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   Chapter 2 THE YELLOW DOG

The Heart of the Range By William Patterson White Characters: 14897

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


It was a chastened Racey Dawson that returned to Farewell. He went directly to the blacksmith shop.

"'Lo, Hoss Thief," was Piney Jackson's cheerful greeting.

"Whose is it?" demanded Racey Dawson, wiping his hot face. "Whose hoss have I stole?"

"Oh, you'll catch it," chuckled the humorous Piney. "Yep, you betcha. You've got a gall, you have. Camly prancing out of a saloon an' glooming onto a lady's hoss. What kind o' doin's is that, I'd like to know?"

"You blasted idjit!" cried the worried Racey. "Whose hoss is this?"

"I kind o' guessed maybe something disgraceful like this here would

happen when I seen you and yore friend sashay into the Happy Heart.

And the barkeep said you had two snifters and a glass o' milk, too.

Honest, Racey, you'd oughta be more careful how you mix yore drinks."

"Don't try to be a bigger jack than you are," Racey adjured him in a tone that he strove to make contemptuous. "You think yo're awful funny-just too awful funny, don't you? I'm askin' you, you fish-faced ape, whose hoss this is I got here?"

"Don't you know?" grinned Piney, elevating both eyebrows. "Lordy, I wouldn't be in yore shoes for something. Nawsir. She'll snatch you baldheaded, she will. The old lady was wild when she come out an' found her good hoss missing. And she shore said what she thought of you some more when she seen she had to ride home on that old crow's dinner of a moth-eaten accordeen you left behind."

Racey Dawson was too reduced in spirit to properly take umbrage at this insult to his horse. He could only repeat his request that Piney make not of himself a bigger fool than usual. And when Piney did nothing but laugh immoderately, Racey grinned foolishly.

"If my head didn't ache so hard," he assured the chortling blacksmith, "I'd shore talk to you, but-Say, lookit here, Piney, quit yore foolin', will you? Who owns this hoss, anyway?"

"Here comes Kansas," said Piney. "Betcha five even he arrests you for a hoss thief."

"Gimme odds an' I'll go you," Racey returned, promptly.

"Even," stuck out Piney.

"Naw, he might do it. You Farewell jiggers hang together too hard for me to take any chances. 'Lo, Kansas."

"Howdy, Racey," nodded Kansas Casey, the deputy sheriff. "How long you been rustlin' hosses?"

"A damsight longer'n I like," Racey replied, frankly. "Who does own this hoss?"

"Y' oughta asked that question yesterday," said Kansas, severely, but with a twinkle in his black eyes that belied his tone. "This here would be mighty serious business for you if the Sheriff was in town. Jake's so particular about being legal an' all. Yessir, Racey, old-timer, I expect you'd spend some time in the calaboose-if you wasn't lynched previous."

"Don't scare the poor feller," pleaded Piney in a tone of deepest compassion. "He'll be cryin' in a minute."

"In a minute I'll be doing somethin' besides cry if you fellers don't stop yore funning. This here is past a joke, this is, and-"

"Shore it's past a joke," Kansas concurred, warmly, "an' I ain't funning, not for a minute. You go give that hoss back, Racey, or you'll be sorry."

"Well, for Gawd's sake tell me who to give it back to!" bawled Racey, and immediately batted his eyes and gingerly patted the back of his head.

"Head ache?" queried Kansas. "I expect it might after last night. You go give that hoss back like a good boy."

So saying Kansas Casey turned his back and retreated rapidly in the direction of the Starlight Saloon.

Racey Dawson glared vindictively after the departing deputy. Then he switched his angry blue eyes to the blacksmith's smiling countenance.

"You can all," said Racey Dawson, distinctly, "go plumb to hell."

He turned the purloined pony on a dime and loped up the street, followed by the ribald laughter of Piney Jackson.

"They think they're so terrible funny," Racey muttered, mournfully, as he dismounted and tied at the hitching rail in front of the Happy Heart. "Now if I can only find Swing-"

But Swing Tunstall, it appeared on consulting the bartender, had gone off hunting him (Racey). The latter did not appeal to the bartender to divulge the name of the horse's owner. He had, he believed, furnished the local populace sufficient amusement for one day. He had a small drink, for he felt that he needed a bracer, and with the liquor he imbibed inspiration.

Miss Blythe, Mike Flynn's partner in the Blue Pigeon Store! She would know whose horse it was, for certainly the horse's owner had bought the undershirt and the stockings at the Blue Pigeon. Furthermore, Miss Blythe looked like a right-minded individual. She would take no pleasure in devilling a man. Not she.

Racey Dawson set down his glass and hurried to the Blue Pigeon Store. Miss Blythe, at his entrance, ceased checking tomato cans and came forward.

"Ma'am," said Racey, "will you come to the door a minute? No, no, don't be scared!" he added as the lady drew back a step. "I'm kind of in trouble, an' I want you to help me out. I'm-my name's Racey Dawson, an' I used to ride for the Cross-in-a-box before I got a job up at the Bend. Jack Richie knows me. I ain't crazy-honest."

For Miss Blythe continued to look doubtful. "I-" she began.

"Lookit," he interrupted, "yesterday I got a heap drunk an' I rode off on somebody's hoss without meaning to-I mean I thought it was my hoss and it wasn't. An' I thought maybe you'd tell me who the hoss belongs to so's I can return him and get mine back. She took mine, they tell me. Not that I blame her a mite," he added, hastily.

Pretty Miss Blythe smiled suddenly. "I did hear something about a switch in horses yesterday afternoon," she admitted. "But I thought Mr. Flynn said Tom Dowling was the man's name. Certainly I remember you now, Mr. Dawson, although at first your-your beard-"

"Yeah, I know," he put in, hurriedly. "I ain't shaved since I left the Bend, and I slept mostly on my face last night, but it's li'l ol' me all right behind the whiskers and real estate. Yeah, that's the hoss yonder-the one next the pinto."

"I know the horse," said Miss Blythe, drawing back from the doorway.

"It belongs to the Dales over at Medicine Spring on Soogan Creek."

"Oh, I know them," Racey declared, confidently (he had been at the

Dales' precisely once). "The girl married Chuck Morgan. Shore, Mis'

Dale's hoss, huh? I'll take it right back soon's I get shaved. I

s'pose I'll have a jomightyful time explaining it to the old lady."

"It isn't the mother's horse. It's the daughter's. She was in town yesterday."

"You mean Chuck's wife, Mis' Morgan?"

"I mean Miss Molly Dale, the other daughter."

"I didn't know they had another daughter," puzzled Racey, thinking of what Piney Jackson had said anent an "old lady." "They must 'a' kept her in the background when I was there that time. What is she-a old maid?"

"Oh, middle-aged, perhaps," was the straight-faced reply.

"Shucks, I might have known it," grumbled Racey; "middle-aged old maid! I know what they're like. I had one once for a school-teacher. I can feel her lickings yet. She was the contrariest female I ever met. Shucks, I-Well, if I gotta, I gotta. Might's well get it over with now as later. Thanks, ma'am, for helping me out."

Racey Dawson shambled dejectedly forth to effect the feeding of Miss Molly Dale's horse at the hotel corral. For his own breakfast he went to Sing Luey's Canton Restaurant. B

ecause while Bill Lainey offered no objections to feeding the horse, Mrs. Lainey utterly refused to provide snacks at odd hours for good-for-nothing, stick-a-bed punchers who were too lazy to eat at the regular meal-time. So there, now.

"But I ain't gonna shave," he told himself, as he disposed of fried steak and potatoes sloshed down by several cups of coffee. "If she's a old maid like they say it don't matter how tough I look."

He was reflectively stirring the grounds in the bottom of his sixth cup when a small and frightened yellow dog dashed into the restaurant and fled underneath Racey's table, where he cowered next to Racey's boots and cuddled a lop-eared head against Racey's knee.

Racey had barely time to glance down and discover that the yellow nondescript was no more than a pup when a burly youth charged into the restaurant and demanded in no uncertain tones to know where that adjective dog had hidden himself.

Racey took an instant dislike to the burly youth, still-it was his dog. And it is a custom of the country to let every man, as the saying is, skin his own deer. He that takes exception to this custom and horns in on what cannot rightfully be termed his particular business, will find public opinion dead against him and his journey unseasonably full of incident.

Racey moved a leg. "This him, stranger?"

The burly youth (it was evident that he was not wholly sober) glared at Racey Dawson. "Shore it's him!" he declared. "Whatell you hidin' him for? Get outa the way!"

Whereupon the burly youth advanced upon Racey.

This was different. Oh, quite. The burly youth had by his brusque manner and rude remarks included Racey in his (the burly youth's) business.

Racey met the burly youth rather more than halfway. He hit him so hard on the nose that the other flipped backward through the doorway and landed on his ear on the sidewalk.

Racey followed him out. The burly youth, bleeding copiously from the nose, sat up and fumbled uncertainly for his gun.

"No," said Racey with decision, aiming his sixshooter at the word. "You leave that gun alone, and lemme tell you, stranger, while we're together, that I want to buy that pup of yores. A gent like you ain't fit company for a self-respecting dog to associate with. Nawsir."

"You got the drop," grumbled the burly youth.

"Which is one on you," Racey observed, good-humouredly.

"Maybe I'll be seein' you again," suggested the other.

"Don't lemme see you first," advised Racey. "Never mind getting up. Just sit nice and quiet like a good boy, and keep the li'l hands spread out all so pretty with the thumbs locked over yore head. 'At's the boy. How much for yore dog, feller?"

"What you done to my dog?" A woman's voice broke on Racey's ears. But he did not remove his slightly narrowed eyes from the face of the burly youth.

"What you done to my dog?" The question was repeated, and the speaker came close to the burly youth and looked down at him. Now that the woman was within his range of vision Racey perceived that she was the Happy Heart lookout, a good-looking creature with brown hair and a lithe figure.

The girl's fists were clenched so tightly that her knuckles showed whitely against the pink. Two red spots flared on the white skin of her cheeks.

"Dam yore soul!" swore the lady. "I want my dog! How many tunes I gotta ask you, huh? Where is he? Say somethin', you dumb lump of slum gullion!"

"He ain't yore dog!" denied the burly youth. "He never was yores! He's mine, you-!"

Which last was putting it pretty strongly, even for the time, the place, and the girl. She promptly swung a brisk right toe, kicked the burly youth under the chin, and flattened him out.

"That'll learn you to call me names!" she snarled. "So long as I act like a lady, I'm a-gonna be treated like one, and I'll break the neck of the man who acts different, and you can stick a pin in that, you dirty-mouthed beast!"

Muttering profanely true to form, the aforementioned beast essayed to rise. But here again Racey and his ready gun held him to the ground in a sitting position.

"You leave her alone," commanded Racey. "You got what was coming to yuh. Let it go at that. The lady says it's her dog, anyway."

"It's my dog, I tell yuh! I-"

"Yo're a liar!" averred the girl. "You kicked the dog out when he was sick, and I took him in and tended him and got him well. If that don't make him my dog what does?"

"Correct," said Racey. "Call him."

The girl put two fingers in her mouth and whistled shrilly. Forth from the Canton came the dog on the jump and bounced into the girl's arms and began to lick her ear with despatch and enthusiasm.

"You see how it is," Racey indicated to the man on the ground. "It's the lady's dog. You can go now."

The burly youth stared stupidly.

"You heard what I said," Racey told him, impatiently. "G'on. Go some'ers else. Get outa here."

"Say," remarked the burly youth in what was intended to be a menacing growl, "this party ain't over yet."

"Ain't you been enough of a fool already to-day?" interrupted Racey.

"You ain't asking for it, are you?"

"You can't run no blazer on me," denied the other, furiously.

Racey promptly holstered his sixshooter. "Now's yore best time," he said, quietly.

When the smoke cleared away there was a rent in the sleeve of Racey's shirt and the burly youth sat rocking his body to and fro and groaning through gritted teeth. For there was a red-hot hole in his right shoulder which hurt him considerably.

Racey Dawson gazed dumbly down at the muzzle of his sixshooter from which a slim curl of gray smoke spiralled lazily upward. Then his eyes veered to the man he had shot and to the man's sixshooter lying on the edge of the sidewalk. It, too, like his own gun, was thinly smoking at the muzzle. The burly youth put a hand to his shoulder. The fingers came away red. Racey was glad he had not killed him. He had not intended to. But accidents will happen.

He stepped forward and kicked the burly youth's discarded sixshooter into the middle of the street. He looked about him. The girl and her dog had vanished.

Kansas Casey had taken her place apparently. From windows and doorways along the street peered interested faces. One knew that they were interested despite their careful lack of all expression. It is never well to openly express approval of a shooting. The shooter undoubtedly has friends, and little breaches of etiquette are always remembered.

Racey Dawson looked at Kansas Casey and shoved his sixshooter down into its holster.

"It was an even break," announced Racey.

"Shore," Kansas nodded. "I seen it. There'll be no trouble-from us," he added, significantly.

The deputy sheriff knelt beside the wounded man. Racey Dawson went into the Happy Heart. He felt that he needed a drink. When he came out five minutes later the burly youth had been carried away. Remained a stain of dark red on the sidewalk where he had been sitting. Piggy Wadsworth, the plump owner of the dance-hall, legs widespread and arms akimbo, was inspecting the red stain thoughtfully. He was joined by the storekeeper, Calloway, and two other men. None of them was aware of Racey Dawson standing in front of the Happy Heart.

"Was it there?" inquired Calloway.

"Yeah," said Piggy. "Right there. I seen the whole fraycas. Racey stood here an'-"

At this point Racey Dawson went elsewhere.

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