“Well, I didn’t either, I hired it for a week, and—”
“Really, Mr. Cook, you were going to make quite a visit—”
“My name ain’t Cook.”
“No? Let us call you Mr. Cook just for the sake of the argument. It’s a good name, is Cook. I used to know a fellow named Cook once. He had a cooper-shop on the east bottoms, Kansas City. I went over to see him a week or so ago, and we had a high old time I can assure you. Cook was a very amusing gentleman. He could sing like Brignoli. What was that song he could sing so nicely? Oh! yes, I have it.”
“For we’ll pass the bottle ’round When we’ve—”
“The tramp!” ejaculated Cook looking at Chip with amazement.
“The same, at your service, Mr. Cook, for that is your name, isn’t it?”
“I’m caught,” confessed the puzzled Cook. “What are you making game of me for? What do you want me for?”
“Nothing, nothing. We were afraid you might prolong your anticipated visit to such a length that we grew homesick for you, so I got some of the boys together, a sort of a picnic, you know, to ask you not to stay too long,” bantered Chip. “We really can’t take ‘no’ for an answer, Mr. Cook, really you must consider our feelings and return with us.”
“I guess I can’t help myself,” said Cook grimly.
“It does look a little that way, don’t it?”
Cook shook his head as he arose to his feet, and stooping over his dead horse unloosed the girth and drew off the saddle, nor did he make any objection when Chip secured his revolver and ammunition belt. Escape was entirely cut off from him and he accepted his capture in a resigned spirit, because he could not help himself.
“Brodey, how far is the railroad from here?”
“About fifteen miles over thar,” pointing toward the east, “Blue Jacket lies thar, and is on the Missouri, Kansas and Texas.”
“We’ll make for it. You take the prisoner behind you and I will mount with Sam.”
The cavalcade were soon in motion, leaving the dead horses to be devoured by the buzzards and coyotes which were already beginning to gather around.
Arriving at Blue Jacket, the party left Chip and his prisoner, and turning to the north cantered off for Kansas City.
In the center of a beautiful valley, with high, rugged bluffs rising on all sides, and intersected by a clear stream of spring water, which fell in tiny cascades and little waterfalls, turning and twisting like a silver snake, stood Swanson’s Ranche. The low frame building, surrounded on four sides by a wide porch, and standing on a gentle elevation which fell away to the creek, was the home of the redoubtable Swanson, who was monarch of all he surveyed for miles around. The evening was rapidly advancing into night, and the large open fireplace, huge and yawning, was roaring with the cheerful fire which Swanson’s obedient squaw had built, that her liege lord might not be chilled by the cold wind which whistled over the plains.