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   Chapter 13 QUICK JUSTICE IN THE WEST

The Air Ship Boys : Or, the Quest of the Aztec Treasure By H. L. Sayler Characters: 6939

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Jack Jellup, marshal and "bad man," was never more surprised in his life. But Jack was no fool, and something in Ned Napier's eyes made the westerner conclude instantly that he had unexpectedly and unquestionably "barked up the wrong tree." For a few moments the marshal and the young aeronaut stood facing each other and then Jellup sneered:

"Do you reckon you'd better run this town?"

"No, nor you," quietly answered Ned, "and if that's the way you are going to do it you can settle with me right now. I'm going to stand on my rights."

He was conscious that Russell had hurried back and was behind him. Another second and there was a sharp click. Both Jellup and Ned turned to see the nervy young reporter with the torn suit case open on the ground at his feet. A snap shot camera was in his hand. His face was white, but there was a trace of his usual smile on it. Ned wanted to laugh too, but the situation was too serious.

"I've got you both," said Bob, a little nervously, "and if it's a good one I've got a dandy-'shooting up the town or the bad man covered'-"

Had it not been for Ned's lightning-like action these might have been Bob's last words. Jellup's pistol had flashed once more, but as it dew into position Ned's own weapon rose with it under Jellup's right hand and the marshal's shot passed over Bob's head. Before Jellup and Ned could recover themselves Bob's camera was on the ground and the reporter had his own revolver, which he had grabbed quickly from the suit case.

In the center of this group now stood, unarmed, Alan Hope and old Buck. Almost at the same time a dozen men, attracted by the melee, had also intervened and had taken charge of the three excited combatants.

Pushing the crowd right and left appeared the stalwart form of Mayor Curt Bradley, weaponless, but with the stem face of one who gives orders that cannot be ignored.

"Put 'em up, every one of you," he exclaimed; "do ye hear? Put 'em up."

"Ye'r both under arrest," shouted Jellup to Ned and Bob.

There was a quick explanation and then Mayor Bradley, still very stem of face, ordered everybody across the street to his office above the drug store. Men seemed to spring out of the ground, and the room was instantly packed to suffocation. Marshal Jellup made a formal charge against the two boys of "resisting and interfering with an officer" and then each told his story. The decision was immediate. Mayor Bradley ordered that both boys be released and the court be instantly cleared.

Jellup made his way noisily toward the door, his face white with rage. Apparently a number present were his friends and cronies, for the looks of sympathy that he got turned into open murmurs of dissent.

Mayor Bradley was on his feet at once.

"What's the matter?" he began incisively. "Is there some one here who wants to appeal from my decision?"

The hubbub subsided but there wag no response.

"The time to make any complaint about my decision is right now and to me," went on the tall Bradley, looking over those in the room.

But no one apparently cared to take up Jellup's cause. When the spectators had gone the Mayor, who had sternly watched the slow exit of the last loiterer, turned to the boys.

"I thank you, Mr. Bradley," exclaimed Ned earnestly.

"And I want to thank both of you," quickly added Bob Russell, taking the hand of each. "I'm the cause of this and I'm sorry. I guess you saved my life twice," he added, wringing

Ned's hand. "If it hadn't been for you the Comet certainly would never have heard from me again. I guess that, puts all my obligation up to you."

"No," said Ned, "I can't let you say that. You have your own duty just as I have mine. We'll go over to the car and wait for the two o'clock Limited. Then you are at liberty to go and write your story and do its you like."

"He don't have to leave," interrupted the Mayor; "this is a free town and it's going to be an orderly one."

"And I'm not going to," broke in Bob. "You've got yourself in a muss over me and some of these soreheads may try to make you more trouble. If you'll let me, I'll stay to the end and if it comes to a mix-up I'm going to be right there with you."

Mayor Bradley smiled and old Buck slapped the reporter on the back.

"But how about the story you say you are going to write about us," asked Alan.

"There wouldn't have been any story if it hadn't been for Mr. Napier," replied Bob. "And there isn't going to be one until he tells me to write it. It's up to him."

Ned was looking out of the window at the curious loungers standing in the street. He was thinking of the work yet to be done and of all the difficulties that the discomfited marshal might put in his way. It wasn't a "picnic proposition." He didn't fear for himself, but the thought of his expensive and delicate outfit and of how easily it might be irreparably injured was not reassuring.

"Russell," he said finally, "I think we need you. If you care to stay with us we'll be glad to have you. It isn't because I don't want to be bluffed by Jellup, but because you are game. If you'll go with Buck and Elmer, I'll try to make it worth your while-some time-and you shall be the historian of this expedition-when the time comes to write its story."

Am hour later the delayed overland expedition was on its way toward the desert. There had been a quick shopping expedition in the stores of Clarkeville and Bob Russell, in a new hat and boots and various other articles of clothing, most of them too large for him, sat proudly on the driver's seat of the second wagon. Around his waist was a new cartridge belt and holster carrying Ned's gift, a 44 revolver-"for game or rattlesnakes," as the boys expressed it, but the weapon was not concealed when the little cavalcade traversed the main street of the town, and if Jellup was an onlooker Ned felt sure that the outwitted marshal would think twice before again molesting the expedition.

"All set," laughed Bob, as the final farewells had been said, and he held up his camera, "now for the real thing."

Ned and Alan were now alone. To tell the truth, the excitement of the morning had been rather trying for them, but if it left them a trifle nervous they soon forgot their apprehension in making the last of the transfer. There was now another reason for abandoning the car. With headquarters established in the corral they would be near the balloon and its equipment, and if Jellup should permit his ill will to develop into some overt act, they would be in a position more easily to protect themselves. For that reason a number of their "greaser" assistants were taken to the car before noon and the hydrogen cask was loaded on the small wagon and carefully freighted to the corral. Then followed the remainder of the provisions and the personal belongings of the boys. Early in the afternoon the Placida was closed and turned over to the railway agent.

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