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Title: The Road to Bear Creek
Author: Robert E. Howard
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0608801.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: November 2006
Date most recently updated: November 2006

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The Road to Bear Creek
Robert E. Howard



When Pap gets rheumatism, he gets remorseful. I remember one time
particular. He says to me--him laying on his ba'r-skin with a jug of
corn licker at his elbow--he says: "Breckinridge, the sins of my youth
is ridin' my conscience heavy. When I was a young man I was free and
keerless in my habits, as numerous tombstones on the boundless
prairies testifies. I sometimes wonders if I warn't a trifle hasty in
shootin' some of the men which disagreed with my principles. Maybe I
should of controlled my temper and just chawed their ears off.

"Take Uncle Esau Grimes, for instance." And then pap hove a sigh
like a bull, and took a drink, and said: "I ain't seen Uncle Esau for
years. Me and him parted with harsh words and gun-smoke. I've often
wondered if he still holds a grudge against me for plantin' that
charge of buckshot in his hind laig."

"What about Uncle Esau?" I said.

Pap perjuiced a letter and said: "He was brung to my mind by this
here letter which Jib Braxton fotched me from War Paint. It's from my
sister Elizabeth, back in Devilville, Arizona, whar Uncle Esau lives.
She says Uncle Esau is on his way to Californy, and is due to pass
through War Paint about August the tenth--that's tomorrer. She don't
know whether he intends turnin' off to see me or not, but suggests
that I meet him at War Paint, and make peace with him."

"Well?" I demanded, because from the way pap combed his beard with
his fingers and eyed me, I knowed he was aiming to call on me to do
something for him.

Which same he was.

"Well," said pap, taking a long swig out of the jug, "I want you
to meet the stage tomorrer mornin' at War Paint, and invite Uncle Esau
to come up here and visit us. Don't take no for a answer. Uncle Esau
is as cranky as hell, and a peculiar old duck, but I think he'll like
a fine upstanding young man as big as you be. Specially if you keep
yore mouth shet as much as possible, and don't expose yore ignorance."

"But I ain't never seen Uncle Esau," I protested. "How'm I goin'
to know him?"

"He ain't a big man," said pap. "Last time I seen him he had a
right smart growth of red whiskers. You bring him home, regardless.
Don't pay no attention to his belly-achin'. He's a peculiar old cuss,
like I said, and awful suspicious, because he's got lots of enermies.
He burnt plenty of powder in his younger days, all the way from Texas
to Californy. He was mixed up in more feuds and range-wars than any
man I ever knowed. He's supposed to have considerable money hid away
somewheres, but that ain't got nothin' to do with us. I wouldn't take
his blasted money as a gift. All I want is to talk to him, and git his
forgiveness for fillin' his hide with buckshot in a moment of youthful
passion.

"If he don't forgive me," said pap, taking another pull at the
jug, "I'll bend my .45 over his stubborn old skull. Git goin'."

SO I SADDLED CAP'N KIDD and hit out across the mountains, and the
next morning found me eating breakfast just outside War Paint. I
didn't go right into the town because I was very bashful in them days,
being quite young, and scared of sheriffs and things; but I'd stopped
with old Bill Polk, an old hunter and trapper which was camped
temporary at the edge of the town.

War Paint was a new town which had sprung up out of nothing on
account of a small gold rush right recent, and old Bill was very
bitter.

"A hell of a come-off this is!" he snorted. "Clutterin' up the
scenery and scarin' the animals off with their fool houses and claims.
Last year I shot deer right whar their main saloon is now," he said,
glaring at me like it was my fault.

I said nothing but chawed my venison which we was cooking over his
fire, and he said: "No good'll come of it, you mark my word. These
mountains won't be fit to live in. These camps draws scum like a dead
horse draws buzzards. Already the outlaws is ridin' in from Arizona
and Utah, besides the native ones. Grizzly Hawkins and his thieves is
hidin' up in the hills, and no tellin' how many more'll come in. I'm
glad they catched Badger Chisom and his gang after they robbed that
bank at Gunstock. That's one gang which won't bedevil us, becaze
they're in jail. If somebody'd just kill Grizzly Hawkins, now--"

About that time I seen the stagecoach fogging it down the road
from the east in a cloud of dust, so I saddled Cap'n Kidd and left old
Bill gorging deer meat and prophecying disaster and damnation, and I
rode into War Paint just as the stage pulled up at the stand, which
was also the post office and a saloon.

They was three passengers, and none of 'em was tenderfeet. Two was
big hard-looking fellows, and t'other'n was a wiry oldish kind of a
bird with red whiskers, so I knowed right off it was Uncle Esau
Grimes. They was going into the saloon as I dismounted, the big men
first, and the older fellow follering them. I touched him on the
shoulder and he whirled most amazing quick with a gun in his hand, and
he looked at me very suspicious, and said: "What you want?"

"I'm Breckinridge Elkins," I said. "I want you to come with me. I
recognized you as soon as I seen you--"

I then got a awful surprise, but not as awful as it would have
been if pap hadn't warned me that Uncle Esau was peculiar. He
hollered: "Bill! Jim! Help!" and swung his six-shooter against my head
with all his might.

Them two fellows whirled and their hands streaked for their guns,
so I knocked Uncle Esau flat to keep him from getting hit by a stray
slug, and shot one of them through the shoulder before he could
unlimber his artillery. The other'n grazed my neck with a bullet, so I
perforated him in the arm and again in the hind laig and he fell down
across the other'n. I was careful not to shoot 'em in no vital parts,
because I seen they was friends of Uncle Esau; but when guns is being
drawn it ain't no time to argue or explain.

Men was hollering and running out of saloons, and I stooped and
started to lift Uncle Esau, who was kind of groggy because he'd hit
his head against a hitching post. He was crawling around on his all-
fours cussing something terrible, and trying to find his gun which
he'd dropped. When I laid hold on him he commenced biting and kicking
and hollering, and I said: "Don't ack like that, Uncle Esau. Here
comes a lot of fellers, and the sheriff may be here any minute and
'rest me for shootin' them idjits. We got to get goin'. Pap's waitin'
for you, up on Bear Creek."

But he just fit that much harder and hollered that much louder, so
I scooped him up bodily and jumped onto Cap'n Kidd and throwed Uncle
Esau face-down across the saddle-bow, and headed for the hills. A lot
of men yelled at me to stop, and some of 'em started shooting at me,
but I give no heed.

I give Cap'n Kidd the rein and we went tearing down the road and
around the first bend, and I didn't even take time to change Uncle
Esau's position, because I didn't want to get arrested. I'd heard tell
them folks in War Paint would even put a fellow in jail for shooting a
man within the city limits.

JUST BEFORE WE REACHED the place where I aimed to turn off up into
the hills I seen a man on the road ahead of me, and he must have heard
the shooting and Uncle Esau yelling because he whirled his horse and
blocked the road. He was a wiry old cuss with gray whiskers.

"Where you goin' with that man?" he yelled as I approached at a
thundering gait.

"None of your business," I retorted. "Git outa my way."

"Help! Help!" hollered Uncle Esau. "I'm bein' kidnaped and
murdered!"

"Drop that man, you derned outlaw!" roared the stranger, suiting
his actions to his words.

Him and me drawed simultaneous, but my shot was a split-second
quicker'n his'n. His slug fanned my ear, but his hat flew off and he
pitched out of his saddle like he'd been hit with a hammer. I seen a
streak of red along his temple as I thundered past him.

"Let that larn you not to interfere in family affairs!" I roared,
and turned up the trail that switched off the road and up into the
mountains.

"Don't never yell like that," I said irritably to Uncle Esau. "You
like to got me shot. That feller thought I was a criminal."

I didn't catch what he said, but I looked back and down over the
slopes and shoulders and seen men boiling out of town full tilt, and
the sun glinted on six-shooters and rifles, so I urged Cap'n Kidd and
we covered the next several miles at a fast clip. They ain't a horse
in southern Nevada which can equal Cap'n Kidd for endurance, speed and
strength.

Uncle Esau kept trying to talk, but he was bouncing up and down so
all I could understand was his cuss words, which was free and fervent.
At last he gasped: "For God's sake lemme git off this cussed saddle-
horn; it's rubbin' a hole in my belly."

So I pulled up and seen no sign of pursuers, so I said: "All
right, you can ride in the saddle and I'll set on behind. I was goin'
to hire you a horse at the livery stable, but we had to leave so quick
they warn't no time."

"Where you takin' me?" he demanded.

"To Bear Creek," I said. "Where you think?"

"I don't wanta go to Bear Creek," he said fiercely. "I _ain't_
goin' to Bear Creek!"

"Yes you are, too," I said. "Pap said not to take 'no' for a
answer. I'm goin' to slide over behind the saddle, and you can set in
it."

So I pulled my feet outa the stirrups and moved over the cantle,
and he slid into the seat--and the first thing I knowed he had a knife
out of his boot and was trying to carve my gizzard.

Now I like to humor my relatives, but they is a limit to
everything. I taken the knife away from him, but in the struggle, me
being handicapped by not wanting to hurt him, I lost hold of the reins
and Cap'n Kidd bolted and run for several miles through the pines and
brush. What with me trying to grab the reins and keep Uncle Esau from
killing me at the same time, and neither one of us in the stirrups,
finally we both fell off, and if I hadn't managed to catch hold of the
bridle as I went off, we'd had a long walk ahead of us.

I got Cap'n Kidd stopped, after being drug for several yards, and
then I went back to where Uncle Esau was laying on the ground trying
to get his wind back, because I had kind of fell on him.

"Is that any way to ack, tryin' to stick a knife in a man which is
doin' his best to make you comfortable?" I said reproachfully. All he
done was gasp, so I said: "Well, pap told me you was a cranky old
duck, so I reckon the thing to do is to just not notice your--uh--
eccentricities."

I looked around to get my bearings, because Cap'n Kidd had got
away off the trail that runs from War Paint to Bear Creek. We was west
of the trail, in very wild country, but I seen a cabin off through the
trees, and I said: "We'll go over there and see can I hire or buy a
horse for you to ride. That'll be more convenient for us both."

I started h'isting him back into the saddle, and he said kind of
dizzily: "This here's a free country; I don't have to go to Bear Creek
if'n I don't want to."

"Well," I said severely, "you oughtta want to, after all the
trouble I've went to, comin' and invitin' you. Set still now; I'm
settin' on behind, but I'm holdin' the reins."

"I'll have yore life for this," he promised blood-thirstily, but I
ignored it, because pap had said Uncle Esau was peculiar.

PRETTY SOON WE HOVE up to the cabin I'd glimpsed through the
trees. Nobody was in sight, but I seen a horse tied to a tree in front
of the cabin. I rode up to the door and knocked, but nobody answered.
But I seen smoke coming out of the chimney, so I decided I'd go in.

I dismounted and lifted Uncle Esau off, because I seen from the
gleam in his eye that he was intending to run off on Cap'n Kidd if I
give him half a chance. I got a firm grip on his collar, because I was
determined that he was going to visit us up on Bear Creek if I had to
tote him on my shoulder all the way, and I went into the cabin with
him.

There wasn't nobody in there, though a pot of beans was simmering
over some coals in the fireplace, and I seen some rifles in racks on
the wall and a belt with two pistols hanging on a nail.

Then I heard somebody walking behind the cabin, and the back door
opened and there stood a big black-whiskered man with a bucket of
water in his hand and a astonished glare on his face. He didn't have
no guns on.

"Who the hell are you?" he demanded, but Uncle Esau give a kind of
gurgle, and said: "Grizzly Hawkins!"

The big man jumped and glared at Uncle Esau, and then his black
whiskers bristled in a ferocious grin, and he said: "Oh, it's you, is
it? Who'd of thunk I'd ever meet you _here!"_

"Grizzly Hawkins, hey?" I said, realizing that I'd stumbled onto
the hideout of the worst outlaw in them mountains. "So you all know
each other?"

"I'll say we do!" rumbled Hawkins, looking at Uncle Esau like a
wolf looks at a fat yearling.

"I'd heard you was from Arizona," I said, being naturally tactful.
"Looks to me like they's enough cow-thieves in these hills already
without outsiders buttin' in. But your morals ain't none of my
business. I want to buy or hire or borrow a horse for this here gent
to ride."

"Oh, no, you ain't!" said Grizzly. "You think I'm goin' to let a
fortune slip through my fingers like that? Tell you what I'll do,
though; I'll split with you. My gang had business over toward Tomahawk
this mornin', but they're due back soon. Me and you will work him over
before they gits back, and we'll nab all the loot ourselves."

"What you mean?" I asked. "My uncle and me is on our way to Bear
Creek--"

"Aw, don't ack innercent with me!" he snorted disgustedly. "Uncle!
You think I'm a plumb fool? Cain't I see that he's yore prisoner, the
way you got him by the neck? Think I don't know what yo're up to? Be
reasonable. Two can work this job better'n one. I know lots of ways to
make a man talk. I betcha if we kinda massage his hinder parts with a
red-hot brandin' iron he'll tell us quick enough where the money is
hid."

Uncle Esau turned pale under his whiskers, and I said indignantly:
"Why, you low-lifed polecat! You got the crust to pertend to think I'm
kidnapin' my own uncle for his dough? I got a good mind to shoot you!"

"So you're greedy, hey?" he snarled, showing his teeth. "Want all
the loot yoreself, hey? I'll show you!" And quick as a cat he swung
that water bucket over his head and let it go at me. I ducked and it
hit Uncle Esau in the head and stretched him out all drenched with
water, and Hawkins give a roar and dived for a .45-90 on the wall. He
wheeled with it and I shot it out of his hands. He then come for me
wild-eyed with a bowie out of his boot, and my next cartridge snapped,
and he was on top of me before I could cock my gun again.

I dropped my gun and grappled with him, and we fit all over the
cabin and every now and then we would tromple on Uncle Esau which was
trying to crawl toward the door, and the way he would holler was
pitiful to hear.

Hawkins lost his knife in the melee, but he was as big as me, and
a bear-cat at rough-and-tumble. We would stand up and whale away with
both fists, and then clinch and roll around the floor, biting and
gouging and slugging, and once we rolled clean over Uncle Esau and
kind of flattened him out like a pancake.

Finally Hawkins got hold of the table which he lifted like it was
a board and splintered over my head, and this made me mad, so I
grabbed the pot off the fire and hit him in the head with it, and
about a gallon of red-hot beans went down his back and he fell into a
corner so hard he jolted the shelves loose from the logs, and all the
guns fell off the walls.

He come up with a gun in his hand, but his eyes was so full of
blood and hot beans that he missed me the first shot, and before he
could shoot again I hit him on the chin so hard it fractured his jaw
bone and sprained both his ankles and stretched him out cold.

THEN I LOOKED AROUND for Uncle Esau, and he was gone, and the
front door was open. I rushed out of the cabin and there he was just
climbing aboard Cap'n Kidd. I hollered for him to wait, but he kicked
Cap'n Kidd in the ribs and went tearing through the trees. Only he
didn't head north back toward War Paint. He was p'inted southeast, in
the general direction of Hideout Mountain. I jumped on Hawkins' horse,
which was tied to a tree nearby, and lit out after him, though I
didn't have much hope of catching him. Grizzly's cayuse was a good
horse, but he couldn't hold a candle to Cap'n Kidd.

I wouldn't have caught him, neither, if it hadn't been for Cap'n
Kidd's distaste of being rode by anybody but me. Uncle Esau was a
crack horseman to stay on as long as he did.

But finally Cap'n Kidd got tired of running, and about the time he
crossed the trail we'd been follering when he first bolted, he bogged
his head and started busting hisself in two, with his snoot rubbing
the grass and his heels scraping the clouds offa the sky.

I could see mountain peaks between Uncle Esau and the saddle, and
when Cap'n Kidd started sunfishing it looked like the wrath of
Judgment Day, but somehow Uncle Esau managed to stay with him till
Cap'n Kidd plumb left the earth like he aimed to aviate from then on,
and Uncle Esau left the saddle with a shriek of despair and sailed
head-on into a blackjack thicket.

Cap'n Kidd give a snort of contempt and trotted off to a patch of
grass and started grazing, and I dismounted and went and untangled
Uncle Esau from amongst the branches. His clothes was tore and he was
scratched so he looked like he'd been fighting with a drove of
wildcats, and he left a right smart batch of his whiskers amongst the
brush.

But he was full of pizen and hostility.

"I understand this here treatment," he said bitterly, like he
blamed me for Cap'n Kidd pitching him into the thicket, "but you'll
never git a penny. Nobody but me knows whar the dough is, and you can
pull my toe nails out by the roots before I tells you."

"I know you got money hid away," I said, deeply offended, "but I
don't want it."

He snorted skeptically and said sarcastic: "Then what're you
draggin' me over these cussed hills for?"

"Cause pap wants to see you," I said. "But they ain't no use in
askin' me a lot of fool questions. Pap said for me to keep my mouth
shet."

I looked around for Grizzly's horse, and seen he had wandered off.
He sure hadn't been trained proper.

"Now I got to go look for him," I said disgustedly. "Will you stay
here till I git back?"

"Sure," he said. "Sure. Go on and look for the horse. I'll wait
here."

But I give him a searching look, and shook my head.

"I don't want to seem like I mistrusts you," I said, "but I see a
gleam in your eye which makes me believe that you intends to run off
the minute my back's turned. I hate to do this, but I got to bring you
safe to Bear Creek; so I'll just kinda hawg-tie you with my lariat
till I git back."

Well, he put up a awful holler, but I was firm, and when I rode
off on Cap'n Kidd I was satisfied that he couldn't untie them knots by
himself. I left him laying in the grass beside the trail, and his
language was awful to listen to.

THAT DERNED HORSE had wandered farther'n I thought. He'd moved
north along the trail for a short way, and then turned off and headed
in a westerly direction, and after a while I heard the sound of horses
galloping somewhere behind me, and I got nervous, thinking that if
Hawkins' gang had got back to their hangout and he had told 'em about
us, and sent 'em after us, to capture pore Uncle Esau and torture him
to make him tell where his savings was hid. I wished I'd had sense
enough to shove Uncle Esau back in the thicket so he wouldn't be seen
by anybody riding along the trail, and I'd just decided to let the
horse go and turn back, when I seen him grazing amongst the trees
ahead of me.

I headed back for the trail, leading him, aiming to hit it a short
distance north of where I'd left Uncle Esau, and before I got in sight
of it, I heard horses and saddles creaking ahead of me.

I pulled up on the crest of a slope, and looked down onto the
trail, and there I seen a gang of men riding north, and they had Uncle
Esau amongst 'em. Two of the men was ridin' double, and they had him
on a horse in the middle of 'em. They'd took the ropes off him, but he
didn't look happy. Instantly I realized that my premonishuns was
correct. The Hawkins gang had follered us, and now pore Uncle Esau was
in their clutches.

I let go of Hawkins' horse and reached for my gun, but I didn't
dare fire for fear of hitting Uncle Esau, they was clustered so close
about him. I reached up and tore a limb off a oak tree as big as my
arm, and I charged down the slope yelling: "I'll save you, Uncle
Esau!"

I come so sudden and unexpected them fellows didn't have time to
do nothing but holler before I hit 'em. Cap'n Kidd ploughed through
their horses like a avalanche through saplings, and he was going so
hard I couldn't check him in time to keep him from knocking Uncle
Esau's horse sprawling. Uncle Esau hit the turf with a shriek.

All around me men was yelling and surging and pulling guns and I
riz in my stirrups and laid about me right and left, and pieces of
bark and oak leaves and blood flew in showers and in a second the
ground was littered with writhing figures, and the groaning and
cussing was awful to hear. Knives was flashing and pistols was
banging, but them outlaws' eyes was too full of bark and stars and
blood for them to aim, and right in the middle of the brawl, when the
guns was roaring and men was yelling and horses neighing and my oak-
limb going _crack! crack!_ on human skulls, down from the north
swooped _another_ gang, howling like hyeners!

"There he is!" one of 'em yelled. "I see him crawlin' around under
them horses! After him, boys! We got as much right to his dough as
anybody!"

The next minute they'd dashed in amongst us and embraced the
members of the other gang and started hammering 'em over the heads
with their pistols, and in a second was the damndest three-cornered
war you ever seen, men fighting on the ground and on the horses, all
mixed and tangled up, two gangs trying to exterminate each other, and
me whaling hell out of both of 'em.

Now I have been mixed up in ruckuses like this before, despite of
the fact that I am a peaceful and easy-goin' feller which never done
harm to man or beast unless provoked beyond reason. I always figger
the best thing to do in a brawl is to hold your temper, and I done
just that. When this one feller fired a pistol plumb in my face and
singed my eyebrows I didn't get mad. When this other 'un come from
somewhere to start biting my leg I only picked him up by the scruff of
the neck and knocked a horse over with him. But I must of lost control
a little, I guess, when two fellers at once started bashing at my head
with rifle-butts. I swung at them so hard I turned Cap'n Kidd plumb
around, and my club broke and I had to grab a bigger and tougher one.

Then I really laid into 'em.

Meanwhile Uncle Esau was on the ground under us, yelling bloody
murder and being stepped on by the horses, but finally I cleared a
space with a devastating sweep of my club, and leaned down and scooped
him up with one hand and hung him over my saddle horn and started
battering my way clear.

But a big feller which was one of the second gang come charging
through the melee yelling like a Injun, with blood running down his
face from a cut in his scalp. He snapped a empty cartridge at me, and
then leaned out from his saddle and grabbed Uncle Esau by the foot.

"Leggo!" he howled. "He's my meat!"

"Release Uncle Esau before I does you a injury!" I roared, trying
to jerk Uncle Esau loose, but the outlaw hung on, and Uncle Esau
squalled like a catamount in a wolf-trap. So I lifted what was left of
my club and splintered it over the outlaw's head, and he gave up the
ghost with a gurgle. I then wheeled Cap'n Kidd and rode off like the
wind. Them fellows was too busy fighting each other to notice my
flight. Somebody did let _bam_ at me with a Winchester, but all it
done was to nick Uncle Esau's ear.

THE SOUNDS OF CARNAGE faded out behind us as I headed south along
the trail. Uncle Esau was belly-aching about something. I never seen
such a cuss for finding fault, but I felt they was no time to be lost,
so I didn't slow up for some miles. Then I pulled Cap'n Kidd down and
said: "What did you say, Uncle Esau?"

"I'm a broken man!" he gasped. "Take my secret, and lemme go back
to the posse. All I want now is a good, safe prison term."

"What posse?" I asked, thinking he must be drunk, though I
couldn't figure where he'd got any booze.

"The posse you took me away from," he said. "Anything's better'n
bein' dragged through these hellish mountains by a homicidal
maneyack."

"Posse?" I gasped wildly. "But who was the second gang?"

"Grizzly Hawkins' outlaws," he said, and added bitterly: "Even
they would be preferable to what I been goin' through. I give up. I
know when I'm licked. The dough's hid in a holler oak three miles
south of Gunstock."

I didn't pay no attention to his remarks, because my head was in a
whirl. A posse! Of course; the sheriff and his men had follered us
from War Paint, along the Bear Creek trail, and finding Uncle Esau
tied up, had thought he'd been kidnaped by a outlaw instead of merely
being invited to visit his relatives. Probably he was too cussed
ornery to tell 'em any different. I hadn't rescued him from no
bandits; I'd took him away from a posse which thought _they_ was
rescuing him.

Meanwhile Uncle Esau was clamoring: "Well, why'n't you lemme go?
I've told you whar the dough is; what else you want?"

"You got to go on to Bear Creek with me--" I begun; and Uncle Esau
give a shriek and went into a kind of convulsion, and the first thing
I knowed he'd twisted around and jerked my gun out of its scabbard and
let _bam!_ right in my face so close it singed my hair. I grabbed his
wrist and Cap'n Kidd bolted like he always does when he gets the
chance.

"They's a limit to everything!" I roared. "A hell of a relative
you be, you old maneyack!"

We was tearing over slopes and ridges at breakneck speed and
fighting all over Cap'n Kidd's back--me to get the gun away from him,
and him to commit murder. "If you warn't kin to me, Uncle Esau, I'd
plumb lose my temper!"

"What you keep callin' me that fool name for?" he yelled, frothing
at the mouth. "What you want to add insult to injury--" Cap'n Kidd
swerved sudden and Uncle Esau tumbled over his neck. I had him by the
shirt and tried to hold him on, but the shirt tore. He hit the ground
on his head and Cap'n Kidd run right over him. I pulled up as quick as
I could and hove a sigh of relief to see how close to home I was.

"We're nearly there, Uncle Esau," I said, but he made no comment.
He was out cold.

A short time later I rode up to the cabin with my eccentric
relative slung over my saddle-bow, and took him and stalked into where
pap was laying on his b'ar-skin, and slung my burden down on the floor
in disgust. "Well, here he is," I said.

Pap stared and said: "Who's this?"

"When you wipe the blood off," I said, "you'll find it's your
Uncle Esau Grimes. And," I added bitterly, "the next time you want to
invite him to visit us, you can do it yourself. A more ungrateful cuss
I never seen. Peculiar ain't no name for him; he's as crazy as a
locoed jackass."

"But _that_ ain't Uncle Esau!" said pap.

"What you mean?" I said irritably. "I know most of his clothes is
tore off, and his face is kinda scratched and skinned and stomped outa
shape, but you can see his whiskers is red, in spite of the blood."

"Red whiskers turn gray, in time," said a voice, and I wheeled and
pulled my gun as a man loomed in the door.

It was the gray-whiskered old fellow I'd traded shots with on the
edge of War Paint. He didn't go for his gun, but stood twisting his
mustache and glaring at me like I was a curiosity or something.

"Uncle Esau!" said pap.

"What?" I hollered. "Air _you_ Uncle Esau?"

"Certainly I am!" he snapped.

"But you warn't on the stagecoach--" I begun.

"Stagecoach!" he snorted, taking pap's jug and beginning to pour
licker down the man on the floor. "Them things is for wimmen and
childern. I travel horse-back. I spent last night in War Paint, and
aimed to ride on up to Bear Creek this mornin'. In fact, Bill," he
addressed pap, "I was on the way here when this young maneyack creased
me." He indicated a bandage on his head.

"You mean Breckinridge shot you?" ejaculated pap.

"It seems to run in the family," grunted Uncle Esau.

"But who's this?" I hollered wildly, pointing at the man I'd
thought was Uncle Esau, and who was just coming to.

"I'm Badger Chisom," he said, grabbing the jug with both hands. "I
demands to be pertected from this lunatick and turned over to the
sheriff."

"HIM AND BILL REYNOLDS and Jim Hopkins robbed a bank over at
Gunstock three weeks ago," said Uncle Esau; the real one, I mean. "A
posse captured 'em, but they'd hid the loot somewhere and wouldn't say
where. They escaped several days ago, and not only the sheriffs was
lookin' for 'em, but all the outlaw gangs too, to find out where
they'd hid their plunder. It was a awful big haul. They must of
figgered that escapin' out of the country by stage coach would be the
last thing folks would expect 'em to do, and they warn't known in this
part of the country.

"But I recognized Bill Reynolds when I went back to War Paint to
have my head dressed, after you shot me, Breckinridge. The doctor was
patchin' him and Hopkins up, too. The sheriff and a posse lit out
after you, and I follered 'em when I'd got my head fixed. Course, I
didn't know who you was. I come up while the posse was fightin' with
Hawkins' gang, and with my help we corralled the whole bunch. Then I
took up yore trail again. Purty good day's work, wipin' out two of the
worst gangs in the West. One of Hawkins' men said Grizzly was laid up
in his cabin, and the posse was goin' to drop by for him."

"What you goin' to do about me?" clamored Chisom.

"Well," said pap, "we'll bandage yore wounds, and then I'll let
Breckinridge here take you back to War Paint--hey, what's the matter
with him?"

Badger Chisom had fainted.



THE END



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