Hopalong cassidy, p.5
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       Hopalong Cassidy, p.5

           Honoré Morrow



  Paralleling West Arroyo and two miles east of it was another arroyo,through which Hopalong was riding the day following his meeting withMary. Coming to a place where he could look over the bank he saw aherd of H2 and Three Triangle cows grazing not far away, and Antoniowas in charge of them. Hopalong did not know how long they had been inthe valley, nor how they had crossed the line, but their presence wasenough. It angered him, for here was open and, it appeared, authorizeddefiance. Not content to let his herds run as they wished, Meeker wasactually sending them into the valley under guard, presumably to findout what would be done about it. The H2 foreman would find that outvery soon.

  The Mexican looked around and wheeled sharply to face the danger, hislistlessness gone in a flash. He was not there because of any ordersfrom Meeker, but for reasons of his own. So when the Bar-20 puncherraised his arm and swept it towards the line he sat in sullenindifference, alert and crafty.

  "You've got gall!" cried Hopalong. "Who told you to herd up here!"

  Antonio frowned but did not reply.

  "Yo're three miles too far north," continued Hopalong, riding slowlyforward until their stirrups almost touched.

  Antonio shrugged his shoulders.

  "I ain't warbling for my health!" cried Hopalong. "You start them cowssouth right away."

  "I can't."

  Hopalong stared. "You can't! Got a sore thumb, mebby! Well, I reckonyou can, an' will."

  "I can't. Boss won't let me."

  "Oh, he won't! Well, I feel sorry for yore boss but yo're going topush 'em just th' same."

  Antonio again shrugged his shoulders and lifted his hands in a gestureof helplessness.

  "How long you been here, an' how'd you get in?"

  "'N'our. By de _rio_."

  "Oh, yore foreman's goin' to raise h--l, ain't he!" Hopalong snorted."He's going to pasture on us whether we like it or not, is he? He's aland thief, that's what he is!"

  "De boss ees all right!" asserted Antonio, heatedly.

  "If he is he's lop-sided, but he'll be _left_ if he banks on this playgoing through without a smash-up. You chase them cows home an' keep'em there. If I find you flittin' around th' ends of th' line orherdin' on this side of it I'll give you something to nurse--an'you'll be lucky if you can nurse it. Come on, get a-going!"

  Antonio waved his arm excitedly and was about to expostulate, butHopalong cut him short by hitting him across the face with his quirt:"D--n you!" he cried, angrily. "Shut yore mouth! Get them cows going!You coffee-colored half-breed of a Greaser, I've a mind to stop youright now. Come on, get a move on!"

  The Mexican's face grew livid and he tried to back away, swearing inSpanish. Stung to action by the blow, he jerked at his gun, but foundHopalong's Colt pushing against his neck.

  "Drop that gun!" the Bar-20 puncher ordered, his eyes flashing. "Don'tyou know better'n that? We've put up with yore crowd as long as we'regoing to, an' th' next thing will be a slaughter if that foreman ofyourn don't get some sense, an' get it sudden. Don't talk back! Juststart them cows!"

  The Mexican could do nothing but obey. His triumph at the success ofhis effort was torn with rabid hatred for the man who had struck him;but he could not fight with the Colt at his neck, and so sullenlyobeyed. As they neared the line Hopalong ceased his personal remarksand, smiling grimly, turned to another topic.

  "I let you off easy; but no more. Th' next herd we find in our valleywill go sudden an' hard. If anybody is guardin' it they'll never knowwhat hit 'em." He paused for a moment and then continued, coldcontempt in his voice: "I reckon you had to obey orders, but you won'tdo it again if you know what's good for you. If yore boss, as youcalls him, don't like what I've done, you tell him I said to drive th'next herd hisself. If he ain't man enough to bring 'em in hisself,tell him that Cassidy says to quit orderin' his men to take risks he'sa-scared of."

  "He ees brafe; he ain't 'fraid," Antonio rejoined. "He weel keel youef I tell heem what you say."

  "Tell him jus' th' same. I'll be riding th' line mostly, an' if hewants to hunt me up an' confab about it he can find me any time."

  Antonio shrugged his shoulders and rode south, filled with elation athis success in stirring up hostility between the two ranches, but hisheart seethed with murder for the blow. He would carry a message toMeeker that would call for harsh measures, and the war would be on.

  As the Mexican departed Lanky Smith rode into sight and canteredforward to meet his friend.

  "What's up?" he asked.

  "I don't know, yet," replied Hopalong. "Greasers are such liars Idon't know what to think," and he related the matter to his companion.

  "Lord, but you sent a stiff message to Meeker!" Lanky exclaimed. "Youkeep yore eyes plumb open from now on. Meeker'll be wild, an' th'Greaser won't forget that blow."

  "Was anybody on th' east end this morning?"

  "Shore; me an' Pete," Lanky replied, frowning. "He couldn't get a cowacrost without us seein' him--he lied."

  "Well, it makes no difference how he got across; he was there, an'that's all I care about."

  "There's one of his outfit now," Lanky said.

  Hopalong looked around and saw an H2 puncher riding slowly past them,about two hundred yards to the south.

  "Who is he?" Lanky asked.

  "Doc Riley. Meeker got him an' Curley out of a bad scrape up north an'took them both to punch for him. I hear he is some bad with th' Colt.Sort of reckons he's a whole war-party in breech-cloths an' war-paintjust 'cause he's got his man."

  "He's gettin' close to th' line," Lanky remarked.

  "Yes, because we've been turnin' their cows."

  "Reckon he won't stop us none to speak of."

  Doc had stopped and was watching them and while he looked a cowblundered out of the brush and started to cross the line. Hopalongspurred forward to stop it, followed by Lanky, and Doc rode tointercept them.

  "G'wan back, you bone-yard!" Hopalong shouted, firing his Colt infront of the animal, which now turned and ran back.

  Doc slid to a stand, his Colt out. "What do you think you're doingwith that cow?"

  "None of yore business!" Hopalong retorted.

  Doc backed away so he could watch Lanky, his hand leaping up, andHopalong fired. Doc dropped the weapon and grabbed at his right arm,cursing wildly.

  "You half-breed!" cried Hopalong, riding closer. "Next time you getsany curious about what I'm doing, you better write. You're a finespecimen to pull a gun on me, you are!"

  "You'll stop turnin' our cows, or you'll get a pass to h--l!" retortedDoc. "We won't stand for it no more, an' when th' boys hears aboutthis you'll have all you can take care of."

  "I ain't got nothing to do but ride th' line an' answer questions likeI did yourn," Hopalong rejoined. "I will have lots of time to takecare of any little trouble that blows up from yore way. But _Meeker's_th' man I want to see. Tell him to take a herd across this line, willyou?"

  "You'll see him!" snapped Doc. "An' you'll need to see him first,too."

  "I don't pot-shoot--I'll leave that for you fellers. All I want is aneven break."

  "You'll get it," replied Doc, wheeling and riding off.

  "Things are movin' so fast you better send for Buck," Lanky suggested."Hell'll be poppin' down here purty soon."

  "I'll tell him what's going on, but there ain't no use of bringing himdown here till we has to," Hopalong replied. "We can handle 'em. But Ireckon Johnny had better go up an' tell him."

  "Johnny ought to be riding this way purty quick; he's coming from th'hills."

  "We'll meet him an' get him off."

  They met Johnny and when he had learned of his mission he protestedagainst being sent away from the line when things were gettingcrowded. "I don't want to miss th' fun!" he exclaimed. "Send Red, orLanky."

  "Red's too handy with th' Winchester; we might need him," Hopalongreplied, smiling.

  "Then you go, Lanky," Johnny suggested. "I'm better'n you with th'Colt."

  "You're better'n nothing!" retorted Lanky. "You do what you're told,an' quick. Nothing will happen while you're gone, anyhow."

  "Then why don't you want to go?"

  "I don't want th' ride," Lanky replied. "It's too fur."

  "Huh!" snorted Johnny. "Too bad about you an' th' ride! Poor old man,scared of sixty miles. I'll toss up with you."

  "One of you has got to ride to Red an' tell him. He mustn't get caughtunexpected," Hopalong remarked.

  "What do you call?" asked Johnny, flipping a coin and catching it whenit came down.

  "All right, that's fair enough. Heads," Lanky replied.

  "Whoop! It's tails!" cried Johnny, wheeling. "I'm going for Red," andhe was gone before Lanky had time to object.

  "Blasted Kid!" Lanky snorted. "How'd I know it was tails?"

  "That's yore lookout," laughed Hopalong. "You ought to know him bythis time. It's yore own fault."

  "I'll tan his hide some of these fine days," Lanky promised. "He's toofresh," and he galloped off to cover the thirty miles between him andthe bunk house in the least possible time so as to return as soon ashe could.

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