of a li'l hill an' what I sees 
makes me duck a-plenty. There was a dozen of 
'em, stringin' south. I knowed they 'd shore hit 

"Hey, Kid," said a humorous voice from above. 



Jimmy glanced up, vexed at the interruption. 
"Well, what?" he growled. Bill grinned down 
at him in a manner that bid fair to destroy the 
dignity that Jimmy had striven so hard to build 
up. *'She says all right for you. She 's done 
let you down easy for that whoppin' big Greaser 
lie you went an' spun her. She wants to know 
ain't you comin' up so she can talk to you? How 
about it?" 

"Go on. Kid," urged a low and friendly voice 
at his elbow. 

"Betcha!" grinned another. "Wish it was 
me ! I done seen her in Logan," 

Jimmy loosed a throbbing phrase, but obeyed, 
whereat Bill withdrew his grinning face from the 
sight of the grinning faces below. "He 's comin' 
ma'am; but he's shore plumb bashful." He 
looked down the canyon and laughed. "There 
they go to get Purdy off 'n his perch. I 'm 
natchurally goin' to lick anybody as tries to thrash 
that man," he muttered, glancing at George as he 
passed Jimmy on the ledge. George grinned 
and shook his head. "I 'm going to give him the 



spree of his sinful, long life," he promised, 

Far to the west, silhouetted for a moment 
against the crimson sunset, appeared a row of 
mounted figures. It looked long and searchingly 
at the mesa and slowly disappeared from view. 
Bill saw it and pointed it out to Lefty Dickinson. 
''There 's th' other eight," he said, smiling cheer- 
fully. "If it was n't for Whiskey Jeff's lookin' 
glass that eight 'd mean a whole lot to us. 
We 've had the luck of fools!" 



HAVING sent Jimmy to the Bar-20 with a 
message for Buck Peters and seen the 
tenderfeet start for Sharpsville on the right trail 
and under escort, Bill Cassidy set out for the 
Crazy M ranch, by the way of Clay Gulch. He 
was to report on the condition of some cattle that 
Buck had been offered cheap and he was anxious 
to get back to the ranch. It was in the early 
evening when he reached Clay Gulch and rode 
slowly down the dusty, shack-lined street in search 
of a hotel. The town and the street were hardly 
different from other towns and streets that he 
had seen all over the cow-country, but neverthe- 
less he felt uneasy. The air seemed to be charged 
with danger, and it caused him to sit even more 
erect in the saddle and assume his habit of in- 
different alertness. The first man he saw con- 
firmed the feeling by staring at him insolently 



and sneering in a veiled way at the low-hung, 
tied-down holsters that graced BilFs thighs. 
The guns proclaimed the gun-man as surely as it 
would have been proclaimed by a sign; and it 
appeared that gun-men were not at that time held 
in high esteem by the citizens of Clay Gulch. 
Bill was growing fretful and peevish when the 
man, with a knowing shake of his head, turned 
away and entered the harness shop. "Trouble 's 
brewin' somewheres around," muttered Bill, as 
he went on. He had singled out the first of two 
hotels when another citizen, turning the corner, 
stopped in his tracks and looked Bill over with a 
deliberate scrutiny that left but little to the imag- 
ination. He frowned and started away, but Bill 
spurred forward, determined to make him speak. 

''Might I inquire if this is Clay Gulch?" he 
asked, in tones that made the other wince. 

"You might," was the reply. "It is," added 
the citizen, "an' th' Crazy M lays fifteen mile 
west." Having complied with the requirements 
of common politeness the citizen of Clay Gulch 
turned and walked into the nearest saloon. Bill 



squinted after him and shook his head in in- 

*'He wasn't guessin', neither. He shore 
knowed where I wants to go. I reckon Oleson 
must 'a' said he was expectin' me." He would 
have been somewhat surprised had he known that 
Mr. Oleson, foreman of the Crazy M, had said 
nothing to anyone about the expected visitor, and 
that no one, not even on the ranch, knew of it. 
Mr. Oleson was blessed with taciturnity to a re- 
markable degree ; and he had given up expecting 
to see anyone from Mr. Peters. 

As Bill dismounted in front of the "Victoria" 
he noticed that two men further down the street 
had evidently changed their conversation and 
were examining him with frank interest and dis- 
cussing him earnestly. As a matter of fact they 
had not changed the subject of their conversation, 
but had simply fitted him in the place of a certain 
unknown. Before he had arrived they discussed 
in the abstract; now they could talk in the con- 
crete. One of them laughed and called softly 
over his shoulder, whereupon a third man ap- 



peared in the door, wiping his lips with the back 
of a hairy, grimy hand, and focused evil eyes 
upon the innocent stranger. He grunted con- 
temptuously and, turning on his heel, went back 
to his liquid pleasures. Bill covertly felt of his 
clothes and stole a glance at his horse, but could 
see nothing wrong. He hesitated: should he 
saunter over for information or wait until the 
matter was brought to his attention? A sound 
inside the hotel made him choose the latter course, 
for his stomach threatened to become estranged 
and it simply howled for food. Pushing open 
the door he dropped his saddle in a corner and 
leaned against the bar. 

"Have one with me to get acquainted?" he in- 
vited. "Then I '11 eat, for I 'm hungry. An' 
I '11 use one of yore beds to-night, too." 

The man behind the bar nodded cheerfully and 
poured out his drink. As he raised the liquor he 
noticed Bill's guns and carelessly let the glass 
return to the bar. 

"Sorry, sir," he said coldly. "I 'm hall out of 
grub, the fire 's hout, hand the beds are taken. 



But mebby ' Awley, down the strite, can tyke care 
of you." 

Bill was looking at him with an expression that 
said much and he slowly extended his arm and 
pointed to the untasted liquor. 

"Alius finish what you start, English," he said 
slowly and clearly. *'When a man goes to take 
a drink with me, and suddenly changes his mind, 
why I gets riled. I don't know what ails this 
town, an' I don't care ; I don't give a cuss about 
yore grub an' your beds; but if you don't drink 
that liquor you poured out to drink, why I '11 
natchurally shove it down yore British throat so 
cussed hard it '11 strain yore neck. Get to it!" 

The proprietor glanced apprehensively from 
the glass to Bill, then on to the business-like guns 
and back to the glass, and the liquor disappeared 
at a gulp. "W'y," he explained, aggrieved. 
"There hain't no call for to get riled hup like that, 
strainger. I bloody well forgot it." 

"Then don't you go an' *bloody well' forget 
this : Th' next time I drops in here for grub an' a 



bed, you have 'em both, an' be plumb polite about 
it. Do you get me?" he demanded icily. 

The proprietor stared at the angry puncher as 
he gathered up his saddle and rifle and started 
for the door. He turned to put away the bottle 
and the sound came near being unfortunate for 
him. Bill leaped sideways, turning while in the 
air and landed on his feet like a cat, his left hand 
gripping a heavy Colt that covered the short ribs 
of the frightened proprietor before that worthy 
could hardly realize the move. 

"Oh, all right," growled Bill, appearing to be 
disappointed. "I reckoned mebby you was 
gamblin' on a shore thing. I feels impelled to 
offer you my sincere apology ; you ain't th' kind 
as would even gamble on a shore thing. You '11 
see me again," he promised. The sound of his 
steps on the porch ended in a thud as he leaped to 
the ground and then he passed the window lead- 
ing his horse and scowling darkly. The pro- 
prietor mopped his head and reached twice for 
the glass before he found it. "Gawd, what a 



bloody 'eathen," he grunted. '' 'E won*t be as 
easy as the lawst was, bhme 'im." 

Mr. Hawley looked up and frowned, but there 
was something in the suspicious eyes that 
searched his face that made him cautious. Bill 
dropped his load on the floor and spoke sharply. 
"I want supper an' a bed. You ain't full up, an' 
you ain't out of grub. So I 'm goin' to get 'em 
both right here. Yes?" 

"You shore called th' turn, stranger," replied 
Mr. Hawley in his Sunday voice. "That 's what 
I 'm in business for. An' business is shore dull 
these days." 

He wondered at the sudden smile that illumi- 
nated Bill's face and half guessed it ; but he said 
nothing and went to work. When Bill pushed 
back from the table he was more at peace with the 
world and he treated, closely watching his com- 
panion. Mr. Hawley drank with a show of 
pleasure and forthwith brought out cigars. He 
seated himself beside his guest and sighed with 

"I 'm plumb tired out," he offered. "An' I 



ain't done much. You look tired, too. Come a 
long way?" 

"Logan," replied Bill. "Do you know where 
I 'm goin'? An' why?" he asked. 

Mr. Hawley looked surprised and almost 
answered the first part of the question correctly 
before he thought. "Well," he grinned, "if I 
could tell where strangers was goin', an' why, I 
would n't never ask 'em where they come from. 
lAn' I 'd shore hunt up a li'l game of faro, you 

Bill smiled. "Well, that might be a good idea. 
But, say, what ails this town, anyhow?" 

"What ails it? Hum! Why, lack of money 
for one thing ; scenery, for another ; wimmin, for 
another. Oh, h — ^1, I ain't got time to tell you 
what ails it. Why?" 

"Is there anything th' matter with me?" 

"I don't know you well enough for to answer 
that kerrect." 

"Well, would you turn around an' stare at me, 
an' seem pained an' hurt? Do I look funny? 
Has anybody put a sign on my back?" 



*'You looks all right to me. What 's th' mat- 

"Nothin', yet," reflected Bill slowly. **But 
there will be, mebby. You was mentionin' faro. 
Here 's a turn you can call : somebody in this wart 
of a two-by-nothin' town is goin' to run plumb 
into a big surprise. There '11 mebby be a loud 
noise an' some smoke where it starts from; an' a 
li'l round hole where it stops. When th' curious 
delegation now holdin' forth on th' street slips in 
here after I 'm in bed, an' makes inquiries about 
me, you can tell 'em that. An' if Mr. — Mr. Vic- 
toria drops in casual, tell him I 'm cleanin' my 
guns. Now then, show me where I 'm goin' to 

Mr. Hawley very carefully led the way into 
the hall and turned into a room opposite the bar. 
"Here she is, stranger," he said, stepping back. 
But Bill was out in the hall listening. He looked 
into the room and felt oppressed. 

"No she ain't," he answered, backing his intu- 
ition. "She is upstairs, where there is a li'l 
breeze. By th' Lord," he muttered under his 



breath. "This is some puzzle." He mounted 
the stairs shaking his head thoughtfully. *'It 
shore is, it shore is." 

The next morning when Bill whirled up to the 
Crazy M bunkhouse and dismounted before the 
door a puncher was emerging. He started to say 
something, noticed Bill's guns and went on with- 
out a word. Bill turned around and looked after 
him in amazement. "Well, what th' devil!" he 
growled. Before he could do anything, had he 
wished to, Mr. Oleson stepped quickly from the 
house, nodded and hurried toward the ranch 
house, motioning for Bill to follow. Entering 
the house, the foreman of the Crazy M waited 
impatiently for Bill to get inside, and then 
hurriedly closed the door. 

"They Ve got onto it some way," he said, his 
taciturnity gone; "but that don't make no differ- 
ence if you Ve got th' sand. I '11 pay you one 
hundred an' fifty a month, furnish yore cayuses 
an' feed you. I 'm losin' more 'n two hundred 
cows every month an' can't get a trace of th' 
thieves. Harris, Marshal of Clay Gulch, is 



stumped, too. He can't move without proof; 
you can. Th' first man to get is George Thomas, 
then his brother Art. By that time you '11 know 
how things lay. George Thomas is keepin' out 
of Harris' way. He killed a man last week over 
in Tuxedo an' Harris wants to take him over 
there. He '11 not help you, so don't ask him to." 
Before Bill could reply or recover from his 
astonishment Oleson continued and described 
several men. "Look out for ambushes. It '11 be 
th' hardest game you ever went up ag'in, an' if 
you ain't got th' sand to go through with it, 
say so." 

Bill shook his head. "I got th' sand to go 
through with anythin' I starts, but I don't start 
here. I reckon you got th' wrong man. I come 
up here to look over a herd for Buck Peters ; an' 
here you go shovin' wages like that at me. When 
I tells Buck what I 've been offered he '11 fall 
dead." He laughed. "Now I knows th' answer 
to a lot of things. 

"Here, here!" he exclaimed as Oleson began to 
rave. "Don't you go an' get all het up like that. 



I reckon I can keep my face shut. An' lemme 
observe in yore hat-like ear that if th' rest of this 
gang is like th' samples I seen in town, a good 
gun-man would shore be robbin' you to take all 
that money for th* job. Fifty a month, for two 
months, would be a-plenty." 

Oleson's dismay was fading, and he accepted 
the situation with a grim smile. "You don't 
know them fellers," he replied. *'They 're a bad 
lot, an' won't stop at nothin'." 

"All right. Let 's take a look at them cows. 
I want to get home soon as I can." 

Oleson shook his head. "I gave you up, an' 
when I got a better offer I let 'em go. I 'm sorry 
you had th' ride for nothin', but I could n't get 
word to you." 

Bill led the way in silence back to the bunk 
house and mounted his horse. "All right," he 
nodded. "I shore was late. Well, I '11 be 

"That gun-man is late, too," said Oleson. 
"Mebby he ain't comin'. You want th' job at 
my figgers?" 



"Nope. I got a better job, though it don't pay- 
so much money. It 's steady, an' a hull lot 
cleaner. So-long," and Bill loped away, closely 
watched by Shorty Allen from the corral. And 
after an interval. Shorty mounted and swung out 
of the other gate of the corral and rode along the 
bottom of an arroyo until he felt it was safe to 
follow Bill's trail. When Shorty turned back he 
was almost to town, and he would not have been 
pleased had he known that Bill knew of the trail- 
ing for the last ten miles. Bill had doubled back 
and was within a hundred yards of Shorty when 
that person turned ranchward. 

"Huh ! I must be popular," grunted Bill. "I 
reckon I will stay in Clay Gulch till t'morrow 
mornin'; an' at the Victoria," he grinned. Then 
he laughed heartily. "Victoria! I got a better 
name for it than that, all right." 

When he pulled up before the Victoria and 
looked in the proprietor scowled at him, which 
made Bill frown as he went on to Hawley's. 
Putting his horse in the corral he carried his sad- 
dle and rifle into the barroom and looked around. 



There was no one in sight, and he smiled. Put- 
ting the saddle and rifle back in one corner under 
the bar and covering them with gunny sacks he 
strolled to the Victoria and entered through the 
rear door. The proprietor reached for his gun 
but reconsidered in time and picked up a glass, 
which he polished with exaggerated care. There 
was something about the stranger that obtruded 
upon his peace of mind and confidence. He 
would let some one else try the stranger out. 

Bill walked slowly forward, by force of will 
ironing out the humor in his face and assuming 
his sternest expression. "I want supper an' a 
bed, an' don't forget to be plumb polite," he 
rumbled, sitting down by the side of a small table 
in such a manner that it did not in the least inter- 
fere with the movement of his right hand. The 
observing proprietor observed and gave strict 
attention to the preparation of the meal. The 
gun-man, glancing around, slowly arose and 
walked carelessly to a chair that had blank wall 
behind it, and from where he could watch win- 
dows and doors. 



When the meal was placed before him he 
glanced up. "Go over there an' sit down," he 
ordered, motioning to a chair that stood close to 
the rifle that leaned against the wall. "Loaded?" 
he demanded. The proprietor could only nod. 
"Then shng it acrost yore knees an' keep still. 
Well, start movin'." 

The proprietor walked as though he were in a 
trance but when he seated himself and reached for 
the weapon a sudden flash of understanding 
illumined him and caused cold sweat to bead 
upon his wrinkled brow. He put the weapon 
down again, but the noise made Bill look up. 

"Acrost yore laiees," growled the puncher, and 
the proprietor hastily obeyed, but when it touched 
his legs he let loose of it as though it were hot. 
He felt a great awe steal through his fear, for 
here was a gun-man such as he had read about. 
This man gave him all the best of it just to tempt 
him to make a break. The rifle had been in his 
hands, and while it was there the gun-man was 
calmly eating with both hands on the table and 



had not even looked up until the noise of the gun 
made him! 

"My Gawd, 'e must be a wizard with 'em. I 
'opes I don't forget!" With the thought came 
a great itching of his kneecap ; then his foot itched 
so as to make him squirm and wear horrible ex- 
pressions. Bill, chancing to glance up carelessly, 
caught sight of the expressions and growled, 
whereupon they became angehc. Fearing that 
he could no longer hold in the laughter that 
tortured him, Bill arose. 

"Shoulder, arms!" he ordered, crisply. The 
gun went up with trained precision. "Been a 
sojer," thought Bill. "Carry, arms! About, 
face! To a bedroom, march!'' He followed, 
holding his sides, and stopped before the room. 
"This th' best?" he demanded. "Well, it ain't 
good enough for me. About, face! Forward, 
march! Column, left! Ground, arms! Fall 
out." Tossing a coin on the floor as payment for 
the supper Bill turned sharply and went out with- 
out even a backward glance. 



The proprietor wiped the perspiration from his 
face and walked unsteadily to the bar, where he 
poured out a generous drink and gulped it down. 
Peering out of the door to see if the coast was 
clear, he scurried across the street and told his 
troubles to the harness-maker. 

Bill leaned weakly against Hawley's and 
laughed imtil the tears rolled down his cheeks. 
Pushing weakly from the building he returned 
to the Victoria to play another joke on its pro- 
prietor. Finding it vacant he slipped upstairs 
and hunted for a room to suit him. The bed was 
the softest he had seen for a long time and it lured 
him into removing his boots and chaps and guns, 
after he had propped a chair against the door as 
a warning signal, and stretching out flat on his 
back, he prepared to enjoy solid comfort. It was 
not yet dark, and as he was not sleepy he lay there 
thinking over the events of the past twenty-four 
hours, often laughing so hard as to shake the bed. 
What a reputation he would have in the morning 1 
The softness of the bed got in its work and he 
fell asleep, for how long he did not know; but 



when he awakened it was dark and he heard voices 
coming up from below. They came from the 
room he had refused to take. One expression 
banished all thoughts of sleep from his mind and 
he listened intently. " 'Red-headed Irish gun- 
man.' Why, they means me! 'Make him hop 
into h — 1.' I don't reckon I 'd do that for any- 
body, even my friends." 

"I tried to give 'im this room, but 'e would n't 
tyke it" protested the proprietor, hurriedly. 
" 'E says the bloody room was n't good enough 
for 'im, hand 'e marches me out hand makes off. 
Likely 'e 's in 'Awley's'' 

"No, he ain't," growled a strange voice. 
"You 've gone an' bungled th' whole thing." 

"But I s'y I did n't, you know. I tries to give 
'im this werry room, George, but 'e would n't 'ave 
it. D'y think I wants 'im running haround this 
blooming town? 'E 's worse nor the other, hand 
Gawd knows 'e was bad enough. 'E 's a cold- 
blooded beggar, 'e is!'' 

"You missed yore chance," grunted the other, 
"Wish I had that gun you had." 



"I was wishing to Gawd you did'' retorted the 
proprietor. **It never looked so bloody big be- 
fore, d — n 'is 'ideT 

"Well, his cayuse is in Hawley's corral," said 
the first speaker. "If I ever finds Hawley kept 
him under cover I '11 blow his head off. Come 
on ; we '11 get Harris first. He ought to be get- 
tin' close to town if he got th' word I sent over to 
Tuxedo. He won't let us call him. He's a 
man of his word." 

"He '11 be here, all right. Fred an' Tom is 
watchin' his shack, an' we better take th' other 
end of town — there 's no tellin' how he '11 come in 
now," suggested Art Thomas. "But I wish I 
knowed where that cussed gun-man is." 

As they went out Bill, his chaps on and his 
boots in his hand, crept down the stairs, and 
stopped as he neared the hall door. The pro- 
prietor was coming back. The others were out- 
side, going to their stations and did not hear the 
choking gasp that the proprietor made as a pair 
of strong hands reached out and throttled him. 
When he came to he was lying face down on a 



bed, gagged and bound by a rope that cut into 
his flesh with every movement. Bill, waiting a 
moment, slipped into the darkness and was swal- 
lowed up. He was looking for Mr. Harris, 
and looking eagerly. 

The moon arose and bathed the dusty street 
and its crude shacks in silver, cunningly and 
charitably hiding its ugliness; and passed on as 
the skirmishing rays of the sun burst into the 
sky in close and eternal pursuit. As the dawn 
spread swiftly and long, thin shadows sprang 
across the sandy street, there arose from the dis- 
sipated darkness close to the wall of a building 
an armed man, weary and slow from a tiresome 
vigil. Another emerged from behind a pile of 
boards that faced the marshal's abode, while 
down the street another crept over the edge of 
a dried-out water course and swore softly as he 
stood up slowly to flex away the stiffness of 
cramped limbs. Of vain speculation he was 
empty; he had exhausted all the whys and hows 
long before and now only muttered discontent- 
edly as he reviewed the hours of fruitless wait- 



ing. Aiid he was uneasy; it was not like Harris 
to take a dare and swallow his own threats with- 
out a struggle. He looked around apprehen- 
sively, shrugged his shoulders and stalked behind 
the shacks across from the two hotels. 

Another figure crept from the protection of 
Hawley's corral like a slinking coyote, gun in 
hand and nervously alert. He was just in time 
to escape the challenge that would have been 
hurled at him by Hawley, himself, had that gen- 
tleman seen the skulker as he grouchily opened 
one shutter and scowled sleepily at the kindling 
eastern sky. Mr. Hawley was one of those who 
go to bed with regret and get up with remorse, 
and his temper was always easily disturbed be- 
fore breakfast. The skulker, safe from the re- 
morseful gentleman's eyes, and gun, kept close 
to the building as he walked and was again for- 
tunate, for he had passed when Mr. Hawley 
strode heavily into his kitchen to curse the cold, 
rusty stove, a rite he faithfully performed each 
morning. Across the street George and Art 
Thomas walked to meet each other behind the 



row of shacks and stopped near the harness shop 
to hold a consultation. The subject was so in- 
teresting that for a few moments they were 
oblivious to all else. 

A man softly stepped to the door of the Vic- 
toria and watched the two across the street with 
an expression on his face that showed his smil- 
ing contempt for them and their kind. He was 
a small man, so far as physical measurements 
go, but he was lithe, sinewy and compact. On 
his opened vest, hanging slovenly and blinking 
in the growing light as if to prepare itself for 
the blinding glare of midday, glintecf a five- 
pointed star of nickel, a lowly badge that every 
rural community knows and holds in an awe far 
above the metal or design. Swinging low on his 
hip gleamed the ivory butt of a silver-plated 
Colt, the one weakness that his vanity seized 
upon. But under the silver and its engraving, 
above and before the cracked and stained ivory 
handles, lay the power of a great force ; and un- 
der the casing of the marshal's small body lay a 
virile manhood, strong in courage and deter- 



mination. Toby Harris watched, smilingly; he 
loved the dramatic and found keen enjoyment in 
the situation. Out of the corner of his eye he 
saw a carelessly dressed cowpuncher slouching 
indolently along close to the buildings on the 
other side of the street with the misleading slug- 
gishness of a panther. The red hair, kissed by 
the slanting rays of the sun where it showed 
beneath the soiled sombrero, seemed to be a flam- 
ing warning; the half-closed eyes, squinting un- 
der the brim of the big hat, missed nothing as 
they darted from point to point. 

The marshal stepped silently to the porch and 
then on to the ground, his back to the rear of 
the hot^l, waiting to be discovered. He had 
been in sight perhaps a minute. The cow- 
puncher made a sudden, eye-baffling movement 
and smoke whirled about his hips. Fred, turn- 
ing the corner behind the marshal, dropped his 
gun with a scream of rage and pain and crashed 
against the window in sudden sickness, his gun- 
hand hanging by a tendon from his wrist. The 



marshal stepped quickly forward at the shot and 
for an instant gazed deeply into the eyes of the 
startled rustlers. Then his Colt leaped out and 
crashed a fraction of a second before the brothers 
fired. George Thomas reeled, caught sight of 
the puncher and fired by instinct. Bill, leaving 
Harris to watch the other side of the street, was 
watching the rear corner of the Victoria and 
was unprepared for the shot. He crumpled 
and dropped and then the marshal, enraged, 
ended the rustler's earthly career in a stream of 
flame and smoke. Tom, turning into the street 
further down, wheeled and dashed for his horse, 
and Art, having leaped behind the harness shop, 
turned and fled for his life. He had nearly 
reached his horse and was going at top speed 
with great leaps when the prostrate man in the 
street, raising on his elbow, emptied his gun 
after him, the five shots sounding almost as one. 
Art Thomas arose convulsively, steadied him- 
self and managed to gain the saddle. Harris 
looked hastily down the street and saw a cloud 



of dust racing northward, and grunted. "Let 
them go — they won't never come back no more." 
Running to the cowpuncher he raised him after 
a hurried examination of the wounded thigh. 
"Hop along, Cassidy," he smiled in encourage- 
ment. "You '11 be a better man with one good 
laig than th' whole gang was all put together." 

The puncher smiled faintly as Hawley, run- 
ning to them, helped him toward his hotel. "Th' 
bone is plumb smashed. I reckon I '11 hop 
along through life. It '11 be hop along, for me, 
all right. That 's my name, all right. Huhl 
Hopalong Cassidy! But I didn't hop into 
h — ^1, did I, Harris?" he grinned bravely. 

And thus was born a nickname that found 
honor and fame in the cow-country — a name 
that stood for loyalty, courage and most amaz- 
ing gun-play. I have Red's word for this, and 
the endorsement of those who knew him at the 
time. And from this on, up to the time he died, 
and after, we will forsake "Bill" and speak of him 
as Hopalong Cassidy, a cowpuncher who lived 



and worked in the days when the West was wild 
and rough and lawless; and who, like others, 
through the medium of the only court at hand, 
Judge Colt, enforced justice as he believed it 
should be enforced. 



FARO-BANK IS an expensive game when 
luck turns a cold shoulder on any player, 
and "going broke" is as easy as ruffling a deck. 
When a man finds he has two dollars left out of 
more than two months' pay and that it has taken 
him less than thirty minutes to get down to that 
mark, he cannot be censored much if he rails at 
that Will-o'-the-wisp, the Goddess of Luck. 
Put him a good ten days' ride from home, ac- 
quaintances and money and perhaps he will be 
justified in adding heat in plenty to his denun- 
ciation. He had played to win when he should 
have coppered, coppered when he should have 
played to win, he had backed both ends against 
the middle and played the high card as well — 
but only when his bets were small did the turn 
show him what he wanted to see. Perhaps the 
case-keeper had hoodooed him, for he never did 



have any luck at cards when a tow-headed man 
had a finger in the game. 

Fuming impotently at his helplessness, a man 
limped across the main street in Colby, con- 
strained and a little awkward in his new store 
clothes and new, squeaking boots that were 
clumsy with stiffness. The only things on him 
that he could regard as old and tried friends were 
the battered sombrero and the heavy, walnut- 
handled Colt's A5 which rubbed comfortably 
with each movement of his thigh. The weapon, 
to be sure, had a ready cash value — but he could 
not afford to part with it. The horse belonged 
to his ranch, and the saddle must not be sold; 
to part with it would be to lose his mark of caste 
and become a walking man, which all good 
punchers despised. 

"Ten days from home, knowin' nobody, two 
measly dollars in my pocket, an' luck dead agin 
me," he growled with pugnacious pessimism. 
"Oh, I 'm a wise old bird, I am! A h — 1 of a 
wise bird. Real smart an' cute an' shiny, a 
cache of wisdom, a real, bonyfied Smart Aleck 



with a head full of spavined brains. I copper 
th' deuce an' th' deuce wins; I play th' King to 
win for ten dollars when I ought to copper it. 
I lay two-bits and it comes right — ten dollars 
an' I see my guess go loco. Reckon I better 
slip these here twin bucks down in my kill-me- 
soon boots afore some blind papoose takes 'em 
away from me. Wiser 'n Solomon, I am; I 've 
got old Caesar climbin' a cactus for pleasure an' 
joy. S-u-c-k-e-r is my middle name — an' I 'm 

He almost stumbled over a little tray of a 
three-legged table on the corner of the street and 
his face went hard as he saw the layout. Three 
halves of English walnut shells lay on the faded 
and soiled green cloth and a blackened, shriveled 
pea was still rolling from the shaking he had 
given the table. He stopped and regarded it 
gravely, jingling his two dollars disconsolately. 
"Don't this town do nothin' else besides gam- 
ble?" he muttered, looking around. 

"Howd'y, stranger!" cheerfully cried a man 
who hastened up. "Want to see me fool you?" 



The puncher's anger was aroused to a thin, 
licking flame; but it passed swiftly and a cold, 
calculating look came into his eyes. He glanced 
around swiftly, trying to locate the cappers, but 
they were not to be seen, which worried him a 
little. He always liked to have possible danger 
where he could keep an eye on it. Perhaps they 
were eating or drinking — ^the thought stirred 
him again to anger: two dollars would not feed 
him very long, nor quench his thirst. 

"Pick it out, stranger," invited the proprietor, 
idly shifting the shells. "It 's easy if yo 're 
right smart — but lots of folks just can't do it; 
they can't seem to get th' hang of it, somehow. 
That 's why it 's a bettin' proposition. Here it 
is, right before yore eyes! One little pea, three 
little shells, right here plumb in front of yore 
eyes ! Th' little pea hides under one of th' little 
shells, right in plain sight: But can you tell 
which one? That 's th' whole game, right there. 
See how it's done?" and the three little shells 
moved swiftly but clumsily and the little pea 
disappeared. "Now, then; where would you 



say it was?" demanded the hopeful operator, 

The puncher gripped his two dollars firmly, 
shifted his weight as much as possible on his 
sound leg, and scowled: he knew where it was. 
"Do I look like a kid? Do you reckon you 
have to coax like a fool to get me all primed up 
to show how re-markably smart an' quick I 
am? You don't; I know how smart I am. 
Say, you ain't, not by any kinda miracle, a blind 
papoose, are you?" he demanded. 

*'What you mean?" asked the other, smiling 
as he waited for the joke. It did not come, so 
he continued. "Don't take no harm in my fool 
wind-jammin', stranger. It 's in th' game. 
It 's a habit; I 've said it so much I just can't 
help it no more — I up an' says it at a funeral 
once; that is, part of it — th' first part. That 's 
dead right! But I reckon I 'm wastin' my time 
— unless you happen to feel coltish an' hain't 
got nothin' to do for an age. I 've been playin' 
in hard luck th' last week or so — you see, I ain't 
as good as I uster be. I ain't quite so quick, an' 



a little bit off my quickness is a whole lot off my 
chances. But th' game 's square — an' that 's 
a good deal more'n you can say about most of 

The puncher hesitated, a grin flickering about 
his thin lips and a calm joy warming him com- 
fortably. He knew the operator. He knew 
that face, the peculiar, crescent-shaped scar over 
one brow, and the big, blue eyes that years of 
life had not entirely robbed of their baby-like 
innocence. The past, sorted thoroughly and 
quickly by his memory, shoved out that face be- 
fore a crowd of others. Five years is not a long 
time to remember something unpleasant; he had 
reasons to remember that countenance. Know- 
ing the face he also knew that the man had been, 
at one time, far from "square." The associa- 
tions and means of livelihood during the past 
five years, judging from the man's present oc- 
cupation, had not been the kind to correct any 
evil tendency. He laid a forefinger on the edge 
of the tray. "Start th' machinery — I '11 risk a 
couple of dollars, anyhow. That ain't much to 



lose. I bet two dollars I can call it right/' he 
said, watching closely. 

He won, as he knew he would; and the result 
told him that the gambler had not reformed. 
The dexterous fingers sliifting the shells were 
slower than others he had seen operate and when 
he had won again he stopped, as if to leave. 
*'When I hit town a short time ago I didn't 
know I 'd be so lucky. I went an' drawed two 
months' pay when I left th' ranch : I shore don't 
need it. Shuffle 'em again — it 's yore money, 
anyhow," he laughed. "You should 'a' quit th' 
game before you got so slow." 

"Goin' back to work purty soon?" queried the 
shell-man, wondering how much this "sucker" 
had left unspent. 

"Not me! I've only just had a couple of 
drinks since I hit town — an' I 'm due to cele- 

The other's face gave no hint of his thoughts, 
which were that the fool before him had about a 
hundred dollars on his person. "Well, luck's 
with you today^ — ^you 've called it right twice. 



I '11 bet you a cool hundred that you can't call 
it th' third time. It 's th' quickness of my hands 
agin yore eyes — an' you can't beat me three 
straight. Make it a hundred? I hate to play 
all day." 

"I '11 lay you my winnin's an' have some more 
of yore money," replied the puncher, feverishly. 
"Ain't scared, are you?" 

"Don't know what it means to be scared," 
laughed the other. "But I ain't got no small 
change, nothin' but tens. Play a hundred an' 
let 's have some real excitement." 

"Nope; eight or nothin'." 

He won again. "Now, sixteen even. Come 
on; I 've got you beat." 

"But what 's th' use of stringin' 'long like 
that?" demanded the shell-man. 

"Gimme a chance to get my hand in, won't 
you?" retorted the puncher. 

"Well, all right," replied the gambler, and he 
lost the sixteen. 

"Now thirty," suggested the puncher. "Next 
time all I 've got, every red cent. Once more 



to practice — then every red," he repeated, shift- 
ing his feet nervously. **I '11 clean you out an' 
have a real, genuine blow-out on yore money. 
Come on, I 'm in a hurry." 

*'I '11 fool you this time, by th' Lord!" swore 
the gambler, angrily. "You've got more luck 
than sense. An' I '11 fool you next time, too. 
Yo 're quicker 'n most men I 've run up agin, 
but I can beat you, shore as shootin'. Th' 
game's square, th' play fair — ^my hand agin 
yore eye. Ready? Then watch me!" 

He swore luridly and shoved the money across 
the board to the winner, bewailing his slowness 
and getting angrier every moment. "Yo 're th' 
cussedest man I ever bet agin! But I '11 get 
you this time. You can't guess right all th' 
time, an' I know it." 

"There she is; sixty-two bucks, three score an' 
two simoleons ; all I 've got, every cent. . Let 's 
see you take it away from me!" 

The gambler frowned and choked back a 
curse. He had risked sixty dollars to win two, 
and the fact that he had to let this fool play 



again with the fire hurt his pride. He had no 
fear for his money — he knew he could win at 
every throw — but to play that long for two dol- 
lars ! And suppose the sucker had quit with the 
sixty ! 

"Do you get a dollar a month?" he demanded, 
sarcastically. "Well, I reckon you earn it, at 
that. Thought you had money, thought you 
drew down two months' pay an' hain't had 
nothin' more 'n two drinks ? Did you go an' 
lose it on th' way?" 

"Oh, I drew it a month ago," replied the 
sucker, surprised. "I 've only had two drinks 
in this town, which I hit 'bout an hour ago. But 
I shore lost a wad playin' faro-bank agin a tow- 
head. Come on — lemme take sixty more of 
yore money, anyhow." 

'' Sixty-two !'' snapped the proprietor, deter- 
mined to have those two miserable dollars and 
break the sucker for revenge. "Every cent, you 

^'All right; I don't care! I ain't no tin-horn," 
grumbled the other. "Think I care 'bout two 



dollars?" But he appeared to be very nervous, 

"Well, put it on th' table." 

"After you put yourn down." 

"There it is. Now watch me close!" A 
gleam of joy flashed up in the angry man's eyes 
as he played with the shells. "Watch me close! 
Mebby it is, an' mebby it ain't — th' game 's 
square, th' play 's fair. It 's my hand agin yore 
eye. Watch me close!" 

"Oh, go ahead! I'm watchin', all right. 
Think I 'd go to sleep now !" 

The shifting hands stopped, the shells lay 
quiet, and the gambler gazed blankly down the 
unsympathetic barrel of a Colt. 

"Now, Thomas, old thimble-rigger," crisply 
remarked the supposed sucker as he cautiously 
slid the money off the table, to be picked up 
later when conditions would be more favorable. 
"Th' little pea ain't under no shell. Stop! 
Step back one pace an' elevate them paws. 
Don't make no more funny motions with that 
hand, savvy? But you can drop th' pea if it 



hurts them two fingers. Now we *11 see if I 
win; I alius like to be shore," and he cautiously 
turned over the shells, revealing nothing but the 
dirty green cloth. "I win; it ain't there — ^just 
hke I thought." 

**Who are you, an' how'd you know my 
name?" demanded the gambler, mentally curs- 
ing his two missing cappers. They were drink- 
ing once too often and things were going to 
happen in their vicinity, and very soon. 

"Why, you took twenty-five dollars from me 
up in Alameda onct, when I could n't afford to 
lose it," grinned the puncher. "I was some- 
thing of a kid then. I remember you, all right. 
My foreman told me about yore bang-up fight 
agin th' Johnson brothers, who gave you that 
scar, I thought then that you were a great man 
— now I know you ain't. I would n't 'a' played 
at all if I had n't knowed how crooked you was. 
Take yore layout an' yore crookedness, find th' 
pea an' yore cappers, an' clear out. An' if any- 
body asks you if you 've seen Hopalong Cassidy 
you tell 'em I 'm up here in Colby makin' some 



easy money beatin' crooked games. So-long, an' 
don't look back!" 

Hopalong watched him go and then went to 
the nearest place where he could get something 
to eat. In due time, having disposed of a square 
meal, Hopalong called for a drink and a cigar, 
and sat quietly smoking for nearly half an hour, 
so lost in thought that liis cigar went out repeat- 
edly. As he reviewed his disastrous play at faro 
many small details came to him and now he 
found them interesting. The dealer was not a 
master at his trade and Hopalong had seen 
many better ; in fact the man was not even second 
class, and this fact hurt his pride. He had 
played a careful game, and the great majority 
of his small bets had won — it was only when he 
risked twenty or thirty dollars that he lost. The 
only big bet that he had been at all lucky on was 
one where doubles showed on the turn and he 
had been split, losing half of his stake. But 
when he had played his last fifty dollars on the 
Jack, open, the final blow fell and he had left 
the table in disgust. 



Why were n't there cue-cards, so the players 
could keep their own tally of the cards instead 
of having to depend on the cue-box kept by the 
case-keeper? This made him suspicious; a 
crooked dealer and case-keeper can trim a big 
bet at will, unless the players keep their own 
cases or are exceptionally wise; and even then 
a really good dealer will get away with his play 
nine times out of ten. While he seldom played 
a system, he had backed one that morning; but 
he was cured of that weakness now. If the 
game were square he figured he could get at least 
an even break; if crooked, nothing but a gun 
could beat it, and he had a very good gun. 
When he thought of the gun, he reviewed the 
arrangement of the room and estimated the 
weight of the rough, deal table on which rested 
the faro layout. He smiled and turned to the 
bartender. "Hey, barkeeper! Got any paper 
an' a pencil?" 

After some rummaging the taciturn dis- 
penser of liquid forget-it produced the articles 
in question and Hopalong, drawing some hur- 



ried lines, paid his bill, treated, kept the pencil 
and headed for the faro game across the street. 

When he entered the room the table was de- 
serted and he nodded to the dealer as he seated 
himself at the right of the case-keeper, who now 
took his place, and opposite the dealer and the 
lookout. He was not surprised to find no other 
players in the room, for the hour was wrong; 
later in the afternoon there would be many and 
at night the place would be crowded. This 
suited him perfectly and he settled himself to be- 
gin playing. 

When the deck was shuffled and placed in the 
deal box Hopalong put his ruled paper in front 
of him on the table, tallied once against the King 
for the soda card and started to play quarters 
and half dollars. He caught the fugitive look 
that passed between the men as they saw his 
cue-card but he gave no sign of having observed 
it. After that he never looked up from the cards 
while his bets were small. Two deals did not 
alter his money much and he knew that so far 
the game was straight. If it were not to re- 



main straight the crookedness would not come 
more than once in a deal if the frame-up was 
"single-odd" and then not until the bet was large 
enough to practically break him. His high- 
card play ran in his favor and kept him gradu- 
ally drawing ahead. He lost twice in calling 
the last turn and guessed it right once, at four 
to one, which made him win in that department 
of the game. 

When the fifth deal began he was quite a lit- 
tle ahead and his play became bolder, some of 
the bets going as high as ten dollars. He broke 
even and then played heavier on the following 
deal. His first high bet, twenty dollars, was on 
the eight, open, only one eight having shown. 
Double eights showed on the next turn and he 
was split, losing half the stake. 

It was about this time that the look-out dis- 
covered that Mr. Cassidy was getting a little 
excited and several times had nearly forgotten 
to keep his cases. This information was cauti- 
ously passed to the dealer and case-keeper and 
from then on they evinced a little more interest 



in the game. Finally the player, after studying 
his cue-card, placed fifty dollars on the Queen, 
open, and coppered the deuce, a case-card, and 
then put ten more on the high card. This came 
in the middle of the game and he was prepared 
for trouble as the turn was made, but fortune 
was kind to him and he raked in sixty dollars. 
He was mildly surprised that he had won, but 
explained it to himself by thinking that the 
stakes were not yet high enough. From then 
on he was keenly alert, for the crookedness would 
come soon if it ever did, but he strung small 
sums on the next dozen turns and waited for a 
new deal before plunging. 

As the dealer shuffled the cards the door 
opened and closed noisily and a surprised and 
doubting voice exclaimed: *' Ain't you Hop- 
along Cassidy? Cassidy, of th' Bar-20?" 

Hopalong glanced up swiftly and back to the 
cards again: "Yes; what of it?" 

"Oh, nothin'. I saw you onct an' I won- 
dered if I was right." 

"Ain't got time now; see you later, mebby. 



You might stick around outside so I can borrow 
some money if I go broke." The man who knew 
Mr. Cassidy silently faded, but did not stick 
around, thereby proving that the player knew 
human nature and also how to get rid of a pest. 

When the dealer heard the name he glanced 
keenly at the owner of it, exchanged significant 
looks with the case-keeper and faltered for an 
instant as he shoved the cards together. He 
was not sure that he had shuffled them right, and 
an anxious look came into his eyes as he realized 
that the deal must go on. It was far from re- 
assuring to set out to cheat a man so well known 
for expert short-gun work as the Bar-20 puncher 
and he wished he could be relieved. There was 
no other dealer around at that time of the day 
and he had to go through with it. He did not 
dare to shuffle again and chance losing the card 
beyond hope, and for the reason that the player 
was watching him like a hawk. 

A ten lay face up on the deck and Hopalong, 
tallying against it on his sheet, began to play 
small sums. Luck was variable and remained 



so until the first twenty dollar bet, when he 
reached out excitedly and raked in his winnings, 
his coat sleeve at the same time brushing the cue- 
card off the table. But he had forgotten all 
about the tally sheet in his eagerness to win and 
played several more cards before he noticed it 
was missing and sought for it. Smothering a 
curse he glanced at the case-keeper's tally and 
went on with the play. He did not see the look 
of relief that showed momentarily on the faces 
of the dealer and his associates, but he guessed 

He had no use for cue-cards when he felt like 
doing without them; he liked to see them in use 
by the players because it showed the game to be 
more or less straight, and it also saved him from 
over-heating his memory. When he had 
brushed his tally sheet off the table he knew 
what he was doing, and he knew every card that 
had been drawn out of the box. So far he had 
seen no signs of cheating and he wished to give 
the dealer a chance. There should now remain 
in the deal box three cards, a deuce, five and a 



four, with a Queen in sight as the last winner. 
He knew this to be true because he had given all 
his attention to memorizing the cards as they 
showed in the deal box, and had made his bets 
small so he would not have to bother about them. 
As he had lost three times on a four he now be- 
lieved it was due to win. 

Taking all his money he placed it on the four: 
"Two hundred and seventy on th' four to win," 
he remarked, crisply. 

The dealer sniffed almost inaudibly and the 
case-keeper prepared to cover him on the cue- 
rack under cover of the excitement of the turn. 
If the four lay under the Queen, Cassidy lost; 
if not he either won or was in hock. The dealer 
was unusually grave as he grasped the deal box 
to make the turn and as the Queen slid off a five- 
spot showed. 

The dealer's hand trembled as he slid the five 
off, showing a four, and a winner for Hopalong. 
He went white — he had bungled the shuffle in 
his indecision and now he didn't know what 
might develop. And in his agitation he exposed 



the hock card before he realized what he was do- 
ing, and showed another five. He had made the 
mistake of showing the "odd." 

Hopalong, ready for trouble, was more pre- 
pared than the others and he was well under way 
before they started. His left hand swung hard 
against the case-keeper's jaw, his Colt roared at 
the drawing bartender, crumpling the trouble- 
hunter into a heap on the floor dazed from shock 
of a ball that "creased" his head. He had done 
this as he sprang to his feet and his left hand, 
dropping swiftly to the heavy table, threw it 
over onto the lookout and the dealer at the in- 
stant their hands found their guns. Caught off 
their balance they went down under it and be- 
fore they could move sufficiently to do any dam- 
age, Hopalong vaulted the table and kicked 
their guns out of their hands. When they real- 
ized just what had happened a still-smoking Colt 
covered them. Many of Hopalong's most suc- 
cessful and spectacular plays had been less care- 
fully thought out beforehand than this one and 
he laughed sneeringly as he looked at the men 



who had been so greedy as to try to clean him out 
the second time. 

"Get up!" he snarled. 

They crawled out of their trap and sullenly 
obeyed his hand, backing against the wall. The 
case-keeper was still unconscious and Hopalong, 
disarming him, dragged him to the wall with the 

"I wondered where that deuce had crawled to," 
Mr. Cassidy remarked, grimly, "an' I was goin' 
to see, only it 's plain now. I knowed you was 
clumsy, but my G — dl Any man as can't deal 
*single-odd' ought to quit th' business, or play 
straight. So you had five fives agin me, eh? 
Instead of keepin' th' five under th' Queen, you 
bungled th' deuce in its place. When you went 
to pull off th' Queen an' five like they was one 
card, you had th' deuce under her. You see, I 
keep cases in my old red head an' I did n't have 
to believe what th' cue-rack was all fixed to show 
me. An' I was waitin', all ready for th' play 
that 'd make me lose. 

"As long as this deal was framed up, we '11 



say it was this mornin'. You cough up th' hun- 
dred an' ten I lost then, an' another hundred an' 
ten that I 'd won if it was n't crooked. An' 
don't forget that two-seventy I just pulled down, 
neither. Make it in double eagles an' don't be 
slow 'bout it. Money or lead — ^with you callin' 
th' turn." It was not a very large amount and 
it took only a moment to count it out. The 
eleven double eagles representing the mornin's 
play seemed to slide from the dealer's hand with 
reluctance — but a man lives only once, and they 
slid without stopping. 

The winner, taking the money, picked up the 
last money he had bet and, distributing it over 
his person to equalize the weight, gathered up 
the guns from the floor. Backing toward the 
door he noticed that the bartender moved and 
a keen glance at that unfortunate assured him 
that he would live. 

When he reached the door he stopped a mo- 
ment to ask a question, the tenseness of his ex- 
pression relaxing into a broad, apologetic grin. 
"Would you mind tellin' me where I can find 



some more frame-ups? I shore can use th' 

The mumbled replies mentioned a locality not 
to be found on any map of the surface of the 
globe, and grinning still more broadly, Mr. Cas- 
sidy side-stepped and disappeared to find his 
horse and go on his way rejoicing. 



JOHNNY knew I had a notebook crammed 
with the stories his friends had told me; 
but Johnny, being a wise youth, also knew that 
there was always room for one more. Perhaps 
that explains his sarcasm, for, as he calmly 
turned his back on his fuming friend, he winked 
at me and sauntered oif, whistling cheerfully. 

Red spread his feet apart, jammed his fists 
against his thighs and stared after the youngster. 
His expression was a study and his open mouth 
struggled for a retort, but in vain. After a 
moment he shook his head and slowly turned to 
me. "Hear th' fool? He 's from Idyho, he is. 
It never gets cold nowhere else on earth. Ain't 
it terrible to be so ignorant?" He glanced at 
the bunkhouse, into which Johnny had gone for 
dry clothing. "So I ain't never seen no cold 
weather?" he mused thoughtfully. Snapping 



his fingers irritably, he wheeled toward the cor- 
ral. "I 'm goin' down to look at th' dam — 
there 's been lots of water leanin' ag'in it th' last 
week. Throw th' leather on Saint, if you wants, 
an' come along. I '11 tell you about some cold 
weather that had th' Idyho brand faded. Cold 
weather 1 Huh!" 

As he swung past the bunkhouse we saw 
Johnny and Billy Jordan leaning in the door- 
way ragging each other, as cubs will. Johnny 
grinned at Red and executed a one-hand phrase 
of the sign language that is universally known, 
which Red returned with a chuckle. "Wish he 'd 
been here th' time God took a hand in a big game 
on this ranch," he said. "I 'm minus two toes 
on each foot in consequence thereof. They can't 
scare me none by preachin' a red-hot hell. No, 
sir; not any." 

He was silent a moment. *'Mebby it ain't 
so bad when a feller is used to it; but we ain't. 
An' it frequent hits us goin' over th' fence, 
with both feet off th' ground. Anyhow, that 
Norther was n't no storm — it was th' attendant 



agitation caused by th' North Pole visitin' th' 

"Cowan had just put Buckskin on th' map 
by buildin' th' first shack. John Bartlett an' 
Shorty Jones, d — n him, was startin' th' Double 
Arrow with two hundred head. When th' 
aforementioned agitation was over they had 
less 'n one hundred. We lost a lot of cows, too ; 
but our range is sheltered good, an' that rock 
wall down past Meeker's bunkhouse stopped our 
drifts, though lots of th' cows died there. 

**We 'd had a mild winter for two weeks, an' 
a lot of rain. We was chirpin' like li'l fool birds 
about winter bein' over. Ever notice how many 
times winter is over before it is? But Buck 
did n't think so ; an' he shore can smell weather. 
We was also discussin' a certain campin' party 
Jimmy had discovered across th' river. Jimmy 
was at th' bunkhouse that shift an' he was a great 
hand for snoopin' around kickin' up trouble. 
He reports there 's twelve in th' party an' 
they 're camped back of Split Hill. Now, Split 
Hill is no place for a camp, even in th' summer; 



an' what got us was th' idea of campin' at all in 
th* winter. It riled Buck till he forgot to cross 
off three days on th' calendar, which we later 
discovered by help of th' almanac an' th' moon. 
Buck sends Hoppy over to scout around Split 
Hill. You know Hoppy. He scouted for two 
days without bein' seen, an' without discoverin' 
any lawful an' sane reason why twelve hard- 
lookin' fellers should be campin' back of Split 
Hill in th' winter time. He also found they; 
had come from th' south, an' he swore there 
was n't no cow tracks leadin' toward them from 
our range. But there was lots of boss tracks 
back and forth. An' when he reports that th' 
campers had left an' gone on north we all feel 
better. Then he adds they turned east below 
th' Double Arrow an' went back south again. 
That 's different. It 's plain to some of us they 
was lookin' us over for future use; learnin' our 
ways an' th' lay of th' land. There was seven 
of us at th' time, but we could 'a' licked 'em in 
a fair fight. 

"In them days we only had two line houses. 



Number One was near Big Coulee, with Cowan's 
at th' far end of its fifteen miles of north line; 
th' west line was a twenty-five-mile ride south 
to Lookout Peak. Number Two was where th' 
Jumpin' Bear empties into th' river, now part 
of Meeker's range. From it th' riders went west 
twenty-five miles to th' Peak an' north from it 
twenty-five miles along th' east line. There was 
a hundred thousan' acres in Conroy Valley an' 
thirty thousan' in th' Meeker triangle, which 
made up Section Two. At that time mebby ten 
thousan' cows was on this section — two-thirds of 
all of 'em. When we built Number Three on 
th' Peak this section was cut down to a reason- 
able size. Th' third headquarters then was th' 
bunkhouse, with only th' east line to ride. One 
part, th' shortest, ran north to Cowan's ; th' other 
run about seventeen miles south to Li'l Timber, 
where th' line went on as part of Number Two's. 
We paired off an' had two weeks in each of 'em 
in them days. 

*When we shifted at th' end of that w^eek 
Jimmy Price an' Ace Fisher got Number One; 



Skinny an' Lanky was in Number Two ; an' me 
an' Buck an' Hoppy took life easy in th' bunk- 
house, with th' cook to feed us. Buck, he 
scouted all over th' ranch between th' lines an' 
worked harder than any of us, spendin' his nights 
in th' nearest house. 

"One mornin', about a week after th' campers 
left. Buck looked out of th' bunkhouse door an' 
cautions me an' Hoppy to ride prepared for cold 
weather. I can see he 's worried, an' to please 
him we straps a blanket an' a buffalo robe be- 
hind our saddles, cussin' th' size of 'em under 
our breath. I 've got th' short ride that day, 
an' Buck says he '11 wait for me to come back, 
after which we '11 scout around Medicine Bend. 
He 's still worried about them campers. In th' 
Valley th' cows are thicker 'n th' other parts of 
th' range, an' it would n't take no time to get a 
big herd together. He 's got a few things to 
mend, so he says he '11 do th' work before I get 

"Down on Section Two things is happenin' 
fast, like they mostly do out here. Twelve 



rustlers can do a lot if they have things planned, 
an' 'most any fair plan will work once. They 
only wanted one day — after that it would be a 
runnin' fight, with eight or nine of 'em layin' 
back to hold us off while th' others drove th' 
cows hard. Why, Slippery Trendley an' Ta- 
male Jose was th' only ones that ever slid across 
our lines with that many men. 

"Three rustlers slipped up to Number Two 
at night an' waited. When Skinny opened th' 
door in th' mornin' he was drove back with a hole 
in his shoulder. Then there was h — 1 a-poppin' 
in that li'l mud shack. But it did n't do no good, 
for neither of 'em could get out alive until after 
dark. They learned that with sorrow, an' pain. 
An' they shore was het up about it. Ace Fisher, 
ridin' along th' west line from Number One, was 
dropped from ambush. Two more rustlers lay 
back of Medicine Bend lookin' for any of us that 
might ride down from the bunkhouse. An' they 
sent two more over to Li'l Timber to lay under 
that ledge of rock that sticks out of th' south side 
of th' bluff like a porch roof. Either me or 



Hoppy would be ridin' that way. They stacked 
th' deck clever; but Providence cut it square. 

"Th' first miss-cue comes when a pert gray 
wolf lopes past ahead of Hoppy when he 's quite 
some distance above Lil Timber. This gray 
wolf was a whopper, an' Hoppy was all set to 
get him. He wanted that sassy devil more 'n 
he wanted money just then, so he starts after it. 
Mr. Gray Wolf leads him a long chase over th' 
middle of th' range an' then suddenly disappears. 
Hoppy hunts around quite a spell, an' then heads 
back for th' line. While he 's huntin' for th' 
wolf it gets cold, an' it keeps on gettin' colder 

"Me, I leaves later 'n usual that mornin'. An' 
I don't get to Cowan's until late. I 'm there 
when I notices how cussed cold it 's got all of 
a sudden. Cowan looks at his thermometer, 
which Jimmy later busts, an' says she has gone 
down thirty degrees since daylight. He gives 
me a bottle of liquor Buck wanted, an' I ride 
west along th' north line, hopin' to meet Jimmy 
or Ace for a short talk. 



"All at once I notice somebody 's puUin' a 
slate-covered blanket over th' north sky, an' I 
drag my blanket out an' wrap it around me. 
I 'm gettin' blamed cold, an' also a li'l worried. 
Shall I go back to Cowan's or head straight for 
th' bunkhouse? Cowan's the nearest by three 
miles, but what 's three miles out here? It 's got 
a lot colder than it was when I was at Cowan's, 
an' while I 'm debatin' about it th' wind dies out. 
I look up an' see that th' slate-covered blanket 
has traveled fast. It 's 'most over my head, an' 
th' light is gettin' poor. When I look down 
again I notice my cayuses's ears movin' back an' 
forth, an' he starts pawin' an' actin' restless. 
That settles it. I 'm backin' instinct just then, 
an' I head for home. I ain't cussin' that blanket 
none now, an' I 'm glad I got th' robe handy; 
an' that quart of liquor ain't bulky no more. 

"All at once th' bottom falls out of that lead 
sky, an' flakes as big as quarters sift down so fast 
they hurts my eyes, an' so thick I can't see 
twenty feet. In ten minutes everythin' is white, 
an' in ten more I 'm in a strange country. My 



hands an' feet ache with cold, an' I 'm drawin' 
th' blanket closer, when there 's a puff of wind 
so cold it cuts into my back like a knife. It 
passes quick, but it don't fool me. I know 
what 's behind it. I reach for th' robe an' has 
it 'most unfastened when there 's a roar an' I 'm 
'most unseated by th' wind before I can get set. 
I did n't know then that it 's goin' to blow that 
hard for three days, an' it 's just as well. It 's 
full of ice — li'l slivers that are sharp as needles 
an' cut an' sting till they make th' skin raw. I 
let loose of th' robe an' tie my bandanna around 
my face, so my nose an' mouth is covered. My 
throat burns already almost to my lungs. Good 
Lord, but it is cold! My hands are stiff when 
I go back for th' robe, an' it 's all I can do to keep 
it from blowin' away from me. It takes me a 
long time to get it over th' blanket, an' my hands 
are 'most froze when it 's fastened. That was a 
good robe, but it didn't make much difference 
that day. Th' cold cuts through it an' into my 
back as if it was n't there. My feet are gettin' 
worse all th' time, an' it ain't long before I ain't 



got none, for th* achin' stops at th' ankles. 
Purty soon only my knees ache, an' I know it 
won't be long till they won't ache no more. 

"I 'm squirmin' in my clothes tryin' to rub 
myself warm when I remember that flask of 
liquor. Th' cork was out far enough for my 
teeth to get at it, an' I drink a quarter of it quick. 
It 's an awful load — any other time it would 'a' 
knocked me cold, for Cowan sold a lot worse 
stuff then than he does now. But it don't phase 
me, except for takin' most of th' linin' out of 
my mouth an' throat. It warms me a li'l, an' it 
makes my knees ache a li'l harder. But it don't 
last long — th' cold eats through me just as hard 
as ever a li'l later, an' then I begin to see things 
an' get sleepy. Cows an' cayuses float around 
in th' air, an' I 'm countin' money, piles of it. 
I get warm an' drowsy an' find myself noddin'. 
That scares me a li'l, an' I fight hard ag'in it. 
If I go to sleep it 's all over. It keeps gettin' 
worse, an' I finds my eyes shuttin' more an' more 
frequent, an' more an' more frequent thinkin' I 
don't care, anyhow. An' so I drifts along 



pullin' at th' bottle till it 's empty. That should 
'a' killed me, then an' there — but it don't even 
make me real drunk. Mebby I spilled some of 
it, my hands bein' nothin' but sticks. I can't see 
more 'n five feet novr, an' my eyes water, which 
freezes on 'em. I 've given up all hope of 
hearin' any shootin'. So I close th' peekhole in 
th' blanket an' robe, drawin' 'em tight to keep 
out some of th' cold. I am sittin' up stiff in th' 
saddle, like a soldier, just from force of habit, 
and after a li'l while I don't know nothin' more. 
Pete says I was a corpse, froze stiff as a ramrod, 
an' he calls me ghost for a long time in fun. 
But Pete was n't none too clear in his head about 
that time. 

"Down at Li'l Timber, Hoppy managed to 
get under th' shelter of that projectin' ledge of 
rock on th' south side of th' bluff. Th' snow an' 
ice is whirlin' under it because of a sort of back 
draft, but th' wind don't hit so hard. He 's 
fightin' that cayuse every foot, tryin' to get to 
th' cave at th' west end, an' disputin' th' right of 
way with th' cows that are packed under it. 



There 's firewood under that ledge an' there 's 
food on th' hoof, an' snow water for drink ; so if 
he can make th' cave he 's safe. He 's more wor- 
ried about his supply of smokin' tobacco than 
anythin' else, so far as he 's concerned. 

"All at once he runs onto four men huddled 
half -froze in a bunch right ahead of him. He 
knows in a flash who they are, an' he draws 
fumblingly, an' holds th' gun in his two hands, 
they are so cold. One clean hit an' five clean 
misses in twenty feet ! They 're gropin' for 
their guns when a sudden gust of wind whirls 
down from th' top of th' hill, pilin' snow an' ice 
on 'em till they can't see nor breathe. An' a 
couple of old trees come down to make things 
nicer. Hoppy is blinded, an' when he gets so 
he can see again there 's one rustler's arm 
stickin' up out of th' snow, but no signs of th* 
other three. They blundered out into th' open 
tryin' to get away from th' stuff comin' down on 
'em, an' that means they won't be back no more. 

"Hoppy manages to get to th' cave, tie his 
cayuse to a fallen tree, an' gather enough fire- 



wood for a good blaze, which he puts in front of 
th' cave. It takes him a long time to use up his 
matches one by one, an' then he pulls th' lead 
out of a cartridge with his teeth, shakes th' pow- 
der loose in it an' along th' barrel. Usin' hig 
cigarette papers for tinder he gets th' fire 
started an' goin' good an' is feelin' some cheer- 
ful when he remembers th' three rustlers driftin' 
south. They was bound to hit a big arroyo that 
would lead 'em almost ag'in' Number Two's door. 
With th' wind drivin' 'em straight for it, Hoppy 
thinks it might mean trouble for Lanky or 
Skinny. He did n't think about 'em only havin' 
wool-lined slickers on, or he 'd 'a' knowed they 
couldn't live till they got halfway. They left 
their blankets in camp so they could work fast. 
**People have called us clannish, an' said we 
was a lovin' bunch' because we stick together so 
tight. We 've faced so much together that us 
of th' old bunch has got th' same blood in our 
veins. We ain't eight men — we 're one man in 
eight different kinds of bodies. G — d help any- 
body that tries to make us less! It 's one thing 



to stand up an' swap shots with a gunman; but 
it 's another to turn yore back on a cave an' a 
fire like that an' go out into what is purty nigh 
shore death on a long chance of helpin' a couple 
of friends that was able to take care of them- 
selves. That 's one of th' things that explains 
why we made Shorty Jones an' his eleven men 
pay with their lives for takin' Jimmy's life. 
Twelve for one! That fight at Buckskin ain't 
generally understood, even by our friends. An' 
Hoppy crowns his courage twice in that one 
storm. Ain't he an old son-of-a-gun? 

"He leaves that fire an' forces his cayuse to 
take him out in th' storm again, finds that th' 
arroyo is level full of snow, but has both banks 
swept bare. He passes them three rustlers in 
th' next ten minutes — they won't do no more 
cow-liftin'. Then he tries to turn back, but 
that 's foolish. So he drifts on, gettin' a li'l loco 
by now. He 's purty near asleep when he thinks 
he hears a shot. He fights his cayuse again, but 
can't stop it, so he falls off an' lets it drift, an' 
crawls an' fights his way back to where that shot 



was fired from. G — d only knows how he does 
it, but he falls over a cow an' sees Lanky huggin' 
its belly for th' li'l warmth in th' carcass. An' 
he ought to 'a' found him, after leavin' his cayuse 
an' turnin' back on foot in that h — ^1 storm! Th' 
drifts was beginnin' to make then — when th' 
storm was over I saw drifts thirty feet high in 
th' open; an' in th' valley there was some that 
run 'most to th' top of th' bluffs, an' they're 
near sixty feet high. 

"Well, Lanky is as crazy as him, an' won't 
let go of that cow, an' they have a fight, which 
is good for both of 'em. Finally Lanky gets 
some sense in his head an' realizes what Hoppy 
is tryin' to do for him, an' they go staggerin' 
down wind, first one fallin' an' then th' other. 
But they keep fightin' like th' game boys they 
are, neither givin' a cuss for himself, but shore 
obstinate that he 's goin' to get th' other out of 
it. That 's our spirit ; an' we 're proud of it, by 
G — dl Hoppy wraps th' robe around Lanky, 
an' so they stagger on, neither one knowin' very 
much by that time. Th' Lord must 'a' pitied 



that pair, an' admired th' stuff He 'd put in *em, 
for they bump into th' hne house kerslam, an' 
drop, all done an' exhausted. 

"Meanwhile Skinny's hoppin' around inside, 
prayin' an' eussin' by streaks, every five minutes 
openin' th' door an' firin' off his Colt. He has 
tied th' two ropes together, an' frequent he ties 
one end to th' door, th' other to hisself, an' goes 
out pokin' around in th' snow, hopin' to stumble 
over his pardner. He 's plumb forgot his bad 
shoulder long ago. Purty soon he opens th' 
door again to shoot off th' gun, an' in streaks 
somethin' between his laigs. He slams th' door 
as he jumps aside, an' then looks scared at 
Lanky's sombrero! Mebby he's slow hoppin' 
outside an' diggin' them out of th' drift that 's 
near covered 'em! Now, don't think bad of 
Skinny. He dassn't leave th' house to search 
any distance, even if he could 'a' seen anythin'. 
His best play is to stick there an' shoot off his 
gun — Lanky might drift past if he was not there 
to signal. Skinny thought more of Lanky any 
time than he did of hisself, th' emaciated match! 



"It don't take long to kick in a lot of snow 
with that wind blowin' an' he rubs them two till 
he 's got tears in his eyes. Then he fills 'em with 
hot stew an' whisky, rolls 'em up together an' 
heaves 'em in th' same bunk. It ain't warm 
enough in that house, even with th' fire goin', to 
make 'em lose no arms or laigs. 

*'It seems that Lanky, watchin' his chance as 
soon as th' snow fell heavy enough to cover his 
movements, slipped out of th' house an' started 
to circle out around them festive rustlers that 
held him an' his friend prisoners. He made 
Skinny stay behind to hold th' house an' keep a 
gun poppin'. Lanky has worked up behind 
where th' rustlers was layin' when th' Norther 
strikes full force. It near blows him over, an', 
not havin' on nothin' but an old army overcoat 
that was wore out, th' cold gets him quick. He 
can't see, an' he can't hear Skinny 's shots no 
more ! He does th' best he can an' tries to fight 
back along his trail, but in no time there ain't 
no tracks to follow. Then he loses his head an' 
starts wanderin' until a cow blunders down on 



him. He shoots th' cow an' hugs its belly to 
keep warm an' then he don't really remember 
nothin' 'till he wakes up in th' bunk alongside of 
Hoppy, both gettin' over an awful drunk 
Skinny kept f eedin' liquor to 'em till it was gone, 
an' he had a plenty when he began. 

**Jimmy Price was at Number One when th 
blow started, an' Buck was in th' bunkhouse, an 
it was three weeks before they could get out an 
around, on account of th' snow fallin' so steady 
an' hard they could n't see nothin'. 

*Well, getting back to me explains how Pete 
Wilson came to th' Bar-20. He is migratin' 
south, just havin' had th' pleasure of learnin' 
that his wife sloped with a better-lookin' man. 
He was scared she might get tired of th' other 
feller an' sift back, so he sells out his li'l store, 
loads a waggin with blankets, grub, an' firewood, 
an' starts south, winter or no winter. He moves 
fast for a new range, where he can make a new 
beginnin' an' start life fresh, with five years of 
burnin' matrimonial experience as his valuablest 
asset. Pete says he reckoned mebby he 



would n*t have so many harness sores if he run 
single th' rest of his life ; heretofore he 'd been 
so busy applyin' salve that he did n't have time 
to find out just what was th' trouble with th' 
double harness. Lots of men feel that way, but 
they ain't got Pete's unlovely outspoken habit 
of thought. We used to reckon mebby he 
was n't as smart as th' rest of us, him bein' slow 
an' blunderin' in his retorts. We Ve played that 
with coppers lots of times since, though. While 
he ain't what you 'd call quick at retortin', his re- 
torts usually is heard by th' whole county. It 
ain't every collar-galled husband that 's got th' 
gumption or smartness to jump th' minute th' 
hat is lifted. Pete had, 

"He 's drivin' across our range, an' when th* 
wind dies out sudden an' th' snow sifts down, 
he 's just smart enough to get out his beddin' an' 
wrap it around him till he looks like a bale of 
cotton. An' even at that he 's near froze an' 
lookin' for a place to make a stand when he feels 
a bump. It 's me, fallin' off my cayuse, against 
his front wheel. He emerges from his beddin', 



lifts me into th' waggin, puts most of his 
blankets around me, an' stops. Knowin' he 
can't save th' cayuses, he shoots 'em. That 
means grub for us, anyhow, if we run short of 
th' good stuff. Nobody but Pete could 'a' got 
th' canvas off that waggin in such a gale, but he 
did it. He busts th' arches an' slats off th' top 
of th' waggin an' uses 'em for firewood. Th' 
canvas he drapes over th' box, lettin' it hang 
down on both sides to th' ground. An' in about 
five minutes th' whole thing was covered over 
with snow. Pete 's the strongest man we ever 
saw, an' we 've seen some good ones. Wrastlin' 
that canvas with stiff hands was a whole lot more 
than what he done to Big Sandy up there on 
Thunder Mesa. 

"Pete says I was dead when he grabbed me, 
an' smellin' disgraceful of liquor. But th' first 
thing I know is lookin' up in th' gloom at a 
ceilin' that 's right close to my head, an' at a 
sorta rafter. That rafter gives me a shock. It 
don't even touch th' ceilin', but runs along 'most 
a foot below it. I close my eyes an' do a lot of 



thinkin'. I remember freezin' to death, but 
that 's all. An' just then I hears a faint voice 
say: 'He shore was dead.' I don't know Pete 
then, or that he talked to hisself sometimes. An' 
I reckon I was a li'l off in my head, at that. I 
begin to wonder if he means me, an' purty soon 
I 'm shore of it. An' don't I sympathize with 
myself? I 'm dead an' gone somewhere; but no 
preacher I ever heard ever described no place 
like this. Then I smell smoke an' burnin' meat — 
which gives me a clew to th' range I 'm on. 
Mebby I 'm shelved in th' ice box, waitin' my 
turn, or somethin'. I knew I 'd led a sinful life. 
But there wasn't no use of rubbin' it in — ^it*s 
awful to be dead an' know it. 

"Th' next time I opens my eyes I can't see 
nothin' ; but I can feel somethin' layin' alongside 
of me. It 's breathin' slow an' regular, an it 
bothers me till I get th' idea all of a sudden. 
It 's another dead one, cut out of th' herd an' 
shoved in my corral to wait for subsequent 
events. I felt sorry for him, an' lay there tryin' 
to figger it out, an' I 'm still figgerin' when it 



starts to get light. Th' other feller grunts an' 
sits up, bumpin' his head solid against that fool 
rafter. No dead man that was shoved in a herd 
consigned to heaven ever used such language, 
which makes me all the shorer of where I am. 
But if hell 's hot we Ve still got a long way to go. 

"He sits there rubbin' his head an' cussin' 
steadily, an' I 'm so moved by it that I compli- 
ments him. He jumps an' bumps his head 
again, an' looks at me close. 'D — d if you ain't 
a husky corpse,' he says. That settles it. I 
ain't crazy, like I was hopin', but I 'm dead. 
*You an' me is on th' ragged edge of h — 1,' he 

"^But who tipped you off?" I asks. *They 
just shoved me in here an' did n't tell me nothin' 
at all.' 

" *Crazy as th' devil,' he grunts, lookin' at me 

" *Yo 're a liar,' I replies. *I may be dead, 
but d — d if I 'm crazy !' 

" *An' I don't blame you, either,' he mused, 
sorrowful. 'Now you keep quiet till I gets 



somethin' to eat,' an' he crawls into a li'l round 
hole at th' other end of th' room. 

"Purty soon I smell smoke again, an' after a 
long time he comes back with some hot coffee an' 
burned meat. I grab for th' grub, an' while 
I 'm eatin' I demands to know where I am. 

"He laughs, real cheerful, an' tells me. I 'm 
under his waggin, surrounded by canvas an' any 
G — d's quantity of snow. Th' drift over us is 
fifteen foot high, th' wind has died down, an' 
it 's still snowin' so hard he can't see twenty feet. 
It is also away down below freezin'. 

"We stayed under that drift 'most three 
weeks, livin' on raw meat after our firewood gave 
out. We didn't suffer none from th' cold, 
though, under all that snow an' with all th' 
blankets we had. When it stopped snowin' we 
discovered a drift shamefully high about a mile 
northeast of us, an' from th' smoke comin' out 
of it I knew it was th' bunkhouse. 

"Well, to cut it short, it was. An' mebby 
Buck wasn't glad to see me! He was worried 
'most sick an' as soon as we could, we got cayuses 



and started out to look for th' others, scared stiff 
at what we expected to find." 

He paused and was silent a moment. **But 
only Ace was missin'/' he added. "We found 
him an' th' rustlers later, when th' snow went 

He paused again and shook his head. "It 
shore was a miracle that we did n't go with 'em, 
all of us, except Buck. Pete was so plumb dis- 
gusted with travelin' in th' winter, an' had lost 
his cayuses, that when Buck offers him Ace's 
bunk he stays. An' he ain't never left us since. 
Huh! Cold? That cub don't know nothin'— 
mebby he will when he grows up, but I dunno, 
at that, Idyho!" 



THE Norther was a thing of the past, but it 
left its mark on Buck Peters, whose grim- 
ness of face told what the winter had been to 
him. His daily rides over the range, the re- 
ports of his men since that deadly storm had done 
a great deal to lift the sagging weight that 
rested on his shoulders ; but he would not be sure 
until the round-up supplied facts and figures. 

That the losses had not been greater he gave 
full credit to the valley with its arroyos, rock 
walls, draws, heavily grassed range and groves 
of timber; for the valley, checking the great 
southward drift by its steep ridges of rock, shel- 
tered the herds in timber and arroyos and fed 
them on the rich profusion of its grasses, which, 
by some trick of the rushing winds, had been 
whirled clean of snow. 

But over the cow-country, north, east, south 



and west, where vast ranges were unprotected 
against the whistling blasts from the north, the 
losses had been stupendous, appalling, stunning. 
Outfits had been driven on and on before the 
furious winds, sleepy and apathetic, drifting 
steadily southward in the white, stinging shroud 
to a drowsy death. Whole herds, blindly mov- 
ing before the wind, left their weaker units in 
constantly growing numbers to mark the trail, 
and at last lay down to a sleep eternal. And 
astonishing and incredible were the distances 
traveled by some of those herds. 

Following the Norther came another menace 
and one which easily might surpass the worst 
efforts of the blizzard. Warm winds blew stead- 
ily, a hot sun glared down on the snow-covered 
plain and then came torrents of rain which con- 
tinued for days, turning the range into a huge 
expanse of water and mud and swelling the water- 
courses with turgid floods that swirled and roared 
above their banks. Should this be quickly fol- 
lowed by cold, even the splendid valley would 
avail nothing. Ice, forming over the grasses, 



would prove as deadly as a pestilence ; the cattle, 
already weakened by the hardships of the 
Norther, and not having the instinct to break 
through the glassy sheet and feed on the grass 
underneath, would search in vain for food, and 
starve to death. The week that followed the 
cessation of the rains started gray hairs on the 
foreman's head; but a warm, constant sun and 
warm winds dried off the water before the return 
of freezing weather. The herds were saved. 

Relieved, Buck reviewed the situation. The 
previous summer had seen such great northern 
drives to the railroad shipping points in Kansas 
that prices fell until the cattlemen refused to 
sell. Rather than drive home again, the great 
herds were wintered on the Kansas ranges, ready 
to be hurled on the market when Spring came 
with better prices. Many ranches, mortgaged 
heavily to buy cattle, had been on the verge of 
bankruptcy, hoping feverishly for better prices 
the following year. Buck had taken advantage 
of the situation to stock his ranch at a cost far 
less than he had dared to dream. Then came 



the Norther and in the three weeks of devastat- 
ing cold and high winds the Kansas ranges were 
swept clean of cattle, and even the ranges in the 
South were badly crippled. Knowing this, Buck 
also knew that the following Spring would show 
record high prices. If he had the cattle he could 
clean up a fortune for his ranch ; and if his herd 
w^as the first big one to reach the railroad at 
Sandy Creek it would practically mean a bonus 
on every cow. 

Under the long siege of uncertainty his im- 
patience smashed through and possessed him as a 
fever and he ordered the calf round-up three 
weeks earlier than it ever had been held on the 
ranch. There was no need of urging his men to 
the task — they, like himself, sprang to the call 
like springs freed from a restraining weight, and 
the work went on in a fever of haste. And he 
took his place on the firing line and worked even 
harder than his outfit of fanatics. 

One day shortly after the work began a 
stranger rode up to him and nodded cheerfully. 
"Li'l early, ain't you?" Buck grunted in reply 



and sent Skinny off at top speed to close a threat- 
ened gap in the lengthy driving line. "Goin' to 
git 'em on th' trail early this year?" persisted the 
stranger. Buck, swayed by some swift intuition, 
changed his reply. "Oh, I dunno; I 'm mainly 
anxious to see just what that storm did. An' I 
hate th' calf burnin' so much I alius like to get 
it over quick." He shouted angrily at the cook 
and waved his arms frantically to banish the 
chuck wagon. "He can make more trouble with 
that waggin than anybody I ever saw," he 
snorted. "Get out of there, you fool!" he yelled, 
dashing off to see his words obeyed. The cook, 
grinning cheerfully at his foreman's language 
and heat, forthwith chose a spot that was not 
destined to be the center of the cut-out herd. 
And when Buck again thought of the stranger he 
saw a black dot moving toward the eastern sky- 

The crowded days rolled on, measured full 
from dawn to dark, each one of them a panting, 
straining, trying ordeal. Worn out, the horses 
were turned back into the temporary corral or to 



graze under the eyes of the horse wranglers, and 
fresh ones took up their work ; and woe unto the 
wranglers if the supply fell below the demand. 
For the tired men there was no relief, only a shift- 
ing in the kind of work they did, and they drove 
themselves with grave determination, their iron 
wills overruling their aching bodies. First came 
the big herds in the valley ; then, sweeping north, 
they combed the range to the northern hne in 
one grand, mad fury of effort that lasted day 
after day until the tally man joyously threw 
away his chewed pencil and gladly surrendered 
the last sheet to the foreman. The first half of 
the game was over. Gone as if it were a night- 
mare was the confusion of noise and dust and 
cows that hid a remarkable certainty of method. 
But as if to prove it not a dream, four thousand 
cows were held in three herds on the great range, 
in charge of the extra men. 

Buck, leading the regular outfit from the north 
line and toward the bunkhouse, added the figures 
of the last tally sheet to the totals he had in a 
little book, and smiled with content. Behind 



him, cheerful as fools, their bodies racking with 
weariness, their faces di^awn and gaunt, knowing 
that their labors were not half over, rode the out- 
fit, exchanging chaiF and banter in an effort to 
fool themselves into the delusion that they were 
fresh and "chipper." Nearing the bunkhouse 
they cheered lustily as they caught sight of the 
hectic cook laboring profanely with two balking 
pintos that had backed his wagon half over the 
edge of a barranca and then refused to pull it 
back again. Cookie's reply, though not a cheer, 
was loud and pregnant with feeling. To think 
that he had driven those two animals for the last 
two weeks from one end of the ranch to the other 
without a mishap, and then have them balance 
him and his wagon on the crumbling edge of a 
twenty-foot drop when not a half mile from the 
bunkhouse, thus threatening the loss of the 
wagon and all it contained and the mangling of 
his sacred person! And to make it worse, here 
came a crowd of whooping idiots to feast upon 
his discomfiture. 

The outfit, slowing so as not to frighten the 



devilish pintos and start them backing again, 
drew near; and suddenly the air became filled 
with darting ropes, one of which settled affec- 
tionately around Cookie's apoplectic neck. In 
no time the strangling, furious dough-king was 
beyond the menace of the crumbling bank, flat 
on his back in the wagon, where he had managed 
to throw himself to escape the whistling hoofs 
that quickly turned the dashboard into match- 
wood. When he managed to get the rope from 
his neck he arose, unsteady with rage, and 
choked as he tried to speak before the grinning 
and advising outfit. Before he could get com- 
mand over his tongue the happy bunch wheeled 
and sped on its way, shrieking with mirth un- 
holy. They had saved him from probable death, 
for Cookie was too obstinate to have jumped 
from the wagon; but they not only forfeited all 
right to thanks and gratitude, but deserved hor- 
rible deaths for the conversation they had so 
audibly carried on while they worked out the 
cook's problem. And their departing words and 
gestures made homicide justifiable and a duty. 



It was in this frame of mind that Cookie watched 
them go. 

Buck, emerging from the bunkhouse in time 
to see the rescue, leaned against the door and 
laughed as he had not laughed for one heart- 
breaking winter. Drying his eyes on the back of 
his hand, he looked at the bouncing, happy crowd 
tearing southward with an energy of arms and 
legs and lungs that seemed a miracle after the 
strain of the round-up. Just then a strange 
voice made him wheel like a flash, and he saw 
Billy Williams sitting solemnly on his horse near 
the corner of the house. 

"Hullo, Williams," Buck grunted, with no 
welcoming warmth in his voice. "What th' devil 
brings you up here?" 

"I want a job," replied Billy. The two, while 
never enemies nor interested in any mutual dis- 
agreements, had never been friends. They never 
denied a nodding acquaintance, nor boasted of it. 
"That Norther shore raised h — 1. There 's ten 
men for every job, where I came from." 

The foreman, with that quick decision that was 



his in his earlier days, replied crisply. "It*s 
your'n. Fifty a month, to start." 

"Keno. Lemme chuck my war-bag through 
that door an' I 'm ready," smiled Billy. He be- 
lieved he would like this man when he knew him 
better. "I thought th' Diamond Bar, over east 
a hundred mile, had weathered th' storm lucky. 
You got 'em beat. They 're movin' heaven an' 
earth to get a herd on the trail, but they did n't 
have no job for me,'' he laughed, flushing 
slightly. "Sam Crawford owns it," he ex- 
plained naively. 

Buck laughed outright. "I reckon you did n't 
have much show with Sam, after that li'l trick 
you worked on him in Fenton. So Sam is in 
this country? How are they fixed?" 

"They aims to shove three thousan' east right 
soon. It 's fancy prices for th' first herd that 
gets to Sandy Creek," he offered. "I heard 
they're havin' lots of wet weather along th' 
Comanchee ; mebby Sam '11 have trouble a-plenty 
gettin' his herd acrost. Cows is plumb agger- 



vatin' when it comes to crossin' rivers/* he 

Buck nodded. "See that V openin' on th' sky- 
line?" he asked, pointing westward. "Ride 
for it till you see th' herd. Help 'em with it. 
We '11 pick it up t'morrow." He turned on his 
heel and entered the house, grave with a new 
worry. He had not known that there was a 
ranch where Billy had said the Diamond Bar was 
located; and a hundred miles handicap meant 
much in a race to Sandy Creek. Crawford was 
sure to drive as fast as he dared. He was glad 
that Billy had mentioned it, and the wet weather 
along the Comanchee — Billy already had earned 
his first month's pay. 

All that day and the next the consolidation of 
the three herds and the preparation for the drive 
went on. Sweeping up from the valley the two 
thousand three- and four-year-olds met and 
joined the thousand that waited between Little 
Timber and Three Rocks; and by nightfall the 
three herds were one by the addition of the 



thousand head from Big Coulee. Four thousand 
head of the best cattle on the ranch spent the 
night within gunshot of the bunkhouse and cor- 
rals on Snake Creek. 

Buck, returning from the big herd, smiled as 
he passed the chuck- wagon and heard Cookie's 
snores, and went on, growing serious all too 
quickly. At the bunkhouse he held a short con- 
sultation with his regular outfit and then re- 
turned to the herd again while his drive crew 
turned eagerly to their bunks. Breakfast was 
eaten by candle light and when the eastern sky 
faded into a silver gray Skinny Thompson 
vaulted into the saddle and loped eastward with- 
out a backward glance. The sounds of his go- 
ing scarcely had died out before Hopalong, re- 
lieved of the responsibilities of trail boss, shoul- 
dered others as weighty and rode into the north- 
east with Lanky at his side. Behind him, under 
charge of Red, the herd started on its long and 
weary journey to Sandy Creek, every man of 
the outfit so imbued with the spirit of the race 
that even with its hundred miles' advantage the 



Diamond Bar could not afford to waste an hour 
if it hoped to win. 

Out of the side of a verdant hill, whispering 
and purling, flowed a small stream and shyly 
sought the crystal depths of a rock-bound pool 
before gaining courage enough to flow gently 
over the smooth granite lip and scurry down the 
gentle slope of the arroyo. To one side of it 
towered a splinter of rock, slender and gray, 
washed clean by the recent rains. To the south 
of it lay a baffling streak a little hghter than the 
surrounding grass lands. It was, perhaps, a 
quarter of a mile wide and ended only at the 
horizon. This faint band was the Dunton trail, 
not used enough to show the strong character- 
istics of the depressed bands found in other parts 
of the cow-country. If followed it would lead 
one to Dunton's Ford on the Comanchee, forty 
miles above West Bend, where the Diamond Bar 
aimed to cross the river. 

The shadow of the pinnacle drew closer to its 
base and had crossed the pool when Skinny 



Thompson rode slowly up the near bank of the 
ravine, his eyes fixed smilingly on the splinter of 
rock. He let his mount nuzzle and play with 
the pool for a moment before stripping off the 
saddle and turning the animal loose to graze. 
Taking his rifle in the hope of seeing game, he 
went up to the top of the hill, glanced westward 
and then turned and gazed steadily into the 
northeast, sweeping slowly over an arc of 
thirty degrees. He stood so for several min- 
utes and then grunted with satisfaction and re- 
turned to the pool. He had caught sight of a 
black dot far away on the edge of the skyline 
that split into two parts and showed a sidewise 
drift. Evidently his friends would be on time. 
Of the herd he had seen no sign, which was what 
he had expected. 

When at last he heard hoof beats he arose lazily 
and stretched, chiding himself for falling asleep, 
and met his friends as they turned into sight 
aroimd the bend of the hill. "Reckoned you 
might 'a' got lost," he grinned sleepily. 

"jG-'wan!" snorted Lanky. 



*'What 'd you find?" eagerly demanded Hop- 

"Three thousan' head on th' West Bend trail 
five days ahead of us," replied Skinny. "OF 
Sam is drivin' hard." He paused a moment. 
"Acts like he knows we 're after him. Anyhow, 
I saw that feller that visited us on th' third day 
of th' round-up. So I reckon Sam knows." 

Lanky grinned. "He won't drive so hard 
later. I 'd like to see him when he sees th' 
Comanchee! Bet it 's a lake south of Dunton's 
'cordin' to what we found. But it ain't goin' to 
bother us a whole lot." 

Hopalong nodded, dismounted and drew a 
crude map in the sand of the trail. Skinny 
watched it, grave and thoughtful until, all at 
once, he understood. His sudden burst of 
laughter startled his companions and they ex- 
changed foolish grins. It appeared that from 
Dunton's Ford north, in a distance of forty miles, 
the Comanchee was practically born. So many 
feeders, none of them formidable, poured into it 
that in that distance it attained the dignity of a 



river. Hopalong's plan was to drive off at a 
tangent running a little north from the regular 
trail and thus cross numerous small streams in 
preference to going on straight and facing the 
swollen Comanchee at Dunton's Ford. As the 
regular trail turned northward when not far 
from Sandy Creek they were not losing time. 
Laughing gaily they mounted and started west 
for the herd which toiled toward them many 
miles away. Thanks to the forethought that had 
prompted their scouting expedition the new trail 
was picked out in advance and there would be no 
indecision on the drive. 

Eighty miles to the south lay the fresh trail 
of the Diamond Bar herd, and five days' drive 
eastward on it, facing the water-covered lowlands 
at West Bend, Sam Crawford held his herd, cer- 
tain that the river would fall rapidly in the next 
two days. It was the regular ford, and the best 
on the river. The water did fall, just enough to 
lure him to stay; but, having given orders at 
dark on the second night for an attempt at cross- 
ing at daylight the next morning, he was amazed 



when dawn showed him the river was back to its 
first level. 

Sam was American born, but affected things 
English and delighted in spelling "labor" and 
like words with a "u." He hated hair chaps and 
maintained that the gun-play of the West was 
mythical and existed only in the minds of effete 
Easterners. Knowing that, it was startling to 
hear him tell of Plummer, Hickock, Roberts, 
Thompson and a host of other gunmen who had 
splotched the West with blood. Not only did 
every man of that section pack a gun, but Craw- 
ford, himself, packed one, thus proving liimself 
either a malicious liar or an imbecile. He acted 
as though the West belonged to him and that he 
was the arbiter of its destiny and its chosen his- 
torian — which made him troublesome on the 
great, free ranges. Only that his pretensions and 
his crabbed, irascible, childish temper made him 
ludicrous he might have been taken seriously, to 
his sorrow. Failing miserably at law, he fled 
from such a precarious livelihood, beset with a 
haunting fear that he had lost his grip, to an in- 



herited ranch. This fear that pursued him 
turned him into a carping critic of those who ex- 
celled him in most things, except in fits of lying 
about the West as it existed at that time. 

When he found that the river was over the 
lowlands again he became furious and, carried 
away by rage, shouted down the wiser counsel of 
his clear-headed night boss and ordered the herd 
into the water. Here and there desperate, wild- 
eyed steers wheeled and dashed back through the 
cordon of riders, their numbers constantly grow- 
ing as the panic spread. The cattle in the front 
ranks, forced into the swirling stream by the 
pressure from the rear, swam with the current 
and clambered out below, adding to the con- 
fusion. Steers fought throughout the press and 
suddenly, out of the right wing of the herd, a 
dozen crazed animals dashed out in a bunch for 
the safety of the higher ground; and after them 
came the herd, an irresistible avalanche of mad- 
dened beef. It was not before dark that they 
were rounded up into a nervous, panicky herd 
once more. The next morning they were started 



north along the river, to try again at Dun- 
ton's Ford, which they reached in three days, 
and where another attempt at crossing the river 
proved in vain. 

Meanwhile the Bar-20 herd pushed on steadily 
with no confusion. It crossed the West Run 
one noon and the upper waters of the Little 
Comanchee just before dark on the same day. 
Next came East Run, Pawnee Creek and Ten 
Mile Creek, none of them larger than the stream 
the cattle were accustomed to back on the ranch. 
Another day's drive brought them to the west 
branch of the Comanchee itself, the largest of all 
the rivers they would meet. Here they were 
handled cautiously and "nudged" across with 
such care that a day was spent in the Avork. The 
following afternoon the east branch held them up 
until the next day and then, with a clear trail, 
they were sent along on the last part of the long 

When Sam Crawford, forced to keep on driv- 
ing north along the Little Comanchee, saw that 
wide, fresh trail, he barely escaped apoplexy and 



added the finishing touches to the suUenness of 
his outfit. Seeing the herd across, he gave or- 
ders for top speed and drove as he never had 
driven before; and when the last river had been 
left behind he put the night boss in charge of the 
cattle and rode on ahead to locate his rivals of 
the drive. Three days later, when he returned 
to his herd, he was in a towering fury and talked 
constantly of his rights and an appeal to law, 
and so nagged his men that mutiny stalked in 
his shadow. 

When the Bar-20 herd was passing to the 
south of the little village of Depau, Hopalong 
turned back along the trail to find the Diamond 
Bar herd. So hard had Sam pushed on that he 
was only two days' drive behind Red and his out- 
fit when Hopalong rode smilingly into the Dia- 
mond Bar camp. He was talking pleasantly of 
shop to some of the Diamond Bar punchers when 
Sam dashed up and began upbraiding him and 
threatening dire punishment. Hopalong, main- 
taining a grave countenance, took the lacing 
meekly and humbly as he winked at the grinning 



punchers. Finally, after exasperating Sam to a 
point but one degree removed from explosion, 
he bowed cynically, said "so-long" to the friendly 
outfit and loped away toward his friends. Sam, 
choking with rage, berated his punchers for 
not having thrown out the insulting visitor and 
commanded more speed, which was impossible. 
Reporting to Red the proximity of their rivals, 
Hopalong fell in line and helped drive the herd 
a little faster. The cattle were in such condi- 
tion from the easy traveling of the last week that 
they could easily stand the pace if Crawford's 
herd could. So the race went on. Red keeping 
the same distance ahead day after day. 

Then came the night when Sandy Creek lay 
but two days' drive away. A storm had threat- 
ened since morning and the first lightning of the 
drive was seen. The cattle were mildly restless 
when Hopalong rode in at midnight and he was 
cheerfully optimistic. He was also very much 
awake, and after trying in vain to get to sleep 
he finally arose and rode back along the trail 
toward the stragglers, which Jimmy and Lanky 



were holding a mile away. Red had pushed on 
to the last minute of daylight and Lanky had de- 
cided to hold the stragglers instead of driving 
them up to the main herd so they would start 
even with it the following morning. It was 
made up of the cattle that had found the drive 
too much for them and was smaller than the out- 
fit had dared to hope for. 

Hopalong had just begun to look around for 
the herd when it passed him with sudden uproar. 
Shouting to a horseman who rode furiously past, 
he swung around and raced after him, desper- 
ately anxious to get in front of the stampede to 
try to check it before it struck the main herd and 
made the disaster complete. For the next hour 
he was in a riot of maddened cattle and shaved 
death many times by the breadth of a hand. He 
could hear Jimmy and Lanky shouting in the 
black void, now close and now far away. Then 
the turmoil gradually ceased and the remnant of 
the herd paused, undecided whether to stop or 
go on. He flung himself at it and by driving 
cleverly managed to start a number of cows to 



milling, which soon had the rest following suit. 
The stampede was over. A cursing blot emerged 
from the darkness and hailed. It was Lanky, 
coldly ferocious. He had not heard Jimmy for 
a long time and feared that the boy might be ly- 
ing out on the black plain, trampled into a shape- 
less mass of flesh. One stumble in front of the 
charging herd would have been suflicient. 

Daylight disclosed the missing Jimmy hob- 
Ming toward the breakfast fire at the cook 
wagon. He was bruised and bleeding and cov- 
ered with dirt, his clothes ripped and covered 
with mud ; and every bone and muscle in his body 
was alive with pain. 

The Diamond Bar's second squad had ridden 
in to breakfast when a horseman was seen ap- 
proaching at a leisurely lope. Sam, cursing 
hotly, instinctively fumbled at the gun he wore 
at his thigh in defiance to his belief concerning 
the wearing of guns. He blinked anxiously as 
the puncher stopped at the wagon and smiled a 
heavy-eyed salutation. The night boss emerged 
from the shelter of the wagon and grinned a 



sheepish welcome, "Well, Cassidy, you fellers 
got th' trail somehow. We was some surprised 
when we hit yore trail. How you makin' it?" 

"All right, up to last night," replied Hop- 
along, shaking hands with the night boss. "Got 
a match, Barnes?" he asked, holding up an un- 
lighted cigarette. They talked of things con- 
nected with the drive and Hopalong cautiously 
swung the conversation around to mishaps, men- 
tioning several catastrophes of past years. Af- 
ter telling of a certain stampede he had once 
seen, he turned to Barnes and asked a blunt 
question. "What would you do to anybody as 
stampeded yore stragglers within a mile of th' 
main herd on a stormy night?" The answer was 
throaty and rumbling. "Why, shoot him, I 
reckon." The others intruded their ideas and 
Crawford squirmed, his hand seeking his gun 
under the pretense of tightening his belt, 

Hopalong arose and went to his horse, where 
a large bundle of canvas was strapped behind the 
saddle. He loosened it and unrolled it on the 
ground. "Ever see this afore, boys?" he asked, 



stepping back. Barnes leaped to his feet with 
an ejaculation of surprise and stared at the can- 
vas. "Where 'd you git it?" he demanded. 
"That 's our old wagon cover!" 

Hopalong, ignoring Crawford, looked around 
the little group and smiled grimly. "Well, last 
night our stragglers was stampeded. Lanky 
told me he saw somethin' gray blow past him in 
th' darkness, an' then th' herd started. We man- 
aged to turn it from th' trail an' so it did n't set 
off our main herd. Jimmy was near killed — 
well, you know what it is to ride afore stampeded 
cows. I found this cover blowed agin' a lil 
clump of trees, an' when I sees yore mark, I 
reckoned I ought to bring it back." He dug 
into his pocket and brought out a heavy clasp 
knife. "I just happened to see this not far from 
where th' herd started from, so I reckoned I 'd 
return it, too." He held it out to Barnes, who 
took it with an oath and wheeled like a flash to 
face his employer. 

Crawford was backing toward the wagon, his 
hand resting on the butt his gun, and a white- 



ness of face told of the fear that gripped him. 
*'I '11 take my time, right now," growled Barnes. 
*'D — d if I works another day for a low-lived 
coyote that 'd do a thing like that !" The punch- 
ers behind him joined in and demanded their 
wages. Hopalong, still smiling, waved his hand 
and spoke. "Don't leave him with all these cows 
on his hands, out here on th' range. If you quits 
him, wait till you get to Sandy Creek. He ain't 
no man, he ain't ; he 's a nasty li'l brat of a kid 
that couldn't never grow up into a man. So, 
that bein' true, he ain't goin' to get handled like 
a man. I 'm goin' to lick him, 'stead of shootin' 
him like he was a man. You know," he smiled, 
glancing around the little circle, "us cowpunch- 
ers don't never carry guns. We don't swear, nor 
wear chaps, even if all of us has got 'em on right 
now. We say *please' an' 'thank you' an' never 
get mad. Not never wearin' a gun I can't shoot 
him; but, by G — d, I can lick him th' worst 
he 's ever been licked, an' I 'm goin' to do it right 
now." He wheeled to start after the still-back- 
ing cowman, and leaped sideways as a cloud of 


Crawford's Colt tore loose from his fingers and dropped near 
the wagon wheel 


smoke swirled around his hips. Crawford 
screamed with fear and pain as his Colt tore loose 
from his fingers and dropped near the wheel of 
the wagon. Terror gripped him and made him 
incapable of flight. Who was this man, what 
was he, when he could draw and fire with such 
speed and remarkable accuracy? Crawford's 
gun had been half raised before the other had 
seen it. And before his legs could perform one 
of their most cherished functions the limping cow- 
puncher was on him, doing his best to make good 
his promise. The other half of the Diamond Bar 
drive crew, attracted by the commotion at the 
chuck wagon, rode in with ready guns, saw their 
friends making no attempt at interference, asked 
a few terse questions and, putting up their guns, 
forthwith joined the circle of interested and 
pleased spectators to root for the limping red- 

Red, back at the Bar-20 wagon, inquired of 
Cookie the whereabouts of Hopalong. Cookie, 
still smarting under Jimmy's galling fire of lan- 



guage, grunted ignorance and a wish. Red 
looked at him, scowling. "You can talk to th' 
Kid like that, mebby; but you get a civil tongue 
in yore head when any of us grown-ups ask ques- 
tions." He turned on his heel, looked search- 
ingly around the plain and mounting, returned 
to the herd, perplexed and vexed. As he left the 
camp, Jimmy hobbled around the wagon and 
stared after him. "Kid!" he snorted. "Grown- 
ups!" he sneered. "Huh!" He turned and 
regarded Cookie evilly. "Yo're gonna get a 
good lickin' when I get so I can move better," he 
promised. Cookie lifted the red flannel dish-rag 
out of the pan and regarded it thoughtfully. 
"You better wait," he agreed pleasantly. "You 
can't run now. I 'm honin' for to drape this mop 
all over yore wall-eyed face; but I can wait." 
He sighed and went back to work. "Wish Red 
would shove you in with th' rest of th' cripples 
back yonder, an' get you ofF'n my frazzled 

Jimmy shook his head sorrowfully and limped 



around the wagon again, where he resumed his 
sun bath. He dozed off and was surprised to be 
called for dinner. As he arose, grunting and 
growling, he chanced to look westward, and his 
shout apprised his friends of the return of the 
missing red-head. 

Hopalong dismounted at the wagon and 
grinned cheerfully, despite the suspicious marks 
on his face. Giving an account of events as they 
occurred at the Diamond Bar chuck wagon, he 
wound up with: "Needn't push on so hard, 
Red. Crawford's herd is due to stay right where 
it is an' graze peaceful for a week. I heard 
Barnes give th' order before I left. How 's 
things been out here while I was away?" 

Red glared at him, ready to tell his opinion of 
reckless fools that went up against a gun-pack- 
ing crowd alone when his friends had never been 
known to refuse to back up one of their outfit. 
The words hung on his lips as he waited for a 
chance to launch them. But when that chance 
came he had been disarmed by the cheerfulness 



of his happy friend. "Hoppy," he said, trying 
to be severe, "yo 're nothing' but a crazy, d — d 
fool. But what did they say when you started 
for huffy Sam like that?" 




THE herd delivered at Sandy Creek had 
traveled only half way, for the remaining 
part of the journey would be on the railroad. 
The work of loading the cars was fast, furious 
fun to anyone who could find humor enough in 
his make-up to regard it so. Then came a long, 
wearying ride for the five men picked from the 
drive outfit to attend to the cattle on the way 
to the cattle pens of the city. Their work at 
last done, they "saw the sights" and were now 
returning to Sandy Creek. 

The baggage smoking-car reeked with strong 
tobacco, the clouds of smoke shifting with the 
air currents, and dimly through the haze could 
be seen several men. Three of these were play- 
ing cards near the baggage-room door, while two 
more lounged in a seat half way down the aisle 
and on the other side of the car. Across from 



the card-players, reading a magazine, was a fat 
man, and near the water cooler was a dyspeptic- 
looking individual who was grumbling about the 
country through which he was passing. 

The first five, as their wearing apparel pro- 
claimed, were not of the kind usually found on 
trains, not the drummer, the tourist, or the 
farmer. Their heads were covered with heavy 
sombreros, their coats were of thick, black wool- 
ens, and their shirts were also of wool. Around 
the throat of each was a large handkerchief, 
knotted at the back; their trousers were pro- 
tected by "chaps," of which three were of goat- 
skin. The boots were tight-fitting, narrow, and 
with high heels, and to them were strapped 
heavy spurs. Around the waist, hanging 
loosely from one hip, each wore a wide belt con- 
taining fifty cartridges in the loops, and sup- 
porting a huge Colt's revolver, which rested 
against the thigh. 

They were happy and were trying to sing but, 
owing to different tastes, there was noticeable 
a lack of harmony. "Oh Susanna" never did 



go well with "Annie Laurie," and as for 
"Dixie," it was hopelessly at odds with the other 
two. But they were happy, exuberantly so, for 
they had enjoyed their relaxation in the city 
and now were returning to the station where 
their horses were waiting to carry them over the 
two hundred miles which lay between their ranch 
and the nearest railroad-station. 

For a change the city had been pleasant, but 
after they had spent several days there it lost 
its charm and would not have been acceptable 
to them even as a place in which to die. They 
had spent their money, smoked "top-notcher" 
cigars, seen the "shows" and feasted each as his 
fancy dictated, and as behooved cowpunchers 
with money in their pockets. Now they were 
glad that every hour reduced the time of their 
stay in the smoky, jolting, rocking train, for 
they did not like trains, and this train was par- 
ticularly bad. So they passed the hours as best 
they might and waited impatiently for the stop 
at Sandy Creek, where they had left theu- 
horses. Their trip to the *'fence country" was 



now a memory, and they chafed to be again in 
the saddle on the open, wind-swept range, where 
miles were insignificant and the silence soothing. 

The fat man, despairing of reading, watched 
the card-players and smiled in good hmnor as he 
listened to their conversation, while the dyspep- 
tic, nervously twisting his newspaper, wished that 
he were at his destination. The baggage-room 
door opened and the conductor looked down on 
the card-players and grinned. Skinny moved 
over in the seat to make room for the genial con- 

*'Sit down, Simms, an' take a hand," he in- 
vited. Laughter arose continually and the fat 
man joined in it, leaning forward more closely 
to watch the play. 

Lanky tossed his cards face down on the board 
and grinned at the onlooker. 

"Billy shore bluffs more on a varigated flush 
than any man I ever saw." 

"Call him once in a while and he '11 get cured 
of it," laughed the fat man, bracing himself as 
the train swung around a sharp turn. 



**He 's too smart," growled Billy Williams. 
"He tried that an' found I did n't have no vari- 
gated flushes. Come on, Lanky, if yo 're play- 
ing cards, put up." 

Farther down the car, their feet resting easily 
on the seat in front of them, Hopalong and Red 
puffed slowly at their large, black cigars and 
spoke infrequently, both idly watching the plain 
flit by in wearying sameness, and both tired and 
lazy from doing nothing but ride. 

**Blast th' cars, anyhow," grunted Hopalong, 
but he received no reply, for his companion was 
too disgusted to say anything. 

A startling, sudden increase in the roar of the 
train and a gust of hot, sulphurous smoke 
caused Hopalong to look up at the brakeman, 
who came down the swaying aisle as the door 
slammed shut. 

"Phew!" he exclaimed, genially. "Why in 
thunder don't you fellows smoke up?" 

Hopalong blew a heavy ring, stretched ener- 
getically and grinned: "Much farther to Sandy 



"Oh, you don't get oj0F for three hours yet," 
laughed the brakeman. 

"That 's shore a long time to ride this bronc 
train," moodily complained Red as the singing 
began again. "She shore pitches a-plenty," he 

The train-hand smiled and seated himself on 
the arm of the front seat : 

"Oh, it might be worse." 

"Not this side of hades," replied Red with 
decision, watching his friend, who was slapping 
the cushions to see the dust fly out: "Hey, let 
up on that, will you! There's dust a-plenty 
without no help from you 1" 

The brakeman glanced at the card-players and 
then at Hopalong. , 

"Do your friends always sing like that?" he 

"Mostly, but sometimes it 's worse." 

"On the level?" 

"Shore enough; they're singing 'Dixie,' now. 
It's their best song." 

"That ain't 'Dixie!'" 



"Yes it is: that is, most of it." 
"Well, then, what 's the rest of it?" 
"Oh, them 's variations of their own," re- 
marked Red, yawning and stretching. "Just 
wait till they start something sentimental; 
you '11 shore weep." 

"I hope they stick to the variations. Say, you 
must be a pretty nifty gang on the shoot, ain't 


"Oh, some," answered Hopalong. 

"I wish you fellers had been aboard with us 
one day about a month ago. We was the 
wrong end of a hold-up, and we got cleaned out 
proper, too," 

"An' how many of 'em did you get?" asked 
Hopalong quickly, sitting bolt upright. 

The fat man suddenly lost his interest in the 
card-game and turned an eager ear to the brake- 
man, while the dyspeptic stopped punching holes 
in his time-card and listened. The card-players 
glanced up and then returned to their game, but 
they, too, were listening. 

The brakeman was surprised: "How many 



did we get I Gosh 1 we did n't get none ! They 
was six to our five/' 

"How many cards did you draw, you Piute?" 
asked Lanky. 

"None of yore business; I ain't dealing, an' I 
would n't tell you if I was," retorted Billy. 

"WeU, I can ask, can't I?" 

"Yes — you can, an' did." 

"You didn't get none?" cried Hopalong, 
doubting his ears. 

"I should say not!" 

"An' they owned th' whole train?" 

"They did." 

Red laughed. "Th' cleaning-up must have 
been sumptuous an' elevating." 

"Every time I holds threes he alius has bet- 
ter," growled Lanky to Simms. 

"On th' level, we could n't do a thing," the 
brakeman ran on. "There 's a water tank a little 
farther on, and they must 'a' climbed aboard 
there when we stopped to connect. When we 
got into the gulch the train slowed down and 
stopped and I started to get up to go out and 



see what was the matter; but I saw that when I 
looked down a gun-barrel. The man at the 
throttle end of it told me to put up my hands, 
but they were up as high then as I could get 'em 
without climbin' on the top of the seat. 

**Can't you listen and play at th' same time?" 
Lanky asked Billy. 

*'I was n't countin' on takin' the gun away 
from him," the brakeman continued, "for I was 
too busy watchin' for the slug to come out of 
the hole. Pretty soon somebody on the outside 
whistled and then another feller come in the 
car; he was the one that did the cleanin' up. 
All this time there had been a lot of shootin' out- 
side, but now it got worse. Then I heard an- 
other whistle and the engine puffed up the track, 
and about five minutes later there was a big ex- 
plosion, and then our two robbers backed out of 
the car among the rocks shootin' back regard- 
less. They busted a lot of windows." 

"An' you didn't git none," grumbled Hop- 
along, regretfully. 

"When we got to the express-car, what had 



been pulled around the turn,*' continued the 
brakeman, not heeding the interruption, "we 
found a wreck. And we found the engineer 
and fireman standin' over the express-messen- 
ger, too scared to know he would n't come back 
no more. The car had been blowed up with 
dynamite, and his fighting soul went with it. 
He never knowed he was licked." 

*'An' nobody tried to help him!" Hopalong 
exclaimed, wrathfully now. 

"Nobody wanted to die with him," replied the 

"Well," cried the fat man, suddenly reach- 
ing for his valise, "I 'd like to see anybody try 
to hold me up !" Saying which he brought forth 
a small revolver. 

"You 'd be praying out of your bald spot 
about that time," muttered the brakeman. 

Hopalong and Red turned, perceived the 
weapon, and then exchanged winks. 

"That 's a fine shootin'-iron, stranger," 
gravely remarked Hopalong. 



"You bet it is I" purred the owner, proudly. 
"I paid six dollars for that gun." 

Lanky smothered a laugh and his friend 
grinned broadly: "I reckon that 'd kill a man 
— ^if you stuck it in his ear." 

"Pshaw!" snorted the dyspeptic, scornfully. 
"You wouldn't have time to get it out of that 
grip. Think a train-robber is going to let you 
unpack? Why don't you carry it in your hip- 
pocket, where you can get at it quickly?" 

There were smiles at the stranger's belief in 
the hip-pocket fallacy but no one commented 
upon it. 

"Wasn't there no passengers aboard when 
you was stuck up?" Lanky asked the conductor. 

"Yes, but you can't count passengers in on a 
deal like that." 

Hopalong looked around aggressively: 
"We 're passengers, ain't we?" 

"You certainly are." 

"Well, if any misguided maverick gets it into 
his fool head to stick us up, you see what hap- 



pens. Don't you know th' fellers outside have 
all th' worst o' th' deal?" 

"They have not!" cried the brakeman. 

"They Ve got all the best of it," asserted the 
conductor emphatically. "I 've been inside, and 
I know." 

"Best nothing!" cried Hopalong. "They are 
on th' ground, watching a danger-line over a 
hundred yards long, full of windows and doors. 
Then they brace th' door of a car full of people. 
While they climb up the steps they can't see in- 
side, an' then they go an' stick their heads in 
plain sight. It's an even break who sees th' 
other first, with th' men inside training their 
guns on th' glass in th' doorl" 

"Darned if you ain't right 1" enthusiastically 
cried the fat man. 

Hopalong laughed: "It all depends on th' 
men inside. If they ain't used to handling guns, 
'course they won't try to fight. We 've been in 
so many gun-festivals that we would n't stop to 
think. If any coin-collector went an' stuck his 



ugly face against th' glass in that door he 'd turn 
a back-jflip off 'n th' platform before he knowed 
he was hit. Is there any chance for a stick-up 
to-day, d'y think?" 

*'Can't tell," replied the brakeman. *'But 
this is about the time we have the section-camps' 
pay on board," he said, going into the baggage 
end of the car, 

Simms leaned over close to Skinny. "It 's on 
this train now, and I 'm worried to death about 
it. I wish we were at Sandy Creek." 

"Don't you go to worryin' none, then," the 
puncher replied. "It '11 get to Sandy Creek all 

Hopalong looked out of the window again and 
saw that there was a gradual change in the na- 
ture of the scenery, for the plain was becoming 
more broken each succeeding mile. Small 
woods occasionally hurtled past and banks of 
cuts flashed by like mottled yellow curtains, 
shutting off the view. Scrub timber stretched 
away on both sides, a billowy sea of green, and 
miniature valleys lay under the increasing num- 


ber of trestles twisting and winding toward a 
high horizon. 

Hopalong yawned again: "Well, it's none 
o' our funeral. If they let us alone I don't 
reckon we '11 take a hand, not even to bust up 
this monotony." 

Red laughed derisively: "Oh, no! Why, 
you could n't sit still nohow with a fight going 
on, an' you know it. An' if it's a stick-up! 

"Who gave you any say in this?" demanded 
his friend. "Anyhow, you ain't no angel o' 
peace, not nohow!" 

"Mebby they'll plug yore new sombrero," 
laughed Red. 

Hopalong felt of the article in question: "If 
any two-laigged wolf plugs my war-bonnet he '11 
be some sorry, an' so '11 his folks," he asserted, 
rising and going down the aisle for a drink. 

Red turned to the brakeman, who had just re- 
turned: "Say," he whispered, "get off at th' 
next stop, shoot off a gun, an' yell, just for fun. 
Go ahead, it '11 be better 'n a circus." 



"Nix on the circus, says I," hastily replied 
the other. *'I ain't looking for no excitement, 
an' I ain't paid to amuse th' passengers. I hope 
we don't even run over a track-torpedo this side 
of Sandy Creek." 

Hopalong returned, and as he came even with 
them the train slowed. 

"What are we stopping for?" he asked, his 
hand going to his holster. 

"To take on water; the tank 's right ahead." 

"What have you got?" asked Billy, ruffling his 

"None of yore business," replied Lanky. 
*'You call when you gets any curious." 

"Oh, th' devil!" yawned Hopalong, leaning 
back lazily. "I shore wish I was on my cayuse 
pounding leather on th' home trail." 

"Me, too," grumbled Red, staring out of the 
window. "Well, we 're moving again. It 
won't be long now before we gets out of this." 

The card-game continued, the low-spoken 
terms being interspersed with casual comment; 
Hopalong exchanged infrequent remarks with 



Red, while the brakeman and conductor stared 
out of the same window. There was noticeable 
an air of anxiety, and the fat man tried to read 
his magazine with his thoughts far from the 
printed page. He read and re-read a single 
paragraph several times without gaining the 
slightest knowledge of what it meant, while the 
dyspeptic passenger fidgeted more and more in 
his seat, like one sitting on hot coals, anxious and 

"We're there now," suddenly remarked the 
conductor, as the bank of a cut blanked out the 
view. **It was right here where it happened; 
the turn 's farther on." 

**How many cards did you draw. Skinny?" 
asked Lanky. 

''Three; drawin' to a straight flush," laughed 
the dealer. 

"Here 's the turn! We 're through all right," 
exclaimed the brakeman. 

Suddenly there was a rumbling bump, a 
screeching of air-brakes and the grinding and 
rattle of couplings and pins as the train slowed 



down and stopped with a suddenness that 
snapped the passengers forward and back. The 
conductor and brakeman leaped to their feet, 
where the latter stood quietly during a moment 
of indecision. 

A shot was heard and the conductor's hand, 
raised quickly to the whistle-rope sent blast after 
blast shrieking over the land. A babel of 
shouting burst from the other coaches and, as 
the whistle shrieked without pause, a shot was 
heard close at hand and the conductor reeled 
suddenly and sank into a seat, limp and silent. 

At the first jerk of the train the card-players 
threw the board from across their knees, scatter- 
ing the cards over the floor, and crouching, gained 
the center of the aisle, intently peering through 
the windows, their Colts ready for instant use. 
Hopalong and Red were also in the aisle, and 
when the conductor had reeled Hopalong's Colt 
exploded and the man outside threw up his arms 
and pitched forward. 

"Good boy, Hopalong!" cried Skinny, who 
was fighting mad. 



Hopalong wheeled and crouched, watching 
the door, and it was not long before a masked 
face appeared on the farther side of the glass. 
Hopalong fired and a splotch of red stained the 
white mask as the robber fell against the door 
and slid to the platform. 

"Hear that shooting?'' cried the brakeman. 
"They 're at the messenger. They '11 blow him 


"Come on, fellers!" cried Hopalong, leaping 
toward the door, closely followed by his friends. 

They stepped over the obstruction on the plat- 
form and jumped to the ground on the side of 
the car farthest from the robbers. 

"Shoot under the cars for legs," whispered 
Skinny. "That 'U bring 'em down where we can 
get 'em." 

"Which is a good idea," replied Red, dropping 
quickly and looking under the car. 

"Somebody 's going to be surprised, all right," 
exulted Hopalong. 

The firing on the other side of the train was 
heavy, being for the purpose of terrifying the 



passengers and to forestall concerted resistance. 
The robbers could not distinguish between the 
many reports and did not know they were being 
opposed, or that two of their number were dead. 

A whinny reached Hopalong's ears and he 
located it in a small grove ahead of him: "Well, 
we know where th' cayuses are in case they make 
a break." 

A white and scared face peered out of the cab- 
window and Hopalong stopped his finger just 
in time, for the inquisitive man wore the cap of 

"You idiot!" muttered the gunman, angrily. 
"Get back!" he ordered. 

A pair of legs ran swiftly along the other 
side of the car and Red and Skinny fired in- 
stantly. The legs bent, their owner falling for- 
ward behind the rear truck, where he was screened 
from sight. 

"They had it their own way before!" gritted 
Skinny. "Now we '11 see if they can stand th' 

By this time Hopalong and Red were crawl- 



ing under the express-car and were so preoccu- 
pied that they did not notice the faint blue streak 
of smoke immediately over their heads. Then 
Red glanced up to see what it was that sizzed, 
saw the glowing end of a three-inch fuse, and 
blanched. It was death not to dare and his hand 
shot up and back, and the dynamite cartridge 
sailed far behind him to the edge of the embank- 
ment, where it hung on a bush. 

"Good!" panted Hopalong. "We '11 pay 'em 
for thatl" 

"They 're worse 'n rustlers!" 

They could hear the messenger running about 
over their heads, dragging and up-ending heavy 
objects against the doors of the car, and Hopa- 
long laughed grimly: 

"Luck 's with this messenger, all right." 

"It ought to be — he 's a fighter." 

"Where are they? Have they tumbled to our 

"They're waiting for the explosion, you 



**Stay where you are then. Wait till they 
pome out to see what 's th' matter with it." 

Red snorted: "Wait nothing!" 

"All right, then; I 'm with you. Get out of 
my way." 

"I Ve been in situations some peculiar, but this 
beats 'em all," Red chuckled, crawling forward. 

The robber by the car truck revived enough to 
realize that something was radically wrong, and 
shouted a warning as he raised himself on his el- 
bow to fire at Skinny but the alert puncher shot 

As Hopalong and Red emerged from beneath 
the car and rose to their feet there was a terrific 
explosion and they were knocked to the ground, 
while a sudden, heavy shower of stones and earth 
rained down over everything. The two punch- 
ers were not hurt and they arose to their feet in 
time to see the engineer and fireman roll out of 
the cab and crawl along the track on their hands 
and knees, dazed and weakened by the concus- 



Suddenly, from one of the day-coaches, a 
masked man looked out, saw the two punchers, 
and cried: 

"It 's all up! Save yourselves!'* 

As Hopalong and Red looked around, still 
dazed, he fired at them, the huUet singing past 
Hopalong's ear. Red smothered a curse and 
reeled as his friend grasped him. A wound over 
his right eye was hleeding profusely and Hop- 
along's face cleared of its look of anxiety when 
he realized that it was not serious. 

"They creased you! Blamed near got you for 
keeps!" he cried, wiping away the blood with his 

Red, slightly stunned, opened his eyes and 
looked about confusedly. "Who done that? 
Where is he?" 

"Don't know, but I '11 shore find out," Hop- 
along replied. "Can you stand alone?" 

Red pushed himself free and leaned against 
the car for support: "Course I can! Git that 

When Skinny heard the robber shout the warn- 



ing he wheeled and ran back, intently watching 
the windows and doors of the car for trouble. 

"We '11 finish yore tally right here!" he mut- 

When he reached the smoker he turned and 
went towards the rear, where he found Lanky 
and Billy lying under the platform. Billy was 
looking back and guarding their rear, while his 
companion watched the clump of trees where the 
second herd of horses was known to be. Just 
as they were joined by their foreman, they saw 
two men run across the track, fifty yards dis- 
tant, and into the grove, both going so rapidly 
as to give no chance for a shot at them. 

"There they are!" shouted Skinny, opening 
fire on the grove. 

At that instant Hopalong turned the rear plat- 
form and saw the brakeman leap out of the door 
with a Winchester in his hands. The puncher 
sprang up the steps, wrenched the rifle from its 
owner, and, tossing it to Skinny, cried: "Here, 
this is better!" 

"Too late," grunted the puncher, looking up, 



but Hopalong had become lost to sight among 
the rocks along the right of way. "If I only 
had this a minute ago!" he grumbled. 

The men in the grove, now in the saddle, 
turned and opened fire on the group by the train, 
driving them back to shelter. Skinny, taking 
advantage of the cover afforded, ran towards the 
grove, ordering his friends to spread out and sur- 
round it; but it was too late, for at that minute 
galloping was heard and it grew rapidly fainter. 

Red appeared at the end of the train: 
"Where 's th' rest of the coyotes?" 

"Two of 'em got away," Lanky replied. 

"Ya-ho!" shouted Hopalong from the grove. 
"Don't none of you fools shoot! I'm coming 
out. They plumb got away!" 

"They near got you. Red," Skinny cried. 

"Nears don't count," Red laughed. 

"Did you ever notice Hopalong when he 's 
fighting mad?" asked Lanky, grinning at the 
man who was leaving the woods. "He alius 
wears his sombrero hanging on one ear. Look 
at it now!" 



"Who touched off that cannon some time 
back?" asked Billy. 

"I did. It was an anti-gravity cartridge what 
I found sizzling on a rod under th' floor of th' 
express car," replied Red. 

"Why did n't you pinch out th' fuse 'stead of 
blowing everything up, you half-breed?" Lanky 

"I reckon I was some hasty," grinned Red. 

"It bio wed me under th' car an' my lid through 
a windy," cried Billy. "An' Skinny, he went up 
in th' air like a shore-'nough grasshopper." 

Hopalong joined them, grinning broadly: 
"Hey, reckon ridin' in th' cars ain't so bad after 
all, is it?" 

"Holy smoke!" cried Skinny. "What 's that 

Hopalong, Colt in hand, leaped to the side of 
the train and looked along it, the others close be- 
hind him, and saw the fat man with his head and 
arm out of the window, blazing away into the air, 
which increased the panic in the coaches. Hop- 
along grinned and fired into the ground, and the 



fat man nearly dislocated parts of his anatomy 
by his hasty disappearance. 

"Reckon he plumb forgot all about his fine, 
six-dollar gun till just now," Skinny laughed. 

"Oh, he 's making good," Red replied. "He 
said he 'd take a hand if anything busted loose. 
It 's a good thing he did n't come to life while me 
an' Hoppy was under his windy looking for 

"Reckon some of us better go in th' cars an' 
quiet th' stampede," Skinny remarked, mounting 
the steps, followed by Hopalong. "They're 
shore loco/' 

The uproar in the coach ceased abruptly when 
the two punchers stepped through the door, the 
inmates shrinking into their seats, frightened 
into silence. Skinny and his companion did not 
make a reassuring sight, for they were grimy 
with burned powder and dust, and Hopalong's 
sleeve was stained with Red's blood. 

"Oh, my jewels, my pretty jewels," sobbed a 
woman, staring at Skinny and wringing her 



"Ma'am, we shore don't want yore jewelry," 
replied Skinny, earnestly. **Ca'm yoreself; we 
don't want nothin'." 

''I don't want that!" growled Hopalong, push- 
ing a wallet from him. "How many times do 
you want us to tell you we don't want nothin'? 
We ain't robbers; we licked th' robbers." 

Suddenly he stooped and, grasping a pair of 
legs which protruded into the aisle obstructing 
the passage, straightened up and backed towards 
Red, who had just entered the car, dragging into 
sight a portly gentleman, who kicked and strug- 
gled and squealed, as he grabbed at the stanch- 
ions of seats to stay his progress. Red stepped 
aside between two seats and let his friend pass, 
and then leaned over and grasped the portly gen- 
tleman's coat-collar. He tugged energetically 
and lifted the frightened man clear of the aisle 
and deposited him across the back of a seat, face 
down, where he hung balanced, yelling and kick- 

"Shut yore face, you cave-hunter!" cried Red 
in disgust. "Stop that infernal noise! You fat 



fellers make all yore noise after th' fighting is 
all over!" 

The man on the seat, suddenly realizing what 
a sight he made, rolled off his perch and sat up, 
now more angry than frightened. He glared at 
Red's grinning face and sputtered: 

*'It's an outrage! It's an outrage! I'll 
have you hung for this day's work, young man!" 

"That's right," grinned Hopalong. "He 
shore deserves it. I told him more 'n once that 
he 'd get strung up some day." 

**Yes, and you, too!" 

"Please don't," begged Hopalong. "I don't 
wantt' die!" 

Tense as the past quarter of an hour had been 
a titter ran along the car and, fuming impotently, 
the portly gentleman fled into the smoker. 

"I '11 bet be bad a six-dollar gun, too," laughed 

*'I '11 bet he 's calling hisself names right about 
now," Hopalong replied. Then he turned to re- 
ply to a woman: "Yes, ma'am, we did. But 
they was n't real badmen." 



At this a young woman, who was about as 
pretty as any young woman could be, arose and 
ran to Hopalong and, impulsively throwing her 
arms around his neck, cried: "You brave man! 
You hero! You dear!" 

"Skinny ! Red ! Help !" cried the frightened 
and embarrassed puncher, struggling to get free. 

She kissed him on the cheek, which flamed even 
more red as he made frantic efforts to keep his 
head back. 

"Ma'am!*' he cried, desperately. "Leggo, 
ma'am! Leggo!" 

"Oh! Ho! Ho!" roared Red, weak from his 
mirth and, not looking to see what he was doing, 
he dropped into a seat beside another woman. 
He was on his feet instantly; fearing that he 
would have to go through the ordeal his friend 
was going through, he fled down the aisle, closely 
followed by Hopalong, who by this time had 
managed to break away. Skinny backed off 
suspiciously and kept close watch on Hopalong's 

Just then the brakeman entered the car, grin- 



ning, and Skinny asked about the condition of 
the conductor. 

"Oh, he 's all right now/' the brakeman replied. 
*'They shot him through the arm, but he 's re- 
paired and out bossin' the job of clearin' the 
rocks off the track. He 's a little shaky yet, but 
he 'U come around all right." 

**That 's good. I 'm shore glad to hear it." 

"Won't you wear this pin as a small token of 
my gratitude?" asked a voice at Skinny 's shoul- 

He wheeled and raised his sombrero, a flush 
stealing over his face : 

"Thank you, ma'am, but I don't want no pay. 
We was plumb glad to do it." 

"But this is not pay ! It 's just a trifling token 
of my appreciation of your courage, just some- 
thing to remind you of it. I shall feel hurt if 
you refuse." 

Her quick fingers had pinned it to his shirt 
while she spoke and he thanked her as well as his 
embarrassment would permit. Then there was 
a rush toward him and, having visions of a shirt 



looking like a jeweler's window, he turned and 
fled from the car, crying: "Pin 'em on th' 

He found the outfit working at a pile of rocks 
on the track, under the supervision of the con- 
ductor, and Hopalong looked up apprehensively 
at Skinny's approach. 

"Lord!" he ejaculated, grinning sheepishly, "I 
was some scairt you was a woman." 

Red dropped the rock he was carrying and 
laughed derisively. 

"Oh, yo 're a brave man, you are! scared to 
death by a purty female girl! If I 'd 'a' been 
you I would n't 'a' run, not a step !" 

Hopalong looked at him witheringly: "Oh, 
no ! You would n't 'a' run ! You 'd dropped 
dead in your tracks, you would!" 

"You was both of you a whole lot scared," 
Skinny laughed. Then, turning to the con- 
ductor: "How do you feel, Simms?" 

"Oh, I 'm all right : but it took the starch out 
of me for awhile." 

"Well, I don't wonder, not a bit." 



**You fellows certainly don't waste any time 
getting busy/' Simms laughed. 

''That's the secret of gun-fightin'," replied 

"Well, you 're a fine crowd all right. Any 
time you want to go any place when you 're 
broke, climb aboard my train and I '11 see't you 
get there." 

"Much obliged." 

Simms turned to the express-car: "Hey, 
Jackson! You can open up now if you want 

But the express-messenger was suspicious, 
fearing that the conductor was talking with a 
gun at his head: "You go to h — ^11" he called 

"Honest!" laughed Simms. *'Some cowboy 
friends o' mine licked the gang. Didn't you 
hear that dynamite go off? If they hadn't 
fished it out from mider your feet you 'd be 
communing with the angels 'bout now." 

For a moment there was no response, and then 
Jackson could be heard dragging things away 



from the door. When he was told of the car- 
tridge and Red had been pointed out to him as 
the man who had saved his life, he leaped to the 
ground and ran to where that puncher was en- 
gaged in carrying the ever-silenced robbers to 
the baggage-car. He shook hands with Red, 
who laughed deprecatingly, and then turned and 
assisted him. 

Hopalong came up and grinned: "Say, 
there 's some cayuses in that grove up th' track; 
shall I go up an' get 'em?" 

"Shore I I '11 go an' get 'em with you," replied 

In the grove they found seven horses pick- 
eted, two of them being pack-animals, and they 
led them forth and reached the train as the others 
came up. 

"Well, here 's five saddled cayuses, an' two oth- 
ers," Skinny grinned. 

"Then we can ride th' rest of th' way in th' 
saddle instead of in that blamed train," Red 
eagerly suggested. 

"That 's just what we can do," replied Skinny. 



"Leather beats car-seats any time. How far 
are we from Sandy Creek, Simms?" 

"About twenty miles." 

"An' we can ride along th' track, too," sug- 
gested Hopalong. 

"We shore can," laughed Skinny, shaking 
hands with the train-crew: *'We 're some glad 
we rode with you this trip : we Ve had a fine time/' 

"And we're glad you did," Simms replied, 
"for that ain't no joke, either." 

Hopalong and the others had mounted and 
were busy waving their sombreros and bowing 
to the heads and handkerchiefs which were dec- 
orating the car-windows. 

"All aboard!" shouted the conductor, and 
cheers and good wishes rang out and were replied 
to by bows and waving of sombreros. Then 
Hopalong jerked his gun loose and emptied it 
into the air, his companions doing likewise. Sud- 
denly five reports rang out from the smoker and 
they cheered the fat man as he waved at them. 
They sat quietly and watched the train until the 
last handkerchief became lost to sight around a 



curve, but the screeching whistle could be heard 
for a long time. 

"Gee!" laughed Hopalong as they rode on 
after the train, "won't th' fellers home on th' 
ranch be a whole lot sore when they hears about 
the good time what they missed!" 



THE long train ride and the excitement were 
over and the outfit, homeward bound, loped 
along the trail, noisily discussing their exciting 
and humorous experiences and laughingly com- 
mented upon Hopalong's decision to follow them 
later. They could not understand why he should 
be interested in a town like Sandy Creek after 
a week spent in the city. 

Back in the little cow-town their friend was 
standing in the office of the hotel, gazing abstract- 
edly out of the window. His eyes caught and 
focused on a woman who was walking slowly 
along the other side of the square and finally 
paused before McCalPs "Palace,'' a combination 
saloon, dance and gambling hall. He smiled 
cynically as his memory ran back over those other 
women he had seen in cow-towns and wondered 
how it was that the men of the ranges could 



rise to a chivalry that was famed. At that dis- 
tance she was strikingly pretty. Her complex- 
ion was an alluring blend of color that the gold 
of her hair crowned like a burst of sunshine. He 
noticed that her eyebrows were too prominent, 
too black and heavy to be Nature's contribution. 
And there was about her a certain forwardness, a 
dash that bespoke no bashful Miss; and her 
clothes, though well-fitting, somehow did not 
please his untrained eye. A sudden impulse seized 
him and he strode to the door and crossed the 
dusty square, avoiding the piles of rusted cans, 
broken bottles and other rubbish that littered it. 

She had become interested in a dingy window 
but turned to greet him with a resplendent smile 
as he stepped to the wooden walk. He noted 
with displeasure that the white teeth displayed 
two shining panels of gold that drew his eyes 
irresistibly; and then and there he hated gold 

"Hello," she laughed. "I 'm glad to see some- 
body that 's alive in this town. Ain't it awful?" 

He instinctively removed his sombrero and was 



conscious that his habitual bashfulness in the 
presence of members of her sex was somehow 
lacking. "Why, I don't see nothin' extra dead 
about it," he replied. "Most of these towns are 
this way in daylight. Th' moths ain't out yet. 
You should 'a' been here last night!" 

"Yes? But you 're out; an' you look like you 
might be able to fly," she replied. 

"Yes; I suppose so," he laughed. 

"I see you wear two of 'em," she said, glan- 
cing at his guns. "Ain't one of them things 

"One usually is, mostly," he assented. "But 
I 'm pig-headed, so I wears two." 

"Ain't it awful hard to use two of 'em at once?" 
she asked, her tone flattering. "Then you're 
one of them two-gun men I 've heard about, ain't 

"An' seen?" he smiled. 

"Yes, I 've seen a couple. Where you goin' 
so early?" 

"Just lookin' th' town over," he answered, 
glancing over her shoulder at a cub of a cow- 



puncher who had opened the door of the "Re- 
treat," but stopped in his tracks when he saw the 
couple in front of McCalFs. There was a look 
of surprised interest on the cub's face, and it 
swiftly changed to one of envious interest. Hop- 
along's glance did not linger, but swept care- 
lessly along the row of shacks and back to his 
companion's face without betraying his discovery. 

"Well; you can look it over in about ten sec- 
onds, from th' outside," she rejoined. "An' it 's 
so dusty out here. My throat is awful dry al- 

He had n't noticed any dust in the air, but he 
nodded. "Yes; thirsty?" 

"Well, it ain't polite or ladylike to say yes," 
she demurred, "but I really am." 

He held open the door of the "Palace" and 
preceded her to the dance hall, where she rippled 
the keys of the old piano as she swept past it. 
The order given and served, he sipped at his glass 
and carried on his share of a light conversation 
until, suddenly, he arose and made his apologies. 
"I got to attend to somethin'," he regretted as he 



picked up his sombrero and turned. *'See you 

"Why !" she exclaimed, "I was just beginnin' 
to get acquainted!" 

"A moth without money ain't no good," he 
smiled. "I 'm goin' out to find th' money. 
When I 'm in good company I like to spend. 
See you later?" He bowed as she nodded, and 

Emerging from McCall's he glanced at the 
"Retreat" and sauntered toward it. When he 
entered he found the cub resting his elbows on 
the pine bar, arguing with the bartender about 
the cigars sold in the establishment. The cub 
glanced up and appealed to the newcomer. 
"Ain't they?" he demanded. 

Hopalong nodded. "I reckon so. But what 
is it about?" 

"These cigars," explained the cub, ruefully. 
"I was just sayin' there ain't a good one in town." 

"Ybu lose," replied Hopalong. "Are you 
shore you knows a good cigar when you smokes 



"I know it so well that I ain't found one since 
I left Kansas City. You said I lose. Do you 
know one well enough to be a judge?" 

Hopalong reached to his vest pocket, extracted 
a cigar and handed it to the cub, who took it hesi- 
tatingly. "Why, I'm much obliged. I — I 
did n't mean that — ^you know." 

Hopalong nodded and rearranged the cigar's 
twin-brothers in his pocket. He would be re- 
lieved when they were smoked, for they made 
him nervous with their frailty. The cub lighted 
the cigar and an unaffected grin of delight 
wreathed his features as the smoke issued froni 
his nostrils. ''Who sells 'em?" he demanded, 

"Corson an' Lukins, up th' hill from th' depot," 
answered Hopalong. "Like it?" 

"Like it! Why, stranger, I used to spend 
most of my week's pocket money for these." He 
paused and stared at the smiling puncher. "Did 
you say Corson an' Lukins?" he demanded in- 
credulously. "Well, I '11 be hanged! When 
was you there?" 



"Last week. Here, bartender; liquor for all 

The cub touched the glass to his lips and waved 
his hand at a table. Seated across from the 
stranger with the heaven-sent cigars he ordered 
the second round, and when he went to pay for 
it he drew out a big roll of bills and peeled off 
the one on the outside. 

Hopalong frowned. "Sonny," he said in a 
low voice, "it ain't none of my affair, but you 
oughta put that wad away an' forget you have 
it when out in public. You shouldn't tempt 
yore feller men like that." 

The cub laughed: "Oh, I had my eye teeth 
cut long ago. Play a little game?" 

Hopalong was amused. "Didn't I just tell 
you not to tempt yore feller men?" 

The cub grinned. "I reckon it '11 fade quick, 
anyhow; but it took me six months' hard work to 
get it together. It '11 last about six days, I sup- 

"Six hours, if you plays every man that comes 
along," corrected Hopalong. 



*Well, mebby," admitted the cub. "Say: 
that was one fine girl you was talkin' to, all 
right," he grinned. 

Hopalong studied him a moment. "Not 
meanin' no offense, what 's yore name?" 

"Sammy Porter; why?" 

"Well, Sammy," remarked Hopalong as he 
arose. "I reckon we 'U meet again before I leave. 
You was remarkin' she was a fine girl. I admit 
it; she was. So long," and he started for the 

Sammy flushed. "Why, I — I didn't mean 
nothinM" he exclaimed. "I just happened to 
think about her — that 's all! You know, I saw 
you talkin' to her. Of course, you saw her first," 
he explained. 

Hopalong turned and smiled kindly. "You 
didn't say nothin' to offend me. I was just 
startin' when you spoke. But as long as you 
mentioned it I '11 say that my interest in th' lady 
was only brief. Her interest in me was th' same. 
Beyond lettin' you know that I '11 add that I don't 
generally discuss wimmin. I '11 see you later," 



and, nodding cheerily, he went out and closed the 
door behind him. 

Hopalong leaned lazily against the hotel, out 
of reach of the spring wind, which was still sharp, 
and basked in the warmth of the timid sun. He 
regarded the little cow-town cynically but smil- 
ingly and found no particular fault with it. 
Existing because the railroad construction work 
of the season before had chanced to stop on the 
eastern bank of the deceptive creek, and because 
of the nearness of three drive trails, one of them 
important, the town had sprung up, mushroom- 
like, almost in a night. Facing on the square 
were two general stores, the railroad station and 
buildings, two restaurants, a dozen saloons where 
gambling either was the main attraction or an 
ambitious side-line, McCalFs place and a barber 
shop with a dingy, bullet-peppered red-and- white 
pole set close to the door. Between the barber 
shop and McCalFs was a narrow space, and the 
windows of the two buldings, while not opposite, 



opened on the little strip of ground separating 

Rubbing a hand across his chin he regarded the 
barber shop thoughtfully and finally pushed 
away from the sun-warmed wall of the hotel and 
started lazily toward the red-and- white pole. As 
he did so the tin-panny notes of a piano redoubled 
and a woman's voice shrilly arose to a high note, 
flatted, broke and swiftly dropped an octave. 
He squirmed and looked speculatively along the 
westward trail, wondering how far away his out- 
fit was and why he had not gone with them. An- 
other soaring note that did not flat and a crash- 
ing chord from the piano were followed by a 
burst of uproarious, reckless laughter. Hopa- 
long frowned, snapped his fingers in sudden de- 
cision and stepped briskly toward the barber shop 
as the piano began anew. 

Entering quietly and closing the door softly, 
he glanced appraisingly through the windows and 
made known his wants in a low voice. "I want 
a shave, haircut, shampoo, an' anythin' else you 



can think of. I 'm tired an' don't want to talk. 
Take yore own time an' do a good job ; an' if I 'm 
asleep when yo're through, don't wake me till 
somebody else wants th' chair. Savvy? All 
right — start in." 

In McCall's a stolid bartender listened to the 
snatches of conversation that filtered under the 
door to the dance hall alongside and on his face 
there at times flickered the suggestion of a cyni- 
cal smile. A heavy, dark complexioned man 
entered from the street and glanced at the closed 
door of the dance hall. The bartender nodded 
and held up a staying hand, after which he shoved 
a drink across the bar. The heavy-set man care- 
fully wiped a few drops of spilled liquor from his 
white, tapering hands and seated himself with a 
sigh of relief, and became busy with his thoughts 
until the time should come when he would be 

On the other side of that door a little comedy 
was being enacted. The musician, a woman, 
toyed with the keys of the warped and scratched 
piano, the dim light from the shaded windows 



mercifully hiding the paint and the hardness of 
her face and helping the jewelry, with which her 
hands were covered, keep its tawdry secret. 

"I don't see what makes you so touchy," 
grumbled Sammy in a pout. "I ain't goin' to 
hurt you if I touch yore arm." He was flushed 
and there was a suspicious unsteadiness in his 

She laughed. "Why, I thought you wanted 
to talk?" 

"I did," he admitted, sullenly; "but there's a 
limit to most wants. Oh, well: go ahead an' 
play. That last piece was all right; but give us 
a gallop or a mazurka — anything lively. Better 
yet, a caprice: it 's in keepin' with yore tempera- 
ment. If you was to try to interpert mine you 'd 
have to dig it out of Verdi an' toll a funeral 

"Say; who told you so much about music?" 
she demanded. 

"Th' man that makes harmonicas," he grinned. 
He arose and took a step toward her, but she re- 
treated swiftly, smiling. "Now behave yourself, 



for a little while, at least. What 's th' matter 
with you, anyhow? What makes you so silly?" 

"You, of course. I don't see no purty wimmin 
out on th' range, an' you went to my head th' 
minute I laid eyes on you. I ain't in no hurry 
to leave this town, now nohow." 

"I 'm afraid you 're going to be awful when 
you grow up. But you 're a nice boy to say such 
pretty things. Here," she said, filhng his glass 
and handing it to him, ''let 's drink another toast 
— ^you know such nice ones." 

"Yes; an' if I don't run out of 'em purty soon 
I '11 have to hunt a solid, immovable corner some- 
wheres; an' there ain't nothin' solid or immovable 
about this room at present," he growled. "'What 
you alius drinkin' to somethin' for? Well, here's 
a toast — I don't know any more fancy ones. 
Here 's to — your 

"That's nicer than — oh, pshaw!" she ex- 
claimed, pouting. "An' you wouldn't drink a 
full glass to that one. You must think I 'm nice, 
when you renig like that! Don't tell me any 
more pretty things — an' stop right where you 



are! Think you can hang onto me after that? 
Well, that's better; why didn't you do it th' 
first time? You can be a nice boy when you 
want to." 

He flushed angrily. "Will you stop callin' 
me a boy?" he demanded unsteadily. "I ain't 
no kid! I do a man's work, earn a man's pay, 
an' I spend it like a man." 

"An' drink a boy's drink," she teased. 
"You '11 grow up some day." She reached for- 
ward and filled his glass again, for an instant 
letting her cheek touch his. Swiftly evading 
him she laughed and patted him on the head. 
"Here, man,'' she taunted, "drink this if you 

He frowned at her but gulped down the liquor. 
"There, like a fool!" he grumbled, bitterly. 
"You tryin' to get me drunk?" he demanded sud- 
denly in a heavy voice. 

She threw back her head and regarded him 
coldly. "It will do me no good. Why should I ? 
I merely wanted to see if you would take a dare, 
if you were a man. You are either not sober 



now, or you are insultingly impolite. I don't 
care to waste any more words or time with you," 
and she turned haughtily toward the door. 

He had leaned against the piano, but now he 
lurched forward and cried out. "I 'm sorry if 
I hurt yore feelin's that way — I shore didn't 
mean to. Ain't we goin' to make up?" he asked, 

"Do you mean that?" she demanded, pausing 
and looking around. 

"You know I do, Annie. Le's make up — 
come on ; le's make up." 

"Well; I '11 try you, an' see." 

"Play some more. You play beautiful," he 
assured her with heavy gravity. 

"I'm tired of — but, say: Can you play 
poker?" she asked, eagerly. 

"Why, shore; who can't?" 

"Well, I can't, for one. I want to learn, so I 
can win my money back from Jim, He taught 
me, but all I had time to learn was how to lose." 

Sammy regarded her in puzzled surprise and 
gradually the idea became plain. "Did he teach 



you, an' win money from you? Did he keep 
it?" he finally blurted, his face flushed a deeper 
red from anger. 

She nodded. "Why, yes; why?" 

He looked around for his sombrero, muttering 

''Where you goin'?" she asked in surprise. 

"To get it back. He ain't goin' to keep it, th' 

"Why, he won't give it back to you if he 
would n't to me. Anyhow, he won it." 

''Won it!" he snapped. "He stole it, that's 
how much he won it. He '11 give it back or get 

"Now look here," she said, quickly. "You 
ain't goin' gunnin' for no friend of mine. If 
you want to get that money for me, an' I certainly 
can use it about now, you got to try some other 
way. Say! Why don't you win it from him?" 
she exulted. "That 's th' way — get it back th' 
way it went." 

He weighed her words and a grin slowly crept 
across his face. "Why, I reckon you called it, 



that time, Annie. That 's th' way I '11 try first, 
anyhow, Li'l Girl. Where is this good friend of 
yourn that steals yore money? Where is this 

As if in answer to his inquiry the heavy-set man 
strolled in, humming cheerily. And as he did 
so the sleepy occupant of the barber's chair 
slowly awoke, rubbed his eyes, stretched luxu- 
riously and, paying his bill, loafed out and lazily 
sauntered down the street, swearing softly. 

"Why, here he is now," laughed the woman. 
"You must 'a' heard us talkin' about you, Jim. 
I 'm goin' to get my money back — this is Mr. 
Porter, Jim, who 's goin' to do it." 

The gambler smiled and held out his hand. 
"Howd'y, Mr. Porter," he said. 

Sammy glared at him : "Put yore paw down," 
he said, thickly. "I ain't shakin' ban's with no 
dogs or tin-horns." 

The gambler recoiled and flushed, fighting hard 
to repress his anger. "What you mean?" he 
growled, furiously. 

"What I said. If you want revenge sit down 



there an' play, if you Ve got th' nerve to play 
with a man. I never let no coyote steal a 
woman's money, an' I 'm goin' to get Annie her 
twenty. Savvy?" 

The gambler's reply was a snarl. "Play!" he 
sneered. "I '11 play, all right. It '11 take 
more 'n a sassy kid to get that money back, too. 
I 'm goin' to take yore last red cent. You can't 
talk to me like that an' get it over. An' don't 
let me hear you call her 'Annie' no more, neither. 
Yo 're too cussed familiar!" 

Her hand on Sammy's arm stopped the draw 
and he let the gun drop back into the holster, 
"No!" she whispered. "Make a fool of him, 
Sammy! Beat him at his own game." 

Sammy nodded and scowled blackly. "I call 
th' names as suits me," he retorted. "When I 
see you on th' street I 'm goin' to call you some 
that I 'm savin' up now because a lady 's present. 
They 're hefty, too." 

At first he won, but always small amounts. 
Becoming reckless, he plunged heavily on a fair 
hand and lost. He plunged again on a better 



hand and lost. Then he steadied as much as his 
befuddled brain would permit and played a care- 
ful game, winning a small pot. Another small 
winning destroyed his caution and he plunged 
again, losing heavily. Steadying himself once 
more he began a new deal with excess caution 
and was bluffed out of the pot, the gambler 
sneeringly showing his cards as he threw them 
down. Sammy glanced around to say something 
to the woman, but found she had gone. '*Aw, 
never mind her !" growled his opponent. "She '11 
be back — she can't stay away from a kid like 


The woman was passing through the barroom 
and, winking at the bartender, opened the door 
and stepped to the street. She smiled as she 
caught sight of the limping stranger coming 
toward her. He might have found money, but 
she was certain he had found something else and 
in generous quantities. He removed his som- 
brero with an exaggerated sweep of his hand and 
hastened to meet her, walking with the conscious 
erectness of a man whose feet are the last part 



of him to succumb. "Hullo, Sugar," he grinned. 
''I found some, a'right. Now we '11 have some 
music. Come long." 

"There ain't no hurry," she answered. ''We '11 
take a little walk first." 

"No, we won't. We '11 have some music an' 
somethin' to drink. If you won't make th' music, 
I will; or shoot up th' machine. Come 'long, 
Sugar," he leered, pushing open the door with a 
resounding slam. He nodded to the bartender 
and apologized. "No harm meant. Friend. It 
sort a slipped; jus' slipped, tha's all. Th' young 
lady an' me is goin' to have some music. What? 
All right for you, Sugar! Then I'll make it 
myself," and he paraded stifHy toward the inner 

The bartender leaned suddenly forward. 
"Keep out of there I You '11 bust that pianner!" 

The puncher stopped with a jerk, swung pon- 
derously on his heel and leveled a forefinger at 
the dispenser of drinks. "I won't," he said. 
"An' if I do, I '11 pay for it. Come on, Sugar 
— le's play th' old thing, jus' for spite." Grasp- 



ing her arm he gently but firmly escorted her into 
the dance hall and seated her at the piano. As he 
straightened up he noticed the card players and, 
bowing low to her, turned and addressed them. 

"Gents," he announced, bowing again, "we are 
goin' to have a li'l music an' we hopes you won't 
objec'. Not that we gives a d — ^n, but we jus' 
hopes you won't." He laughed loudly at his 
joke and leaned against the piano. "Let 'er go," 
he cried, beating time. "Allaman lef an' ladies 
change! Swing yore partner's gal — I mean, 
swing some other gal : but what 's th' difF'rence ? 
All join ban's an' hop to th' middle — ^nopel 
It 's all ban's roun' an' swing 'em again. But it 
don't make no difF'rence, does it, Lulu?" He 
whooped loudly and marched across the room, 
executed a few fancy steps and marched back 
again. As he passed the card table Sammy 
threw down his hand and arose with a curse. The 
marcher stopped, fiddled a bit with his feet until 
obtaining his balance, and then regarded the 
youth quizzically. "S'matter, Sonny?" he in- 



Sammy scowled, slowly recognized the owner 
of the imported cigars and shook his head. "Big 
han's, but not big enough; an' I lost my pile." 
Staggering to the piano he plumped down on a 
chair near it and watched the rippling fingers of 
the player in drunken interest. 

The hilarious cowpuncher, leaning backward 
perilously, recovered his poise for a moment and 
then lurched forward into the chair the youth had 
just left. "Come on, pardner," he grinned across 
at the gambler. "Le's gamble. I been honin' 
for a game, an' here she is." He picked up the 
cards, shuffled them clumsily and pushed them 
out for the cut. The gambler hesitated, con- 
sidered and then turned over a jack. He lost 
the deal and shoved out a quarter without inter- 

The puncher leaned over, looked at it closely 
and grinned. ''Two bits? That ain't poker; 
that's — that's dominoes!" he blurted, angrily, 
with the quick change of mood of a man in his 

"I ain't anxious to play," replied the gambler. 



"I '11 kill a li'l time at a two-bit game, though. 
Otherwise I '11 quit." 

"A'right," replied the dealer. "I didn't ex- 
pec' nothin' else from a tin-horn, no-how. I want 
two cards after you get yourn." The gambler 
called on the second raise and smiled to himself 
when he saw that his opponent had drawn to a 
pair and an ace. He won on his own deal and 
on the one following. 

The puncher increased the ante on the fourth 
deal and looked up inquiringly, a grin on his face. 
"Le's move out th' infant class," he suggested. 

The gambler regarded him sharply. "Well, 
th' other was sorta tender," he admitted, nodding. 

The puncher pulled out a handful of gold 
coins and clumsily tried to stalk them, which he 
succeeded in doing after three attempts. He 
was so busy that he did not notice the look in the 
other's eyes. Picking up his hand he winked 
at it and discarded one. "Goin' to raise th' ante 
a few," he chuckled. "I got a feelin' I 'm goin' 
t' be lucky." When the card was dealt to him 
he let it lay and bet heavily. The gambler saw 



it and raised in turn, and the puncher, frowning 
in indecision, nodded his head wisely and met it, 
calling as he did so. His four fives were just 
two spots shy to win and he grumbled loudly at 
his luck. "Huh," he finished, "she 's a jack pot, 
eh?" He slid a double eagle out to the center 
of the table and laughed recklessly. The deals 
went around rapidly, each one calling for a ten- 
dollar sweetener and when the seventh hand was 
dealt the puncher picked his cards and lauged. 
"She 's open," he cried, "for fifty," and shoved 
out the money with one hand while he dug up a 
reserve pile from his pocket with the other. 

The gambler saw the opener and raised it fifty, 
smiling at his opponent's expression. The pun- 
cher grunted his surprise, studied his hand, 
glanced at the pot and shrugging his shoulders, 
saw the raise. He drew two cards and chuckled 
as he slid them into his hand ; but before the dealer 
could make his own draw the puncher's chuckle 
died out and he stared over the gambler's 
shoulder. With an oath he jerked out his gun 
and fired. The gambler leaped to his feet and 



whirled around to look behind. Then he angrily 
faced the frowning puncher. "What you think 
yo 're doin'?" he demanded, his hand resting in- 
side his coat, the thumb hooked over the edge of 
the vest. 

The puncher waved his hand apologetically. 
"I never have no luck when I sees a cat," he ex- 
plained. "A black cat is worse; but a yaller 
one 's bad enough. I '11 bet that yaller devil 
won't come back in a hurry — judgin' by th' way 
it started. I won't miss him, if he does." 

The gambler, still frowning, glanced at the 
deck suspiciously and saw that it lay as he had 
dropped it. The bartender, grinning at them 
from the door, cracked a joke and went back to 
the bar. Sammy, after a wild look around, 
settled back in his chair and soothed the pianist 
a little before going back to sleep. 

Drawing two cards the gambler shoved them 
in his hand without a change in his expression — 
but he was greatly puzzled. It was seldom that 
he bungled and he was not certain that he had. 
The discard contained the right number of cards 



and liis opponent's face gave no hint to the 
thoughts behind it. He hesitated before he saw 
the bet — ten dollars was not much, for the size 
of the pot justified more. He slowly saw it, will- 
ing to lose the ten in order to see his opponent's 
cards. There was something he wished to know, 
and he wanted to know it as soon as he could. 
"I call that," he said. The puncher's expression 
of tenseness relaxed into one of great relief and 
he hurriedly dropped his cards. Three kings, an 
eight, and a deuce was his offering. The gam- 
bler laid down a pair of queens, a ten, an eight 
and a four, waved his hand and smiled. "It 's 
just as well I didn't draw another queen," he 
observed, calmly. "I might 'a' raised once for 

The puncher raked in the pot and turned 
around in his chair. "I cleaned up that time," 
he exulted to the woman. She had stopped play- 
ing and was stroking Sammy's forehead. Smil- 
ing at the exuberant winner she nodded. "You 
should have let the cat stay — I think it really 
brought you luck." He shook his head emphat- 



ically. "No, ma'am! It was chasin' it away as 
did that. That 's what did it, a'right." 

The gambler glanced quickly at the two top 
cards on the deck and was picking up those scat- 
tered on the table when his opponent turned 
around again. How that queen and ten had got 
two cards too deep puzzled him greatly — he was 
willing to wager even money that he would not 
look away again until the game was finished, not 
if all the cats in the world were being slaughtered. 
One hundred and ninety dollars was too much 
money to pay for being caught off his guard, as 
he was tempted to believe he had been. He did 
not know how much liquor the other had con- 
sumed, but he seemed to be sobering rapidly. 

The next few deals did not amount to much. 
Then a jackpot came around and was pushed 
hard. The puncher was dealing and as he picked 
up the deck after the cut he grinned and winked. 
**Th' skirmishin' now bein' over, th' battle begins. 
If that cat stays away long enough mebby I '11 
make a killin'." 

"All right ; but don't make no more gun-plays," 



warned the gambler, coldly. *'I alius get ex- 
cited when I smells gun-powder an' I do reckless 
things sometimes," he added, significantly. 

**Then I shore hopes you keep ca'm," laughed 
the puncher, loud enough to be heard over the 
noise of the piano, which was now going again. 

The pot was sweetened three times and then 
the gambler dealt his opponent openers. The 
puncher looked anxiously through the door, grin- 
ning coltishly. He slowly pushed out twenty 
dollars. "There 's th' key," he grunted. 
"A'right; see that an' raise you back. Good for 
you! I'm stayin' an' boostin' same as ever. 
Fine! See it again, an' add this. I 'm playin' 
with yore money, so I c'n afford to be reckless. 
All right; I'm satisfied, too. Gimme one li'l 
card. I shore am glad I don't need th' king of 
hearts — that was shore on th' bottom when th' 
deal begun," 

The gambler, having drawn, cursed and 
reached swiftly toward his vest pocket; but he 
stopped suddenly and contemplated the Colt that 
peeked over the edge of the table. It looked 



squarely at his short ribs and was backed by a 
sober, angry man who gazed steadily into his 
eyes. "Drop that hand," said the puncher in a 
whisper just loud enough to be heard by the other 
over the noise of the piano. "I never did like 
them shoulder holsters — I carry my irons where 
everybody can see 'em." Leaning forward 
swiftly he reached out his left hand and cautiously 
turned over the other's cards. The fourth one 
was the king of hearts. "Don't move," he 
whispered, not wishing to have the bartender take 
a hand from behind. "An' don't talk," he 
warned as he leaned farther forward and shoved 
his Colt against the other's vest and with his left 
hand extracted a short-barreled gun from the 
sheath under the gambler's armpit. Sinking 
back in his chair he listened a moment and, raking 
in the pot, stowed it away with the other winnings 
in his pockets. 

The gambler stirred, but stopped as the Colt 
leaped like a flash of light to the edge of the 
table. "Tin-horn," said the puncher, softly, 
"you ain't slick enough. I did n't stop you when 



you wanted that queen an' ten because I wanted 
you to go on with th' crookedness. Yaller cats 
is more unlucky to you than they are to me. But 
when I saw that last play I lost my temper; an' 
I stopped you. Now if you '11 cheat with me, 
you '11 cheat with a drunk boy. So, havin' 
cheated him, you really stole his money away 
from him. That bein' so, you will dig up six 
month's wages at about fifty per month. I 'd 
shoot you just as quick as I 'd shoot a snake; so 
don't get no fool notions in yore head. Dig it 
right up." 

The gambler studied the man across from him, 
but after a moment he silently placed some 
money on the table. "It was only two forty," 
he observed, holding to three double eagles. 
The puncher nodded: "I '11 take yore word for 
that. Now, in th' beginnin' I only wanted to 
get th' boy his money; but when you started 
cheatin' against me I changed my mind. I 
played fair. Now here's your short-five," he said 
as he slid the gun across the table. "Mebby you 
might want to use it sometime," he smiled, "Now 



you vamoose ; an' if I see you in town after th' 
next train leaves, I ^1 make you use that shoulder 
holster. An' tell yore friends that Hopalong 
Cassidy says, that for a country where men can 
tote their hardware in plain sight, a shoulder lay- 
out ain't no good: you gotta reach too high. 

He watched the silent, philosophical man-of- 
cards walk slowly toward the door, upright, 
dignified and calm. Then he turned and ap- 
proached the piano. "Sister," he said, politely, 
"yore gamblin' friend is leavin' town on th' next 
train. He has pressin' business back east a 
couple of stations an' wonders if you '11 join him 
at th' depot in time for th' next train." 

She had stopped playing and was staring at 
him in amazement. "Why didn't he come an' 
tell me himself, 'stead of sneakin' away an' 
sendin' you over?" she at last demanded, angrily. 

"Well, he wanted to, but he saw a man an' 
slipped out with his gun in his hand. Mebby 
there'll be trouble; but I dunno. I'm just 
tellin' you. Gee," he laughed, looking at the 



snoring youth in the chair, "he got that quick. 
Why, I saw him less 'n two hours ago an' he was 
sober as a judge. Reckon I '11 take him over 
to th' hotel an' put him to bed." He went over 
to the helpless Sammy, shook him and made him 
get on his feet. *'Come along, Kid," he said, 
slipping his arm under the sagging shoulder. 
"We '11 get along. Good-by, Sugar," and, 
supporting the feebly protesting cub, he slowly 
made his way to the rear door and was gone, a 
grin wreathing his face as he heard the chink of 
gold coins in his several pockets. 



A CLEAN-CUT, good-looking cow- 
puncher limped slightly as he passed 
the postoffice and found a seat on a box in 
front of the store next door. He sighed with 
relief and gazed cheerfully at the littered square 
as though it was something worth looking at. 
The night had not been a pleasant one because 
Sammy Porter had insisted upon either singing 
or snoring; and when breakfast was announced 
the youth almost had recovered his senses and 
was full of remorse and a raging thirst. Being 
flatly denied the hair of the dog that bit him he 
grew eloquently profane and very abusive. 
Hence Mr. Cassidy's fondness for the box. 

Sounds obtruded. They were husky and had 
dimensions and they came from the hotel bar. 
After increasing in volume and carrying power 
they were followed to the street by a disheveled 



youth who kicked open the door and blinked in 
the sunlight. Espying the contented individual 
on the box he shook an earnest fist at that person 
and tried next door. In a moment he followed 
a new burst of noise to the street and shook the 
other fist. Trying the saloon on the other side 
of the hotel without success he shook both fists 
and once again tried the hotel bar, where he 
proceeded along lines tactful, flattering and dip- 
lomatic. Only yesterday he had owned a gun, 
horse and other personal belongings ; he had pos- 
sessed plenty of money, a clear head and his sins 
sat lightly on his youthful soul. He still had the 
sins, but they had grown in weight. Tact 
availed him nothing, flattery was futile and di- 
plomacy was in vain. To all his arguments the 
bartender sadly shook his head, not because 
Sammy had no money, which was the reason he 
gave, but because of vivid remembrance of the 
grimness with which a certain red-haired, 
straight-lipped, two-gun cowpuncher had made 
known his request. "Let him suffer," had said 
the gunman. "It '11 be a good lesson for him. 



Understand; not a drop!" And the bartender 
had understood. To the drink-dispenser's re- 
fusal Sammy replied with a masterpiece of elo- 
quence and during its delivery the bartender 
stood with his hand on a mallet, but too spell- 
bound to throw" it. Wheeling at the close of a 
vivid, soaring climax, Sammy yanked open the 
door again and stood transfixed with amaze- 
ment and hostile envy. His new and officious 
friend surely knew the right system with women. 
To the burning indignities of the morning this 
added the last straw and Sammy bitterly re- 
solved not to forget his wrongs. 

Had Mr. Cassidy been a kitten he would have 
purred with delight as he watched his youthful 
friend's vain search for the hair of the dog, and 
his grin was threatening to engulf his ears when 
the Cub slammed into the hotel. Hearing the 
beating of hoofs he glanced around and saw a 
trim, pretty young lady astride a trim, high- 
spirited pony; and both were thoroughbreds if 
he was any judge. They bore down upon him 
at a smart lope and stopped at the edge of the 



walk. The rider leaped from the saddle and 
ran toward him with her hand outstretched and 
her face aglow with a delighted surprise. Her 
eyes fairly danced with welcome and relief and 
her cheeks, reddened by the thrust of the wind 
for more than twenty miles, flamed a deeper red, 
through which streaks of creamy white played 
fascinatingly. ''Dick Ellsworth!" she cried. 
"When did you get here?" 

Mr. Cassidy stumbled to his feet, one hand in- 
stinctively going out to the one held out to him, 
the other fiercely gripping his sombrero. His 
face flamed under its tan and he mumbled an in- 
coherent reply. 

"Don't you remember me?'^ she chided, a ro- 
guish, half -serious expression flashing over her 
countenance. "Not little Annie, whom you 
taught to ride? I used to think I needed you 
then, Dick; but oh, how I need you now. It 's 
Providence, nothing else, that sent you. 
Father 's gone steadily worse and now all he 
cares for is a bottle. Joe, the new foreman, has 
full charge of everything and he 's not only 



robbing us right and left, but he *s — ^he 's both- 
ering me! When I complain to father of his at- 
tentions all I get is a foolish grin. If you only 
knew how I have prayed for you to come back, 
Dick! Two bitter years of it. But now every- 
thing is all right. Tell me about yourself while 
I get the mail and then we '11 ride home together. 
I suppose Joe will be waiting for me somewhere 
on the trail; he usually does. Did you ever hate 
anyone so much you wanted to kill him?" she 
demanded fiercely, beside herself for the mo- 

Hopalong nodded. "Well, yes; I have," he 
answered. "But you must n't. What 's his 
name? We '11 have to look into this." 

"Joe Worth; but let 's forget him for awhile," 
she smiled. "I '11 get the mail while you go after 
your horse." 

He nodded and watched her enter the post- 
office and then turned and walked thoughtfully 
away. She was mounted when he returned and 
they swung out of the town at a lope. 

"Where have you been, and what have you 



been doing?*' she asked as they pushed along the 
firm, hard trail. 

"Punchin' for th' Bar-20, southwest of here. 
I wouldn't 'a' been here today only I let th' 
outfit ride on without me. We just got back 
from Kansas City a couple of days back. But 
let 's get at this here Joe Worth prop'sition. 
I 'm plumb curious. How long 's he been pes- 
terin' you?" 

"Nearly two years — I can't stand it much 

"An' th' outfit don't cut in?" 

"They 're his friends, and they understand 
that father wants it so. You '11 not know father, 
Dick: I never thought a man could change so. 
Mother's death broke him as though he were a 

"Hum!" he grunted. "You ain't carin' how 
this coyote is stopped, just so he is?" 

"No!" she flashed. 

"An' he '11 be waitin' for you?" 

"He usually is." 

He grinned. "Le 's hope he is this time." 



He was silent a moment and looked at her curi- 
ously. "I don't know how you 11 take it, but 
I got a surprise for you — a big one. I 'm shore 
sorry to admit it, but I ain't th' man you think. 
I ain't Dick What 's-his-name, though it shore 
ain't my fault. I reckon I must look a heap like 
him; an' I hope I can act like him in this here 
matter. I want to see it through like he would. 
I can do as good a job, too. But it ain't no- 
wise fair nor right to pretend I 'm him. I 
am t. 

She was staring at him in a way he did not 
like. "Not Dick Ellsworth!" she gasped. 
"You are not Dick?" 

"I 'm shore sorry — ^but I 'd like to play his 
cards. I 'm honin' for to see this here Joe 
Worth," he nodded, cheerfully. 

"And you let me beheve you were?" she de- 
manded coldly. "You deliberately led me to 
talk as I did?^' 

"Well, now; I didn't just know what to do. 
You shore was in trouble, which was bad. I 
reckoned mebby I could get you out of it an' 



then go along 'bout my business. You ain't 
goin' to stop me a-doin' it, are you?" he asked 

Her reply was a slow, contemptuous look that 
missed nothing and that left nothing to be said. 
Her horse did not like to stand, anyway, and 
sprang eagerly forward in answer to the sudden 
pressure of her knees. She rode the high-stnmg 
bay with superb art, angry, defiant, and erect as 
a statue. Hopalong, shaking his head slowly, 
gazed after her and when she had become a speck 
on the plain he growled a question to his horse 
and turned sullenly toward the town. Riding 
straight to the hotel he held a short, low-voiced 
conversation with the clerk and then sought his 
friend, the Cub. This youthful grouch was glar- 
ing across the bar at the red-faced, angry man 
behind it, and the atmosphere was not one of 
peace. The Cub turned to see who the new- 
comer was and thereupon transferred his glare 
to the smiling puncher. 

"Hullo, Kid," breezed Hopalong. 

"You go to h — ^1!" growled Sammy, remem- 



bering to speak respectfully to his elders. He 
backed off cautiously until he could keep both 
of his enemies under his eyes. 

Hopalong's grin broadened. He dug into his 
pockets and produced a large sum of money. 
*'Here, Kid," said he, stepping forward and 
thrusting it into Sammy's paralyzed hands. 
*'Take it an' buy all th' liquor you wants. You 
can get yore gim off 'n th' clerk, an' he '11 tell you 
where to find yore cayuse an' other belongings. 
I gotta leave town." 

Sammy stared at the money in his hand. 
"What's this?" he demanded, his face flushing 

"Money," replied Hopalong. 'It's that 
shiny stuff you buys things with. Spondulix, 
cash, mazuma. You spend it, you know." 

Sammy sputtered. He might have frothed 
had his mouth not been so dry. "Is it?" he de- 
manded with great sarcasm. ''I thought mebby 
it was cows, or buttons. What you handin' it 
to me for? I ain't no d — d beggar!" 

Hopalong chuckled. "That money 's yourn. 



I pried it loose from th' tin-horn that stole it 
from you. I also, besides, pried off a few 
chunks more ; but them 's mine. I alius pays 
myself good wages; an' th' aforesaid chunks is 
plenty an' generous. Amen." 

Sammy regarded his smiling friend with a 
frank suspicion that was brutal. The pleasing 
bulge of the pockets reassured him and he slowly 
pocketed his rescued wealth. He growled some- 
thing doubtless meant for thanks and turned to 
the bar. "A large chunk of th' Mojave Desert 
slid down my throat las' night an' I 'm so dry 
I rustles in th' breeze. Let 's wet down a li'l." 
Having extracted some of the rustle he eyed his 
companion suspiciously. "Thought you was a 
stranger hereabouts?" 

"You 've called it." 

"Huh! Then I 'm goin' to stick close to you 
an get acquainted with th' female population of 
th' towns we hit. An' I had alius reckoned 
lightnin' was quick !" he soliloquized, regretfully. 
"How 'd you do it?" he demanded. 

Hopalong was gazing over his friend's head at 



a lurid chromo portraying the Battle of Bull 
Run and he pursed his lips thoughtfully. 
"That shore was some slaughter," he commented. 
"Well, Kid," he said, holding out his hand, 
"I 'm leavin'. If you ever gets down my way 
an' wants a good job, drop in an' see us. Th' 
clerk '11 tell you how to get there. An' th' next 
time you gambles, stay sober." 

"Hey! Wait a minute!" exclaimed Sammy. 
"Goin' home now?" 

"Can't say as I am, direct." 
"Comin' back here before you do?" 
"Can't say that, neither. Life is plumb on- 
certain an' gunplay 's even worse. Mebby I will 
if I 'm alive." 

"Who you gunnin' for? Can't I take a 

"Reckon not, Sammy. Why, I 'm cuttin' in 
where I ain't wanted, even if I am needed. But 
it 's my duty. It 's a h — 1 of a community as 
waits for a total stranger to do its work for it. 
If yo 're around an' I come back, why I '11 see 
you again. Meanwhile, look out for tin-horns." 



Sammy followed him outside and grasped his 
arm. "I can hold up my end in an argument," 
he asserted fiercely. "You went an' did me a 
good turn — lemme do you one. If it 's anythin' 
to do with that li'l girl you met to-day I won't 
cut in — only on th' trouble end. I'm particular 
strong on th' trouble part. Look here: Ain't 
a friend got no rights?" 

Hopalong warmed to the eager youngster — 
he was so much like Jimmy; and Jimmy, be it 
known, could bedevil Hopalong as much as any 
man alive and not even get an unkind word for 
it. "I 'm scared to let you come. Kid ; she 'd 
fumigate th' ranch when you left. Th' last 
twenty-four hours has outlawed you, all right. 
You keep to th' brush trails in th' draws — don't 
cavort none on skylines till you lose that biled 
owl look." He laughed at the other's expression 
and placed his hands on the youth's shoulders. 
"That ain't it. Kid; I never apologizes, serious, 
for th' looks of my friends. They 're my friends, 
drunk or sober, in h — 1 or out of it. I just can't 
see how you can cut in proper. Better wait 



for me here — I '11 turn up, all right. Meanwhile, 
as I says before, look out for tin-horns." 

Sammy watched him ride away, and then 
slammed his sombrero on the ground and jumped 
on it, after which he felt reheved. Procuring 
his gun from the clerk he paused to cross- 
examine, but after a fruitless half hour he saun- 
tered out, hiding his vexation, to wrestle with 
the problem in the open. Passing the window of 
a general store he idly glanced at the meager 
display behind the dusty glass and a sudden grin 
transfigured his countenance. He would find 
out about the girl first and that would help him 
solve the puzzle. Thinking thus he wandered 
in carelessly and he wandered out again gravely 
clutching a small package. Slipping behind the 
next building he tore off the paper and carefully 
crumpled and soiled with dust the purchase. 
Then he went down to the depot and followed 
the railroad tracks toward the other side of the 
square. Reaching the place where the south 
trail crossed the tracks he left them and walked 
slowly toward a small depression that was sur- 



rounded by hoofprints. He stooped quickly 
and straightened up with a woman's handker- 
chief dangling from his fingers. He grinned 
foolishly, examined it, sniif ed at it and scratched 
his head while he cogitated. A decisive wave 
of his hand apprised the two spectators that he 
had arrived at a conclusion, which he bore out 
by heading straight for the postoffice, which was 
a part of the grocery store. The postmaster 
and grocer, in person one, watched his approach 
with frank curiosity. 

Sammy nodded and went in the store, fol- 
lowed by the proprietor. **Howd'y," he re- 
marked, producing the handkerchief. "Just 
picked this up over on th' trail. Know who 
dropped it?" 

"Annie Allison, I reckon,'* replied the other. 
"She came in that way from th' Bar-U. Want 
to leave it?" 

Sammy considered. "Why, I might as well 
take it to her — I'm goin' down there purty soon. 
Don't know any other ranch that might use a 
broncho-buster, do you?" 



The proprietor shook his head. "No; most 
folks 'round here bust their own. Perfes- 

Sammy nodded. "Yes. Here, gimme two- 
bits' worth of them pep 'mint lozengers. Yes, it 
shore is fine; but it '11 rain before long. Well, 

The bartender of the "Retreat" sniffed sus- 
piciously and eyed the open door thoughtfully, 
holding aloft the bar-mop while he considered. 
Then he put the mop on the bar and went to the 
door, where he peered out. "Huh!" l\e grunted. 
"Hogin' that?" he sarcastically inquired. 
Sammy held out the bag and led the way to the 
bar. "Where's th' Bar-U? Yes? Do their 
own broncho-bustin'? Who, me? Ain't nothin' 
on laigs can throw^ me, includin' humans an' bar- 
tenders. What? Well, what you want to get 
all skinned up for, for nothin'? Five dollars? 
If you must lose it I might as well have it. One 
fall? All right; come out here an' get it." 

The bartender chuckled and vaulted the coun- 
ter as advance notice of his agility and physical 



condition, and immediately there ensued a soft 
shuffling. Suddenly the building shook and 
dusted itself and Sammy arose and stepped 
back, smiling at his victim. **Thanks," he re- 
marked. "Good money was spent on part of my 
education — boxin' bein' th' other half. Now, 
for five more, where can't I hit you?" 

*'Behind th' bar," grinned the other; "I got 
deadly weapons there. Look here!" he ex- 
claimed hurriedly as a great idea struck him. 
"Everybody 'round here will back their wrastlin' 
reckless ; le 's team up an' make some easy money. 
I '11 make th' bets an' you win 'em. Split even. 
What say?" 

"Later on, mebby. What'd you say that 
Bar-U foreman's name was?" 

The bartender's reply was supplemented by a 
pious suggestion. "An' if you wrastles him, 
bust his cussed neck!" 

"Why this friendship?" queried Sammy, 

"Oh, just for general principles." 

Sammy bought cigars, left some lozenges and 



went out to search for his horse, which he duly- 
found. Inwardly he was elated and he flexed 
his muscles and made curious motions with his 
arms, which caused the pie-bald to show the 
whites of its eyes wickedly and flatten its ragged 
ears. Its actions were justified, for a left hand 
darted out and slapped the wrinkling muzzle, 
deftly escaping the clicking teeth. Then the 
warhke pie-bald reflected judiciously as it 
chewed the lozenge. The eyes showed less white 
and the ears, moving forward and back, com- 
promised by one staying forward. The candy 
was old and stale and the sting of the mint was 
negligible, but the sugar was much in evidence. 
When the hand darted out again the answering 
nip was playful and the ears were set rigidly 
forward. Sammy laughed, slipped several more 
lozenges into the ready mouth, vaulted lightly 
to the saddle and rode slowly toward the square. 
The pie-bald kicked mildly and reached around 
to nip at the stirrup, and then went on about its 
business as any well-broken cow pony should. 
Reaching the square Sammy drew rein sud- 



denly and watched a horseman who was riding 
away from the "Retreat." Waiting a few 
minutes Sammy spurred forward to the saloon 
and called the bartender out to him. "Who was 
that feller that just left?" he asked, euriously. 

"Joe Worth, th' man yo 're goin' to strike for 
that job. Why don't you catch him now an' 
mebby save yoreself a day's ride?" 

"Good idea," endorsed Sammy. "See you 
later," and the youth wheeled and loped toward 
the trail, but drew rein when hidden from the 
"Retreat" by some buildings. He watched the 
distant horseman until he became a mere dot and 
then Sammy pushed on after him. There was 
a satisfied look on his face and he chuckled as 
he cogitated. "I shore got th' drift of this; I 
know th' game ! Wonder how Cassidy got onto 
it?" He laughed contentedly. "Well, five hun- 
dred ain't too little to split two ways ; an' mebby 
it 18 a two-man job. Mr. Joe Worth, who was 
once Mr. George Atkins, I would n't give a peso 
for yore chances after I get th' lay of th' ground 
an' find out yore habits. Yo 're goin' back to 



Willow Springs as shore as 'dogies' hang 'round 
water holes. An' you '11 shore dance their tune 
when you gets there." 

Mr. Cassidy, arriving at the Bar-U, asked for 
the foreman and was told that the boss was in 
town, but would be back sometime in the after- 
noon. The newcomer replied that he would re- 
turn later and, carefully keeping out of sight 
of the ranch house as well as he could, he wheeled 
and rode back the way he had come, being very 
desirous to have a good look at the foreman be- 
fore they met. Arriving at an arroyo several 
miles north of the ranch he turned into it and, 
leaving his horse picketed on good grass along the 
bottom, he climbed to a position where he could 
see the trail without being seen. Having settled 
himself comfortably he improved the wait by 
trying to think out the best way to accomplish 
the work he had set himself to do. Shooting 
was too common and hardly justifiable unless 
Mr. Worth forced the issue with weapons of war. 

The time passed slowly and he was relieved 



when a horseman appeared far to the north and 
jogged toward him, riding with the careless 
grace of one at home in the saddle. Being thor- 
oughly familiar with the trail and the surround- 
ing country the rider looked straight ahead as if 
attention to the distance yet untraveled might 
make it less. He passed within twenty feet of 
the watcher and went on his way undisturbed. 
Hopalong waited until he was out of sight 
around a hill and then, vaulting into the saddle, 
rode after him, still puzzled as to how he would 
proceed about the business in hand. He dis- 
mounted at the bunkhouse and nodded to those 
who lingered near the wash bench awaiting their 

"Just in time to feed," remarked one of the 
punchers. "Watch yore turn at th' basins — 
every man for hisself 's th' rule." 

"All right," Hopalong laughed. "But is 
there any chance to get a job here?" he asked, 

"You'll have to quiz th' OY Man — here he 
comes now," and the puncher waved at the ap- 



preaching foreman. "Hey, Joe ! Got a job for 
this homhre?'' he called. 

The foreman keenly scrutinized the newcomer, 
as he always examined strangers. The two 
guns swinging low on the hips caught his eyes 
instantly but he showed no particular interest in 
them, notwithstanding the fact that they pro- 
claimed a gunman. *'Why I reckon I got a job 
for you," he said. "I been waitin' to keep some- 
body over on Cherokee Range. But it 's time to 
eat: we '11 talk later." 

After the meal the outfit passed the time in 
various ways until bed-time, the foreman talk- 
ing to the new member of his family. During 
the night the foreman awakened several times 
and looked toward the newcomer's bunk but 
found nothing suspicious. After breakfast he 
called Hopalong and one of the others to him. 
"Ned," he said, "take Cassidy over to his range 
and come right back. Hey, Charley ! You an' 
Jim take them poles down to th' ford an' fence 
in that quicksand just south of it. Ben says 



he 's been doin' nothin' but puUin' cows outen 
it. All right, Tim; comin' right away." 

Ned and the new puncher lost no time but 
headed east at once with a packhorse carrying a 
week's provisions for one man. The country 
grew rougher rapidly and when they finally 
reached the divide a beautiful sight lay below 
them, stretching as far as eye could see to the 
east. In the middle distance gleamed the 
Cherokee, flowing toward the south through its 
valley of rocks, canyons, cliffs, draws and tim- 

"There 's th' hut," said Ned, pointing to a 
small gray blot against the dead black of a 
towering cliff. "Th' spring 's just south of it. 
Bucket Hill, up north there, is th' north bound- 
ary ; Twin Spires, south yonder is th' other end ; 
an' th' Cherokee will stop you on th' east side. 
You ride in every Sat'day if you wants. Don't 
get lonesome," he grinned and, wheeling 
abruptly, went back the way they had come. 

Hopalong shook his head in disgust. To be 



sidetracked like this was maddening. It had 
taken three hours of hard travehng over rough 
country to get where he was and it would take as 
long to return; and all for nothing 1 He re- 
garded the pack animal with a grin, shrugged his 
shoulders and led the way toward the hut, the 
pack horse following obediently. It was another 
hour before he finally reached the little cabin, 
for the way was strange and rough. During this 
time he had talked aloud, for he had the tricks 
of his kind and when alone he talked to himself. 
When he reached the hut he relieved the pack 
horse of its load, carrying the stuff inside. 
Closing the door and blocking it with a rock he 
found the spring, drank his fill and then let the 
horses do likewise. Then he mounted and started 
back over the rough trail, thinking out loud and 
confiding to his horse and he entered a narrow 
defile close to the top of the divide, promising 
dire things to the foreman. Suddenly a rope 
settled over him, pinned his arms to his 
sides and yanked him from the saddle before he 
had time to think. He landed on his head and 



was dazed as he sat up and looked around. The 
foreman's rifle confronted him, and behind the 
foreman's feet were his two Colts. 

"You talks too much," sneered the man with 
the drop. "I suspicioned you th' minute I laid 
eyes on you. It '11 take a better man than you 
to get that five hundred reward. I reckon th' 
Sheriff was too scared to come hisself." 

Hopalong shook his head as if to clear it. 
What was the man talking about? Who was 
the sheriff? He gave it up, but would not be- 
tray his ignorance. Yes; he had talked too 
much. He felt of his head and was mildly sur- 
prised to see his hand covered with blood when he 
glanced at it. "Five hundred 's a lot of money," 
he muttered. 

"Blood money!" snapped the foreman. 
"You had a gall tryin' to get me. Why, I been 
lookin' for somebody to try it for two years. 
An' I was ready every minute of all that time." 

Slowly it came to Hopalong and with it the 
realization of how foolish it would be to deny 
the part ascribed to himself. The rope was 


loose and his arms were practically free; the 
foreman had dropped the lariat and was depend- 
ing upon his gun. The captive felt of his head 
again and, putting his hands behind him for as- 
sistance in getting up, arose slowly to his feet. 
In one of the hands was a small rock that it had 
rested upon during the effort of rising. At 
the movement the foreman watched him closely 
and ordered him not to take a step if he wanted 
to live a little longer. 

"I reckon I '11 have to shoot you," he an- 
nounced. "I dassn't let you loose to f oiler 
me all over th' country. Anyhow, I 'd have to 
do it sooner or later. I wish you was Phelps, 
d — n him; but he's a wise sheriff. Better 
stand up agin' that wall. I gotta do it ; an' you 
deserve it, you Judas !" 

"Meanin' yo 're Christ?" sneered Hopalong. 
"Did you kill th' other feller like that? If I 'd 
'a' knowed that I 'd 'a' slapped yore dawg's face 
at th' bunkhouse an' made you take an even 
break. Shore you got nerve enough to shoot 
straight if I looks at you while yo 're aimin'? " 



He laughed cynically. " I don't want to close 
my eyes." 

The foreman's face went white and he half 
lowered the rifle as he took a step forward. 
Hopalong leaped sideways and his arm straight- 
ened out, the other staggering under the blow 
of the missile. Leaping forward Hopalong ran 
into a cloud of smoke and staggered as he jumped 
to close quarters. His hand smashed full in the 
foreman's face and his knee sank in the fore- 
man's groin. They went down, the foreman 
weak from the kick and Hopalong sick and weak 
from the bullet that had grazed the bone of his 
bad thigh. And lying on the ground they fought 
in a daze, each incapable of inflicting serious in- 
jury for awhile. But the foreman grew stronger 
as his enemy grew weaker from loss of blood 
and, wrigghng from under his furious antago- 
nist, he reached for his Colt. Hopalong threw 
himself forward and gripped the gun wrist be- 
tween his teeth and closed his jaws until they 
ached. But the foreman, pounding ceaselessly 
on the other's face with his free hand, made the 


jaws relax and drew the weapon. Then he saw 
all the stars in the heavens as Hopalong's head 
crashed full against his jaw and before he could 
recover the gun was pinned under his enemy's 
knee. Hopalong's head crashed again against 
the foreman's jaw and his right hand gripped the 
corded throat while the left, its thumb inside the 
foreman's cheek and its fingers behind an ear, 
tugged and strained at the distorted face. 
Growling like wild beasts they strained and 
panted, and then, suddenly, Hopalong's grip re- 
laxed and he made one last, desperate effort to 
bring his strength back into one furious attack; 
but in vain. The battered foreman, quick to 
sense the situation, wrestled his adversary to one 
side long enough to grab the Colt from under 
the shifting knee. As he clutched it a shot rang 
out and the weapon dropped from his nerveless 
hand before he could pull the trigger. An ex- 
ulting, savage yell roared in his ears and in the 
next instant he seemed to leave the ground and 
soar through space. He dropped ten feet away 
and lay dazed and helpless as a knee crashed 



against his chest. Sammy Porter, his face work- 
ing curiously with relief and rage, rolled him 
against the wall of the defile and struck him over 
the head with a rifle butt, first disarming him. 

Hopalong opened his eyes and looked around, 
dazed and sick. The foreman, bound hand and 
foot by a forty-five foot lariat, lay close to the 
base of the wall and stared sullenly at the sky. 
Sammy was coming up the trail with a dripping 
sombrero held carefully in his hands and was 
growling and talking it all over. Hopalong 
looked down at his thigh and saw a heavy, blood- 
splotched bandage fastened clumsily in place. 
Glancing at Sammy again he idly noted that part 
of the youth's blue-flannel shirt was missing. 
Curiously, it matched the bandage. He closed 
his eyes and tried to think what it was all about. 

Sammy ambled up to him, threw some water 
in the bruised face and then grinned cheerfully 
at the language he evoked. Producing a flask 
and holding it up to the light, Sammy slid his 
thumb to a certain level and then shoved the 
bottle against his friend's teeth. "Huh!" he 



chuckled, yanking the bottle away. You'll be 
all right in a couple of days. But you shore are 
one h — 1 of a sight — it 's a toss-up between you 
an' Atkins." 

It was night. Hopalong stirred and arose on 
one elbow and noticed that he was lying on a 
blanket that covered a generous depth of leaves 
and pine boughs. The sap-filled firewood crack- 
led and popped and hissed and whistled under 
the licking attack of the greedy flames, which 
flared up and died down in endless alternation, 
and which grotesquely revealed to Hopalong's 
throbbing eyes a bound figure lying on another 
blanket. That, he decided, was the foreman. 
Letting his gaze wander around the lighted circle 
he made out a figure squatting on the other side 
of the fire, and concluded it was Sammy Porter. 
**What you doin'. Kid?" he asked. 

Sammy arose and walked over to him. "Oh, 
just watchin' a fool puncher an' five hundred 
dollars," he grinned. "How you feelin' now, 
you ol' sage hen?" 



" Good," replied the invalid, and, compara- 
tively, it was the truth. "Fine an' strong," he 
added, which was not the truth. 

"That 's the way to talk," cheered the Cub. 
"You shore had one fine seance. You earned 
that five hundred, all right," 

Hopalong reflected and then looked across at 
the prisoner. "He can fight like the devil," he 
muttered. "Why, I kicked him hard enough to 
kill anybody else." He turned again and looked 
Sammy in the eyes, smiling as best he could. 
"There ain't no five hundred for me, Kid. I 
did n't come for that, did n't know nothin' about 
it. An' it 's blood money, besides. We '11 turn 
him loose if he '11 get out of the country, hey? 
We '11 give him a chance; either that or you take 
th' reward." 

Sammy stared, grunted and stared again. 
"What you ravin' about?" he demanded. "An' 
you didn't come after him for that money?" he 
asked, sarcastically. 

Hopalong nodded and smiled again. "That 's 
right, Kid," he answered, thoughtfully. "I 



come down to make him get out of th' country. 
^Tou let him go after we get out of this. I 
reckon I got yore share of the reward right here 
in my pocket; purty near that much, anyhow. 
You take it an' let him vamoose. What you 

Sammy rose, angry and disgusted. His an- 
ger spoke first. "You go to h — ^1 with yore 
money! I don't want it!" Then, slowly and 
wonderingly spoke his disgust. ''He's yourn; 
do what you want. But I here remarks, frank 
an' candid, open an' so all may hear, that yo 're 
a large, puzzlin' d — d fool. Now lay back on 
that blanket an' go to sleep afore I changes my 

Sammy drifted past the prisoner and looked 
down at him. ''Hear that?" he demanded. 
There was no answer and he grunted. "Huh! 
You heard it, all right; an' it plumb stunned 
you." Passing on he grabbed the last blanket 
in sight, it was on the foreman's horse, and rolled 
up in it, feet to the fire. His gun he placed 
under the saddle he had leaned against, which 



now made his pillow. As he squirmed into the 
most comfortable position he could find under 
the circumstances he raised his head and glanced 
across at his friend. "Huh!" he growled 
softly. "That 's th' worst of them sentimental 
fellers. That gal shore wrapped him 'round 
her li'l finger all right. Oh, well," he sighed. 
"Tain't none of my doin's, thank the Lord; I 
got sense!" And with the satisfaction of this 
thought still warm upon him he closed his eyes 
and went to sleep, confident that the slightest 
sound would awaken him; and fully justified in 
his confidence. 



MR. "YOUBET" SOMES, erstwhile fore- 
man of the Two-X-Two ranch, in Ari- 
zona, and now out of a job, rode gloomily to- 
ward Kit, a town between him and his destina- 

Needless to say, he was a cowman through 
and through. More than that, he was so satu- 
rated with cowmen's traditions as to resent pug- 
naciously anything which flouted them. 

He was of the old school, and would not sub- 
mit quietly to two things, among others, which 
an old-school cowman hated — wire fences and 
sheep. To this he owed his present ride, for he 
hated wire fences cordially. They meant the 
passing of the free, open range, of straight trails 
across country; they meant a great change, an 
intolerable condition. 

"Yessir, bronch! Things are gettin' damn- 


abler every year, with th' railroads, tourists, nest- 
ers, barb' wire, an' sheep. Last year, it was a 
windmill, that screeched till our hair riz up. It 
wouldn't work when we wanted it to, an' we 
could n't stop it when it once got started. 

"It gave us no sleep, no peace; an' it killed 
Bob Cousins — swung round with th' wind an' 
knocked him off 'n th' platform, sixty feet, to 
th' ground. Bob alius did like to monkey with 
th' buzz saw. I shore told him not to go up 
there, because th' cussed thing was loaded; but, 
bein' mule-headed, he knowed more 'n me. 

"But this year ! Lord — ^but that was an awful 
pile of wire, bronch! Three strands high, an' 
over a hundred an' fifty miles round that pas- 
ture. That was a' insult, bronch; an' I never 
swaller 'em. That 's what put me an' you out 
here, in th' middle of nowhere, tryin' to find a 
way out. G'wan, now! You ain't goin' to rest 
till I gets off you. G'wan, I told you I" 

Mr. Somes was riding east, boimd for the Bar- 
20, where he had friends. For a year or two, 
he had heard persistent rumors to the effect 



that Buck Peters had more cows than he knew 
what to do with; and he argued rightly that the 
Bar-20 foreman could find a place for an old 
friend, whose ability was unquestioned. Of one 
thing he was certain — there were no wire fences, 
down there. 

It was dusk when he dismounted in front of 
Logan's, in Kit, and went inside. The bar- 
tender glanced up, reaching for a bottle on the 
shelf beside him. 

Youbet nodded. "You got it first pop. Have 
one with me. I 'm countin' on staying over in 
town tonight. Got a place for me?" 

"Shore have — ^upstairs in th' attic. Want 
grub, too?'* 

"Well, I sorter hope to have somethin' to eat 
afore I pull out. Here's how!" And when 
Mr. Somes placed his empty glass on the bar, he 
smiled good-naturedly. "That 's good stuff. 
Much goin' on in town?" 

"Reckon you can get a game most anywhere." 

"Where do I get that grub? Here?" 

"No— down th' street. Ridin' far?" 



"Yes — a little. Goin' down to th' Bar- 
20 for a job punchin'. I hear Peters has got 
more cows than he can handle. Know anybody- 
down there you wants to send any word to?" 

"I '11 be hanged if I know," laughed the bar- 
tender. *'I know a lot of fellers, but they shift 
so I can't keep track of 'em, nohow." 

A man in a far corner pushed back his chair, 
and approached the bar, scowling as he glanced 
at Youbet. "Gimme another," he ordered. 

"Why, hullo, stranger!" exclaimed Youbet. 
"I did n't see you before. Have one with me." 

The other looked him squarely in the eyes. 
"Ex-cuse me, stranger — I 'm a sheepman, an' I 
don't drink with cowmen." 

"Well, ex-cuse me!" retorted Youbet, like a 
flash. "If I 'd 'a' knowed you was a sheepman, 
I wouldn't 'a' asked you!" 

The sheepman drank his liquor and, returning 
to his corner, placed his elbows on the table, and 
his chin in his hands, apparently paying no fur- 
ther attention to the others, 

"If I can't get a job with Peters, I can try th' 



C-80 or Double Arrow," continued Youbet, as 
he toyed with his glass. "If I can't get on with 
one of them, I reckons WaflBes, of th' 0-Bar-O, 
will find a place for me, though I don't like that 
country a whole lot." 

The bartender hesitated for a moment. "Do 
you know Waffles?" he asked. 

"Shore — ^know 'em all. Why? Do you 
know him, too?" 

"No; but I 've heard of him." 

"That so? He's a good feller, he is. I've 
punched with both him an' Peters." 

"I heard he wasn't," replied the bartender, 
slowly but carelessly. 

"Then you heard wrong, all right," rejoined 
Youbet. "He's one of us old fellers — abates 
sheep, barb' wire, an' nesters as bad as I do ; an' 
sonny," he contmued, warming as he went on. 
"Th' cow country ain't what it used to be — not 
no way. I can remember when there war n't no 
wire, no nesters, an' no sheep. An', between 
you and me, I don't know which is th' worst. 
Every time I runs up agin' one of 'em, I says 



it *s th' worst; but I guew it 's ju«t about a even 

**I heard about yore friend Waffles through 
sheep," replied the bartender. "He chased a 
sheep outfit out of a hill range near his ranch, 
an' killed a couple of 'em, a-doin' it." 

"Served 'em right — served 'em right," re- 
sponded Youbet, turning and walking toward 
the door. "They ain't got no business on n 
cattle range — ^not nohow." 

The man in the corner started to follow, half 
raising his hand, as though to emphasize 
something he was about to say; but changed 
his mind, and sullenly resumed his brooding 

"Reckon I '11 put my cayuse in yore corral, 
an' look th' town over," Youbet remarked, over 
his shoulder. "Remember, yo 're savin' a bed 
for me." 

As he stepped to the street, the man in the 
corner lazily arose and looked out of the window, 
swearing softly while he watched the man who 
hated sheep. 



*'Well, there 's another friend of yore busi- 
ness," laughed the bartender, leaning back to en- 
joy the other's discomfiture. ""He don't like 
'em, neither." 

"He 's a fool of a mossback, so far behind th' 
times he don't know who 's President," retorted 
the other, still staring down the street. 

"Well, he don't know that this has got to be 
a purty fair sheep town — that 's shore." 

"He '11 find out, if he makes many more talks 
like that — an' that ain't no dream, neither!" 
snapped the sheepman. He wheeled, and 
frowned at the man behind the bar. "You see 
what he gets, if he opens his cow mouth in here 
tonight. Th' boys hate this kind real fervent; 
an' when they finds out that he 's a side pardner 
of that coyote Waffles, they won't need much 
excuse. You wait — that 's all !" 

"Oh, what 's th' use of gettin' all riled up 
about it?" demanded the bartender easily. "He 
did n't know you was a sheepman, when he made 
his first break. An' lenmie tell you somethin' 
you want to remember — them old-time cowmen 



can use a short gun somethin' slick. They 've got 
'em trained. Bet he can work th' double roll 
without shootin' hisself full of lead." The 
speaker grinned exasperatingly. 

"Yes!" exploded the sheepman, who had tried 
to roll two guns at once, and had spent ten days 
in bed as a result of it. 

The bartender laughed softly as he recalled 
the incident. "Have you tried it since?" he in- 

"Go to th' devil!" grinned the other, heading 
for the door, "But he '11 get in trouble, if he 
spouts about hatin' sheep, when th' boys come 
in. You better get him drunk an' lock him in th' 
attic, before then." 

"G'wan! I ain't playin' guardian to nobody," 
rejoined the bartender. "But remember what I 
said — ^them old fellers can use 'em slick an' 

The sheepman went out as Youbet returned; 
and the latter seated himself, crossing his legs 
and drawing out his pipe. 

The bartender perfunctorily drew a cloth 



across the bar, and smiled. "So you don't like 
wire, sheep, or nesters,'' he remarked. 

Mr. Somes looked up, in surprise, forgetting 
that he held a lighted match between thumb and 
finger. "Like 'em 1 Huh, I reckon not. I'm 
lookin' for a job because of wire. H — ^1!" he 
exclaimed, dropping the match, and rubbing his 
finger. "That 's twice I did that fool thing in 
a week," he remarked, in apology and self-con- 
demnation, and struck another match. 

"I was foreman of my ranch for nigh onto 
ten years. It was a good ranch, an' I was sat- 
isfied till last year, when they made me put up 
a windmill that did n't mill, but screeched awful. 
I stood for that because I could get away from 
it in th' daytime. 

"But this year! One day, not very long ago, 
I got a letter from th' owners, an' it says for me 
to build a wire fence around our range. It went 
on to say that there was two carloads of barb' 
wire at Mesquite. We was to tote that wire 
home, an' start in. If two carloads wasn't 
enough, they'd send us more. We had one 



busted-down grub waggin, an' Mesquite shore 
was fifty miles away — which meant a whoppin' 
long job totin'. 

"When I saw th' boys, that night, I told 'em 
that I 'd got orders to raise their pay five dollars 
a month — which made 'em cheer. Then I told 
'em that was so providin' they helped me build 
a barb' wire fence around th' range — which 
did n't make 'em cheer. 

"Th' boundary lines of th' range we was usin' 
was close onto a hundred an' fifty miles long, an' 
three strands of wire along a trail like that is 
some job. We was to put th' posts twelve feet 
apart, an' they was to be five feet outen th' 
ground an' four feet in it — which makes 'em 
nine feet over all. 

"There was n't no posts at Mesquite. Them 
posts was supposed to be growin' freelike on th' 
range, just waitin' for us to cut 'em, skin 'em, 
tote an' drop 'em every twelve feet along a line 
a hundred an' fifty miles long. An' then there 
was to be a hole dug for every post, an' tampin', 
staplin', an' stringin' that hell-wire. An' don't 



forget that lone, busted-down grub waggin that 
was to do that totinM 

"There was some excitement on th' Two-X- 
Two that night, an' a lot of figgerin'; us bein' 
some curious about how many posts was needed, 
an' how many holes we was to dig to fit th' afore- 
said posts. We made it sixty-six thousand. 
Think of it! An' only eight of us to tackle a 
job like that, an' ride range at th' same time!" 

"Oh, ho!" roared the bartender, hugging him- 
self, and trying to carry a drink to the narrator 
at the same time. "Go on! That 's good!" 

"Is, is it?" snorted Youbet. "Huh! You 
wouldn't 'a' thought so, if you was one of us 
eight. Well, I set right down an' writ a long 
letter — ^took six cents' worth of stamps — an' 
gave our views regardin' wire fences in general 
an' this one of ourn in particular. I hated 
fences, an' do yet; an' so 'd my boys hate 'em, an' 
they do yet. 

"In due time, I got a answer, which come for 
two cents. It says: *Build that fence.' 

"I sent Charley over to Mesquite to look 



over them cars of wire. He saw 'em, both of 
'em. An' th' agent saw him. 

"Th' agent was a' important man, an' he grabs 
Charley quick. 'Hey, you Two-X-Two puncher 
— you get that wire home quick. It went past 
here three times before they switched it, an' I 've 
been gettin' blazes from th' company ever since. 
We needs th' cars.' 

" 'Don't belong to me,' says Charley. 'I 
shore don't want it. I 'm eatin' beans an' bacon 

"'You send for that wire!' yells th' agent, 

"Charley winks. 'Can't you keep it passin' 
this station till it snows hard? Have a drink.' 

"Well, th' agent wouldn't drink, an' he 
wouldn't send that pore wire out into a cold 
world no more; an' so Charley comes home an' 
reports, him lookin' wanlike. When he told us, 
he looked sort of funny, an' blurts out that his 
mother went an' died up in Laramie, an' he must 
shore 'nufF rustle up there an' bury her. He 



"Then Fred Ball begun to have pains in his 
stomach, an' said it was appendix somethin', what 
he had been readin' about in th' papers. He had 
to go to Denver, an' get a good doctor, or he 'd 
shore die. He went. 

"Carson had to go to Santa Fe to keep some 
of his numerous city lots from bein' sold off by 
th' sheriff. He went. 

"Th' rest, bein' handicapped by th' good start 
th' others had made in corrallin' all th' excuses, 
said they 'd go for th' wire. They went. 

"I waited four days, an' then I went after 
'em. When I got to th' station, I sees th' agent 
out sizin' up our wire; an' when I hails, he jumps 
my way quick, an' grabs my laig tight. 

" *You take that wire home!' he yells. 

" 'Shore,' says I soothingly. 'You looks mad,' 
I adds. 

" 'Mad! Mad!' he shouts, hoppin' round, but 
hangin' onto my laig like grim death. 'Mad! 
I 'm goin' loco — crazy! I can't sleep! There 's 
twenty letters an' messages on my table, tellin' 
me to get that wire off 'n th' cars an' send th' emp- 



ties back on th' next freight 1 You've got to 
take it— ^0^ to!" " 

The bartender shocked his nervous system by 
drinking plain water by mistake, but he listened 
eagerly. "Yes? What then?" 

''Well, then I asks him where I can find mv 
men, an' team, an' waggin'. He tells me. Th' 
team an' waggin is in a corral down th' street, 
but he don't know where th' men are. They 
held a gun to his head, an' said they 'd kill him 
if he didn't flag th' next train for 'em. Th' 
next train was a through express, carryin' mail. 
He was n't dead. 

"He showed me ten more letters an' messages, 
regardin' th' flaggin' of a contract-mail train for 
four fares; an' some of them letters must 'a' 
been written by a old-time cowman, they was 
that eloquent an' God-fearin'. Then I went. 

"Why, Charley was twenty years old; an' we 
figgered that, when th' last staple was drove in 
th' last post, he'd 'a' been dead ten years! 
Where did I come in, the — ?" 

"Oh, Lord!" sighed the bartender, holding his 


sides, and trying to straighten his face so that he 
could talk out of the middle of it. "That 's th' 
best ever! Have another drink!" 

*'I ain't tellin' my troubles for liquor," snorted 
Youbet. "You have one with me. Here comes 
some customers down th' street, I reckon." 

"Say!" exclaimed the bartender hurriedly. 
"You keep mum about sheep. This is a red-hot 
sheep town, an' it hates Waffles an' all his 
friends. Hullo, boys!" he called to four men, 
who filed into the room. "Where 's th' rest of 

"Comin' in later. Same thing, Jimmy," re- 
plied Clayton, chief herder. "An' give us th' 

"Have you seen Price?" asked Towne. 

"Yes; he was in here a few minutes ago. 
What 'd you say, Schultz?" the bartender asked, 
turning to the man who pulled at his sleeve. 

"I said dot you vas nod right aboud vat you 
said de odder day. Chust now I ask Glayton, 
und he said you vas nod." 

"All right, Dutchy— all right!" laughed the 



bartender. "Then it's on me this time, ain't 

Youbet walked to the bar. "Say, where do I 
get that grub? It's about time for me to 
mosey off an' feed." 

"Next building — and you'll take mutton if 
yo 're wise," replied the bartender, in a low voice. 
"Th' hash is awful, an' the beef is tough," he 
added, a little louder. 

"Mutton be damned!" snorted Youbet, stamp- 
ing out. "I eat what I punch 1" And his growls 
became lost in the street. 

Schultz glanced up. "Yah! Und he shoot 
vat / eat, tam him, ven he gan!" 

"Oh, put yore ante in, an' don't talk so much!" 
rejoined Towne. "He ain't going to shoot you/' 

"It '11 cost you two bits to come in," remarked 

"An' two more," added Towne, raising the 

"Goot! I blay mit you. But binochle iss 
der game!" 

"I '11 tell you a good story about a barb' wire 



fence tomorrow, fellers," promised the bar- 
tender, grinning 

The poker game had been going for some time 
before further remarks were made about the cow- 
man who had left, and then it was Clayton who 

"Say, Jimmy!" he remarked, as Schultz dealt. 
"Who is yore leather-pants friend who don't like 

The bartender lifted a bottle, and replaced it 
with great care. "Oh, just a ranch foreman, 
out of a job. He 's a funny old feller." 

"So? An' what 's so funny about him? Get 
in there, Towne, if you wants to do any playin' 
with us." 

"Why, he was ordered to build a hundred an' 
fifty miles of wire fence around his range, an' he 
jumped ruther than do it." 

"Yas — an' most of it government land, I 
reckon," interposed Towne. 

"Pshaw! It's an old game with them," 
laughed Clayton. "Th' law don't get to them; 



an' if they Ve got a good outfit, nobody has got 
any chance agin 'em." 

"Py Gott, dot 's right!" grunted Schultz. 

"Shore, it is," responded Towne, forgetting 
the game. "Take that Apache Hills run-in. 
Waffles did n't have no more right to that range 
than anybody else, but that did n't make no dif- 
ference. He threw a couple of outfits in there, 
penned us in th' cabin, killed MacKay, an' 
shot th' rest of us up plenty. Then he threat- 
ened to slaughter our herd if we did n't pull out. 
By God, I 'd like to get a cowman like him up 
here, where th' tables are turned around on th' 
friends proposition." 

"Hullo, boys!" remarked the bartender to the 
pair who came in. 

"Just in time. Get chairs, an' take hands," 
invited Clayton, moving over. 

"Who's th' cowman yo 're talkin' about?" 
asked Baxter, as he leaned lazily against the 

"Oh, all of 'em," rejoined Towne surlily. 
"There 's one in town, now, who don't like sheep." 



"That so?" queried Baxter slowly. "I 
reckon he better keep his mouth shut, then." 

"Oh, he 's all right! He 's a jolly old geezer," 
assured the bartender. "He just talks to hear 
hisself — one of them old-timers what can't get 
right to th' way things has changed on th' range. 
It was them boys that did great work when th' 
range was wild." 

"Yes, an' it 's them bull-headed old fools what 
are raisin' all th' hell with th' sheep," retorted 
Towne, frowning darkly as he remembered some 
of the indignities he had borne at the hands of 

"I wish his name was Waffles." Clayton 
smiled significantly. 

"Rainin' again," remarked a man in the door- 
way, stamping in. "Reckon it ain't never goin' 
to stop." 

"Where you been so long, Price?" asked Clay- 
ton, as a salutation. 

"Oh, just shiftin' about. That cow wrastler 
raised th' devil in th' hotel," Price replied. "Old 
fool! They brought him mutton, an' he wanted 



to clean out th' place. Said he 'd as soon eat 
barb' wire. They 're f eedin' him hash an' canned 
stuff, now." 

*'He 'II get Kurt, if he don't look out," re- 
marked Clayton. "Who is he, anyhow, Price?" 

"Don't know his name ; but he 's from Arizona, 
on his way to th' Pecos country. Says he 's a 
friend of Buck Peters an' Waffles. To use one 
of his own expressions, he 's a old mosshead." 

"Friend of Waffles, hey?" exclaimed Towne. 

"Yumpin' Yimminy!" cried Oleson, in the 
same breath. 

"Well, if he knows when he 's well off, he '11 
stay away from here, an' keep his mouth closed," 
said Clayton. 

"Aw, let him alone! He 's one agin' th' whole 
town — an' a good old feller, at that," hastily as- 
sured the bartender. "It ain't his fault that 
Waffles buffaloed you fellers out of th' Hills, is 
it? He's goin' on early tomorrow; so let him 

"You '11 get yoreself in trouble, Jimmy, m' 
boy, if you inserts yoreself in this," warned 



Towne. "It was us agin' a whole section, an* 
we got ours. Let him take his, if he talks too 

"Shore," replied Price. "I heard him shoot 
off his mouth, an hour ago, an' he's got alto- 
gether too much to say. You mind th' bar an' 
yore own business, Jimmy. We ain't kids." 

"Go you two bits better," said Clayton, shov- 
ing out a coin. "Gimme some cards, Towne. 
It '11 cost you a dollar to see our raises." 

Baxter walked over to watch the play. "I 'm 
comin' in next game. Who 's winnin', now?" 

"Reckon I am; but we ain't much more 'n got 
started," Clayton replied. "Did you call, 
Towne? Why, I 've got three little tens. You 
got anythin' better?" 

"Never saw such luck!" exclaimed Towne dis- 
gustedly. "Dutchy, yo 're a Jonah." 

"Damn th' mutton, says I. It was even in 
that hash !" growled a voice, just outside the door. 

A moment later, Youbet Somes entered, 
swinging his sombrero energetically to shake off 
the water. 



"Damn th' rain, too, an' this wart of a town. 
A man can't get nothin' fit to eat for love or 
money, on a sheep range. Gimme a drink, 
sonny ! Mebby it '11 cut th' taste of that rank 
tallow out 'n my mouth. Th' reason there is 
sheep on this earth of our'n is that th' devil 
chased 'em out 'n his place — an' no blame to him." 

He drank half his liquor, and, placing the 
glass on the bar beside him, turned to watch the 
game. "Ah, strangers — that 's th' only game, 
after all. I 've dabbled in 'em all from faro to 
roulette, but that 's th' boss of 'em all." 

"See you an' call," remarked Clayton, ignor- 
ing the newcomer. "What you got, you Dutch 

''Zwei Kaisers und a bair of chackasses, mit a 

"Kings up!" exclaimed Clayton. "Why, say 
— you bet th' worst of anybody I ever knew! 
You '11 balk on bettin' two bits on threes, and 
plunge on a bluff. I reckoned you did n't have 
nothin'. Why ain't you more consistent?" he 
asked, winking at Towne. 




"Gonsisdency iss no chewel in dis game — it 
means go broke," placidly grunted Schultz, rak- 
ing in his winnings. 

His friend Schneider smiled. 

"Coyotes are gettin' too numerous, this year," 
Baxter remarked, shuffling. 

Youbet pushed his sombrero back on his head. 
"They don't get numerous on a cow range," he 
said significantly. 

"Huh!" snorted Baxter. "They've got too 
much respect to stay on one longer than they 've 
got to." 

"They'd ruther be with their woolly-coated 
cousins," rejoined the cowman quietly. It was 
beneath his dignity as a cowman to pay much at- 
tention to what sheepmen said, yet he could not 
remain silent under such a remark. 

He regarded sheep herders, those human be- 
ings who walked at their work, as men who had 
reached the lowest rung in the ladder of human 
endeavors. His belief was not original with him, 
but was that of many of his school. He was a 



horseman, a mounted man, and one of the aristoc- 
racy of the range ; they were, to him, the rabble, 
and almost beneath his contempt. 

Besides, it was commonly believed by cowmen 
that sheep destroyed the grass as far as cattle 
grazing was concerned — and this was the chief 
reason for the animosity against sheep and their 
herders, which burned so strongly in the hearts 
of cattle owners and their outfits. 

Youbet drained his glass, and continued: 
"The coyote leaves th' cattle range for th' same 
good reason yore sheep leave it — because they are 
chased out, or killed. Naturally, blood kin will 
hang together in banishment." 

"You know a whole lot, don't you?" snorted 
Clayton, with sarcasm. "Yo 're shore wise, you 

"He is so vise as a — a gow," remarked Schultz, 

"You '11 know more, when you get as old as 
me," replied the ex-foreman, carefully placing 
the empty glass on the bar. 

"I don't want to get as old as you, if I have 



to lose all my common sense," retorted Clayton 

*'An' be a damned nuisance generally," ob- 
served Towne. 

"I 've seen a lot of things in my life," Youbet 
began, trying to ignore the tones of the others. 
They were young men, and he knew that youth 
grew unduly heated in argument. "I saw th' 
comin' of th' Texas drive herds, till th' range 
was crowded where th' year before there was 
nothin'. I saw th' comin' of th' sheep — an' 
barb' wire, I 'm sorry to say. Th' sheep came 
like locusts, leavin' a dyin' range behind 'em. 
Thin, half -starved cattle showed which way they 
went. You can't tell me nothin' I don't know 
about sheep." 

"An' I've seen sheep dyin' in piles on th' 
open range," cried Clayton, his own wrongs lash- 
ing him into a rage. ^T 've seen 'em dynamited, 
an' drowned and driven hell-to-split over can- 
yons ! I 've had my men taunted, an' chased, an' 
killed — killed, by God I — ^just because they tried 
to make a' honest livin'! Who did it all? Who 



killed my men an' my sheep? Who did it?" he 
shouted, taking a short step forward, while an 
endorsing growl ran along the line of sheepmen 
at his side. 

"Cowpunehers — they did it! They killed 'em 
— an' why? Because we tried to use th' grass 
that we had as much right to as they had — that 's 

"Th' cows was here first," replied Youbet, 
keenly alert, but not one whit abashed by the 
odds, long as they were. "It was theirs because 
they was there first." 

"It was not theirs, no more 'n th' sun was!" 
cried Towne, unable to allow his chief to do all 
the talking. 

"You said you knowed Waffles," continued 
Clayton loudly. "Well, he 's another of you old- 
time cowmen! He killed MacKay — murdered 
him — ^because we was usin' a hill range a day's 
ride from his own grass! He had twenty men 
like hisself to back him up. If we 'd been as 
many as them, they wouldn't 'a' tried it — an' 
you know it!" 



"I don't know anything of th' kind, but I do 
know — " began Youbet; but Schultz interrupted 
him with a remark intended to contain humor. 

"Ven you say you doand know anyt'ing, you 
know somedings; ven you know dot you doand 
know noddings, den you know somedings. Und 
das iss so — ^yah." 

*'Who th' devil told you to stick yore Dutch 
mouth — " retorted Youbet; but Clayton cut 
him short. 

"So yo're a old-timer, hey?" cried the sheep- 
man. "Well, by God, yore old-time friend 
Waffles is a coward, a murderer, an' — " 

"Yo 're a liar!" rang out the vibrant voice of 
the cowman, his gun out and leveled in a flash. 
The seven had moved forward as one man, actu- 
ated by the same impulse; and their hands were 
moving toward their guns when the crashes of 
Youbet's weapon reverberated in the small room, 
the acrid smoke swirling around him as though to 
shield him from the result of his folly — a result 
which he had weighed and then ignored. 

Clayton dropped, with his mouth still open. 


"Yo're a liar!" rang out the vibrant voice of the cowman 


Towne's gun chocked back in the scabbard as its 
owner stumbled Mindly over a chair and went 
down, never to rise. Schultz fired once, and fell 
back across the table. 

The three shots had followed one another with 
incredible quickness ; and the seven, not believing 
that one man would dare attack so many, had not 
expected his play. Before the stunned sheep- 
men could begin firing, three were dead. 

Price, badly wounded, fired as he plunged to 
the wall for support; and the other three were 
now wrapped in their own smoke. 

Wounded in several places, with his gun 
empty, Youbet hurled the weapon at Price, and 
missed by so narrow a margin that the sheepman's 
aim was spoiled. Youbet now sprang to the bar, 
and tried to vault over it, to get to the gun which 
he knew always lay on the shelf behind it. As 
his feet touched the upper edge of the counter, 
he grunted and, collapsing like a jackknife, 
loosed his hold, and fell to the floor. 

"Mein Gottr groaned Schneider, as he tried 
to raise himself. He looked around in a dazed 



manner, hardly understanding just what had 
happened. "He vas mat; crazy mat!" 

Oleson arose unsteadily to his feet, and groped 
his way along the wall to where Price lay. 

The fallen man looked up, in response to the 
touch on his shoulder; and he swore feebly: 
"Damn that fool — that idiot!" 

"Shut up, an' git out!" shouted the bartender, 
standing rigidly upright, with a heavy Colt in his 
upraised hand. There were tears in his eyes, 
and his voice broke from excitement. "He 
wouldn't swaller yore insults! He knowed he 
was a better man! Get out of here, every 
damned one of you, or I '11 begin where he 
stopped. G 'wan — get outr 

The four looked at him, befuddled and sorely 
hurt; but they understood the attitude, if they 
did not quite grasp the words — and they knew 
that he meant what he looked. Staggering and 
hobbling, they finally found the door, and 
plunged out to the street, to meet the crowd of 
men who were running toward the building. 

Jimmy, choking with anger and with respect 



for the man who had preferred death to insults, 
slammed shut the door and, dropping the bar 
into place, turned and gazed at the quiet figure 
huddled at the base of the counter. 

"Old man," he muttered, "now I understands 
why th' sheep don't stay long on a cattle range." 



SAMMY PORTER, detailed by Hopa- 
long, the trail-boss, rode into Truxton 
three days before the herd was due, to notify the 
agent that cars were wanted. Three thousand 
three-year-olds were on their way to the packing 
houses and must be sent through speedily. 
Sammy saw the agent and, leaving him much less 
sweeter in temper than when he had found him, 
rode down the dismal street kicking up a prodi- 
gious amount of dust. One other duty de- 
manded attention and its fulfillment was prom- 
ised by the sign over the faded pine front of the 
first building. 

"Restaurant," he read aloud. "That 's mine. 
Beans, bacon an' biscuits for 'most a month! But 
now I 'm goin' to forget that Blinky Thomp- 
kins ever bossed a trail wagon an' tried to cook." 



Dismounting, he glanced in the window and 
pulled at the downy fuzz trying to make a show- 
ing on his upper lip. "Purty, all right. Brown 
hair an' I reckon brown eyes. Nice li'l girl. 
Well, they don't make no dents on me no more," 
he congratulated himself, and entered. His 
twenty years fairly sagged with animosity to- 
ward the fair sex, the intermittent smoke from 
the ruins of his last love affair still painfully in 
evidence at times. But careless as he tried to be 
he could not banish the swaggering mannerisms 
of Youth in the presence of Maid, or change his 
habit of speech under such conditions. 

"Well, well," he smiled. "Here I 'are' again. 
Li'l Sammy in search of his grub. An' if it 's 
as nice as you he '11 shore have to flag his outfit 
an' keep this town all to hisself. Got any 

The maid's nose went up and Sammy noticed 
that it tilted a trifle, and he cocked his head on 
one side to see it better. And the eyes were 
brown, very big and very deep — they possessed 
a melting quality he had never observed before. 



The maid shinigged her shoulders and swung 
around, the tip-tilt nose going a bit higher. 

Sammy leaned back against the door and 
nodded approval of the slender figure in spic- 
and-span white. "Li'l Sammy is a fer-o-cious 
cow-punch from a chickenless land/' he observed, 
sorrowfully. "There ain't no kinds of chickens. 
Nothin' but men an' cattle an' misguided cooks; 
an' beans, bacon an' biscuits. Li'l Miss, have 
you a chicken for me?" 

"No!" The head went around again, Sammy 
bending to one side to see it as long as he could. 
The pink, shell-like ear that flirted with him 
through the loosely-gathered, rebelKous hair 
caught his attention and he leveled an accusing 
finger at it. "Naughty li'l ear, peekin' at 
Sammy that-a-wayl Oh, you stingy girl!" he 
chided as the back of her head confronted him. 
"Well, Sammy don't like girls, no matter how 
pink their ears are, or turned up their noses, or 
wonderful their eyes. He just wants chicken, 
an' all th' fixin's. He '11 be very humble an' 
grateful to Li'l Miss if she '11 tell him what he 



can have. An' he '11 behave just like a Sunday- 
school boy. 

"Aw, you don't want to get mad at only me," 
he continued after she refused to answer. 
"Got any chicken? Got any — eggs? Lucky 
Sammy! An' some nice ham? Two lucky Sam- 
mies. An' some mashed potatoes? Fried? 
Good. An' will Li'l Miss please make a brand 
new cup of strong coffee? Then he '11 go over 
an' sit in that nice chair an' watch an' listen. 
But you oughtn't get mad at him. Are you 
really-an'-truly mad?" 

She swept down the room, into the kitchen 
partitioned off at the farther end and slammed 
the door. Sammy grinned, tugged at his up- 
per lip and fancy-stepped to the table. He 
smoothed his tumbled hair, retied his neck-ker- 
chief and dusted himself off with his red ban- 
danna handkerchief. "Nice li'l town," he solil- 
oquized. ''Fine li'l town. Dunno as I ought to 
go back to th' herd— Hoppy did n't tell me to. 
Reckon I '11 stick in town an' argue with th' 
agent. If I argue with th' agent I '11 be busy; 



an' I can't leave while I 'm busy." He leaned 
back and chuckled, "Lucky me! If Hoppy 
had gone an' picked Johnny to argue with th' 
agent for three whole days where would I be? 
But I gotta keep Johnny outa here, th' son-of- 
a-gun. He ain't like me — ^he likes girls; an' he 
ain't bashful." 

He picked up a paper lying on a chair near 
him and looked it over until the kitchen door 
squeaked. She carried a tray covered with a 
snow-white napkin which looked like a topo- 
graphical map with its mountains and valleys 
and plains. His chuckle was infectious to the 
extent of a smile and her eyes danced as she 
placed his dinner before him. 

"Betcha it 's fine," he grinned, shoveling sugar 
into the inky coffee. "Blinky oughta have a 
good look at this layout." 

"Don't be too sure," she retorted. "Mrs. 
Olmstead is sick and I 'm taking charge of 
thmgs for her. I 'm not a good cook." 

"Nothin 's th' matter with this," he assured 
her between bites. "Lots better 'n most purty 



girls can do. If Hopalong goes up against this 
he 11 offer you a hundred a month an' throw 
Blinky in to wash th' dishes. But he 'd have to 
'point me guard, or you would n't have no time 
to do no cookin'." 

**You 'd make a fine guard," she retorted. 

*'Don't believe it, huh? Jus' wait till you 
know me better." 

*'How do you know I 'm going to?" 

**I 'm a good guesser. Jus' put a li'l pepper 
right there on that yalla spot. Say, any chance 
to get a job in this town?" 

**Why, I don't know." 

"Goin' to stay long?" 

"I can't say. I won't go till Mra. 01mstea4 
is weU." 

"Not meanin* no harm to Mrs. Olmstead, of 
course — ^but you don't have to go, do you?" 

"I do as I please." 

"So I was thinkin'. Now, 'bout that job: any 
chance? Any ranches near here?" 

"Several. But they want men. Are you a 
real cowboy?" 



Sammy folded his hands and shook his head 
sorrowfully. "Huh! Want men! Now if I 
only had whiskers like Blinky. Why, 'course 
I 'm a cowboy. Regular one — ^but I can out- 
grow it easy, I 'm a sorta maverick an' I 'm 
willin' to wear a nice brand. My name's 
Sammy Porter," he suggested. 

"That 's nice. Mine is n't nice." 

"Easy to change it. Really like mine?" 

"Coffee strong enough?" 

"Sumptions. How long 's Mrs. Olmstead go- 
ing to be sick?" 

Her face clouded. "I don't know. I hope 
it will not be for long. She 's had so much trou- 
ble the past year. Oh, wait! I forgot the 
toast!" and she sped lightly away to rescue the 
burning bread. 

The front door opened and slammed shut, the 
newcomer dropping into the nearest chair. He 
pounded on the table. "Hello, there! I want 
somethin' to eat, quick!" 

Sammy turned and saw a portly, flashily 
dressed drummer whose importance was written 



large all over him. "Hey!" barked the drum- 
mer, "gimme something to eat. I can't wait all 
day I" 

A vicious clang in the kitchen told that his 
presence was known and resented. 

As Sammy turned from the stranger he caught 
sight of a pretty flushed face disappearing be- 
hind the door jamb, the brown eyes snapping and 
the red lips straight and compressed. His 
glance, again traveling to the drimimer, began 
with the dusty patent leathers and went slowly 
upward, resting boldly on the heavy face. Sam- 
my's expression told nothing and the newcomer, 
glaring at him for an instant, looked over the 
menu card and then stared at the partition, fid- 
geting in his chair, thumping meanwhile on the 
table with his fingers. 

At a sound from the kitchen Sammy turned 
back to his table and smiled reassuringly as the 
toast was placed before him. "I burned it and 
had to make new," she said, the pink spots in her 
cheeks a little deeper in color. 

"Why, th' other was good enough for me," he 



replied. "Know Mrs. Olmstead a long time?" 
he asked. 

"Ever since I was a little girl. She hved 
near us in Clev — " 

"Cleveland," he finished. "State of Ohio," he 
added, laughingly. "I '11 get it all before I go." 

"Indeed you won't!" 

"Miss," interrupted the drummer, "if you ain't 
too busy, would you mind gettin' me a steak an* 
some coflfee?" The tones were weighted with 
sarcasm and Sammy writhed in his chair. The 
girl flushed, turned abruptly and went slowly 
into the kitchen, from where considerable noise 
now emanated. In a short time she emerged 
with the drummer's order, placed it in front of 
him and started back again. But he stopped 
her. "I said I wanted it rare an' it 's well done. 
An' also that I wanted fried potatoes. Take 
it back." 

The girl's eyes blazed: "You gave no in- 
structions," she retorted. 

"Don't tell me that! I know what I said!" 
snapped the drummer. "I won't eat it an' I 



won't pay for it. If you was n't so busy you 'd 
heard what I said.'' 

Sammy was arising before he saw the tears of 
vexation in her eyes, but they settled it for him. 
He placed his hand lightly on her shoulder. 
"You get me some pie an' take a li'l walk. Me 
an' this here gent is goin' to hold a palaver. 
Ain't we, stranger?" 

The drummer glared at him. "We ain't!" he 

Sammy grinned ingratiatingly. "Oh, my; 
but we are." He slung a leg over a chair back 
and leaned forward, resting his elbow on his 
knee. "Yes, indeed we are — ^least-a-wise, I am." 
His tones became very soft and confiding. "An' 
I 'm shore goin' to watch you eat that steak." 

"What 's that you 're going to do?" the drum- 
mer demanded, half rising. 

"Sit down," begged Sammy, his gun swinging 
at his knee. He picked up a toothpick with his 
left hand and chewed it reflectively. "These 
here Colts make a' awful muss, sometimes," he 
remarked. " 'Specially at close range. Why," 



he confided, "I once knowed a man what was shot 
'most in two. He was a moss-head an' would n't 
do what he was told. Better sorta lead off at 
that steak, hombre/^ he suggested, chewing 
evenly on the toothpick. Noticing that the girl 
still lingered, hypnotized by fear and curiosity, 
he spoke to her over his shoulder. ''Won't you 
please get me that pie, or somethin'? Run out 
an' borrow a pan, or somethin'," he pleaded. "I 
don't like to be handicapped when I 'm f eedin' 

The drummer's red face paled a little and one 
hand stole cautiously under his coat — and froze 
there. Sammy hardly had moved, but the Colt 
was now horizontal and glowered at the gaudy 
waistcoat. He was between it and the girl and 
she did not see the movement. His smile was 
placid and fixed and he spoke so that she should 
get no inkhng of what was going on. "Never 
drink on an empty stomach," he advised. "After 
you eat that meal, then you can fuss with yore 
flask all you wants." He glanced out of the 
corner of his eye at the girl and nodded. "Still 



there! Oh, I most forgot, stranger. You take 
off yore hat an' 'pologize, so she can go. Jus' 
say yo 're a dawg an never did have no manners. 
Say it!" he ordered, softly. The drummer 
gulped and muttered something, but the Colt, 
still hidden from the girl by its owner's body, 
moved forward a little and Sammy's throaty 
growl put an end to the muttering. "Say it 
plain," he ordered, the color fading from his face 
and leaving pink spots against the white. 
*'That 's better — ^now, Li'l Miss, you get me that 
pie — please!" he begged. 

When they were alone Sammy let the gun 
swing at his knee again. *T don't know how 
they treats wimmin where you came from, 
stranger ; but out here we 're plumb polite. 
'Course you did n't know that, an' that 's why 
you did n't get all mussed up. Yo 're jus' plain 
ignorant an' can't help yore bringin' up. Now, 
you eat that steak, pronto!" 

"It 's too cold, now," grumbled the drummer, 
fidgeting in the chair. 

The puncher's left hand moved to the table 



again and when it returned to his side there was 
a generous layer of red pepper on the meat. 
"Easy to fix things when you know how," he 
grinned. "If it gets any colder I '11 fix it some 
more." His tones became sharper and the words 
lost their drawled softness. "You goin' to start 
ag'in that by yoreself, or am I goin' to help 
you?" he demanded, lifting his leg off the chair 
and standing erect. All the humor had left his 
face and there was a grimness about the tight lips 
and a menace in the squinting eyes that sent a 
chill ripphng down the drummer's spine. He 
tasted a forkful of the meat and gulped hastily, 
tears welling into his eyes. The puncher moved 
a little nearer and watched the frantic gulps 
with critical attention. " 'Course, you can eat 
any way you wants — ^yo 're payin' for it ; but 
boltin' like a coyote ain't good for th' stummick. 
Howsomever, it 's yore grub," he admitted. 

A cup of cold coffee and a pitcher of water 
followed the meat in the same gulping haste. 
Tears streamed down the drumimer's red face as 



he arose and turned toward the door. ^'Hol' on, 
stranger 1" snapped Sammy. "That costs six 
bits," he prompted. The coins rang out on the 
nearest table, the door slammed and the ago- 
nized stranger ran madly down the street, curs- 
ing at every jimip. Sammy sauntered to the 
door and craned his neck. "Somebody 's jus' 
naturally goin' to bust him wide open one of 
these days. He ain't got no sense," he muttered, 
turning back to get his pie. 

A cloud of dust rolled up from the south, 
causing Briggs a little uneasiness, and he scowled 
through the door at the long empty siding and 
the pens sprawled along it. 

Steps clacked across the platform and a grin- 
ning cowpuncher stopped at the open window. 
"They're here," he announced. "How 'bout 
th' cars?" 

Briggs looked aroimd wearily. For three days 
his life had been made miserable by this pest, 
who carried a laugh in his eyes, a sting on his 



tongue and a chip on his shoulder. "They '11 be 
here soon," he replied, with little interest. "But 
there 's th' pens." 

"Yes, there 's th' pens," smiled Sammy. 
"They'll hold 'bout one-tenth of that herd. 
Ain't I been pesterin' you to get them cars?" 

The agent sighed expressively and listened to 
the instrument on his table. When it ceased he 
grabbed the key and asked a question. Then he 
smiled for the first time that day. "They 're 
passing Franklin, Be here in two hours. Now 
get out of here or I '11 lick you." 

"There 's a nice place in one of them pens," 
smiled Sammy. 

"I see you 're eating at Olmstead's," parried 
the agent. 


"Nice girl. Come up last summer when Mrs. 
Olmstead petered out. I ate there last winter." 

Sammy grinned at him. "Why 'd you stop?" 

Briggs grew red and glanced at the nearing 
cloud of dust. "Better help your outfit, had n't 



Sammy was thoughtful. "Say, that 's a 
plumb favorite eatin' place, ain't it?" 

Briggs laughed. **Wait till Saturday when 
th' boys come in. There 's a dozen shinin' up to 
that girl. Tom Clarke is real persistent." 

Sammy forsook the building as a prop. 
"Who 'she? Puncher?" 

"Yes; an' bad," replied the agent. "But I 
reckon she don't know it." 

Sammy looked at the dust cloud and turned to 
ask one more question. "What does this persist- 
ent gent look like, an' where 's he hang out?" 
He nodded at the verbose reply and strode to his 
horse to ride toward the approaching herd. He 
espied Red first, and hailed. "Cars here in two 
hours. Where 's Hoppy?" 

"Back in th' dust. But what happened to 
you?'' demanded Red, with virile interest. 
Sanmiy ignored the challenge and loped along 
the edge of the cloud until he found the trail boss. 
"Them cars '11 be here in two hours," he reported. 

"Take you three days to find it out?" snapped 



"Took me three days to get 'em. I just about 
um-aveled that agent. He swears every time he 
hears a noise, thinkin' it 's me." 

"Broke?" demanded Hopalong. 

Sammy flushed. "I ain't gambled a cent 
since I hit town. An' say, them pens won't hold 
a tenth of 'em," he replied, looking over the dark 
blur that heaved under the dust cloud like a fog- 
covered, choppy sea. 

"I 'm goin' to hold 'em on grass," replied the 
trail boss. "They ain't got enough cars on this 
toy road to move all them cows in less 'n a week. 
I ain't goin' to let 'em lose no weight in pens. 
Wait a minute! You 're on night herd for stay- 
in' away." 

When Sammy rode into camp the following 
morning he scorned Blinky's food, much to the 
open-mouthed amazement of that worthy and 
Johnny Nelson. Blinky thought of doctors and 
death; but Johnny, noticing his bunkmate's 
restlessness and the careful grooming of his per- 
son, had grave suspicions. "Good grub in this 
town?" he asked, saddling to go on his shift. 



Sammy wiped a fleck of dust off his boot and 
looked up casually. "Shore. Best is at the 
Dutchman's at th' far end of th' street." 

Johnny mounted, nodded and departed for the 
herd, where Red was pleasantly cursing his tardi- 
ness. Red would eat Blinky's grub and gladly. 
Johnny was cogitating. "There 's a girl in this 
town, an' he 's got three days' head start. No 
wonder them cars just got here!" Red's sarcas- 
tic voice intruded. "Think I eat grass, or my 
stummick 's made of rubber?" he snapped. 
"Think I feed onct a month like a snake?" 

"No, Reddie," smiled Johnny, watching the 
eyebrows lift at the name. "More like a hawg." 

Friday morning, a day ahead of the agent's 
promise, the cars backed onto the siding and by 
noon the last cow of the herd was taking its first 
—and last — ^ride. Sammy slipped away from 
the outfit at the pens and approached the restau- 
rant from the rear. He would sit behind the 
partition this time and escape his friends. 

The soft sand deadened his steps and when he 



looked in at the door, a cheery greeting on the 
tip of his tongue, he stopped and stared unno- 
ticed by the sobbing girl bent over the table. 
One hand, outflung in dejected abandon, hung 
over the side and Sanuny's eyes, glancing at 
it, narrowed as he looked. His involuntary, 
throaty exclamation sent the bowed head up with 
a jerk, but the look of hate and fear quickly died 
out of her eyes as she recognized him. 

"An' all th' world tumbled down in a heap," 
he smiled. "But it '11 be all right again, same as 
it alius was," he assured her, "Will Li'l Miss 
tell Sammy all about it so he can put it together 

She looked at him through tear-dimmed eyes, 
the sobs slowly drying to a spasmodic catching 
in the rounded throat. She shook her head and 
the tears welled up again in answer to his sympa- 
thy. He walked softly to the table and placed 
a hand on her bowed head. "Li'l Miss will tell 
Sammy all about it when she dries her eyes an' 
gets comfy. Sammy will make things all right 
again an' laugh with her. Don't you mind him 



a mite — ^jus' cry hard, an' when all th' tears are 
used up, then you tell Sammy what it 's all 
about." She shook her head and would not look 
up. He bent down carefully and examined the 
bruised wrist — and his eyes glinted with rage ; but 
he did not speak. The minutes passed in silence, 
the girl ashamed to show her reddened and tear- 
stained face; the boy stubbornly determined to 
stay and learn the facts. He heard his friends 
tramp past, wondering where he was, but he did 
not move. 

Finally she brushed back her hair and looked 
up at him and the misery in her eyes made him 
catch his breath. * 'Won't you go?" she pleaded. 

He shook his head. 


"Not till I finds out whose fingers made them 
marks," he replied. The look of fear flashed up 
again, but he checked it with a smile he far from 
felt, "Nobody 's goin' to make you cry, an' get 
away with it," he told her. "Who was it?" 

"I won't tell you. I can't tell you! I don't 



"Lil Miss, look me in th' eyes an' say it again. 
I thought so. You mustn't say things that 
ain't true. Who did that?" 

*'What do you want to know for?" 

'^Oh, jus' because." 

"What will you do?" 

"Oh, I '11 sorta talk to him. AH I want to 
know is his name." 

"I won't tell you; you '11 fight with him." 

He turned his sombrero over and looked 
gravely into its crown. "Well," he admitted, 
"he might not like me talkin' 'bout it. Of course, 
you can't never tell." 

"But he did n't mean to hurt me. He 's only 
rough and boisterous; and he wasn't himself," 
she pleaded, looking down. 

"Uh-huh," grunted Sanmiy, cogitating. 
"So 'm I. I 'm awful rough an' boisterous, I 
am ; only I don't hurt wimmin. What 's his 

"I '11 not tell you!" 

"Well, all right; but if he ever comes in here 
again an' gets rough an' boisterous he '11 lose a 



hull lot of future. I '11 naturally blow most of his 
head off, which is frequent fatal. What 's that? 
Oh, he's a bad man, is he? Uh-huh; so'm I. 
Well, I 'm goin' to run along now an' see th' boss. 
If you won't tell, you won't. I '11 be back soon," 
and he sauntered to the street and headed for 
Pete's saloon, where the agent had said Mr. 
Clarke was wont to pass his fretful hours. 

As he turned the corner he bumped into Hopa- 
long and Johnny, who grabbed at him, and 
missed. He backed off and rested on his toes, 
gingery and alert. *'Keep yore dusty ban's off'n 
me," he said, quietly. **I 'm goin' down to pala- 
ver with a gent what I don't like." 

Hopalong's shrewd glance looked him over. 
*What did this gent do?" he asked, and he would 
not be evaded. 

*'0h, he insulted a nice li'l girl, an' I 'm in a 

"G'way !" exclauned Johnny. "That straight?" 

"Too d — n straight," snapped Sanmiy, "He 
went an' bruised her wrists an' made her cry," 

"Lead th' way, Kid," rejoined Johnny, read- 



justing his belt. "Mebby he 's got some friends," 
he suggested, hopefully. 

"Yes," smiled Hopalong, ''mebby he has. 
An' anyhow, Sammy; you know yo 're plumb 
careless with that gun. You might miss him. 
Lead th' way." 

As they started toward Pete's Johnny nudged 
his bunkmate in the ribs: "Say; she ain't got no 
sisters, has she?" he whispered. 

One hour later Sammy, his face slightly 
scratched, lounged into the kitchen and tossed his 
sombrero on a chair, grinning cheerfully at the 
flushed, saucy face that looked out from under a 
mass of rebellious, brown hair. "Well, I saw th' 
boss, an' I come back to make everythin' well 
again," he asserted, laughing softly. "That 
rough an' boisterous Mr. Clarke has sloped. He 
won't come back no more." 

"Why, Sammyr she cried, aghast. "What 
have you done?" 

"Well, for one thing, I 've got you callin' me 
Sammy," he chuckled, trying to sneak a hand 



over hers. "I told th' boss I 'm goin' to get a 
job up here, so I '11 know Mr. Clarke won't come 
back. But you know, he only thought he was 
bad. I shore had to take his ol' gun away from 
him so he would n't go an' shoot hisself , an' when 
las' seen he was f eelin' for his cayuse, intendin' to 
leave these parts. That 's what I done" he 
nodded, brightly. '"Now comes what I 'm goin' 
to do. Oh, Li'l Miss," he whispered, eagerly. 
"I 'm jus' all mixed up an' millin'. My own 
feet plumb get in my way. So I jus' gotta stick 
aroun' an' change yore name, what you don't Uke. 
Uh-huh; that 's jus' what I gotta do," he smiled. 

She tossed her head and the tip-tilt nose went 
up indignantly. "Indeed you '11 do nothing of 
the kind, Sammy Porter!" she retorted. "I'll 
choose my own name when the time comes, and it 
will not be Porter!" 

He arose slowly and looked around. Picking 
up the pencil that lay on the shelf he lounged 
over to the partition and printed his name three 
times in large letters. "All right, Li'l Miss," 
he agreed. "I '11 jus' leave a list where you can 



see it while you 're seleetin'. I 'm now goin' out 
to get that job we spoke about. You have th' 
name all picked out when I get back," he sug- 
gested, waving his hand at the wall. "An' did 
anybody ever tell you it was plumb risky to stick 
yore li'l nose up thataway?" 

"Sammy Porter!" she stormed, stamping in 
vexation near the crying point. "You get right 
out of here ! I '11 never speak to you again 1" 

"You won't get a chance to talk much if you 
don't sorta bring that snubby nose down a li'l 
lower. I 'm plumb weak at times." He laughed 
joyously and edged to the door. "Don't forget 
that list. I 'm goin' after that job. So-long, 
Li'l Miss." 


"Oh, all right; I'll go after it later on," he 
laughed, returning. 



JOHNNY NELSON hastened to the cor- 
ner of the bunkhouse and then changed his 
pace until he seemed to ooze from there to the 
cook shack door, where he lazily leaned against 
the door jamb and ostentatiously picked his teeth 
with the negative end of a match. The cook 
looked up calmly, and calmly went on with his 
work; but if there was anything rasping enough 
to cause his calloused soul to quiver it was the 
aforesaid calisthenics executed by Johnny and the 
match ; for Cookie's blunt nature hated hints. If 
Johnny had demanded, even profanely and with 
large personal animus, why meals were not ahead 
of time, it would be a simple matter to heave 
something and enlarge upon his short cut speech. 
But the subtleties left the cook floundering in a 
mire of rage — which he was very careful to con- 
ceal from Johnny. The youthful nuisance had 



been evincing undue interest in early suppers for 
nearly a month; and judging from the lightness 
of his repasts he was entirely unjustified in show- 
ing any interest at all in the evening meal. So 
Cookie strangled the biscuit in his hand, but 
smiled blandly at his tormentor. 

"Well, all through?" he pleasantly inquired, 
glancing carelessly at Johnny's clothes. 

"I 'm hopin' to begin," retorted Johnny, and 
the toothpick moved rapidly up and down. 

Cookie condensed another biscuit and gulped. 
"That 's shore some stone," he said, enviously, 
eying the two-caret diamond in Johnny's new, 
blue tie. Johnny never had worn a tie before he 
became owner of the diamond, but with the stone 
came the keen realization of how lost it was in a 
neck-kerchief, how often covered by the wind- 
blown folds ; so he had hastened to Buckskin and 
spent a dollar that belonged to Red for the tie, 
thus exhausting both the supply of ties and Red's 
dollars. The honor of wearing the only tie and 
diamond in that section of the cow-country 
brought responsibilities, for he had spoken hastily 



to several humorous friends and stood a good 
chance of being soundly thrashed therefor. 

He threw away the match and scratched his 
back ecstatically on the door jamb while he 
strained his eyes trying to look under his chin. 
Fixed chins and short ties are trials one must 
learn to accept philosophically — and Johnny 
might have been spared the effort were it not for 
the fact that the tie had been made for a boy, 
and was awesomely shortened by encircling a 
sixteen-inch neck. Evidently it had been made 
for a boy violently inclined toward a sea-faring 
life, as suggested by the anchors embroidered in 
white down its middle. 

"Lemme see it," urged Cookie, sighing be- 
cause its owner had resolutely refused to play 
poker when he had no cash. This had become a 
blighting sorrow in the life of a naturally exuber- 
ant and very fair cook. 

"An' for how long?" demanded Johnny, a cold 
and calculating light glinting in his eyes. 

"Oh, till supper 's ready," replied Cookie with 
great carelessness. 



"Nix; but you can wear it twenty minutes if 
you '11 get my grub quick," he replied. "Got to 
meet Lucas at half-past five." He cautiously 
dropped the match he had thoughtlessly pro- 

The cook tried to look his belief and accepted 
the oflPer. Johnny's remarkably clean face, 
plastered hair and general gala attire suggested 
that Lucas was a woman — ^which Lucas pro- 
fanely would have denied. Also, Johnny had 
been seen washing Ginger, and when a puncher 
washes a cayuse it 's a sign of insanity. Besides, 
Ginger belonged to Red, who also had owned 
that lone dollar. Red's clothes did not fit 

"Goin' to surprise Lucas?" inquired the cook. 

"What you mean?" 

Cookie glanced meaningly at the attire: 
"Er — ^you ain't in th' habit of puttin' on war 
paint for to see Lucas, are you?" 

Johnny's mental faculties produced: "Oh, 
we 're goin' to a dance." 

"Where 'bouts?" exploded the cook. 



''Way up north!" One's mind needs to be 
active as a flea to lie properly to a man like the 
cook. He had made a ghastly; mistake. 

"By golly 1 I '11 give th' boys cold grub an' 
go with you," and the cook began to save time. 

Johnny gulped and shook his head: "Got a 

Cookie caught the pan on his foot before it 
struck the floor and gasped: "Invite? Ain't 
it free-fer-all?" 

"No; this is a high-toned thing-a-bob. Costs 
a dollar a head, too." 

"High-toned?" snorted the cook, derisively. 
"Don't they know you? An' I thought Red was 
broke. Show me that permit !" 

"Lucas 's got it — ^that 's why I 've got to catch 

"Oh! An' is he goin' all feathered up, too?" 

"Shore, he 's got to." 

"Huh! He wouldn't dress like that to see a 
fight. Has she got any sisters?" Cookie finished, 

"Now what you talkin' about?" 



"Why, Lucas," answered the cook, placidly. 
"Lemme tell you something. When you want to 
lose me have a invite to a water-drinkin' contest. 
An' before you go, be shore to rub Hoppy's boots 
some more; that 's such a pasty shine it '11 look 
like sand-paper before you get to th' — dance. 
You want to make it hard an' slippery. An' I 've 
read som'ers that only wimmin ought to smell 
like a drug-store. You better let her do th' f umi- 

Johnny surrendered and dolefully whiffed the 
crushed violets he had paid two bits a pint for at 
El Paso— it was not necessary to whiff them, but 
he did so. 

"You ought to hone yore razor, too," continued 
the cook, critically. 

"I told Buck it was dull, I ain't goin' to 
sharpen it for him. But, say, are you shore 
about th' perfumery?" 

"Why, of course." 

"But how '11 1 git it off?" 

"Bury th' clothes," suggested Cookie, grin- 



"I like yore gall! Which clothes are best, 
Pete's or Billy's?" 

*Tete's would fit you like th' wide, wide world. 
You don't want blankets on when you go 
courtin'. Try Billy's. An' I got a pair of 
socks, though one 's green — but th' boots '11 hide 

"I did n't put none on my socks, you chump!" 

"How'd I know? But, say! Has she got 
any sisters?" 

"No!" yelled Johnny, halfway through the 
gallery in search of Billy's clothes. When he 
emerged Cookie looked him over. "Ain't it 
funny. Kid, how a pipe '11 stink up clothes?" he 
smiled. Johnny's retort was made over several 
yards of ground and when he had mounted 
Cookie yelled and waved him to return. When 
Johnny had obeyed and impatiently demanded 
the reason, Cookie pleasantly remarked: "Now, 
be shore an' give her my love, Kid." 

Johnny's reply covered half a mile of trail. 

Johnny; rode alertly through Perry's Bend, 



for SherljQF Nolan was no friend of his ; and Nolan 
was not only a discarded suitor of Miss Joyce, 
but a warm personal friend of George Greener, 
the one rival Johnny feared. Greener was a 
widower as wealthy as he was unscrupulous, and 
a power on that range: when he said "jump," 
Nolan soared 

The sheriff was standing before the Palace 
saloon when Johnny rode past, and he could 
not keep quiet. His comment was so judiciously 
chosen as to bring white spots on Johnny's flushed 
cheeks. The Bar-20 puncher was not famed 
for his self-control, and, wheeling in the saddle, 
he pointed a quivering forefinger at Mr. Nolan's 
badge of office, so conspicuously displayed: 
"Better men than you have hid behind a badge 
and banked on a man's regard for th' law savin' 
'em from their just deserts. Politics is a h — ^1 
of a thing when it opens th' door to anything 
that might roll in on th' wind. You come down 
across th' line tomorrow an' see me, without th' 
nickel-plated ornament you disgraces," he in- 



vited. "Any dog can tell a lie in his kennel, but 
it takes guts to bark outside th' yard." 

Mr. Nolan flushed, went white, hesitated, and 
walked away. To fight in defense of the law was 
his duty; but no sane man warred on the Bar-20 
unless he must. Mr. Nolan was a man whose 
ideas of necessity followed strange curves, and 
not to his credit. One might censure Mr. Cassidy 
or Mr. Connors, or pick a fight with some of the 
others of that outfit and not get killed; but he 
must not harm their protege. Mr. Nolan not 
only walked away but he sought the darkest 
shadows and held conversation with himself. If 
it were only possible to get the pugnacious and 
very much spoiled Mr. Nelson to fracture, smash, 
pulverize some law! This, indeed, would be 

Meanwhile Johnny, having watched the sheriff 
slip away, loosed a few more words into the air 
and went on his way, whistling cheerfully. 
Reaching the Joyce cottage he was admitted by 
Miss Joyce herself and at sight of her blushing 



face his exuberant confidence melted and left him 
timid. This he was wont to rout by big words 
and a dashing air he did not feel. 

**0h! Come right in," she invited. "But you 
are late," she laughed, chidingly. 

He critically regarded the dimples, while he 
replied that he had drawn rein to slay the sheriff 
but, knowing that it would cost him more val- 
uable time, he had consented with himself to post- 
pone the event. 

"But you must not do that!" she cried. 
"Why, that's terrible! You shouldn't even 
think of such things." 

"Well, of course — if yo 're agin' it I wont." 

"But what did he do?" 

"Oh, I don't reckon I can tell that. But do 
you really want him to live?" 

"Why, certainly! What a foolish question." 

"But why do you? Do you — like him?" 

"I like everybody." 

"Yes; an' everybody likes you, too," he 
growled, the smile fading. "That 's th' trouble. 
Do you like him very much?" 



"I wish you wouldn't ask such foolish ques- 

^'Yes ; I know. But do you?" 

"I prefer not to answer.'* 

"Huh! That's an answer in itself. You 

"I don't think you 're very nice tonight," she 
retorted, a little pout spoiling the bow in her 
lips. "You 're awfully jealous, and I don't like 

"Gee! Don't like it! I should think you'd 
want me to be jealous. I only wish you was 
jealous of me, Norah, I 've just got to say it 
now, an' find out — " 

''Yes; tell me," she interrupted eagerly. 


"Mr. Nolan, of course." 

"Nolan?" he demanded in surprise. 

"Yes, yes; tell me." 

"I ain't talkin' about him, I was goin' to 
tell you something that I 've — " 

"That you 've done and now regret? Have 



you ever — ever killed a man?" she breathed. 
"Have you?" 

**No; yes! Lots of 'em," he confessed, remem- 
bering that once she had expressed admiration 
for brave and daring men. "Most half as many 
as Hopalong; an' I ain't near as old as him, 

"You mean Mr. Cassidy? Why don't you 
bring him with you some evening? I 'd like to 
meet him." 

"Not me. I went an' brought a friend along 
once, an' had to lick him th' next day to keep 
him away from here. He 'd 'a' camped right 
out there in front if I had n't. No, ma'am ; not 

"Why, the idea! But Mr. Greener's very 
much like your friend, Mr, Cassidy. He 's very 
brave, and a wonderful shot. He told me so 

"What ! He told you so hisself ! Well, well. 
Beggin' yore pardon, he ain't nowise like Hoppy, 
not even in th' topics of his conversation. Why, 
he 's a child; an' blinks when he shoots off a gun. 



Here — can he show a gun like mine?" and forth- 
with he held out his Colt, butt foremost, and in- 
dicated the notches he had cut that afternoon. A 
fleeting doubt went through his mind at what his 
outfit would say when it saw those notches. 
The Bar-20 cut no notches. It wanted to for- 

She looked at them curiously and suddenly 
drew back. "Oh I Are they — are they?" she 

He nodded: "They are. There is plenty of 
room for Nolan's, an' mebby his owner, too," he 
suggested. "Can't you see, Norah?" he asked 
in a swift change of tone. "Can't you see? 
Don't you know how much I — " 

"Yes. It must be terrible to have such re- 
morse," she quickly interposed. "And I sym- 
pathize with you deeply, too." 

"Remorse nothin'! Them fellers was lookin' 
for it, an' they got just what they deserved. If 
I had n't 'a' done it somebody else would." 

"And you a murderer! I never thought that 
of you, I can hardly believe it of you. And 



you calmly confess it to me as though it were 

"Why, I— I—" 

"Don't talk to me ! To think you have human 
blood on your hands. To think — " 

"Norahl Norah, listen; won't you?" 

" — that you are that sort of a man ! How dare 
you call here as you have? How dare you?" 

"But I tell you they were tryin' to get me! I 
just had to. Why, I didn't do it for nothin'. 
I 've got a right to defend myself, ain't I?" 

"You had to? Is that true?" she demanded. 

"Why, shore! Think I go 'round killin' men, 
like Greener does, just for th' fun of it?" 

"He doesn't do anything of the kind," she 
retorted. "You know he does n't! Did n't you 
just say he blinks when he shoots off a gun?" 

"Yes; I did. But I didn't want you to 
think he was a murderer like Nolan," he ex- 
plained. Even Cookie, he thought, would find 
it hard to get around that neat little effort. 

"I 'm so relieved," she laughed, delighted at 
her success in twisting him. "I am so glad he 



does n't blink when he shoots. I 'd hate a man 
who was afraid to shoot." 

Johnny's chest arose a little. "Well, how 
'bout me?" 

"But you've killed men; you've shot down 
your fellow men; and have ghastly; marks on 
your revolver to brag about." 

"Well — say — but how can I shoot without 
shootin' or kill without killin'?" he demanded. 
"An' I don't brag about 'em, neither; it makes 
me feel too sad to do any braggin'. An' 
Greener's killed 'em, too; an' he brags about it." 

"Yes; but he doesn't blink!" she exclaimed 

"Neither do ir 

"Yes; but you shoot to kill." 

"Lord pity us — don't he?'' 

"Y-e-s, but that 's different," she replied, smil- 
ing brightly. 

Johnny looked around the room, his eyes 
finally resting on his hat. 

"Yes, I see it 's different. Greener can kill, 
an' blink! I can't. If he kills a man he's a 



hero; I 'm a murderer. I kinda reckon he 's got 
th' trail. But I love you, an' you 've got to pick 
my trail — does it lead up or down?" 

"Johnny Nelson I What are you saying?" she 
demanded, arising. 

"Something turrible, mebby. I don't know; 
an' I don't care. It 's true — so there you are. 
Norah, can't you see I do?" he pleaded, holding 
out his hands. "Won't you marry me?" 

She looked down, her cheeks the color of fire, 
and Johnny continued hurriedly : "I 've loved 
you a whole month 1 When I 'm ridin' around I 
sorta' see you, an' hear you. Why, I talk to 
you lots when I 'm alone. I 've saved up some 
money, an' I had to work hard to save it, too. 
I 've got some cows runnin' with our'n — in a little 
while I '11 have a ranch of my own. Buck '11 let 
me use th' east part of th' ranch, an' there 's a 
hill over there that 'd look fine with a house on 
it. I can't wait no longer, Norah, I 've got to 
know. Will you let me put this on yore finger?" 
He swiftly bent the pin into a ring and held it 
out eagerly : "Can I ?" 



She pushed him away and yielded to a sudden 
pricking of her conscience, speaking swiftly, as 
if forcing herself to do a disagreeable duty, and 
hating herself at the moment. "Johnny, I Ve 
been a — a flirt! When I saw you were begin- 
ning to care too much for me I should have 
stopped it ; but I did n't. I amused myself — ^but 
I want you to believe one thing, to give me a 
little credit for just one thing; I never thought 
what it might mean to you. It was carelessness 
with me. But I was flirting, just the same — and 
it hurts to admit it. I 'm not good enough for 
you, Johnny Nelson ; it 's hard to say, but it 's 
true. Can you, will you forgive me?" 

He choked and stepped forward holding out 
his hands imploringly, but she eluded him. 
When he saw the shame in her face, the tears in 
her eyes, he stopped and laughed gently: "But 
we can begin right, now, can't we ? I don't care, 
not if you '11 let me see you same as ever. You 
might get to care for me. And, anyhow, it ain't 
yore fault. I reckon it 's me that 's to blame." 

At that moment he was nearer to victory than 



he had ever been; but he did not realize it and 
opportunity died when he failed to press his ad- 

"I am to blame," she said, so low he could 
hardly catch the words. When she continued it 
was with a rush: "I am not free — I haven't 
been for a week. I 'm not free any more — and 
I 've been leading you on!" 

His face hardened, for now the meaning of 
Greener's sneering laugh came to him, and a 
seething rage swept over him against the man 
who had won. He knew Greener, knew him 
well — the meanness of the man's nature, his cold 
cruelty; the many things to the man's discredit 
loomed up large against the frailty of the woman 
before him. 

Norah stepped forward and laid a pleading 
hand on his arm, for she knew the mettle of the 
men who worked under Buck Peters: "What 
are you thinking? Tell me!" 

"Why, I 'm thinking what Nolan said. An', 
Norah, listen. You say you want me to forgive 
you? Well, I do, if there's anything to forgive. 



But I want you to primise me that if Greener 
don't treat you right you '11 tell me." 

"What do you mean?" 

*'Only what I said. Do you promise?" 

'Terhaps you would better speak to him about 
it!" she retorted. 

"I will — an' plain. But don't worry 'bout me. 
It was my fault for bein' a tenderfoot. I never 
played this game before, an' don't know th' cards. 

He rode away slowly, and made the rounds, 
and by the time he reached Lacey's he was so un- 
steady that he was refused a drink and told to go 
home. But he headed for the Palace instead, 
and when he stepped high over the doorsill 
Nolan was seated in a chair tipped back against 
one of the side walls, and behind the bar on the 
other side of the room Jed Terry drummed on the 
counter and expressed his views on local matters. 
The sheriff was listening in a bored way until 
he saw Johnny enter and head his way, feet high 
and chest out; and at that moment Nolan's in- 
terest in local affairs flashed up brightly. 



Johnny lost no time: "Nolan," he said, rock- 
ing on his heels, "tell Greener I '11 kill him if he 
marries that girl. He killed his first wife by 
abuse an' he don't kill no more. Savvy?" 

The sheriff warily arose, for here was the op- 
portunity he had sought. The threat to kill had 
a witness. 

"An' if you opens yore toad's mouth about her 
like you did tonight, I '11 kill you, too." The 
tones were dispassionate, the words deliberate. 

"Hear that, Jed?" cried the sheriff, excitedly. 
"Nelson, yo 're under ar — " 

"Shut upl" snapped Johnny loudly, this time 
with feeling. "When yo 're betters are talkin' 
you keep yore face closed. Now, it ain't hardly 
healthy to slander wimmin in this country, 
'specially good wimmin. You lied like a dog to 
me tonight, an' I let you off ; don't try it again." 

"I told th' truth!" snapped Nolan, heatedly. 
"I said she was a flirt, an' by th' great horned 
spoon she is a flirt, an' you — " 

The sheriff prided himself upon his quickness, 
but the leaping gun was kicked out of his hand 



before he knew what was coming; a chair glanced 
off Jed's face and wrapped the front window 
about itself in its passing, leaving the bar-tender 
in the throbbing darkness of inter-planetary 
space; and as the sheriff opened his eyes and re- 
covered from the hard swings his face had 
stopped, a galloping horse drummed southward 
toward the Bar-20; and the silence of the night 
was shattered by lusty war-whoops and a spur- 
ting .45. 

When the sheriff and his posse called at the 
Bar-20 before breakfast the following morning 
they found a grouchy outfit and learned some 

"Where 's Johnny?" repeated Hopalong, with 
a rising inflection. "Only wish I knowed!" 

A murmur of wistful desire arose and Lanky 
Smith restlessly explained it : "He rampages in 
'bout midnight an' wakes us up with his racket. 
When we asks what he 's doin' with our posses- 
sions he suggests we go to h — ^1. He takes Ms 
rifle, Pete's rifle, Buck's brand new canteen, 



'bout eighty pounds of catridges an' other use- 
ful duffle, all th' tobacco, an' blows away quick." 

"On my cayuse," murmured Red. 

"Wearin' my good clothes," added Billy, sor- 

"An' my boots," sighed Hopalong. 

"I ain't got no field glasses no more," grumbled 

"But he only got one laig of my new pants," 
chuckled Skinny. "I was too strong for him." 

"He yanked my blanket off'n me, which makes 
me steal Red's," grinned Pete. 

"Which you didn't keep very long!" retorted 
Red, with derision. 

"Which makes us all peevish," plaintively mut- 
tered Buck. 

"Now ain't it a h — ^1 of a note?" laughed 
Cookie, loudly, forthwith getting scarce. He 
had nothing good enough to be taken. 

"An' whichever was it run ag'in' yore face. 
Sheriff?" sympathetically inquired Hopalong. 
"Mighty good thing it stopped," he added 



"Never mind my face!" snorted the peace 
officer hotly as his deputies smoothed out their 
grins. '*I want to know where Nelson is, an' 
d — d quick! We '11 search the house &st." 

"Hold on," responded Buck. '^North of Salt 
Spring Creek yo 're a sheriff ; down here yo 're 
nothin'. Don't search no house. He ain't here." 

"How do I know he ain't?" snapped Nolan. 

"My word 's good ; or there '11 be another elec- 
tion stolen up in yore county," rejoined Buck 
ominously. "An' I would n't hunt him too hard, 
neither. We '11 punish him." 

Nolan wheeled and rode toward the hills with- 
out another word, his posse pressing close behind. 
When they entered Apache Pass one of them ac- 
cidentally exploded his rifle, calling forth an an- 
gry tirade from the sheriff. Johnny heard it, and 
cared little for the warning from his friend Lu- 
cas ; he waited and then rode down the rocky slope 
of the pass on the trail of the posse, squinting 
wickedly at the distant group as he caught 
glimpses of them now and again, and with no 
anxiety regarding backward glances. "Lot's 



wife '11 have nothing on them if they look back/' 
he muttered, fingering his rifle lovingly. At 
nightfall he watched them depart and grinned at 
the chase he would lead them when they returned. 
But he did not see them again, although his 
friends reported that they were turning the range 
upside down to find him. One of his outfit rode 
out to him with supplies and information every 
few days and it was Pete who told him that six 
posses were in the hills. "An' you can't leave, 
'cause one of th' cordon would get you shore. I 
had a h — ^1 of a time getting in today." Red 
reported that the sheriff had sworn to take him 
dead or alive. Then came the blow. The 
sheriff was at the point of death from lockjaw 
caused by complete paralysis of the curea-frend 
nerve just above the phlagmatic diaphragm, 
which Johnny had fractured. It was Hopalong 
who imparted this sad news, and withered 
Johnny's hope of returning to a comfortable 
bunkhouse and square meals. So the fugitive 
clung to the hills, shunned sky-lines and won- 
dered if the sheriff would recover before snow 



flew. He was hungry most of the time now be- 
cause the outfit was getting stingy with the food 
supplies — and he dared not shoot any game. 

Four weeks passed, weeks of hunger and nerv- 
ous strain, and he was getting desperate. He 
had learned that Greener and his fiancee were 
going down to Linnville soon, since Perry's Bend 
had no parson; and his cup of bitterness, over- 
flowing, drove him to risk an attempt to leave 
that part of the country. He had seen none of 
Pete's "cordon" although he had looked for them, 
and he believed he could get away. So he rode 
cautiously down Apache Pass one noon, thought- 
fully planning his flight. The sand, washed 
down the rock walls by the last rain, deadened all 
sounds of his progress, and as he turned a sharp 
bend in the cut he almost bumped into Greener 
and Norah Joyce. They were laughing at how 
they had eluded the crowd of friends who were 
eager to accompany them — ^but the laughter froze 
when Johnny's gun swung up. 

" 'Nds up. Greener 1" he snapped, viciously, 
remembering his promise to Sheriff Nolan. 



'*Miss Joyce, if you make any trouble it '11 cost 
him his life." 

"Turned highwayman, eh?" sneered Greener, 
keenly alert for the necessary fraction of a sec- 
ond's carelessness on the part of the other. He 
was gunman enough to need no more. 

"Miss Joyce, will you please ride along? I 
want to talk to him alone," said Johnny, his eyes 
fastened intently on those of his enemy. 

"Yes, Norah; that 's best. I '11 join you in a 
few minutes," urged Greener, smihng at her. 

Johnny had a sudden thought and his warning 
was grave and cold. * 'Don't get very far away 
an' don't make no sounds, or signals; if you do 
it '11 be th' quickest way to need 'em. He '11 pay 
for any mistakes like that." 

"You coward!" she cried, angrily, and then de- 
livered an impromptu lecture that sent the blood 
surging into the fugitive's wan cheeks. But she 
obeyed, slowly, at Greener's signal, and when she 
was out of sight Johnny spoke. 

"Greener, yo 're not going to marry her. You 
know what you are, you know how yore first wife 



3ied — an' I don't intend that Norah shall be 
abused as the other was. I 'm a fugitive, hard 
pressed ; I 'm weak from want of food, and from 
hardships; all I have left is a slim chance of 
gettin' away. I 've reached the point where I 
can't harm myself by shooting you, an' I 'm goin' 
to do it rather than let any trouble come to her. 
But you '11 get an even break, because I ain't 
never going to shoot a man when he 's helpless. 
Got anything to say?" 

"Yes; yo 're th' biggest fool I ever saw," re- 
plied Greener. "Yo're locoed through an' 
through ; an' I 'm goin' to take great pleasure in 
putting you away. But I want to thank you for 
one thing you did. You were drunk at the time 
an' may not remember it. When you hit Nolan 
for talking like he did I liked you for it, an' I 'm 
goin' to tell you so. Now we '11 get at th' matter 
before us so I can move along." 

Neither had paid any attention to Norah in 
the earnestness and keen-eyed scrutiny of each 
other and the first sign they had of her actions 
was when she threw her arms around Greener's 



neck and shielded him. He was too much of a 
man to fire from cover and Johnny realized it 
while the other tried to get her to leave the scene. 

"I won't leave you to be murdered — I know 
what it means, I know it," she cried. "My place 
is here, and you can't deny your wife's first re- 
quest I What will I do without you ! Oh, dear, 
let me stay! I will stay! What woman ever 
had such a wedding day before! Dear, dear, 
what can I do? Tell me what to do!" 

Johnny sniffled and wished the posse had taken 
him. This was a side he had never thought of. 
His wife! Greener's wife! Then he was too 
late, and to go on would be a greater evil than 
the one he wished to eliminate. When she 
turned on him like a tigress and tore him to pieces 
word by word, tears rolling down her pallid 
cheeks and untold misery in her eyes, he shook 
his head and held up his hand. 

"Greener, you win; I can't stop what's hap- 
pened," he said, slowly. "But I '11 tell you this, 
an' I mean every word: If you don't treat her 
like she deserves, I '11 come back some of these 



days and kill you shore, Nolan got his because 
he talked ill of her ; an' you '11 get yours if I die 
the next minute, if you ain't square with her." 

"I don't need no instructions on how to treat 
my wife," retorted the other. "An' I 'm be- 
ginnin' to see th' cause of yore insanity, and it 
pardons you as nothing else will. Put up yore 
gun an' get back to th' ranch, where you belong 
— an' keep away from me. Savvy?" 

"Not much danger of me gettin' in yore way," 
growled Johnny, "when I 'm hunted like a dog 
for doing what any man would 'a' done. When 
th' sheriff gets well, if he ever does, mebby I 'U 
come back an' take my medicine. How was he, 
anyhow, when you left?" 

"Dead tired, an' some under th' influence of 
liquor," replied Greener, a smile breaking over 
his frown. He knew the whole story well, as 
did the whole range, and he bad laughed over it 
with the Bar-20 outfit. 

"What's that? Ain't he near dead?" cried 
Johnny, amazed. 

"Well, purty nigh dead of fatigue dancin' at 



our weddin' last night ; but I reckon he 11 be 
driftin' home purty soon, an* all recovered.*' 
Greener suddenly gave way and roared with 
laughter. There was a large amount of humor 
in his make-up and it took possession of him, 
shaking him from head to foot. He had always 
liked Johnny, not because he ever wanted to but 
because no one could know the Bar-20 protege 
and keep from it. This climax was too much for 
him, and his wife, gradually recovering herself, 
caught the infection and joined in. 

Johnny's eyes were staring and his mouth wide 
open, but Greener's next words closed the eyes 
to a squint and snapped shut the open mouth. 

''That there paralysis of th' cure-a-friend nerve 
did n't last ; an' when I heard why you licked him 
I said a few words that made him a wiser man. 
He did n't hunt you after th' first day. 
Now you go up an' shake ban's with him. He 
knows he got what was coming to him and so 
does everybody else know it. Go home an' quit 
playin' th' fool for th' whole blamed range to 
laugh at." 



Johnny stirred and came back to the scene be- 
fore him. His face was livid with rage and he 
could not speak at first. Finally, however, he 
mastered himself and looked up: "I 'm cured, 
all right, but they ain't! Wait till my turn 
comes! What a fool I was to believe 'em; but 
they usually tell th' truth. 'Cura-a-f riend nerve' ! 
They '11 pay me dollar for cent before I 'm fin- 
ished!" He caught the sparkle of his diamond 
pin, the pin he had won, when drunk, at El Paso, 
and a sickly grin flickered over the black frown. 
*'I 'm a little late, I reckon ; but I 'd like to give 
th' bride a present to show there ain't no hard 
feelin's on my part, an' to bring her luck. This 
here pin ain't no fit ornament for a fool like me, 
so if it 's all right, I '11 be plumb tickled to see 
her have it. How 'bout it. Greener?" 

The happy pair exchanged glances and Mrs. 
Greener, hesitating and blushing, accepted the 
gift : '* You can bend it into a ring easy," Johnny 
hastily remarked, to cut off her thanks. 

Greener extended his hand: "I reckon we 
can be friends, at that^ Nelson. You squared up 



with me when you licked Nolan. Come up an' 
see us when you can." 

Johnny thanked him and shook hands and then 
watched them ride slowly down the canyon, hand 
in hand, happy as little children. He sat si- 
lently, lost in thought, his anger rising by leaps 
and bounds against the men who had kept him on 
the anxious seat for a month. Straightening up 
suddenly, he tore off the navy blue necktie and, 
hurling it from him, fell into another reverie, star- 
ing at the canyon wall, but seeing in his mind's eye 
the outfit planning his punishment ; and his eyes 
grew redder and redder with fury. But it was 
a long way home and his temper cooled as he 
rode ; that is why no one knew of his return until 
they saw him asleep in his bunk when they awak- 
ened at daylight the following morning. And 
no one ever asked about the diamond, or made 
any explanations — for some things are better un- 
mentioned. But they paid for it all before 
Johnny considered the matter closed. 






This book is due on the last date stamped below, or 

on the date to which renewed. 

Renewed books are subject to immediate recalL 

JAN 30 '62 G 



NOV 3 1B6 




DEC281S66 8C' 



LD 2lLiOAI>tlC)EP"r' General Library , 

(Cl795sl0)476B Umversity of California 


10. 95155 


i'. -."?,;:"',.«