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Oh, You Tex! By William MacLeod Raine Characters: 5855

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Jack Roberts liked to get his information first hand. On his way to the jail he deflected, passed up the wide, dusty main street, and stopped at a log "hogan" made of bois d'arc timber and cedar from the brakes. Across the front of it was printed roughly a sign:


The Ranger took a little hitch at his guns to make sure they would slide easily from the holsters in case of need, then strolled into the saloon, a picture of negligent indifference.

A tall man, lank as a shad, was master of ceremonies. Steve Gurley was in high feather. He was treating the crowd and was availing himself of his privilege as host to do the bulk of the talking. His theme was the righteousness of mob law, with particular application to the case of Tony Alviro. He talked loudly, as befits one who is a leader of public opinion.

Some wandering of attention in his audience brought him to a pause. He turned, to see the Ranger leaning indolently against the door-jamb. Jack was smiling in the manner of one quietly amused.

"Who invited you here?" demanded Gurley, taken aback, but unwilling to show it.

"Me, I just dropped in to hear yore big talk. Reminds me of old Geronimo. Like you, he gets all filled up with words about every so often and has to steam off. Go ahead, Gurley. Don't let me interrupt you. Make heap oration."

But Gurley's fluency was gone. His cross-eyed glance slid round the room to take stock of his backers. Was this fellow Roberts alone, or had he a dozen Rangers in town with him? He decided to bluff, though with no very great confidence. For into the picture had walked a man, a personality, dynamic and forceful. The outlaw had seen him in action once, and he had been on that occasion as easy to handle as a cageful of panthers.

"Come to see the hangin', have you, Mr. Ranger?"

"Is there goin' to be a hangin'?"

"You betcha-to-night! Git around early, an' you can have a front seat." Gurley added a word of explanation. "No greaser can git biggity an' shoot up our friends without hangin' from the end of a wagon-tongue pronto."

"We'll see what a judge an' jury say about it," suggested the Ranger mildly.

"That so? No brindle-thatched guy in buckskin can interfere without sleepin' in smoke. Understand?" The long, sallow man nervously stroked his hair, which was flattened down on his forehead in a semicircle in the absurd fashion of the day.

"Don't pull on yore picket-pin, Gurley," observed Roberts. "What I say goes. There's goin' to be no hangin' till the courts say so."

A man had come into the saloon by the back door. He was a heavy-set, slouchy man in jeans, broad-shouldered and bowlegged. He laughed grimly. "I don't reckon you can put that over on folks of the short-grass country, young fellow, me lad. We grow man-size, an' I don't expect we'll ask yore say-so when we're ready for business."

Pete Dinsmore had the advantage of his colleague

. He knew that Roberts was the only Ranger in town. Also he was of tougher stuff. The leader of the Dinsmore gang would go through.

Into the gray-blue eye of the young man came a look that chilled. "Dinsmore, I'm not here to get into a rookus with you. But I'll serve notice on you right now to keep yore mind off Alviro. He's in the hands of the Texas Rangers. You know what that means."

Dinsmore met the warning with a sneer. "I was hittin' my heels on this range when you was knee-high to a duck, kid. Don't make a mistake. Folks don't make 'em with me twice." He thrust the head on his bull neck forward and dropped a hand to the gun by his side.

The Ranger shook his head. "Not just now, Pete. You're a bad hombre; I know that. Some day we're liable to tangle. But it will be in the way of business. While I'm workin' for the State I've got no private feuds."

Jack turned and walked out of the place as casually as he had entered. He knew now that Snark was right. Tascosa meant to hang the Mexican within a few hours.

Evidently Tony had heard the news. He looked up with quick apprehension when Snark opened the door of his cell to admit the Ranger.

"You promise' me fair trial, se?or. Yet to-day they mean to hang me. Not so?" he cried. The young Mexican was sweating drops of fear.

"That's why I'm here, Tony," answered Jack cheerfully. "The hangin' programme won't go through if you do exactly as I say. I'll stand by you. They'll not get you unless they get me. Is that fair?"

Confidence is born of confidence. Alviro felt himself buttressed by the quiet strength of this vigorous youth. Broader shoulders than his had assumed the responsibility.

"What is it that I am to do?" he asked, his liquid eyes filled with the dumb worship of a dog.

"You're to walk right beside me. No matter how the crowd presses-no matter what it does-stick right there. If you try to run, you're gone. I can't save you. Understand?"

"Sí, se?or."

Roberts looked at his watch. "'Most time for the fireworks to begin. You'll wait here till I come back, Tony. I'm goin' to give a little exhibition first. Be with you pronto."

Little beads of sweat gathered again on the forehead of the prisoner. The palms of his hands were hot and moist. He glanced nervously out of the window. Ten minutes before there had been a few lookouts in sight; now there were a hundred men or more. The mob was beginning to gather for the storming of the sod-house. Soon the affairs of Tony Alviro would reach a crisis.

"I-I'll nev' get out alive," said the Mexican in a dry whisper.

The Ranger grinned at him. "Don't worry. If the luck breaks right we'll camp to-night under the stars. If it doesn't they'll bury us both, Tony."

In that smile was life for Alviro. It expressed a soul unperturbed, ready for anything that might come up. With this man beside him Tony felt courage flowing back into his heart.

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