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   Chapter 10 A DAMNED POOR APOLOGY FOR A MAN

Oh, You Tex! By William MacLeod Raine Characters: 4920

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The big cattleman from New Mexico who was talking with the owner of the A T O threw his leg across the arm of the chair. "The grass is good on the Pecos this year. Up in Mexico [2] the cattle look fine."

"Same here," agreed Wadley. "I'm puttin' ten thousand yearlin's on the Canadian."

A barefoot negro boy appeared at his elbow with a note. The owner of the A T O ripped open the envelope and read:

Dear Mr. Wadley:

I was held up last night by masked men and robbed. They took the gold. I'm too sick to go farther.

Arthur Ridley.

The jaw of the Texas cattleman clamped. He rose abruptly. "I got business on hand. A messenger of mine has been robbed of six thousand dollars." He turned to the colored boy. "Where's the man who gave you this?"

"At the Buffalo Corral, sah."

Wadley strode from the hotel, flung himself on a horse, and galloped down the street toward the corral.

Young Ridley was lying on a pile of hay when his employer entered. His heart was sick with fear and worry. For he knew now that his lack of boldness had led him into a serious mistake. He had by his indecision put himself in the power of Moore, and the chances were that the man was in collusion with the gang that had held him up. He had made another mistake in not going directly to Wadley with the news. The truth was that he had not the nerve to face his employer. It was quite on the cards that the old-timer might use a blacksnake whip on him. So he had taken refuge in a plea of illness.

The cattleman took one look at him and understood. He reached down and jerked the young fellow from the hay as if he had been a child. The stomach muscles of the boy contracted with fear and the heart died within him. Clint Wadley in anger was dangerous. In his youth he had been a gun-fighter and the habit had never entirely been broken.

"I-I'm ill," the young fellow pleaded.

"You'll be sure enough ill if you don't watch out. I'll gamble on that. Onload yore tale like shot off'n a shovel. Quit yore whinin'. I got no time for it."

Arthur told his story. The cattleman fired at him crisp, keen questions. He dragged from the trembling youth the when, where, and how of the robbery. What kind of pilgrim was this fellow Moore? Was he tall? Short? Dark? Bearded? Young? Old? What were the masked men like? Did they use any names? Did he see their horses? Which way did they go?

The messenger made lame answers. Mostly he could only say, "I don'

t know."

"You're a damned poor apology for a man-not worth the powder to blow you up. You hadn't the sand to fight for the money entrusted to you, nor the nerve to face me after you had lost it. Get out of here. Vamos! Don't ever let me hear yore smooth, glib tongue again."

The words of Wadley stung like hail. Arthur was thin-skinned; he wanted the good opinion of all those with whom he came in contact, and especially that of this man. Like a whipped cur he crept away and hid himself in the barn loft, alone with his soul-wounds.

From its window he watched the swift bustle of preparation for the pursuit. Wadley himself, big and vigorous to the last masculine inch of him, was the dominant figure. He gave curt orders to the members of the posse, arranged for supplies to be forwarded to a given point, and outlined plans of action. In the late afternoon the boy in the loft saw them ride away, a dozen lean, long-bodied men armed to the limit. With all his heart the watcher wished he could be like one of them, ready for any emergency that the rough-and-tumble life of the frontier might develop.

In every fiber of his jarred being he was sore. He despised himself for his failure to measure up to the standard of manhood demanded of him by his environment. Twice now he had failed. The memory of his first failure still scorched his soul. During ghastly hours of many nights he had lived over that moment when he had shown the white feather before Ramona Wadley. He had run for his life and left her alone to face a charging bull. It was no excuse to plead with himself that he could have done nothing for her if he had stayed. At least he could have pushed her to one side and put himself in the path of the enraged animal. The loss of the money was different. It had been due not wholly to lack of nerve, but in part at least to bad judgment. Surely there was something to be said for his inexperience. Wadley ought not to have sent him alone on such an errand, though of course he had sent him because he was the last man anybody was likely to suspect of carrying treasure....

Late that night Ridley crept out, bought supplies, saddled his horse, and slipped into the wilderness. He was still writhing with self-contempt. There was a futile longing in his soul for oblivion to blot out his misery.

In western Texas when one speaks of Mexico he means New Mexico. If he refers to the country Mexico, he says Old Mexico. [2]

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