Hopalong cassidy, p.9
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       Hopalong Cassidy, p.9
 

           Honoré Morrow

  CHAPTER IX

  ON THE PEAK

  Hopalong Cassidy had the most striking personality of all the men inhis outfit; humorous, courageous to the point of foolishness, eagerfor fight or frolic, nonchalant when one would expect him to be quiteotherwise, curious, loyal to a fault, and the best man with a Colt inthe Southwest, he was a paradox, and a puzzle even to his mostintimate friends. With him life was a humorous recurrence ofsensations, a huge pleasant joke instinctively tolerated, but notworth the price cowards pay to keep it. He had come onto the rangewhen a boy and since that time he had laughingly carried his life inhis open hand, and although there had been many attempts to snatch ithe still carried it there, and just as recklessly.

  Quick in decisions and quick to suspect evil designs against him andhis ranch, he was different from his foreman, whose temperament wasmore optimistic. When Buck had made him foreman of the line riders hehad no fear that Meeker or his men would take many tricks, for hisfaith in Hopalong's wits and ability was absolute. He had such faiththat he attended to what he had to do about the ranch house and didnot appear on the line until he had decided to call on Meeker and putthe question before him once and for all. If the H2 foreman did notadmit the agreement and promise to abide by it then he would be toldto look for trouble.

  While Buck rode towards Lookout Peak, Hopalong dismounted at the linehouse perched on its top and found Red Connors seated on the roughbench by the door. Red, human firebrand both in hair and temper, wasHopalong's loyal chum--in the eyes of the other neither could dowrong. Red was cleaning his rifle, the pride of his heart, awicked-shooting Winchester which used the Government cartridgecontaining seventy grains of powder and five hundred grains of lead.With his rifle he was as expert as his friend was with the Colt, andup to six hundred yards, its limit with accuracy, he could do aboutwhat he wished with it.

  "Hullo, you," said Red, pleasantly. "You looks peevish."

  "An' you look foolish. What you doing?"

  "Minding my business."

  "Hard work?" sweetly asked Hopalong, carelessly seating himself on thesmall wooden box which lay close to his friend.

  "Hey, you!" cried Red, leaping up and hauling him away. "You bust themsights an' you'll be sorry! Ain't you got no sense?"

  "Sights? What are you going to do with 'em?"

  "Wear 'em 'round my neck for a charm! What'd you reckon I'd do with'em!"

  "Didn't know. I didn't think you'd put 'em on that thing," Hopalongreplied, looking with contempt at his friend's rifle. "Honest, youain't a-goin' to put 'em on that lead ranch, are you? You're like th'Indians--want a lot of shots to waste without re-loadin'."

  "I ain't wasting no shots, an' I'm going to put sights on that leadranch, too. These old ones are too coarse," Red replied, carefullyplacing the box out of danger. "Now you can sit down."

  "Thanks; please can I smoke?"

  Red grunted, pushed down the lever of the rifle, and began tore-assemble the parts, his friend watching the operation. When Redtried to slip the barrel into its socket Hopalong laughed and told himto first draw out the magazine, if he wanted to have any success.

  The line foreman took a cartridge from the pile on the bench andcompared it with one which he took from his belt, a huge, 45-caliberSharps special, shooting five hundred and fifty grains of lead withone hundred and twenty grains of powder out of a shell over threeinches long; a cartridge which shot with terrific force and for agreat distance, the weight of the large ball assuring accuracy at longranges. Beside this four-inch cartridge the Government ammunitionappeared dwarfed.

  "When are you going to wean yoreself from popping these musket caps,Red?" he asked, tossing the smaller cartridge away and putting his ownback in his belt.

  "Well, you've got gall!" snorted Red, going out for his cartridge.Returning with it he went back to work on his gun, his friend laughingat his clumsy fingers.

  "Yore fingers are all thumbs, an' sore at that."

  "Never mind my fingers. Have you seen Johnny around?"

  "Yes; he was watching one of them new H2 Greasers. He'll go off th'handle one of these days, for he hates Greasers worse'n I do, an' thatcoffee face'll drive him to gun-play. He reminds me a whole lot of abull-pup chained with a corral-ful of cats when there's Greasersaround."

  Red laughed and nodded. "Where's Lanky?"

  "Johnny said he was at Number Four fixin' that saddle again. He ain'tdone nothin' for th' last month but fix it. Purty soon there won't benone of it left to fix."

  "There certainly won't!"

  "His saddle an' yore gun make a good pair."

  "Let up about the gun. You can't say nothin' more about it withoutrepeatin' yoreself."

  "It's a sawed-off carbine. I'd ruther have a Spencer any day."

  "You remind me a whole lot of a feller I once knowed," Red retorted.

  "That so?" asked Hopalong, suspiciously. "Was he so nice?"

  "No; he was a fool," Red responded, going into the house.

  "Then that's where you got it, for they say it's catching."

  Red stuck his head out of the door. "On second thought you remind meof another feller."

  "You must 'a knowed some good people."

  "An' he was a liar."

  "Hullo, Hop Wah!" came from the edge of the hilltop and Hopalongwheeled to see Skinny Thompson approaching.

  "What you doing?" Skinny asked, using his stock question for beginninga conversation.

  "Painting white spots on pink elephants!"

  "Where's Red?"

  "In th' shack, rubbin' 'em off again."

  "Johnny chased that Greaser off'n th' ranch," Skinny offered,grinning.

  "Good for him!" cried Hopalong.

  "Johnny's all right--here comes Buck," Red said, coming out of thehouse. "Johnny's with him, too. Hullo, Kid!"

  "Hullo, Brick-top!" retorted Johnny, who did not like his nickname. Noone treated him as anything but a boy and he resented it at times.

  "Did he chase you far?" Hopalong queried.

  "I'd like to see anybody chase me!"

  Buck smiled. "How are things down here?"

  Hopalong related what had occurred and the foreman nodded. "I'm goingdown to see Meeker--he's th' only man who can tell me what we're tolook for. I don't want to keep so many men down here. Frenchy has gotall he can handle, an' I want somebody up in Two. So long."

  "Let me an' Red go with you, Buck," cried Hopalong.

  "Me, too!" exclaimed Johnny, excitedly.

  "You stay home, an' don't worry about me," replied the foreman, ridingoff.

  "I don't like to see him go alone," Hopalong muttered. "He may get araw deal down there. But if he does we'll wipe 'em off'n th' earth."

  "Mamma! Look there!" softly cried Johnny, staring towards the otherside of the plateau, where Mary Meeker rode past. Red and Skinny wereastonished and Johnny and Hopalong pretended to be; but all removedtheir sombreros while she remained in sight. Johnny was watchingHopalong's face, but when Red glanced around he was staring over thehill.

  "Gosh, ain't she a ripper!" he exclaimed softly.

  "She is," admitted Skinny. "She shore is."

  Hopalong rubbed his nose reflectively and turned to Red. "Did you evernotice how pretty a freckle is?"

  Red stared, for he had only toleration for the fair sex, and hisfriend continued:

  "Take a purty girl an' stick a freckle on her nose an' it sort oftakes yore breath."

  Red grinned. "I ain't never took a purty girl an' stuck a freckle onher nose, so I can't say."

  Hopalong flushed at the laughter and Skinny cried, joyously: "She'sgot two of us already! Meeker's got us licked if he'll let her showherself once in a while. Oh, these young fellers! Nothing can rope'em so quick as a female, an' th' purtier she is th' quicker she cando it."

  A warning light came into Hopalong's eyes. "Nobody in this outfit'llgo back on Buck for all th' purty women in th' world!"

  "Good boy!" thought Johnny.

  "We've got to watch th' Kid, just th' same," laug
hed Skinny.

  "I'll knock yore head off!" cried Johnny. "You're sore 'cause you knowyou ain't got no chance with women while me an' Hoppy are around!"

  Red looked critically at Hopalong and snickered. "If we've got to looklike him to catch th' women, thank God we don't want 'em!"

  "Is that so!" retorted Hopalong.

  "Say," drawled Skinny. "Wouldn't th' Kid look nice hobbled withmatrimony? That is, after he grows up."

  "You go to th' devil!"

  "Gee, Kid, you look bloodthirsty," laughed Red. "You can fool themGreasers easy if you looks like that."

  "You go to," Johnny retorted, swinging into the saddle. "I'm goingalong th' line to see what's loose."

  "I'll lick you when I see you again!" shouted Red, grinning.

  Johnny turned and twirled his fingers at his red-haired friend. "Yah,you ain't man enough!"

  "Johnny's gettin' more hungry for a fight every day," Hopalongremarked. "He's itching for one."

  "So was you a few years back, an' you ain't changed none," repliedRed. "You used to ride around looking for fights."

  "To hear you talk, anybody'd think you was a Angel of Peace," Hopalongretorted.

  "One's as bad as th' other, so shut up," Skinny remarked, going intothe house for a drink.

 
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