When the two 88 men had departed Molly
Dale continued to stand where she was for a space
and stare dumbly at nothing. Racey, realizing
well enough that her world had crashed to pieces about
her, wished that she would burst into tears.
A sobbing woman is easily comforted. It is simply
necessary to pet her and keep on petting her till her
grief is assuaged. But this hard stillness of
Molly Dale’s gave Racey no opening. He
could but gaze at her uncomfortably and shift his weight
from one foot to the other.
“That was a dirty trick of the
Marysville bank.” Thus tentatively.
It is doubtful whether Molly heard
him. “Poor Father,” she said in a
“Lookit here, Molly,”
said Racey, struck by a bright idea, “I’ve
got a li’l money I been saving. I I
want you should take it.”
Molly continued to stare into the distance.
“I’ve got some money ”
he began again, thinking that Molly had not heard.
But she turned her face toward him
at that, and he saw that her eyes were shining with
“Racey,” she said, with
a slight catch in her voice, and laid her hand lightly
on his arm. “Racey, you’re a dear,
good boy. We we’ll manage somehow.
I mum-must tell Mother.”
Abruptly she swung away and left him.
He watched her cross the garden and enter the kitchen
of the ranch-house. Then slowly, thoughtfully,
he set to work repairing as best he could the ravages
left in the garden by the hoofs of Lanpher’s
Came then Swing Tunstall on a paint
pony and was moved to mirth at sight of Racey Dawson
engaged in earthy labour.
“See the prêt-ty flowers,”
mouthed Swing Tunstall, after the fashion of a child
wrestling with the First Reader. “Does Racey
like prêt-ty flow-ers? Yeth, he’th
crathy ab-out them. Ain’t he cute squattin’
there all same hoptoad and a-workin’ away two-handed?
Only he ain’t a-workin’ now. He’s
stopped workin’. He’s gettin’
all red in the face. He’s mad at Swing
who never done him no harm nohow. Whatsa matter,
Racey?” he added in his natural voice. “What
bit you on the ear this fine an’ summer day?”
Racey looked over his shoulder toward
the house. Then he got to his feet and strode
across the garden to where Swing Tunstall sat his
“Swing,” said he, quietly, “are
you busy just now?”
Swing, suspecting a catch somewhere,
stared in swift suspicion. “Why uh no,”
was his cautious reply.
“Then go off some’ers and die.”
Without waiting for Swing’s
possible comment Racey turned his back on his friend
and walked unhurriedly to his horse Cuter. Swing
slouched sidewise in the saddle and watched him go.
He rolled a cigarette, lit it, and
inhaled luxuriously. And all without removing
his gaze from Racey’s back. He watched while
Racey flung the reins crosswise over Cuter’s
neck, mounted, and rode down into the creek.
When he saw that Racey, after allowing Cuter to drink
nearly all he wanted, rode on across the creek and
up the farther bank, Swing’s brow became corrugated
with a puzzled frown.
“He means business,” muttered
Swing. “I ain’t seen that look on
his face for some time. I wonder what did happen
His eyes still fixed on the dwindling
westward moving object that was Racey Dawson and his
horse, he smoked his cigarette to a butt. Then
he picked up his reins, found his stirrups, and rode
Racey Dawson, bound for the 88 ranch-house,
did not smoke. He did not feel like it.
He did not feel like doing anything but facing Lanpher.
What he would be moved to do while facing Lanpher he
was not sure. Time enough to cross that bridge
when the crucial moment should arrive. He knew
what he wanted to do, but he knew, too, that he could
not do it unless Lanpher made the first break.
Otherwise it would be murder, and Racey was no murderer.
“He’ll back down if he
can, the snake,” Racey said aloud. “And
he’ll be shore to slick and slime round till
all’s blue. Damn him, riding over those
flowers of hers!”
Racey did not hurry. He had no
desire to come up with Lanpher on the open range.
It would be better to meet the man at his own ranch-house where
there were apt to be plenty of witnesses. Racey
realized perfectly that he might need a witness, several
witnesses, before the sunset. He hoped that all
the boys of the 88 outfit would be at the ranch.
He hoped that Luke Tweezy would be there, too.
Lanpher and Tweezy together, the pups.
“Fat Jakey Pooley’s li’l
playmates,” he muttered and swore again heartily.
He understood now the true reason
for Jack Harpe’s lack of activity. This
purchasing by Lanpher and Tweezy of the Dale mortgage
was the eminently safe and lawful plan of Jakey Pooley.
In his letter Fat Jakey had written that it would
take longer. And wasn’t it taking longer?
It was. Racey thought he saw the plan in its entirety,
and was in a boil accordingly. He would have
been in considerably more of a boil had he been blessed
with the ability to read the future.
When he rode in among the buildings
of the 88 ranch his eyes were gratified by the sight
of freckle-faced Bill Allen straddling a cracker-box
in front of the bunkhouse and having his hair cut by
Bill Allen was complaining, “whynell don’t
you cut off the whole ear while yo’re about
“Aw, shut up,” said Rod
Rockwell, “it was only the tip, and I didn’t
go to cut it, anyway.”
“I don’t giveadamn whether
you went to cut it or not, you cut it! I can
feel the blood running down the back of my neck.”
“That’s only sweat, you
bellerin’ calf! Hold still, can’t
you? Djuh want me to hurt you?”
“You done have already,”
snarled Bill Allen, fidgeting on his cracker-box.
“You wait till I cut yore hair after. I’ll
fix you. I’ll scalp you, you pot-walloper.”
“That’s right, Bill,”
said Racey, checking his horse beside the quarrelling
pair. “Talk to him. Givem hell.”
“’Lo, Racey,” grinned the two youngsters
“Where did you rustle this hoss?”
asked Bill Allen.
“Nemmine where,” smiled
Racey, for both Bill and Rod had been his friends
in his 88 days and could therefore insult him with
impunity. “I wouldn’t wanna put li’l
boys in the way of temptation. Does the cook
still spank him regular, Rod?”
“Stab his hoss with the scissors,
Rod,” begged Bill Allen. “Let’s
see what for a rider Mr. Dawson is.”
Racey pressed his off rein against
his horse’s neck. The animal whirled on
a nickel, and reared, hard held, after the first plunge.
The flying pebbles plentifully showered the two punchers.
Bill Allen swore heartily, for one of the pebbles
had clipped his damaged ear.
“You see what a good rider I
am,” Racey said, sweetly. “Can’t
feaze me, nohow. Sit still, Bill, and lemme
try can I jump the li’l hoss over you.
Rod, do you mind movin’ back a yard?”
“No,” said Bill Allen,
decidedly, and picked up his cracker-box and retreated
backward to the bunkhouse door. “No, you
don’t play any such tricks as that on me.
He’d just as soon try it as not, the idjit,”
he added over his shoulder to Tile Stanton who was
peering out to see what all the racket was about.
“Let him try it,” Tile
Stanton advised promptly. “If the cayuse
does happen to hit yore head, it won’t hurt
yore thick skull. G’on, Bill, be a sport.”
“Be a sport yoreself,”
returned Bill Allen, skipping into the bunkhouse.
“Where’s the other scissors? I’ll
finish this job myself.”
Racey, left alone with Rod Rockwell,
smiled slightly. “Bill ain’t got
a sense of humour this mornin’,” he observed,
softly. “He must ‘a’ thought
I meant it.”
There was no answering smile on Rod’s
features as he looked up at Racey Dawson. “Racey,”
said he, laying a hand on the horse’s mane,
“have you been to McFluke’s lately?”
“I ain’t,” replied Racey, his smile
“Then keep on stayin’ away.”
“As bad as that?”
“As bad as that.”
“McFluke been talking?” was Racey’s
“If McFluke was the only one
it would be a mighty short hoss to curry.”
“Then there are others?”
“Plenty.” Rod Rockwell gave a short,
“All of Nebraska’s bunch, huh?”
“All but Nebraska.”
“How long has this been going on this
talking, I mean?”
“Doc Coffin started it about
a week ago. He told Windy Taylor of the Double
Diamond A he was gonna ventilate yore good health some
fine day. He wasn’t drunk, neither.”
“Then he must have serious intentions.”
“Somethin’ like that.
Five of us heard him say it. Lookit, while I was
at McFluke’s alone day before yesterday Doc and
Peaches Austin and Honey Hoke was all three bellying
the bar, and while I was tucking away my nosepaint
they was mumbling to themselves how you was all kinds
of a pup and would stand shootin’ any day.”
“Mumblin’ loud enough for you to hear,
“Naturally, or I wouldn’t ‘a’
“Then they wanted you to hear.
Guess they know yo’re a friend of mine.”
“Guess they do now,” Rod Rockwell said,
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, nothin’. I just talked to ’em
a li’l bit.”
“And you wasn’t shot? Didn’t
they do anything?”
“Hell, no,” Rod denied,
disgustedly. “Kansas Casey come in just
at the wrong time, and throwed down on the four of
us and said he’d do all the shooting they was
to be done. And when he went he took me with
him. Said he’d arrest me if I didn’t
go peaceable. Ain’t that just like Kansas?”
“Wearing the star shore means a lot to him.”
“Aw, since he’s been deputy
he’s gotten too big for his boots. And
Jake the same way. The country’s played
out, that’s whatsa matter. Law and order,
law and order, till a feller can’t turn round
no more without fallin’ into jail.”
“She’s one lucky thing
for you, cowboy,” said Racey, seriously, “that
Kansas did come. Three of ’em! You
had yore gall. Lookit here, next time you let
’em talk. Names don’t hurt less they’re
said to a feller’s face.”
“They knowed you was my friend,”
said Rod, simply. “Anyway, you keep away
“Maybe I will take yore advice.
It has its points of interest, as the feller said
when he sat down on the porkumpine. And speakin’
of porkumpines, have you seen Lanpher?”
“Shore. Him and Alicran
pulled in a hour ago. Guess he’s in the
“See anything of Tweezy lately?”
“Luke seems to be living with us lately.”
“I never knowed him and Lanpher
was good friends?” Racey cast at a venture.
“I didn’t either till lately.”
“Jack Harpe ever come out here?”
“Long-geared feller supposed
to have capital? Hangs out in Farewell?
The one that Marie girl tried to down? Bo, he
ain’t been here as I know of, but then he could
easy drift in and out and me not know it.”
Racey nodded. “Marie jump Jack again, do
you know?” he asked.
“Damfino. Don’t guess
so, though. I seen her pass him on Main Street,
and she didn’t even look at him.”
“I’ll bet he looked at her.”
“You can gamble he did.
He ain’t trustin’ her, not him. I
wonder what was at the bottom of the fuss between
him an’ her?” A sharp glance at Racey
accompanied this remark.
“I dunno,” yawned Racey.
“They say Mr. Harpe has had a career both high,
wide, and handsome.”
“That’s what I’d
call one too many,” grinned Rod Rockwell.
“You can put down a bet the
career has been one too many, too.”
“Yeah?” said Rod, wondering what was coming
“Yeah,” said Racey, nodding
mysteriously, but disappointing his friend by immediately
changing the subject. “Say, Rod, I’d
take it as a favour if you and Tile and Bill would
sort of freeze round the bunkhouse till after I’m
through with Lanpher.”
“Shore,” said Rod.
“Tweezy’s in the office, too, I guess.”
Racey nodded, and started his horse toward the office.
He understood well enough that Rod
and the other two punchers would not interfere in
any way with him and whatever acts he might be called
upon to perform during his conversation with Lanpher.
Loyal to the last cartridge and after whenever it
was ranch business, none of the 88 punchers ever felt
it incumbent upon him to go out of his way so far
as Lanpher personally was concerned. The manager
was not the man either to engender or to foster personal
At the open doorway of the office
Racey dismounted. He dropped the reins over his
horse’s head and walked to the doorway.
There he stopped and looked in. He saw Lanpher
sitting behind his big homemade desk. Lanpher
was watching him. At one side of the desk, on
a chair tilted back against the wall, sat Luke Tweezy.
Luke was chewing a straw. His eyes were half
closed, but Racey detected their glitter. Luke
Tweezy was not overlooking any bets at that moment.
Racey stepped across the doorsill
and halted just within the room. The thumb of
his left hand was hooked in his belt. His right
hand hung at his side. He was ready for action.
“Lanpher,” said Racey
without preliminary, “I want to serve notice
on you here and now that if I catch you within one
mile of Moccasin Spring you come a-shooting because
Lanpher’s hand remained motionless
on the desktop. Then the man picked up a pencil
and began to tap it on the wood. He licked his
“Is that a threat or a promise?” he asked.
“You can take it she’s both,” Racey
“You hear that, Luke?”
Lanpher turned to Luke Tweezy. “Threatenin’
my life, huh?”
“Shore,” nodded Luke Tweezy.
“Actionable, that is. Mustn’t threaten
a man’s life, Racey. Against the law, you
Racey moved to one side and leaned
his back comfortably against the wall. “Against
the law, huh, Luke?” he said nervously.
“Then I can be arrested?”
“You can,” Luke Tweezy
declared with evident relish. “That is,
you can if Lanpher wants to make a complaint.”
“You hear, Lanpher?” asked
Racey, still more nervously. “You wanna
make a complaint, huh?”
Lanpher had not failed to note the
nervousness of Racey’s tone. Now he licked
his lips again. He felt quite cheerful of a sudden.
It gave him a warm and pleasant feeling to think that
Racey Dawson was to a certain degree in his power.
Having licked his lips several times he rubbed his
chin judicially and coughed, likewise judicially.
“Well, I dunno as I wanna make
a complaint exactly,” he said, slowly.
“But you wanna walk a chalkline round here, Racey.
You got too much to say for a fact.”
“What do you think, Luke?”
queried Racey. “Have I got too much to
“You heard what Lanpher said,”
replied the cautious Luke.
“Yep, I heard all right.
I just wanted to get yore opinion, because I ain’t
through yet through talking, I mean.
What I was going to say is that I wouldn’t be
particular about catching Lanpher round Moccasin Spring.
If I only heard he’d been hanging round
there it would be enough.”
“Meaning you’ll drill him on suspicion?”
“Meaning I’ll do just that.”
“Now yo’re threatenin’ me again.”
“Takes you a long time to wake
up, don’t it?” The nervousness had vanished
from Racey’s voice. “Lanpher, you
lousy skunk! Why don’t you pull? There’s
a gun in that open drawer not six inches from your
hand. Go after it, you hound-dog!”
Lanpher was not inordinately brave.
He would go out of his way to avoid an appeal to lethal
weapons. But Racey’s words were more than
he could stand. His hand jerked sidewise and
down toward the sixshooter in the open drawer.
Bang! Shooting from the hip Racey
drove an accurate bullet through the manager’s
right forearm. Lanpher grunted and gurgled with
pain. But he made no attempt to seize his weapon
with his left hand.
Luke Tweezy picked himself up from
the floor where he had thrown himself a split second
before the shot. Luke Tweezy’s leathery
face was mottled yellow with rage.
“I’ll get you ten years
for this!” he squalled, pointing a long arm at
Racey. “You started this fight! You
tried to murder him!”
“Oh, say not so,” said
Racey. “If I’d wanted to kill him
I wouldn’t ‘a’ plugged him in the
arm, would I? That wouldn’t ‘a’
“You provoked this fraycas!”
snarled Luke, disregarding Racey’s point in
a true lawyer-like way. “You ”
“Why, no, Luke, yo’re
wrong, all wrong,” interrupted Swing Tunstall,
leaning over the windowsill at Tweezy’s back.
“I seen the whole thing, I did, and I didn’t
see Racey do anything he shouldn’t. I could
swear to it on the stand if I had to,” he added,
Come then Rod Rockwell, Bill Allen,
and Tile Stanton from the bunkhouse. None made
any comment on the state of affairs. But while
Rod fetched water in a basin, Bill Allen cut away the
sleeve of his groaning employer, and made all ready.
A few minutes later Alicran Skeel
entered the office. “I thought I heard
a gun,” he drawled, his calm eyes embracing everyone
in the room.
“That man!” bubbled Luke
Tweezy, shaking his fist at Racey. “That
man tried to kill Lanpher! I call upon you not
to let him leave the premises until I can go to Farewell
and swear out a warrant for his arrest.”
“That man,” said Swing
Tunstall, pointing a derisive finger at Luke Tweezy,
“is a liar by the clock. I saw the whole
thing. And all I gotta say is that Lanpher went
after his gun first.”
“I ain’t doubting yore
word, Swing,” Alicran said, tactfully, “but
they seems to be a difference of opinion sort of, and ”
“I say that Luke Tweezy is a
damn liar,” reasserted Swing, “and they
ain’t no difference of opinion about that.”
“Well, of course, if Luke ”
Alicran did not complete the sentence.
“I am a lawyer,” Luke
Tweezy explained, hurriedly. “I ain’t
paying any attention to what his man says now.”
“Or any other time,” jibed Swing.
“Any of you boys see this?” Alicran asked
of his three punchers.
“He tried to kill me, I tell
you!” Lanpher gritted through his teeth.
“He didn’t gimme a chance!”
“Any of you boys see it?”
repeated Alicran, paying no attention to Lanpher.
“How could we?” asked
Rod Rockwell, glancing up from the bandaging of Lanpher’s
arm. “We was all in the bunkhouse.”
“Then for the benefit of the
gents who wasn’t here,” said Racey, smoothly,
“I don’t mind saying that I told Lanpher
to go after his gun, and he did, and I did.”
“He’s a liar,” gibbered
Lanpher. “Alicran, ain’t you man enough
to take care of Racey Dawson?”
Alicran nodded composedly. “I
guess him and me would come to some kind of an agreement
provided I was shore he needed taking care of.
But I ain’t none shore he does. Looks like
it was a even break to me the word of you
and Luke against his and Swing’s. And what’s
fairer than that I’d like to know?”
“Alicran!” squalled Lanpher. “I’m
telling you to ”
“Yo’re all worked up,
that’s whatsa matter,” Alicran assured
him. “You don’t mean more’n
half you say. You lie down now after Rod gets
through with you and cool off cool off considerable,
I would. Do you a heap o’ good. Yeah.”
“And when you get all well,
Lanpher,” put in Racey, “will I still be
a liar like you say?”
Lanpher looked at Racey and looked
away. His heated blood was cooling fast.
His arm Lord, how it hurt! He perceived
that discretion was necessary to preserve the rest
of his precious skin from future perforation.
“I I guess I was
a li’l hasty,” he mumbled, his eyelids
“Now that’s what I call
right down handsome for you,” drawled
Racey. “Gawd knows I ain’t a hawg.
I’m satisfied. Luke, s’pose you and
me walk out to the corral together. I got a secret
for yore pearly ear.”
It was obvious that Luke Tweezy was
of two minds. Racey grinned to see the other’s
“What you scared of, Luke?”
he inquired. “It ain’t far to the
corral, and you can ask Alicran to come outside and
watch me while I’m talkin’ to you.”
“I ain’t got any business
with you,” denied Luke Tweezy.
“Oh, yo’re mistaken, a
heap mistaken. Yes, indeedy, you got business
with me. But it ain’t my fault, Luke.
I can’t help it. Of course, if you don’t
wanna talk to me private like, I can reel her off in
here. My thoughts were all of you and yore feelin’s,
Luke, when I said the corral. I was shore you’d
be happier there.”
“I ain’t got a thing to
hide, not a thing,” declared Luke Tweezy.
“But if you want to we’ll go out to the
They went out to the corral and Racey
found a seat on an empty nailkeg. Luke Tweezy
sat perforce on the hardbaked ground. He hunched
up his legs, clasped his hands round his shins, and
rested his sharp chin on his bony knees. His
eyes were fixed on Racey. The latter seemed in
no hurry to begin. He rolled a cigarette with
irritating slowness. To force one’s opponent
to wait is always good strategy.
“Well,” said Luke Tweezy.
“Is it?” smiled Racey.
“Have it yore own way, if you like. Lookit,
Luke, you buy a lot of scrip now and then, don’t
“Shore,” nodded Luke.
“Good big discount, I’ll bet.”
“Why not? I ain’t in business for
my health. They’s no law ”
“Of course there ain’t.
And yore mortgages, Luke. Do a good business
in mortgages, don’t you?”
“This mortgage of Old Man Dale’s
now you figurín’ on foreclosin’
if he can’t pay?”
“Whadda you know about Dale’s mortgage?”
“I heard Lanpher yawpin’
about it. He talks too loud sometimes, don’t
he? You gonna foreclose on him, I suppose?”
“Like that!” Luke Tweezy snapped his teeth
together with a click.
“But foreclosing takes time.
You can’t sell a man up the minute his mortgage
is due. There’s got to be notices in the
papers and the like of that. Suppose now he gets
to borrow the money some’ers before the sale?
He’ll have plenty of time to look round.”
“Who’d lend him money?”
“Old Salt would. He’s
tight, but he’d rather have Dale at Moccasin
Spring than someone else, and he’d lend Dale
money rather than have him drove out.”
“Shucks, he wouldn’t lend
him a dime. I know Old Salt. Don’t
fret, we’ll foreclose when we get ready.”
“I ain’t fretting,”
said Racey. “You’ll foreclose, huh?
Aw right. I just wanted to be shore. You
can go now, Luke.”
Thus dismissed Tweezy rose to his
feet and glared down at Racey Dawson. His little
eyes shone with spite.
“Say it,” urged Racey. “You’ll
bust if you don’t.”
But Luke Tweezy did not say it.
He knew better. Without a word he returned to
“They ain’t going to foreclose,
that’s a cinch,” said Racey when the ponies
were fox-trotting toward Soogan Creek and the Bar S
range five minutes later. “Luke’s
telling me they were proves they ain’t.”
“Shore,” acquiesced Swing,
“but what are they gonna do?”
“I ain’t figured that out yet.”
“You mean you dunno. That’s the size
“How’d you happen to be
at that window so providential this mornin’?”
Racey queried, hurriedly.
“How’d you s’pose?
Don’t you guess I’d know they was something
up from the nice, kind way you said so-long to me
back there at the Dales’? Huh? ’Course
I did I ain’t no fool. You’d
oughta had sense enough to take me along in the first
place instead of makin’ me trail you miles an’
miles. And where would you ‘a’ been
if I hadn’t come siftin’ along, I’d
like to know? Might know you’d need a witness.
Them two jiggers put together could easy make
you lots of trouble. What was you thinking of,
“How could I tell they were
both gonna be together? Besides, three
of the 88 boys were over in the bunkhouse. I was
counting on them.”
“Over in the bunkhouse, huh?
A lot of good they’d done you there. A
lot of good. Oh, yo’re bright, Racey.
I’d tell a man that, I would.”