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- Bar-20 Days - 20/39 -
plumb glad you kicked 'em; it was coming to 'em."
"No, you ain't; you can't fool me," gravely assured Hopalong. "Yo're lying, an' you know it. What you going to do now? Ain't I got money enough? Wish I had an even break with you fellers! Wish my outfit was here!"
Stevenson, on his feet again, walked painfully up and shook his fist at the captive, from the side. "You'll find out what we want of you, you damned hoss-thief!" he cried. "We're going to tie you to that there limb so yore feet'll swing above the grass, that's what we're going to do."
Bill and Jed had their hands full for a moment and as they finally mastered the puncher, Charley came up with a rope. "Hurry up--no use dragging it out this way. I want to get back to the ranch some time before next week."
"Why /I/ ain't no hoss-thief, you liar!" Hopalong yelled. "My name's Hopalong Cassidy of the Bar-20, an' when I tell my friends about what you've gone an' done they'll make you hard to find! You gimme any kind of a chance an' I'll do it all by myself, sick as I am, you yaller dogs!"
"Is that yore cayuse?" demanded Charley, pointing.
Hopalong squinted towards the animal indicated. "Which one?"
"There's only one there, you fool!"
"That so?" replied Hopalong, surprised. "Well, I never seen it afore. My cayuse is--is--where the devil /is/ it?" he asked, looking around anxiously.
"How'd you get that one, then, if it ain't yours?"
"Never had it--'t ain't mine, nohow," replied Hopalong, with strong conviction. "Mine was a /hoss/."
"You stole that cayuse last night outen Stevenson's corral," continued Charley, merely as a matter of form. Charley believed that a man had the right to be heard before he died--it wouldn't change the result and so could not do any harm.
"Did I? Why--" his forehead became furrowed again, but the events of the night before were vague in his memory and he only stumbled in his soliloquy. "But /I/ wouldn't swap my cayuse for that spavined, saddle- galled, ring-boned bone-yard! Why, it interferes, an' it's got the heaves something awful!" he finished triumphantly, as if an appeal to common sense would clinch things. But he made no headway against them, for the rope went around his neck almost before he had finished talking and a flurry of excitement ensued. When the dust settled he was on his back again and the rope was being tossed over the limb.
The crowd had been too busily occupied to notice anything away from the scene of their strife and were greatly surprised when they heard a hail and saw a stranger sliding to a stand not twenty feet from them. "What's this?" demanded the newcomer, angrily.
Charley's gun glinted as it swung up and the stranger swore again. "What you doing?" he shouted. "Take that gun off'n me or I'll blow you apart!"
"Mind yore business an' sit still!" Charley snapped. "You ain't in no position to blow anything apart. We've got a hoss-thief an' we're shore going to hang him regardless."
"An' if there's any trouble about it we can hang two as well as we can one," suggested Stevenson, placidly. "You sit tight an' mind yore own affairs, stranger," he warned.
Hopalong turned his head slowly. "He's a liar, stranger; just a plain, squaw's dog of a liar. An' I'll be much obliged if you'll lick hell outen 'em an' let--/why, hullo, hoss-thief/!" he shouted, at once recognizing the other. It was the man he had met in the gospel tent, the man he had chased for a horse-thief and then swapped mounts with. "Stole any more cayuses?" he asked, grinning, believing that everything was all right now. "Did you take that cayuse back to Grant?" he finished.
"Han's up!" roared Stevenson, also covering the stranger. "So yo're another one of 'em, hey? We're in luck to-day. Watch him, boys, till I get his gun. If he moves, drop him quick."
"You damned fool!" cried Ferris, white with rage. "He ain't no thief, an' neither am I! My name's Ben Ferris an' I live in Winchester. Why, that man you've got is Hopalong Cassidy--Cassidy, of the Bar-20!"
"Sit still--you can talk later, mebby," replied Stevenson, warily approaching him. "Watch him, boys!"
"Hold on!" shouted Ferris, murder in his eyes. "Don't you try that on me! I'll get one of you before I go; I'll shore get one! You can listen a minute, an' I can't get away."
"All right; talk quick."
Ferris pleaded as hard as he knew how and called attention to the condition of the prisoner. "If he did take the wrong cayuse he was too blind drunk to know it! Can't you /see/ he was!" he cried.
"Yep; through yet?" asked Stevenson, quietly.
"No! I ain't started yet!" Ferris yelled. "He did me a good turn once, one that I can't never repay, an' I'm going to stop this murder or go with him. If I go I'll take one of you with me, an' my friends an' outfit'll get the rest."
"Wait till Old John gets here," suggested Jed to Charley. "He ought to know this feller."
"For the Lord's sake!" snorted Charley. "He won't show up for a week. Did you hear that, fellers?" he laughed, turning to the others.
"Stranger," began Stevenson, moving slowly ahead again. "You give us yore guns an' sit quiet till we gets this feller out of the way. We'll wait till Old John Ferris comes before doing anything with you. He ought to know you."
"He knows me all right; an' he'd like to see me hung," replied the stranger. "I won't give up my guns, an' you won't lynch Hopalong Cassidy while I can pull a trigger. That's flat!" He began to talk feverishly to gain time and his eyes lighted suddenly. Seeing that Jed White was wavering, Stevenson ordered them to go on with the work they had come to perform, and he watched Ferris as a cat watches a mouse, knowing that he would be the first man hit if the stranger got a chance to shoot. But Ferris stood up very slowly in his stirrups so as not to alarm the five with any quick movement, and shouted at the top of his voice, grabbing off his sombrero and waving it frantically. A faint cheer reached his ears and made the lynchers turn quickly and look behind them. Nine men were tearing towards them at a dead gallop and had already begun to forsake their bunched-up formation in favor of an extended line. They were due to arrive in a very few minutes and caused Mr. Ferris' heart to overflow with joy.
"Me an' my outfit," he said, laughing softly and waving his hand towards the newcomers, "started out this morning to round up a bunch of cows, an' we got jackasses instead. Now lynch him, damn you!"
The nine swept up in skirmish order, guns out and ready for anything in the nature of trouble that might zephyr up. "What's the matter, Ben?" asked Tom Murphy ominously. As under-foreman of the ranch he regarded himself as spokesman. And at that instant catching sight of the rope, he swore savagely under his breath.
"Nothing, Tom; nothing now," responded Mr. Ferris. "They was going to hang my friend there, Mr. Hopalong Cassidy, of the Bar-20. He's the feller that lent me his cayuse to get home on when Molly was sick. I'm going to take him back to the ranch when he gets sober an' introduce him to some very good friends of hissn that he ain't never seen. Ain't I, Cassidy?" he demanded with a laugh.
But Mr. Cassidy made no reply. He was sound asleep, as he had been since the advent of his very good and capable friend, Mr. Ben Ferris, of Winchester.
MR. TOWNSEND, MARSHAL
Mr. Cassidy went to the ranch and lived like a lord until shame drove him away. He had no business to live on cake and pie and wonderful dishes that Mrs. Ferris and her sister literally forced on him, and let Buck's mission wait on his convenience. So he tore himself away and made up for lost time as he continued his journey on his own horse, for which Tom Murphy and three men had faced down the scowling population of Hoyt's Corners. The rest of his journey was without incident until, on his return home along another route, he rode into Rawhide and heard about the marshal, Mr. Townsend.
This individual was unanimously regarded as an affliction upon society and there had been objections to his continued existence, which had been overruled by the object himself. Then word had gone forth that a substantial reward and the undying gratitude of a considerable number of people awaited the man who would rid the community of the pest who seemed to be ubiquitous. Several had come in response to the call, one had returned in a wagon, and the others were now looked upon as martyrs, and as examples of asinine foolhardiness. Then it had been decided to elect a marshal, or perhaps two or three, to preserve the peace of the town; but this was a flat failure. In the first place, Mr. Townsend had dispersed the meeting with no date set for a new one; in the second, no man wanted the office; and as a finish to the comedy, Mr. Townsend cheerfully announced that hereafter and henceforth he was the marshal, self-appointed and self-sustained. Those who did not like it could easily move to other localities.
With this touch of office-holding came ambition, and of stern stuff. The marshal asked himself why he could not be more officers than one and found no reason. Thereupon he announced that he was marshal, town council, mayor, justice, and pound-keeper. He did not go to the trouble of incorporating himself as the Town of Rawhide, because he knew nothing of such immaterial things; but he was the town, and that sufficed.
He had been grievously troubled about finances in the past, and he firmly believed that genius such as his should be above such petty annoyances as being "broke." That was why he constituted himself the keeper of the public pound, which contented him for a short time, but
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