“Then I won’t,” said Tom Loudon, his tongue in his cheek.
“Where you think yo’re going?” Mr. Saltoun queried presently. “This ain’t the way to the ranch.”
“I know it ain’t. It’s the way to Farewell.”
“It’s just possible Racey may need a li’l help before he’s through with this job.”
“You’re right,” Mr. Saltoun said, contritely. “I’ve been so took up with this Dale mortgage and the idea of Luke Tweezy and that skunk Lanpher getting this land that I ain’t give much thought to anything else. Of course Racey will need help, and you and I are the fellers to give it to him.”
Racey Dawson and Rack Slimson, rising a hill on the way to Farewell, simultaneously turned their heads and looked at each other. Rack’s expression was dolefully sullen. Racey’s was hard and uncompromising.
“Who was it put you up to this?” asked Racey.
“Coming out here after me.”
“I didn’t come out after you, I tell you!”
“Shore, shore,” soothed Racey, “I know all about that. Who put you up to it?”
“I dunno what yo’re talkin’ about.”
“The ignorance of some people,” said Racey, recalling sundry occasions when other folk had oddly failed to grasp his meaning.
They rode onward silently.
When they reached the southern slope of Indian Ridge, Racey headed to the east. A spirit of unease lit heavily upon the sagging shoulders of Rack Slimson.
“You ain’t goin’ straight for Farewell,” he remarked at a venture.
“I thought you was.”
“I am—but not straight.”
“Huh?” Rack Slimson wrinkled his forehead at this.
“We’re goin’ in town from the side,” explained Racey Dawson.
This, too, was a puzzler. “Why?” queried Rack Slimson.
“So’s nobody will know we’re coming till we’re there.” The smile with which Racey garnished his answer was chilling to the soul of Mr. Slimson.
“But I don’t see—”
“You wouldn’t. I’ll tell you how it is all in words of one syllable. You and me are coming into town from the east where that draw is and those shacks behind the dance hall. We’ll leave our hosses in the draw, and proceed, like they say in the army, on foot. Then you and me—”
“But why me?” Rack Slimson desired to know. “What are you always putting ‘me’ in for?”
“Because yo’re a-going with me, Rack, that’s why. Yo’re a-going with me while I’m hunting for Coffin and Honey Hoke and Punch-the-breeze Thompson and Peaches Austin. Those four will likely be together, see, and I wanna use you for a breastwork sort of.”
“A breastwork!” cried the now thoroughly upset Mr. Slimson. “A breastwork!”
“Shore a breastwork. I’ll shove you ahead of me into the saloon and if they—there’s four of ’em, y’understand—cut down on me you’ll be in the way.”