Two Of A Kind





Patsy, staunch old partisan that he was, placed before them much food

which he had tried his best to keep hot without burning everything to

a crisp, and while they ate with ravenous haste he told, with German

epithets and a trembling lower jaw, of his troubles that day.



"Dem sheeps, dey coom by der leetle pasture," he lamented while he

poured coffee muddy from long boiling. "Looks like dey know so soon you

ride away, und dey cooms cheeky as you pleece, und eats der grass und

crawls under der fence and leafs der vool sthicking by der vires. I goes

out mit a club, py cosh, und der sheeps chust looks und valks by some

better place alreatty, und I throw rocks and yells till mine neck iss

sore.



"Und' dose herders, dey sets dem by der rock and laugh till I felt like

I could kill der whole punch, by cosh! Und von yells, 'Hey, dutchy,

pring me some pie, alreatty!' Und he laughs some more pecause der sheeps

dey don't go avay; dey chust run around und eat more grass and baa-aa!"

He turned and went heavily back to the greasy range with the depleted

coffee pot, lifted the lid of a kettle and looked in upon the contents

with a purely mechanical glance; gave a perfunctory prod or two with a

long-handled fork, and came back to stand uneasily behind Weary.



"If you poys are goin' to shtand fer dot," he began querulously, "Py

cosh I von't! Py myself I vill go and tell dot Dunk W'ittaker vot

lowdown skunk I t'ink he iss. Sheep's vool shtickin' by der fences

efferwhere on der ranch, py cosh! Dot vould sure kill der Old Man quick

if he see it. Shtinkin' off sheeps py our noses all der time, till I

can't eat no more mit der shmell of dem. Neffer pefore did I see vool on

der Flying U fences, py cosh, und sheeps baa-aain' in der coulee!"



Never had they seen Patsy take so to heart a matter of mere business

importance. They did not say much to him; there was not much that they

could say. They ate their fill and went out disconsolately to discuss

the thing among themselves, away from Patsy's throaty complainings. They

hated it as badly as did he; with Weary's urgent plea for no violence

holding them in leash, they hated it more, if that were possible.



The Native Son tilted his head unobtrusively stableward when he caught

Andy's eye, and as unobtrusively wandered away from the group. Andy

stopped long enough to roll and light a cigarette and then strolled

after him with apparent aimlessness, secretly curious over the summons.

He found Miguel in the stable waiting for him, and Miguel led the way,

rope in hand across the corral and into the little pasture where fed a

horse he meant to ride. He did not say anything until he had turned to

close the gate, and to make sure that they were alone and that their

departure had not carried to the Happy Family any betraying air of

significance.



"You remember when you blew in here, a few weeks or so ago?" the Native

Son asked abruptly, a twinkle in his fathomless eyes. "You put up a good

one on the boys, that time, you remember. Bluffed them into thinking I

was a hero in disguise, and that you'd seen me pull off a big stunt of

bull-fighting and bull-dogging down in Mexico. It was a fine josh. They

believe it yet."



Andy glanced at him perplexedly. "Yes--but when it turned out to be

true," he amended, "the josh was on me, I guess; I thought I was just

lying, when I wasn't. I've wondered a good deal about that. By

gracious, it makes a man feel funny to frame up a yarn out of his own

think-machine, and then find out he's been telling the truth all the

while. It's like a fellow handing out a twenty-four karat gold bar to a

rube by mistake, under the impression it only looks like one. Of course

they believe it! Only they don't know I just merely hit the truth by

accident."



The Native Son smiled his slow, amused smile, that somehow never failed

to be impressive. "That's the funny part of it," he drawled. "You

didn't. I just piled another little josh on top of yours, that's all. I

never throwed a bull in my life, except with my lariat. I'd heard a

good deal about you, and--well, I thought I'd see if I could go you one

better. And you put that Mexico yarn across so smooth and easy, I just

simply couldn't resist the temptation to make you think it was all

straight goods. Sabe?"



Andy Green did not say a word, but he looked exceedingly foolish.



"So I think we can both safely consider ourselves top-hands when it

comes to lying," the Native Son went on shamelessly. "And if you're

willing to go in with me on it and help put Dunk on the run--" He

glanced over his shoulder, saw that Happy Jack, on horseback, was coming

out to haze in the saddle bunch, and turned to stroll back as lazily as

he had come. He continued to speak smoothly and swiftly, in a voice

that would not carry ten paces. While Andy Green, with brown head bent

attentively, listened eagerly and added a sentence or two on his own

account now and then, and smiled--which he had not been in the habit of

doing lately.



"Say, you fellers are gittin' awful energetic, ain't yuh?--wranglin'

horses afoot!" Happy Jack bantered at the top of his voice when he

passed them by. "Better save up your strength while you kin. Weary's

goin' to set us herdin' sheep agin--and I betche there's goin' to be

something more'n herdin' on our hands before we git through."



"I wouldn't be a bit surprised if there was," sang out Andy, as

cheerfully as if he had been invited to dance "Ladies' choice" with the

prettiest girl in the crowd. "Wonder what hole he's going to dump this

bunch into," he added to the Native Son. "By gracious, he ought to send

'em just as far north as he can drive 'em without paying duty! I'd sure

take 'em over into Canada, if it was me running the show."



"It was a mistake," the Native Son volunteered, "for the whole bunch to

go off like we did to-day. They had those sheep up here on the hill just

for a bait. They knew we'd go straight up in the air and come down on

those two freaks herding 'em, and that gave them the chance to cross the

other bunch. I thought so all along, but I didn't like to butt in."



"Well Weary's mad enough now to do things that will leave a dent,

anyway," Andy commented under his breath when, from the corral gate, he

got a good look at Weary's profile, which showed the set of his mouth

and chin. "See that mouth? It's hunt the top rail, and do it quick, when

old Weary straightens out his lips like that."



Behind them, Happy Jack bellowed for an open gate and no obstructions,

and they drew hastily to one side to let the saddle horses gallop

past with a great upflinging of dust. Pink, with a quite obtrusive

facetiousness, began lustily chanting that it looked to him like a big

night to-night--with occasional, furtive glances at Weary's face; for

he, also, had been quick to read those close-pressed lips, which did not

soften in response to the ditty. Usually he laughed at Pink's drollery.



They rode rather quietly upon the hill again, to where fed the sheep.

During the hour or so that they had been absent the sheep had not moved

appreciably; they still grazed close enough to the boundary to make

their position seem a direct insult to the Flying U, a virtual slap in

the face. And these young men who worked for the Flying U, and who made

its interests right loyally their own, were growing very, very tired

of turning the other cheek. With them, the time for profanity and for

horseplay bluffing and judicious temporizing was past. There were other

lips besides Weary's that were drawn tight and thin when they approached

that particular band of sheep. More than one pair of eyes turned

inquiringly toward him and away again when they met no answering look.



They topped a rise of ground, and in the shallow wrinkle which had

hidden him until now they came full upon Dunk Whittaker, riding a chunky

black which stepped restlessly about while he conferred in low tones

with a couple of the herders. The Happy Family recognized them as two

of the fellows in whose safe keeping they had left their ropes the night

before. Dunk looked around quickly when the group appeared over the

little ridge, scowled, hesitated and then came straight up to them.



"I want you rowdies to bring back those sheep you took the trouble to

drive off this morning," he began, with the even, grating voice and the

sneering lift of lip under his little, black mustache which the older

members of the Happy Family remembered--and hated--so vividly.

"I've stood just all I'm going to stand, of these typically Flying U

performances you've been indulging in so freely during the past week.

It's all very well to terrorize a neighborhood of long-haired rubes who

don't know enough to teach you your places; but interfering with another

man's property is--"



"Interfering with another--what?" Big Medicine, his pale blue eyes

standing out more like a frog's than ever upon his face, gave his horse

a kick and lunged close that he might lean and thrust his red face near

to Dunk's. "Another what? I don't see nothin' in your saddle that looks

t'me like a man, by cripes! All I can see is a smooth-skinned, slippery

vermin I'd hate to name a snake after, that crawls around in the dark

and lets cheap rough-necks do all his dirty work. I've saw dogs sneak

up and grab a man behind, but most always they let out a growl or two

first. And even a rattler is square enough to buzz at yuh and give yuh

a chanc't to side-step him. Honest to grandma, I don't hardly know what

kinda reptyle y'are. I hate to insult any of 'em, by cripes, by namin'

yuh after 'em. But don't, for Lordy's sake, ever call yourself a man

agin!"



Big Medicine turned his head and spat disgustedly into the grass and

looked back slightingly with other annihilating remarks close behind his

wide-apart teeth, but instead of speaking he made an unbelievably quick

motion with his hand. The blow smacked loudly upon Dunk's cheek, and so

nearly sent him out of the saddle that he grabbed for the horn to save

himself.



"Oh, I seert yuh keepin' yer hand next yer six-gun all the while," Big

Medicine bawled. "That's one reason I say yuh ain't no man! Yuh wouldn't

dast talk up to a prairie dog if yuh wasn't all set to make a quick

draw. Yuh got your face slapped oncet before by a Flyin' U man, and yuh

had it comm'. Now you're--gittin'--it--done--right!"



If you have ever seen an irate, proletarian mother cuffing her offspring

over an empty wood-box, you may picture perhaps the present proceeding

of Big Medicine. To many a man the thing would have been unfeasible,

after the first blow, because of the horses. But Big Medicine was very

nearly all that he claimed to be; and one of his pet vanities was his

horsemanship; he managed to keep within a fine slapping distance of

Dunk. He stopped when his hand began to sting through his glove.



"Now you keep your hand away from that gun--that you ain't honest enough

to carry where folks can see it, but 'ye got it cached in your pocket!"

he thundered. "And go on with what you was goin' t'say. Only don't get

swell-headed enough to think you're a man, agin. You ain't."



"I've got this to say!" Mere type cannot reproduce the malevolence of

Dunk's spluttering speech. "I've sent for the county sheriff and a dozen

deputies to arrest you, and you, and you, damn you!" He was pointing

a shaking finger at the older members of the Happy Family, whom he

recognized not gladly, but too well. "I'll have you all in Deer Lodge

before that lying, thieving, cattle-stealing Old Man of yours can lift a

finger. I'll sheep Flying U coulee to the very doors of the white house.

I'll skin the range between here and the river--and I'll have every one

of you hounds put where the dogs won't bite you!" He drew a hand across

his mouth and smiled as they say Satan himself can smile upon occasion.



"You've done enough to send you all over the road; destroying property

and assaulting harmless men--you wait! There are other and better

ways to fight than with the fists, and I haven't forgotten any of you

fellows--there are a few more rounders among you--"



"Hey! You apologize fer that, by cripes, er I'll kill yuh the longest

way I know. And that--" Big Medicine again laid violent hands upon Dunk,

"and that way won't feel good, now I'm tellin' yuh. Apologize, er--"



"Say, all this don't do any good, Bud," Weary expostulated. "Let Dunk

froth at the mouth if he wants to; what we want is to get these sheep

off the range. And," he added recklessly, "so long as the sheriff is

headed for us anyway, we may as well get busy and make it worth his

while. So--" He stopped, silenced by a most amazing interruption.



On the brow of the hill, when first they had sighted Dunk in the hollow,

something had gone wrong with Miguel's saddle so that he had stopped

behind; and, to keep him company, Andy had stopped also and waited for

him. Later, when Dunk was spluttering threats, they had galloped up to

the edge of the group and pulled their horses to a stand. Now, Miguel

rode abruptly close to Dunk as rides one with a purpose.



He leaned and peered intently into Dunk's distorted countenance until

every man there, struck by his manner, was watching him curiously. Then

he sat back in the saddle, straightened his legs in the stirrups and

laughed. And like his smile when he would have it so, or the little

twitch of shoulders by which he could so incense a man, that laugh

brought a deeper flush to Dunk's face, reddened though it was by Big

Medicine's vigorous slapping.



"Say, you've got nerve," drawled the Native Son, "to let a sheriff

travel toward you. I can remember when you were more timid, amigo." He

turned his head until his eyes fell upon Andy. "Say, Andy!" he called.

"Come and take a look at this hombre. You'll have to think back a few

years," he assisted laconically.



In response, Andy rode up eagerly. Like the Native Son, he leaned and

peered into eyes that stared back defiantly, wavered, and turned away.

Andy also sat back in the saddle then, and snorted.



"So this is the Dunk Whittaker that's been raising merry hell around

here! And talks about sending for the sheriff, huh? I've always heard

that a lot uh gall is the best disguise a man can hide under, but, by

gracious, this beats the deuce!" He turned to the astounded Happy Family

with growing excitement in his manner.



"Boys, we don't have to worry much about this gazabo! We'll just

freeze onto him till the sheriff heaves in sight. Gee! There'll sure be

something stirring when we tell him who this Dunk person really is!

And you say he was in with the Old Man, once? Oh, Lord!" He looked

with withering contempt at Dunk; and Dunk's glance flickered again and

dropped, just as his hand dropped to the pocket of his coat.



"No, yuh don't, by cripes!" Big Medicine's hand gripped Dunk's arm on

the instant. With his other he plucked the gun from Dunk's pocket, and

released him as he would let go of something foul which he had been

compelled to touch.



"He'll be good, or he'll lose his dinner quick," drawled the Native

Son, drawing his own silver-mounted six-shooter and resting it upon the

saddle horn so that it pointed straight at Dunk's diaphragm. "You take

Weary off somewhere and tell him something about this deal, Andy. I'll

watch this slippery gentleman." He smiled slowly and got an answering

grin from Andy Green, who immediately rode a few rods away, with Weary

and Pink close behind.



"Say, by golly, what's Dunk wanted fer?" Slim blurted inquisitively

after a short silence.



"Not for riding or driving over a bridge faster than a walk Slim,"

purred the Native Son, shifting his gun a trifle as Dunk moved uneasily

in the saddle. "You know the man. Look at his face--and use your

imagination, if you've got any."





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