B.M. Bower.

The Lonesome Trail and Other Stories online

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air that worried them more than they would have cared to own.

Only Pink refused to lose heart. "Well, come on - let's wake up these
dead ones," he shouted, drawing his gun and firing into the air. "Get
busy, you sleepers! _Yip_! _Cowboys in town_!" He wheeled and darted
off down the street, shooting and yelling, and the others, with Weary
in their midst, followed. At the blacksmith shop, Pink, tacitly the
leader of the rescuers, would have gone straight on out of town. But
Weary whirled and galloped back, firing merrily into the air. A bit
chagrined, Pink wheeled and galloped at his heels, fuming inwardly at
the methodical reloading after every third shot. Cal, on the other
side, glanced across at Pink, shook his head ruefully and shoved more
shells into his smoking gun.

Back and forth from the store at one end of the street to the
blacksmith shop at the other they rode, yelling till their throats
ached and shooting till their gun-barrels were hot; and Weary kept pace
with them and out-yelled and out-shot the most energetic, and never
once forgot the little ceremony of shoving in fresh shells after the
third shot. Drunk, Weary appeared much more cautious than when sober.
Pink grew hot and hoarse, and counted the shots, one, two, three, over
and over till his brain grew sick.

On the seventh trip down the street, a sleek, black head appeared for
an instant over the top of the board-pile in the hotel yard. A pair of
frightened, slant eyes peered out at them. Weary, just about to
reload, caught sight of him and gave a whoop of pure joy.

"Lord, how I do hate a Chink!" he cried, and dropped to the ground the
three shells in his hand that he might fire the two in his gun.

Pink yelled also. "Nab him, Cal!" and caught his gun arm the instant
Weary's last bullet left the barrel.

Cal leaned and caught Weary round the neck in a close hug. Jack Bates
and Happy Jack crowded close, eager to help but finding no place to
take hold.

"Now, you blame fool, come along home and quit disgracing the whole
community!" cried Cal, half angrily. "Ain't yuh got any sense at all?"

Weary protested; he swore; he threatened. He was not in the least like
his old, sweet-tempered self. He mourned openly because he had no
longer a gun that he might slay and spare not. He insisted that he
would take much pleasure in killing them all off - especially Pink. He
felt that Pink was the greatest traitor in the lot, and said that it
would be a special joy to him to see Pink expire slowly and in great
pain. He remarked that they would be sorry, before they were through
with him, and repeated, many times, the hint that he never forgot a
friend or forgave an enemy - and looked darkly at Pink.

"You're batty," Pink told him sorrowfully, the while they led him out
through the lane. "We're the best friends yuh got - only yuh don't
appreciate us."

Weary glared at him through a tangle of brown hair, and remarked
further, in tones that one could hear a mile, upon the subject of
Pink's treachery and the particular kind of death he deserved to die.

Pink shrugged his shoulder and grew sulky; then, old friendship growing
strong within him, he sought to soothe him.

But Weary absolutely declined to be soothed. Cal, serene in his
fancied favoritism, attempted the impossible, and was greeted with
language which no man living had ever before heard from the lips of
Weary the sunny. Jack Bates and Happy Jack, profiting by his
experience, wisely kept silence.

For this, the homeward ride was not the companionable gallop it usually
was. They tried to learn from Weary what he had done with Glory, and
whence came the mud-colored cayuse with the dim, blotched brand, that
he bestrode. They asked also where were the horses he had been sent to
bring.

In return, Weary began viciously to dissect their pedigree and general
moral characters.

After that, they gave over trying to question or to reason, and the
last two miles they rode in utter silence. Weary, tiring of venom that
brought no results, subsided gradually into mutterings, and then into
sullen silence, so that, save for his personal appearance, they reached
camp quite decorously.

Chip met them at the bed wagon, where they slipped dispiritedly off
their horses and began to unsaddle - all save Weary; he stared around
him, got cautiously to the ground and walked, with that painfully
circumspect stride sometimes affected by the intoxicated, over to the
cook-tent.

"Well," snapped Chip to the others, "For once in his life, Happy was
right."

Weary, still planting his feet primly upon the trampled grass, went
smiling up to the stupefied Patsy.

"Lord, how I do love a big, fat, shiny Dutch cook!" he murmured, and
flung his long arms around him in a hug that caused Patsy to grunt.
"How yuh was, already, Dutchy? Got any pie in this man's cow-camp?"

Patsy scowled and drew haughtily away from his embrace; there was one
thing he would not endure, even from Weary: it was having his
nationality too lightly mentioned. To call him Dutchy was a direct
insult, and the Happy Family never did it to his face - unless the
provocation was very great. To call him Dutchy and in the same breath
to ask for pie - that, indeed, went far beyond the limits of decency.

"Py cosh, you not ged any pie, Weary Davidson. Py cosh, I learns you
not to call names py sober peoples. You not get no grub whiles you iss
too drunk to be decend mit folks."

"Hey? Yuh won't feed a man when he's hungry? Yuh darn Dutch - " Weary
went into details in a way that was surprising.

The Happy Family rushed up and pulled him off Patsy before he had done
any real harm, and held him till the cook had got into the shelter of
his tent and armed himself with a frying pan. Weary was certainly
outdoing himself today. The Happy Family resolved into a peace
committee.

"Aw, dig up some pie for him, Patsy," pleaded Cal. "Yuh don't want to
mind anything he says while he's like this; yuh know Weary's a good
friend to yuh when he's sober. Get some strong coffee - that'll
straighten him out."

"Py cosh, I not feed no drunk fools. I not care if it iss Weary. He
hit mine jaw - "

"Aw, gwan! I guess yuh never get that way yourself," put in Happy
Jack, ponderously sarcastic. "I guess yuh never tanked up in roundup,
one time, and left me cook chuck fer the hull outfit - and I guess Weary
never rode all night, and had the dickens of a time, tryin' t' get yuh
a doctor - yuh old heathen. Yuh sure are an ungrateful cuss."

"Give him some good, hot coffee, Patsy, and anything he wants to eat,"
commanded Chip, more sharply than was his habit. "And don't be all day
about it, either."

That settled it, of course; Chip, being foreman, was to be
obeyed - unless Patsy would rather roll his blankets and hunt a new job.
He took to muttering weird German sentences the while he brought out
two pies and poured black coffee into a cup. The reveler drank the
coffee - three cups of it - ate a whole blueberry pie, and was consoled.
He even wanted to embrace Patsy again, but was restrained by the
others. After that he went over and laid down in the shade of the
bed-wagon, and straightway began to snore with much energy and
enthusiasm.

Chip watched him a minute and then went and sat down on the shady side
of the bed-tent and began gloomily to roll a cigarette. The rest of
the Happy Family silently followed his example; for a long while no one
said a word.

It certainly was a shock to see Weary like that. Not because it is
unusual for a man of the range to get in that condition - for on the
contrary, it is rather commonplace. And the Happy Family had lived the
life too long to judge a man harshly because of an occasional
indiscreet departure from the path virtuous; they knew that the man
might be a good fellow, after all. In the West grows Charity sturdily,
with branches quite broad enough to cover certain defections on the
part of such men as Weary Davidson.

For that, the real shock came in the utter unexpectedness of the
thing - and from the fact that a man, even though prone to indulge in
such riotous conduct, is supposed to forswear such indulgence when he
has other and more important things to do. Weary had been sent afar on
a matter of business; he had ridden Glory, a horse belonging to the
Flying U. His arrival without the strays he had been sent after;
without even the horse he had ridden away - that was the real disaster.
He had broken a trust; he had, apparently, appropriated a horse that
did not belong to him, which was worse. But the Happy Family were
loyal, to a man. They did not condemn him; they were only waiting for
him to sleep himself into a condition to explain the mystery.

"Somebody's doped him," said Pink with decision, after three hours of
shying around the subject. "You'll see; somebody's doped him and
likely took Glory away when they'd got him batty enough not to know the
difference. Yuh mind the queer look in his eyes? And he acts queer.
So help me Josephine! I'd sure like to get next to the man that traded
horses with him."

The Happy Family breathed deeply; they were all, apparently, thinking
the same thing.

"By golly, that's what," spoke Slim, with decision. "He does act like
a man that had been doped."

"Whisky straight wouldn't make that much difference in a man," averred
Jack Bates. "Yuh can't _get_ Weary on the fight, hardly, when he's
sober; and look at the way he was in town - hot to slaughter that
Chinaman that wasn't doing a thing to him, and saying how he hated
Chinks. Weary don't; he always says, when Patsy don't make enough pie
to go round, that if he was running the outfit he'd have a Chink to
cook."

"Aw, look at the way he acted t' Rusty - and he thinks a lot uh Rusty,
too," put in Happy Jack, who felt the importance of discovery and was
in an unusually complacent mood. "And he was going t' hang Pink up by
the heels and - "

Pink turned round and looked at him fixedly, and Happy Jack became
suddenly interested in his cigarette.

"Say, he'll sure be sore when he comes to himself, though," observed
Cal. "I don't know how he's going to square himself with his
school-ma'am. Joe Meeker was into Rusty's place while the big setting
comes off; I would uh given him a gentle hint about keeping his face
closed, only Weary wouldn't let me off my horse. Joe'll sure give a
high-colored picture uh the performance."

"Well, if he does, he'll regret it a lot," prophesied Pink. "And
anyway, something sure got wrong with Weary; do yuh suppose he'd give
up Glory deliberately? Not on your life! Glory comes next to the
Schoolma'am in his affections."

"Wonder where he got that dirt-colored cayuse, anyhow," mused Cal.

"I was studying out the brand, a while ago," Pink answered. "It's
blotched pretty bad, but I made it out. It's the Rocking R - they range
down along Milk River, next to the reservation. I've never had
anything to do with the outfit, but I'd gamble on the brand, all right."

"Well, how the deuce would he come by a Rocking R horse? He never got
it around here, anywheres. He must uh got it up on the Marias."

"Then that must be a good long jag he's had - which I don't believe,"
interjected Cal.

"Somebody," said Pink meaningly, "ought to have gone along with him;
this thing wouldn't uh happened, then."

"Ye-e-s?" Chip felt that the remark applied to him as a foreman,
rather than as one of the Family, and he resented it. "If I'd sent
somebody else with him, the outfit would probably be out two horses,
instead of one - and there'd be two men under the bed-wagon with their
hats and coats missing."

Pink's eyes, under their heavy fringe of curled lashes, turned
ominously purple. "With all due respect to you, Mr. Bennett, I'd like
to have you explain - "

A horseman rode quietly up to them from behind a thicket of
choke-cherry bushes. Pink, catching sight of him first, stopped short
off and stared.

"Hello, boys," greeted the new-comer gaily. "How's everything? Mamma!
it's good to get amongst white folks again."

The Happy Family rose up as one man and stared fixedly; not one of them
spoke, or moved. Pink was the first to recover.

"Well - I'll be - damned!"

"Yuh sure will, Cadwolloper, if yuh don't let down them pretty lashes
and quit gawping. What the dickens ails you fellows, anyhow? Is - is
my hat on crooked, or - or anything?"

"Weary, by all that's good!" murmured Chip, dazedly.

Weary swung a long leg over the back of Glory and came to earth.
"Say," he began in the sunny, drawly voice that was good to hear,
"what's the joke?"

The Happy Family sat down again and looked queerly at one another.

Happy Jack glanced furtively at a long figure in the grass near by, and
then, unhappily, at Weary.

"It's him, all right," he blurted solemnly. "They're both him!"

The Happy Family snickered hysterically.

Weary took a long step and confronted Happy Jack. "I'm both him, am
I?" he repeated mockingly. "Mamma, but you're a lucid cuss!" He
turned and regarded the stunned Family judicially.

"If there's any of it left," he hinted sweetly, "I wouldn't mind taking
a jolt myself; but from the looks, and the actions, yuh must have got
away with at least two gallons!"

"Oh, we can give you a jolt, I guess," Chip retorted dryly. "Just step
this way."

Weary, wondering a bit at the tone of him, followed; at his heels came
the perturbed Happy Family. Chip stooped and turned the sleeping one
over on his back; the sleeper opened his eyes and blinked questioningly
up at the huddle of bent faces.

The astonished, blue eyes of Weary met the quizzical blue eyes of his
other self. He leaned against the wagon wheel.

"Oh, mamma!" he said, weakly.

His other self sat up and looked around, felt for his hat, saw that it
was gone, and reached mechanically for his cigarette material.

"By the Lord! Are punchers so damn scarce in this neck uh the woods,
that yuh've got to shanghai a man in order to make a full crew?" he
demanded of the Happy Family, in the voice of Weary - minus the drawl.
"I've got a string uh cayuses in that darn stockyards, back in
town - and a damn poor town it is! - and I've also got a date with the
Circle roundup for tomorrow night. What yuh going to do about it?
Speak up, for I'm in a hurry to know."

The Happy Family looked at one another and said nothing.

"Say," began Weary, mildly. "Did yuh say your name was Ira Mallory,
and do yuh mind how they used to mix us up in school, when we were both
kids? 'Cause I've got a hunch you're the same irrepressible that has
the honor to be my cousin."

"I didn't say it," retorted his other self, pugnaciously. "But I don't
know as it's worth while denying it. If you're Will Davidson, shake.
What the devil d'yuh want to look so much like me, for? Ain't yuh got
any manners? Yuh always was imitating your betters." He grinned and
got slowly to his feet. "Boys, I don't know yuh, but I've a hazy
recollection that we had one hell of a time shooting up that little
townerine, back there. I don't go on a limb very often, but when I do,
folks are apt to find it out right away."

The Happy Family laughed.

"By golly," said Slim slowly, "that cousin story 's all right - but I
bet yuh you two fellows are twins, at the very least!"

"Guess again, Slim," cried Weary, already in the clutch of old times.
"Run away and play, you kids. Irish and me have got steen things to
talk about, and mustn't be bothered."




THE UNHEAVENLY TWINS

There was a dead man's estate to be settled, over beyond the Bear Paws,
and several hundred head of cattle and horses had been sold to the
highest bidder, who was Chip Bennett, of the Flying U. Later, there
were the cattle and horses to be gathered and brought to the home
range; and Weary, always Chip's choice when came need of a trusted man,
was sent to bring them. He was to hire what men he needed down there,
work the range with the Rocking R, and bring home the stock - when his
men could take the train and go back whence they had come.

The Happy Family was disappointed. Pink and Irish, especially, had
hoped to be sent along; for both knew well the range north of the Bear
Paws, and both would like to have made the trip with Weary. But men
were scarce and the Happy Family worked well together - so well that
Chip grudged every man of them that ever had to be sent afar. So Weary
went alone, and Pink and Irish watched him wistfully when he rode away
and were extremely unpleasant companions for the rest of that day, at
least.

Over beyond the Bear Paws men seemed scarcer even than around the
Flying U range. Weary scouted fruitlessly for help, wasted two days in
the search, and then rode to Bullhook and sent this wire - collect - to
Chip, and grinned as he wondered how much it would cost. He, too, had
rather resented being sent off down there alone.


"C. BENNETT, Dry Lake:
Can't get a man here for love or money. Have
tried both, and held one up with a gun. No use.
Couldn't top a saw horse. For the Lord's sake,
send somebody I know. I want Irish and Pink
and Happy - and I want them bad. Get a move on.
W. DAVIDSON."


Chip grinned when he read it, paid the bill, and told the three to get
ready to hit the trail. And the three grinned answer and immediately
became very busy; hitting the trail, in this case, meant catching the
next train out of Dry Lake, for there were horses bought with the
cattle, and much time would be saved by making up an outfit down there.


Weary rode dispiritedly into Sleepy Trail (which Irish usually spoke of
as Camas, because it had but lately been rechristened to avoid
conflictions with another Camas farther up on Milk River). Weary
thought, as he dismounted from Glory, which he had brought with him
from home, that Sleepy Trail fitted the place exactly, and that
whenever he heard Irish refer to it as Camas, he would call him down
and make him use this other and more appropriate title.

Sleepy it was, in that hazy sunshine of mid fore-noon, and apparently
deserted. He tied Glory to the long hitching pole where a mild-eyed
gray stood dozing on three legs, and went striding, rowels a-clank,
into the saloon. He had not had any answer to his telegram, and the
world did not look so very good to him. He did not know that Pink and
Irish and Happy Jack were even then speeding over the prairies on the
eastbound train from Dry Lake, to meet him. He had come to Sleepy
Trail to wait for the next stage, on a mere hope of some message from
the Flying U.

The bartender looked up, gave a little, welcoming whoop and leaned half
over the bar, hand extended. "Hello, Irish! Lord! When did _you_ get
back?"

Weary smiled and shook the hand with much emphasis. Irish had once
created a sensation in Dry Lake by being taken for Weary; Weary
wondered if, in the guise of Irish, there might not be some diversion
for him here in Sleepy Trail. He remembered the maxim "Turn about is
fair play," and immediately acted thereon.

"I just came down from the Flying U the other day," he said.

The bartender half turned, reached a tall, ribbed bottle and two
glasses, and set them on the bar before Weary. "Go to it," he invited
cordially. "I'll gamble yuh brought your thirst right along with
yuh - and that's your pet brand. Back to stay?"

Weary poured himself a modest "two fingers," and wondered if he had
better claim to have reformed; Irish could - and did - drink long and
deep, where Weary indulged but moderately.

"No," he said, setting the glass down without refilling. "They sent me
back on business. How's everything?"

The bartender spoke his wonder at the empty glass, listened while Weary
explained how he had cut down his liquid refreshments "just to see how
it would go, and which was boss," and then told much unmeaning gossip
about men and women Weary had never heard of before.

Weary listened with exaggerated interest, and wondered what the fellow
would do if he told him he was not Irish Mallory at all. He reflected,
with some amusement, that he did not even know what to call the
bartender, and tried to remember if Irish had ever mentioned him. He
was about to state quietly that he had never met him before, and watch
the surprise of the other, when the bartender grew more interesting.

"And say! yuh'd best keep your gun strapped on yuh, whilst you're down
here," he told Weary, with some earnestness. "Spikes Weber is in this
country - come just after yuh left; fact is, he's got it into his block
that you left _because_ he come. Brought his wife along - say! I feel
sorry for that little woman - and when he ain't bowling up and singing
his war-song about you, and all he'll do when he meets up with yuh,
he's dealing her misery and keeping cases that nobody runs off with
her. Why, at dances, he won't let her dance with nobody but him! Goes
plumb wild, sometimes, when it's 'change partners' in a square dance,
and he sees her swingin' with somebody he thinks looks good to her.
I've saw him raising hell with her, off in some corner between dances,
and her trying not to let on she's cryin'. He's dead sure you're still
crazy over her, and ready to steal her away from him first chance, only
you're afraid uh him. He never gits full but he reads out your
pedigree to the crowd. So I just thought I'd tell you, and let yuh be
on your guard."

"Thanks," said Weary, getting out papers and tobacco. "And whereabouts
will I find this lovely specimen uh manhood?"

"They're stopping over to Bill Mason's; but yuh better not go hunting
trouble, Irish. That's the worst about putting yuh next to the lay.
You sure do love a fight. But I thought I'd let yuh know, as a friend,
so he wouldn't take you unawares. Don't be a fool and go out looking
for him, though; he ain't worth the trouble."

"I won't," Weary promised generously. "I haven't lost nobody that
looks like Spikes-er-" he searched his memory frantically for the other
name, failed to get it, and busied himself with his cigarette, looking
mean and bloodthirsty to make up. "Still," he added darkly, "if I
should happen to meet up with him, yuh couldn't blame me - "

"Oh, sure not!" the bartender hastened to cut in. "It'd be a case uh
self-defence - the way he's been makin' threats. But - "

"Maybe," hazarded Weary mildly, "you'd kinda like to see - _her_ - a
widow?"

"From all accounts," the other retorted, flushing a bit nevertheless,
"If yuh make her a widow, yuh won't leave her that way long. I've
heard it said you was pretty far gone, there."

Weary considered, the while he struck another match and relighted his
cigarette. He had not expected to lay bare any romance in the somewhat
tumultuous past of Irish. Irish had not seemed the sort of fellow who
had an unhappy love affair to dream of nights; he had seemed a
particularly whole-hearted young man.

"Well, yuh see," he said vaguely, "Maybe I've got over it."

The bartender regarded him fixedly and unbelievingly. "You'll have
quite a contract making Spikes swallow that," he remarked drily.

"Oh, damn Spikes," murmured Weary, with the fine recklessness of Irish
in his tone.

At that moment a cowboy jangled in, caught sight of Weary's back and
fell upon him joyously, hailing him as Irish. Weary was very glad to
see him, and listened assiduously for something that would give him a
clue to the fellow's identity. In the meantime he called him "Say,
Old-timer," and "Cully." It had come to be a self-instituted point of
honor to play the game through without blundering. He waved his hand
hospitably toward the ribbed bottle, and told the stranger to "Throw
into yuh, Old-timer - it's on me." And when Old-timer straightway began
doing so, Weary leaned against the bar and wiped his forehead, and
wondered who the dickens the fellow could be. In Dry Lake, Irish had
been - well, hilarious - and not accountable for any little
peculiarities. In Sleepy Trail Weary was, perhaps he considered
unfortunately, sober and therefore obliged to feel his way carefully.

"Say! yuh want to keep your eyes peeled for Spikes Weber, Irish,"
remarked the unknown, after two drinks. "He's pawing up the earth
whenever he hears your name called. He's sure anxious to see the sod
packed down nice on top uh yuh."

"So I heard; his nibs here," indicating the bartender, "has been wising
me up, a lot. When's the stage due, tomorrow, Oldtimer?" Weary was
getting a bit ashamed of addressing them both impartially in that
manner, but it was the best he could do, not knowing the names men
called them. In this instance he spoke to the bartender.


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