MAC STRANN DECIDES TO KEEP THE LAW
It was hours later that night when Haw-Haw Langley and Mac Strann sat their horses on the hill to the south. Before them, on the nearest rise of ground, a clump of tall trees and the sharp triangle of a roof split the sky, while down towards the right spread a wide huddle of sheds and barns.
“That’s where the trail ends,” said Mac Strann, and started his horse down the slope. Haw-Haw Langley urged his little mount hurriedly alongside the squat bulk of his companion. He looked like the skeleton reality, and Mac Strann the blunt, deformed shadow.
“You ain’t going into the house lookin’ for him, Mac?” he asked, and he lowered his voice to a sharp whisper in spite of the distance. “Maybe there’s a pile of men in that house. It’s got room for a whole army. You ain’t going in there by yourself, Mac?”
“Haw-Haw,” explained the big man quietly, “I ain’t going after Barry. I’m going to make him come after me.”
Haw-Haw considered this explanation for a dazed moment. It was far too mysterious for his comprehension.
“What you goin’ to do?” he asked again.
“Would you know that black hoss agin if you seen him?” asked Mac Strann.
“In a thousand.”
“That hoss has had a long ride; and Barry has put him in one of them barns, they ain’t no doubt. Most like, the dog is with the hoss.”
“It looks a considerable lot like a wolf,” muttered Langley. “I wouldn’t choose meetin’ up with that dog in the dark. Besides, what good is it goin’ to do you to find the dog?”
“If you hurt a man’s dog,” explained Mac Strann calmly, “you’re hurting the man, ain’t you? I’m going to hurt this man’s dog; afterwards the dog’ll bring the man to me. They ain’t no doubt of that. I ain’t goin’ to kill the dog. I’m goin’ to jest nick him so’s he’ll get well and then hit my trail.”
“What sense is they in that?”
“If Barry comes to me, ain’t he the one that’s breakin’ the law? If I kill him then, won’t it be in self-defense? I ain’t no law-breaker, Haw-Haw. It ain’t any good bein’ a law-breaker. Them lawyers can talk a man right into a grave. They’s worse nor poison. I’d rather be caught in a bear trap a hundred miles from my shack than have a lawyer fasten onto my leg right in the middle of Brownsville. No, Haw-Haw, I ain’t going to break any law. But I’m going to fix the wolf so’s he’ll know me; and when he gets well he’ll hit my trail, and when he hits my trail he’ll have Barry with him. And when Barry sees me, then——” he raised his arms above him in the dark. “Then!” breathed Mac Strann, “Jerry can start sleepin’ sound for the first time!”
Haw-Haw Langley wrapped his long arms about himself.
“An’ I’ll be there to watch. I’ll be there to see fair play, don’t you never doubt it, Mac. Why didn’t I never go with you before? Why, Jerry never done anything to touch this! But be careful, Mac. Don’t make no slip up to-night. If they’s trouble—I ain’t a fighting man, Mac. I ain’t no ways built for it.”