Hopalong cassidy, p.26
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       Hopalong Cassidy, p.26

           Honoré Morrow



  Eagle did not thoroughly awaken until the sun began to set, for it wasnot until dark that its inhabitants, largely transient, cared toventure forth. Then it was that the town seethed, boldly, openly,restrained by nothing save the might of the individual.

  Prosperity had blessed the town, for there had been an abrupt andpleasing change in local conditions since the disagreement between thetwo ranches north of the town had assumed warlike aspect. Men whoheretofore had no standing with the proprietors of the town's placesof amusement and who had seldom been able to pay for as much liquor asthey were capable of drinking, now swaggered importantly where theypleased, and found welcome where formerly it had been denied them; fortheir hands were thrust deep into pockets from which came the cheerfuland open-sesame clinking of gold. Even Big Sandy, who had earned hisfood by sweeping out the saloons and doing odd jobs about them, andwho was popularly believed to be too lazy to earn a better living byreal work, now drank his fill and failed to recognize a broom when hesaw it. While the inhabitants could not "get in" on the big plumswhich they were certain were being shaken down on the range, theycould and did take care of the windfalls, and thrived well. They wouldstay in town until their money was gone and then disappear for a week,and return to spend recklessly. It is not out of place to state, inpassing, that numerous small herds bearing strange brands frequentlypassed around the town at a speed greater than that common to drives,and left clouds of dust on the southeastern horizon.

  The town debated the probable whereabouts of ten men who had suddenlydisappeared in a body, along with Antonio of the H2. It was obviouswhat they were doing and the conjectures were limited as to theirwhereabouts and success. For a while after they had left one or twohad ridden in occasionally to buy flour and other necessities, and atthat time they had caused no particular thought. But now even thesevisits had ceased. It was common belief that Quinn knew all aboutthem, but Quinn for good reasons was not urged to talk about thematter. Big Sandy acted as though he knew, which increased hisimportance for a time, and discredited him thereafter.

  While the citizens had been able to rustle as they pleased they hadgiven but little thought to the ten men, being too busy to trail. Butnow that the H2 punchers rode range with rifles across their armsrustling had become very risky and had fallen off. Then it was thatthe idlers renewed their conjectures about Shaw and his men andthrashed that matter over and over again. The majority being, as wehave said, transients, knew nothing about Thunder Mesa, and those whodid know of it were silent, for Shaw and some of his companions knewonly one way to close a man's mouth, and were very capable.

  So it happened that about noon of the day Curley lost his life six menmet in the shadow cast by the front of the "Rawhide" a hundred yardsfrom Quinn's, and exercised squatter sovereignty on the bench justoutside the door, while inside the saloon Big Sandy and Nevada playedcards close to the bar and talked in low tones. When they were awareof the presence of those on the bench they played silently andlistened. The six men outside made up one of the groups of the town'ssociety, having ridden in together and stuck together ever since theyhad arrived, which was wise.

  Big Sandy and Nevada made a team more feared than any othercombination. The former, while fair with weapons, was endowed withprodigious strength; by some it was hailed as being greater than thatof Pete Wilson, the squat giant of the Bar-20, whose strength wasproverbial, as it had good right to be. Nevada was the opposite type,slender, short, wiry, and soft-spoken, but the quickest man in town onthe draw and of uncertain temper.

  Chet Bates, on the bench, replied to a companion and gave vent to hissoft, Southern laugh. "Yuh still wondering 'bout thet man Shaw, an'th' othas?"

  "Nothing else to do, is there?" retorted Dal Gilbert. "We can't run nomore cattle, can we?"

  "I reckon we can't."

  "They're running a big game an' I want to get in it," remarked JohnElder. "Frisco was allus friendly. We've got to go trailing for 'em."

  "Yes; an' get shot," interposed George Lewis. "They're ten to our six.An' that ain't all of our troubles, neither. We'll find ourselves in abig fight some day, an' right here. Them ranches will wake up, patchup their troubles, an' come down here. You remember what Quinn saidabout th' time Peters led a lot of mad punchers agin Trendley an' hiscrowd, don't you? In a day he can raise men enough to wipe this townoff th' map."

  "Yuh forget, suh, that they are fighting foh principles, an' men whofight foh principles don't call truces," said Chet Bates.

  "You've said that till it's old," laughed Sam Austin.

  "_I_ say we've got to keep our eyes open," warned Lewis.

  "Th' devil with that!" broke in Con Irwin. "What _I_ want to know ishow we're going to get some of th' easy money Shaw's getting."

  "We'll have to wait for one of his men to come to town an' trail himback," replied Gilbert.

  "What do you say that we try to run one more good herd an' then scoutfor them, or their trails?" asked Irwin.

  "Heah comes somebody," remarked Chet, listening.

  The sound of galloping grew rapidly louder and soon they saw Friscoturn into the street and ride towards them. As they saw him a quietvoice was heard behind them and looking up, they saw Nevada smiling atthem. "Get him drunk an' keep him away from Quinn's," he counselled.

  They exchanged looks and then Elder stepped out into the street andheld up his hand. "Hullo, Frisco!" he cried.

  "Where yuh been keeping yuhself foh so long?" asked Chet, affably."Holed up som'ers?"

  "Hullo, fellers," grinned Frisco, drawing rein.

  "Everybody have a drink on me," laughed Chet. "Ah'm pow'ful thirsty."

  Frisco was escorted inside to the bar, where Chet did the honors, andwhere such a spirit of hospitality and joviality surrounded him thathe forgot how many drinks he had taken. He dug up a handful of goldand silver and spread it out on the bar and waved at the bartender."Bes' you got--ver' bes'," he grinned. "Me an' my fren's want th' ver'bes'; don't we, fellers? I got money--helluva lot of money--an' thershmore where it came from, ain't that so, boys?"

  When the noise had subsided he turned around and levelled an unsteadyfinger at the bartender. "I never go--back onsh fren', never. An'we're all frensh--ain't we, fellers? Tha's right. I got s'morefrensh--good fellesh, an' lots of money cached in sand."

  "Ah'll bet yuh have!" cried Chet.

  "You allus could find pay-dirt," marvelled Nevada, glancing warninglyaround him. "Yo're a fine prospector, all right."

  Frisco stared for a moment and then laughed loudly and leaned againstthe bar for support. "Proshpector! Proshpector! W'y, we earned tha'smoney--run a helluva lot of risks. Mebby tha's Bar-20 outfit'll jumpus an' make us fight 'em. No; they can't jump us--they can't get up atus!"

  "On a mesa, shore!" whispered Elder to Lewis.

  "Wha's you shay?"

  "Said they couldn't lick you."

  "Who couldn't--lick us?"

  "Th' Bar-20," explained Elder.

  Frisco rubbed his head and drew himself up, suspicion percolatingthrough his muddled brain. "Never shaid nozzing 'bout no Bar-Twensh!"he asserted, angrily. "Nozzing 'tall. I'm going out of here--don'tlike you! Gotta get some flour an' ozzer stuff. Never shaid nozzing'bout--" he muttered, staggering out.

  Nevada turned to Elder. "You go with him an' quiet his suspicions.Keep him away from Quinn, for that coyote'll hold him till he getssober if you don't. This is the chance we've been wanting. Don't tryto pump him--his trail will be all we need."

  "Wonder what mesa they're on?" asked Lewis.

  "Don't know, an' don't care," Nevada replied. "We'll find out quickenough. There's eight of us an' we can put up a stiff argument if theywon't take us in. You know they ain't going to welcome us, don'tyou?"

  "Hey, go out th' back way," growled Big Sandy, interposing his hugebulk between Bates and the door. "An' don't let Frisco see you near acayuse, neither," he added.

  Nevada walked quickly over to his friend and said
a few hurried wordsin a low voice and Big Sandy nodded. "Shore, Nevada; he might trythat, but I'll watch him. If he tries to sneak I'll let you knowhasty. We're in this to stay," and he followed the others to the door.

  Nevada turned and faced the bartender. "Mike, you keep quiet aboutwhat you saw an' heard to-day; understand? If you don't, me an' youwon't fit in this town at th' same time."

  Mike grinned. "I forgot how to talk after one exciting day up inCheyenne, an' I ain't been drunk since, neither."

  "Yo're a wise man," replied the other, stepping out by the back doorand hastening up the street where he could keep watch over Quinn'ssaloon. It was an hour before he caught sight of Frisco, and he wasriding west, singing at the top of his lungs. Then Quinn slipped intohis corral and threw a saddle on a horse.

  "Drop it!" said a quiet voice behind him and he turned to see Nevadawatching him.

  "What do you mean?" demanded Quinn, ominously.

  "Let loose of that cayuse an' go back inside," was the reply.

  "You get th' h--l out of here an' mind yore own--" Quinn leaped asideand jerked at his Colt; but was too late, and he fell, badly wounded.Nevada sprang forward and disarmed him and then, mounting, gallopedoff to join his friends.

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