Part 4 out of 4
better'n to chase greased lightnin'," rebuked Hopalong. "Yu has got
about as much show catchin' one of them as a tenderfoot has of bustin'
an outlawed cayuse."
"Shore; I know it," responded Pie, grinning. "But it's fun seem'
them hunt th' horizon. What are yu doin' down here an' where are yore
Thereupon Hopalong enlightened his inquisitive companion as to what
had occurred and as to his reasons for riding south.
Pie immediately became enthusiastic and announced his intention of
accompanying Hopalong on his quest, which intention struck that
gentleman as highly proper and wise. Then Pie hastily turned and
played at chasing coyotes in the direction of the line-house, where he
announced that his absence would be accounted for by the fact that he
and Hopalong were going on a journey of investigation into the
Panhandle. Billy Jordan who shared with Pie the accommodations of the
house, objected and showed, very clearly, why he was eminently better
qualified to take up the proposed labors than his companions. The
suggestions were fast getting tangled up with the remarks, when Pie,
grabbing a chunk of jerked beef, leaped into his saddle and absolutely
refused to heed the calls of his former companion and return. He rode
to where Hopalong was awaiting him as if he was afraid he wasn't going
to live long enough to get there. Confiding to his companion that
Billy was a "locoed sage hen," he led the way along the base of the
White Sand Hills and asked many questions. Then they turned toward the
east and galloped hard.
It had been Hopalong's intention to carry out what he had told Red
and to go to Big Spring first and thence north along Sulphur Spring
Creek, but to this his guide strongly dissented. There was a short
cut, or several of them for that matter, was Pie's contention, and any
one of them would save a day's hard riding. Hopalong made no objection
to allowing his companion to lead the way over any trail he saw fit,
for he knew that Pie had been born and brought up in the Panhandle,
the Cunningham Lake district having been his back yard, as it were. So
they followed the short cut having the most water and grass, and
pounded out a lively tattoo as they raced over the stretches of sand
which seemed to slide beneath them.
"What do yu know about this here business?" Inquired Pie, as they
raced past a chaparral and onto the edge of a grassy plain.
"Nothin' more'n yu do, only Buck said he thought Slippery Trendley
is at th' bottom of it."
"What!" ejaculated Pie in surprise. "Him!"
"Yore on. An' between yu an' me an' th' Devil, I wouldn't be a heap
surprised if Deacon Rankin is with him, neither."
Pie whistled: "Are him an' th' Deacon pals?"
"Shore," replied Hopalong, buttoning up his vest and rolling a
cigarette. "Didn't they allus hang out together! One watched that th'
other didn't get plugged from behind. It was a sort of yu-scratch-my-
"Well, if they still hangs out together, I know where to hunt for
our cows," responded Pie. "Th' Deacon used to range along th'
headwaters of th' Colorado-it ain't far from Cunningham Lake.
Thunderation!" he shouted, "I knows th' very ground they're on-I can
take yu to th' very shack!" Then to himself he muttered: "An' that
doodlebug Billy Jordan thinkin' he knowed more about th' Panhandle
Hopalong showed his elation in an appropriate manner and his
companion drank deeply from the proffered flask; Thereupon they
treated their mounts to liberal doses of strap-oil and covered the
ground with great speed.
They camped early, for Hopalong was almost worn out from the
exertions of the past few days and the loss of sleep he had sustained.
Pie, too excited to sleep and having had unbroken rest for a long
period, volunteered to keep guard, and his companion eagerly
Early the next morning they broke camp and the evening of the same
day found them fording Sulphur Spring Creek, and their quarry lay only
an hour beyond, according to Pie. Then they forded one of the streams
which form the headwaters of the Colorado, and two hours later they
dismounted in a cottonwood grove. Picketing their horses, they
carefully made their way through the timber, which was heavily grown
with brush, and, after half an hour's maneuvering, came within sight
of the further edge.
Dropping down on all fours, they crawled to the last line of brush and
looked out over an extensive bottoms. At their feet lay a small river, and
in a clearing on the farther side was a rough camp, consisting of about a
dozen leanto shacks and log cabins in the main collection, and a few scattered
cabins along the edge. A huge fire was blazing before the main collection
of huts, and to the rear of these was an indistinct black mass, which they
knew to be the corral.
At a rude table before the fire more than a score of men were eating
supper and others could be heard moving about and talking at different
points in the background. While the two scouts were learning the lay
of the land, they saw Mr. Trendley and Deacon Rankin walk out of the
cabin most distant from the fire, and the latter limped. Then they saw
two men lying on rude cots, and they wore bandages. Evidently Johnny
Redmond had scored in his fight.
The odor of burning cowhide came from the corral, accompanied by the
squeals of cattle, and informed them that brands were being blotted
out. Hopalong longed to charge down and do some blotting out of
another kind, but a heavy hand was placed on his shoulder and he
silently wormed his way after Pie as that person led the way back to
the horses. Mounting, they picked their way out of the grove and rode
over the plain at a walk. When far enough away to insure that the
noise made by their horses would not reach the ears of those in the
camp they cantered toward the ford they had taken on the way up.
After emerging from the waters of the last forded stream, Pie raised
his hand and pointed off toward the northwest, telling his companion
to take that course to reach Cunningham Lake. He himself would ride
south, taking, for the saving of time, a yet shorter trail to the
Double Arrow, from where he would ride to Buck. He and the others
would meet Hopalong and Red at the split rock they had noticed on
their way up.
Hopalong shook hands with his guide and watched him disappear into
the night. He imagined he could still catch whiffs of burning cowhide
and again the picture of the camp came to his mind. Glancing again at
the point where Pie had disappeared, he stuffed his sombrero under a
strap on his saddle and slowly rode toward the lake. A coyote slunk
past him on a time-destroying lope and an owl hooted at the
foolishness of men. He camped at the base of a cottonwood and at
daylight took up his journey after a scanty breakfast from his saddle-
Shortly before noon he came in sight of the lake and looked for his
friend. He had just ridden around a clump of cotton-woods when he was
hit on the back with something large and soft. Turning in his saddle,
with his Colts ready, he saw Red sitting on a stump, a huge grin
extending over his features. He replaced the weapon, said something
about fools and dismounted, kicking aside the bundle of grass his
friend had thrown.
"Yore shore easy," remarked Red, tossing aside his cold cigarette.
"Suppose I was Trendley, where would yu be now?"
"Diggin' a hole to put yu in," pleasantly replied Hopalong. "If I
didn't know he wasn't around this part of the country I wouldn't a
rode as I did."
The man on the stump laughed and rolled a fresh cigarette. Lighting
it, he inquired where Mr. Trendley was, intimating by his words that
the rustler had not been found.
"About thirty miles to th' southeast," responded the other. "He's
figurin' up how much dust he'll have when he gets our cows on th'
market. Deacon Rankin is with him, too."
"Th' deuce!" exclaimed Red, in profound astonishment.
"Yore right," replied his companion. Then he explained all the
arrangements and told of the camp.
Red was for riding to the rendezvous at once, but his friend thought
otherwise and proposed a swim, which met with approval. After enjoying
themselves in the lake they dressed and rode along the trail Hopalong
had made in coming for his companion, it being the intention of the
former to learn more thoroughly the lay of the land immediately
surrounding the camp. Red was pleased with this, and while they rode
he narrated all that had taken place since the separation on the
Plain, adding that he had found the trail left by the rustlers after
they had quitted the desert and that he had followed it for the last
two hours of his journey. It was well beaten and an eighth of a mile
At dark they came within sight of the grove and picketed their
horses at the place used by Pie and Hopalong. Then they moved forward
and the same sight greeted their eyes that had been seen the night
before. Keeping well within the edge of the grove and looking
carefully for sentries, they went entirely around the camp and picked
out several places which would be of strategic value later on. They
noticed that the cabin used by Slippery Trendley was a hundred paces
from the main collection of huts and that the woods came to within a
tenth part of that distance of its door. It was heavily built, had no
windows and faced the wrong direction.
Moving on, they discovered the storehouse of the enemy, another
tempting place. It was just possible, if a siege became necessary, for
several of the attacking force to slip up to it and either destroy it
by fire or take it and hold it against all comers. This suggested a
look at the enemy's water supply, which was the river. A hundred paces
separated it from the nearest cabin and any rustler who could cross
that zone under the fire of the besiegers would be welcome to his
It was very evident that the rustlers had no thought of defense,
thinking, perhaps, that they were immune from attack with such a well
covered trail between them and their foes. Hopalong mentally accused
them of harboring suicidal inclinations and returned with his
companion to the horses. They mounted and sat quietly for a while, and
then rode slowly away and at dawn reached the split rock, where they
awaited the arrival of their friends, one sleeping while the other
kept guard. Then they drew a rough map of the camp, using the sand for
paper, and laid out the plan of attack.
As the evening of the next day came on they saw Pie, followed by
many punchers, ride over a rise a mile to the south and they rode out
to meet him.
When the force arrived at the camp of the two scouts they were shown
the plan prepared for them. Buck made a few changes in the disposition
of the men and then each member was shown where he was to go and was
told why. Weapons were put in a high state of efficiency, canteens
were refilled and haversacks were somewhat depleted. Then the
newcomers turned in and slept while Hopalong and Red kept guard.
At three o'clock the next morning a long line of men slowly filed
into the cottonwood grove, being silently swallowed up by the dark.
Dismounting, they left their horses in the care of three of their
number and disappeared into the brush. Ten minutes later forty of the
force were distributed along the edge of the grove fringing on the
bank of the river and twenty more minutes gave ample time for a
detachment of twenty to cross the stream and find concealment in the
edge of the woods which ran from the river to where the corral made an
effective barrier on the south.
Eight crept down on the western side of the camp and worked their way
close to Mr. Trendley's cabin door, and the seven who followed this
detachment continued and took up their positions at the rear of the corral,
where, it was hoped, some of the rustlers would endeavor to
escape into the woods by working their way through the cattle in the corral
and then scaling the stockade wall. These seven were from the Three
Triangle and the Double Arrow, and they were positive that any such attempt
would not be a success from the view-point of the rustlers.
Two of those who awaited the pleasure of Mr. Trendley crept forward,
and a rope swished through the air and settled over the stump which
lay most convenient on the other side of the cabin door. Then the
slack moved toward the woods, raised from the ground as it grew taut
and, with the stump for its axis, swung toward the door, where it
rubbed gently against the rough logs. It was made of braided
horsehair, was half an inch in diameter and was stretched eight inches
above the ground.
As it touched the door, Lanky Smith, Hopalong and Red stepped out of
the shelter of the woods and took up their positions behind the cabin,
Lanky behind the northeast corner where he would be permitted to swing
his right arm. In his gloved right hand he held the carefully arranged
coils of a fifty-foot lariat, and should the chief of the rustlers
escape tripping he would have to avoid the cast of the best roper in
The two others took the northwest corner and one of
them leaned slightly forward and gently twitched the tripping-rope.
The man at the other end felt the signal and whispered to a companion,
who quietly disappeared in the direction of the river and shortly
afterward the mournful cry of a whip-poor-will dirged out on the early
morning air. It had hardly died away when the quiet was broken by one
terrific crash of rifles, and the two camp guards asleep at the fire
awoke in another world.
Mr. Trendley, sleeping unusually well for the unjust, leaped from
his bed to the middle of the floor and alighted on his feet and wide
awake. Fearing that a plot was being consummated to deprive him of his
leadership, he grasped the Winchester which leaned at the head of his
bed and, tearing open the door, crashed headlong to the earth. As he
touched the ground, two shadows sped out from the shelter of the cabin
wall and pounced upon him. Men who can rope, throw and tie a wild
steer in thirty seconds flat do not waste time in trussing operations,
and before a minute had elapsed he was being carried into the woods,
bound and helpless. Lanky sighed, threw the rope over one shoulder and
departed after his friends.
When Mr. Trendley came to his senses he found himself bound to a
tree in the grove near the horses. A man sat on a stump not far from
him, three others were seated around a small fire some distance to the
north, and four others, one of whom carried a rope, made their way
into the brush. He strained at his bonds, decided that the effort was
useless and watched the man on the stump, who struck a match and lit a
pipe. The prisoner watched the light flicker up and go out and there
was left in his mind a picture that he could never forget. The face
which had been so cruelly, so grotesquely revealed was that of Frenchy
McAllister, and across his knees lay a heavy caliber Winchester. A
curse escaped from the lips of the outlaw; the man on the stump spat
at a firefly and smiled.
From the south came the crack of rifles, incessant and sharp. The
reports rolled from one end of the clearing to the other and seemed to
sweep in waves from the center of the line to the ends. Faintly in the
infrequent lulls in the firing came an occasional report from the rear
of the corral, where some desperate rustler paid for his venture.
Buck went along the line and spoke to the riflemen, and after some
time had passed and the light had become stronger, he collected the
men into groups of five and six. Taking one group and watching it
closely, it could be seen that there was a world of meaning in this
maneuver. One man started firing at a particular window in an opposite
hut and then laid aside his empty gun and waited. When the muzzle of
his enemy's gun came into sight and lowered until it had nearly gained
its sight level, the rifles of the remainder of the group crashed out
in a volley and usually one of the bullets, at least, found its
intended billet. This volley firing became universal among the
besiegers and the effect was marked.
Two men sprinted from the edge of the woods near Mr. Trendley's
cabin and gained the shelter of the storehouse, which soon broke out
in flames. The burning brands fell over the main collection of huts,
where there was much confusion and swearing. The early hour at which
the attack had been delivered at first led the besieged to believe
that it was an Indian affair, but this impression was soon corrected
by the volley firing, which turned hope into despair. It was no great
matter to fight Indians, that they had done many times and found more
or less enjoyment in it; but there was a vast difference between brave
and puncher, and the chances of their salvation became very small.
They surmised that it was the work of the cow-men on whom they had
preyed and that vengeful punchers lay hidden behind that death-fringe
of green willow and hazel.
Red, assisted by his inseparable companion, Hopalong, laboriously
climbed up among the branches of a black walnut and hooked one leg
over a convenient limb. Then he lowered his rope and drew up the
Winchester which his accommodating friend fastened to it. Settling
himself in a comfortable position and sheltering his body somewhat by
the tree, he shaded his eyes by a hand and peered into the windows of
the distant cabins.
"How is she, Red?" Anxiously inquired the man on the ground.
"Bully: want to come up?"
"Nope. I'm goin' to catch yu when yu lets go," replied Hopalong with
"Which same I ain't goin' to," responded the man in the tree.
He swung his rifle out over a forked limb and let it settle in the
crotch. Then he slew his head around until he gained the bead he
wished. Five minutes passed before he caught sight of his man and then
he fired. Jerking out the empty shell he smiled and called out to his
Hopalong grinned and went off to tell Buck to put all the men in
Night came on and still the firing continued. Then an explosion
shook the woods. The storehouse had blown up and a sky full of burning
timber fell on the cabins and soon three were half consumed, their
occupants dropping as they gained the open air. One hundred paces
makes fine pot-shooting, as Deacon Rankin discovered when evacuation
was the choice necessary to avoid cremation. He never moved after he
touched the ground and Red called out: "Two," not knowing that his
companion had departed.
The morning of the next day found a wearied and hopeless garrison,
and shortly before noon a soiled white shirt was flung from a window
in the nearest cabin. Buck ran along the line and ordered the firing
to cease and caused to be raised an answering flag of truce. A full
minute passed and then the door slowly opened and a leg protruded,
more slowly followed by the rest of the man, and Cheyenne Charley
strode out to the bank of the river and sat down. His example was
followed by several others and then an unexpected event occurred.
Those in the cabins who preferred to die fighting, angered at this
desertion, opened fire on their former comrades, who barely escaped by
rolling down the slightly inclined bank into the river. Red fired
again and laughed to himself. Then the fugitives swam down the river
and landed under the guns of the last squad. They were taken to the
rear and, after being bound, were placed under a guard. There were
seven in the party and they looked worn out.
When the huts were burning the fiercest the uproar in the corral
arose to such a pitch as to drown all other sounds. There were left
within its walls a few hundred cattle whose brands had not yet been
blotted out, and these, maddened to frenzy by the shooting and the
flames, tore from one end of the enclosure to the other, crashing
against the alternate walls with a noise which could be heard far out
on the plain. Scores were trampled to death on each charge and finally
the uproar subsided in sheer want of cattle left with energy enough to
continue. When the corral was investigated the next day there were
found the bodies of four rustlers, but recognition was impossible.
Several of the defenders were housed in cabins having windows in the
rear walls, which the occupants considered fortunate. This opinion was
revised, however, after several had endeavored to escape by these
openings. The first thing that occurred when a man put his head out
was the hum of a bullet, and in two cases the experimenters lost all
need of escape.
The volley firing had the desired effect, and at dusk there remained
only one cabin from which came opposition. Such a fire was
concentrated on it that before an hour had passed the door fell in and
the firing ceased. There was a rush from the side, and the Barred
Horseshoe men who swarmed through the cabins emerged without firing a
shot. The organization that had stirred up the Pecos Valley ranches
had ceased to exist.
A fire burned briskly in front of Mr. Trendley's cabin that night
and several punchers sat around it occupied in various ways. Two men
leaned against the wall and sang softly of the joys of the trail and
the range. One of them, Lefty Allen, of the O-Bar-O, sang in his sweet
tenor, and other men gradually strolled up and seated themselves on
the ground, where the fitful gleam of responsive pipes and cigarettes
showed like fireflies. The songs followed one after another, first a
lover's plea in soft Spanish and then a rollicking tale of the cow-
towns and men. Supper had long since been enjoyed and all felt that
life was, indeed, well worth living.
A shadow loomed against the cabin wall and a procession slowly made
its way toward the open door. The leader, Hopalong, disappeared within
and was followed by Mr. Trendley, bound and hobbled and tied to Red,
the rear being brought up by Frenchy, whose rifle lolled easily in the
crotch of his elbow. The singing went on uninterrupted and the hum of
voices between the selections remained unchanged. Buck left the crowd
around the fire and went into the cabin, where his voice was heard
assenting to something. Hopalong emerged and took a seat at the fire,
sending two punchers to take his place. He was joined by Frenchy and
Red, the former very quiet.
In the center of a distant group were seven men who were not armed.
Their belts, half full of cartridges, supported empty holsters. They
sat and talked to the men around them, swapping notes and experiences,
and in several instances found former friends and acquaintances. These
men were not bound and were apparently members of Buck's force. Then
one of them broke down, but quickly regained his nerve and proposed a
game of cards. A fire was started and several games were immediately
in progress. These seven men were to die at daybreak.
As the night grew older man after man rolled himself in his blanket
and lay down where he sat, sinking off to sleep with a swiftness that
bespoke tired muscles and weariness. All through the night, however,
there were twelve men on guard, of whom three were in the cabin.
At daybreak a shot from one of the guards awakened every man within
hearing, and soon they romped and scampered down to the river's edge
to indulge in the luxury of a morning plunge. After an hour's
horseplay they trooped back to the cabin and soon had breakfast out of
Waffles, foreman of the O-Bar-O, and You-bet Somes strolled over to
the seven unfortunates who had just completed a choking breakfast and
nodded a hearty "Good morning." Then others came up and finally all
moved off toward the river. Crossing it, they disappeared into the
grove and all sounds of their advance grew into silence.
Mr. Trendley, escorted outside for the air, saw the procession as it
became lost to sight in the brush. He sneered and asked for a smoke,
which was granted. Then his guards were changed and the men began to
straggle back from the grove.
Mr. Trendley, with his back to the cabin, scowled defiantly at the
crowd that hemmed him in. The coolest, most damnable murderer in the
West was not now going to beg for mercy. When he had taken up crime as
a means of livelihood he had decided that if the price to be paid for
his course was death, he would pay like a man. He glanced at the
cottonwood grove, wherein were many ghastly secrets, and smiled. His
hairless eyebrows looked like livid scars and his lips quivered in
scorn and anger.
As he sneered at Buck there was a movement in the crowd before him
and a pathway opened for Frenchy, who stepped forward slowly and
deliberately, as if on his way to some bar for a drink. There was
something different about the man who had searched the Staked Plain
with Hopalong and Red: he was not the same puncher who had arrived
from Montana three weeks before. There was lacking a certain air of
carelessness and he chilled his friends, who looked upon him as if
they had never really known him. He walked up to Mr. Trendley and
gazed deeply into the evil eyes.
Twenty years before, Frenchy McAllister had changed his identity
from a happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care cow-puncher and became a
machine. The grief that had torn his soul was not of the kind which
seeks its outlet in tears and wailing; it had turned and struck
inward, and now his deliberate ferocity was icy and devilish. Only a
glint in his eyes told of exultation, and his words were sharp and
incisive; one could well imagine one heard the click of his teeth as
they bit off the consonants: every letter was clear-cut, every
syllable startling in its clearness.
"Twenty years and two months ago to-day," he began, "you arrived at
the ranchhouse of the Double Y, up near the Montana-Wyoming line.
Everything was quiet, except, perhaps, a woman's voice, singing. You
entered, and before you left you pinned a note to that woman's dress.
I found it, and it is due."
The air of carelessness disappeared from the members of the crowd
and the silence became oppressive. Most of those present knew parts of
Frenchy's story, and all were in hearty accord with anything he might
do. He reached within his vest and brought forth a deerskin bag.
Opening it, he drew out a package of oiled silk and from that he took
a paper. Carefully replacing the silk and the bag, he slowly unfolded
the sheet in his hand and handed it to Buck, whose face hardened. Two
decades had passed since the foreman of the Bar-20 had seen that
precious sheet, but the scene of its finding would never fade from his
memory. He stood as if carved from stone, with a look on his face that
made the crowd shift uneasily and glance at Trendley.
Frenchy turned to the rustler and regarded him evilly. "You are the
hellish brute that wrote that note," pointing to the paper in the hand
of his friend. Then, turning again, he spoke: "Buck, read that paper."
The foreman cleared his throat and read distinctly:
"McAllister: Yore wife is too blame good to live.
There was a shuffling sound, but Buck and Frenchy, silently backed
up by Hopalong and Red, intervened, and the crowd fell back, where it
surged in indecision.
"Gentlemen," said Frenchy, "I want you to vote on whether any man
here has more right to do with Slippery Trendley as he sees fit than
myself. Any one who thinks so, or that he should be treated like the
others, step forward. Majority rules."
There was no advance and he spoke again: "Is there any one here who
objects to this man dying?"
Hopalong and Red awkwardly bumped their knuckles against their guns
and there was no response.
The prisoner was bound with cowhide to the wall of the cabin and
four men sat near and facing him. The noonday meal was eaten in
silence, and the punchers rode off to see about rounding up the cattle
that grazed over the plain as far as eye could see. Supper-time came
and passed, and busy men rode away in all directions. Others came and
relieved the guards, and at midnight another squad took up the vigil.
Day broke and the thunder of hoofs as the punchers rounded up the
cattle became very noticeable. One herd swept past toward the south,
guarded and guided by fifteen men. Two hours later and another
followed, taking a slightly different trail so as to avoid the close-
cropped grass left by the first. At irregular intervals during the day
other herds swept by, until six had passed and denuded the plain of
Buck, perspiring and dusty, accompanied by Hopalong and Red, rode up
to where the guards smoked and joked. Frenchy came out of the cabin
and smiled at his friends. Swinging in his left hand was a newly
filled Colt's .45, which was recognized by his friends as the one
found in the cabin and it bore a rough "T" gouged in the butt.
Buck looked around and cleared his throat: "We've got th' cows on
th' home trail, Frenchy," he suggested.
"Yas?" Inquired Frenchy. "Are there many?"
"Yas," replied Buck, waving his hand at the guards, ordering them to
follow their friends. "It's a good deal for us: we've done right smart
this hand. An' it's a good thing we've got so many punchers: we got a
lot of cattle to drive."
"About five times th' size of th' herd that blamed near made angels
out'en me an' yu," responded Frenchy with a smile.
"I hope almighty hard that we don't have no stampedes on this here
drive. If th' last herds go wild they'll pick up th' others, an' then
there'll be th' devil to pay."
Frenchy smiled again and shot a glance at where Mr. Trendley was
bound to the cabin wall.
Buck looked steadily southward for some time and then flecked a
foam-sud from the flank of his horse. "We are goin' south along th'
Creek until we gets to Big Spring, where we'll turn right smart to th'
west. We won't be able to average more'n twelve miles a day, `though
I'm goin' to drive them hard. How's yore grub?"
"Grub to burn."
"Got yore rope?" Asked the foreman of the Bar-20, speaking as if the
question had no especial meaning.
Frenchy smiled: "Yes."
Hopalong absent-mindedly jabbed his spurs into his mount with the
result that when the storm had subsided the spell was broken and he
said "So long," and rode south, followed by Buck and Red. As they
swept out of sight behind a grove Red turned in his saddle and waved
his hat. Buck discussed with assiduity the prospects of a rainfall and
was very cheerful about the recovery of the stolen cattle. Red could
see a tall, broad-shouldered man standing with his feet spread far
apart, swinging a Colt's .45, and Hopalong swore at everything under
the sun. Dust arose in streaming clouds far to the south and they
spurred forward to overtake the outfits.
Buck Peters, riding over the starlit plain, in his desire to reach
the first herd, which slept somewhere to the west of him under the
care of Waffles, thought of the events of the past few weeks and
gradually became lost in the memories of twenty years before, which
crowded up before his mind like the notes of a half-forgotten song.
His nature, tempered by two decades of a harsh existence, softened as
he lived again the years that had passed and as he thought of the
things which had been. He was so completely lost in his reverie that
he failed to hear the muffled hoofbeats of a horse that steadily
gained upon him, and when Frenchy McAllister placed a friendly hand on
his shoulder he started as if from a deep sleep.
The two looked at each other and their hands met. The question which
sprang into Buck's eyes found a silent answer in those of his friend.
They rode on side by side through the clear night and together drifted
back to the days of the Double Y.
After an hour had passed, the foreman of the Bar-20 turned to his
companion and then hesitated:
"Did, did-was he a cur?"
Frenchy looked off toward the south and, after an interval, replied:
"Yas. "Then, as an after thought, he added, "Yu see, he never reckoned
it would be that way."
Buck nodded, although he did not fully understand, and the subject
was forever closed.
Mr. Cassidy Meets a Woman
The work of separating the cattle into herds of the different brands
was not a big contract, and with so many men it took but a
comparatively short time, and in two days all signs of the rustlers
had faded. It was then that good news went the rounds and the men
looked forward to a week of pleasure, which was all the sharper
accentuated by the grim mercilessness of the expedition into the
Panhandle. Here was a chance for unlimited hilarity and a whole week
in which to give strict attention to celebrating the recent victory.
So one day Mr. Hopalong Cassidy rode rapidly over the plain,
thinking about the joys and excitement promised by the carnival to be
held at Muddy Wells. With that rivalry so common to Western towns the
inhabitants maintained that the carnival was to break all records,
this because it was to be held in their town. Perry's Bend and
Buckskin had each promoted a similar affair, and if this year's
festivities were to be an improvement on those which had gone before,
they would most certainly be worth riding miles to see. Perry's Bend
had been unfortunate m being the first to hold a carnival, inasmuch as
it only set a mark to be improved upon, and Buckskin had taken
advantage of this and had added a brass band, and now in turn was to
The events slated were numerous and varied, the most important being
those which dealt directly with the everyday occupations of the
inhabitants of that section of the country. Broncho busting, steer-
roping and tying, rifle and revolver shooting, trick riding and fancy
roping made up the main features of the programme and were to be set
off by horse and foot racing and other county fair necessities.
Altogether, the proud citizens of the town looked forward with keen
anticipation to the coming excitements, and were prone to swagger a
bit and to rub their hands in condescending egoism, while the crowded
gambling halls and saloons, and the three-card-monte men on the street
corners enriched themselves at the cost of venturesome know-it-ails.
Hopalong was firmly convinced that his day of hard riding was well
worth while, for the Bar-2o was to be represented in strength.
Probably a clearer insight into his idea of a carnival can be gained
by his definition, grouchily expressed to Red Connors on the day
following the last affair: "Raise cain, go broke, wake up an' begin
punching cows all over again." But that was the day after and the day
after is always filled with remorse.
Hopalong and Red, having twice in succession won the revolver and
rifle competitions, respectively, hoped to make it `Three straight.'
Lanky Smith, the Bar-20 rope expert, had taken first prize in the only
contest he had entered. Skinny Thompson had lost and drawn with Lefty
Allen, of the O-Bar-O, in the broncho-busting event, but as Skinny had
improved greatly in the interval, his friends confidently expected him
to "yank first place" for the honor of his ranch.
These expectations were backed with all the available Bar-20 money, and,
if they were not realized, something in the nature of a calamity would swoop
down upon and wrap that ranch in gloom. Since the O-Bar-O was
aggressively optimistic the betting was at even money, hats and guns, and the
losers would begin life anew so far as earthly possessions were
concerned. No other competitors were considered in this event, as
Skinny and Lefty had so far outclassed all others that the honor was
believed to lie between these two.
Hopalong, blissfully figuring out the chances of the different
contestants, galloped around a clump of mesquite only fifteen miles
from Muddy Wells and stiffened in his saddle, for twenty rods ahead of
him on the trail was a woman. As she heard him approach she turned and
waited for him to overtake her, and when she smiled he raised his
sombrero and bowed.
"Will you please tell me where I am?" She asked.
"Yu are fifteen miles southeast of Muddy Wells," he replied.
"But which is southeast?"
"Right behind yu," he answered. "Th' town lies right ahead."
"Are you going there?" She asked.
"Then you will not care if I ride with you?" She asked. "I am a
"Why, I'd be some pleased if yu do, `though there ain't nothing out
here to be afraid of now."
"I had no intention of getting lost," she assured him, "but I
dismounted to pick flowers and cactus leaves and after a while I had
no conception of where I was."
"How is it yu are out here?" He asked. "Yu shouldn't get so far from
"Why, papa is an invalid and doesn't like to leave his room, and the
town is so dull, although the carnival is waking it up somewhat.
Having nothing to do I procured a horse and determined to explore the
country. Why, this is like Stanley and Livingstone, isn't it? You
rescued the explorer!" And she laughed heartily. He wondered who in
thunder Stanley and Livingstone were, but said nothing.
"I like the West, it is so big and free," she continued. "But it is
very monotonous at times, especially when compared with New York. Papa
swears dreadfully at the hotel and declares that the food will drive
him insane, but I notice that he eats much more heartily than he did
when in the city. And the service!-it is awful. But when one leaves
the town behind it is splendid, and I can appreciate it because I had
such a hard season in the city last winter-so many balls, parties and
theaters that I simply wore myself out."
"I never hankered much for them things," Hopalong replied. "An' I
don't like th' towns much, either. Once or twice a year I gets as far
as Kansas City, but I soon tires of it an' hits th' back trail. Yu
see, I don't like a fence country-I wants lots of room an' air.
She regarded him intently: "I know that you will think me very
He smiled and slowly replied: "I think yu are all O. K."
"There do not appear to be many women in this country," she
"No, there ain't many," he replied, thinking of the kind to be found
in all of the cow-towns. "They don't seem to hanker for this kind of
life-they wants parties an' lots of dancin' an' them kind of things. I
reckon there ain't a whole lot to tempt em to come.
"You evidently regard women as being very frivolous," she replied.
"Well, I'm speakin' from there not being any out here," he
responded, "although I don't know much about them, to tell th' truth.
Them what are out here can't be counted." Then he flushed and looked
She ignored the remark and placed her hand to her hair:
"Goodness! My hair must look terrible!"
He turned and looked: "Yore hair is pretty-I allus did like brown
She laughed and put back the straggling locks: "It is terrible! Just
look at it! Isn't it awful?"
"Why, no: I reckons not," he replied critically. "It looks sort of
free an' easy thataway."
"Well, it's no matter, it cannot be helped," she laughed. "Let's
race!" she cried and was off like a shot.
He humored her until he saw that her mount was getting unmanageable,
when he quietly overtook her and closed her pony's nostrils with his
hand, the operation having a most gratifying effect.
"Joe hadn't oughter let yu had this cayuse," he said.
"Why, how do you know of whom I procured it?" She asked. "By th'
brand: it's a O-Bar-O, canceled, with J. H. over it. He buys all of
his cayuses from th' O-Bar-O."
She found out his name, and, after an interval of silence, she
turned to him with eyes full of inquiry: "What is that thorny shrub
just ahead?" She asked.
"That's mesquite," he replied eagerly.
"Tell me all about it," she commanded.
"Why, there ain't much to tell," he replied, "only it's a valuable
tree out here. Th' Apaches use it a whole lot of ways. They get honey
from th' blossoms an' glue an' gum, an' they use th' bark for tannin'
hide. Th' dried pods an' leaves are used to feed their cattle, an' th'
wood makes corrals to keep `em in. They use th' wood for making other
things, too, an' it is of two colors. Th' sap makes a dye what won't
wash out, an' th' beans make a bread what won't sour or get hard. Then
it makes a barrier that shore is a dandy-coyotes an' men can't get
through it, an' it protects a whole lot of birds an' things. Th'
snakes hate it like poison, for th' thorns get under their scales an'
whoops things up for `em. It keeps th' sand from shiftin', too. Down
South where there is plenty of water, it often grows forty feet high,
but up here it squats close to th' ground so it can save th' moisture.
In th' night th' temperature sometimes falls thirty degrees, an' that
helps it, too."
"How can it live without water?" She asked.
"It gets all th' water it wants," he replied, smiling. "Th' tap
roots go straight down `til they find it, sometimes fifty feet. That's
why it don't shrivel up in th' sun. Then there are a lot of little
roots right under it an' they protects th' tap roots. Th' shade it
gives is th' coolest out here, for th' leaves turn with th' wind an'
lets th' breeze through-they're hung on little stems."
"How splendid!" she exclaimed. "Oh! Look there!" she cried, pointing
ahead of them. A chaparral cock strutted from its decapitated enemy, a
rattlesnake, and disappeared in the chaparral.
Hopalong laughed: "Mr. Scissors-bill Road-runner has great fun with
snakes. He runs along th' sand-an' he can run, too- an' sees a snake
takin' a siesta. Snip! goes his bill an' th' snake slides over th'
Divide. Our fighting friend may stop some coyote's appetite before
morning, though, unless he stays where he is."
Just then a gray wolf blundered in sight a few rods ahead of them,
and Hopalong fired instantly. His companion shrunk from him and looked
at him reproachfully.
"Why did you do that!" she demanded.
"Why, because they costs us big money every year," he replied.
"There's a bounty on them because they pull down calves, an' sometimes
full grown cows. I'm shore wonderin' why he got so close-they're
usually just out of range, where they stays."
"Promise me that you will shoot no more while I am with you.
"Why, shore: I didn't think yu'd care," he replied. "Yu are like
that sky-pilot over to Las Cruces-he preached agin killin' things,
which is all right for him, who didn't have no cows."
"Do you go to the missions?" She asked.
He replied that he did, sometimes, but forgot to add that it was
usually for the purpose of hilarity, for he regarded sky-pilots with
"Tell me all about yourself-what you do for enjoyment and all about
your work," she requested.
He explained in minute detail the art of punching cows, and told her
more of the West in half an hour than she could have learned from a
year's experience. She showed such keen interest in his words that it
was a pleasure to talk to her, and he monopolized the conversation
until the town intruded its sprawling collection of unpainted shacks
and adobe huts in their field of vision.
The Strategy of Mr. Peters
Hopalong and his companion rode into Muddy Wells at noon, and Red Connors,
who leaned with Buck Peters against the side of Tom Lee's saloon, gasped his
astonishment. Buck looked twice to be sure, and then muttered incredulously:
"What th' heck!" Red repeated the phrase and retreated within the saloon,
while Buck stood his ground, having had much experience with women, inasmuch
as he had narrowly escaped marrying. He thought that he might as well get all
the information possible, and waited for an introduction. It was in vain,
however, for the two rode past without noticing him.
Buck watched them turn the corner and then called for Red to come out, but
that person, fearing an ordeal, made no reply and the foreman went in after
him. The timorous one was corraling bracers at the bar and nearly swallowed
down the wrong channel when Buck placed a heavy hand on his broad shoulder.
"G'way!" remarked Red. "I don't want no introduction, none whatever," he
asserted. "G'way!" he repeated, backing off suspiciously.
"Better wait `til yu are asked," suggested Buck. "Better wait `til yu sees
th' rope afore yu duck." Then he laughed: "Yu bashful fellers make me plumb
disgusted. Why, I've seen yu face a bunch of guns an never turn a hair, an'
here yore all in because yu fear yu'll have to stand around an' hide yore
hands. She won't bite yu. Anyway, from what I saw, Hopalong is due to be her
grub-he never saw me at all, th' chump."
"He shore didn't see me, none," replied Red with distinct relief. "Are they
"Shore," answered Buck. "An' if they wasn't they wouldn't see us, not if we
stood in front of them an' yelled. She's a hummer-stands two hands under him
an' is a whole lot prettier than that picture Cowan has got over his bar.
There's nothing th' matter with his eyesight, but he's plumb locoed, all th'
same. He'll go an' get stuck on her an' then she'll hit th' trail for home
an' mamma, an' he won't be worth his feed for a year." Then he paused in
consternation: "Thunder, Red: he's got to shoot to-morrow!"
"Well, suppose he has?" Responded Red. "I don't reckon she'll stampede his
"Yu don't reckon, eh?" Queried Buck with much irony. "No, an' that's what's
th' matter with yu. Why, do yu expect to see him to-morrow? Yu won't if I
knows him an' I reckon I do. Nope, he'll be follerin' her all around."
"He's got sand to burn," remarked Red in awe. "Wonder how he got to know
"Yu can gamble she did th' introducing part-he ain't got th' nerve to do it
himself. He saved her life, or she thinks he did, or some romantic nonsense
like that. So yu better go around an' get him away, an' keep him away, too."
"Who, me?" Inquired Red in indignation. "Me go around an' tote him off? I
ain't no wagon: yu go, or send Johnny."
"Johnny would say something real pert an' get knocked into th' middle of
next week for it. He won't do, so I reckon yu better go yoreself," responded
Buck, smiling broadly and moving off.
"Hey, yu! Wait a minute!" cried Red in consternation. Buck paused and Red
groped for an excuse: "Why don't you send Billy?" He blurted in desperation.
The foreman's smile assumed alarming proportions and he slapped his thigh in
joy: "Good boy!" he laughed. "Billy's th' man-good Lord, but won't he give
Cupid cold feet! Rustle around an' send th' pessimistic soul to me."
Red, grinning and happy, rapidly visited door after door, shouted, "Hey,
Billy!" and proceeded to the next one. He was getting pugnacious at his lack
of success when he espied Mr. Billy Williams tacking along the accidental
street as if he owned it. Mr. Williams was executing fancy steps and was
trying to sing many songs at once.
Red stopped and grabbed his bibulous friend as that person veered to
starboard: "Yore a peach of a life-preserver, yu are!" he exclaimed.
Billy balanced himself, swayed back and forth and frowned his displeasure at
this unwarranted action: "I ain't no wife-deserter!" he shouted. "Unrope me
an' give me th' trail! No tenderfoot can ride me! "Then he recognized his
friend and grinned joyously: "Shore I will, but only one. Jus' one more, jus'
one more. Yu see, m'friend, it was all Jimmy's fault. He-"
Red secured a chancery hold and dragged his wailing and remonstrating friend
to Buck, who frowned with displeasure.
"This yere," said Red in belligerent disgust, "is th' dod-blasted hero
what's a-goin' to save Hopalong from a mournful future. What are we a-goin'
Buck slipped the Colt's from Billy's holster and yanked the erring one to
his feet: "Fill him full of sweet oil, source him in th' trough, walk him
around for awhile an' see what it does," he ordered.
Two hours later Billy walked up to his foreman and weakly asked what was
wanted. He looked as though he had just been released from a six-months' stay
in a hospital.
"Yu go over to th' hotel an' find Hopalong," said the foreman sternly. "Stay
with him all th' time, for there is a plot on foot to wing him on th' sly. If
yu ain't mighty spry he'll be dead by night."
Having delivered the above instructions and prevarications, Buck throttled
the laugh which threatened to injure him and scowled at Red, who again fled
into the saloon for fear of spoiling it all with revealed mirth.
The convalescent stared in open-mouthed astonishment:
"What's he doin' in th' hotel, an' who's goin' to plug him?" He asked.
"Yu leave that to me," replied Buck, "All yu has to do is to get on th' job
with yore gun," handing the weapon to him, "an' freeze to him like a flea on
a cow. Mebby there'll be a woman in th' game, but that ain't none of yore
funeral-yu do what I said."
"Blast th' women!" exploded Billy, moving off. When he had entered the hotel
Buck went in to Red.
"For Pete's sake!" moaned that person in senseless reiteration. "Th' Lord
help Billy! Holy Mackinaw!" he shouted. "Gimme a drink an' let me tell th'
The members of the outfit were told of the plot and they gave their
uproarious sanction, all needing bracers to sustain them.
Billy found the clerk swapping lies with the bartender and, procuring the
desired information, climbed the stairs and hunted for room No. 6.
Discovering it, he dispensed with formality, pushed open the door and
He found his friend engaged in conversation with a pretty young woman, and
on a couch at the far side of the room lay an elderly white-whiskered
gentleman who was reading a magazine. Billy felt like a criminal for a few
seconds and then there came to him the thought that his was a mission of
great import and he braced himself to face any ordeal. "Anyway," he thought,
"th' prettier they are th' more dust they can raise."
"What are yu doing here?" Cried Hopalong in amazement.
"That's all right," averred the protector, confidentially.
"What's all right?"
"Why, everything," replied Billy, feeling uncomfortable.
The elderly man hastily sat up and dropped his magazine when he saw the
armed intruder, his eyes as wide open as his mouth. He felt for his
spectacles, but did not need them, for he could see nothing but the Colt's
which Billy jabbed at him.
"None of that!" snapped Billy. "`Nds up!" he ordered, and the hands Went up
so quick that when they stopped the jerk shook the room. Peering over the
gentleman's leg, Billy saw the spectacles and backed to the wall as he
apologized: "It's shore on me, Stranger-I reckoned yu was contemplatin' some
Hopalong, blazing with wrath, arose and shoved Billy toward the hail, when
Mr. Johnny Nelson, oozing fight and importance, intruded his person into the
zone of action.
"Lord!" ejaculated the newcomer, staring at the vision of female loveliness
which so suddenly greeted him. "Mamma," he added under his breath. Then he
tore off his sombrero: "Come out of this, Billy, yu chump!" he exploded,
backing toward the door, being followed by the protector.
Hopalong slammed the door and turned to his hostess, apologizing for the
"Who are they?" Palpitated Miss Deane.
"What the deuce are they doing up here!" blazed her father. Hopalong
disclaimed any knowledge of them and just then Billy opened the door and
"There he is again!" cried Miss Deane, and her father gasped. Hopalong ran
out into the hall and narrowly missed kicking Billy into Kingdom Come as that
person slid down the stairs, surprised and indignant.
Mr. Billy Williams, who sat at the top of the stairs, was feeling hungry and
thirsty when he saw his friend, Mr. Pete Wilson, the slow witted,
"Hey, Pete," he called, "come up here an' watch this door while I rustles
some grub. Keep yore eyes open," he cautioned.
As Pete began to feel restless the door opened and a dignified gentleman
with white whiskers came out into the hall and then retreated with great
haste and no dignity. Pete got the drop on the door and waited. Hopalong
yanked it open and kissed the muzzle of the weapon before he could stop, and
"Coming to th' fight?" He loudly asked. "It's going to be a shore `nough
sumptious scrap-just th' kind yu allus like. Come on, th' boys are waitin'
"Keep quiet!" hissed Hopalong.
"What for?" Asked Pete in surprise. "Didn't yu say yu shore wanted to see
"Shut yore face an' get scarce, or yu'll go home in cans!"
As Hopalong seated himself once more Red strolled up to the door and
knocked. Hopalong ripped it open and Red, looking as fierce and worried as he
could, asked Hopalong if he was all right. Upon being assured by smoking
adjectives that he was, the caller looked relieved and turned thoughtfully
"Hey, yu! Come here!" called Hopalong.
Red waved his hand and said that he had to meet a man and clattered down the
stairs. Hopalong thought that he, also, had to meet a man and, excusing
himself, hastened after his friend and overtook him in the Street, where he
forced a confession. Returning to his hostess he told her of the whole
outrage, and she was angry at first, but seeing the humorous side of it, she
became convulsed with laughter. Her father re-read his paragraph for the
thirteenth time and then, slamming the magazine on the floor, asked how many
times he was expected to read ten lines before he knew what was in them, and
went down to the bar.
Miss Deane regarded her companion with laughing eyes and then became
suddenly sober as he came toward her.
"Go to your foreman and tell him that you will shoot to-morrow, for I will
see that you do, and I will bring luck to the Bar-20. Be sure to call for me
at one o'clock: I will be ready."
He hesitated, bowed, and slowly departed, making his way to Tom Lee's, where
his entrance hushed the hilarity which had reigned. Striding to where Buck
stood, he placed his hands on his hips and searched the foreman's eyes.
Buck smiled: "Yu ain't mad, are yu?" He asked.
Hopalong relaxed: "No, but blame near it."
Red and the others grabbed him from the rear, and when he had been
"buffaloed" into good humor he threw them from him, laughed and waved his
hand toward the bar:
"Come up, yu sons-of-guns. Yore a cussed nuisance sometimes, but yore a
bully gang all th' same."
Mr. Ewalt Draws Cards
Tex Ewalt, cow-puncher, prospector, sometimes a rustler, but always a
dude, rode from El Paso in deep disgust at his steady losses at faro
and monte. The pecuniary side of these caused him no worry, for he was
flush. This pleasing opulence was due to his business ability, for he
had recently sold a claim for several thousand dollars. The first
operation was simple, being known in Western phraseology as "jumping";
and the second, somewhat more complicated, was known as "salting."
The first of the money spent went for a complete new outfit, and he
had parted with just three hundred and seventy dollars to feed his
vanity. He desired something contrasty and he procured it. His
sombrero, of gray felt a quarter of an inch thick, flaunted a band of
black leather, on which was conspicuously displayed a solid silver
buckle. His neck was protected by a crimson kerchief of the finest,
heaviest silk. His shirt, in pattern the same as those commonly worn
in the cow country, was of buckskin, soft as a baby's cheek and
impervious to water, and the Angora goatskin chaps, with the long
silken hair worn outside, were as white as snow. Around his waist ran
loosely a broad, black leather belt supporting a heavy black holster,
in which lay its walnut-handled burden, a .44 caliber six-shooter; and
thirty center-fire cartridges peeked from their loops, fifteen on a
side. His boots, the soles thin and narrow and the heels high, were
black and of the finest leather. Huge spurs, having two-inch rowels,
were held in place by buckskin straps, on which, also, were silver
buckles. Protecting his hands were heavy buckskin gloves, also
waterproof, having wide, black gauntlets.
Each dainty hock of his dainty eight-hundred-pound buckskin pony was
black, and a black star graced its forehead. Well groomed, with
flowing mane and tail, and with the brand on its flank being almost
imperceptible, the animal was far different in appearance from most of
the cow-ponies. Vicious and high-spirited, it cavorted just enough to
show its lines to the best advantage.
The saddle, a famous Cheyenne and forty pounds in weight, was black,
richly embossed, and decorated with bits of beaten silver which
flashed back the sunlight. At the pommel hung a thirty-foot coil of
braided horsehair rope, and at the rear was a Sharp's .50-caliber,
breech-loading rifle, its owner having small use for any other make.
The color of the bridle was the same as the saddle and it supported a
heavy U bit which was capable of a leverage sufficient to break the
Tex was proud of his outfit, but his face wore a frown-not there
only on acount of his losses, but also by reason of his mission, for
under all his finery beat a heart as black as any in the cow country.
For months he had smothered hot hatred and he was now on his way to
ease himself of it.
He and Slim Travennes had once exchanged shots with Hopalong in
Santa Fe, and the month which he had spent in bed was not pleasing,
and from that encounter had sprung the hatred. That he had been in the
wrong made no difference with him. Some months later he had learned of
the death of Slim, and it was due to the same man. That Slim had again
been in the wrong also made no difference, for he realized the fact
and nothing else.
Lately he had been told of the death of Slippery
Trendley and Deacon Rankin, and he accepted their passing as a
personal affront. That they had been caught red-handed in cattle
stealing of huge proportions and received only what was customary
under the conditions formed no excuse in his mind for their passing.
He was now on his way to attend the carnival at Muddy Wells, knowing
that his enemy would be sure to be there.
While passing through Las Cruces he met Porous Johnson and Silent
Somes, who were thirsty and who proclaimed that fact, whereupon he
relieved them of their torment and, looking forward to more treatment
of a similar nature, they gladly accompanied him without asking why or
As they left the town in their rear Tex turned in his saddle and
surveyed them with a cynical smile.
"Have yu heard anything of Trendley?" He asked.
They shook their heads.
`Him an' th' Deacon was killed over in th' Panhandle," he said.
"What!" chorused the pair.
"Jack Dorman, Shorty Danvers, Charley Teale, Stiffhat Bailey, Billy
Jackson, Terry Nolan an' Sailor Carson was lynched."
"What!" they shouted.
"Fish O'Brien, Pinochle Schmidt, Tom Wilkins, Apache Gordon, Charley
of th' Bar Y, Penobscot Hughes an' about twenty others died fightin'."
Porous looked his astonishment: "Cavalry?"
"An' I'm going after th' dogs who did it," he continued, ignoring
the question. "Are yu with me ? -Yu used to pal with some of them,
"We did, an' we're shore with yu!" cried Porous.
"Yore right," endorsed Silent. "But who done it?"
"That gang what's punchin' for th' Bar-20-Hopalong Cassidy is th'
one I'm pining for. Yu fellers can take care of Peters an' Connors."
The two stiffened and exchanged glances of uncertainty and
apprehension. The outfit of the Bar-20 was too well known to cause
exuberant joy to spring from the idea of war with it, and well in the
center of all the tales concerning it were the persons Tex had named.
To deliberately set forth with the avowed intention of planting these
was not at all calculated to induce sweet dreams.
Tex sneered his contempt.
"Yore shore uneasy: yu ain't a-scared, are yu?" He drawled. Porous
relaxed and made a show of subduing his horse: "I reckon I ain't
scared plumb to death. Yu can deal me a hand," he asserted.
"I'll draw cards too," hastily announced Silent, buttoning his vest.
"Tell us about that jamboree over in th' Panhandle."
Tex repeated the story as he had heard it from a bibulous member of
the Barred Horseshoe, and then added a little of torture as a sauce to
whet their appetites for revenge.
"How did Trendley cash in?" Asked Porous.
"Nobody knows except that bum from th' Tin-Cup. I'll get him later.
I'd a got Cassidy up in Santa Fe, too, if it wasn't for th' sun in my
eyes. Me an' Slim loosened up on him in th' Plaza, but we couldn't see
nothing with him a-standin' against th' sun."
"Where's Slim now?" Asked Porous. "I ain't seen him for some time."
"Slim's with Trendley," replied Tex. "Cassidy handed him over to St.
Pete at Cactus Springs. Him an' Connors sicked their outfit on him an'
his vigilantes, bein helped some by th' O-Bar-O. They wiped th' town
plumb off th' earth, an' now I'm going to do some wipin' of my own
account. I'll prune that gang of some of its blossoms afore long. It's
cost me seventeen friends so far, an' I'm going to stop th' leak, or
They entered Muddy Wells at sunrise on the day of the carnival and,
eating a hearty breakfast, sallied forth to do their share toward
making the festivities a success.
The first step considered necessary for the acquirement of case and
polish was begun at the nearest bar, and Tex, being the host, was so
liberal that his friends had reached a most auspicious state when they
followed him to Tom Lee's.
Tex was too wise to lose his head through drink and had taken only
enough to make him careless of consequences. Porous was determined to
sing "Annie Laurie," although he hung on the last word of the first
line until out of breath and then began anew. Silent, not wishing to
be outdone, bawled at the top of his lungs a medley of music-hall
words to the air of a hymn.
Tex, walking as awkwardly as any cow-puncher, approached Tom Lee's,
his two friends trailing erratically, arm in arm, in his rear.
Swinging his arm he struck the door a resounding blow and entered,
hand on gun, as it crashed back. Porous and Silent stood in the
doorway and quarreled as to what each should drink and, compromising,
lurched in and seated themselves on a table and resumed their vocal
Tex swaggered over to the bar and tossed a quarter upon it: "Corn
juice," he laconically exclaimed. Tossing off the liquor and glancing
at his howling friends, he shrugged his shoulders and strode out by
the rear door, slamming it after him. Porous and Silent, recounting
friends who had "cashed in" fell to weeping and they were thus
occupied when Hopalong and Buck entered, closely followed by the rest
of the outfit.
Buck walked to the bar and was followed by Hopalong, who declined
his foreman's offer to treat. Tom Lee set a bottle at Buck's elbow and
placed his hands against the bar.
"Friend of yourn just hit the back trail," he remarked to Hopalong.
"He was primed some for trouble, too," he added.
"Yaas?" Drawled Hopalong with little interest.
The proprietor restacked the few glasses and wiped off the bar.
"Them's his pardners," he said, indicating the pair on the table.
Hopalong turned his head and gravely scrutinized them. Porous was
bemoaning the death of Slim Travennes and Hopalong frowned.
"Don't reckon he's no relation of mine," he grunted.
"Well, he ain't yore sister," replied Tom Lee, grinning.
"What's his brand?" Asked the puncher.
"I reckon he's a maverick, `though yu put yore brand on him up to
Santa Fe a couple of years back. Since he's throwed back on yore range
I reckon he's yourn if yu wants him."
"I reckon Tex is some sore," remarked Hopalong, rolling a cigarette.
"I reckon he is," replied the proprietor, tossing Buck's quarter in
the cash box. "But, say, you should oughter see his rig."
"He's shore a cow-punch dude-my, but he's some sumptious an'
highfalutin'. An' bad? Why, he reckons th' Lord never brewed a more
high-toned brand of cussedness than his'n. He shore reckons he's the
baddest man that ever simmered."
"How'd he look as th' leadin' man in a necktie festival?" Blazed
Johnny from across the room, feeling called upon to help the
"He'd be a howlin' success, son," replied Skinny Thompson, "judgin'
by his friends what we elevated over in th' Panhandle."
Lanky Smith leaned forward with his elbow on the table, resting his
chin in the palm of his hand: "Is Ewalt still a-layin' for yu,
Hopalong?" He asked.
Hopalong turned wearily and tossed his half-consumed cigarette into
the box of sand which did duty as a cuspidore: "I reckon so; an' he
shore can hatch whenever he gets good an ready, too."
"He's probably a-broodin' over past grievances," offered Johnny, as
he suddenly pushed Lanky's elbow from the table, nearly causing a
"Yu'll be broodin' over present grievances if yu don't look out, yu
everlastin' nuisance yu," growled Lanky, planting his elbow in its
former position with an emphasis which conveyed a warning.
"These bantams ruflle my feathers," remarked Red. "They go around
braggin' about th' egg they're goin' to lay an' do enough cacklin' to
furnish music for a dozen. Then when th' affair comes off yu'll
generally find they's been settin' on a door-knob."
"Did yu ever see a hen leave th' walks of peace an' bugs an' rustle
hell-bent across th' trail plumb in front of a cayuse?" Asked Buck.
"They'll leave off rustlin' grub an' become candidates for th'
graveyard just for cussedness. Well, a whole lot of men are th' same
way. How many times have I seen them swagger into a gin shop an' try
to run things sudden an' hard, an' that with half a dozen better men
in th' same room? There's shore a-plenty of trouble a-comin' to every
man without rustlin' around for more.
"`Member that time yu an' Frenchy tried to run th' little town of
Frozen Nose, up in Montana?" Asked Johnny, winking at the rest.
"An' we did run it, for a while," responded Buck. "But that only
goes to show that most young men are chumps-we were just about yore
Red laughed at the youngster's discomfiture: "That little squib of
yourn shore touched her off-I reckon we irrigates on yu this time,
"Th' more th' Kid talks, th' more money he needs," remarked Lanky,
placing his glass on the bar. "He had to blow me an' Skinny twice last
"I got two more after yu left," added Skinny "He shore oughter
practice keeping still."
At one o'clock sharp Hopalong walked up to the clerk of the hotel
and grinned. The clerk looked up:
"Hullo, Cassidy?" He exclaimed, genially. "What was all that fuss
about this mornin' when I was away? I haven't seen you for a long
time, have I? How are you?"
"That fuss was a fool joke of Buck's, an' I wish they had been
throwed out," Hopalong replied. "What I want to know is if Miss Deane
is in her room. Yu see, I have a date with her."
The clerk grinned:
"So she's roped you, too, has she?"
"What do yu mean?" Asked Hopalong in surprise. "Well, well," laughed
the clerk. "You punchers are easy. Any third-rate actress that looks
good to eat can rope you fellows, all right. Now look here, Laura, you
keep shy of her corral, or you'll be broke so quick you won't believe
you ever had a cent: that's straight. This is the third year that she's been here
and I know what I'm talking about. How did you come to meet her?"
Hopalong explained the meeting and his friend laughed again:
"Why, she knows this country like a book. She can't get lost
anywhere around here. But she's blame clever at catching punchers."
"Well, I reckon I'd better take her, go broke or not," replied
Hopalong. "Is she in her room?"
"She is, but she is not alone," responded the clerk. "There is a
dude puncher up there with her and she left word here that she was
indisposed, which means that you are outlawed."
"Who is he?" Asked Hopalong, having his suspicions. "That friend of
yours: Ewalt. He sported a wad this morning when she passed him, and
she let him make her acquaintance. He's another easy mark. He'll be
busted wide open to-night."
"I reckon I'll see Tex," suggested Hopalong, starting for the
"Come back, you chump!" cried the clerk. "I don't want any shooting
here. What do you care about it? Let her have him, for it's an easy
way out of it for you. Let him think he's cut you out, for he'll spend
all the more freely. Get your crowd and enlighten them-it'll be better
than a circus. This may sound like a steer, but it's straight."
Hopalong thought for a minute and then leaned on the cigar case:
"I reckon I'll take about a dozen of yore very best cigars, Charley.
Got any real high-toned brands?"
"Cortez panatella-two for a simoleon," Chancy replied. "But, seein'
that it's you, I'll throw off a dollar on a dozen. They're a fool
notion of the old man, for we can't sell one in a month."
Hopalong dug up a handful and threw one on the counter, lighting
another: "Yu light a Cortez panatella with me," he said, pocketing the
remainder. "That's five simoleons she didn't get. So long."
He journeyed to Tom Lee's and found his outfit making merry. Passing
around his cigars he leaned against the bar and delighted in the first
really good smoke he had since he came home from Kansas City.
Johnny Nelson blew a cloud of smoke at the ceiling and paused with a
pleased expression on his face:
"This is a lalapoloosa of a cigar," he cried. "Where'd yu get it,
an' how many's left?"
"I got it from Charley, an' there's more than yu can buy at fifty a
"Well, I'll just take a few for luck," Johnny responded, running out
into the street. Returning in five minutes with both hands full of
cigars he passed them around and grinned:
"They're birds, all right!"
Hopalong smiled, turned to Buck and related his conversation with
Chancy. "What do yu think of that?" He asked as he finished.
"I think Charley oughter be yore guardian," replied the foreman.
"He was," replied Hopalong.
"If we sees Tex we'll all grin hard," laughed Red, making for the
door. "Come on to th' contests-Lanky's gone already."
Muddy Wells streamed to the carnival grounds and relieved itself of
its enthusiasm and money at the booths on the way. Cow-punchers rubbed
elbows with Indians and Mexicans, and the few tourists that were
present were delighted with the picturesque scene. The town was full
of fakirs and before one of them stood a group of cow-punchers,
apparently drinking in the words of a barker.
"Right this way, gents, and see the woman who don't eat. Lived for
two years without food, gents. Right this way, gents. Only a quarter
of a dollar. Get your tickets, gents, and see-"
Red pushed forward:
"What did yu say, pard?" He asked. "I'm a little off in my near ear.
What's that about eatin' a woman for two years?"
"The greatest wonder of the age, gents. The wom-"
"Any discount for th' gang?" Asked Buck, gawking.
"Why don't yu quit smokin' an' buy th' lady a meal?" Asked Johnny
from the center of the group.
"Th' cane yu ring th' cane yu get!" came from the other side of the
street and Hopalong purchased rings for the outfit. Twenty-four rings
got one cane, and it was divided between them as they wended their way
toward the grounds.
"That makes six wheels she didn't get," murmured Hopalong. As they
passed the snake charmer's booth they saw Tex and his companion ahead
of them in the crowd, and they grinned broadly. "I like th' front row
in th' balcony," remarked Johnny, who had been to Kansas City. "Don't
cry in th' second act-it ain't real," laughed Red. "We'll hang John
Brown on a sour appletree-in th' Panhandle," sang Skinny as they
Arriving at the grounds they hunted up the registration committee
and entered in the contests. As Hopalong signed for the revolver
competition he was rudely pushed aside and Tex wrote his name under
that of his enemy. Hopalong was about to show quick resentment for the
insult, but thought of what Charley had said, and he grinned
sympathetically. The seats were filling rapidly, and the outfit went
along the ground looking for friends. A bugle sounded and a hush swept
over the crowd as the announcement was made for the first event.
"Broncho-busting-Red Devil, never ridden: Frenchy McAllister, Tin-
Cup, Montana; Meteor, killed his man: Skinny Thompson, Bar-20, Texas;
Vixen, never ridden: Lefty Allen, O-Bar-O, Texas."
All eyes were focused on the plain where the horse was being led out
for the first trial. After the usual preliminaries had been gone
through Frenchy walked over to it, vaulted in the saddle and the
bandage was torn from the animal's eyes. For ten minutes the onlookers
were held spellbound by the fight before them, and then the horse
kicked and galloped away and Frenchy was picked up and carried from
"Too bad!" cried Buck, running from the outfit.
"Did yu see it?" asked Johnny excitedly, "Th' cinch busted." Another
horse was led out and Skinny Thompson vaulted to the saddle, and after
a fight of half an hour rode the animal from the enclosure to the
clamorous shouts of his friends. Lefty Allen also rode his mount from
the same gate, but took ten minutes more in which to do it.
The announcer conferred with the timekeepers and then stepped
forward: "First, Skinny Thompson, Bar-20, thirty minutes and ten
seconds; second, Lefty Allen, O-Bar-O, forty minutes and seven
Skinny returned to his friends shamefacedly and did not look as if
he had just won a championship. They made way for him, and Johnny, who
could not restrain his enthusiasm pounded him on the back and cried:
"Yu old son-of-a-gun!"
The announcer again came forward and gave out the competitors for
the next contest, steer-roping and tying. Lanky Smith arose and,
coiling his rope carefully, disappeared into the crowd. The fun was
not so great in this, but when he returned to his outfit with the
phenomenal time of six minutes and eight seconds for his string of ten
steers, with twenty-two seconds for one of them, they gave him
vociferous greeting. Three of his steers had gotten up after he had
leaped from his saddle to tie them, but his horse had taken care of
that. His nearest rival was one minute over him and Lanky retained the
Red Connors shot with such accuracy in the rifle contest as to run
his points twenty per cent higher than Waffles, of the O-Bar-O, and
won the new rifle.
The main interest centered in the revolver contest, for it was known
that the present champion was to defend his title against an enemy and
fears were expressed in the crowd that there would be an "accident."
Buck Peters and Red stood just behind the firing line with their hands
on hips, and Tex, seeing the precautions, smiled grimly as he advanced
to the line.
Six bottles, with their necks an inch above a board, stood twenty
paces from him, and he broke them all in as many shots, taking twelve
seconds in which to do it. Hopalong followed him and tied the score.
Three tin balls rolling erratically in a blanket supported by two men
were sent flying into the air in four shots, Tex taking six seconds.
His competitor sent them from the blanket in three shots and in the
same time. In slow shooting from sights Tex passed his rival in points
and stood to win. There was but one more event to be contested and in
it Hopalong found his joy.
Shooting from the hip when the draw is timed is not the sport of
even good shots, and when Tex made sixty points out of a possible
hundred, he felt that he had shot well. When Hopalong went
to the line his friends knew that they would now see
shooting such as would be almost unbelievable, that the best draw-and-
shoot marksman in their State was the man who limped slightly as he
advanced and who chewed reflectively on his fifty-cent cigar. He wore
two guns and he stepped with confidence before the marshal of the
town, who was also judge of the contest.
The iron ball which lay on the ground was small enough for the use
of a rifle and could hardly be seen from the rear seats of the
amphitheater. There was a word spoken by the timekeeper, and a gloved
hand flashed down and up, and the ball danced and spun and leaped and
rolled as shot after shot followed it with a precision and speed which
brought the audience to a heavy silence. Taking the gun which Buck
tossed to him and throwing it into the empty holster, he awaited the
signal, and then smoke poured from his hips and the ball jumped
continuously. Both guns emptied in the two-hand shooting, he wheeled
and jerked loose the guns which the marshal wore, spinning around
without a pause, the target hardly ceasing in its rolling. Under his
arms he shot, backward and between his legs; leaping from side to
side, ducking and dodging, following the ball wherever it went.
Reloading the weapons quickly, he stepped forward and followed the
ball until once more his guns were empty. Then he turned and walked
back to the side of the marshal, smiling a little. His friends, and
there were many in the crowd, torn from their affected nonchalance by
shooting the like of which they had not attributed even to him, roared
and shouted and danced in a frenzy of delight.
Red also threw his guns to Hopalong, who caught them in the air and turning,
faced Tex, who stood white of face and completely lost in the forgetfulness of
admiration and amazement. The guns jerked again and a button flew from
the buckskin shirt of his enemy; another tore a flower from his breast
and another drove it into the ground at his feet as others stirred his
hair and cut the buckle off his pretty sombrero. Tex, dazed, but wise
enough to stand quiet, felt his belt tear loose and drop to his feet,
felt a spur rip from its strap and saw his cigarette leap from his
lips. Throwing the guns to Red, Hopalong laughed and abruptly turned
and was lost in the crowd.
For several seconds there was silence, but when the dazed minds
realized what their eyes had seen, there arose a roar which shook the
houses in the town. Roar after roar thundered forth and was sent
crashing back again by the distant walls, sweeping down on the
discomfited dude and causing him to slink into the crowd to find a
place less conspicuous. He was white yet and keen fear gripped his
heart as he realized that he had come to the carnival with the
expressed purpose of killing his enemy in fair combat. The whole town
knew it, for he had taken pains to spread the news.
The woman he had been with knew it from words which she had overheard
while on her way to the grounds with him. His friends knew it and would
laugh him into forgetfulness as the fool who boasted. Now he understood why
he had lost so many friends: they had attempted what he had sworn to attempt.
Look where he would he could see only a smoke-wrapped demon who moved
and shot with a speed incredible. There was reason why Slim had died.
There was reason why Porous and Silent had paled when they learned of
He hated his conspicuous clothes and his pretty broncho, and the woman
who had gotten him to squander his money, and who was doubtless convulsed
with laughter at his expense. He worked himself into a passion which knew no
fear and he ran for the streets of the town, there to make good his boast or to die.
When he found his enemy he felt himself grasped with a grip of steel and Buck Peters
swung him around and grinned maliciously in his face:
"You plaything!" hoarsely whispered the foreman. "Why don't yu get
away while yu can? Why do yu want to throw yoreself against certain
death? I don't want my pleasure marred by a murder, an' that is what
it will be if yu makes a gun-play at Hopalong. He'll shoot yu as he
did yore buttons. Take yore pretty clothes an' yore pretty cayuse an'
go where this is not known, an' if ever again yu feels like killing
Hopalong, get drunk an' forget it."
THE END OF