Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership
DefectiveByDesign.org



Title: Guns of the Mountains
Author: Robert E. Howard
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0608641.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: November 2006
Date most recently updated: November 2006

This eBook was produced by: Richard Scott

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html


To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au


Guns of the Mountains
Robert E. Howard




THIS BUSINESS BEGUN with Uncle Garfield Elkins coming up from
Texas to visit us. Between Grizzly Run and Chawed Ear the stage got
held up by some masked bandits, and Uncle Garfield, never being able
to forget that he was a gun-fighting fool thirty or forty years ago,
pulled his old cap-and-ball instead of putting up his hands like he
was advised to. For some reason, instead of blowing out his light,
they merely busted him over the head with a .45 barrel, and when he
come to he was rattling on his way toward Chawed Ear with the other
passengers, minus his money and watch.

It was his watch what caused the trouble. That there timepiece had
been his grandpap's, and Uncle Garfield sot more store by it than he
did all his kin folks.

When he arriv up in the Humbolt mountains where our cabin was, he
imejitly let in to howling his woes to the stars like a wolf with the
belly-ache. And from then on we heered nothing but that watch. I'd saw
it and thunk very little of it. It was big as my fist, and wound up
with a key which Uncle Garfield was always losing and looking for. But
it was solid gold, and he called it a hairloom, whatever them things
is. And he nigh driv the family crazy.

"A passle of big hulks like you-all settin' around and lettin' a
old man get robbed of all his property," he would say bitterly. "When
_I_ was a young buck, if'n _my_ uncle had been abused that way, I'd of
took the trail and never slept nor et till I brung back his watch and
the scalp of the skunk which stole it. Men now days--" And so on and
so on, till I felt like drownding the old jassack in a barrel of corn
licker.

Finally pap says to me, combing his beard with his fingers:
"Breckinridge," says he, "I've endured Uncle Garfield's belly-achin'
all I aim to. I want you to go look for his cussed watch, and don't
come back without it."

"How'm I goin' to know where to look?" I protested, aghast. "The
feller which got it may be in Californy or Mexico by now."

"I realizes the difficulties," says pap. "But if Uncle Garfield
knows somebody is out lookin' for his dern timepiece, maybe he'll give
the rest of us some peace. You git goin', and if you can't find that
watch, don't come back till after Uncle Garfield has went home."

"How long is he goin' to stay?" I demanded.

"Well," said pap, "Uncle Garfield's visits allus lasts a year, at
least."

At this I bust into profanity.

I said: "I got to stay away from home a year? Dang it, pap, Jim
Braxton'll steal Ellen Reynolds away from me whilst I'm gone. I been
courtin' that girl till I'm ready to fall dead. I done licked her old
man three times, and now, just when I got her lookin' my way, you
tells me I got to up and leave her for a year for that dern Jim
Braxton to have no competition with."

"You got to choose between Ellen Reynolds, and yore own flesh and
blood," said pap. "I'm darned if I'll listen to Uncle Garfield's
squawks any longer. You make yore own choice--but, if you don't choose
to do what I asks you to, I'll fill yore hide with buckshot every time
I see you from now on."

Well, the result was that I was presently riding morosely away
from home and Ellen Reynolds, and in the general direction of where
Uncle Garfield's blasted watch might possibly be.

I passed by the Braxton cabin with the intention of dropping Jim a
warning about his actions whilst I was gone, but he wasn't there. So I
issued a general defiance to the family by slinging a .45 slug through
the winder which knocked a cob pipe outa old man Braxton's mouth. That
soothed me a little, but I knowed very well that Jim would make a bee-
line for the Reynolds' cabin the second I was out of sight. I could
just see him gorging on Ellen's bear meat and honey, and bragging on
hisself. I hoped Ellen would notice the difference between a loud
mouthed boaster like him, and a quiet, modest young man like me, which
never bragged, though admittedly the biggest man and the best fighter
in the Humbolts.

I hoped to meet Jim somewhere in the woods as I rode down the
trail, for I was intending to do something to kinda impede his
courting while I was gone, like breaking his leg, or something, but
luck wasn't with me.

I headed in the general direction of Chawed Ear, and the next day
seen me riding in gloomy grandeur through a country quite some
distance from Ellen Reynolds.

PAP ALWAYS SAID MY curiosity would be the ruination of me some
day, but I never could listen to guns popping up in the mountains
without wanting to find out who was killing who. So that morning, when
I heard the rifles talking off amongst the trees, I turned Cap'n Kidd
aside and left the trail and rode in the direction of the noise.

A dim path wound up through the big boulders and bushes, and the
shooting kept getting louder. Purty soon I come out into a glade, and
just as I did, _bam!_ somebody let go at me from the bushes and a .45-
70 slug cut both my bridle reins nearly in half. I instantly returned
the shot with my .45, getting just a glimpse of something in the
brush, and a man let out a squall and jumped out into the open,
wringing his hands. My bullet had hit the lock of his Winchester and
mighty nigh jarred his hands off him.

"Cease that ungodly noise," I said sternly, p'inting my .45 at his
bay-winder, "and tell me how come you waylays innercent travelers."

He quit working his fingers and moaning, and he said: "I thought
you was Joel Cairn, the outlaw. You're about his size."

"Well, I ain't," I said. "I'm Breckinridge Elkins, from the
Humbolts. I was just ridin' over to learn what all the shootin' was
about."

The guns was firing in the trees behind the fellow, and somebody
yelled what was the matter.

"Ain't nothin' the matter," he hollered back. "Just a
misunderstandin'." And he said to me: "I'm glad to see you, Elkins. We
need a man like you. I'm Sheriff Dick Hopkins, from Grizzly Run."

"Where at's your star?" I inquired.

"I lost it in the bresh." he said. "Me and my deputies have been
chasin' Tarantula Bixby and his gang for a day and a night, and we got
'em cornered over there in a old deserted cabin in a holler. The boys
is shootin' at 'em now. I heard you comin' up the trail and snuck over
to see who it is. Just as I said, I thought you was Cairn. Come on
with me. You can help us."

"I ain't no deputy," I said. "I got nothin' against Tranchler
Bixby."

"Well, you want to uphold the law, don't you?" he said.

"Naw," I said.

"Well, gee whiz!" he wailed. "If you ain't a hell of a citizen!
The country's goin' to the dogs. What chance has a honest man got?"

"Aw, shut up," I said. "I'll go over and see the fun, anyhow."

So he picked up his gun, and I tied Cap'n Kidd, and follered the
sheriff through the trees till we come to some rocks, and there was
four men laying behind them rocks and shooting down into a hollow. The
hill sloped away mighty steep into a small basin that was just like a
bowl, with a rim of slopes all around. In the middle of this bowl
there was a cabin and puffs of smoke was coming from the cracks
between the logs.

The men behind the rocks looked at me in surprize, and one of them
said, "What the hell--?"

But the sheriff scowled at them and said, "Boys, this here is
Breck Elkins. I done told him already about us bein' a posse from
Grizzly Run, and about how we got Tarantula Bixby and two of his
cutthroats trapped in that there cabin."

One of the deputies bust into a guffaw and Hopkins glared at him
and said: "What _you_ laughin' about, you spotted hyener?"

"I swallered my tobaccer and that allus gives me the hystericals,"
mumbled the deputy, looking the other way.

"Hold up your right hand, Elkins," requested Hopkins, so I done
so, wondering what for, and he said: "Does you swear to tell the
truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, e pluribus unum,
anno dominecker, to wit in status quo?"

"What the hell are you talkin' about?" I demanded.

"Them which God has j'ined asunder let no man put together," said
Hopkins. "Whatever you say will be used against you and the Lord have
mercy on yore soul. That means you're a deputy. I just swore you in."

"Go set on a tack," I snorted disgustedly. "Go catch your own
thieves. And don't look at me like that. I might bend a gun over your
skull."

"But Elkins," pleaded Hopkins, "with yore help we can catch them
rats easy. All you got to do is lay up here behind this big rock and
shoot at the cabin and keep 'em occupied till we can sneak around and
rush 'em from the rear. See, the bresh comes down purty close to the
foot of the slope on the other side, and gives us cover. We can do it
easy, with somebody keepin' their attention over here. I'll give you
part of the reward."

"I don't want no derned blood-money," I said, backing away. "And
besides--_ow!_"

I'd absent-mindedly backed out from behind the big rock where I'd
been standing, and a .30-30 slug burned its way acrost the seat of my
britches.

"Dern them murderers!" I bellered, seeing red. "Gimme a rifle!
I'll learn 'em to shoot a man behind his back. Gwan, take 'em in the
rear. I'll keep 'em busy."

"Good boy!" said Hopkins. "You'll get plenty for this!"

IT SOUNDED LIKE SOMEBODY was snickering to theirselves as they
snuck away, but I give no heed. I squinted cautiously around the big
boulder, and begun sniping at the cabin. All I could see to shoot at
was the puffs of smoke which marked the cracks they was shooting
through, but from the cussing and yelling which begun to float up from
the shack, I must have throwed some lead mighty close to them.

They kept shooting back, and the bullets splashed and buzzed on
the rocks, and I kept looking at the further slope for some sign of
Sheriff Hopkins and the posse. But all I heard was a sound of horses
galloping away toward the west. I wondered who it could be, and I kept
expecting the posse to rush down the opposite slope and take them
desperadoes in the rear, and whilst I was craning my neck around a
corner of the boulder--_whang!_ A bullet smashed into the rock a few
inches from my face and a sliver of stone took a notch out of my ear.
I don't know of nothing that makes me madder'n to get shot in the ear.

I seen red and didn't even shoot back. A mere rifle was too paltry
to satisfy me. Suddenly I realized that the big boulder in front of me
was just poised on the slope, its underside partly embedded in the
earth. I throwed down my rifle and bent my knees and spread my arms
and gripped it.

I shook the sweat and blood outa my eyes, and bellered so them in
the hollow could hear me: "I'm givin' you-all a chance to surrender!
Come out, your hands up!"

They give loud and sarcastic jeers, and I yelled: "All right, you
ring-tailed jackasses! If you gets squashed like a pancake, it's your
own fault. _Here she comes!"_

And I heaved with all I had. The veins stood out on my temples, my
feet sunk into the ground, but the earth bulged and cracked all around
the big rock, rivelets of dirt begun to trickle down, and the big
boulder groaned, give way and lurched over.

A dumfounded yell riz from the cabin. I leaped behind a bush, but
the outlaws was too surprized to shoot at me. That enormous boulder
was tumbling down the hill, crushing bushes flat and gathering speed
as it rolled. And the cabin was right in its path.

Wild yells bust the air, the door was throwed violently open, and
a man hove into view. Just as he started out of the door I let _bam_
at him and he howled and ducked back just like anybody will when a
.45-90 slug knocks their hat off. The next instant that thundering
boulder hit the cabin. _Smash!_ It knocked it sidewise like a ten pin
and caved in the wall, and the whole structure collapsed in a cloud of
dust and bark and splinters.

I run down the slope, and from the yells which issued from under
the ruins, I knowed they hadn't all been killed.

"Does you-all surrender?" I roared.

"Yes, dern it!" they squalled. "Get us out from under this
landslide!"

"Throw out yore guns," I ordered.

"How in hell can we throw anything?" they hollered wrathfully.
"We're pinned down by a ton of rocks and boards and we're bein' squoze
to death. Help, murder!"

"Aw, shut up," I said. "You don't hear _me_ carryin' on in no such
hysterical way, does you?"

Well, they moaned and complained, and I sot to work dragging the
ruins off them, which wasn't no great task. Purty soon I seen a booted
leg and I laid hold of it and dragged out the critter it was fastened
to, and he looked more done up than what my brother Bill did that time
he rassled a mountain lion for a bet. I took his pistol out of his
belt, and laid him down on the ground and got the others out. There
was three, altogether, and I disarm 'em and laid 'em out in a row.

Their clothes was nearly tore off, and they was bruised and
scratched, and had splinters in their hair, but they wasn't hurt
permanent. They sot up and felt of theirselves, and one of 'em said:
"This here is the first earthquake I ever seen in this country."

"T'warn't no earthquake," said another'n. "It was a avalanche."

"Listen here, Joe Partland," said the first 'un, grinding his
teeth, "I says it was a earthquake, and I ain't the man to be called a
liar--"

"Oh, you ain't?" said the other'n, bristling up. "Well, lemme tell
you somethin', Frank Jackson--"

"This ain't no time for such argyments," I admonished 'em sternly.
"As for that there rock, I rolled that at you myself."

They gaped at me. "Who are you?" said one of 'em, mopping the
blood offa his ear.

"Never mind," I said. "You see this here Winchester? Well, you-all
set still and rest yourselves. Soon as the sheriff gets here, I'm
goin' to hand you over to him."

His mouth fell open. "Sheriff?" he said, dumb-like. "What
sheriff?"

"Dick Hopkins, from Grizzly Run," I said.

"Why, you derned fool!" he screamed, scrambling up.

"Set down!" I roared, shoving my rifle barrel at him, and he sank
back, all white and shaking. He could hardly talk.

"Listen to me!" he gasped. _"I'm_ Dick Hopkins! _I'm_ sheriff of
Grizzly Run! These men are my deputies."

"Yeah?" I said sarcastically. "And who was the fellows shootin' at
you from the brush?"

"Tarantula Bixby and his gang," he said. "We was follerin' 'em
when they jumped us, and bein' outnumbered and surprized, we took
cover in that old hut. They robbed the Grizzly Run bank day before
yesterday. And now they'll be gettin' further away every minute! Oh,
Judas J. Iscariot! Of all the dumb, bone-headed jackasses--"

"Heh! heh! heh!" I said cynically. "You must think I ain't got no
sense. If you're the sheriff, where at's your star?"

"It was on my suspenders," he said despairingly. "When you hauled
me out by the laig my suspenders caught on somethin' and tore off. If
you'll lemme look amongst them ruins--"

"You set still," I commanded. "You can't fool me. You're Tranchler
Bixby yourself. Sheriff Hopkins told me so. Him and the posse will be
here in a little while. Set still and shut up."

WE STAYED THERE, AND the fellow which claimed to be the sheriff
moaned and pulled his hair and shed a few tears, and the other fellows
tried to convince me they was deputies till I got tired of their gab
and told 'em to shut up or I'd bend my Winchester over their heads. I
wondered why Hopkins and them didn't come, and I begun to get nervous,
and all to once the fellow which said he was the sheriff give a yell
that startled me so I jumped and nearly shot him. He had something in
his hand and was waving it around.

"See here?" His voice cracked he hollered so loud. "I found it! It
must have fell down into my shirt when my suspenders busted! Look at
it, you dern mountain grizzly!"

I looked and my flesh crawled. It was a shiny silver star.

"Hopkins said he lost his'n," I said weakly. "Maybe you found it
in the brush."

"You know better!" he bellered. "You're one of Bixby's men. You
was sent to hold us here while Tarantula and the rest made their
getaway. You'll get ninety years for this!"

I turned cold all over as I remembered them horses I heard
galloping. I'd been fooled! This _was_ the sheriff! That pot-bellied
thug which shot at me had been Bixby hisself! And whilst I held up the
real sheriff and his posse, them outlaws was riding out of the
country.

Now wasn't that a caution?

"You better gimme that gun and surrender," opined Hopkins. "Maybe
if you do they won't hang you."

"Set still!" I snarled. "I'm the biggest sap that ever straddled a
mustang, but even saps has their feelin's. You ain't goin' to put me
behind no bars. I'm goin' up this slope, but I'll be watchin' you.
I've throwed your guns over there in the brush. If any of you makes a
move toward 'em, I'll put a harp in his hand."

Nobody craved a harp.

They set up a chant of hate as I backed away, but they sot still.
I went up the slope backwards till I hit the rim, and then I turned
and ducked into the brush and run. I heard 'em cussing somethin' awful
down in the hollow, but I didn't pause. I come to where I'd left Cap'n
Kidd, and a-forked him and rode, thankful them outlaws had been in too
big a hurry to steal him. I throwed away the rifle they give me, and
headed west.

I aimed to cross Wild River at Ghost Canyon, and head into the
uninhabited mountain region beyond there. I figgered I could dodge a
posse indefinite once I got there. I pushed Cap'n Kidd hard, cussing
my reins which had been notched by Bixby's bullet. I didn't have time
to fix 'em, and Cap'n Kidd was a iron-jawed outlaw.

He was sweating plenty when I finally hove in sight of the place I
was heading for. As I topped the canyon's crest before I dipped down
to the crossing, I glanced back. They was a high notch in the hills a
mile or so behind me. And as I looked three horsemen was etched in
that notch, against the sky behind 'em. I cussed fervently. Why hadn't
I had sense enough to know Hopkins and his men was bound to have
horses tied somewheres near? They'd got their mounts and follered me,
figgering I'd aim for the country beyond Wild River. It was about the
only place I could go.

Not wanting no running fight with no sheriff's posse, I raced
recklessly down the sloping canyon wall, busted out of the bushes--and
stopped short. Wild River was on the rampage--bank full in the narrow
channel and boiling and foaming. Been a big rain somewhere away up on
the head, and the horse wasn't never foaled which could swum it.

They wasn't but one thing to do, and I done it. I wheeled Cap'n
Kidd and headed up the canyon. Five miles up the river there was
another crossing, with a bridge--if it hadn't been washed away.

CAP'N KIDD HAD HIS SECOND wind and we was going lickety-split,
when suddenly I heard a noise ahead of us, above the roar of the river
and the thunder of his hoofs on the rocky canyon floor. We was
approaching a bend in the gorge where a low ridge run out from the
canyon wall, and beyond that ridge I heard guns banging. I heaved back
on the reins--and both of 'em snapped in two!

Cap'n Kidd instantly clamped his teeth on the bit and bolted, like
he always done when anything out of the ordinary happened. He headed
straight for the bushes at the end of the ridge, and I leaned forward
and tried to get hold of the bit rings with my fingers. But all I done
was swerve him from his course. Instead of following the canyon bed on
around the end of the ridge, he went right over the rise, which sloped
on that side. It didn't slope on t'other side; it fell away abrupt. I
had a fleeting glimpse of five men crouching amongst the bushes on the
canyon floor with guns in their hands. They looked up--and Cap'n Kidd
braced his legs and slid to a halt at the lip of the low bluff and
simultaneously bogged his head and throwed me heels over head down
amongst 'em.

My boot heel landed on somebody's head, and the spur knocked him
cold and blame near scalped him. That partly bust my fall, and it was
further cushioned by another fellow which I landed on in a sitting
position, and which took no further interest in the proceedings. The
other three fell on me with loud brutal yells, and I reached for my
.45 and found to my humiliation that it had fell out of my scabbard
when I was throwed.

So I riz with a rock in my hand and bounced it offa the head of a
fellow which was fixing to shoot me, and he dropped his pistol and
fell on top of it. At this juncture one of the survivors put a buffalo
gun to his shoulder and sighted, then evidently fearing he would hit
his companion which was carving at me on the other side with a bowie
knife, he reversed it and run in swinging it like a club.

The man with the knife got in a slash across my ribs and I then
hit him on the chin which was how his jaw-bone got broke in four
places. Meanwhile the other'n swung at me with his rifle, but missed
my head and broke the stock off across my shoulder. Irritated at his
persistency in trying to brain me with the barrel, I laid hands on him
and throwed him head-on against the bluff, which is when he got his
fractured skull and concussion of the brain, I reckon.

I then shook the sweat from my eyes, and glaring down, rekernized
the remains as Bixby and his gang. I might have knew they'd head for
the wild Country across the river, same as me. Only place they could
go.

Just then, however, a clump of bushes parted, near the river bank,
and a big black-bearded man riz up from behind a dead horse. He had a
six-shooter in his hand and he approached me cautiously.

"Who're you?" he demanded. "Where'd you come from?"

"I'm Breckinridge Elkins," I answered, mopping the blood offa my
shirt. "What is this here business, anyway?"

"I was settin' here peaceable waitin' for the river to go down so
I could cross," he said, "when up rode these yeggs and started
shootin'. I'm a honest citizen--"

"You're a liar," I said with my usual diplomacy. "You're Joel
Cairn, the wust outlaw in the hills. I seen your pitcher in the post
office at Chawed Ear."

With that he p'inted his .45 at me and his beard bristled like the
whiskers of a old timber wolf.

"So you know me, hey?" he said. "Well, what you goin' to do about
it, hey? Want to colleck the reward money, hey?"

"Naw, I don't," I said. "I'm a outlaw myself, now. I just run foul
of the law account of these skunks. They's a posse right behind me."

"They is?" he snarled. "Why'nt you say so? Here, le's catch these
fellers' horses and light out. Cheap skates! They claims I double-
crossed 'em in the matter of a stagecoach hold-up we pulled together
recently. I been avoidin' 'em 'cause I'm a peaceful man by nater, but
they rode onto me onexpected today. They shot my horse first crack; we
been tradin' lead for more'n a hour without doin' much damage, but
they'd got me eventually, I reckon. Come on. We'll pull out together."

"No, we won't," I said. "I'm a outlaw by force of circumstances,
but I ain't no murderin' bandit."

"Purty particular of yore comperny, ain'tcha?" he sneered. "Well,
anyways, help me catch me a horse. Yore's is still up there on that
bluff. The day's still young--"

He pulled out a big gold watch and looked at it; it was one which
wound with a key.

I JUMPED LIKE I WAS SHOT. "Where'd you get that watch?" I
hollered.

He jerked up his head kinda startled, and said: "My grandpap gimme
it. Why?"

"You're a liar!" I bellered. "You took that off'n my Uncle
Garfield. _Gimme that watch!"_

"Are you crazy?" he yelled, going white under his whiskers. I
plunged for him, seeing red, and he let _bang!_ and I got it in the
left thigh. Before he could shoot again I was on top of him, and
knocked the gun up. It banged but the bullet went singing up over the
bluff and Cap'n Kidd squealed and started changing ends. The pistol
flew outa Cairn's hand and he hit me vi'lently on the nose which made
me see stars. So I hit him in the belly and he grunted and doubled up;
and come up with a knife out of his boot which he cut me across the
boozum with, also in the arm and shoulder and kicked me in the groin.
So I swung him clear of the ground and throwed him headfirst and
jumped on him with both feet. And that settled him.

I picked up the watch where it had fell, and staggered over to the
cliff, spurting blood at every step like a stuck hawg.

"At last my search is at a end!" I panted. "I can go back to Ellen
Reynolds who patiently awaits the return of her hero--"

It was at this instant that Cap'n Kidd, which had been stung by
Cairn's wild shot and was trying to buck off his saddle, bucked
hisself off the bluff. He fell on me....

The first thing I heard was bells ringing, and then they turned to
horses galloping. I set up and wiped off the blood which was running
into my eyes from where Cap'n Kidd's left hind hoof had split my
scalp. And I seen Sheriff Hopkins, Jackson and Partland come tearing
around the ridge. I tried to get up and run, but my right leg wouldn't
work. I reached for my gun and it still wasn't there. I was trapped.

"Look there!" yelled Hopkins, wild-eyed. "That's Bixby on the
ground--and all his gang. And ye gods, there's Joel Cairn! What is
this, anyhow? It looks like a battlefield! What's that settin' there?
He's so bloody I can't recognize him!"

"It's the hill-billy!" yelped Jackson. "Don't move or I'll shoot
'cha!"

"I already been shot," I snarled. "Gwan--do yore wust. Fate is
against me."

They dismounted and stared in awe.

"Count the dead, boys," said Hopkins in a still, small voice.

"Aw," said Partland, "ain't none of 'em dead, but they'll never be
the same men again. Look! Bixby's comin' to! Who done this, Bixby?"

Bixby cast a wabbly eye about till he spied me, and then he moaned
and shriveled up.

"He done it!" he waited. "He trailed us down like a bloodhound and
jumped on us from behind! He tried to scalp me! He ain't human!" And
he bust into tears.

They looked at me, and all took off their hats.

"Elkins," said Hopkins in a tone of reverence, "I see it all now.
They fooled you into thinkin' they was the posse and us the outlaws,
didn't they? And when you realized the truth, you hunted 'em down,
didn't you? And cleaned 'em out single handed, and Joel Cairn, too,
didn't you?"

"Well," I said groggily, "the truth is--"

"We understand," Hopkins soothed. "You mountain men is all modest.
Hey, boys, tie up them outlaws whilst I look at Elkins' wounds."

"If you'll catch my horse," I said, "I got to be ridin' back--"

"Gee whiz, man!" he said, "you ain't in no shape to ride a horse!
Do you know you got four busted ribs and a broke arm, and one leg
broke and a bullet in the other'n, to say nothin' of bein' slashed to
ribbons? We'll rig up a litter for you. What's that you got in your
good hand?"

I suddenly remembered Uncle Garfield's watch which I'd kept
clutched in a death grip. I stared at what I held in my hand; and I
fell back with a low moan. All I had in my hand was a bunch of busted
metal and broken wheels and springs, bent and smashed plumb beyond
recognition.

"Grab him!" yelled Hopkins. "He's fainted!"

"Plant me under a pine tree, boys," I murmured weakly; "just carve
on my tombstone: 'He fit a good fight but Fate dealt him the joker.'"

A FEW DAYS LATER A melancholy procession wound its way up the
trail into the Humbolts. I was packed on a litter. I told 'em I wanted
to see Ellen Reynolds before I died, and to show Uncle Garfield the
rooins of the watch, so he'd know I done my duty as I seen it.

As we approached the locality where my home cabin stood, who
should meet us but Jim Braxton, which tried to conceal his pleasure
when I told him in a weak voice that I was a dying man. He was all
dressed up in new buckskins and his exuberance was plumb disgustful to
a man in my condition.

"Too bad," he said. "Too bad, Breckinridge. I hoped to meet you,
but not like this, of course. Yore pap told me to tell you if I seen
you about yore Uncle Garfield's watch. He thought I might run into you
on my way to Chawed Ear to git a license--"

"Hey?" I said, pricking up my ears.

"Yeah, me and Ellen Reynolds is goin' to git married. Well, as I
started to say, seems like one of them bandits which robbed the stage
was a fellow whose dad was a friend of yore Uncle Garfield's back in
Texas. He reckernized the name in the watch and sent it back, and it
got here the day after you left--"

They say it was jealousy which made me rise up on my litter and
fracture Jim Braxton's jaw-bone. I denies that. I stoops to no such
petty practices. What impelled me was family conventions. I couldn't
hit Uncle Garfield--I had to hit somebody--and Jim Braxton just
happened to be the nearest one to me.



THE END



This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia