Infomotions, Inc.Hopalong Cassidy's Rustler Round-Up / Mulford, Clarence Edward, 1883-1956



Author: Mulford, Clarence Edward, 1883-1956
Title: Hopalong Cassidy's Rustler Round-Up
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): hopalong; cassidy; buck; yore; frenchy; johnny; billy; replied hopalong; hopalong cassidy; shore; th' panhandle; bar; gun; asked hopalong; red connors; responded hopalong; red
Contributor(s): Plouffe, Simon, 1956- [Editor]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 65,593 words (short) Grade range: 8-10 (high school) Readability score: 67 (easy)
Identifier: etext2546
Delicious Bookmark this on Delicious

Discover what books you consider "great". Take the Great Books Survey.

The Project Gutenberg Etext of Hopalong Cassidy's Rustler Round-Up
The Project Gutenberg Etext of BAR-20, by Clarence Edward Mulford
[Alternate Title]
#1 in our series by Clarence Edward Mulford


Copyright laws are changing all over the world, be sure to check
the copyright laws for your country before posting these files!!

Please take a look at the important information in this header.
We encourage you to keep this file on your own disk, keeping an
electronic path open for the next readers.  Do not remove this.


**Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts**

**Etexts Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971**

*These Etexts Prepared By Hundreds of Volunteers and Donations*

Information on contacting Project Gutenberg to get Etexts, and
further information is included below.  We need your donations.


Title:  Hopalong Cassidy's Rustler Round-Up (BAR-20)

Author:  Clarence Edward Mulford

March, 2001  [Etext #2546]


The Project Gutenberg Etext of Hopalong Cassidy's Rustler Round-Up
The Project Gutenberg Etext of BAR-20, by Clarence Edward Mulford
[Alternate Title]
******This file should be named hcrru10.txt or hcrru10.zip******

Corrected EDITIONS of our etexts get a new NUMBER, hcrru11.txt
VERSIONS based on separate sources get new LETTER, hcrru10a.txt


Etext prepared by
Andrew Heath

Project Gutenberg Etexts are usually created from multiple editions,
all of which are in the Public Domain in the United States, unless a
copyright notice is included.  Therefore, we usually do NOT keep any
of these books in compliance with any particular paper edition.


We are now trying to release all our books one month in advance
of the official release dates, leaving time for better editing.

Please note:  neither this list nor its contents are final till
midnight of the last day of the month of any such announcement.
The official release date of all Project Gutenberg Etexts is at
Midnight, Central Time, of the last day of the stated month.  A
preliminary version may often be posted for suggestion, comment
and editing by those who wish to do so.  To be sure you have an
up to date first edition [xxxxx10x.xxx] please check file sizes
in the first week of the next month.  Since our ftp program has
a bug in it that scrambles the date [tried to fix and failed] a
look at the file size will have to do, but we will try to see a
new copy has at least one byte more or less.


Information about Project Gutenberg (one page)

We produce about two million dollars for each hour we work.  The
time it takes us, a rather conservative estimate, is fifty hours
to get any etext selected, entered, proofread, edited, copyright
searched and analyzed, the copyright letters written, etc.  This
projected audience is one hundred million readers.  If our value
per text is nominally estimated at one dollar then we produce $2
million dollars per hour this year as we release thirty-six text
files per month, or 432 more Etexts in 1999 for a total of 2000+
If these reach just 10% of the computerized population, then the
total should reach over 200 billion Etexts given away this year.

The Goal of Project Gutenberg is to Give Away One Trillion Etext
Files by December 31, 2001.  [10,000 x 100,000,000 = 1 Trillion]
This is ten thousand titles each to one hundred million readers,
which is only ~5% of the present number of computer users.

At our revised rates of production, we will reach only one-third
of that goal by the end of 2001, or about 3,333 Etexts unless we
manage to get some real funding; currently our funding is mostly
from Michael Hart's salary at Carnegie-Mellon University, and an
assortment of sporadic gifts; this salary is only good for a few
more years, so we are looking for something to replace it, as we
don't want Project Gutenberg to be so dependent on one person.

We need your donations more than ever!


All donations should be made to "Project Gutenberg/CMU": and are
tax deductible to the extent allowable by law.  (CMU = Carnegie-
Mellon University).

For these and other matters, please mail to:

Project Gutenberg
P. O. Box  2782
Champaign, IL 61825

When all other email fails. . .try our Executive Director:
Michael S. Hart <hart@pobox.com>
hart@pobox.com forwards to hart@prairienet.org and archive.org
if your mail bounces from archive.org, I will still see it, if
it bounces from prairienet.org, better resend later on. . . .

We would prefer to send you this information by email.

******

To access Project Gutenberg etexts, use any Web browser
to view http://promo.net/pg.  This site lists Etexts by
author and by title, and includes information about how
to get involved with Project Gutenberg.  You could also
download our past Newsletters, or subscribe here.  This
is one of our major sites, please email hart@pobox.com,
for a more complete list of our various sites.

To go directly to the etext collections, use FTP or any
Web browser to visit a Project Gutenberg mirror (mirror
sites are available on 7 continents; mirrors are listed
at http://promo.net/pg).

Mac users, do NOT point and click, typing works better.

Example FTP session:

ftp sunsite.unc.edu
login: anonymous
password: your@login
cd pub/docs/books/gutenberg
cd etext90 through etext99
dir [to see files]
get or mget [to get files. . .set bin for zip files]
GET GUTINDEX.??  [to get a year's listing of books, e.g., GUTINDEX.99]
GET GUTINDEX.ALL [to get a listing of ALL books]

***

**Information prepared by the Project Gutenberg legal advisor**

(Three Pages)


***START**THE SMALL PRINT!**FOR PUBLIC DOMAIN ETEXTS**START***
Why is this "Small Print!" statement here?  You know: lawyers.
They tell us you might sue us if there is something wrong with
your copy of this etext, even if you got it for free from
someone other than us, and even if what's wrong is not our
fault.  So, among other things, this "Small Print!" statement
disclaims most of our liability to you.  It also tells you how
you can distribute copies of this etext if you want to.

*BEFORE!* YOU USE OR READ THIS ETEXT
By using or reading any part of this PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm
etext, you indicate that you understand, agree to and accept
this "Small Print!" statement.  If you do not, you can receive
a refund of the money (if any) you paid for this etext by
sending a request within 30 days of receiving it to the person
you got it from.  If you received this etext on a physical
medium (such as a disk), you must return it with your request.

ABOUT PROJECT GUTENBERG-TM ETEXTS
This PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm etext, like most PROJECT GUTENBERG-
tm etexts, is a "public domain" work distributed by Professor
Michael S. Hart through the Project Gutenberg Association at
Carnegie-Mellon University (the "Project").  Among other
things, this means that no one owns a United States copyright
on or for this work, so the Project (and you!) can copy and
distribute it in the United States without permission and
without paying copyright royalties.  Special rules, set forth
below, apply if you wish to copy and distribute this etext
under the Project's "PROJECT GUTENBERG" trademark.

To create these etexts, the Project expends considerable
efforts to identify, transcribe and proofread public domain
works.  Despite these efforts, the Project's etexts and any
medium they may be on may contain "Defects".  Among other
things, Defects may take the form of incomplete, inaccurate or
corrupt data, transcription errors, a copyright or other
intellectual property infringement, a defective or damaged
disk or other etext medium, a computer virus, or computer
codes that damage or cannot be read by your equipment.

LIMITED WARRANTY; DISCLAIMER OF DAMAGES
But for the "Right of Replacement or Refund" described below,
[1] the Project (and any other party you may receive this
etext from as a PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm etext) disclaims all
liability to you for damages, costs and expenses, including
legal fees, and [2] YOU HAVE NO REMEDIES FOR NEGLIGENCE OR
UNDER STRICT LIABILITY, OR FOR BREACH OF WARRANTY OR CONTRACT,
INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO INDIRECT, CONSEQUENTIAL, PUNITIVE
OR INCIDENTAL DAMAGES, EVEN IF YOU GIVE NOTICE OF THE
POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.

If you discover a Defect in this etext within 90 days of
receiving it, you can receive a refund of the money (if any)
you paid for it by sending an explanatory note within that
time to the person you received it from.  If you received it
on a physical medium, you must return it with your note, and
such person may choose to alternatively give you a replacement
copy.  If you received it electronically, such person may
choose to alternatively give you a second opportunity to
receive it electronically.

THIS ETEXT IS OTHERWISE PROVIDED TO YOU "AS-IS".  NO OTHER
WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, ARE MADE TO YOU AS
TO THE ETEXT OR ANY MEDIUM IT MAY BE ON, INCLUDING BUT NOT
LIMITED TO WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A
PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

Some states do not allow disclaimers of implied warranties or
the exclusion or limitation of consequential damages, so the
above disclaimers and exclusions may not apply to you, and you
may have other legal rights.

INDEMNITY
You will indemnify and hold the Project, its directors,
officers, members and agents harmless from all liability, cost
and expense, including legal fees, that arise directly or
indirectly from any of the following that you do or cause:
[1] distribution of this etext, [2] alteration, modification,
or addition to the etext, or [3] any Defect.

DISTRIBUTION UNDER "PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm"
You may distribute copies of this etext electronically, or by
disk, book or any other medium if you either delete this
"Small Print!" and all other references to Project Gutenberg,
or:

[1]  Only give exact copies of it.  Among other things, this
     requires that you do not remove, alter or modify the
     etext or this "small print!" statement.  You may however,
     if you wish, distribute this etext in machine readable
     binary, compressed, mark-up, or proprietary form,
     including any form resulting from conversion by word pro-
     cessing or hypertext software, but only so long as
     *EITHER*:

     [*]  The etext, when displayed, is clearly readable, and
          does *not* contain characters other than those
          intended by the author of the work, although tilde
          (~), asterisk (*) and underline (_) characters may
          be used to convey punctuation intended by the
          author, and additional characters may be used to
          indicate hypertext links; OR

     [*]  The etext may be readily converted by the reader at
          no expense into plain ASCII, EBCDIC or equivalent
          form by the program that displays the etext (as is
          the case, for instance, with most word processors);
          OR

     [*]  You provide, or agree to also provide on request at
          no additional cost, fee or expense, a copy of the
          etext in its original plain ASCII form (or in EBCDIC
          or other equivalent proprietary form).

[2]  Honor the etext refund and replacement provisions of this
     "Small Print!" statement.

[3]  Pay a trademark license fee to the Project of 20% of the
     net profits you derive calculated using the method you
     already use to calculate your applicable taxes.  If you
     don't derive profits, no royalty is due.  Royalties are
     payable to "Project Gutenberg Association/Carnegie-Mellon
     University" within the 60 days following each
     date you prepare (or were legally required to prepare)
     your annual (or equivalent periodic) tax return.

WHAT IF YOU *WANT* TO SEND MONEY EVEN IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO?
The Project gratefully accepts contributions in money, time,
scanning machines, OCR software, public domain etexts, royalty
free copyright licenses, and every other sort of contribution
you can think of.  Money should be paid to "Project Gutenberg
Association / Carnegie-Mellon University".

We are planning on making some changes in our donation structure
in 2000, so you might want to email me, hart@pobox.com beforehand.




*END THE SMALL PRINT! FOR PUBLIC DOMAIN ETEXTS*Ver.04.29.93*END*





Etext prepared by
Andrew Heath





Hopalong Cassidy's Rustler Round-Up (BAR-20)

by Clarence Edward Mulford



1906




CHAPTER I

Buckskin

The town lay sprawled over half a square mile of alkali plain, its
main Street depressing in its width, for those who were responsible
for its inception had worked with a generosity born of the knowledge
that they had at their immediate and unchallenged disposal the broad
lands of Texas and New Mexico on which to assemble a grand total of
twenty buildings, four of which were of wood.  As this material was
scarce, and had to be brought from where the waters of the Gulf lapped
against the flat coast, the last-mentioned buildings were a matter of
local pride, as indicating the progressiveness of their owners.

These creations of hammer and saw were of one story, crude and unpainted;
their cheap weather sheathing, warped and shrunken by the pitiless
sun, curled back on itself and allowed unrestricted entrance to alkali
dust and air.  The other shacks were of adobe, and reposed in that
magnificent squalor dear to their owners, Indians and Mexicans.

It was an incident of the Cattle Trail, that most unique and
stupendous of all modern migrations, and its founders must have been
inspired with a malicious desire to perpetrate a crime against
geography, or else they reveled in a perverse cussedness, for within a
mile on every side lay broad prairies, and two miles to the east
flowed the indolent waters of the Rio Pecos itself.  The distance
separating the town from the river was excusable, for at certain
seasons of the year the placid stream swelled mightily and swept down
in a broad expanse of turbulent, yellow flood.

Buckskin was a town of one hundred inhabitants, located in the
valley of the Rio Pecos fifty miles south of the Texas-New Mexico
line. The census claimed two hundred, but it was a well-known fact
that it was exaggerated.  One instance of this is shown by the name of
Tom Flynn. Those who once knew Tom Flynn, alias Johnny Redmond, alias
Bill Sweeney, alias Chuck Mullen, by all four names, could find them
in the census list. Furthermore, he had been shot and killed in the
March of the year preceding the census, and now occupied a grave in
the young but flourishing cemetery.  Perry's Bend, twenty miles up the
river, was cognizant of this and other facts, and, laughing in open
derision at the padded list, claimed to be the better town in all
ways, including marksmanship.

One year before this tale opens, Buck Peters, an example for the
more recent Billy the Kid, had paid Perry's Bend a short but busy
visit.  He had ridden in at the north end of Main Street and out at the
south.  As he came in he was fired at by a group of ugly cowboys from a
ranch known as the C 80.  He was hit twice, but he unlimbered his
artillery, and before his horse had carried him, half dead, out on the
prairie, he had killed one of the group.  Several citizens had joined
the cowboys and added their bullets against Buck.  The deceased had
been the best bartender in the country, and the rage of the suffering
citizens can well be imagined.  They swore vengeance on Buck, his
ranch, and his stamping ground.

The difference between Buck and Billy the Kid is that the former
never shot a man who was not trying to shoot him, or who had not been
warned by some action against Buck that would call for it.  He minded
his own business, never picked a quarrel, and was quiet and pacific up
to a certain point.  After that had been passed he became like a raging
cyclone in a tenement house, and storm-cellars were much in demand.

"Fanning" is the name of a certain style of gun play not unknown
among the bad men of the West.  While Buck was not a bad man, he had to
rub elbows with them frequently, and he believed that the sauce for
the goose was the sauce for the gander.  So be bad removed the trigger
of his revolver and worked the hammer with the thumb of the "gun hand"
or the heel of the unencumbered hand.  The speed thus acquired was
greater than that of the more modern double-action weapon.  Six shots
in a few seconds was his average speed when that number was required,
and when it is thoroughly understood that at least some of them found
their intended bullets it is not difficult to realize that fanning was
an operation of danger when Buck was doing it.

He was a good rider, as all cowboys are, and was not afraid of
anything that lived.  At one time he and his chums, Red Connors and
Hopalong Cassidy, had successfully routed a band of fifteen Apaches
who wanted their scalps.  Of these, twelve never hunted scalps again,
nor anything else on this earth, and the other three returned to their
tribe with the report that three evil Spirits had chased them with
"wheel guns" (cannons).

So now, since his visit to Perry's Bend, the rivalry of the two
towns had turned to hatred and an alert and eager readiness to
increase the inhabitants of each other's graveyard.  A state of war
existed, which for a time resulted in nothing worse than acrimonious
suggestions.  But the time came when the score was settled to the
satisfaction of one side, at least.

Four ranches were also concerned in the trouble.  Buckskin was
surrounded by two, the Bar 20 and the Three Triangle.  Perry's Bend was
the common point for the C 80 and the Double Arrow.  Each of the two
ranch contingents accepted the feud as a matter of course, and as a
matter of course took sides with their respective towns.  As no better
class of fighters ever lived, the trouble assumed Homeric proportions
and insured a danger zone well worth watching.

Bar-20's northern line was C 80's southern one, and Skinny Thompson
took his turn at outriding one morning after the season's round-up.  He
was to follow the boundary and turn back stray cattle.  When he had
covered the greater part of his journey he saw Shorty Jones riding
toward him on a course parallel to his own and about long revolver
range away.  Shorty and he had "crossed trails" the year before and the
best of feelings did not exist between them.

Shorty stopped and stared at Skinny, who did likewise at Shorty.
Shorty turned his mount around and applied the spurs, thereby causing
his indignant horse to raise both heels at Skinny.  The latter took it
all in gravely and, as Shorty faced him again, placed his left thumb
to his nose, wiggling his fingers suggestively. Shorty took no
apparent notice of this but began to shout:

"Yu wants to keep yore busted-down cows on yore own side.  They was
all over us day afore yisterday.  I'm goin' to salt any more what comes
over, and don't yu fergit it, neither."

Thompson wigwagged with his fingers again and shouted in reply:  "Yu
c'n salt all yu wants to, but if I ketch yu adoin' it yu won't have to
work no more.  An' I kin say right here thet they's more C 80 cows over
here than they's Bar-20's over there."

Shorty reached for his revolver and yelled, "Yore a liar!"

Among the cowboys in particular and the Westerners in general at
that time, the three suicidal terms, unless one was an expert in
drawing quick and shooting straight with one movement, were the words
"liar," "coward," and "thief." Any man who was called one of these in
earnest, and he was the judge, was expected to shoot if he could and
save his life, for the words were seldom used without a gun coming
with them.  The movement of Shorty's hand toward his belt before the
appellation reached him was enough for Skinny, who let go at long
range-and missed.


The two reports were as one.  Both urged their horses nearer and
fired again.  This time Skinny's sombrero gave a sharp jerk and a hole
appeared in the crown.  The third shot of Skinny's sent the horse of
the other to its knees and then over on its side.  Shorty very promptly
crawled behind it and, as he did so, Skinny began a wide circle,
firing at intervals as Shorty's smoke cleared away.

Shorty had the best position for defense, as he was in a shallow
coul e, but he knew that he could not leave it until his opponent had
either grown tired of the affair or had used up his ammunition.  Skinny
knew it, too.  Skinny also knew that he could get back to the ranch
house and lay in a supply of food and ammunition and return before
Shorty could cover the twelve miles he had to go on foot.

Finally Thompson began to head for home.  He had carried the matter
as far as he could without it being murder.  Too much time had elapsed
now, and, besides, it was before breakfast and he was hungry. He would
go away and settle the score at some time when they would be on equal
terms.

He rode along the line for a mile and chanced to look back.  Two C 80
punchers were riding after him, and as they saw him turn and discover
them they fired at him and yelled.  He rode on for some distance and
cautiously drew his rifle out of its long holster at his right leg.
Suddenly he turned around in the saddle and fired twice.  One of his
pursuers fell forward on the neck of his horse, and his comrade turned
to help him.  Thompson wig-wagged again and rode on, reaching the ranch
as the others were finishing their breakfast.

At the table Red Connors remarked that the tardy one had a hole in
his sombrero, and asked its owner how and where he had received it.

"Had a argument with C 80 out'n th' line."

"Go `way! Ventilate enny?"

"One."

"Good boy, sonny! Hey, Hopalong, Skinny perforated C 80 this
mawnin'!"

Hopalong Cassidy was struggling with a mouthful of beef.  He turned
his eyes toward Red without ceasing, and grinning as well as he could
under the circumstances managed to grunt out "Gu-," which was as near
to "Good" as the beef would allow.

Lanky Smith now chimed in as he repeatedly stuck his knife into a
reluctant boiled potato, "How'd yu do it, Skinny?"

"Bet he sneaked up on him," joshed Buck Peters; "did yu ask his
pardin, Skinny?"

"Ask nuthin'," remarked Red, "he jest nachurly walks up to C 80 an'
sez, `Kin I have the pleasure of ventilatin' yu?' an' C So he sez, `If
yu do it easy like,' sez he.  Didn't he, Thompson?"

"They'll be some ventilatin' under th' table if yu fellows don't
lemme alone; I'm hungry," complained Skinny.

"Say, Hopalong, I bets yu I kin clean up C 80 all by my lonesome,"
announced Buck, winking at Red.

"Yah! Yu onct tried to clean up the Bend, Buckie, an' if Pete an'
Billy hadn't afound yu when they come by Eagle Pass that night yu
wouldn't be here eatin' beef by th' pound," glancing at the
hard-working Hopalong.  "It was plum lucky fer yu that they was
acourtin' that time, wasn't it, Hopalong?" suddenly asked Red.
Hopalong nearly strangled in his efforts to speak.  He gave it
up and nodded his head.

"Why can't yu git it straight, Connors? I wasn't doin' no courtin',
it was Pete.  I runned into him on th' other side o' th' pass.  I'd look
fine acourtin', wouldn't I?" asked the downtrodden Williams.

Pete Wilson skillfully flipped a potato into that worthy's coffee,
spilling the beverage of the questionable name over a large expanse of
blue flannel shirt.  "Yu's all right, yu are.  Why, when I meets yu, yu
was lost in th' arms of yore ladylove.  All I could see was yore feet.
Go an' git tangled up with a two hundred and forty pound half-breed
squaw an' then try to lay it onter me! When I proposed drownin' yore
troubles over at Cowan's, yu went an' got mad over what yu called th'
insinooation.  An' yu shore didn't look any too blamed fine, neither."

"All th' same," volunteered Thompson, who had taken the edge from
his appetite, "we better go over an' pay C 80 a call.  I don't like
what Shorty said about saltin' our cattle.  He'll shore do it, unless I
camps on th' line, which same I hain't hankerin' after."

"Oh, he wouldn't stop th' cows that way, Skinny; he was only
afoolin'," exclaimed Connors meekly.

"Foolin' yore gran'mother! That there bunch'll do anything if we
wasn't lookin'," hotly replied Skinny.

"That's shore nuff gospel, Thomp.  They's sore fer mor'n one thing.
They got aplenty when Buck went on th' warpath, an they's hankerin' to
git square," remarked Johnny Nelson, stealing the pie, a rare treat,
of his neighbor when that unfortunate individual was not looking.  He
had it halfway to his mouth when its former owner, Jimmy Price, a boy
of eighteen, turned his head and saw it going.

"Hi-yi! Yu clay-bank coyote, drap thet pie! Did yu ever see such a
son-of-a-gun fer pie?" he plaintively asked Red Connors, as he grabbed
a mighty handful of apples and crust.  "Pie'll kill yu some day, yu
bob-tailed jack! I had an uncle that died onct.  He et too much pie an'
he went an' turned green, an so'll yu if yu don't let it alone."

"Yu ought'r seed th' pie Johnny had down in Eagle Flat," murmured
Lanky Smith reminiscently.  "She had feet that'd stop a stampede.
Johnny was shore loco about her.  Swore she was the finest blossom that
ever growed." Here he choked and tears of laughter coursed down his
weather-beaten face as he pictured her.  "She was a dainty Mexican,
about fifteen han's high an' about sixteen han's around.  Johnny used
to chalk off when he hugged her, usen't yu, Johnny? One night when he
had got purty well around on th' second lap he run inter a feller jest
startin' out on his fust.  They hain't caught that Mexican yet."

Nelson was pelted with everything in sight.  He slowly wiped off the
pie crust and bread and potatoes.  "Anybody'd think I was a busted grub
wagon," he grumbled. When he had fished the last piece of beef out of
his ear he went out and offered to stand treat.  As the round-up was
over, they slid into their saddles and raced for Cowan's saloon at
Buckskin.



CHAPTER II

The Rashness of Shorty

Buckskin was very hot; in fact it was never anything else.  Few people
were on the streets and the town was quiet.  Over in the Houston hotel
a crowd of cowboys was lounging in the barroom.  They were very quiet-a
condition as rare as it was ominous.  Their mounts, twelve in all, were
switching flies from their quivering skins in the corral at the rear.
Eight of these had a large C 80 branded on their flanks; the other
four, a Double Arrow.

In the barroom a slim, wiry man was looking out of the dirty window
up the street at Cowan's saloon.  Shorty was complaining, "They shore
oughter be here now.  They rounded up last week."  The man nearest
assured him that they would come.  The man at the window turned and
said, "They's yer now.




In front of Cowan's a crowd of nine happy-go-lucky, daredevil
riders were sliding from their saddles.  They threw their reins over
the heads of their mounts and filed in to the bar.  Laughter issued
from the open door and the clink of glasses could be heard.  They stood
in picturesque groups, strong, self-reliant, humorous, virile. Their
expensive sombreros were pushed far back on their heads and their
hairy chaps were covered with the alkali dust from their ride.

Cowan, bottle in hand, pushed out several more glasses.  He kicked a
dog from under his feet and looked at Buck.  "Rounded up yet?" he
inquired.

"Shore, day afore yisterday," came the reply.  The rest were busy
removing the dust from their throats, and gradually drifted into
groups of two or three.  One of these groups strolled over to the
solitary card table, and found Jimmy Price resting in a cheap chair,
his legs on the table.

"I wisht yu'd extricate yore delicate feet from off'n this hyar
table, James," humbly requested Lanky Smith, morally backed up by
those with him.

"Ya-as, they shore is delicate, Mr. Smith," responded Jimmy without
moving.

"We wants to play draw, Jimmy," explained Pete.

"Yore shore welcome to play if yu wants to.  Didn't I tell yu when yu
growed that mustache that yu didn't have to ask me any more?" queried
the placid James, paternally.

"Call `em off, sonny. Pete sez he kin clean me out.  Anyhow, yu kin
have the fust deal," compromised Lanky.

"I'm shore sorry fer Pete if he cayn't.  Yu don't reckon I has to
have fust deal to beat yu fellers, do yu? Go way an' lemme alone; I
never seed such a bunch fer buttin' in as yu fellers."

Billy Williams returned to the bar.  Then he walked along it until he
was behind the recalcitrant possessor of the table.  While his
aggrieved friends shuffled their feet uneasily to cover his approach,
he tiptoed up behind Jimmy and, with a nod, grasped that indignant
individual firmly by the neck while the others grabbed his feet.  They
carried him, twisting and bucking, to the middle of the street and
deposited him in the dust, returning to the now vacant table.

Jimmy rested quietly for a few seconds and then slowly arose,
dusting the alkali from him.

"Th' wall-eyed piruts," he muttered, and then scratched his head for a
way to "play hunk."  As he gazed sorrowfully at the saloon he heard a
snicker from behind him.  He, thinking it was one of his late
tormentors, paid no attention to it.  Then a cynical, biting laugh
stung him.  He wheeled, to see Shorty leaning against a tree, a
sneering leer on his flushed face.  Shorty's right hand was suspended
above his holster, hooked to his belt by the thumb-a favorite position
of his when expecting trouble.

"One of yore reg'lar habits?" he drawled.

Jimmy began to dust himself in silence, but his lips were compressed
to a thin white line.

"Does they hurt yu?" pursued the onlooker.

Jimmy looked up.  "I heard tell that they make glue outen cayuses,
sometimes," he remarked.

Shorty's eyes flashed.  The loss of the horse had been rankling in
his heart all day.

"Does they git yu frequent?" he asked.  His voice sounded hard.

"Oh, `bout as frequent as yu lose a cayuse, I reckon," replied Jimmy
hotly.

Shorty's hand streaked to his holster and Jimmy followed his lead.
Jimmy's Colt was caught.  He had bucked too much.  As he fell Shorty ran
for the Houston House.

Pistol shots were common, for they were the universal method of
expressing emotions.  The poker players grinned, thinking their victim
was letting off his indignation.  Lanky sized up his hand and remarked
half audibly, "He's a shore good kid."

The bartender, fearing for his new beveled, gilt-framed mirror, gave
a hasty glance out the window.  He turned around, made change and
remarked to Buck, "Yore kid, Jimmy, is plugged."  Several of the more
credulous craned their necks to see, Buck being the first.  "Judas!" he
shouted, and ran out to where Jimmy lay coughing, his toes twitching.
The saloon was deserted and a crowd of angry cowboys surrounded their
chum-aboy.  Buck had seen Shorty enter the door of the Houston House
and he swore.  "Chase them C 80 and Arrow cayuses behind the saloon,
Pete, an' git under cover.

Jimmy was choking and he coughed up blood.  "He's shore- got me.  My-
gun stuck," he added apologetically.  He tried to sit up, but was not
able and he looked surprised.  "It's purty- damn hot-out here," he
suggested. Johnny and Billy carried him in the saloon and placed him
by the table, in the chair he had previously vacated.  As they stood up
he fell across the table and died.

Billy placed the dead boy's sombrero on his head and laid the
refractory six-shooter on the table.  "I wonder who th' dirty killer
was."  He looked at the slim figure and started to go out, followed by
Johnny.  As he reached the threshold a bullet zipped past him and
thudded into the frame of the door.  He backed away and looked
surprised.  "That's Shorty's shootin'-he allus misses `bout that much."
He looked out and saw Buck standing behind the live oak that Shorty
had leaned against, firing at the hotel.  Turning around he made for
the rear, remarking to Johnny that "they's in th' Houston."  Johnny
looked at the quiet figure in the chair and swore softly.  He followed
Billy.  Cowan, closing the door and taking a buffalo gun from under the
bar, went out also and slammed the rear door forcibly.



CHAPTER III

The Argument

Up the street two hundred yards from the Houston House Skinny and Pete
lay hidden behind a bowlder.  Three hundred yards on the other side of
the hotel Johnny and Billy were stretched out in an arroyo.  Buck was
lying down now, and Hopalong, from his position in the barn belonging
to the hotel, was methodically dropping the horses of the besieged, a
job he hated as much as he hated poison.  The corral was their death
trap.  Red and Lanky were emitting clouds of smoke from behind the
store, immediately across the street from the barroom.  A buffalo gun
roared down by the plaza and several Sharps cracked a protest from
different points.  The town had awakened and the shots were dropping
steadily.

Strange noises filled the air.  They grew in tone and volume and then
dwindled away to nothing.  The hum of the buffalo gun and the sobbing
pi-in-in-ing of the Winchesters were liberally mixed with the sharp
whines of the revolvers.

There were no windows in the hotel now.  Raw furrows in the bleached
wood showed yellow, and splinters mysteriously sprang from the
casings.  The panels of the door were producing cracks and the cheap
door handle flew many ways at once.  An empty whisky keg on the stoop
boomed out mournfully at intervals and finally rolled down the steps
with a rumbling protest.  Wisps of smoke slowly climbed up the walls
and seemed to be waving defiance to the curling wisps in the open.


Pete raised his shoulder to refill the magazine of his smoking rifle
and dropped the cartridges all over his lap.  He looked sheepishly at
Skinny and began to load with his other hand.

"Yore plum loco, yu are. Don't yu reckon they kin hit a blue shirt
at two hundred?" Skinny cynically inquired.  "Got one that time," he
announced a second later.

"I wonder who's got th' buffalo," grunted Pete.  "Mus' be Cowan," he
replied to his own question and settled himself to use his left hand.

"Don't yu git Shorty; he's my meat," suggested Skinny.

"Yu better tell Buck-he ain't got no love fer Shorty," replied Pete,
aiming carefully.

The panic in the corral ceased and Hopalong was now sending his
regrets against the panels of the rear door.  He had cut his last
initial in the near panel and was starting a wobbly "H" in its
neighbor.  He was in a good position.  There were no windows in the rear
wall, and as the door was a very dangerous place he was not fired at.

He began to get tired of this one-sided business and crawled up on
the window ledge, dangling his feet on the outside. He occasionally
sent a bullet at a different part of the door, but amused himself by
annoying Buck.

"Plenty hot down there?" he pleasantly inquired, and as he received
no answer he tried again.  "Better save some of them cartridges fer
some other time, Buck."

Buck was sending 45-70's into the shattered window with a precision
that presaged evil to any of the defenders who were rash enough to try
to gain the other end of the room.

Hopalong bit off a chew of tobacco and drowned a green fly that was
crawling up the side of the barn.  The yellow liquid streaked downward
a short distance and was eagerly sucked up by the warped boards.

A spurt of smoke leaped from the battered door and the bored
Hopalong promptly tumbled back inside.  He felt of his arm, and then,
delighted at the notice taken of his artistic efforts, shot several
times from a crack on his right.  "This yer's shore gittin' like home,"
he gravely remarked to the splinter that whizzed past his head. He
shot again at the door and it sagged outward, accompanied by the thud
of a falling body.  "Pies like mother used to make," he announced to
the loft as he slipped the magazine full of .45-70'S.  "An' pills like
popper used to take," he continued when he had lowered the level of
the water in his flask.

He rolled a cigarette and tossed the match into the air,
extinguishing it by a shot from his Colt.

"Got any cigarettes, Hoppy?" said a voice from below.

"Shore," replied the joyous puncher, recognizing Pete; "how'd yu git
here?"

"Like a cow.  Busy?"

"None whatever.  Comin' up?"

"Nope.  Skinny wants a smoke too."

Hopalong handed tobacco and papers down the hole.  "So long."

"So long," replied the daring Pete, who risked death twice for a
smoke.

The hot afternoon dragged along and about three o'clock   Buck held up
an empty cartridge belt to the gaze of the curious Hopalong.  That
observant worthy nodded and threw a double handful of cartridges, one
by one, to the patient and unrelenting Buck, who filled his gun and
piled the few remaining ones up at his side.  "Th' lives of mice and
men gang aft all wrong," he remarked at random.

"Th' son-of-a-gun's talkin' Shakespeare," marveled Hopalong.
"Satiate any, Buck?" he asked as that worthy settled down to await his
chance.

"Two," he replied, "Shorty an' another.  Plenty damn hot down here,"
he complained.  A spurt of alkali dust stung his face, but the hand
that made it never made another.  "Three," he called.  "How many,
Hoppy?"

 "One. That's four.  Wonder if th' others got any?"

"Pete said Skinny got one," replied the intent Buck.

"Th' son-of-a-gun, he never said nothin' about it, an' me a fillin'
his ornery paws with smokin'."  Hopalong was indignant.

"Bet yu ten we don't git `em afore dark," he announced.

"Got yu.  Go yu ten more I gits another," promptly responded Buck.

"That's a shore cinch.  Make her twenty."

"She is."

"Yu'll have to square it with Skinny, he shore wanted Shorty plum'
bad, "Hopalong informed the unerring marksman.

"Why didn't he say suthin' about it? Anyhow, Jimmy was my bunkie."

Hopalong's cigarette disintegrated and the board at his left
received a hole.  He promptly disappeared and Buck laughed.  He sat up
in the loft and angrily spat the soaked paper out from between his
lips.

"All that trouble fer nothin', th' white-eyed coyote," he muttered.
Then he crawled around to one side and fired at the center of his "C."
Another shot hurtled at him and his left arm fell to his side.  "That's
funny-wonder where th' damn pirut is? "He looked out cautiously and
saw a cloud of smoke over a knothole which was situated close up under
the eaves of the barroom; and it was being agitated.  Some one was
blowing at it to make it disappear.  He aimed very carefully at the
knot and fired.  He heard a sound between a curse and a squawk and was
not molested any further from that point.

"I knowed he'd git hurt," he explained to the bandage, torn from the
edge of his kerchief, which he carefully bound around his last wound.

Down in the arroyo Johnny was complaining.

"This yer's a no good bunk," he plaintively remarked.

"It shore ain't-but it's th' best we kin find," apologized Billy.

"That's th' sixth that feller sent up there.  He's a damn poor shot,"
observed Johnny; "must be Shorty."

"Shorty kin shoot plum' good-tain't him," contradicted Billy.

"Yas-with a six-shooter.  He's off'n his feed with a rifle,"
explained Johnny.

"Yu wants to stay down from up there, yu ijit," warned Billy as the
disgusted Johnny crawled up the bank.  He slid down again with a welt
on his neck.

"That's somebody else now.  He oughter a done better'n that, "he
said.

Billy had fired as Johnny started to slide and he smoothed his
aggrieved chum.  "He could onct, yu means."

"Did yu git him?" asked the anxious Johnny, rubbing his welt.  "Plum'
center," responded the business-like Billy.  "Go up agin, mebby I kin
git another," he suggested tentatively.

"Mebby you kin go to blazes.  I ain't no gallery," grinned the now
exuberant owner of the welt.

"Who's got the buffalo?" he inquired as the great gun roared.

"Mus' be Cowan.  He's shore all right.  Sounds like a bloomin'
cannon," replied Billy.  "Lemme alone with yore fool questions, I'm
busy," he complained as his talkative partner started to ask another.
"Go an' git me some water-I'm alkalied.  An' git some .45's, mine's
purty near gone."

Johnny crawled down the arroyo and reappeared at Hopalong's barn.

As he entered the door a handful of empty shells fell on his hat and
dropped to the floor. He shook his head and remarked, "That mus' be
that fool Hopalong."

"Yore shore right.  How's business?" inquired the festive Cassidy.

"Purty fair.  Billy's got one.  How many's gone?"

"Buck's got three, I got two and Skinny's got one.  That's six, an'
Billy is seven.  They's five more," he replied.

"How'd yu know?" queried Johnny as he filled his flask at the horse
trough.

"Because they's twelve cayuses behind the hotel.  That's why."

"They might git away on `em," suggested the practical Johnny.

"Can't.  They's all cashed in."

"Yu said that they's five left," ejaculated the puzzled water
carrier.

"Yah; yore a smart cuss, ain't yu?"

Johnny grinned and then said, "Got any smokin'? "Hopalong looked
grieved.  "I ain't no store.  Why don't yu git generous and buy some?"

He partially filled Johnny's hand, and as he put the sadly depleted
bag away he inquired, "Got any papers?"

"Nope."

"Got any matches? "he asked cynically.

"Nope."

"Kin yu smoke `em?" he yelled, indignantly.

"Shore nuff," placidly replied the unruffled Johnny.  "Billy wants
some .45-70's."

Hopalong gasped.  "Don't he want my gun, too?"

"Nope.  Got a better one.  Hurry up, he'll git mad."  Hopalong was a
very methodical person.  He was the only one of his crowd to carry a
second cartridge strap.  It hung over his right shoulder and rested on
his left hip.  His waist belt held thirty cartridges for the revolvers.
He extracted twenty from that part of the shoulder strap hardest to
get at, the back, by simply pulling it over his shoulder and plucking
out the bullets as they came into reach.

"That's all yu kin have.  I'm Buck's ammernition jackass," he
explained.  "Bet yu ten we gits `em afore dark" -he was hedging.

"Any fool knows that.  I'll take yu if yu bets th' other way,"
responded Johnny, grinning.  He knew Hopalong's weak spot.

"Yore on," promptly responded Hopalong, who would bet on anything.


"Well, so long," said Johnny as he crawled away.

"Hey, yu, Johnny!" called out Hopalong, "don't yu go an' tell
anybody I got any pills left. I ain't no ars'nal."

Johnny replied by elevating one foot and waving it.  Then he
disappeared.

Behind the store, the most precarious position among the besiegers,
Red Connors and Lanky Smith were ensconced and commanded a view of the
entire length of the barroom.  They could see the dark mass they knew
to be the rear door and derived a great amount of amusement from the
spots of light which were appearing in it.

They watched the "C" (reversed to them) appear and be completed.
When the wobbly "H" grew to completion they laughed heartily.  Then the
hardwood bar had been dragged across the field of vision and up to the
front windows, and they could only see the indiscriminate holes which
appeared in the upper panels at frequent intervals.

Every time they fired they had to expose a part of themselves to a
return shot, with the result that Lanky's forearm was seared its
entire length.  Red had been more fortunate and only had a bruised ear.

They laboriously rolled several large rocks out in the open, pushing
them beyond the shelter of the store with their rifles.  When they had
crawled behind them they each had another wound.  From their new
position they could see Hopalong sitting in his window.  He promptly
waved his sombrero and grinned.

They were the most experienced fighters of all except Buck, and were
saving their shots.  When they did shoot they always had some portion
of a man's body to aim at, and the damage they inflicted was
considerable.  They said nothing, being older than the rest and more
taciturn, and they were not reckless.  Although Hopalong's antics made
them laugh, they grumbled at his recklessness and were not tempted to
emulate him.  It was noticeable, too, that they shoved their rifles out
simultaneously and, although both were aiming, only one fired. Lanky's
gun cracked so close to the enemy's that the whirr of the bullet over
Red's head was merged in the crack of his partner's reply.

When Hopalong saw the rocks roll out from behind the store he grew
very curious.  Then he saw a flash, followed instantly by another from
the second rifle.  He saw several of these follow shots and could sit
in silence no longer.  He waved his hat to attract attention and then
shouted, "How many?"  A shot was sent straight up in the air and he
notified Buck that there were only four left.

The fire of these four grew less rapid-they were saving their
ammunition.  A pot shot at Hopalong sent that gentleman's rifle
hurtling to the ground.  Another tore through his hat, removing a neat
amount of skin and hair and giving him a lifelong part.  He fell back
inside and proceeded to shoot fast and straight with his revolvers,
his head burning as though on fire.  When he had vented the dangerous
pressure of his anger he went below and tried to fish the rifle in
with a long stick. It was obdurate, so he sent three more shots into
the door, and, receiving no reply, ran out around the corner of his
shelter and grasped the weapon.  When half way back he sank to the
ground. Before another shot could be fired at him with any judgment a
ripping, spitting rifle was being frantically worked from the barn.
The bullets tore the door into seams and gaps; the lowest panel, the
one having the "H" in it, fell inward in chunks.  Johnny had returned
for another smoke.

Hopalong, still grasping the rifle, rolled rapidly around the corner
of the barn.  He endeavored to stand, but could not.  Johnny, hearing
rapid and fluent swearing, came out.

"Where'd they git yu?" he asked.

 "In th' off leg.  Hurts like blazes.  Did yu git him?"

"Nope.  I jest come fer another cig; got any left?"

"Up above.  Yore gall is shore apallin'.  Help me in, yu twoIaigged
jackass."

"Shore.  We'll shore pay our `tentions to that door.  She'll go purty
soon-she's as full of holes as th' Bad Lan's," replied Johnny.  "Git
aholt an' hop along, Hopalong."

He helped the swearing Hopalong inside, and then the lead they
pumped into the wrecked door was scandalous.  Another panel fell in and
Hopalong's "C" was destroyed.  A wide crack appeared in the one above
it and grew rapidly.  Its mate began to gape and finally both were
driven in.  The increase in the light caused by these openings allowed
Red and Lanky to secure better aim and soon the fire of the defenders
died out.

Johnny dropped his rifle and, drawing his six-shooter, ran out and
dashed for the dilapidated door, while Hopalong covered that opening
with a fusilade.

As Johnny's shoulder sent the framework flying inward he narrowly
missed sudden death.  As it was he staggered to the side, out of range,
and dropped full length to the ground, flat on his face.  Hopalong's
rifle cracked incessantly, but to no avail.  The man who had fired the
shot was dead.  Buck got him immediately after he had shot Johnny.

Calling to Skinny and Red to cover him, Buck sprinted to where
Johnny lay gasping.  The bullet had struck his shoulder.  Buck, Colt in
hand, leaped through the door, but met with no resistance.  He signaled
to Hopalong, who yelled, "They's none left."

The trees and rocks and gullies and buildings yielded men who soon
crowded around the hotel.  A young doctor, lately graduated, appeared.
it was his first case, but he eased Johnny.  Then he went over to
Hopalong, who was now raving, and attended to him.  The others were
patched up as well as possible and the struggling young physician had
his pockets crammed full of gold and silver coins.

The scene of the wrecked barroom was indescribable.  Holes, furrows,
shattered glass and bottles, the liquor oozing down the walls of the
shelves and running over the floor; the ruined furniture, a wrecked
bar, seared and shattered and covered with blood; bodies as they had
been piled in the corners; ropes, shells, hats; and liquor everywhere,
over everything, met the gaze of those who had caused the chaos.

Perry's Bend had failed to wipe out the score.




CHAPTER IV


The Vagrant Sioux


Buckskin gradually readjusted itself to the conditions which had
existed before its sudden leap into the limelight as a town which did
things.  The soiree at the Houston House had drifted into the past, and
was now substantially established as an epoch in the history of the
town.  Exuberant joy gave way to dignity and deprecation, and to solid
satisfaction; and the conversations across the bar brought forth
parallels of the affair to be judged impartially -and the impartial
judgment was, unanimously, that while there had undoubtedly been good
fights before Perry's Bend had disturbed the local quiet, they were
not quite up to the new standard of strenuous hospitality.  Finally the
heat blistered everything back into the old state, and the shadows
continued to be in demand.

One afternoon, a month after the reception of the honorable
delegation from Perry's Bend, the town of Buckskin seemed desolated,
and the earth and the buildings thereon were as huge furnaces
radiating a visible heat, but when the blazing sun had begun to settle
in the west it awoke with a clamor which might have been laid to the
efforts of a zealous Satan.  At this time it became the Mecca of two
score or more joyous cowboys from the neighboring ranches, who livened
things as those knights of the saddle could.

In the scant but heavy shadow of Cowan's saloon sat a picturesque
figure from whom came guttural, resonant rumblings which mingled in a
spirit of loneliness with the fretful sighs of a flea-tormented dog.
Both dog and master were vagrants, and they were tolerated because it
was a matter of supreme indifference as to who came or how long they
stayed as long as the ethics and the unwritten law of the cow country
were inviolate.  And the breaking of these caused no unnecessary
anxiety, for justice was both speedy and sure.

When the outcast Sioux and his yellow dog had drifted into town some
few months before they had caused neither expostulation nor inquiry,
as the cardinal virtue of that whole broad land was to ask a man no
questions which might prove embarrassing to all concerned; judgment
was of observation, not of history, and a man's past would reveal
itself through actions.  It mattered little whether he was an embezzler
or the wild chip from some prosperous eastern block, as men came to
the range to forget and to lose touch with the pampered East; and the
range absorbed them as its own.



A man was only a man as his skin contained the qualities necessary; and the
 illiterate who could ride
and shoot and live to himself was far more esteemed than the educated
who could not do those things.   The more a man depends upon himself and
the closer is his contact to a quick judgment the more laconic and
even-poised he becomes.  And the knowledge that he is himself a judge
tends to create caution and judgment.  He has no court to uphold his
honor and to offer him protection, so he must be quick to protect
himself and to maintain his own standing. His nature saved him, or it
executed; and the range absolved him of all unpaid penalties of a
careless past.

He became a man born again and he took up his burden,
the exactions of a new environment, and he lived as long as those
exactions gave him the right to live.  He must tolerate no restrictions
of his natural rights, and he must not restrict; for the one would
proclaim him a coward, the other a bully; and both received short
shrifts in that land of the self-protected.  The basic law of nature is
the survival of the fittest.

So, when the wanderers found their level in Buckskin they were not
even asked by what name men knew them.  Not caring to hear a name which
might not harmonize with their idea of the fitness of things, the
cowboys of the Bar-20 had, with a freedom born of excellent livers and
fearless temperaments, bestowed names befitting their sense of humor
and adaptability.  The official title of the Sioux was By-and-by; the
dog was known as Fleas.  Never had names more clearly described the
objects to be represented, for they were excellent examples of cowboy
discernment and aptitude.

In their eyes By-and-by was a man.  He could feel and he could resent
insults.  They did not class him as one of themselves, because he did
not have energy enough to demand and justify such classification.  With
them he had a right to enjoy his life as he saw fit so long as he did
not trespass on or restrict the rights of others.  They were not
analytic in temperament, neither were they moralists.  He was not a
menace to society, because society had superb defenses.  So they
vaguely recognized his many poor qualities and clearly saw his few
good ones.  He could shoot, when permitted, with the best; no horse,
however refractory, had ever been known to throw him; he was an adept
at following the trails left by rustlers, and that was an asset; he
became of value to the community; he was an economic factor.

His ability to consume liquor with indifferent effects raised him another
notch in their estimation.  He was not always talking when some one
else wished to-another count.  There remained about him that stoical
indifference to the petty; that observant nonchalance of the Indian;
and there was a suggestion, faint, it was true, of a dignity common to
chieftains.  He was a log of grave deference which tossed on their sea
of mischievous hilarity.

He wore a pair of corduroy trousers, known to the care-free as
"pants," which were held together by numerous patches of what had once
been brilliantly colored calico.  A pair of suspenders, torn into two
separate straps, made a belt for himself and a collar for his dog.  The
trousers had probably been secured during a fit of absent-mindedness
on his part when their former owner had not been looking.  Tucked at
intervals in the top of the corduroys (the exceptions making
convenient shelves for alkali dust) was what at one time had been a
stiff-bosomed shirt.  This was open down the front and back, the weight
of the trousers on the belt holding it firmly on the square shoulders
of the wearer, thus precluding the necessity of collar buttons.  A pair
of moccasins, beautifully worked with wampum, protected his feet from
the onslaughts of cacti and the inquisitive and pugnacious sand flies;
and lying across his lap was a repeating Winchester rifle, not
dangerous because it was empty, a condition due to the wisdom of the
citizens in forbidding any one to sell, trade or give to him those
tubes of concentrated trouble, because he could get drunk.

The two were contented and happy.  They had no cares nor duties, and
their pleasures were simple and easily secured, as they consisted of
sleep and a proneness to avoid moving.  Like the untrammeled coyote,
their bed was where sleep overtook them; their food, what the night
wrapped in a sense of security, or the generosity of the cowboys of
the Bar-20.  No tub-ridden Diogenes ever knew so little of
responsibility or as much unadulterated content.  There is a penalty
even to civilization and ambition.

When the sun had cast its shadows beyond By-and-by's feet the air
became charged with noise; shouts, shots and the rolling thunder of
madly pounding hoofs echoed flatly throughout the town.  By-and-by
yawned, stretched and leaned back, reveling in the semi-conscious
ecstasy of the knowledge that he did not have to immediately get up.
Fleas opened one eye and cocked an ear in inquiry, and then rolled
over on his back, squirmed and sighed contentedly and long.  The outfit
of the Bar-20 had come to town.

The noise came rapidly nearer and increased in volume as the riders
turned the corner and drew rein suddenly, causing their mounts to
slide on their haunches in ankle-deep dust.

"Hullo, old Buck-with-th'-pants, how's yore liver?"

"Come up an irrigate, old tank!"

"Chase th' flea ranch an' trail along!"

These were a few of the salutations discernible among the medley of
playful yells, the safety valves of supercharged good-nature.

"Skr-e-e!" yelled Hopalong Cassidy, letting off a fusillade of shots.
in the vicinity of Fleas, who rapidly retreated around the corner,
where he wagged his tail in eager expectation.  He was not
disappointed, for a cow pony tore around in pursuit and Hopalong
leaned over and scratched the yellow back, thumping it heartily, and,
tossing a chunk of beef into the open jaws of the delighted dog,
departed as he had come.  The advent of the outfit meant a square meal,
and the dog knew it.

In Cowan's, lined up against the bar, the others were earnestly and
assiduously endeavoring, with a promise of success, to get By-and-by
drunk, which endeavors coincided perfectly with By-and-by's idea of
the fitness of things.  The fellowship and the liquor combined to thaw
out his reserve and to loosen his tongue.  After gazing with an air of
injured surprise at the genial loosening of his knees he gravely
handed his rifle with an exaggerated sweep of his arm, to the cowboy
nearest him, and wrapped his arms around the recipient to insure his
balance.  The rifle was passed from hand to hand until it came to Buck
Peters, who gravely presented it to its owner as a new gun.

By-and-by threw out his stomach in an endeavor to keep his head in
line with his heels, and grasping the weapon with both hands turned to
Cowan, to whom he gave it.

"Yu hab this un.  Me got two.  Me keep new un, mebby so. "Then he
loosened his belt and drank long and deep.

A shadow darkened the doorway and Hopalong limped in.  Spying By-and-
by pushing the bottle into his mouth, while Red Connors propped him,
he grinned and took out five silver dollars, which he jingled under
By-and-by's eyes, causing that worthy to lay aside the liquor and
erratically grab for the tantalizing fortune.

"Not yet, sabe?" said Hopalong, changing the position of the money.
"If yu wants to corral this here herd of simoleons yu has to ride a
cayuse what Red bet me yu can't ride.  Yu has got to grow on that there
saddle and stayed growed for five whole minutes by Buck's ticker.  I
ain't a-goin' to tell yu he's any saw-horse, for yu'd know better, as
yu reckons Red wouldn't bet on no losin' proposition if he knowed
better, which same he don't.  Yu straddles that four-laigged cloudburst
an' yu gets these, sabe? I ain't seen th' cayuse yet that yu couldn't
freeze to, an' I'm backin' my opinions with my moral support an' one
month's pay.

By-and-by's eyes began to glitter as the meaning of the words sifted
through his befuddled mind.  Ride a horse-five dollars- ride a five-
dollars horse-horses ride dollars-then he straightened up and began to
speak in an incoherent jumble of Sioux and bad English.  He, the mighty
rider of the Sioux; he, the bravest warrior and the greatest hunter;
could he ride a horse for five dollars?  Well, he rather thought he
could.  Grasping Red by the shoulder, he tacked for the door and
narrowly missed hitting the bottom step first, landing, as it
happened, in the soft dust with Red's leg around his neck.  Somewhat
sobered by the jar, he stood up and apologized to the crowd for Red
getting in the way, declaring that Red was a "Heap good un," and that
he didn't mean to do it.

The outfit of the Bar-20 was, perhaps, the most famous of all from
Canada to the Rio Grande. The foreman, Buck Peters, controlled a crowd
of men (who had all the instincts of boys) that had shown no quarter
to many rustlers, and who, while always carefree and easy-going (even
fighting with great good humor and carelessness), had established the
reputation of being the most reckless gang of daredevil gun-fighters
that ever pounded leather.  Crooked gaming houses, from El Paso to
Cheyenne and from Phoenix to Leavenworth, unanimously and
enthusiastically damned them from their boots to their sombreros, and
the sheriffs and marshals of many localities had received from their
hands most timely assistance-and some trouble.  Wiry, indomitable,
boyish and generous, they were splendid examples of virile manhood;
and, surrounded as they were with great dangers and a unique
civilization, they should not, in justice, be judged by opinions born
of the commonplace.

They were real cowboys, which means, public opinion to the contrary
notwithstanding, that they were not lawless, nor drunken, shooting
bullies who held life cheaply, as their kin has been unjustly
pictured; but while these men were naturally peaceable they had to
continually rub elbows with men who were not.  Gamblers, criminals,
bullies and the riffraff that fled from the protected East had drifted
among them in great numbers, and it was this class that caused the
trouble.

The hardworking "cow-punchers" lived according to the law of
the land, and they obeyed that greatest of all laws, that of self-
preservation.  Their fun was boisterous, but they paid for all the
damage they inflicted; their work was one continual hardship, and the
reaction of one extreme swings far toward the limit of its antithesis.
Go back to the Apple if you would trace the beginning of self-
preservation and the need.

Buck Peters was a man of mild appearance, somewhat slow of speech
and correspondingly quick of action, who never became flurried.  His
was the master hand that controlled, and his Colts enjoyed the
reputation of never missing when a hit could have been expected with
reason.  Many floods, stampedes and blizzards had assailed his nerves,
but he yet could pour a glass of liquor, held at arm's length, through
a knothole in the floor without wetting the wood.

Next in age came Lanky Smith, a small, undersized man of retiring
disposition.  Then came Skinny Thompson, six feet four on his bared
soles, and true to his name; Hopalong described him as "th' shadow of
a chalk mark."  Pete Wilson, the slow-witted and very taciturn, and
Billy Williams, the wavering pessimist, were of ordinary height and
appearance.  Red Connors, with hair that shamed the name, was the
possessor of a temper which was as dry as tinder; his greatest
weakness was his regard for the rifle as a means of preserving peace.
Johnny Nelson was the protege, and he could do no wrong.

The last, Hopalong Cassidy, was a combination of irresponsibility, humor, good
nature, love of fighting, and nonchalance when face to face with
danger.  His most prominent attribute was that of always getting into
trouble without any intention of so doing; in fact, he was much
aggrieved and surprised when it came.  It seemed as though when any
"bad man" desired to add to his reputation he invariably selected
Hopalong as the means (a fact due, perhaps, to the perversity of
things in general).  Bad men became scarce soon after Hopalong became a
fixture in any locality.  He had been crippled some years before in a
successful attempt to prevent the assassination of a friend, Sheriff
Harris, of Albuquerque, and he still possessed a limp.

When Red had relieved his feelings and had dug the alkali out of his
ears and eyes, he led the Sioux to the rear of the saloon, where a
"pinto" was busily engaged in endeavoring to pitch a saddle from his
back, employing the intervals in trying to see how much of the picket
rope he could wrap around his legs.

When By-and-by saw what he was expected to ride he felt somewhat
relieved, for the pony did not appear to have more than the ordinary
amount of cussedness.  He waved his hand, and Johnny and Red bandaged
the animal's eyes, which quieted him at once, and then they untangled
the rope from around his legs and saw that the cinches were secure.
Motioning to By-and-by that all was ready, they jerked the bandage off
as the Indian settled himself in the saddle.

Had By-and-by been really sober he would have taken the conceit out
of that pony in chunks, and as it was he experienced no great
difficulty in holding his seat; but in his addled state of mind he
grasped the end of the cinch strap in such a way that when the pony
jumped forward in its last desperate effort the buckle slipped and the
cinch became unfastened; and By-and-by, still seated in the saddle,
flew head foremost into the horse trough, where he spilled much water.

As this happened Cowan turned the corner, and when he saw the wasted
water (which he had to carry, bucketful at a time, from the wells a
good quarter of a mile away) his anger blazed forth, and yelling, he
ran for the drenched Sioux, who was just crawling out of his bath.
When the unfortunate saw the irate man bearing down on him he
sputtered in rage and fear, and, turning, he ran down the street, with
Cowan thundering flatfootedly behind on a fat man's gallop, to the
hysterical cheers of the delighted outfit, who saw in it nothing but a
good joke.

When Cowan returned from his hopeless task, blowing and wheezing, he
heard sundry remarks, sotto voce, which were not calculated to
increase his opinion of his physical condition.

"Seems to me," remarked the irrepressible Hopalong, "that one of
those cayuses has got th' heaves."

"It shore sounds like it," acquiesced Johnny, red in the face from
holding in his laughter, "an' say, somebody interferes."

"All knock-kneed animals do, yu heathen," supplied Red.

`Hey, yu, let up on that and have a drink on th' house," invited
Cowan.  "If I gits that durn war whoop I'll make yu think there's been a
cyclone.  I'll see how long that bum hangs around this here burg, I
will."

Red's eyes narrowed and his temper got the upper hand.  "He ain't no
bum when yu gives him rotgut at a quarter of a dollar a glass, is he?
Any time that `bum' gits razzled out for nothin' more'n this, why, I
goes too; an' I ain't sayin' nothin' about goin' peaceable-like,
neither."

"I knowed somethin' like this `ud happen," dolefully sang out Billy
Williams, strong on the side of his pessimism.

"For th' Lord's sake, have you broke out?" asked Red, disgustedly.
"I'm goin' to hit the trail-but just keep this afore yore mind: if By-
and-by gits in any accidents or ain't in sight when I comes to town
again, this here climate'll be a heep sight hotter'n it is now. No
hard feelings, sabe? It's just a casual bit of advice.  Come on,
fellows, let's amble -I'm hungry."

As they raced across the plain toward the ranch a pair of beady
eyes, snapping with a drunken rage, watched them from an arroyo; and
when Cowan entered the saloon the next morning he could not find By-
and-by's rifle, which he had placed behind the bar.  He also missed a
handful of cartridges from the box near the cash drawer; and had he
looked closely at his bottled whisky he would have noticed a loss
there.  A horse was missing from a Mexican's corral and there were
rumors that several Indians had been seen far out on the plain.

CHAPTER V


The Law of the Range


Phew! I'm shore hungry," said Hopalong, as he and Red dismounted at
the ranch the next morning for breakfast.  "Wonder what's good for it?"

"They's three things that's good for famine," said Red, leading the
way to the bunk house.  "Yu can pull in yore belt, yu can drink, an yu
can eat.  Yore getting as bad as Johnny - but he's young yet."

The others met their entrance with a volley of good-humored banter,
some of which was so personal and evoked such responses that it
sounded like the preliminary skirmish to a fight.  But under all was
that soft accent, that drawl of humorous appreciation and eyes
twinkling in suppressed merriment.  Here they were thoroughly at home
and the spirit of comradeship manifested itself in many subtle ways;
the wit became more daring and sharp, Billy lost some of his
pessimism, and the alertness disappeared from their manner.

Skinny left off romping with Red and yawned.  "I wish that cook'ud
wake up an' git breakfast.  He's the cussedest hombre I ever saw -he kin
go to sleep standin' up an' not know it.  Johnny's th' boy that worries
him-th' kid comes in an' whoops things up till he's gorged himself."

"Johnny's got th' most appallin' feel for grub of anybody I knows,"
added Red.  "I wonder what's keepin' him-he's usually hangin' around
here bawlin' for his grub like a spoiled calf, long afore cookie's got
th' fire goin'."

"Mebby he rustled some grub out with him-I saw him tip-toein' out of
th' gallery this mornin' when I come back for my cigs," remarked
Hopalong, glancing at Billy.

Billy groaned and made for the gallery.  Emerging half a minute later
he blurted out his tale of woe:  "Every time I blows myself an' don't
drink it all in town some slab-sided maverick freezes to it.  It's
gone," he added, dismally.

"Too bad, Billy-but what is it?" asked Skinny.

"What is it?  Wha'd yu think it was, you emaciated match?  Jewelry?
Cayuses? It's whisky-two simoleons' worth.  Some-thin's allus wrong.
This here whole yearth's wrong, just like that cross-eyed sky pilot
said over to-"

"Will yu let up?"  Yelled Red, throwing a sombrero at the grumbling
unfortunate.  "Yu ask Buck where yore tanglefoot is.

"I'd shore look nice askin' th' boss if he'd rustled my whisky,
wouldn't 1?  An' would yu mind throwin' somebody else's hat?  I paid
twenty wheels for that eight years ago, and I don't want it mussed
none."

"Gee, yore easy! Why, Ah Sing, over at Albuquerque, gives them away
every time yu gits yore shirt washed," gravely interposed Hopalong as
he went out to cuss the cook.

"Well, what'd yu think of that?"  Exclaimed Billy in an injured tone.

"Oh, yu needn't be hikin' for Albuquerque-WasheeWashee'ud charge yu
double for washin' yore shirt.  Yu ought to fall in di' river some day-
then he might talk business," called Hopalong over his shoulder as he
heaved an old boot into the gallery.  "Hey, yu hibernatin' son of
morphine, if yu don't git them flapjacks in here pretty sudden-like
I'll scatter yu all over di' landscape, sabe? Yu just wait till Johnny
comes!"

"Wonder where th' kid is?" asked Lanky, rolling a cigarette.   "Off
somewhere lookin' at di' sun through di' bottom of my bottle,"
grumbled Billy.

Hopalong started to go out, but halted on the sill and looked
steadily off toward the northwest.  "That's funny. Hey, fellows, here
comes Buck an' Johnny ridin' double-on a walk, too!" he exclaimed.
"Wonder what th'-thunder! Red, Buck's carryun' him!  Somethin's
busted!" he yelled, as he dashed for his pony and made for the
newcomers.

"I told yu he was hittin' my bottle," pertly remarked Billy, as he
followed the rest outside.

"Did yu ever see Johnny drunk?  Did yu ever see him drink more'n two
glasses?  Shut yore wailin' face-they's somethin' worse'n that in this
here," said Red, his temper rising.  "Hopalong an' me took yore cheap
liquor-it's under Pete's bunk," he added.

The trio approached on a walk and Johnny, delirious and covered with
blood, was carried into the bunk house.  Buck waited until all had
assembled again and then, his face dark with anger, spoke sharply and
without the usual drawl:  "Skragged from behind, blast them!  Get some
grub an' water an' be quick.  We'll see who the gent with th' grudge
is."

At this point the expostulations of the indignant cook, who, not
understanding the cause, regarded the invasion of china shop bulls as
sacrilegious, came to his ears.  Striding quickly to the door, he
grabbed the pan the Mexican was about to throw and, turning the now
frightened man around, thundered, "Keep quiet an' get `em some grub."

When rifles and ammunition had been secured they mounted and
followed him at a hard gallop along the back trail.  No words were
spoken, for none were necessary.  All knew that they would not return
until they had found the man for whom they were looking, even if the
chase led to Canada.  They did not ask Buck for any of the particulars,
for the foreman was not in the humor to talk, and all, save Hopalong,
whose curiosity was always on edge, recognized only two facts and
cared for nothing else: Johnny had been ambushed and they were going
to get the one who was responsible.

 They did not even conjecture as to who it might be, because the trail
 would lead them to the man himself, and it mattered nothing who
or what he was- there was only one course to take with an assassin.
 So they said nothing, but rode on with squared jaws and set lips, the
seven ponies breast to breast in a close arc.

Soon they came to an arroyo which they took at a leap.  As they
approached it they saw signs in the dust which told them that a body
had lain there huddled up; and there were brown spots on the baked
alkali.  The trail they followed was now single, Buck having ridden
along the bank of the arroyo when hunting for Johnny, for whom he had
orders.  This trail was very irregular, as if the horse had wandered at
will.  Suddenly they came upon five tracks, all pointing one way, and
four of these turned abruptly and disappeared in the northwest.  Half a
mile beyond the point of separation was a chaparral, which was an
important factor to them.

Each man knew just what had taken place as if he had been an
eyewitness, for the trail was plain.  The assassins had waited in the
chaparral for Johnny to pass, probably having seen him riding that
way.  When he had passed and his back had been turned to them they had
fired and wounded him severely at the first volley, for Johnny was of
the stuff that fights back and his revolvers had showed full chambers
and clean barrels when Red had examined them in the bunk house.  Then
they had given chase for a short distance and, from some inexplicable
motive, probably fear, they had turned and ridden off without knowing
how bad he was hit.  It was this trail that led to the northwest, and
it was this trail that they followed without pausing.

When they had covered fifty miles they sighted the Cross Bar O ranch
where they hoped to secure fresh mounts.  As they rode up to the ranch
house the owner, Bud Wallace, came around the corner and saw them.

 "Hullo, boys! What deviltry are yu up to now?" he asked.  Buck
leaped from his mount, followed by the others, and shoved his sombrero
back on his head as he started to remove the saddle.

"We're trailin' a bunch of murderers.  They ambushed Johnny an' blame
near killed him.  I stopped here to get fresh cayuses."

"Yu did right!" replied Wallace heartily.  Then raising his voice he
shouted to some of his men who were near the corral to bring up the
seven best horses they could rope.  Then he told the cook to bring out
plenty of food and drink.

"I got four punchers what ain't doin' nothin' but eat," he
suggested.

"Much obliged, Wallace, but there's only four of `em, an' we'd
rather get `em ourselves-Johnny'ud feel better," replied Buck,
throwing his saddle on the horse that was led up to him.

"How's yore cartridges-got plenty?"  Persisted Wallace.

"Two hundred apiece," responded Buck, springing into his saddle and
riding off.  "So long," he called.

"So long, an' plug blazes out of them," shouted Wallace as the dust
swept over him.

At five in the afternoon they forded the Black River at a point
where it crossed the state line from New Mexico, and at dusk camped at
the base of the Guadalupe Mountains.  At daybreak they took up the
chase, grim and merciless, and shortly afterward they passed the
smoldering remains of a camp fire, showing that the pursued had been
in a great hurry, for it should have been put out and masked.  At noon
they left the mountains to the rear and sighted the Barred Horeshoe,
which they approached.

The owner of the ranch saw them coming, and from their appearance
surmised that something was wrong.

"What is it?"  He shouted.  "Rustlers?"

"Nope.  Murderers.  I wants to swap cayuses quick," answered Buck.

"There they are.  Th' boys just brought `em in.  Anything else I can
let yu have?"

"Nope," shouted Buck as they galloped off.

"Somebody's goin' to get plugged full of holes," murmured the ranch
owner as he watched them kicking up the dust in huge clouds.

After they had forded a tributary of the Rio Penasco near the
Sacramento Mountains and had surmounted the opposite bank, Hopalong
spurred his horse to the top of a hummock and swept the plain with
Pete's field glasses, which he had borrowed for the occasion, and
returned to the rest, who had kept on without slacking the pace.  As he
took up his former position he grunted, "War-whoops," and unslung his
rifle, an example followed by the others.

The ponies were now running at top speed, and as they shot over a rise their
 riders saw their quarry a mile and a half in advance.  One of the Indians looked back
and discharged his rifle in defiance, and it now became a race worthy
of the name-Death fled from Death.  The fresher mounts of the cowboys
steadily cut down the distance and, as the rifles of the pursuers
began to speak, the hard-pressed Indians made for the smaller of two
knolls, the plain leading to the larger one being too heavily strewn
with bowlders to permit speed.

As the fugitives settled down behind the rocks which fringed the
edge of their elevation a shot from one of them disabled Billy's arm,
but had no other effect than to increase the score to be settled.  The
pursuers rode behind a rise and dismounted, from where, leaving their
mounts protected, they scattered out to surround the knoll.

Hopalong, true to his curiosity, finally turned up on the highest
point of the other knoll, a spur of the range in the west, for he
always wanted to see all he could.  Skinny, due to his fighting
instinct, settled one hundred yards to the north and on the same spur.
Buck lay hidden behind an enormous bowlder eight hundred yards to the
northeast of Skinny, and the same distance southeast of Buck was Red
Connors, who was crawling up the bed of an arroyo.  Billy, nursing his
arm, lay in front of the horses, and Pete, from his position between
Billy and Hopalong, was crawling from rock to rock in an endeavor to
get near enough to use his Colts, his favorite and most effective
weapons.  Intermittent puffs of smoke arising from a point between
Skinny and Buck showed where Lanky Smith was improving each shining
hour.

There had been no directions given, each man choosing his own
position, yet each was of strategic worth. Billy protected the horses,
Hopalong and Skinny swept the knoll with a plunging fire, and Lanky
and Buck lay in the course the besieged would most likely take if they
tried a dash.  Off to the east Red barred them from creeping down the
arroyo, and from where Pete was he could creep up to within sixty
yards if he chose the right rocks. The ranges varied from four hundred
yards for Buck to sixty for Pete, and the others averaged close to
three hundred, which allowed very good shooting on both sides.

Hopalong and Skinny gradually moved nearer to each other for
companionship, and as the former raised his head to see what the
others were doing he received a graze on the ear.

"Wow!" he yelled, rubbing the tingling member.

Two puffs of smoke floated up from the knoll, and Skinny swore.

"Where'd he get yu, Fat?" asked Hopalong.

                                                                 "G'wan, don't get funny, son," replied Skinny.


Jets of smoke arose from the north and east, where Buck and Red were
stationed, and Pete was half way to the knoll.  So far he hadn't been
hit as he dodged in and out, and, emboldened by his luck, he made a
run of five yards and his sombrero was shot from his head.  Another
dash and his empty holster was ripped from its support. As he crouched
behind a rock he heard a yell from Hopalong, and saw that interested
individual waving his sombrero to cheer him on.  An angry pang! from
the knoll caused that enthusiastic rooter to drop for safety.

"Locoed son-of-a-gun," complained Pete.  "He'll shore git potted."
Then he glanced at Billy, who was the center of several successive
spurts of dust.

"How's business, Billy?"  he called pleasantly.

"Oh, they'll git me yet," responded the pessimist.  "Yu needn't git
anxious.  If that off buck wasn't so green he'd `a' had me long ago."

"Ya-hoo! Pete! Oh, Pete!" called Hopalong, sticking his head out at
one side and grinning as the wondering object of his hail craned his
neck to see what the matter was.

"Huh?" grunted Pete, and then remembering the distance he shouted,
"What's th' matter?"

"Got any cigarettes?" asked Hopalong.

`Yu poor sheep!" said Pete, and turning back to work he drove a .45
into a yellow moccasin.

Hopalong began to itch and he saw that he was near an ant hill.  Then
the cactus at his right boomed out mournfully and a hole appeared in
it. He fired at the smoke and a yell informed him that he had made a
hit. "Go `way!" he complained as a green fly buzzed past his nose.
Then he scratched each leg with the foot of the other and squirmed
incessantly, kicking out with both feet at once.  A warning metallic
whir-r-r! on his left caused to yank them in again, and turning his
head quickly he the pleasure of lopping off the head of a rattlesnake
with his Colt's.

"Glad yu wasn't a copperhead," he exclaimed.  "Somebody had ought `a'
shot that fool Noah.  Blast the ants!" He drowned with a jet of tobacco
juice a Gila monster that was staring at him and took a savage delight
in its frantic efforts to bury itself.

Soon he heard Skinny swear and he sung out: "What's the matter,
Skinny?  Git plugged again?"

"Naw, bugs-ain't they mean?"  Plaintively asked his friend.  "They
ain't none over here.  What kind of bugs?"

"Sufferin' Moses, I ain't no bugologist! All kinds!"

But Hopalong got it at last.  He had found tobacco and rolled a
cigarette, and in reaching for a match exposed his shoulder to a shot
that broke his collar bone.  Skinny's rifle cracked in reply and the
offending brave rolled out from behind a rock.  From the fuss emanating
from Hopalong's direction Skinny knew that his neighbor had been hit.

"Don't yu care, Hoppy. I got th' cuss," he said consolingly.
"Where'd he git yu?" he asked.

"In di' heart, yu pie-faced nuisance.  Come over here an' corral this
cussed bandage an' gimme some water," snapped the injured man.

Skinny wormed his way through the thorny chaparral and bound up the
shoulder.  "Anything else?" he asked.

"Yes. Shoot that bunch of warts an' blow that tobacco-eyed Gila to
Cheyenne.  This here's worse than the time we cleaned out th' C 80
outfit!"  Then he kicked the dead toad and swore at the sun.

Close yore yap; yore worse than a kid! Anybody'd think yu never got
plugged afore," said Skinny indignantly.

I can cuss all I wants," replied Hopalong, proving his assertion as
he grabbed his gun and fired at the dead Indian.  A bullet whined above
his head and Skinny fired at the smoke.  He peeped out and saw that his
friends were getting nearer to the knoll.

"They's closin' in now.  We'll soon be gittin' home," he reported.

Hopalong looked out in time to see Buck make a dash for a bowlder
that lay ten yards in front of him, which he reached in safety.  Lanky
also ran in and Pete added five more yards to his advance.  Buck made
another dash, but leaped into the air, and, coming down as if from an
intentional high jump, staggered and stumbled for a few paces and then
fell flat, rolling over and over toward the shelter of a split rock,
where he lay quiet.  A leering red face peered over the rocks on the
knoll, but the whoop of exultation was cut short, for Red's rifle
cracked and the warrior rolled down the steep bank, where another shot
from the same gun settled him beyond question.

Hopalong choked and, turning his face away, angrily dashed his
knuckles into his eyes. "Blast `em! Blast `em! They've got Buck!
They've got Buck, blast `em! They've got Buck, Skinny! Good old Buck!
They've got him! Jimmy's gone, Johnny's plugged, and now Buck's gone!
Come on!" he sobbed in a frenzy of vengeance.  "Come on, Skinny! We'll
tear their cussed hides into a deeper red than they are now! Oh, blast
it, I can't see-where's my gun?"   He groped for the rifle and fought
Skinny when the latter, red-eyed but cool, endeavored to restrain him.
"Lemme go, curse yu! Don't yu know they got Buck? Lemme go!"

"Down! Red's got di' skunk.  Yu can't do nothin'-they'd drop yu afore
yu took five steps.  Red's got him, I tell yu! Do yu want me to lick
yu? We'll pay `em back with interest if yu'll keep yore head!"
exclaimed Skinny, throwing the crazed man heavily.

Musical tones, rising and falling in weird octaves, whining
pityingly, diabolically, sobbing in a fascinating monotone and
slobbering in ragged chords, calling as they swept over the plain,
always calling and exhorting, they mingled in barbaric discord with
the defiant barks of the six-shooters and the inquiring cracks of the
Winchesters.  High up in the air several specks sailed and drifted,
more coming up rapidly from all directions.  Buzzards know well where
food can be found.

As Hopalong leaned back against a rock he was hit in the thigh by a
ricochet that tore its way out, whirling like a circular saw, a span
above where it entered.  The wound was very nasty, being ripped twice
the size made by an ordinary shot, and it bled profusely.  Skinny
crawled over and attended to it, making a tourniquet of his
neckerchief and clumsily bandaging it with a strip torn from his
shirt.

"Yore shore lucky, yu are," he grumbled as he made his way back to
his post, where he vented his rancor by emptying the semi-depleted
magazine of his Winchester at the knoll.

Hopalong began to sing and shout and he talked of Jimmy and his
childhood, interspersing the broken narrative with choice selections
as sung in the music halls of Leavenworth and Abilene.  He wound up by
yelling and struggling, and Skinny had his hands full in holding him.

"Hopalong! Cassidy! Come out of that! Keep quiet-yu'll shore git
plugged if yu don't stop that plungin'. For gosh sake, did yu hear
that?"  A bullet viciously hissed between them and flattened out on a
near-by rock; others cut their way through the chaparral to the sound
of falling twigs, and Skinny threw himself on the struggling man and
strapped Hopalong with his belt to the base of a honey mesquite that
grew at his side.

"Hold still, now, and let that bandage alone.  Yu allus goes off di'
range when yu gets plugged," he complained.  He cut down a cactus and
poured the sap over the wounded man's face, causing him to gurgle and
look around. His eyes had a sane look now and Skinny slid off his
chest.

"Git that-belt loose; I ain't-no cow," brokenly blazed out the
picketed Hopalong.  Skinny did so, handed the irate man his Colts and
returned to his own post, from where he fired twice, reporting the
shots.

"I'm tryin' to get him on th' glance' first one went high an' th'
other fell flat," he explained.

Hopalong listened eagerly, for this was shooting that he could
appreciate.  "Lemme see," he commanded.  Skinny dragged him over to a
crack and settled down for another try

"Where is he, Skinny?" Asked Hopalong.

"Behind that second big one.  No, over on this here side.  See that
smooth granite?  If I can get her there on th' right spot he'll shore
know it."  He aimed carefully and fired.

Through Pete's glasses Hopalong saw a leaden splotch appear on the
rock and he notified the marksman that he was shooting high.  "Put her
on that bump closer down," he suggested.  Skinny did so and another
yell reached their ears.

"That's a dandy.  Yore shore all right, yu old cuss," complimented
Hopalong, elated at the success of the experiment.

Skinny fired again and a brown arm flopped out into sight.  Another
shot struck it and it jerked as though it were lifeless.

"He's cashed.  See how she jumped?  Like a rope," remarked Skinny with
a grin.  The arm lay quiet.

Pete had gained his last cover and was all eyes and Colts.  Lanky was
also very close in and was intently watching one particular rock.
Several shots echoed from the far side of the knoll and they knew that
Red was all right.  Billy was covering a cluster of rocks that
protruded above the others and, as they looked, his rifle rang out and
the last defender leaped down and disappeared in the chaparral.  He
wore yellow trousers and an old boiled shirt.

By an'-by, by all that's bad!" yelled Hopalong.  "Th' measly coyote!
An' me a-fillin' his ornery hide with liquor.  Well, they'll have to
find him all over again now," he complained, astounded by the
revelation.  He fired into the chaparral to express his pugnacious
disgust and scared out a huge tarantula, which alighted on Skinny's
chaps, crawling rapidly toward the unconscious man's neck.  Hopalong's
face hardened and he slowly covered the insect and fired, driving it
into the sand, torn and lifeless.  The bullet touched the leathern
garment and Skinny remonstrated, knowing that Hopalong was in no
condition for fancy shooting.

"Huh!" exclaimed Hopalong.  "That was a tarantula what I plugged.  He
was headin' for yore neck," he explained, watching the chaparral with
apprehension.

"Go `way, was it? Bully for yu!" exclaimed Skinny, tarantulas being
placed at par with rattlesnakes, and he considered that he had been
saved from a horrible death.  "Thought yu said they wasn't no bugs over
here," he added in an aggrieved tone.

"They wasn't none.  Yu brought `em.  I only had th' main show-Gilas,
rattlers an' toads," he replied, and then added, "Ain't it cussed hot
up here?"

"She is.  Yu won't have no cinch ridin' home with that leg.  Yu better
take my cayuse-he's busted more'n yourn," responded Skinny.

"Yore cayuse is at th' Cross Bar O, yu wall-eyed pirute."

"Shore `nuff.  Funny how a feller forgets sometimes.  Lemme alone now,
they's goin' to git By-an'-by.  Pete an' Lanky has just went in after
him."

That was what had occurred.  The two impatient punchers, had
grown tired of waiting, and risked what might easily have been death
in order to hasten matters.  The others kept up a rapid fire, directed
at the far end of the chaparral on the knoll, in order to mask the
movements of their venturesome friends, intending also to drive By-
and-by toward them so that he would be the one to get picked off as he
advanced.

Several shots rang out in quick succession on the knoll and the
chaparral became agitated. Several more shots sounded from the depth
of the thicket and a mounted Indian dashed out of the northern edge
and headed in Buck's direction.  His course would take him close to
Buck, whom he had seen fall, and would let him escape at a point
midway between Red and Skinny, as Lanky was on the knoll and the range
was very far to allow effective shooting by these two.

Red saw him leave the chaparral and in his haste to reload jammed
the cartridge, and By-and-by swept on toward temporary safety, with
Red dancing in a paroxysm of rage, swelling his vocabulary with words
he had forgotten existed.

By-and-by, rising to his full height in the saddle, turned and
wiggled his fingers at the frenzied Red and made several other signs
that the cowboy was in the humor to appreciate to the fullest extent.
Then he turned and shook his rifle at the marksmen on the larger
knoll, whose best shots kicked up the dust fully fifty yards too
short.  The pony was sweeping toward the reservation and friends only
fifteen miles away, and By-and-by knew that once among the mountains
he would be on equal footing at least with his enemies.

As he passed the rock behind which Buck lay sprawled on his face he uttered a
piercing whoop of triumph and leaned forward on his pony's neck.
Twenty leaps farther and the spiteful crack of a rifle echoed from
where the foreman was painfully supporting himself on his elbows.  The
pony swept on in a spurt of nerve-racking speed, but alone.  By-and-by
shrieked again and crashed heavily to the ground, where he rolled
inertly and then lay still.  Men like Buck are dangerous until their
hearts have ceased to beat.



CHAPTER VI

Trials of the Convalescent


The days at the ranch passed in irritating idleness for those who had
obstructed the flight of hostile lead, and worse than any of the
patients was Hopalong, who fretted and fumed at his helplessness,
which retarded his recovery.  But at last the day came when he was fit
for the saddle again, and he gave notice of his joy in whoops and
forthwith announced that he was entitled to a holiday; and Buck had
not the heart to refuse him

So he started forth in his quest of peace and pleasure, but instead
had found only trouble and had been forced to leave his card at almost
every place he had visited.

There was that affair in Red Hot Gulch, Colorado, where, under
pressure, he had invested sundry pieces of lead in the persons of
several obstreperous citizens and then had paced the zealous and
excitable sheriff to the state line.

He next was noticed in Cheyenne, where his deformity was vividly
dwelt upon, to the extent of six words, by one Tarantula Charley, the
aforesaid Charley not being able to proceed to greater length on
account of heart failure.  As Charley had been a ubiquitous nuisance,
those present availed themselves of the opportunity offered by
Hopalong to indulge in a free drink.

Laramie was his next stopping place, and shortly after his
arrival he was requested to sing and dance by a local terror, who
informed all present that he was the only seventeen-buttoned
rattlesnake in the cow country.  Hopalong, hurt and indignant at being
treated like a common tenderfoot, promptly knocked the terror down.
After he had irrigated several square feet of parched throats
belonging to the audience he again took up his journey and spent a day
at Denver, where he managed to avoid any further trouble.

Santa Fe loomed up before him several days later and he entered it
shortly before noon.  At this time the old Spanish city was a bundle of
high-strung nerves, and certain parts of it were calculated to furnish
any and all kinds of excitement except revival meetings and church
fairs.  Hopalong straddled a lively nerve before he had been in the
city an hour.  Two local bad men, Slim Travennes and Tex Ewalt,
desiring to establish the fact that they were roaring prairie fires,
attempted to consume the placid and innocent stranger as he limped
across the plaza in search of a game of draw poker at the Black Hills
Emporium, with the result that they needed repairs, to the chagrin and
disgust of their immediate acquaintances, who endeavored to drown
their mortification and sorrow in rapid but somewhat wild gun play,
and soon remembered that they had pressing engagements elsewhere.

Hopalong reloaded his guns and proceeded to the Emporium, where he
found a game all prepared for him in every sense of the word.  On the
third deal he objected to the way in which the dealer manipulated the
cards, and when the smoke cleared away he was the only occupant of the
room, except a dog belonging to the bartender that had intercepted a
stray bullet.

Hunting up the owner of the hound, he apologized for being the
indirect cause of the animal's death, deposited a sum of Mexican
dollars in that gentleman's palm and went on his way to Alameda, which
he entered shortly after dark, and where an insult, simmering in its
uncalled-for venom, met him as he limped across the floor of the local
dispensary on his way to the bar.  There was no time for verbal
argument and precedent had established the manner of his reply, and
his repartee was as quick as light and most effective.  Having resented
the epithets he gave his attention to the occupants of the room.

Smoke drifted over the table in an agitated cloud and dribbled
lazily upward from the muzzle of his six-shooter, while he looked
searchingly at those around him.  Strained and eager faces peered at
his opponent, who was sliding slowly forward in his chair, and for the
length of a minute no sound but the guarded breathing of the onlookers
could be heard.  This was broken by a nervous cough from the rear of
the room, and the faces assumed their ordinary nonchalant expressions,
their rugged lines heavily shadowed in the light of the flickering oil
lamps, while the shuffling of cards and the clink of silver became
audible.  Hopalong Cassidy had objected to insulting remarks about his
affliction.

Hopalong was very sensitive about his crippled leg and was always
prompt to resent any scorn or curiosity directed at it, especially
when emanating from strangers.  A young man of twenty-three years, when
surrounded by nearly perfect specimens of physical manhood, is apt to
be painfully self-conscious of any such defect, and it reacted on his
nature at times, even though he was well-known for his happy-go-lucky
disposition and playfulness.  He consoled himself with the knowledge
that what he lost in symmetry was more than balanced by the celerity
and certainty of his gun hand, which was right or left, or both, as
the occasion demanded.

Several hours later, as his luck was vacillating, he felt a heavy
hand on his shoulder, and was overjoyed at seeing Buck and Red, the
latter grinning as only Red could grin, and he withdrew from the game
to enjoy his good fortune.

While Hopalong had been wandering over the country the two friends
had been hunting for him and had traced him successfully, that being
due to the trail he had blazed with his six-shooters.  This they had
accomplished without harm to themselves, as those of whom they
inquired thought that they must want Hopalong "bad," and cheerfully
gave the information required.

They had started out more for the purpose of accompanying him for
pleasure, but that had changed to an urgent necessity in the following
manner:

While on the way from Denver to Santa Fe they had met Pete Willis of
the Three Triangle, a ranch that adjoined their own, and they paused
to pass the compliments of the season.

"Purty far from th' grub wagon, Pie," remarked Buck.

"Oh, I'm only goin' to Denver," responded Pie.

"Purty hot," suggested Red.

"She shore is.  Seen anybody yu knows?" Pie asked.

"One or two-Billy of th' Star Crescent an' Panhandle Lukins,"
answered Buck.

"That so? Panhandle's goin' to punch for us next year.  I'll hunt him
up.  I heard down south of Albuquerque that Thirsty Jones an' his
brothers are lookin' for trouble," offered Pie.

"Yah! They ain't lookin' for no trouble-they just goes around
blowin' off. Trouble?  Why, they don't know what she is," remarked Red
contemptuously.

"Well, they's been dodgin' th' sheriff purty lively lately, an' if
that ain't trouble I don't know what is," said Pie.

"It shore is, an' hard to dodge," acquiesced Buck.

"Well, I has to amble. Is Panhandle in Denver?  Yes?  I calculates as
how me an' him'll buck th' tiger for a whirl-he's shore lucky.  Well,
so long," said Pie as he moved on.

"So long," responded the two.

"Hey, wait a minute," yelled Pie after he had ridden a hundred
yards.  "If yu sees Hopalong yu might tell him that th' Joneses are
goin' to hunt him up when they gits to Albuquerque.  They's shore sore
on him.  `Tain't none of my funeral, only they ain't always a-carin'
how they goes after a feller.  So long," and soon he was a cloud of
dust on the horizon.

"Trouble!" snorted Red; "well, between dodgin' Harris an' huntin'
Hopalong I reckons they'll shore find her. "Then to himself he
murmured, "Funny how everythin' comes his way."

"That's gospel shore enough, but, as Pie said, they ain't a whole
lot particular as how they deal th' cards.  We better get a move on an'
find that ornery little cuss," replied Buck.

"O. K., only I ain't losin' no sleep about Hoppy.  His gun's too
lively for me to do any worryin'," asserted Red.

"They'll get lynched some time, shore," declared Buck.

"Not if they find Hoppy," grimly replied Red.

They tore through Santa Fe, only stopping long enough to wet their
throats, and after several hours of hard riding entered Alameda, where
they found Hopalong in the manner narrated.

After some time the three left the room and headed for Albuquerque,
twelve miles to the south.  At ten o'clock they dismounted before the
Nugget and Rope, an unpainted wooden building supposed to be a clever
combination of barroom, dance and gambling hall and hotel.  The
cleverness lay in the man who could find the hotel part.



CHAPTER VII

The Open Door


The proprietor of the Nugget and Rope, a German named Baum, not being
troubled with police rules, kept the door wide open for the purpose of
inviting trade, a proceeding not to the liking of his patrons for
obvious reasons.  Probably not one man in ten was fortunate enough to
have no one "looking for him," and the lighted interior assured good
hunting to any one in the dark street.  He was continually opening the
door, which every newcomer promptly and forcibly slammed shut.  When he
saw men walk across the room for the express purpose of slamming it he
began to cherish the idea that there was a conspiracy on foot to anger
him and thus force him to bring about his own death.

 After the door had been slammed three times in one evening by one man,
the last slam being so forcible as to shake two bottles from the shelf and to crack
the door itself, he became positive that his suspicions were correct,
and so was very careful to smile and take it as a joke.  Finally,
wearied by his vain efforts to keep it open and fearing for the door,
he hit upon a scheme, the brilliancy of which inflated his chest and
gave him the appearance of a prize-winning bantam.  When his patrons
strolled in that night there was no door to slam, as it lay behind the
bar.

When Buck and Red entered, closely followed by Hopalong, they
elbowed their way to the rear of the room, where they could see before
being seen.  As yet they had said nothing to Hopalong about Pie's
warning and were debating in their minds whether they should do so or
not, when Hopalong interrupted their thoughts by laughing.  They looked
up and he nodded toward the front, where they saw that anxious eyes
from all parts of the room were focused on the open door.  Then they
noticed that it had been removed.

The air of semi-hostile, semi-anxious inquiry of the patrons and the smile
of satisfaction covering the face of Baum appealed to them as the
 most ludicrous sight their eyes had seen for months, and they leaned back and roared with
laughter, thus calling forth sundry looks of disapproval from the
innocent causes of their merriment.  But they were too well known in
Albuquerque to allow the disapproval to approach a serious end, and
finally, as the humorous side of the situation dawned on the crowd,
they joined in the laugh and all went merrily.


At the psychologic moment some one shouted for a dance and the
suggestion met with uproarious approval.  At that moment Harris, the
sheriff, came in and volunteered to supply the necessary music if the
crowd would pay the fine against a straying fiddler he had corraled
the day before.  A hat was quickly passed and a sum was realized which
would pay several fines to come and Harris departed for the music.

A chair was placed on the bar for the musician and, to the tune of
"Old Dan Tucker" and an assortment of similar airs, the board floor
shook and trembled.  It was a comical sight and Hopalong, the only
wallflower besides Baum and the sheriff, laughed until he became weak.
Cow punchers play as they work, hard and earnestly, and there was
plenty of action.  Sombreros flapped like huge wings and the baggy
chaps looked like small, distorted balloons.

The Virginia reel was a marvel of supple, exaggerated grace and the
quadrille looked like a free-for-all for unbroken colts.  The honor of
prompter was conferred upon the sheriff, and he gravely called the
changes as they were usually called in that section of the country:

   "Oh, th' ladies trail in
      An' th' gents trail out,
   An' all stampede down th' middle.
      If yu ain't got th' tin
         Yu can dance an' shout,
   But yu must keep up with th' fiddle."


As the dance waxed faster and the dancers grew hotter Hopalong,
feeling lonesome because he wouldn't face ridicule, even if it was not
expressed, went over and stood by the sheriff.  He and Harris were good
friends, for he had received the wound that crippled him in saving the
sheriff from assassination.  Harris killed the man who had fired that
shot, and from this episode on the burning desert grew a friendship
that was as strong as their own natures.

Harris was very well liked by the majority and feared by the rest,
for he was a square man and the best sheriff the county had ever
known.  Quiet and unassuming, small of stature and with a kind word for
every one, he was a universal favorite among the better class of
citizens.  Quick as a flash and unerring in his shooting, he was a
nightmare to the "bad men."  No profane word had ever been known to
leave his lips, and he was the possessor of a widespread reputation
for generosity.  His face was naturally frank and open; but when his
eyes narrowed with determination it became blank and cold.  When he saw
his young friend sidle over to him he smiled and nodded a hearty welcome.



"They's shore cuttin' her loose," remarked Hopalong.

"First two pairs forward an' back!-they shore is," responded the
prompter.

"Who's th' gent playin' lady to Buck?" Queried Hopalong.

"Forward again an' ladies change!-Billy Jordan."

Hopalong watched the couple until they swung around and then he
laughed silently.  "Buck's got too many feet," he seriously remarked to
his friend.

"Swing th' girl yu loves th' best!-he ain't lonesome, look at that-"

Two shots rang out in quick succession and Harris stumbled, wheeled
and pitched forward on his face as Hopalong's sombrero spun across his
body.  For a second there was an intense silence, heavy, strained and
sickening.  Then a roar broke forth and the crowd of frenzied merry-
makers, headed by Hopalong, poured out into the street and spread out
to search the town.  As daylight dawned the searchers began to straggle
back with the same report of failure.  Buck and Red met on the street
near the door and each looked questioningly at the other.  Each shook
his head and looked around, their fingers toying absentmindedly at
their belts.  Finally Buck cleared his throat and remarked casually,

"Mebby he's following `em."

Red nodded and they went over toward their horses.  As they were
hesitating which route to take, Billy Jordan came up.

"Mebby yu'd like to see yore pardner-he's out by Buzzard's Spring.
We'll take care of him," jerking his thumb over his shoulder toward
the saloon where Harris's body lay.  "And we'll all git th' others
later.  They cain't git away for long."

Buck and Red nodded and headed for Buzzard's Spring.  As they neared
the water hole they saw Hopalong sitting on a rock, his head resting
in one hand while the other hung loosely from his knee.  He did not
notice them when they arrived, and with a ready tact they sat quietly
on their horses and looked in every direction except toward him.  The
sun became a ball of molten fire and the sand flies annoyed them
incessantly, but still they sat and waited, silent and apologetic.

Hopalong finally arose, reached for his sombrero, and, finding it
gone, swore long and earnestly at the scene its loss brought before
him.  He walked over to his horse and, leaping into the saddle, turned
and faced his friends.  "Yu old sons-of-guns," he said.  They looked
sheepish and nodded negatively in answer to the look of inquiry in his
eyes.  "They ain't got `em yet," remarked Red slowly.  Hopalong
straightened up, his eyes narrowed and his face became hard and
resolute as he led the way back toward the town.

Buck rode up beside him and, wiping his face with his shirt sleeve,
began to speak to Red.  "We might look up th' Joneses, Red.  They had
been dodgin' th' sheriff purty lively lately, an' they was huntin'
Hopalong.  Ever since we had to kill their brother in Buckskin they has
been yappin' as how they was goin' to wipe us out.  Hopalong an' Harris
was standin' clost together an' they tried for both.  They shot twice,
one for Harris an' one for Hopalong, an' what more do yu want?"

"It shore looks thataway, Buck," replied Red, biting into a huge
plug of tobacco which he produced from his chaps.  "Anyhow, they
wouldn't be no loss if they didn't.  "Member what Pie said?"

Hopalong looked straight ahead, and when he spoke the words sounded
as though he had bitten them off: "Yore right, Buck, but I gits first
try at Thirsty.  He's my meat an' I'll plug th' fellow what says he
ain't.  Damn him!"

The others replied by applying their spurs, and in a short time they
dismounted before the Nugget and Rope.  Thirsty wouldn't have a chance
to not care how he dealt the cards.

Buck and Red moved quickly through the crowd, speaking fast and
earnestly.  When they returned to where they had left their friend they
saw him half a block away and they followed slowly, one on either side
of the street.  There would be no bullets in his back if they knew what
they were about, and they usually did.

As Hopalong neared the corner, Thirsty and his two brothers turned
it and saw him.  Thirsty said something in a low voice, and the other
two walked across the street and disappeared behind the store.  When
assured that they were secure, Thirsty walked up to a huge boulder on
the side of the street farthest from the store and turned and faced
his enemy, who approached  rapidly until about five paces away, when
he slowed up and finally stopped.

For a number of seconds they sized each other up, Hopalong quiet and
deliberate with a deadly hatred; Thirsty pale and furtive with a
sensation hitherto unknown to him.  It was Right meeting Wrong, and
Wrong lost confidence.  Often had Thirsty Jones looked death in the
face and laughed, but there was something in Hopalong's eyes that made
his flesh creep.

He glanced quickly past his foe and took in the scene with one flash
of his eyes.  There was the crowd, eager, expectant, scowling.  There
were Buck and Red, each lounging against a boulder, Buck on his right,
Red on his left. Before him stood the only man he had ever feared.
Hopalong shifted his feet and Thirsty, coming to himself with a start,
smiled.  His nerve had been shaken, but he was master of himself once
more.

"Well!" he snarled, scowling.

Hopalong made no response, but stared him in the eyes.

Thirsty expected action, and the deadly quiet of his enemy oppressed
him.  He stared in turn, but the insistent searching of his opponent's
eyes scorched him and he shifted his gaze to Hopalong's neck.

"Well!" he repeated uneasily.

"Did yu have a nice time at th' dance last night?"  Asked Hopalong,
still searching the face before him.

"Was there a dance?  I was over in Alameda," replied Thirsty shortly.

"Ya-as, there was a dance, an' yu can shoot purty durn far if yu was
in Alameda," responded Hopalong, his voice low and monotonous.

Thirsty shifted his feet and glanced around.  Buck and Red were still
lounging against their bowlders and apparently were not paying any
attention to the proceedings.  His fickle nerve came back again, for he
knew he would receive fair play.  So he faced Hopalong once more and
regarded him with a cynical smile.

"Yu seems to worry a whole lot about me.  Is it because yu has a
tender feelin', or because it's none of yore blame business?"  He asked
aggressively.

Hopalong paled with sudden anger, but controlled himself.

"It's because yu murdered Harris," he replied.

"Shoo! An' how does yu figger it out?"  Asked Thirsty, jauntily.

"He was huntin' yu hard an' yu thought yu'd stop it, so yu came in
to lay for him.  When yu saw me an' him together yu saw di' chance to
wipe out another score.  That's how I figger it out," replied Hopalong
quietly.

"Yore a reg'lar `tective, ain't yu?" Thirsty asked ironically.

"I've got common sense," responded Hopalong.

"Yu has?  Yu better tell th' rest that, too," replied Thirsty.

"I know yu shot Harris, an' yu can't get out of it by makin' funny
remarks.  Anyhow, yu won't be much loss, an' th' stage company'll feel
better, too."

"Shoo! An' suppose I did shoot him, I done a good job, didn't I?"

"Yu did the worst job yu could do, yu highway robber," softly said
Hopalong, at the same time moving nearer.  "Harris knew yu stopped th'
stage last month, an' that's why yu've been dodgin' him."

"Yore a liar!" shouted Thirsty, reaching for his gun.

The movement was fatal, for before he could draw, the Colt in
Hopalong's holster leaped out and flashed from its owner's hip and
Thirsty fell sideways, face down in the dust of the street.

Hopalong started toward the fallen man, but as he did so a shot rang
out from behind the store and he pitched forward, stumbled and rolled
behind the bowlder.  As he stumbled his left hand streaked to his hip,
and when he fell he had a gun in each hand.

As he disappeared from sight Goodeye and Bill Jones stepped from
behind the store and started to run away.  Not able to resist the
temptation to look again, they stopped and turned and Bil1 laughed.

"Easy as sin," he said.

"Run, yu fool-Red an' Buck'll be here.  Want to git plugged?"
shouted Goodeye angrily.

They turned and started for a group of ponies twenty yards away,
and as they leaped into the saddles two shots were fired from the
street.  As the reports died away Buck and Red turned the corner of the
store, Colts in hand, and, checking their rush as they saw the saddles
emptied, they turned toward the street and saw Hopalong, with blood
oozing from an abrasion on his cheek, sitting up cross-legged, with
each hand holding a gun, from which came thin wisps of smoke.

"Th' son-of-a-gun!" cried Buck, proud and delighted.

"Th' son-of-a-gun!" echoed Red, grinning.








CHAPTER VIII

Hopalong Keeps His Word


The waters of the Rio Grande slid placidly toward the Gulf, the hot
sun branding the sleepy waters with streaks of molten fire.  To the
north arose from the gray sandy plain the Quitman Mountains, and
beyond them lay Bass Ca on.  From the latter emerged a solitary figure
astride a broncho, and as he ascended the topmost rise he glanced
below him at the placid stream and beyond it into Mexico.  As he sat
quietly in his saddle he smiled and laughed gently to himself.  The
trail he had just followed had been replete with trouble which had
suited the state of his mind and he now felt humorous, having cleaned
up a pressing debt with his six-shooter.  Surely there ought to be a
mild sort of excitement in the land he faced, something picturesque
and out of the ordinary.  This was to be the finishing touch to his
trip, and he had left his two companions at Albuquerque in order that
he might have to himself all that he could find.

Not many miles to the south of him lay the town which had been the
rendezvous of Tamale Jose, whose weakness had been a liking for other
people's cattle.  Well he remembered his first man hunt: the discovery
of the theft, the trail and pursuit and- the ending.  He was scarcely
eighteen years of age when that event took place, and the wisdom he
had absorbed then had stood him in good stead many times since.  He had
even now a touch of pride at the recollection how, when his older companions
 had failed to get Tamale Jose, he with his undeveloped
strategy had gained that end.  The fight would never be forgotten, as
it was his first, and no sight of wounds would ever affect him as did
those of Red Connors as he lay huddled up in the dark corner of that
old adobe hut.

He came to himself and laughed again as he thought of
Carmencita, the first girl he had ever known-and the last.  With a
boy's impetuosity he had wooed her in a manner far different from that
of the peons who sang beneath her window and talked to her mother.  He
had boldly scaled the wall and did his courting in her house, trusting
to luck and to his own ability to avoid being seen.  No hidden meaning
lay in his words; he spoke from his heart and with no concealment.  And
he remembered the treachery that had forced him, fighting, to the camp
of his outfit; and when he had returned with his friends she had
disappeared.

To this day he hated that mud-walled convent and those
sisters who so easily forgot how to talk.  The fragrance of the old
days wrapped themselves around him, and although he had ceased to pine
for his black-eyed Carmencita-well, it would be nice if he chanced to
see her again.  Spurring his mount into an easy canter he swept down to
and across the river, fording it where he had crossed it when pursuing
Tamale Jose.

The town lay indolent under the Mexican night, and the strumming
of guitars and the tinkle of spurs and tiny bells softly echoed from
several houses.  The convent of St. Maria lay indistinct in its heavy
shadows and the little church farther up the dusty street showed dim
lights in its stained windows.  Off to the north became audible the
rhythmic beat of a horse and soon a cowboy swept past the convent with
a mocking bow.

He clattered across the stone-paved plaza and threw his
mount back on its haunches as he stopped before a house.  Glancing
around and determining to find out a few facts as soon as possible, he
rode up to the low door and pounded upon it with the butt of his Colt.
After waiting for possibly half a minute and receiving no response he
hammered a tune upon it with two Colts and had the satisfaction of
seeing half a score of heads protrude from the windows in the nearby
houses.

"If I could scare up another gun I might get th' whole blamed town
up," he grumbled whimsically, and fell on the door with another tune.

"Who is it?" came from within.  The voice was distinctly feminine and
Hopalong winked to himself in congratulation.

"Me," he replied, twirling his fingers from his nose at the curious,
forgetting that the darkness hid his actions from sight.

"Yes, I know; but who is `me'?"  Came from the house.

"Ain't I a fool!" he complained to himself, and raising his voice
lie replied coaxingly, "Open th' door a bit an' see.  Are yu
Carmencita?"

"O-o-o! but you must tell me who it is first."

"Mr. Cassidy," he replied, flushing at the `mister,' "an' I wants to
see Carmencita."

"Carmencita who?" teasingly came from behind the door.  Hopalong
scratched his head.  "Gee, yu've roped me-I suppose she has got another
handle.  Oh, yu know-she used to live here about seven years back.  She
had great big black eyes, pretty cheeks an' a mouth that `ud stampede
anybody.  Don't yu know now? She was about so high," holding out his
hands in the darkness.

The door opened a trifle on a chain and Hopalong peered eagerly
forward.

"Ah, it is you, the brave Americano! You must go away quick or you
will meet with harm.  Manuel is awfully jealous and he will kill you!
Go at once, please!"

Hopalong pulled at the half-hearted down upon his lip and laughed
softly.  Then he slid the guns back in their holsters and felt for his
sombrero.

"Manuel wants to see me first, Star Eyes."

"No! no!" she replied, stamping upon the floor vehemently.  "You
must go now-at once!"

"I'd shore look nice hittin' th' trail because Manuel Somebody wants
to get hurt, wouldn't I?  Don't yu remember how I used to shinny up
this here wall an' skin th' cat gettin' through that hole up there
what yu said was a window?  Ah, come on an' open th' door-I'd shore
like to see yu again!" pleaded the irrepressible.

"No! no! Go away.  Oh, won't you please go away!"

Hopalong sighed audibly and turned his horse.  As he did so he heard
the door open and a sigh reached his ears.  He wheeled like a flash and
found the door closed again on its chain.  A laugh of delight came from
behind it.

"Come out, please!-just for a minute," he begged, wishing that he
was brave enough to smash the door to splinters and grab her.

"If I do, will you go away?" Asked the girl.  "Oh, what will Manuel
say if he comes?  And all those people, they'll tell him!"

"Hey, yu!" shouted Hopalong, brandishing his Colts at the protruding
heads.  "Git scarce! I'll shore plug th' last one in!"  Then he laughed
at the sudden vanishing.

The door slowly opened and Carmencita, fat and drowsy, wobbled out
to him.  Hopalong's feelings were interfering with his breathing as he
surveyed her.  "Oh, yu shore are mistaken, Mrs. Carmencita. I wants to
see yore daughter!"

"Ah, you have forgotten the little Carmencita who used to 1ook for
you.  Like all the men, you have forgotten," she cooed reproachfully.
Then her fear predominated again and she cried, "Oh, if my husband
should see me now!"

Hopalong mastered his astonishment and bowed.  He had a desire to
ride madly into the Rio Grande and collect his senses.

"Yu are right-this is too dangerous-I'll amble on some," he replied
hastily.  Under his breath he prayed that the outfit would never learn
of this.  He turned his horse and rode slowly up the street as the door
closed.

Rounding the corner he heard a soft footfall, and swerving in his
saddle he turned and struck with all his might in the face of a man
who leaped at him, at the same time grasping the uplifted wrist with
his other hand.  A curse and the tinkle of thin steel on the pavement
accompanied the fall of his opponent.  Bending down from his saddle he
picked up the weapon and the next minute the enraged assassin was
staring into the unwavering and, to him, growing muzzle of a Colt's
.45.

"Yu shore had a bum teacher.  Don't yu know better'n to push it in?
An' me a cowpuncher, too! I'm most grieved at yore conduct-it shows
you don't appreciate cow-wrastlers.  This is safer," he remarked,
throwing the stiletto through the air and into a door, where it rang
out angrily and quivered.  "I don't know as I wants to ventilate yu; we
mostly poisons coyotes up my way," he added.  Then a thought struck
him.  "Yu must be that dear Manuel I've been hearin' so much about?"

A snarl was the only reply and Hopalong grinned.

"Yu shore ain't got no call to go loco that way, none whatever.  I
don't want yore Carmencita.  I only called to say hulloo," responded
Hopalong, his sympathies being aroused for the wounded man before him
from his vivid recollection of the woman who had opened the door.

"Yah!" snarled Manuel.  "You wants to poison my little bird.  You with
your fair hair and your cursed swagger!"

The six-shooter tentatively expanded and stopped six inches from the
Mexican's nose.  "Yu wants to ride easy, hombre.  I ain't no angel, but
I don't poison no woman; an' don't yu amble off with th' idea in yore
head that she wants to be poisoned.  Why, she near stuck a knife in
me!" he lied.

The Mexican's face brightened somewhat, but it would take more than
that to wipe out the insult of the blow.  The horse became restless,
and when Hopalong had effectively quieted it he spoke again.

"Did yu ever hear of Tamale Jose?"

"Yes."

"Well, I'm th' fellow that stopped him in th' `dobe hut by th'
arroyo.  I'm tellin' yu this so yu won't do nothin' rash an' leave
Carmencita a widow. Sabe?"

The hate on the Mexican's face redoubled and he took a short step
forward, but stopped when the muzzle of the Colt kissed his nose.  He
was the brother of Tamale Jose.  As he backed away from the cool touch
of the weapon he thought out swiftly his revenge.  Some of his
brother's old companions were at that moment drinking mescal in a
saloon down the street, and they would be glad to see this Americano
die.  He glanced past his house at the saloon and Hopalong misconstrued
his thoughts.

"Shore, go home.  I'll just circulate around some for exercise.  No
hard feelings, only yu better throw it next time," he said as he
backed away and rode off. Manuel went down the street and then ran
into the saloon, where he caused an uproar.

Hopalong rode to the end of the plaza and tried to sing, but it was
a dismal failure.  Then he felt thirsty and wondered why he hadn't
thought of it before.  Turning his horse and seeing the saloon he rode
up to it and in, lying flat on the animal's neck to avoid being swept
off by the door frame.  His entrance scared white some half a dozen
loungers, who immediately sprang up in a decidedly hostile manner.
Hopalong's Colts peeped over the ears of his horse and he backed into
a corner near the bar.

"One, two, three-now, altogether, breathe! Yu acts like yu never saw
a real puncher afore.  All th' same," he remarked, nodding at several
of the crowd, "I've seen yu afore.  Yu are th' gents with th' hot-foot
get-a-way that vamoosed when we got Tamale."

Curses were flung at him and only the humorous mood he was in saved
trouble.  One, bolder than the rest, spoke up: "The senor will not see
any `hot-foot get-a-way,' as he calls it, now! The senor was not wise
to go so far away from his friends!"'

Hopalong looked at the speaker and a quizzical grin slowly spread
over his face.  "They'll shore feel glad when I tells them yu was
askin' for `em.  But didn't yu see too much of `em once, or was yu
poundin' leather in the other direction?  Yu don't want to worry none
about me-an' if yu don't get yore hands closter to yore neck they'll
be heck to pay! There, that's more like home," he remarked, nodding
assurance.

Reaching over he grasped a bottle and poured out a drink, his Colt
slipping from his hand and dangling from his wrist by a thong.  As the
weapon started to fall several of the audience involuntarily moved as
if to pick it up.  Hopalong noticed this and paused with the glass half
way to his lips.  "Don't bother yoreselves none; I can git it again,"
he said, tossing off the liquor.

"Wow! Holy smoke!" he yelled.  "This ain't drink! Sufferin' coyotes,
nobody can accuse yu of sellin' liquor! Did yu make this all by
yoreself?"  He asked incredulously of the proprietor, who didn't know
whether to run or to pray.  Then he noticed that the crowd was
spreading out and his Colts again became the center of interest.

"Yu with th' lovely face, sit down!" he ordered as the person
addressed was gliding toward the door.  "I ain't a-goin' to let yu pot
me from th' street.  Th' first man who tries to get scarce will stop
somethin' hot.  An' yu all better sit down," he suggested, sweeping
them with his guns.  One man, more obdurate than the rest, was slow in
complying and Hopalong sent a bullet through the top of his high
sombrero, which had a most gratifying effect.

"You'll regret this!" hissed a man in the rear, and a murmur of
assent arose.  Some one stirred slightly in searching for a weapon and
immediately a blazing Colt froze him into a statue.

"Yu shore looks funny; eeny, meeny, miny, mo," counted off the
daring horseman; "move a bit an' off yu go, he finished.  Then his face
broke out in another grin as lie thought of more enjoyment.

That there gent on th' left," he said, pointing out with a gun the
man he meant.  "Yu sing us a song.  Sing a nice little song."

As the object of his remarks remained mute he let his thumb
ostentatiously slide back with the hammer of the gun under it.   Sing!
Quick!" The man sang.

As Hopalong leaned forward to say something a stiletto flashed past
his neck and crashed into the bottle beside him.  The echo of the crash
was merged into a report as Hopalong fired from his waist.  Then he
backed out into the Street and, wheeling, galloped across the plaza
and again faced the saloon. A flash split the darkness and a bullet
hummed over his head and thudded into an adobe wall at his back.
Another shot and he replied, aiming at the flash.

From down the Street came the sound of a window opening
and he promptly caused it to close again.  Several more windows
opened and hastily closed, and he rode slowly toward the far
end of the plaza.  As he faced the saloon once
more he heard a command to throw up his hands and saw the glint of a
gun, held by a man who wore the insignia of sheriff.  Hopalong
complied, but as his hands went up two spurts of fire shot forth and
the sheriff dropped his weapon, reeled and sat down.  Hopalong rode
over to him and swinging down, picked up the gun and looked the
officer over.



"Shoo, yu'll be all right soon-yore only plugged in th' arms," he
remarked as he glanced up the street.  Shadowy forms were gliding from
cover to cover and he immediately caused consternation among them by
his accuracy.  "Ain't it sad?"  He complained to the wounded man.  "I never starts out
but what somebody makes me shoot `em.  Came down here to see a girl an'
find she's married.  Then when I moves on peaceable-like her husband
makes me hit him.  Then I wants a drink an' he goes an' fans a knife at
me, an' me just teachin' him how! Then yu has to come along an' make
more trouble".

Now look at them fools over there," he said, pointing at
a dark shadow some fifty paces off.  "They're pattin' their backs
because I don't see `em, an' if I hurts them they'll git mad.  Guess
I'll make `em dust along," he added, shooting into the spot.  A howl
went up and two men ran away at top speed.

The sheriff nodded his sympathy and spoke.  "I reckons you had better
give up.  You can't get away.  Every house, every corner and shadow
holds a man.  You are a brave man, but, as you say, unfortunate.  Better
help me up and come with me-they'll tear you to pieces."

"Shore I'll help yu up-I ain't got no grudge against nobody.  But my
friends know where I am an' they'll come down here an' raise a ruction
if I don't show up.  So, if it's all th' same to you, I'll be ambling
right along," he said as he helped the sheriff to his feet.

"Have you any objections to telling me your name?" Asked the sheriff
as he looked himself over.

"None whatever," answered Hopalong heartily.  "I'm Hopalong Cassidy
of th' Bar 20, Texas."

"You don't surprise me-I've heard of you," replied the sheriff
wearily.  "You are the man who killed Tamale Jose, whom I hunted for
unceasingly.  I found him when you had left and I got the reward.  Come
again some time and I'll divide with you; two hundred and fifty
dollars," he added craftily.

"I shore will, but I don't want no money," replied Hopalong as he
turned away.  "Adios, senor," he called back.

"Adios," replied the sheriff as he kicked a nearby door for
assistance.

The cow-pony tied itself up in knots as it pounded down the street
toward the trail, and although he was fired on he swung into the dusty
trail with a song on his lips.  Several hours later he stood dripping
wet on the American side of the Rio Grande and shouted advice to a
score of Mexican cavalrymen on the opposite bank.  Then he slowly
picked his way toward El Paso for a game at Faro Dan's.

The sheriff sat in his easy chair one night some three weeks later,
gravely engaged in rolling a cigarette.  His arms were practically
well, the wounds being in the fleshy parts.  He was a philosopher and
was disposed to take things easy, which accounted for his being in his
official position for fifteen years.  A gentleman at the core, he was
well educated and had visited a goodly portion of the world.  A book of
Horace lay open on his knees and on the table at his side lay a
shining new revolver, Hopalong having carried off his former weapon.
He read aloud several lines and in reaching for a light for his
cigarette noticed the new six-shooter.  His mind leaped from Horace to
Hopalong, and he smiled grimly at the latter's promise to call.

Glancing up, his eyes fell on a poster which conveyed the information
in Spanish and in English that there was offered

+--------------------------------------+
|                                      |
|        FIVE HUNDRED PESOS            |
|              REWARD                  |
| For Hopalong Cassidy, of the Ranch   |
| Known as the Bar-20, Texas, U. S. A. |
|                                      |
+--------------------------------------+

and which gave a good description of that gentleman.

Sighing for the five hundred, he again took up his book and was lost
in its pages when he heard a knock, rather low and timid.  Wearily
laying aside his reading, he strode to the door, expecting to hear a
lengthy complaint from one of his townsmen.  As he threw the door wide
open the light streamed out and lighted up a revolver and behind it
the beaming face of a cowboy, who grinned.

"Well, I'll be damned!" ejaculated the sheriff, starting back in
amazement.

"Don't say that, sheriff; you've got lots of time to reform," replied
a humorous voice.  "How's th' wings?"

"Almost well: you were considerate," responded the sheriff.  "Let's
go in-somebody might see me out here an' get into trouble," suggested
the visitor, placing his foot on the sill.

"Certainly-pardon my discourtesy," said the sheriff.  "You see, I
wasn't expecting you to-night," he explained, thinking of the
elaborate preparations that he would have gone to if he had thought
the irrepressible would call.

"Well, I was down this way, an' seeing as how I had promised to drop
in I just natchurally dropped," replied Hopalong as he took the chair
proffered by his host.

After talking awhile on everything and nothing the sheriff coughed
and looked uneasily at his guest.

"Mr. Cassidy, I am sorry you called, for I like men of your energy
and courage and I very much dislike to arrest you," remarked the
sheriff.  "Of course you understand that you are under arrest," he
added with anxiety.

"Who, me?"  Asked I-Hopalong with a rising inflection.

"Most assuredly," breathed the sheriff.

"Why, this is the first time I ever heard anything about it,"
replied the astonished cow-puncher.  "I'm an American-don't that make
any difference?"

"Not in this case, I'm afraid.  You see, it's for manslaughter."

"Well, don't that beat th' devil, now?"  Said Hopalong.  He felt sorry
that a citizen of the glorious United States should be prey for
troublesome sheriffs, but he was sure that his duty to Texas called
upon him never to submit to arrest at the hands of a Mexican.
Remembering the Alamo, and still behind his Colt, he reached over and
took up the shining weapon from the table and snapped it open on his
knee.  After placing the cartridges in his pocket he tossed the gun
over on the bed and, reaching inside his shirt, drew out another and
threw it after the first.

"That's yore gun; I forgot to leave it," he said, apologetically.
"Anyhow yu needs two," he added.

Then he glanced around the room, noticed the poster and walked over
and read it.  A full swift sweep of his gloved hand tore it from its
fastenings and crammed it under his belt.  The glimmer of anger in his
eyes gave way as he realized that his head was worth a definite price,
and he smiled at what the boys would say when he showed it to them.
Planting his feet far apart and placing his arms akimbo he faced his
host in grim defiance.

"Got any more of these?"  He inquired, placing his hand on the poster
under his belt.

"Several," replied the sheriff.

"Trot `em out," ordered Hopalong shortly.

The sheriff sighed, stretched and went over to a shelf, from which
he took a bundle of the articles in question.  Turning slowly he looked
at the puncher and handed them to him.

"I reckons they's all over this here town," remarked Hopalong.

"They are, and you may never see Texas again."

"So?  Well, yu tell yore most particular friends that the job is
worth five thousand, and that it will take so many to do it that when
th' mazuma is divided up it won't buy a meal.  There's only one man in
this country tonight that can earn that money, an' that's me," said
the puncher.  "An' I don't need it," he added, smiling.

"But you are my prisoner-you are under arrest," enlightened the
sheriff, rolling another cigarette.  The sheriff spoke as if asking a
question.  Never before had five hundred dollars been so close at hand
and yet so unobtainable.  It was like having a check-book but no bank
account.

"I'm shore sorry to treat yu mean," remarked Hopalong, "but I was
paid a month in advance an' I'll have to go back an' earn it."

"You can-if you say that you will return," replied the sheriff
tentatively.  The sheriff meant what he said and for the moment had
forgotten that he was powerless and was not the one to make terms.

Hopalong was amazed and for a time his ideas of Mexicans staggered
under the blow.  Then he smiled sympathetically as he realized that he
faced a white man.

"Never like to promise nothin'," he replied.  "I might get plugged,
or something might happen that wouldn't let me."  Then his face lighted
up as a thought came to him.  "Say, I'll cut di' cards with yu to see
if I comes back or not."

The sheriff leaned back and gazed at the cool youngster before him.
A smile of satisfaction, partly at the self-reliance of his guest and
partly at the novelty of his situation, spread over his face.  He
reached for a pack of Mexican cards and laughed.  "Man! You're a cool
one-I'll do it.  What do you call ?"

"Red," answered Hopalong.

The sheriff slowly raised his hand and revealed the ace of hearts.
Hopalong leaned back and laughed, at the same time taking from his
pocket the six extracted cartridges.  Arising and going over to the bed
he slipped them in the chambers of the new gun and then placed the
loaded weapon at the sheriff's elbow.

"Well, I reckon I'll amble, sheriff," he said as he opened the door.
"If yu ever sifts up my way drop in an' see me-th' boys'lI give yu a
good time."

"Thanks; I will be glad to," replied the sheriff.  "You'll take your
pitcher to the well once too often some day, my friend.  This
courtesy," glancing at the restored revolver, "might have cost you
dearly."

"Shoo! I did that once an' th' feller tried to use it," replied the
cowboy as he backed through the door.  "Some people are awfully
careless," he added. "So long-"

"So long," replied the sheriff, wondering what sort of a man he had
been entertaining.

The door closed softly and soon after a joyous whoop floated in from
the Street.  The sheriff toyed with the new gun and listened to the low
caress of a distant guitar.

"Well, don't that beat all?"  He ejaculated.



CHAPTER IX

The Advent of McAllister


The blazing sun shone pitilessly on an arid plain which was spotted
with dust-gray clumps of mesquite and thorny chaparral.  Basking in the
burning sand and alkali lay several Gila monsters, which raised their
heads and hissed with wide-open jaws as several faint, whip-like
reports echoed flatly over the desolate plain, showing that even they
had learned that danger was associated with such sounds.

Off to the north there became visible a cloud of dust and at
intervals something swayed in it, something that rose and fell and
then became hidden again.  Out of that cloud came sharp, splitting
sounds, which were faintly responded to by another and larger cloud in
its rear.  As it came nearer and finally swept past, the Gilas, to
their terror, saw a madly pounding horse, and it carried a man.  The
latter turned in his saddle and raised a gun to his shoulder and the
thunder that issued from it caused the creeping audience to throw up
their tails in sudden panic and bury themselves out of sight in the
sand.

The horse was only a broncho, its sides covered with hideous yellow
spots, and on its near flank was a peculiar scar, the brand.  Foam
flecked from its crimsoned jaws and found a resting place on its sides
and on the hairy chaps of its rider.  Sweat rolled and streamed from
its heaving flanks and was greedily sucked up by the drought-cursed
alkali.  Close to the rider's knee a bloody furrow ran forward and one
of the broncho's ears was torn and limp.  The broncho was doing its
best-it could run at that pace until it dropped dead.  Every ounce of
strength it possessed was put forth to bring those hind hoofs well in
front of the forward ones and to send them pushing the sand behind in
streaming clouds.  The horse had done this same thing many times-when
would its master learn sense?

The man was typical in appearance with many of that broad land.
Lithe, sinewy and bronzed by hard riding and hot suns, he sat in his
Cheyenne saddle like a centaur, all his weight on the heavy, leather-
guarded stirrups, his body rising in one magnificent straight line.  A
bleached moustache hid the thin lips, and a gray sombrero threw a
heavy shadow across his eyes.  Around his neck and over his open, blue
flannel shirt lay loosely a knotted silk kerchief, and on his thighs a
pair of open-flapped holsters swung uneasily with their ivory handled
burdens. He turned abruptly, raised his gun to his shoulder and fired,
then he laughed recklessly and patted his mount, which responded to
the confident caress by lying flatter to the earth in a spurt of
heart-breaking speed.

"I'll show `em who they're trailin'. This is th' second time I've
started for Muddy Wells, an' I'm goin' to git there, too, for all th'
Apaches out of Hades!"

To the south another cloud of dust rapidly approached and the rider
scanned it closely, for it was directly in his path.  As he watched it
he saw something wave and it was a sombrero! Shortly afterward a real
cowboy yell reached his ears.  He grinned and slid another cartridge in
the greasy, smoking barrel of the Sharp's and fired again at the cloud
in his rear.  Some few minutes later a whooping, bunched crowd of madly
riding cowboys thundered past him and he was recognized.

"Hullo, Frenchy!" yelled the nearest one.  "Comin' back?"

"Come on, McAllister!" shouted another; "we'll give `em blazes!" In
response the straining broncho suddenly stiffened, bunched and slid on
its haunches, wheeled and retraced its course.  The rear cloud suddenly
scattered into many smaller ones and all swept off to the east.  The
rescuing band overtook them and, several hours later, when seated
around a table in Tom Lee's saloon, Muddy Wells, a count was taken of
them, which was pleasing in its facts.

"We was huntin' coyotes when we saw yu," said a smiling puncher who
was known as Salvation Carroll chiefly because he wasn't.

"Yep! They've been stalkin' Tom's chickens," supplied Waffles, the
champion poker player of the outfit.  Tom Lee's chickens could whip
anything of their kind for miles around and were reverenced
accordingly.

"Sho! Is that so?" Asked Frenchy with mild incredulity, such a state
of affairs being deplorable.

"She shore is!" answered Tex Le Blanc, and then, as an afterthought,
he added, "Where'd yu hit th' War-whoops?"

"`Bout four hours back.  This here's th' second time I've headed for
this place-last time they chased me to Las Cruces."

"That so?"  Asked Bigfoot Baker, a giant.  "Ain't they allus
interferin', now?  Anyhow, they're better'n coyotes."

"They was purty well heeled," suggested Tex, glancing at a bunch of
repeating Winchesters of late model which lay stacked in a corner.
"Charley here said he thought they was from th' way yore cayuse
looked, didn't yu, Charley?"  Charley nodded and filled his pipe.

"`Pears like a feller can't amble around much nowadays without
havin' to fight," grumbled Lefty Allen, who usually went out of his
way hunting up trouble.

"We're goin' to th' Hills as soon as our cookie turns up,"
volunteered Tenspot Davis, looking inquiringly at Frenchy.  "Heard any
more news?"

"Nope. Same old story-lots of gold.  Shucks, I've bit on so many of
them rumors that they don't feaze me no more.  One man who don't know
nothin' about prospectin' goes an' stumbles over a fortune an' those
who know it from A to Izzard goes `round pullin' in their belts."

"We don't pull in no belts-We knows just where to look, don't we,
Tenspot?"  Remarked Tex, looking very wise.

"Ya-as we do," answered Tenspot, "if yu hasn't dreamed about it, we
do."

"Yu wait; I wasn't dreamin', none whatever," assured Tex.

"I saw it!"

"Ya-as, I saw it too onct," replied Frenchy with sarcasm.  "Went and
lugged fifty pound of it all th' way to th' assay office-took me two
days! an' that there four-eyed cuss looks at it and snickers.  Then he
takes me by di' arm an' leads me to th' window.  'See that pile, my
friend?  That's all like yourn,' sez he.  `It's worth about one simoleon
a ton at th' coast.  They use it for ballast.'"

"Aw! But this what I saw was gold!" exploded Tex.

"So was mine, for a while!" laughed Frenchy, nodding to the
bartender for another round.

"Well, we're tired of punchin' cows! Ride sixteen hours a day, year
in an' year out, an' what do we get?  Fifty a month an' no chance to
spend it, an' grub that'd make a coyote sniffle! I'm for a vacation,
an' if I goes broke, why, I'll punch again!" asserted Waffles, the
foreman, thus revealing the real purpose of the trip.

"What'd yore boss say?"  Asked Frenchy.

"Whoop! What didn't he say! Honest, I never thought he had it in
him.  It was fine.  He cussed an hour frontways an' then trailed back on
a dead gallop, with us a-laughin' fit to bust.  Then he rustles for his
gun an' we rustles for town," answered Waffles, laughing at his
remembrance of it.

As Frenchy was about to reply his sombrero was snatched from his
head and disappeared. If he "got mad" he was to be regarded as not
sufficiently well acquainted for banter and he was at once in hot
water; if he took it good-naturedly he was one of the crowd in spirit;
but in either case he didn't get his hat without begging or fighting
for it.  This was a recognized custom among the O-Bar-O outfit and was
not intended as an insult.

Frenchy grabbed at the empty air and arose.  Punching Lefty playfully
in the ribs he passed his hands behind that person's back.  Not finding
the lost head-gear he laughed and, tripping Lefty up, fell with him
and, reaching up on the table for his glass, poured the contents down
Lefty's back and arose.

"Yu son-of-a-gun!" indignantly wailed that unfortunate.  "Gee, it
feels funny," he added, grinning as he pulled the wet shirt away from
his spine.

"Well, I've got to be amblin'," said Frenchy, totally ignoring the
loss of his hat.  "Goin' down to Buckskin," he offered, and then asked,
"When's yore cook comin'?"

"Day after to-morrow, if he don't get loaded," replied Tex.

"Who is he?"

"A one-eyed Mexican-Quiensabe Antonio."

"I used to know him.  He's a heck of a cook.  Dished up th' grub one
season when I was punchin' for th' Tin-Cup up in Montana," replied
Frenchy.

"Oh, he kin cook now, all right." replied Waffles.

"That's about all he can cook.  Useter wash his knives in th' coffee
pot an' blow on di' tins.  I chased him a mile one night for leavin'
sand in th' skillet.  Yu can have him-I don't envy yu none whatever.

"He don't sand no skillet when little Tenspot's around," assured
that person, slapping his holster.  "Does he, Lefty?"

"If he does, yu oughter be lynched," consoled Lefty.

"Well, so long," remarked Frenchy, riding off to a small store,
where he bought a cheap sombrero.

Frenchy was a jack-of-all-trades, having been cow-puncher,
prospector, proprietor of a "hotel" in Albuquerque, foreman of a
ranch, sheriff, and at one time had played angel to a venturesome but
poor show troupe.  Beside his versatility he was well known as the man
who took the stage through the Sioux country when no one else
volunteered.  He could shoot with the best, but his one pride was the
brand of poker he handed out.  Furthermore, he had never been known to
take an unjust advantage over any man and, on the contrary, had
frequently voluntarily handicapped himself to make the event more
interesting.  But he must not be classed as being hampered with self-
restraint.

His reasons for making this trip were two-fold: he wished to see
Buck Peters, the foreman of the Bar-20 outfit, as he and Buck had
punched cows together twenty years before and were firm friends; the
other was that he wished to get square with Hopalong Cassidy, who had
decisively cleaned him out the year before at poker.  Hopalong played
either in great good luck or the contrary, while Frenchy played an
even, consistent game and usually left off richer than when he began,
and this decisive defeat bothered him more than he would admit, even
to himself.

The round-up season was at hand and the Bar-20 was short of ropers,
the rumors of fresh gold discoveries in the Black Hills having drawn
all the more restless men north.  The outfit also had a slight touch of
the gold fever, and only their peculiar loyalty to the ranch and the
assurance of the foreman that when the work was over he would
accompany them, kept them from joining the rush of those who desired
sudden and much wealth as the necessary preliminary of painting some
cow town in all the "bang up" style such an event would call for.
Therefore they had been given orders to secure the required
assistance, and they intended to do so, and were prepared to kidnap,
if necessary, for the glamour of wealth and the hilarity of the
vacation made the hours falter in their speed.

As Frenchy leaned back in his chair in Cowan's saloon, Buckskin,
early the next morning, planning to get revenge on Hopalong and then
to recover his sombrero, he heard a medley of yells and whoops and
soon the door flew open before the strenuous and concentrated entry of
a mass of twisting and kicking arms and legs, which magically found
their respective owners and reverted to the established order of
things.

When the alkali dust had thinned he saw seven cow-punchers
sitting on the prostrate form of another, who was earnestly engaged in
trying to push Johnny Nelson's head out in the street with one foot as
he voiced his lucid opinion of things in general and the seven in
particular.  After Red Connors had been stabbed in the back several
times by the victim's energetic elbow he ran out of the room and
presently returned with a pleased expression and a sombrero full of
water, his finger plugging an old bullet hole in the crown.

"Is he any better, Buck?"  Anxiously inquired the man with the
reservoir.

"About a dollar's worth," replied the foreman.  "Jest put a little
right here," he drawled as he pulled back the collar of the
unfortunate's shirt.

"Ow! wow! WOW!" wailed the recipient, heaving and straining.  The
unengaged leg was suddenly wrested loose, and as it shot up and out
Billy Williams, with his pessimism aroused to a blue-ribbon pitch, sat
down forcibly in an adjacent part of the room, from where he lectured
between gasps on the follies of mankind and the attributes of army
mules.

Red tiptoed around the squirming bunch, looking for an opening, his
pleased expression now having added a grin.

"Seems to be gittin' violent-like,"  he soliloquized, as he aimed a
stream at Hopalong's ear, which showed for a second as Pete Wilson
strove for a half-nelson, and he managed to include Johnny and Pete in
his effort.

Several minutes later, when the storm had subsided, the woeful crowd
enthusiastically urged Hopalong to the bar, where he "bought."

"Of all th' ornery outfits I ever saw-" began the man at the table,
grinning from ear to ear at the spectacle he had just witnessed.

"Why, hullo, Frenchy! Glad to see yu, yu old son-of-a-gun! What's
th' news from th' Hills?"  Shouted Hopalong.

"Rather locoed, an' there's a locoed gang that's headin' that way.
Goin' up?" he asked.

"Shore, after round-up.  Seen any punchers trailin' around loose?"

"Ya-as," drawled Frenchy, delving into the possibilities suddenly
opened to him and determining to utilize to the fullest extent the
opportunity that had come to him unsought.  "There's nine over to Muddy
Wells that yu might git if yu wants them bad enough.  They've got a
sombrero of mine," he added deprecatingly.

"Nine! Twisted Jerusalem, Buck! Nine whole cow-punchers a-pinin' for
work," he shouted, but then added thoughtfully, "Mebby they's
engaged," it being one of the courtesies of the land not to take
another man's help.

"Nope.  They've stampeded for th' Hills an' left their boss all
alone," replied Frenchy, well knowing that such desertion would not,
in the minds of the Bar-20 men, add any merits to the case of the
distant outfit.

"Th' sons-of-guns," said Hopalong, "let's go an' get `em," he
suggested, turning to Buck, who nodded a smiling assent.

"Oh, what's the hurry?"  Asked Frenchy, seeing his projected game
slipping away into the uncertain future and happy in the thought that
he would be avenged on the O-Bar-O outfit.

"They'll be there till to-morrow noon-they's waitin' for their
cookie, who's goin' with them."

"A cook! A cook! Oh, joy, a cook!" exulted Johnny, not for one
instant doubting Buck's ability to capture the whole outfit and seeing
a whirl of excitement in the effort.

"Anybody we knows?"  Inquired Skinny Thompson.

"Shore.  Tenspot Davis, Waffles, Salvation Carroll, Bigfoot Baker,
Charley Lane, Lefty Allen, Kid Morris, Curley Tate an' Tex Le Blanc,"
responded Frenchy.

"Umm-m.  Might as well rope a blizzard," grumbled Billy.  "Might as
well try to git th' Seventh Cavalry.  We'll have a pious time
corralling that bunch.  Them's th' fellows that hit that bunch of
inquirin' Crow braves that time up in th' Bad Lands an' then said by-
bye to th' Ninth."

"Aw, shut up! They's only two that's very much, an' Buck an'
Hopalong can sing `em to sleep," interposed Johnny, afraid that the
expedition would fall through.

"How about Curley and Tex?"  Pugnaciously asked Billy.

"Huh, jest because they buffaloed yu over to Las Vegas yu needn't
think they's dangerous.  Salvation an' Tenspot are only ones who can
shoot," stoutly maintained Johnny.

"Here yu, get mum," ordered Buck to the pair.  "When this outfit goes
after anything it generally gets it.  All in favor of kidnappin' that
outfit signify di' same by kickin' Billy," whereupon Bill swore.

"Do yu want yore hat?"  Asked Buck, turning to Frenchy.

"I shore do," answered that individual.

"If yu helps us at th' round-up we'll get it for yu.  Fifty a month
an' grub," offered the foreman.

"O.K." replied Frenchy, anxious to even matters.

Buck looked at his watch.  "Seven o'clock-we ought to get there by
five if we relays at th' Barred-Horseshoe.  Come on."

"How are we goin' to git them?"  Asked Billy.

"Yu leave that to me, son.  Hopalong an' Frenchy'll tend to that part
of it," replied Buck, making for his horse and swinging into the
saddle, an example which was followed by the others, including
Frenchy.

As they swung off Buck noticed the condition of Frenchy's mount and
halted.  "Yu take that cayuse back an' get Cowan's," he ordered.

"That cayuse is good for Cheyenne-she eats work, an' besides I wants
my own," laughed Frenchy.

"Yu must had a reg'lar picnic from th' looks of that crease,"
volunteered Hopalong, whose curiosity was mastering him.  "Shoo! I had
a little argument with some feather dusters- th' O-Bar-O crowd cleaned
them up."

"That so?"  Asked Buck.

"Yep! They sorter got into th' habit of chasin' me to Las Cruces an'
forgot to stop."

"How many'd yu get?"  Asked Lanky Smith.

"Twelve.  Two got away.  I got two before th' crowd showed up-that
makes fo'teen."

"Now th' cavalry'll be huntin' yu," croaked Billy.

"Hunt nothin'! They was in war-paint-think I was a target?-Think I
was goin' to call off their shots for `em?"

They relayed at the Barred-Horseshoe and went on their way at the
same pace.  Shortly after leaving the last-named ranch Buck turned to
Frenchy and asked, "Any of that outfit think they can play poker?"

"Shore.  Waffles."

"Does th' reverend Mr. Waffles think so very hard?"

"He shore does."

"Do th' rest of them mavericks think so too?"

"They'd bet their shirts on him."

At this juncture all were startled by a sudden eruption from Billy.
"Haw! Haw! Haw!' he roared as the drift of Buck's intentions struck
him. "Haw! Haw! Haw!"

"Here, yu long-winded coyote," yelled Red, banging him over the head
with his quirt, "If yu don't `Haw! Haw!' away from my ear I'll make it
a Wow! Wow! What d'yu mean?  Think I am a echo cliff?  Yu slabsided
doodle-bug, yu!"

"G'way, yu crimson topknot, think my head's a hunk of quartz?  Fer a
plugged peso I'd strew yu all over th' scenery!" shouted Billy,
feigning anger and rubbing his head.

"There ain't no scenery around here," interposed Lanky.  "This here
be-utiful prospect is a sublime conception of th' devil."

"Easy, boy! Them highfalutin' words'il give yu a cramp some day.  Yu
talk like a newly-made sergeant," remarked Skinny.

"He learned them words from the sky-pilot over at El Paso,"
volunteered Hopalong, winking at Red.  "He used to amble down th' aisle
afore the lights was lit so's he could get a front seat.  That was all
hunky for a while, but every time he'd go out to irrigate, that female
organ-wrastler would seem to call th' music off for his special
benefit.  So in a month he'd sneak in an' freeze to a chair by th'
door, an' after a while he'd shy like blazes every time he got within
eye range of th' church."

"Shore.  But do yu know what made him get religion all of a sudden?
He used to hang around on di' outside after th' joint let out an'
trail along behind di' music-slinger, lookin' like he didn't know what
to do with his hands.  Then when he got woozy one time she up an' told
him that she had got a nice long letter from her hubby.  Then Mr. Lanky
hit th' trail for Santa Fe so hard that there wasn't hardly none of it
left. I didn't see him for a whole month," supplied Red innocently.

"Yore shore funny, ain't yu?" sarcastically grunted Lanky.  "Why, I
can tell things on yu that'd make yu stand treat for a year."

"I wouldn't sneak off to Santa Fe an' cheat yu out of them.  Yu ought
to be ashamed of yoreself."

"Yah!" snorted the aggrieved little man.  "I had business over to
Santa Fe!"

"Shore," endorsed Hopalong.  "We've all had business over to Santa
Fe.  Why, about eight years ago I had business-"

"Choke up," interposed Red.  "About eight years ago yu was washin'
pans for cookie, an' askin' me for cartridges.  Buck used to larrup yu
about four times a day eight years ago."

To their roars of laughter Hopalong dropped to the rear, where, red-
faced and quiet, he bent his thoughts on how to get square.

"We'll have a pleasant time corralling that gang," began Billy for
the third time.

"For heaven's sake get off that trail!" replied Lanky.  "We aint
goin' to hold `em up.  De-plomacy's th' game."

Billy looked dubious and said nothing.  If he hadn't proven that he
was as nervy as any man in the outfit they might have taken more stock
in his grumbling.

"What's the latest from Abilene way?"  Asked Buck of Frenchy.

"Nothin' much `cept th' barb-wire ruction," replied the recruit.

"What's that?"  Asked Red, glancing apprehensively back at Hopalong.

"Why, th' settlers put up barb-wire fence so's the cattle wouldn't
get on their farms.  That would a been all right, for there wasn't much
of it.  But some Britishers who own a couple of big ranches out there
got smart all of a sudden an' strung wire all along their lines.
Punchers crossin' th' country would run plumb into a fence an' would
have to ride a day an' a half, mebbe, afore they found th' corner.
Well, naturally, when a man has been used to ridin' where he blame
pleases an' as straight as he pleases he ain't goin' to chase along a
five-foot fence to Trisco when he wants to get to Waco.  So th'
punchers got to totin' wire-snips, an' when they runs up agin a fence
they cuts down half a mile or so.  Sometimes they'd tie their ropes to
a strand an' pull off a couple of miles an' then go back after th'
rest.  Th' ranch bosses sent out men to watch th' fences an' told `em
to shoot any festive puncher that monkeyed with th' hardware.  Well, yu
know what happens when a puncher gets shot at."

"When fences grow in Texas there'll be th' devil to pay," said Buck.
He hated to think that some day the freedom of the range would be
annulled, for he knew that it would be the first blow against the
cowboys' occupation.  When a man's cattle couldn't spread out all over
the land he wouldn't have to keep so many men.  Farms would spring up
and the sun of the free-and-easy cowboy would slowly set.

"I reckons th' cutters are classed th' same as rustlers," remarked
Red with a gleam of temper.

"By th' owners, but not by th' punchers; an' it's th' punchers that
count," replied Frenchy.

"Well, we'll give them a fight," interposed Hopalong, riding up.
"When it gets so I can't go where I please I'll start on th' warpath.
I won't buck the cavalry, but I'll keep it busy huntin' for me an'
I'll have time to `tend to th' wire-fence men, too.  Why, we'll be told
we can't tote our guns!"

"They're sayin' that now," replied Frenchy.  "Up in Buffalo, Smith,
who's now marshal, makes yu leave `em with th' bartenders."

"I'd like to see any two-laigged cuss get my guns If I didn't want
him to!" began Hopalong, indignant at the idea.

"Easy, son," cautioned Buck.  "Yu would do what th' rest did because
yu are a square man.  I'm about as hard-headed a puncher as ever
straddled leather an' I've had to use my guns purty considerable, but
I reckons if any decent marshal asked me to cache them in a decent
way, why, I'd do it. An' let me brand somethin' on yore mind-I've
heard of Smith of Buffalo, an' he's mighty nifty with his hands.  He
don't stand off an' tell yu to unload yore lead-ranch, but he ambles
up close an' taps yu on yore shirt; if yu makes a gunplay he naturally
knocks yu clean across th' room an' unloads yu afore yu gets yore
senses back. He weighs about a hundred an' eighty an' he's shore got
sand to burn."

"Yah! When I makes a gun play she plays! I'd look nice in Abilene or
Paso or Albuquerque without my guns, wouldn't I?  Just because I totes
them in plain sight I've got to hand `em over to some liquor-wrastler?
I reckons not! Some hip-pocket skunk would plug me afore I could wink.
I'd shore look nice loping around a keno layout without my guns, in
th' same town with some cuss huntin' me, wouldn't I?  A whole lot of
good a marshal would a done Jimmy, an' didn't Harris get his from a
cur in th' dark?" shouted Hopalong, angered by the prospect.

"We're talkin' about Buffalo, where everybody has to hang up their
guns," replied Buck.  "An' there's th' law-"

"To blazes with th' law!" whooped Hopalong in Red's ear as he
unfastened the cinch of Red's saddle and at the same time stabbing
that unfortunate's mount with his spurs, thereby causing a hasty
separation of the two.  When Red had picked himself up and things had
quieted down again the subject was changed, and several hours later
they rode into Muddy Wells, a town with a little more excuse for its
existence than Buckskin.  The wells were in an arid valley west of
Guadaloupe Pass, and were not only muddy but more or less alkaline.



CHAPTER. X

Peace Hath its Victories


As they neared the central group of buildings they heard a hilarious
and assertive song which sprang from the door and windows of the main
saloon.   It was in jig time, rollicking and boisterous, but the words
had evidently been improvised for the occasion, as they clashed
immediately with those which sprang to the minds of the outfit,
although they could not be clearly distinguished.  As they approached
nearer and finally dismounted, however, the words became recognizable
and the visitors were at once placed in harmony with the air of jovial
recklessness by the roaring of the verses and the stamping of the
time.

Oh we're red-hot cow-punchers playin' on our luck,
An' there ain't a proposition that we won't buck:
From sunrise to sunset we've ridden on the range,
But now we're oft for a howlin' change.

CHORUS

Laugh a little, sing a little, all th' day;
Play a little, drink a little-we can pay;
Ride a little, dig a little an' rich we'll grow.
Oh, we're that bunch from th' O-Bar-O!

Oh, there was a little tenderfoot an' he had a little gun,
An' th' gun an' him went a-trailin' up some fun.
They ambles up to Santa Fe' to find a quiet game,
An' now they're planted with some more of th' same!

As Hopalong, followed by the others, pushed open the door and
entered he took up the chorus with all the power of Texan lungs and
even Billy joined in.  The sight that met their eyes was typical of the
men and the mood and the place. Leaning along the walls, lounging on
the table and straddling chairs with their forearms crossed on the
backs were nine cowboys, ranging from old twenty to young fifty in
years, and all were shouting the song and keeping time with their
hands and feet.

In the center of the room was a large man dancing a
fair buck-and-wing to the time so uproariously set by his companions.
Hatless, neck-kerchief loose, holsters flapping, chaps rippling out
and close, spurs clinking and perspiration streaming from his tanned
face, danced Bigfoot Baker as though his life depended on speed and
noise.  Bottles shook and the air was fogged with smoke and dust.
Suddenly, his belt slipping and letting his chaps fall around his
ankles, he tripped and sat down heavily.  Gasping for breath, he held
out his hand and received a huge plug of tobacco, for Bigfoot had won
a contest.

Shouts of greeting were hurled at the newcomers and many questions
were fired at them regarding "th' latest from th' Hills."  Waffles made
a rush for Hopalong, but fell over Big-foot's feet and all three were
piled up in a heap.  All were beaming with good nature, for they were
as so many school boys playing truant.  Prosaic cow-punching was
relegated to the rear and they looked eagerly forward to their several
missions.  Frenchy told of the barb-wire fence war and of the new regu-
lations of "Smith of Buffalo" regarding cow-punchers' guns, and from
the caustic remarks explosively given it was plain to be seen what a
wire fence could expect, should one be met with, and there were many
imaginary Smiths put hors de combat.

Kid Morris, after vainly trying to slip a blue-bottle fly inside of
Hopalong's shirt, gave it up and slammed his hand on Hopalong's back
instead, crying: "Well, I'll be doggoned if here ain't Hopalong! How's
th' missus an' th' deacon an' all th' folks to hum?  I hears yu an'
Frenchy's reg'lar poker fiends!"

"Oh, we plays onct in a while, but we don't want none of yore dust.
Yu'll shore need it all afore th' Hills get through with yu,"
laughingly replied Hopalong.

"Oh, yore shore kind! But I was a sort of reckonin' that we needs
some more. Perfesser P. D. Q. Waffles is our poker man an' he shore
can clean out anything I ever saw.  Mebbe yu fellers feel reckless-like
an' would like to make a pool," he cried, addressing the outfit of the
Bar-20, "an' back yore boss of th' full house agin ourn?"

Red turned slowly around and took a full minute in which to size the
Kid up.  Then he snorted and turned his back again.

The Kid stared at him in outraged dignity.  "Well, what say!" he
softly murmured.  Then he leaped forward and walloped Red on the back.
"Hey, yore royal highness!" he shouted.  "Yu-yu-yu-oh, hang it-yu! Yu
slab-sided, ring-boned, saddle-galled shade of a coyote, do yu think
I'm only meanderin' in th' misty vales of-of-"

Suggestions intruded from various sources.  "Hades?" offered
Hopalong. "Cheyenne?"  Murmured Johnny.  "Misty mistiness of misty?"
tentatively supplied Waffles.

Red turned around again.  "Better come up an' have somethin'," he
sympathetically invited, wiping away an imaginary tear.

"An' he's so young!" sobbed Frenchy.

"An' so fair!" wailed Tex.

"An' so ornery!" howled Lefty, throwing his arms around the
discomfited youngster.  Other arms went around him, and out of the
sobbing mob could be heard earnest and heart-felt cussing,
interspersed with imperative commands, which were gradually obeyed.

The Kid straightened up his wearing apparel.  "Come on, yu locoed-"

"Angels?"  Queried Charley Lane, interrupting him.  "Sweet  things?"
breathed Hopalong in hopeful expectancy.

"Oh, blast it!" yelled the Kid as he ran out into the street to
escape the persecution.

"Good Kid, all right," remarked Waffles.  "He'll go around an' lick
some Mexican an' come back sweet as honey."

"Did somebody say poker?"  Asked Bigfoot, digressing from the Kid.

"Oh, yu fellows don't want no poker.  Of course yu don't. Poker's
mighty uncertain," replied Red.

"Yah!" exclaimed Tex Le Blanc, pushing forward.  "I'll just bet yu to
a standstill that Waffles an' Salvation'll round up all th' festive
simoleons yu can get together! An' I'll throw in Frenchy's hat as an
inducement."

"Well, if yore shore set on it make her a pool," replied Red, "an'
th' winners divide with their outfit. Here's a starter," he added,
tossing a buckskin bag on the table.  "Come on, pile `em up."

The crowd divided as the players seated themselves at the table, the
O-Bar-O crowd grouping themselves behind their representatives; the
Bar-20 behind theirs.  A deck of cards was brought and the game was on.

Red, true to his nature, leaned back in a corner, where, hands on
hips, he awaited any hostile demonstration on the part of the O-Bar-O;
then, suddenly remembering, he looked half ashamed of his warlike
position and became a peaceful citizen again.  Buck leaned with his
broad back against the bar, talking over his shoulder to the
bartender, but watching Tenspot Davis, who was assiduously engaged in
juggling a handful of Mexican dollars.

Up by the door Bigfoot Baker, elated at winning the buck-and-wing
 contest, was endeavoring to learn a new step, while his late rival was
drowning his defeat at Buck's elbow.  Lefty Allen was softly singing a
 Mexican love song, humming when the words would not come.
 At the table could be heard low-spoken card terms and good-natured banter,
 interspersed with the clink of gold and silver and the soft pat-pat of the
 onlookers' feet unconsciously keeping time to Lefty's song.  Notwithstanding
the grim assertiveness of belts full of .45's and the peeping handles of long-
barreled Colts, set off with picturesque chaps, sombreros and tinkling
spurs, the scene was one of peaceful content and good-fellowship.

"Ugh!" grunted Johnny, walking over to Red and informing that person
that he, Red, was a worm-eaten prune and that for half a wink he,
Johnny, would prove it.  Red grabbed him by the seat of his corduroys
and the collar of his shirt and helped him outside, where they
strolled about, taking pot shots at whatever their fancy suggested.

Down the street in a cloud of dust rumbled the Las Cruces-El Paso
stage and the two punchers went up to meet it.  Raw furrows showed in
the woodwork, one mule was missing and the driver and guard wore fresh
bandages.  A tired tenderfoot leaped out with a sigh of relief and
hunted for his baggage, which he found to be generously perforated.
Swearing at the God-forsaken land where a man had to fight highwaymen
and Indians inside of half a day he grumblingly lugged his valise
toward a forbidding-looking shack which was called a hotel.

The driver released his teams and then turned to Red.  "Hullo, old
hoss, how's th' gang?" he asked genially.  "We've had a heck of a time
this yere trip," he went on without waiting for Red to reply.  "Five
miles out of Las Cruces we stood off a son-of-a-gun that wanted th'
dude's wealth.  Then just this side of the San Andre foothills we runs
into a bunch of young bucks who turned us off this yere way an' gave
us a runnin' fight purty near all th' way.  I'm a whole lot farther
from Paso now than I was when I started, an seem as I lost a jack I'll
be some time gittin' there.  Yu don't happen to sabe a jack I can
borrow, do yu?"

"I don't know about no jack, but I'll rope yu a bronch," offered
Red, winking at Johnny.

"I'll pull her myself before I'll put dynamite in di' traces,"
replied the driver.  "Yu fellers might amble back a ways with me-them
buddin' warriors'll be layin' for me."

"We shore will," responded Johnny eagerly.  "There's nine of us now
an' there'll be nine more an' a cook to-morrow, mebby."

"Gosh, yu grows some," replied the guard.  "Eighteen'll be a plenty
for them glory hunters."

"We won't be able to," contradicted Red, "for things are peculiar."

At this moment the conversation was interrupted by the tenderfoot,
who sported a new and cheap sombrero and also a belt and holster
complete.

"Will you gentlemen join me?"  He asked, turning to Red arid nodding
at the saloon.  "I am very dry and much averse to drinking alone."

"Why, shore," responded Red heartily, wishing to put the stranger at
ease.

The game was running about even as they entered and Lefty Allen was
singing "The Insult," the rich tenor softening the harshness of the
surroundings.

I've swum th' Colorado where she's almost lost to view, I've braced
     th' Jaro layouts in Cheyenne;
I've fought for muddy water with a howlin' bunch of Sioux, An'
     swallowed hot tamales, an' cayenne.

I've rid a pitchin' broncho `till th' sky was underneath, I've
     tackled every desert in th' land;
I've sampled XXXX whiskey `till I couldn't hardly see, An' dallied
     with th' quicksands of the Grande.

I've argued with th' marshals of a half-a-dozen burgs, I've been
     dragged free an' fancy by a cow;
I've had three years' campaignin' with th' fightin', bitin' Ninth,
     An' never lost my temper `till right now.

I've had the yaller fever an I've been shot full of holes, I've
     grabbed an army mule plumb by its tail;
I've never been so snortin', really highfalutin' mad As when y'u up
     an' hands me ginger ale!

Hopalong laughed joyously at a remark made by Waffles and the
stranger glanced quickly at him.  His merry, boyish face, underlined by
a jaw showing great firmness and set with an expression of
aggressive self-reliance, impressed the stranger and he remarked to
Red, who lounged lazily near him, that he was surprised to see such a
face on so young a man and he asked who the player was.

"Oh, his name's Hopalong Cassidy," answered Red.  "He's di' cuss that
raised that ruction down in Mexico last spring.  Rode his cayuse in a
saloon and played with the loungers and had to shoot one before he got
out.  When he did get out he had to fight a whole bunch of Mexicans an'
even potted their marshal, who had di' drop on him.  Then he returned
and visited the marshal about a month later, took his gun away from
him an' then cut th' cards to see if he was a prisoner or not.  He's a
shore funny cuss."

The tenderfoot gasped his amazement. "Are you not fooling with me?"
He asked.

"Tell him yu came after that five hundred dollars reward and see,"
answered Red goodnaturedly.

"Holy smoke!" shouted Waffles as Hopalong won his sixth consecutive
pot.  "Did yu ever see such luck?"  Frenchy grinned and some time later
raked in his third. Salvation then staked his last cent against
Hopalong's flush and dropped out.

Tenspot flipped to Waffles the money he had been juggling and Lefty
searched his clothes for wealth.  Buck, still leaning against the bar,
grinned and winked at Johnny, who was pouring hair-raising tales into
the receptive ears of the stranger.   Thereupon Johnny confided to his
newly found acquaintance the facts about the game, nearly causing that
person to explode with delight.

Waffles pushed back his chair, stood up and stretched.  At the finish
of a yawn he grinned at his late adversary.  "I'm all in, yu old son-
of-a-gun.  Yu shore can play draw. I'm goin' to try yu again some time.
I was beat fair an' square an' I ain't got no kick comin', none
whatever," he remarked, as he shook hands with Hopalong.

"`Oh, we're that gang from th' O-Bar-O," hummed the Kid as he
sauntered in.  One cheek was slightly swollen and his clothes shed dust
at every step.  "Who wins?" he inquired, not having heard Waffles.

"They did, blast it!" exploded Bigfoot.

One of the Kid's peculiarities was revealed in the unreasoning and
hasty conclusions he arrived at.  From no desire to imply unfairness,
but rather because of his bitterness against failure of any kind and
his loyalty to Waffles, came his next words:

"Mebby they skinned yu."

Like a flash Waffles sprang before him, his hand held up, palm out.
"He don't mean nothin'-he's only a ignorant kid!" he cried.

Buck smiled and wrested the Colt from Johnny's ever-ready hand.
"Here's another," he said. Red laughed softly and rolled Johnny on the
floor.  "Yu jackass," he whispered, "don't yu know better'n to make a
gun-play when we needs them all ?"

"What are we goin' to do?"  Asked Tex, glancing at the bulging
pockets of Hopalong's chaps.

"We're goin' to punch cows again, that's what we're to do," answered
Bigfoot dismally.

"An' whose are we goin' to punch?  We can't go back to the old man,"
grumbled Tex.

Salvation looked askance at Buck and then at the others.  "Mebby," he
began, "Mebby we kin git a job on th' Bar-20." Then turning to Buck
again he bluntly asked, "Are yu short of punchers?"

                                                                      "Well, I might use some," answered the
foreman, hesitating.  "But I
ain't got only one cook, an'-"

"We'll git yu th' cook all O.K.," interrupted Charley Lane
vehemently.  "Hi, yu cook!" he shouted, "amble in here an' git a rustle
on!"

There was no reply, and after waiting for a minute he and Waffles
went into the rear room, from which there immediately issued great
chunks of profanity and noise.  They returned looking pugnacious and
disgusted, with a wildly fighting man who was more full of liquor than
was the bottle which he belligerently waved.

"This here animated distillery what yu sees is our cook," said
Waffles.  "We eats his grub, nobody else.  If he gits drunk that's our
funeral; but he won't get drunk! If yu wants us to punch for yu say so
an' we does; if yu don't, we don't."

"Well," replied Buck thoughtfully, "mebby I can use yu."  Then with a
burst of recklessness he added, "Yes, if I lose my job! But yu might
sober that Mexican up if yu let him fall in th' horse trough."

As the procession wended its way on its mission of wet charity,
carrying the cook in any manner at all, Frenchy waved his long lost
sombrero at Buck, who stood in the door, and shouted, "Yu old son-of-
a-gun, I'm proud to know yu!"

Buck smiled and snapped his watch shut "Time to amble," he said.



CHAPTER XI

Holding the Claim


"Oh, we're that gang from th' O-Bar-O," hummed Waffles, sinking the
branding-iron in the flank of a calf.  The scene was one of great
activity and hilarity.  Several fires were burning near the huge corral
and in them half a dozen irons were getting hot.  Three calves were
being held down for the brand of the "Bar-20" and two more were being
dragged up on their sides by the ropes of the cowboys, the proud cow-
ponies showing off their accomplishments at the expense of the calves'
feelings.  In the corral the dust arose in steady clouds as calf after
calf was "cut out" by the ropers and dragged out to get "tagged."
Angry cows fought valiantly for their terrorized offspring, but always
to no avail, for the hated rope of some perspiring and dust-grimed
rider sent them crashing to earth.
Over the plain were herds of cattle and groups of madly riding cowboys,
 and two cook wagons were stalled a short distance from the corral.
The round-up of the Bar-20 was taking place, and each of the two
 outfits tried to outdo the other and each individual strove for a prize.
The man who cut out and dragged to the fire the most calves in three days
 could leave for the Black Hills at the expiration of that time, the rest to
 follow as soon as they could.

In this contest Hopalong Cassidy led his nearest rival, Red Connors,
both of whom were Bar-2o men, by twenty cut-outs, and there remained
but half an hour more in which to compete.  As Red disappeared into the
sea of tossing horns Hopalong dashed out with a whoop.

 "Hi, yu trellis-built rack of bones, come along there! Whoop!" he
yelled, turning the prisoner over to the squad by the fire.

"Chalk up this here insignificant wart of cross-eyed perversity: an'
how many?"  He called as he galloped back to the corral.

"One ninety-eight," announced Buck, blowing the sand from the tally
sheet.  "That's shore goin' some," he remarked to himself.

When the calf sprang up it was filled with terror, rage and pain,
and charged at Billy from the rear as that pessimistic soul was
leaning over and poking his finger at a somber horned-toad.  "Wow!" he
yelled as his feet took huge steps up in the air, each one strictly on
its own course.  "Woof!" he grunted in the hot sand as he arose on his
hands and knees and spat alkali.

"What's s'matter?"  He asked dazedly of Johnny Nelson.  "Ain't it
funny!" he yelled sarcastically as he beheld Johnny holding his sides
with laughter.  "Ain't it funny!" he repeated belligerently.  "Of course
that four-laigged, knock-kneed, wobblin' son-of-a-Piute had to cut me
out.  They wasn't nobody in sight but Billy! Why didn't yu say he was
comin'?  Think I can see four ways to once?  Why didn't-" At this point
Red cantered up with a calf, and by a quick maneuver, drew the taut
rope against the rear of Billy's knees, causing that unfortunate to
sit down heavily.  As he arose choking with broken-winded profanity Red
dragged the animal to the fire, and Billy forgot his grievances in the
press of labor.

"How many, Buck?"  Asked Red.

"One-eighty."

"How does she stand?"

"Yore eighteen to th' bad," replied the foreman.  "Th' son-of-a-gun!"
marveled Red, riding off.

Another whoop interrupted them, and Billy quit watching out of the
corner eye for pugnacious calves as he prepared for Hopalong.

"Hey, Buck, this here cuss was with a Barred-Horseshoe cow," he
announced as he turned it over to the branding man.  Buck made a tally
in a separate column and released the animal.  "Hullo, Red! Workin'?"
Asked Hopalong of his rival.

"Some, yu little cuss," answered Red with all the good nature in the
world.  Hopalong was his particular "side partner," and he could lose
to him with the best of feelings.

"Yu looks so nice an' cool, an' clean, I didn't know," responded
Hopalong, eyeing a streak of sweat and dust which ran from Red's eyes
to his chin and then on down his neck.

"What yu been doin'? Plowin' with yore nose?"  Returned Red, smiling
blandly at his friend's appearance.

"Yah!" snorted Hopalong, wheeling toward the corral.  "Come on, yu
pie-eatin' doodle-bug; I'll beat yu to th' gate!"

The two ponies sent showers of sand all over Billy, who eyed them in
pugnacious disgust.  "Of all th' locoed imps that ever made life
miserable fer a man, them's th' worst! Is there any piece of fool
nonsense they hain't harnessed me with?"  He beseeched of Buck.  "Is
there anything they hain't done to me?  They hides my liquor; they
stuffs th' sweat band of my hat with rope; they ties up my pants; they
puts water in.  My boots an' toads in my bunk-ain't they never goin' to
get sane?"

"Oh, they're only kids-they can't help it," offered Buck.  "Didn't
they hobble my cayuse when I was on him an' near bust my neck?"

Hopalong interrupted the conversation by driving up another calf,
and Buck, glancing at his watch, declared the contest at an end.

"Yu wins," he remarked to the newcomer.  "An' now yu get scarce or
Billy will shore straddle yore nerves.  He said as how he was goin' to
get square on yu to-night."

"I didn't, neither, Hoppy!" earnestly contradicted Billy, who bad
visions of a night spent in torment as a reprisal for such a threat.
"Honest I didn't, did I, Johnny?"  He asked appealingly.

"Yu shore did," lied Johnny, winking at Red, who had just ridden up.

"I don't know what yore talkin' about, but yu shore did," replied
Red.

"If yu did," grinned Hopalong, "I'll shore make yu hard to find.
Come on, fellows," he said; "grub's ready.  Where's Frenchy?"

"Over chewin' th' rag with Waffles about his hat-he's lost it
again," answered Red.  "He needs a guardian fer that bonnet.  Th' Kid
an' Salvation has jammed it in th' corral fence an' Waffles has to
stand fer it."

"Let's put it in th' grub wagon an see him cuss cookie," suggested
Hopalong.

"Shore," indorsed Johnny; Cookie'll feed him bum grub for a week to
get square.

Hopalong and Johnny ambled over to the corral and after some trouble
located the missing sombrero, which they carried to the grub wagon and
hid in the flour barrel.  Then they went over by the excited owner and
dropped a few remarks about how strange the cook was acting and how he
was watching Frenchy.

Frenchy jumped at the bait and tore over to the wagon, where he and
the cook spent some time in mutual recrimination.  Hopalong nosed
around and finally dug up the hat, white as new-fallen snow.

"Here's a hat-found it in th' dough barrel," he announced, handing
it over to Frenchy, who received it in open-mouthed stupefaction.

"Yu pie-makin' pirate! Yu didn't know where my lid was, did yu! Yu
cross-eyed lump of hypocrisy!" yelled Frenchy, dusting off the flour
with one full-armed swing on the cook's face, driving it into that
unfortunate's nose and eyes and mouth.  "Yu white-washed Chink, yu-rub
yore face with water an' yu've got pancakes."

"Hey! What you doin'!" yelled the cook, kicking the spot where he had
last seen Frenchy.  "Don't yu know better'n that!"

"Yu live close to yoreself or I'll throw yu so high th' sun'll duck,"
replied Frenchy, a smile illuminating his face.

"Hey, cookie," remarked Hopalong confidentially, "I know who put up
this joke on yu.  Yu ask Billy who hid th' hat," suggested the tease.
"Here he comes now-see how queer he looks."

"Th' mournful Piute," ejaculated the cook.  "I'll shore make him wish
he'd kept on his own trail.  I'll flavor his slush [coffee] with year-
old dish-rags!"

At this juncture Billy ambled up, keeping his weather eye peeled for
trouble.  "Who's a dish-rag?"  He queried.  The cook mumbled something
about crazy hens not knowing when to quit cackling and climbed up in
his wagon.  And that night Billy swore off drinking coffee.

When the dawn of the next day broke, Hopalong was riding toward the
Black Hills, leaving Billy to untie himself as best he might.

The trip was uneventful and several weeks later he entered Red Dog,
a rambling shanty town, one of those western mushrooms that sprang up
in a night.  He took up his stand at the Miner's Rest, and finally
secured six claims at the cost of nine hundred hard-earned dollars, a
fund subscribed by the outfits, as it was to be a partnership affair.

He rode out to a staked-off piece of hillside and surveyed his
purchase, which consisted of a patch of ground, six holes, six piles
of dirt and a log hut.  The holes showed that the claims bad been tried
and found wanting.

He dumped his pack of tools and provisions, which he had bought on
the way up, and lugged them into the cabin.  After satisfying his
curiosity he went outside and sat down for a smoke, figuring up in his
mind how much gold he could carry on a horse.  Then, as he realized
that he could get a pack mule to carry the surplus, he became aware of
a strange presence near at hand and looked up into the muzzle of a
Sharp's rifle.  He grasped the situation in a flash and calmly blew
several heavy smoke rings around the frowning barrel.

"Well?"  He asked slowly.

"Nice day, stranger," replied the man with the rifle, "but don't yu
reckon yu've made a mistake?"

Hopalong glanced at the number burned on a near-by stake and
carelessly blew another smoke ring.  He was waiting for the gun to
waver.

"No, I reckons not," he answered. "Why?"

"Well, I'll jest tell yu since yu asks.  This yere claim's mine an'
I'm a reg'lar terror, I am.  That's why; an' seein' as it is, yu better
amble some."

Hopalong glanced down the street and saw an interested group
watching him, which only added to his rage for being in such a
position.  Then he started to say something, faltered and stared with
horror at a point several feet behind his opponent.  The "terror"
sprang to one side in response to Hop-along's expression, as if
fearing that a snake or some such danger threatened him.  As he
alighted in his new position he fell forward and Hopalong slid a
smoking Colt in its holster.

Several men left the distant group and ran toward the claim.
Hopalong reached his arm inside the door and brought forth his rifle,
with which he covered their advance.

"Anything yu want?" he shouted savagely.

The men stopped and two of them started to sidle in front of two
others, but Hopalong was not there for the purpose of permitting a
move that would screen any gun play and he stopped the game with a
warning shout.  Then the two held up their hands and advanced.

"We wants to git Dan," called out one of them, nodding at the
prostrate figure.

"Come ahead," replied Hopalong, substituting a Colt for the rifle.


They carried their badly wounded and insensible burden back to those
whom they had left, and several curses were hurled at the cowboy, who
only smiled grimly and entered the hut to place things ready for a
siege, should one come. He had one hundred rounds of ammunition and
provisions enough for two weeks, with the assurance of reinforcements
long before that time would expire.  He cut several rough loopholes and
laid out his weapons for quick handling.  He knew that he could stop
any advance during the day and planned only for night attacks.  How
long he could go without sleep did not bother him, because he gave it
no thought, as he was accustomed to short naps and could awaken at
will or at the slightest sound.

As dusk merged into dark he crept forth and collected several
handfuls of dry twigs, which he scattered around the hut, as the
cracking of these would warn him of an approach.  Then he went in and
went to sleep.

He awoke at daylight after a good night's rest, and feasted on
canned beans and peaches.  Then he tossed the cans out of the door and
shoved his hat out.  Receiving no response he walked out and surveyed
the town at his feet.  A sheepish grin spread over his face as he
realized that there was no danger.  Several red-shirted men passed by
him on their way to town, and one, a grizzled veteran of many gold
camps, stopped and sauntered up to him.

"Mornin'," said Hopalong.

"Mornin'," replied the stranger.  "I thought I'd drop in an' say that
I saw that gun-play of yourn yesterday.  Yu ain't got no reason to look
fer a rush.  This camp is half white men an' half bullies, an' th'
white men won't stand fer no play like that.  Them fellers that jest
passed are neighbors of yourn, an' they won't lay abed if yu needs
them.  But yu wants to look out fer th' joints in th' town.  Guess this
business is out of yore line," he finished as he sized Hopalong up.

"She shore is, but I'm here to stay.  Got tired of punchin' an'
reckoned I'd get rich."  Here he smiled and glanced at the hole.
"How're yu makin' out?"  He asked.

"`Bout five dollars a day apiece, but that ain't nothin' when grub's
so high.  Got reckless th' other day an' had a egg at fifty cents."

Hopalong whistled and glanced at the empty cans at his feet.  "Any
marshal in this burg?"

"Yep.  But he's one of th' gang.  No good, an' drunk half th' time an'
half drunk th' rest.  Better come down an' have something," invited the
miner.

"I'd shore like to, but I can't let no gang get in that door,"
replied the puncher.

"Oh, that's all right; I'll call my pardner down to keep house till
yu gits back.  He can hold her all right.  Hey, Jake!" he called to a
man who was some hundred paces distant; "Come down here an' keep house
till we gits back, will yu?"

The man lumbered down to them and took possession as Hopalong and
his newly found friend started for the town.

They entered the "Miner's Rest" and Hopalong fixed the room in his
mind with one swift glance.  Three men-and they looked like the crowd
he had stopped before-were playing poker at a table near the window.
Hopalong leaned with his back to the bar and talked, with the players
always in sight.

Soon the door opened and a bewhiskered, heavy-set man tramped in,
and walking up to Hopalong, looked him over.

"Huh," he sneered, "Yu are th' gent with th' festive guns that
plugged Dan, ain't yu?"

Hopalong looked at him in the eyes and quietly replied:

"An' who th' deuce are yu?"

The stranger's eyes blazed and his face wrinkled with rage as he
aggressively shoved his jaw close to Hopalong's face.

"Yu runt, I'm a better man than yu even if yu do wear hair pants,"
referring to Hopalong's chaps.  "Yu cow-wrastlers make me tired, an'
I'm goin' to show yu that this town is too good for you.  Yu can say it
right now that yu are a ornery, game-leg-"

Hopalong smashed his insulter squarely between the eyes with all the
power of his sinewy body behind the blow, knocking him in a heap under
the table.  Then he quickly glanced at the card players and saw a
hostile movement.  His gun was out in a flash and he covered the trio
as he walked up to them.  Never in all his life had he felt such a
desire to kill.  His eyes were diamond points of accumulated fury, and
those whom he faced quailed before him.

"Yu scum! Draw, please draw! Pull yore guns an' gimme my chance!
Three to one, an' I'll lay my guns here," he said, placing them on the
bar and removing his hands.  "'Nearer My God to Thee' is purty
appropriate fer yu just now! Yu seem to be a-scared of yore own guns.
Git down on yore dirty knees an' say good an' loud that yu eats dirt!
Shout out that yu are too currish to live with decent men," he said,
even-toned and distinct, his voice vibrant with passion as he took up
his Colts.  "Get down!" he repeated, shoving the weapons forward and
pulling back the hammers.

The trio glanced at each other, and all three dropped to their knees
and repeated in venomous hatred the words Hopalong said for them.

"Now git! An' if I sees yu when I leaves I'll send yu after yore
friend. I'll shoot on sight now.  Git!" He escorted them to the door
and kicked the last one out.

His miner friend still leaned against the bar and looked his
approval.

"Well done, youngster! But yu wants to look out-that man," pointing
to the now groping victim of Hopalong's blow, "is th' marshal of this
town.  He or his pals will get yu if yu don't watch th' corners."

Hopalong walked over to the marshal, jerked him to his feet and
slammed him against the bar.  Then he tore the cheap badge from its
place and threw it on the floor.  Reaching down, he drew the marshal's
revolver from its holster and shoved it in its owner's hand.

"Yore th' marshal of this place an' it's too good for me, but yore
gain' to pick up that tin lie," pointing at the badge, "an' yore goin'
to do it right now.  Then yore gain' to get kicked out of that door,
an' if yu stops runnin' while I can see yu I'll fill yu so full of
holes yu'll catch cold.  Yore a sumptious marshal, yu are! Yore th'
snortingest ki-yi that ever stuck its tail atween its laigs, yu are.
Yu pop-eyed wall flower, yu wants to peep to yoreself or some
papoose'll slide yu over th' Divide so fast yu won't have time to
grease yore pants.  Pick up that license-tag an' let me see you
perculate so lively that yore back'll look like a ten-cent piece in
five seconds. Flit!"

The marshal, dazed and bewildered, stooped and fumbled for the
badge.  Then he stood up and glanced at the gun in his hand and at the
eager man before him.  He slid the weapon in his belt and drew his hand
across his fast-closing eyes.  Cursing streaks of profanity, he
staggered to the door and landed in a heap in the street from the
force of Hopalong's kick.  Struggling to his feet, he ran unsteadily
down the block and disappeared around a corner.

The bartender, cool and unperturbed, pushed out three glasses on his
treat: "I've seen yu afore, up in Cheyenne-'member?  How's yore friend
Red?"  He asked as he filled the glasses with the best the house
afforded.

"Well, shore `nuff! Glad to see yu, Jimmy! What yu doin' away off
here?"  Asked Hopalong, beginning to feel at home.

"Oh, jest filterin' round like.  I'm awful glad to see yu-this yere
wart of a town needs siftin' out.  It was only last week I was wishin'
one of yore bunch `ud show up-that ornament yu jest buffaloed shore
raised th' devil in here, an' I wished I had somebody to prospect his
anatomy for a lead mine.  But he's got a tough gang circulating with
him. Ever hear of Dutch Shannon or Blinky Neary? They's with him."

"Dutch Shannon?  Nope," he replied.

"Bad eggs, an' not a-carin' how they gits square.  Th' feller yu'
salted yesterday was a bosom friend of th' marshal's, an' he passed in
his chips last night."

"So?"

"Yep.  Bought a bottle of ready-made nerve an' went to his own
funeral.  Aristotle Smith was lookin' fer him up in Cheyenne last year.
Aristotle said he'd give a century fer five minutes' palaver with him,
but he shied th' town an' didn't come back.  Yu know Aristotle, don't
yu? He's th' geezer that made fame up to Poison Knob three years ago.
He used to go to town ridin' astride a log on th' lumber flume.  Made
four miles in six minutes with th' promise of a ruction when he
stopped.  Once when he was loaded he tried to ride back th' same way he
came, an' th' first thing he knowed he was three miles farther from
his supper an' a-slippin' down that valley like he wanted to go some-
where.  He swum out at Potter's Dam an' it took him a day to walk back.
But he didn't make that play again, because he was
frequently sober, an' when he wasn't he'd only stand off an' swear at
th' slide."

"That's Aristotle, all hunk.  He's th' chap that used to play
checkers with Deacon Rawlins.  They used empty an' loaded shells for
men, an' when they got a king they'd lay one on its side.  Sometimes
they'd jar th' board an' they'd all be kings an' then they'd have a
cussin' match," replied Hopalong, once more restored to good humor.

"Why," responded Jimmy, "he counted his wealth over twice by mistake
an' shore raised a howl when he went to blow it- thought he's been
robbed, an' laid behind th' houses fer a week lookin' fer th' feller
that done it."

"I've heard of that cuss-he shore was th' limit.  What become of
him?"  Asked the miner.

"He ambled up to Laramie an' stuck his head in th' window of that
joint by th' plaza an' hollered `Fire,' an' they did.  He was shore a
good feller, all th' same," answered the bartender.
Hopalong laughed and started for the door.  Turning around he looked
at his miner friend and asked: "Comin' along? I'm goin' back now."

"Nope.  Reckon I'll hit th' tiger a whirl.  I'll stop in when I
passes."

"All right. So long," replied Hopalong, slipping out of the door and
watching for trouble.  There was no opposition shown him, and he
arrived at his claim to find Jake in a heated argument with another of
the gang.

"Here he comes now," he said as Hopalong walked up.  "Tell him what
yu said to me."

"I said yu made a mistake," said the other, turning to the cowboy in
a half apologetic manner.

"An' what else?"  Insisted Jake.

"Why, ain't that all?"  Asked the claim-jumper's friend in feigned
surprise, wishing that he had kept quiet.

"Well I reckons it is if yu can't back up yore words," responded
Jake in open contempt.

Hopalong grabbed the intruder by the collar of his shirt and hauled
him off the claim.  "Yu keep off this, understand?  I just kicked yore
marshal out in th' street, an' I'll pay yu th' next call. If yu
rambles in range of my guns yu'll shore get in th' way of a slug.  Yu
an' yore gang wants to browse on th' far side of th' range or yu'll
miss a sunrise some mornin'.  Scoot!"

Hopalong turned to his companion and smiled.  "What'd he say?"  He
asked genially.

"Oh, he jest shot off his mouth a little.  They's all no good.  I've
collided with lots of them all over this country.  They can't face a
good man an' keep their nerve.  What'd yu say to th' marshal?"

"I told him what he was an' threw him outen th' street," replied
Hopalong.  "In about two weeks we'll have a new marshal an' he'll shore
be a dandy."

"Yes?  Why don't yu take th' job yoreself?  We're with yu."

"Better man comin'.  Ever hear of Buck Peters or Red Connors of th'
Bar-20, Texas?"

"Buck Peters?  Seems to me I have.  Did he punch fer th' Tin-Cup up in
Montana, `bout twenty years back?"

"Shore! Him and Frenchy McAllister punched all over that country an'
they used to paint Cheyenne, too," replied Hopalong, eagerly.

"I knows him, then.  I used to know Frenchy, too.  Are they comin' up
here?"

"Yes," responded Hopalong, struggling with another can while waiting
for the fire to catch up.  "Better have some grub with me-don't like to
eat alone," invited the cowboy, the reaction of his late rage swinging
him to the other extreme.

When their tobacco had got well started at the close of the meal and
content had taken possession of them Hopalong laughed quietly and
finally spoke:

"Did yu ever know Aristotle Smith when yu was up in Montana?"

"Did I! Well, me an' Aristotle prospected all through that country
till he got so locoed I had to watch him fer fear he'd blow us both
up.  He greased th' fryin' pan with dynamite one night, an' we shore
had to eat jerked meat an' canned stuff all th' rest of that trip.
What made yu ask?  Is he comin' up too?"

"No, I reckons not.  Jimmy, th' bartender, said that he cashed in up
at Laramie.  Wasn't he th' cuss that built that boat out there on th'
Arizona desert because he was scared that a flood might come?  Th' sun
shore warped that punt till it wasn't even good for a hencoop."

"Nope. That was Sister-Annie Tompkins.  He was purty near as bad as
Aristotle, though.  He roped a puma up on th' Sacramentos, an' didn't
punch no more fer three weeks.  Well, here comes my pardner an' I
reckons I'll amble right along.  If yu needs any referee or a side
pardner in any ruction yu has only got to warble up my way. So long."

The next ten days passed quietly, and on the afternoon of the
eleventh Hopalong's miner friend paid him a visit.

"Jake recommends yore peaches," he laughed as he shook Hopalong's
hand.  "He says yu boosted another of that crowd.  That bein' so I
thought I would drop in an' say that they're comin' after yu to-night,
shore.  Just heard of it from yore friend Jimmy.  Yu can count on us
when th' rush comes.  But why didn't yu say yu was a pard of Buck
Peters'?  Me an' him used to shoot up Laramie together.  From what yore
friend James says, yu can handle this gang by yore lonesome, but if yu
needs any encouragement yu make some sign an' we'll help th' event
along some.  They's eight of us that'll be waitin' up to get th'
returns an' we're shore goin' to be in range."

"Gee, it's nice to run across a friend of Buck's! Ain't he a son-of-
a-gun?"  Asked Hopalong, delighted at the news.  Then, without waiting
for a reply, he went on: "Yore shore square, all right, an' I hates to
refuse yore offer, but I got eighteen friends comin' up an' they ought
to get here by tomorrow.  Yu tell Jimmy to head them this way when they
shows up an' I'll have th' claim for them.  There ain't no use of yu
fellers gettin' mixed up in this.  Th' bunch that's comin' can clean
out any gang this side of sunup, an' I expects they'll shore be
anxious to begin when they finds me eatin' peaches an' wastin' my time
shootin' bums.  Yu pass th' word along to yore friends, an' tell them
to lay low an' see th' Arory Boerallis hit this town with its tail up.
Tell Jimmy to do it up good when he speaks about me holdin' th' claim-
I likes to see Buck an' Red fight when they're good an' mad."

The miner laughed and slapped Hopalong on the shoulder.   "Yore all
right, youngster! Yore just like Buck was at yore age.  Say now, I
reckons he wasn't a reg'lar terror on wheels! Why, I've seen him do
more foolish things than any man I knows of, an' I calculate that if
Buck pals with yu there ain't no water in yore sand.  My name's Tom
Halloway," he suggested.

"An' mine's Hopalong Cassidy," was the reply.  "I've heard Buck speak
of yu."

"Has yu?  Well, don't it beat all how little this world is?  Somebody
allus turnin' up that knows somebody yu knows.  I'll just amble along,
Mr. Cassidy, an' don't yu be none bashful about callin' if yu needs
me.  Any pal of Buck's is my friend.  Well, so long," said the visitor
as he strode off.  Then he stopped and turned around.  "Hey, mister!" he
called.  "They are goin' to roll a fire barrel down agin yu from
behind," indicating by an outstretched arm the point from where it
would start.  "If it burns yu out I'm goin' to take a band from up
there," pointing to a cluster of rocks well to the rear of where the
crowd would work from, "an' I don't care whether yu likes it or not,"
he added to himself.

Hopalong scratched his head and then laughed.  Taking up a pick and
shovel, he went out behind the cabin and dug a trench parallel with
and about twenty paces away from the rear wall.  Heaping the excavated
dirt up on the near side of the cut, he stepped back and surveyed his
labor with open satisfaction.  "Roll yore fire barrel an' be dogged,"
he muttered.  "Mebby she won't make a bully light for pot shots,
though," he added, grinning at the execution he would do.

Taking up his tools, he went up to the place from where the gang
would roll the barrel, and made half a dozen mounds of twigs, being
careful to make them very flimsy.  Then he covered them with earth and
packed them gently.  The mounds looked very tempting from the view-
point of a marksman in search of earth-works, and appeared capable of
stopping any rifle ball that could be fired against them. Hopalong
looked them over critically and stepped back.

"I'd like to see th' look on th' face of th' son-of-a-gun that uses
them for cover-won't he be surprised" and he grinned gleefully as he
pictured his shots boring through them.  Then he placed in the center
of each a chip or a pebble or something that he thought would show up
well in the firelight.

Returning to the cabin, he banked it up well with dirt and gravel,
and tossed a few shovelfuls up on the roof as a safety valve to his
exuberance.  When he entered the door he had another idea, and fell to
work scooping out a shallow cellar, deep enough to shelter him when
lying at full length.  Then he stuck his head out of the window and
grinned at the false covers with their prominent bull's-eyes.

"When that prize-winnin' gang of ossified idiots runs up agin'
these fortifications they shore will be disgusted. I'll bet four dollars
 an' seven cents they'll think their medicine-man's no good.  I
hopes that puff-eyed marshal will pick out that hump with th' chip on
it," and he hugged himself in anticipation.

He then cut down a sapling and fastened it to the roof and on it he
tied his neckerchief, which fluttered valiantly and with defiance in
the light breeze.  "I shore hopes they appreciates that," he remarked
whimsically, as he went inside the hut and closed the door.

The early part of the evening passed in peace, and Hopalong, tired
of watching in vain, wished for action.  Midnight came, and it was not
until half an hour before dawn that he was attacked.  Then a noise sent
him to a loophole, where he fired two shots at skulking figures some
distance off.  A fusillade of bullets replied; one of them ripped
through the door at a weak spot and drilled a hole in a can of the
everlasting peaches.  Hopalong set the can in the frying pan and then
flitted from loophole to loophole, shooting quick and straight.
Several curses told him that he had not missed, and he scooped up a
finger of peach juice.  Shots thudded into the walls of his fort in an
unceasing stream, and, as it grew lighter, several whizzed through the
loopholes.  He kept close to the earth and waited for the rush, and
when it came sent it back, minus two of its members.

As he reloaded his Colts a bullet passed through his shirt sleeve
and he promptly nailed the marksman.  He looked out of a crack in the
rear wall and saw the top of an adjoining hill crowned with
spectators, all of whom were armed.  Some time later he repulsed
another attack and heard a faint cheer from his friends on the hill.
Then he saw a barrel, blazing from end to end, roll out from the place
he had so carefully covered with mounds.  It gathered speed and bounded
over the rough ground, flashed between two rocks and leaped into the
trench, where it crackled and roared in vain.

"Now," said Hopalong, blazing at the mounds as fast as he could fire
his rifle, "we'll just see what yu thinks of yore nice little covers."

Yells of consternation and pain rang out in a swelling chorus, and
legs and arms jerked and flopped, one man, in his astonishment at the
shot that tore open his cheek, sitting up in plain sight of the
marksman.  Roars of rage floated up from the main body of the
besiegers, and the discomfited remnant of barrel-rollers broke for
real cover.

Then he stopped another rush from the front, made upon the
supposition that he was thinking only of the second detachment.  A
hearty cheer arose from Tom Halloway and his friends, ensconced in
their rocky position, and it was taken up by those on the hill, who
danced and yelled their delight at the battle, to them more humorous
than otherwise.

This recognition of his prowess from men of the caliber of his
audience made him feel good, and he grinned: "Gee, I'll bet Halloway
an' his friends is shore itchin' to get in this," he murmured, firing
at a head that was shown for an instant.  "Wonder what Red'll say when
Jimmy tells him-bet he'll plow dust like a cyclone," and Hopalong
laughed, picturing to himself the satiation of Red's anger. "Old red-
headed son-of-a-gun," murmured the cowboy affectionately, "he shore
can fight."

As he squinted over the sights of his rifle his eye caught sight of
a moving body of men as they cantered over the flats about two miles
away.  In his eagerness he forgot to shoot and carefully counted them.
"Nine," he grumbled.  "Wonder what's th' matter?  "Fearing that they
were not his friends.  Then a second body numbering eight cantered into
sight and followed the first.

"Whoop! There's th' Red-head!" he shouted, dancing in his joy.
"Now," he shouted at the peach can joyously, "yu wait about thirty
minutes an' yu'll shore reckon Hades has busted loose!"

He grabbed up his Colts, which he kept loaded for repelling rushes,
and recklessly emptied them into the bushes and between the rocks and
trees, searching every likely place for a human target . Then he
slipped his rifle in a loophole and waited for good shots, having
worked off the dangerous pressure of his exuberance.

Soon he heard a yell from the direction of the "Miner's Rest," and
fell to jamming cartridges into his revolvers so that he could sally
out and join in the fray by the side of Red.

The thunder of madly pounding hoofs rolled up the trail, and soon a
horse and rider shot around the corner and headed for the copse.  Three
more raced close behind and then a bunch of six, followed by the rest,
spread out and searched for trouble.

Red, a Colt in each hand and hatless, stood up in his stirrups and
sent shot after shot into the fleeing mob, which he could not follow
on account of the nature of the ground. Buck wheeled and dashed down
the trail again with Red a close second, the others packed in a solid
mass and after them. At the first level stretch the newcomers swept
down and hit their enemies, going through them like a knife through
cheese. Hopalong danced up and down with rage when he could not find
his horse, and had to stand and yell, a spectator.

The fight drifted in among the buildings, where it became a series
of isolated duels, and soon Hopalong saw panic-stricken horses
carrying their riders out of the other side of the town.  Then he went
gunning for the man who had rustled his horse. He was unsuccessful and
returned to his peaches.

Soon the riders came up, and when they saw Hopalong shove a peach
into his powder-grimed mouth they yelled their delight.

"Yu old maverick! Eatin' peaches like yu was afraid we'd git some!"
shouted Red indignantly, leaping down and running up to his pal as
though to thrash him.

Hopalong grinned pleasantly and fired a peach against Red's eye. "I
was savin' that one for yu, Reddie," he remarked, as he avoided Buck's
playful kick.  "Yu fellers git to work an' dig up some wealth-I'm
hungry."  Then he turned to Buck: "Yore th' marshal of this town, an'
any son-of-a-gun what don't like it had better write.  Oh, yes, here
comes Tom Halloway-'member him?"

Buck turned and faced the miner and his hand went out with a jerk.

"Well, I'll be locoed if I didn't punch with yu on th' Tin-Cup!" he
said.

"Yu shore did an' yu was purty devilish, but that there Cassidy of
yourn beats anything I ever seen."

"He's a good kid," replied Buck, glancing to where Red and Hopalong
were quarreling as to who had eaten the most pie in a contest held
some years before.

Johnny, nosing around, came upon the perforated and partially
scattered piles of earth and twigs, and vented his disgust of them by
kicking them to pieces.  "Hey! Hoppy! Oh, Hoppy!" he called, "what are
these things?"

Hopalong jammed Red's hat over that person's eyes and replied: "Oh,
them's some loaded dice I fixed for them."

"Yu son-of-a-gun!" sputtered Red, as he wrestled with his friend in
the exuberance of his pride.  "Yu son-of-a-gun! Yu shore ought to be
ashamed to treat `em that way!"

"Shore," replied Hopalong. "But I ain't!"




CHAPTER XII

The Hospitality of Travennes


Mr. Buck Peters rode into Alkaline one bright September morning and
sought refreshment at the Emporium.  Mr. Peters had just finished some
business for his employer and felt the satisfaction that comes with
the knowledge of work well done.  He expected to remain in Alkaline for
several days, where he was to be joined by two of his friends and
punchers, Mr. Hopalong Cassidy and Mr. Red Connors, both of whom were
at Cactus Springs, seventy miles to the east. Mr. Cassidy and his
friend had just finished a nocturnal tour of Santa Fe and felt
somewhat peevish and dull in consequence, not to mention the sadness
occasioned by the expenditure of the greater part of their combined
capital on such foolishness as faro, roulette and wet-goods.

Mr. Peters and his friends had sought wealth in the Black Hills,
where they had enthusiastically disfigured the earth in the fond
expectation of uncovering vast stores of virgin gold.  Their hopes were
of an optimistic brand and had existed until the last canister of
cornmeal flour had been emptied by Mr. Cassidy's burro, which waited
not upon it's master's pleasure nor upon the ethics of the case.  When
Mr. Cassidy had returned from exercising the animal and himself over
two miles of rocky hillside in the vain endeavor to give it his
opinion of burros and sundry chastisements, he was requested, as owner
of the beast, to give his counsel as to the best way of securing
eighteen breakfasts.
Remembering that the animal was headed north when
he last saw it and that it was too old to eat, anyway, he suggested a
plan which had worked successfully at other times for other ends,
namely, poker.  Mr. McAllister, an expert at the great American game,
volunteered his service in accordance with the spirit of the occasion
and, half an hour later, he and Mr. Cassidy drifted  into Pell's poker
parlors, which were located in the rear of a Chinese laundry, where
they gathered unto themselves the wherewithal for the required
breakfasts.  An hour spent in the card room of the "Hurrah" convinced
its proprietor that they had wasted their talents for the past six
weeks in digging for gold.  The proof of this permitted the departure
of the outfits with their customary elan.

At Santa Fe the various individuals had gone their respective ways,
to reassemble at the ranch in the near future, and for several days
they had been drifting south in groups of twos and threes and, like
chaff upon a stream, had eddied into Alkaline, where Mr. Peters had
found them arduously engaged in postponing the final journey.  After he
had gladdened their hearts and soothed their throats by making several
pithy remarks to the bartender, with whom he established their credit,
he cautioned them against letting any one harm them and, smiling at
the humor of his warning, left abruptly.

Cactus Springs was burdened with a zealous and initiative
organization known as vigilantes, whose duty it was to extend the
courtesies of the land to cattle thieves and the like.  This organization
 boasted of the name of Travennes' Terrors and of a muster
roll of twenty.  There was also a boast that no one had ever escaped
them which, if true, was in many cases unfortunate.  Mr. Slim
Travennes, with whom Mr. Cassidy had participated in an extemporaneous
exchange of Colt's courtesies in Santa Fe the year before, was the
head of the organization and was also chairman of the committee on
arrivals, and the two gentlemen of the Bar-20 had not been in town an
hour before he knew of it.

Being anxious to show the strangers every attention and having a keen
 recollection of the brand of gun-play commanded by Mr. Cassidy, he
 planned a smoother method of procedure and one calculated to permit
him to enjoy the pleasures of a good old age.  Mr. Travennes knew that
 horse thieves were regarded as social enemies, that the necessary proof
 of their guilt was the finding of stolen animals in their possession, that
 death was the penalty and that every man, whether directly concerned
or not, regarded, himself as judge, jury and executioner.

He had several acquaintances who were bound to him by his knowledge
 of crimes they had committed and would could not refuse his slightest wish.
 Even if they had been free agents they were not above causing the death of an
 innocent man.  Mr. Travennes, feeling very self-satisfied at his cleverness,
arranged to have the proof placed where it would do the most harm
and intended to take care of the rest by himself.

Mr. Connors, feeling much refreshed and very hungry, arose at
daylight the next morning, and dressing quickly, started off to feed
and water the horses.  After having several tilts with the landlord
about the bucket he took his departure toward the corral at the rear.
Peering through the gate, he could hardly believe his eyes.  He climbed
over it and inspected the animals at close range, and found that those
which he and his friend had ridden for the last two months were not to
be seen, but in their places were two better animals, which concerned
him greatly.  Being fair and square himself, he could not understand
the change and sought enlightenment of his more imaginative and
suspicious friend.

"Hey, Hopalong!" he called, "come out here an' see what th' blazes
has happened!"

Mr. Cassidy stuck his auburn head out of the wounded shutter and
complacently surveyed his companion.  Then he saw the horses and looked
hard.

"Quit yore foolin', yu old cuss," he remarked pleasantly, as he
groped around behind him with his feet, searching for his boots.
"Anybody would think yu was a little boy with yore fool jokes.  Ain't
yu ever goin' to grow up?"

"They've got our bronch," replied Mr. Connors in an injured tone.
Honest, I ain't kiddin' yu," he added for the sake of peace.

"Who has?"  Came from the window, followed immediately by, "Yu've got
my boots!"

"I ain't-they're under th' bunk," contradicted and explained Mr.
Connors.  Then, turning to the matter in his mind he replied, "I don't
know who's got them. If I did do yu think I'd be holdin' hands with
myself?"

"Nobody'd accuse yu of anything like that," came from the window,
accompanied by an overdone snicker.

Mr. Connors flushed under his accumulated tan as he remembered the
varied pleasures of Santa Fe, and he regarded the bronchos in anything
but a pleasant state of mind.

Mr. Cassidy slid through the window and approached his friend,
looking as serious as he could.

"Any tracks?"  He inquired, as he glanced quickly over the ground to
see for himself.

"Not after that wind we had last night.  They might have growed there
for all I can see," growled Mr. Connors.

"I reckon we better hold a pow-wow with th' foreman of this shack
an' find out what he knows," suggested Mr. Cassidy.  "This looks too
good to be a swap."

Mr. Connors looked his disgust at the idea and then a light broke in
upon him.  "Mebby they was hard pushed an' wanted fresh cayuses," he
said.  "A whole lot of people get hard pushed in this country. Anyhow,
we'll prospect th' boss."

They found the proprietor in his stocking feet, getting the
breakfast, and Mr. Cassidy regarded the preparations with open
approval.  He counted the tin plates and found only three, and,
thinking that there would be more plates if there were others to feed,
glanced into the landlord's room.  Not finding signs of other guests,
on whom to lay the blame for the loss of his horse, he began to ask
questions.

"Much trade?"  He inquired solicitously.

"Yep," replied the landlord.

Mr. Cassidy looked at the three tins and wondered if there had ever
been any more with which to supply his trade.  "Been out this morning?"
he pursued.

"Nope."

"Talks purty nigh as much as Buck," thought Mr. Cassidy, and then
said aloud, "Anybody else here?"

"Nope."

Mr. Cassidy lapsed into a painful and disgusted silence and his
friend tried his hand.

"Who owns a mosaic bronch, Chinee flag on th' near side, Skillet
brand?" asked Mr. Connors.

"Quien sabe?"

"Gosh, he can nearly keep still in two lingoes," thought Mr.
Cassidy.

"Who owns a bob-tailed pinto, saddle-galled, cast in th' near eye,
Star Diamond brand, white stockin' on th' off front prop, with a habit
of scratchin' itself every other minute?" went on Mr. Connors.

"Slim Travennes," replied the proprietor, flopping a flapjack.  Mr.
Cassidy reflectively scratched the back of his hand and looked
innocent, but his mind was working overtime.

"Who's Slim Travennes?"  Asked Mr. Connors, never having heard of
that person, owing to the reticence of his friend.

"Captain of th' vigilantes."

"What does he look like on th' general run?"  Blandly inquired Mr.
Cassidy, wishing to verify his suspicions.  He thought of the trouble
he had with Mr. Travennes up in Santa Fe and of the reputation that
gentleman possessed.  Then the fact that Mr. Travennes was the leader
of the local vigilantes came to his assistance and he was sure that
the captain had a hand in the change.  All these points existed in
misty groups in his mind, but the next remark of the landlord caused
them to rush together and reveal the plot.

"Good," said the landlord, flopping another flapjack, "and a warnin'
to hoss thieves.

"Ahem," coughed Mr. Cassidy and then continued, "is he a tall,
lanky, yaller-headed son-of-a-gun, with a big nose an' lots of ears?"

"Mebby so," answered the host.

"Urn, slopping over into bad Sioux," thought Mr. Cassidy, and then
said aloud, "How long has he hung around this here layout?"  At the
same time passing a warning glance at his companion.

The landlord straightened up.  "Look here, stranger, if yu hankers
after his pedigree so all-fired hard yu had best pump him."

"I told yu this here feller wasn't a man what would give away all he
knowed," lied Mr. Connors, turning to his friend and indicating the
host.  "He ain't got time for that. Anybody can see that he is a
powerful busy man.  An' then he ain't no child."

Mr. Cassidy thought that the landlord could tell all he knew in
about five minutes and then not break any speed records for
conversation, but he looked properly awed and impressed.  "Well, yu
needn't go an' get mad about it! I didn't know, did I?"

"Who's gettin' mad?"  Pugnaciously asked Mr. Connors.  After his
injured feelings had been soothed by Mr. Cassidy's sullen silence he
again turned to the landlord.

"What did this Travennes look like when yu saw him last?"  Coaxed Mr.
Connors.

"Th' same as he does now, as yu can see by lookin' out of th'
window.  That's him down th' street," enlightened the host, thawing to
the pleasant Mr. Connors.

Mr. Cassidy adopted the suggestion and frowned.  Mr. Travennes and
two companions were walking toward the corral and Mr. Cassidy once
again slid out of the window, his friend going by the door.



CHAPTER XIII

Travennes' Discomfiture


When Mr. Travennes looked over the corral fence he was much
chagrined to see a man and a Colt both paying strict attention to
his nose.

"Mornin', Duke," said the man with the gun.  "Lose anything?"

Mr. Travennes looked back at his friends and saw Mr. Connors sitting
on a rock holding two guns.  Mr. Travennes' right and left wings were
the targets and they pitted their frowns against Mr. Connors' smile.

"Not that I knows of," replied Mr. Travennes, shifting his feet
uneasily.

"Find anything?"  Came from Mr. Cassidy as he sidled out of the gate.

"Nope," replied the captain of the Terrors, eying the Colt.  "Are yu
in the habit of payin' early mornin' calls to this here corral?"
persisted Mr. Cassidy, playing with the gun.

"Ya-as.  That's my business-I'm th' captain of the vigilantes."

"That's too bad," sympathized Mr. Cassidy, moving forward a step.

Mr. Travennes looked put out and backed off.  "What yu mean, stickin'
me up this-away?"  He asked indignantly.

"Yu needn't go an' get mad," responded Mr. Cassidy.  "Just business.
Yore cayuse an' another shore climbed this corral fence last night an'
ate up our bronchs, an' I just nachurly want to know about it."

Mr. Travennes looked his surprise and incredulity and craned his
neck to see for himself.  When he saw his horse peacefully scratching
itself he swore and looked angrily up the street.  Mr. Connors, behind
the shack, was hidden to the view of those on the street, and when two
men ran up at a signal from Mr. Travennes, intending to insert
themselves in the misunderstanding, they were promptly lined up with
the first two by the man on the rock.

"Sit down," invited Mr. Connors, pushing a chunk of air out of the
way with his guns.  The last two felt a desire to talk and to argue the
case on its merits, but refrained as the black holes in Mr. Connors'
guns hinted at eruption.  "Every time yu opens yore mouths yu gets
closer to th' Great Divide," enlightened that person, and they were
childlike in their belief.

Mr. Travennes acted as though he would like to scratch his thigh
where his Colt's chafed him, but postponed the event and listened to
Mr. Cassidy, who was asking questions.

"Where's our cayuses, General?"

Mr. Travennes replied that he didn't know.  He was worried, for he
feared that his captor didn't have a secure hold on the hammer of the
ubiquitous Colt's.

"Where's my cayuse?"  Persisted Mr. Cassidy.

"I don't know, but I wants to ask yu how yu got mine," replied Mr.
Travennes.

"Yu tell me how mine got out an' I'll tell yu how yourn got in,"
countered Mr. Cassidy.

Mr. Connors added another to his collection before the captain
replied.

"Out in this country people get in trouble when they're found with
other folks' cayuses," Mr. Travennes suggested.

Mr. Cassidy looked interested and replied: "Yu shore ought to borrow
some experience, an' there's lots floating around. More than one man
has smoked in a powder mill, an' th' number of them planted who looked
in th' muzzle of a empty gun is scandalous.  If my remarks don't
perculate right smart I'll explain."

Mr. Travennes looked down the street again, saw number five added to
the line-up, and coughed up chunks of broken profanity, grieving his
host by his lack of courtesy.

"Time," announced Mr. Cassidy, interrupting the round.  "I wants them
cayuses an' I wants `em right now.  Yu an' me will amble off an' get
`em.  I won't bore yu with tellin' yu what'll happen if yu gets
skittish.  Slope along an' don't be scared; I'm with yu," assured Mr.
Cassidy as he looked over at Mr. Connors, whose ascetic soul pined for
the flapjacks of which his olfactories caught intermittent whiffs.

"Well, Red, I reckons yu has got plenty of room out here for all yu
may corral; anyhow there ain't a whole lot more.  My friend Slim an' I
are shore going to have a devil of a time if we can t find them cussed
bronchs. Whew, them flapjacks smell like a plain trail to payday.  Just
think of th' nice maple juice we used to get up to Cheyenne on them
frosty mornings."

"Get out of here an' lemme alone! `What do yu allus want to go an'
make a feller unhappy for?  Can't yu keep still about grub when yu
knows I ain't had my morning's feed yet?"  Asked Mr. Connors, much
aggrieved.

"Well, I'll be back directly an' I'll have them cayuses or a scalp.
Yu tend to business an' watch th' herd.  That shorthorn yearling at th'
end of th' line"-pointing to a young man who looked capable of taking
risks-"he looks like he might take a chance an' gamble with yu,"
remarked Mr. Cassidy, placing Mr. Travennes in front of him and
pushing back his own sombrero.  "Don't put too much maple juice on them
flapjacks, Red," he warned as he poked his captive in the back of the
neck as a hint to get along.  Fortunately Mr. Connors' closing remarks
are lost to history.

Observing that Mr. Travennes headed south on the quest, Mr. Cassidy
reasoned that the missing bronchos ought to be somewhere in the north,
and he postponed the southern trip until such time when they would
have more leisure at their disposal.  Mr. Travennes showed a strong
inclination to shy at this arrangement, but quieted down under
persuasion, and they started off toward where Mr. Cassidy firmly
believed the North Pole and the cayuses to be.

"Yu has got quite a metropolis here," pleasantly remarked Mr.
Cassidy as under his direction they made for a distant corral.  "I can
see four different types of architecture, two of `em on one
residence," he continued as they passed a wood and adobe hut.  "No
doubt the railroad will put a branch down here some day an' then yu
can hire their old cars for yore public buildings.  Then when yu gets a
post-office yu will shore make Chicago hustle some to keep her end up.
Let's assay that hollow for horse-hide; it looks promisin'.

The hollow was investigated but showed nothing other than cactus and
baked alkali.  The corral came next, and there too was emptiness.  For
an hour the search was unavailing, but at the end of that time Mr.
Cassidy began to notice signs of nervousness on the part of his guest,
which grew less as they proceeded. Then Mr. Cassidy retraced their
steps to the place where the nervousness first developed and tried
another way and once more returned to the starting point.

"Yu seems to hanker for this fool exercise," quoth Mr. Trayennes
with much sarcasm.  "If yu reckons I'm fond of this locoed ramblin' yu
shore needs enlightenment."

"Sometimes I do get these fits," confessed Mr. Cassidy, "an' when I
do I'm dead sore on objections.  Let's peek in that there hut," he
suggested.

"Huh; yore ideas of cayuses are mighty peculiar.  Why don't you look
for `em up on those cactuses or behind that mesquite?  I wouldn't be a
heap surprised if they was roostin' on th' roof.  They are mighty
knowing animals, cayuses. I once saw one that could figger like a
schoolmarm," remarked Mr. Travennes, beginning sarcastically and
toning it down as he proceeded, out of respect for his companion's
gun.

"Well, they might be in th' shack," replied Mr. Cassidy.  "Cayuses
know so much that it takes a month to unlearn them.  I wouldn't like to
bet they ain't in that hut, though."

Mr. Travennes snickered in a manner decidedly uncomplimentary and
began to whistle, softly at first.  The gentleman from the Bar-20
noticed that his companion was a musician; that when he came to a
strong part he increased the tones until they bid to be heard at
several hundred yards.  When Mr. Travennes had reached a most
passionate part in "Juanita" and was expanding his lungs to do it
justice he was rudely stopped by the insistent pressure of his guard's
Colt's on the most ticklish part of his ear.

"I shore wish yu wouldn't strain yoreself thataway," said Mr.
Cassidy, thinking that Mr. Travennes might be endeavoring to call
assistance.  "I went an' promised my mother on her deathbed that I
wouldn't let nobody whistle out loud like that, an' th' opery is
hereby stopped.  Besides, somebody might hear them mournful tones an'
think that something is th' matter, which it ain't."

Mr. Travennes substituted heartfelt cursing, all of which was
heavily accented.

As they approached the hut Mr. Cassidy again tickled his prisoner
and insisted that he be very quiet, as his cayuse was very sensitive
to noise and it might be there.  Mr. Cassidy still thought Mr.
Travennes might have friends in the hut and wouldn't for the world
disturb them, as he would present a splendid target as he approached
the building.









CHAPTER XIV

The Tale of a Cigarette


The open door revealed three men asleep on the earthen floor, two of
whom were Mexicans.  Mr. Cassidy then for the first time felt called
upon to relieve his companion of the Colt's which so sorely itched
that gentleman's thigh and then disarmed the sleeping guards.

"One man an' a half," murmured Mr. Cassidy, it being in his creed
that it took four Mexicans to make one Texan.

In the far corner of the room were two bronchos, one of which tried
in vain to kick Mr. Cassidy, not realizing that he was ten feet away.
The noise awakened the sleepers, who sat up and then sprang to their
feet, their hands instinctively streaking to their thighs for the
weapons which peeked contentedly from the bosom of Mr. Cassidy's open
shirt.  One of the Mexicans made a lightning-like grab for the back of
his neck for the knife which lay along his spine and was shot in the
front of his neck for his trouble.  The shot spoiled his aim, as the
knife flashed past Mr. Cassidy's arm, wide by two feet, and thudded
into the door frame, where it hummed angrily.

"The only man who could do that right was th' man who invented it,
Mr. Bowie, of Texas," explained Mr. Cassidy to the other Mexican.  Then
he glanced at the broncho, that was squealing in rage and fear at the
shot, which sounded like a cannon in the small room, and laughed.

"That's my cayuse, all right, an' he wasn't up no cactus nor
roostin' on th' roof, neither.  He's th' most affectionate beast I ever
saw.  It took me nigh onto six months afore I could ride him without
fighting him to a standstill," said Mr. Cassidy to his guest.  Then he
turned to the horse and looked it over.  "Come here! What d'yu mean,
acting thataway?  Yu ragged end of nothin' wobbling in space! Yu wall-
eyed, ornery, locoed guide to Hades! Yu won't be so frisky when yu've
made them seventy hot miles between here an' Alkaline in five hours,"
he promised, as he made his way toward the animal.

Mr. Travennes walked over to the opposite wall and took down a pouch
of tobacco which hung from a peg.  He did this in a manner suggesting
ownership, and after he had deftly rolled a cigarette with one hand he
put the pouch in his pocket and, lighting up, inhaled deeply and with
much satisfaction. Mr. Cassidy turned around and glanced the group
over, wondering if the tobacco had been left in the hut on a former
call.

"Did yu find yore makings?"  He asked, with a note of congratulations
in his voice.

"Yep. Want one?"  Asked Mr. Travennes.

Mr. Cassidy ignored the offer and turned to the guard whom he had
found asleep.

"Is that his tobacco?"  He asked, and the guard, anxious to make
everything run smoothly, told the truth and answered:

"Shore.  He left it here last night," whereupon Mr. Travennes swore
and Mr. Cassidy smiled grimly.

"Then yu knows how yore cayuse got in an' how mine got out," said
the latter.  "I wish yu would explain," he added, fondling his Colts.

Mr. Travennes frowned and remained silent.

"I can tell yu, anyhow," continued Mr. Cassidy, still smiling, but
his eyes and jaw belied the smile.  "Yu took them cayuses out because
yu wanted yourn to be found in their places.  Yu remembered Santa Fe
an' it rankled in yu.  Not being man enough to notify me that yu'd
shoot on sight an' being afraid my friends would get yu if yu plugged
me on th' sly, yu tried to make out that me an' Red rustled yore
cayuses.  That meant a lynching with me an' Red in th' places of honor.
Yu never saw Red afore, but yu didn't care if he went with me.  Yu
don't deserve fair play, but I'm going to give it to yu because I
don't want anybody to say that any of th' Bar-20 ever murdered a man,
not even a skunk like yu.

My friends have treated me too square for that.  Yu can take this gun
an yu can do one of three things with it, which are: walk out in th' open
a hundred paces an' then turn an walk toward me-after you face me yu
 can set it a-going whenever yu want to; the second is, put it under yore
hat an' I'll put mine an' th' others back by the cayuses.  Then we'll toss up
 an' th' lucky man gets it to use as he wants.  Th' third is, shoot yourself."

Mr. Cassidy punctuated the close of his ultimatum by handing the
weapon, muzzle first, and, because the other might be an adept at
"twirling," he kept its recipient covered during the operation.  Then,
placing his second Colt's with the captured weapons, he threw them
through the door, being very careful not to lose the drop on his now
armed prisoner.

Mr. Travennes looked around and wiped the sweat from his forehead,
and being an observant gentleman, took the proffered weapon and walked
to the east, directly toward the sun, which at this time was halfway
to the meridian.  The glare of its straight rays and those reflected
from the shining sand would, in a measure, bother Mr. Cassidy and
interfere with the accuracy of his aim, and he was always thankful for
small favors.

Mr. Travennes was the possessor of accurate knowledge regarding the
lay of the land, and the thought came to him that there was a small
but deep hole out toward the east and that it was about the required
distance away.  This had been dug by a man who had labored all day in
the burning sun to make an oven so that he could cook mesquite root in
the manner he had seen the Apaches cook it.  Mr. Travennes blessed
hobbies, specific and general, stumbled thoughtlessly and disappeared
from sight as the surprised Mr. Cassidy started forward to offer his
assistance.

Upon emphatic notification from the man in the hole that
his help was not needed, Mr. Cassidy wheeled around and in great haste
covered the distance separating him from the hut, whereupon Mr.
Travennes swore in self-congratulation and regret.  Mr. Cassidy's shots
barked a cactus which leaned near Mr. Travennes' head and flecked
several clouds of alkali near that person's nose, causing him to
sneeze, duck, and grin.

"It's his own gun," grumbled Mr. Cassidy as a bullet passed through
his sombrero, having in mind the fact that his opponent had a whole
belt full of .44'S.  If it had been Mr. Cassidy's gun that had been
handed over he would have enjoyed the joke on Mr. Travennes, who would
have had five cartridges between himself and the promised eternity, as
be would have been unable to use the .44'S in Mr. Cassidy's .45, while
the latter would have gladly consented to the change, having as he did
an extra .45. Never before had Mr. Cassidy looked with reproach upon
his .45 caliber Colt's, and he sighed as he used it to notify Mr.
Travennes that arbitration was not to be considered, which that person
indorsed, said indorsement passing so close to Mr. Cassidy's ear that
he felt the breeze made by it.

"He's been practicin' since I plugged him up in Santa Fe," thought
Mr. Cassidy, as he retired around the hut to formulate a plan of
campaign.

Mr. Travennes sang "Hi-le, hi-lo," and other selections, principally
others, and wondered how Mr. Cassidy could hoist him out.  The slack of
his belt informed him that he was in the middle of a fast, and
suggested starvation as the derrick that his honorable and disgusted
adversary might employ.

Mr. Cassidy, while figuring out his method of procedure, absent-
mindedly jabbed a finger in his eye, and the ensuing tears floated an
idea to him.  He had always had great respect for ricochet shots since
his friend Skinny Thompson had proved their worth on the hides of
Sioux.  If he could disturb the sand and convey several grains of it to
Mr. Travennes' eyes the game would be much simplified.  While planning
for the proposed excavation, a la Colt's, he noticed several stones
lying near at hand, and a new and better scheme presented itself for
his consideration.  If Mr. Travennes could be persuaded to get out of-
well, it was worth trying.

Mr. Cassidy lined up his gloomy collection and tersely ordered them
to turn their backs to him and to stay in that position, the
suggestion being that if they looked around they wouldn't be able to
dodge quickly enough.  He then slipped bits of his lariat over their
wrists and ankles, tying wrists to ankles and each man to his
neighbor.  That finished to his satisfaction, he dragged them in the
hut to save them from the burning rays of the sun.

Having performed this act of kindness, he crept along the hot sand,
taking advantage of every bit of cover afforded, and at last he
reached a point within a hundred feet of the besieged.  During the trip
Mr. Travennes sang to his heart's content, some of the words being
improvised for the occasion and were not calculated to increase Mr.
Cassidy's respect for his own wisdom if he should hear them.  Mr.
Cassidy heard, however, and several fragments so forcibly intruded on
his peace of mind that he determined to put on the last verse himself
and to suit himself.

Suddenly Mr. Travennes poked his head up and glanced at the hut.  He
was down again so quickly that there was no chance for a shot at him
and he believed that his enemy was still sojourning in the rear of the
building, which caused him to fear that he was expected to live on
nothing as long as he could and then give himself up.  Just to show his
defiance he stretched himself out on his back and sang with all his
might, his sombrero over his face to keep the glare of the sun out of
his eyes.

He was interrupted, however, forgot to finish a verse as he
had intended, and jumped to one side as a stone bounced off his leg.
Looking up, he saw another missile curve into his patch of sky and
swiftly bear down on him.  He avoided it by a hair's breadth and
wondered what had happened.  Then what Mr. Travennes thought was a
balloon, being unsophisticated in matters pertaining to aerial
navigation, swooped down upon him and smote him on the shoulder and
also bounced off.

Mr. Travennes hastily laid music aside and took up
elocution as he dodged another stone and wished that the mesquite-
loving crank had put on a roof.  In evading the projectile he let his
sombrero appear on a level with the desert, and the hum of a bullet as
it passed through his head-gear and into the opposite wall made him
wish that there had been constructed a cellar, also.

"Hi-le, hi-lo" intruded upon his ear, as Mr. Cassidy got rid of the
surplus of his heart's joy. Another stone the size of a man's foot
shaved Mr. Travennes' ear and he hugged the side of the hole nearest
his enemy.

"Hibernate, blank yu!" derisively shouted the human catapult as he
released a chunk of sandstone the size of a quail.  "Draw in yore laigs
an' buck," was his God-speed to the missile.

"Hey, yu!" indignantly yowled Mr. Travennes from his defective storm
cellar.  "Don't yu know any better'n to heave things thataway?"

"Hi-le, hi-lo," sang Mr. Cassidy, as another stone soared aloft in
the direction of the complainant.  Then he stood erect and awaited
results with a Colt's in his hand leveled at the rim of the hole.  A
hat waved and an excited voice bit off chunks of expostulation and
asked for an armistice.  Then two hands shot up and Mr. Travennes, sore
and disgusted and desperate, popped his head up an blinked at Mr.
Cassidy's gun.

"Yu was fillin' th' hole up," remarked Mr. Travennes in an accusing
tone, hiding the real reason for his evacuation.  "In a little while
I'd a been th' top of a pile instead of th' bottom of a hole," he
announced, crawling out and rubbing his head.

Mr. Cassidy grinned and ordered his prisoner to one side while be
secured the weapon which lay in the hole.  Having obtained it as
quickly as possible be slid it in his open shirt and clambered out
again.

"Yu remind me of a feller I used to know," remarked Mr. Travennes,
as he led the way to the hut, trying not to limp.  "Only he throwed
dynamite.  That was th' way he cleared off chaparral-blowed it off.  He
got so used to heaving away everything he lit that he spoiled three
pipes in two days."

Mr. Cassidy laughed at the fiction and then became grave as he
pictured Mr. Connors sitting on the rock and facing down a line of
men, any one of whom was capable of his destruction if given the
interval of a second.

When they arrived at the hut Mr. Cassidy observed that the prisoners
had moved considerably.  There was a cleanly swept

trail four yards long where they had dragged themselves, and they
sat in the end nearer the guns.  Mr. Cassidy smiled and fired close to
the Mexican's ear, who lost in one frightened jump a little of what he
had so laboriously gained.

"Yu'll wear out yore pants," said Mr. Cassidy, and then added
grimly, "an' my patience."

Mr. Travennes smiled and thought of the man who so ably seconded Mr.
Cassidy's efforts and who was probably shot by this time.  The outfit
of the Bar-20 was so well known throughout the land that he was aware
the name of the other was Red Connors.  An unreasoning streak of
sarcasm swept over him and he could not resist the opportunity to get
in a stab at his captor.

"Mebby yore pard has wore out somebody's patience, too," said Mr.
Travennes, suggestively and with venom.

His captor wheeled toward him, his face white with passion, and Mr.
Travennes shrank back and regretted the words.

"I ain't shootin' dogs this here trip," said Mr. Cassidy, trembling
with scorn and anger, "so yu can pull yourself together.  I'll give yu
another chance, but yu wants to hope almighty hard that Red is O. K.
If he ain't, I'll blow yu so many ways at once that if yu sprouts
yu'll make a good acre of weeds.  If he is all right yu'd better
vamoose this range, for there won't be no hole for yu to crawl into
next time.  What friends yu have left will have to tote yu off an'
plant yu," he finished with emphasis.  He drove the horses outside,
and, after severing the bonds on his prisoners, lined them up.

"Yu," he began, indicating all but Mr. Travennes, "yu amble right
smart toward Canada," pointing to the north.  "Keep a-going till yu
gets far enough away so a Colt won't find yu." Here he grinned with
delight as he saw his Sharp's rifle in its sheath on his saddle and,
drawing it forth, he put away his Colts and glanced at the trio, who
were already industriously plodding northward. "Hey!" he shouted, and
when they sullenly turned to see what new idea he had found he
gleefully waved his rifle at them and warned them further: "This is a
Sharp's an' it's good for half a mile, so don't stop none too soon.

Having sent them directly away from their friends so they could not
have him "potted" on the way back, he mounted his broncho and
indicated to Mr. Travennes that he, too, was to ride, watching that
that person did not make use of the Winchester which Mr. Connors was
foolish enough to carry around on his saddle.  Winchesters were Mr.
Cassidy's pet aversion and Mr. Connors' most prized possession, this
difference of opinion having upon many occasions caused hasty words
between them. Mr. Connors, being better with his Winchester than Mr.
Cassidy was with his Sharp's, had frequently proved that his choice
was the wiser, but Mr. Cassidy was loyal to the Sharp's and refused to
be convinced. Now, however, the Winchester became pregnant with
possibilities and, therefore, Mr. Travennes rode a few yards to the
left and in advance, where the rifle was in plain sight, hanging as it
did on the right of Mr. Connors' saddle, which Mr. Travennes graced so
well.

The journey back to town was made in good time and when they came to
the buildings Mr. Cassidy dismounted and bade his companion do
likewise, there being too many corners that a fleeing rider could take
advantage of. Mr. Travennes felt of his bumps and did so, wishing hard
things about Mr. Cassidy.



CHAPTER XV

The Penalty


While Mr. Travennes had been entertained in the manner narrated, Mr.
Connors had passed the time by relating stale jokes to the uproarious
laughter of his extremely bored audience, who had heard the aged
efforts many times since they had first seen the light of day, and
most of whom earnestly longed for a drink.  The landlord, hearing the
hilarity, had taken advantage of the opportunity offered to see a free
show. Not being able to see what the occasion was for the mirth, he
had pulled on his boots and made his way to the show with a flapjack
in the skillets which, in his haste, he had forgotten to put down.  He
felt sure that he would be entertained, and he was not disappointed.
He rounded the corner and was enthusiastically welcomed by the hungry
Mr. Connors, whose ubiquitous guns coaxed from the skillet its
dyspeptic wad.

"Th' saints be praised!" ejaculated Mr. Connors as a matter of form,
not having a very clear idea of just what saints were, but he knew
what flapjacks were and greedily overcame the heroic resistance of the
one provided by chance and his own guns.  As he rolled his eyes in
ecstatic content the very man Mr. Cassidy had warned him against
suddenly arose and in great haste disappeared around the corner of the
corral, from which point of vantage he vented his displeasure at the
treatment he had received by wasting six shots at the mortified Mr.
Connors.

"Steady!" sang out that gentleman as the line-up wavered.  "He's a
precedent to hell for yu fellers! Don't yu get ambitious, none
whatever."  Then he wondered how long it would take the fugitive to
secure a rifle and return to release the others by drilling him at
long range.

His thoughts were interrupted by the vision of a red head that
climbed into view over a rise a short distance off  and he grinned his
delight as Mr. Cassidy loomed up, jaunty and triumphant. Mr. Cassidy
was executing calisthenics with a Colt in the rear of Mr. Travennes'
neck and was leading the horses.

Mr. Connors waved the skillet and his friend grinned his
congratulations at what the token signified.

"I see yu got some more," said Mr. Cassidy, as he went down the
line-up from the rear and collected nineteen weapons of various makes
and conditions, this number being explained by the fact that all but
one of the prisoners wore two.  Then he added the five that had kicked
against his ribs ever since he had left the hut, and carefully
threaded the end of his lariat through the trigger guards.

"Looks like we stuck up a government supply mule, Red," he remarked,
as he fastened the whole collection to his saddle.  "Fourteen colts,
six Merwin-Hulbert's, three Prescott, an' one puzzle," he added,
examining the puzzle.  "Made in Germany, it says, and it shore looks
like it.  It's got little pins stickin' out of th' cylinder, like you
had to swat it with a hammer or a rock, or somethin' to make it go
off.  Must be damn dangerous, to most anybody around.  Looks more like a
cactus than a six-shooter-gosh, it's a ten-shooter! I allus said them
Dutchmen was bloody-minded cusses.  Think of bein' able to shoot
yoreself ten times before th' blame thing stops!"  Then looking at the
line-up for the owner of the weapon, he laughed at the woeful
countenances displayed.  "Did they sidle in by companies or squads?"  He
asked.

"By twos, mostly.  Then they parade-rested an' got discharged from
duty.  I had eleven, but one got homesick, or disgusted, or something,
an' deserted.  It was that cussed flapjack," confessed and explained
Mr. Connors.

"What!" said Mr. Cassidy in a loud voice.  "Got away! Well, we'll
have to make our get-away plumb sudden or we'll never go.

At this instant the escaped man again began his bombardment from the
corner of the corral and Mr. Cassidy paused, indignant at the
fusillade which tore up the dust at his feet.  He looked reproachfully
at Mr. Connors and then circled out on the plain until he caught a
glimpse of a fleeing cow-puncher, whose back rapidly grew smaller in
the fast-increasing distance.

"That's yore friend, Red," said Mr. Cassidy as he returned from his
reconnaissance.  "He's that short-horn yearling.  Mebby he'll come back
again," he added hopefully.  "Anyhow, we've got to move.  He'll collect
reinforcements an' mebby they all won't shoot like him.  Get up on yore
Clarinda an' hold th' fort for me," he ordered, pushing the farther
horse over to his friend. Mr. Connors proved that an agile man can
mount a restless horse and not lose the drop, and backed off three
hundred yards, deftly substituting his Winchester for the Colts.  Then
Mr. Cassidy likewise mounted with his attention riveted elsewhere and
backed off to the side of his companion.

The bombardment commenced again from the corral, but this time Mr.
Connors' rifle slid around in his lap and exploded twice.  The
bellicose gentleman of the corral yelled in pain and surprise and
vanished.

"Purty good for a Winchester," said Mr. Cassidy in doubtful
congratulation.

"That's why I got him," snapped Mr. Connors in brief reply, and then
he laughed.  "Is them th' vigilantes what never let a man get away?"  He
scornfully asked, backing down the street and patting his Winchester.

"Well, Red, they wasn't all there.  They was only twelve all told,"
excused Mr. Cassidy.  "An' then we was two," he explained, as he wished
the collection of six-shooters was on Mr. Connors' horse so they
wouldn't bark his shin.

"An we still are," corrected Mr. Connors, as they wheeled and
galloped for Alkaline.

As the sun sank low on the horizon Mr. Peters finished ordering
provisions at the general store, the only one Alkaline boasted, and
sauntered to the saloon where he had left his men.  He found diem a few
dollars richer, as they had borrowed ten dollars from the bartender on
their reputations as poker players and had used the money to stake Mr.
McAllister in a game against the local poker champion.

"Has Hopalong an' Red showed up yet?"  Asked Mr. Peters, frowning at
the delay already caused.

"Nope," replied Johnny Nelson, as he paused from tormenting Billy
Williams.

At that minute the doorway was darkened and Mr. Cassidy and Mr.
Connors entered and called for refreshments.  Mr. Cassidy dropped a
huge bundle of six-shooters on the floor, making caustic remarks
regarding their utility.

"What's th' matter?"  Inquired Mr. Peters of Mr. Cassidy.  "Yu looks
mad an' anxious. An' where in blazes did yu corral them guns?"

Mr. Cassidy drank deep and then reported with much heat what had
occurred at Cactus Springs and added that he wanted to go back and
wipe out the town, said desire being luridly endorsed by Mr. Connors.

"Why, shore," said Mr. Peters, "we'll all go.  Such doings must be
stopped instanter."  Then he turned to the assembled outfits and asked
for a vote, which was unanimous for war.

Shortly afterward eighteen angry cowpunchers rode to the east, two
red-haired gentlemen well in front and urging speed.  It was 8 P.M.
when they left Alkaline, and the cool of the night was so delightful
that the feeling of ease which came upon them made them lax and they
lost three hours in straying from the dim trail.  At eight o'clock the
next morning they came in sight of their destination and separated
into two squads, Mr. Cassidy leading the northern division and Mr.
Connors the one which circled to the south.  The intention was to
attack from two directions, thus taking the town from front and rear.

Cactus Springs lay gasping in the excessive heat and the vigilantes
who had toed Mr. Connors' line the day before were lounging in the
shade of the "Palace" saloon, telling what they would do if they ever
faced the same man again.  Half a dozen sympathizers offered gratuitous
condolence and advice and all were positive that they knew where Mr.
Cassidy and Mr. Connors would go when they died.

The rolling thunder of madly pounding hoofs disturbed their
post-mortem and they arose in a body to flee from half their number,
who, guns in hands, charged down upon them through clouds of sickly
white smoke.  Travennes' Terrors were minus many weapons and they
could not be expected to give a glorious account of themselves.  Windows
rattled and fell in and doors and walls gave off peculiar sounds as
they grew full of holes.  Above the riot rattled the incessant crack of
Colt's and Winchester, emphasized at close intervals by the assertive
roar of buffalo guns.  Off to the south came another rumble of hoofs
and Mr. Connors, leading the second squad, - arrived to participate
in the payment of the debt.

Smoke spurted from windows and other points of vantage and hung
wavering in the heated air.  The shattering of woodwork told of heavy
slugs finding their rest, and the whines that grew and diminished in
the air sang the course of .45s.

While the fight raged hottest Mr. Nelson sprang from his horse and
ran to the "Palace," where he collected and piled a heap of tinder like
wood, and soon the building burst out in flames, which, spreading,
swept the town from end to end.

Mr. Cassidy fired slowly and seemed to be waiting for something.  Mr.
Connors laid aside his hot Winchester and devoted his attention to his
Colts.  A spurt of flame and smoke leaped from the window of a `dobe
hut and Mr. Connors sat down, firing as he went.  A howl from the
window informed him that he had made a hit, and Mr. Cassidy ran out
and dragged him to the shelter of a near-by bowlder and asked how much
he was hurt.

"Not much-in the calf," grunted Mr. Connors.  "He was a bad shot-must
have been the cuss that got away yesterday," speculated the injured
man as he slowly arose to his feet.  Mr. Cassidy dissented from force
of habit and returned to his station.
Mr. Travennes, who was sleeping late that morning, coughed and
fought for air in his sleep, awakened in smoke, rubbed his eyes to
make sure and, scorning trousers and shirt, ran clad in his red woolen
undergarments to the corral, where he mounted his scared horse and
rode for the desert and safety.

Mr. Cassidy, swearing at the marksmanship of a man who fired at his
head and perforated his sombrero, saw a crimson rider sweep down upon
him, said rider being heralded by a blazing .44.

"Gosh!" ejaculated Mr. Cassidy, scarcely believing his eyes.  "Oh,
it's my friend Slim going to hades," he remarked to himself in audible
and relieved explanation.  Mr. Cassidy's Colts cracked a protest and
then he joined Mr. Peters and the others and with them fought his way
out of the flame-swept town of Cactus Springs.

An hour later Mr. Connors glanced behind him at the smoke
silhouetted on the horizon and pushed his way to where Mr. Cassidy
rode in silence.  Mr. Connors grinned at his friend of the red hair,
who responded in the same manner.

"Did yu see Slim?"  Casually inquired Mr. Connors, looking off to the
south.

Mr. Cassidy sat upright in his saddle and felt of his Colts.  "Yes,"
he replied, "I saw him."

Mr. Connors thereupon galloped on in silence.



CHAPTER XVI

Rustlers on the Range


The affair at Cactus Springs had more effect on the life at the Bar-
20 than was realized by the foreman.  News travels rapidly, and certain
men, whose attributes were not of the sweetest, heard of it and swore
vengeance, for Slim Travennes had many friends, and the result of his
passing began to show itself.  Outlaws have as their strongest defense
the fear which they inspire, and little time was lost in making
reprisals, and these caused Buck Peters to ride into Buckskin one
bright October morning and then out the other side of the town.  Coming
to himself with a start he looked around shamefacedly and retraced his
course.  He was very much troubled, for, as foreman of the Bar-2o, he
had many responsibilities, and when things ceased to go aright he was
expected not only to find the cause of the evil, but also the remedy.
That was what he was paid seventy dollars a month for and that was
what he had been endeavoring to do.  As yet, however, he had only
accomplished what the meanest cook's assistant had done.  He knew the
cause of his present woes to be rustlers (cattle thieves), and that
was all.

Riding down the wide, quiet street, he stopped and dismounted before
the ever-open door of a ramshackle, one-story frame building.  Tossing
the reins over the flattened ears of his vicious pinto he strode into
the building and leaned easily against the bar, where he drummed with
his fingers and sank into a reverie.

A shining bald pate, bowed over an open box, turned around and
revealed a florid face, set with two small, twinkling blue eyes, as
the proprietor, wiping his hands on his trousers, made his way to
Buck's end of the bar.

"Mornin', Buck. How's things?`

The foreman, lost in his reverie, continued to stare out the door.

"Mornin'," repeated the man behind the bar. "How's things?"

"Oh!" ejaculated the foreman, smiling, "purty cussed."

"Anything flew?"

"Th' C-80 lost another herd last night."

His companion swore and placed a bottle at the foreman's elbow, but
the latter shook his head.  "Not this mornin'-I'll try one of them vile
cigars, however."

"Them cigars are th' very best that-" began the proprietor,
executing the order.

"Oh, heck!" exclaimed Buck with weary disgust . "Yu don't have to
palaver none: I shore knows all that by heart."

"Them cigars-" repeated the proprietor.

"Yas, yas; them cigars-I know all about them cigars.  Yu gets them
for twenty dollars a thousand an' hypnotizes us into payin' yu a
hundred," replied the foreman, biting off the end `of his weed.  Then
he stared moodily and frowned.  "I wonder why it is?"  He asked.  "We
punchers like good stuff an' we pays good prices with good money.  What
do we get? Why, cabbage leaves an' leather for our smokin' an' alcohol
an' extract for our drink.  Now, up in Kansas City we goes to a
sumptious layout, pays less an' gets bang-up stuff.  If yu smelled one
of them K. C. cigars yu'd shore have to ask what it was, an' as for
the liquor, why, yu'd think St. Peter asked yu to have one with him.
It's shore wrong somewhere."

"They have more trade in K. C.," suggested the proprietor.

"An' help, an' taxes, an' a license, an' rent, an' brass, cut glass,
mahogany an' French mirrors," countered the foreman.

"They have more trade," reiterated the man with the cigars.

"Forty men spend thirty dollars apiece with yu every month. "The
proprietor busied himself under the bar.  "Yu'll feel better to-morrow.
Anyway, what do yu care, yu won't lose yore job," he said, emerging.

Buck looked at him and frowned, holding back the words which formed
in anger.  What was the use, he thought, when every man judged the
world in his own way.

"Have yu seen any of th' boys?"  He asked, smiling again.

"Nary a boy.  Who do yu reckon's doin' all this rustlin'?"

"I'm reckonin', not shoutin'," responded the foreman.

The proprietor looked out the window and grinned: "Here comes one of
yourn now.

The newcomer stopped his horse in a cloud of dust, playfully kicked
the animal in the ribs and entered, dusting the alkali from him with a
huge sombrero.  Then he straightened up and sniffed: "What's burnin'?"
he asked, simulating alarm.  Then he noticed the cigar between the
teeth of his foreman and grinned: "Gee, but yore a brave man, Buck."

"Hullo, Hopalong," said the foreman.  "Want a smoke?"  Waving his hand
toward the box on the bar.

Mr. Hopalong Cassidy side-stepped and began to roll a cigarette:
"Shore, but I'll burn my own-I know what it is."

"What was yu doin' to my cayuse afore yu come in?"  Asked Buck.

"Nothin'," replied the newcomer.  "That was mine what I kicked in th'
corrugations."

"How is it yore ridin' the calico?"  Asked the foreman.  "I thought yu
was dead stuck on that piebald."

"That piebald's a goat; he's beein livin' off my pants lately,"
responded Hopalong.  "Every time I looks th' other way he ambles over
and takes a bite at me.  Yu just wait `til this rustler business is
roped, an' branded, an' yu'll see me eddicate that blessed scrapheap
into eatin' grass again.  He swiped Billy's shirt th' other day-took it
right off th' corral wall, where Billy's left it to dry. "Then, seeing
Buck raise his eyebrows, he explained: "Shore, he washed it again.
That makes three times since last fall."

The proprietor laughed and pushed out the ever-ready bottle, but
Hopalong shoved it aside and told the reason: "Ever since I was up to
K. C. I've been spoiled. I'm drinkin' water an' slush."

"For Pete's sake, has any more of yu fellers been up to K. C.?"
queried the proprietor in alarm.

"Shore: Red an' Billy was up there, too." responded Hopalong.  "Red's
got a few remarks to shout to yu about yore pain-killer.  Yu better
send for some decent stuff afore he comes to town," he warned.

Buck swung away from the bar and looked at his dead cigar.  Then he
turned to Hopalong.  "What did you find?"  He asked.

"Same old story: nice wide trail up to th' Staked Plain-then
nothin'."

"It shore beats me," soliloquized the foreman.  "It shore beats me."

"Think it was Tamale Jose's old gang?"  Asked Hopalong.

"If it was they took th' wrong trail home-that ain't th' way to
Mexico."

Hopalong tossed aside his half-smoked cigarette.  "Well, come on
home; what's th' use stewin' over it? It'll come out all O.K. in th'
wash." Then he laughed: "There won't be no piebald waitin' for it."

Evading Buck's playful blow he led the way to the door, and soon
they were a cloud of dust on the plain.  The proprietor, despairing of
customers under the circumstances, absent-mindedly wiped oil on the bar,
and sought his chair for a nap, grumbling about the way his trade had
fallen off, for there were few customers, and those who did call were
heavy with loss of sleep, and with anxiety, and only paused long
enough to toss off their drink.  On the ranges there were occurrences
which tried men's souls.

For several weeks cattle had been disappearing from the ranges and
the losses had long since passed the magnitude of those suffered when
Tamale Jose and his men had crossed the Rio Grande and repeatedly
levied heavy toll on the sleek herds of the Pecos Valley.  Tamale Jose
had raided once too often, and prosperity and plenty had followed on
the ranches and the losses had been forgotten until the fall round-ups
clearly showed that rustlers were again at work.

Despite the ingenuity of the ranch owners and the unceasing
vigilance and night rides of the cow-punchers, the losses steadily
increased until there was promised a shortage which would permit no
drive to the western terminals of the railroad that year.  For two
weeks the banks of the Rio Grande had been patrolled and sharp-eyed
men searched daily for trails leading southward, for it was not
strange to think that the old raiders were again at work,
notwithstanding the fact that they had paid dearly for their former
depredations.

The patrols failed to discover anything out of the
ordinary and the searchers found no trails. Then it was that the
owners and foremen of the four central ranches met in Cowan's saloon
and sat closeted together for all of one hot afternoon.

The conference resulted in riders being dispatched from all the
ranches represented, and one of the couriers, Mr. Red Connors, rode
north, his destination being far-away Montana.  All the ranches within
a radius of a hundred miles received letters and blanks and one week
later the Pecos Valley Cattle-Thief Elimination Association was
organized and working, with Buck as Chief Ranger.

One of the outcomes of Buck's appointment was a sudden and marked
immigration into the affected territory.  Mr. Connors returned from
Montana with Mr. Frenchy McAllister, the foreman of the Tin-Cup, who
was accompanied by six of his best and most trusted men.  Mr.
McAllister and party were followed by Mr. You-bet Somes, foreman of
the Two-X-Two of Arizona, and five of his punchers, and later on the
same day Mr. Pie Willis, accompanied by Mr. Billy Jordan and his two
brothers, arrived from the Panhandle. The O-Bar-O, situated close to
the town of Muddy Wells, increased its payroll by the addition of nine
men, each of whom bore the written recommendation of the foreman of
the Bar-20. The C-8o, Double Arrow and the Three Triangle also
received heavy reinforcements, and even Carter, owner of the Barred
Horseshoe, far removed from the zone of the depredations, increased
his outfits by half their regular strength.

 Buck believed that if a thing was worth doing at all that it was worth
doing very well, and his acquaintances were numerous and loyal.
The collection of individuals that responded to the call were noteworthy
examples of "gun-play" and their aggregate value was at par with twice their
numbers in cavalry.


Each ranch had one large ranch-house and numerous line-houses
scattered along the boundaries.  These latter, while intended as camps
for the outriders, had been erected in the days, none too remote, when
Apaches, Arrapahoes, and even Cheyennes raided southward, and they had
been constructed with the idea of defense paramount.  Upon more than
one occasion a solitary line-rider had retreated within their adobe
walls and had successfully resisted all the cunning and ferocity of a
score of paint-bedaubed warriors and, when his outfit had rescued him,
emerged none the worse for his ordeal.

On the Bar-20, Buck placed these houses in condition to withstand
seige.  Twin barrels of water stood in opposite corners, provisions
were stored on the hanging shelves and the bunks once again reveled in
untidiness.  Spare rifles, in pattern ranging from long-range Sharp's
and buffalo guns to repeating rifles, leaned against the walls, and
unbroken boxes of cartridges were piled above the bunks.  Instead of
the lonesome outrider, he placed four men to each house, two of whom
were to remain at home and hold the house while their companions rode
side by side on their multi-mile beat.

There were six of these houses and, instead of returning each night to the
same line-house, the outriders kept on and made the circuit, thus keeping
every one well informed and breaking the monotony.  These measures were
expected to cause the rustling operations to cease at once, but the effect was to
shift the losses to the Double Arrow, the line-houses of which boasted
only one puncher each.  Unreasonable economy usually defeats its
object.

The Double Arrow was restricted on the north by the Staked Plain,
which in itself was considered a superb defense.  The White Sand Hills
formed its eastern boundary and were thought to be second only to the
northern protection.  The only reason that could be given for the
hitherto comparative immunity from the attacks of the rustlers was
that its cattle clung to the southern confines where there were
numerous springs, thus making imperative the crossing of its territory
to gain the herds.

It was in line-house No. 3, most remote of all, that Johnny Redmond
fought his last fight and was found face down in the half ruined house
with a hole in the back of his head, which proved that one man was
incapable of watching all the loop holes in four walls at once.  There
must have been some casualties on the other side, for Johnny was
reputed to be very painstaking in his "gunplay," and the empty shells
which lay scattered on the floor did not stand for as many ciphers, of
that his foreman was positive.

He was buried the day he was found, and the news of his death ran quickly
from ranch to ranch and made more than one careless puncher arise and
pace the floor in anger.  More men came to the Double Arrow and its
sentries were doubled.  The depredations continued, however, and one night
a week later Frank Swift reeled into the ranch-house and fell exhausted across
the supper table.  Rolling hoof-beats echoed flatly and died away on the plain,
but the men who pursued them returned empty handed.  The wounds of the
unfortunate were roughly dressed and in his delirium he recounted the
fight.  His companion was found literally shot to pieces twenty paces
from the door.  One wall was found blown in, and this episode, when
coupled with the use of dynamite, was more than could be tolerated.

When Buck had been informed of this he called to him Hopalong
Cassidy, Red Connors and Frenchy McAllister, and the next day the
three men rode north and the contingents of the ranches represented in
the Association were divided into two squads, one of which was to
remain at home and guard the ranches; the other, to sleep fully
dressed and armed and never to stray far from their ranch-houses and
horses.  These latter would be called upon to ride swiftly and far when
the word came.



CHAPTER XVII

Mr. Trendley Assumes Added Importance


That the rustlers were working under a well organized system was
evident.  That they were directed by a master of the game was
ceaselessly beaten into the consciousness of the Association by the
diversity, dash and success of their raids. No one, save the three men
whom they had destroyed, had ever seen them.  But, like Tamale Jose,
they had raided once too often.

Mr. Trendley, more familiarly known to men as "Slippery," was the
possessor of a biased conscience, if any at all.  Tall, gaunt and
weather-beaten and with coal-black eyes set deep beneath hairless
eyebrows, he was sinister and forbidding.  Into his forty-five years of
existence he had crowded a century of experience, and unsavory rumors
about him existed in all parts of the great West. From Canada to
Mexico and from Sacramento to Westport his name stood for brigandage.
His operations had been conducted with such consummate cleverness that
in all the accusations there was lacking proof.

Only once had he erred, and then in the spirit of pure deviltry and in the
days of youthful folly, and his mistake was a written note.  He was even
thought by some to have been concerned in the Mountain Meadow
Massacre; others thought him to have been the leader of the band of
outlaws that had plundered along the Santa Fe Trail in the late `60's.
In Montana and Wyoming he was held responsible for the outrages of the
band that had descended from the Hole-in-the-Wall territory and for
over a hundred miles carried murder and theft that shamed as being
weak the most assiduous efforts of zealous Cheyennes.  It was in this
last raid that he had made the mistake and it was in this raid that
Frenchy McAllister had lost his wife.

When Frenchy had first been approached by Buck as to his going in
search of the rustlers he had asked to go alone.  This had been denied
by the foreman of the Bar-20 because the men whom he had selected to
accompany the scout were of such caliber that their presence could not
possibly form a hindrance.  Besides being his most trusted friends they
were regarded by him as being the two best exponents of "gun-play"
that the West afforded.  Each was a specialist: Hopalong, expert beyond
belief with his Colt's six-shooters, was only approached by Red, whose
Winchester was renowned for its accuracy.  The three made a perfect
combination, as the rashness of the two younger men would be under the
controlling influence of a man who could retain his coolness of mind
under all circumstances.

When Buck and Frenchy looked into each other's eyes there sprang
into the mind of each the same name-Slippery Trendley.  Both had spent
the greater part of a year in fruitless search for that person, the
foreman of the Tin-Cup in vengeance for the murder of his wife, the
blasting of his prospects and the loss of his herds; Buck, out of
sympathy for his friend and also because they had been partners in the
Double Y. Now that the years had passed and the long-sought-for
opportunity was believed to be at hand, there was promised either a
cessation of the outrages or that Buck would never again see his
friends.

When the three mounted and came to him for final instructions Buck
forced himself to be almost repellent in order to be capable of
coherent speech.  Hopalong glanced sharply at him and then understood,
Red was all attention and eagerness and remarked nothing but the
words.

"Have yu ever heard of Slippery Trendley?"  Harshly inquired the
foreman.

They nodded, and on the faces of the younger men a glint of hatred
showed itself, but Frenchy wore his poker countenance.

Buck continued: "Th' reason I asked yu was because I don't want yu
to think yore goin' on no picnic.  I ain't shore it's him, but I've had
some hopeful information.  Besides, he is th' only man I knows of who's
capable of th' plays that have been made. It's hardly necessary for me
to tell yu to sleep with one eye open and never to get away from yore
guns.  Now I'm goin' to tell yu th' hardest part: yu are goin' to
search th' Staked Plain from one end to th' other, an' that's what no
white man's ever done to my knowledge.

"Now, listen to this an' don't forget it.  Twenty miles north from
Last Stand Rock is a spring; ten miles south of that bend in Hell
Arroyo is another. If yu gets lost within two days from th' time yu
enters th' Plain, put yore left hand on a cactus sometime between sun-
up an' noon, move around until yu are over its shadow an' then ride
straight ahead-that's south.  If you goes loco beyond Last Stand Rock,
follow th' shadows made before noon-that's th' quickest way to th'
Pecos.  Yu all knows what to do in a sand-storm, so I won't bore you
with that.  Repeat all I've told yu," he ordered and they complied.

"I'm tellin' yu this," continued the foreman, indicating the two
auxiliaries, "because yu might get separated from Frenchy.  Now I
suggests that yu look around near the' Devils Rocks:  I've heard that
there are several water holes among them, an' besides, they might be
turned into fair corrals.  Mind yu, I know what I've said sounds damned
idiotic for anybody that has had as much experience with th' Staked
Plain as I have, but I've had every other place searched for miles
around.  Th' men of all th' ranches have been scoutin' an' th' Plain is
th' only place left. Them rustlers has got to be found if we have to
dig to hell for them.  They've taken th' pot so many times that they
reckons they owns it, an' we've got to at least make a bluff at
drawin' cards.  Mebby they're at th' bottom of th' Pecos," here he
smiled faintly, "but wherever they are, we've got to find them. I want
to holler `Keno."

"If you finds where they hangs out come away instanter," here his
face hardened and his eyes narrowed, "for it'll take more than yu
three to deal with them th' way I'm a-hankerin' for.  Come right back
to th' Double Arrow, send me word by one of their punchers an' get all
the rest you can afore I gets there.  It'll take me a day to get th'
men together an' to reach yu.  I'm goin' to use smoke signals to call
th' other ranches, so there won't be no time lost.  Carry all th' water
yu can pack when yu leaves th' Double Arrow an' don't depend none on
cactus juice.  Yu better take a pack horse to carry it, an' yore grub-
yu can shoot it if yu have to hit th' trail real hard."

The three riders felt of their accouterments, said "So long," and
cantered off for the pack horse and extra ammunition.  Then they rode
toward the Double Arrow, stopping at Cowan's long enough to spend some
money, and reached the Double Arrow at nightfall.  Early the next
morning they passed the last line-house and, with the profane well-
wishes of its occupants ringing in their ears, passed onto one of
Nature's worst blunders- the Staked Plain.






CHAPTER XVIII

The Search Begins


As the sun arose it revealed three punchers riding away from
civilization.  On all sides, stretching to the evil-appearing horizon,
lay vast blotches of dirty-white and faded yellow alkali and sand.
Occasionally a dwarfed mesquite raised its prickly leaves and rustled
mournfully.  With the exception of the riders and an occasional Gila
monster, no life was discernible.  Cacti of all shapes and sizes reared
aloft their forbidding spines or spread out along the sand.  All was
dead, ghastly; all was oppressive, startlingly repellent in its
sinister promise; all was the vastness of desolation.

Hopalong knew this portion of the desert for ten miles inward-he had
rescued straying cattle along its southern rim- but once beyond that
limit they would have to trust to chance and their own abilities.
There were water holes on this skillet, but nine out of ten were death
traps, reeking with mineral poisons, colored and alkaline.  The two
mentioned by Buck could not be depended on, for they came and went,
and more than one luckless wanderer had depended on them to allay his
thirst, and had died for his trust.

So the scouts rode on in silence, noting the half-buried skeletons of cattle
which were strewn plentifully on all sides.  Nearly three per cent, of the cattle be-
longing to the Double Arrow yearly found death on this tableland, and
the herds of that ranch numbered many thousand heads. It was this
which made the Double Arrow the poorest of the ranches, and it was
this which allowed insufficient sentries in its line-houses.  The
skeletons were not all of cattle, for at rare intervals lay the sand-
worn frames of men.

On the morning of the second day the oppression increased with the
wind and Red heaved a sigh of restlessness.  The sand began to skip
across the plain, in grains at first and hardly noticeable.  Hopalong
turned in his saddle and regarded the desert with apprehension.  As he
looked he saw that where grains had shifted handfuls were now moving.
His mount evinced signs of uneasiness and was hard to control.

A gust of wind, stronger than the others, pricked his face and grains of sand
rolled down his neck.  The leather of his saddle emitted strange noises
as if a fairy tattoo was being beaten upon it and he raised his hand
and pointed off toward the east.  The others looked and saw what had
appeared to be a fog rise out of the desert and intervene between them
and the sun.  As far as eye could reach small whirlwinds formed and
broke and one swept down and covered them with stinging sand.  The day
became darkened and their horses whinnied in terror and the clumps of
mesquite twisted and turned to the gusts.

Each man knew what was to come upon them and they dismounted,
hobbled their horses and threw them bodily to the earth, wrapping a
blanket around the head of each.  A rustling as of paper rubbing
together became noticeable and they threw themselves flat upon the
earth, their heads wrapped in their coats and buried in the necks of
their mounts.  For an hour they endured the tortures of hell and then,
when the storm had passed, raised their heads and cursed Creation.
Their bodies burned as though they had been shot with fine needles and
their clothes were meshes where once was tough cloth.  Even their shoes
were perforated and the throat of each ached with thirst.

Hopalong fumbled at the canteen resting on his hip and gargled his
mouth and throat, washing down the sand which wouldn't come up.  His
friends did likewise and then looked around.  After some time had
elapsed the loss of their pack horse was noticed and they swore again.
Hopalong took the lead in getting his horse ready for service and then
rode around in a circle half a mile in diameter, but returned empty
handed.  The horse was gone and with it went their main supply of food
and drink.

Frenchy scowled at the shadow of a cactus and slowly rode toward the
northeast, followed closely by his friends.  His hand reached for his
depleted canteen, but refrained-water was to be saved until the last
minute.

"I'm goin' to build a shack out here an' live in it, I am!" exploded
Hopalong in withering irony as he dug the sand out of his ears and
also from his sixshooter.  "I just nachurally dotes on this, I do!"

The others were too miserable to even grunt and he neatly severed
the head of a Gila monster from its scaly body as it opened it
venomous jaws in rage at this invasion of its territory.  "Lovely
place!" he sneered.

"You better save them cartridges, Hoppy," interposed Red as his
companion fired again, feeling that he must say something.

"An' what for?" blazed his friend.  "To plug sand storms? Anybody
what we find on this God-forsaken lay-out won't have to be shot-they
will commit suicide an' think it's fun! Tell yu what, if them rustlers
hangs out on this sand range they're better men than I reckons they
are. Anybody what hides up here shore earns all he steals. "Hopalong
grumbled from force of habit and because no one else would.  His
companions understood this and paid no attention to him, which
increased his disgust.

"What are we up here for?"  He asked, belligerently.  "Why, because
them Double Arrow idiots can't even watch a desert! We have to do
their work for them an' they hangs around home an' gets slaughtered!
Yes, sir!" he shouted, "they can't even take care of themselves when
they're in line-houses what are forts.  Why, that time we cleaned out
them an' th' C-80 over at Buckskin they couldn't help runnin' into
singin' lead!"

"Yes," drawled Red, whose recollection of that fight was vivid.
"Yas, an' why?"  He asked, and then replied to his own question.
"Because yu sat up in a barn behind them, Buck played his gun on th'
side window, Pete an' Skinny lay behind a rock to one side of Buck, me
an' Lanky was across th' Street in front of them, an' Billy an' Johnny
was in th' arroyo on th' other side.  Cowan laid on his stummick on th'
roof of his place with a buffalo gun, an' the whole blamed town was
agin them.  There wasn't five seconds passed that lead wasn't rippin'
through th' walls of their shack.  Th' Houston House wasn't made for no
fort, an' besides, they wasn't like th' gang that's punchin' now.
That's why."

Hopalong became cheerful again, for here was a chance to differ from
his friend.  The two loved each other the better the more they
squabbled.

"Yas!" responded Hopalong with sarcasm.  "Yas!" he reiterated,
drawling it out.  "Yu was in front of them, an' with what? Why, an'
old, white-haired, interfering Winchester, that's what! Me an' my
Sharp's-"

"Yu and yore Sharp's!" exploded Red, whose dislike for that rifle
was very pronounced.  "Yu and yore Sharp's."

"Me an' my Sharp's, as I was palaverin' before bein' interrupted,"
continued Hopalong, "did more damage in five min-"

"Says yu!" snapped Red with heat.  "All yu an yore Sharp's could do
was to cut yore initials in th' back door of their shack, an' -"

"Did more damage in five minutes," continued Hopalong, "than all th'
blasted Winchesters in th' whole damned town.  Why-"

"An' then they was cut blamed poor.  Every time that cannon of yourn
exploded I shore thought th'-"

"Why, Cowan an' his buffalo did more damage (Cowan was reputed to be
a very poor shot) than yu an-"

"I thought th' artillery was comin' into th' disturbance.  I could
see yore red head-"

"MY red head!" exclaimed Hopalong, sizing up the crimson warlock of
his companion.  "MY red head!" he repeated, and then turned to Frenchy:
"Hey, Frenchy, who's got th' reddest hair, me or Red?"

Frenchy slowly turned in his saddle and gravely scrutinized them.
Being strictly impartial and truthful, he gave up the effort of
differentiating and smiled.  "Why, if the tops of yore heads were poked
through two holes in a board an' I didn't know which was which, I'd
shore make a mistake if I tried to name `em"

But Red had the last word.  "Anyhow, you didn't have a Sharp's in
that fight-you bad a .45-70 Winchester, just like mine!"

Thereupon the discussion was directed at the judge, and the forenoon
passed very pleasantly, Frenchy even smiling in his misery.



CHAPTER XIX

Hopalong's Decision


Shortly after noon, Hopalong, who had ridden with his head bowed low
in meditation, looked up and slapped his thigh.  Then he looked at Red
and grinned.

"Look ahere, Red," he began, "there ain't no rustlers with their
headquarters on this God-forsaken sand heap, an' there never was.  They
have to have water an' lots of it, too, an' th' nearest of any account
is th' Pecos, or some of them streams over in th' Panhandle.  Th'
Panhandle is th' best place.  There are lots of streams an' lakes over
there an' they're right in a good grass country.  Why, an' army could
hide over there an' never be found unless it was hunted for blamed
good. Then, again, it's close to the railroad.  Up north aways is th'
south branch of th' Santa Fe Trail an' it's far enough away not to
bother anybody in th' middle Panhandle.  Then there's Fort Worth purty
near, an' other trails.  Didn't Buck say he had all th' rest of th'
country searched?  He meant th' Pecos Valley an th' Davis Mountains
country.  All th' rustlers would have to do if they were in th'
Panhandle would be to cross th' Canadian an th' Cimarron an' hit th'
trail for th' railroad. Good fords, good grass an' water all th' way,
cattle fat when they are delivered an plenty of room.  Th' more I
thinks about it th' more I cottons to the Panhandle."

"Well, it shore does sound good," replied Red, reflectively.

"Do yu mean th' Cunningham Lake region or farther north?"

"Just th' other side of this blasted desert: anywhere where there's
water," responded Hopalong, enthusiastically.  "I've been doin' some
hot reckonin' for th' last two hours an' this is th' way it looks to
me: they drives th' cows up on this skillet for a ways, then turns
east an' hits th' trail for home an' water.  They can get around th'
ca on near Thatcher's Lake by a swing of th' north.  I tell yu that's
th' only way out'n this.  Who could tell where they turned with th'
wind raisin' th' deuce with the trail?  Didn't we follow a trail for a
ways, an' then what? Why, there wasn't none to follow.  We can ride
north `till we walk behind ourselves an' never get a peek at them. I
am in favor of headin' for th' Sulphur Spring Creek district.  We can
spend a couple of weeks, if we has to, an' prospect that whole region
without havin' to cut our' water down to a smell an' a taste an live
on jerked beef. If we investigates that country we'll find something
else than sand storms, poisoned water holes an' blisters."

"Ain't th' Panhandle full of nesters (farmers)?"  Inquired Red,
doubtfully.

"Along th' Canadian an' th' edges, yas; in th' middle, no,"
explained Hopalong.  "They hang close together on account of th' war-
whoops, an' they like th' trails purty well because of there allus
bein' somebody passin'."

"Buck ought to send some of th' Panhandle boys up there," suggested
Red.  "There's Pie Willis an' th' Jordans-they knows th' Panhandle like
yu knows poker."

Frenchy had paid no apparent attention to the conversation up to
this point, but now he declared himself.  "Yu heard what Buck said,
didn't yu?"  He asked.  "We were told to search th' Staked Plains from
one end to th' other an' I'm goin' to do it if I can hold out long
enough.  I ain't goin' to palaver with yu because what yu say can't be
denied as far as wisdom is concerned.  Yu may have hit it plumb center,
but I knows what I was ordered to do, an' yu can't get me to go over
there if you shouts all night.  When Buck says anything, she goes.  He
wants to know where th' cards are stacked an' why he can't holler
`Keno,' an' I'm goin' to find out if I can.  Yu can go to Patagonia if
yu wants to, but yu go alone as far as I am concerned."

"Well, it's better if yu don't go with us," replied Hopalong, taking
it for granted that Red would accompany him.  "Yu can prospect this end
of th' game an' we'll be takin' care of th' other.  It's two chances
now where we only had one afore."

"Yu go east an' I'll hunt around as ordered," responded Frenchy.

"East nothin'," replied Hopalong.  "Yu don't get me to wallow in hot
alkali an' lose time ridin' in ankle-deep sand when I can hit th'
south trail, skirt th' White Sand Hills an' be in God's country again.
I ain't goin' to wrastle with no ca on this here trip, none whatever.
I'm goin' to travel in style, get to Big Spring by ridin' two miles to
where I could only make one on this stove.  Then I'll head north along
Sulpher Spring Creek an' have water an' grass all th' way, barrin' a
few stretches.  While you are bein' fricasseed I'll be streakin'
through cottonwood groves an' ridin' in the creek."

"Yu'll have to go alone, then," said Red, resolutely.  "Frenchy ain't
a-goin' to die of lonesomeness on this desert if I knows what I'm
about, an' I reckon I do, some.  Me an' him'll follow out what Buck
said, hunt around for a while an' then Frenchy can go back to th'
ranch to tell Buck what's up an' I'll take th' trail yu are a-scared
of an' meet yu at th' east end of Cunningham Lake three days from
now."

"Yu better come with me," coaxed Hopalong, not liking what his
friend had said about being afraid of the trail past the ca on and
wishing to have some one with whom to talk on his trip.  "I'm goin' to
have a nice long swim to-morrow night," he added, trying bribery.

"An' I'm goin' to try to keep from hittin' my blisters," responded
Red. "I don't want to go swimmin' in no creek full of moccasins-I'd
rather sleep with rattlers or copperheads. Every time I sees a cotton-
mouth I feels like I had just sit down on one.

"I'll flip a coin to see whether yu comes or not," proposed
Hopalong.

"If yu wants to gamble so bad I'll flip yu to see who draws our pay
next month, but not for what you said," responded Red, choking down
the desire to try his luck.

Hopalong grinned and turned toward the south. "If I sees Buck afore
yu do, I'll tell him yu an' Frenchy are growin' watermelons up near
Last Stand Rock an' are waitin' for rain. Well, so long," he said.

"Yu tell Buck we're obeyin' orders!" shouted Red, sorry that he was
not going with his bunkie.

Frenchy and Red rode on in silence, the latter feeling strangely
lonesome, for he and the departed man had seldom been separated when
journeys like this were to be taken. And when in search of pleasure
they were nearly always together.  Frenchy, while being very friendly
with Hopalong, a friendship that would have placed them side by side
against any odds, was not accustomed to his company and did not notice
his absence.

Red looked off toward the south for the tenth time and for the tenth
time thought that his friend might return.  "He's a son-of-a-gun," he
soliloquized.

His companion looked up: "He shore is, an' he's right about this
rustler business, too.  But we'll look around for a day or so an' then
yu raise dust for th' Lake.  I'll go back to th' ranch an' get things
primed, so there'll be no time lost when we get th' word."

"I'm sorry I went an' said what I did about me takin' th' trail he
was a-scared of," confessed Red, after a pause.  "Why, he ain't
a-scared of nothin'."

"He got back at yu about them watermelons, so what's th'
difference?"  Asked Frenchy.  "He don't owe yu nothin'."

An hour later they searched the Devil's Rocks, but found no
rustlers.  Filling their canteens at a tiny spring and allowing their
mounts to drink the remainder of the water, they turned toward Hell
Arroyo, which they reached at nightfall.  Here, also, their search
availed them nothing and they paused in indecision.  Then Frenchy
turned toward his companion and advised him to ride toward the Lake in
the night when it was comparatively cool.

Red considered and then decided that the advice was good.  He rolled
a cigarette, wheeled and faced the east and spurred forward: "So
long," he called.

"So long," replied Frenchy, who turned toward the south and departed
for the ranch.

The foreman of the Bar-20 was cleaning his rifle when he heard the
hoof-beats of a galloping horse and he ran around the corner of the
house to meet the newcomer, whom he thought to be a courier from the
Double Arrow.  Frenchy dismounted and explained why he returned alone.

Buck listened to the report and then, noting the fire which gleamed
in his friend's eyes, nodded his approval to the course.   "I reckon
it's Trendley, Frenchy-I've heard a few things since yu left. An' yu
can bet that if Hopalong an' Red have gone for him he'll be found.  I
expect action any time now, so we'll light th' signal fire."  Then he
hesitated; "Yu light it-yu've been waiting a long time for this."

The balls of smoke which rolled upward were replied to by other
balls at different points on the plain, and the Bar-20 prepared to
feed the numbers of hungry punchers who would arrive within the next
twenty-four hours.

Two hours had not passed when eleven men rode up from the Three
Triangle, followed eight hours later by ten from the O-Bar-O.  The
outfits of the Star Circle and the Barred Horseshoe, eighteen in all,
came next and had scarcely dismounted when those of the C-80 and the
Double Arrow, fretting at the delay, rode up.  With the sixteen from
the Bar-20 the force numbered seventy-five resolute and pugnacious
cowpunchers, all aching to wipe out the indignities suffered.



CHAPTER XX

A Problem Solved


Hopalong worried his way out of the desert on a straight line, thus
cutting in half the distance he had traveled when going into it.  He
camped that night on the sand and early the next morning took up his
journey.  It was noon when he began to notice familiar sights, and an
hour later he passed within a mile of line-house No. 3, Double Arrow.
Half an hour later he espied a cow-puncher riding like mad.  Thinking
that an investigation would not be out of place, he rode after the
rider and overtook him, when that person paused and retraced his
course.

"Hullo, Hopalong!" shouted the puncher and he came near enough to
recognize his pursuer.  "Thought yu was farmin' up on th' Staked
Plain?"

"Hullo, Pie," replied Hopalong, recognizing Pie Willis.  "What was yu
chasin' so hard?"

"Coyote-damn `em, but can't they go some?  They're gettin' so thick
we'll shore have to try strichnine an' thin `em out."

"I thought anybody that had been raised in th' Panhandle would know
better'n to chase greased lightnin'," rebuked Hopalong.  "Yu has got
about as much show catchin' one of them as a tenderfoot has of bustin'
an outlawed cayuse."

"Shore; I know it," responded Pie, grinning.  "But it's fun seem'
them hunt th' horizon.  What are yu doin' down here an' where are yore
pardners?"

Thereupon Hopalong enlightened his inquisitive companion as to what
had occurred and as to his reasons for riding south.

Pie immediately became enthusiastic and announced his intention of
accompanying Hopalong on his quest, which intention struck that
gentleman as highly proper and wise.  Then Pie hastily turned and
played at chasing coyotes in the direction of the line-house, where he
announced that his absence would be accounted for by the fact that he
and Hopalong were going on a journey of investigation into the
Panhandle.  Billy Jordan who shared with Pie the accommodations of the
house, objected and showed, very clearly, why he was eminently better
qualified to take up the proposed labors than his companions.  The
suggestions were fast getting tangled up with the remarks, when Pie,
grabbing a chunk of jerked beef, leaped into his saddle and absolutely
refused to heed the calls of his former companion and return.  He rode
to where Hopalong was awaiting him as if he was afraid he wasn't going
to live long enough to get there.  Confiding to his companion that
Billy was a "locoed sage hen," he led the way along the base of the
White Sand Hills and asked many questions.  Then they turned toward the
east and galloped hard.

It had been Hopalong's intention to carry out what he had told Red
and to go to Big Spring first and thence north along Sulphur Spring
Creek, but to this his guide strongly dissented.  There was a short
cut, or several of them for that matter, was Pie's contention, and any
one of them would save a day's hard riding.  Hopalong made no objection
to allowing his companion to lead the way over any trail he saw fit,
for he knew that Pie had been born and brought up in the Panhandle,
the Cunningham Lake district having been his back yard, as it were. So
they followed the short cut having the most water and grass, and
pounded out a lively tattoo as they raced over the stretches of sand
which seemed to slide beneath them.

"What do yu know about this here business?"  Inquired Pie, as they
raced past a chaparral and onto the edge of a grassy plain.

"Nothin' more'n yu do, only Buck said he thought Slippery Trendley
is at th' bottom of it."

"What!" ejaculated Pie in surprise.  "Him!"

"Yore on.  An' between yu an' me an' th' Devil, I wouldn't be a heap
surprised if Deacon Rankin is with him, neither."

Pie whistled: "Are him an' th' Deacon pals?"

"Shore," replied Hopalong, buttoning up his vest and rolling a
cigarette.  "Didn't they allus hang out together! One watched that th'
other didn't get plugged from behind.  It was a sort of yu-scratch-my-
back-an'-I'll-scratch-yourn arrangement."

"Well, if they still hangs out together, I know where to hunt for
our cows," responded Pie.  "Th' Deacon used to range along th'
headwaters of th' Colorado-it ain't far from Cunningham Lake.
Thunderation!" he shouted, "I knows th' very ground they're on-I can
take yu to th' very shack!" Then to himself he muttered: "An' that
doodlebug Billy Jordan thinkin' he knowed more about th' Panhandle
than me!"

Hopalong showed his elation in an appropriate manner and his
companion drank deeply from the proffered flask; Thereupon they
treated their mounts to liberal doses of strap-oil and covered the
ground with great speed.

They camped early, for Hopalong was almost worn out from the
exertions of the past few days and the loss of sleep he had sustained.
Pie, too excited to sleep and having had unbroken rest for a long
period, volunteered to keep guard, and his companion eagerly
consented.

Early the next morning they broke camp and the evening of the same
day found them fording Sulphur Spring Creek, and their quarry lay only
an hour beyond, according to Pie.  Then they forded one of the streams
which form the headwaters of the Colorado, and two hours later they
dismounted in a cottonwood grove. Picketing their horses, they
carefully made their way through the timber, which was heavily grown
with brush, and, after half an hour's maneuvering, came within sight
of the further edge.

Dropping down on all fours, they crawled to the last line of brush and
looked out over an extensive bottoms. At their feet lay a small river, and
in a clearing on the farther side was a rough camp, consisting of about a
dozen leanto shacks and log cabins in the main collection, and a few scattered
cabins along the edge.  A huge fire was blazing before the main collection
 of huts, and to the rear of these was an indistinct black mass, which they
 knew to be the corral.

At a rude table before the fire more than a score of men were eating
supper and others could be heard moving about and talking at different
points in the background.  While the two scouts were learning the lay
of the land, they saw Mr. Trendley and Deacon Rankin walk out of the
cabin most distant from the fire, and the latter limped.  Then they saw
two men lying on rude cots, and they wore bandages.  Evidently Johnny
Redmond had scored in his fight.

The odor of burning cowhide came from the corral, accompanied by the
squeals of cattle, and informed them that brands were being blotted
out.  Hopalong longed to charge down and do some blotting out of
another kind, but a heavy hand was placed on his shoulder and he
silently wormed his way after Pie as that person led the way back to
the horses. Mounting, they picked their way out of the grove and rode
over the plain at a walk.  When far enough away to insure that the
noise made by their horses would not reach the ears of those in the
camp they cantered toward the ford they had taken on the way up.

After emerging from the waters of the last forded stream, Pie raised
his hand and pointed off toward the northwest, telling his companion
to take that course to reach Cunningham Lake.  He himself would ride
south, taking, for the saving of time, a yet shorter trail to the
Double Arrow, from where he would ride to Buck.  He and the others
would meet Hopalong and Red at the split rock they had noticed on
their way up.

Hopalong shook hands with his guide and watched him disappear into
the night.  He imagined he could still catch whiffs of burning cowhide
and again the picture of the camp came to his mind.  Glancing again at
the point where Pie had disappeared, he stuffed his sombrero under a
strap on his saddle and slowly rode toward the lake.  A coyote slunk
past him on a time-destroying lope and an owl hooted at the
foolishness of men.  He camped at the base of a cottonwood and at
daylight took up his journey after a scanty breakfast from his saddle-
bags.

Shortly before noon he came in sight of the lake and looked for his
friend.  He had just ridden around a clump of cotton-woods when he was
hit on the back with something large and soft.  Turning in his saddle,
with his Colts ready, he saw Red sitting on a stump, a huge grin
extending over his features.  He replaced the weapon, said something
about fools and dismounted, kicking aside the bundle of grass his
friend had thrown.

"Yore shore easy," remarked Red, tossing aside his cold cigarette.
"Suppose I was Trendley, where would yu be now?"

"Diggin' a hole to put yu in," pleasantly replied Hopalong.  "If I
didn't know he wasn't around this part of the country I wouldn't a
rode as I did."

The man on the stump laughed and rolled a fresh cigarette.  Lighting
it, he inquired where Mr. Trendley was, intimating by his words that
the rustler had not been found.

"About thirty miles to th' southeast," responded the other.  "He's
figurin' up how much dust he'll have when he gets our cows on th'
market. Deacon Rankin is with him, too."

"Th' deuce!" exclaimed Red, in profound astonishment.

"Yore right," replied his companion.  Then he explained all the
arrangements and told of the camp.

Red was for riding to the rendezvous at once, but his friend thought
otherwise and proposed a swim, which met with approval. After enjoying
themselves in the lake they dressed and rode along the trail Hopalong
had made in coming for his companion, it being the intention of the
former to learn more thoroughly the lay of the land immediately
surrounding the camp.  Red was pleased with this, and while they rode
he narrated all that had taken place since the separation on the
Plain, adding that he had found the trail left by the rustlers after
they had quitted the desert and that he had followed it for the last
two hours of his journey.  It was well beaten and an eighth of a mile
wide.

At dark they came within sight of the grove and picketed their
horses at the place used by Pie and Hopalong.  Then they moved forward
and the same sight greeted their eyes that had been seen the night
before. Keeping well within the edge of the grove and looking
carefully for sentries, they went entirely around the camp and picked
out several places which would be of strategic value later on.  They
noticed that the cabin used by Slippery Trendley was a hundred paces
from the main collection of huts and that the woods came to within a
tenth part of that distance of its door. It was heavily built, had no
windows and faced the wrong direction.

Moving on, they discovered the storehouse of the enemy, another
tempting place.  It was just possible, if a siege became necessary, for
several of the attacking force to slip up to it and either destroy it
by fire or take it and hold it against all comers.  This suggested a
look at the enemy's water supply, which was the river.  A hundred paces
separated it from the nearest cabin and any rustler who could cross
that zone under the fire of the besiegers would be welcome to his
drink.

It was very evident that the rustlers had no thought of defense,
thinking, perhaps, that they were immune from attack with such a well
covered trail between them and their foes.  Hopalong mentally accused
them of harboring suicidal inclinations and returned with his
companion to the horses.  They mounted and sat quietly for a while, and
then rode slowly away and at dawn reached the split rock, where they
awaited the arrival of their friends, one sleeping while the other
kept guard.  Then they drew a rough map of the camp, using the sand for
paper, and laid out the plan of attack.

As the evening of the next day came on they saw Pie, followed by
many punchers, ride over a rise a mile to the south and they rode out
to meet him.

When the force arrived at the camp of the two scouts they were shown
the plan prepared for them.  Buck made a few changes in the disposition
of the men and then each member was shown where he was to go and was
told why.  Weapons were put in a high state of efficiency, canteens
were refilled and haversacks were somewhat depleted.  Then the
newcomers turned in and slept while Hopalong and Red kept guard.



CHAPTER XXI

The Call


At three o'clock the next morning a long line of men slowly filed
into the cottonwood grove, being silently swallowed up by the dark.
Dismounting, they left their horses in the care of three of their
number and disappeared into the brush.  Ten minutes later forty of the
force were distributed along the edge of the grove fringing on the
bank of the river and twenty more minutes gave ample time for a
detachment of twenty to cross the stream and find concealment in the
edge of the woods which ran from the river to where the corral made an
effective barrier on the south.

Eight crept down on the western side of the camp and worked their way
close to Mr. Trendley's cabin door, and the seven who followed this
detachment continued and took up their positions at the rear of the corral,
where, it was hoped, some of the rustlers would endeavor to
escape into the woods by working their way through the cattle in the corral
and then scaling the stockade wall. These seven were from the Three
Triangle and the Double Arrow, and they were positive that any such attempt
would not be a success from the view-point of the rustlers.

Two of those who awaited the pleasure of Mr. Trendley crept forward,
and a rope swished through the air and settled over the stump which
lay most convenient on the other side of the cabin door.  Then the
slack moved toward the woods, raised from the ground as it grew taut
and, with the stump for its axis, swung toward the door, where it
rubbed gently against the rough logs.  It was made of braided
horsehair, was half an inch in diameter and was stretched eight inches
above the ground.

As it touched the door, Lanky Smith, Hopalong and Red stepped out of
the shelter of the woods and took up their positions behind the cabin,
Lanky behind the northeast corner where he would be permitted to swing
his right arm.  In his gloved right hand he held the carefully arranged
coils of a fifty-foot lariat, and should the chief of the rustlers
escape tripping he would have to avoid the cast of the best roper in
the southwest.

The two others took the northwest corner and one of
them leaned slightly forward and gently twitched the tripping-rope.
The man at the other end felt the signal and whispered to a companion,
who quietly disappeared in the direction of the river and shortly
afterward the mournful cry of a whip-poor-will dirged out on the early
morning air. It had hardly died away when the quiet was broken by one
terrific crash of rifles, and the two camp guards asleep at the fire
awoke in another world.

Mr. Trendley, sleeping unusually well for the unjust, leaped from
his bed to the middle of the floor and alighted on his feet and wide
awake.  Fearing that a plot was being consummated to deprive him of his
leadership, he grasped the Winchester which leaned at the head of his
bed and, tearing open the door, crashed headlong to the earth.  As he
touched the ground, two shadows sped out from the shelter of the cabin
wall and pounced upon him.  Men who can rope, throw and tie a wild
steer in thirty seconds flat do not waste time in trussing operations,
and before a minute had elapsed he was being carried into the woods,
bound and helpless.  Lanky sighed, threw the rope over one shoulder and
departed after his friends.

When Mr. Trendley came to his senses he found himself bound to a
tree in the grove near the horses.  A man sat on a stump not far from
him, three others were seated around a small fire some distance to the
north, and four others, one of whom carried a rope, made their way
into the brush.  He strained at his bonds, decided that the effort was
useless and watched the man on the stump, who struck a match and lit a
pipe.  The prisoner watched the light flicker up and go out and there
was left in his mind a picture that he could never forget.  The face
which had been so cruelly, so grotesquely revealed was that of Frenchy
McAllister, and across his knees lay a heavy caliber Winchester.  A
curse escaped from the lips of the outlaw; the man on the stump spat
at a firefly and smiled.

From the south came the crack of rifles, incessant and sharp.  The
reports rolled from one end of the clearing to the other and seemed to
sweep in waves from the center of the line to the ends.  Faintly in the
infrequent lulls in the firing came an occasional report from the rear
of the corral, where some desperate rustler paid for his venture.

Buck went along the line and spoke to the riflemen, and after some
time had passed and the light had become stronger, he collected the
men into groups of five and six.  Taking one group and watching it
closely, it could be seen that there was a world of meaning in this
maneuver.  One man started firing at a particular window in an opposite
hut and then laid aside his empty gun and waited.  When the muzzle of
his enemy's gun came into sight and lowered until it had nearly gained
its sight level, the rifles of the remainder of the group crashed out
in a volley and usually one of the bullets, at least, found its
intended billet.  This volley firing became universal among the
besiegers and the effect was marked.

Two men sprinted from the edge of the woods near Mr. Trendley's
cabin and gained the shelter of the storehouse, which soon broke out
in flames.  The burning brands fell over the main collection of huts,
where there was much confusion and swearing.  The early hour at which
the attack had been delivered at first led the besieged to believe
that it was an Indian affair, but this impression was soon corrected
by the volley firing, which turned hope into despair.  It was no great
matter to fight Indians, that they had done many times and found more
or less enjoyment in it; but there was a vast difference between brave
and puncher, and the chances of their salvation became very small.
They surmised that it was the work of the cow-men on whom they had
preyed and that vengeful punchers lay hidden behind that death-fringe
of green willow and hazel.

Red, assisted by his inseparable companion, Hopalong, laboriously
climbed up among the branches of a black walnut and hooked one leg
over a convenient limb.  Then he lowered his rope and drew up the
Winchester which his accommodating friend fastened to it. Settling
himself in a comfortable position and sheltering his body somewhat by
the tree, he shaded his eyes by a hand and peered into the windows of
the distant cabins.

"How is she, Red?"  Anxiously inquired the man on the ground.

"Bully: want to come up?"

"Nope.  I'm goin' to catch yu when yu lets go," replied Hopalong with
a grin.

"Which same I ain't goin' to," responded the man in the tree.

He swung his rifle out over a forked limb and let it settle in the
crotch.  Then he slew his head around until he gained the bead he
wished.  Five minutes passed before he caught sight of his man and then
he fired.  Jerking out the empty shell he smiled and called out to his
friend: "One."

Hopalong grinned and went off to tell Buck to put all the men in
trees.

Night came on and still the firing continued.  Then an explosion
shook the woods.  The storehouse had blown up and a sky full of burning
timber fell on the cabins and soon three were half consumed, their
occupants dropping as they gained the open air.  One hundred paces
makes fine pot-shooting, as Deacon Rankin discovered when evacuation
was the choice necessary to avoid cremation.  He never moved after he
touched the ground and Red called out: "Two," not knowing that his
companion had departed.

The morning of the next day found a wearied and hopeless garrison,
and shortly before noon a soiled white shirt was flung from a window
in the nearest cabin.  Buck ran along the line and ordered the firing
to cease and caused to be raised an answering flag of truce.  A full
minute passed and then the door slowly opened and a leg protruded,
more slowly followed by the rest of the man, and Cheyenne Charley
strode out to the bank of the river and sat down.  His example was
followed by several others and then an unexpected event occurred.
Those in the cabins who preferred to die fighting, angered at this
desertion, opened fire on their former comrades, who barely escaped by
rolling down the slightly inclined bank into the river.  Red fired
again and laughed to himself. Then the fugitives swam down the river
and landed under the guns of the last squad.  They were taken to the
rear and, after being bound, were placed under a guard. There were
seven in the party and they looked worn out.

When the huts were burning the fiercest the uproar in the corral
arose to such a pitch as to drown all other sounds.  There were left
within its walls a few hundred cattle whose brands had not yet been
blotted out, and these, maddened to frenzy by the shooting and the
flames, tore from one end of the enclosure to the other, crashing
against the alternate walls with a noise which could be heard far out
on the plain.  Scores were trampled to death on each charge and finally
the uproar subsided in sheer want of cattle left with energy enough to
continue.  When the corral was investigated the next day there were
found the bodies of four rustlers, but recognition was impossible.

Several of the defenders were housed in cabins having windows in the
rear walls, which the occupants considered fortunate.  This opinion was
revised, however, after several had endeavored to escape by these
openings.  The first thing that occurred when a man put his head out
was the hum of a bullet, and in two cases the experimenters lost all
need of escape.

The volley firing had the desired effect, and at dusk there remained
only one cabin from which came opposition.  Such a fire was
concentrated on it that before an hour had passed the door fell in and
the firing ceased.  There was a rush from the side, and the Barred
Horseshoe men who swarmed through the cabins emerged without firing a
shot.  The organization that had stirred up the Pecos Valley ranches
had ceased to exist.



CHAPTER XXII

The Showdown


A fire burned briskly in front of Mr. Trendley's cabin that night
and several punchers sat around it occupied in various ways.  Two men
leaned against the wall and sang softly of the joys of the trail and
the range.  One of them, Lefty Allen, of the O-Bar-O, sang in his sweet
tenor, and other men gradually strolled up and seated themselves on
the ground, where the fitful gleam of responsive pipes and cigarettes
showed like fireflies. The songs followed one after another, first a
lover's plea in soft Spanish and then a rollicking tale of the cow-
towns and men.  Supper had long since been enjoyed and all felt that
life was, indeed, well worth living.

A shadow loomed against the cabin wall and a procession slowly made
its way toward the open door.  The leader, Hopalong, disappeared within
and was followed by Mr. Trendley, bound and hobbled and tied to Red,
the rear being brought up by Frenchy, whose rifle lolled easily in the
crotch of his elbow.  The singing went on uninterrupted and the hum of
voices between the selections remained unchanged.  Buck left the crowd
around the fire and went into the cabin, where his voice was heard
assenting to something.  Hopalong emerged and took a seat at the fire,
sending two punchers to take his place. He was joined by Frenchy and
Red, the former very quiet.

In the center of a distant group were seven men who were not armed.
Their belts, half full of cartridges, supported empty holsters.  They
sat and talked to the men around them, swapping notes and experiences,
and in several instances found former friends and acquaintances.  These
men were not bound and were apparently members of Buck's force.  Then
one of them broke down, but quickly regained his nerve and proposed a
game of cards.  A fire was started and several games were immediately
in progress.  These seven men were to die at daybreak.

As the night grew older man after man rolled himself in his blanket
and lay down where he sat, sinking off to sleep with a swiftness that
bespoke tired muscles and weariness.  All through the night, however,
there were twelve men on guard, of whom three were in the cabin.

At daybreak a shot from one of the guards awakened every man within
hearing, and soon they romped and scampered down to the river's edge
to indulge in the luxury of a morning plunge.  After an hour's
horseplay they trooped back to the cabin and soon had breakfast out of
the way.

Waffles, foreman of the O-Bar-O, and You-bet Somes strolled over to
the seven unfortunates who had just completed a choking breakfast and
nodded a hearty "Good morning."  Then others came up and finally all
moved off toward the river.  Crossing it, they disappeared into the
grove and all sounds of their advance grew into silence.

Mr. Trendley, escorted outside for the air, saw the procession as it
became lost to sight in the brush.  He sneered and asked for a smoke,
which was granted.  Then his guards were changed and the men began to
straggle back from the grove.

Mr. Trendley, with his back to the cabin, scowled defiantly at the
crowd that hemmed him in.  The coolest, most damnable murderer in the
West was not now going to beg for mercy.  When he had taken up crime as
a means of livelihood he had decided that if the price to be paid for
his course was death, he would pay like a man. He glanced at the
cottonwood grove, wherein were many ghastly secrets, and smiled.  His
hairless eyebrows looked like livid scars and his lips quivered in
scorn and anger.

As he sneered at Buck there was a movement in the crowd before him
and a pathway opened for Frenchy, who stepped forward slowly and
deliberately, as if on his way to some bar for a drink.  There was
something different about the man who had searched the Staked Plain
with Hopalong and Red: he was not the same puncher who had arrived
from Montana three weeks before.  There was lacking a certain air of
carelessness and he chilled his friends, who looked upon him as if
they had never really known him.  He walked up to Mr. Trendley and
gazed deeply into the evil eyes.

Twenty years before, Frenchy McAllister had changed his identity
from a happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care cow-puncher and became a
machine.  The grief that had torn his soul was not of the kind which
seeks its outlet in tears and wailing; it had turned and struck
inward, and now his deliberate ferocity was icy and devilish.  Only a
glint in his eyes told of exultation, and his words were sharp and
incisive; one could well imagine one heard the click of his teeth as
they bit off the consonants: every letter was clear-cut, every
syllable startling in its clearness.

"Twenty years and two months ago to-day," he began, "you arrived at
the ranchhouse of the Double Y, up near the Montana-Wyoming line.
Everything was quiet, except, perhaps, a woman's voice, singing.  You
entered, and before you left you pinned a note to that woman's dress.
I found it, and it is due."

The air of carelessness disappeared from the members of the crowd
and the silence became oppressive.  Most of those present knew parts of
Frenchy's story, and all were in hearty accord with anything he might
do.  He reached within his vest and brought forth a deerskin bag.
Opening it, he drew out a package of oiled silk and from that he took
a paper.  Carefully replacing the silk and the bag, he slowly unfolded
the sheet in his hand and handed it to Buck, whose face hardened.  Two
decades had passed since the foreman of the Bar-20 had seen that
precious sheet, but the scene of its finding would never fade from his
memory.  He stood as if carved from stone, with a look on his face that
made the crowd shift uneasily and glance at Trendley.

Frenchy turned to the rustler and regarded him evilly.  "You are the
hellish brute that wrote that note," pointing to the paper in the hand
of his friend.  Then, turning again, he spoke: "Buck, read that paper."

The foreman cleared his throat and read distinctly:

"McAllister: Yore wife is too blame good to live.

                                         TRENDLEY."

There was a shuffling sound, but Buck and Frenchy, silently backed
up by Hopalong and Red, intervened, and the crowd fell back, where it
surged in indecision.

"Gentlemen," said Frenchy, "I want you to vote on whether any man
here has more right to do with Slippery Trendley as he sees fit than
myself.  Any one who thinks so, or that he should be treated like the
others, step forward.  Majority rules."

There was no advance and he spoke again: "Is there any one here who
objects to this man dying?"

Hopalong and Red awkwardly bumped their knuckles against their guns
and there was no response.

The prisoner was bound with cowhide to the wall of the cabin and
four men sat near and facing him.  The noonday meal was eaten in
silence, and the punchers rode off to see about rounding up the cattle
that grazed over the plain as far as eye could see.  Supper-time came
and passed, and busy men rode away in all directions.  Others came and
relieved the guards, and at midnight another squad took up the vigil.

Day broke and the thunder of hoofs as the punchers rounded up the
cattle became very noticeable.  One herd swept past toward the south,
guarded and guided by fifteen men.  Two hours later and another
followed, taking a slightly different trail so as to avoid the close-
cropped grass left by the first.  At irregular intervals during the day
other herds swept by, until six had passed and denuded the plain of
cattle.

Buck, perspiring and dusty, accompanied by Hopalong and Red, rode up
to where the guards smoked and joked.  Frenchy came out of the cabin
and smiled at his friends.  Swinging in his left hand was a newly
filled Colt's .45, which was recognized by his friends as the one
found in the cabin and it bore a rough "T" gouged in the butt.

Buck looked around and cleared his throat: "We've got th' cows on
th' home trail, Frenchy," he suggested.

"Yas?"  Inquired Frenchy.  "Are there many?"

"Yas," replied Buck, waving his hand at the guards, ordering them to
follow their friends.  "It's a good deal for us: we've done right smart
this hand.  An' it's a good thing we've got so many punchers: we got a
lot of cattle to drive."

"About five times th' size of th' herd that blamed near made angels
out'en me an' yu," responded Frenchy with a smile.

"I hope almighty hard that we don't have no stampedes on this here
drive.  If th' last herds go wild they'll pick up th' others, an' then
there'll be th' devil to pay."

Frenchy smiled again and shot a glance at where Mr. Trendley was
bound to the cabin wall.

Buck looked steadily southward for some time and then flecked a
foam-sud from the flank of his horse.  "We are goin' south along th'
Creek until we gets to Big Spring, where we'll turn right smart to th'
west.  We won't be able to average more'n twelve miles a day, `though
I'm goin' to drive them hard.  How's yore grub?"

"Grub to burn."

"Got yore rope?"  Asked the foreman of the Bar-20, speaking as if the
question had no especial meaning.

Frenchy smiled: "Yes."

Hopalong absent-mindedly jabbed his spurs into his mount with the
result that when the storm had subsided the spell was broken and he
said "So long," and rode south, followed by Buck and Red.  As they
swept out of sight behind a grove Red turned in his saddle and waved
his hat.  Buck discussed with assiduity the prospects of a rainfall and
was very cheerful about the recovery of the stolen cattle.  Red could
see a tall, broad-shouldered man standing with his feet spread far
apart, swinging a Colt's .45, and Hopalong swore at everything under
the sun.  Dust arose in streaming clouds far to the south and they
spurred forward to overtake the outfits.

Buck Peters, riding over the starlit plain, in his desire to reach
the first herd, which slept somewhere to the west of him under the
care of Waffles, thought of the events of the past few weeks and
gradually became lost in the memories of twenty years before, which
crowded up before his mind like the notes of a half-forgotten song.
His nature, tempered by two decades of a harsh existence, softened as
he lived again the years that had passed and as he thought of the
things which had been.  He was so completely lost in his reverie that
he failed to hear the muffled hoofbeats of a horse that steadily
gained upon him, and when Frenchy McAllister placed a friendly hand on
his shoulder he started as if from a deep sleep.

The two looked at each other and their hands met.  The question which
sprang into Buck's eyes found a silent answer in those of his friend.
They rode on side by side through the clear night and together drifted
back to the days of the Double Y.

After an hour had passed, the foreman of the Bar-20 turned to his
companion and then hesitated:

"Did, did-was he a cur?"

Frenchy looked off toward the south and, after an interval, replied:
"Yas. "Then, as an after thought, he added, "Yu see, he never reckoned
it would be that way."

Buck nodded, although he did not fully understand, and the subject
was forever closed.



CHAPTER XXIII

Mr. Cassidy Meets a Woman


The work of separating the cattle into herds of the different brands
was not a big contract, and with so many men it took but a
comparatively short time, and in two days all signs of the rustlers
had faded.  It was then that good news went the rounds and the men
looked forward to a week of pleasure, which was all the sharper
accentuated by the grim mercilessness of the expedition into the
Panhandle.  Here was a chance for unlimited hilarity and a whole week
in which to give strict attention to celebrating the recent victory.

So one day Mr. Hopalong Cassidy rode rapidly over the plain,
thinking about the joys and excitement promised by the carnival to be
held at Muddy Wells.  With that rivalry so common to Western towns the
inhabitants maintained that the carnival was to break all records,
this because it was to be held in their town.  Perry's Bend and
Buckskin had each promoted a similar affair, and if this year's
festivities were to be an improvement on those which had gone before,
they would most certainly be worth riding miles to see.  Perry's Bend
had been unfortunate m being the first to hold a carnival, inasmuch as
it only set a mark to be improved upon, and Buckskin had taken
advantage of this and had added a brass band, and now in turn was to
be eclipsed.

The events slated were numerous and varied, the most important being
those which dealt directly with the everyday occupations of the
inhabitants of that section of the country.  Broncho busting, steer-
roping and tying, rifle and revolver shooting, trick riding and fancy
roping made up the main features of the programme and were to be set
off by horse and foot racing and other county fair necessities.
Altogether, the proud citizens of the town looked forward with keen
anticipation to the coming excitements, and were prone to swagger a
bit and to rub their hands in condescending egoism, while the crowded
gambling halls and saloons, and the three-card-monte men on the street
corners enriched themselves at the cost of venturesome know-it-ails.

Hopalong was firmly convinced that his day of hard riding was well
worth while, for the Bar-2o was to be represented in strength.
Probably a clearer insight into his idea of a carnival can be gained
by his definition, grouchily expressed to Red Connors on the day
following the last affair: "Raise cain, go broke, wake up an' begin
punching cows all over again." But that was the day after and the day
after is always filled with remorse.

Hopalong and Red, having twice in succession won the revolver and
rifle competitions, respectively, hoped to make it `Three straight.'
Lanky Smith, the Bar-20 rope expert, had taken first prize in the only
contest he had entered.  Skinny Thompson had lost and drawn with Lefty
Allen, of the O-Bar-O, in the broncho-busting event, but as Skinny had
improved greatly in the interval, his friends confidently expected him
to "yank first place" for the honor of his ranch.
These expectations were backed with all the available Bar-20 money, and,
if they were not realized, something in the nature of a calamity would swoop
down upon and wrap that ranch in gloom. Since the O-Bar-O was
aggressively optimistic the betting was at even money, hats and guns, and the
losers would begin life anew so far as earthly possessions were
concerned. No other competitors were considered in this event, as
Skinny and Lefty had so far outclassed all others that the honor was
believed to lie between these two.

Hopalong, blissfully figuring out the chances of the different
contestants, galloped around a clump of mesquite only fifteen miles
from Muddy Wells and stiffened in his saddle, for twenty rods ahead of
him on the trail was a woman.  As she heard him approach she turned and
waited for him to overtake her, and when she smiled he raised his
sombrero and bowed.

"Will you please tell me where I am?"  She asked.

"Yu are fifteen miles southeast of Muddy Wells," he replied.

"But which is southeast?"

"Right behind yu," he answered.  "Th' town lies right ahead."

"Are you going there?"  She asked.

"Yes, ma'am."

"Then you will not care if I ride with you?"  She asked. "I am a
trifle frightened."

"Why, I'd be some pleased if yu do, `though there ain't nothing out
here to be afraid of now."

"I had no intention of getting lost," she assured him, "but I
dismounted to pick flowers and cactus leaves and after a while I had
no conception of where I was."

"How is it yu are out here?"  He asked. "Yu shouldn't get so far from
town."

"Why, papa is an invalid and doesn't like to leave his room, and the
town is so dull, although the carnival is waking it up somewhat.
Having nothing to do I procured a horse and determined to explore the
country.  Why, this is like Stanley and Livingstone, isn't it?  You
rescued the explorer!" And she laughed heartily.  He wondered who in
thunder Stanley and Livingstone were, but said nothing.

"I like the West, it is so big and free," she continued.  "But it is
very monotonous at times, especially when compared with New York.  Papa
swears dreadfully at the hotel and declares that the food will drive
him insane, but I notice that he eats much more heartily than he did
when in the city.  And the service!-it is awful.  But when one leaves
the town behind it is splendid, and I can appreciate it because I had
such a hard season in the city last winter-so many balls, parties and
theaters that I simply wore myself out."

"I never hankered much for them things," Hopalong replied.  "An' I
don't like th' towns much, either.  Once or twice a year I gets as far
as Kansas City, but I soon tires of it an' hits th' back trail.  Yu
see, I don't like a fence country-I wants lots of room an' air.

She regarded him intently: "I know that you will think me very
forward."

He smiled and slowly replied: "I think yu are all O. K."

"There do not appear to be many women in this country," she
suggested.

"No, there ain't many," he replied, thinking of the kind to be found
in all of the cow-towns.  "They don't seem to hanker for this kind of
life-they wants parties an' lots of dancin' an' them kind of things.  I
reckon there ain't a whole lot to tempt em to come.

"You evidently regard women as being very frivolous," she replied.

"Well, I'm speakin' from there not being any out here," he
responded, "although I don't know much about them, to tell th' truth.
Them what are out here can't be counted."  Then he flushed and looked
away.

She ignored the remark and placed her hand to her hair:

"Goodness! My hair must look terrible!"

He turned and looked: "Yore hair is pretty-I allus did like brown
hair."

She laughed and put back the straggling locks: "It is terrible! Just
look at it! Isn't it awful?"

"Why, no: I reckons not," he replied critically.  "It looks sort of
free an' easy thataway."

"Well, it's no matter, it cannot be helped," she laughed.  "Let's
race!" she cried and was off like a shot.

He humored her until he saw that her mount was getting unmanageable,
when he quietly overtook her and closed her pony's nostrils with his
hand, the operation having a most gratifying effect.

"Joe hadn't oughter let yu had this cayuse," he said.

"Why, how do you know of whom I procured it?"  She asked. "By th'
brand: it's a O-Bar-O, canceled, with J. H. over it.  He buys all of
his cayuses from th' O-Bar-O."

She found out his name, and, after an interval of silence, she
turned to him with eyes full of inquiry: "What is that thorny shrub
just ahead?"  She asked.

"That's mesquite," he replied eagerly.

"Tell me all about it," she commanded.

"Why, there ain't much to tell," he replied, "only it's a valuable
tree out here.  Th' Apaches use it a whole lot of ways.  They get honey
from th' blossoms an' glue an' gum, an' they use th' bark for tannin'
hide.  Th' dried pods an' leaves are used to feed their cattle, an' th'
wood makes corrals to keep `em in.  They use th' wood for making other
things, too, an' it is of two colors. Th' sap makes a dye what won't
wash out, an' th' beans make a bread what won't sour or get hard.  Then
it makes a barrier that shore is a dandy-coyotes an' men can't get
through it, an' it protects a whole lot of birds an' things.  Th'
snakes hate it like poison, for th' thorns get under their scales an'
whoops things up for `em. It keeps th' sand from shiftin', too.  Down
South where there is plenty of water, it often grows forty feet high,
but up here it squats close to th' ground so it can save th' moisture.
In th' night th' temperature sometimes falls thirty degrees, an' that
helps it, too."

"How can it live without water?"  She asked.

"It gets all th' water it wants," he replied, smiling.  "Th' tap
roots go straight down `til they find it, sometimes fifty feet.  That's
why it don't shrivel up in th' sun.  Then there are a lot of little
roots right under it an' they protects th' tap roots.  Th' shade it
gives is th' coolest out here, for th' leaves turn with th' wind an'
lets th' breeze through-they're hung on little stems."

"How splendid!" she exclaimed.  "Oh! Look there!" she cried, pointing
ahead of them.  A chaparral cock strutted from its decapitated enemy, a
rattlesnake, and disappeared in the chaparral.

Hopalong laughed: "Mr. Scissors-bill Road-runner has great fun with
snakes.  He runs along th' sand-an' he can run, too- an' sees a snake
takin' a siesta. Snip! goes his bill an' th' snake slides over th'
Divide.  Our fighting friend may stop some coyote's appetite before
morning, though, unless he stays where he is."

Just then a gray wolf blundered in sight a few rods ahead of them,
and Hopalong fired instantly.  His companion shrunk from him and looked
at him reproachfully.

"Why did you do that!" she demanded.

"Why, because they costs us big money every year," he replied.
"There's a bounty on them because they pull down calves, an' sometimes
full grown cows.  I'm shore wonderin' why he got so close-they're
usually just out of range, where they stays."

"Promise me that you will shoot no more while I am with you.

"Why, shore: I didn't think yu'd care," he replied.  "Yu are like
that sky-pilot over to Las Cruces-he preached agin killin' things,
which is all right for him, who didn't have no cows."

"Do you go to the missions?"  She asked.

He replied that he did, sometimes, but forgot to add that it was
usually for the purpose of hilarity, for he regarded sky-pilots with
humorous toleration.

"Tell me all about yourself-what you do for enjoyment and all about
your work," she requested.

He explained in minute detail the art of punching cows, and told her
more of the West in half an hour than she could have learned from a
year's experience.  She showed such keen interest in his words that it
was a pleasure to talk to her, and he monopolized the conversation
until the town intruded its sprawling collection of unpainted shacks
and adobe huts in their field of vision.



CHAPTER XXIV

The Strategy of Mr. Peters


Hopalong and his companion rode into Muddy Wells at noon, and Red Connors,
who leaned with Buck Peters against the side of Tom Lee's saloon, gasped his
astonishment.  Buck looked twice to be sure, and then muttered incredulously:
"What th' heck!" Red repeated the phrase and retreated within the saloon,
while Buck stood his ground, having had much experience with women, inasmuch
as he had narrowly escaped marrying.  He thought that he might as well get all
the information possible, and waited for an introduction.  It was in vain,
however, for the two rode past without noticing him.

Buck watched them turn the corner and then called for Red to come out, but
that person, fearing an ordeal, made no reply and the foreman went in after
him.  The timorous one was corraling bracers at the bar and nearly swallowed
down the wrong channel when Buck placed a heavy hand on his broad shoulder.

"G'way!" remarked Red. "I don't want no introduction, none whatever," he
asserted. "G'way!" he repeated, backing off suspiciously.

"Better wait `til yu are asked," suggested Buck.  "Better wait `til yu sees
th' rope afore yu duck."  Then he laughed: "Yu bashful fellers make me plumb
disgusted. Why, I've seen yu face a bunch of guns an never turn a hair, an'
here yore all in because yu fear yu'll have to stand around an' hide yore
hands.  She won't bite yu.  Anyway, from what I saw, Hopalong is due to be her
grub-he never saw me at all, th' chump."

"He shore didn't see me, none," replied Red with distinct relief.  "Are they
gone?"

"Shore," answered Buck.  "An' if they wasn't they wouldn't see us, not if we
stood in front of them an' yelled.  She's a hummer-stands two hands under him
an' is a whole lot prettier than that picture Cowan has got over his bar.
There's nothing th' matter with his eyesight, but he's plumb locoed, all th'
same.  He'll go an' get stuck on her an' then she'll hit th' trail for home
an' mamma, an' he won't be worth his feed for a year."  Then he paused in
consternation: "Thunder, Red: he's got to shoot to-morrow!"

"Well, suppose he has?"  Responded Red.  "I don't reckon she'll stampede his
gun-play none.

"Yu don't reckon, eh?"  Queried Buck with much irony.  "No, an' that's what's
th' matter with yu.  Why, do yu expect to see him to-morrow?  Yu won't if I
knows him an' I reckon I do.  Nope, he'll be follerin' her all around."

"He's got sand to burn," remarked Red in awe.  "Wonder how he got to know
her?"

"Yu can gamble she did th' introducing part-he ain't got th' nerve to do it
himself. He saved her life, or she thinks he did, or some romantic nonsense
like that.  So yu better go around an' get him away, an' keep him away, too."

"Who, me?"  Inquired Red in indignation.  "Me go around an' tote him off?  I
ain't no wagon: yu go, or send Johnny."

"Johnny would say something real pert an' get knocked into th' middle of
next week for it.  He won't do, so I reckon yu better go yoreself," responded
Buck, smiling broadly and moving off.

"Hey, yu! Wait a minute!" cried Red in consternation.  Buck paused and Red
groped for an excuse: "Why don't you send Billy?"  He blurted in desperation.

The foreman's smile assumed alarming proportions and he slapped his thigh in
joy: "Good boy!" he laughed.  "Billy's th' man-good Lord, but won't he give
Cupid cold feet! Rustle around an' send th' pessimistic soul to me."

Red, grinning and happy, rapidly visited door after door, shouted, "Hey,
Billy!" and proceeded to the next one.  He was getting pugnacious at his lack
of success when he espied Mr. Billy Williams tacking along the accidental
street as if he owned it.  Mr. Williams was executing fancy steps and was
trying to sing many songs at once.

Red stopped and grabbed his bibulous friend as that person veered to
starboard: "Yore a peach of a life-preserver, yu are!" he exclaimed.

Billy balanced himself, swayed back and forth and frowned his displeasure at
this unwarranted action: "I ain't no wife-deserter!" he shouted.  "Unrope me
an' give me th' trail! No tenderfoot can ride me! "Then he recognized his
friend and grinned joyously:  "Shore I will, but only one.  Jus' one more, jus'
one more.  Yu see, m'friend, it was all Jimmy's fault. He-"

Red secured a chancery hold and dragged his wailing and remonstrating friend
to Buck, who frowned with displeasure.

"This yere," said Red in belligerent disgust, "is th' dod-blasted hero
what's a-goin' to save Hopalong from a mournful future.  What are we a-goin'
to do?"

Buck slipped the Colt's from Billy's holster and yanked the erring one to
his feet:  "Fill him full of sweet oil, source him in th' trough, walk him
around for awhile an' see what it does," he ordered.

Two hours later Billy walked up to his foreman and weakly asked what was
wanted.  He looked as though he had just been released from a six-months' stay
in a hospital.

"Yu go over to th' hotel an' find Hopalong," said the foreman sternly.  "Stay
with him all th' time, for there is a plot on foot to wing him on th' sly.  If
yu ain't mighty spry he'll be dead by night."

Having delivered the above instructions and prevarications, Buck throttled
the laugh which threatened to injure him and scowled at Red, who again fled
into the saloon for fear of spoiling it all with revealed mirth.

The convalescent stared in open-mouthed astonishment:

"What's he doin' in th' hotel, an' who's goin' to plug him?"  He asked.

"Yu leave that to me," replied Buck, "All yu has to do is to get on th' job
with yore gun," handing the weapon to him, "an' freeze to him like a flea on
a cow.  Mebby there'll be a woman in th' game, but that ain't none of yore
funeral-yu do what I said."

"Blast th' women!" exploded Billy, moving off.  When he had entered the hotel
Buck went in to Red.

"For Pete's sake!" moaned that person in senseless reiteration.  "Th' Lord
help Billy! Holy Mackinaw!" he shouted.  "Gimme a drink an' let me tell th'
boys."

The members of the outfit were told of the plot and they gave their
uproarious sanction, all needing bracers to sustain them.

Billy found the clerk swapping lies with the bartender and, procuring the
desired information, climbed the stairs and hunted for room No. 6.
Discovering it, he dispensed with formality, pushed open the door and
entered.

He found his friend engaged in conversation with a pretty young woman, and
on a couch at the far side of the room lay an elderly white-whiskered
gentleman who was reading a magazine.  Billy felt like a criminal for a few
seconds and then there came to him the thought that his was a mission of
great import and he braced himself to face any ordeal.  "Anyway," he thought,
"th' prettier they are th' more dust they can raise."

"What are yu doing here?"  Cried Hopalong in amazement.

"That's all right," averred the protector, confidentially.

"What's all right?"

"Why, everything," replied Billy, feeling uncomfortable.

The elderly man hastily sat up and dropped his magazine when he saw the
armed intruder, his eyes as wide open as his mouth.   He felt for his
spectacles, but did not need them, for he could see nothing but the Colt's
which Billy jabbed at him.

"None of that!" snapped Billy. "`Nds up!" he ordered, and the hands Went up
so quick that when they stopped the jerk shook the room.  Peering over the
gentleman's leg, Billy saw the spectacles and backed to the wall as he
apologized: "It's shore on me, Stranger-I reckoned yu was contemplatin' some
gun-play."

Hopalong, blazing with wrath, arose and shoved Billy toward the hail, when
Mr. Johnny Nelson, oozing fight and importance, intruded his person into the
zone of action.

"Lord!" ejaculated the newcomer, staring at the vision of female loveliness
which so suddenly greeted him.  "Mamma," he added under his breath.  Then he
tore off his sombrero:  "Come out of this, Billy, yu chump!" he exploded,
backing toward the door, being followed by the protector.

Hopalong slammed the door and turned to his hostess, apologizing for the
disturbance.

"Who are they?"  Palpitated Miss Deane.

"What the deuce are they doing up here!" blazed her father.  Hopalong
disclaimed any knowledge of them and just then Billy opened the door and
looked in.

"There he is again!" cried Miss Deane, and her father gasped.  Hopalong ran
out into the hall and narrowly missed kicking Billy into Kingdom Come as that
person slid down the stairs, surprised and indignant.

Mr. Billy Williams, who sat at the top of the stairs, was feeling hungry and
thirsty when he saw his friend, Mr. Pete Wilson, the slow witted,
approaching.

"Hey, Pete," he called, "come up here an' watch this door while I rustles
some grub.  Keep yore eyes open," he cautioned.

As Pete began to feel restless the door opened and a dignified gentleman
with white whiskers came out into the hall and then retreated with great
haste and no dignity.  Pete got the drop on the door and waited.  Hopalong
yanked it open and kissed the muzzle of the weapon before he could stop, and
Pete grinned.

"Coming to th' fight?"  He loudly asked.  "It's going to be a shore `nough
sumptious scrap-just th' kind yu allus like.  Come on, th' boys are waitin'
for yu."

"Keep quiet!" hissed Hopalong.

"What for?"  Asked Pete in surprise.  "Didn't yu say yu shore wanted to see
that scrap?"

"Shut yore face an' get scarce, or yu'll go home in cans!"

As Hopalong seated himself once more Red strolled up to the door and
knocked.  Hopalong ripped it open and Red, looking as fierce and worried as he
could, asked Hopalong if he was all right.  Upon being assured by smoking
adjectives that he was, the caller looked relieved and turned thoughtfully
away.

"Hey, yu! Come here!" called Hopalong.

Red waved his hand and said that he had to meet a man and clattered down the
stairs.  Hopalong thought that he, also, had to meet a man and, excusing
himself, hastened after his friend and overtook him in the Street, where he
forced a confession.  Returning to his hostess he told her of the whole
outrage, and she was angry at first, but seeing the humorous side of it, she
became convulsed with laughter.  Her father re-read his paragraph for the
thirteenth time and then, slamming the magazine on the floor, asked how many
times he was expected to read ten lines before he knew what was in them, and
went down to the bar.

Miss Deane regarded her companion with laughing eyes and then became
suddenly sober as he came toward her.

"Go to your foreman and tell him that you will shoot to-morrow, for I will
see that you do, and I will bring luck to the Bar-20. Be sure to call for me
at one o'clock: I will be ready."

He hesitated, bowed, and slowly departed, making his way to Tom Lee's, where
his entrance hushed the hilarity which had reigned.  Striding to where Buck
stood, he placed his hands on his hips and searched the foreman's eyes.

Buck smiled: "Yu ain't mad, are yu?"  He asked.

Hopalong relaxed: "No, but blame near it."

Red and the others grabbed him from the rear, and when he had been
"buffaloed" into good humor he threw them from him, laughed and waved his
hand toward the bar:

"Come up, yu sons-of-guns.  Yore a cussed nuisance sometimes, but yore a
bully gang all th' same."



CHAPTER XXV

Mr. Ewalt Draws Cards


Tex Ewalt, cow-puncher, prospector, sometimes a rustler, but always a
dude, rode from El Paso in deep disgust at his steady losses at faro
and monte.  The pecuniary side of these caused him no worry, for he was
flush.  This pleasing opulence was due to his business ability, for he
had recently sold a claim for several thousand dollars.  The first
operation was simple, being known in Western phraseology as "jumping";
and the second, somewhat more complicated, was known as "salting."

The first of the money spent went for a complete new outfit, and he
had parted with just three hundred and seventy dollars to feed his
vanity.  He desired something contrasty and he procured it.  His
sombrero, of gray felt a quarter of an inch thick, flaunted a band of
black leather, on which was conspicuously displayed a solid silver
buckle.  His neck was protected by a crimson kerchief of the finest,
heaviest silk.  His shirt, in pattern the same as those commonly worn
in the cow country, was of buckskin, soft as a baby's cheek and
impervious to water, and the Angora goatskin chaps, with the long
silken hair worn outside, were as white as snow.  Around his waist ran
loosely a broad, black leather belt supporting a heavy black holster,
in which lay its walnut-handled burden, a .44 caliber six-shooter; and
thirty center-fire cartridges peeked from their loops, fifteen on a
side.  His boots, the soles thin and narrow and the heels high, were
black and of the finest leather.  Huge spurs, having two-inch rowels,
were held in place by buckskin straps, on which, also, were silver
buckles.  Protecting his hands were heavy buckskin gloves, also
waterproof, having wide, black gauntlets.

Each dainty hock of his dainty eight-hundred-pound buckskin pony was
black, and a black star graced its forehead.  Well groomed, with
flowing mane and tail, and with the brand on its flank being almost
imperceptible, the animal was far different in appearance from most of
the cow-ponies.  Vicious and high-spirited, it cavorted just enough to
show its lines to the best advantage.


The saddle, a famous Cheyenne and forty pounds in weight, was black,
richly embossed, and decorated with bits of beaten silver which
flashed back the sunlight.  At the pommel hung a thirty-foot coil of
braided horsehair rope, and at the rear was a Sharp's .50-caliber,
breech-loading rifle, its owner having small use for any other make.
The color of the bridle was the same as the saddle and it supported a
heavy U bit which was capable of a leverage sufficient to break the
animal's jaw.

Tex was proud of his outfit, but his face wore a frown-not there
only on acount of his losses, but also by reason of his mission, for
under all his finery beat a heart as black as any in the cow country.
For months he had smothered hot hatred and he was now on his way to
ease himself of it.

He and Slim Travennes had once exchanged shots with Hopalong in
Santa Fe, and the month which he had spent in bed was not pleasing,
and from that encounter had sprung the hatred.  That he had been in the
wrong made no difference with him.  Some months later he had learned of
the death of Slim, and it was due to the same man.  That Slim had again
been in the wrong also made no difference, for he realized the fact
and nothing else.

Lately he had been told of the death of Slippery
Trendley and Deacon Rankin, and he accepted their passing as a
personal affront.  That they had been caught red-handed in cattle
stealing of huge proportions and received only what was customary
under the conditions formed no excuse in his mind for their passing.
He was now on his way to attend the carnival at Muddy Wells, knowing
that his enemy would be sure to be there.

While passing through Las Cruces he met Porous Johnson and Silent
Somes, who were thirsty and who proclaimed that fact, whereupon he
relieved them of their torment and, looking forward to more treatment
of a similar nature, they gladly accompanied him without asking why or
where.

As they left the town in their rear Tex turned in his saddle and
surveyed them with a cynical smile.

"Have yu heard anything of Trendley?"  He asked.

They shook their heads.

`Him an' th' Deacon was killed over in th' Panhandle," he said.

"What!" chorused the pair.

"Jack Dorman, Shorty Danvers, Charley Teale, Stiffhat Bailey, Billy
Jackson, Terry Nolan an' Sailor Carson was lynched."

"What!" they shouted.

"Fish O'Brien, Pinochle Schmidt, Tom Wilkins, Apache Gordon, Charley
of th' Bar Y, Penobscot Hughes an' about twenty others died fightin'."

Porous looked his astonishment: "Cavalry?"

"An' I'm going after th' dogs who did it," he continued, ignoring
the question.  "Are yu with me ? -Yu used to pal with some of them,
didn't yu?"

"We did, an' we're shore with yu!" cried Porous.

"Yore right," endorsed Silent.  "But who done it?"

"That gang what's punchin' for th' Bar-20-Hopalong Cassidy is th'
one I'm pining for.  Yu fellers can take care of Peters an' Connors."

The two stiffened and exchanged glances of uncertainty and
apprehension.  The outfit of the Bar-20 was too well known to cause
exuberant joy to spring from the idea of war with it, and well in the
center of all the tales concerning it were the persons Tex had named.
To deliberately set forth with the avowed intention of planting these
was not at all calculated to induce sweet dreams.

Tex sneered his contempt.

"Yore shore uneasy: yu ain't a-scared, are yu?"  He drawled.  Porous
relaxed and made a show of subduing his horse: "I reckon I ain't
scared plumb to death.  Yu can deal me a hand," he asserted.

"I'll draw cards too," hastily announced Silent, buttoning his vest.
"Tell us about that jamboree over in th' Panhandle."

Tex repeated the story as he had heard it from a bibulous member of
the Barred Horseshoe, and then added a little of torture as a sauce to
whet their appetites for revenge.

"How did Trendley cash in?"  Asked Porous.

"Nobody knows except that bum from th' Tin-Cup.  I'll get him later.
I'd a got Cassidy up in Santa Fe, too, if it wasn't for th' sun in my
eyes.  Me an' Slim loosened up on him in th' Plaza, but we couldn't see
nothing with him a-standin' against th' sun."

"Where's Slim now?"  Asked Porous.  "I ain't seen him for some time."

"Slim's with Trendley," replied Tex.  "Cassidy handed him over to St.
Pete at Cactus Springs. Him an' Connors sicked their outfit on him an'
his vigilantes, bein helped some by th' O-Bar-O. They wiped th' town
plumb off th' earth, an' now I'm going to do some wipin' of my own
account.  I'll prune that gang of some of its blossoms afore long.  It's
cost me seventeen friends so far, an' I'm going to stop th' leak, or
make another."

They entered Muddy Wells at sunrise on the day of the carnival and,
eating a hearty breakfast, sallied forth to do their share toward
making the festivities a success.

The first step considered necessary for the acquirement of case and
polish was begun at the nearest bar, and Tex, being the host, was so
liberal that his friends had reached a most auspicious state when they
followed him to Tom Lee's.

Tex was too wise to lose his head through drink and had taken only
enough to make him careless of consequences.  Porous was determined to
sing "Annie Laurie," although he hung on the last word of the first
line until out of breath and then began anew.  Silent, not wishing to
be outdone, bawled at the top of his lungs a medley of music-hall
words to the air of a hymn.

Tex, walking as awkwardly as any cow-puncher, approached Tom Lee's,
his two friends trailing erratically, arm in arm, in his rear.
Swinging his arm he struck the door a resounding blow and entered,
hand on gun, as it crashed back.  Porous and Silent stood in the
doorway and quarreled as to what each should drink and, compromising,
lurched in and seated themselves on a table and resumed their vocal
perpetrations.

Tex swaggered over to the bar and tossed a quarter upon it:  "Corn
juice," he laconically exclaimed. Tossing off the liquor and glancing
at his howling friends, he shrugged his shoulders and strode out by
the rear door, slamming it after him.  Porous and Silent, recounting
friends who had "cashed in" fell to weeping and they were thus
occupied when Hopalong and Buck entered, closely followed by the rest
of the outfit.

Buck walked to the bar and was followed by Hopalong, who declined
his foreman's offer to treat.  Tom Lee set a bottle at Buck's elbow and
placed his hands against the bar.

"Friend of yourn just hit the back trail," he remarked to Hopalong.
"He was primed some for trouble, too," he added.

"Yaas?"  Drawled Hopalong with little interest.

The proprietor restacked the few glasses and wiped off the bar.
"Them's his pardners," he said, indicating the pair on the table.

Hopalong turned his head and gravely scrutinized them.  Porous was
bemoaning the death of Slim Travennes and Hopalong frowned.

"Don't reckon he's no relation of mine," he grunted.

"Well, he ain't yore sister," replied Tom Lee, grinning.

"What's his brand?"  Asked the puncher.

"I reckon he's a maverick, `though yu put yore brand on him up to
Santa Fe a couple of years back.  Since he's throwed back on yore range
I reckon he's yourn if yu wants him."

"I reckon Tex is some sore," remarked Hopalong, rolling a cigarette.

"I reckon he is," replied the proprietor, tossing Buck's quarter in
the cash box.  "But, say, you should oughter see his rig."

"Yaas?"

"He's shore a cow-punch dude-my, but he's some sumptious an'
highfalutin'. An' bad?  Why, he reckons th' Lord never brewed a more
high-toned brand of cussedness than his'n.  He shore reckons he's the
baddest man that ever simmered."

"How'd he look as th' leadin' man in a necktie festival?"  Blazed
Johnny from across the room, feeling called upon to help the
conversation.

"He'd be a howlin' success, son," replied Skinny Thompson, "judgin'
by his friends what we elevated over in th' Panhandle."

Lanky Smith leaned forward with his elbow on the table, resting his
chin in the palm of his hand: "Is Ewalt still a-layin' for yu,
Hopalong?"  He asked.

Hopalong turned wearily and tossed his half-consumed cigarette into
the box of sand which did duty as a cuspidore: "I reckon so; an' he
shore can hatch whenever he gets good an ready, too."

"He's probably a-broodin' over past grievances," offered Johnny, as
he suddenly pushed Lanky's elbow from the table, nearly causing a
catastrophe.

"Yu'll be broodin' over present grievances if yu don't look out, yu
everlastin' nuisance yu," growled Lanky, planting his elbow in its
former position with an emphasis which conveyed a warning.

"These bantams ruflle my feathers," remarked Red.  "They go around
braggin' about th' egg they're goin' to lay an' do enough cacklin' to
furnish music for a dozen.  Then when th' affair comes off yu'll
generally find they's been settin' on a door-knob."

"Did yu ever see a hen leave th' walks of peace an' bugs an' rustle
hell-bent across th' trail plumb in front of a cayuse?"  Asked Buck.
"They'll leave off rustlin' grub an' become candidates for th'
graveyard just for cussedness.  Well, a whole lot of men are th' same
way. How many times have I seen them swagger into a gin shop an' try
to run things sudden an' hard, an' that with half a dozen better men
in th' same room?  There's shore a-plenty of trouble a-comin' to every
man without rustlin' around for more.

"`Member that time yu an' Frenchy tried to run th' little town of
Frozen Nose, up in Montana?"  Asked Johnny, winking at the rest.

"An' we did run it, for a while," responded Buck.  "But that only
goes to show that most young men are chumps-we were just about yore
age then."

Red laughed at the youngster's discomfiture: "That little squib of
yourn shore touched her off-I reckon we irrigates on yu this time,
don't we?"

"Th' more th' Kid talks, th' more money he needs," remarked Lanky,
placing his glass on the bar.  "He had to blow me an' Skinny twice last
night."

"I got two more after yu left," added Skinny "He shore oughter
practice keeping still."

At one o'clock sharp Hopalong walked up to the clerk of the hotel
and grinned. The clerk looked up:

 "Hullo, Cassidy?"  He exclaimed, genially. "What was all that fuss
about this mornin' when I was away?  I haven't seen you for a long
time, have I?  How are you?"

"That fuss was a fool joke of Buck's, an' I wish they had been
throwed out," Hopalong replied.  "What I want to know is if Miss Deane
is in her room.  Yu see, I have a date with her."

The clerk grinned:

"So she's roped you, too, has she?"

"What do yu mean?"  Asked Hopalong in surprise.  "Well, well," laughed
the clerk.  "You punchers are easy.  Any third-rate actress that looks
good to eat can rope you fellows, all right.  Now look here, Laura, you
keep shy of her corral, or you'll be broke so quick you won't believe
you ever had a cent: that's straight.  This is the third year that she's been here
and I know what I'm talking about.  How did you come to meet her?"

Hopalong explained the meeting and his friend laughed again:

"Why, she knows this country like a book.  She can't get lost
anywhere around here.  But she's blame clever at catching punchers."

"Well, I reckon I'd better take her, go broke or not," replied
Hopalong.  "Is she in her room?"

"She is, but she is not alone," responded the clerk.  "There is a
dude puncher up there with her and she left word here that she was
indisposed, which means that you are outlawed."

"Who is he?"  Asked Hopalong, having his suspicions.  "That friend of
yours: Ewalt.  He sported a wad this morning when she passed him, and
she let him make her acquaintance.  He's another easy mark.  He'll be
busted wide open to-night."

"I reckon I'll see Tex," suggested Hopalong, starting for the
stairs.

"Come back, you chump!" cried the clerk.  "I don't want any shooting
here.  What do you care about it?  Let her have him, for it's an easy
way out of it for you.  Let him think he's cut you out, for he'll spend
all the more freely.  Get your crowd and enlighten them-it'll be better
than a circus.  This may sound like a steer, but it's straight."

Hopalong thought for a minute and then leaned on the cigar case:

"I reckon I'll take about a dozen of yore very best cigars, Charley.
Got any real high-toned brands?"

"Cortez panatella-two for a simoleon," Chancy replied.  "But, seein'
that it's you, I'll throw off a dollar on a dozen.  They're a fool
notion of the old man, for we can't sell one in a month."

Hopalong dug up a handful and threw one on the counter, lighting
another: "Yu light a Cortez panatella with me," he said, pocketing the
remainder.  "That's five simoleons she didn't get.  So long."

He journeyed to Tom Lee's and found his outfit making merry.  Passing
around his cigars he leaned against the bar and delighted in the first
really good smoke he had since he came home from Kansas City.

Johnny Nelson blew a cloud of smoke at the ceiling and paused with a
pleased expression on his face:

"This is a lalapoloosa of a cigar," he cried.  "Where'd yu get it,
an' how many's left?"

"I got it from Charley, an' there's more than yu can buy at fifty a
shot."

"Well, I'll just take a few for luck," Johnny responded, running out
into the street. Returning in five minutes with both hands full of
cigars he passed them around and grinned:
"They're birds, all right!"

Hopalong smiled, turned to Buck and related his conversation with
Chancy.  "What do yu think of that?"  He asked as he finished.

"I think Charley oughter be yore guardian," replied the foreman.

"He was," replied Hopalong.

"If we sees Tex we'll all grin hard," laughed Red, making for the
door.  "Come on to th' contests-Lanky's gone already."

Muddy Wells streamed to the carnival grounds and relieved itself of
its enthusiasm and money at the booths on the way.  Cow-punchers rubbed
elbows with Indians and Mexicans, and the few tourists that were
present were delighted with the picturesque scene.  The town was full
of fakirs and before one of them stood a group of cow-punchers,
apparently drinking in the words of a barker.

"Right this way, gents, and see the woman who don't eat.  Lived for
two years without food, gents.  Right this way, gents.  Only a quarter
of a dollar.  Get your tickets, gents, and see-"

Red pushed forward:

"What did yu say, pard?"  He asked.  "I'm a little off in my near ear.
What's that about eatin' a woman for two years?"

"The greatest wonder of the age, gents.  The wom-"

"Any discount for th' gang?"  Asked Buck, gawking.

"Why don't yu quit smokin' an' buy th' lady a meal?"  Asked Johnny
from the center of the group.

"Th' cane yu ring th' cane yu get!" came from the other side of the
street and Hopalong purchased rings for the outfit.  Twenty-four rings
got one cane, and it was divided between them as they wended their way
toward the grounds.

"That makes six wheels she didn't get," murmured Hopalong.  As they
passed the snake charmer's booth they saw Tex and his companion ahead
of them in the crowd, and they grinned broadly.  "I like th' front row
in th' balcony," remarked Johnny, who had been to Kansas City. "Don't
cry in th' second act-it ain't real," laughed Red.  "We'll hang John
Brown on a sour appletree-in th' Panhandle," sang Skinny as they
passed them.

Arriving at the grounds they hunted up the registration committee
and entered in the contests.  As Hopalong signed for the revolver
competition he was rudely pushed aside and Tex wrote his name under
that of his enemy.  Hopalong was about to show quick resentment for the
insult, but thought of what Charley had said, and he grinned
sympathetically. The seats were filling rapidly, and the outfit went
along the ground looking for friends.  A bugle sounded and a hush swept
over the crowd as the announcement was made for the first event.

"Broncho-busting-Red Devil, never ridden: Frenchy McAllister, Tin-
Cup, Montana; Meteor, killed his man: Skinny Thompson, Bar-20, Texas;
Vixen, never ridden: Lefty Allen, O-Bar-O, Texas."

All eyes were focused on the plain where the horse was being led out
for the first trial.  After the usual preliminaries had been gone
through Frenchy walked over to it, vaulted in the saddle and the
bandage was torn from the animal's eyes.  For ten minutes the onlookers
were held spellbound by the fight before them, and then the horse
kicked and galloped away and Frenchy was picked up and carried from
the field.

"Too bad!" cried Buck, running from the outfit.

"Did yu see it?" asked Johnny excitedly, "Th' cinch busted."  Another
horse was led out and Skinny Thompson vaulted to the saddle, and after
a fight of half an hour rode the animal from the enclosure to the
clamorous shouts of his friends.  Lefty Allen also rode his mount from
the same gate, but took ten minutes more in which to do it.

The announcer conferred with the timekeepers and then stepped
forward: "First, Skinny Thompson, Bar-20, thirty minutes and ten
seconds; second, Lefty Allen, O-Bar-O, forty minutes and seven
seconds."

Skinny returned to his friends shamefacedly and did not look as if
he had just won a championship.  They made way for him, and Johnny, who
could not restrain his enthusiasm pounded him on the back and cried:
"Yu old son-of-a-gun!"

The announcer again came forward and gave out the competitors for
the next contest, steer-roping and tying.  Lanky Smith arose and,
coiling his rope carefully, disappeared into the crowd.  The fun was
not so great in this, but when he returned to his outfit with the
phenomenal time of six minutes and eight seconds for his string of ten
steers, with twenty-two seconds for one of them, they gave him
vociferous greeting.  Three of his steers had gotten up after he had
leaped from his saddle to tie them, but his horse had taken care of
that.  His nearest rival was one minute over him and Lanky retained the
championship.

Red Connors shot with such accuracy in the rifle contest as to run
his points twenty per cent higher than Waffles, of the O-Bar-O, and
won the new rifle.

The main interest centered in the revolver contest, for it was known
that the present champion was to defend his title against an enemy and
fears were expressed in the crowd that there would be an "accident."
Buck Peters and Red stood just behind the firing line with their hands
on hips, and Tex, seeing the precautions, smiled grimly as he advanced
to the line.

Six bottles, with their necks an inch above a board, stood twenty
paces from him, and he broke them all in as many shots, taking twelve
seconds in which to do it.  Hopalong followed him and tied the score.
Three tin balls rolling erratically in a blanket supported by two men
were sent flying into the air in four shots, Tex taking six seconds.
His competitor sent them from the blanket in three shots and in the
same time.  In slow shooting from sights Tex passed his rival in points
and stood to win.  There was but one more event to be contested and in
it Hopalong found his joy.

Shooting from the hip when the draw is timed is not the sport of
even good shots, and when Tex made sixty points out of a possible
hundred, he felt that he had shot well.  When Hopalong went
to the line his friends knew that they would now see
shooting such as would be almost unbelievable, that the best draw-and-
shoot marksman in their State was the man who limped slightly as he
advanced and who chewed reflectively on his fifty-cent cigar.  He wore
two guns and he stepped with confidence before the marshal of the
town, who was also judge of the contest.

The iron ball which lay on the ground was small enough for the use
of a rifle and could hardly be seen from the rear seats of the
amphitheater.  There was a word spoken by the timekeeper, and a gloved
hand flashed down and up, and the ball danced and spun and leaped and
rolled as shot after shot followed it with a precision and speed which
brought the audience to a heavy silence.  Taking the gun which Buck
tossed to him and throwing it into the empty holster, he awaited the
signal, and then smoke poured from his hips and the ball jumped
continuously. Both guns emptied in the two-hand shooting, he wheeled
and jerked loose the guns which the marshal wore, spinning around
without a pause, the target hardly ceasing in its rolling.  Under his
arms he shot, backward and between his legs; leaping from side to
side, ducking and dodging, following the ball wherever it went.
Reloading the weapons quickly, he stepped forward and followed the
ball until once more his guns were empty.  Then he turned and walked
back to the side of the marshal, smiling a little.  His friends, and
there were many in the crowd, torn from their affected nonchalance by
shooting the like of which they had not attributed even to him, roared
and shouted and danced in a frenzy of delight.

Red also threw his guns to Hopalong, who caught them in the air and turning,
faced Tex, who stood white of face and completely lost in the forgetfulness of
admiration and amazement.  The guns jerked again and a button flew from
the buckskin shirt of his enemy; another tore a flower from his breast
and another drove it into the ground at his feet as others stirred his
hair and cut the buckle off his pretty sombrero.  Tex, dazed, but wise
enough to stand quiet, felt his belt tear loose and drop to his feet,
felt a spur rip from its strap and saw his cigarette leap from his
lips.  Throwing the guns to Red, Hopalong laughed and abruptly turned
and was lost in the crowd.

For several seconds there was silence, but when the dazed minds
realized what their eyes had seen, there arose a roar which shook the
houses in the town.  Roar after roar thundered forth and was sent
crashing back again by the distant walls, sweeping down on the
discomfited dude and causing him to slink into the crowd to find a
place less conspicuous.  He was white yet and keen fear gripped his
heart as he realized that he had come to the carnival with the
expressed purpose of killing his enemy in fair combat.  The whole town
knew it, for he had taken pains to spread the news.

The woman he had been with knew it from words which she had overheard
while on her way to the grounds with him.  His friends knew it and would
laugh him into forgetfulness as the fool who boasted.  Now he understood why
he had lost so many friends: they had attempted what he had sworn to attempt.
Look where he would he could see only a smoke-wrapped demon who moved
and shot with a speed incredible.  There was reason why Slim had died.
There was reason why Porous and Silent had paled when they learned of
their mission.

He hated his conspicuous clothes and his pretty broncho, and the woman
who had gotten him to squander his money, and who was doubtless convulsed
with laughter at his expense.  He worked himself into a passion which knew no
fear and he ran for the streets of the town, there to make good his boast or to die.
When he found his enemy he felt himself grasped with a grip of steel and Buck Peters
swung him around and grinned maliciously in his face:

"You plaything!" hoarsely whispered the foreman.  "Why don't yu get
away while yu can?  Why do yu want to throw yoreself against certain
death?  I don't want my pleasure marred by a murder, an' that is what
it will be if yu makes a gun-play at Hopalong.  He'll shoot yu as he
did yore buttons.  Take yore pretty clothes an' yore pretty cayuse an'
go where this is not known, an' if ever again yu feels like killing
Hopalong, get drunk an' forget it."





THE END OF
The Project Gutenberg Etext of Hopalong Cassidy's Rustler Round-Up
The Project Gutenberg Etext of BAR-20, by Clarence Edward Mulford
[Alternate Title]


Colophon

This file was acquired from Project Gutenberg, and it is in the public domain. It is re-distributed here as a part of the Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts (http://infomotions.com/alex/) by Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.) for the purpose of freely sharing, distributing, and making available works of great literature. Its Infomotions unique identifier is etext2546, and it should be available from the following URL:

http://infomotions.com/etexts/id/etext2546



Infomotions, Inc.

Infomotions Man says, "Give back to the 'Net."