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   Chapter 5 CAPTAIN ELLISON HIRES A HAND

Oh, You Tex! By William MacLeod Raine Characters: 6578

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Captain Ellison was preparing for the Adjutant-General a report of a little affair during which one of his men had been obliged to snuff out the lives of a couple of Mexican horsethieves and seriously damage a third. Writing was laborious work for the Captain of Rangers, though he told no varnished tale. His head and shoulders were hunched over the table and his fingertips were cramped close to the point of the pen. Each letter as it was set down had its whispered echo from his pursed lips.

"Doggone these here reports," he commented in exasperation. "Looks like a man hadn't ought to make out one every time he bumps off a rustler."

He tugged at his goatee and read again what he had just written:

Then this José Barela and his gang of skoundrels struck out for the Brazos with the stolen stock. Ranger Cullom trailed them to Goose Creek and recovered the cattle. While resisting arrest Barela and another Mexican were killed and a third wounded. Cullom brought back the wounded man and the rustled stock.

A short noontime shadow darkened the sunny doorway of the adobe office. Ellison looked up quickly, his hand falling naturally to the handle of his forty-five. Among the Rangers the price of life was vigilance. A tall, lean, young man with a sardonic eye and a sunburned face jingled up the steps.

"Come in," snapped the Captain. "Sit down. With you in a minute."

The cowboy lounged in, very much at his ease. Roberts had been embarrassed before Ramona Wadley that morning, but he was not in the least self-conscious now. In the course of a short and turbid life he had looked too many tough characters in the eye to let any mere man disturb his poise.

"Do you spell scoundrel with a k?" the Ranger chief fired abruptly at him.

"Nary a k, Captain. I spell it b-a-d m-a-n."

"H'mp!" snorted the little man. "Ain't you got no education? A man's got to use a syllogism oncet in a while, I reckon."

"Mebbeso. What kind of a gun is it?" drawled Jack Roberts.

"A syllogism is a word meanin' the same as another word, like as if I was to say caballo for horse or six-shooter for revolver."

"I see-or tough guy for Texas ranger."

"Or durn fool for Jack Roberts," countered Ellison promptly.

"Now you're shoutin', Cap. Stomp on me proper. I certainly need to be curried."

Again the Ranger snorted. "H'mp! Been scarin' any more young ladies to death?"

"No more this mo'nin', Captain," answered Jack equably.

"Nor grandstandin' with any more ladino steers?"

"I exhibit only once a day."

"By dog, you give a sure-enough good show," exploded Ellison. "You got yore nerve, boy. Wait around till the prettiest girl in Texas can see you pull off the big play-run the risk of havin' her trampled to death, just so's you can grin an' say, 'Pleased to meet you, ma'am.' When I call you durn fool, I realize it's too weak a name."

"Hop to it, Captain. Use up some real language on me. Spill out a lot of those syllogisms you got bottled up inside you. I got it comin'," admitted Roberts genially as he rolled a cigarette.

The Captain had been a mule-skinner once, and for five glorious minutes he did himself proud while the graceless young cowpuncher beamed on him.

"You sure go some, Cap," applauded the young fellow. "I'd admire t

o have your flow of talk."

Ellison subsided into anticlimax. "Well, don't you ever drive yore wild hill-critters through town again. Hear me, young fellow?"

"You'll have to speak to Wadley about that. I'm not his trail boss any longer."

"Since when?"

"Since five o'clock yesterday evenin'. I was turnin' over the herd this mo'nin' when the little lady showed up an' I had to pull off the bulldoggin'."

"Wadley fire you?"

"That's whatever."

"Why?"

"Didn't like the way I mussed up son Rutherford, I kind o' gathered."

"Another of yore fool plays. First you beat up Wadley's boy; then you 'most massacree his daughter. Anything more?"

"That's all up to date-except that the old man hinted I was a brand-burner."

"The deuce he did!"

"I judge that son Rutherford had told him I was one of the Dinsmore gang. Seems I'm all right except for bein' a rowdy an' a bully an' a thief an' a bad egg generally."

"H'mp! Said you was a rustler, did he?" The Ranger caressed his goatee and reflected on this before he pumped a question at the line-rider. "Are you?"

"No more than Rutherford Wadley."

The Captain shot a swift slant look at this imperturbable young man. Was there a hidden meaning in that answer?

"What's the matter with Wadley? Does he expect you to let Ford run it over you? That ain't like Clint."

"He's likely listened to a pack o' lies."

"And you haven't heard from him since?"

"Yes, I have. He sent me my check an' a hundred-dollar bill."

Ellison sat up. "What for?"

"For my fancy bulldoggin'." The hard eyes of the young fellow smouldered with resentment.

"By dog, did Clint send you money for savin' 'Mona?"

"He didn't say what it was for-so I rolled up the bill an' lit a cigarette with it."

"You take expensive smokes, young man," chuckled the officer.

"It was on Wadley. I burned only half the bill. He can cash in the other half, for I sent it back to him. When he got it, he sent for me."

"And you went?"

"You know damn well I didn't. When he wants me, he knows where to find me."

"Most young hill-billies step when Clint tells 'em to."

"Do they?" asked the range-rider indifferently.

"You bet you. They jump when he whistles. What are you figurin' to do?"

"Haven't made up my mind yet. Mebbe I'll drift along the trail to the Pecos country."

"What was Clint payin' you?"

"Sixty a month an' found."

"How'd you like to have yore wages lowered?"

"Meanin'-"

"That I'll give you a job."

Young Roberts had a capacity for silence. He asked no questions now, but waited for Ellison to develop the situation.

"With the Rangers. Dollar a day an' furnish yore own bronc," explained the Captain.

"The State of Texas is liberal," said the cowboy with dry sarcasm.

"That's as you look at it. If you're a money-grubber, don't join us. But if you'd like to be one of the finest fightin' force in the world with somethin' doin' every minute, then you'd better sign up. I'll promise that you die young an' not in yore bed."

"Sounds right attractive," jeered the red-haired youngster with amiable irony.

"It is, for men with red blood in 'em," retorted the gray-haired fire-eater hotly.

"All right. I'll take your word for it, Captain. You've hired a hand."

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