Hopalong cassidy, p.28
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       Hopalong Cassidy, p.28
 

           Honoré Morrow

  CHAPTER XXVIII

  NEVADA JOINS SHAW

  Late in the forenoon of the day after Nevada had argued with Shaw,Manuel shifted his position on the lookout rock and turned to face thehut. "Senor! Senor Shaw! He ees here."

  Shaw strode to the edge of the mesa and looked down, seeing Nevadasitting quietly on a horse and looking up at him. Manuel, his dutyperformed, turned and looked eastward, shrinking back as Shaw steppedclose to him. Lying prone along the edge half a dozen men idlyfingered rifles as they covered the man below, Antonio's face inparticular showing intense aversion to any more recruits.

  "Morning, Shaw," shouted Nevada. "Going to let us come up?"

  The leader was about to reply when he felt a tug at his ankle and sawManuel's lips moving. "What is it, Greaser?"

  "Look, Senor, look!" whispered the frightened Mexican, pointingeastward. "Eet ees de Bar-20! They be here _poco tiempo_!"

  "Shut up!" retorted Shaw in a whisper, glancing east, and what he sawchanged his reply to the man below. "Well, Nevada, we are purtycrowded up here as it is, but I'll ask th' boys about it. They ain'tquite decided. Be back in a minute," and he stepped back out of sightof those below and waved his companions to him. Briefly stating thefacts he asked that Nevada and his force be allowed up to help repulsethe Bar-20, and the men who only a short time before had sworn thatthey would take in no partners nodded assent and talked over the newconditions while their leader again went to the edge.

  "We can get along without you fellers," he called down, "but we don'treckon you'll cut any hole in our profits as long as you do yore shareof work. If yo're willin' to share an' share alike, in work, grub,profits, an' fighting, why I reckon you can come up. But I'm leaderhere an' what I says goes; are you agreeable?"

  "That's fair," Nevada replied. "Th' harder th' work th' bigger th'pay--come on, boys," he cried, turning and waving his arm. "We're in!"

  While the newcomers put their horses in the corral and toiledcarefully up the steep trail Manuel stared steadily into the east andagain saw the force that had filled him with fear. Hall, who was nowwatching with him, abruptly arose and returned to the hut, reporting:"Seven men out there--it's th' Bar-20, all right, I reckon"; andalmost immediately afterward Manuel found a moving speck far to theeast which Shaw's powerful glasses soon showed to be three pack horsesdriven by two men.

  Nevada looked curiously about him as he gained his goal and thensought a place in the hut for his bunk. This, however, was full, andhe cast around outside to find the best place for his blankets.Finding it, he stepped to the spring and had just quenched his thirstwhen he saw Shaw standing on a ledge of rock above him, looking down."What is it, Shaw?" he asked.

  "Well, you fellers shore enough raised h--l, now didn't you!" demandedthe leader, a rising anger in his voice. "Yo're a fine collection offools, you are--"

  "What do--"

  "--Leading that Bar-20 gang out here by th' nice, plain trail youleft," Shaw continued, sarcastically, not heeding the other'sexplosive interjection. "That's a nice thing to saddle us with! D--nit, don't you know you've queered th' game for good?"

  "Yo're drunk!" retorted Nevada, heatedly. "We came up from th' south!How th' devil could that crowd hit _our_ trail?"

  "They must 'a hit southwest on a circle," lied Shaw. "Manuel just nowsaw 'em pass a clearing an' heading this way--nine of 'em!"

  "Th' devil!" exclaimed Nevada. "How many are up here now?" he askedquickly.

  "Sixteen."

  "All right! Let 'em come!" cried the other. "Sixteen to nine--it'seasy!" he laughed. "Look here; we can clean up them fellers an' thenraid their ranch, for there's only four left at home. We can run off awhopping big herd, sell 'em, an' divvy even. Then we separates,savvy? Why, it couldn't be better!"

  Shaw showed his astonishment and his companion continued. "Th' H2 isshy men, an' th' C80 and th' Double Arrow is too far away to botherus. As soon as we lick this aggregation of trouble hunters, what'sleft will ride hell-bent for that valley. Then th' biggest herd everrustled in these parts, a trip to a new range, an' plenty of money tospend there."

  "That sounds good--but this pleasing cleaning-up is due to be full ofknots," Shaw rejoined. "Them nine men come from th' craggiest outfitof high-toned gun-artists in these parts, an' you can bet that theyare th' pick of th' crowd! Cassidy, Connors, Peters--an' they've gotforty friends purty nigh as bad, an' eager to join in. I ain't no waysa quitter, but this looks to me like Custer's Last Stand, us being th'Custers."

  "Ah, yo're loco!" retorted Nevada. "Look here! Send a dozen picked mendown quick an' let 'em lose 'emselves in th' chaparral, far back. Whenth' terrible man-killers of th' great Bar-20 get plugging this way,our trouble-gang slips up from behind an' it's all over! Go on, beforeit's too late! Or one of us will ride like th' devil to Eagle forhelp--but it's got to be quick! You say I got you in this, which Iknow well I didn't, but now I'll get you out an' put you in th' way ofa barrel of money."

  The crack of a rifle sounded from the plain and the next instantClausen dashed up, crying, "Manuel tried to cut an' run, but somebodydown below dropped him off'n th' trail. They're all around us!"

  "Good for th' somebody!" cried Shaw. "I'll kill th' next man thattries to leave us--that goes, so pass it along." Then he turned toNevada, a sneer on his face. "That means anybody riding for help,too!" and he backed away.

  Hall turned the corner, looking Nevada squarely in the eyes. "Say,Shaw, wonder what's got into Archer? He's been gone a long time forthat trip."

  "Reckon he's got tired an' quit," replied Shaw.

  "You know he ain't that kind!" Hall cried, angrily.

  "All right, all right. If he comes back an' finds out what's up he'llprobably hustle to Eagle for some of th' boys," Shaw responded.Neither would ever see Dick Archer again--his bones were whiteningnear a small water hole miles to the north, as Hopalong and Red couldtestify.

  "As long as one of us is outside we've got a chance," Nevada remarked."How're we fixed for grub, Hall?"

  "Got enough jerked beef to last us a month," and Hall departed.

  A shot hummed over Nevada's head and, ducking quickly, he followedHall. Close behind him went Shaw, muttering. "Well, it had to comesometime--an' we're better fixed than I ever reckoned we'd be. Nowwe'll see who gets wiped out!"

 
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