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Bar-20 Days eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 204 pages of information about Bar-20 Days.
an hour, and then he suddenly stopped short and crouched as he saw the plain trail of a man crossing his own direction at a right angle.  From the bottom of one of the heel prints a crushed leaf was slowly rising back towards its original position, telling him how new the trail was; and as if this were not enough for his trained mind he heard a twig snap sharply as he glanced along the line of prints.  It sounded very close, and he dropped instantly to one knee and thought quickly.  Why had the other left so plain a trail, why had he reached up and broken twigs that projected above his head as he passed?  Why had he kicked aside a small stone, leaving a patch of moist, bleached grass to tell where it had lain?  Elkins had stumbled here, but there were no toe marks to tell of it.  Hopalong would not track, for he was no assassin; but he knew that he would do if he were, and careless.  The answer leaped to his suspicious mind like a flash, and he did not care to waste any time in trying to determine whether or not Elkins was capable of such a trick.  He acted on the presumption that the trail had been made plain for a good reason, and that not far ahead at some suitable place,—­and there were any number of such within a hundred yards,—­the maker of the plain trail lay in wait.  Smiling savagely he worked backward and turning, struck off in a circle.  He had no compunctions whatever now about shooting the other player of the game.  It was not long before he came upon the same trail again and he started another circle.  A bullet zipped past his ear and cut a twig not two inches from his head.  He fired at the smoke as he dropped, and then wriggled rapidly backward, keeping as flat to the earth as he could.  Elkins had taken up his position in a thicket which stood in the centre of a level patch of sand in the old bed of the river,—­the bed it had used five years before and forsaken at the time of the big flood when it cut itself a new channel and made the U-bend which now surrounded this piece of land on three sides.  Even now, during the rainy season, the thicket which sheltered Mr. Elkins was frequently an island in a sluggish, shallow overflow.

“Hole up, blast you!” jeered Hopalong, hugging the ground.  The second bullet from Mr. Elkins’ gun cut another twig, this one just over his head, and he laughed insolently.  “I ain’t ascared to do the moving, even if you are.  Judging from the way you keep out o’ sight the canned oysters are in the can again. I never did no ambushing, you coyote.”

“You can’t make remarks like that an’ get away with ’em—­I’ve knowed you too long,” retorted Elkins, shifting quickly, and none too soon.  “You went an’ got Slim afore he was wide awake.  I know you, all right.”

Hopalong’s surprise was but momentary, and his mind raced back over the years.  Who was this man Elkins, that he knew Slim Travennes?  “Yo’re a liar, Elkins, an’ so was the man who told you that!”

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