Part 2 out of 7
the main thing. I'm telling you if he gets any more I'm gonna make you
hard to find."
"Is that a threat or a promise?" inquired McFluke.
"Don't do that," Racey said, suddenly, as his hand shot out and pinned
fast the right wrist of Peaches Austin. "C'mon outside now, where we
can talk. Right through the door. To yore left. Aw right, now they
can't hear us. Lookit, they ain't any call for a gunplay, none
whatever. This gent is only laying down the law to Mac. And here you
have to get serious right away. See how easy Mac takes it. He ain't
doing a thing, not a thing. Good as gold, Mac is. Can't you see how
a killing thisaway, and a fellah like Morgan, too, would maybe put
a crimp in this place for good? Have some sense, man. We need
"He hadn't oughta drawed on Mac," said Peaches, his pale eyes, shifty
as a cat's, darting incessantly between Racey and the doorway.
"He didn't shoot him. And he ain't. You lemme attend to this, will
you? I'll get him away quiet and peaceable--if I can. But you keep out
of it. Y'understand?"
Peaches Austin gnawed his lower lip. "I never did like Chuck Morgan,"
he grumbled. "It was a good chance."
"A good chance to get yoreself lynched. Shore. It was all that."
"Say, I'd like to know where you come in, stranger. Jack never said
anything to me about any feller yore size."
"Jack is like me. He ain't tellin' all he knows. And while we're
talking about Jack, I'll tell you something. And that's to keep away
from Farewell for three-four days."
"So's to give Jack a chance to cool off. He's hotter than a wet wolf
'cause you didn't turn up here on time."
"I ain't afraid of Jack."
"'Course you ain't. But you know how Jack is. Even if it don't come to
a showdown, there'll be words passed. And I don't wanna run any risk
of you quitting the outfit. Every man is needed. You be sensible and
stick here with McFluke three-four days like I say, and after that
c'mon in to Farewell. In the meantime, I'll see Jack and tell him
how it happened you didn't get here on time. And how did it happen,
Peaches Austin looked this way and that before replying.
"I shore don't like to tell how it happened," he said. "Sounds so
babyish like. But my hat blowed off over this side of Injun Ridge a
ways and when I leaned down to pick her up, my hoss started, my hand
slipped, and I went off on my head kerblam. And do you know, I'll bet
I was three hours a-running from hell to breakfast before I caught
that hoss where he was feedin' in a narrow draw. I'm all tired out
yet. They ain't no strength in my legs."
"I'll fix it up with Jack," Racey lied with a wonderfully straight
face. "Don't you worry."
"I ain't worryin'," Peaches denied, irritably. "I ain't afraid of
Jack, I tell you."
"Shore," soothed Racey, who, having formed an estimate of Peaches,
ranked him scarcely higher than McFluke and treated him accordingly.
"Shore, I know you ain't. But alla same you need considerable of a
coolin' off yoreself. Just you stay out here now and watch me get
Racey nodded blithely to Peaches Austin, and turned to go into the
house. He saw that Chuck Morgan had come outside, that he had brought
McFluke with him, and was observing events with a cold and calculating
"I tell you I couldn't help his getting the whiskey," McFluke was
whining. "It ain't my fault if somebody gives it to him, is it?"
"Of course not," chimed in Racey, briskly. "Mac means all right.
He didn't know there was any law against providing old Dale with
"They is a law," insisted Chuck Morgan, belligerently, his gun trained
unswervingly on McFluke's broad stomach. "They is a law. I made it.
And it goes. Peaches," he added, raising his voice, "don't you slide
round the house now. If you move so much as a yard from where yo're
standing I ventilate McFluke immediate."
"I wouldn't do that," said Racey, mildly.
"I got my eye on you, too," declared Chuck. "What I said to Peaches
goes for you, and don't you forget it."
"I ain't likely to, not me. All I want you to do is go some'ers else
peaceful. You ain't figuring on living here, are you?"
Chuck uttered a short, hard laugh. McFluke's back was toward Racey.
Peaches Austin was behind him, thirty feet away. Racey's left eyelid
drooped. His head moved almost imperceptibly toward his horse.
"I'm going now," said Chuck.
"I'll go with you just to see you on yore way sort of," said Racey.
"You was going with me anyway sort of," Chuck told him. "Yo're the
only _man_ round here so far's I can see, and I ain't taking any
chances on you, not a chance. Yo're going down the trail a spell with
me. Later you can come back. Keep yore hands where they are."
Quickly Chuck shoved McFluke to one side, rushed forward, and
possessed himself of Racey's gun. "Crawl yore hoss," he commanded.
Racey obeyed without a word. Chuck climbed into his own saddle without
losing the magic of the drop and without losing sight for an instant
of McFluke and Peaches Austin.
"Take the trail south," said Chuck Morgan, and backed his horse in a
Racey did as he was ordered. Three minutes later he was joined by his
friend. Until the trail took them down into a draw grown up in spruce
Chuck's gun remained very much in evidence. Any unbiased spectator
without a knowledge of the facts would have said that he was keeping a
close watch on Racey Dawson.
Once out of sight of the house of McFluke, Chuck sheathed his
sixshooter with a jerk and returned Racey's gun.
"You did fine at the last," Racey said, admiringly, as he bolstered
his weapon. "But what did you jump McFluke for thataway at first? That
come almighty near kicking the kettle over, that play did."
"I know," said Chuck, shamefacedly, "and when I rode up to the shack
I hadn't intended anything like that. But when I saw that slickery
juniper McFluke standing there behind the bar so fat and sassy, it
come over me all of a sudden what he'd done to the Dale family by
letting old Dale have whiskey, that I couldn't help myself. Gawd, I
wanted to knock him down and tromp his face flat as a floor. It ain't
as if McFluke ain't been told about old Dale's failing. I warned him
when he first came here last year not to let old Dale have redeye on
"I know," nodded Racey, soberly, "but you want to remember his giving
old Dale whiskey ain't the particular cow we're after. There's more to
it than that, a whole lot more. We've got to be a li'l careful,
Chuck, and go a li'l slow. If we go having a fraycas now they'll get
suspicious and go fussbudgettin' round like a hound-dog after quail."
"Just as if they won't suspicion something's up soon as Peaches Austin
gets back to Farewell."
"Peaches Austin ain't going back to Farewell right away. I've fixed
Peaches for a few days. And a few days is all I need to find out what
I want to. And even after Peaches does float in will he know me after
I've changed my shirt, dirtied my hat, and got me a clean shave twice
over? He ain't got no idea what I look like under the whiskers. He
wasn't living in Farewell before I went north, so all he knows about
me is my voice and my hoss. It will shore be the worst kind of luck if
I can't keep Peaches from hearing the one and seeing the other until
after I'm ready. You leave it to yore uncle, Chuck. He knows."
"He's a great man, my uncle," assented Chuck, and struck a derisive
tongue in his cheek. "What did you find out from McFluke--anything?"
"Anything? Gimme a match and I'll tell you."
CHANGE OF PLAN
"It's a long way to Arizona," offered Racey Dawson, casually--too
Swing Tunstall's bristle-haired head jerked round. Swing bent two
suspicious eyes upon his friend. "You just find it out?" he queried.
"No, oh, no," denied Racey. "I've been thinking about it some time."
"Thinking!" sneered Swing. "That's a new one--for you."
"Nemmine," countered Racey. "It ain't catchin'--to _you_."
"_Is_ that so?" yammered Swing, now over his head as far as repartee
was concerned. "Is _that_ so? What you gassing about Arizona for
thisaway? You gonna renig on the trip?"
"I'll bet there's plenty of good jobs we can find right here in
Farewell," dodged Racey. "_And_ vicinity," he amended. "Yep, Swing,
old-timer, I'll bet the Bar S or the Cross-in-a-box would hire us just
too quick. Shore they would. It ain't every day they get a chance at a
jo-darter of a buster like--"
"Like the damndest liar in four states meaning you," cut in Swing.
"You're right," admitted Racey, promptly. "When I was speaking of a
jo-darter I meant you, so I was a liar. I admit it. I might 'a' known
you wouldn't appreciate my kind words. Besides being several other
things, you're an ungrateful cuss. Gimme the makin's."
"Smoke yore own, you hunk of misery. You had four extra sacks in yore
warbags this morning."
"_Had_? So you been skirmishin' round my warbags, have you? How many
of those sacks did you rustle?"
"I left two."
"Two! Two! Say, I bought that tobacco myself for my own personal use,
and not for a lazy, loafing, cow-faced lump of slumgullion to glom and
smoke. Why don't you spend something besides the evening now and then?
Gawda-mighty, you sit on yore coin closer than a hen with one egg!
I'll gamble that Robinson Crusoe spent more money in a week than you
spend in four years. Two sacks of my smoking. You got a gall like a
hoss. There was my extra undershirt under those sacks. It's a wonder
you didn't smouch that, too."
"It didn't fit," replied Swing Tunstall, placidly constructing a
cigarette. "Too big. Besides, all the buttons was off, and if they's
anything I despise it's a undershirt without any buttons. Sort of
wandering off the main trail though, ain't we, Racey? We was talking
about Arizona, wasn't we?"
"We was not," Racey contradicted, quickly. "We was talking about a job
here in Fort Creek County. T'ell with Arizona."
"T'ell with Arizona, huh? You're serious? You mean it?"
"I'm serious as lead in yore inwards. 'Course I mean it. Ain't I been
saying so plain as can be the last half-hour?"
"You're saying so is plain enough. And so is the whyfor."
"Shore, the whyfor. Say, do you take me for a damfool? Here you use up
the best part of two days on a trip I could make in ten hours going
slow and eating regular. Who is she, cowboy, who is she?"
"What you talking about?"
"What am I talking about, huh? I'd ask that, I would. Yeah, I would
so. Is she pretty?"
"Poor feller's got a hangover," Racey murmured in pity. "I kind o'
thought it must be something like that when he began to talk so funny.
Now I'm shore of it. You tie a wet towel round yore head, Swing, and
take a good pull of cold water. You'll feel better in the morning."
"So'll I feel better in the morning if you jiggers will close yore
traps and lemme sleep," growled a peevish voice in the next room--on
the Main Street side.
"As I live," said Racey in a tone of vast surprise, "there's somebody
in the next room."
"Sounds like the owner of the Starlight," hazarded Swing Tunstall.
"It is the owner of the Starlight," corroborated the voice, "and I
wanna sleep, and I wanna sleep _now_."
"We ain't got any objections," Racey told him. "She's a fine, free
country. And every gent is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness, three things no home should be without."
"Shut up, will you?" squalled the goaded proprietor of the Starlight
Saloon. "If you wanna make a speech go out to the corral and don't
bother regular folks."
"Hear that, Swing?" grinned Racey, and twiddled his bare toes
delightedly. "Gentleman says you gotta shut up. Says he's regular
folks, too. You be good boy now and go by-by."
"Here, here, Swing!" cried Racey, struck by a brilliant idea. "What
you doing with that gun?"
"I--" began the bewildered Swing who had not even thought of his gun
but was peacefully sitting on his cot pulling off his boots.
"Leave it alone!" Racey interrupted in a hearty bawl. "Don't you go
holding it at the wall even in fun. It might go off. You can't tell.
You're so all-fired careless with a sixshooter, Swing. Like enough
you're aiming right where the feller's bed is, too," he added,
Ensued then sounds of rapid departure from the bed next door. A door
flew open and slammed. The parting guest padded down the stairs in his
socks, invoking his Maker as he went.
"And that's the last of him," chuckled Racey.
"Oh, you needn't think I'm forgetting," grumbled Swing Tunstall,
sliding out of his trousers and folding them tidily beside his boots.
"You soft-headed yap, have you gotta let a woman spoil everything?"
"You don't think I'm going alla way to Arizona by myself, nobody to
talk to nor nothing, do you? Well, I ain't. You can stick a pin in
Racey immediately sprang up, seized his friend's limp hand, and pumped
it vigorously. "Bless you for them kind words," he said. "I knew you'd
stick by me. I knew I could depend on old Swing to do the right thing.
To-morrow you and I will traipse out and locate us a couple of jobs."
Swing doubled a leg, flattened one bare foot against Racey's chest,
straightened the leg, and deposited Racey upon his own proper cot with
force and precision.
"Don't you come honey-fuglin' round me," warned Swing. "And I didn't
say anything about sticking by you, neither. And when it comes to the
right thing you and me don't think alike a-tall. I--"
"I wish you'd pull yore kicks a few," interrupted Racey, rubbing his
chest. "You like to busted a rib."
"Not the way you landed," countered the unfeeling Swing. "You're
tryin' to get off the trail again. Here you and me plan her all out to
"You bet," burst in Racey, enthusiastically. "We planned to go to
either the Bar S or the Cross-in-a-box and get that job. Shore we did.
You got a memory like all outdoors. Swing. It plumb amazes me how
clear and straight you keep everything in that head of yores. Yep, it
Hereupon, in the most unconcerned manner, Racey Dawson began to blow
smoke rings toward the ceiling.
Swing Tunstall sank sulkily down upon an elbow. "Whatsa use?" said
Swing Tunstall. "Whatsa use?"
It was then that someone knocked upon their chamber door.
"Come in," said Racey Dawson.
The door opened and Lanpher's comrade of the attractive smile and the
ruthless profile walked into the room. He closed the door without
noise, spread his legs, and looked upon the two friends silently.
"I heard you talking through the wall," he said in a studiedly low
tone, a tone that, heard through a partition, would have been but an
"Hearing us talk through walls seems to be a habit in this hotel,"
commented Racey, tactfully following the other's lead in lowness of
"I couldn't help hearing," apologized the stranger--he was vestless
and bootless. Evidently he had been on the point of retiring when the
spirit moved him to visit his fellow-guests. "I'd like to talk to
"You're welcome," said Racey, hospitably yanking his trousers from the
only chair the room possessed. "Sit down."
The stranger sat. Racey Dawson, sitting on the bed, his knees on a
level with his chin, clasped his hands round his bare ankles and
accorded the stranger his closest attention. To the casual observer,
however, Racey looked uncommonly dull and sleepy, even stupid. But not
too stupid. Racey possessed too much native finesse to overdo it.
It was apparent that the stranger did not recognize him. Which was not
surprising. For, at the Dale ranch, Racey had been wearing all his
clothes and a beard of weeks. Now he was clean-shaven and attired in
nothing but a flannel shirt. True, the stranger must have heard him
singing to Miss Dale. But a singing voice is far different from a
speaking voice, and Racey had not uttered a single conversational word
in the stranger's presence. Now he had occasion to bless this happy
Swing Tunstall, slow to take a cue, and still suffering with the
sulks, continued to lie quietly, his head supported on a bent arm, and
smoke. But he watched the stranger narrowly.
The stranger tilted back his chair, and levering with his toes,
teetered to and fro in silence.
"I heard you say you were looking for a job in the morning," the
stranger said suddenly to Racey.
"You heard right," nodded Racey.
"Are you dead set on working for the Bar S or the Cross-in-a-box?"
"I ain't dead set on working for anybody. Work ain't a habit with
either of us, but so long as we got to work the ranches with good
cooks have the call, and the Bar S and Richie's outfit have special
The stranger nodded and began to smooth down, hand over hand,
his tousled hair. It was very thick hair, oily and coarse. When
sufficiently smoothed it presented that shiny, slick appearance so
much admired in the copper-toed, black walnut era.
Not till each and every lock lay in perfect adjustment with its
neighbour did the stranger speak.
"Cooks mean a whole lot," was his opening remark. "A good one can come
mighty nigh holding a outfit together. Money ain't to be sneezed at,
neither. Good wages paid on the nail run the cook a close second. How
would you boys like to work for me?"
The stranger, as he asked the question, fixed Racey with his black
eyes. The puncher felt as if a steel drill were boring into his brain.
But he returned the stare without appreciable effort. Racey Dawson was
not of those that lower their eyes to any man.
"I take it," drawled Racey, "that you're fixing to install all the
comforts of home you were just now talking about--a good cook and
better wages for the honest working-man?"
"Naturally I am." The stranger's eyes shifted to Swing Tunstall's
"Yeah--naturally." Thus Racey Dawson. The stranger's eyes returned
quickly to Racey. There had been a barely perceptible pause between
the two words uttered by Racey Dawson. Pauses signify a great deal at
times. This might be one of those times and it might not. The stranger
couldn't be sure. From that moment the stranger watched Racey Dawson
even as the proverbial cat watches the mouse hole.
Racey knew that the stranger was watching him. And he knew why. So he
smiled with bland stupidity and nodded a foolish head.
"What wages?" he inquired.
"Fifty per," was the reply.
"Southeast of Dogville--the Rafter H ranch."
"The Rafter H, huh? I thought that was Haley's outfit."
"I expect to buy out Haley," explained the stranger, smoothly. "My
name's Harpe, Jack Harpe. What may I call you gents?... Dawson _and_
Tunstall, eh? I--"
"Haley ain't much better than a nester," interrupted Racey. "He don't
own more'n forty cows. What you want with two punchers for a small
bunch like that--and at fifty per?"
"I know she ain't much of a ranch now," admitted Jack Harpe. "But
everything has to have a beginning. I'm figuring on a right smart
growth for the Rafter H within the next year or two."
"Figuring on opposition maybe?" probed Racey Dawson.
"You never can tell."
"You can if you go to cutting any of Baldy Barbee's corners. Haley's
little bunch never bothers Baldy none, but a man-size outfit so close
to the south thataway would shore give him something to think about.
Then there's the Anvil ranch east of the B bar B. They'll begin to
scratch their heads, you bet. Hall, too, maybe, although he is a good
ways to the east."
"She's all free range," said Jack Harpe. "I guess I got as good a
right here as the next gent."
"Providing you can make the next gent see yore side of the case,"
"Most folks are willing to listen to reason," stated Jack Harpe.
"I ain't so shore," doubted Racey. "You ain't looked at the whole of
the layout yet. How about the 88 ranch?"
"'The 88?'" repeated Jack Harpe in a tone of surprise. "What'll I have
to do with the 88, I'd like to know?"
"I dunno," said Racey, his eyes more stupid than ever. "I was just
Jack Harpe laughed without a sound. It seemed to be a habit of his to
"You saw me with Lanpher, didn't you? Well, Lanpher and I are just
friends, thassall. My cattle won't graze far enough south to overlap
on the 88 anywheres."
"Nor the Bar S?" suggested Racey.
"Nor the Bar S."
"That's sensible." Thus Racey, watching closely Jack Harpe from under
Did his last remark strike a glint from the other man's eyes? He
thought it did. Certainly Jack Harpe's eyes had narrowed suddenly and
"Yeah," Jack Harpe said, "I ain't counting on having any fussing with
either the 88 or the Bar S. Of course Baldy Barbee and the Anvil are
different. Dunno how they'll take it. Dunno that I care--much."
"Which is why you're payin' fifty per."
Jack Harpe nodded. "Yep. Gotta be prepared for them fellers--Baldy
Barbee and the Anvil outfit."
"You're right," assented Racey Dawson. "Mustn't let 'em catch you
napping. You would look foolish then, wouldn't you?" He broke off with
a sounding laugh and slapped a silly leg.
"How about it, gents?" inquired Jack Harpe. "Are you riding for me or
"You wanting to know right now this minute?"
"I don't have to know right now, because I won't be ready for you to
begin for two or three weeks, but knowing would help my plans a few. I
gotta figure things out ahead."
"Shore, shore. Let you know day after to-morrow, or sooner, maybe.
"Good enough. Remember yore wages start the day you say when, even if
you don't begin work for a month yet. All I'd ask is for you to stay
round town where I can get hold of you easy. G'night."
With this the stranger slid from the chair, opened the door part
way, and oozed into the hall. He closed the door without a sound.
He regained his own room in equal silence. Racey did not hear the
shutting of the other's door, but he heard the springs of the cot
squeak under Jack Harpe's weight as he lay down.
Swing Tunstall framed a remark with his lips only. Racey Dawson shook
his head. The partition was too thin and Jack Harpe's ears were too
long and sharp for him to risk even the tiniest of whispers. With his
hand he made the Indian sign for "to-morrow," stretched out his long
legs, yawned--and fell almost instantly asleep.
"We'd oughta closed with Jack Harpe last night," said Swing Tunstall,
easing his muscular body down on a broken packing-case that sat
drunkenly beside the posts of the hotel corral. "What's the sense of
putting things off thataway, Racey? Now we'll lose two days' wages for
"I had a reason," declared Racey Dawson, threading a new rawhide
string through one of the silver conchas on his split-ear bridle. "I
wanted to talk it over good with you first."
"Why for? What's there to talk over, I'd like to know? Why--"
"Because," interrupted Racey, "there's something up, if you ask me."
"What for a reason is that?" demanded the irritated Swing. "That ain't
a reason, no good reason, anyway. I'm telling you flat, y' understand,
that so long as we gotta take root here instead of going to Arizona
like we'd planned it out--so long's yo're gonna renig on the play
like I say, the best thing we can do is string our chips with Jack
"That yore idea of a bright thing to do, huh?" questioned Racey, his
nimble fingers busy with the rawhide.
"I done told you," said Swing with dignity.
"Poor, poor Swing," murmured Racey as though to the bridle's address.
"The Gawd-forsaken young feller. It must be the devil and all to go
through life in such shape as he's in. All right in lots of ways, too.
He eats like a hawg, drinks like a fish, and snores like a ripsaw, so
you can see there's something almost human about him. But he hasn't
any brains, not a brain. He never has anything on his mind but his
hair and a hat. Yep, she's a sad, sad case. Lordy, Swing, old-timer, I
feel sorry for you. You got my sympathy. I'll always stick up for you
though. I won't let--"
"This here," cut in Swing, "has gone far enough. If you got anything
to say, say it."
"I been saying it. Ain't it sunk in yet? Hand me that axe, and I'll
make another try."
"Stop yore fool lallygaggin'," Swing exclaimed, impatiently. "Let's
have the whole sermon. Gawd, yo're worse'n a woman. Gab, gab, gab!
Nothing but. C'mon, tie the string to the latch, and slam the door.
This tooth has been aching a long, long while."
"It's thisaway, Swing," Racey said, soberly. "There ain't any manner
of use going into something we ain't got the whole straight of."
"What you talking about--the straight of?"
"Yep, the straight of. Don't you see anything funny about this
"Looks like a fair proposition to me. Fifty per shore listens well."
"As if that's all of it."
"Well, what's a li'l fussin' round with Baldy Barbee and the Anvil
"Nothin a-tall, _that_ ain't. But the li'l green pea ain't under
_that_ shell. Listen here, Swing, old-timer, I got a long and gashly
tale of wickedness to pour into those lily-white mule ears of yores.
Yep, if it wasn't me a-telling it I'll bet you'd think it was a fairy
"I might even so," said the sceptical Swing. "But I don't mind. I'm
good-natured to-day. I feel just like being lied to. Turn yore wolf
* * * * *
"What do you feed it on?" inquired solemn-faced Swing when he had
heard Racey to the bitter end.
"Feed which on what?" demanded the unsuspicious Racey.
"Say, lookit here--"
"Yeah, I know. Oh, aw right, aw right, I didn't go for to make you
mad. I believe it. Every word. You're getting so dam touchy nowadays,
Racey, they's no living with you. I swear they ain't. Why, if a feller
so much as doubts one of yore reg'lar fish stories you gotta crawl his
hump. Aw right, I believe you. How big was he again? Ugh-h-h! Uncle!
Uncle! Get off my stummick! I said 'Uncle,' didn't I? Damitall, that
left ear of mine will never be the same again. You rammed it into a
rock with more points than a barb-wire fence. Nemmine no more foolin'
now. Are you shore you got Peaches fixed for three-four days? 'Cause
if you ain't--pop goes the weasel."
"This weasel ain't gonna pop. Not this trip. Peaches will stay put.
Don't you fret. By the time he does drift in we'll know all we need to
know, I guess."
"We," sniffed Swing. "Did I hear you say 'we'? Ain't you taking a
awful lot for granted?"
"Shut up. I couldn't keep you out of this with a ten-foot pole. Yo're
like Tom Kane thataway--always wantin' in where it's warm. Aw right,
that's settled. Lookit, we know there's some crooked work on the
towpath going on, and that Lanpher and Harpe are in it up to their
hocks. We know that Nebraska is one of Harpe's friends, and we know
that _after_ my fuss with Nebraska, Harpe comes to you and me and
offers us jobs--jobs at fifty per, wages to start when we say when,
and no work for a while, yet we're to stay round town till he wants us
to start in. And he talks of maybe a li'l trouble in the future with
Baldy Barbee and the Anvil boys, and he mentions Baldy and the Anvil
several times, and the last time wasn't necessary. And, furthermore,
he don't say anything a-tall about this Chin Whisker gent, who's old
Dale or I'm Dutch. So there y'are, and plain enough," added Racey,
holding up the bridle and turning it about. "From what Harpe said to
Lanpher, we know he's bound to get old Dale's ranch come hell or high
water. But he don't say anything about that to us. No, not him. It's
all Barbee and the Anvil, and he's as friendly as a dog with fleas.
His actions don't fit with the facts, and when a man's actions don't
do that they'll stand watchin', him and them both."
"Fifty per ain't to be sneezed at." Swing, whose heart had been set on
Arizona, was not prepared to give in without an argument. Besides, he
invariably objected on principle to anything Racey might see fit to
propose. Which was humanly natural, but more than maddening--to Racey.
"Shore not--unless it sets us against our friends."
"What you talkin' about?" persisted the wilfully blinded Swing.
"Neither Baldy Barbee nor the Anvil outfit are any friends of mine. I
don't even know 'em to speak to."
"But I tell you it ain't Baldy Barbee and the Anvil, you wooden-headed
floop. If it was them, why would Lanpher be in it? And Nebraska? And
Thompson? And Peaches Austin? I dunno exactly what it all means. But
whatever it is, it's gotta do with the country round Farewell--with
the ranches on the Lazy. Aw right. Besides Dale's and Morgan's there's
three ranches, ain't they, on the Lazy near Farewell?"
Racey Dawson held up three fingers, doubling a thumb and forefinger
"Three ranches," he continued, "and the manager of one is in cahoots
with this Harpe of many strings." Here he doubled down his pinky
and waved the remaining two fingers in the face of his friend. "Two
ranches are left, the Cross-in-a-box and the Bar S. Jack Richie is
manager of the Cross-in-a-box. I used to ride for Jack, and he's my
friend. You dunno him, but you can take my word he's the pure quill
forty ways. Then there's the Bar S. Who's foreman of that? Tom Loudon.
You worked with him up at Scotty MacKenzie's Flyin' M ranch on the
Dogsoldier, and I've knowed him ever since I come to this country.
I ain't doing anything to make me bad friends with Tom Loudon. Then
there's Dale, this Chin Whisker party. He's a good feller, and had
a heap of hard luck, too. I ain't working against him, you betcha.
Nawsir. And if I don't miss my guess you don't, either."
"Aw, hell! They ain't no rat in that hole. Yo're seem' a heap o' smoke
where they ain't even a lighted match. I don't wanna do anything
against either Richie's outfit nor the Bar S, nor old Dale, but I
"You ain't! Good Gawdamighty! Ain't I been tellin' you? Ain't I been
explaining of it all in words of one syllable? Can't you see Harpe's
trying to pull us in with him is just a trick to get us shot by our
friends? Because his jumping old Dale's ranch will shore start a war
and you can gamble it's just as dangerous to be shot by yore friends
as it is by the enemy. Here I'm telling you over and over and you
ain't satisfied yet! I've heard of fellers like you, but I never
believed it was possible. Like the whiffle-tit, they were just a damn
lie. But it's all true. Swing, old settler, if you had a quarter-ounce
more sense you'd be half-witted."
"If I had a quarter-ounce more sense I'd quit you cold like that." So
saying Swing Tunstall rose to his feet and shuffled a guileful step or
two closer to Racey. The movement of his right arm passed unnoticed by
Racey. But the lighted cigarette that, following his movement, slipped
down Racey's back between his shirt collar and his neck did not pass
Racey hopped up with a sharp exclamation and shucked himself out of
his shirt with the utmost despatch. He did not stop at the shirt, but
tore off his undershirt likewise.
"Better luck than I hoped for," Swing remarked from a safe distance.
"I didn't think it would slide down inside yore undershirt, too. Burn
you much, Racey, dear? You look awful cute standin' there with nothing
on but yore pants. All you need now is a pair of wings and a bow
n'arrer and you'd be a dead ringer for Cupid growed up. And there's
Mis' Lainey and Mis' Galloway looking at you from their kitchen
windows. They can hear what yo're saying, too. Fie, for shame."
But Racey Dawson had gathered up his clothing and fled to the back
of the corral. Muttering to himself he was pulling on his shirt when
Swing joined him--at a safe distance.
"Helluva trick to play on a feller," grumbled Racey.
"Served you right," was the return. "You hadn't oughta called me
half-witted. Do you know you look just like a turtle in his shell with
yore shirt half on half off thataway?"
"Aw, go sit on yoreself!"
At this juncture fat Bill Lainey wheezed round the corner of the
"What you been doin', Racey?" inquired the hotel-keeper. "Taking a
"Naw, I ain't been taking a bath!" Racey denied ungraciously. "I do
this for fun and my health twice a day--once on Sundays."
"Well, it must 'a' been a heap funny whatever it was, or Swing
wouldn't be laughin' so hard. Yeah. Lookit, Racey--I meant to catch
you at breakfast, but you was through before I got back from Mike
Flynn's--lookit, I wish you'd go a li'l slow when yo're roughhousin'
round in my place. Rack Slimson, my most payin' customer, hadda sleep
on the dinin' room table all night because you druv him out of his
"Bill, that was a joke," Racey intoned, solemnly. "I didn't like the
way the feller snored. Likewise he had too much to say. So naturally I
had to make him take it on the run. What else could I do? I ask you,
what else could I do?"
"Don't you believe him, Bill," cut in Swing, fearful that Racey would
get credit for an effort at humour where, in his own estimation, none
was due. "Racey hasn't got the guts to pick a fuss with a pack rat. It
was me that chased Rack Slimson downstairs."
"That's right," Racey assented, smoothly, suddenly mindful both of a
peculiar gleam in Bill Lainey's eye and a chance sentence uttered by
the hasher in his hearing at breakfast. "That's right. It was Swing
Tunstall what made so free and outrageous with Rack Slimson. You
go and crawl Swing's hump, Bill. Lord knows he needs it. He's been
getting awful brash and uppity lately. No living with him. Give him
"I don't wanna give nobody hell. Live at peace is my motto. All I
wanna know is who's gonna settle for six cups, eleven sassers, ten
plates, and a middle-size pitcher Rack Slimson busted when he rolled
off the table with 'em durin' the night. I don't think Rack oughta
hafta pay, because he wouldn't 'a' had to sleep there on the table
only bein' druv out thataway he couldn't help it like."
"Huh--how much, Bill?" inquired Swing in a still small voice, and
thrust his hand within his pocket.
"Well, seein' as it's you, Swing," was the prompt reply, "I'll only
say ten dollars and six bits. And that's dirt cheap. Honest, I'll bet
it'll cost me fifteen dollars and a half to replace 'em, what with the
scandalous prices we got now."
"And I hope that'll make you a better boy, Swing," said Racey,
observing with relish the transfer of real money from Swing's hand to
the landlord's palm. "There's such a thing, Swing, old settler, as
being too quick, as whirling too wide a loop as the man said when he
roped the locomotive. And it all costs money. Yep, sometimes as much
as ten dollars and six bits."
"... and one and one and two makes ten and six bits makes
ten-seventy-five," totalled Swing Tunstall, "and that makes all
"Correct," said Bill Lainey, stuffing the money into a wide trousers
pocket. "'Bliged to you, Swing. I wish all the gents paid up as prompt
as you do."
"Oh, you needn't be surprised," chipped in the ready Racey. "Swing's a
fair-minded boy. He'll do what's right every time, once you show him
where he's wrong. Yeah. Say, Bill, has Nebraska Jones many friends in
"More than enough," was the enigmatic reply.
"'Enough,' huh? Enough for what?"
"For whatever's necessary, Racey. But I ain't talking about Nebraska
and his friends. Not me. I got a wife and family to support, and
they's enough trouble running a hotel without picking up any more by
letting yore tongue waggle too much."
"Yo're right, Bill. Yore views do you credit. Is it against the law to
tell a feller where Nebraska's friends hang out when they're in town?"
"The dance hall and the Starlight," replied Bill Lainey, promptly.
"Might you happen to know any of their names, Bill?"
"What you wanna do, Racey, is look out for a jigger named Coffin,"
declared Lainey, coming flatly to the point. "Doc Coffin. Yop. Then
they's Punch-the-Breeze Thompson, Honey Hoke, and Peaches Austin.
They's a few more, but they ain't the kind to take the lead in
anything. They always follow. But Coffin, Thompson, Hoke, and Austin
are the gents to keep yore eye peeled for. I ain't talking about 'em,
y' understand. I ain't got a word to say against 'em, not a word. If I
was you, though, and I wanted to live longer and healthier Doc Coffin
is the one you wanna watch special--a heap special."
"Thanks, Bill, I--"
"No thanks needed," fended off the hotel-keeper, hastily. "I ain't
said nothin', and don't you forget it."
"I won't. Is the Starlight's owner, Rack Slimson, any friend of
"We-ell, I dunno as he's a boom companion exactly, but Nebraska and
his bunch spend a pile of money in the Starlight, a pile of money. A
feller would be safe in saying that Rack Slimson's sympathy is with
"Where you going?" demanded Swing Tunstall.
"Over the hills and far away to pick the wild violets," chanted Racey.
"You wanna come along? Better not. Them violets are just too awful
wild. Dangerous. Yeah. Catch yore death."
"You idjit! You plumb fool! Can't you let well enough alone? Ain't you
satisfied till yo're ticklin' the mule's hind leg? If yo're crowded,
hop to it. Make 'em hard to find. But why go a-huntin' trouble? Whatsa
"Always get the jump on trouble, Swing. Always. Then you'll find
trouble don't wear so many guns after all and is a heap slower about
pulling 'em than you thought likely."
"But if they're all four of 'em together now, and you--"
"I ain't said I was going to do anything, have I? Gawda-mighty, Swing,
I only want to go and ask how Nebraska's gettin' along. Only tryin' to
be neighbourly. Yeah. Neighbourly."
Racey Dawson nodded his head as one does when a subject is closed,
hitched up his chaps, and started blithely round the hotel. Swing
Tunstall followed in haste, caught up with his friend and fell into
step at his side.
"This ain't any of yore muss, Swing," Racey said, mildly.
"It's gonna be," was the determined reply. "You shut up."
Racey grinned at nothing and stuck his tongue in his cheek. A warmly
pleasant glow permeated his being. It was good to have a friend like
Swing Tunstall--one who would not interfere but who would be in alert
readiness for any contingency. And Racey was well aware that in his
impending visit to the Starlight the contingencies were apt to be many
"It's so early in the day I don't guess none of 'em will be in the
dance hall yet," murmured Swing Tunstall.
"I'm gonna drop in on the Starlight first, anyway," said Racey. "It's
Through a side window they inspected the Starlight and the customers
thereof. Only two customers were visible. These, a long man and a
short man, stood at the bar, their backs to the window and their hands
cupped lovingly round glasses of refreshment. The tall man was talking
to the bartender.
"This getting up so early in the mornin' is a fright," they heard
him complain. "But bunking with a invalid shore does keep you on the
He and his companion drank. Racey Dawson and Swing Tunstall glided
rapidly along the wall to a side entrance. When the tall man and the
short man set down their glasses Racey Dawson was leaning against the
bar at a range of approximately six feet. Swing Tunstall stood at his
back and slightly to the right. Thus that, should necessity warrant a
resort to lethal weapons, Racey might not mask the latter's fire.
"Liquor," said Racey to the bartender.
The latter, an expert at his trade, with a jerk of both wrists slid
two glasses and a bottle down the bar so that a glass stopped in front
of each man and the bottle came to a standstill between them. Racey
spun a dollar on the bar. The bartender nonchalantly swept the dollar
into the cash drawer and resumed his chit-chat with the tall man. At
which Racey's eyes narrowed slightly. But he made no comment.
Pouring out a short drink, he passed the bottle to his comrade. When
Swing had filled Racey took the bottle, drove home the cork with the
heel of his hand, and carefully tucked away the bottle in the inner
pocket of his vest.
"It won't ride any too well," he observed to Swing, "but it ain't
gonna be there a great while, I guess."
"You bet it ain't gonna be there a great while!" horned in the
outraged bartender. "You put that bottle back on the bar!"
"Why, I gave you a dollar," said Racey, nervously, hesitantly, "and
you kept the change. I supposed, of course, you was selling me the
"You supposed wrong!" As he spoke the bartender's right hand moved
toward the shelf that Racey knew must be under the top of the bar.
"That dollar was for yore two drinks."
"You mean to say yo're charging four bits apiece for those drinks!"
"Shore I am." As yet the bartender's hand had remained beneath the bar
"But two bits is the regular price," objected Racey, weakly.
"Four bits is the price to you," was the truculent statement, sticking
out his chin. "_Put that bottle back on the bar_!"
As he gave the order his right shoulder hunched upward, and his
face set like iron. He had what is known as a "fighting" face, this
Starlight bartender. It was evident that he banked largely on that
face. It had served him well in the past.
"One dollar is my regular price for a bottle," Racey said gently
as the bartender's hand suddenly nipped into sight clutching a
sixshooter, "but if you want it back, take it."
Racey's fingers gripped the bottle-neck and fetched it forth. But
instead of placing it on the top of the bar as requested, he continued
the motion, as it were, and smote the bartender across the head
with it. Being a quart bottle and reasonably full of liquid, the
bartender's chin came down with a chug on the bar. Then he slumped
quietly to the floor behind the bar. The sixshooter relinquished by
his nerveless fingers remained on top of the bar between the whiskey
Racey stared speculatively at the long man and the short man. They in
turn regarded him with something like respect. The long man wore a
drooping, streaky-yellow horseshoe of a moustache dominated by a long
and melancholy nose. Flanking the base of this sorrowful nose was a
pair of eyes hard and bright and the palest of blue.
The short man was a blobby-nosed creature, who sported a three days'
growth of red beard and a quid of chewing in the angle of a heavy jaw.
Now he revolved the tobacco with a furtive tongue and spat thickly
upon the floor.
Without removing his eyes from the two aforementioned gentlemen Racey
reached for the bartender's gun. "Hadn't oughta be trusted with
firearms," he observed, pleasantly, referring to what lay behind the
bar. "Too venturesome. Yeah."
He thoughtfully lowered the hammer of the sixshooter and rammed it
down to the trigger-guard behind the waistband of his trousers.
"Do you gents know anybody named Doc Coffin?" inquired Racey.
"I'm him," nodded the tall man, the pale eyes beginning to glitter.
"Then maybe you can tell me how Nebraska Jones is gettin' along?"
"You worrying about his health?" put in the short man.
"I dunno as I'd say 'worrying' exactly," disclaimed Racey, easily.
"You can take it I'm just askin', that's all."
"Nebraska had oughta be as well as ever he was in about a month,"
supplied Doc Coffin. "And," he added, significantly, "I dunno but what
he'd oughta be able to shoot as well as ever."
"I don't doubt it a mite," said Racey with a smile. "Question is, will
The short man gave a short, harsh laugh. "He will, you can gamble on
that," he averred, and spat again.
"That's good hearing," Racey said, looking quite pleased. "Of course I
was only judging by past performances."
"His gun caught," Doc Coffin explained, kindly.
"Why don't he try filing off his foresight?" inquired Racey, chattily.
"Or else he could shoot through his holster. Lots of folks do business
that way. I suppose now you'll be seeing Nebraska in a day or two
"I might," admitted Doc Coffin.
"Friend of his?" purred Racey.
"I might be." Doc Coffin's spare frame grew somewhat rigid.
"Well," Racey drawled softly, "I heard Nebraska's friends are looking
for me. I'm here to save 'em the trouble of strainin' their eyes."
"So that's it, huh?" Doc Coffin grinned, as he spoke, like a grieving
wolf. "They ain't no hurry, is they?"
"I expect I'll be round Farewell a spell," said Racey.
"Then they ain't no hurry," Doc Coffin told him smoothly.
"None a-tall," contributed the short man.
"That's the way to look at it," laughed Racey. "I shore don't care
anything about bein' pushed. Have a drink on me."
He slid in their direction the bottle with which he had knocked down
the bartender, and, accompanied and imitated by Swing Tunstall,
departed from that place crabwise.
When they were gone Doc Coffin looked at his companion.
"Asking for it, Honey," said Doc Coffin. "Just asking for it."
Then he went behind the bar, seized the senseless bartender by the
ankles and skidded him out on the barroom floor. The man whom Doc
Coffin had addressed as Honey (his other name was Hoke) spread his
legs and whistled when he glimpsed the three-inch cut running fore and
aft along the top of the bartender's skull. Blood from that cut had
dribbled and oozed over the major portion of the bartender's face and
shirt. For it had been the bartender's luck to hook his chin on the
edge of the lowest shelf when he dropped and he had perforce remained
Doc Coffin stood back and stared at the stertorously breathing lump on
the floor with a cold eye.
"Ain't he a mess?" he observed. "Ain't he a mess? I expect he'll be
right down peevish about it when he comes to."
"Think so?" Honey Hoke was not quite sure of the point of Doc's
"Yeah, I think so. I'm shore he will when I tell him how he was
"Shore kicked. Kicked after he was down."
"Didn't you see that feller Dawson kick Bull when he was down? Where
was yore eyes?"
"That's the way of it, huh? Well, it _might_ save trouble if Bull was
to go on the prod real vicious."
"Yo're whistlin'. They ain't no manner of reason for doin' a job
yoreself if you can get somebody else to do it for you."
When Bull came to he was lying on his cot in his little cubby hole
adjoining the back room of the Starlight. Over across from the bed Doc
Coffin was looking out of the grimy window. Behind the closed door
giving egress to the back room certain folk were busy at faro. "King
win, ten lose," the dealer was saying.
Doc Coffin turned at the rustle of Bull's slight movement. Doc nodded
"How's the head?" he inquired.
Bull put up a hand to the bandage encircling his bullet head and swore
"Guess it does hurt some," was Doc's comment. "Doc Alton took
three stitches. Lucky you was still senseless. He had to use a
Bull heartily damned Doc Alton, his methods, the faro players in the
next room, himself, and wound up with a blistering curse directed
against mankind in general and Racey Dawson in particular.
"Tha's right, Bull," Doc Coffin applauded dryly. "Cuss him out. Give
him hell. Must do you a lot of good."
Bull was understood to consign Doc Coffin to the region of lost souls.
"I'd go a leetle slow," advised Doc Coffin, gently. "Just a leetle
slow if I was you. Yo're on yore back now, but you'll be getting all
right in a li'l while, and it's just possible, Bull, I might take it
into my head to ask you what you meant by all them cuss words yo're
throwin' at me."
There was an icy glint in the pale blue eyes of Doc Coffin. Bull shut
up and subsided.
"What," queried Doc Coffin after a momentary silence, "was the matter
"Shore, with you. Who'm I talking to? What was the matter with you,
anyway? Don't you know any better'n to go up against a jigger like
that Dawson man? Yo're too cripplin' slow with a gun, feller."
"Y'oughta had him twice while he was swinging that bottle.... Yeah,
twice, I'm tellin' you. You had time enough. But not you. You just
stood there like a bump on a log and let him hit you. Yo're a
fine-lookin' example of a two-legged man, you are. If you ain't
careful, Bull, some two-year-old infant is gonna come along and spit
in yore eye."
"He was so damn quick," alibied Bull. "I wasn't expectin' it."
"A whole lot of folks are underground because they didn't expect to
get what they got. Yo're lucky to be lyin' there with only a headache.
Still, alla same, he needn't 'a' kicked you."
"Huh? Kicked me? You mean to say he kicked me? Dawson kicked me?"
"Shore I mean to say Dawson kicked you. Kicked you when you was lyin'
there down and out and senseless."
A moment Bull lay quietly. Then when the full import of Doc Coffin's
words had percolated through and through his brain he pulled himself
to a sitting posture and swung a leg to the floor. Doc Coffin was
beside him instantly.
"Lie down, you idjit!" commanded Doc Coffin, and with no gentle hand
shoved Bull down upon his pillow. "Whadda you think yo're gonna do?"
"I'm goin' out and fill that ---- full of lead."
"Oh, you are, huh? Yo're gonna do all that? Tha's fine. Do you want a
quiet burial or a regular funeral?"
"Say yoreself, and say something sensible while yo're about it."
"Nobody can kick me and get away with it!" Bull declared,
"Maybe you will, but not in a hurry. You start out after him now, and
you wouldn't last as long as a short drink in a roomful of drunkards.
Didn't you hear about Dawson's li'l run-in with Nebraska?"
"Hell, I _seen_ it!"
"You seen it, huh? And you _know_ what he done to you to-day, and
still you wanna paint for war now and immediate? No, Bully, not
a-tall. You listen to me. I got a better plan. A whole lot better
After leaving the Starlight, on their way back to the hotel, Racey
said to Swing Tunstall: "Might as well tell Jack Harpe now we ain't
gonna ride for him, huh?"
"Oh, shore," Swing sighed resignedly. "Have it yore own way! Have it
yore own way! I never seen such a feller as you for gettin' his own
way in all my life."
"Yo're young yet--maybe you will," said Racey, consolingly. "So don't
They did not find Jack Harpe at the hotel, nor was he at the Happy
Heart. But in the saloon Luke Tweezy was drinking by himself at one
end of the bar. Perhaps the money-lender would know the whereabouts of
"'Lo, Luke," was Racey's greeting. "Seen Jack Harpe around anywheres?"
Luke Tweezy's thin and sandy eyebrows lifted up in what would pass
with almost any one for surprise. "Who?"
"Dunno him." Indifferently--too indifferently.
"You dunno him--long, slim feller, black hair and eyes, and a hawky
kind of nose? Jack Harpe. Shore you know him. Why, I seen--" Racey
broke off abruptly.
"Yeah," prompted Luke Tweezy after an interval. "You seen--what?"
"I don't see why you dunno him," parried Racey (it was a weak parry,
but the best he could encompass at the moment). "I thought you knowed
him. Somebody told me you did. My mistake. No harm done. Have a drink,
"Who told you I knowed this here now Jack Harpe?" probed Luke Tweezy,
when he had smacked his lips over a second drink.
"I don't remember now," evaded Racey Dawson. "What does it matter?"
"It don't matter," was the answer--the miffed answer it seemed to
Racey. "It don't matter a-tall. Have one on me, boys. Don't be afraid
to fill 'em up. They's plenty more on the back shelf when this one's
They filled and drank, filled and drank. Swing thought that he had
never seen Racey overtaken by liquor so quickly. In no time he was
telling Luke Tweezy the most intimate details of his private life.
Swing knew that these details were a string of lies. But Luke Tweezy
could not know that. He put an affectionate hand on Racey's shoulder
and begged for more. He got it.
When Racey ran down and reverted to the bottle, Luke Tweezy generously
purchased a second and invited him and his friend to a vacant table
in the corner of the room. It was an amazing sight. Luke Tweezy the
money-lender, the man who was supposed to still possess the first
dollar he ever earned, had actually bought three eighths of one bottle
of whiskey and the whole of another.
Racey Dawson greatly desired to laugh. But he didn't dare. He was too
busy being drunk and getting drunker. Swing Tunstall, slow in the
uptake as usual, perceived nothing beyond the fact that Luke Tweezy
had suddenly become a careless spendthrift till halfway down the
second bottle when Luke said:
"Shore is funny how you thought I knowed this Jack Harpe."
"Yuh-yeah," assented Racey, and overset a glass in such a way that
four fingers of raw liquor splashed into Luke Tweezy's lap. "S'funny
all right--an' that's fuf-funnier," he added as Luke and his chair
scraped backward to avoid the drip. "D'I wet yuh all up, Lul-luke?
Mum-my min-mis-take. I'm makin' lul-lots of mistakes to-day."
Luke Tweezy twisted his leathery features into his best smile. "It
don't matter," he told Racey. "Not a-tall. I--uh--who was it told you
I knowed this Jack Harpe?"
"Dud-don't remember," denied Racey.
"Think," urged Luke Tweezy.
"Am thu-thinkin'," Racey said, crossly. "What you wanna know for?"
"I don't like to have folks talkin' so loose and free about me," was
the Tweezy explanation.
"Duh-hic-quite right," hiccuped Racey Dawson. "An' you are, too, y'old
catawampus. You a friend o' mim-mine, Lul-luke?"
"Shore," said Luke, with an eye out for another upset glass.
"Then lend me huh-hundred dollars, Lul-Luke."
"Lend you a hundred dollars! On what security?"
"My wuh-word," Racey strove to say with dignity. "Ain't that enough?"
"Shore, but--but I ain't got a hundred dollars with me to-day."
"Bub-but you can gug-get it," Racey insisted, weaving his head from
side to side in a snake-like manner.
"We-ell, I dunno. You see, Racey--"
"I nun-need the money," interrupted Racey. "I'm broke--bub-broke
bad. Swing's broke, too. That's too bad--I mean that's two bub-boke
brad--whistle twice for the crossing--I mean--Aw, hell, I know
whu-what I mean if-fif you don't. You lul-lend me that mum-money,
Lul-Luke, like a good feller."
Luke Tweezy shook a regretful head. "I'm shore sorry you and Swing are
busted, Racey, I'd do anything for you I could in reason. You know
damwell I would, but money's tight with me just now. I ain't really
got a cent I can lend. Got a mortgage comin' due next month, but that
ain't now, of course."
"Of course not. Huh-how could you think it was now? Huh-how could you,
Lul-Luke? Dud-do you know the child ain't a year old yet?"
"Child? What child?" Luke Tweezy began to look alarmed.
"What child?" frowned Racey Dawson, sitting up very straight and
throwing a chest. "That child over there by the doorway--there in the
streak o' sush-shine. Aw, the cute li'l feller! See him playin' with
Windy Taylor's spurs. Ain't he cunnin'?"
"With most of 'em it's elephants and snakes an' such," proffered Luke
"Yeah," assented Swing Tunstall. "A kid is something new."
"Thu-then you can't lend me that money?" Racey inquired, querulously.
"No, Racey, I can't. Honest, I'd like to. Nothin' I'd like better.
Only the way I'm fixed just now it's plain flat impossible."
"Then I s'puh-s'puh-s'pose I'll have to touch the Bar S folks or the
Cross-in-a-box. I gotta have money. Gug-gotta. They're my friends.
They'll give it to mum-me. Shore they will gimme all I want. They're
all my _friends_, I tell you!"
As Racey uttered the word "friends" his toe pressed Swing Tunstall's
"They're Swing's friends, too," continued Racey. "Ain't they,
Sus-Swing?" Again the Dawson toe bore down upon the Tunstall foot.
"Shore they are," chimed in Swing, watching his friend closely--so
closely that he was able to catch the extremely slight nod of
approbation given by Racey.
"Thu-there's Tom Loudon an' Tim Pup-pup-page of the Bub-bar S,"
stuttered Racey, gazing blearily at Luke Tweezy. "Bub-best fuf-friends
I ever had, them tut-two fellers. An' Old Man Sus-Saltoun. There's a
pup-prince for you. Gug-give you the shirt off his bub-back."
Which last was stretching it rather. For Old Man Saltoun, while not
precisely stingy, was certainly not the most generous person in the
territory. Nor did it escape Racey Dawson that Luke Tweezy eyed him
sharply as he made the remark. At once Racey began to roll his head
from side to side and rock his body to and fro, and laugh crazily.
"The Bub-bub-bar S is the bub-best ranch in the worl'." Again Racey
took up the thread of his discourse. "I tell you that outfit is great
friends o' mine. Juh-juh-just tut-to shuh-show yuh, Lul-luke. Ol' Man
Sush-Saltoun let three punchers go lul-last week an' then turned
round an' gives us both jobs. That's huh-how we stand with Ol' Man
"That's fine," complimented Luke Tweezy.
"An' that ain't all," Racey galloped on, one toe pressing Swing's
instep. "I'm gonna tell him, Swing. He ain't no friend o' Jack
Harpe's. If I tell you you won't tell nobody, Lul-Luke, wuh-will yuh?"
Luke was understood to state that no clam could be tighter-mouthed.
"I knowed you wouldn't tell, Lul-luke," Racey declared, solemnly,
reaching across the table and affectionately pawing the Tweezy sleeve.
"I mum-maybe dud-drunk, but I know a friend when I see him. Yuh
bub-bet I do. Lul-lookit, Luke, lean over--" Here Racey pressed
heavily on Swing's instep. Then, when Luke leaned forward, Racey did
the same and possessed himself of the money-lender's ear by the simple
method of gripping it tightly between fingers and thumb. "Lul-luke,"
resumed Racey, "Jack Harpe's offered us a job, too, an' we're gonna
take him up instead of the Bar S. Huh-how's that?"
Racey released the Tweezy ear, leaned back in his chair, and breathed
triumphantly through his nose.
Luke Tweezy likewise leaned back as far as his chair would permit,
and fingered tenderly a tingling ear. "Whatcha gonna take Harpe's job
for?" he asked, puzzled. "I thought you liked the Bar S such a lot."
"We do," chirped Racey, laying a long finger beside his nose and
pressing again the Tunstall instep. "That's why we're gonna ride for
Jack Harpe." Grinning at the mystification of Luke Tweezy, he leaned
forward and whispered, "We got a idea we can help the Bar S most by
bein' where we can watch Jack--and his outfit."
Luke Tweezy sat up very suddenly. Swing clapped a hand over Racey's
mouth and shoved him backward.
"Shut up!" commanded Swing. "He dunno what he's talkin' about, the
Thus did Swing Tunstall come up to the scratch right nobly. Racey
could have hugged him. Instead he bit him. This in order that Swing
should pull his hand away in a natural manner. Having achieved his
purpose, Racey smiled sottishly at Luke Tweezy.
"But what's Jack Harpe done?" Luke Tweezy inquired swiftly.
"It ain't what he's done," Racey replied. "It's what he's gug-gonna
do. He's out to cuc-colddeck the Bub-bar S, an' they nun-know it."
Whereupon Swing began to shake him severely. "Stop yore ravin!" he
commanded, and contrived to bang Racey's head against the wall with a
bump that went a long way toward curing the pain of Racey's bite.
Racey, with real tears in his eyes, looked up at Swing and guggled,
"I'm sho shleepy!" Then he laid his head upon his arms and slept. Luke
Tweezy did not attempt to awaken him. Swing Tunstall advised against
it. Luke Tweezy and he had a parting drink together. Then the
money-lender took what was left of the second bottle of whiskey--the
first was but a memory--to the bar and endeavoured to chivvy a rebate
out of the bartender. But such a procedure was decidedly not the Happy
Heart's method of doing business. Luke Tweezy, much to his disgust,
for he never drank except in the way of trade, was forced to carry his
bottle with him when he went.
Swing, sapient young person, walked casually to the window and watched
Luke Tweezy cross the street to Calloway's store. Then he returned to
Racey's table. Racey turned his tousled head sidewise and whispered
from a corner of his mouth, "Help me out to Tom Kane's stable. He's
out o' town, and there won't anybody bother us."
"C'mon, Racey, come alive," urged Swing Tunstall, making a great
business of shaking awake his drunken friend. "You don't wanna stay
here no longer. I know a fine place where you can sleep it off."
Ten minutes later Racey and Swing were sitting comfortably on a pile
of hay in Tom Kane's new stable. Racey pulled off his boots, flopped
down on the hay, and clasped his hands behind his head. He wiggled his
toes luxuriously and laughed.
"Gawd," said he. "Think o' that old skinflint buying nearly two
bottles of whiskey! Bet that'll lay heavy on his mind for as much as a
month. What you lookin' at me like that for?"
"Yeah, I'd ask if I was you. I shore would. What was yore bright idea
of tellin' Luke Tweezy we were gonna ride for Jack Harpe so's to watch
"So he'd know it."
"So he'd know it! So he'd know it! The man sits there and says '_so
he'd know it_'! And you call me a thickskull! Which yore head has got
mine snowed under thataway. Can't you see, you droolin' fool, that now
they'll know as much as we do?"
"No, oh, no," Racey denied with a superior smile. "Not never a-tall. I
ain't saying they mightn't know as much as you do by yoreself. But not
while you got the benefit of my brains they won't know as much as we
do. 'Tain't possibil."
"And what did you bite me for?" pursued Swing, disregarding the slur.
"Hell's bells, if you'd bit Luke I wouldn't have a word to say, but
why pick on me?"
"Well, you bumped my head so hard I saw sparks, so we're even. Say,
stop squallin' about yore hand! I didn't bite you half as hard as I
might have. Not half. You can still use the hand all right, can't you?
Yeah. Well, then, you ain't got anything to cry about, not a thing."
"Talk sense, will you? You got us into a fine mess, you have. A fi-ine
"Guess I fooled him, all right," Racey said with irritating
"What was you trying to do, anyway?" Swing snarled, glaring at his
friend. "What was the notion of tearin' off all them confidences about
bein' busted and yore dear friends at the Bar S and how you and me
was gonna play detective? And to think Providence lets a
what-you-may-call-it like you go on living! It ain't reasonable."
"That business of telling Luke we was busted," grinned Racey, "and
asking him for a loan was just so I could work up roundabout and
natural like to how the Bar S bunch was my personal friends and how
we were gonna ride for Jack Harpe and watch him on their account. I
wanted him to know those things, and I couldn't slam out and tell him
dry so, could I? It wouldn't sound natural. It would make him think
the wrong way, you bet. Luke Tweezy ain't a plumb fool, for all he
made the mistake of denying he knowed Jack Harpe. That was a bad one."
"Lookit, Swing, we know that when Lanpher spoke of a front yard there
in the hotel corral he meant the Bar S range. Aw right. While we're
shore Jack Harpe wants to hire us to do his dirty work--which means
being rubbed out by our own friends likely--would he let us ride for
him if he thought the Bar S was paying us to watch him?"
"Not if he knowed what he was doing," admitted Swing.
"That's why I got so greasy and confidential with Mister Luke Tweezy.
So Jack Harpe will know."
"And Luke will tell him?"
"Will Luke tell him? Luke will run to him a-pantin'. I'll gamble Jack
Harpe knows the awful worst already. So we'll be safe enough to go to
Jack to-morrow morning bright and early and tell him we've decided to
give him the benefit of our services."
"But I thought we figured not to ride for him," said the now
thoroughly bewildered Swing.
"Of course we ain't. In words of one syllable, Swing, I want to find
out if it is the Bar S Jack Harpe's going against. Well, then, we
knowing what we know, and Jack Harpe knowing what we know he knows, if
he turns us down to-morrow after offering us the job yesterday, it'll
not only give us the absolute proof we want, but it'll make him turn
his wolf loose P D Q. And that last will be good medicine, because
if I'm any judge he ain't ready to start anything yet awhile, and I
notice when a gent ain't ready and has to jump anyhow he's a heap
likely to fall down and smear himself all over the landscape."
"The man's right," said Swing. "But it's the oddest number alla same I
ever did see. All kinds of clues to a crime, and no crime yet."
"It'll come," said Racey Dawson, grimly. "Jack Harpe is one bad
"What you got against him--I mean, anything particular besides yore
natural dislike?" Swing Tunstall at times was blessed with flashes of
"I ain't got any use for him, thassall." Much emphasis on the part of
Swing nodded. "See him at Moccasin Spring?" was his drawled question.
"I didn't say so." Stiffly.
"You didn't have to. And you don't--not now. I see it all. And you
yawpin' out real loud how interested you are in seeing how the Bar S
gets a square deal, and letting out only a small peep about old Dale,
and thinking yo're foolin' Swing to a fare-you-well. Oh, yeah. It's
the Dale's li'l ranch that's been worrying you alla time. I know.
Racey's actually got a girl at last. I kind of suspicioned it, but
I didn't think it was so heap big serious. Don't you fret, Racey,
old-timer, I'll keep yore secret. Till death does--Ouch! Leggo me, you
poor hickory! Yo're supposed to be sleeping off a drunk, remember!
G'wan now! Lie down, Fido! Charge, you bad dog!"
"But lookit," resumed Swing Tunstall, when the dust of conflict was
beginning to settle and he was poking about in the hay in search of
three shirt-buttons and his pocket knife, "lookit, Racey, you didn't
say anything to Luke about yore being friendly with this Dale party.
Guess you forgot that, huh?"
"Guess I didn't forget it," returned Racey Dawson, placidly. "It ain't
good euchre to lead all yore trumps before you have to. I'm saving
that about Dale to tell to Jack Harpe after he turns us down. I'm a
heap anxious to see what he says then."
"Maybe he won't say anything."
"Maybe he won't turn us down. But will you bet he won't? Give you
odds. Any money up to a hundred."
"I will not," said Swing Tunstall, shaking a decided head. "Yo're too
lucky. Oh, lookit, lookit!"
THE BACK PORCH
Racey's gaze casually and uninterestedly followed Swing's pointing
finger. Immediately his eye brightened and he sat up with a jerk.
"I'll shove the door a li'l farther open," said Swing, making as if to
"Sit still," hissed Racey, pulling down his friend with one hand and
endeavouring to smooth his own hair with the other. "Yo're all right,
and the door's all right. I'm going over there in a minute and if
yo're good I'll take you with me."
"Over there" was the back porch of the Blue Pigeon Store. Swing's
exclamations and laudable desire to see better were called forth by
the sudden appearance on the back porch of two girls. One was Miss
Blythe. The other was Miss Molly Dale.
There were two barrel chairs on the porch. Miss Blythe picked up a
piece of embroidery on a frame from the seat of one of the chairs and
sat down. Molly Dale seated herself in the other chair, crossed her
knees, and swung a slim, booted leg. From the breast pocket of her
boy's gray flannel shirt she produced a long, narrow strip of white to
which appeared to be fastened a small dark object. She held the strip
of white in her left hand. Her right hand held the dark object and
with it began to make a succession of quick, wavy, hooky dabs at one
end of the strip of white.
"First time I ever seen anybody trying to knit without needles," said
the perplexed Swing.
"That ain't knitting," said the superior Racey. "That's tatting."
"What's it for?"
"Lingery." Racey pronounced the word to rhyme with "clingery."
"Lingery is clo'es."
"Clo'es, huh. Helluva funny name for clo'es. Why don't you say clo'es
then instead of this here now lingery?"
"Because lingery is a certain _kind_ of clo'es, you ignorant Jack.
Petticoats, and the like o' that. Don't you know nothin'?"
"I know yo're lying, that's what I know. Yo're bluffing, you hear me
whistlin'. You dunno no more about it than I do. You can't tell me
petticoats is made out of a strip of white stuff less'n a half-inch
wide. I've seen too many washin's hangin' on the lines, I have. Yeah.
And done too many. When I was a young one my ma would tie an apron
round my neck, slap me down beside a tubful of clo'es, and tell me to
fly to it. Petticoats! Petticoats, feller, is made of yards and yards
and yards like a balloon."
"Who said they wasn't, you witless Jake? They don't _make_ petticoats
of this tatting stuff. They use it for trimming like."
"Trimming on the petticoats?"
"_And_ the lingery."
"But you just now said petticoats and lingery was the same thing."
"Oh, my Gawd! They are! They are the same thing. Don't y' understand?
Petticoats is always lingery, but lingery ain't always petticoats.
"I don't. I don't see a-tall. I think yo're goin' crazy. That's what I
think. Nemmine. Nemmine. If you say _lingery_ at me again I won't let
you introduce me to yore girl."
"She ain't my girl," denied Racey, reddening.
"But you'd like her to be, huh? Shore. What does she think about it?
Which one of 'em is she?"
"I didn't say neither of 'em was. You always did take too much for
"I ain't taking too much for granted with you blushing thataway. Which
one? Tell a feller. C'mon, stingy."
"Shucks," said Racey, "I should think you could tell. The best-looking
one, of course."
"But they's two of 'em, feller, and they both look mighty fine to me.
Take that one with the white shirt and the slick brown hair. She's as
pretty as a li'l red wagon. A reg'lar doll baby, you bet you."
"Doll baby! Ain't you got any eyes? That brown-haired girl--and I want
to say right here I never did like brown hair--is Joy Blythe, Bill
Derr's girl. Of course, Bill's a good feller and all that, and if he
likes that style of beauty it ain't anything against him. But that
other girl now. Swing, you purblind bat, when it comes to looks, she
lays all over Joy Blythe like four aces over a bobtailed flush."
"She does, huh? You got it bad. Here's hoping it ain't catchin'. I've
liked girls now and then my own self, but I never like one so hard
I couldn't see nothing good in another one. Now, humanly speaking,
either of them two on the porch would suit me."
"And neither of 'em ain't gonna suit you, and you can gamble on that,
"Oh, ain't they? We'll see about that. You act like I never seen a
girl before. Lemme tell you I know how to act all right in company. I
ain't any hilltop Reuben."
"If you ain't, then pin up yore shirt where I tore the buttons off.
You look like the wrath o' Gawd."
"You ain't something to write home about yore own self. I can button
up my vest and look respectable, but they's hayseeds and shuttlin's
all over you, and besides I got a necktie, and _yore_ handkerchief is
so sloshed up you can't tie it round yore neck. Yo're a fine-lookin'
specimen to go a-visitin'. A fi-ine-lookin' specimen. And anyway yo're
drunk. You can't go."
"Hell I can't," snapped Racey, brushing industriously. "They never
"But Luke Tweezy did," chuckled Swing.
"What's Luke got to do with it?" Racey inquired without looking up.
"If you'd slant yore eyes out through the door you'd see what Luke
Tweezy's gotta do with it."
Racey Dawson looked up and immediately sat down on the hay and spoke
in a low tone.
Swing nodded with delight. "You'll cuss worse'n that when I go over
and make Luke introduce me," he said. "He's been out there on the
porch with 'em the last five minutes, and you was so busy argufyin'
with me you never looked up to see him. And you talk of going over and
doing the polite. Yah, you make me laugh. This is shore one on you,
Racey. Don't you wish now you hadn't made out to be so drunk? Lookit,
Luke. He's a-offerin' 'em something in a paper poke. They're a-eatin'
it. He musta bought some candy. I'll bet they's all of a dime's worth
in that bag. The spendthrift. How he must like them girls. It's yore
girl he's shining up to special, Racey. Ain't he the lady-killer? Look
out, Racey. You won't have a chance alongside of Luke Tweezy."
"Swing," said Racey, in a voice ominously calm and level, "if you
don't shut yore trap I'll shore wrastle you down and tromp on yore
So saying he reached for Swing Tunstall. But the latter, watchful
person that he was, eluded the clutching hands and hurried through the
Racey, seething with rage, could only sit and hug his knees while
Swing went up on the porch and was introduced to the two girls. It was
some balm to his tortured soul to see how ill Luke Tweezy took Swing's
advent. Did Luke really like Molly Dale? The old goat! Why, the man
was old enough to be her father.
And did she like him? Lordy man alive, how could she? But Luke Tweezy
had money. Girls liked money, Racey knew that. He had known a girl to
marry a more undesirable human being than Luke Tweezy simply because
the man was rich. Personally, he, Racey Dawson, were he a girl, would
prefer the well-known honest heart to all the wealth in the territory.
But girls were queer, and sometimes did queer things. Molly, was
she queer? He didn't know. She looked sensible, yet why was she so
infernally polite to Luke Tweezy? She didn't have to smile at him when
he spoke to her. It wasn't necessary. Racey's spirit groaned within
him. Finally, the spectacle of the chattering group on the back porch
of the Blue Pigeon proved more than Racey could stand. He retreated
into a dark corner of the barn and lay down on the hay. But he did not
go to sleep. Far from it. Later he removed his boots, stuffed them
full of hay, and hunkered down behind a dismounted wagon-seat over
which a wagon-cover had been flung. With a short length of rope and
several handfuls of hay he propped the boots in such a position that
they stuck out beyond the wagon-box ten or twelve inches and gave
every evidence of human occupation.
Boosting up with a bushel basket the stiff canvas at the end opposite
the boots he made the wagon-cover stretch long enough and high enough
to conceal the important fact that there were no legs or body attached
to the boots.
Which being done Racey took up a strategic position behind an upended
crate near the doorway.
He proceeded to wait. He waited quite a while. The afternoon drained
away. The sun set. In the dusk of the evening Racey heard footsteps.
Swing Tunstall. He'd know his step anywhere. The individual making the
footsteps came to the doorway of the barn, halted an instant, then
walked in. Almost at once he stumbled over the boots. Then Racey
sprang upon his back with a joyous shout and slammed him headforemost
over the wagon-seat into the pile of hay.
The man swore--and the voice was not that of Swing Tunstall. On the
heels of this unwelcome discovery Racey made another. The man had
dragged out a knife from under his armpit, and was squirmingly
endeavouring to make play with it. Racey's intended practical joke on
Swing Tunstall was in a fair way to become a tragedy on himself.
There was no time to make explanations, even had Racey been so
inclined. The man was strong and the knife was long--and presumably
sharp. Racey, pinioning his opponent's knife arm with one hand and his
teeth, flashed out his gun and smartly clipped the man over the head
with the barrel.
Instantly, so far as an active participation in the affair of the
moment, the man ceased to function. He lay limp as a sodden moccasin,
and breathed stertorously. Racey knelt at his side and laid his hand
on the top of the man's head. The palm came away warmly wet. Racey
replaced his gun in its holster and pulled the senseless one out on
the barn floor near the doorway where he could see him better.
The man was Luke Tweezy.
Racey sat down and began to pull on his boots. There was nothing to be
gained by remaining in the barn. Tweezy was not badly hurt. The blow
on the head had resulted, so far as Racey could discover (later he was
to learn that his diagnosis had been correct), in a mere scalp wound.
Racey, when his boots were on, picked up his hat. At least he thought
it was his hat. When he put it on, however, it proved a poor fit. He
had taken Tweezy's hat by mistake. He dropped it on the floor and
turned to pick up his own where it lay behind the wagon-seat.
But, as we wheeled, a flicker of white showed inside the crown of
Tweezy's hat where it lay on the floor. Racey swung back, stooped
down, and turned out the leather sweatband of Tweezy's hat, at the
edge of which had been revealed the bit of white.
The latter proved to be one corner of a folded letter. Without the
least compunction Racey tucked this letter into the breast pocket of
his flannel shirt. Then he set about searching Tweezy's clothing with
thoroughness. But other than the odds and odds usually to be found in
a man's pockets there was nothing to interest the searcher.
Racey carefully turned back the sweatband of the hat, placed the
headpiece on top of the wagon-seat, and departed. He went as far as
the Happy Heart corral. Behind the corral he sat down on his heels,
and took out the letter he had purloined from Luke Tweezy. He opened
the envelope and read the finger-marked enclosure by the light of
matches shielded behind his hat. The letter ran:
DEAR FRIEND LUKE:
I don't think much of your plan. Too dangerous. The Land Office is
getting stricter every day. This thing must be absolutely legal in
every way. You can't bull ahead and trust to luck there aren't any
holes. There mustn't be any holes, not a damn hole. Try my plan, the
one I discussed so thoroughly with you last week. It will take longer,
perhaps, but it is absolutely safe. You must learn to be more careful
with the law from now on, Luke. I know what I'm talking about.
I tell you plainly if you don't accept my scheme and work to it
religiously I'm out of the deal absolutely. I'm not going to risk my
liberty because of other people's foolhardiness.
Show this letter to Jack Harpe, and let me know your decision.
Another thing, impress upon Jack the necessity of you two keeping
publicly apart until after the deal is sprung. When you talk to him go
off somewheres where no one will see you. I heard he spoke to you on
the street. Lampher told me. This must not happen again while we are
partners. Don't tell Doc Coffin's outfit more than they need to know.
Racey blew out the fourth match and folded the letter with care and
replaced it in the envelope. He sat back on his heels and looked up
into the darkening sky. Jacob Pooley. Well, well, _well_. If Fat Jakey
Pooley, the register of the district, was mixed up in the business,
the opposition would have its work cut out in advance. Yes, indeedy.
For no man could walk more convincingly the tight rope of the law than
Fat Jakey. Racey Dawson did not know Fat Jakey, except by sight, but
he had heard most of the tales told of the gentleman. And they were
_tales_. Many of them were accepted by the countryside as gospel
truth. Perhaps half of them were true. A good-natured, cunning,
dishonest, and indefatigable featherer of a lucrative political
nest--that was Fat Jakey.
Racey Dawson sat and thought hard through two cigarettes. Then he
thumbed out the butt, got to his feet, and started to return to the
hotel. For it had suddenly come upon him that he was hungry.
But halfway round the corral an idea impinged upon his consciousness
with the force of a bullet. "Gawdamighty," he muttered, "I am a Jack!"
He turned and retraced his steps to the corner of the corral. Here he
stopped and removed his spurs. He stuffed a spur into each hip pocket,
and moved cautiously and on tiptoe toward Tom Kane's barn.
It was almost full night by now. But in the west still glowed the
faintly red streak of the dying embers of the day. Racey suddenly
bethought him that the red streak was at his back, therefore he
dropped on all fours and proceeded catwise.
He was too late. Before he reached the back of the barn he heard the
feet of two people crunching the hard ground in front of it. The sound
of the footsteps died out on the grass between the barn and the houses
fronting on Main Street.
Racey, hurrying after and still on all fours, suddenly saw the dark
shape of a tall man loom in front of him. He halted perforce. His
own special brand of bull luck was with him. The dark shape, walking
almost without a sound, shaved his body so closely as it passed that
he felt the stir of the air against his face.
When the men had gone on a few yards Racey looked over his shoulder.
Silhouetted against the streak of dying red was the upper half of Jack
Harpe's torso. There was no mistaking the set of that head and those
shoulders. Both it and them were unmistakable. Jack Harpe. Racey swore
behind his teeth. If only he could have reached the barn in time to
hear what the two men had said to each other.
After a decent interval Racey went on. The Happy Heart was the nearest
saloon. He felt reasonably certain that Luke Tweezy would go there to
have his cut head dressed. He had. Racey, his back against the bar,
looked on with interest at the bandaging of Luke Tweezy by the
"Yep," said Luke, sitting sidewise in the chair, "stubbed my toe
against a cordwood stick in front of Tom Kane's barn and hit my head
on a rock. Knocked me silly."
"Sh'd think it might," grunted the proprietor, attending to his job
with difficulty because Luke _would_ squirm. "Hold still, will you,
"Yo're taking twice as many stitches as necessary," grumbled Luke.
"I ain't," denied the proprietor. "And I got two more to take. HOLD
"Don't need to deafen me!" squalled Luke, indignantly.
"Shut up!" ordered the proprietor, who, for that he did not owe any
money to Luke, was not prepared to pay much attention to his fussing.
"If you think I'm enjoying this, you got another guess coming. And if
you don't like the way I'm doing it, you can do it yoreself."
Luke stood up at last, a white bandage encircling his head, said that
he was much obliged, and would like to borrow a lantern for a few
"Aw, you don't need any lantern," objected the proprietor. "I forgot
to fill mine to-day, anyway. Can't you find yore way to the hotel in
the dark? That crack on the topknot didn't blind you, did it?"
"I lost something," explained Luke Tweezy. "When I fell down most all
my money slipped out of my pocket."
"I'll get you a lantern then," grumbled the proprietor.
Ten minutes later Luke Tweezy, frantically quartering the floor of Tom
Kane's barn, heard a slight sound and looked up to see Racey Dawson
and Swing Tunstall standing in the doorway.
"I didn't know you fell down _inside_ the barn," Racey observed.
"There's lots you dunno," said Luke, ungraciously.
"So there is," assented Racey. "But don't rub it in, Luke. Rubbing it
in hurts my feelings. And my feelings are tender to-day--most awful
tender, Luke. Don't you go for to lacerate 'em. I ain't owing you a
dime, you know."
To this Luke Tweezy made no comment. But he resumed his squattering
about the floor and his poking and delving in the piles of hay. He
raised a dust that flew up in clouds. He coughed and snorted and
snuffed. Racey and Swing Tunstall laughed.
"Makes you think of a hay-tedder, don't he?" grinned Racey. "How much
did you lose, Luke--two bits?"
At this Luke looked up sharply. "Seems to me you got over yore drunk
pretty quick," said he.
"Oh, my liquor never stays by me a great while," Racey told him
easily. "That's the beauty of being young. When you get old and
toothless an' deecrepit like some people, not to mention no names of
course, why then she's a cat with another tail entirely."
"What'ell's goin' on in here?" It was Red Kane speaking. Red was Tom
Racey and Swing moved apart to let him through. Red Kane entered,
stared at the spectacle of Luke Tweezy and his bobbing lantern, stared
and stared again.
"What you doing, Luke?" he demanded.
"Luke's lost a nickel, Red." Racey answered for the lawyer. "And a
nickel, you know yoreself, is worth all of five cents."
"I lost some money," grumbled Luke.
"But you _said_ you lost it when you tripped and fell," said Racey.
"And you fell outside."
"I lost it here," Luke said, shortly.