The End Of The Dots





Slim may not have been more curious than his fellows, but he was perhaps

more single-hearted in his loyalty to the outfit. To him the shooting

of Happy Jack, once he felt assured that the wound was not necessarily

fatal, became of secondary importance. It was all in behalf of the

Flying U; and if the bullet which laid Happy Jack upon the ground was

also the means of driving the hated Dots from that neighborhood, he

felt, in his slow, phlegmatic way, that it wasn't such a catastrophe as

some of the others seemed to think. Of course, he wouldn't want Happy

to die; but he didn't believe, after all, that Happy was going to do

anything like that. Old Patsy knew a lot about sickness and wounds. (Who

can cook for a cattle outfit, for twenty years and more, and not know a

good deal of hurts?) Old Patsy had looked Happy over carefully, and had

given a grin and a snort.



"Py cosh, dot vos lucky for you, alreatty," he had pronounced. "So you

don't git plood-poisonings, mit fever, you be all right pretty soon.

You go to shleep, yet. If fix you oop till der dochtor he cooms. I seen

fellers shot plumb through der middle off dem, und git yell. You ain't

shot so bad. You go to shleep."



So, his immediate fears relieved, Slim's slow mind had swung back to

the Dots, and to Oleson, whom Weary was even now assisting to keep his

promise (Slim grinned widely to himself when he thought of the abject

fear which Oleson had displayed because of the murder he thought he had

done, while Happy Jack obediently "played dead"). And of Dunk, whom Slim

had hated most abominably of old; Dunk, a criminal found out; Dunk, a

prisoner right there on the very ranch he had thought to despoil; Dunk,

at that very moment locked in the blacksmith shop. Perhaps it was not

curiosity alone which sent him down there; perhaps it was partly a

desire to look upon Dunk humbled--he who had trodden so arrogantly

upon the necks of those below him; so arrogantly that even Slim, the

slow-witted one, had many a time trembled with anger at his tone.



Slim walked slowly, as was his wont; with deadly directness, as was his

nature. The blacksmith shop was silent, closed--as grimly noncommittal

as a vault. You might guess whatever you pleased about its inmate; it

was like trying to imagine the emotions pictured upon the face behind

a smooth, black mask. Slim stopped before the closed door and listened.

The rusty, iron hasp attracted his slow gaze, at first puzzling him a

little, making him vaguely aware that something about it did not quite

harmonize with his mental attitude toward it. It took him a full minute

to realize that he had expected to find the door locked, and that the

hasp hung downward uselessly, just as it hung every day in the year.



He remembered then that Andy had spoken of chaining Dunk to the anvil.

That would make it unnecessary to lock the door, of course. Slim seized

the hanging strip of iron, gave it a jerk and bathed all the dingy

interior with a soft, sunset glow. Cobwebs quivered at the inrush of the

breeze, and glistened like threads of fine gold. The forge remained a

dark blot in the corner. A new chisel, lying upon the earthen floor,

became a bar of yellow light.



Slim's eyes went to the anvil and clung there in a widening stare. His

hands, white and soft when his gloves were off, drew up convulsively

into fighting fists, and as he stood looking, the cords swelled and

stood out upon his thick neck. For years he had hated Dunk Whittaker--



The Happy Family, with rare good sense, had not hesitated to turn the

white house into an impromptu hospital. They knew that if the Little

Doctor and Chip and the Old Man had been at home Happy Jack would have

been taken unquestioningly into the guest chamber--which was a square,

three-windowed room off the big livingroom. More than one of them had

occupied it upon occasion. They took Happy Jack up there and put him to

bed quite as a matter-of-course, and when he was asleep they lingered

upon the wide, front porch; the hammock of the Little Doctor squeaked

under the weight of Andy Green, and the wide-armed chairs received the

weary forms of divers young cowpunchers who did not give a thought to

the intrusion, but were thankful for the comfort. Andy was swinging

luxuriously and drawing the last few puffs from a cigarette when Slim,

purple and puffing audibly, appeared portentously before him.



"I thought you said you was goin' to lock Dunk up in the blacksmith

shop," he launched accusingly at Andy.



"We did," averred that young man, pushing his toe against the railing to

accelerate the voluptuous motion of the hammock.



"He ain't there. He's broke loose. The chain--by golly, yuh went an'

used that chain that was broke an' jest barely hangin' together! His

horse ain't anywheres around, either. You fellers make me sick. Lollin'

around here an' not paying no attention, by golly--he's liable to be ten

mile from here by this time!" When Slim stopped, his jaw quivered like

a dish of disturbed jelly, and I wish I could give you his tone; choppy,

every sentence an accusation that should have made those fellows wince.



Irish, Big Medicine and Jack Bates had sprung guiltily to their feet

and started down the steps. The drawling voice of the Native Son stopped

them, ten feet from the porch.



"Twelve, or fifteen, I should make it. That horse of his looked to me

like a drifter."



"Well--are yuh goin' t' set there on your haunches an' let him GO?"

Slim, by the look of him, was ripe for murder.



"You want to look out, or you'll get apoplexy sure," Andy soothed,

giving himself another luxurious push and pulling the last, little whiff

from his cigarette before he threw away the stub. "Fat men can't afford

to get as excited as skinny ones can."



"Aw, say! Where did you put him, Andy?" asked Big Medicine, his first

flurry subsiding before the absolute calm of those two on the porch.



"In the blacksmith shop," said Andy, with a slurring accent on the first

word that made the whole sentence perfectly maddening. "Ah, come on back

here and sit down. I guess we better tell 'em the how of it. Huh, Mig?"



Miguel cast a slow, humorous glance over the four. "Ye-es--they'll have

us treed in about two minutes if we don't," he assented. "Go ahead."



"Well," Andy lifted his head and shoulders that he might readjust a

pillow to his liking, "we wanted him to make a getaway. Fact is, if he

hadn't, we'd have been--strictly up against it. Right! If he hadn't--how

about it, Mig? I guess we'd have been to the Little Rockies ourselves."



"You've got a sweet little voice," Irish cut in savagely, "but we're

tired. We'd rather hear yuh say something!"



"Oh--all right. Well, Mig and I just ribbed up a josh on Dunk. I'd read

somewhere about the same kinda deal, so it ain't original; I don't lay

any claim to the idea at all; we just borrowed it. You see, it's like

this: We figured that a man as mean as this Dunk person most likely had

stepped over the line, somewhere. So we just took a gambling chance, and

let him do the rest. You see, we never saw him before in our lives. All

that identification stunt of ours was just a bluff. But the minute I

shoved my chips to the center, I knew we had him dead to rights. You

were there. You saw him wilt. By gracious--"



"Yuh don't know anything against him?" gasped Irish.



"Not a darned thing--any more than what you all know," testified Andy

complacently.



It took a minute or two for that to sink in.



"Well, I'll be damned!" breathed Irish.



"We did chain him to the anvil," Andy went on. "On the way down, we

talked about being in a hurry to get back to you fellows, and I told

Mig--so Dunk could hear--that we wouldn't bother with the horse. We tied

him to the corral. And I hunted around for that bum chain, and then we

made out we couldn't find the padlock for the door; so we decided, right

out loud, that he'd be dead safe for an hour or two, till the bunch of

us got back. Not knowing a darn thing about him, except what you boys

have told us, we sure would have been in bad if he hadn't taken a sneak.

Fact is, we were kinda worried for fear he wouldn't have nerve enough

to try it. We waited, up on the hill, till we saw him sneak down to the

corral and jump on his horse and take off down the coulee like a scared

coyote. It was," quoth the young man, unmistakably pleased with himself,

"pretty smooth work, if you ask me."



"I'd hate to ride as fast and far to-night as that hombre will,"

supplemented Miguel with his brief smile, that was just a flash of

white, even teeth and a momentary lightening of his languorous eyes.



Slim stood for five minutes, a stolid, stocky figure in the midst of

a storm of congratulatory comment. They forgot all about Happy Jack,

asleep inside the house, and so their voices were not hushed. Indeed,

Big Medicine's bull-like remarks boomed full-throated across the coulee

and were flung back mockingly by the barren hills. Slim did not hear

a word they were saying; he was thinking it over, with that complete

mental concentration which is the chief recompense of a slow-working

mind. He was methodically thinking it all out--and, eventually, he saw

the joke.



"Well, by golly!" he bawled suddenly, and brought his palm down with

a terrific smack upon his sore leg--whereat his fellows laughed

uproariously.



"We told you not to try to see through any more jokes till your leg gets

well, Slim," Andy reminded condescendingly.



"Say, by golly, that's a good one on Dunk, ain't it? Chasin' himself

clean outa the country, by golly--scared plumb to death---and you

fellers was only jest makin' b'lieve yuh knowed him! By golly, that sure

is a good one, all right!"



"You've got it; give you time enough and you could see through a

barbed-wire fence," patronized Andy, from the hammock. "Yes, since you

mention it, I think myself it ain't so bad."



"Aw-w shut up, out there, an' let a feller sleep!" came a querulous

voice from within. "I'd ruther bed down with a corral full uh calves at

weanin' time, than be anywheres within ten mile uh you darned, mouthy--"

The rest was indistinguishable, but it did not matter. The Happy Family,

save Slim, who stayed to look after the patient, tiptoed penitently

off the porch and took themselves and their enthusiasm down to the

bunk-house.





The End Of Iron Skull's Road The End Of The Silent Campaign facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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