“Missed by a mile,” reproved Hopalong, who would have been stunned by such a thing as a hit under the circumstances, even if his good-shooting friend had made it.
“Yes! Missed the coyote I aimed for, but I got the cayuse of his off pardner; see it?”
“Talk about luck!”
“That’s all right: it takes blamed good shooting to miss that close in this case. Look! It’s slowed ’em up a bit, an’ that’s about all I hoped to do. Bet they think I’m a real, shore-’nuff medicine-man. Now gimme another cartridge.”
“I will not; no use wasting lead at this range. We’ll need all the cartridges we got before we get out of this hole. You can’t do nothing without stopping—an’ that takes time.”
“Then I’ll stop! The blazes with the time! Gimme another, d’ye hear?”
Mr. Cassidy heard, complied, and stopped beside his companion, who was very intent upon the matter at hand. It took some figuring to make a hit when the range was so great and the sun so blinding and the wind so capricious. He lowered the rifle and peered through the smoke at the confusion he had caused by dropping the nearest warrior. He was said to be the best rifle shot in the Southwest, which means a great deal, and his enemies did not deny it. But since the Sharps shot a special cartridge and was reliable up to the limit of its sight gauge, a matter of eighteen hundred yards, he did not regard the hit as anything worthy of especial mention. Not so his friend, who grinned joyously and loosed his admiration.
“Yo’re a shore wonder with that gun, Red! Why don’t you lose that repeater an’ get a gun like mine? Lord, if I could use a rifle like you, I wouldn’t have that gun of yourn for a gift. Just look at what you did with it! Please get one like it.”
“I’m plumb satisfied with the repeater,” replied Red. “I don’t miss very often at eight hundred with it, an’ that’s long enough range for most anybody. An’ if I do miss, I can send another that won’t, an’ right on the tail of the first, too.”
“Ah, the devil! You make me disgusted with yore fool talk about that carbine!” snapped his companion, and the subject was dropped.
The merits of their respective rifles had always been a bone of contention between them and one well chewed, at that. Red was very well satisfied with his Winchester, and he was a good judge.
“You did stop ’em a little,” asserted Mr. Cassidy some time later when he looked back. “You stopped ’em coming straight, but they’re spreading out to work up around us. Now, if we had good cayuses instead of these wooden wonders, we could run away from ’em dead easy, draw their best mounted warriors to the front an’ then close with ’em. Good thing their cayuses are well tired out, for as it is we’ve got to make a stand purty soon. Gee! They don’t like you, Red; they’re calling you names in the sign language. Just look at ’em cuss you!”
“How much water have you got?” inquired his friend with anxiety.