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The Rashness Of Shorty








From: Hopalong Cassidy's Rustler Round-up

Buckskin was very hot; in fact it was never anything else. Few people
were on the streets and the town was quiet. Over in the Houston hotel
a crowd of cowboys was lounging in the barroom. They were very quiet-a
condition as rare as it was ominous. Their mounts, twelve in all, were
switching flies from their quivering skins in the corral at the rear.
Eight of these had a large C 80 branded on their flanks; the other
four, a Double Arrow.

In the barroom a slim, wiry man was looking out of the dirty window
up the street at Cowan's saloon. Shorty was complaining, "They shore
oughter be here now. They rounded up last week." The man nearest
assured him that they would come. The man at the window turned and
said, "They's yer now.




In front of Cowan's a crowd of nine happy-go-lucky, daredevil
riders were sliding from their saddles. They threw their reins over
the heads of their mounts and filed in to the bar. Laughter issued
from the open door and the clink of glasses could be heard. They stood
in picturesque groups, strong, self-reliant, humorous, virile. Their
expensive sombreros were pushed far back on their heads and their
hairy chaps were covered with the alkali dust from their ride.

Cowan, bottle in hand, pushed out several more glasses. He kicked a
dog from under his feet and looked at Buck. "Rounded up yet?" he
inquired.

"Shore, day afore yisterday," came the reply. The rest were busy
removing the dust from their throats, and gradually drifted into
groups of two or three. One of these groups strolled over to the
solitary card table, and found Jimmy Price resting in a cheap chair,
his legs on the table.

"I wisht yu'd extricate yore delicate feet from off'n this hyar
table, James," humbly requested Lanky Smith, morally backed up by
those with him.

"Ya-as, they shore is delicate, Mr. Smith," responded Jimmy without
moving.

"We wants to play draw, Jimmy," explained Pete.

"Yore shore welcome to play if yu wants to. Didn't I tell yu when yu
growed that mustache that yu didn't have to ask me any more?" queried
the placid James, paternally.

"Call `em off, sonny. Pete sez he kin clean me out. Anyhow, yu kin
have the fust deal," compromised Lanky.

"I'm shore sorry fer Pete if he cayn't. Yu don't reckon I has to
have fust deal to beat yu fellers, do yu? Go way an' lemme alone; I
never seed such a bunch fer buttin' in as yu fellers."

Billy Williams returned to the bar. Then he walked along it until he
was behind the recalcitrant possessor of the table. While his
aggrieved friends shuffled their feet uneasily to cover his approach,
he tiptoed up behind Jimmy and, with a nod, grasped that indignant
individual firmly by the neck while the others grabbed his feet. They
carried him, twisting and bucking, to the middle of the street and
deposited him in the dust, returning to the now vacant table.

Jimmy rested quietly for a few seconds and then slowly arose,
dusting the alkali from him.

"Th' wall-eyed piruts," he muttered, and then scratched his head for a
way to "play hunk." As he gazed sorrowfully at the saloon he heard a
snicker from behind him. He, thinking it was one of his late
tormentors, paid no attention to it. Then a cynical, biting laugh
stung him. He wheeled, to see Shorty leaning against a tree, a
sneering leer on his flushed face. Shorty's right hand was suspended
above his holster, hooked to his belt by the thumb-a favorite position
of his when expecting trouble.

"One of yore reg'lar habits?" he drawled.

Jimmy began to dust himself in silence, but his lips were compressed
to a thin white line.

"Does they hurt yu?" pursued the onlooker.

Jimmy looked up. "I heard tell that they make glue outen cayuses,
sometimes," he remarked.

Shorty's eyes flashed. The loss of the horse had been rankling in
his heart all day.

"Does they git yu frequent?" he asked. His voice sounded hard.

"Oh, `bout as frequent as yu lose a cayuse, I reckon," replied Jimmy
hotly.

Shorty's hand streaked to his holster and Jimmy followed his lead.
Jimmy's Colt was caught. He had bucked too much. As he fell Shorty ran
for the Houston House.

Pistol shots were common, for they were the universal method of
expressing emotions. The poker players grinned, thinking their victim
was letting off his indignation. Lanky sized up his hand and remarked
half audibly, "He's a shore good kid."

The bartender, fearing for his new beveled, gilt-framed mirror, gave
a hasty glance out the window. He turned around, made change and
remarked to Buck, "Yore kid, Jimmy, is plugged." Several of the more
credulous craned their necks to see, Buck being the first. "Judas!" he
shouted, and ran out to where Jimmy lay coughing, his toes twitching.
The saloon was deserted and a crowd of angry cowboys surrounded their
chum-aboy. Buck had seen Shorty enter the door of the Houston House
and he swore. "Chase them C 80 and Arrow cayuses behind the saloon,
Pete, an' git under cover.

Jimmy was choking and he coughed up blood. "He's shore- got me. My-
gun stuck," he added apologetically. He tried to sit up, but was not
able and he looked surprised. "It's purty- damn hot-out here," he
suggested. Johnny and Billy carried him in the saloon and placed him
by the table, in the chair he had previously vacated. As they stood up
he fell across the table and died.

Billy placed the dead boy's sombrero on his head and laid the
refractory six-shooter on the table. "I wonder who th' dirty killer
was." He looked at the slim figure and started to go out, followed by
Johnny. As he reached the threshold a bullet zipped past him and
thudded into the frame of the door. He backed away and looked
surprised. "That's Shorty's shootin'-he allus misses `bout that much."
He looked out and saw Buck standing behind the live oak that Shorty
had leaned against, firing at the hotel. Turning around he made for
the rear, remarking to Johnny that "they's in th' Houston." Johnny
looked at the quiet figure in the chair and swore softly. He followed
Billy. Cowan, closing the door and taking a buffalo gun from under the
bar, went out also and slammed the rear door forcibly.





Next: The Argument

Previous: Buckskin



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