Hopalong cassidy, p.11
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       Hopalong Cassidy, p.11
 

           Honoré Morrow

  CHAPTER XI

  THREE IS A CROWD

  When Buck reached the line on his return Hopalong was the first man hemet and his orders were to the point: "Hold this line till h--lfreezes, drive all H2 cows across it, an' don't start a fight; but beshore to finish any that zephyrs up. Keep yore eyes open."

  Hopalong grinned and replied that he would hold the line that long andthen skate on the ice, that any cow found trying to cross would getindignant, and that he and trouble were old friends. Buck laughed androde on.

  "Red Eagle, old cayuse!" cried the line rider, slapping the animalresoundingly. "We're shore ready!" And Red Eagle, to show how ready hewas to resent such stinging familiarities, pitched viciously and bitat his rider's leg.

  "Hit her up, old devil!" yelled Hopalong, grabbing his sombrero andapplying the spurs. Red Eagle settled back to earth and then shotforward at top speed along the line trail, bucking as often as hecould.

  It was not long before Hopalong saw a small herd of H2 cows on Bar-20land and he rode off to head them. When he got in front of the herd hewheeled and dashed straight at it, yelling and firing his Colt, thehorse squealing and pitching at every jump.

  "Ki-yi, yeow-eow-eow-eow!" he yelled, and the herd, terror-stricken,wheeled and dashed towards their ranch. He followed to the line andsaw them meet and terrorize another herd, and he gleefully cried thatit would be a "shore 'nuf stampede."

  "Look at 'em go, old Skyrocket," he laughed. The horse began to pitchagain but he soon convinced it that play time had passed.

  "You old, ugly wart of a cayuse!" he cried, fighting it viciously asit reared and plunged and bit. "Don't you know I can lick four likeyou an' not touch leather! There, that's better. If you bite me againI'll kick yore corrugations in! But we made 'em hit th' high trail,didn't we, old hinge-back?"

  He looked up and stiffened, feeling so foolish that he hardly knewenough to tear off his sombrero, for before him, sitting quietly inher saddle and looking clean through him, was Mary Meeker, acontemptuous firmness about her lips.

  "Good-afternoon, Miss Meeker," he said, wondering how much she hadseen and heard.

  "I'll not spoil yore fun," she icily replied, riding away.

  He stared after her until she had ridden around a chaparral and out ofhis sight, and he slammed his sombrero on the ground and swore.

  "D--n th' luck!"

  Then he spurred to overtake her and when he saw her again she wastalking to Antonio, who was all smiles.

  "Coffee-colored galoot!" Hopalong muttered, savagely. "I'll spill himall over hisself some day, th' squint-eyed mud-image! Th' devil withhim, if he don't like my company he can amble."

  He swept up to them, his hair stirred by the breeze and his right handresting on the butt of his Colt. Antonio was talking when he arrived,but he had no regard for "Greasers" and interrupted without loss oftime.

  "Miss Meeker," he began, backing his horse so he could watch theMexican. "I shore hope you ain't mad. Are you?"

  She looked at him coldly, and her companion muttered something inSpanish; and found Hopalong's eyes looking into his soul, which hushedthe Spanish.

  "You talk United States if you've got anything to say, which youain't," Hopalong commanded and then turned to the woman. "I'm shoresorry you heard me. I didn't think you was anywhere around."

  "Which accounts for you terrorizing our cows an' calves," sheretorted. "An' for trying to start a stampede."

  Antonio stiffened at this, but did nothing because Hopalong waswatching him.

  "You ought to be ashamed of yoreself!" she cried, her eyes flashingand deep color surging into her cheeks. "You had no right to treatthem calves that way, or to start a stampede!"

  "I didn't try to start no stampede, honest," he replied, fascinated bythe color playing across her face.

  "You did!" she insisted, vehemently. "You may think it's funny toscare calves, but it ain't!"

  "I was in a hurry," he replied, apologetically. "I shore didn't thinknothing about th' calves. They was over on us an' I had to drive 'emback before I went on."

  "You have no right to drive 'em back," she retorted. "They have everyright to graze where th' grass is good an' where they can get water.They can't live without water."

  "They shore can't," he replied in swift accord, as if the needs ofcattle had never before crossed his mind. "But they can get it at th'river."

  "You have no right to drive 'em away from it!"

  "I ain't going to argue none with you, Miss," he responded. "My ordersare to drive 'em back, which I'll do."

  "Do you mean to tell me that you'll keep them from water?" shedemanded, her eyes flashing again.

  "It ain't my fault that yore men don't hold 'em closer to th' river,"he replied. "There's water a-plenty there. Yore father's keeping 'emon a dry range."

  "Don't say anything about my father," she angrily retorted. "He knowshis business better'n you can tell it to him."

  "I'm sorry if I've gone an' said anything to make you mad," heearnestly replied. "I just wanted to show you that I'm only obeyingorders. I don't want to argue with you."

  "I didn't come here to argue," she quickly retorted. "I don't want youto drive our calves so hard, that's all."

  "I'll be plumb tender with 'em," he assured her, grinning. "An' Ididn't try to scare that other herd, honest."

  "I saw you trying to scare them just before you saw me."

  "Oh!" he exclaimed, chuckling as he recalled his fight with Red Eagle."That was all th' fault of this ornery cayuse. He got th' idea intohis fool head that he could throw me, so me an' him had it out rightthere."

  She had been watching his face while he spoke and she remembered thathe had fought with his horse, and believed that he was telling thetruth. Then, suddenly, the humorous side struck her and brought asmile to her face. "I'm sorry I didn't understand," she replied in alow voice.

  "Then you ain't mad no more?" he asked eagerly.

  "No; not a bit."

  "I'm glad of that," he laughed, leaning forward. "You had me plumbscared to death."

  "I didn't know I could scare a puncher so easy, 'specially you," shereplied, flushing. "But where's yore sombrero?"

  "Back where I throwed it," he grinned.

  "Where you threw it?"

  "Shore. I got sore when you rode away, an' didn't care much whathappened," he replied, coolly. Then he transfixed the Mexican with hiskeen eyes. "If yo're so anxious to get that gun out, say so or do it,"he said, slowly. "That's th' second time."

  Mary watched them breathlessly, but Hopalong didn't intend to have anyfighting in her presence.

  "You let it alone before I take it away from you," he said. "An' Ireckon you better pull out--you ain't needed around here. Go on,flit!"

  Antonio glanced at Mary for orders and she nodded her head. "I don'tneed you; go."

  Hopalong watched him depart and turned to his companion. "What'seating him, anyhow?"

  "I don't know. I never saw him act that way before."

  "H'm. I reckon I know; but he don't want to act that way again," hesaid, decisively. "Greasers are shore funny animals."

  "All men are funny," she replied. "Th' idea of being scared by me whenyou ain't afraid of a man like him."

  "That's a different kind of a scare, an' I never felt like thatbefore. It made me want to kill somebody. I don't want you to get madat me. I like you too much. You won't, will you?"

  She smiled. "No."

  "Never? No matter what happens?"

  "Do you care?"

  "Do I care! You know I do. Look at me, Mary!"

  "No; don't come any nearer. I must go--good-bye."

  "Don't go; let's ride around for a while."

  "But 'Tony may tell Dad; an' if he does Dad'll come up here an' maketrouble. No, I must go."

  "Tell 'Tony I want to see him," he replied. "If he says anything I'llmake him pay for it; an' he won't do it again."

  "You mustn't do that! It would make things all th' worse."

  "Will you come up again
to-morrow?"

  She laughed. "That'll be too soon, won't it?"

  "Not by a blamed sight."

  "Well, I don't know. Good-bye."

  "Good-bye," he said, holding out his hand.

  She gave him her hand and then tried to push him away. "No, no! No, Isay! I won't come any more if you do that!"

  Despite her struggles he drew her to him and kissed her again andagain.

  "I hate you! I hate you!" she cried, her face the color of fire. "Whatmade you do it! You've spoiled everything, an' I'll never see youagain! I hate you!" and she wheeled and galloped away.

  He spurred in pursuit and when he had overtaken her he grasped herhorse by the bridle and stopped her. "Mary! Don't be mad--I love you!"

  "Will you let me go?" she demanded, her face crimson.

  "Not till you say yo're not mad."

  "Please let me go," she replied, looking in his eyes, "I'm not mad atyou; but you mustn't do that again. Won't you let me go before someone sees us?"

  He released her and she impulsively put her hand on his arm. "Lookout--an' watch 'Tony," and she was gone.

  "Yo're th' best girl ever rode a cayuse," he muttered, joyously."'Look out--an' watch 'Tony,'" he cried. "What do I care about thatGreaser? I can clean out th' whole gang now. Just let 'em startsomething."

  When he neared the place where his sombrero lay he saw Johnny in theact of picking it up, and Johnny might take a notion to make a raceout of it before giving it up. "Hey, you!" Hopalong cried, dashingforward, "gimme that cover!"

  "Come an' get it; I don't want it," Johnny retorted. "What made youlose it?"

  "Fighting."

  "Fighting! Fighting who?"

  "Just fighting, Kid."

  "Ah, come on an' tell me," begged Johnny. Then, like a shot: "Was itthat Greaser?"

  "Nope."

  "Who was it?"

  "None of yore business," laughed Hopalong, delighted to be able totease him.

  "All right!" Johnny cried. "You wait; th' boys will be glad to learnabout you an' her!"

  Hopalong's hand shot out and gripped his friend's shoulder. "Don't yousay a word about it, do you hear?"

  "Shore. I was only fooling," replied Johnny. "Think I tell them kindof things! Yo're a big fool, you are."

  "I was too quick, Kid. I know yo're a thoroughbred. An' now I'll tellyou who I was fighting. Its was Red Eagle. He got a fit of pitching,an' I had to take it out of him."

  "I might 'a knowed it," responded Johnny, eying the tracks in thesand. "But I reckoned you might 'a had a run-in with that Greaser. Iwas saving him for myself."

  "Why do you hate him so much more'n th' other Greasers?"

  "Never mind that now. I'll tell you after I get him."

  "Have you seen Buck since he came back?"

  "No; why?"

  Hopalong told him what the foreman had said and his friend grinned."The good old days are coming back again, Hoppy!" he exulted. "Now Ican kick th' shirt off'n that Greaser, can't I, if he gets gay?"

  "If he don't kick yourn off first."

  "I'd like to see him try it; or you, either! Mebbe you'd like to tryit now?"

  "Shoo, fly! Shoo, fly," laughed Hopalong.

  "Where are you going now?" asked Johnny.

  "Where I please."

  "Shore. I knowed that. That's where you want to go," grinned Johnny."But where do you want to go?"

  "Where I can't go now."

  "Ah, shut up! Come on. I'll go with you."

  "Well, I'm going east to tell th' fellers what Buck said."

  "Go ahead. I'm with you," Johnny said, wheeling.

  "I didn't ask you to come."

  "I didn't ask you to go," retorted Johnny. "Here," he said, holdingout a cigar and putting another in his mouth. "Have a smoke; they'reall right."

  "Where the devil did you get 'em?"

  "Up in Number Five."

  "In Number Five!"

  "Shore. Frenchy, th' son-o'-a-gun, had three of 'em hid over th'windy," Johnny explained. "I hooked 'em."

  "So I reckoned; did you take 'em all?"

  "Was you going up?"

  "No; but did you?"

  "Well, I looked good, but I didn't see none to leave."

  "You wait till he finds it out," Hopalong warned.

  "He won't do nothing," assured Johnny, easily. "Anyhow, yo're asguilty as me. He ain't got no right to cache cigars when we can't getto town for any. Besides, he's afraid of me."

  "Scared of you! Oh, Lord, that's good!"

  "Quit fooling an' get started," Johnny said, kicking his friend'shorse.

  "You behave, or I'll get that Greaser to lick you good," threatenedHopalong as he quieted Red Eagle.

  "Huh! He don't like fights."

  "How do you know?"

  "Because my grub is his poison; get a-going."

  They cantered eastward, driving back Meeker's cows whenever they werefound too close to the line or over it, and it was not long beforethey made out Lanky riding towards them. He had not yet seen them andJohnny eagerly proposed that they prepare an ambush and scare him.

  "He don't scare, you fool," replied Hopalong. "A joke is a joke, butthere ain't no use getting shot at when you can't shoot back. No usegetting killed for a lark."

  "He might shoot, mightn't he," Johnny laughed. "I didn't think aboutthat."

  Lanky looked around, waved his hand and soon joined them. "I see yo'retaking care of th' Kid, Hopalong. Hullo, Kid."

  "Go to blazes!" snorted Johnny.

  "Has he been a good boy, Hoppy?"

  "No more'n usual. He's looking for Antonio."

  "_Again_?" asked Lanky, grinning. "Ain't you found him yet?"

  "Ah, go on. I'll find him when I want him," Johnny retorted.

  When Lanky had heard Buck's orders he frowned.

  "We'll hold it all right. Wait for Billy, he'll be along purty soon. Ileft him chasing some cows."

  "Got yore saddle so it'll stay together for more'n ten minutes at atime?" asked Johnny.

  "I bought Billy's old one," Lanky replied. "Got anything to say aboutit?"

  Billy Williams, pessimist by nature and choice, rode up and joinedthem and, laughing and joking, they rode towards the Peak, to see ifBuck had any further orders. But they had not gone far before Hopalongstopped and thought. "You go on. I'll stay out here an' watch things."

  "I'm with you, Hoppy," Johnny offered. "You fellers go on; me an'Hopalong'll take care of th' line out here."

  "All right," replied Lanky. "So long."

  A few minutes later Johnny turned in his saddle. "Hey, Billy!" heshouted.

  "What?"

  "Has Lanky paid you for that saddle, yet?"

  "Shore; why?"

  "Oh, nothing. But yo're lucky."

  Billy turned and said something to Lanky and they cantered on theirway.

  "Hey, Hoppy; don't you tell Frenchy about them cigars," Johnnysuddenly remarked some time later.

 
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