The Coming of Cassidy/Sammy finds a friend

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XI

SAMMY FINDS A FRIEND

THE long train ride and the excitement were over and the outfit, homeward bound, loped along the trail, noisily discussing their exciting and humorous experiences and laughingly commented upon Hopalong's decision to follow them later. They could not understand why he should be interested in a town like Sandy Creek after a week spent in the city.

Back in the little cow-town their friend was standing in the office of the hotel, gazing abstractedly out of the window. His eyes caught and focused on a woman who was walking slowly along the other side of the square and finally paused before McCall's "Palace," a combination saloon, dance and gambling hall. He smiled cynically as his memory ran back over those other women he had seen in cow-towns and wondered how it was that the men of the ranges could rise to a chivalry that was famed. At that distance she was strikingly pretty. Her complexion was an alluring blend of color that the gold of her hair crowned like a burst of sunshine. He noticed that her eyebrows were too prominent, too black and heavy to be Nature's contribution. And there was about her a certain forwardness, a dash that bespoke no bashful Miss; and her clothes, though well-fitting, somehow did not please his untrained eye. A sudden impulse seized him and he strode to the door and crossed the dusty square, avoiding the piles of rusted cans, broken bottles and other rubbish that littered it.

She had become interested in a dingy window but turned to greet him with a resplendent smile as he stepped to the wooden walk. He noted with displeasure that the white teeth displayed two shining panels of gold that drew his eyes irresistibly; and then and there he hated gold teeth.

"Hello," she laughed. "I 'm glad to see somebody that 's alive in this town. Ain't it awful?"

He instinctively removed his sombrero and was conscious that his habitual bashfulness in the presence of members of her sex was somehow lacking. "Why, I don't see nothin' extra dead about it," he replied. "Most of these towns are this way in daylight. Th' moths ain't out yet. You should 'a' been here last night!"

"Yes? But you 're out; an' you look like you might be able to fly," she replied.

"Yes; I suppose so," he laughed.

"I see you wear two of 'em," she said, glancing at his guns. "Ain't one of them things enough?"

"One usually is, mostly," he assented. "But I 'm pig-headed, so I wears two."

"Ain't it awrful hard to use two of 'em at once?" she asked, her tone flattering. "Then you 're one of them two-gun men I 've heard about, ain't you?"

"An' seen?" he smiled.

"Yes, I 've seen a couple. Where you goin' so early?"

"Just lookin' th' town over," he answered, glancing over her shoulder at a cub of a cowpuncher who had opened the door of the "Retreat," but stopped in his tracks when he saw the couple in front of McCall's. There was a look of surprised interest on the cub's face, and it swiftly changed to one of envious interest. Hopalong's glance did not linger, but swept carelessly along the row of shacks and back to his companion's face without betraying his discovery.

"Well; you can look it over in about ten seconds, from th' outside," she rejoined. "An' it's so dusty out here. My throat is awful dry already."

He had n't noticed any dust in the air, but he nodded. "Yes; thirsty?"

"Well, it ain't polite or ladylike to say yes," she demurred, "but I really am."

He held open the door of the "Palace" and preceded her to the dance hall, where she rippled the keys of the old piano as she swept past it. The order given and served, he sipped at his glass and carried on his share of a light conversation until, suddenly, he arose and made his apologies. "I got to attend to something" he regretted as he picked up his sombrero and turned. "See you later."

"Why!" she exclaimed. "I was just beginnin' to get acquainted!"

"A moth without money ain't no good," he smiled. "I 'm goin' out to find th' money. When I 'm in good company I like to spend. See you later?" He bowed as she nodded, and departed.

Emerging from McCall's he glanced at the "Retreat" and sauntered toward it. When he entered he found the cub resting his elbows on the pine bar, arguing with the bartender about the cigars sold in the establishment. The cub glanced up and appealed to the newcomer. "Ain't they?" he demanded.

Hopalong nodded. "I reckon so. But what is it about?"

"These cigars," explained the cub, ruefully. "I was just sayin' there ain't a good one in town."

"You lose," replied Hopalong. "Are you shore you knows a good cigar when you smokes it?"

"I know it so well that I ain't found one since I left Kansas City. You said I lose. Do you know one well enough to be a judge?"

Hopalong reached to his vest pocket, extracted a cigar and handed it to the cub, who took it hesitatingly. "Why, I'm much obliged. I—I did n't mean that—you know."

Hopalong nodded and rearranged the cigar's twin-brothers in his pocket. He would be relieved when they were smoked, for they made him nervous with their frailty. The cub lighted the cigar and an unaffected grin of delight wreathed his features as the smoke issued from his nostrils. "Who sells 'em?" he demanded, excitedly.

"Corson an' Lukins, up th' hill from th' depot," answered Hopalong. "Like it?"

"Like it! Why, stranger, I used to spend most of my week's pocket money for these." He paused and stared at the smiling puncher. "Did you say Corson an' Lukins?" he demanded incredulously. "Well, I 'll be hanged! When was you there?"

"Last week. Here, bartender; liquor for all hands."

The cub touched the glass to his lips and waved his hand at a table. Seated across from the stranger with the heaven-sent cigars he ordered the second round, and when he went to pay for it he drew out a big roll of bills and peeled off the one on the outside.

Hopalong frowned. "Sonny," he said in a low voice, "it ain't none of my affair, but you oughta put that wad away an' forget you have it when out in public. You should n't tempt yore feller men like that."

The cub laughed: "Oh, I had my eye teeth cut long ago. Play a little game?"

Hopalong was amused. "Didn't I just tell you not to tempt yore feller men?"

The cub grinned. "I reckon it 'll fade quick, anyhow; but it took me six months' hard work to get it together. It 'll last about six days, I suppose."

"Six hours, if you plays every man that comes along," corrected Hopalong.

"Well, mebby," admitted the cub. "Say: that was one fine girl you was talkin' to, all right," he grinned.

Hopalong studied him a moment. "Not meanin' no offense, what's yore name?"

"Sammy Porter; why?"

"Well, Sammy," remarked Hopalong as he arose. "I reckon we 'll meet again before I leave. You was remarkin' she was a fine girl. I admit it; she was. So long," and he started for the door.

Sammy flushed. "Why, I—I didn't mean nothin'!" he exclaimed. "I just happened to think about her—that's all! You know, I saw you talkin' to her. Of course, you saw her first," he explained.

Hopalong turned and smiled kindly. "You did n't say nothin' to offend me. I was just startin' when you spoke. But as long as you mentioned it I 'll say that my interest in th' lady was only brief. Her interest in me was th' same. Beyond lettin' you know that I 'll add that I don't generally discuss wimmin. I 'll see you later," and, nodding cheerily, he went out and closed the door behind him.


Hopalong leaned lazily against the hotel, out of reach of the spring wind, which was still sharp, and basked in the warmth of the timid sun. He regarded the little cow-town cynically but smilingly and found no particular fault with it. Existing because the railroad construction work of the season before had chanced to stop on the eastern bank of the deceptive creek, and because of the nearness of three drive trails, one of them important, the town had sprung up, mushroom-like, almost in a night. Facing on the square were two general stores, the railroad station and buildings, two restaurants, a dozen saloons where gambling either was the main attraction or an ambitious side-line, McCall's place and a barber shop with a dingy, bullet-peppered red-and-white pole set close to the door. Between the barber shop and McCall's was a narrow space, and the windows of the two buildings, while not opposite, opened on the little strip of ground separating them.

Rubbing a hand across his chin he regarded the barber shop thoughtfully and finally pushed away from the sun-warmed wall of the hotel and started lazily toward the red-and-white pole. As he did so the tin-panny notes of a piano redoubled and a woman's voice shrilly arose to a high note, flatted, broke and swiftly dropped an octave. He squirmed and looked speculatively along the westward trail, wondering how far away his outfit was and why he had not gone with them. Another soaring note that did not flat and a crashing chord from the piano were followed by a burst of uproarious, reckless laughter. Hopalong frowned, snapped his fingers in sudden decision and stepped briskly toward the barber shop as the piano began anew.

Entering quietly and closing the door softly, he glanced appraisingly through the windows and made known his wants in a low voice. "I want a shave, haircut, shampoo, an' anythin' else you can think of. I 'm tired an' don't want to talk. Take yore own time an' do a good job; an' if I 'm asleep when yo 're through, don't wake me till somebody else wants th' chair. Savvy? All right—start in."

In McCall's a stolid bartender listened to the snatches of conversation that filtered under the door to the dance hall alongside and on his face there at times flickered the suggestion of a cynical smile. A heavy, dark complexioned man entered from the street and glanced at the closed door of the dance hall. The bartender nodded and held up a staying hand, after which he shoved a drink across the bar. The heavy-set man carefully wiped a few drops of spilled liquor from his white, tapering hands and seated himself with a sigh of relief, and became busy with his thoughts until the time should come when he would be needed.

On the other side of that door a little comedy was being enacted. The musician, a woman, toyed with the keys of the warped and scratched piano, the dim light from the shaded windows mercifully hiding the paint and the hardness of her face and helping the jewelry, with which her hands were covered, keep its tawdry secret.

"I don't see what makes you so touchy," grumbled Sammy in a pout. "I ain't goin' to hurt you if I touch yore arm." He was flushed and there was a suspicious unsteadiness in his voice.

She laughed. "Why, I thought you wanted to talk?"

"I did," he admitted, sullenly; "but there's a limit to most wants. Oh, well: go ahead an' play. That last piece was all right; but give us a gallop or a mazurka—anything lively. Better yet, a caprice: it's in keepin' with yore temperament. If you was to try to interpert mine you 'd have to dig it out of Verdi an' toll a funeral bell."

"Say; who told you so much about music?" she demanded.

"Th' man that makes harmonicas," he grinned. He arose and took a step toward her, but she retreated swiftly, smiling. "Now behave yourself, for a little while, at least. What's th' matter with you, anyhow? What makes you so silly?"

"You, of course. I don't see no purty wimmin out on th' range, an' you went to my head th' minute I laid eyes on you. I ain't in no hurry to leave this town, now nohow."

"I 'm afraid you 're going to be awful when you grow up. But you 're a nice boy to say such pretty things. Here," she said, filling his glass and handing it to him, "let's drink another toast—you know such nice ones."

"Yes; an' if I don't run out of 'em purty soon I 'll have to hunt a solid, immovable corner somewheres; an' there ain't nothin' solid or immovable about this room at present," he growled. "What you allus drinkin' to somethin' for? Well, here's a toast—I don't know any more fancy ones. Here's to—you!"

"That's nicer than—oh, pshaw!" she exclaimed, pouting. "An' you would n't drink a full glass to that one. You must think I 'm nice, when you renig like that! Don't tell me any more pretty things—an' stop right where you are! Think you can hang onto me after that? Well, that's better; why didn't you do it th' first time? You can be a nice boy when you want to."

He flushed angrily. "Will you stop callin' me a boy?" he demanded unsteadily. "I ain't no kid! I do a man's work, earn a man's pay, an' I spend it like a man."

"An' drink a boy's drink," she teased. "You 'll grow up some day." She reached forward and filled his glass again, for an instant letting her cheek touch his. Swiftly evading him she laughed and patted him on the head. "Here, man," she taunted, "drink this if you dare!"

He frowned at her but gulped down the liquor. "There, like a fool!" he grumbled, bitterly. "You tryin' to get me drunk?" he demanded suddenly in a heavy voice.

She threw back her head and regarded him coldly. "It will do me no good. Why should I? I merely wanted to see if you would take a dare, if you were a man. You are either not sober now, or you are insultingly impolite. I don't care to waste any more words or time with you," and she turned haughtily toward the door.

He had leaned against the piano, but now he lurched forward and cried out. "I 'm sorry if I hurt yore feelin's that way—I shore didn't mean to. Ain't we goin' to make up?" he asked, anxiously.

"Do you mean that?" she demanded, pausing and looking around.

"You know I do, Annie. Le's make up—come on; le's make up."

"Well; I'll try you, an' see."

"Play some more. You play beautiful," he assured her with heavy gravity.

"I'm tired of—but, say: Can you play poker?" she asked, eagerly.

"Why, shore; who can't?"

"Well, I can't, for one. I want to learn, so I can win my money back from Jim. He taught me, but all I had time to learn was how to lose."

Sammy regarded her in puzzled surprise and gradually the idea became plain. "Did he teach you, an' win money from you? Did he keep it?" he finally blurted, his face flushed a deeper red from anger.

She nodded. "Why, yes; why?"

He looked around for his sombrero, muttering savagely.

"Where you goin'?" she asked in surprise.

"To get it back. He ain't goin' to keep it, th' coyote!"

"Why, he won't give it back to you if he would n't to me. Anyhow, he won it."

"Won it!" he snapped. "He stole it, that's how much he won it. He 'll give it back or get shot."

"Now look here," she said, quickly. "You ain't goin' gunnin' for no friend of mine. If you want to get that money for me, an' I certainly can use it about now, you got to try some other way. Say! Why don't you win it from him?" she exulted. "That's th' way—get it back th' way it went."

He weighed her words and a grin slowly crept across his face. "Why, I reckon you called it, that time, Annie. That's th' way I 'll try first, anyhow, Li'l Girl. Where is this good friend of yourn that steals yore money? Where is this feller?"

As if in answer to his inquiry the heavy-set man strolled in, humming cheerily. And as he did so the sleepy occupant of the barber's chair slowly awoke, rubbed his eyes, stretched luxuriously and, paying his bill, loafed out and lazily sauntered down the street, swearing softly.

"Why, here he is now," laughed the woman. "You must 'a' heard us talkin' about you, Jim. I 'm goin' to get my money back—this is Mr. Porter, Jim, who 's goin' to do it."

The gambler smiled and held out his hand. "Howd'y, Mr. Porter," he said.

Sammy glared at him: "Put yore paw down," he said, thickly. "I ain't shakin' han's with no dogs or tin-horns."

The gambler recoiled and flushed, fighting hard to repress his anger. "What you mean?" he growled, furiously. "What I said. If you want revenge sit down there an' play, if you 've got th' nerve to play with a man. I never let no coyote steal a woman's money, an' I 'm goin' to get Annie her twenty. Savvy?"

The gambler's reply was a snarl. "Play!" he sneered. "I'll play, all right. It'll take more 'n a sassy kid to get that money back, too. I 'm goin' to take yore last red cent. You can't talk to me like that an' get it over. An' don't let me hear you call her 'Annie' no more, neither. Yo 're too cussed familiar!"

Her hand on Sammy's arm stopped the draw and he let the gun drop back into the holster. "No!" she whispered. "Make a fool of him, Sammy! Beat him at his own game."

Sammy nodded and scowled blackly. "I call th' names as suits me," he retorted. "When I see you on th' street I 'm goin' to call you some that I 'm savin' up now because a lady 's present. They 're hefty, too."

At first he won, but always small amounts. Becoming reckless, he plunged heavily on a fair hand and lost. He plunged again on a better hand and lost. Then he steadied as much as his befuddled brain would permit and played a careful game, winning a small pot. Another small winning destroyed his caution and he plunged again, losing heavily. Steadying himself once more he began a new deal with excess caution and was bluffed out of the pot, the gambler sneeringly showing his cards as he threw them down. Sammy glanced around to say something to the woman, but found she had gone. "Aw, never mind her!" growled his opponent. "She 'll be back—she can't stay away from a kid like you."

The woman was passing through the barroom and, winking at the bartender, opened the door and stepped to the street. She smiled as she caught sight of the limping stranger coming toward her. He might have found money, but she was certain he had found something else and in generous quantities. He removed his sombrero with an exaggerated sweep of his hand and hastened to meet her, walking with the conscious erectness of a man whose feet are the last part of him to succumb. "Hullo, Sugar," he grinned. "I found some, a'right. Now we 'll have some music. Come long."

"There ain't no hurry," she answered. "We 'll take a little walk first."

"No, we won't. We 'll have some music an' somethin' to drink. If you won't make th' music, I will; or shoot up th' machine. Come 'long, Sugar," he leered, pushing open the door with a resounding slam. He nodded to the bartender and apologized. "No harm meant, Friend. It sorta slipped; jus' slipped, tha's all. Th' young lady an' me is goin' to have some music. What? All right for you, Sugar! Then I'll make it myself," and he paraded stiffly toward the inner door.

The bartender leaned suddenly forward. "Keep out of there! You 'll bust that pianner!"

The puncher stopped with a jerk, swung ponderously on his heel and leveled a forefinger at the dispenser of drinks. "I won't," he said. "An' if I do, I 'll pay for it. Come on, Sugar—le's play th' old thing, jus' for spite." Grasping her arm he gently but firmly escorted her into the dance hall and seated her at the piano. As he straightened up he noticed the card players and, bowing low to her, turned and addressed them.

"Gents," he announced, bowing again, "we are goin' to have a li'l music an' we hopes you won't objec'. Not that we gives a d—n, but we jus' hopes you won't." He laughed loudly at his joke and leaned against the piano. "Let 'er go," he cried, beating time. "Allaman lef an' ladies change! Swing yore partner's gal—I mean, swing some other gal: but what's th' difference? All join han's an' hop to th' middle—nope! It 's all han's roun' an' swing 'em again. But it don't make no difference, does it, Lulu?" He whooped loudly and marched across the room, executed a few fancy steps and marched back again. As he passed the card table Sammy threw down his hand and arose with a curse. The marcher stopped, fiddled a bit with his feet until obtaining his balance, and then regarded the youth quizzically. "S'matter, Sonny?" he inquired.

Sammy scowled, slowly recognized the owner of the imported cigars and shook his head. "Big han's, but not big enough; an' I lost my pile." Staggering to the piano he plumped down on a chair near it and watched the rippling fingers of the player in drunken interest.

The hilarious cowpuncher, leaning backward perilously, recovered his poise for a moment and then lurched forward into the chair the youth had just left. "Come on, pardner," he grinned across at the gambler. "Le's gamble. I been honin' for a game, an' here she is." He picked up the cards, shuffled them clumsily and pushed them out for the cut. The gambler hesitated, considered and then turned over a jack. He lost the deal and shoved out a quarter without interest.

The puncher leaned over, looked at it closely and grinned. "Two bits? That ain't poker; that's—that's dominoes!" he blurted, angrily, with the quick change of mood of a man in his cups.

"I ain't anxious to play," replied the gambler. "I 'll kill a li'l time at a two-bit game, though. Otherwise I 'll quit."

"A'right," replied the dealer. "I did n't expec' nothin' else from a tin-horn, no-how. I want two cards after you get yourn." The gambler called on the second raise and smiled to himself when he saw that his opponent had drawn to a pair and an ace. He won on his own deal and on the one following.

The puncher increased the ante on the fourth deal and looked up inquiringly, a grin on his face. "Le's move out th' infant class," he suggested.

The gambler regarded him sharply. "Well, th' other was sorta tender," he admitted, nodding.

The puncher pulled out a handful of gold coins and clumsily tried to stalk them, which he succeeded in doing after three attempts. He was so busy that he did not notice the look in the other's eyes. Picking up his hand he winked at it and discarded one. "Goin' to raise th' ante a few," he chuckled. "I got a feelin' I 'm goin' t' be lucky." When the card was dealt to him he let it lay and bet heavily. The gambler saw it and raised in turn, and the puncher, frowning in indecision, nodded his head wisely and met it, calling as he did so. His four fives were just two spots shy to win and he grumbled loudly at his luck. "Huh," he finished, "she 's a jack pot, eh?" He slid a double eagle out to the center of the table and laughed recklessly. The deals went around rapidly, each one calling for a ten-dollar sweetener and when the seventh hand was dealt the puncher picked his cards and laughed. "She 's open," he cried, "for fifty," and shoved out the money with one hand while he dug up a reserve pile from his pocket with the other.

The gambler saw the opener and raised it fifty, smiling at his opponent's expression. The puncher grunted his surprise, studied his hand, glanced at the pot and shrugging his shoulders, saw the raise. He drew two cards and chuckled as he slid them into his hand; but before the dealer could make his own draw the puncher's chuckle died out and he stared over the gambler's shoulder. With an oath he jerked out his gun and fired. The gambler leaped to his feet and whirled around to look behind. Then he angrily faced the frowning puncher. "What you think yo 're doin'?" he demanded, his hand resting inside his coat, the thumb hooked over the edge of the vest.

The puncher waved his hand apologetically. "I never have no luck when I sees a cat," he explained. "A black cat is worse; but a yaller one's bad enough. I 'll bet that yaller devil won't come back in a hurry—judgin' by th' way it started. I won't miss him, if he does."

The gambler, still frowning, glanced at the deck suspiciously and saw that it lay as he had dropped it. The bartender, grinning at them from the door, cracked a joke and went back to the bar. Sammy, after a wild look around, settled back in his chair and soothed the pianist a little before going back to sleep.

Drawing two cards the gambler shoved them in his hand without a change in his expression—but he was greatly puzzled. It was seldom that he bungled and he was not certain that he had. The discard contained the right number of cards and his opponent's face gave no hint to the thoughts behind it. He hesitated before he saw the bet—ten dollars was not much, for the size of the pot justified more. He slowly saw it, willing to lose the ten in order to see his opponent's cards. There was something he wished to know, and he wanted to know it as soon as he could. "I call that," he said. The puncher's expression of tenseness relaxed into one of great relief and he hurriedly dropped his cards. Three kings, an eight, and a deuce was his offering. The gambler laid down a pair of queens, a ten, an eight and a four, waved his hand and smiled. "It's just as well I did n't draw another queen," he observed, calmly. "I might 'a' raised once for luck."

The puncher raked in the pot and turned around in his chair. "I cleaned up that time," he exulted to the woman. She had stopped playing and was stroking Sammy's forehead. Smiling at the exuberant winner she nodded. "You should have let the cat stay—I think it really brought you luck." He shook his head emphatically. "No, ma'am! It was chasin' it away as did that. That's what did it, a'right."

The gambler glanced quickly at the two top cards on the deck and was picking up those scattered on the table when his opponent turned around again. How that queen and ten had got two cards too deep puzzled him greatly—he was willing to wager even money that he would not look away again until the game was finished, not if all the cats in the world were being slaughtered. One hundred and ninety dollars was too much money to pay for being caught off his guard, as he was tempted to believe he had been. He did not know how much liquor the other had consumed, but he seemed to be sobering rapidly.

The next few deals did not amount to much. Then a jackpot came around and was pushed hard. The puncher was dealing and as he picked up the deck after the cut he grinned and winked. "Th' skirmishin' now bein' over, th' battle begins. If that cat stays away long enough mebby I 'll make a killin'."

"All right; but don't make no more gun-plays," warned the gambler, coldly. "I allus get excited when I smells gun-powder an' I do reckless things sometimes," he added, significantly.

"Then I shore hopes you keep ca'm," laughed the puncher, loud enough to be heard over the noise of the piano, which was now going again.

The pot was sweetened three times and then the gambler dealt his opponent openers. The puncher looked anxiously through the door, grinning coltishly. He slowly pushed out twenty dollars. "There's th' key," he grunted. "A'right; see that an' raise you back. Good for you! I 'm stayin' an' boostin' same as ever. Fine! See it again, an' add this. I 'm playin' with yore money, so I c'n afford to be reckless. All right; I 'm satisfied, too. Gimme one li'l card. I shore am glad I don't need th' king of hearts—that was shore on th' bottom when th' deal begun."

The gambler, having drawn, cursed and reached swiftly toward his vest pocket; but he stopped suddenly and contemplated the Colt that peeked over the edge of the table. It looked squarely at his short ribs and was backed by a sober, angry man who gazed steadily into his eyes. "Drop that hand," said the puncher in a whisper just loud enough to be heard by the other over the noise of the piano. "I never did like them shoulder holsters—I carry my irons where everybody can see 'em." Leaning forward swiftly he reached out his left hand and cautiously turned over the other's cards. The fourth one was the king of hearts. "Don't move," he whispered, not wishing to have the bartender take a hand from behind. "An' don't talk," he warned as he leaned farther forward and shoved his Colt against the other's vest and with his left hand extracted a short-barreled gun from the sheath under the gambler's armpit. Sinking back in his chair he listened a moment and, raking in the pot, stowed it away with the other winnings in his pockets.

The gambler stirred, but stopped as the Colt leaped like a flash of light to the edge of the table.

"Tin-horn," said the puncher, softly, "you ain't slick enough. I did n't stop you when you wanted that queen an' ten because I wanted you to go on with th' crookedness. Yaller cats is more unlucky to you than they are to me. But when I saw that last play I lost my temper; an' I stopped you. Now if you 'll cheat with me, you 'll cheat with a drunk boy. So, havin' cheated him, you really stole his money away from him. That bein' so, you will dig up six month's wages at about fifty per month. I 'd shoot you just as quick as I 'd shoot a snake; so don't get no fool notions in yore head. Dig it right up."

The gambler studied the man across from him, but after a moment he silently placed some money on the table. "It was only two forty," he observed, holding to three double eagles. The puncher nodded: "I 'll take yore word for that. Now, in th' beginnin' I only wanted to get th' boy his money; but when you started cheatin' against me I changed my mind. I played fair. Now here's your short-five," he said as he slid the gun across the table. "Mebby you might want to use it sometime," he smiled. "Now you vamoose; an' if I see you in town after th' next train leaves, I 'll make you use that shoulder holster. An' tell yore friends that Hopalong Cassidy says, that for a country where men can tote their hardware in plain sight, a shoulder layout ain't no good: you gotta reach too high. Adios."

He watched the silent, philosophical man-of-cards walk slowly toward the door, upright, dignified and calm. Then he turned and approached the piano. "Sister," he said, politely, "yore gamblin' friend is leavin' town on th' next train. He has pressin' business back east a couple of stations an' wonders if you 'll join him at th' depot in time for th' next train."

She had stopped playing and was staring at him in amazement. "Why didn't he come an' tell me himself, 'stead of sneakin' away an' sendin' you over?" she at last demanded, angrily.

"Well, he wanted to, but he saw a man an' slipped out with his gun in his hand. Mebby there'll be trouble; but I dunno. I'm just tellin' you. Gee," he laughed, looking at the snoring youth in the chair, "he got that quick. Why, I saw him less 'n two hours ago an' he was sober as a judge. Reckon I 'll take him over to th' hotel an' put him to bed." He went over to the helpless Sammy, shook him and made him get on his feet. "Come along, Kid," he said, slipping his arm under the sagging shoulder. "We'll get along. Good-by, Sugar," and, supporting the feebly protesting cub, he slowly made his way to the rear door and was gone, a grin wreathing his face as he heard the chink of gold coins in his several pockets.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.


The author died in 1956, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 60 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.