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Johnny Arrives








From: Bar-20 Days

Meanwhile Hopalong and Red quarrelled petulantly and damned the erring
Johnny with enthusiastic abandon, while Dent smiled at them and joked;
but his efforts at levity made little impression on the irate pair. Red,
true to his word, had turned up at the time set, in fact, he was half
an hour ahead of time, for which miracle he endeavored to take great and
disproportionate credit. Dent was secretly glad about the delay, for he
found his place lonesome. He thoroughly enjoyed the company of the two
gentlemen from the Bar-20, whose actions seemed to be governed by whims
and who appeared to lack all regard for consequences; and they squabbled
so refreshingly, and spent their money cheerfully. Now, if they would
only wind up the day by fighting! Such a finish would be joy indeed. And
speaking of fights, Dent was certain that Mr. Cassidy had been in one
recently, for his face bore marks that could only be acquired in that
way.

After supper the two guests had relapsed into a silence which endured
only as long as the pleasing fulness. Then the squabbling began again,
growing worse until they fell silent from lack of adequate expression.
Finally Red once again spoke of their absent friend.

"We oughtn't get peevish, Hoppy--he's only thirty-six hours late,"
suggested Red. "An' he might be a week," he added thoughtfully, as his
mind ran back over a long list of Johnny's misdeeds.

"Yes, he might. An' won't he have a fine cock-an'-bull tale to explain
it," growled Hopalong, reminiscently. "His excuses are the worst part of
it generally."

"Eh, does he--make excuses?" asked Dent, mildly surprised.

"He does to us," retorted Red savagely. "He's worse than a woman; take
him all in all an' you've got the toughest proposition that ever wore
pants. But he's a good feller, at that."

"Well, you've got a lot of nerve, you have!" retorted Hopalong. "You
don't want to say anything about the Kid--if there's anybody that can
beat him in being late an' acting the fool generally, it's you. An'
what's more, you know it!"

Red wheeled to reply, but was interrupted by a sudden uproar outside,
fluent swearing coming towards the house. The door opened with a bang,
admitting a white-faced, big-eyed man with one leg jammed through the
box he had landed on in dismounting.

"Gimme a drink, quick!" he shouted wildly, dragging the box over to
the bar with a cheerful disregard for chairs and other temporary
obstructions. "Gimme a drink!" he reiterated.

"Give you six hops in the neck!" yelled Red, missing and almost sitting
down because of the enthusiasm he had put into his effort. Johnny
side-stepped and ducked, and as he straightened up to ask for whys
and wherefores, Red's eyes opened wide and he paused in his further
intentions to stare at the apparition.

"Sick?" queried Hopalong, who was frightened.

"Gimme that drink!" demanded Johnny feverishly, and when he had it he
leaned against the bar and mopped his face with a trembling hand.

"What's the matter with you, anyhow?" asked Red, with deep anxiety.

"Yes; for God's sake, what's happened to you?" demanded Hopalong.

Johnny breathed deeply and threw back his shoulders as if to shake off
a weight. "Fellers, I had a cougar soft-footing after me in that
dark canyon, my cayuse ran away on a two-foot ledge up the
wall,--an'--I--saw--a--ghost!"

There was a respectful silence. Johnny, waiting a reasonable length of
time for replies and exclamations, flushed a bit and repeated his
frank and candid statement, adding a few adjectives to it. "A real,
screeching, flying ghost! An' I'm going home, an' I'm going to stay
there. I ain't never coming back no more, not for anything. Damn this
border country, anyhow!"

The silence continued, whereupon Johnny grew properly indignant. "You
act like I told you it was going to rain! Why don't you say something?
Didn't you hear what I said, you fools!" he asked pugnaciously. "Are you
in the habit of having a thing like that told you? Why don't you show
some interest, you dod-blasted, thick-skulled wooden-heads?"

Red looked at Hopalong, Hopalong looked at Red, and then they both
looked at Dent, whose eyes were fixed in a stare on Johnny.

"Huh!" snorted Hopalong, warily arising. "Was that all?" he asked,
nodding at Red, who also arose and began to move cautiously toward their
erring friend. "Didn't you see no more'n one ghost? Anybody that can see
one ghost, an' no more, is wrong somewhere. Now, stop, an' think; didn't
you see two?" He was advancing carefully while he talked, and Red was
now behind the man who saw one ghost.

"Why, you--" there was a sudden flurry and Johnny's words were cut short
in the melee.

"Good, Red! Ouch!" shouted Hopalong. "Look out! Got any rope, Dent?
Well, hurry up: there ain't no telling what he'll do if he's loose. The
mescal they sells down in this country ain't liquor--it's poison," he
panted. "An' he can't even stand whiskey!"

Finding the rope was easier than finding a place to put it, and the
unequal battle raged across the room and into the next, where it sounded
as if the house were falling down. Johnny's voice was shrill and full of
vexation and his words were extremely impolite and lacked censoring.
His feet appeared to be numerous and growing rapidly, judging from the
amount of territory they covered and defended, and Red joyfully kicked
Hopalong in the melee, which in this instance also stands for stomach;
Red always took great pains to do more than his share in a scrimmage.
Dent hovered on the flanks, his hands full of rope, and begged with
great earnestness to be allowed to apply it to parts of Johnny's
thrashing anatomy. But as the flanks continued to change with
bewildering swiftness he begged in vain, and began to make suggestions
and give advice pleasing to the three combatants. Dent knew just how
it should be done, and was generous with the knowledge until Johnny
zealously planted five knuckles on his one good eye, when the engagement
became general.

The table skidded through the door on one leg and caromed off the bar at
a graceful angle, collecting three chairs and one sand-box cuspidor on
the way. The box on Johnny's leg had long since departed, as Hopalong's
shin could testify. One chair dissolved unity and distributed itself
lavishly over the room, while the bed shrunk silently and folded itself
on top of Dent, who bucked it up and down with burning zeal and finally
had sense enough to crawl from under it. He immediately celebrated his
liberation by getting a strangle hold on two legs, one of which happened
to be the personal property of Hopalong Cassidy; and the battle raged on
a lower plane. Red raised one hand as he carefully traced a neck to its
own proper head and then his steel fingers opened and swooped down and
shut off the dialect. Hopalong pushed Dent off him and managed to catch
Johnny's flaying arm on the third attempt, while Dent made tentative
sorties against Johnny's spurred boots.

"Phew! Can he fight like that when he's sober?" reverently asked
Dent, seeing how close his fingers could come to his gaudy eye without
touching it. "I won't be able to see at all in an hour," he added,
gloomily.

Hopalong, seated on Johnny's chest, soberly made reply as he tenderly
flirted with a raw shin. "It's the mescal. I'm going to slip some of
that stuff into Pete's cayuse some of these days," he promised, happy
with a new idea. Pete Wilson had no sense of humor.

"That ghost was plumb lucky," grunted Red, "an' so was the sea-captain,"
he finished as an afterthought, limping off toward the bar, slowly and
painfully followed by his disfigured companions. "One drink; then to
bed."

After Red had departed, Hopalong and Dent smoked a while and then,
knocking the ashes out of his pipe, Hopalong arose. "An' yet, Dent,
there are people that believe in ghosts," he remarked, with a vast and
settled contempt.

Dent gave critical scrutiny to the scratched bar for a moment. "Well,
the Greasers all say there is a ghost in the San Miguel, though I
never saw it. But some of them have seen it, an' no Greasers ride that
trail no more."

"Huh!" snorted Hopalong. "Some Greasers must have filled the Kid up on
ghosts while he was filling hisself up on mescal. Ghosts? R-a-t-s!"

"It shows itself only to Greasers, an' then only on Friday nights,"
explained Dent, thoughtfully. This was Friday night. Others had seen
that ghost, but they were all Mexicans; now that a "white" man of
Johnny's undisputed calibre had been so honored Dent's skepticism
wavered and he had something to think about for days to come. True,
Johnny was not a Greaser; but even ghosts might make mistakes once in a
while.

Hopalong laughed, dismissing the subject from his mind as being beneath
further comment. "Well, we won't argue--I'm too tired. An' I'm sorry you
got that eye, Dent."

"Oh, that's all right," hastily assured the store-keeper, smiling
faintly. "I was just spoiling for a fight, an' now I've had it. Feels
sort of good. Yes, first thing in the morning--breakfast'll be ready
soon as you are. Good-night."

But the proprietor couldn't sleep. Finally he arose and tiptoed into
the room where Johnny lay wrapped in the sleep of the exhausted. After
cautious and critical inspection, which was made hard because of his
damaged eye, he tiptoed back to his bunk, shaking his head slowly. "He
wasn't drunk," he muttered. "He saw that ghost all right; an' I'll bet
everything I've got on it!"



At daybreak three quarrelling punchers rode homeward and after a
monotonous journey arrived at the bunk house and reported. It took
them two nights adequately to describe their experiences to an envious
audience. The morning after the telling of the ghost story things began
to happen. Red starting it by erecting a sign.


NOTISE--NO GHOSTS ALOWED


An exuberant handful of the outfit watched him drive the last nail and
step back to admire his work, and the running fire of comment covered
all degrees of humor, and promised much hilarity in the future at the
expense of the only man on the Bar-20 who had seen a ghost.

In a week Johnny and his acute vision had become a bye-word in that part
of the country and his friends had made it a practice to stop him and
gravely discuss spirit manifestations of all kinds. He had thrashed Wood
Wright and been thrashed by Sandy Lucas in two beautiful and memorable
fights and was only waiting to recover from the last affair before
having the matter out with Rich Finn. These facts were beginning to have
the effect he strove for; though Cowan still sold a new concoction of
gin, brandy, and whiskey which he called "Flying Ghost," and which he
proudly guaranteed would show more ghosts per drink than any liquor
south of the Rio Grande--and some of his patrons were eager to back up
his claims with real money.

This was the condition of affairs when Hopalong Cassidy strolled into
Cowan's and forgot his thirst in the story being told by a strange
Mexican. It was Johnny's ghost, without a doubt, and when he had
carelessly asked a few questions he was convinced that Johnny had really
seen something. On the way home he cogitated upon it and two points
challenged his intelligence with renewed insistence: the ghost showed
itself only on Friday, and then only to "Greasers." His suspicious mind
would not rest until he had reviewed the question from all sides, and
his opinion was that there was something more than spiritual about the
ghost of the San Miguel--and a cold, practical reason for it.

When he rode into the corral at the ranch he saw that another sign had
been put on the corral wall. He had destroyed the first, speaking his
mind in full at the time. He swept his gloved hand upward with a rush,
tore the flimsy board from its fastenings, broke it to pieces across
his saddle, and tossed the fragments from him. He was angry, for he had
warned the outfit that they were carrying the joke too far, that Johnny
was giving way to hysterical rage more frequently, and might easily do
something that they all would regret. And he felt sorry for the Kid; he
knew what Johnny's feelings were and he made up his mind to start a few
fights himself if the persecution did not cease. When he stepped into
the bunk house and faced his friends they listened to a three-minute
speech that made them squirm, and as he finished talking the deep voice
of the foreman endorsed the promises he had just heard made, for Buck
had entered the gallery without being noticed. The joke had come to an
end.

When Johnny rode in that evening he was surprised to find Hopalong
waiting for him a short distance from the corral and he replied to his
friend's gesture by riding over to him. "What's up now?" he asked.

"Come along with me. I want to talk to you for a few minutes," and
Hopalong led the way toward the open, followed by Johnny, who was more
or less suspicious. Finally Hopalong stopped, turned, and looked his
companion squarely in the eyes. "Kid, I'm in dead earnest. This ain't
no fool joke--now you tell me what that ghost looked like, how he acted,
an' all about it. I mean what I say, because now I know that you saw
something. If it wasn't a ghost it was made to look like one, anyhow.
Now go ahead."

"I've told you a dozen times already," retorted Johnny, his face
flushing. "I've begged you to believe me an' told you that I wasn't
fooling. How do I know you ain't now? I'm not going to tell--"

"Hold on; yes, you are. Yo're going to tell it slow, an' just like you
saw it," Hopalong interrupted hastily. "I know I've doubted it, but who
wouldn't! Wait a minute--I've done a heap of thinking in the past few
days an' I know that you saw a ghost. Now, everybody knows that there
ain't no such thing as ghosts; then what was it you saw? There's a game
on, Kid, an' it's a dandy; an' you an' me are going to bust it up an'
get the laugh on the whole blasted crowd, from Buck to Cowan."

Johnny's suspicions left him with a rush, for his old Hoppy was one man
in a thousand, and when he spoke like that, with such sharp decision,
Johnny knew what it meant. Hopalong listened intently and when the short
account was finished he put out his hand and smiled.

"We're the fools, Kid; not you. There's something crooked going on in
that canyon, an' I know it! But keep mum about what we think."

Johnny lost his grouch so suddenly and beamed upon his friends with such
a superior air that they began to worry about what was in the wind.
The suspense wore on them, for with Hopalong's assistance, Johnny might
spring some game on them all that would more than pay up for the fun
they had enjoyed at his expense; and the longer the suspense lasted the
worse it became. They never lost sight of him while he was around and
Hopalong had to endure the same surveillance; and it was no uncommon
thing to see small groups of the anxious men engaged in deep discussion.
When they found that Buck must have been told and noticed his smile was
as fixed as Hopalong's or Johnny's, they were certain that trouble of
some nature was in store for them.

Several weeks later Buck Peters drew rein and waited for a stranger to
join him.

"Howdy. Is yore name Peters?" asked the newcomer, sizing him up in one
trained glance.

"Well, who are you, an' what do you want?"

"I want to see Peters, Buck Peters. That yore name?"

"Yes; what of it?"

"My name's Fox. Old Jim Lane gave me a message for you," and the
stranger spoke earnestly to some length. "There; that's the situation.
We've got to have shrewd men that they don't know an' won't suspect.
Lane wants to pay a couple of yore men their wages for a month or two.
He said he was shore he could count on you to help him out."

"He's right; he can. I don't forget favors. I've got a couple of men
that--there's one of 'em now. Hey, Hoppy! Whoop-e, Hoppy!"

Mr. Cassidy arrived quickly, listened eagerly, named Red and Johnny
to accompany him, overruled his companions by insisting that if Johnny
didn't go the whole thing was off, carried his point, and galloped off
to find the lucky two, his eyes gleaming with anticipation and joy. Fox
laughed, thanked the foreman, and rode on his way north; and that night
three cow-punchers rode south, all strangely elated. And the friends who
watched them go heaved signs of relief, for the reprisals evidently were
to be postponed for a while.





Next: The Ghost Of The San Miguel

Previous: Dick Martin Starts Something



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