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The Rebound

From: Bar-20 Days

A man moaned and stirred restlessly in a bunk, muttering incoherently.
A stampeded herd was thundering over him, the grinding hoofs beating him
slowly to death. He saw one mad steer stop and lower its head to gore
him and just as the sharp horns touched his skin, he awakened. Slowly
opening his bloodshot eyes he squinted about him, sick, weak, racking
with pain where heavy shoes had struck him in the melee, his head
reverberating with roars which seemed almost to split it open. Slowly he
regained his full senses and began to make out his surroundings. He
was in a bunk which moved up and down, from side to side, and was never
still. There was a small, round window near his feet--thank heaven it
was open, for he was almost suffocated by the foul air and the heat.
Where was he? What had happened? Was there a salty odor in the air, or
was he still dreaming? Painfully raising himself on one elbow he looked
around and caught sight of a man in the bunk across. It was Johnny
Nelson! Then, bit by bit, the whole thing came to him and he cursed
heartily as he reviewed it and reached the only possible conclusion.
He was at sea! He, Hopalong Cassidy, the best fighting unit of a good
fighting outfit, shanghaied and at sea! Drugged, beaten, and stolen to
labor on a ship.

Johnny was muttering and moaning and Hopalong slowly climbed out of the
narrow bunk, unsteadily crossed the moving floor, and shook him. "Reckon
he's in a stampede, too!" he growled. "They shore raised h--l with us.
Oh, what a beating we got! But we'll pass it along with trimmings."

Johnny's eyes opened and he looked around in confusion. "Wha',

"Yes; it's me, the prize idiot of a blamed good pair of 'em. How'd you

"Sleepy an' sick. My eyes ache an' my head's splitting. Where's Buck an'
the rest?"

Hopalong sat down on the edge of the bunk and sore luridly, eloquently,
beautifully, with a fervor and polish which left nothing to be desired
in that line, and caused his companion to gaze at him in astonishment.

"I had a mighty bad dream, but you must 'a' had one a whole lot worse,
to listen to you," Johnny remarked. "Gee, you're going some! What's the
matter with you. You sick, too?"

Thereupon Hopalong unfolded the tale of woe and when Johnny had
grasped its import and knew that his dream had been a stern reality, he
straightway loosed his vocabulary and earned a draw. "Well, I'm going
back again," he finished, with great decision, arising to make good his

"Swim or walk?" asked Hopalong nonchalantly.

"Huh! Oh, Lord!"

"Well, I ain't going to either swim or walk," Hopalong soliloquized.
"I'm just going to stay right here in this one-by-nothing cellar an'
spoil the health an' good looks of any pirate that comes down that
ladder to get me out." He looked around, interested in life once more,
and his trained eye grasped the strategic worth of their position. "Only
one at a time, an' down that ladder," he mused, thoughtfully. "Why,
Johnny, we owns this range as long as we wants to. They can't get us
out. But, say, if only we had our guns!" he sighed, regretfully.

"You're right as far as you go; but you don't go to the eating part.
We'll starve, an' we ain't got no water. I can drink about a bucketful
right now," moodily replied his companion.

"Well, yo're right; but mebby we can find food an' water."

"Don't see no signs of none. Hey!" Johnny exclaimed, smiling faintly
in his misery. "Let's get busy an' burn the cussed thing up! Got any

"First you want to drown yoreself swimming, an' now you want to roast
the pair of us to death," Hopalong retorted, eyeing the rear wall of the
room. "Wonder what's on the other side of that partition?"

Johnny looked. "Why, water; an' lots of it, too."

"Naw; the water is on the other sides."

"Then how do I know?--sh! I hear somebody coming on the roof."

"Tumble back in yore bunk--quick!" Hopalong hurriedly whispered. "Be
asleep--if he comes down here it'll be our deal."

The steps overhead stopped at the companionway and a shadow appeared
across the small patch of sunlight on the floor of the forecastle.
"Tumble up here, you blasted loafers!" roared a deep voice.

No reply came from the forecastle--the silence was unbroken.

"If I have to come down there I'll--" the first mate made promises in no
uncertain tones and in very impolite language. He listened for a moment,
and having very good ears and hearing nothing, made more promises and
came down the ladder quickly and nimbly.

"I'll bring you to," he muttered, reaching a brawny hand for
Hopalong's nose, and missing. But he made contact with his own face,
which stopped a short-arm blow from the owner of the aforesaid nose, a
jolt full of enthusiasm and purpose. Beautiful and dazzling flashes of
fire filled the air and just then something landed behind his ear and
prolonged the pyrotechnic display. When the skyrockets went up he lost
interest in the proceedings and dropped to the floor like a bag of meal.

Hopalong cut another piece from the rope in his hand and watched his
companion's busy fingers. "Tie him good, Johnny; he's the only ace we've
drawn in this game so far, an' we mustn't lose him."

Johnny tied an extra knot for luck and leaned forward, his eyes riveted
on the bump under the victim's coat. His darting hand brought into sight
that which pleased him greatly. "Oh, joy! Here, Hoppy; you take it."

Hopalong turned the weapon over in his hand, spun the cylinder and
gloated, the clicking sweet music to his ears. "Plumb full, too! I never
reckoned I'd ever be so tickled over a snub-nosed gun like this--but I
feel like singing!"

"An' I feel like dying," grunted Johnny, grabbing at his stomach. "If
the blamed shack would only stand still!" he groaned, gazing at the
floor with strong disgust. "I don't reckon I've ever been so blamed sick
in all my--" the sentence was unfinished, for the open porthole caught
his eye and he leaped forward to use it for a collar.

Hopalong gazed at him in astonishment and sudden pity took possession of
him as his pallid companion left the porthole and faced him.

"You ought to have something to eat, Kid--I'm purty hungry myself--what
the blazes!" he exclaimed, for Johnny's protesting wail was finished
outside the port. Then a light broke upon him and he wondered how soon
it would be his turn to pay tribute to Neptune.

"Mr. Wilkins!" shouted a voice from the deck, and Hopalong moved back
a step. "Mr. Wilkins!" After a short silence the voice soliloquized:
"Guess he changed his mind about it; I'll get 'em up for him," and feet
came into view. When halfway down the ladder the second mate turned his
head and looked blankly down a gun barrel while a quiet but angry voice
urged him further: "Keep a-coming, keep a-coming!" The second mate
complained, but complied.

"Stick 'em up higher--now, Johnny, wobble around behind the nice man an'
take his gun--you shut yore yap! I'm bossing this trick, not you. Got
it, Kid? There's the rope--that's right. Nobody'd think you sick to see
you work. Well, that's a good draw; but it's only a pair of aces against
a full, at that. Wonder who'll be the next. Hope it's the foreman."

Johnny, keeping up by sheer grit, pointed to the rear wall. "What about

For reply his companion walked over to it, put his shoulder to it and
pushed. He stepped back and hurled his weight against it, but it was
firm despite its squeaking protest. Then he examined it foot by foot and
found a large knot, which he drove in by a blow of the gun. Bending, he
squinted through the opening for a full minute and then reported:

"Purty black in there at this end, but up at the other there's a light
from a hole in the roof, an' I could see boxes an' things like that. I
reckon it's the main cellar."

"If we could get out at the other end with that gun you've got we could
raise blazes for a while," suggested Johnny. "Anyhow, mebby they can
come at us that way when they find out what we've gone an' done."

"Yo're right," Hopalong replied, looking around. Seeing an iron bar
he procured it and, pushing it through the knot hole in the partition,
pulled. The board, splitting and cracking under the attack, finally
broke from its fastenings with a sharp report, and Hopalong, pulling it
aside, stepped out of sight of his companion. Johnny was grinning at the
success of his plan when he was interrupted.

"Ahoy, down there!" yelled a stentorian voice from above. "Mr. Wilkins!
What the devil are you doing so long?" and after a very short wait other
feet came into sight. Just then the second mate, having managed to slip
off the gag, shouted warning:

"Look out, Captain! They've got us and our guns! One of them has--" but
Johnny's knee thudded into his chest and ended the sentence as a bullet
sent a splinter flying from under the captain's foot.

"Hang these guns!" Johnny swore, and quickly turned to secure the gag
in the mouth of the offending second mate. "You make any more yaps like
that an' I'll wing you for keeps with yore own gun!" he snapped. "We're
caught in yore trap an' we'll fight to a finish. You'll be the first to
go under if you gets any smart."

"Ahoy, men!" roared the captain in a towering rage, dancing frantically
about on the deck and shouting for the crew to join him. He filled the
air with picturesque profanity and stamped and yelled in passion at such
rank mutiny.

"Hand grenades! Hand grenades!" he cried. Then he remembered that his
two mates were also below and would share in the mutineers' fate, and
his rage increased at his galling helplessness. When he had calmed
sufficiently to think clearly he realized that it was certain death for
any one to attempt going down the ladder, and that his must be a waiting
game. He glanced at his crew, thirteen good men, all armed with windlass
bars and belaying pins, and gave them orders. Two were to watch the
hatch and break the first head to appear, while the others returned to
work. Hunger and thirst would do the rest. And what joy would be his
when they were forced to surrender!

Hopalong groped his way slowly towards the patch of light, barking his
shins, stumbling and falling over the barrels and crates and finally,
losing his footing at a critical moment, tumbled down upon a box marked
"Cotton." There was a splintering crash and the very faint clink of
metal. Dazed and bruised, he sat up and felt of himself--and found that
he had lost his gun in the fall.

"Now, where in blazes did it fly to?" he muttered angrily, peering
about anxiously. His eyes suddenly opened their widest and he stared in
surprise at a field gun which covered him; and then he saw parts of two

"Good Lord! Is this a gunboat?" he cried. "Are we up against bluejackets
an' Uncle Sam?" He glanced quickly back the way he had come when he
heard Johnny's shot, but he could see nothing. He figured that Johnny
had sense enough to call for help if he needed it, and put that
possibility out of his mind. "Naw, this ain't no gunboat--the Government
don't steal men; it enlists 'em. But it's a funny pile of junk, all the
same. Where in blazes is that toy gun? Well, I'll be hanged!" and he
plunged toward the "Cotton" box he had burst in his descent, and worked
at it frantically.

"Winchesters! Winchesters!" he cried, dragging out two of them. "Whoop!
Now for the cartridges--there shore must be some to go with these
guns!" He saw a keg marked "Nails," and managed to open it after great
labor--and found it full of army Colts. Forcing down the desire to turn
a handspring, he slipped one of the six-shooters in his empty holster
and patted it lovingly. "Old friend, I'm shore glad to see you, all
right. You've been used, but that don't make no difference." Searching
further, he opened a full box of machetes, and soon after found
cartridges of many kinds and calibres. It took him but a few minutes to
make his selection and cram his pockets with them. Then he filled two
Colts and two Winchesters--and executed a short jig to work off the
dangerous pressure of his exuberance.

"But what an unholy lot of weapons," he soliloquized on his way back to
Johnny. "An' they're all second-hand. Cannons, too--an' machetes!" he
exclaimed, suddenly understanding. "Jumping Jerusalem!--a filibustering
expedition bound for Cuba, or one of them wildcat republics down south!
Oh, ho, my friends; I see where you have bit off more'n you can chew."
In his haste to impart the joyous news to his companion, he barked his
shins shamefully.

"'Way down south in the land o' cotton, cinnamon seed an''--whoa, blast
you!" and Hopalong stuck his head through the opening in the partition
and grinned. "Heard you shoot, Kid; I reckoned you might need me--an'
these!" he finished, looking fondly upon the weapons as he shoved them
into the forecastle.

Johnny groaned and held his stomach, but his eyes lighted up when he saw
the guns, and he eagerly took one of each kind, a faint smile wreathing
his lips. "Now we'll show these water snakes what kind of men they
stole," he threatened.

Up on the deck the choleric captain still stamped and swore, and his
crew, with well-concealed mirth, went about their various duties as
if they were accustomed to have shanghaied men act this way. They
sympathized with the unfortunate pair, realizing how they themselves
would feel if shanghaied to break broncos.

Hogan, A. B., stated the feelings of his companions very well in his
remarks to the men who worked alongside: "In me hear-rt I'm dommed glad
av it, Yensen. I hope they bate the old man at his own game. 'T is a
shame in these days for honest men to be took in that unlawful way. I've
heard me father tell of the press gangs on the other side, an' 't is
small business."

Yensen looked up to reply, chanced to glance aft, and dropped his
calking iron in his astonishment. "Yumping Yimminy! Luk at dat fallar!"

Hogan looked. "The deuce! That's a man after me own heat-rt! Kape yore
pagan mouth shut! If ye take a hand agin 'em I'll swab up the deck wid
yez. G'wan wor-rking like a sane man, ye ijit!"

"Ay ent ban fight wit dat fallar! Luk at the gun!"

A man had climbed out of the after hatch and was walking rapidly towards
them, a rifle in his hands, while at his thigh swung a Colt. He watched
the two seamen closely and caught sight of Hogan's twinkling blue eyes,
and a smile quivered about his mouth. Hogan shut and opened one eye and
went on working.

As soon as Hopalong caught sight of the captain, the rifle went up and
he announced his presence without loss of time. "Throw up yore hands,
you pole-cat! I'm running this ranch from now on!"

The captain wheeled with a jerk and his mouth opened, and then clicked
shut as he started forward, his rage acting galvanically. But he stopped
quickly enough when he looked down the barrel of the Winchester and
glared at the cool man behind it.

"What the blank are you doing?" he yelled.

"Well, I ain't kidnapping cow-punchers to steal my boat," replied
Hopalong. "An' you fellers stand still or I'll drop you cold!" he
ordered to the assembled and restless crew. "Johnny!" he shouted, and
his companion popped up through the hatch like a jack-in-the-box.
"Good boy, Johnny. Tie this coyote foreman like you did the others," he
ordered. While Johnny obeyed, Hopalong looked around the circle, and
his eyes rested on Hogan's face, studying it, and found something there
which warmed his heart. "Friend, do you know the back trail? Can you
find that runt of a town we left?"

"Aye, aye."

"Shore, you; who'd you think I was talking to? Can you find the way
back, the way we came?"

"Shure an' I can that, if I'm made to."

"You'll swing for mutiny if you do, you bilge-wallering pirate!" roared
the trussed captain. "Take that gun away from him, d'ye hear!" he yelled
at the crew. "I'm captain of this ship, an' I'll hang every last one of
you if you don't obey orders! This is mutiny!"

"You won't do no hanging with that load of weapons below!" retorted
Hopalong. "Uncle Sam is looking for filibusters--this here gun is
'cotton,'" he said, grinning. He turned to the crew. "But you fellers
are due to get shot if you sees her through," he added.

"I'm captain of this ship--" began the helpless autocrat.

"You shore look like it, all right," Hopalong replied, smiling. "If
yo're the captain you order her turned around and headed over the back
trail, or I'll drop you overboard off yore own ship!" Then fierce anger
at the thought of the indignities and injuries he and his companion had
suffered swept over him and prompted a one-minute speech which left
no doubt as to what he would do if his demand was not complied with.
Johnny, now free to watch the crew, added a word or two of endorsement,
and he acted a little as if he rather hoped it would not be complied
with: he itched for an excuse.

The captain did some quick thinking; the true situation could not be
disguised, and with a final oath of rage he gave in. "'Bout ship, Hogan;
nor' by nor'west," he growled, and the seaman started away to execute
the command, but was quickly stopped by Hopalong.

"Hogan, is that right?" he demanded. "No funny business, or we'll clean
up the whole bunch, an' blamed quick, too!"

"That's the course, sor. That's the way back to town. I can navigate,
an' me orders are plain. Ye're Irish, by the way av ye, and 't is back
to town ye go, sor!" He turned to the crew: "Stand by, me boys." And in
a short time the course was nor' by nor'west.

The return journey was uneventful and at nightfall the ship lay at
anchor off the low Texas coast, and a boat loaded with men grounded on
the sandy beach. Four of them arose and leaped out into the mild surf
and dragged the boat as high up on the sand as it would go. Then the
two cow-punchers followed and one of them gave a low-spoken order to the
Irishman at his side.

"Yes, sor," replied Hogan, and hastened to help the captain out onto the
sand and to cut the ropes which bound him. "Do ye want the mates, too,
sor?" he asked, glancing at the trussed men in the boat.

"No; the foreman's enough," Hopalong responded, handing his weapons to
Johnny and turning to face the captain, who was looking into Johnny's
gun as he rubbed his arms to restore perfect circulation.

"Now, you flat-faced coyote, yo're going to get the beating of yore
life, an' I'm going to give it to you!" Hopalong cried, warily advancing
upon the man whom he held to be responsible for the miseries of the past
twenty-four hours. "You didn't give me a square deal, but I'm man enough
to give you one! When you drug an' steal any more cow-punchers--" action
stopped his words.

It was a great fight. A filibustering sea captain is no more peaceful
than a wild boar and about as dangerous; and while this one was not at
his best, neither was Hopalong. The latter luckily had acquired some
knowledge of the rudiments of the game and had the vigor of youth to
oppose to the captain's experience and his infuriated but well-timed
rushes. The seamen, for the honor of their calling and perhaps with a
mind to the future, cheered on the captain and danced up and down in
their delight and excitement. They had a lot of respect for the prowess
of their master, and for the man who could stand up against him in a
fair and square fist fight. To give assistance to either in a fair fight
was not to be thought of, and Johnny's gun was sufficient after-excuse
for non-interference.

The sop! sop! of the punishing blows as they got home and the steady
circling of Hopalong in avoiding the dangerous attacks, went on minute
after minute. Slowly the captain's strength was giving out, and he
resorted to trickery as his last chance. Retreating, he half raised his
arms and lowered them as if weary, ready as a cat to strike with all
his weight if the other gave an opening. It ought to have worked--it had
worked before--but Hopalong was there to win, and without the momentary
hesitation of the suspicious fighter he followed the retreat and his
hard hand flashed in over the captain's guard a fraction of a second
sooner than that surprised gentleman anticipated. The ferocious frown
gave way to placid peace and the captain reclined at the feet of the
battered victor, who stood waiting for him to get up and fight. The
captain lay without a sign of movement and as Hopalong wondered, Hogan
was the first to speak.

"Fer the love av hiven, let him be! Ye needn't wait--he's done; I know
by the sound av it!" he exclaimed, stepping forward. "'T was a purty
blow, an' 't was a gr-rand foight ye put up, sor! A gr-rand foight, but
any more av that is murder! 'T is an Irishman's game, sor, an' ye did
yersilf proud. But now let him be--no man, least av all a Dootchman,
iver tuk more than that an' lived!"

Hopalong looked at him and slowly replied between swollen lips, "Yo're
right, Hogan; we're square now, I reckon."

"That's right, sor," Hogan replied, and turned to his companions. "Put
him in the boat; an' mind ye handle him gintly--we'll be sailing under
him soon. Now, sor, if it's yer pleasure, I'll be after saying good-bye
to ye, sor; an' to ye, too," he said, shaking hands with both punches.
"Fer a sick la-ad ye're a wonder, ye are that," he smiled at Johnny,
"but ye want to kape away from the water fronts. Good-bye to ye both,
an' a pleasant journey home. The town is tin miles to me right, over
beyant them hills."

"Good-bye, Hogan," mumbled Hopalong gratefully. "Yo're square all the
way through; an' if you ever get out of a job or in any kind of trouble
that I can help you out of, come up to the Bar-20 an' you won't have to
ask twice. Good luck!" And the two sore and aching punchers, wiser in
the ways of the world, plodded doggedly towards the town, ten miles

The next morning found them in the saddle, bound for Dent's hotel and
store near the San Miguel Canyon. When they arrived at their destination
and Johnny found there was some hours to wait for Red, his restlessness
sent him roaming about the country, not so much "seeking what he might
devour" as hoping something might seek to devour him. He was so sore
over his recent kidnapping that he longed to find a salve. He faithfully
promised Hopalong that he would return at noon.

Next: Dick Martin Starts Something

Previous: On A Strange Range

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