The Ghost Of The San Miguel
From: Bar-20 Days
Juan Alvarez had not been in San Felippe since Dick Martin left, which
meant for over a month. Martin was down the river looking for a man who
did not wish to be found; and some said that Martin cared nothing about
international boundaries when he wanted any one real bad. And there was
that geologist who wore blue glasses and was always puttering around in
the canyon and hammering chips of rock off the steep walls; he must have
slipped one noon, because his body was found on a flat boulder at the
edge of the stream. Manuel had found it and wanted to be paid for his
trouble in bringing it to town--but Manuel was a fool. Who, indeed,
would pay good money for a dead Gringo, especially after he was dead?
And there were three cow-punchers holding a herd of 6-X cattle up
north, an hour or so from the town. They wanted to buy steers from Senor
Rodriguez, but said that he was a robber and threatened to cut his ears
off. Cannot a man name his own price? These cow-punchers liked to get
drunk and gallop through San Felippe, shooting like crazy men. They got
drunk one Friday night and went shouting and singing to the Big Bend in
the canyon to see the flying ghost, and they called it names and fired
off their pistols and sang loudly; and for a week they insulted all the
Mexicans in town by calling them liars and cowards. Was it the fault
of any one that the ghost would show itself only to Mexicans? Oh, these
Gringos--might the good God punish them for their sins!
Thus the peons complained to the padre while they kept one eye open for
the advent of the rowdy cow-punchers, who always wanted to drink, and
then to fight with some one, either with fists or pistols. Why should
any one fight with them, especially with such things as fists?
"Let them fight among themselves. What have you to do with heretics?"
reproved the good padre, who ostracized himself from the pleasant parts
of the wide world that he might make easier the life and struggles of
his ignorant flock. "God is not hasty--He will punish in His own way
when it best suits Him. And perhaps you will profit much if you are more
regular to mass instead of wasting the cool hours of the morning in bed.
Think well of what I have said, my children."
But the cow-punchers were not punished and they swore they would not
leave the vicinity until they had all the steers they wanted, and at
their own price. And one night their herd stampeded and was checked
only in time to save it from going over the canyon's edge. And for some
reason Sanchez kept out of the padre's way and did not go to confess
when he should, for the padre spoke plainly and set hard obligations for
The cow-punchers swore that it had been done by some Mexican and said
that they would come to town some day soon and kill three Mexicans
unless the guilty one was found and brought to them. Then the padre
mounted his donkey and went out to them to argue and they finally told
him they would wait for two weeks. But the padre was too smart for
them--he sent a messenger to find Senor Dick Martin, and in one week
Senor Martin came to town. There was no fight. The Gringo rowdies were
cowards at heart and Martin could not shoot them down in cold blood,
and he could not arrest them, because he was not a policeman or even a
sheriff, but only a revenue officer, which was a most foolish law. But
he watched them all the time and wanted them to fight--there was no more
shooting or drunkenness in town. Nobody wanted to fight Senor Martin,
for he was a great man. He even went so far as to talk with them about
it and wave his arms, but they were as frightened at him as little
children might be.
So the Mexicans gossiped and exulted, some of the bolder of them even
swaggering out to the Gringo camp; but Martin drove them back again,
saying he would not allow them to bully men who could not retaliate,
which was right and fair. Then, afraid to go away and leave the mad
cow-punchers so close to town, he ordered them to drive their herd
farther east, nearer to Dent's store, and never to return to San Felippe
unless they needed the padre; and they obeyed him after a long talk.
After seeing them settled in their new camp, which was on Monday
morning, Martin returned to San Felippe and told the padre where he
could be found and then rode away again. San Felippe celebrated for
a whole day and two Mexican babies were christened after Senor Dick
Martin, which was honor all around.
Friday, when Manuel went over to spy upon the cow-punchers in their new
camp, he found them so drunk that they could not stand, and before he
crept away at dusk two of them were sleeping like gorged snakes and the
third was firing off his revolver at random, which diversion had not a
little to do with Manuel's departure.
When Manuel crept away he headed straight for a crevice near the wall of
the canyon at the Big Bend and, reaching it, looked all around and then
dropped into it. Not long thereafter another Mexican appeared, this one
from San Felippe, and also disappeared into the crevice. As darkness
fell Manuel reappeared with something under his jacket and a moment
later a light gleamed at the base of a slender sapling which grew on the
edge of the canyon wall and leaned out over the abyss. It was cleverly
placed, for only at one spot on the Mexican side of the distant Rio
Grande could it be seen--the high canyon walls farther down screened it
from any one who might be riding on the north bank of the river. In a
moment there came an answering twinkle and Manuel, covering the lantern
with a blanket, was swallowed up in the darkness of the crevice.
Without a trace of emotion, Dick Martin, from his place of concealment,
caught the answering gleam, and he watched Manuel disappear. "Cassidy
was right in every point; Lewis or Sayre couldn't 'a' done this
better. I hope he won't be late," he muttered, and settled himself more
comfortably to wait for the cue for action, smiling as the moon poked
its rim over the low hills to his right. "This means promotion for me,
or I've very much mistaken," he chuckled.
Hopalong was not late and as soon as it was dark he and his companions
stole into the canyon on foot. They felt their way down the east end of
the trail, not far from Dent's, toward the Big Bend, which they gained
without a mishap. Johnny was sent up to a place they had noticed and
marked in their memories at the time they had rioted down to defy the
ghost. He was to stop any one trying to escape up the San Felippe end
of the canyon trail, and his confidence in his ability to do this was
exuberant. Hopalong and Red slowly and laboriously worked their way down
the perilous path leading to the bottom, forded the stream, and crept up
the other side, where they found cover not far from a wide crack in the
canyon wall. Upon the occasion of their hilarious visit to the Big Bend
they had observed that a faint trail led to the crack and had cogitated
deeply upon this fact.
Three hours passed before the watchers in and above the canyon were
rewarded by anything further; and then a light flickered far down the
canyon and close to the edge of the stream. Immediately strange noises
were heard and suddenly the ghost swung out of the opening in the rock
wall near Hopalong and Red and danced above their heads, while the
shrieking which had so frightened Johnny and his horse filled the canyon
with uproar and sent Martin wriggling nearer to the crevice which he had
watched so closely. The noise soon ceased, but the ghost danced on, and
the sound of men stumbling along the rocky ledge bordering the stream
became more and more audible. Four were in the party and they all
carried bulky loads on their backs and grunted with pleasure and
relief as they entered the entrance in the wall. When the last man had
disappeared and the noise of their passing had died out, Johnny's rope
sailed up and out, and the ghost swayed violently and then began to sag
in an unaccountable manner towards the trail as the owner of the rope
hitched its free end around a spur of rock and made it fast. Then he
feverishly scrambled down the steep path to join his friends.
Hopalong and Red, wriggling on their stomachs towards the crack in the
wall, paused in amazement and stared across the canyon; and then the
former chuckled and whispered something in his companion's ear. "That
was why he lugged his rope along! He's just idiot enough to want
a souveneer an' plaything at the risk of losing the game. Come
on!--they'll tumble to what's up an' get away if we don't hustle."
When the two punchers cautiously and noiselessly entered the crack
and felt their way along its rock walls they heard fluent swearing in
Spanish by the man who worked the ghost, and who could not understand
its sudden ambition to take root. It was made painfully clear to him
a moment later when a pair of brawny hands reached out of the darkness
behind him and encircled his throat a hand's width below his gleaming
cigarette. Another pair used cords with deftness and despatch and he was
left by himself to browse upon the gag when all his senses returned.
Hopalong, with Red inconsiderately stepping on his heels, felt his
way along the wall of the crevice, alert and silent, his Colt nestling
comfortably in his right hand, while the left was pushed out ahead
feeling for trouble. As they worked farther away from the canyon distant
voices could be heard and they forthwith proceeded even more cautiously.
When Hopalong came to the second bend in the narrow passage he peered
around it and stopped so abruptly that Red's nose almost spread itself
over the back of his head. Red's indignation was all the harder to bear
because it must bloom unheard.
In a huge, irregular room, whose roof could not be discerned in the dim
light of the few candles, five men were resting in various attitudes
of ease as they discussed the events of the night and tried to compute
their profits. They were secure, for Manuel, having by this time put
away the ghost and megaphone, was on duty at the mouth of the crevice,
and he was as sensitive to danger as a hound.
"The risk is not much and the profits are large," remarked Pedro, in
Spanish. "We must burn a candle for the repose of the soul of Carlos
Martinez. It is he that made our plans safe. And a candle is not much
"Hands up!" said a quiet voice, followed by grim commands. The Mexicans
jumped as if stung by a scorpion, and could just discern two of the
rowdy gringo cow-punchers in the heavy shadows of the opposite wall, but
the candle light glinted in rings on the muzzles of their six-shooters.
Had Manuel betrayed them? But they had little time or inclination for
cogitation regarding Manuel.
"Easy there!" shouted Red, and Pedro's hand stopped when half way to his
chest. Pedro was a gambler by nature, but the odds were too heavy and he
sullenly obeyed the command.
"Stick 'em up! Stick 'em up! Higher yet, an' hold 'em there," purred
a soft voice from the other end of the room, where Dick Martin smiled
pleasantly upon them and wondered if there was anything on earth harder
to pound good common sense into than a "Greaser's" head. His gun was
blue, but it was, nevertheless, the most prominent part of his make-up,
even if the light was poor.
One of the Mexicans reached involuntarily for his gun, for he was a
gun-man by training; while his companions felt for their knives, deadly
weapons in a melee. Martin, crying, "Watch 'em, Cassidy!" side-stepped
and lunged forward with the speed and skill of a boxer, and his hard
left hand landed on the point of Juan Alvarez' jaw with a force and
precision not to be withstood. But to make more certain that the
Mexican would not take part in any possible demonstration of resistance,
Martin's right circled up in a short half-hook and stopped against
Juan's short ribs. Martin weighed one hundred and eighty pounds and
packed no fat on his well-knit frame.
At this moment a two-legged cyclone burst upon the scene in the person
of Johnny Nelson, whose rage had been worked up almost to the weeping
point because he had lost so much time hunting for the crevice where
it was not. Seeing Juan fall, and the glint of knives, he started in
to clean things up, yelling, "I'm a ghost! I'm a ghost! Take 'em alive!
Take 'em alive!"
Hopalong and Red felt that they were in his way, and taking care of one
Mexican between them, while Martin knocked out another, they watched the
exits,--for anything was possible in such a chaotic mix-up,--and gave
Johnny plenty of room. The latter paused, triumphant, looked around to
see if he had missed any, and then advanced upon his friends and shoved
his jaw up close to Hopalong's face. "Tried to lose me, didn't you!
Wouldn't wait for me! For seven cents an' a toothbrush I'd give you
Red grabbed him by trousers and collar and heaved him into the
passageway. "Go out an' play with yore souveneer or we'll step on you!"
Johnny sat up, rubbed certain portions of his anatomy, and grinned. "Oh,
I've got it, all right! I'm shore going to take that ghost home an' make
some of them fools eat it!"
Martin smiled as he finished tying the last prisoner. "That's right,
Nelson; you've got it on 'em this time. Make 'em chew it."
Next: Hopalong Loses A Horse
Previous: Johnny Arrives