“Describe ’em as exact as you can,” demanded Hopalong, and when Hawkins had done so the Bar-20 drive foreman slapped his thigh and laughed nastily. “One house with one door an’ only two windows—are you shore? Good! Where’s the corrals? Good again! So they’ll take pay for their blasted fence, eh? Cash or cows, hey! Don’t want no fight ’less it’s necessary, but they’re going to make us pay for the fence that killed two hundred head, an’ blamed nigh got us, too. An’ half a cent a head for drinking water! I’ve paid that more’n once—some of the poor devils squatting on the range ain’t got nothing to sell but water, but I don’t buy none out of Bennett’s Creek! Pete, you mounted fellers round up a little—bunch the herd a little closer, an’ drive straight along the trail towards that other fence. We’ll all help you as soon as the wranglers bring us up something to ride. Push ’em hard, limp or no limp, till dark. They’ll be too tired to go crow-hopping ’round any in the dark to-night. An’ say! When you see that bummer, if he wasn’t got by the fence, drop him clean. So they’ve got twelve men, hey! Huh!”
“What you going to do?” asked Red, beginning to cool down, and very curious.
“Yes; tell us,” urged Johnny.
“Why, I’m going to cut that fence, an’ cut it all to hell. Then I’m going to push the herd through it as far out of danger as I can. When they’re all right Cookie an’ the hoss-wranglers will have to hold ’em during the night while we do the rest.”
“What’s the rest?” demanded Johnny.
“Oh, I’ll tell you that later; it can
wait,” replied Hopalong.
“Meanwhile, you get out there with Pete an’ help get the herd in shape.
We’ll be with you soon—here comes the wranglers an’ the cavvieyeh.
’Bout time, too.”
MR. BOGGS IS DISGUSTED
The herd gained twelve miles by dark and would pass through the northern fence by noon of the next day, for Cook’s axe and monkey wrench had been put to good use. For quite a distance there was no fence: about a mile of barb wire had been pulled loose and was tangled up into several large piles, while rings of burned grass and ashes surrounded what was left of the posts. The cook had embraced this opportunity to lay in a good supply of firewood and was the happiest man in the outfit.
At ten o’clock that night eight figures loped westward along the southern fence and three hours later dismounted near the first corral of the 4X ranch. They put their horses in a depression on the plain and then hastened to seek cover, being careful to make no noise.
At dawn the door of the bunk house opened quickly and as quickly slammed shut again, three bullets in it being the reason. An uproar ensued and guns spat from the two windows in the general direction of the unseen besiegers, who did not bother about replying; they had given notification of their presence and until it was necessary to shoot there was no earthly use of wasting ammunition. Besides, the drive outfit had cooled down rapidly when it found that its herd was in no immediate danger and was not anxious to kill any one unless there was need. The situation was conducive to humor rather than anger. But every time the door moved it collected more lead, and it finally remained shut.