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Bar-20 Days by Clarence E. Mulford

Part 2 out of 4

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an' horrible neck-kerchief I've ever had the hard luck to lay my eyes
on. Of all the drunks I ever met, them there colors was-- Hey! Wait a
minute!" he shouted at Hopalong's back.

"Dave, gimme yore cayuse an' a rifle--quick!" cried Hopalong from the
middle of the street as he ran towards the store. "Hypocrite son-of-a-
hoss-thief went an' run mine off. Might 'a' knowed nobody but a thief
could wear such a kerchief!"

"I'm with you!" shouted Dave, leading the way on the run towards the
corral in the rear of his store.

"No, you ain't with me, neither!" replied Hopalong, deftly saddling.
"This ain't no plain hoss-thief case--it's a private grudge. See you
later, mebby," and he was pacing a cloud of dust towards the outskirts
of the town.

Dave looked after him. "Well, that feller has shore got a big start on
you, but he can't keep ahead of that Doll of mine for very long. She
can out-run anything in these parts. 'Sides, Cassidy's cayuse looked
sort of done up, while mine's as fresh as a bird. That thief will get
what's coming to him, all right."



While Hopalong tried to find his horse, Ben Ferris pushed forward,
circling steadily to the east and away from the direction of Hoyt's
corners, which was as much a menace to his health and happiness as the
town of Grant, twenty miles to his rear. If he could have been certain
that no danger was nearer to him than these two towns, he would have
felt vastly relieved, even if his horse was not fresh. During the last
hour he had not urged it as hard as he had in the beginning of his
flight and it had dropped to a walk for minutes at a stretch. This was
not because he felt that he had plenty of time, but for the reason
that he understood horses and could not afford to exhaust his mount so
early in the chase. He glanced back from time to time as if fearing
what might be on his trail, and well he might fear. According to all
the traditions and customs of the range, both of which he knew well,
somewhere between him and Grant was a posse of hard-riding cow-
punchers, all anxious and eager for a glance at him over their sights.
In his mind's eye he could see them, silent, grim, tenacious, reeling
off the miles on that distance-eating lope. He had stolen a horse, and
that meant death if they caught him. He loosened his gaudy kerchief
and gulped in fear, not of what pursued, but of what was miles before
him. His own saddle, strapped behind the one he sat in, bumped against
him with each reach of the horse and had already made his back sore--
but he must endure it for a time. Never in all his life had minutes
been so precious.

Another hour passed and the horse seemed to be doing well, much better
than he had hoped--he would rest it for a few minutes at the next
water while he drank his fill and changed the bumping saddle. As he
rounded a turn and entered a heavily grassed valley he saw a stream
close at hand and, leaping off, fixed the saddle first. As he knelt to
drink he caught a movement and jumped up to catch his mount. Time
after time he almost touched it, but it evaded him and kept up the
game, cropping a mouthful of grass during each respite.

"All right!" he muttered as he let it eat. "I'll get my drink while
you eat an' then I'll get you!"

He knelt by the stream again and drank long and deep. As he paused for
breath something made him leap up and to one side, reaching for his
Colt at the same instant. His fingers found only leather and he swore
fiercely as he remembered--he had sold the Colt for food and kept the
rifle for defence. As he faced the rear a horseman rounded the turn
and the fugitive, wheeling, dashed for the stolen horse forty yards
away, where his rifle lay in its saddle sheath. But an angry command
and the sharp hum of a bullet fired in front of him checked his flight
and he stopped short and swore.

"I reckon the jig's up," remarked Mr. Cassidy, balancing the up-raised
Colt with nicety and indifference.

"Yea; I reckon so," sullenly replied the other, tears running into his

"Well, I'm damned!" snorted Hopalong with cutting contempt. "Crying
like a li'l baby! Got nerve enough to steal my cayuse, an' then go an'
beller like a lost calf when I catch you. Yo're a fine specimen of a
hoss-thief, I don't think!"

"Yo're a liar!" retorted the other, clenching his fists and growing

Mr. Cassidy's mouth opened and then clicked shut as his Colt swung
down. But he did not shoot; something inside of him held his trigger
finger and he swore instead. The idea of a man stealing his horse,
being caught red-handed and unarmed, and still possessed of sufficient
courage to call his captor a name never tolerated or overlooked in
that country! And the idea that he, Hopalong Cassidy, of the Bar-20,
could not shoot such a thief! "Damn that sky pilot! He's shore gone
an' made me loco," he muttered, savagely, and then addressed his
prisoner. "Oh, you ain't crying? Wind got in yore eyes, I reckon, an'
sort of made 'em leak a little--that it? Or mebby them unholy green
roses an' yaller grass on that blasted fool neck-kerchief of yourn are
too much for /your/ eyes, too!"

"Look ahere!" snapped the man on the ground, stepping forward, one
fist upraised. "I came nigh onto licking you this noon in that gospel
sharp's tent for making fun of that scarf, an' I'll do it yet if you
get any smart about it! You mind yore own business an' close yore fool
eyes if you don't like my clothes!"

"Say! You ain't no cry-baby after all. Hanged if I even think yo're a
real genuine hoss-thief!" enthused Mr. Cassidy. "You act like a twin
brother; but what the devil ever made you steal that cayuse, anyhow?"

"An' that's none of yore business, neither; but I'll tell you, just
the same," replied the thief. "I had to have it; that's why. I'll
fight you rough-an'-tumble to see if I keep it, or if you take the
cayuse an' shoot me besides: is it a go?"

Hopalong stared at him and then a grin struggled for life, got it, and
spread slowly over his tanned countenance. "Yore gall is refreshing!
Damned if it ain't worse than the scarf. Here, you tell me what made
you take a chance like stealing a cayuse this noon--I'm getting to
like you, bad as you are, hanged if I ain't!"

"Oh, what's the use?" demanded the other, tears again coming into his
eyes. "You'll think I'm lying an' trying to crawl out--an' I won't do

"/I/ didn't say /you/ was a liar," replied Hopalong. "It was the other
way about. Reckon you can try me, anyhow; can't you?"

"Yes; I s'pose so," responded the other, slowly, and in a milder tone
of voice. "An' when I called you that I was mad and desperate. I was
hasty--you see, my wife's dying, or dead, over in Winchester. I was
riding hard to get to her before it was too late when my cayuse
stepped into a hole just the other side of Grant--you know what
happened. I shot the animal, stripped off my saddle an' hoofed it to
town, an' dropped into that gospel dealer's layout to see if he could
make me feel any better--which he could not. I just couldn't stand his
palaver about death an' slipped out. I was going to lay for you an'
lick you for the way you acted about this scarf--had to do something
or go loco. But when I got outside there was yore cayuse, all saddled
an' ready to go. I just up an' threw my saddle on it, followed suit
with myself an' was ten miles out of town before I realized just what
I'd done. But the realizing part of it didn't make no difference to me
--I'd 'a' done it just the same if I had stopped to think it over.
That's flat, an' straight. I've got to get to that li'l woman as quick
as I can, an' I'd steal all the cayuses in the whole damned country if
they'd do me any good. That's all of it--take it or leave it. I put it
up to you. That's yore cayuse, but you ain't going to get it without
fighting me for it! If you shoot me down without giving me a chance,
all right! I'll cut a throat for that wore-out bronc!"

Hopalong was buried in thought and came to himself just in time to
cover the other and stop him not six feet away. "Just a minute, before
you make me shoot you! I want to think about it."

"Damn that gun!" swore the fugitive, nervously shifting his feet and
preparing to spring. "We'd 'a' been fighting by this time if it wasn't
for that!"

"You stand still or I'll blow you apart," retorted Hopalong, grimly.
"A man's got a right to think, ain't he? An' if I had somebody here to
mind these guns so you couldn't sneak 'em on me I'd fight you so
blamed quick that you'd be licked before you knew you was at it. But
we ain't going to fight--/stand still/! You ain't got no show at all
when yo're dead!"

"Then you gimme that cayuse--my God, man! Do you know the hell I've
been through for the last two days? Got the word up at Daly's Crossing
an' ain't slept since. I'll go loco if the strain lasts much longer!
She asking for me, begging to see me: an' me, like a damned idiot,
wasting time out here talking to another. Ride with me, behind me--
it's only forty miles more--tie me to the saddle an' blow me to pieces
if you find I'm lying--do anything you wants; but let me get to
Winchester before dark!"

Hopalong was watching him closely and at the end of the other's
outburst threw back his head. "I reckon I'm a plain fool, a jackass;
but I don't care. I'll rope that cayuse for you. You come along to
save time," Hopalong ordered, spurring forward. His borrowed rope
sailed out, tightened, and in a moment he was working at the saddle.
"Here, you; I'm going to swamp mounts with you--this one is fresher
an' faster." He had his own saddle off and the other on in record
time, and stepped back. "There; don't stand there like a fool--wake up
an' hustle! I might change my mind--that's the way to move! Gimme that
neck-kerchief for a souveneer, an' get out. Send that cayuse back to
Dave Wilkes, at Grant--it's hissn. Don't thank me; just gimme that
scarf an' ride like the devil."

The other, already mounted, tore the kerchief from his throat and
handed it quickly to his benefactor. "If you ever want a man to take
you out of hell, send to Winchester for Ben Ferris--that's me. So

Mr. Cassidy sat on his saddle where he had dropped it after making the
exchange and looked after the galloping horseman, and when a distant
rise had shut him from sight, turned his eyes on the scarf in his hand
and cogitated. Finally, with a long-drawn sigh he arose, and, placing
the scarf on the ground, caught and saddled his horse. Riding gloomily
back to where the riot of color fluttered on the grass he drew his
Colt and sent six bullets through it with a great amount of
satisfaction. Not content with the damage he had inflicted, he leaned
over and swooped it up. Riding further he also swooped up a stone and
tied the kerchief around it, and then stood up in his stirrups and
drew back his arm with critical judgment. He sat quietly for a time
after the gaudy missile had disappeared into the stream and then,
wheeling, cantered away. But he did not return to the town of Grant--
he lacked the nerve to face Dave Wilkes and tell his childish and
improbable story. He would ride on and meet Red as they had agreed; a
letter would do for Mr. Wilkes, and after he had broken the shock in
that manner he could pay him a personal visit sometime soon. Dave
would never believe the story and when it was told Hopalong wanted to
have the value of the horse in his trousers pocket. Of course, Ben
Ferris /might/ have told the truth and he might return the horse
according to directions. Hopalong emerged from his reverie long enough
to appeal to his mount:

"Bronc, I've been thinking: am I or am I not a jackass?"



After a night spent on the plain and a cigarette for his breakfast,
Hopalong, grouchy and hungry, rode slowly to the place appointed for
his meeting with Red, but Mr. Connors was over two hours late. It was
now mid-forenoon and Hopalong occupied his time for a while by riding
out fancy designs on the sand; but he soon tired of this makeshift
diversion and grew petulant. Red's tardiness was all the worse because
the erring party to the agreement had turned in his saddle at Hoyt's
Corners and loosed a flippant and entirely uncalled-for remark about
his friend's ideas regarding appointments.

"Well, that red-headed Romeo is shore late this time," Hopalong
muttered. "Why don't he find a girl closer to home, anyhow? Thank the
Lord I ain't got no use for shell games of any kind. Here I am,
without anything to eat an' no prospects of anything, sitting up on
this locoed layout like a sore thumb, an' can't move without hitting
myself! An' it'll be late to-day before I can get any grub, too. Oh,
well," he sighed, "I ain't in love, so things might be a whole lot
worse with me. An' he ain't in love, neither, only he won't listen to
reason. He gets mad an' calls me a sage hen an' says I'm stuck on
myself because some fool told me I had brains."

He laughed as he pictured the object of his friend's affections. "Huh;
anybody that got one good, square look at her wouldn't ever accuse him
of having brains. But he'll forget her in a month. That was the life
of his last hobbling fit an' it was the worst he ever had."

Grinning at his friend's peculiarly human characteristics he leaned
back in the saddle and felt for tobacco and papers. As he finished
pouring the chopped alfalfa into the paper he glanced up and saw a
mounted man top the sky-line of the distant hills and shoot down the
slope at full speed.

"I knowed it: started three hours late an' now he's trying to make it
up in the last mile," Hopalong muttered, dexterously spreading the
tobacco along the groove and quickly rolling the cigarette. Lighting
it he looked up again and saw that the horseman was wildly waving a

"Huh! Wigwagging for forgiveness," laughed the man who waited. "Old
son-of-a-gun, I'd wait a week if I had some grub, an' he knows it.
Couldn't get mad at him if I tried."

Mr. Connors' antics now became frantic and he shouted something at the
top of his voice. His friend spurred his mount. "Come on, bronc; wake
up. His girl said 'yes' an' now he wants me to get him out of his
trouble." Whereupon he jogged forward. "What's that?" he shouted,
sitting up very straight. "What's that?"

Red energetically swept the sombrero behind him and pointed to the
rear. "War-whoops! W-a-r w-h-o-o-p-s! Injuns, you chump!" Mr. Connors
appeared to be mildly exasperated.

"Yes?" sarcastically rejoined Mr. Cassidy in his throat, and then
shouted in reply: "Love an' liquor don't mix very well in you. Wake
up! Come out of it!"

"That's straight--I mean it!" cried Mr. Connors, close enough now to
save the remainder of his lungs. "It's a bunch of young bucks on their
first war-trail, I reckon. 'T ain't Geronimo, all right; I wouldn't be
here now if it was. Three of 'em chased me an' the two that are left
are coming hot-foot somewhere the other side of them hills. They act
sort of mad, too."

"Mebby they ain't acting at all," cheerily replied his companion. "An'
then that's the way you got that graze?" pointing to a bloody furrow
on Mr. Connors' cheek. "But just the same it looks like the trail left
by a woman's finger nail."

"Finger nail nothing," retorted Mr. Connors, flushing a little. "But,
for God's sake, are you going to sit here like a wart on a dead dog
an' wait for 'em?" he demanded with a rising inflection. "Do you
reckon yo're running a dance, or a party, or something like that?"

"How many?" placidly inquired Mr. Cassidy, gazing intently towards the
high sky-line of the distant hills.

"Two--an' I won't tell you again, neither!" snapped the owner of the
furrowed cheek. "The others are 'way behind now--but we're standing

"Why didn't you say there was others?" reproved Hopalong. "Naturally I
didn't see no use of getting all het up just because two sprouted
papooses feel like crowding us a bit; it wouldn't be none of /our/
funeral, would it?" and the indignant Mr. Cassidy hurriedly dismounted
and hid his horse in a nearby chaparral and returned to his companion
at a run.

"Red, gimme yore Winchester an' then hustle on for a ways, have an
accident, fall off yore cayuse, an' act scared to death, if you know
how. It's that little trick Buck told us about, an' it shore ought to
work fine here. We'll see if two infant feather-dusters can lick the
Bar-20. Get a-going!"

They traded rifles, Hopalong taking the repeater in place of the
single-shot gun he carried, and Red departed as bidden, his face
gradually breaking into an enthusiastic grin as he ruminated upon the
plan. "Level-headed old cuss; he's a wonder when it comes to planning
or fighting. An' lucky,--well, I reckon!"

Hopalong ran forward for a short distance and slid down the steep bank
of a narrow arroyo and waited, the repeater thrust out through the
dense fringe of grass and shrubs which bordered the edge. When settled
to his complete satisfaction and certain that he was effectually
screened from the sight of any one in front of him, he arose on his
toes and looked around for his companion, and laughed. Mr. Connors was
bending very dejectedly apparently over his prostrate horse, but in
reality was swearing heartily at the ignorant quadruped because it
strove with might and main to get its master's foot off its head so it
could arise. The man in the arroyo turned again and watched the hills
and it was not long before he saw two Indians burst into view over the
crest and gallop towards his friend. They were not to be blamed
because they did not know the pursued had joined a friend, for the
second trail was yet some distance in front of them.

"Pair of budding warriors, all right; an' awful important. Somebody
must 'a' told /them/ they had brains," Mr. Cassidy muttered. "They're
just at the age when they knows it all an' have to go 'round raising
hell all the time. Wonder when they jumped the reservation."

The Indians, seeing Mr. Connors arguing with his prostrate horse, and
taking it for granted that he was not stopping for pleasure or to view
the scenery, let out a yell and dashed ahead at grater speed, at the
same time separating so as to encircle him and attack him front and
rear at the same time. They had a great amount of respect for cowboys.

This manoeuvre was entirely unexpected and clashed violently with Mr.
Cassidy's plan of procedure, so two irate punchers swore heartily at
their rank stupidity in not counting on it. Of course everybody that
knew anything at all about such warfare knew that they would do just
such a thing, which made it all the more bitter. But Red had
cultivated the habit of thinking quickly and he saw at once that the
remedy lay with him; he astonished the exultant savages by straddling
his disgruntled horse as it scrambled to its feet and galloping away
from them, bearing slightly to the south, because he wished to lure
his pursuers to ride closer to his anxious and eager friend.

This action was a success, for the yelling warriors, slowing
perceptibly because of their natural astonishment at the resurrection
and speed of an animal regarded as dead or useless, spurred on again,
drawing closer together, and along the chord of the arc made by Mr.
Connors' trail. Evidently the fool white man was either crazy or had
original and startling ideas about the way to rest a horse when hard
pressed, which pleased them much, since he had lost so much time. The
pleasures of the war-trail would be vastly greater if all white men
had similar ideas.

Hopalong, the light of fighting burning strong in his eyes, watched
them sweep nearer and nearer, splendid examples of their type and
seeming to be a part of their mounts. Then two shots rang out in quick
succession and a cloud of pungent smoke arose lazily from the edge of
the arroyo as the warriors fell from their mounts not sixty yards from
the hidden marksman.

Mr. Connors' rifle spat fire once to make assurance doubly sure and he
hastily rejoined his friend as that person climbed out of the arroyo.

"Huh! They must have been half-breeds!" snorted Red in great disgust,
watching his friend shed sand from his clothes. "I allus opined that
'Paches was too blamed slick to bite on a game like that."

"Well, they are purty 'lusive animals, 'Paches; but there are
exceptions," replied Hopalong, smiling at the success of their scheme.
"Them two ain't 'Paches--they're the exceptions. But let me tell you
that's a good game, just the same. It is as long as they don't see the
second trail in time. Didn't Buck and Skinny get two that way?"

"Yes, I reckon so. But what'll we do now? What's the next play?" asked
Red, hurriedly, his eyes searching the sky-line of the hills. "The
rest of the coyotes will be here purty soon, an' they'll be madder
than ever now. An' you better gimme back that gun, too."

"Take yore old gun--who wants the blamed thing, anyhow?" Hopalong
demanded, throwing the weapon at his friend as he ran to bring up the
hidden horse. When he returned he grinned pleasantly. "Why, we'll go
on like we was greased for calamity, that's what we'll do. Did you
reckon we was going to play leap-frog around here an' wait for the
rest of them paint-shops, like a blamed fool pair of idiots?"

"I didn't know what /you/ might do, remembering how you acted when I
met you," retorted Red, shifting his cartridge belt so the empty loops
were behind and out of the way. "But I shore knowed what we ought to
do, all right."

"Well, mebby you also know how many's headed this way; do you?"

"You've got me stumped there; but there's a round dozen, anyway," Red
replied. "You see, the three that chased me were out scouting ahead of
the main bunch; an' I didn't have no time to take no blasted census."

"Then we've got to hit the home trail, an' hit it hard. Wind up that
four-laigged excuse of yourn, an' take my dust," Hopalong responded,
leading the way. "If we can get home there'll be a lot of disgusted
braves hitting the high spots on the back trail trying to find a way
out. Buck an' the rest of the boys will be a whole lot pleased, too.
We can muster thirty men in two hours if we gets to Buckskin, an'
that's twenty more than we'll need."

"Tell you one thing, Hoppy; we can get as far as Powers' old ranch
house, an' that's shore," replied Red, thoughtfully.

"Yes!" exploded his companion in scorn and pity. "That old sieve of a
shack ain't good enough for /me/ to die in, no matter what you think
about it. Why, it's as full of holes as a stiff hat in a melee. Yo're
on the wrong trail; think again."

Mr. Cassidy objected not because he believed that Powers' old ranch
house was unworthy of serious consideration as a place of refuge and
defence, but for the reason that he wished to reach Buckskin so his
friends might all get in on the treat. Times were very dull on the
ranch, and this was an occasion far too precious to let slip by.
Besides, he then would have the pleasure of leading his friends
against the enemy and battling on even terms. If he sought shelter he
and Red would have to fight on the defensive, which was a game he
hated cordially because it put him in a relatively subordinate
position and thereby hurt his pride.

"Let me tell you that it's a whole lot better than thin air with a
hard-working circle around us--an' you know what that means," retorted
Mr. Connors. "But if you don't want to take a chance in the shack, why
mebby we can make Wallace's, or the Cross-O-Cross. That is, if we
don't get turned out of our way."

"We don't head for no Cross-O-Cross or Wallace's," rejoined his friend
with emphasis, "an' we won't waste no time in Powers' shack, neither;
we'll push right through as hard as we can go for Buckskin. Let them
fellers find their own hunting--our outfit comes first. An' besides
that'll mean a detour in a country fine for ambushes. We'd never get

"Well, have it yore own way, then!" snapped Red. "You allus was a
hard-headed old mule, anyhow." In his heart Red knew that Hopalong was
right about Wallace's and the Cross-O-Cross.

Some time after the two punchers had quitted the scene of their trap,
several Apaches loped up, read the story of the tragedy at a glance,
and galloped on in pursuit. They had left the reservation a fortnight
before under the able leadership of that veteran of many war-trails--
Black Bear. Their leader, chafing at inaction and sick of the monotony
of reservation life, had yielded to the entreaties of a score of
restless young men and slipped away at their head, eager for the joys
of raiding and plundering. But instead of stealing horses and
murdering isolated whites as they had expected, they met with heavy
repulses and were now without the mind of their leader. They had fled
from one defeat to another and twice had barely eluded the cavalry
which pursued them. Now two more of their dwindling force were dead
and another had been found but an hour before. Rage and ferocity
seethed in each savage heart and they determined to get the puncher
they had chased, and that other whose trail they now saw for the first
time. They would place at least one victory against the string of
their defeats, and at any cost. Whips rose and fell and the war-party
shot forward in a compact group, two scouts thrown ahead to feel the

Red and Hopalong rode on rejoicing, for there were three less Apaches
loose in the Southwest for the inhabitants to swear about and fear,
and there was an excellent chance of more to follow. The Southwest had
no toleration for the Government's policy of dealing with Indians and
derived a great amount of satisfaction every time an Apache was
killed. It still clung to the time-honored belief that the only good
Indian was a dead one. Mr. Cassidy voiced his elation and then rubbed
an empty stomach in vain regret,--when a bullet shrilled past his
head, so unexpectedly as to cause him to duck instinctively and then
glance apologetically at his red-haired friend; and both spurred their
mounts to greater speed. Next Mr. Connors grabbed frantically at his
perforated sombrero and grew petulant and loquacious.

"Both them shots was lucky, Hoppy; the feller that fired at me did it
on the dead run; but that won't help us none if one of 'em connects
with us. You gimme that Sharps--got to show 'em that they're taking
big chances crowding us this way." He took the heavy rifle and turned
in the saddle. "It's an even thousand, if it's a yard. He don't look
very big, can't hardly tell him from his cayuse; an' the wind's puffy.
Why don't you dirty or rust this gun? The sun glitters all along the
barrel. Well, here goes."

"Missed by a mile," reproved Hopalong, who would have been stunned by
such a thing as a hit under the circumstances, even if his good-
shooting friend had made it.

"Yes! Missed the coyote I aimed for, but I got the cayuse of his off
pardner; see it?"

"Talk about luck!"

"That's all right: it takes blamed good shooting to miss that close in
this case. Look! It's slowed 'em up a bit, an' that's about all I
hoped to do. Bet they think I'm a real, shore-'nuff medicine-man. Now
gimme another cartridge."

"I will not; no use wasting lead at this range. We'll need all the
cartridges we got before we get out of this hole. You can't do nothing
without stopping--an' that takes time."

"Then I'll stop! The blazes with the time! Gimme another, d'ye hear?"

Mr. Cassidy heard, complied, and stopped beside his companion, who was
very intent upon the matter at hand. It took some figuring to make a
hit when the range was so great and the sun so blinding and the wind
so capricious. He lowered the rifle and peered through the smoke at
the confusion he had caused by dropping the nearest warrior. He was
said to be the best rifle shot in the Southwest, which means a great
deal, and his enemies did not deny it. But since the Sharps shot a
special cartridge and was reliable up to the limit of its sight gauge,
a matter of eighteen hundred yards, he did not regard the hit as
anything worthy of especial mention. Not so his friend, who grinned
joyously and loosed his admiration.

"Yo're a shore wonder with that gun, Red! Why don't you lose that
repeater an' get a gun like mine? Lord, if I could use a rifle like
you, I wouldn't have that gun of yourn for a gift. Just look at what
you did with it! Please get one like it."

"I'm plumb satisfied with the repeater," replied Red. "I don't miss
very often at eight hundred with it, an' that's long enough range for
most anybody. An' if I do miss, I can send another that won't, an'
right on the tail of the first, too."

"Ah, the devil! You make me disgusted with yore fool talk about that
carbine!" snapped his companion, and the subject was dropped.

The merits of their respective rifles had always been a bone of
contention between them and one well chewed, at that. Red was very
well satisfied with his Winchester, and he was a good judge.

"You did stop 'em a little," asserted Mr. Cassidy some time later when
he looked back. "You stopped 'em coming straight, but they're
spreading out to work up around us. Now, if we had good cayuses
instead of these wooden wonders, we could run away from 'em dead easy,
draw their best mounted warriors to the front an' then close with 'em.
Good thing their cayuses are well tired out, for as it is we've got to
make a stand purty soon. Gee! They don't like you, Red; they're
calling you names in the sign language. Just look at 'em cuss you!"

"How much water have you got?" inquired his friend with anxiety.

"Canteen plumb full. How're you fixed?"

"I got the same, less one drink. That gives us enough for a couple of
days with some to spare, if we're careful," Mr. Connors replied. New
Mexican canteens are built on generous lines and are known as life-

"Look at that glory-hunter go!" exclaimed Red, watching a brave who
was riding half a mile to their right and rapidly coming abreast of
them. "Wonder how he got over there without us seeing him."

"Here; stop him!" suggested Hopalong, holding out his Sharps. "We
can't let him get ahead of us and lay in ambush--that's what he's
playing to do."

"My gun's good, and better, for me, at this range; but you know, I
can't hit a jack-rabbit going over rough country as fast as that
feller is," replied his companion, standing up in his stirrups and

"Huh! Never touched him! But he's edging off a-plenty. See him cuss
you. What's he calling you, anyhow?"

"Aw, shut up! How the devil do /I/ know? I don't talk with my arms."

"Are you superstitious, Red?"

"No! Shut up!"

"Well, I am. See that feller over there? If he gets in front of us
it's a shore sign that somebody's going to get hurt. He'll have plenty
of time to get cover an' pick us off as we come up."

"Don't you worry--his cayuse is deader'n ours. They must 'a' been
pushing on purty hard the last few days. See it stumble?--what'd I
tell you!"

"Yes; but they're gaining on us slow but shore. We've got to make a
stand purty soon--how much further do you reckon that infernal shack
is, anyhow?" Hopalong asked sharply.

"'T ain't fur off--see it any minute now."

"Here," remarked Hopalong, holding out his rifle, "stencil yore mark
on his hide; catch him just as he strikes the top of that little

"Ain't got time--that shack can't be much further."

And it wasn't, for as they galloped over a rise they saw, half a mile
ahead of them, an adobe building in poor state of preservation. It was
Powers' old ranch house, and as they neared it, they saw that there
was no doubt about the holes.

"Told you it was a sieve," grunted Hopalong, swinging in on the tail
of his companion. "Not worth a hang for anything," he added bitterly.

"It'll answer, all right," retorted Red grimly.



Mr. Cassidy dismounted and viewed the building with open disgust,
walking around it to see what held it up, and when he finally realized
that it was self-supporting his astonishment was profound. Undoubtedly
there were shacks in the United States in worse condition, but he
hoped their number was small. Of course he knew that the building was
small. Of course he knew that the building would make a very good
place of defence, but for the sake of argument he called to his
companion and urged that they be satisfied with what defence they
could extemporize in the open. Mr. Connors hotly and hastily dissented
as he led the horses into the building, and straightway the subject
was arbitrated with much feeling and snappy eloquence. Finally
Hopalong thought that Red was a chump, and said so out loud, whereat
Red said unpleasant things about his good friend's pedigree,
attributes, intelligence, et al., even going so far as to
prognosticate his friend's place of eternal abode. The remarks were
fast getting to be somewhat personal in tenor when a whine in the air
swept up the scale to a vicious shriek as it passed between them,
dropped rapidly to a whine again and quickly died out in the distance,
a flat report coming to their ears a few seconds later. Invisible bees
seemed to be winging through the air, the angry and venomous droning
becoming more pronounced each passing moment, and the irregular
cracking of rifles grew louder rapidly. An angry /s-p-a-t!/ told of
where a stone behind them had launched the ricochet which hurled
skyward with a wheezing scream. A handful of 'dobe dust sprang from
the corner of the building and sifted down upon them, causing Red to

"That ricochet was a Sharps!" exclaimed Hopalong, and they lost no
time in getting into the building, where the discussion was renewed as
they prepared for the final struggle. Red grunted his cheerful
approval, for now he was out of the blazing sun and where he could
better appreciate the musical tones of the flying bullets; but his
companion, slamming shut the door and propping it with a fallen roof-
beam, grumbled and finally gave rein to his rancor by sneering at the

"It shore gets me that after all I have said about that gun you will
tote it around with you and force yoreself into a suicide's grave,"
quoth Mr. Cassidy, with exuberant pugnacity. "I ain't in no way
objecting to the suicide part of it, but I can't see that it's at all
fair to drag /me/ onto the edge of everlasting eternity with you. If
you ain't got no regard for yore own life you shore ought to think a
little about yore friend's. Now you'll waste all yore cartridges an'
then come snooping around me to borrow my gun. Why don't you lose the
damned thing?"

"What I pack ain't none of yore business, which same I'll uphold,"
retorted Mr. Connors, at last able to make himself heard. "You get
over on yore own side an' use yore Colt; I've wondered a whole lot
where you ever got the sense to use a Colt--/I/ wouldn't be a heap
surprised to see you toting a pearl-handled .22, like the kids use.
Now you 'tend to yore grave-yard aspirants, an' lemme do the same with

"The Lord knows I've stood a whole lot from you because you just can't
help being foolish, but I've got plumb weary and sick of it. It stops
right here or you won't get no 'Paches," snorted Hopalong, peering
intently through a hole in the shack. The more they squabbled the
better they liked it,--controversies had become so common that they
were merely a habit; and they served to take the grimness out of
desperate situations.

"Aw, you can't lick one side of me," averred Red loftily. "You never
did stop anybody that was anything," he jeered as he fired from his
window. "Why, you couldn't even hit the bottom of the Grand Canyon if
you leaned over the edge."

"You could, if you leaned too far, you red-headed wart of a half-
breed," snapped Hopalong. "But how about the Joneses, Tarantula
Charley, Slim Travennes, an' all the rest? How about them, hey?"

"Huh! You couldn't 'a' got any of 'em if they had been sober," and Mr.
Connors shook so with mirth that the Indian at whom he had fired got
away with a whole skin and cheerfully derided the marksman. "That
'Pache shore reckons it was you shooting at him, I missed him so far.
Now, you shut up--I want to get some so we can go home. I don't want
to stay out here all night an' the next day as well," Red grumbled,
his words dying slowly in his throat as he voiced other thoughts.

Hopalong caught sight of an Apache who moved cautiously through a
chaparral lying about nine hundred yards away. As long as the distant
enemy lay quietly he could not be discerned, but he was not content
with assured safety and took a chance. Hopalong raised his rifle to
his shoulder as the Indian fired and the latter's bullet, striking the
edge of the hole through which Mr. Cassidy peered, kicked up a
generous handful of dust, some of which found lodgment in that
individual's eyes.

"Oh! Oh! Oh! Wow!" yelled the unfortunate, dancing blindly around the
room in rage and pain, and dropping his rifle to grab at his eyes.
"Oh! Oh! Oh!"

His companion wheeled like a flash and grabbed him as he stumbled
past. "Are you plugged bad, Hoppy? Where did they get you? Are you hit
bad?" and Red's heart was in his voice.

"No, I ain't plugged bad!" mimicked Hopalong. "I ain't plugged at
all!" he blazed, kicking enthusiastically at his solicitous friend.
"Get me some water, you jackass! Don't stand there like a fool! I
ain't going to fall down. Don't you know my eyes are full of 'dobe?"

Red, avoiding another kick, hastily complied, and as hastily left Mr.
Cassidy to wash out the dirt while he returned to his post by the
window. "Anybody'd think you was full of red-eye, the way you act,"
muttered Red peevishly.

Hopalong, rubbing his eyes of the dirt, went back to the hole in the
wall and looked out. "Hey, Red! Come over here an' spill that brave's
conceit. I can't keep my eyes open long enough to aim, an' it's a nice
shot, too. It'd serve him right if you got him!"

Mr. Connors obeyed the summons and peered out cautiously. "I can't see
him, nohow; where is the coyote?"

"Over there in that little chaparral; see him now? /There!/ See him
moving. Do you mean to tell me--"

"Yep; I see him, all right. You watch," was the reply. "He's just over
nine hundred--where's yore Sharps?" He took the weapon, glanced at the
Buffington sight, which he found to be set right, and aimed carefully.

Hopalong blinked through another hole as his friend fired and saw the
Indian flop down and crawl aimlessly about on hands and knees. "What's
he doing now, Red?"

"Playing marbles, you chump; an' here goes for his agate," replied the
man with the Sharps, firing again. "There! Gee!" he exclaimed, as a
bullet hummed in through the window he had quitted for the moment, and
thudded into the wall, making the dry adobe fly. It had missed him by
only a few inches and he now crept along the floor to the rear of the
room and shoved his rifle out among the branches of a stunted mesquite
which grew before a fissure in the wall. "You keep away from that
windy for a minute, Hoppy," he warned as he waited.

A terror-stricken lizard flashed out of the fissure and along the wall
where the roof had fallen in and flitted into a hole, while a fly
buzzed loudly and hovered persistently around Red's head, to the rage
of that individual. "Ah, ha!" he grunted, lowering the rifle and
peering through the smoke. A yell reached his ears and he forthwith
returned to his window, whistling softly.

Evidently Mr. Cassidy's eyes were better and his temper sweeter, for
he hummed "Dixie" and then jumped to "Yankee Doodle," mixing the two
airs with careless impartiality, which was a sign that he was thinking
deeply. "Wonder what ever became of Powers, Red. Peculiar feller, he

"In jail, I reckon, if drink hasn't killed him."

"Yes; I reckon so," and Mr. Cassidy continued his medley, which
prompted his friend quickly to announce his unqualified disapproval.

"You can make more of a mess of them two songs than anybody I ever
heard murder 'em! /Shut up!/"--and the concert stopped, the vocalist
venting his feelings at an Indian, and killing the horse instead.

"Did you get him?" queried Red.

"Nope; but I got his cayuse," Hopalong replied, shoving a fresh
cartridge into the foul, greasy breech of the Sharps. "An' here's
where I get him--got to square up for my eyes some way," he muttered,
firing. "Missed! Now what do you think of that!" he exclaimed.

"Better take my Winchester," suggested Red, in a matter-of-fact way,
but he chuckled softly and listened for the reply.

"Aw, you go to the devil!" snapped Mr. Cassidy, firing again. "Whoop!
Got him that time!"

"Where?" asked his companion, with strong suspicion.

"None of yore business!"

"Aw, darn it! Who spilled the water?" yelled Red, staring blankly at
the overturned canteen.

"Pshaw! Reckon I did, Red," apologized his friend ruefully. "Now of
all the cussed luck!"

"Oh, well; we've got another, an' you had to wash out yore eyes. Lucky
we each had one--/Holy smoke!/ It's most all gone! The top is loose!"

Heartfelt profanity filled the room and the two disgusted punchers
went sullenly back to their posts. It was a calamity of no small
magnitude, for, while food could be dispensed with for a long time if
necessary, going without water was another question. It was as
necessary as cartridges.

Then Hopalong laughed at the ludicrous side of the whole affair,
thereby revealing one of the characteristics which endeared him to his
friends. No matter how desperate a situation might be, he could always
find in it something at which to laugh. He laughed going into danger
and coming out of it, with a joke or a pleasantry always trembling on
the end of his tongue.

"Red, did it ever strike you how cussed thirsty a feller gets just as
soon as he knows he can't have no drink? But it don't make much
difference, nohow. We'll get out of this little scrape just as we've
allus got out of trouble. There's some mad war-whoops outside that are
worse off than we are, because they are at the wrong end of yore gun.
I feel sort of sorry for 'em."

"Yo're shore a happy idiot," grinned Red. "Hey! Listen!"

Galloping was heard and Hopalong, running to the door, looked out
through a crack as sudden firing broke out around the rear of the
shack, and fell to pulling away the props, crying, "It's a puncher,
Red; he's riding this way! Come on an' help him in!"

"He's a blamed fool to ride this way! I'm with you!" replied Red,
running to his side.

Half a mile from the house, coming across the open space as fast as he
could urge his horse, rode a cowboy, and not far behind him raced
about a dozen Apaches, yelling and firing.

Red picked up his companion's rifle, and steadying it against the jamb
of the door, fired, dropping one of the foremost of the pursuers.
Quickly reloading again, he fired and missed. The third shot struck
another horse, and then taking up his own gun he began to fire
rapidly, as rapidly as he could work the lever and yet make his shots
tell. Hopalong drew his Colt and ran back to watch the rear of the
house, and it was well that he did so, for an Apache in that
direction, believing that the trapped punchers were so busily engaged
with the new developments as to forget for the moment, sprinted
towards the back window; and he had gotten within twenty paces of the
goal when Hopalong's Colt cracked a protest. Seeing that the warrior
was no longer a combatant, Mr. Cassidy ran back to the door just as
the stranger fell from his horse and crawled past Red. The door
slammed shut, the props fell against it, and the two friends turned to
the work of driving back the second band, which, however, had given up
all hope of rushing the house in the face of Red's telling fire, and
had sought cover instead.

The stranger dragged himself to the canteens and drank what little
water remained, and then turned to watch the two men moving from place
to place, firing coolly and methodically. He thought he recognized one
of them from the descriptions he had heard, but he was not sure.

"My name's Holden," he whispered hoarsely, but the cracking of the
rifles drowned his voice. During a lull he tried again. "My name's
Holden," he repeated weakly. "I'm from the Cross-O-Cross, an' can't
get back there again."

"Mine's Cassidy, an' that's Connors, of the Bar-20. Are you hurt very

"No; not very bad," lied Holden, trying to smile. "Gee, but I'm glad I
fell in with you two fellers," he exclaimed. He was but little more
than a boy, and to him Hopalong Cassidy and Red Connors were names
with which to conjure. "But I'm plumb sorry I went an' brought you
more trouble," he added regretfully.

"Oh, pshaw! We had it before you came--you needn't do no worrying
about that, Holden; besides, I reckon you couldn't help it," Hopalong
grinned facetiously. "But tell us how you came to mix up with that
bunch," he continued.

Holden shuddered and hesitated a moment, his companions alertly
shifting from crack to crack, window to window, their rifles cracking
at intervals. They appeared to him to act as if they had done nothing
else all their lives but fight Indians from that shack, and he braced
up a little at their example of coolness.

"It's an awful story, awful!" he began. "I was riding towards Hoyt's
Corners an' when I got about half way there I topped a rise an' saw a
nester's house about half a mile away. It wasn't there the last time I
rode that way, an' it looked so peaceful an' home-like that I stopped
an' looked at it a few minutes. I was just going to start again when
that war-party rode out of a barranca close to the house an' went
straight for it at top speed. It seemed like a dream, 'cause I thought
Apaches never got so far east. They don't, do they? I thought not--
these must 'a' got turned out of their way an' had to hustle for
safety. Well, it was all over purty quick. I saw 'em drag out two
women an'--an'--purty soon a man. He was fighting like fury, but he
didn't last long. Then they set fire to the house an' threw the man's
body up on the roof. I couldn't seem to move till the flames shot up,
but then I must 'a' went sort of loco, because I emptied my gun at
'em, which was plumb foolish at that distance, for me. The next thing
I knowed was that half of 'em was coming my way as hard as they could
ride, an' I lit out instanter; an' here I am. I can't get that sight
outen my head nohow--it'll drive me loco!" he screamed, sobbing like a
child from the horror of it all.

His auditors still moved around the room, growing more and more
vindictive all the while and more zealously endeavoring to create a
still greater deficit in one Apache war-party. They knew what he had
looked upon, for they themselves had become familiar with the work of
Apaches in Arizona. They could picture it vividly in all its devilish
horror. Neither of them paid any apparent attention to their
companion, for they could not spare the time, and, also, they believed
it best to let him fight out his own battles unassisted.

Holden sobbed and muttered as the minutes dragged along, at times
acting so strangely as to draw a covert side-glance from one or both
of the Bar-20 punchers. Then Mr. Connors saw his boon companion
suddenly lean out of a window and immediately become the target for
the hard-working enemy. He swore angrily at the criminal recklessness
of it. "Hey, you! Come in out of that! Ain't you got no brains at all,
you blasted idiot! Don't you know that we need every gun?"

"Yes; that's right. I sort of forgot," grinned the reckless one,
obeying with alacrity and looking sheepish. "But you know there's two
thundering big tarantulas out there fighting like blazes. You ought to
see 'em jump! It's a sort of a leap-frog fight, Red."

"Fool!" snorted Mr. Connors belligerently. "/You'd/ 'a' jumped if one
of them slugs had 'a' got you! Yo're the damnedest fool that ever
walked on two laigs, you blasted sage-hen!" Mr. Connors was beginning
to lose his temper and talk in his throat.

"Well, they didn't get me, did they? What you yelling about, anyhow?"
growled Hopalong, trying to brazen it out.

"An' /you/ talking about suicide to me!" snapped Mr. Connors,
determined to rub it in and have the last word.

Mr. Holden stared, open-mouthed, at the man who could enjoy a
miserable spider fight under such distressing circumstances, and his
shaken nerves became steadier as he gave thought to the fact that he
was a companion of the two men about whose exploits he had heard so
much. Evidently the stories had not been exaggerated. What must they
think of him for giving way as he had? He rose to his feet in time to
see a horse blunder into the open on Red's side of the house, and
after it blundered its owner, who immediately lost all need of earthly
conveyances. Holden laughed from the joy of being with a man who could
shoot like that, and he took up his rifle and turned to a crack in the
wall, filled with the determination to let his companions know that he
was built of the right kind of timber after all, wounded as he was.

Red's only comment, as he pumped a fresh cartridge into the barrel,
was, "He must 'a' thought he saw a spider fight, too."

"Hey, Red," called Hopalong. "The big one is dead."

"What big one?"

"Why, don't you remember? That big tarantula I was watching. One was
bigger than the other, but the little feller shore waded into him

"Go to the devil!" shouted Red, who had to grin, despite his anger.

"Presently, presently," replied Hopalong, laughing.

So the day passed, and when darkness came upon them all of the
defenders were wounded, Holden desperately so.

"Red, one of us has got to try to make the ranch," Hopalong suddenly
announced, and his friend knew he was right. Since Holden had appeared
upon the scene they had known that they could not try a dash; one of
them had to stay.

"We'll toss for it; heads, I go," Red suggested, flipping a coin.

"Tails!" cried Hopalong. "It's only thirty miles to Buckskin, an' if I
can get away from here I'm good to make it by eleven to-night. I'll
stop at Cowan's an' have him send word to Lucas an' Bartlett, so
there'll be enough in case any of our boys are out on the range in
some line house. We can pick 'em up on the way back, so there won't be
no time lost. If I get through you can expect excitement on the
outside of this sieve by daylight. You an' Holden can hold her till
then, because they never attack at night. It's the only way out of
this for us--we ain't got cartridges or water enough to last another

Red, knowing that Hopalong was taking a desperate chance in working
through the cordon of Indians which surrounded them, and that the
house was safe when compared to running such a gantlet, offered to go
through the danger line with him. For several minutes a wordy war
raged and finally Red accepted a compromise; he was to help, but not
to work through the line.

"But what's the use of all this argument?" feebly demanded Holden.
"Why don't you both go? I ain't a-going to live nohow, so there ain't
no use of anybody staying here with me, to die with me. Put a bullet
through me so them devils can't play with me like they do with others,
an' then get away while you've got a chance. Two men can get through
as easy as one." He sank back, exhausted by the effort.

"No more of that!" cried Red, trying to be stern. "I'm going to stay
with you an' see things through. I'd be a fine sort of a coyote to
sneak off an' leave you for them fiends. An', besides, I can't get
away; my cayuse is hit too hard an' yourn is dead," he lied
cheerfully. "An' yo're going to get well, all right. I've seen fellers
hit harder than you are pull through."

Hopalong walked over to the prostrate man and shook hands with him.
"I'm awful glad I met you, Holden. Yo're pure grit all the way
through, an' I like to tie to that kind of a man. Don't you worry
about nothing; Red can handle this proposition, an' we'll have you in
Buckskin by to-morrow night; you'll be riding again in two weeks. So

He turned to Red and shook hands silently, led his horse out of the
building and mounted, glad that the moon had not yet come up, for in
the darkness he had a chance.

"Good luck, Hoppy!" cried Red, running to the door. "Good luck!"

"You bet--an' lots of it, too," groaned Holden, but he was gone. Then
Red wheeled. "Holden, keep yore eyes an' ears open. I'm going out to
see that he gets off. He may run into a--" and he, too, was gone.

Holden watched the doors and windows, striving to resist the weak,
giddy feeling in his head, and ten minutes later he heard a shot and
then several more in quick succession. Shortly afterward Red called
out, and almost immediately the Bar-20 puncher crawled in through a

"Well?" anxiously cried the man on the floor. "Did he make it?"

"I reckon so. He got away from the first crowd, anyhow. I wasn't very
far behind him, an' by the time they woke up to what was going on he
was through an' riding like blazes. I heard him call 'em half-breeds a
moment later an' it sounded far off. They hit me,--fired at my flash,
like I drilled one of them. But it ain't much, anyhow. How are you
feeling now?"

"Fine!" lied the other. "That Cassidy is shore a wonder--he's all
right, an' so are you. I'll never see him again, but I shore hope he
gets through!"

"Don't be foolish. Here, you finish the water in yore canteen--I
picked it up outside by yore cayuse. Then go to sleep," ordered Red.
"I'll do all the watching that's necessary."

"I will if you'll call me when you get sleepy."

"Why, shore I will. But don't you want the rest of the water? I ain't
a bit thirsty--I had all I could hold just before you came," Red
remarked as his companion pushed the canteen against him in the dark.
He was choking with thirst. "Well, then; all right," and Red pretended
to drink. "Now, then, you go to sleep; a good snooze will do you a
world of good--it's just what you need."



Cowan's saloon, club, and place of general assembly for the town of
Buckskin and the nearby ranches, held a merry crowd, for it was pay-
day on the range and laughter and liquor ran a close race. Buck
Peters, his hands full of cigars, passed through the happy-go-lucky,
do-as-you-please crowd and invited everybody to smoke, which nobody
refused to do. Wood Wright, of the C-80, tuned his fiddle anew and
swung into a rousing quick-step. Partners were chosen, the "women"
wearing handkerchiefs on their arms to indicate the fact, and the room
shook and quivered as the scraping of heavy boots filled the air with
a cloud of dust. "Allaman left!" cried the prompter, and then the
dance stopped as if by magic. The door had crashed open and a blood-
stained man staggered in and towards the bar, crying, "Buck! Red's
hemmed in by 'Paches!"

"Good God!" roared the foreman of the Bar-20, leaping forward, the
cigars falling to the floor to be crushed and ground into powder by
careless feet. He grasped his puncher and steadied him while Cowan
slid an extra generous glassful of brandy across the bar for the
wounded man. The room was in an uproar, men grabbing rifles and
running out to get their horses, for it was plain to be seen that
there was hard work to be done, and quickly. Questions, threats,
curses filled the air, those who remained inside to get the story
listening intently to the jerky narrative; those outside, caring less
for the facts of an action past than for the action to come, shouted
impatiently for a start to be made, even threatening to go on and
tackle the proposition by themselves if there were not more haste.
Hopalong told in a graphic, terse manner all that was necessary, while
Buck and Cowan hurriedly bandaged his wounds.

"Come on! Come on!" shouted the mounted crowd outside, angry, and
impatient for a start, the prancing of horses and the clinking of
metal adding to the noise. "Get a move on! /Will/ you hurry up!"

"Listen, Hoppy!" pleaded Buck, in a furore. "Shut up, you outside!" he
yelled. "You say they know that you got away, Hoppy?" he asked. "All
right--/Lanky!/" he shouted. "/Lanky!/"

"All right, Buck!" and Lanky Smith roughly pushed his way through the
crowd to his foreman's side. "Here I am."

"Take Skinny and Pete with you, an' a lead horse apiece. Strike
straight for Powers' old ranch house. Them Injuns'll have pickets out
looking for Hoppy's friends. You three get the pickets nearest the old
trail through that arroyo to the southeast, an' then wait for us.
We'll come along the high bank on the left. Don't make no noise doing
it, neither, if you can help it. Understand? Good! Now ride like the

Lanky grabbed Pete and Skinny on his way out and disappeared into the
corral; and very soon thereafter hoof-beats thudded softly in the
sandy street and pounded into the darkness of the north, soon lost to
the ear. An uproar of advice and good wishes crashed after them, for
the game had begun.

"It's Powers' old shack, boys!" shouted a man in the door to the
restless force outside, which immediately became more restless. "Hey!
Don't go yet!" he begged. "Wait for me an' the rest. Don't be a lot of

Excited and impatient voices replied from the darkness, vexed,
grouchy, and querulous. "Then get a move on--/whoa!/--it'll be light
before we get there if you don't hustle!" roared one voice above the
confusion. "You know what /that/ means!"

"Come on! Come on! For God's sake, are you tied to the bar?"

"Yo're a lot of old grandmothers! Come on!"

Hopalong appeared in the door. "I'll show you the way, boys!" he
shouted. "Cowan, put my saddle on yore cayuse--/pronto/!"

"Good for you, Hoppy!" came from the street. "We'll wait!"

"You stay here; yo're hurt too much!" cried Buck to his puncher, as he
grabbed up a box of cartridges from a shelf behind the bar. "Ain't you
got no sense? There's enough of us to take care of this without you!"

Hopalong wheeled and looked his foreman squarely in the eyes. "Red's
out there, waiting for me--I'm going! I'd be a fine sort of a coyote
to leave him in that hell hole an' not go back, wouldn't I!" he said,
with quiet determination.

"Good for you, Cassidy!" cried a man who hastened out to mount.

"Well, then, come on," replied Buck. "There's blamed few like you," he
muttered, following Hopalong outside.

"Here's the cayuse, Cassidy," cried Cowan, turning the animal over to
him. "/Wait/, Buck!" and he leaped into the building and ran out
again, shoving a bottle of brandy and a package of food into the
impatient foreman's hand. "Mebby Red or Hoppy'll need it--so long, an'
good luck!" and he was alone in a choking cloud of dust, peering
through the darkness along the river trail after a black mass that was
swallowed up almost instantly. Then, as he watched, the moon pushed
its rim up over the hills and he laughed joyously as he realized what
its light would mean to the crowd. "There'll be great doings when
/that/ gang cuts loose," he muttered with savage elation. "Wish I was
with 'em. Damn Injuns, anyhow!"

Far ahead of the main fighting force rode the three special-duty men,
reeling off the miles at top speed and constantly distancing their
friends, for they changed mounts at need, thanks to the lead horses
provided by Mr. Peters' cool-headed foresight. It was a race against
dawn, and every effort was made to win--the life of Red Connors hung
in the balance and a minute might turn the scale.

In Powers' old ranch house the night dragged along slowly to the grim
watcher, and the man huddled in the corner stirred uneasily and
babbled, ofttimes crying out in horror at the vivid dreams of his
disordered mind. Pacing ceaselessly from window to window, crack to
crack, when the moon came up, Mr. Connors scanned the bare, level
plain with anxious eyes, searching out the few covers and looking for
dark spots on the dull gray sand. They never attacked at night, but
still--. Through the void came the quavering call of a coyote, and he
listened for the reply, which soon came from the black chaparral
across the clearing. He knew where two of them were hiding, anyhow.
Holden was muttering and tried to answer the calls, and Red looked at
him for the hundredth time that night. He glanced out of the window
again and noticed that there was a glow in the eastern sky, and
shortly afterwards dawn swiftly developed.

Pouring the last few drops of the precious water between the wounded
man's parched and swollen lips, he tossed the empty canteen from him
and stood erect.

"Pore devil," he muttered, shaking his head sorrowfully, as he
realized that Holden's delirium was getting worse all the time. "If
you was all right we could give them wolves hell to dance to. Well,
you won't know nothing about it if we go under, an' that's some
consolation." He examined his rifle and saw that the Colt at his thigh
was fully loaded and in good working order. "An' they'll pay us for
their victory, by God! They'll pay for it!" He stepped closer to the
window, throwing the rifle into the hollow of his arm. "It's about
time for the rush; about time for the game--"

There was movement by that small chaparral to the south! To the east
something stirred into bounding life and action; a coyote called twice
--and then they came, on foot and silently as fleeting shadows,
leaning forward to bring into play every ounce of energy in the slim,
red legs. Smoke filled the room with its acrid sting. The crashing of
the Winchester, worked with wonderful speed and deadly accuracy by the
best rifle shot in the Southwest, brought the prostrate man to his
feet in an instinctive response to the call to action, the necessity
of defence. He grasped his Colt and stumbled blindly to a window to
help the man who had stayed with him.

On Red's side of the house one warrior threw up his arms and fell
forward, sprawling with arms and legs extended; another pitched to one
side and rolled over twice before he lay still; the legs of the third
collapsed and threw him headlong, bunched up in a grotesque pile of
lifeless flesh; the fourth leaped high into the air and turned a
somersault before he struck the sand, badly wounded, and out of the
fight. Holden, steadying himself against the wall, leaned in a window
on the other side of the shack and emptied his Colt in a dazed manner
--doing his very best. Then the man with the rifle staggered back with
a muttered curse, his right arm useless, and dropped the weapon to
draw his Colt with the other hand.

Holden shrieked once and sank down, wagging his head slowly from side
to side, blood oozing from his mouth and nostrils; and his companion,
goaded into a frenzy of blood-lust and insane rage at the sight, threw
himself against the door and out into the open, to die under the clear
sky, to go like the man he was if he must die. "Damn you! It'll cost
you more yet!" he screamed, wheeling to place his back against the

The triumphant yells of the exultant savages were cut short and turned
to howls of dismay by a fusillade which thundered from the south where
a crowd of hard-riding, hard-shooting cow-punchers tore out of the
thicket like an avalanche and swept over the open sand, yelling and
cursing, and then separated to go in hot pursuit of the sprinting
Apaches. Some stood up in their stirrups and fired down at a slant,
making a short, chopping motion with their heavy Colts; others leaned
forward, far over the necks of their horses, and shot with stationary
guns; while yet others, with reins dangling free, worked the levers of
blue Winchesters so rapidly that the flashes seemed to merge into a
continuous flame.

"Thank God! Thank God--an' Hoppy!" groaned the man at the door of the
shack, staggering forward to meet the two men who had lost no time in
pursuit of the enemy, but had ridden straight to him.

"I was scared stiff you was done fer!" cried Hopalong, leaping off his
horse and shaking hands with his friend, whose hand-clasp was not as
strong as usual. "How's Holden?" he demanded, anxiously.

"He passed. It was a close--" began Red, weakly, but his foreman

"Shut up, an' drink this!" ordered Buck, kindly but sternly. "We'll do
the talking for a while; you can tell us all about it later on. Why,
/hullo/!" he cried as Lanky Smith and his two happy companions rode
up. "Reckon you must 'a' got them pickets."

"Shore we did! Stalked 'em on our bellies, didn't we, Skinny?"
modestly replied Mr. Smith, the roping expert of the Bar-20. "Ropes
an' clubbed guns did the rest. Anyhow, there was only two anywhere
near the trail."

"We didn't see you," responded the foreman, tying the knot of a
bandage on Mr. Connors' arm. "An' we looked sharp, too."

"Reckon we was hunting for more; we sort of forgot what you said about
waiting for you," Mr. Smith replied, grinning broadly.

"An' you've got a good memory now," smiled Mr. Peters.

"We didn't find no more, though," offered Mr. Pete Wilson, with grave
regret. "An' we looked good, too. But we got Red, an' that's the whole
game. Red, you old son-of-a-gun, you can lick yore weight in powder!"

"It's too bad about Holden," muttered Red, sullenly.



After the excitement incident to the affair at Powers' shack had died
down and the Bar-20 outfit worked over its range in the old, placid
way, there began to be heard low mutterings, and an air of peevish
discontent began to be manifested in various childish ways. And it was
all caused by the fact that Hopalong Cassidy had a grouch, and a big
one. It was two months old and growing worse daily, and the signs
threatened contagion. His foreman, tired and sick of the snarling,
fidgety, petulant atmosphere that Hopalong had created on the ranch,
and driven to desperation, eagerly sought some chance to get rid of
the "sore-thumb" temporarily and give him an opportunity to shed his
generous mantle of the blues. And at last it came.

No one knew the cause for Hoppy's unusual state of mind, although
there were many conjectures, and they covered the field rather
thoroughly; but they did not strike on the cause. Even Red Connors,
now well over all ill effects of the wounds acquired in the old ranch
house, was forced to guess; and when Red had to do that about anything
concerning Hopalong he was well warranted in believing the matter to
be very serious.

Johnny Nelson made no secret of his opinion and derived from it a
great amount of satisfaction, which he admitted with a grin to his

"Buck," he said, "Hoppy told me he went broke playing poker over in
Grant with Dave Wilkes and them two Lawrence boys, an' that shore
explains it all. He's got pack sores from carrying his unholy licking.
It was due to come for him, an' Dave Wilkes is just the boy to deliver
it. That's the whole trouble, an' I know it, an' I'm damned glad they
trimmed him. But he ain't got no right of making /us/ miserable
because he lost a few measly dollars."

"Yo're wrong, son; dead, dead wrong," Buck replied. "He takes his
beatings with a grin, an' money never did bother him. No poker game
that ever was played could leave a welt on him like the one we all
mourn, an' cuss. He's been doing something that he don't want us to
know--made a fool of hisself some way, most likely, an' feels so
ashamed that he's sore. I've knowed him too long an' well to believe
that gambling had anything to do with it. But this little trip he's
taking will fix him up all right, an' I couldn't 'a' picked a better
man--or one that I'd rather get rid of just now."

"Well, lemme tell you it's blamed lucky for him that you picked him to
go," rejoined Johnny, who thought more of the woeful absentee than he
did of his own skin. "I was going to lick him, shore, if it went on
much longer. Me an' Red an' Billy was going to beat him up good till
he forgot his dead injuries an' took more interest in his friends."

Buck laughed heartily. "Well, the three of you might 'a' done it if
you worked hard an' didn't get careless, but I have my doubts. Now
look here--you've been hanging around the bunk house too blamed much
lately. Henceforth an' hereafter you've got to earn your grub. Get out
on that west line an' hustle."

"You know I've had a toothache!" snorted Johnny with a show of
indignation, his face as sober as that of a judge.

"An' you'll have a stomach ache from lack of grub if you don't earn
yore right to eat purty soon," retorted Buck. "You ain't had a
toothache in yore whole life, an' you don't know what one is. G'wan,
now, or I'll give you a backache that'll ache!"

"Huh! Devil of a way to treat a sick man!" Johnny retorted, but he
departed exultantly, whistling with much noise and no music. But he
was sorry for one thing: he sincerely regretted that he had not been
present when Hopalong met his Waterloo. It would have been pleasing to
look upon.

While the outfit blessed the proposed lease of range that took him out
of their small circle for a time, Hopalong rode farther and farther
into the northwest, frequently lost in abstraction which, judging by
its effect upon him, must have been caused by something serious. He
had not heard from Dave Wilkes about that individual's good horse
which had been loaned to Ben Ferris, of Winchester. Did Dave think he
had been killed or was still pursuing the man whose neck-kerchief had
aroused such animosity in Hopalong's heart? Or had the horse actually
been returned? The animal was a good one, a successful contender in
all distances from one to five miles, and had earned its owner and
backers much money--and Hopalong had parted with it as easily as he
would have borrowed five dollars from Red. The story, as he had often
reflected since, was as old as lying--a broken-legged horse, a wife
dying forty miles away, and a horse all saddled which needed only to
be mounted and ridden.

These thoughts kept him company for a day and when he dismounted
before Stevenson's "Hotel" in Hoyt's Corners he summed up his feelings
for the enlightenment of his horse.

"Damn it, bronc! I'd give ten dollars right now to know if I was a
jackass or not," he growled. "But he was an awful slick talker if he
lied. An' I've got to go up an' face Dave Wilkes to find out about

Mr. Cassidy was not known by sight to the citizens of Hoyt's Corners,
however well versed they might be in his numerous exploits of wisdom
and folly. Therefore the habitues of Stevenson's Hotel did not
recognize him in the gloomy and morose individual who dropped his
saddle on the floor with a crash and stamped over to the three-legged
table at dusk and surlily demanded shelter for the night.

"Gimme a bed an' something to eat," he demanded, eyeing the three men
seated with their chairs tilted against the wall. "Do I get 'em?" he
asked, impatiently.

"You do," replied a one-eyed man, lazily arising and approaching him.
"One dollar, now."

"An' take the rocks outen that bed--I want to sleep."

"A dollar per for every rock you find," grinned Stevenson, pleasantly.
"There ain't no rocks in /my/ beds," he added.

"Some folks likes to be rocked to sleep," facetiously remarked one of
the pair by the wall, laughing contentedly at his own pun. He bore all
the ear-marks of being regarded as the wit of the locality--every
hamlet has one; I have seen some myself.

"Hee, hee, hee! Yo're a droll feller, Charley," chuckled Old John
Ferris, rubbing his ear with unconcealed delight. "That's a good un."

"One drink, now," growled Hopalong, mimicking the proprietor, and
glaring savagely at the "droll feller" and his companion. "An' mind
that it's a good one," he admonished the host.

"It's better," smiled Stevenson, whereat Old John crossed his legs and
chuckled again. Stevenson winked.

"Riding long?" he asked.

"Since I started."

"Going fur?"

"Till I stop."

"Where do you belong?" Stevenson's pique was urging him against the
ethics of the range, which forbade personal questions.

Hopalong looked at him with a light in his eye that told the host he
had gone too far. "Under my sombrero!" he snapped.

"Hee, hee, hee!" chortled Old John, rubbing his ear again and nudging
Charley. "He ain't no fool, hey?"

"Why, I don't know, John; he won't tell," replied Charley.

Hopalong wheeled and glared at him, and Charley, smiling uneasily,
made an appeal: "Ain't mad, are you?"

"Not yet," and Hopalong turned to the bar again, took up his liquor
and tossed it off. Considering a moment he shoved the glass back
again, while Old John tongued his lips in anticipation of a treat. "It
is good--fill it again."

The third was even better and by the time the fourth and fifth had
joined their predecessors Hopalong began to feel a little more
cheerful. But even the liquor and an exceptionally well-cooked supper
could not separate him from his persistent and set grouch. And of
liquor he had already taken more than his limit. He had always
boasted, with truth, that he had never been drunk, although there had
been two occasions when he was not far from it. That was one doubtful
luxury which he could not afford for the reason that there were men
who would have been glad to see him, if only for a few seconds, when
liquor had dulled his brain and slowed his speed of hand. He could
never tell when and where he might meet one of these.

He dropped into a chair by a card table and, baffling all attempts to
engage him in conversation, reviewed his troubles in a mumbled
soliloquy, the liquor gradually making him careless. But of all the
jumbled words his companions' diligent ears heard they recognized and
retained only the bare term "Winchester"; and their conjectures were
limited only by their imaginations.

Hopalong stirred and looked up, shaking off the hand which had aroused
him. "Better go to bed, stranger," the proprietor was saying. "You an'
me are the last two up. It's after twelve, an' you look tired and

"Said his wife was sick," muttered the puncher. "Oh, what you saying?"

"You'll find a bed better'n this table, stranger--it's after twelve
an' I want to close up an' get some sleep. I'm tired myself."

"Oh, that all? Shore I'll go to bed--like to see anybody stop me!
Ain't no rocks in it, hey?"

"Nary a rock," laughingly reassured the host, picking up Hopalong's
saddle and leading the way to a small room off the "office," his guest
stumbling after him and growling about the rocks that lived in
Winchester. When Stevenson had dropped the saddle by the window and
departed, Hopalong sat on the edge of the bed to close his eyes for
just a moment before tackling the labor of removing his clothes. A
crash and a jar awakened him and he found himself on the floor with
his back to the bed. He was hot and his head ached, and his back was
skinned a little--and how hot and stuffy and choking the room had
become! He thought he had blown out the light, but it still burned,
and three-quarters of the chimney was thickly covered with soot. He
was stifling and could not endure it any longer. After three attempts
he put out the light, stumbled against his saddle and, opening the
window, leaned out to breathe the pure air. As his lungs filled he
chuckled wisely and, picking up the saddle, managed to get it and
himself through the window and on the ground without serious mishap.
He would ride for an hour, give the room time to freshen and cool off,
and come back feeling much better. Not a star could be seen as he
groped his way unsteadily towards the rear of the building, where he
vaguely remembered having seen the corral as he rode up.

"Huh! Said he lived in Winchester an' his name was Bill--no, Ben
Ferris," he muttered, stumbling towards a noise he knew was made by a
horse rubbing against the corral fence. Then his feet got tangled up
in the cinch of his saddle, which he had kicked before him, and after
great labor he arose, muttering savagely, and continued on his wobbly
way. "Goo' Lord, it's darker'n cats in--/oof/!" he grunted, recoiling
from forcible contact with the fence he sought. Growling words unholy
he felt his way along it and finally his arm slipped through an
opening and he bumped his head solidly against the top bar of the
gate. As he righted himself his hand struck the nose of a horse and
closed mechanically over it. Cow-ponies look alike in the dark and he
grinned jubilantly as he complimented himself upon finding his own so

"Anything is easy, when you know how. Can't fool me, ol' cayuse," he
beamed, fumbling at the bars with his free hand and getting them down
with a fool's luck. "You can't do it--I got you firs', las', an'
always; an' I got you good. Yessir, I got you good. Quit that rearing,
you ol' fool! Stan' still, can't you?" The pony sidled as the saddle
hit its back and evoked profane abuse from the indignant puncher as he
risked his balance in picking it up to try again, this time
successfully. He began to fasten the girth, and then paused in wonder
and thought deeply, for the pin in the buckle would slide to no hole
but the first. "Huh! Getting fat, ain't you, piebald?" he demanded
with withering sarcasm. "You blow yoreself up any more'n I'll bust you
wide open!" heaving up with all his might on the free end of the
strap, one knee pushing against the animal's side. The "fat"
disappeared and Hopalong laughed. "Been learnin' new tricks, ain't
you? Got smart since you been travellin', hey?" He fumbled with the
bars again and got two of them back in place and then, throwing
himself across the saddle as the horse started forward as hard as it
could go, slipped off, but managed to save himself by hopping along
the ground. As soon as he had secured the grip he wished he mounted
with the ease of habit and felt for the reins. "G'wan now, an' easy--
it's plumb dark an' my head's bustin'."

When he saddled his mount at the corral he was not aware that two of
the three remaining horses had taken advantage of their opportunity
and had walked out and made off in the darkness before he replaced the
bars, and he was too drunk to care if he had known it.

The night air felt so good that it moved him to song, but it was not
long before the words faltered more and more and soon ceased
altogether and a subdued snore rasped from him. He awakened from time
to time, but only for a moment, for he was tired and sleepy.

His mount very quickly learned that something was wrong and that it
was being given its head. As long as it could go where it pleased it
could do nothing better than head for home, and it quickened its pace
towards Winchester. Some time after daylight it pricked up its ears
and broke into a canter, which soon developed signs of irritation in
its rider. Finally Hopalong opened his heavy eyes and looked around
for his bearings. Not knowing where he was and too tired and miserable
to give much thought to a matter of such slight importance, he glanced
around for a place to finish his sleep. A tree some distance ahead of
him looked inviting and towards it he rode. Habit made him picket the
horse before he lay down and as he fell asleep he had vague
recollections of handling a strange picket rope some time recently.
The horse slowly turned and stared at the already snoring figure,
glanced over the landscape, back the to queerest man it had ever met,
and then fell to grazing in quiet content. A slinking coyote topped a
rise a short distance away and stopped instantly, regarding the
sleeping man with grave curiosity and strong suspicion. Deciding that
there was nothing good to eat in that vicinity and that the man was
carrying out a fell plot for the death of coyotes, it backed away out
of sight and loped on to other hunting grounds.



Stevenson, having started the fire for breakfast, took a pail and
departed towards the spring; but he got no farther than the corral
gate, where he dropped the pail and stared. There was only one horse
in the enclosure where the night before there had been four. He wasted
no time in surmises, but wheeled and dashed back towards the hotel,
and his vigorous shouts brought Old John to the door, sleepy and
peevish. Old John's mouth dropped open as he beheld his habitually
indolent host marking off long distances on the sand with each falling

"What's got inter you?" demanded Old John.

"Our broncs are gone! Our broncs are gone!" yelled Stevenson, shoving
Old John roughly to one side as he dashed through the doorway and on
into the room he had assigned to the sullen and bibulous stranger. "I
knowed it! I knowed it!" he wailed, popping out again as if on
springs. "He's gone, an' he's took our broncs with him, the measly,
low-down dog! I knowed he wasn't no good! I could see it in his eye;
an' he wasn't drunk, not by a darn sight. Go out an' see for yoreself
if they ain't gone!" he snapped in reply to Old John's look. "Go on
out, while I throw some cold grub on the table--won't have no time
this morning to do no cooking. He's got five hours' start on us, an'
it'll take some right smart riding to get him before dark; but we'll
do it, an' hang him, too!"

"What's all this here rumpus?" demanded a sleepy voice from upstairs.
"Who's hanged?" and Charley entered the room, very much interested.
His interest increased remarkably when the calamity was made known and
he lost no time in joining Old John in the corral to verify the news.

Old John waved his hands over the scene and carefully explained what
he had read in the tracks, to his companion's great irritation, for
Charley's keen eyes and good training had already told him all there
was to learn; and his reading did not exactly agree with that of his

"Charley, he's gone and took our cayuses; an' that's the very way he
came--'round the corner of the hotel. He got all tangled up an' fell
over there, an' here he bumped inter the palisade, an' dropped his
saddle. When he opened the bars he took my roan gelding because it was
the best an' fastest, an' then he let out the others to mix us up on
the tracks. See how he went? Had to hop four times on one foot afore
he could get inter the saddle. An' that proves he was sober, for no
drunk could hop four times like that without falling down an' being
drug to death. An' he left his own critter behind because he knowed it
wasn't no good. It's all as plain as the nose on your face, Charley,"
and Old John proudly rubbed his ear. "Hee, hee, hee! You can't fool
Old John, even if he is getting old. No, sir, b' gum."

Charley had just returned from inside the corral, where he had looked
at the brand on the far side of the one horse left, and he waited
impatiently for his companion to cease talking. He took quick
advantage of the first pause Old John made and spoke crisply.

"I don't care what corner he came 'round, or what he bumped inter; an'
any fool can see that. An' if he left that cayuse behind because he
thought it wasn't no good, he /was/ drunk. That's a Bar-20 cayuse, an'
no hoss-thief ever worked for that ranch. He left it behind because he
stole it; that's why. An' he didn't let them others out because he
wanted to mix us up, neither. How'd he know if we couldn't tell the
tracks of our own animals? He did that to make us lose time; that's
what he did it for. An' he couldn't tell what bronc he took last
night--it was too dark. He must 'a' struck a match an' seen where that
Bar-20 cayuse was an' then took the first one nearest that wasn't it.
An' now you tell me how the devil he knowed yourn was the fastest,
which it ain't," he finished, sarcastically, gloating over a chance to
rub it into the man he had always regarded as a windy old nuisance.

"Well, mebby what you said is--"

"Mebby nothing!" snapped Charley. "If he wanted to mix the tracks
would he 'a' hopped like that so we couldn't help telling what cayuse
he rode? He knowed we'd pick his trail quick, an' he knowed that every
minute counted; that's why he hopped--why, yore roan was going like
the wind afore he got in the saddle. If you don't believe it, look at
them toe-prints!"

"H'm; reckon yo're right, Charley. My eyes ain't nigh as good as they
once was. But I heard him say something 'bout Winchester," replied Old
John, glad to change the subject. "Bet he's going over there, too. He
won't get through that town on no critter wearing my brand. Everybody
knows that roan, an'--"

"Quit guessing!" snapped Charley, beginning to lose some of the
tattered remnant of his respect for old age. "He's a whole lot likely
to head for a town on a stolen cayuse, now ain't he! But we don't care
where he's heading; we'll foller the trail."

"Grub pile!" shouted Stevenson, and the two made haste to obey.

"Charley, gimme a chaw of yore tobacker," and Old John, biting off a
generous chunk, quietly slipped it into his pocket, there to lay until
after he had eaten his breakfast.

All talk was tabled while the three men gulped down a cold and
uninviting meal. Ten minutes later they had finished and separated to
find horses and spread the news; in fifteen more they had them and
were riding along the plain trail at top speed, with three other men
close at their heels. Three hundred yards from the corral they pounded
out of an arroyo, and Charley, who was leading, stood up in his
stirrups and looked keenly ahead. Another trail joined the one they
were following and ran with and on top of it. This, he reasoned, had
been made by one of the strays and would turn away soon. He kept his
eyes looking well ahead and soon saw that he was right in his surmise,
and without checking the speed of his horse in the slightest degree he
went ahead on the trail of the smaller hoof-prints. In a moment Old
John spurred forward and gained his side and began to argue hot-

"Hey! Charley!" he cried. "Why are you follering this track?" he

"Because it's his; that's why."

"Well, here, wait a minute!" and Old John was getting red from
excitement. "How do you know it is? Mebby he took the other!"

"He started out on the cayuse that made these little tracks," retorted
Charley, "an' I don't see no reason to think he swapped animules.
Don't you know the prints of yore own cayuse?"

"Lawd, no!" answered Old John. "Why, I don't hardly ride the same
cayuse the second day, straight hand-running. I tell you we ought to
foller that other trail. He's just cute enough to play some trick on

"Well, you better do that for us," Charley replied, hoping against
hope that the old man would chase off on the other and give his
companions a rest.

"He ain't got sand enough to tackle a thing like that single-handed,"
laughed Jed White, winking to the others.

Old John wheeled. "Ain't, hey! I am going to do that same thing an'
prove that you are a pack of fools. I'm too old to be fooled by a
common trick like that. An' I don't need no help--I'll ketch him all
by myself, an' hang him, too!" And he wheeled to follow the other
trail, angry and outraged. "Young fools," he muttered. "Why, I was
fighting all around these parts afore any of 'em knowed the difference
between day an' night!"

"Hard-headed old fool," remarked Charley, frowning, as he led the way

"He's gittin' old an' childish," excused Stevenson. "They say warn't
nobody in these parts could hold a candle to him in his prime."

Hopalong muttered and stirred and opened his eyes to gaze blankly into
those of one of the men who were tugging at his hands, and as he
stared he started his stupefied brain sluggishly to work in an
endeavor to explain the unusual experience. There were five men around
him and the two who hauled at his hands stepped back and kicked him. A
look of pained indignation slowly spread over his countenance as he
realized beyond doubt that they were really kicking him, and with
sturdy vigor. He considered a moment and then decided that such
treatment was most unwarranted and outrageous and, furthermore, that
he must defend himself and chastise the perpetrators.

"Hey!" he snorted, "what do you reckon yo're doing, anyhow? If you
want to do any kicking, why kick each other, an' I'll help you! But
I'll lick the whole bunch of you if you don't quite mauling me. Ain't
you got no manners? Don't you know anything? Come 'round waking a
feller up an' man-handling--"

"Get up!" snapped Stevenson, angrily.

"Why, ain't I seen you before? Somewhere? Sometime?" queried Hopalong,
his brow wrinkling from intense concentration of thought. "I ain't
dreaming; I've seen a one-eyed coyote som'ers, lately, ain't I?" he
appealed, anxiously, to the others.

"Get up!" ordered Charley, shortly.

"An' I've seen you, too. Funny, all right."

"You've seen me, all right," retorted Stevenson. "Get up, damn you!
Get up!"

"Why, I can't--my han's are tied!" exclaimed Hopalong in great wonder,
pausing in his exertions to cogitate deeply upon this most remarkable
phenomenon. "Tied up! Now what the devil do you think--"

"Use yore feet, you thief!" rejoined Stevenson roughly, stepping
forward and delivering another kick. "Use yore feet!" he reiterated.

"Thief! Me a thief! Shore I'll use my feet, you yaller dog!" yelled
the prostrate man, and his boot heel sank into the stomach of the
offending Mr. Stevenson with sickening force and laudable precision.
He drew it back slowly, as if debating shoving it farther. "Call me a
thief, hey! Come poking 'round kicking honest punchers an' calling 'em
names! Anybody want the other boot?" he inquired with grave

Stevenson sat down forcibly and rocked to and fro, doubled up and
gasping for breath, and Hopalong squinted at him and grinned with
happiness. "Hear him sing! Reg'lar ol' brass band. Sounds like a cow
pulling its hoofs outen the mud. Called me a thief, he did, just now.
An' I won't let nobody kick me an' call me names. He's a liar, just a
plain, squaw's dog liar, he--"

Two men grabbed him and raised him up, holding him tightly, and they
were not over careful to handle him gently, which he naturally
resented. Charley stepped in front of him to go to the aid of
Stevenson and caught the other boot in his groin, dropping as if he
had been shot. The man on the prisoner's left emitted a yell and
loosed his hold to sympathize with a bruised shinbone, and his
companion promptly knocked the bound and still intoxicated man down.
Bill Thomas swore and eyed the prostrate figure with resentment and
regret. "Hate to hit a man who can fight like that when he's loaded
an' tied. I'm glad, all the same, that he ain't sober an' loose."

"An' you ain't going to hit him no more!" snapped Jed White, reddening
with anger. "I'm ready to hang him, 'cause that's what he deserves,
an' what we're here for, but I'm damned if I'll stand for any more
mauling. I don't blame him for fighting, an' they didn't have no right
to kick him in the beginning."

"Didn't kick him in the beginning," grinned Bill. "Kicked him in the
ending. Anyhow," he continued seriously, "I didn't hit him hard--
didn't have to. Just let him go an' shoved him quick."

"I'm just naturally going to clean house," muttered the prisoner,
sitting up and glaring around. "Untie my han's an' gimme a gun or a
club or anything, an' watch yoreselves get licked. Called me a thief!
What are you fellers, then?--sticking me up an' busting me for a few
measly dollars. Why didn't you take my money an' lemme sleep, 'stead
of waking me up an' kicking me? I wouldn't 'a' cared then."

"Come on, now; get up. We ain't through with you yet, not by a whole
lot," growled Bill, helping him to his feet and steadying him. "I'm
plumb glad you kicked 'em; it was coming to 'em."

"No, you ain't; you can't fool me," gravely assured Hopalong. "Yo're
lying, an' you know it. What you going to do now? Ain't I got money
enough? Wish I had an even break with you fellers! Wish my outfit was

Stevenson, on his feet again, walked painfully up and shook his fist
at the captive, from the side. "You'll find out what we want of you,
you damned hoss-thief!" he cried. "We're going to tie you to that
there limb so yore feet'll swing above the grass, that's what we're
going to do."

Bill and Jed had their hands full for a moment and as they finally
mastered the puncher, Charley came up with a rope. "Hurry up--no use
dragging it out this way. I want to get back to the ranch some time
before next week."

"Why /I/ ain't no hoss-thief, you liar!" Hopalong yelled. "My name's
Hopalong Cassidy of the Bar-20, an' when I tell my friends about what
you've gone an' done they'll make you hard to find! You gimme any kind
of a chance an' I'll do it all by myself, sick as I am, you yaller

"Is that yore cayuse?" demanded Charley, pointing.

Hopalong squinted towards the animal indicated. "Which one?"

"There's only one there, you fool!"

"That so?" replied Hopalong, surprised. "Well, I never seen it afore.
My cayuse is--is--where the devil /is/ it?" he asked, looking around

"How'd you get that one, then, if it ain't yours?"

"Never had it--'t ain't mine, nohow," replied Hopalong, with strong
conviction. "Mine was a /hoss/."

"You stole that cayuse last night outen Stevenson's corral," continued
Charley, merely as a matter of form. Charley believed that a man had
the right to be heard before he died--it wouldn't change the result
and so could not do any harm.

"Did I? Why--" his forehead became furrowed again, but the events of
the night before were vague in his memory and he only stumbled in his
soliloquy. "But /I/ wouldn't swap my cayuse for that spavined, saddle-
galled, ring-boned bone-yard! Why, it interferes, an' it's got the
heaves something awful!" he finished triumphantly, as if an appeal to
common sense would clinch things. But he made no headway against them,
for the rope went around his neck almost before he had finished
talking and a flurry of excitement ensued. When the dust settled he
was on his back again and the rope was being tossed over the limb.

The crowd had been too busily occupied to notice anything away from
the scene of their strife and were greatly surprised when they heard a
hail and saw a stranger sliding to a stand not twenty feet from them.
"What's this?" demanded the newcomer, angrily.

Charley's gun glinted as it swung up and the stranger swore again.
"What you doing?" he shouted. "Take that gun off'n me or I'll blow you

"Mind yore business an' sit still!" Charley snapped. "You ain't in no
position to blow anything apart. We've got a hoss-thief an' we're
shore going to hang him regardless."

"An' if there's any trouble about it we can hang two as well as we can
one," suggested Stevenson, placidly. "You sit tight an' mind yore own
affairs, stranger," he warned.

Hopalong turned his head slowly. "He's a liar, stranger; just a plain,
squaw's dog of a liar. An' I'll be much obliged if you'll lick hell
outen 'em an' let--/why, hullo, hoss-thief/!" he shouted, at once
recognizing the other. It was the man he had met in the gospel tent,
the man he had chased for a horse-thief and then swapped mounts with.
"Stole any more cayuses?" he asked, grinning, believing that
everything was all right now. "Did you take that cayuse back to
Grant?" he finished.

"Han's up!" roared Stevenson, also covering the stranger. "So yo're
another one of 'em, hey? We're in luck to-day. Watch him, boys, till I
get his gun. If he moves, drop him quick."

"You damned fool!" cried Ferris, white with rage. "He ain't no thief,
an' neither am I! My name's Ben Ferris an' I live in Winchester. Why,
that man you've got is Hopalong Cassidy--Cassidy, of the Bar-20!"

"Sit still--you can talk later, mebby," replied Stevenson, warily
approaching him. "Watch him, boys!"

"Hold on!" shouted Ferris, murder in his eyes. "Don't you try that on
me! I'll get one of you before I go; I'll shore get one! You can
listen a minute, an' I can't get away."

"All right; talk quick."

Ferris pleaded as hard as he knew how and called attention to the
condition of the prisoner. "If he did take the wrong cayuse he was too
blind drunk to know it! Can't you /see/ he was!" he cried.

"Yep; through yet?" asked Stevenson, quietly.

"No! I ain't started yet!" Ferris yelled. "He did me a good turn once,
one that I can't never repay, an' I'm going to stop this murder or go
with him. If I go I'll take one of you with me, an' my friends an'
outfit'll get the rest."

"Wait till Old John gets here," suggested Jed to Charley. "He ought to
know this feller."

"For the Lord's sake!" snorted Charley. "He won't show up for a week.
Did you hear that, fellers?" he laughed, turning to the others.

"Stranger," began Stevenson, moving slowly ahead again. "You give us
yore guns an' sit quiet till we gets this feller out of the way. We'll
wait till Old John Ferris comes before doing anything with you. He
ought to know you."

"He knows me all right; an' he'd like to see me hung," replied the
stranger. "I won't give up my guns, an' you won't lynch Hopalong
Cassidy while I can pull a trigger. That's flat!" He began to talk
feverishly to gain time and his eyes lighted suddenly. Seeing that Jed
White was wavering, Stevenson ordered them to go on with the work they
had come to perform, and he watched Ferris as a cat watches a mouse,
knowing that he would be the first man hit if the stranger got a
chance to shoot. But Ferris stood up very slowly in his stirrups so as
not to alarm the five with any quick movement, and shouted at the top
of his voice, grabbing off his sombrero and waving it frantically. A
faint cheer reached his ears and made the lynchers turn quickly and
look behind them. Nine men were tearing towards them at a dead gallop
and had already begun to forsake their bunched-up formation in favor
of an extended line. They were due to arrive in a very few minutes and
caused Mr. Ferris' heart to overflow with joy.

"Me an' my outfit," he said, laughing softly and waving his hand
towards the newcomers, "started out this morning to round up a bunch
of cows, an' we got jackasses instead. Now lynch him, damn you!"

The nine swept up in skirmish order, guns out and ready for anything
in the nature of trouble that might zephyr up. "What's the matter,
Ben?" asked Tom Murphy ominously. As under-foreman of the ranch he
regarded himself as spokesman. And at that instant catching sight of
the rope, he swore savagely under his breath.

"Nothing, Tom; nothing now," responded Mr. Ferris. "They was going to
hang my friend there, Mr. Hopalong Cassidy, of the Bar-20. He's the
feller that lent me his cayuse to get home on when Molly was sick. I'm
going to take him back to the ranch when he gets sober an' introduce
him to some very good friends of hissn that he ain't never seen. Ain't
I, Cassidy?" he demanded with a laugh.

But Mr. Cassidy made no reply. He was sound asleep, as he had been
since the advent of his very good and capable friend, Mr. Ben Ferris,
of Winchester.



Mr. Cassidy went to the ranch and lived like a lord until shame drove
him away. He had no business to live on cake and pie and wonderful
dishes that Mrs. Ferris and her sister literally forced on him, and
let Buck's mission wait on his convenience. So he tore himself away
and made up for lost time as he continued his journey on his own
horse, for which Tom Murphy and three men had faced down the scowling
population of Hoyt's Corners. The rest of his journey was without
incident until, on his return home along another route, he rode into
Rawhide and heard about the marshal, Mr. Townsend.

This individual was unanimously regarded as an affliction upon society
and there had been objections to his continued existence, which had
been overruled by the object himself. Then word had gone forth that a
substantial reward and the undying gratitude of a considerable number
of people awaited the man who would rid the community of the pest who
seemed to be ubiquitous. Several had come in response to the call, one
had returned in a wagon, and the others were now looked upon as
martyrs, and as examples of asinine foolhardiness. Then it had been
decided to elect a marshal, or perhaps two or three, to preserve the
peace of the town; but this was a flat failure. In the first place,
Mr. Townsend had dispersed the meeting with no date set for a new one;
in the second, no man wanted the office; and as a finish to the
comedy, Mr. Townsend cheerfully announced that hereafter and
henceforth he was the marshal, self-appointed and self-sustained.
Those who did not like it could easily move to other localities.

With this touch of office-holding came ambition, and of stern stuff.
The marshal asked himself why he could not be more officers than one
and found no reason. Thereupon he announced that he was marshal, town
council, mayor, justice, and pound-keeper. He did not go to the
trouble of incorporating himself as the Town of Rawhide, because he
knew nothing of such immaterial things; but he was the town, and that

He had been grievously troubled about finances in the past, and he
firmly believed that genius such as his should be above such petty
annoyances as being "broke." That was why he constituted himself the
keeper of the public pound, which contented him for a short time, but

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