“Deader’n hell,” remarked Skinny, looking around curiously. “This here is some shack, ain’t it?” he finished.
“All right—he knowed how he’d finish when he began. Now for that dear Mr. Harlan,” Buck replied, vaulting into the saddle. He turned and looked at Hopalong, and his wonder grew. “Hey, you! Yes, you! Come out of that an’ put on yore lid! Straddle leather—we can’t stay here all night.”
Hopalong started, looked at his sombrero and silently obeyed. As they rode down the trail and around a corner he turned in his saddle and looked back; and then rode on, buried in thought.
Billy, grinning, turned and playfully punched him in the ribs. “Getting glory, Hoppy?”
Hopalong raised his head and looked him steadily in the eyes; and Billy, losing his curiosity and the grin at the same instant, looked ahead, whistling softly.
Edwards slid off the counter in Jackson’s store and glowered at the pelting rain outside, perturbed and grouchy. The wounded man in the corner stirred and looked at him without interest and forthwith renewed his profane monologue, while the proprietor, finishing his task, leaned back against the shelves and swore softly. It was a lovely atmosphere.
“Seems to me they’ve been gone a long time,” grumbled the wounded man. “Reckon he led ’em a long chase—had six hours’ start, the toad.” He paused and then as an afterthought said with conviction: “But they’ll get him—they allus do when they make up their minds to it.”
Edwards nodded moodily and Jackson replied with a monosyllable.
“Wish I could ‘a’ gone with ’em,” Johnny growled. “I like to square my own accounts. It’s allus that way. I get plugged an’ my friends clean the slate. There was that time Bye-an’-Bye went an’ ambushed me—ah, the devil! But I tell you one thing: when I get well I’m going down to Harlan’s an’ clean house proper.”
“Yo’re in hard luck again: that’ll be done as soon as yore friends get back,” Jackson replied, carefully selecting a dried apricot from a box on the counter and glancing at the marshal to see how he took the remark.
“That’ll be done before then,” Edwards said crisply, with the air of a man who has just settled a doubt. “They won’t be back much before to-morrow if he headed for the country I think he did. I’m going down to the Oasis an’ tell that gang to clear out of this town. They’ve been here too long now. I never had ’em dead to rights before, but I’ve got it on ’em this time. I’d ‘a’ sent ’em packing yesterday only I sort of hated to take a man’s business away from him an’ make him lose his belongings. But I’ve wrastled it all out an’ they’ve got to go.” He buttoned his coat about him and pulled his sombrero more firmly on his head, starting for the door. “I’ll be back soon,” he said over his shoulder as he grasped the handle.