I'd Just As Soon Hang For Nine Men As For One
From: Good Indian
Baumberger climbed heavily out of the rig, and went lurching drunkenly
up the path to the house where the cool shade of the grove was like
paradise set close against the boundary of the purgatory of blazing
sunshine and scorching sand. He had not gone ten steps from the stable
when he met Good Indian face to face.
"Hullo," he growled, stopping short and eying him malevolently with
Good Indian's lips curled silently, and he stepped aside to pursue his
way. Baumberger swung his huge body toward him.
"I said HULLO. Nothin' wrong in that, is there? HULLO--d'yuh hear?"
"Go to the devil!" said Grant shortly.
Baumberger leered at him offensively. "Pretty Polly! Never learned but
one set uh words in his life. Can't yuh say anything but 'Go to the
devil!' when a man speaks to yuh? Hey?"
"I could say a whole lot that you wouldn't be particularly glad to
hear." Good Indian stopped, and faced him, coldly angry. For one thing,
he knew that Evadna was waiting on the porch for him, and could see
even if she could not hear; and Baumberger's attitude was insulting. "I
think," he said meaningly, "I wouldn't press the point if I were you."
"Giving me advice, hey? And who the devil are you?"
"I wouldn't ask, if I were you. But if you really want to know, I'm the
fellow you hired Saunders to shoot. You blundered that time. You should
have picked a better man, Mr. Baumberger. Saunders couldn't have hit
the side of a barn if he'd been locked inside it. You ought to have made
Baumberger glared at him, and then lunged, his eyes like an animal gone
"I'll make a better job, then!" he bellowed. "Saunders was a fool. I
told him to get down next the trail and make a good job of it. I told
him to kill you, you lying, renegade Injun--and if he couldn't, I can!
Yuh WILL watch me, hey?"
Good Indian backed from him in sheer amazement. Epithets unprintable
poured in a stream from the loose, evil lips. Baumberger was a raving
beast of a man. He would have torn the other to pieces and reveled in
the doing. He bellowed forth threats against Good Indian and the Harts,
young and old, and vaunted rashly the things he meant to do. Heat-mad
and drink-mad he was, and it was as if the dam of his wily amiability
had broken and let loose the whole vile reservoir of his pirate mind. He
tried to strike Good Indian down where he stood, and when his blows were
parried he stopped, swayed a minute in drunken uncertainty, and then
make one of his catlike motions, pulled a gun, and fired without really
Another gun spoke then, and Baumberger collapsed in the sand, a
quivering heap of gross human flesh. Good Indian stood and looked down
at him fixedly while the smoke floated away from the muzzle of his own
gun. He heard Evadna screaming hysterically at the gate, and looked over
there inquiringly. Phoebe was running toward him, and the boys--Wally
and Gene and Jack, from the blacksmith shop. At the corner of the stable
Miss Georgie was sliding from her saddle, her riding whip clenched
tightly in her hand as she hurried to him. Peaceful stood beside the
team, with the lines still in his hand.
It was Miss Georgie's words which reached him clearly.
"You just HAD to do it, Grant. I saw the whole thing. You HAD to."
"Oh, Grant--GRANT! What have you done? What have you done?" That was
Phoebe Hart, saying the same thing over and over with a queer, moaning
inflection in her voice.
"D'yuh KILL him?" Gene shouted excitedly, as he ran up to the spot.
"Yes." Good Indian glanced once more at the heap before him. "And I'm
liable to kill a few more before I'm through with the deal." He swung
short around, discovered that Evadna was clutching his arm and crying,
and pulled loose from her with a gesture of impatience. With the gun
still in his hand, he walked quickly down the road in the direction of
"He's mad! The boy is mad! He's going to kill--" Phoebe gave a sob, and
ran after him, and with her went Miss Georgie and Evadna, white-faced,
all three of them.
"Come on, boys--he's going to clean out the whole bunch!" whooped Gene.
"Oh, choke off!" Wally gritted disgustedly, glancing over his shoulder
at them. "Go back to the house, and STAY there! Ma, make Vad quit that
yelling, can't yuh?" He looked eloquently at Jack, keeping pace with him
and smiling with the steely glitter in his eyes. "Women make me sick!"
he snorted under his breath.
Peaceful stared after them, went into the stable, and got a blanket to
throw over Baumberger's inert body, stooped, and made sure that the man
was dead, with the left breast of his light negligee shirt all blackened
with powder and soaked with blood; covered him well, and tied up the
team. Then he went to the house, and got the old rifle that had killed
Indians and buffalo alike, and went quickly through the grove to
the garden. He was a methodical man, and he was counted slow, but
nevertheless he reached the scene not much behind the others. Wally was
trying to send his mother to the house with Evadna, and neither would
go. Miss Georgie was standing near Good Indian, watching Stanley with
her lips pressed together.
It is doubtful if Good Indian realized what the others were doing. He
had gone straight past the line of stakes to where Stanley was sitting
with his back against the lightning-stricken apricot tree. Stanley was
smoking a cigarette as if he had heard nothing of the excitement, but
his rifle was resting upon his knee in such a manner that he had but to
lift it and take aim. The three others were upon their own claims, and
they, also, seemed unobtrusively ready for whatever might be going to
Good Indian appraised the situation with a quick glance as he came up,
but he did not slacken his pace until he was within ten feet of Stanley.
"You're across the dead line, m' son," said Stanley, with lazy
significance. "And you, too," he added, flickering a glance at Miss
"The dead line," said Good Indian coolly, "is beyond the Point o' Rocks.
I'd like to see you on the other side by sundown."
Stanley looked him over, from the crown of his gray hat to the tips of
his riding-boots, and laughed when his eyes came back to Good Indian's
face. But the laugh died out rather suddenly at what he saw there.
"Got the papers for that?" he asked calmly. But his jaw had squared.
"I've got something better than papers. Your boss is dead. I shot him
just now. He's lying back there by the stable." Good Indian tilted
his head backward, without taking his eyes from Stanley's face--and
Stanley's right hand, too, perhaps. "If you don't want the same
medicine, I'd advise you to quit."
Stanley's jaw dropped, but it was surprise which slackened the muscles.
"Baumberger. I said it."
"You'll hang for that," Stanley stated impersonally, without moving.
Good Indian smiled, but it only made his face more ominous.
"Well, they can't hang a man more than once. I'll see this ranch cleaned
up while I'm about it. I'd just as soon," he added composedly, "be
hanged for nine men as for one."
Stanley sat on his haunches, and regarded him unwinkingly for so long
that Phoebe's nerves took a panic, and she drew Evadna away from the
place. The boys edged closer, their hands resting suggestively upon
their gun-butts. Old Peaceful half-raised his rifle, and held it so. It
was like being compelled to watch a fuse hiss and shrivel and go black
toward a keg of gun-powder.
"I believe, by heck, you would!" said Stanley at last, and so long a
time had elapsed that even Good Indian had to think back to know what
he meant. Stanley squinted up at the sun, hitched himself up so that his
back rested against the tree more comfortably, inspected his cigarette,
and then fumbled for a match with which to relight it. "How'd you find
out Baumberger was back uh this deal?" he asked curiously and without
any personal resentment in tone or manner, and raked the match along his
Good Indian's shoulders went up a little.
"I knew, and that's sufficient. The dead line is down past the Point
o' Rocks. After sundown this ranch is going to hold the Harts and their
friends--and NO ONE ELSE. Tell that to your pals, unless you've got a
grudge against them!"
Stanley held his cigarette between his fingers, and blew smoke through
his nostrils while he watched Good Indian turn his back and walk away.
He did not easily lose his hold of himself, and this was, with him, a
cold business proposition.
Miss Georgie stood where she was until she saw that Stanley did not
intend to shoot Good Indian in the back, as he might have done easily
enough, and followed so quickly that she soon came up with him. Good
Indian turned at the rustling of the skirts immediately behind him, and
looked down at her somberly. Then he caught sight of something she was
carrying in her hand, and he gave a short laugh.
"What are you doing with that thing?" he asked peremptorily.
Miss Georgie blushed very red, and slid the thing into her pocket.
"Well, every little helps," she retorted, with a miserable attempt at
her old breeziness of manner. "I thought for a minute I'd have to shoot
that man Stanley--when you turned your back on him."
Good Indian stopped, looked at her queerly, and went on again without
saying a word.
Next: When The Sun Goes Away
Previous: Peaceful Returns