Hopalong cassidy, p.4
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       Hopalong Cassidy, p.4
 

           Honoré Morrow

  CHAPTER IV

  IN WEST ARROYO

  Hopalong was heading for Lookout Peak, the highest of the White HorseHills, by way of West Arroyo, which he entered half an hour after hehad forded the creek, and was half way to the line when, rounding asharp turn, he saw Mary Meeker ahead of him. She was off her horsepicking flowers when she heard him and she stood erect, smiling.

  "Why, I didn't think I'd see you," she said. "I've been pickingflowers--see them? Ain't they pretty?" she asked, holding them out forhis inspection.

  "They shore are," he replied, not looking at the flowers at all, butinto her big, brown eyes. "An' they're some lucky, too," he asserted,grinning.

  She lowered her head, burying her face in the blossoms and then pickeda few petals and let them fall one by one from her fingers. "Youdidn't look at them at all," she chided.

  "Oh, yes, I did," he laughed. "But I see flowers all th' time, and notmuch of you."

  "That's nice--they are so pretty. I just love them."

  "Yes. I reckon they are," doubtfully.

  She looked up at him, her eyes laughing and her white teeth glisteningbetween their red frames. "Why don't you scold me?" she asked.

  "Scold you! What for?"

  "Why, for being on yore ranch, for being across th' line an' in th'valley."

  "Good Lord! Why, there ain't no lines for you! You can go anywhere."

  "In th' valley?" she asked, again hiding her face in the flowers.

  "Why, of course. What ever made you think you can't?"

  "I'm one of th' H2," she responded. "Paw says I run it. But I'm awfulglad you won't care."

  "Well, as far as riding where you please is concerned, you run thisranch, too."

  "There's a pretty flower," she said, looking at the top of the bank."That purple one; see it?" she asked, pointing.

  "Yes. I'll get it for you," he replied, leaping from the saddle andhalf way up the bank before she knew it. He slid down again and handedthe blossom to her. "There."

  "Thank you."

  "See any more you wants?"

  "No; this is enough. Thank you for getting it for me."

  "Oh, shucks; that was nothing," he laughed awkwardly. "That was shoreeasy."

  "I'm going to give it to you for not scolding me about being over th'line," she said, holding it out to him.

  "No; not for that," he said slowly. "Can't you think of some otherreason?"

  "Don't you want it?"

  "Want it!" he exclaimed, eagerly. "Shore I want it. But not for whatyou said."

  "Will you wear it because we're friends?"

  "Now yo're talking!"

  She looked up and laughed, her cheeks dimpling, and then pinned it tohis shirt, while he held his breath lest the inflation of his lungsbother her. It was nice to have a flower pinned on one's shirt by apretty girl.

  "There," she laughed, stepping back to look at it.

  "Gosh!" he complained, ruefully. "You've pinned it up so high I can'tsee it. Why not put it lower down?"

  She changed it while he grinned at how his scheming had born fruit. Hewas a hog, he knew that, but he did not care.

  "Oh, I reckon _I'm_ all right!" he exulted. "Shore you don't see nomore you want?"

  "Yes; an' I must go now," she replied, going towards her horse. "I'llbe late with th' dinner if I don't hurry."

  "What! Do you cook for that hungry outfit?"

  "No, not for them--just for Paw an' me."

  "When are you comin' up again for more flowers?"

  "I don't know. You see, I'm going to make cookies some day this week,but I don't know just when. Do you like cookies, an' cake?"

  "You bet I do! Why?"

  "I'll bring some with me th' next time. Paw says they're th' best heever ate."

  "Bet I'll say so, too," he replied, stepping forward to help her intothe saddle, but she sprang into it before he reached her side, and hevaulted on his own horse and joined her.

  She suddenly turned and looked him straight in the eyes. "Tell me,honest, has yore ranch any right to keep our cows south of that line?"

  "Yes, we have. Our boundaries are fixed. We gave th' Three Triangleabout eighty square miles of range so our valley would be free fromall cows but our own. That's all th' land between th' line an' th'Jumping Bear, an' it was a big price, too. They never drove a cow overon us."

  She looked disappointed and toyed with her quirt.

  "Why don't you want to let Paw use th' valley?"

  "It ain't big enough for our own cows, an' we can't share it. As itis, we'll have to drive ten thousand on leased range next year to giveour grass a rest."

  "Well,--" she stopped and he waited to hear what she would say, andthen asked her when she would be up again.

  "I don't know! I don't know!" she cried.

  "Why, what's the matter?"

  "Nothing. I'm foolish--that's all," she replied, smiling, and tryingto forget the picture which arose in her mind, a picture of desperatefighting along the line; of her father--and him.

  "You scared me then," he said.

  "Did I? Why, it wasn't anything."

  "Are you shore?"

  "Please don't ask me any questions," she requested.

  "Will you be up here again soon?"

  "If th' baking turns out all right."

  "Hang the baking! come anyway."

  "I'll try; but I'm afraid," she faltered.

  "Of what?" he demanded, sitting up very straight.

  "Why, that I can't," she replied, hurriedly. "You see, it's far comingup here."

  "That's easy. I'll meet you west of th' hills."

  "No, no! I'll come up here."

  "Look here," he said, slowly and kindly. "If yo're afraid of bein'seen with me, don't you try it. I want to see you a whole lot, but Idon't want you to have no trouble with yore father about it. I canwait till everything is all right if you want me to."

  She turned and faced him, her cheeks red. "No, it ain't that, exactly.Don't ask me any more. Don't talk about it. I'll come, all right, justas soon as I can."

  They were on the line now and she held out her hand.

  "Good-bye."

  "Good-bye for now. Try to come up an' see me as soon as you can. Ifyo're worryin' because that Greaser don't like me, stop it. I've beenin too many tight places to get piped out where there's elbow room."

  "I asked you not to say nothing more about it," she chided. "I'll comewhen I can. Good-bye."

  "Good-bye," he replied, his sombrero under his arm. He watched heruntil she became lost to sight and then, suspicious, wheeled, and sawJohnny sitting quietly on his horse several hundred yards away. Hecalled his friend to him by one wide sweep of his arm and Johnnyspurred forward.

  "Follow me, Johnny," he cried, dashing towards the arroyo. "Take th'other side an' look for that Greaser. I'll take this side. Edge off;yo're too close. Three hundred yards is about right."

  They raced away at top speed, reckless and grim, Johnny not knowingjust what it was all about; but the word Greaser needed no sauce towhet his appetite since the day he had caught Antonio watching hisfriend on the hill, and he scanned the plain eagerly. When theyreached the other end of the arroyo Hopalong called to him: "Sweepeast an' back to th' line on a circle. If you catch him, shoot offyore Colt an' hold him for _me_. I'm going west."

  When they saw each other again it was on the line, and neither hadseen any traces of Antonio, to Johnny's vexation and Hopalong's greatsatisfaction.

  "What's up, Hoppy?" shouted Johnny.

  "I reckoned that Greaser might 'a followed her so he could tell talesto Meeker," Hopalong called.

  Johnny swept up recklessly, jauntily, a swagger almost in the veryactions of his horse, which seemed to have caught the spirit of itsrider.

  "Caught you that time," he laughed--and Johnny, when in a teasingmood, could weave into his laughter an affectionate note which foundswift pardon for any words he might utter. "You an' her shore make agood--" and then he saw the flower on his friend's shirt and for themoment was
rendered speechless by surprise. But in him the faculty ofspeech was well developed and he recovered quickly. "Sufferin'coyotes! Would you look at that! What's comin' to us down here,anyway? Are you loco? Do you mean to let th' rest of th' outfit see_that_?"

  "Calamity is comin' to th' misguided mavericks that get gay about it!"retorted Hopalong. "I wear what I feels like, an' don't you forget it,neither."

  "'In thy d-a-r-k eyes splendor, where th' l-o-v-e light longs todwel-l,'" Johnny hummed, grinning. Then his hand went out. "Good luck,Hoppy! Th' best of luck!" he cried. "She's a dandy, all right, but sheain't too good for you."

  "Much obliged," Hopalong replied, shaking hands. "But suppose you tellme what all th' good luck is for. To hear you talk anybody'd think alla feller had to do was to ride with a woman to be married to her."

  "Well, then take off that wart of a flower an' come on," Johnnyresponded.

  "What? Not to save yore spotted soul! An' that ain't no wart of aflower, neither."

  Johnny burst out laughing, a laugh from the soul of him, welling up ininfectious spontaneity, triumphant and hearty. "Oh, oh! You bit thattime! Anybody'd think about right in yore case, as far as _wantin'_to be married is concerned. Why, yo're hittin' th' lovely trail tomatri-mony as hard as you can."

  In spite of himself Hopalong had to laugh at the jibing of his friend,the Kid. He thumped him heartily across the shoulders to show how hefelt about it and Johnny's breath was interfered with at a criticalmoment.

  "Oh, just wait till th' crowd sees that blossom! Just wait," Johnnycoughed.

  "You keep mum about what you saw, d'y' hear?"

  "Shore; but it'll be on my mind all th' time, an' I talk in my sleepwhen anything's on my mind."

  "Then that's why I never heard you talk in yore sleep."

  "Aw, g'wan! But they'll see th' flower, won't they?"

  "Shore they will; but as long as they don't know how it got there theycan't say much."

  "They can't, hey!" Johnny exclaimed. "That's a new one on me. It'susually what they don't know about that they talks of most. What theydon't know they can guess in this case, all right. Most of 'em aregood on readin' signs, an' that's plain as th' devil."

  "But don't you tell 'em!" Hopalong warned.

  "No. I won't tell 'em, honest," Johnny replied. He could convey theinformation in a negative way and he grinned hopefully at the funthere would be.

  "I mean it, Kid," Hopalong responded, reading the grin. "I don't careabout myself; they can joke all they wants with me. But it ain'tnowise right to drag her into it, savvy? She don't want to be talkedabout like that."

  "Yo're right; they won't find out nothin' from me," and Johnny saw hisfun slip from him. "I'm goin' east; comin' along?"

  "No; th' other way. So long."

  "Hey!" cried Johnny anxiously, drawing rein, "Frenchy said Buck wasgoing to put some of us up in Number Five so Frenchy an' his fourcould ride th' line. Did Buck say anything to you about it?"

  Line house Number Five was too far from the zone of excitement, iffighting should break out along the line, to please Johnny.

  "He was stringin' you, Kid," Hopalong laughed. "He won't take any ofth' old outfit away from here."

  "Oh, I knowed that; but I thought I'd ask, that's all," and Johnnycantered away, whistling happily.

  Hopalong looked after him and smiled, for Johnny had laughed andfought and teased himself into the heart of every man of the outfit:"He's shore a good Kid; an' how he likes a fight!"

 
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