Hopalong cassidy, p.27
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       Hopalong Cassidy, p.27

           Honoré Morrow



  When Frisco reached the edge of the clearing around the mesa he sawAntonio and Shaw toiling cautiously up the steep, precarious trailleading to the top, and he hailed vociferously. Both looked around,Antonio scowling and his companion swearing at their friend'scondition. Frisco's pack horse, which he had sense enough to bringback, was loaded down with bags and packages which had been put onrecklessly, inasmuch as a slab of bacon hung from the animal's neckand swayed to and fro with each step; and the animal he rode had abartender's apron hanging down before its shoulders.

  "Had a rip-snorting time--rip-snorting time," he announced pleasantly,in a roar. "Salubrious--rip-snorting--helluva time!"

  "Nobody'd guess it!" retorted Shaw. "Look at them bundles! An' him anexpert pack-horse man, too. An' that cayuse with a shirt! For anybodythat can throw as neat a diamond hitch as him, that pack horse is ahowling disgrace!"

  "Hang th' pack horse!" growled Antonio. "I bet th' whole town knowsour business now! He ought to be shot. Where you going?"

  "Down to help him up," Shaw replied. "He'll bust his fool neck if hewrestles with that trail alone. You go on up an' send a couple of th'boys down to bring up th' grub," he ordered, starting down the path.

  "Let him bust his fool neck!" cried the Mexican. "He should 'a donethat before he left."

  "What's th' ruction?" asked Clausen, looking down over the edge at theMexican.

  "Oh, Frisco's come back howling drunk. Go down an' help him tote th'grub up. Shaw said for somebody else to help you."

  "Hey, Cavalry," cried Clausen. "Come on an' gimme a hand," and the twodisappeared down the trail.

  The leader returned, heralded by singing and swearing, and pushedFrisco over the mesa top to sprawl full-length on the ground. Shawlooked down at him with an expression of anger and anxiety and thenturned abruptly on his heel as a quavering snore floated up from theother.

  "Here, Manuel!" he called, sharply. "Take my glasses an' go out toyore lookout rock. Look towards Eagle an' call me if you see anybody."

  The Mexican shuffled away as Cavalry and Clausen, loaded down,appeared over the edge of the mesa wall and dropped their loads atShaw's feet.

  "What did you tell him to get?" asked Clausen, marvelling.

  "What do you think I told him to get?" snapped Shaw.

  "I don't know, seeing what he brought back," was the reply.

  Shaw examined the pile. "G-d's name, what's all this stuff?" heroared. "Bacon! An' all th' meat we want is down below. Canned milk!Two bottles XXX Cough Syrup, four bottles of whiskey, bottle vanillerextract, plug tobacco, an' three harmonicas! Is _that_ flour!" heyelled, glaring at a small bag. "Twenty pounds! Five pounds of salt!"

  "I reckon he bought all th' cartridges in town," Cavalry announced,staggering into sight with a box on his shoulder. "Lord, but it'sheavy!"

  "Twenty pounds of flour to last nine men a month!" Shaw shouted,kicking at the bag. "An' look at this coffee--two pounds! I'll teachhim a lesson when he gets sober."

  "Well, he made up th' weight in th' cartridges," Cavalry grinned. Hegrasped Shaw's arm. "What's got into Manuel?"

  The leader looked and sprinted to the lookout rock, where Manuel wasgesticulating, and took the glasses. Half a minute later he returnedthem to the Mexican and rejoined his companions near the pile ofsupplies.

  "What is it?" asked Cavalry.

  "Some of our Eagle friends. Mebby they want cards in this game, butwe'll waste little time with 'em. Post th' fellers along th' edge,Clausen, an' you watch th' trail up. Keep 'em covered while I talkswith 'em. Don't be slow to burn powder if they gets to pushingthings."

  "They trailed Frisco," growled Cavalry.

  "Shore; oh, he was a great success!" snapped Shaw, going to the edgeof the mesa to await the eight newcomers, his men finding convenientplaces along the top of the wall, their rifles ready for action.

  They did not have long to wait for soon Nevada and Chet Bates rodeinto the clearing and made for the trail.

  "That's far enough, Nevada!" shouted Shaw, holding up his hand.

  "Why, hullo, Shaw!" cried the man below. "Yo're up a good tree, allright," he laughed.


  "Can we ride up, or do we have to take shank's mare?"


  "Well, we want some water after that ride," replied Nevada.

  "Plenty of it below. Nobody asked you to take that ride. What do youwant, anyhow?"

  "Why, when Frisco said you was out here we thought we'd drop in on youan' pay you a little visit."

  "You have paid us a little visit. Call again next summer."

  "Running many cows?" asked Nevada.

  "Nope; educating coyotes. Didn't see none, did you?"

  Nevada exchanged a few words with his companion and then looked upagain. "I reckon you need us, Shaw. Eight more men means twice as manycows; an' we can all fight a little if th' ranches get busy out here."

  "We're crowded now. Better water up an' hit th' back trail. It's hardriding in th' dark."

  "We didn't come out here for a drink," replied Nevada. "We came out tohelp you rustle, which same we'll do. I tell you that you need us,man!"

  "When I need you I'll send for you. _Adios._"

  "You ain't going to let us come up?"

  "Not a little bit. Pull yore stakes an' hit th' back trail. _Adios!_"

  "Well, we'll hang around to-night an' talk it over again to-morrow.Mebby you'll change yore mind. So long," and the two wheeled anddisappeared into the chaparrals, Nevada chuckling. "I didn't springthat little joker, Chet, because it's a good card to play last. Whenwe tell him that we won't let nobody come down off'n th' mesa it'll beafter we can't do nothing else. No use making him mad."

  Up on the mesa Shaw wheeled, scowling. "I knowed that fool would fireoff something big! Why can't he get drunk out here, where it's allright?"

  "That Nevada is a shore bad proposition," Clausen remarked.

  "So'm I!" snapped Shaw. "He can't come up, an' pursooant to that ideeI reckon you an' Hall better arrange to watch th' trail to-night."

  He walked away and paced slowly along the edge of the wall, studyingevery yard of it. He had done this thing before and had decided thatno man sat a saddle who could scale the sheer hundred feet of rockwhich dropped so straight below him. But somehow he felt oppressed,and the sinking sun threw into bold relief the furrows of hisweather-beaten, leathery face and showed the trouble marks which satabove his eyes. At one part of the wall he stopped and peered over,marshalling imaginative forces in attack after attack against it. Butat the end he smiled and moved on--that was the weakest point in hisdefence, but he would consider himself fortunate if he should find noweaker defence in future conflicts. As he returned to the hut heglanced at the lookout rock and saw Manuel in his characteristic pose,unmoving, silent, watchful.

  "I'm getting as bad as Cavalry and his desert," he grumbled. "Still,they can't lick us while we stay up here."

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