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Hopalong Cassidy's Rustler Round-Up (BAR-20) by Clarence Edward Mulford

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

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

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

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

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

"Well!" he snarled, scowling.

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

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

"Well!" he repeated uneasily.

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

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

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

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

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

Hopalong paled with sudden anger, but controlled himself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Easy as sin," he said.

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

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

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

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


Hopalong Keeps His Word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A snarl was the only reply and Hopalong grinned.

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

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

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

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

"Did yu ever hear of Tamale Jose?"


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

| |
| For Hopalong Cassidy, of the Ranch |
| Known as the Bar-20, Texas, U. S. A. |
| |

and which gave a good description of that gentleman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Most assuredly," breathed the sheriff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Several," replied the sheriff.

"Trot `em out," ordered Hopalong shortly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Red," answered Hopalong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Advent of McAllister

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I saw it!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Who is he?"

"A one-eyed Mexican-Quiensabe Antonio."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Anybody we knows?" Inquired Skinny Thompson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I shore do," answered that individual.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"That so?" Asked Buck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Shore. Waffles."

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

"He shore does."

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

"They'd bet their shirts on him."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Peace Hath its Victories

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"An' so fair!" wailed Tex.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"They did, blast it!" exploded Bigfoot.

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

"Mebby they skinned yu."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Holding the Claim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"How many, Buck?" Asked Red.


"How does she stand?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Well?" He asked slowly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Anything yu want?" he shouted savagely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Mornin'," said Hopalong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopalong looked at him in the eyes and quietly replied:

"An' who th' deuce are yu?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

His miner friend still leaned against the bar and looked his

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Dutch Shannon? Nope," he replied.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"An' what else?" Insisted Jake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Buck Peters? Seems to me I have. Did he punch fer th' Tin-Cup up in

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