Hopalong cassidy, p.38
A DISAGREEABLE TASK
Two men, Hall and Frisco, sat with their backs against the wall of thehut, weaponless, wounded, nervous, one sullen and enraged, the othergrowling querulously to himself about his numerous wounds. The thirdprisoner, the Mexican, was pacing to and fro with restless strides,vicious and defiant, his burning eyes quick, searching, calculating.It seemed as though he was filled with a tremendous amount of energywhich would not let him remain quiet. When his companions spoke to himhe flashed them a quick glance but did not answer; thinking, scheming,plotting, he missed not the slightest movement of those about him.Wounded as he was he did not appear to know it, so intent was he uponhis thoughts.
Hall, saved from the dangers of the last night's fight, loosed hiscumulative rage frequently in caustic and profane verbal abuse of hiscaptors, his defeat, his companions, and the guard. Frisco, courageousas any under fire, was dejected because of the wait; merely adifference of temperament.
The guard, seated carelessly on a nearby rock, kept watch over thethree and cogitated upon the whole affair, his Colt swinging from ahand between his knees. Twenty paces to his right was a stack ofrifles and Sanchez, lengthening his panther stride with barelyperceptible effort, drew nearer to them on each northward lap. Hetypified the class of men who never give up hope, and as he gainedeach yard he glanced furtively at the guard and then estimated thenumber of leaps necessary to reach the coveted rifles. His ripplingmuscles were bunching up for the desperate attempt when the guardinterfered, the sharp clicks of his Colt bringing the Mexican to anabrupt stop. Sanchez shrugged his shoulders and wheeling, resumed hisrestless walk, being careful to keep it within safe limits.
Hall, lighting his pipe, blew a cloud of smoke into the air and lookedat the guard, who was still cogitating.
"How did you fools finally figger we was out here?"
Hopalong looked up and smiled. "Oh, we just figgered you fools wouldbe here, and would stay up here. Yore friend Antonio worked too hard."
Hall carefully packed his pipe and puffed quickly. "I knowed he'dbungle it, d----d Greaser. It was th' Greasers that busted up th'game. Sixteen men an' four of 'em Greasers. By G-d, if we was allwhite men we'd 'a given you fellers a hot tune to dance to. Greasersare all cowards, any--"
"You lie!" snapped Sanchez, stepping forward.
"Stop it!" shouted Hopalong, half arising, his Colt on the two. "Youkeep peaceful--there's been too much fighting now. But if them otherGreasers had been like this one here I reckon you wouldn't 'a lostnothing by having 'em."
"What happened to Cavalry an' Antonio?" asked Hall. "Did you get 'emwhen you came up?"
"They got down th' way we came up--Doc trailed th' Greaser an' got himat that water hole up north," Hopalong replied. "Don't know nothingabout th' other feller. Reckon he got away, but one don't make muchdifference, anyhow. He'll never come back to this country."
"Say, how much longer will it take yore friends to do th' buryin'act?" asked Frisco, irritably. "I'm plumb tired of waiting--thesewounds hurt like blazes, too."
"Reckon they're coming now," was the reply. "I hear--yes, here theyare."
"I owe you ten dollars, Hall," Frisco remarked, trivial things nowentering his mind. "Reckon you won't get it, neither."
"Oh, pay me in h--l!" Hall snapped.
"Yes," Buck was saying, "he shore was white. He knowed he was goingan' he went like th' man he was--saving a friend. 'Tain't th' firsttime Frenchy McAllister's saved my life, neither."
Frisco glanced around and his face flashed with a look of recognition,but he held his tongue; not so with Curtis, who stared at him insurprise and stepped forward.
"Good G-d! It's Davis! What ever got you into this?"
"Easy money an' a gun fight," Davis, alias Frisco, replied.
"Tough luck, tough luck," Curtis muttered slowly.
"D--n tough, if you asks me," Frisco growled.
"What happened to th' others?" Curtis asked, referring to three menwith whom he and Frisco had punched and prospected several yearsbefore.
"Little Dan went out in that same gun fight, Joe Baird was got by th'posse next day, an' George Wild an' I got into th' mountains an' wasseparated. I got free after a sixty-mile chase, but I don't know howGeorge made out. We had stuck up a gold caravan an' killed two menwhat was with it. They was th' only fellers to pull their guns againstus."
"Well, I'm d----d!" ejaculated Curtis. "An' so that crowd went bad!"
"Say, for th' Lord's sake, get things moving," cried Hall, angrily."If we've got to die make it quick--or else shoot that infernalGreaser--he's got on my nerves with his tramp, tramp, tramp! Wish I'd'a gone with Shaw 'stead of waiting for my own funeral."
Buck surveyed them. "Got anything to say?"
"Not me--I've had mine," replied Frisco, toying with a bandage. Thenhe started to say something but changed his mind. "Oh, well, what'sth' use! Go ahead."
"Don't drag it out," growled Hall. "Say, you got _my_ rope there?" hedemanded suddenly, eying the coils slung over Skinny's shoulder. "No,you ain't. I want my own, savvy?"
"Oh, we ain't got time to hunt for no ropes," rejoined Skinny. "One'sas good as another, ain't it?"
"Yes, I reckon so--hustle it through," Hall replied, sullenly.
"Go ahead, you fellers," ordered Hopalong as some of his friends wentfirst down the trail after the two sent to the camp for the horses."Come on, Sanchez! Fall in there!"
When the procession reached the bottom of the trail Buck halted it towait for the horses and his prisoners took one more look around.
"Say, Peters, where's th' cayuses we had in that corral?" asked Hall,surprised.
"Oh, we got them out th' first night--we wasn't taking no chances,"replied the foreman. "They're somewhere near th' camp now."
As the horse herd was driven up Sanchez made his last play. All wereintent upon tightening cinches, the more intent because of theimpending and disagreeable task, when he slipped like a shadow throughthe group and throwing himself across a likely looking pinto (he knewthe horse), headed in a circular track for the not too distantchaparral.
"_Take_ him, Red!" shouted Buck, who was the first to recover.
Red's rifle leaped to his shoulder and steadied; in three more jumpsthe speedy pinto would have shielded Sanchez, clinging like a burr tothe further side; but the rifle spoke once and the fleeing Mexicandropped and lay quiet on the sand.
Hopalong rode out to him and glancing at the still form, wheeled andreturned. "Got him clean, Red."
* * * * *
A group of horsemen rode eastward towards the chaparral and as it wasabout to enclose them one of the riders bringing up the rear turned inhis saddle and looked back at two dangling forms outlined against thedarker background of the frowning mesa, two where he had expected tosee three.
"Well, th' rustling is over," he remarked. "Say, that Greaser wasn'tno coward. I reckoned Greasers was all yaller dogs."
"Have you known many of 'em?" asked Skinny, quietly.
"No," replied Chick. "Didn't ever see none till I came down here.Reckon there ain't many up in Montanny. But I heard lots about 'em._He_ was all grit! I allus reckoned they was coyotes, an' mostlyscared."
"If you stay down here for long you'll meet some more that ain'tcowards," Skinny replied. "I have--more'n once. A Greaser is a man,same as me an' you, an' I've known some that would look th' devilhisself in th' eye an' call him a liar."
"Gee!" exclaimed Chick, thoughtfully.
Hopalong Cassidy by Honoré Morrow / Western have rating 2.4 out of 5 / Based on31 votes