Page:Yule Logs.djvu/414

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398
ON A MEXICAN RANCHE

Had the occurrence been altogether opposed to the rules governing the conduct of the cowboys in such matters, he would have been shot down at once; but there had been a serious quarrel, and according to their notions Tom should have been ready to draw when his companion did so; still, it was felt that as dealing with a young hand who had never been engaged in such an affair before, Jake had not given him a fair chance.

Tom's belongings were handed over to Harry. For the next three years Harry practised assiduously with his revolver, and at the end of that time was acknowledged as being the best shot in his outfit. He was now regarded as no longer a boy, but took his place as a cowboy; he was now nineteen, and the life he had led had hardened and strengthened him exceedingly; he stood five feet ten, he was lithe and sinewy, and the muscles of his arms and shoulders stood up in cords through his clear skin.

It now came to his knowledge that Jake was at work in an adjoining ranche, and taking two of his comrades with him, he rode over there. As usual, they were at once, on their arrival, invited to sit down and join the others at supper.

"I cannot do that," Harry said, "until I have settled accounts with one Jake Swindon."

A figure sprang at once to his feet with his hand behind him, but already Harry's pistol was levelled at his head.

"Hands up," he shouted. "Now," he went on, "I am not going to murder you in cold blood, as you murdered my brother, Tom Denham; I am going to give you a fair chance—more than a skunk like you deserves. Now, Dick, do you take thirty paces; we will be placed that distance apart, with our backs to each other, and when the word is given we will shoot as we like. That is fair, isn't it, boys?"

There was a murmur of assent.

"Very well. Now my two mates will walk with that