Hopalong cassidy, p.37
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       Hopalong Cassidy, p.37

           Honoré Morrow



  A figure suddenly appeared on the top of the flanking ridge, outlinedagainst the sky, and flashes of flame spurted from its hands, whilekneeling beside it was another, rapidly working a rifle, the roar ofthe guns deafening because of the silence which preceded it. Shouts,curses, and a few random, futile shots replied from the breastworks,its defenders, panic-stricken by the surprise and the deadly accuracyof the two marksmen, scurrying around the bend in theirfortifications, so busy in seeking shelter that they failed to maketheir shots tell. Two men, riddled by bullets, lay where they hadfallen and the remaining three, each of them wounded more than once,crouched under cover and turned their weapons against the new factors;but these had already slid down the face of the ridge and werecrawling along the breastwork, alert and cautious.

  In front of the rustlers heavy firing burst out along the cowmen'sline and Red Connors, from his old position above the cut, swung partway around and turned his rifle against the remnant of the defendersat another angle, and fired at every mark, whether it was hand, foot,or head; while Johnny, tumbling out of the south window of the hut,followed in the wake of Hopalong and Meeker. The east end of the linewas wrapped in smoke, where Buck and his companions labored zealously.

  Along the narrow trail up the mesa's face a man toiled heavily and itwas not long before Doc Riley opened fire from the rear. The threerustlers, besieged from all sides, found their positions to be mostdesperate and knew then that only a few minutes intervened betweenthem and eternity. They had three choices--to surrender, to diefighting, or to leap from the mesa to instant death below.

  Shaw, to his credit, chose the second and like a cornered wolf goadedto despair leaped up and forward to take a gambler's chance of gainingthe hut. Before him were Hopalong, Meeker, Johnny, and Doc. Doc washastily reloading his Colt, Johnny was temporarily out of sight as hecrawled around a bowlder, and Hopalong was greatly worried byricochettes and wild shots from the rifles of his friends whichthreatened to end his career. Meeker alone was watching at that momentbut his attention was held by the rustler near the edge of the mesawho was trying to shrink himself to fit the small rock in front of himand to use his gun at the same time.

  Shaw sprang from his cover and straight at the H2 foreman, his footslipping slightly as he fired. The bullet grazed Meeker's waist, butthe second, fired as the rustler was recovering his balance, boredthrough Meeker's shoulder. The H2 foreman, bending forward for a shotat the man behind the small rock, was caught unawares and his balance,already strained, was destroyed by the shock of the second bullet, andhe flopped down to all fours. Shaw sprang over him just as Hopalongand Johnny caught sight of him and he swung his revolver on Hopalongat the moment when the latter's bullet crashed through his brain.

  Buck Peters, trying for a better position, slipped on the rock whichhad been the cause of the death of George Cross and before he couldgain his feet a figure leaped down in front of him and raised a Coltin his defence, but spun half way around and fell, shot through thehead. A cry of rage went up at this and a rush was made against thebreastworks from front and side. Frenchy McAllister's forebodings hadcome true.

  Sanchez, finding his revolver empty and with no time to reload, heldup his hands. Frisco, blinded by blood, wounded in half a dozenplaces, desperate, snarling, and still unbeaten, wheeled viciously,but before he could pull his trigger, Hopalong grasped him and hurledhim down, Johnny going with them. Doc, a second too late, waved hissombrero. "Come on, it's all over!"

  In another second the rushing punchers from the front slid and rolledand plunged over the breastwork and eyed the results of their fire.

  Meeker staggered around the corner and leaned against Buck forsupport. "My G-d! This is awful! I didn't think we were doing so muchdamage."

  "I did!" retorted Buck. "I know what happens when my outfit burnspowder. Where's Red?" he asked anxiously.

  "Here I am," replied a voice behind him.

  "All right; take that Greaser to th' hut, somebody," the foremanordered. "Johnny, you an' Pete take this feller there, too," pointingto Frisco. "He's th' one that killed Frenchy. Hopalong, take Red, an'bring in that feller me an' Meeker tied up in that crevice, if heain't got away."

  Hopalong and Red went off to bring in Hall and Buck turned to theothers. "You fellers doctor yore wounds. Meeker, yo're hard hit," heremarked, more closely looking at the H2 foreman.

  "Yes. I know it--loss of blood, mostly," Meeker replied. "An' if ithadn't been for Cassidy I'd been hit a d----d sight harder. Where'sDoc? He knows what to do--_Doc_!"

  "Coming," replied a voice and Doc turned the corner. He had a limitedknowledge of the work he was called upon to do, and practice, thoughinfrequent, had kept it more or less fresh.

  "Reckon yo're named about right, Doc," Buck remarked as he passed thebusy man. "You got me beat an' I ain't no slouch."

  "I'd 'a been a real Doc if I hadn't left college like a fool to punchcows,--you've got to keep still, Jim," he chided.

  "Hey, Buck," remarked Hopalong, joining the crowd and grinning at theinjured, "we've got that feller in th' shack. When th' feller Igrabbed out here saw him he called him Hall. Th' other is Frisco an'th' Greaser ain't got no name, I reckon. How you feeling, Meeker? Thatwas Shaw plugged you."

  "Feeling better'n him," Meeker growled. "Yo're a good man to workwith, Cassidy."

  "Well, Cassidy, got any slugs in you?" affably asked Doc, the manHopalong had wounded on the line a few weeks before. Doc brandished aknife and cleaning rod and appeared to be anxious to use them onsomebody else.

  "No; but what do you do with them things?" Hopalong rejoined, feelingof his bandage.

  "Take out bullets," Doc grinned.

  "Oh, I see; you cut a hole in th' back an' then push 'em rightthrough," Hopalong laughed. "Reckon I'd ruther have 'em go rightthrough without stopping. Who's that calling?"

  "Billy an' Curtis. Tell 'em to come up," Buck replied, walking towardsthe place where Frenchy's body lay.

  Hopalong went to the edge and replied to the shouts and it was notlong before they appeared. When Doc saw them he grinned pleasantly anddrew them aside, trying to coax them to let him repair them. ButBilly, eying the implements, sidestepped and declined with alacrity;Curtis was the victim.

  "After _him_ th' undertaker," Billy growled, going towards the hut.

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